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- The Essential Toolbox
The Essential Toolbox
- Photo: stanley.com
These adjustable pliers are useful as a hand-held vice or clamp. They lock firmly onto a workpiece, usually one of metal. They are also known as plier wrenches, lever-wrench pliers and by the proprietary name Vicegrips.
The key is the double-lever action of the jaws. Like other pliers, the jaws of the locking pliers are closed by squeezing the handles together; unlike water pumps, electrician’s, and other pliers, the jaw opening is adjusted by turning a screw drive in one handle so the jaws will close with a vice-like grip. A trigger on the other handle loosens the grip, which can apply tremendous force.
Locking pliers are sold in several designs (with long nose, flat-jawed, and even C-clamp jaws), but the standard design has serrated, straight jaws. A pair in the eight- to ten-inch long range will have the most uses in the basic toolbox.
Though the bevel gauge is a near relation of the square, its purpose is to help fabricate pieces that are not square.
The tool consists of a handle (or stock) with an attached tongue (or blade). The tongue fits into a groove cut into the head of the stock where it’s fastened with a locking mechanism. Often the tongue is made of thin steel and the stock of wood, plastic, or metal.
To put the tool to use, hold the stock against an edge with the tongue stretched across the workpiece. The tongue can then be shifted to assume any angle between zero and 180 degrees. When the bevel gauge is set at the angle you want, use the bolt and wing nut or lever device to set the tool at the desired angle.
This is one of those wonderful tools that belies its simple design. It makes some difficult tasks easy to do well, such as matching an existing angle. You set the gauge then simply move the bevel gauge onto the stock from which you’ll be making the companion piece. There’s no geometry or arithmetic, just marking and cutting.
The carpenter’s square isn’t a four-sided figure. It’s really a giant L, usually with a 2-inch-wide, 24-inch-long leg perpendicular to a 1-1/2-inch-wide, 16-inch-long tongue.
The most common use, as one of its nicknames suggests, is for framing, laying out and marking patterns for framing, roofing, and stairway work. It’s also useful as a straightedge for determining the flatness of surface, and for marking cutoff work on wide stock. Call it almost anything you like — including rafter square, builder’s square, or roofer’s square — but this is a tool that has lots of uses.
The calibrations on the face of a carpenter’s square will include dimensions, usually down to eighths of an inches, but sometimes on the back there’ll be tens or even twelfths of an inch for roofing layout.
The plumb bob or plumb line employs the laws of gravity to establish what is “plumb” (exactly vertical). You don’t need a graduate degree in physics to understand that a string suspended with a weight at the bottom will be both precisely vertical AND perpendicular to any level plane through which it passes. The plumb bob, obviously, is the companion tool to the level.
A homemade plumb can consist of most any bit of string with a weight tied its end (a couple of washers, say, or a lead sinker from a fishing line. But the factory-made plumb bob has a specially designed weight and coarse string of twisted cotton or nylon threads (masons prefer the nylon because it stands up better over time to the dampness that comes with working with water and mortar). Well-machined and well-balanced bobs have pointed tips, too, that make them more precise to use.
Handheld Circular Saw
With the possible exception of the electric drill, the Skilsaw® or circular handsaw is the power tool most often found in the average homeowner’s tool chest. It’s easy to use, affordable, and astonishingly flexible and practical.
It’s designed to cut boards to size, typically using a 7-1/4-inch-diameter blade. An electric motor, protected in a housing, drives the blade that is, in turn, protected by a fixed guard on top and retractable guard below. Add a handle, a sole plate or shoe on the bottom, and you’ve got all the parts. Plug it in and go.
One warning, though: This is no toy. It’s a powerful and efficient tool, but one that poses a real danger if not used with respect and care. Keep it well out of reach of the under-18 set.
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