Category: Tools & Workshop


Buyer’s Guide: Best Cordless Drills

Are you pining for the power and convenience of a high-quality cordless drill? Before you hit the stores, let us give you the lowdown on important features and useful extras.

Best Cordless Drills

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Just as cellular technology freed the telephone, the advent of lithium-ion batteries forever altered the landscape of power tools. While the electric drill was always a homeowner favorite, its cordless version has become truly ubiquitous, appearing in the toolboxes of even casual do-it-yourselfers. If you own any power tools whatsoever, chances are you have a cordless drill. The popularity of these drills has led to a wealth of models on the market. With so many to choose from, how can you be sure to pick the best cordless drill for your needs? Keep these factors in mind as you navigate the selection process.

Best Cordless Drills - Bit Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Voltage. Cordless drills range from 7.2-volt models to ones boasting 20 volts or more. The most popular options are 12 and 18 volts; that’s plenty of power for most light-duty household tasks. Higher voltage equals faster drilling and screw-driving, but while speed can be a virtue, extreme speed is beneficial mainly to professionals. 12- and 18-volt drills are fast enough without becoming difficult to handle.

Weight. Over the years, cordless drills have gotten only lighter. It’s not unreasonable to focus your search on tools that come in under five pounds. But weight isn’t the only determinant of comfort. Equally important is the tool’s balance. To test the balance of a drill you’re considering, grip the handle firmly in your dominant hand, then lift it toward the wall as if you were going to drive a screw. The drill chuck should point straight at the wall without your having to fight to keep it from tilting up or down.

Battery Type. Older cordless drills run on nickel-cadmium (NiCd) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Today’s best cordless drills, however, run on lithium-ion batteries. These weigh less, last longer, and recharge more quickly than their predecessors. The only downside to note is that for all their advantages, lithium-ion batteries are pricey to replace, running as much as $100 or more.

Accessories. Different cordless drill packages come with different features and accessories. Depending on how you intend to use the tool, one or another of the following features may be worth pursuing:

- extra battery
- “smart” battery charger (capable of recharging in 15 to 60 minutes)
- battery-charge indicator
- variable speeds
- built-in work light and/or level
- warranty for drill and battery

To help you narrow the crowded field of options, we’ve identified three of the best cordless drills, based on the criteria detailed above, on reviews by actual consumers, and by ratings from leading testing sites. Available in stores and online, our selections range from light-duty models suitable for apartment dwellers to semipro drills for the serious DIY homeowner.

 

Bosch PS31-2A 12-Volt Lithium-Ion 3/8-Inch 2-Speed Drill/Driver Kit

Best Cordless Drills - Bosch

Photo: amazon.com

Lowe’s customers love the Bosch 12-volt lithium-ion drill for its “compact size” and “light weight.” Plus, its “very sensitive clutch” is “excellent for driving screws to the perfect torque.” Popular Mechanics chimes in, too, saying that the model packs the punch of a larger tool and, despite being only 12 volts, “could run with the big boys.” Equipped with a 3/8-inch chuck, the Bosch features a built-in LED work light as well as a two-speed gearbox. Price: $99

 

Porter-Cable PCC606LA 20-Volt 1/2-Inch Lithium-Ion Drill/Driver Kit

Best Cordless Drills - Porter Cable

Photo: amazon.com

There’s perhaps no better value than the Porter-Cable 20-volt lithium-ion drill. Amazon shoppers rated the unit 4.7 out of 5 stars, praising it for being “powerful” while remaining “light.”  Measuring about 7 inches long and weighing only 3.5 pounds, the two-speed drill fits into tight spots and can be used comfortably for long stretches of time, thanks in part to its “long battery life.” A convenient built-in indicator shows how much remains of the battery charge at any given time. For a “well-built” tool that can handle “any job that a person might face,” look no further than the reasonably priced Porter-Cable. Price: $79

 

DeWalt DCD780C2 20-Volt Lithium-Ion 1.5 Ah Drill/Driver Kit

Best Cordless Drills - Dewalt

Photo: amazon.com

For heavy-duty performance, the DeWalt 20-volt lithium-ion drill ranked highest among those reviewed by Consumer Search in 2014. Amazon shoppers echoed the compliment, describing the tool as “light, powerful, and very well balanced.” With a 1/2-inch chuck and two-speed gearbox, the DeWalt is a brawny tool, designed with an ergonomic handle as well as lots of “little features.” A three-year warranty covers both the drill and its twin batteries. Price: $169


Genius! DIY Radiator Cover

If you're sick of the way your radiator looks, you can disguise it—and make its corner of the room more functional—with this easy, simple, genius DIY.

DIY Radiator Cover

Photo: christinasadventures.com

If your heat comes from radiators, you know the predicament: In the winter, you’re glad to have the heat. But no matter the season, you cannot escape the fact that radiators are usually ugly. Their clunky, utilitarian appearance is a source of lingering frustration for many. Plus, radiators occupy precious floor space you would prefer devoting to another, more exciting purpose (heating is many things, but exciting it is not). That’s the genius of Christina’s DIY radiator cover: It fits right over the cast iron, creating a usable surface on top, while allowing hot air to emanate through the room. 

Radiator covers are somewhat controversial; some people say they compromise air flow, compromising radiators’ ability to do their job. Christina, who blogs at Christina’s Adventures, responds: “This is definitely a valid concern, but if the radiator cover is constructed correctly, it can actually help to improve the air flow! You have to make sure that you allow enough room around all sides of the radiator. Also, be sure to add a piece of sheet metal to the back. That helps project the air out to the rest of the house.” Good to know! 

Christina lives in a 100-year-old house, and so with her DIY radiator cover, she felt it was important to respect history while making the space more functional for her family today. “We’ve developed our own style,” she says, and “we feel it’s a true mix of the old and the new.”

Find out how Christina made her DIY radiator cover, and how you can make your own!

 

MATERIALS
- MDF
- Aluminum sheeting
- Jigsaw
- Trim molding
- Miter saw
- Elmer’s ProBond Advanced
- Wood glue
- Wood filler
- Poplar board
- Paint
- Stain
- Polyurethane sealer

 

STEP 1

DIY Radiator Cover - Cutting MDF

Photo: christinasadventures.com

We measured out the area around the radiator, making sure to add 2″-3″ inches all around for appropriate air flow. Then we had our local hardware store cut down MDF for the front and the sides of the cover. Once home, we marked out a 4″ frame and little legs. After that, we drilled pilot holes and used a jigsaw to cut out the inner square.

 

STEP 2

DIY Radiator Cover - glue

Photo: christinasadventures.com

Now it was time to add the pretty aluminum grate to the middle of the MDF frame. I used Elmer’s ProBond Advanced to adhere the metal to the MDF. For this type of mixed material project, it’s the perfect adhesive to use.

 

STEP 3
Next, I used the staple gun to fastened the aluminum sheet to the MDF—they’re securely attached now. We also added two pieces of scrap wood to the back of the frame to make a fourth side.

 

STEP 4

DIY Radiator Cover - wood filler

Photo: christinasadventures.com

Once the sheeting and the back were in place, we cut trim molding to fit inside the MDF frame, around the perimeter of the grate. The molding really gives the radiator cover a more finished look. At this point, I filled in the imperfections with wood filler.

 

STEP 5
After a few hours, I hand-sanded the wood filler and the sides of the MDF. Then I rolled three coats of white paint onto the cover, and we finally put it into place over the radiator.

 

STEP 6

DIY Radiator Cover - Complete

Photo: christinasadventures.com

On top, I added stained poplar to make a shelf. And on the back of the cover, I added a piece of sheet metal to radiate heat out into the room.

 

Thanks, Christina! If you loved this post, visit Christina’s Adventures for even more incredible home decor ideas.


Bob Vila Radio: Choose the Right Saw Blade for the Task at Hand

One size does not fit all, at least when it comes to saw blades. If you're in the habit of cutting different materials, from wood to plaster to tile, working with the right blade for the job can help you get done quicker, with less labor along the way.

When it comes to using reciprocating saws, choosing the right blade can make your jobs a lot easier. Among the many reciprocating saw blade types available, these are the ones any DIYer ought to know about:

Reciprocating Saw Blades

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECIPROCATING SAW BLADES or read the text below:

If you’re cutting through wood, you’ll get best results using a relatively coarse-tooth blade. For plaster, the coarser the tooth, the better. If you’re tackling nails or metal pipe, a fine-tooth blade—much like a hacksaw—is the best choice. Special blades are available for cutting stone or tile.  They’re essentially toothless and are coated with an abrasive grit that’s most often composed of tungsten carbide. That same blade also works well with cast iron.

The standard length for most reciprocating saw blades is six inches, but shorter and longer blades are available. If your job involves reaching the blade deep into recessed areas, you’ll want to pick up an extra long blade. Long blades are also handy for pruning trees or cutting through thick timbers used in landscaping. Be sure to have your safety glasses and gloves on before starting the job.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.



HGTV Opens the Door to a Beloved 90s Star

We're always eager to peek inside a celebrity's home, but to watch a beloved star sweat the design details and chip in on the work site—that's a real treat. Jennie Garth's new show on HGTV has us hooked.

The Jennie Garth Project - Bobcat

Photo: HGTV

Color us impressed: Best known for her role in the long-running series 90210, Jennie Garth has opened her large-scale home renovation to HGTV viewers in a new show, The Jennie Garth Project. In its debut episode last week, we were introduced us to the ’70s ranch in the Hollywood Hills that Garth plans to re-do in her own style. As it turns out, she has done serious work on several houses in the past. But this is the first time that she’s overseeing the design decisions—and the numbers.

The Jennie Garth Project Review - Framing

Photo: HGTV

The premiere focuses on the living room. Here, on the wall facing the garden, Garth is working with Harrison-Anderson General Contractors to replace windows with glass pocket doors. Also on the agenda: installing new hardwoods, repairing the crumbling fireplace, and refinishing the wood ceiling. Since Garth and her children are going to live in the house upon the work’s completion, the stakes are high. Choices matter, not for resale, but for the home’s livability. And mistakes made will be ones she has to live with.

Related—Where the Stars Go: 11 Big Celebrities’ Beautiful Bathrooms

Garth tackles some tough calls along the way, with budget constraints and limitations of space forcing compromise. At one point, she finds out that seven inches must be sacrificed either from the kitchen or the master bedroom closet. It’s the sort of lose-lose moment of impossible frustration that we can all relate to.

There are many more reasons to watch. Our favorite part? The simple tips we’re snagging from a beautiful blonde many idolized (or pined after) as teenagers. When evaluating how much a new fireplace would block the view to her yard, Garth snappily built a cardboard replica to help her visualize its effect. Smart.

Tune in for more tips from Garth and to watch her exciting project unfold; the next episode airs tomorrow at 9PM. For more viewing times and renovation photos, visit HGTV.


Bob Vila Radio: Reciprocating Saw Safety

It's one of the most handy tools in the do-it-yourselfer's repertoire, but like any power tool (especially ones outfitted with a blade), the reciprocating saw demands special safety considerations.

Reciprocating saws—the ones with a motor and a thin, straight blade that juts back and forth—are one of the most useful tools you can own.

Reciprocating Saw Safety

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECIPROCATING SAW SAFETY or read the text below:

Reciprocating saws can cut through wood, metal, and all sorts of construction materials. But they can also be dangerous and need to be handled with the utmost care.

One of the main hazards of recip saws is their potential for kickback. That can happen if you make the mistake of pulling the blade out of your cut while the blade’s still moving. The tip of the blade smacks into the material you’re cutting, and the whole saw, including the moving blade, kick back toward you. If you happen to be on a ladder, that’s especially bad news.

You also need to keep in mind that the blade can bind unexpectedly. That’ll cause the blade to stop moving, but not you and the saw. Be sure to keep a tight grip. One final caution: a saw blade can generate a lot of heat, so give it some time to cool down before trying to change it.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Circular Saw Safety

So long as you know what you're doing with it, the circular saw can be a tremendously handy for a variety of projects. Here are some tips on using the tool safely.

Although circular saws are one of the most useful tools you can have in your toolbox, they can also be one of the most dangerous—that is, if you don’t know how to use them properly.

Circular Saw Safety

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CIRCULAR SAW SAFETY or read the text below:

Here are a few safety tips: First, make sure the material you’re cutting is positioned correctly. For example, never attempt to cut the middle of a board whose ends are resting on sawhorses spaced apart from one another; as you’re progressing with the cut, the board will likely sag and pinch the blade, causing the saw to kick back. Instead, position the sawhorses closer together and use clamps to secure the lumber.

Never try to use a circular saw to make a cut in a stud. Again, you risk a kickback. Better to use a reciprocating saw for that job. Most importantly, once you’ve started a cut, never attempt to lift the saw or remove it until you’ve released the trigger and the saw blade has come to a complete stop.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day. 


Bob Vila Radio: Installing Toggle Bolts

Planning to support a heavy load, be it shelving or a framed mirror, on plaster wall? The best starting point is to install toggle bolts. Here's how.

Installing wall hooks or fasteners into plaster walls isn’t difficult—that is, if you use the right approach. Probably the best type of anchor to use is a toggle bolt; they’re the ones with the threaded “butterfly” that’s spring-loaded.

Toggle Bolt

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Listen to BOB VILA ON ANCHORS FOR PLASTER or read the text below:

First, use two pieces of painter’s tape to mark an X over the spot where you plan to drill. That’ll help keep the plaster from cracking.

Using a drill bit that’s just slightly larger than the butterfly on your bolt, drill through the tape and the wall, then gently withdraw the bit straight out and remove the tape. Slip your fastener onto the toggle bolt.

Next, thread the butterfly onto the bolt, squeeze the butterfly, then pass it through the hole until you feel the butterfly open. Use your fingers to tighten the bolt, then finish with a screwdriver. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolt, or you could crack the plaster.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


In the War Against Wet, A New Weapon

A new line from Rust-Oleum repels water, mud, ice and other liquids from a variety of surfaces. We put one member of this product family to the test. Read on to find out what happened.

Spray an even coating on leather or fabric. Here I'm using it to renew the waterproofing on a pair of old boots. Photo: JProvey

In the war against wet, homeowners have a new weapon: It’s called NeverWet. Designed to repel water and keep surfaces dry, the NeverWet line of products from Rust-Oleum includes four different formulations—Multi-Surface, Fabric, Boot & Shoe, and Auto Interior. Armed with a single one of these sprays or the complete trio, homeowners can now bring protection from the weather to a wide range of household items that spend time outdoors, including garden tools and outdoor furniture.

Don’t get me wrong—I like the rain. But moisture in itself isn’t the problem. What’s really at issue is the mold, mildew, corrosion, rot and (last, but surely not least) skin discomfort that often comes along with an excess of moisture. So when recently I got the opportunity to review the NeverWet fabric formulas, I jumped at the chance to see how the product could help me safeguard those items in my life that I count on to remain dry. For my experiment, I chose leather boots and a cotton patio furniture cushion.

To both, I applied an even coating of NeverWet, according to the instructions, and I wetted but didn’t soak the surface I was treating with the spray. Next, I waited the recommended 24 hours before exposing the items to water. Once enough time had elapsed, I hurried to see how my boots had stood up to the ultimate test—being submerged in a bucket water. Keep reading to see what happened.

Photo: JProvey

In the photo above, the boot I did not spray is on the left. You can see that after five minutes of submersion, the leather became saturated, particularly around the stitching. Meanwhile, the boot on the right of the photo—the one that I did spray with NeverWet—shed water effectively and came out of the tub as good as new.

Equally impressive results arose from my test of the patio furniture seat cushion, which I hosed down in a way that would simulate rainfall. Where it encountered the NeverWet-treated cushion, the water simply beaded up and rolled off. A few days later, I tried again and was satisfied to see no performance change whatsoever.

The treatment worked equally well on the outdoor cotton chair cushion. Photo: JProvey

Down the road, I’ll need to re-apply NeverWater at some point—to the boots sooner than to the cushion, I’m guessing, being that I wear the boots fairly often. Also, even though NeverWet didn’t discolor my boots or the cushion, if I were going to spray anything whose surface I judged to be delicate, then I would first try the spray in an inconspicuous area before committing to spray the entirety. Depending on what you are spraying, you can get 20 to 60 square feet of coverage per bottle.

It’s recommended that you only use NeverWet outdoors, where there’s plenty of ventilation. Be safe using the product, and you’re likely to enjoy the experience as much as I did. Today, I’m deciding what I want to waterproof next!

This post has been brought to you by Rust-Oleum. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Use Wood Filler

Use wood filler to repair scratches, chips, gouges and other surface imperfections in the furniture and trim work around your home, effectively and efficiently.

How to Use Wood Filler

Photo: suemartinteam.com

Scarred flooring, rotted window frames, chipped furniture—common problems like these can be time-consuming and expensive to repair. Or they can be dealt with quickly and affordably by homeowners who know how to use wood filler. If you’ve never worked with this stuff before, get excited: It might soon be your favorite item in the toolbox. Simple in concept and easy to apply, wood filler works wonders to remedy surface imperfections in a vast, varied range of household items.

Which type of wood filler should you use? The answer depends largely on the job. As the name suggests, stainable wood fillers are receptive to staining so that once you’ve applied the product, you can stain over it to ensure the repaired section matches the rest of the piece that you’re fixing. Typically, water-based wood fillers may also be stained (or painted), but unlike other products in the same category, these are specially formulated for use indoors. Common applications are molding, paneling, and cabinetry. Heavy-duty solvent-based wood fillers are meant primarily for outdoor use and perform well on exterior siding and trim.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sandpaper
- Shop vac (or tack cloth)
- Wood filler
- Putty knife
- Polyurethane sealer
- Paint or stain

How to Use Wood Filler - Exterior Detail

Photo: diyadvice.com

Working with wood filler may at first blush strike you as messy and haphazard, but precise results are not only possible, they are in fact rather easy to achieve. It’s important to note, however, that wood filler is intended strictly for superficial issues, such as scratches and gouges. If the damage calls for a proper repair, wood filler is no substitute. That said, there’s no shortage of ways in which to use wood filler to improve the look of both practical and decorative elements that have seen better days.

STEP 1
Start by preparing the surface to which you are going to apply wood filler. For one, that means removing any loose chunks of wood or flaking paint. Next, sand any rough edges in or immediately adjacent to the damaged area you wish to repair. Finally, clear away all lingering dust and debris by means of a shop vac or moistened tack cloth (if you use the latter, wait for the area to dry completely before you proceed).

STEP 2
Now, apply the wood filler using a putty knife. Start at the edge of the damaged area, pressing the wood filler into the depression. Overfill slightly to allow for the fact that the filler shrinks as it dries. Once you have applied as much filler as necessary, smooth over the filled area with a clean part of the putty knife.

STEP 3
Allow as much time as needed for the wood filler to dry. Depending on the depth of the application, that could take anywhere from 15 minutes to eight hours. Once dry, sand the filled area so that its height is flush with the surrounding wood. When you run your hand over both the undamaged and freshly filled parts of the item you are fixing, you should feel only the slightest difference between the two.

STEP 4
Having sanded the area smooth, complete the project by applying your choice of finish. In most cases, the goal will be to make the repair virtually unnoticeable. So if you’ve been working on a baseboard painted white, concealing the fix is simply a matter of painting over the filled area in the same shade.

Stained pieces are trickier to deal with. For the best possible match, it’s recommended that you dab some wood filler onto a piece of scrap wood. Wait for it to dry, then test the stain to see how it looks. Depending on the test results, you may then choose to thin out the stain, use a different color, or (if you got a close enough match) proceed to apply the stain to the item that you’ve now successfully fixed—cheaply, easily, and possibly in less than an hour.


Bob Vila Radio: Tips on Cutting Plywood

Though plywood can be difficult to cut cleanly, these tips on sawing plywood can help you get the job done well, with a minimum of hassle.

Plywood is a versatile product great for lots of building projects. Cutting it can be a little tricky, however, as the edges are prone to little tears and nicks. Here are a couple of tips to help you get cleaner cuts in plywood.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CUTTING PLYWOOD or read the text below:

Sawing Plywood

Photo: shutterstock.com

The most important thing you can do to get a clean cut is choose the right blade. If you’re using a jigsaw, you need a fine blade specifically designed for plywood or laminate. For circular saws, get a good carbide-tip blade. And for table saws or miter saws, you’ll need a blade with 80 teeth per inch (TPI).

Second, understand how your saw works. The tearout usually happens on the side of the cutting action. So if you’re working with a jigsaw, which cuts on the upstroke, place your plywood with the good side face down. Also place the plywood face down if you’re using a circular saw or miter saw. For a table saw, flip the plywood over so it’s face up.

Whatever saw you’re using, give the plywood plenty of support. Those big sheets can be unwieldy, and an unexpected shift can cause chips. Finally, try running painter’s tape along the length you intend to cut, and score your cut line with a razor first.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.