Category: Tools & Workshop


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

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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

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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

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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.


Bob Vila Radio: Lumber Grades

Did you ever wonder what differentiates the many grades of lumber you see at the local home improvement center? As it happens, there are only a few things necessary to remember. Learn more now.

If you feel a bit confused when you walk down the lumber aisle in your local home store, you’re not alone. For a basic DIY project, it can be tough to know exactly what the names and grades are all about. Here’s a primer on different grades of lumber.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LUMBER GRADES or read the text below:

lumber-grades

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The first thing to know is that no piece of lumber is perfect. That being the case, lumber grades are based on the number of defects in a board. The highest grade is called FAS, for “firsts and seconds.” After that comes “select.” Both FAS and select grades are good choices for architectural framing, molding, and other uses that call for long lengths of wood with few defects. What constitutes a defect? A number of things, including knots, bark pockets, decay, splits or holes.

After select comes “common,” which is suitable for uses that require shorter lengths of clear wood. Number 1 common is often called cabinet grade, since it provides clear boards in the lengths and widths needed for kitchen cabinets. Meanwhile, Number 2A common is an economy grade, so expect shorter lengths without defects. For smaller projects, where long lengths of clear, straight boards are not necessary, number 2A common is typically more than adequate.

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Stripped Screws

Stripped screws can make simple jobs a lot more challenging. Try one of these simple solutions to this commonly occurring, uncommonly annoying problem.

Inserting or removing a screw is one of the simplest jobs there is. But a stripped screw head can turn a simple job into a real head-scratcher. Here’s what you need to know to remove a screw when the slots are worn away.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON STRIPPED SCREWS or read the text below:

Stripped Screws

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If there’s even a little left of the slots, you may be able to get a grip by slipping a portion of a rubberband between the screw head and your screw driver. Sometimes that’s all it takes to provide the grip you need to turn the screw.

If that doesn’t work, try positioning your screwdriver in the center of the screw head and tapping it in lightly with a hammer. That may create enough of a depression in the head to let you get the screw moving. Alternatively, drill a tiny hole in the center of the head, just deep enough to let you set in the tip of a Phillips screwdriver.

Still not budging? If you have a small rotary tool, such as a Dremel, you may be able to carve a new slot that goes deep enough to allow for a good grip.

Remember, a screw usually gets stripped when its soft metal head is worn away by the screwdriver, so be careful when driving in a screw, especially with a power driver. Don’t let the screwdriver spin out of the slots.

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.


How To: Remove a Stripped Screw

Even the most conscientious DIYer is bound to strip the occasional screw. Don't let this annoyance get in your way! Next time, try one of these useful tips for removing a stripped screw. You'll be back to work in no time.

How to Remove Stripped Screws

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It was supposed to be a quick and easy repair. But darn it, one of the screws wouldn’t budge, and so by the time you finally finished, it had grown dark outside. Yes, stripped screws are extremely frustrating, but they’re not impossible to deal with. In fact, it can be pretty easy to remove a stripped screw. If you don’t own a screw extractor—a special tapered drill bit with a square head—then all you need to know are a handful of (lifesaving) tips. Scroll down to see what they are.

 

1. RUBBER BANDS

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Rubber Bands

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Before trying anything else, try this: Put a rubber band over the stripped screw, firmly insert the point of your screwdriver, then slowly unscrew the fastener. Don’t have access to a rubber band? Substitute a bit of steel wool instead or some of the green abrasive from the scouring side of a sponge.

 

2. PLIERS

How to Remove Stripped Screw - Pliers

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Inspect the screw head closely. Is there any daylight between it and the surface to which it’s fastened. If so, see if you can get hold of the screw with a pair of locking pliers, also known as vise grips. Provided that the tool has a firm grip on the screw, you should be able to turn the pliers until the screw loosens and pulls away.

 

3. HAMMER 

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Hammer

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Use a hammer to tap the screwdriver down, lodging it as firmly as you can into the screw head. Doing so may provide the extra grip you need to twist the fastener, especially if it’s made of soft metal—and, of course, soft metal screws are the kind that are most likely to become stripped in the first place.

 

4. FLAT-HEAD SCREWDRIVER

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Screwdriver

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Does the stripped screw have a Phillips head? If so, reach for a flat-head screwdriver narrow enough to fit (in its entirety) within the Phillips-head hole. Keep in mind that it takes real muscle to pull this off. To facilitate things, it’s smart to combine this clever strategy with the rubber band method described in Option 1.

 

5. OSCILLATING TOOL

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Dremel

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If there’s a Dremel in your workshop—and if you’re a committed DIYer, you probably should own one of these handy oscillating tools—affix the metal-cutting disc and create a new, deeper slot in the screw head. Follow up with a flat-head screwdriver, pressing it firmly into the indentation and twisting it slowly.

 

6. DRILL

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Drill

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Sometimes drilling a small hole into a stripped screw can allow your screwdriver to reach deeper into—and achieve a better grip on—the stuck fastener. If you’re going to try this approach, make certain to use a drill bit designed for use on metal, not wood. And don’t drill too far down; the screw head could pop off!

 

7. NUT

How to Remove Stripped Screws - Nuts

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If you’re experienced with welding and have the necessary equipment on hand—and you really want to remove that pesky stripped screw—here’s a last-ditch effort you can make. Spot-weld a nut to the top of the screw head, wait a sufficient period of time, then remove both screw and nut by means of a socket wrench.

Armed with all these tips, the next time you strip a screw you can rest assured it’s not the end of the world—it’s just another solvable, albeit annoying, problem. No single trick works every time, but once you’re familiar with the options at your disposal, you’ll gradually learn to recognize which scenarios call for which particular solution.


17 Reasons You Need a Good Multi-Tool

For your next DIY project, you'll minimize trips to the garage and workshop if you keep a multi-tool on hand. Here are 17 good reasons why you should have one in your pocket.

HYDE 17-in-1 Painter's Multi-Tool

HYDE 17-in-1 Painter's Multi-Tool

We’d all like a little more time. Unfortunately, you can’t buy it. You can, however, save some time as you go about your daily routines. Ordering online, using a GPS, and always putting your keys in the same spot are just a few common time-savers.

There are also plenty of ways to conserve time in your home improvement and maintenance tasks. The venerable adages “measure twice, cut once” and “a stitch in time saves nine” immediately come to mind. To these I add my own advice for time seekers: “put a multi-tool in your pocket.”

Nothing slows you down (or wears you out) more than constantly having to fetch tools or search for ones that have been misplaced. I try to minimize trips to the basement workshop and garage by keeping a spare set of basic tools in the kitchen junk drawer. The set includes two screwdrivers, a utility knife, a tape measure, a putty knife, a set of Allen wrenches, and a hammer. In the past, I had considered consolidating the tools with a multi-tool, but unfortunately most of the ones I had seen were too insubstantial to be of much use.

Recently, however, I was able to get my hands on a multi-tool made by HYDE, the company that created the first multi-tool 60 years ago and now makes all sorts of tools for painters, paperhangers, masons, and drywall contractors. Made of stainless steel, it combines 17 tools that can be used for hundreds of jobs around the house.

The 3-inch-wide blade works as a paint scraper, putty knife, and paint can opener. It is pointed on one end for digging out loose grout or caulk, scoring, and cutting. All it takes is a file to keep it razor sharp. The 8¼-inch overall length gives you plenty of leverage for prying but fits nicely in your back pocket or tool belt.

In the middle of the blade is a slot for pulling small nails and brads. The edges of the blade include two concave cutouts for scraping paint from large and small rollers, two wrench cutouts (thoughtfully sized for air hose and airless paint sprayer hose connectors), and a bottle opener.

On the opposite end of the tool is a steel-butted handle that can drive small nails. It’s also handy for knocking trim pieces into alignment prior to nailing them off. Pop off the handle to access four screwdriver bits (flat and Phillips) in two sizes and a small-diameter nail punch that can be used also as a scribe or awl.

In the short while I’ve owned my 17-in-1 HYDE Painter’s Multi-Tool, it has come in handy for filling voids in the bathroom subfloor that I’m prepping for tile, removing old caulk along the base of the tub, setting protruding nail heads, removing old drywall screws, and knocking down the nubs on the wall I’m about to paint. It has now earned a permanent place in the kitchen junk drawer.

HYDE offers a full range of multi-tools in stainless steel, brass, and high-carbon steel.

 

This post has been brought to you by HYDE®. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.

 

 


Bob Vila Radio: Squares

When you need to create accurate angles as part of a home improvement project, there's no substitute for the trusty carpenter's square.

One tool that should definitely be in any do-it-yourselfer’s toolbox is a good carpenter’s square. A square helps you keep your corners sharp and your angles accurate. Here’s what you need to know about choosing and using squares.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SQUARES or read the text below:

Carpenter's Square

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A basic framing square is L-shaped and looks like a metal ruler bent at a 90-degree angle. That corner allows you to join and double-check pieces to be sure they are truly square. A better choice for most jobs, though, is the speed square, which is shaped like a right triangle. Its 90-degree corner lets you check for squareness, but the side opposite that right angle is marked like a protractor, with degrees that help you cut all kinds of angles, whether for mitered corners and other custom cuts.

Another advantage of the speed square is the flat edge along one side that lets you butt it up against one side of a job or position it securely along the edge of your workpiece. You can even use it as a cutting guide when you’re using a circular saw.

For more complicated jobs, you may want to consider an adjustable, T-shaped combination square. The trunk of the T can be slid along the header and tightened at any point, making it extremely useful for any number of jobs.

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.


How To: Make Decorative Cuts with Your Jigsaw

You need not be an expert to give woodwork a special finishing touch. In fact, it's pretty easy to make decorative cuts with your jigsaw. Follow these instructions to get started.

Here’s how to cut a decorative design out of the middle of a board. After choosing your design and carefully marking your pattern, prepare a starting point for your jigsaw blade by drilling a pilot hole that falls within the boundary of your pattern. Then with your jigsaw, follow the penciled outline carefully, removing small sections at a time.

For more on woodworking, consider:

Quick Tip: Jigsaws
Bob Vila’s 7 Essential Woodworking Tools
10 Surprisingly Simple Woodworking Projects for Beginners


Bob Vila Radio: Woodworking Chisels

If you are thinking about taking up woodworking, you'll need a few basic tools to get started. Chisels are the foundation of any woodworker's toolbox, so here are a few tips to choose and use these vital tools.

No woodworker’s toolbox is complete without a set of chisels. If you’re just getting started on do-it-yourself woodworking, here’s what you need to know about choosing and using chisels.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WOODWORKING CHISELS or read the text below:

woodworking chisels

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First, beginning woodworkers can start with a simple set of three or four chisels. Be sure to look for woodworking chisels, not masonry chisels or other types. The three-quarter-inch size is the workhorse for most projects, but quarter-inch, half-inch, and one-inch widths also come in handy. You’ll be using them for leveling surfaces and cleaning up the edges of your work when you cut a mortise for a lockset or hinge or similar jobs, so you want them to stay super sharp. Store them in a cloth roll or even in an old sock to keep them from getting dinged in your tool box.

Chisels don’t take much maintenance — just be sure they’re clean when you put them away after use. Once in a while, you can spray them lightly with a little oil to be sure they don’t get rusty. The most important thing you can do is to use them correctly. Don’t use a chisel to scrape globs of glue off a work surface or for other utility jobs. That’s a great way to dull the chisel and make it less useful when you need it later.

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Pulling Nails

Most avid DIYers know well how to hammer in a nail— but there are plenty of projects that will require you to pull a nail out. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you pull a nail out.

You may be pretty good at swinging a hammer to drive in a nail, but there are plenty of do-it-yourself jobs that will require you to get some nails out instead of in. Here are a few quick tips to help make pulling nails a little easier.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PULLING NAILS or read the text below:

Pulling Nails

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You can often remove a nail with the claw end of a hammer. Start by slipping the claw under the nail head and rocking it loose. To avoid damaging the wood surface OR breaking your hammer, once you get the nail partly out, slip a wood block under the hammer head next to the nail before you pull straight on the handle to remove the nail.

If the nail is resistant to pulling and you don’t mind roughing up the wood surface a little, you can try a cat’s paw instead of a hammer’s claw. A cat’s paw is a nail-pulling tool that does great work getting to buried nails. Use the head of the hammer to tap the cat’s paw into the wood to extract the stubborn nail.

If the nail is buried and you have access to both sides of the wood, you can use a hammer on the back side to drive the nail out far enough so you can grab its head on the front.  If the nail has no head, you can sometimes pull it out from behind using pliers and a little elbow grease.

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.