Tools & Workshop - Bob Vila

Category: Tools & Workshop

Video: How to Remove a Stripped Screw

Become your own DIY hero and learn how to remove stripped screws without a screw extractor.

Operating a screwdriver is so easy a child could do it—so why can’t you remove that stubborn screw no matter how hard you try? The problem could be that the head of the screw is stripped, which prevents you from getting enough traction to remove the thing. If that’s the issue, don’t despair. Take a look at these alternative methods for removing a screw that just won’t budge.

For more DIY tips, consider:

10 Things You Didn’t Know Superglue Can Do

15 Handy Things to Get at Home Depot for Under $15

9 Home Repair Remedies to Borrow from Your Medicine Cabinet


How To: Use a Table Saw

Master the info and techniques here to ensure safe, efficient, satisfying work with this popular power tool.

How to Use a Table Saw


Anyone serious about woodworking or DIY eventually wants to add a table saw to their power tool arsenal. Named for the table that supports the material being cut, the table saw is an excellent tool for making quick, precise work of repetitive cutting tasks. If you’re in the market for one of these beauties or just bought one for your home workshop, study up here on how to use a table saw to make cuts correctly and safely.

Table Saw Basics

Table saws, which run between $300 for a standard model to $700 for a contractor-quality version, are sold by the size of the blades they accommodate. The 10” size is most common and ideal for most carpentry and woodworking tasks, yet you’ll find 8” table saws that are handy for small work and 12” versions well suited to creating deeper cuts on thicker material. The parts of a table saw include:

• A table top of at least 3’X3’ (possibly larger than 4’X6’) with extensions available for most brands. The table, typically made from cast steel or cast aluminum, rests on a stand or a metal cabinet. Most table saws are considered stationary power tools, but portable versions with foldable legs for easier moving are available.

• A blade that can be raised or lowered via a blade-height crank

• A rip fence, which is a guide bar positioned parallel to the saw blade

• A miter gauge that assists the user in making crosscuts

• Blade guards that encase the blade while it’s cutting to offer a measure of protection in case your fingers get close to the blade

• Push sticks that allow you to feed the material through the saw without your fingers getting close to the moving blade

Depending on the saw you choose, you may have additional accessories such as rollers or table extensions to support long lengths of wood, vacuum attachments, or clamps.


How to Use a Table Saw


Safety First

Too many weekend warriors—and pros—have suffered serious injuries for not knowing how to use a table saw. If not properly handled, the material being cut can get in a bind and kicked back, either throwing the material at a high velocity toward them or jerking it violently and pulling their fingers toward the blade. To lessen the risks of kickback:

• Never start the saw while the material you’re cutting is touching the blade.

• Always use the rip fence when making “rip” cuts.

• Always use the miter gauge, not the rip fence, for crosscuts (the rip fence doesn’t offer adequate support).

• Keep material completely flat against the table during the cut.

In addition to the specific safety observances to prevent kickback, take the time read the manufacturer’s safety provisions and be sure to always wear goggles and ear protection while using the table saw. Also remember to unplug the saw before you adjust or align the blade, and don’t remove the safety guards that come with the saw.

Making the Cuts

With accessories such as clamps, stops, and jigs, you can make such specialty cuts as dado cuts, compound angles, and rabbet joints—yet woodworkers rely on the table saw most for two basic cuts. Ripping, the most common use of a table saw, involves cutting material to a specific width. Crosscutting applies to cutting material to a specific length. Below, you’ll find step-by-step directions for using a table saw to make each of these common cuts.


How to Use a Table Saw


How to Rip

Ripping is the simplest cut to make, thanks to the table saw’s rip fence that adjusts to the width of the desired cut and also serves as a guide to control the material while cutting.

Unplug the table saw and fit a rip blade (suitable for the material you’re cutting) into the blade arbor on the top of the table. Adjust the blade height so the top of the blade rises no more than ¼” above the thickness of the material you’re cutting. For example, if you’re ripping long pieces of wood from ½” plywood, set the blade no higher than ¾” above the tabletop.

To do this, use the arbor nut wrench that came with your table saw to loosen the arbor nut (the nut that holds the blade in place) and position the rip blade with the teeth facing the front of the table saw. A table saw blade spins towards you, from the top downward, so the sharp blades must face the front of the table saw and not the back. Tighten the arbor nut snugly.

Position the rip fence by releasing the locking lever on the front of the fence, which locks the fence into place, and then sliding it so its inner edge matches the desired width of the cut. Your table saw has a ruler on the front to help position the fence, but don’t depend solely on the ruler for measuring your cut. Use a precision tape measure and measure the distance from the fence to the closest edge of a saw blade tooth. Saw blade teeth alternate, one toward the left and then one toward the right. By measuring to the closest edge, you’ll account for the amount of wood the blade will cut away (called the kerf) during the cut.

Plug in the table saw and place the material to be cut on the table, aligned with the rip fence, but do not allow the material to touch the blade until you’ve turned on the saw and the blade reaches full speed. If the material makes contact with the blade before the blade reaches cutting speed, it a sure recipe for kickback.

Guide the material slowly but firmly along the rip fence with one or both hands, whichever is necessary to control the material, keeping it flat along the table top and snugly aligned with the fence. When ripping large, thick boards, you’ll often want to use both hands to guide the material at the start, and then switch to one hand as the cut nears completion. If the material is long and extends beyond the back of the table, either use a table extension to support it or have a helper support it as you cut to keep the material flat at all times. Don’t let go of the material and walk around to the back of the table saw, which may cause the material to lift off the table, increasing the risk of kickback.

Use a push stick when necessary to keep your fingers away from the moving blade. A push stick is designed to guide the material when you’re making narrow rips that would put your fingers within a few inches of the blade. Don’t chance it—always use a push stick.


How to Use a Table Saw


How to Crosscut

When making crosscuts on a table saw, it’s vital to remember not to use the rip fence a guide. The rip fence stabilizes long lengths, but most crosscuts are made on fairly narrow material—cutting it in half or taking off the end of a board, for example. Not enough of the material is available to fit along the rip fence during crosscuts so attempting to use the fence increases the risk of dangerous kickbacks. Instead, use a miter gauge.

A miter gauge features a guide fence to stabilize the material and a bar that fits into one of the deep grooves on the table’s surface. When the bar is fitted into a groove, the whole miter gauge slides from the front to the back of the table saw so you can control the cut. It also features a protractor-like guide that’s adjustable by loosening a knob and then selecting the correct angle before retightening the knob. Sometimes, the miter gauge that comes with a table saw is a little on the lightweight side. If you plan to do a lot of crosscutting, consider investing in an after-market miter gauge that’s more substantial. Alternately, you can use a miter sled (see “Note” below).

Unplug the table saw and insert a crosscut blade into the table saw arbor as described above in Step 1 of “How to Rip.”

Adjust the protractor guide on miter gauge to make either straight or mitered (angled) crosscuts.

Position and align the material along the front edge of the miter gauge, using clamps if necessary to secure it in place.

Plug in the table saw and turn it on but do not let the wood touch the blade until the blade is spinning at full speed.

Carefully slide the entire miter gauge and the material you’re cutting forward slowly and carefully through the moving blade.

Turn the table saw off before retrieving cut off parts of material near the blade.

Note: You may wish to use an after-market miter sled to support your material during crosscuts. A miter sled resembles a shallow rectangular box with pre-cut slots in the bottom, which allow you to position the material in the sled and then slide the entire sled over the table while cutting. You don’t necessarily have to buy one, though. Many woodworkers make their own miter sleds, and you can find free detailed plans online. Making a miter sled might be a great first project for your new table saw!


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

Cool Tools: No-Sacrifice Hearing Protection for Multitasking DIYers

Stay safe and connected with an easy-to-operate wireless device that protects your hearing, lets you enjoy your favorite tunes, and gives you access to your smartphone, all in one sleek package.

Honeywell Sync Wireless


It doesn’t matter what job I’m tackling. Whether I’m staining the deck, installing an appliance, or simply cleaning the bathroom, I always work faster and achieve better results—and enjoy myself more, quite frankly—if I’m listening to music. Surely, I can’t be the only one. If you’re like me and like to whistle while you work, you may even sometimes avoid pulling out power tools whose use requires hearing protection. After all, when the earplugs go in, the music stops. And let’s face it: with nothing but the muffled drone of your equipment to accompany you, repetitive tasks like sawing boards and trimming hedges quickly become, well, repetitive.

The solution? Bluetooth-equipped wireless protective earmuffs that safeguard your hearing while enabling you to listen to music or talk on the phone, all at the same time. True, the concept isn’t entirely new. But now, with the technology having grown steadily more affordable, more streamlined, and more functional, average do-it-yourself weekend warriors are starting to pay closer attention to products like the Honeywell Sync Wireless. The appeal? It’s simple: these earmuffs deliver premium hearing protection while enabling you to stream music or talk on the phone, wirelessly and totally hands-free.

True to its name, Sync Wireless syncs to any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone via radio waves, cutting out the need for any wires that could curb your mobility or pose a safety hazard. All the while, your phone stays in your pocket, the earmuff stays on your head, and you stay focused on the task at hand. Want to play, pause, or skip a song, or for that matter, accept, end, mute, or reject a call? You can do it all without missing a beat by operating the controls built right into the sleek, ergonomic body of the headset itself. And if you do have a device that plays music that’s not equipped with Bluetooth? No problem with the Sync Wireless’ built-in jack.


There’s plenty to love about the idea of staying fully connected while toiling away amid the din of a woodworking shop, or while sitting atop a riding lawn mower. In the end, though, connectivity is just the icing on the cake; safety should be paramount. I make it a point always to wear hearing protection because—you guessed it—I genuinely want to protect my hearing! So, I appreciate the fact that for all the functionality packed into Sync Wireless, safety never takes a back seat. Case in point: The earmuff comes equipped with Volume Management Technology. That way, when you’re in the zone and jamming out to your favorite tunes, you can be certain the volume never reaches a harmful decibel level (anywhere above 85dB).

Something else I appreciate: not having to repeat myself. Against background noise loud enough to cause hearing damage, I wouldn’t ordinarily expect a phone conversation to go smoothly. But, thanks to a design that includes a special windsock, the boom mic on the Sync Wireless manages to filter out distortion and output crystal-clear audio to the party on the other end. Another great feature worth noting: the control buttons on the earmuff are so easy to feel and manipulate that even if you’re wearing gloves, you don’t need to drop everything for a call. Instead, you can hop on or off in a matter of seconds, moving the mic into position when you need it, out of the way when you don’t.

Often, my gripe with gadgets is that for all the convenience they may offer when you’re using them, they’re wildly inconvenient to keep charged. Sync Wireless proves an exception. For starters, there’s no battery replacement to worry about, because the technology runs on a built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Second, a single charge goes a long, long way. Even with heavy usage, Sync Wireless can provide more than 16 hours of performance before it needs to be plugged in. In other words, the product works as hard as you do, helping productivity rather than hindering it, and enabling DIYers to multitask and get more done, more quickly. Now that sounds good!

Purchase the Honeywell Sync Wireless Earmuff today.


This article has been brought to you by Honeywell. Its facts and opinions are those of

5 Types of Screwdrivers Every DIYer Should Get to Know

Fill your toolbox with these specific sets of screwdrivers, and you'll be equipped to tackle whatever screws your household project requires.

5 Types of Screwdrivers Every DIYer Should Know


Ask any seasoned carpenter or DIYer what tools take up the most room in his or her toolbox, and the answer is probably “screwdrivers.” Since there is no single universal screw that is suitable for use in framing, decking, or woodworking, it’s imperative to have a variety of screwdrivers and screwdriver bits ready to insert or remove any type of screw you come across. And then, on top of that, odds are you’ll find the need for both manual and powered screwdrivers for around-the-house maintenance and woodworking projects. If you’re just getting started equipping your toolbox, pay close attention to the following types of screwdrivers.

Screwdriver Operation

Screwdrivers have only two purposes: to insert screws and to remove them. While types of screwdrivers are defined by tips that match the specific design of specific screw heads, you’ll find additional variation in how the screwdriver operates. Understanding these design differences will allow you to choose the best method for working with screws in any given project and with any type of screwdriver.

Manual screwdrivers—the hand tool’s most recognizable variation—consist of a thick handle and a cylindrical steel shank that ends in the working tip of the screwdriver (which, in some cases, features an interchangeable bit in order to match a number of screw head patterns). Because the handle is larger than the tip, it takes only moderate twisting force to turn a screw. When using a manual screwdriver, you’ll have to lift the screwdriver from the screw head after every turn of the screw and reposition it before the next turn.

Ratcheting screwdrivers save time and reduce the need to lift and reposition the screwdriver tip after every turn. An internal ball-bearing mechanism allows the user to make multiple turns of the screw through an easy back-and-forth wrist action. The ratcheting action can be changed from one direction to the other by switching a button on the screwdriver, so that a DIYer can both insert screws (clockwise motion) and remove screws (counter-clockwise motion).

• One specific ratcheting screwdriver called a Yankee screwdriver operates on a spring-loaded ratcheting principle. Instead of using wrist action to turn the screwdriver, you’d simply position the tip of a Yankee screwdriver in the screw head and push firmly toward the screw. The pressure causes the screwdriver shank to turn; when you release it, the tension spring inside pushes the handle back to its starting position. Yankee screwdrivers have been around since the late 1800s, but you can still find them in DIY stores.

• With the advent of the drill and the ability to swap drill bits for screwdriver bits, the converted drill screwdriver was born. Powered drill/screwdrivers greatly reduce the time it takes to insert or remove screws, which are swiftly replacing nails in many building and remodeling projects thanks to the strong hold in wood that their ribbed sides provide.

• Some power tool manufacturers have improved on the standard drill by manufacturing designated power screwdrivers, or screw-insertion tools geared to specific applications. Drywall screw guns, for example, are used only for hanging drywall, while subflooring screw guns work specifically with collated screw coils.

At the end of the day, whether you prefer a manual screwdriver or a power drill, the most important factor is to match the screwdriver tip to the screw head.


Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Flat or Slotted Screwdrivers



While flat head screws aren’t used extensively in residential construction anymore, you can still find them in furniture construction, small cabinetmaking projects, and on some electrical applications—and that makes flat head screwdrivers good for more than just prying lids off paint cans. You’ll need them to install plate covers on outlets and switches and in other instances where it’s important not to over-tighten a screw.

Flat-head screwdriver bits are available for ratcheting screwdrivers and drills, but it’s a good idea to keep a handful of flat manual screwdrivers in your tool bag. They’ll come labeled by both the size of the tip and the length of the steel shank. Tip sizes vary, from fractions of millimeters (which are tiny enough to tighten eyeglass screws) up to an inch or larger (fit for industrial size screws). When matching a screwdriver to a flat screw, pick one that matches the width and depth of the slot on the screw head in question.

Best For: Tightening and loosening slotted screws. Craftsman’s 5-piece Slotted Screwdriver Set comes with five tips in varying sizes that will fit the most common slotted screws a DIYer is likely to encounter ($14.95 on Amazon). The screwdrivers feature both short and long shanks, so you’ll be able to reach screws in even tight spots.


Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Phillips Screwdriver



Phillips screws, identifiable by a flared “+” on their heads, are widely used for construction and woodworking purposes. The screwdrivers and bits that fit Phillips screws are labeled “Ph,” followed by a number ranging in increasing size from 0000 up to the number 4, but the driver sizes do not correspond with Phillips screw sizes; you’ll have to physically match the driver tip to the specific screw. A manual or ratcheting screwdriver works fine for when you have just one or two screws to install, but construction projects notoriously use a number of screws. Opt for a power drill with interchangeable Phillips bits for the most efficient build.

Best For: Multipurpose building and remodeling, especially drywall installation. If you plan on hanging a lot of drywall, check out the DEWALT 6-Amp Drywall Screwdriver ($70 on Amazon). This corded power screwdriver is specifically designed to install Phillips drywall screws. Plus, it allows the user to pre-set the screw depth and eliminate chances of under- or over-inserting a drywall screw.


Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Allen Screwdrivers



Hex-head screws are typically small and commonly found in doorknobs, towel bars, faucet handles, even some mechanical installations and require a hex key screwdriver (also called an Allen screwdriver) to tighten or loosen. Screwdrivers and bits range in size to fit hex-head screw recesses from around 0.03” to 3/8”. Allen-type screwdrivers, or wrenches, are often L- or T-shaped manual screwdrivers, although Allen bits are available for both ratcheting screwdrivers and drills.

Best For: Installing small fixtures, such as towel bars. As with all manual screwdrivers, it pays to have a variety of tip sizes available so you don’t have to run to the hardware store to get a single size screwdriver. Xcelite’s 11-piece Allen Hex Screwdriver Set comes with a set of nine interchangeable Allen bits in sizes ranging from 0.050” up to 3/16”, as well as an optional extension bar for reaching into restricted spots ($47.30 on Amazon). With such a complete set, you’ll never need to buy another Allen wrench or screwdriver!


Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Robertson Screwdriver Bits


Screwdriver Type: Robertson

The Robertson screw offers the distinct advantage of reduced screwdriver slippage. Also known as the “square recess screw,” this screw head was developed in the early 1900s by a Canadian inventor who was tired of damaging slotted screws every time the screwdriver tip slipped out of the slot. Though a great improvement, it didn’t catch on in the US until power drills began being used as screwdrivers. Today, the Robertson screw, which ranges in recess size from 1/16” to 3/16”, is extensively used in construction and remodeling projects. You can find manual and ratcheting square recess screwdrivers, but the Robertson screw is most often inserted and removed using a power drill. One of the most common uses for the Robertson screw is in the installation of subflooring, which goes a lot quicker if you use a power drill and a Robertson screw bit.

Best For: Use with a power drill for woodworking and construction. If you’re looking for a good set of square recess bits to fit your power drill, try Picquic’s Robertson Bit Set ($7.49 on Amazon). It comes with four bits in graduated sizes for use with the most common size Robertson screws.


Types of Screwdrivers to Know - Torx Screwdrivers


Screwdriver Type: Torx

Quickly becoming a favorite of builders and serious DIYers, the Torx screw—sometimes called the star screw—features a 6-point recessed star tip in sizes that range from 0.031” to 0.81” and are designated by “T” numbers (from T1 to T100). Common building sizes are T15 and T25, and, whatever screw size, there’s a corresponding Torx screwdriver or screwdriver bit to fit.

Manual and ratcheting Torx screwdrivers are available but power drill users like Torx screws for the same reason they like Robertson screws, because they resist slippage with power application. Torx screws are commonly used for structural framing, finish work and even as wood-to-concrete fasteners.

Best For: Multiple DIY and building purposes. For an all-around bit set, consider Tonsiki’s 11-piece Torx Drill Screwdriver Set ($12.95 on Amazon). It features magnetic bits that assist in keeping the screws in place on the drill tip.

7 Types of Saws Every DIYer Should Get to Know

Familiarize yourself with these saws and their uses, and your next DIY project is sure to be a cut above the rest.

7 Types of Saws Every DIYer Should Know


Whether you want to build a rustic bench, install trim molding, or plumb a new sink, odds are that you’ll need to cut some material to size—and there’s a saw out there waiting to help you do just that. The following seven types of saws cover a spectrum of DIY scenarios, from wood to metal. Familiarize yourself with which specialties each possess, and you can tackle whatever project you have in mind.

It’s All About the Teeth

As you go about adding saws to your toolbox and workshop, you’ll find that many saw blades are rated by teeth per inch (TPI). These numbers range from 2 to 32. Blades with lower TPI numbers will cut quickly but produce rougher cuts. The higher TPI ratings will produce fine, smooth cuts in wood and similar materials.


Types of Saws to Know - Traditional Hand Saw


TYPE OF SAW: Traditional Handsaw

No woodworker’s shop is complete without a traditional handsaw, with its large blade and sturdy handle. Though the handsaw is 100 percent muscle-powered, it steps in when a power saw just won’t do, such as when you need to cut through a post that is too thick for a circular saw blade. Choose the type of traditional handsaw you need based on the cut you intend to make and the TPI needed to make it.

If you need to rip wood (or cut wood lengthwise with its grain), choose a rip saw with large, angled teeth and an average of 5 TPI.

• Cutting across the grain of the wood takes a crosscut handsaw, which has between 10 and 12 TPI and shorter teeth than a rip saw.

• Looking for a do-it-all compromise? The dual-cut (or “hybrid”) handsaw features an average of 6 to 8 TPI and can both rip wood and cut across the grain.

Best For: Cutting wood by hand. For an all-around, affordable crosscut handsaw, you won’t go wrong with Stanley’s 26-Inch Short Cut Saw ($19.99 on Amazon). With 12 TPI, it produces quick and smooth cross-grain cuts. When you’re ready to invest in a saw with ripping power that will last for years, though, consider Crown’s 190, 24-inch Rip Saw and its 4.1 TPI ($82.85 on Amazon).


Types of Saws to Know - Hacksaw


TYPE OF SAW: Hacksaw

With thin, interchangeable blades ranging from 14 to 32 TPI, the C-shaped hacksaw is most often used for cutting metal pipes. Its range of TPI options, though, makes it useful for cutting sheet metal, PVC, and conduit as well—simply swap out the 10- to 12-inch blades, which are held in place by screw nuts on each end. A hacksaw also comes with a tension nut that allows you to stretch the blade taut for easier sawing. Depending on the thickness of material (metal or otherwise) that you’re cutting, you may also change out the hacksaw’s tooth pattern:

• Small teeth on the raker set hacksaw blade are arranged in sets of three for easy cutting of standard metal pipes.

• A regular set hacksaw blade features teeth positioned next to one another without spaces, but every other tooth angles a different direction, either forward or backward. It’s intended for cutting soft metal and other materials, such as PVC.

• On a wavy set blade, the teeth are positioned next to one another, but the tooth pattern features a slight wave from one side to the other. Choose this type of blade when cutting thin metal, such as ducting.

Best For: Cutting metal. For good cutting control, we like the rubber grips on both the handle and the front frame of TEKTON’s 2-in-1 High Tension Hacksaw, which allows the user to hold the saw with both hands ($12.99 at Amazon). The TEKTON saw comes with one 12-inch, 18 TPI blade and can store six more blades in its handle.


Types of Saws to Know - Coping Saw


TYPE OF SAW: Coping Saw

The U-shaped coping saw has only one purpose: coping or “back-beveled” cuts for trim installation around inside corners. While it resembles and functions like a hacksaw, the coping saw’s frame is lighter in weight and the blade is shorter—typically 6-¾”-long and anywhere from 10 to 32 TPI. The tiny blades make it possible to back-cut curves and create precise joints when installing crown molding and other types of trim.

Best For: Creating professional-looking inside corner joints when installing trim. For sharp, accurate coping cuts, we like the Husky 6.5” Deep-Cut Coping Saw ($7.88 at Home Depot). It features a deep frame throat, giving you plenty of room to back-cut even wide pieces of trim, and its 32 TPI blade can be rotated a full 360-degrees to saw at virtually any angle.


Types of Saws - Jig Saw



A versatile saw for DIYers, the jigsaw can cut straight lines like a circular saw (see below) but its real claim to fame is the ability to cut curves. Considered one of the safer power saws, the jigsaw features a large flat base called a “shoe,” which rests flat on the surface of the material you’re cutting and surrounds the blade and offers some protection. Many jigsaws come with an adjustable shoe that tilts, allowing you to cut on an angle when needed.

These types of saws can cut nearly any type of wood using blades with a TPI between 8 and 10. The teeth on a standard jigsaw blade point upward, so the saw cuts on the blade’s upstroke. Reverse blades, which cut on the downstroke, are available for cutting materials with a finished surface, such as a laminate countertop. While blades come in a variety of lengths, width depends on the curve: Choose one that is 1/4”-wide to cut tight curves and 3/8”-wide blades to cut standard curves.

Best For: Cutting curves in wood. If you’re looking for a dependable jigsaw for DIY projects, large or small, consider DEWALT’s corded 5.5 Amp Top Handle Jigsaw kit ($99 on Amazon). It has a variable speed dial for adjusting cutting speed, and it comes with its own carrying bag.


Types of Saws to Know - Circular Saw


TYPE OF SAW: Circular Saw

Designed to cut straight lines in dimensional lumber, plywood, rigid foam board, and even concrete, the circular saw is one of the most popular saws for framing and can substitute on the jobsite for a table saw. It features an encased circular blade and a wide base that fits flat against the material you’re cutting and, on most models, adjusted so you can vary the depth of the cut.

Circular saw blades are labeled for the type of material they’re designed to cut: Wood blades cut plywood or lumber, masonry blades cut joints in a concrete sidewalk, and so on. Circular saws come in a variety of sizes, determined by the diameter of the blade they use. While the most common blade diameter for circular saws is 7-1/4 inches (suitable for most construction tasks), you can find saws with blades as small as 4 inches for light woodworking projects or a large as 12 inches for cutting heavy timbers.

Best For: Cutting framing materials, including wall studs, joists, rafters, and sheathing. If you enjoy building garden sheds, playhouses, and other structures, the RYOBI 7-1/4-inch 13-Amp Circular Saw is an affordable, yet dependable, circular saw ($39.97 at Home Depot). It comes with a spindle lock for easy blade changes, and its 13 Amp motor is suitable for cutting through plywood and standard dimensional lumber.


Types of Saws to Know - Miter Saw


TYPE OF SAW: Miter Saw

The main purpose of a miter saw is to make precision crosscuts when framing, installing molding, or even cutting siding strips. Today’s miter saws make angled cuts based on the same principle as their manual “miter box” siblings, although they can perform even more complex cuts. A miter saw’s heavy steel base can be mounted on a workshop table for stability, and a steel guide along its back edge, called a “fence,” aligns the material to be cut. The actual saw blade is housed in a large disk on an adjustable arm that can be raised and lowered as well as swiveled from side to side to cut on virtually any angle.

While all miter saws make angled cuts, a compound miter saw has the ability to tilt on its axis to make slanted cuts in addition to angled cuts. On a sliding miter saw, the arm can be pulled forward when the saw is operating, making it possible to cut wider boards or strips of siding. Some high-end miter saws feature laser guides for extra-precise cuts. Miter saws are available in 10-inch and 12-inch sizes and range in price from around $100 to over $600, depending on quality. The larger 12-inch size is usually reserved for commercial use.

Best For: Framing and finish carpentry when you need to make simple or complex angle cuts. The Hitachi 15-Amp, 10-inch Compound Miter Saw features a 24 TPI blade for angled cuts and simple bevel cuts—making it a solid choice for most DIY building and trimming projects ($109 on Amazon).


Types of Saws to Know - Chain Saw


TYPE OF SAW: Chainsaw

The chainsaw is designed to cut tree limbs or fell entire trees with its dozens of sharp teeth that rotate around the guide bar. Guide bars range from 14 inches long (for light cutting and pruning) up to 36 inches long (for use by lumberjacks) and can be interchangeable on some models of chainsaws. For most DIYers, a chainsaw with an 18- to 20-inch guide bar is sufficient. Keep in mind that a 16-inch chainsaw bar will fell a tree that’s 32-inch in diameter by sawing systematically around the entire trunk of the tree. While some smaller, corded chainsaws work for trimming and pruning nearby the house, most are fuel-operated and can be taken into remote areas for harvesting firewood. Prices start under $100 for lightweight electric models and run into the thousands for commercial-grade chainsaws.

Safety Note: Chainsaws are among the most powerful saws around, but they’re also dangerous because the tip of the guide bar can kick back during operation. Before operating any chainsaw, read the owner’s manual carefully and familiarize yourself with the saw’s safety features and safe operating techniques.

Best For: Cutting firewood and trimming trees. The Husqvarna 44E 16-inch 2-Stroke, X-Torq Gas-powered Chain Saw makes quick work of pruning branches and harvesting firewood ($299.95 on Amazon). It comes with a 16-inch guide bar, and it can be fitted with a longer 18-inch bar if desired. Though not the cheapest model on the market, this 10 lb. chainsaw is powerful and relatively lightweight, so you can cut without suffering too much arm and back strain.

How To: Choose the Right Scraper for the Job

Whether you're shopping for a tool to complete a specific project or simply stocking your toolbox, follow these pointers to pick out strong scrapers that will make short work of your next DIY job.

Choosing the Right Scraper for Any Job


Removing old wallpaper, filling nail holes, and prying off hardened putty all rely on one simple and supremely handy tool: a scraper. But depending on which DIY job you’re gearing up to tackle, you’ll probably need a specific type of scraper, be it a flexible putty knife or wide-blade beveled scraper. No matter how versatile a blade may be, there’s no one-size-fits-all scraper for every task on your to-do list. Variables such as blade size and material, style, and handle design have given rise to the staggering number of scraper options that fill an aisle at your local home improvement store.

While you can find inexpensive plastic scrapers for around a buck that can handle the occasional one-off task, a scraper that gets the job done easily—and holds up for all future jobs—ranges from around $7 to more than $20, depending on its quality and purpose. Read on to learn which features are worth investing in so you can choose the best scraper for your project.


4 Inch Scraper Removes Paint from Larger Surfaces Faster


Selecting a Blade Size

Just as the size and scope of projects differ, so do the sizes of scraper blades. Standard blade widths start at ¾ inch and run up to 4 inches; blades wider than that are typically labeled as “joint knives” and are flexible for working with drywall compound instead of scraping. Generally speaking, tasks like scraping small areas or applying dollops of putty with precision require the use of a stiff, more slender blade. A tool as slim as the HYDE 2-Inch SuperFlexx™ Stainless Steel Putty Knife works well for scraping around staircase balusters or along strips of window trim. While larger blades do the same work and can remove wider strips of paint, thereby reducing the amount of time spent scraping, they can’t fit into narrow spots. For this reason, professionals often stock their toolboxes with a variety of blades—if not nearly every width manufactured. It’s a smart idea to do the same if you frequently work on home repair projects.

Material Matters

While most metal blades may look the same, the materials’ properties and strengths will vary widely.

• Economical scraper blades are often made from carbon steel, a metal with a nice flex for filling nail holes or applying compound to drywall seams. Wash and dry these blades immediately after you finish your project, though, because carbon steel has a tendency to rust.

Stainless steel, on the other hand, combines the flexibility of carbon steel with corrosion resistance. Take the HYDE 1-1/2-Inch Flexible Black & Silver Stainless Steel Putty Knife, for example. With a cutting-edge blend of flexible steel and Rockwell hardness, this little putty knife—or even any other size blade in the Black & Silver Stainless Steel collection—has just the right amount of flexibility for smoothing spackling and putty into holes, and doesn’t require difficult cleanup. Even dried-on putty falls right off after a job, just by flexing the blade.

Brass blades are ideal for use around flammable materials, such as lacquer or chemical fumes. When scraping paint from metal in unpredictable situations, a high-quality, non-magnetic brass blade like the HYDE 1-1/4-Inch Stiff Brass Black & Silver® Putty Knife will not spark.

Variety of Quality Scrapers from Hyde Tools


Deciding on a Blade Design

After you get past a blade’s material and size, you’ll notice differences in its flexibility and its edge. When you press the blade against a surface and attempt to bend it, you’ll notice that a product with a ground blade shows some give and tends to be better suited for the pulling motion used when spreading. Such flexible blades are also often called “putty knives,” because they’re primarily used for filling holes and applying compound smoothly over drywall seams. Scraper blades that remain rigid during this flexibility test have not been ground and are sturdy enough for the pushing action that removes old paint and putty.

For the most effective scraping power, choose a stiff blade with a beveled (angled) bottom edge that slips easily beneath thick layers of old paint to lift with ease. Chisel-edge scrapers like the HYDE 3-Inch Black & Silver® Stainless Steel Chisel Scraper offer an altogether different edge variation in which a slanted blade makes it easier to scrape away paint from inside corners. By positioning the longer side of the blade in the corner while scraping, you’ll get optimal paint removal without scraping up your knuckles as you go, thanks to a design that keeps your hand farther away from the wall.

Get a Grip on Handles

Though possibly the last thing you think about, the handles and grips on putty knives and scrapers are the features that offer you the greatest control over the tool. Some of the most worthwhile options are quality construction, comfortably cushioned grips, and sturdy metal endcaps.

• If you’re looking for a scraper with a wooden handle, opt for “full tang,” or “solid tang,” construction, in which the back end of the blade extends fully into the handle. This design makes the blade more secure and less likely to loosen and come apart as a result of exposure to moisture or the stress of scraping. Once a handle is loose or broken, the scraper is useless.

Overmold handles are often cushioned and contoured to fit your grip for a more comfortable and secure hold on the tool. Grips like those on the HYDE 4-Inch Stiff Pro Stainless Scraper reduce the amount of stress placed on the hand during large scraping projects. HYDE’s premium-quality Pro Stainless line comes with a lifetime guarantee, so you know the scraper will last for years. Though these tools are designed for professionals, handy homeowners who do a lot of taping, scraping, or plaster patching can’t go wrong with a few of these quality scrapers in their toolkit.

Hammer Head handles feature a small steel endcap that makes them indispensable for many DIY projects. Tap the endcap lightly with a hammer to assist in loosening stubborn putty, or use the endcap to set nails. For example, if in the middle of a paint-scraping job you run across a popped nail, you can simply flip the scraper around and use the Hammer Head to tap the nail back into place.

Of the many variations of scraper handles available, you can find options that combine the Hammer Head endcap with an overmold grip, or the Hammer Head and a full-tang design. To make sure you ultimately select a quality tool that will do the job, don’t skimp: Choose one with the benefits of two of these three quality features.


This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Use a Jigsaw

Create beautiful curves in wood, metal, and other materials with this specialized tool and these techniques.

How to Use a Jigsaw


Whether doing fine woodworking or tackling a kitchen or bathroom remodel, chances are you’ll need to create some curves—and that’s where a jigsaw comes in. While a table saw or a circular saw won’t do the trick, the main purpose of a jigsaw is to cut curved lines into a variety of materials, including thin metal, laminate, plastic, and even ceramic tile, as well as wood (especially soft species such as pine). You can find a basic jigsaw starting at around $40 or pay up for to $200 for a heavy-duty professional model with such advanced features as orbital blade action, blade-steadying guides, and multiple speed options. If you’re only going to use the saw occasionally, you can probably get by with a less-expensive model. Once you’ve geared up, follow this guide for how to use a jigsaw safely and get great results on all types of projects.

– Protective eyewear
– Heavy-duty extension cord
– Blade that corresponds with material to be cut
– ¼-inch plywood (optional)
– Clamps
– Masking tape (optional)
– Sawhorses

Choose the right blade for the job. The jigsaw blade package will specify the material the blade is designed to cut, saying “wood” or “metal” right on the label. The blade’s teeth-per-inch (TPI) number will also appear on the package and sometimes on the blade itself. A TPI of 10 or 12 is suitable for most woodworking projects. Lower TPIs, which mean fewer saw teeth per inch, allow you to cut faster, but the cut will be rougher. Higher TPIs cut more slowly to create smoother finishes. Another consideration is proper blade width. Select the width that suits the tightness of the curves you’ll be cutting. Jigsaw blades come in two widths, ¼” for cutting tight radius curves and 3/8” for more gradual curves. Finally, familiarize yourself with teeth direction: A standard jigsaw blade has teeth pointing upward to cut on the blade’s upstroke—it’s the best choice for all-purpose cutting. A reverse blade (teeth pointing downward) should be used on material with a pre-finished surface to reduce the risk of chipping or nicking during the cutting process.

How to Use a Jigsaw


Put safety first! Don appropriate eye protection and plug in an extension cord because jigsaw cords are relatively short. Keep the extension cord away from the cutting path and don’t let it pool in the standing area where it could become a tripping hazard.

Position the shoe firmly. The shoe—a flat base that extends a few inches past the front, sides, and back of the blade—must remain flat against the material you’re sawing to ensure an accurate cut. Position the front end of the shoe flat on the material you intend to cut and align the cutting guide on the front of the shoe with the line you’ve marked on the material, but don’t let the saw blade touch the material before the jigsaw is running. Hold it back just a bit, turn on the tool, and then ease the jigsaw forward to begin the cut. If the blade is touching the wood when you turn the saw on, the blade can catch on the wood, jerking the saw and breaking the blade or cutting in the wrong spot.

Drill first to cut center holes. To cut a hole in the center of your material as opposed to curving the edge—such as for a sink opening in a countertop—drill a starter hole before using a jigsaw. Drill a ½-inch hole and then insert the jigsaw blade in the hole and start cutting there. Don’t turn the saw on until the blade is all the way in the hole and the shoe is resting on the material’s surface.

Sandwich sheet materials in plywood. Attempting to cut sheet metal or hard plastic sheeting without reinforcement can result in ragged edges and a bent product. The best way to cut these materials is to first layer them between ¼”-thick pieces of plywood. For example, if you’re cutting large letters from sheet metal, sandwich the sheet metal between two pieces of plywood, one above and one below. Secure the layers together with clamps, and then saw carefully through all three layers. Using the sandwich method will give you the cleanest cuts on thin sheet materials.

Protect finished surfaces from scratches. Laminated countertops, for example, can be scratched by the bottom of a jigsaw shoe that scrapes the surface during cutting. If your material comes with a protective film, leave it on during the cutting process. If you have to cut an unprotected material, cover the area to be cut with masking tape and draw your cutting guides on top of the tape. This will protect the surface from scratches as you cut.

Adjust the angle for beveled cuts. Not all jigsaws offer this feature, but it’s handy if you wish to create a sloped edge. Simply adjust the angle of the blade and follow the same cutting techniques as for vertical cuts.

Speed up the cutting process. When activating the “oscillating” feature often found on higher-end jigsaws, the blade moves in a forward/backward rocking motion as well as up and down. Oscillating blades provide additional cutting power and speed without increasing the risk of edge burrs and splintering.

Take your time when cutting tile. While pros generally use a tile saw for this task, a DIYer can use a jigsaw on tile as much as ¼-inch thick. If you’re determined to learn how to use a jigsaw on tile rather than invest in another new power tool, start by putting masking tape on either the face of the tile or on the bottom of the jigsaw shoe to prevent surface scratches. Then use a corresponding tile blade and clamp the tile securely to prevent shifting. Go slowly and let the blade do the work. Cutting tile with a jigsaw requires patience and a steady hand.


How to Use a Jigsaw



DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

5 Types of Screws Every DIYer Should Get to Know

Get to know the little fasteners that have the big responsibility of holding everything—furniture, decks, walls, and more—together.

5 Types of Screws Every DIYer Should Get to Know


Though they’re not much to look at, screws hold a place of honor in the construction, hobby, and furniture-making industries. From wall framing and cabinetmaking to everyday projects like building a wood bench, these lowly fasteners literally hold everything together—so it’s crucial that you choose and work with the right ones. The screw aisle at your local hardware store spans so long with seemingly endless options for this exact reason: Different projects require different types of screws. The more time you spend building and repairing around the house, you’ll get to know the following five types of screws—and when to use them—rather well. In the meantime, read on for a primer to help distinguish one variety from another and simplify your next trip to the hardware store.


Before we talk about which types of screws are right for the specific projects on your to-do list, let’s talk about how most screws are inserted today. For best grip, the design on the screw head coordinates with a specific screwdriver or power drill‘s bit. Take Phillips screws, developed by the Phillips Screw Company, as an example: This popular fastener is easily recognizable by the “+” on its head and requires little more than a Philips head screwdriver to twist it into place. But since the invention of this in the early 1930s, the number of options for screw heads has expanded to include recessed 6-point and 5-point stars, hex- and square-head designs, and a numerous combined designs, such as a cross between recessed square and Philips head that accepts multiple bits.

Bottom line: When shopping for a fastener for your project, keep in mind that you’ll need to coordinate the screw head design to the right bit. Fortunately, drill bit sets come with multiple bits, which fit virtually every standard screw head size and design configuration.


Types of Screws Best for Wood


SCREW TYPE: Wood Screws

Wood screws feature coarse threads to grip the wood securely until the top of the screw shank, just under the head, where it is often smooth—a design that allows tighter connections when attaching wood to wood. As the screw is drilled to nearly its full depth, the smooth part at the top of the shank spins freely so as not to force the head deeper into the board. Meanwhile, the threaded tip of the screw bites into the bottom piece of wood, drawing the two boards snugly together. The tapered head of a wood screw allows it to sit flush or slightly below the surface of the wood.

When choosing screws for basic wood construction, select a length that will allow the tip of the screw to penetrate the bottom board by about 2/3 the thickness of that board. While on the subject of sizing, widths also vary from #0 (or 1/16 inch in diameter) to #20 (or 5/16 inch in diameter). The most common size is #8 (approximately 5/32-inch in diameter), but the appropriate size of screw will depend on your individual project. Finish wood screws, for example, are designed for attaching trim and molding and therefore feature smaller heads than standard wood screws; these are tapered to allow you to insert the screw just beneath the surface of the wood, leaving a tiny hole that you can fill with wood putty.

Wood screws come in both interior and exterior styles, the latter often galvanized or treated with zinc to resist rusting. For exterior projects specifically using pressure-treated wood, look for Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ)-compatible wood screws. These will not corrode when used in conjunction with wood that’s been pressured treated with copper-based chemicals.

Traditionally, inserting screws in a way that prevents wood from splitting wood requires DIYers to first drill a pilot hole and then apply the screw. Types of screws identified as “self-tapping” (also called self-drilling screws) feature a sharp tip that mimics the drilling action of a drill bit, making predrilling a thing of the past. Since not all wood screws are self-tapping, be sure to read the label carefully.

Best For: Connecting wood to wood. For basic installation of 1-inch thick boards to wall studs, such as when setting cabinets, we like the self-tapping SPAX #8 2-1/2- inch Philips Square Drive Flat-Head Full Thread Zinc Coated Multi-Material Screw ($7.98 for 1 lb. box at Home Depot).


Types of Screws Best for Drywall


SCREW TYPE: Drywall Screws

Intended only for installing drywall panels, these types of screws range in length from 1 inch to 3 inches. Their “bugle” head is designed to countersink slightly in the surface of the drywall panel without tearing the panel’s protective paper covering. No predrilling of holes necessary here; when these self-tapping screws reach the wood studs or joists, they dig right in. Standard drywall screws are suitable for installing drywall panels to wood framing, but if you’re installing drywall over metal studs, look for screws that specify use with metal studs.

Note: You’ll also need to invest in a drywall dimple bit to install these, since it isn’t always included in a standard bit set. This resembles a Philips head bit but features a small protective ring, or “shoulder,” near the tip of the bit that prevents the screw from being installed too deeply.

Best For: Installing drywall on wood or metal studs and joists. To install a single layer of 5/8-inch drywall to wood ceiling joists, try Grip-Rite’s #6 x 2 in. Philips Bugle-Head Coarse Thread Sharp Point Drywall Screws ($6.47 for a 1 lb. box at Home Depot). Their phosphate-coated heads help drywall compound adhere during taping. Use with Bosch’s #2 Philips Dimpler Drywall Screw Setter Drill/Driver Bit ($12.47 at Home Depot).


Types of Screws Best for Masonry


SCREW TYPE: Masonry Screws

The first thing you’ll notice about masonry screws, also called “anchors,” is that they’re not pointed at the tip. A masonry screw does not bore its own hole; instead, you must predrill a hole with before inserting the screw. While some masonry screws have Philips heads, many have raised hex-heads that require installation with a specific matching hex-head bit. Check the screw’s packaging for which bit and exact size are needed to predrill holes and then drill in the anchor. A hammer drill with masonry bit is necessary for predrilling, but you can use a regular drill to insert these screws.

Best For: Attaching wood or metal to concrete. One of the most common uses for masonry screws is to attach wood floor plates to a concrete foundation or basement floor. A good choice for this task is the Tapcon 3/8 in. x 3 in. Hex-Washer- Head Large Diameter Concrete Anchor ($19.98 for 10 from Home Depot).


Types of Screws Best for Decks


SCREW TYPE: Decking Screws

The screws used to fasten decking, or “deck flooring,” to a deck’s joist system are designed to countersink so the tops are flush or just a hair below the surface of the wood. Similar to wood screws, this specific exterior screw features coarse threads and a smooth upper shank and is manufactured to resist rust and corrosion. If you’re installing pressure-treated wood decking, use only ACQ-compatible decking screws. Composite-decking manufacturers specify the use of stainless steel decking screws to install their product. Their length varies from 1-5/8 to 4 inches long and they are specifically labeled as “Decking Screws” on the package. Many decking screws are self-tapping, and come in both Philips and star-drive heads.

Best For: Installing exterior decking. For installing standard 5/4-inch decking boards, you can’t go wrong with Deck Mate’s ACQ-compatible, polymer coated #10 x 3-1/2 in. Star Flat-Head Wood Deck Screw ($26.94 for a 5 lb. box from Home Depot).


Types of Screws Best for MDF



Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) often appears in the home in the shape of interior trim, such as base and molding, and in the construction of some assembly-required bookcases and shelving. Harder than solid wood, MDF is more difficult to pierce using regular wood screws without splitting. That leaves two options: Predrill pilot holes in MDF and use regular wood screws, or reduce your work time and use self-tapping MDF screws. The MDF screws come in the same sizes as regular wood screws and feature star-drive heads, but are designed to eliminate splitting and the need for predrilling.

Best For: Use with MDF material when predrilling is tedious. For attaching ¾-inch MDF casing to a door frame, we recommend SPAX’ #8 x 1-3/4 in. T-Star Plus Drive Partial Thread Zinc Coated Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) Screws ($6.97 for a box of 200 from Home Depot).

Buyer’s Guide: Robot Vacuums

Looking to hire a high-tech robot vacuum to do the dirty work for you? These three options have impressive cleaning power at a reasonable price point.

Best Robot Vacuum


Nobody enjoys dragging a heavy vacuum across all carpeted floors of the house and repeating the job only a week later, but dust, debris, and pet hair don’t stop for anyone. Over time, the need for a better (read: more convenient) way led to the invention of the robot vacuum. While early models were more novel than practical—the clumsy machines jerked erratically, bumped into table legs, got stuck under the sofa, and sucked up minimal dirt and debris—robot vacuums have improved through many technological advances since then, graduating to household helpers worthy of the investment. If you’re shopping for your first robot vacuum, you may even be pleasantly surprised at the relatively low price and innovative features. Keep reading to find out what you should know before shopping, and discover the the best robot vacuum options on the market.


First and foremost, consumers must understand that even the best robot vacuum will not clean better than a traditional human-operated option. The machines cannot distinguish between areas that require light vacuuming and heavily soiled areas, so they may not suck up all stray particles. That being said, robot vacuums can still save you time in your routine and, in most circumstances, work effectively.

Although there is no standard system for testing and rating robot vacuums, more expensive models tend to have better cleaning power. Budget robot vacuums start at prices under $300, but many offer sub-par sucking power. Mid-range models, which sell for between $300 to $600, are usually more effective. High-end models run upwards of $600, and some will set you back as much as $1,000, or more. However, do not judge a robot vacuum’s power strictly on price; select a model that has excelled in independent testing and has a track record of great customer satisfaction.

Best Robot Vacuum



When choosing a robot vacuum, homeowners are often most interested in the machine’s cleaning power. But the effectiveness of any specific model depends on a variety of factors, such as the size of the room you intend to clean, the type of flooring you have, the vacuum’s battery life, and the vacuum’s ease of operation. Before choosing a model, consider the following:

Floor Covering: Check the manufacturer’s specs carefully. Some models are designed for low pile carpeting but not shag, while others should only be used on solid flooring, such as hardwood planks or tile.

Battery Life: Even if a robot vacuum advertises great suction, it won’t clean effectively without a properly charged battery. Manufacturers often list battery run time as well as the area size (in square footage) that the vacuum will successfully clean on a single charge. During an extensive cleaning cycle, some models will even automatically dock in their charging stations until refueled and then continue vacuuming where they left off.

Remote Control: While the exact functions depend on the model, many robot vacuums come with remote controls to program the operating modes (see below) or activate the vacuum when necessary, whether to clean the whole room or just one spot on the floor.

Program Options: To cater to the amount of cleaning you need, robot vacuums often include a selection of operating modes: “turbo” modes that offer quick and intense cleaning power, “eco” modes that save battery power, and “quiet” modes that won’t interfere with your everyday (studying, working, or television time). The ability to program a cleaning schedule in advance—typically from three to seven days—may also be a high on your priority list for a vacuum that makes the whole chore practically automatic.

Smart Technology: Newer robot vacuums connect to Wi-Fi, allowing users to operate them remotely through an app on their smartphones. In addition to programming the miniature machines as a remote might otherwise do, the app may also monitor the robot’s cleaning progress, battery life, and dustbin.


Using the criteria outlined above as well as reviews from consumers and experts alike, we’ve simplified your shopping trip even further by rounding up three options for the best robot vacuum. Putting your chores on autopilot has never been easier!

Best Robot Vacuum - iRobot Roomba 650


iRobot Roomba 650 ($325)
Sweethome recognized the iRobot Roomba 650 as the best choice for most people, weighing cost with cleaning power. During the company’s independent testing, the Roomba picked up as much debris, dust, and animal hair as more expensive models, and features like the quiet operation mode and superior navigation system made it a hit. Amazon customers agree, awarding the Roomba 650 an impressive 4.4 out of 5 stars. At only 3.6 inches high and 13.4 inches in diameter, the machine runs for a maximum of 90 minutes and cleans up to 1,000 square feet on a single charge, all the while able to skim under open-leg chairs and sofas without getting stuck. Innovative iAdapt Navigation allows it to effectively sense walls, furniture, and drop-offs, thus preventing it from banging into objects or tumbling down stairs. While the Roomba 650 doesn’t come with a remote control, you can manually program the machine to vacuum up to seven times per week. The robot vacuum will automatically dock in its recharging station after each cleaning. Available from Amazon.

Best Robot Vacuum - Neato Botvac Connected


Neato Botvac Connected ($697)
When CNET tested robot vacuums, they focused on app-enabled “smart” models that can be controlled via Wi-Fi and a smartphone. The Neato Botvac Connected took top honors, impressing reviewers with multi-room navigation capabilities and its LaserSmart navigation technology, which allows the robot to vacuum in both directions (rows and columns) to efficiently pick up debris without hitting many obstacles. The D-shaped machine even memorizes and stores different room configurations for future cleanings. Amazon buyers give the Botvac 3.9 stars for its powerful suction, fast-cleaning Turbo mode, energy-saving Eco mode, and ability to suck up animal fur. The Botvac’s CornerClever technology allows it to remove crumbs along walls and in corners, while a spiral blade brush ensures a thorough clean. The robot can cover 5,800 square feet of space and can run up to 180 minutes on a single charge (360 minutes with Eco mode). With a height of 3.9 inches and a width of 13.2 inches, it maneuvers easily under most furniture. Available from Amazon.

Best Robot Vacuum - Samsung Powerbot


Samsung Powerbot ($998)
Consumer Reports names the Samsung Powerbot  Turbo Robotic Vacuum Cleaner as its “Best in Class” winner, citing its “superb cleaning power of carpets and bare floors.” At just under $1,000, the Powerbot doesn’t run cheap, but you get what you pay for in terms of features. Its Visionary Mapping Plus technology creates a map of your home’s entire floor plan for better efficiency. Busy homeowners can also program the Powerbot to clean a single room at any given time via a smartphone app, choosing from one of three timed programs (30, 60, and 90 minutes) and optional cleaning modes, including spot cleaning, maximum cleaning, and dust sensing—all of which earn the Powerbot 3.8 stars from Home Depot consumers. The Powerbot may be best suited for tech-lovers, though, as some customers found it difficult to program the mapping feature. When the robot wraps up the chore, it automatically docks in its charging station. Available from Home Depot.

Get a Grip: Choosing the Right Wrench for the Job

A single wrench in your toolbox is a fine start, but if you're going to call yourself handy, you'll need to know when and how to use these hand tools.

Types of Wrenches


If you’ve ever tried to remove a stuck nut with a pair of pliers in a pinch, you know how easy it is to scrape and damage the nut’s outside edges with the wrong tool for the job. Do enough damage, and the fastener will be nearly impossible to budge, even when you break out the right tool. Fortunately, for all sizes of nuts and bolts, there are certain types of wrenches that fit snugly and—by exerting pressure on the wrench handle—can safely increase the torque (the twisting force) necessary to either tighten or loosen the nut. Read on to decipher which types of wrenches would be best suited to your day-to-day projects and which you should stock in your home’s toolbox ASAP.

One of the first things you’ll notice when shopping for wrenches is that two different measurement standards are used in stores: metric measurements (millimeters) and—the American standard equivalent (inches), named for the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The latter are sized in 1/16-inch increments. With either system, the units are used to measure the nut or bolt that will be twisted.

Most wrench handles range from 5 inches to 2 feet long. The longer the handle, the greater the torque force the wrench can apply to the nut or bolt. Long handles can be unwieldy in tight spots, though, so the best wrench length will depend on the task at hand.

Often, the best way to purchase wrenches is in sets that include graduated-size openings, so that you have the correct tools on hand for whatever project lands on your to-do list. And, if you will be using the wrenches frequently, it’s a good idea to invest in quality—strong, specialty tools manufactured from an alloy significantly stronger than sheet metal. Since a set of precision wrenches matching this description can retail for more than $300, you can rest easy knowing that nearly every size wrench, both SAE and metric, is also available individually. If you’re not ready to invest in a large set, or if your set doesn’t contain the specific size you need, you can purchase a single wrench for the next immediate project.


Types of Wrenches - Open-End Wrenches


WRENCH TYPE: Open-end Wrench
No DIY toolbox is complete without at least a handful of open-end wrenches. One or both ends on this hand tool feature flat interior C-shaped jaws—and if both wrench heads are open, they’ll be of different sizes—that slip snugly along the sides of a nut or bolt, allowing you to exert torque pressure in either direction. After each turn of the nut, you must reposition an open-end wrench before turning again.

Best For: Narrow spots where you only have access to the side of the nut. If you don’t have enough room to slip a box-end wrench (see below) over the top of a nut, an open-end wrench is your best option. For a good starter set, try Zenith Industries’ Double Open End Wrench Set ($12.99 for an 8-piece set from Amazon).

Types of Wrenches - Box-End Wrenches


WRENCH TYPE: Box-end Wrench
For tasks in which you have full access to the top of a nut, a box wrench offers more control over the torque process than its open-end counterpart. That’s because once the wrench head is securely positioned over the nut, it’s less likely to slip off. Whether you purchase a single or double-box wrench (which pairs two different size wrench heads), the box ends resemble rings with interior shapes featuring either six or 12 sides. The openings fit snugly over hex-head (six-sided) nuts and bolts. Box-end wrenches with 12-sided rings fit hex-head nuts in the same manner, but offer greater flexibility in handle positioning when fitting the wrench head over the nut or bolt—extremely helpful if you have limited space to maneuver. Some box wrenches on the market even come with offset handles, reducing the risk of scraping knuckles when tightening nuts on flat surfaces.

Best For: Around the house and automotive use. Like open-end wrenches, box-end wrenches are non-adjustable, so it’s a good idea to start with a standard set like this 8-Piece SAE Offset Box Wrench set ($24.95 from Amazon), and then add additional larger and smaller wrenches to your collection over time.

Types of Wrenches - Combination Wrenches


WRENCH TYPE: Combination Wrench
With a combination wrench you get the best of both open-end and box-end wrenches. Unlike how double open-end and double box-end wrenches feature different size wrench heads at each end, a combination wrench has the same head size on both ends, so you can flip the wrench around while you work—both ends will fit the same nut.

Best For: Again, around the house and automotive use. Also, a great wrench to stow in a bicycle bag for roadside repairs. Check out TEKTON’s 15-piece wrench set, which comes with a handy snap-on storage holder ($36.11 from Amazon).

Types of Wrenches - Adjustable Wrenches


WRENCH TYPE: Adjustable Wrench
Arguably, if you only have one wrench, it should be an adjustable wrench because you can use it on many different sizes of nuts and bolts. But, though undeniably versatile, these wrenches require extra care during use.

In the DIY industry, an adjustable wrench is sometimes called a “knuckle buster” due to its tendency to slip off a nut and—if you’re exerting a lot of force—send your fist flying into something hard or sharp nearby. You can minimize knuckle injuries by remembering to pull the handle of the wrench toward you rather than push it away. Also rotate the wrench’s adjustment screw in order to clamp the wrench jaws as tightly as possible around the nut you’re working on, and readjust as necessary while you work. The jaws on some adjustable wrenches tend to loosen as you work, increasing the risk of slipping and damaging the edges of the nut or bolt.

Best For: Basic plumbing use, including tightening water supply line nuts, or when you can’t locate a non-adjustable wrench in a specific size. Unlike other types of wrenches, adjustable wrenches are sold individually more often than as a set. We like Channellock’s WideAzz Adjustable Wrench with comfort grip ($18.88 from Amazon).

Types of Wrenches - Hex-Key Wrenches


WRENCH TYPE: Hex-Key Wrench
Also called Allen wrenches (although “Allen” actually refers to specific brand known for making hex-key wrenches), these short six-sided bars of steel are characteristically L-shaped, with one side shorter than the other. Rather than wrapping around hex-head nuts like most of the other wrenches in this guide, these turn them by snugly fitting into the six-sided depression at center of each nut. Both ends fit the same size hex-head nut, up to about 3/8-inch for use in household applications and larger only for more industrial work. After inserting one end of the hex-key wrench into a hex-head nut, the other end of the wrench is used as a handle to turn the nut. “Cheater bars,” or small tubes that slip over the end of the wrench handle, can create a longer handle and provide increased leverage when the nuts are stuck.

Best For: Installing and removing recessed hex-head nuts and bolts found in faucets, towel bars, and door knobs. They’re also used for assembling certain types of furniture, bookcases, and closet organizers. Typically, if you purchase an item requiring assembly, the exact hex-key wrench you need will be included, but it never hurts to keep a set of these wrenches like TEKTON’s 26-piece Long-Arm, Ball-end Hex-Key Wrench Set on hand for everyday use ($14.95 from Amazon).

Types of Wrenches - Ratcheting Wrenches


WRENCH TYPE: Ratcheting Wrench
While a ratcheting wrench closely resembles the box-end wrench with one or two closed-heads, its function is wholly different. Once slipped over a nut or bolt, the ratcheting (grab-and-slip) assembly in the head grips the nut tightly when the wrench handle is pulled in one direction but not in the other, so that you can loosen or tighten a nut by simply moving the ratcheting handle back and forth—no need to reposition it after each turn.

Best For: Getting the job done quickly! A ratcheting wrench can be used in any situation where you might otherwise use a box-end wrench. If you have a lot of nuts or bolts to tighten, a ratcheting wrench will greatly reduce the time it takes to do so. Consider investing in a set like the Craftsman’ 20-piece Ratcheting Wrench Set, which offers a ratcheting head on one end of each wrench and an open wrench end on the other of the same size ($62 from Amazon).

Wrench Types - Socket Wrench


WRENCH TYPE: Socket Wrench
A socket wrench works on the same principle as a ratcheting wrench, but instead of needing an individual wrench specific to each size of nut or bolt, a socket wrench features a single ratchet bar and interchangeable sockets (heads that fit directly over the nuts). For this reason, socket wrenches sell primarily in sets, although you can pick up individual replacement sockets when one gets lost. Depending on the brand, your set might also come with one or more extension bars—handy for reaching nuts and bolts in tight spots. The ratcheting part of a socket wrench is located in its handle; once a socket is fitted over a nut or bolt, tighten or loosen the nut by moving the handle back and forth in the same way you would move a ratcheting wrench.

Best For: Automotive and bicycle use. Many socket wrench sets come in metric sizes designed to fit nuts and bolts on imported automobiles, but they are also available in SAE measurements. Consider picking up one that coordinates with your car—Stanley makes a good 40-piece starter set—and store it in the trunk for quick repairs ($19.97 from Amazon).

Wrench Types - Torque Wrench


WRENCH TYPE: Torque Wrench
With other wrenches, you can tighten a nut until it feels snug, but in special situations, that’s not good enough—you can’t afford to guess. The torque wrench will tighten a nut or bolt to a specific pressure. Torque wrenches sell individually and are used most often in an automotive setting. A single torque wrench is designed to fit a specific nut or bolt, but more importantly, it’s designed to tighten it to predetermined specs. For example, if you’re changing a tire on a late model car, the lug nuts that hold the wheel in place must be tightened to a specific pressure, measured in “pound/feet.” The car owner’s manual will specify both the size of the wrench head and the amount of torque pressure required to tighten these lug nuts, which DIYers can match to the exact torque pressure listed on the wrench packaging. When tightening a nut or bolt with a torque wrench, you’ll either hear a clicking sound or see LED readout, a scale, or a flashing light to alert you when you’ve reached the correct tightening pressure; tightening past this point will likely damage the nut or the object connected to it.

Best For: Mechanical work, although some types of metal building construction require a specific torque for fasteners. Always purchase the torque wrench that matches the required specs. For example, you might choose the TEKTON ½-inch Drive-Click Torque Wrench if you’re looking for a ½-in wrench torqued to 25-250 ft./lbs. ($57.80 from Amazon). TEKTON makes additional torque wrenches geared to other pressure specs, so read your owner’s manual carefully before buying.

Wrench Types - Basin Wrench


WRENCH TYPE: Basin Wrench
Wedging your body in the small cramped space beneath a sink while trying to install or disconnect water supply lines isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, but a basin wrench can make the daunting task a whole lot more comfortable—and save your back in the process. A basin wrench acts as an extension bar, allowing you to reach upward in the small space behind the sink and tighten or loosen the nuts that connect the water supply lines to the faucet. Basin wrenches may vary in design, but once the jaws of the wrench head are secure on the nut, you simply turn the wrench handle from the bottom to tighten or loosen the nut.

Best For: Attaching and removing connecting nuts on the water supply lines of a standard sink. Looking to make short work of replacing a faucet? check out the long reach (adjustable from 10 to 17 inches), adjustable jaws, and easy-to-use perpendicular T-type handle on the RIGID Model 1017 Basin Wrench ($32.72 from Amazon).

Wrench Types - Strap Wrench


WRENCH TYPE: Strap Wrench
Not all wrenches are intended for use on small nuts and bolts. Strap wrenches exert torque force on larger cylindrical items, such as oil filters, large connecting pipe nuts, and even stuck-on jar lids! By wrapping the wrench strap (which is often made of rubber) around the item tightly to create a secure grip, you can then move the strap wrench handle to twist the item loose.

Best For: Removing round oil filters or large pipe connectors. While designs on the market vary, all strap wrenches work on the same gripping principle. For everyday use, try the Craftsman 2-Piece Rubber Strap Wrench Set, which comes with two sizes of strap wrench: a small tool for cylindrical items up to 4 inches in diameter and a larger option for those up to 6 3/8-inches ($17.18 from Amazon).


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.