Tools & Workshop - Bob Vila

Category: Tools & Workshop

Solved! What to Do When Your Snow Blower Won’t Start

Try these DIY troubleshooters before the next storm to get your snow blower going again.

Snow Blower Won't Start? 6 Troubleshooting Tips to Try


Q: After our first snow of the season, I got the snow blower out of the shed but the darn thing wouldn’t start. It ran fine the last time I used it, about nine months ago. Any tips or tricks to get it running again myself, or do I have to take it in for service?

A: Like all motorized equipment, snow blowers require periodic maintenance in order to operate efficiently. Yet because yours ran well when you last used it, there’s a good chance the problem is something minor that you can fix yourself. Before trying the troubleshooters below to fix a snow blower that won’t start, pull out your owner’s manual (or download a copy from the manufacturer’s website). While virtually all snow blowers feature the same components—valves, filters, gas tanks, carburetors, fuel lines, and switches—their configurations vary by brand, so the manual will help you locate and identify them. All tools required can be found in any auto-supply store if you don’t already have them on hand.

Snow Blower Won't Start? 6 Troubleshooting Tips to Try


Make sure all switches and valves are in the correct starting position. Today’s snow blowers have many switches, buttons, and valves that must all be in the correct position for the machine to start. Your manual may call for the throttle to be in the “High” position, the fuel shut-off valve in the “Open” position, the choke in the “Full” position, and the run switch set to “On.” Some snow blowers even use images instead of words. Check to make sure all of switches and valves are set according to the manufacturer’s specifications, or else your snow blower won’t start.

Drain and replace old gas in the tank. Since your snow blower has sat idle for months, the gas could easily have developed gummy residue, which can make starting the machine difficult. Siphon out the old stuff with a small siphon pump, and follow these steps for how to dispose of the gasoline. Then, fill the tank with fresh gas and try starting it again.

RELATED: 11 Mistakes Homeowners Make Every Winter

Add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Even if you’ve drained and refilled the gas tank, residue from the old gas could be clogging the carburetor. To dissolve it, try adding fuel stabilizer, a gasoline treatment product that helps liquefy residue. Add it to the snow blower’s gas tank at the rate specified on the container, and then try to start the machine. Even if it doesn’t immediately start, keep cranking (by pulling the starter cord repeatedly) to help work fresh fuel and stabilizer through the carburetor. If the snow blower won’t start up, wait an hour or two to allow the fuel stabilizer more time to dissolve residue, and then try again.

Prime the engine to force fuel into the carburetor. Gas engines are often slower to start in cold weather (precisely when you need your blower!), so your next move is to give it a little boost of fuel. First, prime the engine by pressing the flexible primer bulb, a small rubber or silicone bulb located on your snow blower near the carburetor, three to five times. This will force a small amount of fuel into the carburetor where it can more easily ignite. Immediately after priming, try to start the blower. Since it hasn’t been operated for months, it could take three or our attempts before it kicks on.

Clean or replace the spark plugs. Three things must be present in order for your snow blower to run correctly: fresh fuel, the proper amount of compression in the engine, and a spark to ignite the fuel. So cleaning or replacing the spark plugs could do the trick.

Use a socket wrench and a spark plug socket to remove the plugs. Once they’re out, inspect the porcelain sleeves for cracks. If you find a crack, replace the plug with a new one. Clean built-up carbon deposits from the electrodes (on the threaded end of the plug) with commercial plug cleaner or carburetor cleaner and a wire brush. Dry the plugs and reinsert them. If the snow blower won’t start even after your tinkering, the plugs may be shot beyond repair and should be replaced.

RELATED: How To Maintain a Snow Blower for Peak Performance

Examine the fuel line for damage. The fuel line, which runs from the gas tank to the carburetor, should be flexible and pliable. Over time, fuel lines can harden, and a brittle line is prone to leaking fuel, either from a crack or around the connections where it meets the gas tank and the carburetor. A leak can prevent fuel from reaching the carburetor and keep the snow blower from starting. If the line is hard, cracked, or kinked, replace it with a new one.

Clean the carburetor. If none of the above steps have gotten your snow blower going, you may need to clean the carburetor more aggressively to dissolve gunk and residue. A carburetor’s purpose is to combine air and fuel in a precise ratio for efficient combustion, so if it’s clogged with residue it can’t do its job. Check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to access the carburetor, located beneath the air filter. After removing the air filter cover and the air filter, you’ll be looking at the carburetor (a metal case with a cylindrical opening).

Carb cleaner is a solvent that comes in an aerosol can with a straw that fits on the nozzle to deliver a forceful shot of gunk-dissolving spray directly into the carburetor. Where the air filter was connected to the carburetor, you’ll see an open cylindrical valve—this is the air-intake valve. Spray the carb cleaner inside the air-intake valve (instructions on the can will specify how much to use). Replace the air filter and filter cover and then try to start the snow blower.


Snow Blower Won't Start? 6 Troubleshooting Tips to Try


Call a service technician. No luck? Troubleshooting beyond this point may require dissembling parts of the machine. If your snow blower is still under warranty, contact the manufacturer or the store where you bought it for instructions on how to proceed. If it’s an older machine, take it to a small engine repair shop; stores that sell lawn mowers, snow blowers, rototillers, and other small equipment often also offer repair and maintenance services. Having a service technician repair your snower blower could run anywhere between $75 and $300—sometimes as much as it would cost to replace it with a budget-friendly pick—depending on the extent of the problem.

If repair estimates wind up on the higher end of that range and your machine has quite a few years on it, now might be the time to upgrade. Check out our buyer’s guide to the best snow blowers on the market for key considerations to choosing your next outdoor tool as well as some top-of-the-line recommendations.

5 Favorite Toolboxes for Weekend DIYers

Need a new toolbox to travel with you wherever there's work to be done? Your search begins here with six favorite picks for the modern weekend warrior.

Best Tool Box


You can’t get very far as a DIYer if you don’t own any tools, and you can’t finish (or even begin) any given project without those tools by your side. So the question is: What’s the best way to transport tools from one work area to the next, and in between jobs, how do you store your hammers, screwdrivers, and levels while keeping everything neatly organized? For generations of home handymen, the answer has always been the same. Once you accumulate more tools than you can comfortably fit on your belt and in your pockets, it’s time to invest in a well-made toolbox.

Isn’t one toolbox as good as another? To a degree, yes—so long as that toolbox is made of impact-resistant metal and powder-coated to discourage rust. That said, solidly built metal toolboxes don’t come cheap. Heavy-duty plastic, meanwhile, costs less but doesn’t offer the same durability (although the best plastic toolboxes do offer superior built-in organization options). Finally, there’s canvas. Those who don’t need to lug around a huge arsenal—or who want a more portable companion for light work days—often choose a lightweight, long-lasting canvas tool bag.



Best Tool Box - Trusco


Finished in a spiffy blue enamel, the Trusco 2-Level Cantilever Toolbox features side hinges that allow the top to open in two directions, revealing a tiered interior storage area, some levels of which you can customize with reconfigurable metal dividers. Nice. If there’s a downside, it’s the relatively light-gauge metal the toolbox is made of. If you’re a casual DIYer, you’re not going to mind. But if want a toolbox you can toss around and still rely on for years, look elsewhere. Available at Amazon; $49.04.



Best Tool Box - Stanley Series 2000


From industry stalwart Stanley, the Series 2000 16-Inch Tool Box makes a fine choice for any average homeowner on the hunt for a budget-friendly toolbox that sacrifices precious little durability or practicality. Surprisingly, given its low price tag, the  Series 2000 fits the bill, with heavy-duty construction that stands ready to withstand wear, and with handy, even ingenious  organizers built right into the lid to complement the already amply sized interior compartment. Available at Amazon; $10.



Best Tool Box - Klein Canvas Bucket


Not all toolboxes have to be, um, boxes. Case in point: The Wide-Opening Straight-Wall Bucket from Klein Tools. Believe it or not, this thing can carry up to 75 pounds! It’s not all braun, though. There’s beauty too, in large part thanks to a unique (and water resistant) polypropylene rope handle, making the tool bag easily portable whenever you can’t bring, or don’t need to bring, the rest of your gear. Available at Amazon; $65.



Best Tool Box - Stack On


Bridging the gap between the demands of professional contractors and the needs of their most ambitious DIY counterparts, the Stack-On 16-Inch Multi-Purpose Steel Tool Box obviously doesn’t win any design points, but on every metric, it scores more or less perfect marks. Built tough, and no more complicated than it needs to be, the Snap-On toolbox is one that you can use and (within reason) abuse for a long, long time. Best of all, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg—far from it! Available at Amazon; $20.



Best Tool Box - Dewalt Tstak


Familiarize yourself with the DeWalt Tstak line of tool organizers. It includes a wide variety of tough, tried-and-true options for specialized needs, plus at least a few everyday toolboxes. Our favorite? The DeWalt Tstak I. Why? Because with its deep central storage bin, the Tstak I accommodates larger tools (including some power tools) as easily as its segmented top tray accommodates small parts. Added bonus details are its metal latches and long, easy-carry handle. Available at Amazon; $42. 



Best Tool Box - Signature Series Tool Bag


Combining classic design with leather-reinforced canvas construction, the brand-new Signature Series Workman’s Tool Bag let you to travel in style, even while carrying a small DIY arsenal in the roomy, pocketed interior. For added convenience, the open and zippered external compartments keep the items you need the most often within easy arm’s reach at all times. Available at Amazon; $79.99.

Selecting the Right Sandpaper Grit and Type for Your DIY Job

Get to know how different grit types and grade impact the sanding process so that you always choose the right supplies for the project at hand.

Choosing the Right Sandpaper Grit and Type


If you’ve ever worked with wood, you’re likely familiar with instructions to sand all edges after cutting: before applying a finish, between coats of paint, and so on. Seeing sandpaper on a tools and materials list may seem easy enough to check off—until you hit the hardware store and face stacks of sheets and booklets, each distinctly identified with a different set of numbers, or sandpaper grits. Which did this project call for again?

Different sandpaper grits perform very different jobs, and selecting the right grit can be confusing when you’re starting out. Warm up with these basic recommendations and rules of thumb. This guide will run you through:

  1. Selecting the right size of sandpaper grit,
  2. Choosing the appropriate coarseness for the project,
  3. Considering the best type of grit to choose, and
  4. Finding the right tool for the easiest effort.

After you have a few completed projects under your belt, you’ll be an old pro at picking just the right sandpaper.

Sizing Sandpaper Grit

Sandpaper isn’t made of sand, of course, but rather it consists of fine particles from either natural or synthetic sources. The particles (also known as grains or grit) are sifted through screens and sorted by size before being bonded with adhesive to a paper, sponge, or cloth-type backing to create an abrasive material that’s handy in a number of do-it-yourself situations.

RELATED: 9 Clever Alternative Uses for Sandpaper

Distinguishing sandpaper grit sizes is important because not every project requires the same.

In the United States, grit is determined based on a gradation scale established by the Coated Abrasive Manufacturers Institute (CAMI). When shopping for sandpaper, you’ll see numbers such as 80-grit, 100-grit, or 200-grit. Keep in mind:

• The higher the number, the smaller the grains and the finer the sandpaper grit.

• And, conversely, lower numbers indicate larger grains and overall coarser sandpaper.

On the CAMI scale, sandpaper grit is measured in microns, and to get an idea of how small a micron is, check out a piece of 100-grit sandpaper. The small grains on the sandpaper measure approximately 141 microns in size, which is equivalent to .00550 of an inch. Very small.

Most sandpaper you buy at DIY centers and lumberyards will bear the CAMI scale, but if you order sandpaper online, you may run across sandpaper grit sized by the Federation of European Producers of Abrasives (FEPA). Grit sized with the FEPA scale is indicated by the letter “P” preceding the grit number. While there are too many grit gradations to list, if you’re buying FEPA-sized sandpaper, the following commonly used CAMI sizes will give you an idea of the corresponding FEPA sizes. FEPA sizes are not an identical match to CAMI sizes, but you can get something very close by selecting one of the two closest FEPA numbers.

• 40-grit (CAMI) sandpaper corresponds closely to (FEPA) P-36 or P-40

• 80-grit (CAMI) sandpaper corresponds closely to (FEPA) P-80 or F-100

• 100-grit (CAMI) sandpaper corresponds closely to (FEPA) P-100 or P-120

• 120-grit (CAMI) sandpaper corresponds closely to (FEPA) P-120 or P-150

• 220-grit (CAMI) sandpaper corresponds closely to (FEPA) P-180 or P-220

• 400-grit (CAMI) sandpaper corresponds closely to (FEPA) P-600 or P-800


Choosing the Right Sandpaper Grit and Type


Selecting the Correct Coarseness

To make choosing sandpaper easier, manufacturers identify a coarseness level in words on the package in addition to the specific grade. This is essentially a range of grit sizes that are similarly effective for the same sanding work. In fact, it’s not uncommon for projects to call for a certain coarseness level as opposed to a specific grit of sandpaper, so it’s smart to know what each level includes.

Extra coarse sandpaper in the 24- to 36-grit range is tough stuff. It’s used for removing paint and varnish that you think might never come off. The sanding of old floors may also require the abrasiveness of extra coarse sandpaper. Don’t even think about using this stuff on any but the toughest jobs.

Coarse sandpaper‘s strong suit is the rough shaping of wood and the removal of previous finishes, such as light coats of polyurethane. Coarse grits are typically in the 40- to 50-grit range.

Medium sandpaper, ranging from 60- to 100-grit, accommodates some final shaping. Primary sanding of rough wood and the removal of planning marks on wood is often best done with medium-grit sandpaper.

Fine sandpapers range from 120- to 220-grit. For most home workshops, this sandpaper will suffice for final sanding before the work is finished.

Extra fine sandpaper is often used between coats of paint or varnish. Grits of 240, 320 and 400 are termed very fine, while extra- or superfine sheets with grits of up to 600 are best-suited for polishing jobs.

Note: On many projects, you’ll start with a coarse sandpaper grit, and then switch to finer grits to obtain a smooth finish.

Choosing Grit Material

Choosing the Right Sandpaper Grit and Type


Not only does the density of sandpaper grit make a difference in the success of your sanding project, but the type of abrasive material does, too. Some types of grit grain are better suited to smooth and sand types of materials (wood versus metal, for example). Most manufacturers list the type of material best suited for sanding on their product labels, but it’s smart to know what type of grit to look for before you shop.

Flint: A natural grain, flint is durable and well suited for sanding off surface products, such as old varnish or paint.

Emery: A natural grain, emery sandpaper is most often used for removing corrosion and/or polishing steel and other metals. The edges of its particles can be too sharp for sanding wood.

Garnet: Another natural grain, garnet is slightly softer than flint or emery, so it tends to dull relatively quickly when used to sand metal. It’s best-suited for fine sanding of wood.

Zirconia alumina: A synthetic product, this grit is long-lasting and well-suited for grinding away burrs on metal and for an initial sanding of rough wood. When sanding metal with zirconia alumina, the grit particles can actually become sharper, so you won’t have to change sandpaper frequently.

Aluminum oxide: Another very durable synthetic grit, aluminum oxide is well suited for sanding and polishing various types of metal, including bronze and alloy steel, in addition to being a good choice for sanding all types of hardwoods.

Silicon carbide: The most durable of all synthetic abrasives. Silicon carbide is good for sanding a wide range of materials, including plastic, metal, hardwoods, and softwoods.

Working with the Right Tools

Sandpaper is very versatile by itself: You can fold a sheet into a palm-sized square, sand until the grit dulls, and then refold it for a fresh sanding surface. If you have a lot to sand, however, you may be better off making use of one or more popular sanding tools. Even with these instruments, choosing the right sandpaper grit and type for the job still applies.

Manual hand sander: This inexpensive tool features a pad, often made from rubber; side clamps to secure the sandpaper; and a handle that allows the user to move the sander quickly and easily. Manual hand sanders are great when you need to sand large areas, such as the side of a bookcase that would take much longer if you were sanding with a piece of folded sandpaper.

Sanding sponge: Made from a flexible sponge that’s covered with sanding grit, the suppleness of a sanding sponge allows the user to sand rounded edges uniformly just by pressing the sponge on the edge while sanding. Some sanding sponges come with a beveled side that helps with sanding in tight spots, such as around the base of stair balusters.

Vibrating palm sander: This corded power sander is small enough to hold in one hand and you can choose from a variety of sanding plate shapes, including square and rectangular for sanding open areas, or triangular for sanding in hard-to-reach spots. Just attach sandpaper (some types of palm sanders accept only pre-cut sanding pads) and flip the switch on—the powerful vibrations do all the sanding work, you only need to guide the sander.

Choosing the Right Sandpaper Grit, Type, and Tool


Orbital sander: True to its name, this power sander moves in a circular, orbital pattern, which should not be construed as spinning. Imagine placing your palm flat on a table and moving it in a series of small circles—that’s the same motion an orbital sander makes. Orbital sanders, depending on the size and brand, accept either cut pieces of regular sandpaper, or pre-cut sanding pads, and they are well-suited for sanding flat areas.

Random orbital sander: Like a regular orbital sander, a random orbital sander moves in circular patterns, but at the same time, the entire sanding base also moves in an arbitrary side-to-side and back-and-forth pattern. This helps prevent sanding marks that can occur if the sander is held in one place too long. Random orbital sanders have circular sanding plates and usually accept only pre-cut sanding disks.

Belt sander: The power belt sander packs a lot of sanding power into a handheld sander that usually requires both hands to operate. Pre-packaged sanding belts (loops) are fitted over two cylindrical drums at the base of the sander. When powered-on the drums spin and the sanding belt moves in a continuous direction. Belt sanders are great for removing old varnish or sanding large rough surfaces, but because the belt moves only in one direction, the user must keep the sander moving at all times. If a belt sander is held in one place, it can quickly create deep sanding marks in the wood.

Drum sander: The drum sander features a large cylinder that accommodates a wide sanding belt or loop. When the machine is powered-on, the drum spins, sanding in much the same way as a belt sander. Like a belt sander, the drum sander is also fairly aggressive and care should be taken to keep it in motion to prevent sanding marks.

Bench-mounted sanders: Sanders that mount permanently to your workbench are mainly used for small woodworking projects. Bench-mounted sanders incorporate one of the above sanding methods; they will vibrate, spin or sand by means of a belt or drum. Instead of moving the sander, the user moves the wood that’s being sanded when operating bench-mounted sander.

Floor sanders: Floor sanders feature large belts, drums, or orbital sanding plates that can efficiently remove old varnish on hardwood flooring or grind down warped wood flooring. These powerful machines make quick work of sanding, but they must be operated with care to keep from damaging the wood floor.

Bob Vila Radio: Screw Review

Often, the right fastener means the difference between your work standing the test of time or collapsing under its own weight. Read on for details on a few common screw types and their most common applications.

Knowing exactly the right screw to use for your project saves time and energy. Plus, it ups the chances of whatever you’re putting together actually staying together. Here’s a quick review of the most commonly used types of screws among DIYers.

Kinds Of Screws




Wood screws feature coarse threads that dig securely into wood as you drive in the fastener. Towards the head, though, wood screws tend to be smooth, making those last few turns easier. Note that some require a pilot hole, while others are self-tapping.

Drywall screws are self-tapping and range in length from one to three inches. Their specialized heads are designed to be driven slightly beneath the surface of the drywall (without tearing the drywall’s outward-facing protective paper).

Masonry screws, used to anchor wood floor plates to concrete slabs, require pre-drilled pilot holes in every scenario, simply because unlike most other screws, the masonry variety doesn’t come with a pointy tip on the end.

Though similar to wood screws, deck screws come treated in one of multiple possible coatings. The right deck screw to use depends on the type of deck material (pressure-treated wood, say, or composite) you’re drilling into.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

How To: Remove Rusted Screws

Expect to find at least a couple of corroded screws when you work on older metal furniture and appliances, and overcome these obstacles by following the screw removal techniques outlined here.

How To Remove Rusted Screws


If you’re repairing old things, you’re bound to run into rusted screws. As long as you keep the right tools and supplies on hand and don’t lose your cool, you can undo even the most stubborn fasteners. The key is to think of rust as just another form of glue: You first have to break the bond formed by the rust before adding lubricant to ease out the metal screws. Bearing this in mind, professionals often turn to these three incremental techniques for how to remove rusted screws.

METHOD 1: Shock, Break, and Lube

Always start with the most gentle means of “persuasion” first to avoid damaging or breaking off the screw heads. If the gentle methods don’t work, then move on to the more heavy-duty methods (#2 and #3) to remove the rusted screws.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Ball peen hammer
Aerosol rust penetrant
Acetone or nail polish remover (optional)
Transmission fluid (optional)
Sewing machine oil (optional)
Screwdriver with hex bolster
Powdered kitchen/bath cleanser
Closedend wrench to fit screwdriver bolster
Heavy leather gloves
Hand impact driver

First, break the rust’s bond by applying several swift hammer blows directly to the head of the screw. The hammer blows crack the rust, creating channels for the rust penetrant to seep in dissolve and lubricate.

Find rust penetrant at any hardware or home center store for around $6/can (Liquid Wrench, PB Blaster, and WD-40 Specialist Rust Release are three popular brands). Don’t have any rust penetrant? You can make your own from a 50/50 solution of acetone or nail polish remover and transmission fluid or sewing machine oil. If you don’t have those supplies, you can use a general purpose lubricant like WD-40; it just won’t work as well or as fast as a rust penetrant fluid.

After striking the screw head several times, apply a liberal amount of rust penetrant around the screw head. Let it soak for a few minutes. Then apply several more hammer blows. Next, take a 15-minute break to let the rust penetrant work.

How To Remove Rusted Screws


When you return to the task at hand, smack the screw head several more times and then tap the metal surface around the screw head to drive the penetrant deeper into the screw threads. Then try removing the screw.

If your screwdriver slips out of or starts stripping the screw head, stop! Adding more force will just strip the screw head, making it even more difficult to remove and impossible to re-use. This is the point where pros add a dab of automotive valve grinding compound to the screw head to act as a “gripping paste” to get more grip between the screwdriver tip and the screw head. You can make your own gripping paste, though, using an ordinary powdered kitchen or bathroom cleanser. Just stir a few drops of water into a half teaspoon of cleanser, press the paste into the screw head, then jam your screwdriver into the screw head and twist and push at the same time.

STEP 4 (optional)
If your screwdriver is equipped with a hex-shaped bolster near the handle, you can more leverage and twisting force by sliding a box-end wrench over the bolster. Lean into the screwdriver to keep the tip engaged with the screw and turn the screwdriver with the wrench.

If that increased torque doesn’t help, switch to a hand impact driver and a ball peen hammer. A hand impact driver converts straight hammer blows into a twisting motion force while forcing the bit deeper into the screw head at the same time. That means it reduces the chances of stripping the screw head while increasing your chances of a successful removal. Before you start, don eye protection and wear heavy gloves to protect your hands in case you miss the head of the tool. Set the tool to rotate counter-clockwise and choose an impact bit that fits snuggly into the screw head. Locate the bit in the screw, hold the tool with one hand and strike the impact tool with your hammer. Repeat until the screw loosens.

If the rusted screws still won’t budge, move on to the more aggressive methods below.

METHOD 2: Cut a New Groove into Stripped Screws

Philips and star head screws can’t handle a lot of torque without stripping. If your rusted screws remain stuck or you’ve stripped the screw heads, try cutting a notch into each head and removing them with a flat blade screwdriver.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Rotary tool with cut-off wheel
Heavy leather gloves
– Large flathead screwdriver

Still wearing your heavy leather gloves, cut a new straight slot deep into the screw head using a rotary tool and a cutting wheel. Make sure the slot is wide enough to accept the largest flat blade screwdriver you own while still providing a tight fit.

Jam the flat tip into the newly made screw slot, and push and turn at the same time.

No dice? Time to turn up the heat.

METHOD 3: Bring the Heat

Heating the screw head causes it to expand and that expansion helps crack the rust. But, heat can also ignite the flammable rust penetrant you’ve applied, melt internal plastic parts, and remove the steel’s temper, so it should always be used as a last resort. If you’ve tried the other steps and still can’t budge the screw, follow these fire preparation and heat application tips.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Water-based grease-cutting household cleaner
– Rags
– Fire extinguisher
Heavy leather gloves
– Butane lighter
– Philip or flathead screwdriver
– Aerosol rust penetrant (optional)

Remove all traces of the rust penetrant oil and solvent using a water-based grease cutting household cleaner. Wipe the area and properly dispose of the oily rags.

Grab a fire extinguisher
and keep it nearby and wear leather gloves to prevent burns.

Apply heat to the screw head using the tip of the flame from a butane lighter. Heat the screw head until you see steam or smoke (never cherry red), then stop!

Immediately cool the screw head with a stream of water or a wet rag. It’s the expansion from heat, followed by contraction by cooling that breaks the rust bond.

After several heat/quench cycles, try removing the cooled screw head with the original Philip or star screwdriver (or a flat blade screwdriver if you’ve used Method #2 above).

If the screw starts to turn and then binds, apply rust penetrant to the screw head and turn the screw in and out several times to spread the penetrant down the threads. Repeat if necessary. Free of most of its rust and well lubricated, the screw should come out easily.


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.

Buyer’s Guide: Handheld Vacuums

To find the best mini-vac for you, figure out what features you need and then check out our choices for compact cleaning machines that won’t break the bank.

Best Handheld Vacuum Options


You can’t beat a handheld vacuum when you need to quickly clean up common messes like broken glass, pet hair, and cookie crumbs. Though lightweight and compact, today’s devices are powerful enough to perform many of the functions of an upright, canister, or robot model at a fraction of the cost. There are various factors to consider prior to purchasing one, however, so we’ve outlined them here and given our top picks for the best handheld vacuum to make shopping a cinch.


Weigh these key features to find the best handheld vacuum.

Top Tips for Finding the Best Handheld Vacuum


Corded versus cordless: Vacuums that plug into an electrical socket limit mobility (though an extension cord can help you go the distance if you wish to use the machine on stairs, for instance). You can rely on a corded model to have consistent suction power throughout a long vacuuming session. Cordless handhelds, which rely on a rechargeable battery, could die in the middle of a clean-up—but they’re much more easily toted from the house to the car to the patio.

Battery runtime, voltage, and charging: If opting for the convenience of cordless, know that quality models tend to have a minimum runtime of 10 minutes and require no more than four to six hours to fully charge. Look for one with a Lithium-ion battery, which will conserve its charge most efficiently. Cordless vacuums with battery voltage of 18 volts or higher offer more suction power and longer runtimes than lower voltage units. Some models feature battery level indicators so you can keep tabs on when the battery needs charging.

• Weight: Handheld vacuums should be lightweight enough to easily lift and handle but hefty enough to hold a decent amount of mess. For optimal portability and minimal strain on the wrist, look for a model that’s under five pounds.

Dirt receptacle: Handheld vacuums collect dirt in either dirt canisters or bags. Canister models are more popular because they tend to be easier to empty and clean—just snap and dump. The larger dirt canister, the bulkier vacuum, but you’ll need to empty it less often. A clear canister lets you see at a glance when it requires emptying.

Accessories: Specialized accessories can make your unit more useful, depending on your needs. You’ll find attachments designed to pick up pet hair, safely glide on uncarpeted surfaces, or clean into the nooks and crannies of upholstery. There are also flexible hose attachment to extend your reach into dark or inaccessible areas.

• Price: Handheld vacuums start at about $20 for a basic corded model and $50 for a cordless, and top out at around $200. In general, you’ll pay a higher price for more powerful suction, longer runtime, and high-tech accessories. Don’t forget to factor in the price of filter replacements. Filters prevent dust in the vacuum from becoming airborne and must be changed regularly.


Looking for the best handheld vacuum for your needs? We’ve rounded up top-rated and best-selling models on the market today, based on reviews by actual users and ratings by leading consumer testing sites. You can’t go wrong with this trio of smart choices!


Best Handheld Vacuum - Eureka EasyClean


CORDED: Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum ($39.88)
The Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum’s dual-powered motor affords impressive suction power and its stretch hose extends to 23 feet, letting you clean those hard-to-reach spaces in upholstery and under car seats. Unlike conventional corded models that can miss dirt trapped in carpeted stairs, this unit boasts a built-in riser visor for a deeper clean. The affordable handheld backed by a one-year limited warranty earned four stars from Amazon reviewers, who praised its power, compact 4.8-pound construction, and its 20-foot cord, which conveniently wraps around the unit for quick storage. Available at Amazon.


Best Handheld Vacuum - BLACK+DECKER™ 20V MAX Lithium FLEX™ Vacuum


CORDLESS: Black+Decker Max Lithium Flex Vacuum ($84.99)
Backed by a two-year limited warranty, the Black+Decker Max Lithium Flex Vacuum delivers 24 air watts of suction power for a runtime of 16 minutes thanks to its 20-volt Lithium-ion rechargeable battery and high-performance motor. The lightweight, 3.2-pound unit, rated as Sweethome‘s number one pick for “Best Handheld Vacuum,” comes with a dusting brush, crevice tool, and pet brush to easily siphon stubborn particles from surfaces and corners. Available at Target.


Best Handheld Vacuum - Shark Cordless Pet Perfect Hand Vac


SPECIALIZED USE: Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II Hand Vacuum ($49.99)
The TruePet motorized pet brush on the Shark Cordless Pet Perfect II Hand Vacuum, Consumer Reports‘ top handheld pick for vacuums for pet hair, lets animal lovers banish stubborn cat or dog hair from all surfaces. Weighing in at 4.25 pounds, the cordless handheld with a one-year limited warranty is equally tough on dirt thanks to a dusting brush, crevice tool, and a high-speed, twister-like airstream that lifts debris on contact. Available at Amazon.

Power Sheds: How to Design and Build a Shed for Workshop Projects

Create a killer shop right in your own backyard that will make it even easier for you to achieve all your DIY goals.

How to Build a Workshop in a Shed


Every weekend warrior dreams of a convenient backyard structure that’s spacious enough not only for storing tools but also for hosting a work space. Such a shed can certainly be had, but building one is a project in itself—and you’ll want to get it right the first time. Doing so takes a little research, smart planning, and quality materials. Read on for solid advice from the folks at LP Outdoor Building Solutions, makers of innovative engineered wood products that marry form and function to bring your fantasy shed to fruition.

Step 1: Plan on plenty of space.
If you build a custom workshop, you’ll never again have to work in cramped quarters or contend with inadequate storage for your arsenal of tools. That said, don’t go overboard: You don’t want a shed that’s so big it overwhelms your property or wastes space. Ultimately, the size of your shed depends on the type of work you’ll be doing in it. To ensure you have adequate elbow room (not to mention a place for each tool), determine the footprint of each piece of equipment you’ll be storing, and map it out on a scaled drawing. Or, even easier, use LP’s Size Selector to tick off each item you own from a checklist, then watch the calculator adjust its recommendations for the ideal shed size for your yard, your purposes, and for all your stuff.

How to Build a Workshop in a Shed


Step 2: Choose durable products.
A backyard workshop needs more than just a pretty face, so choose hardworking materials that deliver both durability and good looks. You can rest assured that quality is the priority for every LP shed product. Start from the bottom up with LP ProStruct® Flooring with SmartFinish®. It boasts Treated Wood Strand Technology; a beautiful, durable overlay for a premium appearance; and LP’s SmartGuard® process to help it resist fungal decay and termite damage. What’s more, your floor will be easier to wipe clean—a huge plus in a busy workshop.

Step 3: Light it right.
Good lighting is a workshop essential. If you don’t have ace wiring skills and lack the budget to hire an electrician, a generator or battery-operated power source—perhaps even solar lighting—may be your best option for illumination. The actual design of the shed can help too. Strategically placed windows will invite more natural light into your workshop, and highly reflective surfaces, such as LP ProStruct® Roof Sheathing with SilverTech®, will brighten the inside of your shed for enhanced visibility.

Step 4: Create comfort in any season.
Enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers will benefit from a shop that’s well ventilated and sufficiently well insulated for year-round use. Simply incorporating a healthy number of doors and windows will ensure adequate air circulation whenever it’s needed. As well, installing vents on the roof or gable wall can encourage hot air to move out. Additionally, LP ProStruct® Roof Sheathing with SilverTech® and LP SmartSide® Panels with SilverTech® both feature a reflective radiant barrier to reduce solar heat gain and help keep your shed cooler in warm weather. If you opt for insulation in walls and ceilings, you’ll be able to both stave off summer’s heat and keep out winter’s cold. Finally, just as in your house, you can seal up gaps with weatherstripping—it’s one of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to keep temperatures comfortable when you’re working in your shed during the colder months.

Step 5: Trick out the interior.
Customize the shed with built-in work surfaces and storage to suit the types of projects you take on most often. Start with a sturdy built-in workbench that’s large enough to handle your projects and hold a variety of tools and supplies. To prevent all your tools from cluttering the work surface, plan on incorporating wall shelving and pegboard with hooks. Pro tip: Tools should be kept at easily accessible heights so you can reach for what you need without interrupting your work.

Step 6: Add a ramp.
Though sometimes neglected by eager beavers who just can’t wait to get started on projects, a ramp is a real workshop asset that makes it easier to move cumbersome tools into your shed and carry finished projects out. A quick online search will yield a variety of plans to build your own, or you can purchase a ready-made ramp and install it yourself. Once the ramp’s in place, you can start wheeling in your equipment and get to work setting up shop.


This content has been brought to you by LP Outdoor Building Solutions. Its facts and opinions are those of

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