Tools & Workshop - 2/42 - Bob Vila

Category: Tools & Workshop


How To: Drill Into Concrete

Bore a hole through masonry or concrete in a minute or less when you use this special tool and the correct technique.

How to Drill into Concrete with a Rotary Hammer

Photo: istockphoto.com

While concrete’s cool, industrial aesthetic is a go-to design touch in modern homes, its density and strength are what have long made it an attractive building material. That durability can be quite the obstacle, however, for homeowners trying to mount an art installation on a concrete feature wall, drill a hole to set a fence post at the end of the driveway, or sink a hole through the back corner of a concrete countertop. Such activities run the very real risk of damaging a drill bit or accidentally marring the concrete surface in an overzealous, poorly executed attempt at how to drill into concrete.

You can, in fact, drill a hole in a concrete interior feature wall armed with nothing more than your trusty rotary drill and a masonry bit—so long as you take care to not burn out the motor of the drill or demolish the bits. Older concrete, however, is often much more dense than some of the cosmetic concrete used in modern finishes, so boring through a 50-year-old concrete wall in your foundation with your old-school rotary drill just won’t cut it. When you’re working with older concrete—or if you’re planning to drill multiple holes about two to four inches deep and up to ¾ inch wide—it’s best to upgrade to an electric hammer drill.

Specially designed for drilling into masonry or rock using a rapid hammer action, these drills and their carbide-tipped masonry bits are widely available at tool rental shops. A quality hammer drill (also known as a rotary hammer) can bore a two-inch-deep, ¼-inch-wide hole in less than a minute, which is much faster than a rotary drill and thus justifies its roughly $40 afternoon rental cost. When renting or buying a hammer drill, look for one with good power, ideally more than one speed setting, a stop function, and an auxiliary handle for your spare hand for enhanced comfort, control, and safety.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Pencil
– Ruler
– Hammer drill
– Masking tape (optional)
– Goggles
– Tungsten carbide masonry bits
– Large masonry nail (at least 3 inches)
– Hammer
– Canned compressed air
– Vacuum

How to Drill into Concrete

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Mark the desired position of the holes in pencil on the concrete surface, and double-check their locations before you proceed. Also, during this planning and prep work, consider the drilling depth necessary for each hole. If your drill’s features include a stop bar, set it to the exact depth you want by following the drill manufacturer’s specifications. No stop bar feature? Instead, wrap a piece of masking tape around the drill bit to show you where to stop.

STEP 2
Don your goggles, then insert the appropriate tungsten carbide masonry drill bit for your desired hole size into the hammer drill. Next, get into position to drill by planting your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Hold your drill securely with both hands: Grip it in one hand like a handgun, and, if there’s no auxiliary handle for your spare hand, use that hand to brace the back of the drill.

It’s critical to control the drill so it doesn’t run away once you begin work. When you lean in to bore the hole, the drill bit should be perfectly perpendicular to the concrete. Be prepared for some recoil from the drill’s hammer action.

STEP 3
Make a guide hole first. Many hammer drills offer only two speeds, so turn your drill on at the slower speed for best control when making the guide hole. If your drill has only one speed, then work in short, controlled bursts of a few seconds each until you’ve established a hole. The guide hole needs to be just 1/8 to ¼ inch deep.

STEP 4
When you start with a guide hole at least 1/8 inch deep, your drill will be easier to control, but all the same continue to operate the drill with a steady, light-but-firm touch so you’re never forcing it in. If you’re feeling confident, turn the speed to full, keeping a firm grip on the tool with both hands, and drill into the concrete until the hole is complete.

Beware: Concrete can have air pockets and pebbles or stones that can make resistance unpredictable, with the result that it can be disturbingly easy to lose control of the tool for a moment.

STEP 5
If you hit obstructions, never force the drill farther into the concrete. This can damage the bits or drill, or cause you to lose control of the drill and mess up your hole, damage the concrete surface, or worse.

Whenever you reach any too-tough-to-crack spots that impede progress, set the drill down and grab the masonry nail and hammer. Put the tip of the masonry nail at the problem spot and give it a few taps—not hard whacks—with the hammer to break up the obstruction. When you’re done, resume drilling the concrete at a slow speed until you’re sure you’ve passed the rough patch.

STEP 6
Periodically pull the drill out to brush away concrete dust. Considering you can bore a two-inch hole in under a minute using a hammer drill, pausing every 15 to 20 seconds should suffice.

STEP 7
Once you have drilled your hole to the necessary depth, blow all of the concrete dust out of the hole with a can of compressed air then vacuum up whatever has fallen to the ground. You should still be wearing your goggles throughout this process in order to protect against any concrete dust and shards that might fly in your face and scratch your eyes.

STEP 8
Repeat this procedure for any other holes you need. Once through, a pass with a vacuum will make cleanup a breeze.


Buyer’s Guide: Snow Blowers

Armed with these insider tips and best picks, you'll bring home a snow blower that will make you the envy (or the hero) of the neighborhood, clearing driveways and walkways with ease all winter long.

Best Snow Blower

Photo: istockphoto.com

When Old Man Winter blows into town, home improvement stores roll out their snow blower displays—rows of shiny red, blue, and yellow machines—tempting you to pull out your credit card and take one home. But, as its price tag will remind you, a snow blower is a major purchase that will cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Before you invest that sort of money, get a better understanding of what to look for in the best snow blower. We’ve outlined the need-to-know information and identified three top-rated models so you can confidently select the best machine for your snow-removal needs, whether you’re a first-time buyer or just upgrading to a new model.

Size up the muscle power: Most people think of size in terms of the width of the path a snow blower will clear. While that is a consideration, especially if you have a large area to clear, the real challenge is in finding the best snow blower for efficiently removing both the amount and the type of snow you’re likely to receive in your region—at a price you’re willing to pay. Manufacturers describe snow blowers as “single-stage,” “two-stage,” or “three-stage” to distinguish strength.

Best Snow Blower

Photo: istockphoto.com

• Single-stage snow blowers feature a horizontal auger at the front of the machine that rotates rapidly, scooping up snow and tossing it out the chute. The motion of the spinning auger creates the force that blows the snow from the chute, so single-stage snow blowers generally do not generate sufficient power to blow the snow more than 15 to 25 feet away. The auger blades on a single-stage blower skim the ground during operation, so the machine can effectively clear flat and smooth paved areas. Because the blades are so low, however, they tend to pick up small rocks and toss them out the chute, making single-stage blowers unsuitable for clearing gravel driveways. Most single-stage blowers can clear a 12- to 18-inch swath of light, fluffy snow, and they’re available in both gas- and electric-powered models

• Two-stage snow blowers, which are usually fuel-powered, feature a powerful impeller fan that works in combination with an auger to draw in snow and forcefully throw it out the chute. A two-stage snow blower can shoot snow in excess of 35 feet, depending on the power of the fan on a particular model and the weight of the snow. A snow blower will throw powder snow—the kind skiers love—the farthest, but if you’re clearing heavy, wet snow, don’t expect your blower to reach the maximum distance. Two-stage blowers can handle wet snow as well as fluffy snow, and clear a swath ranging from approximately 12 inches to 2.5 feet. Unlike their single-stage counterparts, two-stage snow blowers are suitable for use on gravel drives because their auger blades don’t touch the ground.

Three-stage snow blowers are the big boys in the snow-removal world—and, unsurprisingly, the most expensive. In addition to an auger and impeller fan, they feature an accelerator that grinds chunks of ice and powerfully expels snow and slush from the chute. It’s not unusual for a three-stage blower to throw lightweight snow a distance of 50 feet. These muscle-bound machines can clear paths as wide as 40 inches, depending on the specific model. If you have heavy-duty snow-removal needs, a three-stage blower might be the machine for you.

Find the appropriate fuel: Like most outdoor maintenance machines, snow blowers can be powered either by electricity or by gas or diesel. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.

• Electric-powered snow blowers are the least expensive options and smallest in overall size. Typically single-stage machines, these models clear light snow best, up to about 8 inches deep—but won’t dig you out of deep and heavy snows. Their need to be plugged in to an outlet via an extension cord limits their performance ever so slightly, making them best suited for homeowners who receive minimal snowfall and have relatively short sidewalks and driveways. They’re also handy for clearing snow from decks and steps, because they’re lightweight enough to lift and move. An added bonus: These machines don’t create fumes and won’t raise concerns about where to store their fuel.

• Gas- and diesel-powered snow blowers boast more power than electric blowers, albeit at a higher price tag. They efficiently clear away deeper and heavier snows without restricting their users to the length of an extension cord. With a fuel-powered blower, once you’ve cleared your own driveway, you can continue down the sidewalk and clear your neighbor’s drive as well.

 

OUR PICKS

Here’s what reviewers—everyone from the experts who tested selections out in their laboratories to the consumers who have already grappled with the pros and cons to find the best snow blower—said about today’s top models.

 

Best Snow Blower

Photo: homedepot.com

Toro Power Clear 518 ZE 18 in. Single-Stage Gas Snow Blower ($399)
For the homeowner with low to medium snow-removal needs, Consumer Reports gives the Toro Power Clear 518 ZE Snow Blower 4.4 out of 5 stars, a rating that Home Depot consumers confirm with an impressive 4.3 out of 5 stars. In field tests, this gas-powered single-stage snow blower excelled in quickly removing snow without engine drag. Compact but commanding, the blower clears a respectable 18-inch path, yet takes up no more room than a standard push-mower in the garage or storage shed. It comes with a rotating chute and snow deflector, allowing you to easily change snow discharge direction, and an electric start to get things up and running even in bitter temps. The Toro Power Clear is designed to remove light-to-moderate snow at depths of up to 12 inches. Available at Home Depot.

 

Best Snow Blower

Photo: sears.com

Craftsman 26″ Quiet 208cc Dual-Stage Zero-Turn Snow Blower ($899)
A respected authority on all aspects of home technology, The Sweethome recommends the Craftsman 26″ Quiet 208cc Dual-Stage Zero-Turn Snow blower as the best machine for most people. This two-stage powerhouse is designed to handle snow depths up to 12 inches quickly and quietly, which should keep your neighbors happy. Powerful enough to quickly clear a 26-inch path—even when snow gets packed, thanks to its heavy-duty impeller fan—the two-stage blower from Craftsman earned 4 out of 5 stars from Sears consumers. With power steering and zero-turn capability, the Craftsman blower easily maneuvers through tight sidewalk turns and can reverse direction on a dime. Plus, its six forward speeds and two reverse speeds enable you to hustle through light snow or slow down for accumulations of heavy  snow and slush. Available at Sears.

 

Best Snow Blower

Photo: homedepot.com

Cub Cadet 3X 3-Stage Snow Blower ($1,399)
For the ultimate snow-removal power, Popular Mechanics recommends the Cub Cadet 3X 3-Stage Snow Blower, which rapidly clears a 28-inch swath and ejects the snow as far as 50 feet. Designed to tackle heavy snows on large driveways and walks, the Cub Cadet chews through formidable drifts and icy chunks. Its push-button start, easy maneuverability, and ability to clear snow twice as fast as two-stage blowers earned it 3.9 stars from Home Depot consumers. And if it somehow gets dark before you’ve sped through the job, never fear: The Cub Cadet comes with an in-dash headlight so you can blow snow long after sundown. The Cub Cadet even offers one-hand operation with fingertip controls—although with heated handles that make the chore almost pleasurable, you may not want to let go. Available at Home Depot.


The Right Stuff: 3 Types of Safety Gear You Need for DIY

Check out the strides made in personal protective equipment, and gear up right before you start your next big project.

SHARES

Photo: Honeywell

Few do-it-yourselfers would consider remodeling a room, building an addition, or addressing a plumbing or electrical issue without the right tools. Yet, unlike pros who are required to wear safety gear, too many DIYers risk serious injury by tackling projects without appropriate eyewear, footwear, and hearing protection—a bad habit that needs to change. And thanks to comfortable, streamlined, and tough new products from Honeywell, a leading manufacturer of quality personal protective equipment, weekend work warriors now have every reason to put safety first. Read these three considerations before your next home improvement endeavor, so you can get smart, and gear up right!

 

Honeywell Oliver 45 Series Protective Footwear

Photo: Honeywell

Put Your Best Foot Forward
Have some demo on your to-do list? Hauling lumber, bricks, or other light construction soon? Perhaps you’ll reach new heights in roofing. Step one for any of these jobs is lacing up a top-notch pair of work boots. Foot injuries from construction sites run the gamut from punctures, burns, and lacerations to sprains, breaks, even the loss of a toe or two.

With Oliver Safety Footwear by Honeywell 45 Series, you won’t sacrifice comfort for safety. An innovative composite toe makes the boots 40 percent lighter than their steel toe counterparts while still offering optimal high-impact protection. Throw in flexible underfoot support that absorbs shocks and impacts, a heat-resistant outer sole that withstands temperatures up to 266 degrees Fahrenheit, and a fully lined padded collar and tongue, and you’ve got a boot that’ll thwart foot, leg, and lower back fatigue as well. Plus, like any good tool, the Oliver 45 Series—made of water-resistant leather with a rugged sole—is built to last. You’ll run out of projects before you’ll need another pair!

 

Honeywell Uvex Hypershock Protective Eyewear

Photo: Honeywell

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
With all the debris that goes flying, it’s no surprise that construction has the highest incidence of eye injury than any other industry. But electrical work (due largely to its overhead nature) and plumbing also present their share of eye hazards. Even heavy-duty garden chores, like taking down tree limbs, put your vision at risk. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly 90 percent of all eye injuries could be avoided with safety eyewear, yet only 35 percent of people consistently protect their eyes while doing home repairs or projects. The reinvention of once clunky protective gear aims to change all of that.

Now, the Uvex by Honeywell line of sport-inspired eyewear offers excellent performance, superior comfort, and sleek, bold style. Its Acadia model boasts a ¾ frame design and sculpted padded temples for high-impact protection, plus a soft, ribbed ergonomic nosepiece to keep the pair from slipping. Or, pick the full-frame Hypershock, with padded temples and a molded nosepiece for a secure, comfortable fit. You can even choose frame color and lens tint, and opt for Uvextreme Plus® anti-fog lens coating. With either selection, safety has never looked so good!

 

Photo: Honeywell

Take This Sound Advice
Carpentry is cacophonous, as a quick check of decibel levels makes clear. A router and circular saw both clock in at 110 dBs, while a nail gun pops at a whopping 120 dBs—not much quieter than a roaring jet engine (140 dBs). And, it doesn’t take a lot of exposure to too-loud tools to harm your hearing.

Today’s hearing protection has come a long way not just in noise reduction ratings, but also in comfort, style, and even built-in entertainment. Take for example the Honeywell SYNC Digital AM/FM Radio, a sleek, smart electronic headset that combines hearing protection with high-fidelity sound. SYNC Radio lets you digitally tune in up to 10 of your favorite AM/FM stations, or use the AUX input jack to connect your MP3 player, mobile phone, or other personal listening device. With DJ-inspired earcups and sound quality that’s on par with professional headphones, you’ll have more than enough motivation to get the job done. Hey, you may just whistle while you work!

Photo: Honeywell

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


Buyer’s Guide: Flashlights

If it’s time for a new torch, learn the basics of bulbs, beams, batteries, and more before heading to the store. Then, read on for our top picks to get the right light to suit your needs.

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Shopping for the Best Flashlight

Photo: istockphoto.com

Battery-operated, hand-held flashlights have been around since 1898 and have come a long way since. These household must-haves—crucial in power outages, helpful for late-night security checks, and valuable when trying to find something under the bed—are not only brighter and more dependable than ever, they’ve also become more compact and lightweight. So whether you need a beacon for your bedside table, glove compartment, utility drawer, or emergency kit, here’s all the info you need to find the best flashlight at the best price.

MAKING SENSE OF FLASHLIGHT PACKAGING

Shopping for the Best Flashlight - A Buyer's Guide

Photo: istockphoto.com

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rates flashlights by their light output, battery runtime, beam distance, and beam intensity. When browsing the flashlight aisle at your hardware store, you’ll notice that every package bears a series of ratings. Understanding what these ratings mean is key to locating the best flashlight to meet your needs.

Light Output. You can still find a few flashlights with incandescent, krypton-type bulbs, but the vast majority of today’s models feature LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs that produce brighter beams over greater distances. The amount of light a flashlight produces is measured in “lumens.” A flashlight producing 25 lumens is sufficient for reading a book under the covers, while 200 lumens will illuminate the corners of an average size yard. Need more? Flashlights with over 1,000 lumens are available; just don’t aim them toward your neighbor’s windows at night!

Beam Distance and Type. Flashlight packages tell how far the beam will go and what sort of beam it is—both important considerations. The distance a beam will shine is given in meters. For instance, a beam distance of 200 meters is equal to just over 650 feet. There are also two types of beams. A “flood” beam lights up a wide area, while a “spot” beam produces a narrower stream of light that travels a greater distance. Some flashlights allow you to toggle between a flood beam and a spot beam as needed.

Battery Runtime. With more intense and powerful light output comes the need for longer battery runtimes—after all, a high-lumen flashlight won’t do you much good on a weekend camping trip if the batteries run out in two hours. The more powerful the beam, the more quickly the batteries will drain. Fortunately, many flashlights today use rechargeable batteries. They cost a bit more than disposables but will save money over time if you use the flashlight frequently.

Waterproof Ratings. The abbreviation “IPX” (for Ingress Protection) denotes that a flashlight will resist moisture and water, something to check for if you plan to take your torch on adventures where it might get wet.

• A rating of IPX-4 means the flashlight should be okay if gets splashed by a little water.
• A rating of IPX-7 indicates the flashlight should survive being submerged for up to half an hour.
• A rating of IPX-8 indicates that the flashlight will still be operable after being submerged for up to four hours.

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST

After thoroughly comparing flashlight reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly-rated models available today to help you find the best flashlight for all of your needs. Check out the top picks:

 

Best Flashlight - Streamlight ProTac HL

Photo: amazon.com

Streamlight ProTac HL ($73)
Ranking among Wired.com’s top choices for compact flashlights, the Streamlight ProTac HL packs a ton of features into a pocket-sized powerhouse. Made of impact-resistant anodized aircraft aluminum, it weighs less than 6 ounces, measures only 5.4 inches in length, and comes with a canvas holster. Its adjustable light output lets you crank beam intensity all the way up to 600 lumens or tone it down to a discrete 33 lumens. The ProTac features a no-fumble, push-button end-switch for easy on-and-off operating. At full beam intensity, the ProTac operates for approximately 1.5 hours before needing to recharge its lithium batteries; at its lowest output, batteries will last up to 18 hours. Satisfied buyers on Amazon.com give the Streamlight ProTac 4.5 stars for its super-bright light and small size, making it a great flashlight for evening walks. Available on Amazon

 

Best Flashlight - NITECORE P12 1000-Lumen Waterproof Tactical Flashlight

Photo: amazon.com


NITECORE P12 1000-Lumen Waterproof Tactical Flashlight ($72)
Patterned after military and law enforcement gear, the NITECORE P12 1000-Lumen Waterproof Tactical Flashlight wins top honors from Outdoors Magazine for its powerful beam that illuminates up to 232 meters. It comes with an IPX-8 waterproof rating and a tough, military-grade body. Its side-oriented power switch doubles as a battery life indicator. At maximum intensity, the NITECORP’s rechargeable batteries last approximately 1.5 hours; reduce the beam to 70 lumens and battery runtime can last up to 28 hours. Among its best features is the ability to strobe an S.O.S. signal in emergency situations, and an included car-charger for recharging on the go, earning the NITECORP an impressive 4.3 Stars from Amazon buyers. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Flashlight - DEWALT 20-Volt Max Lithium-Ion LED Flashlight

Photo: homedepot.com

DEWALT 20-Volt Max Lithium-Ion LED Flashlight (starting at $39)
From a manufacturer well-known to DIYers, the DEWALT 20-Volt Max Lithium-Ion LED Flashlight earns a 4.7 star ranking by Home Depot buyers. This quality multipurpose flashlight weighs in at 9 ounces and measures 7.5 inches long, with a comfortable pistol-grip, and its 110 lumens is ideal for illuminating your yard at night. Yet perhaps its best feature—making it the perfect flashlight to stow in a toolbox—is a 120-degree pivoting head and stand-up base that let you direct the light where you need it (such as at under-sink plumbing) while leaving both hands free to work. A 20-volt max 3.0 Ah lithium-ion battery and charger, both sold separately at $99 each, are required—but if you own other battery-operated DEWALT tools, the batteries are interchangeable, so you’ll have nothing else to buy. Available at The Home Depot.


How To: Use a Stud Finder

Master this tool and technique, and you can rest assured that whatever you wall-mount—mirror, television, or shelves—won't be going anywhere.

How to Use a Stud Finder

Photo: istockphoto.com

When hanging heavy mirrors, bracing large furniture, wall-mounting a new television, or erecting shelving, you need to start with the sturdy support of a 2×4 wall stud. Sure, nailing into drywall alone may be sufficient for hanging light wall art, but these fasteners can cause the wall to crumble if weighed down too much—not like the wood studs that exist to hold up drywall. There’s too much at stake to be less than 100 percent certain of the location of the stud’s center. Why risk a kitchen shelf loaded with dishes or baking supplies crashing down at any moment because you miscalculated where to place the fasteners? Fortunately, stud finders are practically foolproof and even easier to use than the old-school stud-finding methods,which can come in handy in minor situations. Read on for how to use a stud finder for a worry-free wall-hanging project.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Stud finder
– Pencil
– Tape measure

Before You Begin
Get to know the kind of stud finder you picked up. Is it a magnetic stud finder or does it read the density of the wall? A magnetic stud finder will read screws and nails behind the wall, but whether or not these are dead-center still requires some guesswork. If your project is valuable or heavy, it’s best to use a center-finding density-reading stud finder that will show the edges of your studs. No matter which type you pick up at the home improvement store, how to use a stud finder doesn’t change—only the information is displayed differently.

How to Use a Stud Finder to Locate Studs

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Decide where you roughly want to hang your item. Know where the top should be and how far down it requires mounting. This is the height at which you want to search the wall for studs. Remove any nearby wall-mounted photos or other partly-metal objects that could interfere with readings on a magnetic stud finder and set them aside for now.

STEP 2
Ensure your stud finder batteries are fresh and functioning, as weak batteries can greatly distort readings. Also check to make sure the flat side of the stud finder (where you’ll see the contacts and usually some felt to protect the wall from scratches) is clean of debris and dust.

STEP 3
Studs are typically either 16 or 24 inches apart, so you’ll be looking for a stud somewhere within a two-foot span. Hold your stud finder flat against the wall, about 1 foot left of where you ideally want to drill.

Turn it on. Usually this is done with buttons mounted on the sides where you grip the tool. Now press a button to calibrate the stud finder; when the tool stops flashing or beeping, then it’s ready to go. (Check your manual for exactly how your stud finder is calibrated, as it varies.)

STEP 4
Slowly slide the stud finder to the right, horizontally, while keeping the unit flat on the wall.

STEP 5
When the stud finder alerts you to a stud—via a beep or flashing light, depending on the finder in question—retrace the last few inches with the unit, to double-check where the alert is occurring.

STEP 6
Mark the correct spot with your pencil. If you’re using a center-finding stud finder, you’ll be shown where the edges of the studs are. Mark each edge so that, when you go to drill or hammer into the stud, you’ll know where dead center is.

STEP 7
Don’t accept this alert as the end of your journey; instead, continue searching for the flanking studs 16 to 24 inches away from the initial mark following steps 3 through 6.

Even though your tool indicated that it located a stud right where you need it, a stud finder can signal false positives when there is metal piping or flashing or brackets within the wall. Make sure your alert wasn’t a false positive by also locating the studs on either side of the one on which you plan to mount your mirror, television, shelf bracket, or other heavy item.

Mark their locations upon finding them, and then measure. If, in fact, they are 16 or 24 inches apart, then you’ve found your center stud. Now you’re ready to hammer or drill as needed. Proceed carefully and precisely, and you’ll have no regrets.

Of course, if you prefer the DIY route, you can find wall studs without dedicated equipment. While not fail-proof, these three methods will come in handy if you choose to forgo using a stud finder.


How To: Remove a Broken Bolt

Don’t let a defunct fastener foul you up. Follow these steps to take it off neatly without damaging the threaded hole.

How to Remove a Broken Bolt from Wood

Photo: istockphoto.com

In theory, metal bolts—headed fasteners with external threads that fit into suitable non-tapered nuts—can be removed and even reattached as needed. Unfortunately, when over-tightened or otherwise forced, bolts can seize and break, making them a challenge to remove. Stuck wondering how to remove a broken bolt? With the right gear and technique, a broken bolt can be extracted successfully to let you insert a new one.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Hammer
– Center punch
– Variable-speed reversible electric drill
– Left-handed drill bit
– Extraction drill bits kit
– Vise grip pliers
– Magnet and/or compressed air

How to Remove a Broken Bolt

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Place the center punch as close to the middle of the broken bolt as possible. Hit it squarely with the hammer to create a starting point for drilling a pilot hole. A precise pilot hole is critical to help you to avoid damaging the threads of the broken bolt when you extract it. If the threads on either the bolt or the bolt hole are damaged, it may make bolt removal impossible. Furthermore, if the threading on the bolt hole is damaged, you may be unable to use a new bolt once the old one is extracted.

STEP 2
Check the table on your extraction kit to select the proper-sized left-handed drill bit to make a pilot hole in this broken bolt. If you’re picking up a kit for the job, invest in quality; the last thing you need is a cheap bit breaking during this process.

Set your drill on reverse and as slow a speed as possible (ideally, 20 RPM), and insert the left-handed drill bit. The torque of drilling in reverse (i.e., counter-clockwise) will prevent you from further tightening the threads on the bolt. Now, place the drill bit on the punch mark you made and, holding the drill securely, slowly reverse-drill a small pilot hole in the bolt, about ¼-inch deep. Hopefully, reverse-drilling your pilot hole will loosen the bolt enough to let you use vise grip pliers to remove the bolt. Remember, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey”—turn the bolt left (counter-clockwise) to remove it. If the bolt hasn’t loosened at all, proceed to Step 3 for extraction.

STEP 3
For a stubbornly entrenched bolt, you’ll need an extraction bit. Check your extraction kit’s table for the right size bit for the bolt size. The extraction bit is also a left-handed drill bit (but with a different purpose) so you’ll continue using the reverse drilling setting. Exchange the first bit for the extraction bit in your drill, insert it in the pilot hole, and very gently tap your drill and the bit snuggly into place with a hammer.

STEP 4
Still using a very slow reverse-drilling setting, such as 20 RPM, begin drilling into the pilot hole. Slow and gentle is critical here: The bit is likely made of hardened steel, and if it breaks off during this process, you’ll face an even more challenging extraction. The broken bolt should soon “grab” onto the extraction bit while reverse drilling, and begin extracting. Continue slowly and steadily until the entire bolt has been fully extracted, ideally salvaging the threading so you want can put a new bolt in. Phew!

STEP 5
Any metal shavings or filings left in the threaded hole must be removed before inserting a new bolt. Set a powerful magnet over the hole to attract the loose bits, or use compressed air to blast the threading clean. Don’t skip this step or a new bolt could seize or sheer off.

The tried-and-tested method you just learned ought to safely remove any broken bolt, while ensuring you can later reuse the hole to insert a new one. If not, contact a local welding shop, which ought to have the skills and tools to remove a broken bolt. And remember, insert all bolts slowly and carefully in the future, to avoid seizing and the top of the bolt snapping off.


Buyer’s Guide: Fire Starters

Light the grill or fireplace fast with a single flammable pellet or package! We guarantee you'll warm up fast to any of these 7 top-rated fire starters.

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Best Fire Starter for Lighting a Fire

Photo: istockphoto.com

While a toasty fire is a welcome addition to any chilly evening, wrestling with wet wood or crumpled-up newspapers to get the first flames going—and the wait time that follows—is not so much. You’ll eventually get something more than a smoking, smoldering pile of timber, but wouldn’t it be better to go right to a roaring blaze? That’s where fire starters come in.

Originally marketed and sold to the specialty camping, hunting, and fishing crowd, commercial fire starters are now a must-have accessory for anyone with a fireplace, wood stove, fire pit, chiminea, hibachi, food smoker, or even a trusty old-fashioned charcoal grill. Sure, you could fashion your own homemade fire starters from used dryer lint, cardboard egg cartons and candle wax, but commercial fire starters are fairly inexpensive and much less of a hassle than making your own. And since fire starters are readily available at hardware stores, home centers, and garden shops, there’s really no reason not to keep a case or two on hand throughout the year, to be ready whenever you need get the grill going or want to relax in the warm glow of the firelight.

Not all fire starters are created equal, however. Before you buy in bulk, mind these considerations—and product recommendations—to make sure you get the best burn for your buck.

Size matters. Fire starters are handy to have around, but the last thing you want is a large box that rivals your stack of firewood detracting from the attractive environment you’ve created around your fireplace. Fortunately, some of the best-reviewed fire starters are lightweight and compact, ranging from 3 to 6 inches in length, since most were originally developed to be tucked into a hiker’s backpack. Typically sold in cases of 12 or 24, these pocket-sized pouches, pods, or cubes can be stored in plain site in a basket or tucked out of sight.

Look for lengthy burn time. Highly flammable, fire starters are meant to speed through the painstaking process of starting a fire with wet wood, charcoal, or even coal alone by providing a persistent flame that can then catch on nearby kindling. To do so, the fire starter has to burn long enough to actually get the fire established. The best fire starter burns from 10 to 30 minutes, ensuring that you achieve a robust blaze.

The nose knows. A big barrier to the adoption of early, camping-oriented fire starters for home use was the smell. Older fire starters were impregnated with flame-inducing chemicals that smelled awful. Today’s best fire starters are nearly odorless—a big plus for using fire starters as an alternative to lighter fluid when starting the grill or food smoker.

Pick what’s best for the planet. You’re not the only one who benefits from abandoning fire starters that utilize noxious chemicals. The best fire starter burns clean thanks to environmentally-friendly flammable materials, be it wood waste (sawdust or shavings), non-toxic wax, recycled paper, waste textile fibers—or, for fireplace purists, all-natural fatwood. Fortunately, you won’t have to look too hard: Nearly all commercial fire starters have no byproducts or waste, because the paper packaging burns up right along with the fire starter. Plus, using fire starters typically results in faster and more complete ignition, thereby reducing emissions of particulate matter and carbon monoxide.

Brightest of the Bunch

We’ve done the dirty work for you and scouted the market for the handy nuggets, cubes, and packages worth stashing by the grill or fireplace. Keep reading for which options have been reviewed as the best fire starter in the business by consumers who have tried them all—as well as where you can stock up.

 

Best Fire Starter - Light-a-Fire by Vision Home Products

Photo: amazon.com

Light-a-Fire by Vision Home Products, $17.99 for 30
Listed as Amazon’s “Best All-Natural Fire Starter,” these pods received 4.9 out of 5 stars from customers who praised the compact cubes for being “remarkable,” “simple,” and “easy and safe to use.” Only one pod from the bucket supply of 30 is needed to instantly light a grill, campfire, or fireplace, and it will burn for 15 minutes to ensure your fire roars. Made from wood shavings and food-grade wax, these pods are totally odorless, non-toxic, and environmentally safe. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Fire Starter - Zip Premium All Purpose Wrapped Fire Starters

Photo: amazon.com

Zip Premium All Purpose Wrapped Fire Starter, $4.84 for 12
These individually-wrapped fire starters are formulated to light in even the most difficult and damp conditions, earning them praise as a “surefire way to start a fire” and 4.8 out of 5 stars from Amazon shoppers. The cube design was formulated specifically to burn hotter for longer, up to 18 minutes of burn time. The cubes are safe, odorless, and convenient—just light the wrapper to see. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Fire Starter - Pine Mountain ExtremeStart Firestarters

Photo: amazon.com

Pine Mountain ExtremeStart Firestarter, $4.99 for 12
This multipurpose fire starter ignites firewood or charcoal fast and burns for 20 minutes, garnering 4.5 out of 5 stars from Home Depot shoppers, who rave that it’s “long-lasting, so you only need one.” The small, pocket-sized logs create a clean burn—odorless and perfect for tailgating, campfires, or a quiet evening in front of the fireplace. Simply light the paper wrapper, and you’re on your way to a comfy fire. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Fire Starter - Duraflame Firestart Firelighters

Photo: amazon.com

Duraflame Firestart Firelighters, $20.30 for 24
Well known for manufacturing colorful fire logs, Duraflame also secured a solid reputation for its fire starters, which are rated 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon and 4.7 out of 5 stars on Home Depot. The 6-ounce, individually-wrapped fire starters made from blend of wax and renewable, recycled biomass fiber ignite easily with a single match and burn up to 30 minutes, long enough to start even stubborn wood fires. Consumers even say, “they work so well, you can cut them in half.” Available on Amazon.

 

Best Fire Starter - Lightning Nuggets

Photo: lowes.com

Lightning Nuggets, $10.99 for 35
Just one small nugget is all it takes to light a fire, earning the product 4.5 out of 5 stars from Lowes shoppers. Consumers called it “the easiest way to get charcoal started,” and even raved that there’s “no more messing with newspaper or kindling.” Each Lightning Nugget burns for 15 minutes, thanks to a blend of all-natural, recycled, and non-toxic flammable materials, and this 2-pound supply provides enough to ignite the next 35 fires in your future. Available at Lowes.

 

Best Fire Starter - QuickFire Instant Fire Starters

Photo: amazon.com

QuickFire Instant Fire Starters; $9.99 for 25
These innovative compressed oil pouches are 100 percent waterproof with an infinite shelf life, and, come time to use them, the packaging material itself acts as a wick. Light and corner and a pack’s 10-minute burn will effortlessly start fireplaces, grills, campfires, fire pits, wood burning stoves, and more—all without odor or toxicity. Amazon users rated these fire starters 4.3 out of 5 stars for their “speed,” “convenience,” and “easy of use.” Available from Amazon.

 

Best Fire Starter - L.L. Bean Fatwood

Photo: llbean.com

Fatwood; $39.95 for 25 pounds
L.L. Bean calls this found-in-nature fire starter “the most efficient kindling,” and its customers don’t disagree. Fatwood—typically sticks cut from the stumps of pine trees that contain a high concentration of natural resin—garners 4.4 out of 5 stars from reviewers. It ignites quickly, burns cleanly, and smells naturally fragrant. The resin in the sticks burns extremely hot for 10 to 15 minutes, even when wet, to get the fire going in no time. Available at L.L. Bean.


3 Tips for Smarter Security in the Digital Age

As more and more of our lives are lived online—both on the Web and through smarter technology throughout the home—our personal information has become more vulnerable to thieves. Help protect your identity by following these three safety measures.

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Smarter Home Security for Connected Households

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Once upon a time, the only type of theft a person had to worry about was the old-fashioned kind, in which someone might physically break into a house and steal material possessions that aren’t theirs to take. But as life has become increasingly dependent on the digital realm, and every company, service, and product pushes you to connect via a new app, threats of identity theft and online fraud have risen exponentially, changing the ways in which we keep our lives and resources safer. You might have a state of the art home security system, but your identity needs protection, too. Luckily, although thieves today may be more tech-savvy than ever before, so are the tools we can use to help protect our assets. Read on to learn three key tips for being smart about security in a digitally insecure age.

1. Keep your machines clean.
A 2015 survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance and ESET, an antivirus software developer, reports that one in five Americans already uses a mobile device to access at least one device in the home—say, a thermostat, cable box, or lighting system—remotely. Moreover, nearly every household these days is connected to the Internet, probably through its own Wi-Fi network. We’ve entered the age of the Internet of Things, when a growing network of physical objects—from phones and watches to home security systems and cars—is embedded with technology that enables these objects to connect and exchange data with one another and with us. So, it’s important to take control of that data and the things that collect it.

Stronger Home Security for Smart Homes

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’re using devices and apps to control your home’s temperature, security, lighting, or television recordings, start by programming those apps with strong passwords, then keep your login information (both usernames and passwords) close to the vest and your router secure at all times.

It’s also crucial to keep your software up to date. “Updating the software, apps, and operating systems you use in a timely manner will help ensure that the latest security issues will have been addressed,” says Paige Hanson, chief of identity education at LifeLock, a leading identity theft protection company. In other words, the fact that you bought or downloaded something and gave it a password isn’t enough on its own; indeed, the more technology you use, the more vulnerable you are. By making sure you’re not falling behind the times, you can see that you aren’t leaving yourself open to security breaches. Hackers work around the clock to steal your information, so diligence is key.

2. Pay attention to what you’re sharing (and who you’re sharing it with).
In this era of social media, online banking, and constant connectivity, it’s still easy to forget the full reach of the Internet. When you post a photo to Facebook, you may think you’re simply sharing it with a few dozen or hundred acquaintances, but you may in fact be sharing it with anyone and everyone who happens to click on your profile—identity thieves included. The same goes for listing your phone number, home address, and other sensitive information on networking sites that feel personal but are often very public. Privacy settings on social media channels are a constantly moving target, so it’s essential to check all your profiles on a regular basis to ensure that your audience is as limited as you’d like it to be, and that if something changes, you’re sharing only information you’re comfortable having out there. Set a monthly (or even more frequent) calendar appointment with yourself to run such a quick security check.

Pay particular attention to your smart devices, many of which collect more data than you may realize. Take time to read up on each device and understand how your information is being stored and used. Can it be sold to third parties? What happens if you decide to discontinue its use? Knowledge is power when you’re deciding how and where to allow your data to be shared, so do your homework by reading the fine print and diving into user reviews before committing to a new technology that might not have your best interests in mind.

3. Invest in an identity theft prevention system.
If you really want to ensure that your assets—from your name and social security number to the very last penny on your credit card balance—have protection, it may be wise to explore subscribing to an identity theft protection service like LifeLock. While no one can prevent identity theft or monitor all transactions at all businesses, LifeLock provides a wide range of services, from proactive identity alerts and threat detection to remediation services. The company leverages an intricate theft prevention system based on unique data, science, and patented technology to offer protection that goes beyond the scope of simpler services like basic credit monitoring.

“At the core, our products help monitor identity-related incidents, alert members to suspicious activity that is detected within our network, and address ID theft-related issues on behalf of victims,” Hanson says. “In the event that identity theft occurs, LifeLock provides an award-winning member service team,” she continues, including any necessary lawyers, investigators, and accountants, all funded up to $1 million as part of the company’s $1 Million Service Guarantee. And, depending on your level of membership, you can replace anywhere from $25,000 to $1 million in stolen funds unable to be recovered.

Investing in any level of the services offered by LifeLock sooner rather than later is a smart move, especially if you plan to use more technological devices in your home—and, thus, share more of your personal information—in the future. As smart homes become the norm rather than the exception, it’s wise to set a system in place that captures and monitors everything you add, the moment you add it, from here on out.

The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies here. Rather than disease agents you’re trying to keep at bay, however, we’re talking about equipping yourself against high-tech thieves who are determined to take what you’ve earned. By entrusting an expert to stay two steps ahead of them on your behalf, you’re free to devote your time and energy to the people and activities you enjoy—all the while confident that your home’s technology, your assets, and your identity are being diligently protected.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LifeLock. The opinions and text are all mine.


How To: Use a Screw Extractor

Have you ever just been zipping through a project only to run up against a broken screw or stripped screw head? No problem! Pick up a screw extractor, and you'll be picking up right where you left off in no time.

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How to Use a Screw Extractor

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At some point in the never-ending list of do-it-yourself projects, nearly every handy homeowner encounters a stripped screw—and this small obstacle can turn even the most straightforward home improvement project into a drawn-out affair. Stripped screws commonly occur when you’re dealing with worn or weathered fasteners, such as those found on door hinges, cabinet hinges, and door strike plates. And, once you’ve managed to damage or warp a screw head, it’s almost impossible to get that screw out with a common Phillips-head or flat-blade (slotted) screwdriver. Even worse, the odds of removing the screw decrease each time the screwdriver slips in the slots. Enter a seasoned DIYer’s go-to tool: a screw extractor.

While the specific design of this inexpensive implement varies, it most commonly takes the form of a tapered drill bit with a reversed thread. When you put it to use, the extractor penetrates a hole punched or drilled in the top of the screw and its reversed threads grab hold so that the screw can be twisted out. A selection of screw extractors can be found in most hardware stores—whether brick and mortar or online—available in many different sizes to accommodate a wide assortment of screw sizes. Once you’ve snagged one as an immediate fix (and future repair tool), read on for the guidelines on how to use a screw extractor and save the day.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Screw extractor
– Safety glasses
– Center punch
– Hammer
– Drill bits
– Variable-speed reversible drill
– Thread cutting oil
– Penetrating oil (optional)
– Wrench

STEP 1
Using a screw extractor entails drilling, striking, and cutting screws, all of which can potentially send small shards of metal flying. To prevent eye injury, wear safety glasses.

How to Use a Screw Extractor

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STEP 2
Align the center punch with the center of the stripped or broken screw, and lightly strike it with a hammer. You want to create a small indentation in the center of the screw to help guide the drill bit.

STEP 3
Select a drill bit that is smaller in diameter than the screw or fastener, and secure it to the power drill. Apply a small drop of thread cutting oil to the head of the broken screw for easier drilling. If the stripped screw is rusted or affixed to metal, place a small drop of penetrating oil on the threads to help loosen its grip.

STEP 4
Align the drill bit with the punched spot on the screw head. Drill slowly and carefully, making sure to keep the drill and bit aligned straight with the screw. Drill about 1/8 to 1/4 inch into the screw head; the depth will depend on the size of the screw extractor you’re using.

STEP 5
Finally, insert the tip of your handy screw extractor into the bored hole. How to use a screw extractor will depend on the particular model you’ve chosen, but you’ll likely employ either a wrench or drill to turn the tool counterclockwise. As you turn the screw extractor, its threads will draw it in until it bites into the hole. Once you feel the extractor take hold, continue turning counterclockwise and pull to completely remove the stripped or broken screw.


Bob Vila Radio: Where to Get Shipping Pallets

You can always score scrap wood at the local lumber yard. But if you're pinching pennies or looking for a new challenge, why not salvage boards from the shipping pallets you can often get for free—if you know where to look, that is.

Shipping pallets have all sorts of uses for do-it-yourselfers, but versatility isn’t their only virtue. Additionally, pallets boast tough-to-beat affordability. In fact, if you know where to get pallets, it’s often possible to stock up for free.

Where to Get Pallets

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WHERE TO GET PALLETS or read below:

Small businesses like nurseries, hardware stores, and furniture retailers—they all commonly stack pallets out back. That’s especially true in the case of a newly opened location. Also, check the local construction sites. But of course, before removing pallets from a business address, it’s only prudent to check with an employee first.

One caution: Pallets are sometimes treated with toxic wood preservatives to deter the spread of plant diseases and insects. To ensure your pallet project doesn’t make you sick, look for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) logo, which certifies that the pallet has been treated in a safe, non-toxic manner.

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!