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Hand Tools Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Shiny new claw hammer

Every basic toolset starts with commonly used hand tools. With some basic hand tools, you can perform a large variety of repairs and home improvement projects. As you progress to more advanced projects, you'll pick up tools for specific jobs. This hand tools buying guide is here to help you know what hand tools you need for your basic tool set and which ones you may want for more specialized tasks.

Buying Hand Tools:

  1. Hammers: Hammers are meant for driving nails, breaking up materials or persuading stubborn objects into place. Hammers come in quite a variety of designs, each for a specific task:

  2. Carpenter's hammers: Carpentry tools are mostly used for framing and woodworking. Framing hammers and claw hammers are the most common. The longer the handle, the more force you can apply in a single swing, driving nails in fewer swings. A good grip is essential to keep these hand tools from slipping as you swing.

  3. Sledgehammers: A sledgehammer has a large flat head. The size and weight of these larger hand tools provides you with a lot of hitting power. You'll primarily use these for demolition in preparation for a new project.

  4. Cross-peen or Warrington hammer: Cross-peen hammers, called Warrington hammers, are used in cabinetry. They are a versatile hammer used for driving small nails and brads for light joinery work.

  5. Mallets: Mallets have wide heads that are capable of delivering force over a widespread area. Mallet heads are often constructed of wood, rubber and even plastic to avoid damaging or marring delicate surfaces.

  6. Screwdrivers: A basic hand-tool set will usually have at least one flat-head and one Phillips head screwdriver. Possibly, your hand tools might include a set of hexagonal screwdrivers or a screwdriver with interchangeable heads. It's also helpful to have smaller screwdrivers for very small screws, like those found in many electronics. You can make things a lot easier on your wrists by using a ratcheting screwdriver so you don't have to remove the head from the screw or adjust your hand to make another turn.

  7. Pliers: Pliers are gripping hand tools. They are used to grip, turn, pull or crimp. Hand tools for your basic toolset may include a pair of needle-nose pliers, some vise grips and some wire cutters.

  8. Wrenches and sockets: Wrenches and sockets apply torque to turn bolts, nuts or other hard-to-turn items. Sockets may have either a six-point or 12-point recess and be shallow or deep. Larger sockets sets will include multiple ratchets and both metric and English standard sockets. A socket set will cover most normal nuts and bolts you come across, but you may want to have extra tools, like an adjustable wrench for odd-sized bolts and Allen wrenches for recessed, hexagonal bolts.

  9. Chisels: Chisels and similar hand tools have sharp blades used for carving and/or cutting hard materials, such as wood, stone or metal. You can use chisels and other cutting hand tools with a hammer or on a lathe. If you'll be working with chisels and similar wood-shaping hand tools, you may want chisels in several sizes and shapes. Lathe woodworking tools tend to have longer handles than regular chisels or burrs in order to give you more control when working on a work piece moving at high speed.

  10. Cutting hand tools: You'll find hand tools for cutting nearly any material, from wood to stone. Just make sure that your hand tool is properly sharpened and made of a harder material than the substance you'll be cutting. Helpful hand tools for cutting include axes, bolt cutters, hand saws and various garden tools.

  11. Painting and finishing tools: These hand tools are used in the application of paints, varnishes, sealants or stains to small or large surfaces. There are many different sizes of paintbrushes, as well as rollers. Accessories like paint trays, trim tape and drop clothes can help as well. Tools like extenders can help you reach tall areas. Keeping a few smaller sized paintbrushes in the house makes small painting jobs easy as well. Hand tools for painting really depend on the specific job you are doing. Look for the right brush type or roller for the surface you're working on.

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