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Woodworking Tools: Right Selection And Care Will Save You Money, Part 5


Woodworking: Tools Of The Trade, Part 5 - Tools For Assembly

A civilization's maturity and intelligence is judged, in part, by the diversity and sophistication of its tools. When it comes to woodworking, the human race is quite advanced. There are general tools that work well in many situations, and there are specialty tools made for one specific purpose. There are tools that require only manpower and a rudimentary knowledge, and others that utilize computer programs, a wide range of knowledge, and a powerful motor. We have even learned how to harness power for our tools and package it in a small battery component, giving us the freedom to take our tools wherever we need them.

It is truly amazing and wonderful to contemplate the vast number of tools and all that woodworkers are capable of doing and creating with the help of these tools. And for many people, working with tools is one of the thrills, or even obsessions, of woodworking.

Woodworking and related tools have become so popular that there are numerous companies that manufacture these tools and thousands of places to purchase them. Combine that with the vast numbers of different types of tools and it can get overwhelming, especially if you are new to woodworking. Our experts helped us focus on the basics to develop an overview of those tools needed to get a good start in woodworking.

In the most basic terms, a woodworker needs four kinds of tools. They need a place to work, tools for cutting and shaping, tools for assembly, and finishing equipment. This simple statement provides the basis for the following discussion of woodworking tools.

The tools listed and described here represent just the tip of the iceberg. In keeping with the philosophy that it is best to learn the basics first, and to not invest large sums of money until a person is certain that they have an ongoing interest in woodworking, the emphasis is on hand tools, with a few basic power tools thrown in. These tools should prepare you for a variety of beginner projects and give you a solid foundation of equipment and knowledge to build upon.

Tools For Assembly
Once you have your wood cut and shaped, you will need to assemble your project. There are tools made especially for this purpose, and the list includes some of the most familiar household tools, such as screwdrivers, hammers and drills.

Screwdrivers
As the name explains, screwdrivers are used for driving screws into wood. Most people are familiar with the flathead or blade screwdriver and the Phillips. There is also a square drive screwdriver for those screws with square heads.

Within each of these groups, there are different sizes and specialties of screwdrivers. Some come with ratchet action or interchangeable bits. Some have magnetized tips to help hold screws.

Selection Tips
Most people purchase a set of screwdrivers to be sure to have a variety. Select a screwdriver with a comfortable, secure handle. Be sure the shaft doesn't bend easily and that the blade or point is in good shape. Prices range from several dollars to over $10 for a specialty or multi-use screwdriver. Most bargain bin tools will bend easily and are not really a good buy.

Care & Maintenance
Avoiding rust is the main concern with screwdrivers. Wipe clean and store in a dry area. In addition, you want to be careful not to force a screw or use the wrong size as this can strip the tip of a Phillips or square cut tool.

Hammers & Mallets
Most people have used a claw hammer or ball peen hammer for basic household projects such as hanging pictures or putting up shelves. Hammers have metal heads for driving nails and other fasteners. A mallet has a head shaped like a pop can and is solid and heavy. They are used to drive chisels or take joints apart. The head can be made of steel, wood, or rubber. Some are magnetized. Again, most people find it helpful to have several different styles of hammers and mallets.

Selection Tips
A good hammer or mallet will have a solid handle with the striking head firmly attached. Some have fiberglass or reinforced handles. Others are padded. The choice is one of comfort and cost. A good hammer can be purchased for under $10 while mallets can be more expensive depending on the size.

Care & Maintenance
As with screwdrivers, the main concern with hammers and mallets is avoiding rust. Occasionally you may have to replace or refit a handle.

Clamps
When you want to hold two pieces of wood together, either with glue, or hardware such as screws, it is often handy to use clamps to hold the wood while you work or until the glue dries. In addition, clamps are important safety tools when used to hold your piece of wood securely when sawing, drilling, shaping, etc.

There are many different kinds of clamps, named for the way they look, the material they are made from, how they are operated or what they are used for. The C-clamp and F-clamp, named for how they look, are two types that are usually operated by tightening a bolt. The area that comes in contact with the wood usually swivels to adjust to different angles and surfaces. These clamps come in an amazing array of sizes to accommodate nearly any job.

When working with metal clamps, the teeth or surface that holds the wood can often cut or dent your material. Use scrap pieces of wood as a buffer between to avoid damaging your work. Some people use wooden hand screw clamps that consist of two blocks of wood tightened by large screws. There are also pipe clamps for large spans, trigger release clamps, edging clamps with a third tightening shoe, and several other specialty designs to fit your specific needs.

A vise is a heavy-duty type of clamp that is often mounted on a workbench. It can be used in many different situations and most open quite wide to accommodate a variety of projects.

Selection Tips
Choose a well-know clamp or one that has been tested and recommended in woodworking magazines. New gadgets come out on the market all the time, but many of them do not work, or are not appropriate for woodworking. It can be very dangerous if your clamp slips or is difficult and distracting to use, so you want to be sure you have a safe and functional product.

In addition, select the type of clamp that fits your needs and the layout of your shop. If you don't have a designated workbench, a vise may be difficult for you to incorporate. On the other hand, you may want to set up a temporary workstation or be able to move your projects to different areas. In that case, clamps that are portable would be best.

Care & Maintenance
For the most part, clamps simply need to be kept clean and dry. The tightening mechanism may need to be oiled occasionally to ensure proper movement. Depending on the design of the clamp, springs or fittings may need to be checked and replaced.

Drilling Tools
As the name implies, a drill is used to create a hole in a piece of wood. You may want the hole to go all the way through, such as with an opening for a birdhouse, or you may want it to stop partway into the wood, such as when inserting a dowel. The size and shape of the hole are determined by the bit used. There are several different types of hand drilling tools.

A brace is a powerful and useful tool that is often overlooked because of the popularity of power drills. But it is used by those who have a large hole to bore, enjoy more traditional work, don't have an outlet nearby, or feel that the brace gives more control. It resembles an inchworm in mid-crawl, with a chuck and ratchet on one end, an oval head on the other and a handle that juts out in a squared U-shape. The chuck opens and closes to accept bits of all different sizes, and is often used for holes over 1/2 inch and up to 5 inches. The tool is used by pushing down on the head and turning in a circular motion using the handle.

Another option for smaller holes is a hand drill that is powered by a drive crank and gear wheel. It is used for holes under 1/2 inch. It can be difficult to keep straight if drilling into hard wood that requires more pressure. A gimlet is a handheld tool also used for smaller, shallower holes, such as a pilot for a nail or screw. It is shaped like a T, with a handle across the top and the shank extending down perpendicular.

Of course, the popularity and relative affordability of power drills has made them one of the most common of home tools. The limitation is that some of them will not take the larger bits that the brace can accommodate. Other people find them noisy and hard to hold or direct for small, intricate jobs.

Selection Tips
The drilling tools mentioned here range in price from $25 or $30 for a basic power drill or small hand drill to over $50 for a sturdy brace or heavy-duty power drill. They can be purchased used, but should be checked to see that the bearings are good and the chuck doesn't slip.

Bits usually are purchased separately and range in price from several dollars to over $30 each. They are often made for use with different types of wood density. When buying used, look for bits that have plenty of usable length left with straight shafts and no nicks.

Care & Maintenance
The main type of maintenance with drilling tools is to oil the turning parts and keep them operating smoothly. Additionally, sharp bits are essential to quality and ease of work. As with other edged tools, you may need to bring them to a professional to have them sharpened until you are able to learn more about that aspect of tool care.

Tool Summary
This completes part 5 of the condensed overview of some of the tools that are commonly used in beginning woodworking projects. As you can see, this topic could and has provided the content for entire volumes of books and in order to fully understand the possibilities in woodworking and create quality projects, it is critical that you develop a more in-depth knowledge of the tools you plan to use.

It is also important to note again that each type of tool has its own care and maintenance needs that are often more specific than what has been touched on here. The details have been left out of this book to avoid overwhelming someone who is brand new to woodworking. However, their omission does not mean they aren't important.

"Failing to care for your tools is ridiculous from a financial standpoint," stated shop teacher, Kevin Warner. "Why spend $20 on a good quality handsaw or clamp and then allow it to go dull or rust? Not only will you loose money, your work will suffer because your tools won't perform as intended. And it will take you more time in the long run. Taking good care of your tools is one of the first steps in becoming a serious woodworker."

Copyright © 2005 by Ferhat Gul. All rights reserved. You may redistribute this article in its unedited entirety, including this resource box, with all hyperlinked URLs kept intact.

Ferhat Gul is the publisher of the brand-new "Woodworking Beginner's Guide - Tips From Experienced Woodworkers to Help You Get Started", made just for people who love woodworking. This comprehensive, yet compact woodworking introduction for beginners is easy to read and helps to save time, money and effort.


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