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Take Time to Choose Your Tools Carefully

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homespun-lowres-7-22.jpgBy Margaret Slaby

RISMEDIA, July 22, 2008-(MCT)-Bill Massey has been a handyman for 18 years. He has hung sheetrock, replaced doors, and remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. Sometimes, though, he has been flabbergasted by the jobs homeowners hire him to do.“I have been out for some really silly things that people should be able to do themselves,” says Massey, who works for Handyman Connection, which has offices in Fresno and Bakersfield, Calif. “I’ve been called out to hang pictures and put up curtain rods. If you’ve got a tape measure, a level and a hammer, you should be able to do that on your own. The price of these basic tools could very well pay for a repair guy.”

Tony Johnson of Johnson’s Handyman Service in Fresno, Calif., says all homeowners should keep a few basic tools close at hand.

“A lot of people today are doing their own repairs or hooking up their own stereos,” he says. “You have to have the right tool to do the job.”

But don’t cut corners when it comes to cost, experts caution.

“When you’re buying tools, quality is somewhat of an issue,” Massey says. “I’m not saying to go out and find a Snap-on truck and buy the most expensive tool you can, but don’t buy something cheap, either.”

Many tools come with limited lifetime warranties and are well worth the few extra bucks, Johnson says.

And although a traditional toolbox is fine, Handyman Connection owner Nick Dvorak suggests a canvas caddy. These come in various sizes. Tools are stored vertically to eliminate rummaging around. Prices generally start about $15.

Ready to assemble your own household toolbox? Johnson and Massey are here to help.
Screwdrivers: Aim for both small and medium Phillips and flat-head. A screwdriver can help remove the cover on a TV remote control to change the batteries, tighten door hinges and assemble shelves or toys. A flat-head is perfect for prying the lid from a can of paint. Price each: $4-$10.

Pliers: Stock your toolbox with each of these pliers: needlenose, channellock and linesman, Massey says.

Needlenose have pointed ends and are used for small projects, such as holding wires while repairing a pair of eyeglasses, digging something out of the garbage disposal or removing hair from a shower drain.

Channellocks have adjustable jaw openings with gripping teeth and are perfect for using on round objects, such as loosening the lid of a jar.

Linesman pliers (also called flat-nosed) have serrated jaws for gripping. They often are used for cutting wire.

Price each: $6-$18.

Hammer: Buy a smooth, claw-faced hammer with a metal head and wood or fiber- glass handle. Johnson suggests one that’s 8-10 ounces. A hammer’s good for the obvious _ pounding in or removing nails _ as well as putting the lid back on a can of paint or prying open a wood crate.

Price: $7-$20.

Tape measure: A 16-footer is “not too big and not too small,” Massey says. Use this tool when measuring space for appliances or furniture or centering pictures on a wall.

Price: $8-$18.

Drill: While an electric drill with a 50-foot extension cord probably will do, it’s nice to also have a cordless one. “Sometimes you don’t have access to power, so you can’t use an electric drill,” Massey says, “but with a cordless, you have to make sure the batteries are charged.”

Pick up an assortment of drill and driver bits. Use a bit attachment to turn a drill into a power screwdriver. Attach a driver bit to remove screws. Drills start at about $40-$50. A 10-piece drill/driver set goes costs about $10.

Handsaw: With a serrated metal blade (and often a wood handle), this tool is perfect for small jobs, such as cutting tree limbs, fence board, baseboard, PVC pipe or door trim. A 15-inch wood-handled handsaw will cost $10-$18.

Level: A bubble level has liquid-filled vials; the bubble moves to the center of the vial when an object is level. Massey recommends a 24-inch-long level. Price: $15-$25 for a 24-inch bubble level with aluminum frame.

A laser level projects vertical and horizontal laser lines and is perfect for hanging items on the wall.

Price: about $15.

Crescent wrench: This tool, which has a head shaped like a crescent moon, has a sliding jaw that changes the wrench’s width.

It’s perfect for tightening or loosening bolts, such as on pipes under the sink. Johnson says it’s also handy for tightening a bicycle’s seat, handlebars and pedals. An 8-inch crescent wrench should do the job.

Price: $13-$17.

Retractable-blade utility knife: This tool, also known as a razor knife, can open cardboard boxes, slice through packaging tape or string, and cut linoleum.

Price: $3-$10.

Flashlight: A must-have when working under the kitchen sink or searching for the fuse box during a power outage.

Price: About $4 and up.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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