Hand tool do's and don'ts

July 29, 2015

Here are some quick tips to keep your tools around for longer. Avoid misuse, which can lead to their demise.

Hand tool do's and don'ts


  • Buy replacement blades with the tool. Manufacturers make many variations of basic cutting tools and paint scrapers. It is wise to buy the replacement blades when you buy the tool to ensure you'll have them later. If the store doesn't sell the replacement part, don't buy the tool.
  • Buy quality handsaws. You can buy cheap handsaws that are intended to be tossed when they become dull. But you probably won't have a sharp saw on hand when you need it for a fine cut. Buy good-quality handsaws, which are more comfortable and accurate from the start, and learn how to sharpen them. All it takes is a round file and some patience. With the saw secured teeth up in a vice, use the file to dress the edge of each tooth. You'll know it's sharp when you see it shine.
  • Protect saw blades. Handsaws are usually too large to store in a drawer. Fashion a tooth guard for them with pieces of old hose. Cut the hose to a suitable length, split one edge with a utility knife and slip the guard over the saw's teeth. For smaller blades, such as for a hacksaw, use plastic report-cover spines. Cut the spine to length, and fit it over the blade's teeth.
  • Handle levels with care. Keep levels accurate by handling them carefully. Never leave one where it can fall or where something can fall on it. Avoid getting glue or paint on a level, because even a small accumulation on the edge can affect a reading. Keep levels away from heat and rain, especially levels made of wood. Use the hang hole for storage. Regularly rub linseed oil into wood levels.
  • Use the right clamp. Use a heavy-duty clamp, such as a bar clamp, when you need a lot of pressure. Use a light-duty clamp, such as a C-clamp, only for light-duty jobs. Never use an undersized clamp for a big job, or you are liable to break it.
  • Care for your clamps. Store your C-clamp collection by clamping them to a rack. Don't store clamps on pegboard hooks, where they are likely to fall and break. Don't store them in a drawer either, where the clamp screw can be damaged from getting banged about.


• Use the wrong tool to hit chisels. If the chisel is made of hardened steel, such as a cold chisel, strike it with a ball pein hammer, not a nail hammer or brick hammer. Plastic-handled carpenter's chisels that have a metal cap on the end are designed to be struck with a nail hammer, but plastic or wooden-handled chisels without metal caps should be struck only with wooden mallets.

• Use specialty hammers, such as a bricklayer's hammer, to strike steel tools or nails. You may damage the hammer.

• Use a screwdriver as a chisel, pry bar, punch, scraper or paint stirrer. You will ruin the screwdriver.

• Use an extender, such as a pipe, to increase torque on any wrench. You are liable to damage the wrench if you do. Never strike a wrench with a hammer, either.

• Forget to adjust a wrench so that it tightly grips the object you are using it on. If it's loose, the jaws may become misaligned when you pull on it.

• Expose pliers to excessive heat; you may draw the temper from the steel and ruin the tool.

• Use pliers to cut or bend wire if you have to use excessive force.

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