Posted by MALLORY | Posted in "How to" of the Month, Quick Tip of the Month, Tool Info | Posted on 21-11-2012
Work More Efficiently With the Right Tools Always in Reach
A tool belt is one of the most important pieces of a builder or tool user’s repertoire. A good tool belt keeps you safer and more productive on the job, it keeps your hands free when you need them and ensures you have easy access to a whole arsenal of tools, no matter where you are or when you need them. Whether you’re on the ladder, on the roof, or anywhere out of the shop, a tool belt promises you’ll have exactly what you need.
So tool belts are great, right? But what exactly do you stock them with? How do you find a balance between being prepared and being totally bogged down by odds and ends? The key is knowing the work you have ahead of you and being familiar with the functions of each of your hand tools and accessories. Foreseeing the future, though, is a lot easier said than done and, accordingly, I’ve put together a list of gadgets that together comprise the ideal, general purpose tool belt.
But first! Please allow me to provide a few tips about using, wearing and stocking your tool belt.
Tool Belt Tips
- Ensure you invest in a tool belt that is designed for your dominant hand. You shouldn’t have to reach around your body to grab your hammer with the hand that swings it.
- In your tool belt store your most commonly used tools on your dominant side and the tools you reach for less frequently on your secondary side.
- Keep fasteners (like screws and nails) on your secondary side so that your “helping-hand” can seamlessly feed fasteners to your dominant hand.
- When you need to bend or adjust your balance/load, try rotating your tool belt 180-degrees. This puts the weight behind you and keeps your tools from impeding your movement (especially in crouched or awkward positions).
- If your tool belt gets particularly bulky, invest in a pair of wide-band industrial suspenders. This will disperse the weight and save your back.
- Don’t put yourself in a corner with inferior equipment – invest in high-quality tools. You don’t have to break the bank to buy a good product and, if you have to sacrifice high-tech for high-quality, do it. There is nothing worse for your productivity or your budget than struggling with poorly fabricated tools.
And finally, here is a list of essential items for your tool belt with a brief explanation of why these tools are important and what to look for in a good one.
Essential Tools for Your Tool Belt
In your tool belt, square carpenter’s pencils are preferred. Their shape prevents the pencil from rolling and increases their durability. Keep at least 2 pencils on-hand as you never know when a tip will break or when you’ll drop one from atop your ladder. Also carry a pen or permanent marker for marks that require a little extra distinguishing.
While you may choose a hammer with a wood, steel or fiberglass handle, the most important thing to consider is the quality and balance of the hammer as a whole. Ensure the hammer is not too flimsy and not too heavy. You may also choose between a hammer with a rip claw and a curved claw. Though the curved claw is more traditional, the rip claw can double as a hatchet if you need to chop something (albeit roughly) in a pinch.
A 4-in-1 screwdriver offers 2 common sizes of both Phillips head and flat-head tips. This eliminates the need to carry multiple screwdrivers.
If you don’t carry a pouch for your screws and nails, it can’t hurt to carry a handful of fasteners in your tool belt. You never know when you’ll need to replace a screw or hammer a few nails; accordingly, its also smart to carry various sizes.
Nail Sets (in the 3 most common sizes)
For setting nails (or driving them below a surface) or for poking a hole or two, there is nothing so helpful as a nail set. Keep multiple sizes on-hand and you’ll use them often.
Anything larger than a 30-foot tape may not fit exceptionally well (or at all) in a standard tool belt. Accordingly, invest a 30-foot or 25-foot measuring tape with a 1-inch blade (this will ensure better reach with less buckling). Durability is important as tapes often get knocked around and because you will use the thing constantly.
Though there are many uses for a rafter square, you will most commonly use this for marking both straight and angled cuts on virtually every cutting material. Choose a square made of thick aluminum or thick plastic as the thinner models don’t hold up.
Use a chalk line to mark perfectly straight lines in a flash (or, more accurately, a “flick”). These are great for marking long cut lines or perimeters, but, as a cautionary tale, use only blue chalk on surfaces you want to keep clean (red chalk will stain).
You will use a good utility knife to cut everything. You may choose a standard knife or an upgraded knife with a quick-change blade. In either case, invest in a higher-grade cutter to reduce blade wobble.
A cat’s paw will help you pull or pry just about everything. Literally, these tools are ideal for nail pulling but can also contribute to light demolition, chiseling or scraping.
A tough 3/4-inch chisel is ideal for a wide range applications from scraping, cutting and prying. You’ll likely reach for your chisel frequently so although a 3/4-inch should do everything you need it to, it’s good to have a few sizes on-hand.
For scraping, prying and applying stuff, a durable putty knife can be incredibly useful.
With their long, skinny nose, strong gripping power and wire cutting capability, needle nose pliers are incredibly useful. You’ll use them for everything from reaching into tight spaces to gripping objects, to untying knots and bending and cutting wire.
Because slip joint pliers can be adjusted to accommodate different sizes, you will use this tool for many tugging, pulling and twisting applications.
Electrical tape is a kind of insulating tape that is both weather and heat resistant. It’s durable yet stretchy, it’s typically made of vinyl and it’s most commonly used to insulate electrical wires. Because electrical tape can be torn by hand and because it generally removes cleanly from surfaces, it can be used like regular tape for taping/bonding, labeling, bandaging or etc.
Always remember your safety gear – your gloves, glasses, masks, earplugs and etc. Don’t be caught with debris in your eye or a blow-up ear drum when you can easily avoid injuries on the job. Be safe, smart and careful.
And that does it! Of course, the items you’ll need to keep in your tool belt will differ slightly from this list (and will differ slightly still from your neighbor’s list or your best friend’s list, and may differ again depending upon the job you’re doing) but these basics will get you well on your way to finding perfect bliss with your tool belt. – Good luck and happy crafting!