Ladies' Tool Kits For the Home
Tools For Ladies???
These days, there is at long last some acknowledgement that men are not the only ones who can learn how to use tools, or need tools. Many women are now comfortable performing basic small home maintenance or repairs on their own.
To this end, there are several tool kits available, purportedly "just right" for the lady of the house. They are smaller in size, lighter in weight, and usually come in pretty colors.
Ladies, don't be suckered in by these cutesy kits. For the most part, they are garbage.
Bypass cute. Cute is not for tools. Cute is for clothing, stuffed animals and small children. These "just for women" tool kits are about as functional as small tool kits for little kids. They are barely a step above toys.
Their quality is low, and they will be inadequate for most jobs, leading to frustration at best, and injury at worst. If you plan to do any tasks around the home, you need real tools. A basic tool kit for household use is easy to assemble.
One Place for Cheap Tools
(The only "cheapie" tools I own are those I keep in my truck for emergencies. Why? If anyone should steal them, I'm not out any of my good tools, and the joke's on the thief!)
Hammers need to be sturdy, and with enough weight to get the job done; they are rated in ounces. A 16 ounce hammer obviously weighs one pound. That is not a lot of weight to handle. Framing hammers and roofing hammers typically come in around the 22 ounce range, and are not needed for a basic home tool kit. 12 ounce hammers, on the other hand, are very light weight, and may not generate enough force to do the job.
When selecting a hammer, don't just go for the cheapest. Find one that feels comfortable in your hand. Many hammers have anti-vibration technology, so the 'shock' of the impact does not telegraph back up your hand and arm. Also, a rubber or leather grip is helpful in keeping a firm grip on the tool, as well as having additional shock-absorbing qualities.
You do not need a textured or "waffle-face" hammer head for basic home repairs. However, a second, small hammer, called a 'tack hammer' is useful for jobs where the heft of a standard hammer is not needed and can be a liability, such as hanging pictures, or attaching hooks to the backs of picture frames.
A hammer should be held by the grip end, and should feel balanced and swing easily. Grabbing the hammer too close to the "business end" is called "choking up" on the tool, and can cause injury to the wrist from being too close to the impact. Any shock-absorbing features built in will not have a chance to do their job if the hammer is held too far down its shank.
There are many types of pliers, but the three most common types useful for simple repairs are: diagonal-jaw pliers (often called "dikes'); linesmans' pliers; and needle-nose pliers.
- "Dikes" are cutting pliers. Use these when you have repairs involving wire, or for cutting cable ties (zip ties).
- Needle-nose pliers are for manipulating small parts and/or getting into small spaces, as they have very thin, tapered jaws.
- Linesmans' pliers are sturdy, with a bulky, grooved jaw for non-slip grasping of a part. Do not use them on decorative finished surfaces. They also have a cutting surface behind the forward part of the jaw. Linesmans' pliers can cut heavier gauge wire than dikes.
- Channellocks® are generically called 'tongue-and-groove pliers. "Channellock®" is a registered brand name that has come into generic use for this type of plier. (See illustration.)These pliers are very useful for a variety of applications where size of the surface to be gripped may be variable. They also come in handy in the kitchen for those stuck jar lids!
- Slip-Joint pliers, similar to Chanellocks®, can accommodate more than one size of object to be grabbed, but there is only a single adjustment point, so they are more limited.
- Vise-Grips, or locking pliers are another handy tool. As with Channellocks®, Vise-Grip started out as a registered trademark that has come into common use. This tool is very useful in situations where you need 3 hands, but are by yourself. The jaw can be adjusted by means of a screw mechanism, and then a lever depressed on one handle, locking the jaw onto the object you need held still
- A full set of wrenches in both standard (SAE--which originally stood for "Society of Automotive Engineers" the standard-setting body at the time) and metric sizes is never a bad investment. So many things these days have multiple sizes of nuts and bolts in a single item, and often they are mixed between metric and SAE. With a good assortment of types and sizes, you should always have the right tool for the job at hand.
- Wrenches are either box-end or open-end. Most wrenches are double-ended. Sometimes, each end is a different size, and both ends are the same type. Others are made with a single size per wrench, but with one end open and the other side a box-end. I like the latter, myself; that way, if you find in the middle of a job that you need the opposite type, you don't have to stop and hunt for a different wrench. Just flip it to the other side.
- The common crescent wrench initially had a crescent-shaped handle, but that is no longer always the case. It is technically called an adjustable wrench because it has a worm gear mechanism that allows the jaw to be opened to a range of sizes for unscrewing a bolt or holding a nut still while the screw is tightened or removed. They are not my first choice, as they cannot be tightened down very tight, and may be inclined to slip off the nut. Crescent wrenches come in a wide range of sizes from, "Oh, how cute!" to "OMG!"
- Flat-blade screwdrivers are for straight-slotted screw heads. This type of screw is less desirable, as the slot is easily stripped out and rendered useless from too much turning force. This can happen if the screw has become corroded or rusted in place. If the slot strips out, you have no way to easily remove the screw. It can be done, but is no longer a simple task.
- Phillips-head screwdrivers are used for Phillips-head screws. These are the ones that have what resembles a 4-point star on the screw head. With more points for the driver to grab, they are somewhat less susceptible to stripped heads, but it can happen. The most common cause is using the wrong size driver. It is very important to be sure the screwdriver fits snugly in the screw head.
- There are several other types of screws, but these are the two most common types found in most household applications. Computers, mechanical and automotive uses frequently use some of the other types.
- In addition to hand-held manual screwdrivers, there is also the option of using a power-driven drill/driver (so called because they can accommodate both drill bits and screwdriver bits; either drilling a hole or driving a screw). Drill/drivers obviously will exert more force than hand-turning a manual screwdriver, so care must be taken not to strip screw heads. However, they are a useful tool in situations where the material is hard enough to make it difficult to drive the screw by hand, or where a large number of screws must be used.
Remember this: When referring to a power drill/driver, the drill or driver is the tool that holds the bit. It is the bit that does the work, whether boring a hole or driving in a screw. Bits come in a wide variety of sizes, and can be purchased either singly or in sets. In sets, they typically come in plastic cases, called an index, as shown above right. The same is true of screwdriver bits.
Screwdrivers and Drill BitsClick thumbnail to view full-size
You CAN Do It Yourself!
Women are no less capable than men of learning basic repair and maintenance for common household issues. The only place where men may have a slight advantage is in the "muscles" department.
With basic household repairs, however, muscles are not always called for--in fact, finesse is a more desirable requirement, and we gals can usually beat out the men in that department. ;-)
In any case, the entire concept of women doing so-called "men's work" is not new. Think back to WWII (or read your history books if you're not old enough to remember). Entire factories were staffed by ladies represented by the iconic "Rosie the Riveter" character.
© 2011 Liz Elias
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