What In The Workshop is This?
There are so many quirky tools around the workshop and home. We’ll explain what some of the most bizarre ones are used for.
Stud guns resemble firearms, and they have much in common. Treat both with respect and NEVER use PAT (portable appliance testing) powder loads in firearms and vice versa. PATs became available in the early ’60s and have grown increasingly popular for fastening wood sills to concrete floors and wood furring strips to poured and block concrete walls.
NOTE: Before you work with stud guns, check with your local building officials. The use of power fasteners is sometimes restricted by certain construction techniques and situations.
Copper is a soft metal that’s easiest to cut with a tube cutter. Buy one that cuts up to 1-in. tubing, the largest size you’re likely to need for most household water supply lines. To cut tubes, grip the copper tubing firmly in one hand and tuck one end under your knee to keep it from slipping while you tighten and rotate the cutter. Don’t tighten it too fast; you’ll dent the pipe and have to start over.
The cut may look clean, but remember to remove the small inside burr, a ridge of copper that’s forced inward by the cutting wheel. Otherwise, it’ll impede the flow of water through the pipe. Learn more about sweating copper pipe.
A Mini Air Jack
Pry bars are great for lifting windows, appliances or cabinets to level them. But they’re also great at leaving scratches—and sometimes you need three hands to lift, align, level and shim all at the same time. The AirShim Inflatable Pry Bar & Leveling Tool solves all that. This 6 x 6-in. bladder inflates with the squeeze of a bulb, up to about 2-1/2 in. thick. A push of a button deflates it. The manufacturer says each one can support 300 lbs. There’s also a Pro XL model that can handle 500 lbs.
They’re handy for lifting appliances to adjust the leveling feet or lifting one end of a cabinet to slide permanent shims into place. You can also use them in pairs to level windows and doors during installation.
Driver/concrete bit combo tool
This special bit and sleeve assembly lets you drill holes and drive screws quickly. This combo bit too is best used for concrete and concrete blocks.
Use a special bit in your hammer drill to drill a pilot hole through the workpiece (if it’s wood) and right into the concrete. Drive the screw with a power screwdriver. Hex heads are easier to drive but the heads will protrude slightly above the surface after tightening.
One drawback for this combo is that it’s not great to use on crumbly concrete or mortar. Also, keep some extra screw drive tips around; the screws are so hard that screw tips break often.
Screw and Sleeve Cabinet Fasteners
Screw and sleeve cabinet fasteners are best used for attaching cabinets together after you’ve aligned and clamped the cabinet fronts. Screw the cabinets together near the top and bottom front as well as at the center front.
Dual Roller Method
Two different paint colors on dual rollers create this mottled, textured paint effect on walls. Using one of these decorative painting systems is relatively fast. We found that it takes only about twice as long as conventional painting. An average-size room can be painted in about four or five hours. Your only costs are for paint and the decorative paint roller kit.
A shoring post is used to temporarily support load-bearing structures during repairs. In this image, the shoring post is used to repair a load-bearing post in a basement.
Simple Angle Template
Not long ago, I needed to make some angled wood parts to build a new soffit on my garage. I didn’t have the customary tool for the job, but I had some steel joining plates. I screwed through one of the holes in the plate, set my angle, then added another screw to lock the angle. I could then use it as a template to mark all the pieces at the same angle and cut them with my circular saw. — Ryan Bartsch
Even if you know your way around a tape measure, there’s sure to be some new tricks you haven’t seen in this list of 25 tips and tricks to take your mastery of this key skill to the next level.
The best feature of hammer-set anchors is that they’re quick to install. You don’t have nuts and washers to fuss with; just drill the hole to the right depth and hammer it home. These are great for hanging 3/4-in. furring strips and metal brackets and straps.
Aerate Your Lawn to Help It ‘Breathe’
Grass roots need oxygen as well as water and nutrients. Aerating—the process of removing small plugs of soil—produces multiple benefits. It improves air-to-soil interaction. It allows water and fertilizer to penetrate the soil deeper and easier. It reduces soil compaction and opens space for roots to grow. It removes some thatch and stimulates the breakdown of the remaining thatch. The best tool for this task is a gas-powered aerator, available at most rental centers.
Get your tank pumped with a Sludge Judge…
Pumping removes the buildup of sludge and scum, which slows down bacterial action in the tank. Your tank may need pumping each year, but it’s possible to go two or three years between pumpings, depending on the size of your tank and the amount of waste you run through the system. Ask your inspector to make a rough recommendation for how often your tank should be pumped.
But if you’re not squeamish, you can check the sludge level yourself with a device called The Sludge Judge. It costs $100 to $125 and is widely available online (get one on Amazon). Once you’ve determined that your tank is one-third full of sludge, call a contractor to come pump it out.
Homemade Lathe Calipers
When you’re turning spindles and you need to check the diameter, does it bug you to have to stop and adjust those antiquated metal calipers? End the frustration by creating wood calipers for any sizes you frequently check.
CAMO has come up with a super-fast hidden deck fastening system called EdgeClip. It’s designed to be used with grooved deck boards. It has little legs that straddle the joist, so you don’t have to hold them in place while you fasten them down.
Another thing you don’t have to do is fuss with the screws because they’re already in the clips ready to go. And one more thing you don’t have to do is fumble around trying to line up the drill bit with the screw head because every box of fasteners comes with a Never-Miss Guide which funnels the bit right onto the fastener head for a perfect alignment every time. Find a dealer at the CAMO website, and check out their great video as well.
These are the fasteners you’ll buy and use most often. They’re great for fastening shelf brackets, towel bars, rake and shovel brackets, shower doors, pipe and conduit retainers, and most anything else lighter than 50 lbs. They require a pilot hole at least as deep as the screw will penetrate (keep in mind the thickness of the material you’re fastening). Each package will tell the hole size and the screw size (Nos. 4 through 12) that’ll work best.
Kohler Continuous Clean
Did you know that those bleach or cleaning tablets you drop in a tank wreak havoc on the guts of a toilet? They can deteriorate rubber gaskets and other important parts. Kohler has a solution called ContinousClean. Instead of dropping the cleaning tablets into the tank, you drop them into the ContinuousClean reservoir, which dispenses the cleaner only when it’s needed, which drastically reduces how often you need to replace them. Also, it dumps the cleaner saturated water directly into the bowl, bypassing the parts that could be damaged. Right now it’s only available on a couple of Kohler’s toilet collections.
The usual way to finish the joint where walls meet the ceiling is to apply coats of joint compound. Making it all smooth, straight and square takes patience and practice. Plastic tear-away bead lets you skip all that. Tear-away bead is typically used where drywall meets a different material like brick, a shower surround or paneling. But for this job, it’s an even bigger time-saver because it makes taping much easier—and you may not even have to paint the walls when you’re done
Soft metal shield anchors
These anchors were the mainstay for many years, especially before plastic anchors were developed. They still work well today and are especially good in softer materials like brick and mortar that can’t take the stress from heavy-duty anchors.
Electronic Timed Sprinkler System
This is a great replacement for a small irrigation system, its easy to install right to your hose bib and doesn’t require tearing up your yard like traditional irrigation systems. Set when the timer wills start and how long it will run for and forget about it. It also features rain delay and manual settings so you stop it from watering when you don’t need to and override the schedule to wash your car. Find this system on amazon, the dual hose unit is $40 and the single hose unit is $35. Next, check out 24 gardening hacks that will make your life so much better!
Unclog Your Showerhead
Every few months, my showerhead gets partially clogged with calcium deposits from our well water. I used to remove the showerhead and soak it overnight in vinegar until the small holes were cleared. To get the job done faster, I bought a welding tip cleaner at my local home center for about $5. The cleaner has different-size abrasive needles that quickly knock out the mineral chunks from the tiny holes—no need to remove the showerhead. — reader Mike Henrich
Brush and roller comb
Paintbrush combs have been around forever. But the Warner Professional Paint Brush Comb with Roller Cleaner has a few extra features others don’t. It has two sets of teeth for cleaning bristles, one for up near the ferrule and the other for the main part of the brush. As a bonus, this handy gizmo can run the length of a soaked paint roller, returning paint to your can and cutting cleaning time. There’s also a little tab on the end for cleaning paint can rims. Granted, this isn’t one of the great innovations of the 21st century, but if you need to buy a brush comb, this one’s a gem. Available for about $3 at home centers and hardware and paint stores. — Barry Shoultz, Field Editor
Balance a Ceiling Fan
If your ceiling fan wobbles and makes more racket than an unbalanced washing machine load, read on; we’ve got the fix for you to stop a squeaky ceiling fan. Get your fan running smoothly again in 15 minutes.