All the tools of the trade, as well as tips and advice to make those home improvements and odd jobs
around the house a breeze.

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DRILLS

Drills

Here’s our guide to the main features for you to have a look at before purchasing:

Type of Drill:

Drill Drivers

Lightweight and easy to use for screw driving and for drilling into wood and metal. An adjustable numbered torque ring allows screws to be driven as far into surface as required
Ideal for: curtain rails, cabinets and door and window hardware

Cordless combi drill

A dual function drill, hammer mechanism makes it ideal for drilling into masonry and stone. Use drilling mode for screw driving and drilling into wood and metal.

Ideal for: exterior brickwork and interior masonry walls

Hammer drill

Hammer action means that the drill also slightly taps forward and back to break up brittle material
Ideal for: interior masonry walls

SDS hammer drill

This gives a better performance when drilling through substances such as concrete and has three modes –
Drill only mode without hammer action
Hammer only mode which combines with SDS chisel bits for use as a concrete breaker or drill and hammer action combined.
Ideal for: light demolition, removing tiles, bricks, and creating socket cut ins or cable runs

Corded vs. cordless drills

  • Cordless or battery operated drills: these drills are highly convenient, being lightweight and easy to get to places, which are normally considered inaccessible with mains powered drills. They're also safer to work with, as there are no trailing cords. The down side is, the tougher the material you're working with, the faster the battery will drain. Although the batteries can be interchanged for continuous power, cordless drills are advised for use with softer materials.

  • Corded or mains operated drills: this type of drill provides extra power, torque and additional features, making them ideal for tougher jobs and for the more experienced DIY-er. They do however require a power point nearby when in use.

    • Power - The more power a drill has - measured in Volts for cordless and Watts for corded - the faster and more versatile it is.
    • Speed - A drill's speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM), which indicates how well the drill will perform. Single speed drills use one speed only, whereas you can adjust the speed of variable speed drills to take the strength of the material into account.
    • Hammer action - Hammer or precision action means a drill can tackle harder and heavier materials such as concrete. Using a pounding action, it pushes the toughened tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) masonry bits in and out at high speeds. Hammer drills can be difficult to control, so a secondary handle or grip can make the drill easier and more comfortable to use.
    • Torque - Most drills come with five torque settings, so you can adjust the amount of twisting force and speed that you apply, giving you better control.
    • Chuck type - The drill's chuck holds the bit tightly in position, and its capacity determines the largest bit size that the drill can take. A chuck capacity of 10mm will suit most people’s needs. There are 3 types of mechanism to suit the type of drilling you need to do: key operated, keyless or SDS.
    • Key operated chucks are generally more secure as the chuck is tightened with the aid of a key. This helps to keep the drill working where you want it to, even when tackling hard materials.
    • Keyless chucks normally use a standard 13mm chuck. As there's no key, bits can be changed quickly and easily.
    • SDS chucks lock bits into place using a fast keyless mechanism. Often available on top of the range drills, the SDS system is great for tough drilling jobs.
  • Other drill features to look for:

    • Depth rod: This feature allows you to set the maximum depth of the hole you want to drill, making sure you don't drill too deep.
    • Front secondary handle: Two handles give you the best balance and position in order to apply more pressure and accuracy. This feature is especially helpful when using the hammer action function.
    • Reverse action: By reversing the direction of the drill, it is quicker and easier to remove. This is also useful if you're using a screwdriver function or bolt adaptor.
    • Integrated magnetic bit holder: It's easy to lose small bits, and an integrated magnetic bit holder gives you a convenient place to store the bits exactly where you need them - on the drill itself.

Glossary

  • Watt - a rating of power, which will vary depending on the tool in question. So for drills this could be 500w to 750w and for circular saws 1000w to 1500w.
  • NiCad - an older type of battery that stores less charge than the more modern lithium-ion battery packs. These also lose charge over time.
  • Lithium-ion - also known as Li-ion, these battery packs provide the most power and best capacity. They also retain more charge for longer.

ELECTRIC SCREWDRIVER

An electric screwdriver is an essential tool in any toolbox and is just great where lots of screws need to be tightened quickly and precisely. Interchanging bits will let you tighten and loosen all screw shapes and sizes.

Key features to look out for:

Power rating

Electric screwdrivers are measured in volts (V). Most are cordless and are powered by a rechargeable battery. Generally speaking, the higher the voltage, the more efficient the screwdriver and the more work you can get done before it needs recharging.

Shape

A screwdriver can either come in a simple-to-use straight design, a pistol shape or can be multi- positional. The straight electric screwdrivers are the most basic, whereas the pistol shape helps to access awkward angles, and a multi-positional screwdriver will give you the best of both worlds.

Variable speed

You can vary an electric screwdrivers speed to give you greater control, just as with power drills. This feature also helps the screwdriver adapt to different materials and screw types.

Torque

A screwdriver’s rotating force, known as torque, can be varied according to the size of the screw, as some screws need more force than others. A screwdriver with lower levels of torque will be fine for everyday tasks; those with variable torque and a higher range are better suited to more involved assembly jobs with multiple screw types.

Spindle lock

For particularly precise tasks, the mechanism of the electric screwdriver can be locked in meaning you can use the screwdriver as a manual tool.

Reverse action

A reverse action feature makes removing screws as simple as putting them in, you just reverse the screwing direction.

Fast charge battery

All our screwdrivers contain Lithium-ion batteries for simple recharging, and some have a feature which enables the screwdriver to be fully charged in an hour or less.

Integrated light

Selected screwdrivers have lights fitted, to help you see exactly what you're doing even in dim light.

Glossary

  • NiCad - an older type of battery that stores less charge than the more modern lithium-ion battery packs. These also lose charge over time.
  • Lithium-ion - also known as Li-ion, these battery packs provide the most power and best capacity. They also retain more charge for longer.

JIGSAW

A power jigsaw is a great tool to have. You can easily make straight, curved and internal cuts in a wide variety of materials including wood and ceramic tiles and make holes in worktops and openings for electrical sockets. Unlike heavier circular saws that only cut in straight lines, jigsaws give you the combination of cutting agility and portability along with a lightweight feel.

Jigsaws work via a small vertical blade that moves up and down at a rate of up to 3,000 strokes per minute, making it very precise and easy to manoeuvre.

Features to look out for:

Corded vs. cordless

You can buy either a corded or cordless jigsaw. See below the uses and benefits of each.

  • Cordless or battery operated jigsaws: these jigsaws are incredibly convenient, with the ability to be used where mains powered jigsaws find inaccessible. However, the tougher the material is that you're cutting, the faster the battery will drain, so battery powered jigsaws are recommended mainly for use with softer materials.
  • Corded or mains operated jigsaws: these are used to cut through a wide variety of much harder materials. The only down side is that you need to have a power point nearby when you plan to use it.

Power

The more power your jigsaw has, the faster and deeper you will be able to cut. Power is measures in Volts (V) for cordless models and Watts (W) for corded models.

Speed

With a jigsaw's blade running up to 3,000 strokes per minute, you may find you need to slow it down for certain tasks, which is where a variable speed function would be useful. Some materials such as wood benefit from higher speeds as it reduces vibration; however other materials may get too hot while cutting so require a slower speed, which also gives you more control.

Jigsaw blades

As with any saw, the key to getting the best results from your jigsaw is to choose the right blade for the job. Jigsaw blades are classified by the number of teeth they have per inch (tpi). The higher the blade's tpi, the faster it will cut, and the smoother the end result will be.

Jigsaws work better through thinner materials, as blades can easily bend and overheat when cutting through thicker materials. Depending on the material, jigsaws may require fine, medium or coarse cutting blades with a variety of teeth.

  • High speed steel and bi-metallic blades: are used for wood and light metals.
  • Cobalt steel blades: are also good for use with wood and metal, but they are far more durable.
  • Carbide grit blades: are primarily used to cut masonry board.

Some jigsaws have a quick blade release feature, which is handy if you're dealing with lots of different materials and need to change blades simply.

Pendulum or orbital action

Jigsaw efficiency is optimised by most blades having a back and forth 'pendulum' movement, moving back slightly before making the next cut and bringing it clear from obstructions. This helps the blade to cut a lot quicker and more efficiently. Orbital action blades move from side to side as well as back and forth, helping them to cut even faster, though providing a slightly rougher cut so they're not ideal for very precise work.

Adjustable base plate

For ease of making angled cuts, the jigsaw’s base plate can often be adjusted by tilting it to the left or right.

Dust bag

A dust bag not only helps to keep your workspace clean and tidy, but it collects the sawdust as you cut while preventing it from obscuring the cut line.

Laser generator

For a clear guide to cut by, a laser generator fires a laser line from the jigsaw along the material.

CIRCULAR SAWS

A Circular Saw is a heavyweight tool that’s ideal for cutting all types of wood, metal and masonry. It’s brilliant for quick, accurate rough cuts in a work piece and straight cutting of any type of wood. It glides through it in seconds. But it's especially good on heavy-duty timber and sheet materials. In fact, you can fit your saw with an assortment of blades that rip through everything - from nail-embedded wood to bricks and even concrete blocks.

Circular saws come in various sizes. Their cutting capacity is directly related to the blade diameter - most commonly 184mm. All circular saws have a maximum cutting depth, which depends on the angle that's being cut.

Your circular saw won't need much in the way of accessories, but having a rip guide is a wise idea. This metal attachment boosts the accuracy and flexibility of your saw. So if the model you're planning to buy doesn't come with a rip guide, we think it's worth you buying one. cutting guides built in, so Hand Held guides are needed.

Power rating

You can judge how powerful your circular saw is by the strength of its motor and how many RPM (revolutions per minute) the blade spins round at. The motor power of corded circular saws ranges from about 500w to 1500w. So the higher the wattage, the more RPM you get. The greater the RPM, the greater the power and control. Larger, more powerful models offer bigger blades and a greater maximum depth of cut - up to about 65mm.

Depth adjuster

With this feature it's really easy to alter depth of cut very precisely. You simply change the height of the saw body relative to the base plate. This is handy when you're cutting through materials of varying thickness, such as floorboard tongues.

Parallel guide

A parallel guide attached to the base plate is useful for making accurate straight cuts at a set distance from an edge. This feature comes as standard on most circular saws.

Adjustable base plate

Making angled cuts? An adjustable base plate is really the business as you can tilt it to make those angled incisions (or 'bevels'). And the ability to saw at 90 degree and 45 degree angles is essential if you're cutting mitres. If you want to make a broader range of mitres, you can get a cutting facility of 0 to 45 degrees.

Handles

Front and rear handles give you a good, secure grip for comfortable, controlled cutting. Look out for circular saws with soft, non-slip handles.

Dust extraction

Like a tidy workspace? Choose a circular saw with a dust bag or the ability to connect to a vacuum cleaner so you can clear up as you go.

Blades

Obvious, maybe, but you need the right blade for the job. Saw blades come with different teeth settings, for cutting along or across the grain. The more teeth the blade has the finer the cut. Tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) blades last longer and cut faster than standard steel ones. And they're especially good on hardwood. Use abrasive cutting discs for tackling metal and masonry.

Laser circular saw

Many models now feature a laser generator that shines a small laser beam onto the work surface to give direction when you're sawing in a straight line.

Safety features

Most saws have a safety switch or lock off button to stop them starting up accidentally. When you're ready to go, a soft start switch sets the blade moving at a slower speed so the initial cut is easier to make. During use a blade guard shields the blade. It's a good idea to use an RCD plug-in safety adapter with any electric saw.

SANDERS

A sander is a good tool to smooth surfaces and to remove paint, rust and varnish. Belt sanders have a continuous roll of sand paper and are perfect for sanding large surfaces. Orbital and sheet sanders leave a fine finish while detail sanders are ideal for awkward corners.

Key features:

1. Speed - variable speed measured in rotations per minute (rpm).

2. Watts - measures the power of the tool.

3. Sheet size - size of sanding sheet, measured in millimetres.

Belt sander

If you want to remove a lot of material from a large area quickly then an electric sander is probably the best tool for the job. A belt sander is the choice for table tops, doors and edge sections of timber flooring. And you'll be impressed when using it for squaring or shaping wood (sanding doors to fit, for example). The belt sander works with a belt of abrasive paper stretched over rollers. You can secure some models to a workbench for stationary use. And look out for a sanding frame - this is a useful feature that limits the depth of sanding.

Orbital sander

An orbital sander (also called a finishing sander) is your best bet for getting a smooth finish on large flat areas. Use it for smoothing plaster, paint or varnish between coats too. The base plate, available in different sizes, moves with a tight, rapid orbital action that minimises scratching.

Random orbital sander

This combines the speed of a belt sander with the smoothness of an orbital sander. It features circular sanding discs that 'orbit' and rotate simultaneously. This leaves the surface virtually scratch-free and spreads wear on the sanding sheets more evenly so they last longer. A flexible backing pad means the sander can cope with gently curved surfaces. This type is also known as an eccentric sander.

Detail or delta sander

Also described as 'eccentric', a random orbital sander can be the most useful first choice, combining the smoothness of an orbital sander with the speed of a belt sander. It uses circular sanding discs that 'orbit' and rotate simultaneously, leaving the surface virtually scratch-free and distributing wear on the sanding sheets more evenly, so they last longer. A flexible backing pad enables the sander to cope with gently curved surfaces.

Multi-sander

Combining features from delta and orbital models, the multi-sander is good for treating both flat and contoured surfaces. You can also use special attachments for working on 'profile' sections such as skirting boards and architraves.

GRINDERS

An Angle Grinder is a handheld power tool used for cutting, grinding and polishing materials such as metal, stone and concrete. The motor drives a geared head at a right-angle on which is mounted an abrasive disc that can be replaced when worn out. There are different kinds of disks that are used for various materials and tasks, such as cut-off disks (Diamond Blade), abrasive grinding disks, sanding disks, wirebrush wheels and polishing pads.

Key features:

Cutting - Various cutting discs can be used with angle grinders making them useful for cutting through stone, metal or concrete. Diamond tipped edges are the strongest of discs.

Sanding - With a sanding pad attached, an angle grinder can become a very effective sanding machine on wood materials (handy for stripping old paint). The best results are achieved by using the proper grit abrasive. As a rule, you will want to start with more coarse grinding or sanding grits for removing large defects or rough spots, then work through finer grits until you achieve the smoothness and quality you want. However, for items that require a delicate touch, you should use an angle grinder with a variable speed control.

Polishing - With the right disc fitted, angle grinders can be used to buff up metal. You can fit your angle grinder with wire brushes for rust and corrosion removal.

Sharpening - Many people use their angle grinder to sharpen old tools and lawnmower blades. However, this can be tricky so we recommend you leave sharpening to the experts.

Grinding - The most common task for this tool is grinding metal weld seams to a smooth flat seamless finish. Anyone who uses a welder will commonly have a small angle grinder in their tool arsenal with a wide array of different grinding wheels.

Disc Size

In general, the greater the size of the angle grinder’s disc, the more power its motor has. Angle grinder disc sizes vary greatly, with the most popular sizes being 115 millimetres, or 4.5 inches, and 230 millimetres, or 9 inches. In some instances, a handyman may instead reach for a pneumatic grinder; with their smaller disc sizes, these handheld power tools allow for more precision on smaller jobs than would a standard angle grinder.

Angle Grinder Safety

Despite its handheld operation, the angle grinder is a serious power tool. The incidence of injury with this implement is higher than with many other power tools; therefore, potential users should fully familiarise themselves with the angle grinder’s capabilities and safety precautions before putting it to use.

Angle grinder operators should also get into the habit of unplugging the tool when they are changing wheels. Once a new disc is attached, it should first be tested in a protected area to ensure that it is fully functional. While the angle grinder is in operation, the safety guard should be put to use whenever possible.

As with most power tools, angle grinder operation should not be performed without a face mask, eye protection, long sleeves, and thick leather work gloves; anyone in the immediate area should take precautions, as well. Users should prepare themselves for kickback, perhaps the angle grinder’s biggest danger, as the tools exert a great amount of power. Upon task completion, unplug and store the angle grinder in a safe place, away from children.

OSCILLATING MULTI TOOL

Oscillating Multi Tool

Multi tools are excellent multi-purpose tools. They serve the purpose of several tools in one convenient package, rather than relying on several separate tools. For example, a single oscillating tool can be used to cut, sand and grind in multiple applications. You get the use of a saw, sander and grinder all in one tool. It can be far more convenient to have an oscillating tool that can perform all these tasks, instead of three separate power tools that you would have to transport and set up each time you need to use them.

Oscillating tools (often called "oscillating multi-tools") are power tools that use vibrations generated by quick back-and-forth movements to cut, sand, polish or scrape a wide variety of materials. They are ideal for a number of applications, including sanding, cutting, grouting, refinishing, buffing, restoring, plunge cutting and flush cutting. Many people, professionals and hobbyists alike, enjoy using them because they are a handy, all-in-one solution that takes the place of several tools. They can be used in many professional and hobbyist tasks like remodelling, finish work, construction, tile work, woodworking, flooring, etc. They are available in electric and cordless models. Though similar, oscillating multi-tools are different from rotary tools. Oscillating tools employ a fast back-and-forth movement, while rotary tools use a spinning motion in a fixed position. Rotary tools also tend cut a bit more roughly because they spin at high speeds.

Attachments: Accessories that can be used to enable oscillating tools to take on a number of tasks.

Sanding Pads: For sanding materials, like wood. You can use the sanding pads from a detail sander on an oscillating tool in most cases.

Polishing Pads: For buffing surfaces. You can use the polishing pads from a detail sander on an oscillating tool in most cases.

Carbide Rasps: For rough sanding of wood, adhesives, filler, concrete and stone. Available in triangular and finger-shaped options.

Blades:

Sawing Blade: For making cuts in various materials like wood, drywall, parquet, wood paneling, plastic and laminate. Some sawing blades have fine teeth for more precise cuts. How strong the sawing blade is depends on the materials that it's made of.

Plunge Cut Blade: A type of sawing blade used for cutting wood.

Flush Cut Blade: For cutting window sills, door jambs, baseboards, floor trim, wall trim and other flooring material. This blade can square off rounded corners. Suitable for wood, plastic, drywall and other softer materials.

Grout Removal Blade: For removing grout, porous concrete and construction materials. Also can cut out damaged tile joints and plaster.

Scraper Blade: For removing coatings like lacquer, old adhesives, tile adhesive, carpeting, silicone, acrylic and stickers.

Segmented Blade: For cutting grooves in plaster, porous concrete and other construction materials. Also can cut out tile joints. Some segmented blades can cut soft materials like felt, leather and polystyrene.

When choosing an oscillating blade, pay attention to its capabilities (they are listed in the product descriptions). The functions of each blade differ depending on the design and the company that manufactures them. Each type of blade listed above is explained in general terms, but every blade's capabilities and uses are different depending on their design and construction.

MEASURING AND DETECTING TOOLS

Measuring and detecting tools can make your next DIY job that little bit easier. You can use an ultrasonic or laser range finder that can quickly and accurately measure your room, a digital detector to determine what materials lie behind your walls, a temperature detector to discover hot spots or cold draughts, or a laser level to project accurate level lines. Use this guide to find out some of the features of these useful tools.

Types of Tools

Distance Measuring Tools

A digital measuring device saves you time and effort compared to using a tape measure, particularly in a room that is filled with furniture. These are available as either laser or ultrasonic devices. Laser measuring devices may be more accurate than ultrasonic, but they also tend to be more expensive. These devices can measure length, area and volume with a high degree of accuracy. You may also be able to add measurements in the device, so there will be no need for a pen and paper to calculate multiple lengths such as adjoining rooms. If you prefer measurements in inches, check to ensure your device covers both, as metric tends to be the standard. If you have a large room space to measure, look for devices that measure over a longer distance.

Detecting Tools

Before you hammer, drill or screw into a wall, it’s important to know what exactly you could be cutting into. A detector tool can help you buy identifying metal, wood, live wires and other material. A stud detector can work out the centre of studs, allowing you to accurately drill into, or avoid, these areas.

Temperature Measuring Tools

There are other digital measuring tools that can make your home improvement work easier. A thermal leak detector will help you identify areas of cold or hot in your walls, allowing you to find sources of draughts as well as areas of excess heat, such as around plugs. These temperature gauges are also useful for doing work on your car and other areas where it is useful to know a surface temperature before proceeding.

Laser Levels

A laser level can be really useful for fast and accurate levelling work. These products project a line across the wall or other surface, allowing you to gauge exact levels without needing to hold the level up to the spot. Cross-line levels project two lines as a cross-hair, which is perfect for tiling work, hanging multiple frames or shelving. Angled laser projections are available in some products, which can assist with angled tiling or hanging frames in a stairwell. Look for products with a tripod to get projections at the height required.

HOBBY TOOLS

For those creative enthusiasts out there, there is a wide range of power hobby tools and accessories available to help you design and create to your heart's content. Whether it’s sanding, engraving, polishing or gluing, let the hobby tool take the effort out of your work and let you enjoy making your creations. The right tools for you will depend on what your hobby is, the kind of craft you want to make and the material that you are working on. Specific accessories will allow you to hone your design skills on things like engraving pots, customising furniture, jewellery making and woodworking. Some tools will include templates allowing you to precisely engrave special shapes in any material that you want such as glass, ceramic, metal, plastic, wood and leather. It’s up to you how creative you want to be, so let our handy hobby tools buying guide help you decide the right tool for you.

Types

Rotary Tools

If you like to work on a variety of different creative projects, then a rotary tool will be ideal for you. This kind of tool is also great for the first time hobby tool user. These tools are generally easy to handle, lightweight and you can use them on a variety of different hobby applications. Some examples include glass and wood engraving, scrapbooking, card making and pumpkin carving. There really is no limit to the amount of creative projects you can work on with this versatile tool.

Glue Guns

For all your gluing needs--this great tool will allow you to glue cleanly as well as with ease and precision. Glue guns are specially designed for decorative applications, making them very user friendly and ideal for many detailed gluing applications. You can use glitter and colour sticks with some models so you can add colour and sparkle to your creations. Make beautiful decorations on a wide variety of materials such as paper, flowers, glass, wood and many more.

Engravers

An engraver will handle all your engraving projects with ease and maximum precision. Some tools will come with engraving templates which will allow you to precisely engrave special shapes in materials such as glass, ceramic, metal, plastic, wood and leather. This way you can easily create great personalised gifts such as decorative wooden plates, candles, picture frames and champagne.

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