Good tools help do a good job

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Take a minute to look around the room you're in.

Few if any of the things in view would be possible if man had never invented tools to multiply the force, speed, and skill of human intelligence and brawn.

A marvelous variety of implements has been developed, but the principal function of any tool is to help you do a job faster, better, or easier. In this respect tools can be great equalizers. Almost anyone can master a reasonable proficiency with both power and hand tools.

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Much of the secret to any job well done is in choosing the right tools and acquiring skill in their use.

The kind and amount of work that needs doing around the house, in the workshop, or for a hobby will dictate which tools you will need. Which tools you will buy may depend more on what implements you need most often, their cost, and what you can afford.

How often will you use a particular tool? Daily? Weekly? Now and then?

A practical way to build a tool kit is to first acquire a few of the more commonly used tools; then add others as they are needed and as you can afford them.

Choose well, whether your goal is a small selection of tools to handle home maintenance and repairs, or a fully equipped workshop to turn out major projects. Even a few tools can represent a sizable investment, but if you plan to use a tool fairly often and will keep it as a permanent part of your kit, buy a quality implement from a reputable manufacturer.

Suppose you are starting from scratch to build shelves in the hall closet.

You will need a saw to cut the shelving lumber to proper length. The choices - and prices - are almost unlimited, from a good-quality hand saw at less than $ 30 to a radial-arm power model at more than $500.

If you only want to cut two boards right now and will not need a saw again for some time, a hand saw would be the wiser buy, even if you intend to purchase an expensive power saw in the future. The hand saw may be the only choice if your tool budget and storage space are limited.

Purchase a hand saw of medium or better quality. You'll find many uses for that particular tool even after your workshop is equipped with power cutting equipment. A good-grade saw should last a lifetime with care and proper use.

Brand name alone is not always an indicator of quality. Most manufacturers build several grades of the same kind of implement. To some extent, quality is indicated by selling price; but here again your choice may be a compromise between what is best and what you can afford.

Many home-shop workers find it hard to justify the price of highest-quality or professional-grade tools. On the other hand, buying the cheapest grade is false economy, with a few exceptions.

If you intend to use a screwdriver to pry open can lids and scrape paint (there are better tools for both of these functions), don't spend a lot of money on it. Screwdrivers are neither designed nor intended for this kind of abuse, and even the best ones will not stand up to it.

There are other instances when cheaper lines of tools may be better choices. For example, you may own good-grade tools for general use, but buy an inexpensive screwdriver, locking-plier wrench, and other tools to carry in the trunk of your car.

In general, those tools that will be used most often should be of the best quality.

For beginning home handymen a few basic tools (saw, hammer, and drill) are most often needed and probably will be bought first. Screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches can be added as needed, in the numbers, styles, and sizes found to be most frequently used.

These tools often can be purchased in sets much more cheaply than the tools can be bought individually.

Again, frequency of use should be your guide. If you need only a couple of wrench sizes, an entire set of wrenches probably will not be much of a bargain compared with buying only those tools you will use regularly.

If many tools or big-ticket equipment such as power tools are to be purchased at one time, it's a good idea to shop around. Obtain prices from several suppliers. Shop the discount houses and look for sales. Prices can vary considerably, even on tools of comparable grade. By scouting the market before you pay your money, you may be able to buy a higher-quality tool for the same or very few more dollars.

Measure quality first, price second. A skillful worker with a few well-chosen , well-maintained tools can be more productive and professional than a ''tool bug'' with enough equipment to open a hardware store.

Finally, when you need an expensive or unusual tool for one-time use, consider borrowing or renting.

A cement mixer that is needed only to pour a short section of sidewalk can be rented in most communities. The same is true of scaffolding, paint sprayers, pipe thread-cutters, and other equipment that is seldom used.

To repeat, in buying consider the quality first - and then the cost.

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