Tools That Get The Job Done
by Damien Andrews
Tools help us do the things we do. Tools make tasks easier, faster, and almost always better. A tool, simply stated, is anything that is used as a means of completing a task. Some tools are better than others, and some tools perform a variety of tasks. A penny becomes a tool when you use it to turn a screw – but it's no match for a good screwdriver! And a flathead screwdriver, which is excellent for installing and removing screws, is also a satisfactory tool for removing paint can lids – as well as some other tasks it is not actually designed to accomplish. Of course, if you use a paint can lid remover to open your paint, then you realize the shortcomings of using a screwdriver for that purpose. The lesson here is clear: the most efficient tools are the ones expressly designed to accomplish the specific task at hand.
Like everything else in today's world, tools are evolving and improving. There are also new tools that become available regularly, and those that fall by the wayside for one reason or another. New tools, such as the cordless electric screw gun once was, jump into the spotlight and are immediately snapped up by professionals and do-it-yourselfers. Most new tools, however, don't get that same level of attention, and thus are frequently not in as many shops, tool bags and truck tool boxes. Sadly, many of the tools that never make it to the limelight are extremely efficient and would be of great benefit to both the professional and the do-it-yourselfer. Herein, we'll be bringing some superb tools out of the shadows and putting them center stage.
The Gorilla Gripper – If you deal with sheets of plywood or any of the various composite boards that come in 4' x 8' sizes, then you know what a hassle it is to move them around. They're big, heavy, and awkward – and there's just no easy or convenient way to grab them and move them. The Gorilla Gripper changes all that. The Gorilla Gripper simply slips over the board's edge and uses a simple self-gripping mechanism to latch itself tightly onto the board. The user of the Gorilla Gripper then simply lifts the large, comfortable handle to raise the board. The heavier that the board is, the tighter the Gorilla Gripper gets while it's being lifted, and it works with materials of 3/8" – 1-1/8" thickness. 3/8" plywood is already pretty easy to handle, but when I use a Gorilla Gripper it's a piece of cake – even in wind gusts. But where the Gorilla Gripper really shows its unique stuff is when you are using boards that are ½" thick or thicker, especially some of the heavier composite boards. Using a Gorilla Gripper I can carry a ¾" sheet of composite board up a ladder by myself. I just bend my knees, attach the Gorilla Gripper to the approximate center of the 8' edge of the board and then stand up – then it's up the ladder with the Gorilla Gripper hand sort of slung over my shoulder so my arm doesn't have to endure the weight of the board while I climb. Even a small person can easily lift a 1" sheet of composite board with the aid of a Gorilla Gripper. So, we now know we have a great tool for lifting up something heavy and awkward, and making it easily portable and maneuverable. But there are two specific points about using a Gorilla Gripper that could be easily overlooked. First, to lift a sheet of plywood or composite one only needs to bend the knees, NOT the back. At my age, and what with being in the trades, this is critical. Secondly, not only does Gorilla Gripper allow for a small person to lift a heavy weight, it allows anyone to move a lot of 4' x 8' sheets with considerably less effort and thus with less energy expenditure. This makes all the difference in the world when I'm building out a garage or basement or constructing a new backyard storage shed. One more use for a Gorilla Gripper that would be easy to overlook is its various functions when it's attached to the 4' edge of a board. When you need to raise or lower the boards to heights, pick them up with the Gorilla Gripper on the 8' edge, move them close to the elevated place you want them – such as a roof – and then put them on one or two saw horses, depending on their weight. Stand them up on the 4' edge and then go up to the roof or ceiling joists. Now just attach the Gorilla Gripper to the 4' edge and lift the board to where you want it. All in all, whether you work in the trades or you're a do-it-yourselfer, if you work with sheets of lumber, Gorilla Gripper will be a tool you'll be glad you added to your arsenal. (On a personal note – I wish someone would make a Gorilla Gripper for king size mattresses!)
DeWalt Work Gloves – Up until about a year ago, I always bought the exact same type of work gloves. They were the same ones my dad wore – and he started wearing them when his dad did. I guess you could say I was stuck. Don't get me wrong, I really did like the gloves, and many pairs served me well for decades. But my introduction to the line of DeWalt Work Gloves got me unstuck and showed me the error of my old fashioned ways – no offense dad. The line of DeWalt Work Gloves includes some extremely interesting and hand-saving offerings. Two of my favorites are the DeWalt Vibration Reducing Padded Palm Goatskin Glove and DeWalt High Dexterity Premium Grain Deerskin Gloves. The DeWalt Vibration Reducing Padded Palm Goatskin Glove has everything a professional or do-it-yourselfer could want when performing certain tasks around the shop, or at the jobsite. They're great when operating anything that produces high vibrations during operation. This model of the DeWalt work glove line makes operating a chain saw, hammer drill, impact driver, jack hammer, etc., etc. a whole different experience. I also highly suggest their use when swinging the sledge hammer. I also get a lot of relief when using them to do hand star drill work. The DeWalt Vibration Reducing Padded Palm Goatskin Glove lists it features faster than I could, so here's a slightly edited version of what they have to say: Reinforced ToughGrip multi-padded gel goatskin palm • Premium grain goatskin leather • Reinforced ToughGrip covered fingertips • Reinforced ToughGrip thumb saddle • Breathable neoprene between fingers • Premium grain goatskin leather knuckle strap • Streamlined elastic cuff combined with hook and loop closure • Neoprene guard in the wrist system • Breathable spandex back hand stretches and ventilates • ToughThread double stitching • Concealed interior seam stitching prevents snagging.
Now, to edit this even further, this offering from the DeWalt work glove line bends with my hand, whereas my old style leather gloves seemed to allow my hand to move within them, not follow their motions. This makes all the difference in the world when you're trying to pick something up, or depress a lock button on a power tool. They are also cooler, which I personally like very much. One thing that took getting used to was the hook and loop closure. At first it felt a little funny, but I quickly learned that properly closing the glove not only aided in its function, but also kept debris from getting inside of the glove – often a real problem with my old leather gloves. This type of DeWalt work glove costs a little more than my leather ones did, but they are better and are holding up amazingly well – so to me it's worth the extra change.
DeWalt Work Gloves – The second DeWalt work glove that I really like is the DeWalt High Dexterity Premium Grain Deerskin Gloves. Unlike my old style leather gloves, this DeWalt work glove requires no oils to soften it up – it's comfy and ready to work right out of the package! Actually, it was this glove design that got me off of my leather hand protection. While on a job one day I had to get new work gloves, and the store I went to did not carry my old favorites. I wasted practically my entire lunch break looking at, trying on and playing with work gloves. Oddly, the reasons I picked the DeWalt High Dexterity Premium Grain Deerskin Gloves were that they were very soft and thus felt 'broken in," and because they had a terry cloth forehead wipe on the backhand. And based on my hardware store conducted tests, they allowed me to pick up the smallest of objects. I was also pleasantly surprised that this DeWalt work glove offering actually cost me less than my old leather friends. Again, these DeWalt work gloves follow my hands' motions, and despite the extra padding in the fingertips, allow me to perform the most delicate of tasks while still protecting my hands. My hands are my livelihood, and I consider them worth protecting. Two tasks that I am now able to comfortably and efficiently wear work gloves performing now are driving carpet tacks and small finishing nails. The backs of the gloves are constructed of some kind of sturdy, cool mesh, and over the knuckles there's a leather strap to help save knuckles during close-quarters work. I imagine the DeWalt High Dexterity Premium Grain Deerskin Gloves would be superb for mechanics as they are always getting their knuckles busted, but I don't do much engine work – just enough to keep things running. If I do start working on engines, I'll have to have an extra pair of this model of the DeWalt work gloves so that the grease and oil stays off of the woods I regularly work with. This DeWalt work glove is, like the one mentioned above, excellent – and I highly recommend them. DeWalt makes an entire line of work gloves that includes fingerless models and models that are made entirely of leather. They also have a style I've been tempted to get for my wife – they call them the DeWalt Textured Rubber Coated Gripper Glove. She works with plant pots a lot, and the gloves seem like they'd be exceptionally useful – as well as being very inexpensive. Maybe when she wears out the last pair of leather gloves I bought for her…
English Hook Blades – These blades are engineered to fit into your shop utility knife. English hook blades, however, have a different blade design – a blade design that is well suited to many cutting tasks. Much better suited, in fact, than the standard angle design. Many, if not most, shop cutting tasks dull the blade tip of the utility knife very quickly. This is due to the fact that many materials are cut with a utility knife while they are laying down on concrete. Drag a standard angle utility knife blade on a concrete surface a few times and it's dulled – thus making it useless for many other tasks. The English hook blades allow for cutting many materials without dragging the blade tip on the ground. This not only saves the tip of the cutting blade, but also means that materials can be cut while laying on wood – without cutting into the wood's surface. The English hook blades are not recommended for every utility knife job – not by a long shot! But if you're like most professionals and do-it-yourselfers, you have more than one utility knife in your tool collection – and one of those should definitely have English hook blades installed in it. Yes, it's another expense, but I think you'll find it's well worth it. When you install English hook blades into one of your shop utility knives, you'll notice that two things happen. 1) Your standard angle utility knife blades will last a LOT longer and 2) you'll have a hard time wearing out even one English hook blade! Pro Tip: A utility knife equipped with an English hook blade makes an excellent Romex cable sheathing remover. Put the point into the thick covering at the point you want to strip back to, raise the handle of the utility knife slightly and then drag it out towards the end of the cable – thus keeping the dull part of the blade against the wires you do not want bared. I find this to be much easier than the simple compression strippers sold for removing the outer Romex sheathing.