Tools 101: how to use power drills
A tool that needs no introduction is a claw hammer. For general DIY work, choose a hammer with a fibreglass handle to help absorb some of the shock while in use.
A tape measure, several metres long, is invaluable for countless jobs. “The Kincrome ‘Xtenda' tape measure includes vertical measurement markings on the back of the tape,” says Mark Minarelli, marketing communications manager at Kincrome. “These markings make it easy to read if you have to use the tape in awkward positions.” Need to get a grip? Opt for pliers with a compound lever action to exert more force on whatever you're holding. Most pairs include a built-in wire cutter.
Without a level, you're going to have a tough time hanging a picture straight. Use a stud finder to locate solid timber before driving screws into a plasterboard wall. Some models also indicate the presence of mains wiring, so you don't accidentally drill into a power cord in the wall. Plasterboard is notoriously susceptible to dings and dents, especially when the kids are at home more than usual, so invest in a Gyprock rapid repair kit that has the lot – including repair panels, tape, filler, broadknife and instructions.
“A cordless drill should be the first power tool you buy for your DIY toolbox,” says Wayne Beckwith, national training manager for Ryobi. Besides its use as a drill, this versatile tool can deliver precise levels of torque (turning force) for driving in screws, which helps to ensure your screws don't get overdriven. Drilling holes into brick efficiently requires a specific drill function. “To drill into brick or concrete, you will need a tool with ‘hammer mode',” says Wayne.
There is no substitute for a manual screwdriver, even if you have a cordless drill and a million driver bits. A set of hex keys is also useful to keep on hand for tightening hex-socket screws on bikes, furniture and other items.
A utility knife is tough and razor-sharp, and great for slicing through anything from book coverings to cord and craft materials. Choose a quality tool that includes safety features like a heavy-duty thumb pad. “Hold the knife firmly, utilising the thumb pad for stability, and never use it for prising,” says Mark. “The blade could snap and cause serious injury.” For cutting timber, plywood or particle board, a handsaw is up to the task, is much quieter than a power tool, and usually offers greater control for small jobs. Choose a handsaw with 45° and 90° guides in the handle, which will help you quickly square a line across the timber you're cutting or mark a mitre.
Abrasive paper and a sanding block will be adequate for most sanding jobs, but you can save your hands and a whole lot of effort by adding a power sander to your toolkit. The type of sander you choose will depend on what jobs you need it for. A detail sander or corner sander has a triangular pad that lets you get right into tight corners. A random orbital sander spins and oscillates to smooth larger areas, like walls, without leaving scuff marks.
The ultimate ‘renaissance tool' for home maintenance is a multifunction tool, sometimes called an ‘oscillating tool'. It can be used for a range of cutting, sanding and surface preparation tasks. But its oscillating action is where the magic happens. The interchangeable attachments make it suitable for plunge-cutting, flush-cutting and sanding in the most confined areas.
Due to the forces involved, safety eyewear is crucial when using virtually any power tools.
Clear the air
Respirator masks are essential for many jobs to avoid inhaling everything from adhesive fumes to particles of dust or metal from sanding.
Wear earplugs, or slip on some earmuffs, when using power tools.
Whether you're clearing away weeds or handling materials such as fencing that may have sharp edges, gloves with cut-resistant palms are a must.
Decent entry-level work boots are a worthy investment; wearing thongs while working on a ladder is a recipe for disaster.
Are you an absolute DIY beginner? Check out our handy guide to cordless drills.