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The Best Hand Tools Tips, Tricks and Hacks

We know hand tools like the back of our hand! I guess 65+ years of experience in the tool and construction industry will do that to you. We’re sharing our favorite hand tool tips, tricks, and hacks with you that we’ve discovered over the years. These awesome hand tool tips, tricks, and hacks are about to blow your mind, help you work smarter, and save you time…you can thank us later.

Attractive way to dry a paint brush

magnet holding a paint brush onto the side of a metal bucket to dryStick a strong magnet on the side of a metal pale or on the metal portion of your brush. The magnet securely holds your brush when it’s time to drip dry. If you don’t have a metal bucket just get 2 magnets. One can be placed on the paint brush inside the plastic bucket and the other can be placed on the outside of the plastic bucket with the polarity reversed. This outside magnet will hold the inside magnet attached to the paint brush.

Simple tip for taking inside measurements

Empire Tape Measure being used for an inside measurement

Know the width of your tape measure. Then, you can use the body of the tape measure to quickly take inside measurements. In this example, the tape measure is exactly 3” wide. So, just add 3” to the 28’” reading on the tape to get the full inside measurement of 31”. If you take a close look at your tape measure, most manufacturers will have this measurement printed on the back of the tape.

Keep bolts snug in your wrench

Place some paper towel inside your socket to hold the bolt on tight when you cannot use 2 hands.bolt being held in a socket by some paper towel so it will not fall to the groundWhen you can’t use two hands, it can be tough keeping the bolt in the socket as you try to start it. Simply put a little piece of paper towel around the head of the bolt to snug things up as you slip it into the socket.  Wham! Uptight…outta sight!

A wrench can determine the correct drill bit size

Adjustable Wrench used to find drill bit needed to drill hole for bolt assembly

When drilling a hole for a nut and bolt assembly, you can use an adjustable wrench to determine the bolt’s diameter. Then, just match the jaw opening with the corresponding drill bit diameter. This will take place of holding multiple drill bits up to the bolt to eye up which one matches the best or keeping you from getting the bolt stuck into the drill index. Holy crude calipers Batman!

Quickly pinpoint the center width of any board

Find the center of a board with an Empire Square and Ruler.

First, draw two parallel lines with your try square. Then use a ruler to draw diagonal lines connecting the ends of the parallel lines. Boom! X marks the spot!

Scribe an accurate line

Calipers are great for super accurate measurements. And, with the sharp edges on the jaws, they can scribe a line that is spot-on. Just run the lower jaw along the edge of the workpiece, while scoring with the upper jaw. Make sure to lock the head once you have your measurement or the motion of the jaws could move it causing a mis-marked line.


Framing Square can show diameter and center of circle

To find the diameter of a circle, put a framing square on the circle with the corner touching the circle’s perimeter. Mark where the square crosses the circle. A line between these two points is the diameter. To find the center of the circle, do this process twice in different locations on the circle. Where the two diameter lines intersect is the center.


Milk jug cap prevents marring

To keep C-clamps from damaging the workpiece, slip on a plastic milk jug cap. Use a little hot melt glue to secure it if needed.

Square-up your table saw’s blade and fence

To make clean, safe cuts on the table saw, the blade and fence must be perfectly parallel to each other. To test this, use a combination square to make sure both the blade and fence are parallel to the saw’s miter-gauge slot. (If they are both parallel to the slot, then they are parallel to each other.)

First, place the combination square in the left miter-gauge slot so that it rests against the right edge of the slot. Slide the rule to touch a tooth at the back of the blade.check your table saw blade for parallel using a combination square and the miter slot

Rotate the blade so that the tooth used in the back is now in the front. Slide the square down the slot to check the distance to the blade’s tooth. A gap or binding shows that the blade is not parallel to the slot and an adjustment should be made in accordance with the saw’s manual.check your table saw blade back for parallel using a combination square and the miter slot

Use this same technique to see if the fence is parallel to the miter-gauge slot. This time, use the right slot when taking several measurements with the combination square.check the fence for parallel

Stop the wondering straight edge

When marking a workpiece with a straight edge, often the straight edge will accidently shift when you are drawing the line. Give it some staying power by sticking small, thin picture frame bumpers on the underside of the straight edge. No more sliding around and you’ll get perfect lines every time.

How to get clamps to give extra reach

Here’s a solution to clamping a piece that is longer than your clamp. First, clamp scrap wood sections over and under the over-long piece as shown in the photo. Then, clamp the joint with one jaw pulling across the scrap wood and the other against the opposite side of the joint.


How to tell if you need a new measuring tape

Test #1: First, line up the 1″ mark on your measuring tape with the edge of a piece of wood. Then, make a pencil mark precisely at 6″. Next, hook the blade on the edge of the wood and measure to your mark. Your mark should be exactly on the 5″ pencil line as shown below. But, if the line is short of the 5″ mark, the hook on the end may be bent inwards. (This is often the result of dropping the tape on the floor.) To fix, just bend the hook back slightly with pliers. If the line overshoots the 5″ mark, make an adjustment by bending the hook outwards.
Test #2: The second test involves pushing the hook against something solid. The pencil line should, again, be on the tape’s 5″ mark. If the line is off the mark in either direction, it’s likely the hook’s rivets are worn or the holes in the blade are enlarged. In either case, it’s a good idea to get a new tape measure.

How to square up your framing square

Dropping a framing square on a hard surface can knock it out of square. If this happens, don’t fret. Here’s a nifty tip to true-it back up. To widen the square, use a hammer and steel punch to strike the inside corner. To constrict the square, strike the outside corner.

How to avoid hitting your finger with a hammer

When hammering a small nail, you can save your fingers by using a cardboard strip to hold the nail in place. Here are a few more tips to keep your fingers safe. For better accuracy, hold the handle nearer the hammer head. Drill a small pilot to hold the nail straight. Hold the nail with a clothespin or, in a pinch, use your comb. If you hold the nail closer to the head instead of the bottom, during a miss-hit, your fingers will be knocked to the side rather than smashed against the board.

Save your Fingers Feature

How to use measure awkward objects using a vice

When you need the dimensions of an object that is hard to measure, secure it in a vice. Then, simply measure the distance between the jaws of the vice.

How to measure something without a measuring tape

If you need to make a quick measurement, and you don’t have a tape measure, what’s in your pocket may help. A dollar bill is 6 1/8” long. A Typical business card is 2” wide. For smaller measurements, dig into your pockets. A quarter is approximately 1” in diameter. A penny is ¾” in diameter.

How to use a wrench to get the best performance

When using wrenches proper positioning does matter.  A pipe wrench has a top jaw that moves up and down.  Both the top and bottom jaws have teeth for gripping pipe. The top jaw rocks a little bit in the frame of the wrench so that whenever you apply forward pressure on the handle, the top and bottom jaws come closer together. However, in order for the jaws to work correctly, you need to maintain about a ½” gap between the pipe and the back of the wrench. Allowing the back of the wrench to come into contact with the pipe reduces the upper jaw’s movement and lessens the gripping power of the wrench. When using a crescent wrench, most of the pressure should be applied to the stronger, fixed jaw – not the movable jaw.  Too much pressure on the weaker, adjustable jaw can cause the wrench to weaken or break. Not only will you be out a wrench, you may have to nurse some smashed knuckles. When placing the wrench on the nut, the adjustable jaw should be located on the side towards which the rotation is to be performed. This puts the pressure on the fixed jaw.

How to avoid buying a new wrench if your wrench that is too big

If your wrench is too big, fill the gap with a coin. This works surprising well. No coin, or the gap is still too big? A screwdriver wedged in the gap can do the trick!

How to easily find socket and bit sizes

It’s often hard to read the sizes that are stamped into the base of a Socket or drill bit, especially in low light.  So, to make them much easier to read, cover the markings with correction fluid or white paint and wipe off the excess. The sizes will now stand out, and be a whole lot easier to read.


How to make a DIY wrench organizer

Keep your wrenches neat and within reach by making this unique hanging wrench organizer. Start by drawing a pattern on ¾” thick stock. (We made a wrench design, but you could be more creative with a fish, beer bottle, etc.) Then make dado cuts at an angle in your stock before you cut your design with a jigsaw or band saw.


How To Track Clamping Time

Write down the time the workpiece was clamped on a piece of masking tape. Then, stick the tape near the glue joint. This will make sure the joint has enough time to set before removing the clamps. If clamps are in short supply, and they are being rotated from one glue-up to the next, this will prevent rotating them too early. Note: Most glues reach over 75% of their strength within an hour of application, at which time the clamps can be removed.

Also check out our power tool tips, tricks and hacks as well as our general garage tips, tricks, and hacks.

One Comment

  • Larry Weaver

    November 27, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks for the tip to cover the markings of sizes on a socket or drill bit with correction fluid or white paint to make them stand out. Working with my socket and drill bits to make the size readings stand out is something I’ll also have to do when upgrading my tools.


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