In The Shop: Use Tools as Designed

02:42AM Apr 26, 2014

There are right ways and wrong ways to use hand tools. According to engineers, tool manufacturers and tool company representatives, here are the right ways:

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  • Beam-type torque wrenches should always be pulled with your hand centered on the handle’s grip. Torque values are based on the length of the handle measured to the center of the grip.
  • Torque wrenches should be pulled in a slow, steady motion—never jerked. If a torque wrench clicks or signals torque has been reached just as a "pull" begins, the fastener is probably undertorqued, so the wrench is reacting to the extra torque neces­sary to break loose the partially tightened fastener.

It’s tough to do, especially in confined spaces, but accurate torque values are obtained if the torque wrench clicks or beeps in the middle of a slow, steady pull.
  • Drill bits last longer and drill better at moderate to slow drill speeds. Spinning a drill bit at high speed risks overheating and dulling it. 

It’s difficult to accurately gauge drill speed when using a hand-held drill, but a rule of thumb is that a sharp drill bit, pressed hard into the metal, will produce a long spiral of metal when drill speed is optimum for the size of drill bit and the metal being drilled. 
  • Hand files and hacksaw blades are one-way tools—their teeth are set at an angle. Optimum filing and cutting comes from pressing down so the teeth engage the metal on the forward stroke, then lifting the file or hacksaw off the metal on the back stroke. Don’t feverishly saw while applying pressure on both forward and back strokes; that will dull the teeth, build heat and damage the file or hacksaw blade.
  • Some punches are align­ment tools, which are made of brittle steel that resists bending. Other punches are made of softer metal and designed for driving broken bolts from holes, removing roll pins or other jobs that involve enthusiastic use of a hammer.

Alignment punches generally are chromed. They’re inflexible, which makes them good for prying to align holes, but they are brittle and prone to chip and flake at their tip or head when struck with a hammer. 

"Pounding" punches are often black metal, somewhat flexible and distort or mar rather than chip when struck with a hammer. 
  • Allen wrenches, Phillips screwdrivers and Torx-head wrenches are not interchangeable. It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between tiny Torx-, Allen- or Phill­ips-head screws often used on dash­boards, electronic panels and vehi­cle taillight lenses, but there is a distinct difference. If you use the wrong type of wrench or screwdriver or try to compensate for poor fit in the screw head by exert­ing extra force, the screw can be damaged so that no tool will fit well enough to remove the screw in the future.
  • Chromed sockets are designed for use with hand-powered ratchet wrenches or breaker bars. 

Sockets with a dull black finish are for use with air or battery-powered impact wrenches. 

Black impact sockets are softer and can withstand the hammering of power tools. The more brittle metallurgy of chromed sockets can cause them to crack or even shatter if used with a powered wrench.
  • Here’s the proper way to use a thread-cutting tap or die: Once the tool has started cutting, slowly and steadily turn it for a quarter- or half-turn, then back it off an eighth- to quarter-turn. 

Turning the threading tool nonstop, without regularly backing it up, builds excess heat and clogs the cutting edges with debris. 

Lubri­cants that help cool and smooth the cutting process, as well as reduce dulling of the tool’s cutting edges, improve thread-cutting efficiency and extend the useful life expec­tancy of the cutting tool.

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Cool Tool

As the Borg on "Star Trek" is prone to say, "Resistance is futile." You might as well surrender and buy a set of Torx-head sockets or screwdrivers because equipment manufacturers are using more and more of those new-age fasteners. A quality set of Torx-head sockets or set of screwdrivers runs $30 to $45.