since the beginning of history, men have been inventing and making tools for the sole purpose of making their work easier or better. The strong-man in the circus can drive a nail into a board with his bare fist, but it is easier to use a hammer; and you can part a wire by bending it back and forth until it breaks, but it is quicker and neater to clip it in half with a pair of wire-cutters. That, in a nutshell, is the sum and substance of tools. At this particular time, there exists a tool for every household job imaginable. Most of them are quite reasonable in price, because up-to-date tools are made on a production basis, and not forged out and filed smooth by hand as had to be done in the early days. Modern tools are also better, because tool-makers have learned a lot about the temper of metals; and they have studied tools of their own manufacture which have been returned for repairs, and thus learned to strengthen them and to improve them. As a result, the homeowner can fit himself out with a splendid set of household tools, which will enable him to do an average good job, once he learns how to use them.
Tools are the most functional implements in the world, and if they are used properly they will last for a lifetime. Somehow or other, people just don't seem to get around to buying them as they should. We believe that we could retire as one of the wealthiest men in the world, if we were to receive one dollar for every picture-nail that has been driven into a wall with the heel of a shoe; or receive one-half a dollar for every screw that has been tightened up with the end of a table-knife.
There are only a few standard tools that are required for average household work. They consist of a good medium-heavy claw-hammer, a medium-size cross-cut saw, two screw-drivers, one medium and one small; a pair of wire-pliers. With this modest beginning, which calls for an investment of only five or six dollars, you can take care of most of the simple repair jobs. When you reach the stage where you begin to fancy yourself as a mechanic, you can add a rip-saw for cutting boards lengthwise instead of across, a plane for smoothing down boards or planks, a miter-box for cutting angles with precision, a Stillson wrench for pipe-work, a monkey wrench for tightening large bolts and nuts, a set of double-end wrenches, a hack-saw for cutting metal, chisels for wood and iron and stone work, and any number of special tools for any number of purposes.
The hammer has always been and probably will always be, the number one tool. It may be hard to believe that there are now more than twenty different kinds of hammers. There is the ordinary carpenter's claw-hammer (in about twenty odd weights), the machinist's hammer which has no claws for pulling out nails, the mason's hammer which is used to break a brick in half or tap it into place, the slater's hammer which is used to punch a hole in a roof slate, the shoe-maker's hammer which we all have seen pounding away at leather, the heavy sledge-hammers, the rigger's hammer which is used on stiff canvas and heavy ropes, upholsterer's hammers, tack hammers, and silversmith's hammers. The average man will have use for only two or three of them. If he has a medium heavy hammer, and a light hammer, he is well equipped. He should remember that to drive a heavy nail takes a heavy hammer, and to drive a tack takes a light hammer. Hammers suffer from only one failing, and that is the head may become loose. Some advice has been given along the lines of soaking the hammer in water so that the handle swells and takes up the slack, but that is nonsense. The handle will dry out again and the head will be looser than ever. You can buy small, neat steel wedges, three for five cents, and drive one into the handle-end where it comes through the head.
The hammer is the standard tool for all household repairs.
When it comes to using a hammer properly, there is little to learn. Rule number one is that you always hold a hammer by the end of the handle, never halfway up. If you have trouble driving nails straight, remember that when you finish the blow, your hand must be level with the head of the nail you are driving. Note the accompanying illustration. If your hand is above the nail head you will bend the nail toward you; if your hand is below the nail-head you will bend the nail away from you. Lay out a piece of board, take three nails and try it for yourself. Buy a good, solid hammer, made by a good firm. Take care of it. Do not use the handle to mix paint with, or to pry open crates or boxes. Use it for hammering or drawing out nails, and nothing else. You will get used to the tool and be able to work well with it.
The cross-cut saw is the next standard household tool. A good substantial one can be bought for from three to six dollars. If you treat it decently, and not try to cut through nails with it, it should last for twenty years. As long as you are not a professional carpenter, it should not need sharpening for ten years. When you are through with your saw, wipe it off, and coat it lightly with ordinary vaseline, and then hang it up. The teeth of a cross-cut saw are slightly off-set. In other words one tooth is bent slightly to the right, the next to the left. When it cuts, it leaves quite a wide line through the board. This is done so that the saw will not bind as it eats through. Always examine the board you are going to cut, to be sure that no nails are in line with the cut. Once in a great while, the bolts that holds the blade in the handle become loose. They may be tightened with a screw-driver. If the wooden handle breaks, don't throw the saw away. Buy a new handle for fifty cents, and set the old blade in it.