A good saw should last for years if properly handled.
Screw-drivers come next in general use, and it must be said that of all the tools of husbandry, they receive more abuse than any of the others. They are used as cold-chisels, pinch-bars, levers, and everything except to drive screws with. When you buy screw-drivers get good ones.
Several screw-drivers of various size will be found handy.
They only cost from fifty-cents to a dollar for really fine ones. Do not waste your money on five and ten cent items, because the first tough job you try will turn the blade right out of the handle. The only trouble you will ever have with a good screw-driver will be that the end may become burred off and slip when you put it in a screwslot. Take a fine file, lay the screw-driver flat, and file it back into a good square beveled edge.
A medium-priced brace, and several drills, should be in every house.
The brace is a tool used for boring holes in wood. They have an adjustment on the working end which permits you to insert bits or drills of various size. With this tool, you can bore holes of any size up to about an inch. A good brace can be bought for about four dollars, and bits can be had from fifteen cents up. As a rule three or four bits are about all that the average man will ever have any use for, and they will last indefinitely unless you run across a hidden nail and chip off the cutting edge. The brace itself will need a drop or two of oil once a year, and that takes care of the maintenance. The only difficulty encountered in using a brace is in getting the hole bored in a straight line. You can handle that easily enough if you will start the bit into the wood, and then stand off a bit and sight your direction. Do not bore away until you are sure that your bit is exactly at the angle you are trying for. When you finish a hole, do not try to draw the bit back through. Reverse the twist, and it will back out easily.
Pliers are used for cutting wire or small nails. You can get a good pair for a dollar. When they are new they are apt to be stiff, but if you put one drop of oil in the hinge and work them open and shut a few times, they will ease up. The thing not to do with a medium size pair of pliers, is to try to cut through a heavy steel wire with them, or to hammer them to help make the cut. There are large pliers known as gas pliers or plumber's pliers, which are used for turning pipe or for holding against a wrench. These are handy tools, literally a hand vise, but are not used for cutting.
Rip-saws differ from cross-cut saws in that the teeth are all in line. When you rip a board, it means that you are cutting with the grain of the wood and not across the grain. A rip-saw will run down a board in half of the time that it would take if you were using a cross cut. These tools should be handled exactly in the same manner as a cross-cut saw.
A mitre is essential when you are cutting molding or strip at an angle. Accuracy and close joints are assured by its use.
The miter-box is a very useful thing. It is composed of a wooden box with a bottom and two sides but no top, and with open ends. The sides have slots cut in them, which enable you to make a perfect angle-cut in any piece of molding or strip which you set in the box. If you are running a molding around the floor or ceiling of a room it is an indispensable tool. They can be bought for less than a dollar. We have seen some very fine picture frames made by amateur carpenters with the aid of a miter-box, and we have seen some rooms where the walls were laid out in panels of molding with its assistance. If you contemplate any kind of nice close work, you should have one in the house.
Hack-saws are used for cutting pipe, rods or any kind of metal. They are composed of two parts, a frame and a blade. A good hack-saw frame is worth from two to three dollars, and will last for a lifetime. Blades are cheap, running about ten cents apiece, and can be inserted in a few seconds. There is no maintenance to the hacksaw, and it need only be kept clean and oiled against rusting. There are many times when this tool comes in handy around the house; for cutting curtain-rods or other metal objects.
The plane is a tool used for shaving down or smoothing off. For instance, if you have a door which fails to close by just a fraction of an inch, you can plane it off in a few minutes, while it would take a long time to saw it off, and even then you would not have as neat a job. A plane is made of an iron frame, perfectly level and smooth on the bottom, and having a slot in the bottom through which a blade projects. By using the adjustment at the top of the plane, you can have the blade project as much or as little as the job calls for. A good plane will cost you five or six dollars. It requires no attention other than that it be oiled to prevent rusting. New blades can be inserted if you nick or break the edge of one.
Shears, or snips as they are sometimes called, are simply big heavy scissors. They are used for cutting sheet-metal and nothing else; but they often come in handy when you have a piece of band-iron to cut or want to shape up a piece of copper or brass. We have a pair that we paid eighty-five cents for about twelve years ago, and although they have had considerable use, they are as good as when we got them.
The Stillson wrench is a tool used for pipe-work and hardly anything else, but if you have any pipe to tighten, or pipe fittings to unscrew, nothing else will do the trick as well. The Stillson has one stationary jaw which is part of the handle, and another jaw which can be opened or closed so that you can adjust it to fit the diameter of the pipe you are working on. The jaws have teeth which bite into the pipe and prevent slipping. If a Stillson is used a lot, the teeth will be worn smooth. In that event you take a three-cornered file and sharpen them up again. The Stillson is a rough, tough tool; good for years of service. They cost four or five dollars, but are handy to have around.