In sheds and garages, attics and cellars, they lie almost forgotten, a trove of hidden handyman treasures just waiting to be uncovered. These are the graveyards of everything from camper stoves and hammocks to Xmas ornaments and Grandpa Edgar’s old copper still.
Among these odds and ends you’ll also find a collection of often-purchased-but-seldom-used old handyman tools that are just waiting for someone to dust them off and put them to work. Here are five useful tools that you’ll often find collecting dust in your father’s shed just waiting for you to borrow them.
1. Wet Tile Saw
Tiling jobs are hard enough without resorting to the old score and snap tile cutters. Sure they’re cheap to buy but this is one time where you really do get what you pay for. Whatever you could conceivably save in the price of a tile saw you will more than pay for with broken tiles, jagged edges and a generally unsatisfactory job.
There is really no reason not to use a wet tile saw. Wet tile saws use a diamond abrasive blade to smoothly and easily cut through tile. The blades do not have teeth so they are completely safe to touch. Because water from the collecting tray is continually being recirculated onto the cutting blade, there is also no dust.
The best news is that wet tile saws are often one of the hidden treasures in your father’s shed – waiting for someone to appreciate it again.
2. Post Hole Digger
Unless you drive cattle, rope steers and bust broncos for a living you probably don’t use fencing tools very often. While there are a lot of newfangled contraptions out there for sinking fence posts, the hand operated post hole digger has been the standard tool of the trade for nearly 200 years and is still incredibly useful.
There are essentially two designs of hand operated post hole diggers. The most common is the double hinged shovel and the other is the hand twist auger. While some people prefer one design over the other, either of them will bring back memories of many hours of back breaking toil in the hot sun for veteran fence post diggers.
The type of soil you have may also influence your choice of post hole digger because auger type hole diggers can get bogged down in rocky soil. Using the spear and spread method with a double hinged shovel isn’t a whole lot easier, but you can at least manoeuvre rocks out of the hole with a little finesse and a lot of extra effort.
If you have a big job you may want to bite the bullet and rent a power auger but if your plans are to just sink one hole for a mailbox then you should be able to find one either in your father’s shed or in the garage of one of your neighbours.
You’ll want your own pair of sturdy work gloves because the handles will likely be rough and splintered from years of living in the back corner of the garden shed. Steel toed work boots are a good idea and if you have plans to fence the whole back yard you may want to book that massage now.
3. Wood Splitting Maul
Serious woodsmen know how to sharpen a chainsaw, avoid a barber chair and the difference between an axe and a wood splitting maul. While a barber chair is not something you should normally be afraid of, in the lumberjack business it means a dangerous tree that splits up the middle before jackknifing on to the head of an unsuspecting tree cutter. Knowing the difference between an axe and a maul won’t save your life, but it can save you time and a lot of wear and tear on your body.
A maul is essentially a heavier, fatter version of an axe and is used to split hardwood along the grain. If you’ve ended up with a pile of cut hardwood from taking down an old tree, then lucky you. Even if you don’t plan to use it as firewood yourself, you’ve got a pile of what passes for hard currency in the DIY world of home handymen. Splitting the wood into smaller pieces makes even large logs usable and helps the wood dry more quickly. Using a maul correctly means letting the weight do the work for you. A long smooth swing and good aim lets the wider head easily split the wood along the grain.
If your father doesn’t have this old handyman tool, your handyman neighbour might. Keep your eyes and nose open for signs of a wood burning fireplace or backyard fire pit. Wood stacked under the eaves of the garage or piled under a tarp is a good sign too.
4. Impact Wrench
If you are faced with a rusted-on nut there are many good DIY solutions that will usually get the job done. Making sure you have the right sized socket or wrench is important so you don’t compound the problem by rounding the corners of the nut. There is a whole range of liquid thread looseners that can do the trick. Heat, followed by melting some paraffin into a stuck thread, will usually crack the rust and lubricate the threads enough to get even the toughest nut to move.
For some, the tool of last resort is the first thing that others will reach for when faced with a rusted-on nut. An impact wrench can make amazingly quick and easy work of even the most rusted threads, but it has also been known to snap off the bolt leaving you with a much bigger problem.
Impact wrenches can use compressed air, which you’ll often see around gearhead garages, or they can be electric. Borrowing an air powered impact wrench will probably mean borrowing an air compressor too. That could get tricky because car people are notoriously protective of their tools.
If your father doesn’t have an electric impact wrench, you’ll probably find one lurking in the back of a neighbour’s well-equipped handyman garage. One of those where all the hardware is organised in little see-through plastic drawers and all the tools have their outlines painted on a pegboard. You can borrow it, but remember that taking it from its outline is a little like leaving a crime scene. Don’t borrow it for long.
5. Pole Pruner
The pole pruner and its close cousin the fruit picker are two specialty old handyman tools that can make your life a whole lot easier but really aren’t used enough to warrant going out and buying one. The pole pruner is essentially a small guillotine on the end of a long pole with a string attached that lets you chop off branches up to 2-2.5 cm in diameter with a little tug. There is usually a sickle shaped saw blade bolted on the end as well for working on slightly larger branches. For jobs like pruning high branches or cutting down coconuts, it can be the only tool you need.
Again, if your father doesn’t have one, try your neighbours. They have a vested interest in you keeping fast-growing trees under control and away from their property line. Take care not to try jamming too big a branch into the pruner. Also remember to make a 2.5-5cm deep undercut with the saw on bigger branches, so they break off cleanly when you saw them off.
What else is hiding in your father’s shed?
Well, you’ll never know if you never go. Good luck hunting around for some unloved but incredibly useful handyman treasures!