Tag: tools

What exactly is an impact driver, anyway?

What exactly is an impact driver, anyway?

If you currently have a drill/driver then you know you can use it for not just drilling holes but also for driving screws.  But how many times have you stripped out the head of a screw?  Have you ever wished you could drive the screw in faster and possibly not even need to drill a pilot hole?  With an impact driver, life becomes much easier.

What is an impact driver and why do I need one?  The short answer is the impact driver was engineered for one purpose: to drive screws.  You don’t have to push as hard when driving a screw.  When the impact driver feels resistance it starts to bang on the driver which generates more torque than you’d get with a regular drill/driver.  And it is far less likely that you will strip out the heads of screws.  On the contrary, if you find a screw that is hard to get out, definitely reach for the impact driver first.

A couple videos I’d recommend on the basics of impact drivers are these from See Jane Drill and Woodworkers Guild of America.

Impact drivers do require impact rated bits, as they are more durable than the non-impact rated ones.  A good general purpose kit that I like is this one from DeWalt.  The majority of the time you will probably use a #2 phillips bit.  Bosch has one that is thought of very highly. Link below.

If you are just driving a few screws into drywall is it necessary to get an impact driver?  No.  But if you are using lots of screws on a project (like building a deck) or have long lag bolts to deal with (building a tree house, for instance) then I would highly recommend an impact driver.  Your arm will thank you.


Buying “cheap” tools

Buying “cheap” tools

We’ve all heard the expression “you get what you pay for”. For the most part that is true, and tools are no exception.

However, there are times when buying a cheap tool makes much more sense than buying the higher quality versions. If you are a professional who depends on your tools functioning day in and day out, then obviously this advice does not apply.  If you are just graduating high school, or need to assemble a small toolkit to do minor repairs and hang up pictures around the house then you may as well go cheap and save some cash.

The first tool that comes to mind if you are just starting to build up your collection is a 4-in-1 screwdriver. I have this one from harbor freight and wouldn’t hesitate picking up another if it was just for casual use.  This one tool has 2 different sizes of phillips and 2 different sizes of slotted bits.  For $1.99 it really can’t be beat and with a 20%off coupon you can get them even cheaper!  Sure you can get 6-in-1 ratcheting screwdrivers, or entire screwdriver sets, but why not start with this and save some cash?  There will be plenty of time to upgrade later.

Another important tool that can be found cheap is a tape measure.  While I would love to have this $69 laser tape measure, there is nothing at all wrong with picking up this Stanley tape measure for less than $8 or you could go even cheaper.

Basically with hand tools you could get by with getting the cheap house brands of the home improvement places you shop.  I would stay away from the cheapest cordless power tools. There are still plenty of good, entry level power tool brands to choose from (Ryobi, Black & Decker, Kobalt, etc…).

Also, there are some corded tools that would be fine to start out with cheap versions.  An angle grinder is not something most of us would use on a regular basis.  While the heavy-duty brand names produce a quality product, they are over three times the price of the cheaper brands.  Think about how often you will need to use a given tool, and factor that into your buying decision.  If you need to use an angle grinder for 10 minutes straight, it’s probably not a good idea to go for the cheaper option.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you buy a low-priced tool and it breaks, you at least have some idea of what the tool is capable of.  This will help you decide if you want to buy the same tool again or move up to a higher quality tool with better features, warranty, etc…

If you have anything to add, or any “cheap” tool stories, let us know in the comments!