Weird Tools and Weird Practices

By Robert Robillard on Weekend warrior

Weird Tools and Weird Practices — On Purpose!

Ralph Mroz

We all have that unusual tool — sometimes it’s just a little weird, sometimes it’s kinda cheap — but we keep finding a use for it.  Likewise, we all have some unusual practice that might draw skeptical looks — but it works for us.  We thought we’d poll the staff here and see what weird things that use or do — or at least which they’d admit to!

What tool did you not think you’d use much but you wound up using all the time?

Will:  I didn’t realize how much I would use my leaf blower on the job. I bought it to basically clean off areas I’d be snapping lines on because brooms weren’t as effective, but I seriously use it all the time. I clean off tools before I put them up, clean out my trailer with it, dry stuff off, etc.

Jeff:  My Milwaukee Surge.  I thought “Why would I need a weaker impact driver that’s just a little quieter?” Now I use it for everything I can.

Ralph: The Milwaukee Demo Screwdriver.  I bought one on impulse last year and by the time I got home I thought I’d probably wasted the money.  But that silly thing is now in my always bag.  It’s a probe, a clean-out tool, a chisel, a lever, a wedge, and more.

Rob: The Stud-Pop.  It’s like a $5.00 magnet tool that pops when it detects a screw in plaster or drywall. I thought it was stupid when I first say it, now it lives permanently in my tool bag.

What weird construction practice or habit do you do have?

Wes:  The first superintendent I worked for made me learn to set surface grade using a 2′ long sledgehammer, a lock level, and a wooden folding ruler. The 2′ hammer is used as an offset and keeps you from having to lay on your stomach in the dirt. I still use it to this day since I don’t have a total station or laser level anymore. I taught a few friends how to do it as well when we built retaining walls at their houses. Works well and is surprisingly accurate.

Will: I’m a huge stickler for having the exact same hand tools in my bags all the time. I will buy a bunch of the same tools (knives, tapes, speed squares, chalk boxes) every time they go on sale. I’ve probably got 10 tapes in my truck console right now.

Jeff: I always clean up at the end of the day even if the work will continue in the same area the next day. When I’m not there, I want the job site to be clean. Originally I would do it just in case the owner showed up after hours to inspect. Now it’s just good practice.

Ralph: I only carry brightly colored pencils.  You lose pencils all the time and bright ones are easier to find, especially when you drop them from a ladder.  A lost or misplaced pencil takes up time and breaks your flow.  The impetus for me was the time my yellow pencil kept vibrating of the chop saw table into a pile of (yellow) sawdust, and I had to continually spend time looking for it.

What cheap tool do you use that’s surprised you with its performance?

Mike:  My Ryobi LED hybrid  work light.

Rob:  I use a $2.00 compass for  scribing.  I lost all my expensive ones and this one seems to have a magnetic attraction to me – I can’t lose it!  If I do: oh well, another $2.00 gone!

Ralph:  My Ryobi circular saw.  I picked it up one day when my Skil Saw died and I just wanted something cheap and easy to get me through the job because I hadn’t thought much about what saw I wanted next.  But that Ryobi is still going strong as my back-up.

What inferior tool do you use on purpose because it does something that “better” tools don’t?

Mike:  I would have to say my cordless Rigid router .  Not a big fan of it, but it’s compact, convenient and cordless. I will only use it with my 2.0 battery – I hate anything big on it.

Ralph:  I use a Husky rubber-handled 3/16, 6-inch screwdriver for electrical work.  It’s much more comfortable than the comparable Klein driver, and works almost better for me.  Also, it’s been more convenient on outdoor jobs this summer to lay the speed square down on my work surface than to put it back in my pouch.  The only problem was that even the bare aluminum squares get too hot to pick up in the hot sun.  So I picked up a plastic (ABS) one — we’ll see how that works out.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor / Writer / Video Talent

Robert Robillard is a remodeler, general contractor, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts. He also writes the "Ask the Carpenter" advice column in the Boston Globe, and serves as the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and founding editor of A Concord Carpenter . Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review - Tool and Product Review - Video Channel, , where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the remodeling industry. The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob <a href=""

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