Following are 22 common sense and everyday reminders for tool users.
I started off writing a satirical post mocking the nonsense that passes as editorial content these days, but everything I came up with seemed like valid common sense tips or reminders.
I was tempted to use the phrase “life hacks” in the headline, mocking how everything is a life hack these days, but I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes.
Wear Proper Safety Gear/Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Accidents happen. If you’re not sure what to get, here are some recommendations:
Read the Manual
In addition to including introductory and safe-usage information, owner manuals often include valuable tips and tricks. And, they can help you learn about the proper sounds, smells, and lights a tool might give off.
Yes, Your New Drill is Supposed to Spark Like That
You might see sparks through the air vents of your new brushed motor tool. That’s usually normal and to be expected.
This one isn’t common sense, it’s more of a “things every newbie tool user learns the same way” kind of thing.
Smoke is Bad
If smoke is coming out of your tool, stop using it. This usually means you’ve overheated the motor and it’s burning up the protective varnish coating the windings. Or worse.
Pencils Leave Thinner Marks when Sharpened
Who would have thought!
In all seriousness, sharpen your wood pencils (or use a suitable mechanical pencil) for thinner and more precise marks. I find that dull pencils are better for things like filling in knife-cut marks in lumber, or marking the waste side of cut-offs.
I keep multiple pencils around so that I don’t have to sharpen the same pencil all the time.
Sharp Tools are Usually Safer than Dull Tools
Sharper tools cut or work with less effort, whereas dull tools require more effort. With hand tools, extra force can sometimes lead to mistakes and injuries. When talking about power tools, dull tooling or accessories often produce more friction and heat. On top of all that, finish quality will usually suffer.
Don’t Stand on Tool Boxes
You probably shouldn’t sit on them either, but if you do so (at your own risk), the fall distance is a lot shorter.
Don’t Stand on the Top Rung of a Ladder
Also read whatever safety information came with your ladder. Read the safety stickers. There are so many ladder injuries, at least some of which could have been avoided.
Weight Ratings are There for a Reason
Will something rated at 100 lbs fail if you put 100 lbs on it? Probably not, but it could, especially if the load is uneven or focused. There’s also a difference between static weight and dynamic weight.
Many products have a safety factor, such as 4-to-1 where something with a 100 lb rating can actually withstand loads of up to 400 lbs before failure, but there’s no way to tell what that safety factor is, if there even is one.
It is Usually Safer to Cut Away from Yourself
What happens if your knife slips, which direction will the blade travel?
Make Sure You Stay Hydrated
I originally meant this post to be a tongue-in-cheek ridicule of all of the very many “AMAZING LIFE HACKS!!!” online content these days, but many people really don’t properly hydrate all the time, myself included. Even mild dehydration can affect your function and performance.
1 inch = 2.5cm (or 25mm)
Well, 2.54, but 2.5 is close enough.
Check the Weather to Avoid Getting Caught in the Rain
Before you roll your eyes, weather reporting has come a long way. I use the standard iPhone weather app (I gave up Android nearly 3 years ago and haven’t looked back yet), and it will tell me things like “rain will start at 4pm.”
Wash Your Hands Before Eating
Or don’t, it doesn’t bother me.
Clean up After Yourself
Tools, metal shavings, sawdust, screws, parts, etc. Cleaning as you go along is almost always easier than having to clean up after long-term neglect.
Preventative and Regular Maintenance
Air nailers require a drop or two of oil (or whatever the user manual specifies), o-rings might need occasional grease or lubricant, filters usually need to be cleaned, etc.
Developing good product and equipment maintenance habits usually pay off over time.
No Open Containers Where You’re Working
Something *will* find its way into your cup.
No Contact Lenses When Working with Chemicals
Here’s one from laboratory safety manuals. Some lab managers might permit them, but there are numerous reasons why contact lenses are a bad idea when chemical vapors or potential splash hazards are present.
No Open Toe Shoes When Working with Tools
Working in labs drilled this into my head too. I try to at least wear closed-toe shoes when working with tools, although there are some exceptions.
Where safety footwear is not required, closed toe shoes can still help protect your feet from sharp, heavy, molten, or corrosive materials.
Don’t Defeat Safety Guards or other Safety Features
I read through injury reports a year or two ago, and was shocked at how many major injuries were caused by users defeating or remove blade guards on circular saws. It wasn’t all finger and hand injuries, but legs!!
Avoid Snag Hazards Around Spinning or Fast-Moving Equipment
Ties, loose-fitting clothes, long hair, gloves, non-breakaway lanyards, and more pose similar hazards, where they can catch and draw you into fast-moving equipment. Entanglement can severely injure or kill you. Also, for the visitors and synths out there, also be sure to tuck in your tails or any loose wires.
Some Supplies and Materials Have Expiration Dates
Many types of materials degrade with time or exposure to air.
While it might not pose much of a problem to use old glue or tape on non-critical projects, such as repairing a toy display model, there are very many tasks and applications where it’s a better idea to use fresh supplies.
It pays to be mindful about what types of products have shelf lives or expiration dates. Angle grinder cut-off discs, for instance, have expiration dates, presumably because the adhesive binding everything together can weaken or become brittle as it ages.
Random Question: Have you every used toothpaste in any way other than to brush your teeth?
I’m sure you’ve seen the “x-number of awesome secret genius uses for toothpaste!” posts and video online, with uses ranging from “scrub your toilet with toothpaste” and “restore car headlights,” to “fill holes in drywall.”
If you need a mild everyday abrasive, buy a cheap box of baking soda and make a slurry with a bit of water!
Bonus Lifestyle Tip
If you squeeze a melon to check for ripeness, and your finger pokes through the skin, just cut it up and put it in the refrigerator. 12 years ago, I somehow thought it was a better idea to just duct tape over the hole for a temporary patch. (I culled that post just now.) Duct-taping food products seems like a bad idea, even if it’s just the rind.
Life hack: reflect upon past choices and learn to laugh at yourself.
There are some… interesting posts in ToolGuyd’s archive. If you ever want to dig around, you can visit older posts by year, e.g. https://toolguyd.com/2012/, or month, e.g. https://toolguyd.com/2013/04/.