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Tool thoughts for women  RSS feed

 
Pearl Sutton
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Location: Zone 6a, on the edge of 6b
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This started as a reply to another thread, and got way out of hand, so I gave it it's own thread. The comment that started it was about tools being made sized for men. That got me going on how do you choose tools if you are a small woman, and what tools should you even TRY to learn, which would be easiest to use if you can get one that is the right size?
Probably will add more to this thread as I get more time.... Lots to say on other tool type thoughts and physics of small women doing more than they can

I'm good with tools. And it's not easy to learn to be good with things that aren't made for you. Like learning to drive a car by being in a huge truck with the seat all the way back and you can't move it... it CAN be done, it isn't easy. So this is advice from one woman who has been there, aimed at women who might want to learn.

General tool thoughts:
There ARE smaller tools out there. The ones made for women (they are usually pink etc) tend to be VERY underpowered and breakable, I won't use them, I have real work to do. The ones you see at places like Home Depot are scaled for men, that IS their target market, don't buy them and expect to get along with them. (Also if you borrow tools from guys, theirs are probably scaled for them, don't be surprised if you find them hard to use.) Go places like pawn shops, pick up tools, wave them around, see if any feel like they fit, if they don't fit your hands and strength, don't buy them, keep looking, they ARE out there. Some of the older ones are VERY differently engineered than the current ones. When they started making tools "ergonomic!" they made them ergonomic for typical guys hand sizes, not for smaller women's hands.  I use a certain type of old (mid 80's to mid 90's) Black and Decker drills that I just love, any I see anyplace I buy, so when I kill one I have either a replacement or repair parts ready to use.
The battery operated stuff is interesting, some of it is underpowered (12 volt drills tend to just annoy me) some of them are great, but the battery itself weighs too much (18 volt drills) as well as the battery running out issue. Don't assume battery is going to be best, I use them only for where I can't get power, I find it more useful to run a cord and use a tool that fits my strength than to have the convenience of a non-corded tool that hurts my body. Again, pick them up, wave them around. If you have to shoot 10 screws above your head, are your shoulders going to be so tired you drop the drill on your head? I hear a lot of people who say to use battery powered if you are a woman, I disagree in general, but I do keep an 18 volt drill for when I need it, and extra batteries.
So basically, try it on all tools before you buy them. Look for different sizes/types and see what works for you as far as fit. There really ARE more options than Home Depot. Look on the net, there are companies selling tools scaled for women, I can't afford them, but I look at how they are made differently (length, weight, etc), then look for that concept in second hand or cheap.
Another quick rant: my hands are big for a female, small for a male, gloves are difficult to find. If you are in that category too, check Harbor Freight, they have some yellow leather gloves that run around 6.00 a pair, they claim they are Large, they lie, they fit me perfect, try on a pair. They are made of leather that is strong enough to be useful, but light enough I can still use my hands.

Which tools might be useful to learn?
My dad said "Everyone has a few tools that are THEIRS, that they can do ANYTHING with." Figure out yours. Some of mine are drill, jigsaw, chop saw and radial arm saws. Some of his were hammer, angle grinder, and circular saw. We don't match He was a big guy, I'm a small female. It was interesting when we worked together on things, seeing which tool we each habitually used, and that they weren't the same at all for the same tasks.

Drills Drills are so much fun. I can do all kinds of weird things with drills!! There are some odd bits out there that can be VERY interesting to learn about. A book in themselves! If I had to have only ONE power tool, it would be a drill that fits my hands. Things to look for when you buy: Hand grip size: you need to be able to hold it tight, handle thin enough to get your hand most of the way around. The trigger needs to pull easily when your hand is on it, if your hand slides up or down and you can't reach the trigger, it doesn't work for you. Weight: it gets hard to keep a heavy drill steady, and watch for NOSE heavy, that's the hardest place for the weight to be. Power: the meanest drill you can use is a good idea. It's really frustrating to hit a knot right where you want a screw, and have it not have enough power to make it go in. If you don't need that often, consider two drills, an everyday one, and a mean one. See the comments above about battery power. Battery drills can be useful, but they are not my first choice. So my first choice is my old Black and Decker, second hand drills. What can I do with them? All KINDS of things! Basic make holes in almost anything, and drive screws, but they also make big holes with hole saws, small metal brushes can clean a lot of rust off things, there are flappy sandpapery wheels (I don't know their name this morning) that strip paint off, there are nut drivers that drive nuts, and some odd specialty things worth learning about (emergency water pump bits!) My best advice for a woman who wants to learn tools: get a drill you can handle, then start trying all the weird bits you can find, it gets REALLY fun For the no power people out there, old fashioned crank drills, yankee screwdrivers, and eggbeater type drills all use hand power, and can use most power bits (yankee screwdrivers need an adapter made to be able use modern bits, I can find you a link to it if anyone wants it.)

Saws Any power saw you have in your hand, HAS to be small enough you can control it, or you WILL get into trouble. Women's upper body strength is different than men's high upper body strength. Even a strong lady will have different physics than a male who is as strong. Look for WEIGHT, GRIP SIZE and ANGLE of use.

Jigsaw/Saber Saw is easiest for a LOT of things. If I had to have only ONE power saw, it would be a jigsaw that fits my hands. They are generally lightweight, find one that fits your hand, again the older ones tend to work better there. You want to be able to wrap most of your hand around the handle, at an angle that your shoulder isn't twisted forward. Try a few thinking that, you'll see what I mean. Put it on a table like you are going to cut, how is your shoulder angled? Can you get any push with it like that? They are slow speed saws, pretty safe. They turn off fast, can be removed from a bad place quickly, and don't jump around much. Jigsaws are most commonly used for curving cuts on thin wood, but that's not their only use. 2x4's or smaller cut easily with them, and any flat wood like boards, plywood or OSB, use the right blade and be patient and you can cut even fairly thick hardwood boards. You can cut other than 90 degrees with them, the baseplate moves so you can get left/right bevel angles, (bevels are when the saw cuts \ or / rather than straight down | ) but if you tilt the saw you can get a shallow cut that can be very interesting. Things you can't get though in one cut, you can make a notch and deepen it in the next pass, so you can cut meaner things. I can get a jigsaw to cut a 6x6 post by using a coarse, long blade, and going around the post, making a deepening notch, until I get through it. There are different blades, assorted lengths and coarseness, worth learning to tell them apart. Their only real drawback is the blades are thin and you control it, if you need a cut to be exactly straight, no wiggly mistakes, it takes a while to get good enough to do it. You CAN clamp a piece of 2x4 or 1x2 to a board and run the jigsaw down the edge for a straighter cut (they call that a saw fence, cheap version.)

Circular saws in general I have problems with. It takes a lot of upper body strength to use them, and especially to control them if you hit a knot or a nail. 4 inch tile saws are interesting for some uses, but they have VERY high RPM, and as my dad told me "it will take off your finger before you even know it's hit you."  I DON'T recommend circular saws if you aren't good with them. What I recommend is saws that are not held in your hand, chop saws and radial arm saws.

Chop Saws are EASY (my 78 year old mom uses them!) You get things in place, get them all clamped still, then cut them off. Lovely tools! The thing I look for when buying is "can I move it around?" cheap 10 inch ones are easy to find, construction guys use them, but they are heavy. I can't move the stupid things. I end up with 7.25 inch saws that have a pretty small footprint, so they don't weigh a lot. I tend to move mine around a lot. I cut 2x4's and smaller wood, PVC pipe, and can do some wider boards by making a cut, then flip it over, line up the notch, and cut the other way. They are best for things like "I need to cut 20 2x4's" (For cutting just one or two 2x4's, if I don't care about exactly smooth, I use a jigsaw.) They also can make angle cuts. The big brother of a chop saw is...

Radial Arm Saws If you want to do much wood working, look into a radial arm saw. They are like a chop saw, in that you get it all clamped down before you cut, so you have time to think about it and do it carefully. The blade slides on an arm from front to back, so it cuts wider than just the blade length of a chop saw. The whole arm pivots to make big diagonal cuts, and it will turn to make bevels. Really neat big tools. The trick word there is big tools. It's a 3 foot by 3 foot heavy thing. Classically you mount them to a workbench, and don't ever move them. Unless you are me. I put them on a heavy table on wheels! Make sure the wheels can be locked when you use it!
 
Table Saws are neat, I own one, but I don't recommended them to women or use mine often. The idea is you have the saw sitting there and you feed the wood through it. Great, IF you can hold the weight of the wood up easily, AND move it smoothly, AND have a lot of room to have enough space around it to work. I don't. Jigsaw will cut almost anything a table saw will, slower, safer, easier to control, easier to deal with the wood. Table saws rock for "cut 30 pieces of plywood in half" but other than that, I just don't use them much. For what it's worth, most lumberyards have a panel saw, they will make long straight cuts for you on things like plywood, free or very cheap (.25 cents a cut is what I have seen.) If you can, get them to make your big cuts, then use a jigsaw to make your smaller ones.

Hand Saws are painful due to their basic design: with one arm you do the same movement over and over until you are done. That's hard on most women's upper body muscles. I do my best to not use them, I get creative with the power tools if I can. If you have to use them, the easiest are ones with the handles shaped so you can grip with either hand (so you can switch hands as you tire) (handles your hand fits around!) and the lightest blade you can use. Hacksaws are nice in that they are very light weight. When a handsaw itself weighs too much, the energy it takes to just move it back and forth gives you less left for the actual cutting. The wire saws they sell for backpacking are neat, in that you can often use your body more efficiently to cut things. I keep several of those, and use them, then hacksaws, and THEN go to small scale regular saws if I must. (Wire saws are the best for cutting plumbing that is in place.) Something to watch for is some blades are made to get your power on the forward stroke, some on the back stroke, some get power both ways. I prefer the blades that I can get power both ways, so it's that much less work. Forward is next best for me. Hardest is back stroke. My favorite big saw is a pruning saw, because they come with blades that stroke both ways, and are very light weight, like a giant hack saw.

Angle Grinders are kind of a saw type thing, they use a grinding wheel to cut or shape with, and you hold them in your hand. So they are versatile, but they have the bounce around problem of a circular saw and need strong arms to control. Might be worth learning, if you need that a lot. I am more likely to use a bench grinder, not as versatile, but a LOT more under control. Problem with a bench grinder is you have to bring your work to it. Angle grinder can move. Angle grinders DO move, whether you want them to or not. If you need one, pick a light one. The weight added to the bounce will make them that much harder to control. The much more useful baby brother of an angle grinder is...

Dremels multifunctional high speed rotary tools! The favorite of a LOT of craftspeople, quite a bit because they are SO easy. If you are a small female though, I add one caveat: easier IF you use a flexible shaft extension. It is sort of a tube with a wire that hooks to the motor part, and gives you a long snaky part that you put the bits on. That makes it so you are only holding and controlling the tip, not trying to hold the whole thing in your hand while you do something. That makes a WORLD of difference. Almost everything I said about drills being useful for everything is true of dremels too. All kinds of neat bits are available, and a lot of fun to play with. Well worth trying!!

And I'm out of writing time for the moment. This is being fun, I'll do more later as replies to this thread.
Hope someone finds this useful
 
Andrea Redenbaugh
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Location: New Holstein, Wisconsin for now
dog food preservation urban
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^^ A woman I can relate to

My husband and I recently found a set of tools we can agree on. Powerful enough for him to do the big stuff but still light weight enough for me to use comfortably. We use Ryobi One Plus. There are a ton of different tools available that all use the same style of 18v battery. Even different sizes of the same tool, i.e. we have two circular saws, a 4 1/2 and a 6 I think.

The jigsaw is well balanced and easy to control. I like the impact driver for deconstruction.

The battery packs come in different sizes and capacities so I can use a smaller one when I need less weight without compromises in power.

The only down side we have found is the reciprocating saw is not the toughest. My husband's boss burned it up trying to cut roofing nails. It worked fine for smaller jobs like plumbing and drywall.

Overall we are both happy with them despite a big difference in our physical size and ability. He is 6'6" and built like a linebacker, I am 5'4" and average.
 
Tyler Ludens
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My favorite tools are the chop saw and the battery-powered drill/driver. 
 
Judith Browning
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Excellent list Pearl! Thanks so much for posting it.

I too, love my drill, it's an old style plug in though, not a battery. 

I struggled with shovels until my mother gave me a smaller bladed one that she kept in the trunk of her car for snitching plants along the road.  I can't believe the difference it made in ease of use....nice long handle and maybe a little more than half size blade.

After reading your list I plan to go looking for a jig saw.  I have a picket fence project... my son is cutting the pickets at his mill and I've been considering the right tool to cut the top of the picket (shape copied from an old picket of my grandma's).

EDITED to add picture of the picket...
IMG_0006-(2).JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_0006-(2).JPG]
 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

General tool thoughts:


Which tools might be useful to learn?


Drills I agree with everything you wrote about drills but wanted to add a couple of things.   Unless you are using some uber battery powered drill, corded drills rock.   I build a lot of items using a Kreg jig, and I use a corded power drill to drill holes and a battery powered drill to drive the screws because drilling the holes sucks the battery down fast.

Saws
Jigsaw/Saber Saw  Thank you for this!   I don't use a saber saw much but what you wrote was brilliant!   I am very much going to change my presentation to cover the saber saw because you made your point so eloquently!

Circular saws Are tricky but a couple of things make a huge difference, using a lighter homeowner model does make it somewhat easier, but using the right blade and the a SHARP one makes a world of difference.

Chop Saws  Great tools

Radial Arm Saws Is a great tool to have on a homestead, available cheap used ($100-$150) all the time.   They are not without their risks and are not as safe as chop saws.  Again, using the correct blade made for a chop saw (NOT a table saw blade) will make them safer but they are SO handy if you have room for one!
 
Table Saws  Are a very difficult and scary tool to use without being shown how to use one first.  In addition, one needs to know how to align the fence and the blade correctly or wood will bind and either burn or do nasty things and scare the snot out of you.   Using a correct blade and one that is sharp makes for a HUGE improvement on one as does having the fence correctly aligned, there are a host of youtube videos on that process.

Hand SawsWestern saws cut on the forward stroke, Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke and have smaller handles.   Using saws on wood, it is important to know that you need a TWO kinds of saws.   If you are cutting WITH the grain, from the top of a board to the bottom, you need a RIP blade and if you are cutting across the grain, you need a CROSS CUT blade:



This is true of all cutting tools although today they make amazing combo blades but it is useful to understand this concept.   Think of wood as fibers running lengthwise, if you are cutting along the fibers you need shovels to sever them and lift them out, if you are cutting across the fibers, you need knives to sever them.   Stanley makes a small handsaw that is like a western version of a Japanese saw called shark that is both cheap and easy to use.

One of the things I emphasis in my classes is that having a good workbench makes doing any of this VASTLY easier.  No it won't lift heavy beams up onto it but it makes using any tool easier, safer, and more accurate.   Drilling some holes for bench dogs and adding a simple vise makes doing a lot of jobs vastly easier
, Sturdy legs and a plywood top are all you need, it doesn't need to be heirloom quality to be a great bench.

An even simpler addition to your basic flat stable workbench is a saw hook, it just sits on top of a bench has a leg that hangs over the face and another on on the top and allows you to cut things easily...





 
Pearl Sutton
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Michael Bushman: Wow, thank you!! Now I need to make notes of your notes...   Quick comments as dinner tries to burn:
I am not a fan of battery drills at all, except for "put in one screw so this quit wiggling!" type work.
Circular saws: I have yet to meet one I can handle comfortably. Best was a 6 inch bladed one, but it was still hard to cope with. It's totally an upper body strength tool, and that's not best for me. I REALLY dislike that if I get overwhelmed by something like hitting a knot, I have a running saw in my hand that I can't put down and walk away from. Jigsaw I can put down.
Table saw, even if aligned properly, is hard because you are holding the weight up and moving it smoothly, not always easy for me (fibromyalgia type stuff, spasms and weakness) so they just are on my "not usually" list.
And thank you for saw blade explanations! I can figure a blade out by looking at it, but couldn't put it into words.

Everyone else: wow, thank you for commenting! I didn't really expect anyone to read it
 
Tracy Wandling
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Brilliant thread topic! This will be very helpful. It made me remember a few things my husband did when we were first together. First thing he did was buy a vacuum cleaner that weighed more than I did - you know, one of those big all-in-one Kirby things? Ditto for the rototiller. That thing drug me around the garden for days, before I finally parked it and gave up. And when I asked for a hoe - well, he took a full size shovel, and just bent the head at a right angle to the handle. Needless to say, not a lot of hoeing was done by yours truly. He was a big guy. I was 5'6" and about 125 lbs.

I'm most interested in garden tools at the moment - shovels and rakes that have long handles that I can use in a more upright position - the half bending over thing kills the back. I like the ones with a D handle on the end, but most of those seem to be on really short handled tools. It's easier for me to just crawl around on my hands and use hand tools, than to use the average 'garden variety' tools The Man has left over from his 'landscaping' days. They are just too heavy, and awkward.

It would be great to have a list of links or store addresses for places that sell tools and garden equipment that work well for women. Let's see what we can put together.
 
Michael Bushman
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Tool Porn...

Hida Japanese Tool Company

Lee Valley

Both of these companies offer great stuff and have solid service, there are cheaper places sometimes to buy these things but these will show you a lot of cool things that are out there, both have woodworking and gardening stuff.

Someone mentioned hoes, one thing that will help anyone but especially anyone struggling with the effort of using one, learn to sharpen them, you can do it with a stone mounted on a drill or dremel, a course sanding disk or of course a disk grinder.   Picking up a cheap chinese grinder at a garage sale is handy if you are doing much of this, there is a leaning curve there as wll, most critical one is present the edge to the wheel with the blade down below the center line, do it above and it might catch.  If you find yourself hammering through weeds, sharpen it and try again, amazing difference, you don't need or want a razor sharp edge but more like a dull kitchen knife sharp.

Remember that most tool handles never break because they are overbuilt and thicker than they need to be.  Don't be afraid to sand one down and make it thinner.   Also, if it has a short handle see if you can replace it with a longer one.

 
Bill Bradbury
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Hi Pearl, great thread!

I don't let my new apprentices(all male save 1) use any of the tools you mention until they have demonstrated competency using hand tools. We use mostly Japanese hand tools and find they are nearly as fast as power tools when you take into consideration set up, safety and cleanup for most of the general home improvement type work that we do. These tools require more technique and less power as they are razor sharp. http://www.hidatool.com/about-japanese-tools Hida has many garden tools as well as wood and plaster tools. The interesting thing about the Japanese tools is they are designed for the work not the worker, so the handles are comfortable for everyone. Save money by not even buying power tools and just get the bulk cutting done at the lumber store or don't save money and get some amazing tools that you can pass on to your daughter. I have spent countless days using these tools all day long and can say they are more comfortable to use which allows me to work with more ease and fluidity and that means I get more done with less "tired-old-ass" at the end of the day.For example; with a western-style saw, I stand off the side of the saw, oblique to the wood and grasping the D handle with my right hand, I push the saw through for the cut, Japanese-style saw, I stand directly in front of the saw, square to the wood and grasp the straight handle with 2 hands like a golf club, then pull the blade through utilizing the entire suite of muscles in my back, or the plaster trowel that has the handle post directly under your hand instead of out in front, so I can hold the post between my thumb and forefinger like a jazz drummer holding a drum stick, I could go on, and on, just ask my wife.

The cordless 12 volt drill and driver from Milwaukie are extremely powerful while small and lightweight. My apprentice took his to an Econest workshop where Robert dubbed it "the little drill that could".

All Blessings,
Bill
 
Pearl Sutton
Posts: 98
Location: Zone 6a, on the edge of 6b
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.Tracy Wandling: 
I like the ones with a D handle on the end, but most of those seem to be on really short handled tools.
An idea: the D part can be taken off of a lot of those, and put onto a handle you have cut to the length you like. Look at the D, if it's on a cheap thing, it's just metal or plastic tube that is slid onto the shaft and has a couple of screws to hold it still. And as Michael Bushman mentioned, shave down the handles to get them the diameter that you find comfortable (and shape, some of mine are oval for being to hold them against them pivoting when I don't want them to.) Looks like the Japanese site the guys above threw has D handle shovels in 2 lengths, you might look for guesses of what length you might want to cut something down to. Also I had similar problems, my dad, not a husband, "use this!" "I can barely pick this up!!" That's a lot of what got me learning how to cope doing construction in a female body with tools designed for men.

Michael Bushman and Bill Bradbury: Yay! Tool porn in the morning! I'm looking at how the Japanese ones are designed, see if I can modify any of my stuff that way. Money for tools is low. BUT, I just moved, and in the course of packing, people kept dying, and I kept mixing into my stuff the collections of several old school packrats one of which had hand tools (not classy ones, old beat up well used/abused/neglected things) by the pound... So I have a mine of things I can modify I like the center handle saws, I am thinking about modifying a hand saw with a T handle (I think some 2 man lumbering saws have them?) so it's center pull. Something my dad had was some kind of saw for sheetrock (?) goes on a handle like a trowel, not sure what they are for (or their name) but the way you use some of the saws I see in your porn makes me think I need to experiment with those.
 
K Putnam
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This post is brilliant.

I am so glad I am not the only woman who has opted for corded drills. I had a big discussion with both the gents at the hardware store as well as my male friends over this.   Battery packs are unwieldy and seem to have an off-kilter center of gravity for the tool. I'd much rather be careful with a cord.  I understand that if a battery-powered drill seems like a feather in your hand, it doesn't matter, but if it is dragging my wrist this way and that.  And I'm a strong woman with a strong grip! So, after being told that I really didn't want the drill with the cord, I went with the drill with the cord! 

This thread has inspired me to learn more about different types of saws.  I love the idea of finding tools that work for you and figuring out what you can do with them.  I'm not sure I'll ever be super comfortable with a circular saw.

I have actually gone from being nearly in tears trying to figure out how to use an angle grinder to it being one of my favorite tools, once I learned how to move it around with my body weight with smooth movement instead of my arms. 

I don't let my new apprentices(all male save 1) use any of the tools you mention until they have demonstrated competency using hand tools. We use mostly Japanese hand tools and find they are nearly as fast as power tools when you take into consideration set up, safety and cleanup for most of the general home improvement type work that we do.


This is also something good for me to think about.  There are definitely some cuts that I might simply be more happy making with a hand tool, even if it take me (personally) a fair bit longer. 

Thanks again to Pearl and everyone who is posting on here.  It's giving me lots to think about.  It is also just simply nice to know that this is a legitimate issue for others and I don't need to be as frustrated as I have been.  I just need to take the time to learn a bit more.
 
Dana Jones
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A woman can never have enough tools.
 
Michael Bushman
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Don't forget the original cordless drill...Can be had cheaply for $20 just make sure the jaws are not missing or too heavily damaged, these grip modern screw bits perfectly, they are not as fast as a drill but will go anywhere and help build strength too.   Learn to sharpen the bits, rusty ones work fine but WILL need to be sharpened.  



Also, find a saw shop that will sharpen western style saws, almost nobody sharpens Japanese saws, the blades are super hard and last but are mostly then tossed.   Sharp western saws are a dream to use and unlike Japanese saws can be guided and corrected if your line starts to wander.  Western saws can be had cheap and you find cool old Disston's once in a while, I have one from the early 1900s and another from the late 1800s, both work great.

Stanley makes a line of saws that are shorter than a standard full size D handled saw but longer than a classic Japanese pull saw, they have a stiffer blade than a Japanese saw so you can guide the blade easier, they are also relatively cheap.   Great all around saw.
 
Judith Browning
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Michael Bushman wrote:Don't forget the original cordless drill...Can be had cheaply for $20 just make sure the jaws are not missing or too heavily damaged, these grip modern screw bits perfectly, they are not as fast as a drill but will go anywhere and help build strength too.   Learn to sharpen the bits, rusty ones work fine but WILL need to be sharpened.  



Also, find a saw shop that will sharpen western style saws, almost nobody sharpens Japanese saws, the blades are super hard and last but are mostly then tossed.   Sharp western saws are a dream to use and unlike Japanese saws can be guided and corrected if your line starts to wander.  Western saws can be had cheap and you find cool old Disston's once in a while, I have one from the early 1900s and another from the late 1800s, both work great.

Stanley makes a line of saws that are shorter than a standard full size D handled saw but longer than a classic Japanese pull saw, they have a stiffer blade than a Japanese saw so you can guide the blade easier, they are also relatively cheap.   Great all around saw.


yes to the brace and bit! Although I've run into (literally) an issue with it (two actually) when leaning in to it for more force, that is certainly a challenge particular to women
And equally as useful is an eggbeater drill, especially for more delicate things.  Have used mine for everything from starting nail holes to drilling holes in bone buttons and for some things it is much easier than dealing with an electric drill whether cordless or not. 
I live with a wood worker who's first choice is always hand tools.
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Pearl Sutton
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I have both of those types of hand drills, plus what I know as a Yankee screwdriver.  I like hand drills of all types  


Dana Jones:
A woman can never have enough tools.

The guys who unloaded my moving van disagree with you heartily.  Tools are heavy!
Personally I agree with you, which is why I moved everything I could



 
Linda Secker
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What a fab thread!

I use battery and hand tools on my allotment as there is no power for corded, and I like both. I am much more interested in building than gardening at the moment - so drills and saws are both coming into their own. I also have the Ryobi one plus system - my husband has drill/screwdriver, and the jigsaw, whilst I have the reciprocating saw, strimmer and hedgecutter

I often do use a cross-cut handsaw though as I can't stand the battery jigsaw and the reciprocating saw is sometimes too unwieldy. It's too LONG for me and I need both hands to support it. Useful, but not for everything.

I do have 2 hand drill somewhere in the cellar, but use the battery one when I need it. If it's just for starting a screw hole though, I use a bradawl.

I don't have the strength in hands and wrists to use a hand screwdriver for any but the smallest screws - so the battery drill/screwdriver comes into its own again

Linda
 
Rufus Laggren
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@Judith

You have great ambition. <g> A fence full of pickets w/a beautiful ornate top like you show is going to be a huge project to hand cut (using a handheld power jig saw is "hand cut"). I'm not sure how "they" used to do it, but it might be worth some hours of research finding the "easiest" tool/method. One thought would be to use a drill w/a large bit or cutter of the size of the hollows - then a saw or something else to cut the straights and angles. If you can use a tool that works off a template guide it will make life _much_ easier. Even w/a template there will be plenty of small variations.  If it were me I'd try making a template pattern and use a router w/a thin pattern bit - the thin blade _might_ make is possible to directly cut to the line w/out previously make a rough cut close to the line. There are small trim routers about the size of a normal bottle of ketchup that would likely be ergonomic for you and the _might_ have the power to run a 1/8" bit through 3/4" stock. Even if that works, you might still want to use a jig saw or a good pull saw just to notch out the inside corners, although 1/8" round is probably a "sharp" enough corner for a fence picket. Maybe Bill or somebody else more experienced than me in wood art would have some ideas.

General thoughts. (I have worked w/all types of tools for 60 years, repairing houses, and vehicles,  making furniture, making a living as a plumber. I have a few marks on me but so far no parts missing.)

The value of any cutting tool, including power tools, depends totally on the sharpness of the blade. Normally you should not have to PUSH a saw through the work - it should slide and cut and leave sawdust w/out taxing your muscles, just you coordination. Circ saws that are hard to use may well be a completely different tool w/a decent sharp blade. Handsaws _must_ be sharp, whether Jap or Western, or they are instruments of torture. Drills that need to be pushed really need a sharp bit. When drilling old (hard) redwood for new pipes, I often needed to sharpen the 2-1/2" bits every 6 holes or so. IOW, cutting tools must have sharp blades and sometimes that means sharpening more often than you might expect. Scythes require a quick honing every row or so - workers carry a hone on their belt. Sharp is not optional.

> circ saws
It's not just, or even particularly, strength that one needs to use a circ saw effectively. Wax the bottom plate and keep it clean and polished. Sharp blade. Keep your elbow more or less straight so you shoulder does work. Try to stand to the side, not in line of, the blade. This keeps you out of the line of danger if the saw should kick back and run toward you - something that happens to framers on a regular basis.  Fences are good; I use them whenever possible. Support the work piece so that as the cut progresses it doesn't slump _into_ the cut and trap the blade. Porter Cable used to make a 4" gear driven circ saw used for very fine cuts in trim molding; it weighed about 8# IIRC and was not really intended for casual overhead cuts. But it's small size and handle might make the it comfortable to small hands; it's good only up to about 1" deep IIRC and it might be hard to find now a days. But it's a small  premium tool that will last "forever".

> RAS - Radial Arm Saws
I love these tools, especially the big heavy old ones, but one safety tip: Keep the elbow relatively straight when pulling the saw and stay out of the line of the cut. This will use your shoulder instead of arm muscles but, way more important, if the saw jams in or runs up over the work piece and jumps toward you (yes, this happens and if anything it's more shocking than w/a little circ saw) then your relatively straight arm will tend to push you backwards AWAY from the saw in safety. Since this happens in a split second, driven by anything from 1 to 3 horsepower, having the machine itself push you away in safety is really best.

Peal's opened a great perspective. I think (no, I'm sure) women can use tools as well and easily as men, especially when they locate tools that fit them.

But some things are the same for both men and women. Tool care. Safety. Work judgment - know when to stop when tired, know how much work to plan on, know when to get help. Some very experienced people won't work alone when doing certain jobs or using certain tools - they want backup to be there, in case. Also, some people make very severe rules about interrupting them while they are using certain tools, most especially where children are concerned; many of them are motivated by unplanned body markings or even pieces missing. Distraction, upset, can potentially really hurt you.  Good tool usage requires care and respect, not fear; but the respect is not optional and it _is_ sometimes enforced. Think before you proceed. Even experienced people can screw up. A plumber, in the biz for 10 years, put a screwdriver bit through his hand using a driver/drill as I was standing next to him. He held the piece w/one hand and and pushed hard driving the screw w/the other w/out thinking about slipping. But he slipped and had to reschedule his whole day. So to respect your tools and work, THINK before making your move.

Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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I used a buddy's Dewalt battery impact driver today. It reminded me that in the last couple years impact drivers have become much smaller. Women might wish to look at these tools as a "drill type thing" because of their size. They are different from plain drills in several ways:

- the way the tool holds a bit - they have a click-in system (instead of a normal drill chuck) which requires a 1/4" hexagonal shank on any bit they use. Eliminating the drill chuck allows them to be much smaller and lighter than a drill.
- although they have a progressive trigger (pull it more and the tool spins faster) they generally spin much faster than a drill at first and then when they hit resistance, they spin much slower (and make a horrible noise). However, they apply more torque than a drill does even though spinning more slowly.
- because of the type of bit attachment it wobbles very slightly. This means that an impact driver has less accuracy and fine control than is possible w/an ordinary drill. However, in my experience that is rarely an issue.

To use regular round shank drill bits with an impact tool requires a special drill chuck w/a hex shank on the bottom. You install the drill chuck onto the impact driver using the hex shank just like you would install a driver bit and then use the drill chuck to hold normal drill bits. This works well, although with the drill chuck mounted the impact driver is heavier. Trade off. Regular round shank drill bits are cheaper than drill bits ready made w/a hex shank and there are more different sizes available. The usual suspects carry the tools and the special chucks and/or drill bits w/hex shanks.

Besides size, impact drivers really help when removing screws because the way the tool operates forces the driver bit into the screw and helps prevent it from "camming out" and messing up the screw head or bit. The same idea applies in theory when installing new screws - less likely to cam out; however, I have found that one still needs to apply some force in a straight line into the screw.

Impact drivers have a learning curve because they are so powerful in such a small deceptively light package. It's trivially easy to twist off the heads of screws you are installing if you treat the operation just like you were using a drill. Instead of going by feel, at least a first, one needs to _watch_ the screw go in and stop when the head has sunk slightly below the surface. Also, when stopping the impact drive, one _must_ stop the tool completely before releasing pressure on the tool; otherwise, if you allow the tool to pull away before it has completely stopped you will probably break the bit.

Impact drivers operate decidedly differently from drills but perform most of the same functions, some of them better. They are usually smaller and lighter and have more powerful "twist"; they make a horrible noise; they potentially don't drill as accurately; they don't drill as fast when using larger spade bits or holesaws because they slow down under load more than most drills (though they usually have greater torque). Many tradesmen use them exclusively and many others have tried them and returned to plain vanilla drills. Personal preference.

FWIW, I'm not sure 12volt tools are still available but in my experience they do the job just fine. At least quality tools from Makita, Hitachi, Milwaukee, Dewalt, Porter Cable, Metabo, Fein and Fess. I have two old (5 years) Makita drivers, one 12volt and one 18volt; I bought the 18volt only because it was what was conveniently available when I needed one in a different city. They are both larger and heavier than today's tools but both perform excellently. The 12volt tool is noticeably lighter and less powerful but that has never been an issue. I used the 12volt tool to reframe walls and screw down a subfloors after a fire - a thousand screws or more, plus drilling any holes I needed, and it didn't slow me down at all. I still use it for that kind of work.

These impact drivers are cordless. If the tool will ever see real use, get more than one battery. The major expense over years will likely be for batteries. They have gotten much better but it's worth reading carefully and learning best practice for using, charging and storing. Read beyond the 1 page blurb enclosed in the package; check in tool and battery forums. Note that last I checked, not all battery chargers played nice if left charging on the shelf days and weeks at a time. Check carefully before you do this kind of thing because batteries aint cheap.  And if you have more than one cordless tool it's _way_ WAY nicer to have all use the same batteries.

Not a no-brainer but impact drivers do seem to offer possible advantages for smaller hands.


Rufus
 
Pearl Sutton
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Rufus Laggren: Thank you! That's interesting, I'll see if I can try them!
Are they the same as the air compressor driven tools I have seen the mechanics use? I did end up with a compressor, a nailer and brad driver, but haven't used them. I picked the smaller/lighter ones, and figured I'd try them out later, but later hasn't happened yet.
 
Rufus Laggren
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> impact drivers....  like air tools...

The ones I'm referring to are cordless - battery operated.

> nail guns

I think these are the miracle tool! <g> But they can come very large. Still, they allow a halfway intelligent person to build/repair a house w/out actually learning how to use a hammer like as if you were a machine.

A very neat person, "Larry Haun", "grew up" in his trade w/his brothers building tract homes in LA in the 50's. He made it an art form and his books and articles are pure gold. He died w/a hammer in his hand four or five years ago building homes for Habitat for Humanity. He never used nail guns - said they slowed him down! Now there was a _real_ carpenter, the likes of which may never appear again. <g> Unfortunately, I can't even aspire. I just use nail guns and bless them. For most of us nail guns and structural wood = SPEED. When you're doing any real work that can make the difference between "can do" and "no way".

There are different types, of course. One you may not be familiar with are staplers. Staple guns are vicious tools in the sense that they do the job w/out regard to any kind of beauty or finesse - except doing the job. The "finish" stapler using 1/4" crown 18 gauge staples length 1/2 to 2-1/2 inches may actually be of interest to you. The tool is very light and the staples hold extremely well. The divot they leave on the surface is small enough that it's patched almost as easily as a finish nail and they hold much better. HOWEVER.

1) The 18ga staples, especially the longer ones, frequently don't drive even close to straight. This means using them near an edge or near finger (!) can be very problematic. One or both legs can easily turn 90D depending on what the wood has in it (knots, grain swirls, etc).  I got stung once when an 1-1/2" staple leg turned 180D and came back out the top...

2) Staples are almost impossible to remove. You can pull the  pieces apart (usually) but you can't remove the staple; it needs to be cut off. This makes them hateful when you find them in a place where you need to remove  and then replace wood during a repair.

But the tool is light and relatively cheap and the pieces really stay stuck together. Staples are also indicated when attaching thin pieces because the crown is better at not pulling through thin stuff (<1/4").  As w/any power driver, you must take care about the correct driving force - you want the nail head or staple crown _just_ below flush w/the surface, NOT sunk 1/8" into it. Overdriving can weaken the holding strength 50% or more. The driving force needs adjusting for each job because the wood, the air pressure, etc will vary. When using nail guns I _much_ prefer models that allow adjustment of depth with a thumb screw that does not require any hex keys or wrenches - much more likely to be set properly for each job. However, a $5 used Senco tool from the 70's or early 80's shouldn't be passed up.

Have fun.

Rufus
 
Michael Bushman
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I want to thank everyone who posted on this thread as I stole a number of things from here to improve the class I gave yesterday.  Instead of the circular saw I used a scroll saw and it was SO much better for everyone!   We tore apart some discarded fencing, cherry picked the wood and using the good parts built a very serviceable adirondack chair.  Still tweaking the design, I am going to use 2x4s for the arms and back pieces but I am trying to keep them light and simple instead of my normal overbuilt tanks.   Anyway, walking a few people through each step along the way, standing back and letting them puzzle their way through problems, everyone felt more confident when they were done and we built the chair in just a few hours.   Using a chop saw one could crank a good half dozen our more out over a weekend as long as  you found the fenceboards.

One thing I want to stress is that a good workbench at the right height, especially one with a proper woodworking vise will make everything you do vastly easier and safer.  I used to think they were an affectation but having used them, they are a godsend.










 
Pearl Sutton
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Michael Bushman:
  I stole a number of things from here to improve the class I gave yesterday.

Yay!! That's the whole idea!!
One comment:
a good workbench at the right height
When I cook, I use countertops of different heights for different tasks. When I finally get my shop set up at my new place, I plan to do the multilevel countertops out there too. The right height for cutting things on the chop saw isn't the right height for scroll saw, isn't the right height for getting good leverage when abusing a piece of pipe into a pretzel in a bench vise... Worth considering, I think
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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This thread is so cool. I love it.
I am one who would rather do things myself than to ask someone else and have to wait for their schedule to allow time, or worse, have them want to do things their way on my project. The tools I use are sized for men but I can't see having duplicates of tools just because I'm smaller. It's what I've gotten used to. I know some things I have to do will leave me sore the next day but that's expected. Like when I have to use the sledgehammer to put in 6' t-post (and I'm only 5'3"), I know I'll feel it tomorrow but I need them put in place. There will come a time when all this takes its toll on me but I'll keep moving forward until then.
I love my Craftsman Add-on corded drill. The battery powered drills are too expensive and if you had to replace the battery it costs nearly as much as the drill.
When was little, I thought my dad's toolbox was fascinating. There was lots of cool stuff in there. Watching him I learned quite a bit. Later in life I knew I could call him for advice on any project. He talked me through installing a 2-way switch for lights in my stairwell over the phone once. He's been gone for over 20 years now and I have had many times I could have used his advice.
To all the ladies here who put on your safety glasses and gloves and dive into your own projects, I'm proud of you!
 
Andrea Redenbaugh
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Karen Layne wrote:This thread is so cool. I love it.

Like when I have to use the sledgehammer to put in 6' t-post (and I'm only 5'3"), I know I'll feel it tomorrow but I need them put in place.


If you regularly put in t-posts, I would recommend getting a post pounder. Much easier on the back than a sledge.

Here is an example:

http://m.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-Fence-Post-Driver-901147EB/204331909
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Hi Andrea,
I have one of those but I can't get the post started in straight because I need both hands on the pounder. I guess I could start it with the sledgehammer just to get it started in straight then switch tools.
 
John Polk
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This is where a cordless drill comes in handy.
Pre-drill pilot holes (about 1/2 the diameter of the posts).
If you drill them straight, then the post will begin straight...
...and be much easier to pound in.

 
K Putnam
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Let me wax poetic about my new palm sander.

Palm sander, you're sleek
The perfect tool for the meek
Of cedar I reek

Ok, that might be a little over the top, but I am absolutely in love with this little guy.  I've been trying to smooth out some corners with a sanding pad on an angle grinder per recommendations from friends and it just hasn't been going that great.  Palm sander, perfect size for a woman, doesn't take me for a ride like my other tools, and is just flat out easy to use.

 
Julie Horton
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Michael Bushman wrote: ... these grip modern screw bits perfectly...   





Despite my love for this thread and all the contributions, I am going to have to disagree with you, Michael. A brace does NOT grip modern bits perfectly! At least all those I have used barely grip modern bits at all! Fortunately, I know of two little mom-n-pop stores where I can usually find brace bits, both new(ish) and antique. Don't give up on a brace after trying it with a modern bit-- first use a bit that was designed for it, then decide if it's for you. C:
 
Dale Hodgins
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Many of my female pruning customers use these loppers that are about 14 inches long. Two years ago a store had a great sale and I bought all they had, and passed that deal along to many of them. The gear really increases the size of branch that can be cut. I have used mine for thousands of cuts and they show no sign of failing. Perfect for getting into tight spots, as when pruning fruit trees.

I see a lot of garbage tools being marketed with pink handles. The idea is that you pay far too much for low-grade stuff and the company will donate a penny to breast cancer research. The worst bang-for-the-buck in both tool purchase and charitable donation.
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The knights of nee want a shrubbery. And a tiny ad:
2017 Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Jamboree - 15 workshops in one event
https://permies.com/wiki/63312/permaculture-projects/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Workshop-Jamboree
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