Wanted to post this separate. For women who need a good chainsaw that isn't going to be used for cutting down trees, get an alligator lopper. I use this thing all the time. Don't get the pole that is optional, they don't work and money is better spent on a platform ladder. Chains don't come off easily on these alligator loppers. It is almost impossible to get hurt unless you are very very careless. Use food grade oil especially made for chainsaws....and your chain will never clog. I have the Black and Decker model but Torx also makes one. I found it easier to get the corded model and take the small generator out with me. It will cut up to 4" limbs. The cordless is 20volt.
I applaud and envy your strength. I am about your height, weight and age. Until my husband passed, he took care of most of the outside chores. My main jobs were in the house, weeding and putting up the garden. Years ago, when we had a goat dairy, I did a lot more outside, but even then, I did very little that required a lot of strength.
Currently, I have a tool building full of things that are too heavy to use. A lot of them I don’t even know what they are for or what their names are. Thank goodness for electric drills and battery powered screwdrivers.
For me Pearl’s article on women’s tools was very informative (for example the different types of saws). I image a lot of women find men’s tools just too heavy to use safely. So once again thank you Peral for your article.
Like Jennifer, I really prefer the non-powered tools. I can work more accurately, and don't have to worry about hurting myself. I really enjoy hand drills! I also like chopsaws, because I can put the board there and just chop straight down with one hand holding the board and both hands safely out of danger. I can also be really accurate with it, which I love. I don't use the chainsaw or the table saw, and don't like power drills, either.
I'm 5'4" and my body does not put on muscle easily. I think it's largely genetic. My husband and his mom are both strong. Even if they get horrible illnesses that leave them nearly bedridden for months and so low on iron that they need infusions, they're still stronger than me. My mother-in-law is 30 years older than me, and has battled a lot of chronic health stuff, and is still stonger than me, and I'm active and hauling stuff around. I'm stronger than I used to be, but still really lack upper body strength.
Some of my tricks:
Use manual hand drills. These allow you to work as slow or as fast as your strength and skill allow. Sure, my husband can use the same handdrill and drill through something 5+ times as fast as me. But, I can get it done
When drilling big holes: start with a small drill bit, then move up and up until you get to the drill bit size you need to drill. If I drill the small hole first, I can do it accuratly, and it'll act as a guide for the larger drill bit. Now I can skip from small to large, but when I started out, I'd go through three or four increasingly larger bits
For the small holes, I use this Fiskar's hand drill. It's kind of a pain to use--could be a lot more urgonomic and have a bigger spinny handle. But, both me and my son can use it. He actually bought it with his birthday money when he was 5!
For the larger holes, I use an antique drill press thingy
using axheads as wedges to chop wood. I often can't chop--or split--wood with a mighty swing like my husband. And, if I keep trying over and over to do so, I get nowhere. But, we have a bunch of axes and broken axheads and splitting maul heads, and so what I do is smack the ax into the wood. That gives me a dent enough to stick another axhead or ax into, and then I smack the back of it with the back of another, lighter ax. I like the Fiskars ax. It's light and easy to wield. I'll often add in more axheads into the developing crack to speed up the splitting. Sure, it takes me a long time, but I get wood chopped, and I gain the muscle skills to get better at chopping I can also enlist my kids. My son was able to swing the fiskars ax into the ax head and help split wood. Sometimes he'd hold the handle of one of the axes I'd embedded in the log, and that made the whacks I made a lot more effective. When my husband comes to chop wood, he splits it on the first wack and gets frustrated if the kids want to help. He doesn't need help and they get in the way and it's not safe. But, I'm working so slowly that it's a lot safer for all of us, and the kids often enjoy being involved.
pruning shears! I love my pruning shears. And, for a long time, my hand strength was better than my arm strength. I could use two hands on the handle to prune a limb that I couldn't prune with the big loppers. I just didn't have the arm strength to squeeze those big handles together! One thing I do, too, when using loppers is to put one handle on my leg or hip, and then use both arms to pull the other handle. It works!
Have patience with yourself! The skills will grow as you use them. When I first tried to use a handsaw, I had a really hard time. I couldn't stabilize it right and the blade wobbled and I didn't know how to pull back and forth. But, I just kept at it (or let my kids take turns trying while I used different muscles to stabilize the saw, rather than actually doing the pulling foreward and backward). It might take you a LONG time to saw through your first 20 logs, but over time you'll get a better feel for how it works, build muscle memory, and build muscles for it. You might never be as fast as someone stronger, but you'll be able to use it!
Pre drill for nails. For a long time, I really, really stunk at hammers. I still largely do. Maybe it's my weakness, maybe my hybermobility makes it harder. I don't know. I still remember being in 9th grade and I was getting ready to go to Mexico to build houses. I tried to practice hammering nails in. I failed. My grandmother (in her mid 70s at the time, and thinner than me) came over and hammered those nails right in. She had the skills. I got to Mexico, and still couldn't hammer nails in. I spent 10 minutes trying to hammer in a nail, and had to give up and do something else that was at least productive. I'm getting better, but sometimes my nails go sideways or bend or just don't want to go in. So, I get out my little hand drill and pre drill a tiny hole. Then I hammer in my nail, and it goes right down the guide hole I made. Sure, I'd looks silly to someone else. But, guess what? I got it done! And, I gained more skill at hammering than if I just kept whacking at nails and bending them!
I have a sort-of funny story reflecting the Gator Saw that you pictured and described.
In 2009, we had an absolutely terrible windstorm—a super derecho—that swept through the area. I was at school when it happened and I could not get home due to the extreme amount of fallen trees and power lines that literally snapped in half. As in hundreds and probably thousands or tens of thousands of telephone poles that snapped in two! I have never seen another storm like this. I have talked with people who decided to ride out hurricanes and they agreed that the storm had the intensity of and left damage similar to a category 3 hurricane (we had sustained 100 mph winds for over 2 hours). And the road to my home was blocked by windfall.
Fortunately I was able to get my kids and we evacuated to my parents 200 miles away. I returned minus the kids with a generator. I went to town to get a chainsaw and the last one they had was an a/c version of that same saw.
Really, it was just completely unsuited to the task, but I made it work. It has a puny 6” blade and I had about 20 fallen trees (heartbreaking!) with trunk diameters of 12”!or greater. I would cut in, cut from both sides, sometimes use a reciprocating saw to finish the cut, but somehow I cleared the bulk of all those fallen trees.
The Gator Saw should not have been able to work, but work it did. After 3 days of excessively brutal work, the saw was finished. Metallic parts were getting bent, stretched and generally mangled. The rest of the work was finished with an actual chainsaw that my father brought down along with the kids a couple of days later.
I would not recommend using that Gator Saw the way I did, but then I was terribly desperate. It still hangs in the garage, but most of the moving parts got stripped down a long time ago.
For trimming branches up to about 4” it did work pretty well. I eventually bought the battery version and it is quite handy for simple trim work. As long as you are using it for trimming and not for cutting up large logs then I can vouch for it.
posted 1 month ago
Eric.....yes, LOL. I was going to mention that it can be used sort of as a sacrifice to the wood gods, in a dire situation. But this particular blog is aimed toward women beginners and I didn't want to get them into getting over their head. And as Pearl has mentioned, one of the greatest skills you can learn is using the right tool for the right job. I have had interns do such things as use my Makita drill as a hammer (which is why I no longer have interns). I loved your story and thank you for sharing it. Sometimes great projects require great sacrifices (smiles)
posted 1 month ago
Yes, this is why I added the caveat that depending on your age, or prior lifestyle, the learning curve, not only for the mind but for muscle memory can be an exceedingly daunting one. As many have mentioned in this particular forum, have Patience. I didn't learn everything in a day, it has taken me 50 years to garner this knowledge of tools and construction, and thankfully I was already a wilderness gal so the body strength wasn't an issue. The most important thing here is that you are willing to try this....to engage. Many women won't. I don't say can't because almost any woman can, but most find excuses why they can't.
Then they depend on someone else who maybe doesn't know anything at all, but charges people for that lack of knowledge. When I was first starting to build here, there were certain things I didn't feel I could do on my own. I hired people. What a disaster. I had to end up paying them and then having to find a way to re-do, to fix the damage and then I had to do the project. I realized that I had added an extra, expensive step, to the equation. So why not just do it myself? So some of my get-to-it-ness was borne of necessity. And we all know invention is the "mother" of Necessity - LOL. So I learned to be a mother to my projects. Nurturing, rather than manhandling. What has not come to be naturally is Patience.
My lack of success in certain projects was because I became nervous I couldn't do it.....then I found myself inexplicably trying to rush thru it...don't ask me how that works - LOL. Somehow I was feeling that rushing thru it, trying to et it done as quickly as possible equates success. And lurking down there was my feeling inferior about tackling it in the first place so my rational was get it done quickly. Even if it is done wrong, its done (laughing at myself).
So over the years I've learned to take one step, one single step at a time. A challenging project may take months to complete. What I do is listen. I listen for some inner direction....then I implement that direction. Then I wait until I hear further direction. So the quickness of the project depends on my ability to not only listen, but want to listen. To wait.
You can do this Barbara. You may not see yourself wielding heavy tools at this point, but start small, your confidence will grow...and I think you will also surprise yourself about what you can do.
For any of you, man or woman....I've been doing this nigh on 50 years. Any question you might have, I probably can help. So here is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. No question is too small. I enjoy paying it forward.
posted 1 month ago
I was thinking maybe it might be helpful if you and I started a forum for tips on using tools, or smaller specialized tools, not necessarily hand tools, but plumbing, electrical, etc. and how they are used. When I was first starting out in wilderness, I subscribed to a lot of different catalogs and as I was (laughing) going to the bathroom, I would read those catalogs, over and over, understanding by their descriptions of a tool, how it was used. YouTube I feel, is not a particularly good venue because you have a lot of people making videos about using a particular tool, or engaging in a project, that shouldn't be making videos, and actually some advice could be dangerous.
If you would like to do this, I can go write down these catalogs names and post them in the new forum. Off hand some that come to mind: they make exquisite hand tools (Garrett Wade), and have ones from all over the world in their catalog. Northern Tools is a great catalog for farming, as well as Gemplers and Rocklers.
posted 1 month ago
Digital calipers. These are worth their weight in gold. Cheap ones, like from Harbor Freight, are good for most people (under $10). The cheaper ones measure in a choice of inch or mm. The two prongs that you see on the left top side can be used for measuring what is called I.D., or inside diameter. I use them a lot on pipe stock. The lower prongs are used for O.D., or outside diameter measuring.
Most cutting mistakes on wood are made because of reading the tape measure wrong. One of my favorite wood working guys, from Yankee Workshop, always says......measure twice, cut once. But in my long history, sometimes you just make the same mistake twice in reading the measurement. Or let us suppose that you are between the fractions, all you see is lines, there is a mistake waiting to happen, especially if you are tired, having stood out in cold temperatures trying to fix something. With a metric tape measure, everything is just lines between the numbers. If you are between the number 5 and 6 for example, it is easy to count the large lines between the number and get a very accurate transfer measurement.
Another thing I like about this tape measure is that it is printed on BOTH sides. If You are trying to measure from roof to ceiling, and get an accurate measurement, this is a life saver, and saves a lot of frowns and outcries of "no....no..no" as you see clearly that the piece of wood you cut is shorter than you needed. And for me, working with expensive redwood, this brings greater cries of "how could I have done that"? LOL. Well, its easy when you've been for 12 hours without having time to eat.
Location: SW Missouri
posted 1 month ago
Purity, I’ve already surprised myself.
That you must flip the lever on the riding lawnmower in order to acuity cut the grass.
That the car and pickup have lots of different fluids that need to be checked and occasionally batteries need to be replaced.
The electric line to the house is separate from the barn and well house.
The water line is 4’ underground.
Trees need to be trimmed to keep them off the roof.
Flashing around the chimney can become loose.
Farrier’s don’t want to come out to trim hoofs on one old horse.
A window screen can be replaced.
Weather stripping around a door can be replaced.
Flappers on the toilet tank can be replaced.
A lot of vegetables can be grown in big containers rather than tilling the garden.
A locked security gate reduces loss from sticky fingers.
So yes, Purity your so right. One step at a time. The learning curve has been pretty high this past couple of years. For the big stuff I’ve relied on neighbors to refer me to reputable professionals. The little stuff I’ve learned.
Thank you for the encouraging post.
Purity: start a new thread like this for the tools you like :D
I meant to do more of them, but this one is as far as I got. I have another 15 written in my head, but not fast enough fingers to type all I can think up :) My fingers move fast, but my head moves faster.
Btw. if I don't reply to or upvote a thread about tools you start, send me a PM so I notice it, I'm swamped these days and miss things.
I'm really surprised nobody has mentioned a drill press? It's a brilliant thing to have around, easiest way to drill accurate holes in things. Usually the top will flip open and there's some belts in there so you can adjust the speed depending on what you want to drill. You can put all kinds of drill bits or grinders in it and with jig or two, it can even kinda become a pseudo shaper. Since the drill bit is held in place and the work can be clamped down as well, it's much safer than the hand held type.
FWIW, I no longer use a battery operated anything. I'd much rather use a long extension cord (I can get to 300' feet from an electric outlet which pretty much covers everywhere on the property) than deal with batteries. They're under powered, heavy, never charged when you want them and don't usually last to the end of the job.
For a screw driver, try using a drill bit in a socket. A bit of tape will keep it from falling out if you don't have the magnetized version. It gives you a lot more leverage than a regular screwdriver.
I've welded new handles onto sledge hammers, rakes, etc. A metal handle welded on to the tool won't rot or break off like a wooden one. You can also make it the length you like, although you can do that with wooden ones, too.
Once you get the air compressor for the nail gun, brad nailer & staple gun, you may as well get an air sander, air grinder and even an air blower for getting the dust out of places. It's also nice to put the air compressor in it's own sound insulated space if you can. Those things are noisy.
And, for safety equipment, get a face guard for weed whacking (string trimmer), ear muffs for sawing, air compressors, etc. etc. Eye protection for sawing and hammering and any time there could be stuff flying around. Keep long hair tied back and contained, there's a lot of powered tools that are just waiting to grab it. And, if you're doing something greasy, get a bar of soap and scrape it with your finger nails to get some soap beneath the nails. That will keep grease and grime out from under your nails and be easier to clean.
Learn to sharpen things, sharp tools will be a lot easier to use. This includes gardening tools, a sharp hoe or shovel works a lot better than a dull one. Also, learn to oil and keep the tools clean and in working condition. Change out the blades as necessary. Tool maintenance is as important as buying the right tools in the first place.
For gardening work, one of my favorite tools is a Gardenway type garden cart. Mine finally died after three rebuilds, thirty years and hauling way too many rocks. Next one, I'll build it three quarter size and put a set of hand brakes on it. My other favorite yard working tool was the back hoe, although we sold that when we moved to town. IM(NS)HO, females are good with machinery, we don't break as many parts off as folks who are burdened with too much testosterone.
And, when going into a hardware store or tool store, act at least somewhat like you know what you're doing and you'll get a lot better response. If you ask for a twenty ounce framing hammer you'll get a lot more help than if you just ask for a hammer. This works for any gender and not specifically females, for that matter.
I've still met the occasional misogynistic type who seems to think gender has something to do with purchasing things at hardware stores although there's less of them than there used to be. Usually I'll know more than they about what I'm trying to buy and can generally educate them to this before I'm done. I'm a tool user, they're just a store clerk. Ha! But, if not, I don't really care what their opinion is anyway as long as they have what I need in stock.
Actually, in our small town, it's really lovely to buy things at the hardware store. What was originally "Ikeuchi & Sons" has become effectively "Ikeuchi & Grand-daughters" although they haven't changed their sign.
I'm a huge fan of smaller tools. Apart from being generally cheaper, they take up much less room. I still have several tool bags though.
(Sorry, I cannot figure out how to restrict the size of these images) - (edit: Thanks :) I changed the rest of the images)
Tin snips used to be like big scissors for metal but when the factory men were all called off to war, they designed an easier snips for the women who then had to work in the factories making planes, etc.
Those new tin snips (aviation snips) are now the standard. They use a compound action, a kind of gearing system to cut easier, but when fully extended are still quite large in the hands. Nothing wrong with using both hands though.
The yellow ones are straight cut, many people don't bother with the left cut or right cut.
They all leave a rough edge and sometimes creased up metal in their wake.
You can also get aviation nibblers for making nice smooth edged cuts in aluminium and other soft metals.
Similar to a Monodex Nibbler, this will cut without crunching up the edges
I also have a bench hand drill press, good for making perpendicular holes to get nice right angles in projects. You attach a normal drill or a dremmel to it.
I bought mine from ebay.
You might look into jewellery making tools, they are often smaller and usually only used for fine work. You can break them on large projects.
Some gardening stuff can be smaller too, like the Border spade. Not only is the spade lighter but you don't have to lift a huge chunk of earth with it.
I'm tall so I needed a spade with a longer handle, and what I ended up doing was cutting back the width of a Fiskars spade (for metal detecting) with an angle grinder.
(with an angle grinder you need to cut in several moderately paced strokes instead of one slow stroke, so as to avoid melting the metal and ruining the annealing. If that happens then heat up the spade where you've softened it, then quench it to harden it again)
My spade modification. I also ground a sharp edge on the tip
When checking out tool sites, the cheapest things are often the smaller ones, such as bench vises, pick / mattock, etc.
Purity, about your post 2 weeks ago. I found a tool you called a caliper. Thank you for showing the picture, I now know what it’s for. Also, in the article you mention measuring tapes. I mostly have been using my cloth sewing tape. Bad idea. I did have a little trouble reading the metal one.. I did like the thought of a metric tape. I have used metric measure on my art projects but on a small scale. I like that idea. Thanks, Barbara
Location: SW Missouri
posted 3 weeks ago
Joe, thank you for the picture and explication of the aviation tin snips. My husband had one of these, I thought they were for cutting small branches. I also liked the picture and explication of the Monodex Nibbler. I don’t think I have one of these, but I would like one. They would be great for some of my craft projects. And here is a question. What would a person use a hand mattock for ? Thank you, Barbara
Barbara: Mattocks are one of my favorite tools. I have several sizes of them. To me they can dig, chop, and move dirt and roots around, much easier than using a shovel. I hate lifting a shovel full of dirt, but I can scoop it with a mattock. That is my main tool for weed removal or digging trenches. the hand mattock is nice for weeds, or on soil that has been broken in the last 5 years or so. if it hasn't been broken, I use a full sized mattock that I swing like an axe, and can get though almost anything.
I didn't cover them in my original post, but if I had ever written the follow ups, it would have been in there. We have games here on Permies: If you were going to be on a deserted island for 5 years, you can take 5 things, what would you take? My medium sized mattock is one of my 5 items.
Niele, I not sure about the drill press. It sounds complicated. I do have one but to be honest it looks intimidating. I’m wondering if you can use it with a hole saw. I have been putting the hole saw on a hand held drill. I have found it is difficult to stabilize my gourds while putting in a birdhouse hole. The gourd tends to spin if I’m not holding it between my knees. I feel this is dangerous as the hole saw could slip off the round gourd.
About the air compressor. The only way I have personally used the air compressor is to spray polyurethane on gourds using a spray gun. And I recognize the part you use to air up tires. My husband had a lot of tools and metal tips for the air compressor. I wonder if you could show some pictures of the interesting tools you said can be used for the air compressor and the if they have metal connector tips (he had a lot of these mysterious metal connectors)? Regarding maintenance—The only thing that I remember my husband doing when he started to air compressor was pull a little metal ring at the bottom to release any condensation (I think that is what it was for). Any way the past two years that is what I have done when I started the compressor. Could you give some advice on what other things need to be done for maintenance?
Also, I loved the tip about soap under the fingernails.
Thank you, Barbara
Location: SW Missouri
posted 2 weeks ago
Purity, have you started that new thread. I have a lot to learn. Your idea sounded great.
Barbara, I would use a mattock on ground that is too hard to dig into with a shovel. I have it for metal detecting. It can also cut roots if necessary.
Another tool for moving stuff around on the surface is the garden Hoe.
Regarding a Nibbler, they cut very slowly but leave a much nicer edge than the snips.
Nibbler attachments for drills are also available but I think its easier to control hand tools.
If for example your making a camping stove from a tin can, you drill a hole first (12mm - 0.5in) then get the nibbler in and start cutting.
You can cut in curves if you want, you'll see how much you can turn it without crunching up the edges.
You also get a nice 2mm curl of metal when your done.
If I remember right, they will cut soft metal like Aluminium to a thickness of around 2mm, and hard metal like steel much thinner, like 1mm at the most, but check with the tool shop first.
Regarding a Gourd, my thoughts are that its such an awkward shape and slippery surface that you'd either use rubber bicycle tube or cloth to wrap tightly around it, so you can hold it steadier on your knee, get it in a headlock, or have an assistant help.
You might try using a jigsaw to make the bird hole, but they can be very dangerous on full power. I'd recommend get one with a variable speed, just like a drill.
Also you can get smaller ones for crafts, like this Proxxon. Very informative video here...
Regarding a drill press and other bench tools, get the owner to show you how to use it. Its the best way because you get the safety lecture, and you find out what to do and what not to do.
That goes for the lathe, welder, bench grinder, chop-saw and basically anything that can take your arm off. No tool is intuitive and its not worth getting hurt so take the lessons first.
It also removes the mystery to get advice and get your hands on and learn that way. Take your time.
If you don't mind a bit of bad language, check out engineer AvE. In this video he shows a tip for using a holesaw with a makeshift apparatus for applying pressure to cut steel tube. (notice the drill speed is slow)
So since we're into metal work now, its suitable to tell you of the most useful tool in the shop, an angle grinder.
Dangerous bit of equipment, keep it away from the kids and the incompetent neighbour, and like those other things, get safety lessons first.
Also you need to know about Brazing. Its like welding without the heavy equipment, just need a blowtorch, brazing rods, safety gear and some practice. Brazing temperature is a little over twice that of soldering.
Don't be intimidated by heavy tools, the more experience you get with them the better you become, but you always need to respect their power!
Beck Protocol for health
Location: SW Missouri
posted 1 week ago
Joe. Thank you so very much for all the advice and the great videos. I can see that the handheld nibbler is not for me. But I do like the Jilson shear. I am used to using a handheld drill and I think I could handle the double headed drill nibbler.
The Jig saw from Welburn gourd farms looked cumbersome, the one advantage over my saw is that the blade is longer. I use a Micro Lux. It is a small saw that fits in the palm of my hand. If my picture of it comes thru the small red button is easily depressed as you use it. It does require a rheostat. I have been using this same saw for at least 15 years, at times many hours in one day. I purchased the saw through Micro Mark a small tool specialist. I think many of their customers are miniature train hobbyist.
Also, at the end of the video there were other videos to watch. I watched the one on Jig Saws by Steve Ramseiy- Woodworking for Mere Mortals. I watched it twice, He went fast, but covered a lot of different types of saws. I believe My husband had at least one or more of every one of those he described.
You are absolutely right about the hole saw. I have been using a piece of foam (egg crate type) but the Welburn Farm video gave me another Idea. I think a scrap of shelf liner might be better with an assistant. I would hate to give up on the hole saw. It puts such a perfect round hole exactly where I want it.
Ha Ha Joe. I watched the Dirty Tricks with hole saws video. Never in my life would I try something like that. Too Big, Too messy, Too unstable. Too much.
Thank you for the video about the angle grinder. I now know what that piece of equipment is for and all the disks. My husband had one drawer in his tool chest full of different kinds of disks. After watching the video by the Ultimate Handyman’s safety tips, I can’t see myself ever contemplating using one. Also, with an expiation date on the disk I would guess that most of them are expired by now.
The brazing is something that I found inspiring and yes, I might try that. There is quite a bit of scrap metal around here, a lot of aluminum pipe from our dairy barn and pieces and parts that are aluminum.
Also, there is a MiG welder, and a big welder with 2 big bottles of something. (I don’t think its propane). Any way lots of welding equipment hoods and gloves, rods etc. I will check that stuff out an see if there are any aluminum rods in the lot.
Thank you again for your time and the very helpful information. Never fear I don't plan on trying to use any of the big tools until I have a tutor. The one exception might be the skill saw.
Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly first. Just look at this tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove