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Miscellaneous Hand Tools

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Torches are defined by the uses for which they are designed and by the fuels they use - propane, MAPP gas or oxygen.

Propane torches light instantly and burn with a clean blue flame; they require no pumping, priming or preheating.

They consist of a disposable propane fuel tank with a burner assembly that screws on top. The burner has a built-in valve that turns the torch on or off and regulates the size of the flame. They will operate in a variety of positions, but should never be turned upside down; the liquid fuel will get into the valve assembly, creating a potentially dangerous situation.

Propane torches are used for heavy-duty soldering operations and for burning off old paint or exterior siding. For this task a flame-spreading tip or heavy-duty burner is required.

When equipped with a pointed or chisel-edged cutting tip, these torches can also be used for removing old putty around windows, for installing asphalt tile or for branding initials and other designs on wood.

Brazing torches for the nonprofessional use propane or high-temperature fuels. High-temperature fuels include MAPP, Clean-Burn and propylene. With high-temperature fuels and venturi-type tips, brazing torches generate temperatures up to 3,600 degrees. The temperature level is hot enough to perform light brazing jobs on sheet metal up to 1/8" thick and steel rods up to 5/8" in diameter. This torch is excellent for light metal repair, plumbing, heating and air conditioning applications where copper tubing and fittings require silver solder.

Welding torches available for the d-i-y market include solid oxygen and propane torches as well as compressed oxygen and propane fuel. Oxygen and propane torches generate temperatures in excess of 5,000 degrees.

The solid oxygen torch will give the user greater cutting capacity due to the amount of oxygen which is generated by the solid oxygen pellets. The oxygen/propane tank-type torches are convenient to use for light metal repair and cutting and bending of metals.

Oxygen/propane torches are portable and weigh approximately six pounds. Kits usually include an extra tip, brazing rods, glasses and all necessary accessories for immediate work.

Make sure to stress safety tips when using torches. For example, do not use a torch to remove paint from the exterior siding of a house. The flames can ignite combustible materials underneath the siding.



Soldering guns are used for a variety of chores-hobbies, minor electrical repairs, plumbing and other do-it-yourself home repairs.

They offer advantages over conventional irons-they heat and cool rapidly, are easy to handle and may have several heat levels. Some feature built-in lights to illuminate work. Guns are turned on and off by a trigger switch.

Maintenance is easy and inexpensive because gun tips are relatively low priced and easily replaced. Complete kits contain guns, extra tips, solder and accessories. Cordless models are available for added mobility.

Solder with an acid-core flux is used in plumbing and general use applications. Solder with plastic rosin-core flux is used on electrical work, to prevent electrical leakage.


Irons come in four basic groups: line voltage, low-voltage pencils, temperature-controlled and soldering coppers.

They are slower heating and cooling than guns. Electrically heated irons are rated by watts. The watt rating tells how much heat of a given temperature can be delivered rather than the temperature itself. An iron's capability can also be measured by the tip temperature and the heat-recovery capability of the tip being used.

Line voltage soldering irons and pencils have built-in electrical heating elements and are used for hobbies, electronics, model making and small household repairs. Larger irons are used for home and shop repairs, sheet-metal work and general soldering.

Low-voltage pencils operate from batteries in cars, trucks, boats and aircraft and are used for field servicing of wiring, electronic gear, etc., by servicemen and hobbyists.

Temperature-controlled units operate either from special power supplies or line voltage and are primarily used by servicemen or hobbyists. They have safeguards that protect electronic components against damage from excessive heat and voltage spikes during soldering, and enable the user to adjust tip temperatures over a broad temperature range.

Soldering coppers are irons that must be heated in a flame or by hot coals. Usually quite heavy and bulky, they are used mainly by sheet-metal shops and occasionally by plumbers.

What's the Difference
Soldering: Process similar to brazing but with lower temperature filler material. Temperature is generally below 800 degrees F (mostly between 400 degrees and 600 degrees F). A soldered joint is not as strong as a brazed joint.
Brazing: Joining two metal parts, not necessarily the same metal, using a different material to make the bond. An alloying action takes place between the base metals and the brazing filler metal. This provides a very strong joint, fully as strong as the brazing material itself. Nearly all brazing is done at temperatures above 1,000 degrees F (usually at about 1,400 degrees F).
Joining two pieces of similar metal by heating both parts to their melting point and making them flow together. A tricky, complicated task, generally requiring the use of a combustible gas with pure oxygen or an electric arc. In welding steel with an oxygen/gas torch, it is hard to make a strong weld without removing the carbon from the steel and making it more brittle.
In both soldering and brazing, the joint must be clean in order to secure a proper bond. Therefore, both parts should be cleaned with emery paper or steel wool or ground clean before making the joint. Flux is used in soldering or brazing to complete the cleaning process and seal out air. This prevents the base metals from oxidizing and makes a good bond.

Burner Tip Selection Guide
JobPrecision Burner TipPencil Point Burner TipBrush Flame Burner TipFlame SpreaderChisel Point Soldering Tip
Soldering small fittings/connections x   
Soldering jewelry/tiny wiresx    
Soldering electrical connections    x
Soldering flat surfaces    x
Soldering over large areas  x  
Soldering gutters x   
Starting threaded pipe joints x   
Thawing pipes xx  
Sealing soil pipes x   
Removing paint  xx 
Removing putty x   
Bending metal xx  
Metal sculpting x   
Laying asphalt  xx 
Thawing frozen locks x   
Loosening screws/nuts/bolts x   
Lighting charcoal xx  
Autobody leading x   
Removing brake linings  xx 
Separating exhaust pipes, autobody springs x   
Plywood sculpting    x
Glass working xx  
Antiqued wood  xx 


Abrasive stones are a good idea when purchasing a pocket or carving knife, axe, chisel, lawn mower, grass cutter, etc. Most tools need to be sharpened shortly after purchase because manufacturers generally provide only a medium edge (to prevent shipping damage).

Blades or tools that cut with a slicing action should be sharpened against the edge. Tools such as scissors or reel-type lawn mowers should be sharpened on the bevel, not on the side of the blade. Never attempt to sharpen a serrated edge-it requires special equipment.


Files are grouped by length, type and shape. Quality is determined by lasting performance and cutting ability.

Length is measured from the point (square end of file) to the shoulder (where the blade sets onto the tang). Length indicates coarseness, stroke distance and rate of stock removal.

File types are determined by shape-square, round, half-round, flat, etc.

Two other indicators of file shape are taper and blunt. As their names imply, taper files taper from shoulder to point while blunt files are the same width for the entire length.

File cut is determined by coarseness and character of teeth. Four basic cuts are single, double, rasp and curved-tooth.

Single cut denotes a single row of chisel-cut teeth. These files are used on saw teeth and metals where a good finish is required.

Double cut, used primarily on metals where rapid stock removal is necessary and a rough cut is permissible, has two rows of chisel cut teeth.

Rasp cut, used on soft metals and wood for rapid stock removal, has individually punched teeth that are entirely separate from each other.

Curved-tooth. cut features teeth that are milled in an arc. This cut is used on flat surfaces of soft metals for rapid stock removal and a fairly good finish.

File teeth are further divided into four groups-coarse, bastard, second and smooth. Coarse and bastard cuts are used on heavy work, while second and smooth cuts are used for finishing or more exacting work.


Chain saw files are made for both round-hooded and square hooded chain saw teeth. For the former, the file must be held level against the bevel of the cutting surface of the tooth at an angle of 25°-45° with the saw blade. File direction is off the cutting edge, pressing back and slightly up during the stroke.

When using a square chain saw file (lozenge shape), the file is placed under the hood so two adjacent sides of the file contact both saw-tooth edges at one time.

In both cases, depth gauges should be filed to maintain the required difference in height from the cutting teeth. A flat-side single-cut file is used for this.

Some chain saw files feature a molded-in filing angle indicator to make uniform sharpening easier.

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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