Monday, September 30, 2013

What Every Woman Needs (in her toolbox)

How to be your own Handy Ma'am

Nowadays, there are quite a number of women who have made the choice to live on their own, buy their own homes and navigate their way through the world without a man. Whether by choice or by happenstance, it turns out that women are a lot more handy than was previously thought. Do-It-Yourself programs are becoming more and more popular, both on television and in local Home Improvement stores. Whether it's building a step stool or refinishing that favorite piece of furniture, women are gathering tools and taking on the challenge.
Paige Hemmis, most famous for her work on the TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, has written a terrific book on the topic. It's called, “The Tough Chix Guide To Easy Home Improvement”. No doubt, Ms. Hemmis has found success in this arena as well. In her book, she manages to avoid the dull, dry tone of typical instruction manuals, and, instead, provide accessible and easy-to-follow instructions on every aspect of home repair, complete with illustrations and helpful "Tuff Tips." Among the many projects included are how to fix cracks of every kind, repair windows of all sizes, fix malfunctioning toilets and hang curtain rods. Easy enough, if you knowhow. Ms. Hemmis does a great job making the “how to” a bit less daunting.
{a little aside: when I first wrote this piece for HubPages back in 2011, this book was available via Amazon. It now looks as if they aren't carrying it. However, you can find it at; just click on that link. It'll bring you straight to it.}

Where to start?

But where to start? Building a proper tool box is the very first step to taking on any project, regardless of size or skill level. A wise man (my daddy) once said, “no job is hard, if you've got the right tools”. Indeed. So, for those who are just beginning on their own road to home improvement projects, here's a list of things that every woman needs in her toolbox.

The Essentials:
Please note: Always buy good tools. Don't go to the 99 Cents store and buy the cheapest tools you can find. Not only will they not do the job, they won't last either. You'll end up with a broken tool in your hands right smack in the middle of a job. And if that job should be, say, fixing the toilet, you're going to be none too happy about it. Spend the extra money on good tools. You'll be very glad you did. Sears carries a pretty good line of tools, called Craftsman Tools, and they come with a lifetime guarantee. There are lots of options out there, but the Craftsman brand is a great place to start.
So's a little list of tools you might like to begin gathering for your toolbox. Of course, these are merely suggestions. It all depends on who you are and what you plan to do. When I left home, at the ripe old age of 18, my Dad put a toolbox together for me so I'd have the basics. Over the years, I've gathered many more as each new project presented itself. At this point, I have a pretty sizable collection, including lots of power tools (I LOVE power tools!) and various other fancified gadgets. Again, it's all a matter of what you plan to do. Don't fuss over not being able to gather them all at once. Just get what you think will be most useful for the moment; you can gather as you go from there.
The List:
  • a hammer
  • a good set of screwdrivers (which should include both flat-head and Phillips head)
  • a wrench
  • a pair of pliers (make that 2: one needle nose, one 'regular')
  • a drill (and drill bits); it doesn't have to be cordless, but they're pretty cool if you want to spend the extra $$$
  • a skill saw
  • plumbing tape
  • duct (also spelled 'duck') tape (this tape can do more things than you can even imagine. If you want to see some of the zillions of things you can do with it, visit
  • electrical tape
  • a measuring tape
  • a flashlight (you have no idea how handy they are until you need to get to something under the sink. Life savers!)
And don't forget Paige's book! There is a wealth of handy information and all the info you'll need to get the job done.

No fear!

Once you're a bit more comfy with the idea of doing things on your own, you can add to your collection of tools, based on what you most enjoy. If you happen to be into building things, you'll want to have a table saw, a compound miter saw, a router and a skill saw. These are wonderful power tools to have, if you like working with wood. You don't have to commit to a whole room addition, but with these tools, you'll be able to make anything from a simple piece of furniture to a built-in bookshelf. Power tools give you lots of options, and you'll be the one who gets to decide what you'll tackle next.
Restoring furniture is another wonderful project to get you in your groove. All that's required is some sandpaper, some stain and sealant (I prefer oils; some folks like polyurethane but I'm not too crazy about putting plastic on wood. Just sayin'.), a little muscle and a dose of patience. Restoring a piece of furniture is a most satisfying project. And you can get all kinds of creative too. Instead of staining, you can paint or distress the piece. Distressing is tons oft fun. All you do is sand off the current finish (you can leave some on...sort of like a half-assed sanding) then take a hammer or heavy chain or a bunch of keys on a long string and whack the bejeebers out of the wood. Makes the piece look like it's a hundred years old. If you happen to like that sort of thing. No matter what your tastes, restoration is as useful as it is meditative. Honest!
Regardless of what you intend to fix or where you'd like to start, always remember that you can. Women are fully capable of doing their own repairs, and some of them are really good at it. There's certainly no shame in trying. And, if push comes to shove, and you find you've gotten in 'over your head', you can always call the local handyman (or handy maam!) to come finish the job. But don't let fear keep you from trying!

Safety first!

It would be negligent for me to forget this part. Whenever you're working with tools, especially power tools, it's a good idea to be present and focused. Let me say that again: be present and focused! A power saw can take off a finger in a hot second. So can a hand saw. But if you keep your eyes on what you're doing, it's unlikely you're going to have to go through any of that ickiness. I've been working with power tools for more than 2 decades and I've never had an accident. I am extremely respectful of the tools and I stay absolutely focused on the task at hand.
That being said, I have had my share of mishaps. Nothing major, but a few minor cuts and such. I've also had some untimely meetings with stray objects flying into my eyes. That is, before I began wearing safety goggles. So, it's a super terrific idea to get some (goggles) and USE THEM. It's worth it to spend the extra dollars on a good pair. If you don't think this is viable, ask yourself this: how much are my eyes worth to me?
Last, but not least, get yourself a First Aid Kit. Keep it with your tool box. You just never know when you might need a quick squirt of antiseptic or a band-aid for that nick on your finger. Better safe than sorry, yes?
Here's to your tool box...and all the wonderful things you can do all on your own!

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