Work Shop Tools
and when they are used

Rev. 2003-02-27, -12-07, -12-23; 2006-01-17, 2008-05-12, -05-31 2009-08-30, 2010-11-01, -11-03

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Glossary Center
Basic names and uses of tools

This page has absolutely wonderful animations of tools used for shaping sheet metal.  If you have any interest, go look.

This page discusses choices in shop tools by name, with cross references, to assist in buying, using and learning to use them. A home tools suggested kit follows.

Depending on how you value your clothes, a work apron in leather will save them from tiny burned holes from sparks and spatter. And don't wear nylon clothing, as I was reminded tonight (2001-03-08) when a brazing torch held at arm's length melted the surface of my old work jacket.
Allen (drive)
A six sided hole in a bolt or screw using an Allen wrench which is a usually a simple L-shaped piece of hex rod but can be a bit or a set of wrenches..
Bench mount
A tool or piece of equipment which is intended for use while placed on a workbench, temporarily or permanently.  Smaller than free standing floor mount and larger than hand held.  Common bench mount tools include vises, small drill presses, small lathes, grinders.  Although usually bolted to a bench or other work surface, usually light enough to be moved by one person.  May be mounted on a simple post base that is fastened down. 2006-01-17
Small pieces of metal held in a chuck for the purpose of drilling holes (drill bits), cutting slots or shapes (router or milling bits) or driving fasteners (screwdriver bits)  Drill bits are long and slender with sharp edges on one end used in portable drills or drill presses. Router bits are short and thick, with a reduced size stem to fit in the collet style chuck and sharp edges on the sides and/or bottom. Screwdriver bits are short slender rods usually with a hex shape at one end for fitting in a similarly shaped holder/handle or a chuck and a large variety of shapes at the other for fitting hex, Phillips, slotted, Allen, Torx, and many other shaped driving slots.
A tool for bending sheet metal on straight lines. Its primary feature is a thin strong wedge edge that allows bending a crisp line, unlike the rounded corner that simple hand bending.  About $400 for a 48" unit.  Units normally have slots in the edge or it is made up adjustable pieces so that when one bend has been made a second can be made at right angles by sliding the first in the groove, thus allowing a tight corner.  Without a brake, bending can be done by clamping the sheet metal between wood or metal angles and after forcing the bend, hammering it to square - much cheaper for one-off operation, much more time consuming and ugly if needed often.  Most heating and air conditioning shops will have a large brake and will bend a sheet or an edge if precisely told what is wanted. 2006-01-18
A broom is a long handle with fairly bristles at the end, which may be mounted straight from the handles or on a wooden crossbar in which case it is commonly called a push broom.  Ordinary brooms sweep a narrow space and get into corners fairly well.  Push brooms cover a much wider space but are harder to maneuver.  Although soft ordinary brooms are available, usually they have stiff bristles and will stand on end.  Push brooms come in soft, medium, hard, and very hard bristles and materials ranging from nylon of hair-like sizes to stainless steel wires. Stiffer bristles will remove coarse material but leave fine dust behind while soft bristles pick up the fine stuff but may be damaged by hard stuff and clogged with goopy stuff.
Brushes are handles with bristles on the side or at the end.  Bristles may be hog hair (bristle), nylon, brass, or stainless steel. Wire bristles are used on brushes for hard cleaning or scrubbing jobs almost always on the side of the handle.  Softer bristles on the side are used for cleaning and on the end for cleaning, painting and applying oil, etc., in specific places.  At least one heavy brush - I prefer stainless steel - with a strong handle, are useful for cleaning the surface and brushing off slag. For larger surfaces, a wire brush wheel on a drill or a grinder setup is useful and faster.
A tool for cutting at one end by hitting or pushing on the other end.  Wood chisels are very sharp thin edged tools that can be maneuvered by hand or hit with a mallet.  Cold chisels have a blunter, much more hardened edge and are used on stone, concrete, and steel - they are always struck.  Star chisels are cold chisels with several edges in a star pattern for drilling holes.  2003-12-07
A cylinder shaped device with two, three or four moveable jaws inside so that when one part of the cylinder is turned and the other held still, the jaws close to hold a bit. Used on drills. A typical chuck will hold from 1/16" to 3/8" Collet
Bar or Pipe
Quick Grip
Clamps are used to temporarily hold things together, especially to hold with more pressure or for a longer time than hand held will work, to provide additional hand grips, and to maintain alignment.  Spring clamps are clothes pins or larger metal clips for material that is not too thick.   C-clamps are shaped like the letter C with a screw thread closing the opening which are used for clamping wood or metal firmly with capacity from 1" to 6" in common use and larger available; most will reach in nearly to the jaw capacity.  Bar and Pipe clamps mount a screw tightener on one end of a dedicated bar or a piece of pipe with a sliding piece that moves along to hold wide material with little reach - assembling panels or fastening sides to boxes; nice because of potentially unlimited reach.  Quick grip open and close quickly with a reach like C-clamps but much less force except for Vice-Grip versions - often made in plastic to hold wood for gluing without marring the surface.  2010-11-03
A special kind of chuck that holds the bit more completely around for greater precision, but with a more limited range, for example 1/8" +/- 1/64" or 1/4" +/-1/32" Most often used when bits are prepared in specific shaft sizes and precision of holding is needed. Router bits commonly come in 1/4" or 3/8" and a router may be supplied with several matching collets or only one. Dremel-type high speed tools use small collets.  Collets are also used on machine tool bits for precision.
A device for taking a gas, most often air, and pumping it to take less space at a higher pressure.  Typical shop compressors have a tank holding several gallons of air at 125-150 psi.  Pneumatic tools use air instead of electricity to spin gears or hammer. Each tool is rated for volume and pressure of air needed. Too small a compressor will lose pressure and delay further use of the tool.  Compressed air is also used for blowing for clean up and spraying paint and for applying pressure as for a grease gun. 2005-01-18
Drill, Portable or Hand
A motor mounted with a handle, trigger switch, and chuck for holding bits and intended for use in hand. Most today come with a variable speed control and some have a release clutch and hammer action choices. The motor is usually geared down to move the chuck in the 600-2000 rpm range. Common drills have a 3/8" chuck with much heavier ones available for commercial use.
Drill Press
A drill press is a motor and chuck mounted so pulling a lever lowers the drill bit in a straight line against a metal platform. The motor is usually connected to the spindle with V-belts and pulleys to change speed.
Having owned a variety of drill presses and finally bought a 15" floor unit, I strongly recommend the latter, which will cost about $300. The large floor mount is better in the following ways: The table tilts side to side, allowing angle drilling but also allowing bracing long items for end drilling; The base is a long distance down, allowing end drilling; the movement of the chuck is much longer, allowing drilling holes the length of the bit.
The smallest units actually mount a hand drill and are useful for applying leverage when drilling tough narrow materials, but aren't very precise. There are two common sizes of bench units. The smaller one, which I bought first, was rather limited to about 1 inch of chuck movement and only about 4 inches between the end of bit and the table and 6" when the table was swung aside. The 12" unit I looked at buying had a tilting table, but still had a relatively short distance bit to base.
A long narrow piece of steel which has grooves or teeth cut in it before it is hardened, with the result that it can be used to remove metal or wood by pushing the file across the work piece. Files come in many shapes, round, half-round, flat, triangular, square and rectangular, and with many different groove patterns including single and double cut which provide different degrees of cutting action and of smoothness. Rasp
Fire Extinguisher
whether you work outside, as I do, or have a nice shop, a readily available hose or commercial fire extinguisher should be at hand. It is almost impossible to weld for very long without putting heat or sparks in the wrong place or dropping hot metal where it shouldn't be. If welding inside, a thorough cleaning of the area should be a first and last requirement of working because paper, sawdust, and oil are all subject to flare-ups. Obviously, if using arc welding, don't use water for fires, have sand and/or a CO2 or dry powder extinguisher (rated like 3A 40BC where C is for electrical, B for oil/gasoline, A for wood/paper)
Floor mount
Equipment intended to sit on or be fastened to the floor with the working surface at roughly waist height. Usually too heavy for one person to move alone so if not sold with an integral base, stand is sold separately.  Very heavy equipment is not only floor mounted, but is given a separate foundation in the shop to avoid passing vibrations to the building or distorting it.  Bench Mount 2006-01-17
Gloves, Heavy, Canvas, Rubber, Latex
Heavy padded leather gloves that come well up the arm are vital to welding and very useful for glass working. When subjected to too much heat, the leather becomes stiff. The gloves only cost $8-10 at welding shops. One mistake in gripping near a recently welded joint will more than pay for a pair, in pain and medical costs.
A hammer is a tool used to bang on things with a weighty head and a light handle extending at right angles to the head. It is used by holding the handle and swinging the weighted end and letting the momentum of the head do the work that a stone held in the hand could not. Hammers range in weight from a few ounces in a jewelers hammer to many pounds in a full sized sledge. A common size for daily use is 16 ounces. A hammer may have two striking faces, which may be similar or different, or it may have one striking face with the other replaced with some other useful addition, such as the claw hammer which has two curved blades with a V-shaped groove that will catch on nails so they can be pulled out using the lever action of the handle. Other relatively common hammers include tack, bodywork, framing, and sledge. Especially with arc welding, a slag hammer with a point side and a chisel side is used to test the joint and knock off any slag. A ball peen hammer has one face flat and the other forming a half-dome shape. Used for forming metal, including peening (mashing over) the ends of rivets and pins. Mallet Images
Hand held
A tool or piece of powered equipment smaller than bench mount which is commonly used by holding it with the hands to guide it across the work.  Usually not added to the definition of tools that are unpowered, like hammers and screwdrivers.  Hand held items include portable drills, circular saws, routers. Portable
Tools using liquid pressure for activation, most often for jacking or pressure in the shop.  The nature of fluids is that if pressure is applied to a small area, the same pressure per unit area will be applied to a large area - so 10 pounds applied to 1 square inch by means of a lever and piston, will cause a 10 square inch piston to lift 100 pounds, the tradeoff being it will move 1/10th the distance.  Small bottle jacks with a pump action input on a 1/2" diameter piston will lift 8-12 tons and cost under $50.  Wheeled jacks with longer arms will lift 4,000 pounds and are used under automobiles. 2003-02-27 Cylinders may be long, such as those seen on earth moving equipment and car lifts, and even very long such those under some elevators which may be several stories in length The force is supplied by pumps in these cases.  2009-08-30   Pressure & Flow
A device for lifting taking advantage of leverage and hydraulic action to allow a few tens of pounds to lift a few hundred to a few thousand pounds.  Types include screw jacks where a revolving screw raises a platform, ratchet jacks where a long lever movement raises the object only a half inch or so, but a ratchet keeps it from falling, and hydraulic where pumping fluid with a small piston raises a lot of weight with a large piston.  All three types have been provided on cars for changing tires. 2003-02-27
A tool, usually free standing, for turning a piece while tools are held against it. Typically several feet long and about a foot wide.  Different lathes are used for wood or metal or glass pieces.  A lathe commonly has a headstock that grips the piece and has gears and a motor drive for turning the piece and a tailstock that guides the other end of long pieces.  Most lathes allow working a piece held only at the headstock, as for making bowl shaped pieces.  The tailstock is normally mounted on rails (the bed) so it can be moved accurately to different distances while remaining centered on the headstock.  A wood lathe will have a tool rest to help guide the handheld tools along the piece while a metal lathe will have a solid tool holder with screw adjustments to withstand the increased force.  Glass lathes are used to join medium and large diameter tubing for scientific glass work, keeping two tubes aligned as heat is applied all around the joint. rev.2003-02-27
A hammer with a non-metal head used for striking other tools such as chisels and for shaping metal and wood.  Mallet heads may be wood, rubber, leather, brass, lead, or plastic.  Chisel pounding mallets are often cone or wedge shaped.  2003-12-07, 2006-01-17
A tool for carving metal using end bits, the metal being gripped on a table driven sideways by motors while the head holding the bit is moved up and down. 2006-01-18
Phillips (drive)
Drive bit used on fasteners with a + shaped hole that nicely fits #00, #0, #1, #2 (most common) or #3 bits.  Supposed to hold on bit, unlike slotted, often does not.  Several variations exist for better grip. (see Square, Robertson and Torx) 2003-12-07
Slip Pivot
Slip Joint
Vice Grip
A tool for gripping with two short jaws on one side of a pivot and two longer handles for leverage on the other.  Almost infinite variations, with springs and locks added.  The most common pliers include slip pivot, which give two different openings for each angle of the handles, and slip joint (Channel Lock) which give five or six positions, in each case to get the most strength out of the hand by placing the handles at the right distance while the jaws are close to parallel.  Needle nose pliers taper down to a point for gripping small objects or getting in small spaces. Vise Grip have locking features 2003-03-27 Tongs are pliers for handling hot forge work.
Pop rivets
Rivets designed to be installed from one side of sheet metal using a thin nail-like rod running through the hollow rivet which snaps off at a thinner neck near the enlarged head that does the bulging of the rivet. Much easier to use than hammered rivets. Can be used to attach sheet metal or brackets to hollow tubing or to do sheet metal corners. A special plier tool is used to pull the rivets into shape. Some special rivets are available that are fluid tight or are threaded for bolts. Five standard sizes from 3/32", but three middle sizes: 1/8", 3/16", and 1/4" are much more commonly found. Materials are aluminum and steel, although stainless steel is available. Most hardware stores have common sized rivets and light and medium weight popping tools. Heavy duty and pneumatic tools are available.
Shop tools are often heavy requiring a floor or bench mount for use.  If a tool can be taken some place by a person with reasonable ease and used there it is considered portable.  All hand tools are portable, but equipment like shapers, miter saws, contractors table saws, etc., will normally say portable if they are intended for ease of movement - usually also being smaller in table size and capacity and with power limited to plugging in the wall.
Tools run by air pressure. Advantages are safety in wet conditions and the much lower cost of certain tools that are costly in electric high speed versions including die grinders and air chisels. Disadvantages are the heavy hose which can be alleviated with a short length of lighter softer hose and requires an air compressor, often a larger one than home shops are likely to invest in.  2003-02-27 Pressure & Flow
A form of file with sharp individually raised teeth, used to remove wood rapidly.
Small rods of metal with a bulging head on one end. Installed through a drilled hole and hammered over, normally using a shaped backer block and pounding tool. Rarely used in ordinary shop work because of the difficulty of applying the two tools and holding the work. Pop rivets are much more widely used by small shops.  Large rivets used in construction are heated first and set with pneumatic tools.
Robertson (drive)
The Canadian version of square drive, not licensed in the U.S. because of inventor's pique.  Holds fastener on bit. 2003-12-07
A tool with a large motor and a collet chuck for holding router bits, with a flat bottom for accurately guiding the tool over wood to make grooves or carve shapes along the edges. The similar product for metal is a mill which is a heavy duty chunk of hardware to apply the forces needed to cut metal accurately, usually with a gear driven moving table.
Saws, Hand
Wood Saw
Hand saws have a sharp toothed edge on one side and a handle on at least one end. They come in many shapes with wider, thicker, self supporting blades or narrow blades tensioned at both ends. Some cut on the push stroke and are thicker than those that cut on the pull stroke.  Metal cutting saws - hack, coping and jewelers - cut on the pull stroke, have much finer teeth and can be used on wood when a fine kerf is needed and slow cutting is not a problem.  Wood, plaster, and plastic saws have much larger teeth and come in a variety of shapes and with teeth with different "sets" (the amount the teeth are bent to the side to make a wider kerf for turning or to avoid jamming.)  I prefer thin Japanese style pull saws with little set, but I find a western handle more comfortable than the straight Japanese style.  A rip saw is used to cut along the grain and has a wider set so the blade does not get trapped by the usual expansion of the freshly cut wood while a crosscut is used across the grain.  Keyhole saws are long narrow blades intended for cutting out from a hole punched or drilled in material.  Bow or frame saws hold the blade at the end of arms so the blade is under tension and there is clear space around the blade for turning or cutting thick material.
Saws, Power
Band Saw
Circular Saw
Jig Saw
Reciprocating Saw
Saws are edge cutting tools using hardened teeth on the edges of flat metal or a disk or a thin band.  The size and material of the teeth will depend on the material to be cut and its thickness - thin material requires smaller teeth, soft material requires larger to remove the chips.  Hand saws include hack saws for metal and coping, cross cut, rip and mitering saws for wood.  Power saws include circular (round blade) for wood, glass, tile, and masonry, band (long thin loop) for wood and metal; jig saws and reciprocating saws.   A circular saw may be hand held, mounted in a moveable head (chop saw) or mounted beneath a flat surface in a way that lets the blade be adjust up or down or angled (table saw).   A band saw may be fixed upright, usually with a tiltable table or may be pivoted to permit the blade to move through the material gripped in a vise.  A portable jig saw uses a short thin blade moving up and down at right angles to the body of the saw to cut curves in metal or wood.  A fixed jig saw uses a very thin blade held at both ends between arms that move together and is used for tight curves like a jigsaw puzzle in thin wood or metal.  A reciprocating saw uses a larger to much larger blade moving in and out from the end of the tool for heavier cutting and cutting through walls, pipes, etc. 2006-01-18
See Shears
Tool with a shaped rod mounted in a handle.  The end of the rod matches a slot or hole in a fastener.  The most common and oldest is the slotted fastener where the tool end is flattened and squared off at the end.  Other shapes have been developed, most often to increase production or to reduce damage when the tool tears out of the slot or hole as force is applied.  Phillips, Torx, square, Allen are other drives.  The rod may be driven by a motor, in which case it is usually a tube with a 1/4" width hex interior to take driver bits.2003-12-07
A large tool for making straight cuts in flat sheet metal.  A clamping action holds the metal precisely against an edge while a blade comes down along the edge like a huge scissor blade.  Allows cutting large sheet for boxes and thin metal strips.  Alternative is hand shears or a power air chisel which will leave a more uneven edge.  Corner shears or notchers allow taking out an exact corner cut for bending a box. 2006-01-18
Shears, Tin snips, Aircraft snips, scissors.
Shears (or scissors) are a plier action tool with cutting edges instead of gripping.  Scissors are lighter, have longer blades and are normally used for paper, hair, etc.  Shears are heavier and most people see handheld versions although there are heavy mounted shears used in metal shops as well as the long edge power shear tool. Longer handled shears are needed for heavy material. Special versions with twisted cutting edges are sold as right hand, left hand and straight aircraft shears with the goal of not bending the sheet metal as may be required for clearance with more ordinary straight blade tin snips. Technically, a shear must have passing blades, but pliers like diagonal cutters and bolt cutters bring the blades so the edges meet.  2009-08-30
Socket Drive or Tool
A hollow tool or fitting that goes over a nut or hex head bolt and matches the shape of the nut/head inside.  May be a separate (often cheap accessory) tool or be designed to fit on a square drive handle.  Because each socket must match the nut size, in most cases sold in sets often with one or more handles. Handles may have ratchets, be solid bars, or have hinges for special uses.  2009-08-30
Square Bit or Drive
Fasteners with a square hole that fits a matching bit size. Square is about 1/8" on side.  Allows fastener to be placed on bit with some assurance it won't fall off while being positioned. 2003-12-07  May also refer to tools with matching sockets where the drive size may be 1/4", 3/8", or 1/2"  2009-08-30
Stand alone or floor mount
A tool which has its own base or is otherwise large enough that it is placed on the floor apart from other equipment and benches.  Also free-standing.  Tools set up this way include table saws, drill presses, grinders on stands, mills, power hammers, band saws.  Alternatives include table-top, portable and hand tools
Tin Snips
See shears
Plier form tool for gripping metal while hot, usually in a forging situation.
Torx (Drive)
Fastener with a star pointed hole so the bit will hold the fastener during installation.  Most often seen on cars and refrigerator hinges. 2003-12-07
A heavy duty holding device that is solidly mounted to keep work from shifting while being worked on.  Permanent vises are usually mounted on a work bench, but vises are also mounted temporarily on drill press and machining tables.  A vise may be made of wood or metal and has a screw thread with a handle for clamping the material to be held. 2008-05-12
Vise Grip pliers
Three sample Vise Grip pliersVise Grip (brand) pliers include adjustable size, a locking feature and a release handle.  Because of their strong grip and hands-off locking, a number of variations have been created.  The original form is shown at the bottom - a bolt at the end of one handle adjusts the opening, the extra lever on the other handle is the release. Variations on this shape include straight jaws and long narrow jaws with and without wire cutters.  Also shown are clamps which come in several sizes and lengths with welding tips (shown here) and swivel pads, and sheet metal bending pliers which grip with a bevel edge to allow sharp bending. The same mechanism mounted on a stud is a hold down for a drill press 2003-02-27, 2008-05-12 See also Pliers
Work Table
Work is safer and less of a strain on the body if it can be located in a good working position which may mean raising it to about waist level.  Cutting and other activities are safer and waste less time and energy if the item being worked on can be held steady in a convenient location.  A workbench provides a large flat surface on which to lay things and usually has one or more vises and may have other stops or holding methods.  Most people think of a work bench as being higher - roughly elbow level - but good purpose is served by a table at knee level so the project top is at waist level and bending over it is easy. A flat surface also allows assembling projects with square corners.  Work benches for wood workers often have vises flush with the top with pull up pegs that will clamp long boards against stops that go into holes in the top, providing clear access for sanding and planing   No one doing serious welding, especially arc welding, would fail to have a metal work surface on which to clamp larger projects and weld them.  2008-05-12
Open End
A wrench is a tool for gripping and turning metal objects which mostly have flat surfaces to provide grip. A pipe wrench grips iron/steel threaded pipe to turn it into fittings by having teeth and a structure that bites into the metal when pressure is applied.  Other wrenches have flat surfaces to slide over or into the flat surface




Basic Tool Kit (Judy Stark, St. Petersburg Times, complied from other sources and printed in Dallas newspaper)
Screwdriver, Tape measure, Pipe wrench, Clamps, Cordless drill driver, 5-in-1 painters tool, Duct tape, Adjustable Wrench, 24 inch level, Tack hammer, Ruler, Razor Blade scraper, Plunger, Flat pry bar, Sandpaper, Work gloves, Four-in-hand file/rasp, Wood glue, Rasp plane, Slip-Joint pliers, Locking pliers, Junior hacksaw, Allen wrenches, Handsaw, Safety goggles, Staple gun, Needle nose  pliers, Razor knife, Plastic putty knife,

Hammer, tack I like several sizes  
Cordless drill driver Convenient, cheap ones go through battery quickly  
Screwdrivers I prefer handles with a variety of bits for general use - specialized are thinner  
Staple gun    
Screw assortment    
Nails & Tacks    
5-in-1 painters tool She says does "a host of scraping, lifting, scoring, spreading, patching and paint removal functions"
Four-in-hand file/rasp Flat and curved rasp and file in one round ended tool, need gloves to use.  
Plastic putty knife    
Rasp plane This has thin replaceable plate, I don't like limited cutting.  
Razor blade scraper Puts a handle on a razor blade.  
Razor knife "Box cutter" with retractable blade  
Sandpaper Includes black emery cloth that is finer and smoothes glass edges  
Clamps C-Clamps and Bar clamps are most useful, spring clamps also  
Duct tape And other tapes - duct good for limited uses.  
Wood glue I like yellow-stronger somewhat water resistant  
Level, 24 inch useful in house for lining up things and as straight edge.  
Ruler straight edge and measure  
Tape measure I like a small one to 6'/2m and a long heavy one  
Safety goggles I use my plastic lensed eye glasses  
Work gloves Latex to protect skin, leather palm for tough work, cotton occasionally  
Flat pry bar Much more useful than traditional crow bar, thinner  
Pliers, locking acts like mini-vise or 3rd hand  
Pliers, needle nose get into small places  
Pliers, slip-joint "Channel Lock" big grip  
Plunger For the bathroom drains  
Saw, hacksaw She calls for mini-, I like standard  
Saw, handsaw I like the Japanese style pull saws with the bent American handle - very sharp, thin fast cuts.  
Wrench, adjustable C shaped end  
Wrench, pipe Also takes caps off cans and bottles, bigger is better.  
Wrenches, Allen  Hex shaped rods  

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