Handywoman Basic Tools 3

We have covered the basic but most essential tools earlier. The list is not exhaustive and a whole lot depends on the type of job you plan to undertake. For most household repairs and the odd job in your car, you can make do with the tools we list here.

Utility Knives: Utility Knife comes in many shapes. Most use replaceable blades. When the tip of the blade loses its sharp edge, break it off with a pliers, observing standard precaution – Keep the knife away from the body and your face. The broken metal can fly off …

Electric Drill : Electric mains operated drills have more torque than their cordless cousins of similar sizes. But cordless drills are versatile and can be used anywhere without tethering to a mains outlet. Drills have amazing varieties of attachments – from buffing to sharpening your knives – you can use your ubiquitous drill.

Keep the batteries always charged when not in use to conserve the battery life. Most cordless drills are powered by Nickel cadmium batteries, which tend to lose their capacity when made to sit under discharged conditions.

Tapes: Keep a stock of electric insulation tape, duct tapes and measuring tapes handy in your tool kit. Remember to encase any temporary electrical connection joints in insulation tape. It is never pleasant to receive electric shocks …

Multimeter: This comes in handy to test for many electrical / electronic works – from testing continuity in circuits to measuring the current or measuring the voltage at the outlet. Again these meters come in many sizes with varying capabilities. A simple digital multimeter (DMM) capable of measuring upto 20 Amp AC/DC current will be adequate for most purposes. They can measure with adequate precision volts up to 900 or higher. They can beep or buzz when the prods are shorted or when there is continuity up to a few Ohms.

Digital Multimeters

There was a time people used analogue meter movements in the Volt Ohm Meter (VOM). These meters use D’Arsonval Meter Movements, which are very sensitive and need careful handling as they use jeweled bearings. And they cost a packet of money. With the advent of digital revolution, digital meters have become insanely cheap to own.

Ensure that you have set the meter to the right function before connecting the prod. When you select the function to read the current and apply the prods directly across the mains supply – you are causing a direct short in the mains supply !

Currents are always measured in series with the equipment and the supply. Voltages are measured across the source. Switch off the mains when you test for continuity.

Find a good toolbox to store your collection of tools. Smear thin grease on the movable joints of tools. But the handle sections must never be greasy or be smeared with oil.

Handywomen – Basic Hand tools 2

In this part we consider more tools which will be useful for any general purpose job around the house or in your garage. But primarily we will devote more attention on some of the basic precautions needed to work with or handle electrical circuits.


  1. Spanners or Wrenches– They come in all sizes and shapes. The most versatile and the most abused spanner is the Adjustable Wrench. As we have said many times, always exercise caution in using them. Apply force only in the direction of the fixed jaw and not in the direction of the movable jaw. A movable joint takes a lot of punishment and eventually the grip loosens. If the nut or bolt slips, you run the risk of injury as well. Alternatively, any undue force applied can wreck the bolt or its head. Another type to work with pipes and pipe fittings comes with serrated jaws is called as Pipe wrench. Look for prime quality drop forged wrenches for long life – both for self and for the tools.

Handywoman with tools

Fixed Wrenches are available in many forms too – Open ended, combination or socket types ( box spanners). Ideally box spanners enable the application of maximum force with minimum damage. Buy a set of spanners – with various sizes.

2 . Line Tester – A small screwdriver which has a built in neon bulb that lights up when the tip comes in contact with a live wire. You must touch the back end of the tester while testing for live wire. That provides the return path to the neon bulb’s electric circuit. This tester is the basic tool to identify the live wire when you are working with mains supply.

Working with mains electricity:

When working with mains supply it is essential to be highly cautious. A normal household supply in the US is 110 Volts while in Europe it is 220 Volts. The higher the voltage the higher is the possibility of passing higher currents. “It is the mills that kills and volts that jolts” goes an old saying about electricity. The mills here represent the milli amperes. Ampere is the unit of current. As low as 8 milliampere can result in fatality when it passes through our body.


In a dry environment, most individuals exhibit skin resistance of around 100 K Ohms. Ohms is the unit of resistance. However, when the skin is in contact with moisture or liquid, the resistance drops to less than a few K Ohms, which will allow dangerous currents to pass through bodies. This is one of the main reasons why restrooms and bathrooms are veritable death traps when you come in contact with the mains supply.


Always turn off the power supply before you undertake any repair. When you are rigging up power to outside the house, use a suitably rated 1:1 isolation transformer for better safety. Normally a household mains supply is configured with a live (Red wire) and a neutral (black wire) between which there exists a 110 Volts potential difference. The neutral connection is referenced to the ground and hence anyone touching a live wire standing on the ground poses the fatal return path to the mains supply. Adding an isolation transformer makes the electrical supply floating without any reference to the ground. Next time when you rig up the outdoor Christmas lightings, add an adequately rated isolation transformer.


Most households these days invest in residual current circuit breaker or residual current device or Ground fault Circuit Interrupter or Earth leakage circuit breaker – which all refer to the device which trips the power supply when there is a residual leakage current from a faulty appliance. These devices trip the power supply within a few milliseconds. Still it is prudent not to depend on them always when you draw power to exposed regions outside the house.

Disclaimer: This series of articles contains general information on home maintenance of household machinery. This is not an exhaustive list of service procedures. A lay user can only attend to general maintenance with limited skills and tools. All electrical and electronic machines operate at lethal voltages and can CAUSE serious damage or even electrocution or shock hazard to self and home. It is positively dangerous to even attempt to repair any electrical machine without the required skills or knowledge. Always refer servicing to qualified technicians or the dealer. For detailed troubleshooting, refer to owner’s manual and service manual if available. The information contained herein is only for general reference and does not carry any warranty implied or otherwise. You use the information provided here at your own risk.

Handywoman – Basic Hand tools

We have covered hundreds of articles on Home Improvement and home appliance care in our women portal – Targetwoman. It dawned on us last week – when our front office lock jammed and held us captive inside for a few hours until an enterprising colleague decided to take matters into her hand and released the lock by unscrewing the lock’s outer bezel … that women can be very handy too as much as their male counterparts – only if they had the right knowledge and tools.

With that enlightenment, a consensus was arrived to the immediate effect that some kind of detailed information and steps to become a “handywoman” must be included in our repertoire.

Our Admin who has over 10 years of experience as an electronics bench service engineer in his earlier avatar was roped in to write about this series on – Handywoman.

Handywoman - basic handtools

We will cover some easy hands-on projects in this section as well to illustrate that anyone can attempt and complete successfully easy household tasks and home maintenance with the right information and right tools. It is not rocket science and all you need is a bit of patience to learn a few basic skills.

With that as the prelude to this section, we start with the basic hand tools.

Tools last a lifetime if you buy the right quality tools. Generally speaking hand tools are made of forged steel and should last for generations. Do not buy cheap quality tools. They can cause potential injury and invariably useless. Buy only the best quality tools and working with them can be a pleasure. And most importantly use a tool for what it was intended. Never try to substitute a tool for another most appropriate tool.

Any toolkit worthy of its name should at least include all of the following:

1. Screw Drivers – A set of straight bladed – slotted (old fashioned but still in use ) and cross slotted (Philips and Pozidriv). The most versatile for home use is the screw driver set with detachable head and various bits. Still you may need a long bladed straight blade screwdriver to reach inside some cabinets. Screw drivers come in all sizes – from small miniature jewel- makers screw driver set to standard sizes. Use the right size bit for the size of the head of the screw. A wrong bit can chip away the head and you will be stuck with it.

If the screw refuses to budge, leave a drop of penetrating oil to slacken it.

Some battery operated (electric) screwdriver sets are available which makes life easy when you need to fix many screws in a short time. For occasional use, you will be better off with a manual set of screwdrivers. Battery operated power tools, as we will see later in this series, pose some limitations. You need to keep the batteries in a charged state at all times. Nickel cadmium batteries or the heavier lead-acid storage batteries do not take kindly to long periods of discharged conditions.

2. Pliers – Cutting pliers or combination pliers and a long nosed pliers. Get the pliers with thick plastic wrapped handles for working on electric circuits. Comes easy on your hands too.

3. Hammer – A claw hammer is preferable over a ball-peen hammer. The latter which has a hemispherical head is more useful for tapping punches and rivets. A claw hammer comes in handy to pull nails. Check your hammers before you use them as any loose head or damaged handle can result in catastrophic injury to anyone nearby. Wear thick padded gloves and safety goggles when you use a heavy hammer to avoid injury.

We will add more tools to our kit as we go along ….

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