We’ve all know how important it is to use the right tool for the job. But what if you didn’t know there was a tool for the job you’ve got lined up? Here are five lesser-known handyman tools I use virtually every day, that make excellent additions to any toolkit.
1. Fold-up work platform
This is a great piece of kit. It works as a platform for accessing hard-to-reach areas, as a portable work bench, and even as somewhere just to sit and eat your lunch.
Mine was bought for me several years ago by my in-laws. It tucks in to any corner, stows away behind the passenger seat of my vehicle, and despite giving it a real battering, it’s as good as it was the day I got it. Except for the paint stains…
Lightweight, compact, and very portable, these platforms are always useful. With an operating height of 50cm, I use mine every day for painting ceilings, fitting curtain poles, re-felting sheds, and plenty more besides. I really can’t work out how I survived without it!
Like any piece of equipment, they come in a range of sizes and with a variety of price tags. Look for sturdy aluminium construction, a non-slip surface, and robust catches to lock the legs in place once folded out. Take a look at the different sizes and price points, but I would recommend the Youngman Odd Job Work Platform (31089818).
2. Laser level
What is a laser level? They might sound futuristic, but laser levels can make very quick, light work of almost any task involving straight lines. They work by projecting one or more laser lines, often in a cross formation, onto a surface, usually a wall or a ceiling. The photo below shows the level – the little black and yellow box on the right of the picture – attached to a kitchen shelf, projecting lines onto a wall to help with hanging a kitchen wall unit.
The laser shown here has two modes: fixed, and self levelling. In fixed mode, the lines from the laser will land wherever you point them. This is useful when fitting staircase handrails, or painting diagonal lines
Self-levelling mode, however, is where the real genius lies. On this setting, the laser will automatically level itself, so that even if the housing is at a slight angle (up to 4°) the lines projected onto your chosen surface will be absolutely horizontal and vertical respectively.
The two photos above show a laser level being used to install a bathroom towel rail. Note how the horizontal line provides the level for the mounting brackets, while the vertical line provides a centre (based on the radiator underneath) from which to measure the distance between the brackets.
The laser has quite a wide throw, meaning that the lines will extend quite a long way in all directions; up, down, left, and right. This means no more holding a spirit level against the wall to try and get your pictures in a row, and no more scuffing a freshly painted wall or getting grubby finger marks on it while you try and tape a straight line.
As with most tools, they vary in price, from the affordable, to the astronomical! The one I own cost me around £40 from Amazon, but has more than paid for itself in terms of time saved and hassle avoided. Have a look and see which one would best suit your needs and budget but, as a starting point, I think the new generation Stanley Cubix Red Beam Cross Line Laser Level is hard to beat.
Scrapers are definitely a little less hi-tech than laser levels, but they are no less useful.
There are many different types and brands of scrapers on the market. I have tried several, and this is by far my favourite. It’s versatile, tough, convenient, effective, and reasonably priced.
As you can probably tell from the photo above, the Stanley 28-500 is retractable. This means you can stay safe by sliding the blade away with a flick of your thumb when not in use.
Blades can be replaced quickly and easily. Simply push the retracting mechanism forwards as if you were going to use the scraper, slide the blade out to the side (I would recommend using a pair of pliers for this to protect your fingers), and slide in a new one.
Although this tool is designed with one thing in mind, it’s surprisingly versatile. I use it for, among other things:
- Removing adhesive from glass, ceramic and other surfaces
- Stripping off old silicone around loos and bathrooms
- Slicing a line through dried paint when taking skirting or architrave off a wall
- Taking the heads off plastic wall plugs that refuse to sit flush
There’s not a great deal more to say about scrapers, other than I would thoroughly recommend them to professional and amateur alike. At under £5 for a scraper with five replacement blades, you can probably afford to give one a go.
Mine is the Stanley 28-500 retractable scraper.
The MarxMan is a small, pen-like device that makes marking the location of holes an absolute breeze.
When fixing something to the wall, for example, such as a shelf or wall unit, one might normally reach for a nail, a pencil, a bradawl, or some other means physically marking the holes to be drilled for fixings. MarxMan, however, does the job for you.
Locating the ‘nose’ of the tool at the designated spot and compressing the body towards it releases a concentrated burst of bright green chalk. The chalk sticks to the wall or other surface in a small round dot. Crucially, the MarxMan will propel this chalk through holes, allowing you to make marks through batten or other fixtures. (The standard MarxMan is recommended for fixings up to 45mm thick; for fixings up to 100mm thick, the MarxMan Deep is recommended).
5. Silicone profiling kit
There are few jobs that strike more fear into the heart of a DIYer than sealing a shower tray, sink, or bathtub. The first step is usually removing all the existing sealant, which seems to be welded to the surface in question (see the entry above on scrapers for help with that). After that, you need to choose the appropriate silicone to apply (e.g. low modulus vs high modulus), and then you must apply it; preferably without smearing it all over yourself, the rest of the bathroom, or the dog.
If you’ve managed all of that, chances are that the bead of silicone left behind is far from neat and tidy. Although small in appearance, sealant can make a big difference to the look of a bathroom, not to mention the problems that arise when a durable seal isn’t formed. There is a method for smoothing beads of silicone that involves rubber-gloved fingers and soapy water. Although this can produce a visually pleasing bead, the presence of water and detergent can adversely affect the silicone’s ability to dry and adhere properly, which usually result in leaks and necessitates re-sealing much sooner than anticipated.
Profiling tools can help with this. They are usually small pieces of rubber or plastic, sometime affixed to a handle, that allow the silicone bead to be formed into particular shapes or ‘profiles’. It’s unlikely that a single profile will be suitable for all applications, so it’s helpful to have something at your disposal.
This is where Fugi Profiling Kits from Cramer come into their own. Different kits are available, but each comprises a series of silicone rubber cards with different profiles at each corner.
After applying an even bead of silicone, the selected profile is pulled along the joint, maintaining firm even pressure against the adjoining surfaces. There’s a bit of a knack to it but, when done properly, this removes excess silicone and leaves a smooth even profile. And hopefully no mess…
I went for the Fugi 5 Kit on Amazon (between £15 and £20) but there are a variety of options, so make sure you get the one that’s right for you.
There you have it…
That’s it – my Top 5 Handyman Tools for your home. I hope you found it useful, and please do get in touch with any comments and corrections. If you want to enquire with Lingard Jones about work you’d like done on your house, just drop me a line.