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Power Up | Winter 2006 Out Here Magazine

Choose the tool that'll get the job done

By Noble Sprayberry

Name a job and there's likely a tool just for the task. Indeed, innovative, fresh designs seem to roll out every year.

Taking advantage, whether a handyman at home or small ranch owner keeping things running, means choosing the specialty tools used often enough to justify the expense, says Tim Carter, a syndicated columnist and owner of

Carter suggests five can't-miss options, and he expects a few of the choices to surprise.

Carter's first choice for a specialty tool — the circular saw — once claimed the place as a jack-of-all-trades. People even attempted to use this tool for delicate miter cuts.

Now with a range of specialty saws designed to make unique cuts, the circular saw carves out its own unique niche. A saw with a 5½-inch cutting blade can handle 98 percent of all common cuts.

Next, look for a drill and choose one that can double as a hammer drill. While handling all the tasks of a traditional drill, a flip of a switch can activate the hammer function and allow light-duty drilling through concrete, Carter says.

Anyone needing the hammer function more than a half-dozen times a year, though, should buy a specialty hammer drill, but for most people the two-in-one drill should work, Carter says.

Remember, a specialty tool such as a reciprocating saw can still have many uses. Carter also attaches a special blade to his saw, traditionally used as a power hacksaw for thin metals or pipes, to create a perfect tree pruner each spring.

When choosing a reciprocating saw, select one with two speeds and a mechanism to easily change blades. New models should no longer require an Allen wrench to make a blade switch, Carter says.

Don't shy away from belt sanders. The rotating belt offers far more power than sanders reliant on vibration to drive the sandpaper. With variable speeds and the ability to use a variety of types of sandpaper, belt sanders make quick work of many tasks.

"People often just think of them as a clumsy-type tool because they don't realize what you can do with it," Carter says.

Finally, don't forget the screw gun, which is more delicate than a drill for chores such as removing the hinges from a door before painting. The tool's sensitive clutch prevents the accidental stripping of the wood or the breaking of the screw.

"There are so many uses for a screw gun around the house," Carter says. "Just think how many screws there are."

Noble Sprayberry is a freelance writer in Dallas.