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Calvin's Corner

Basic Use of Tools

A sound working knowledge of tool use is the basis of being a mechanic. Developing good working habits will result in better, more consistent repairs, and in longer lasting tools. This article provides a short review of the proper use of some basic tools.

Hammers (HMR-4)

  • Hold the handle like you are not afraid of it.
  • For light striking, choke up on the handle. This allows more precision.
  • For heavy striking force, hold handle toward the end.
  • Strike with the head of the hammer square to the target.
  • Learn the "dead blow" technique.
  • The Park Tool HMR-4 has a steel and plastic side. Learn when you need each. Steel impacts with more force, but will leave a mark. Plastic will not scratch put can still dent.

    A video review of hammers below:





  • Mount the blade with cutting teeth pointing forward.
  • Get the blade tension tight.
  • Cut with pressure on the forward stroke, draw back lightly.
  • Replace blades often. Compare cutting teeth in the middle to teeth at the end.
  • When cutting carbon, keep the cutting area wet to minimize exposure to dust particles.


  • Mount the vise very securely to the corner of the workbench.
  • The non-moving jaw of the vise should be just over the edge of the bench.
  • Mount with the largest bolts that will fit in the vise base. Get the bolts as tight as you can and check them occasionally.

  • The video review of hacksaws is below:





  • Hold pliers according to your work requirements.
  • For side cutter, place work in jaws for appropriate leverage. Put the part closer to the plier pivot provides more leverage.
  • For needle nose, hold in line with arm for precision work, hold at 90-degrees for high leverage work
  • Hold cables and compressionless shift housing square to cable cutters to get a square cut


  • Take the time to use correctly.
  • Close jaws down fully on bolt head or nut.
  • Rotate with fixed jaw taking the primary load.
  • Keep the blade sharp.

    A video reviewing the use pliers and adjustable wrenches is below:





  • Select correct size of screwdriver for part. The largest size that fits allows the best purchase.
  • Hold screwdriver in line with arm for most work.
  • Get body weight over screwdriver to press downward on seized or tight screws.
  • Replace screwdrivers as they wear out.


  • Hold the knife as if you were not afraid of it
  • Respect the blade
  • Avoid cutting toward yourself. Remember to watch your follow through
  • Keep blades sharp

    A review of screwdriver and knife use is below:


  • Have a selection of different file shapes and sizes
  • Cut with pressure in forward direction only
  • Clean file teeth using wire brush
  • Replace files as they wear out
  • Use file handles for all your files


  • Don't take your hands for granted. They need care and attention like any tool.
  • Before beginning any serious work, remove all rings and jewelry. That includes wristwatches and wedding rings.
  • Race Mechanics- you leave on the watch, you know that thing drives your life.
  • Skin absorbs chemicals. Use mechanic gloves (MG-2) for any toxic chemical work.

    The video review of file use and hand care is below: