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When I scored my new Family Truckster four years ago, I knew the types of abuse I’d be asking it to put up with. I routinely tote screaming, active kids and their friends to practices, games, and events. I’ve led many a family road trip across the mighty United States Interstate system. I’ve hauled the foulest-smelling goalie gear known to youth hockey. I’ve loaded the Truckster to the brim to support my mother-in-law’s craft show hobby. And I’ve used it to retrieve mulch, haul pavers, and transport bikes and dogs. So I knew I’d need to protect the cargo area, but didn’t want to shell out the $100-$150 for an OEM part. Thus a cheap alternative: rubber floor mats.

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You Toolmongers have been holding out on me. How come no one told me — or, perhaps worse, why didn’t I discover before — that there are simple formulas for determining the nominal diameters and clearance holes of (Unified Thread Standard) machine screw sizes 0–14*? All those years I spent looking up that little table, or trying to find that plastic gauge thingy…

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Walk into the gardening section at your local big box and you’ll to notice two different kinds of cutting tools — bypass and anvil.  You’ll see these two options for everything from pruners to clippers to loppers to hedge shears.  So how do you know which one is right for you?  Learn more after the jump.

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As it gets warmer this spring, your ambient room temperature goes up, too — at least if you have your furnace and AC set to reasonable levels — which means your computer has to work harder to get rid of the heat it produces, so the CPU doesn’t turn into a molten pile of goo.  I didn’t know just how stressed my computer was till it started beeping at me as I was getting ready for bed the other night.

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Here you see three basic tools, a hammer, a screwdriver, and a utility knife — but wait a second, what’s that crap all over ’em?  “Eww, flowers,” you say, “and ugly ones at that!”  That’s exactly the point.  If you have to protect your tools from the grabby paws of fellow shop workers (I’ve heard stories of people rusting their tools so they’d be less desirable), and if you’re short a lockable tool box, these might be the next best thing.

This is another tip I picked up in a special effects shop:  Keep one of these three ugly flowery items in your box at all times.  Why?  Because the next time someone asks to borrow a screwdriver or hammer, they’ll receive one of these.  Most likely no one else will have one like it, and bam!– you’ll know who’s swiping your tools, or you’ll get it back, because no one wants to be seen wielding a flowery tool.

I found this three-piece set for $10 on Amazon — a fun gag or a potential trick up your sleeve, it’s up to you.

Flowery Theft Prevention Via Amazon [What’s This?]

 
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Score! Having read about a ten-dollar scroll saw and a twenty-dollar recip saw, I’ve been watching for opportunities at pawn shops, and today my vigilance paid off.  I reeled in a 20′ Werner aluminum extension ladder, rated at 200lb — for $40.

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I know how to do some projects in theory — sweating copper-pipe joints, for instance — that I’ve never needed to test my skill at until I moved into a new house with a missing toilet and sink. Replacing the valves for the sink’s hot and cold inlets went like a dream, but when I got to the third inlet valve, the one for the toilet, I had to try it about ten times before I got it to work correctly. I have no idea what I was doing wrong, but here’s my tip: if you can’t seem to get the joint right, try some solder paste, and use a bunch.

My toilet works now, and it doesn’t leak. It might be a sissy way out, but it cost less than $10 — and it let me turn the water on for good.

Photo posted on Flickr by tanais.

Solder Paste [Solder-It]
Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]

 

AirToolConditioner-Composite-450.jpg

If you use pneumatic tools a lot, you probably know to take care of them.  But if you only use ’em a little, you might let the maintenance slide — not worrying about water in the line, not using a good filter, not lubricating your tools — like some Toolmongers I know. If you haven’t treated your air tools right, and they don’t seem to work quite like they used to, don’t give up hope. Blaster Chemical makes an air tool conditioner spray that one retailer claims is “SO POWERFUL IT BRINGS “DEAD” AIR TOOLS BACK TO LIFE!”

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StandbyPower.jpg

Standby power is getting more press lately, and a few companies out there want to sell you something to save you money — strange, they want you to give your money to them instead.

BUT! Fellow Toolmongers! Today for you we have something fan-tastic, practically for free, something that you can use, something that if you had to pay for it you would give real money for it!

Nah, really I just want to point out that putting your electronics on switches, and turning them off, is the easiest solution. But these resources may help you if you’re really into convenience, or measuring your specific situation.

As usual, Wikipedia provides some interesting information, including the fact that the government got on the bandwagon in 2001. You know it’s bad if the government is ahead of you in saving money! At least they’ve compiled lists of low-standby-power appliances, in case you want to take it into consideration when you go shopping.

Surge Protector With Remote [Belkin]
Standby Power [Wikipedia]
Appliance Database [LBL.gov]
Standby Power [Energy Star]

 
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When you finally find the project that you really need a welder for, and you’re not a welding genius, you need to research what exactly you should be looking for in a welder. You’ve got lots of options when it comes to welding, starting with MIG and TIG — but then you have to watch the features on the model you purchase, to be sure you aren’t trying to use tissue paper when you need cardboard. Buyer’s guides can help, especially with no-nonsense .  You can also check out our “getting started” post on welding.

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