Diy House Help http://diyhousehelp.com Online publication for home how-to's and product ideas to improve the look and feel of your home. Fri, 19 Jan 2018 14:22:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 Buying Guide: Non-Contact Voltage Detectors http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/non-contact-voltage-detector-uses-and-buying-guide http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/non-contact-voltage-detector-uses-and-buying-guide#respond Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:42:24 +0000 http://www.diyhousehelp.com/?p=3684 If you feel confident in handling basic home electrical projects; replace a: switch, receptacle, light fixture, doorbell or thermostat, you’ll need essential electrical tools, which includes a safe method of detecting the presence of AC electricity.

Easy to Use: Place the tip of a non-contact voltage tester near a device or wire where AC voltage is present. The tip will illuminate or change colors from it’s standby mode – and an audible may sound – if voltage is detected.

To better understand how a non-contact voltage detector works, we’ll defer to the professionals at Fluke.

Selecting a Non-Contact Voltage Detector: We didn’t personally evaluate every brand and model included in our buying guide list, but we did test several non-contact voltage detectors and assessed many others to see how they compare. A few observations were made and a top pick was selected (see full review after buying guide).

  • Each brand had different audible sound levels. I would like to see manufacturers list the db level in their specs as it can be an important factor.
  • Static electricity was detected by all testers, however, the manufacturers took this false reading into consideration. Non-contact voltage detectors will only cause flashes of light and possibly single chirps – instead of steady light and steady audible alarms for true voltage.
  • A response from Santronic said, “Our voltage testers are manufactured, printed, and packaged in the US.”

Voltage Range: A typical single household circuit from the electrical panel ranges from 110-240 VAC. The difference between a 600 or 1000 VAC capable detector will be irrelevant for common homeowner use and only pertains to trained professionals working with higher voltage applications, e.g. outside power coming to the circuit panel.

  • You’ll need a low-voltage or dual-range detector to check thermostats and doorbells (after the transformer), which are typically rated for 24 VAC and lower.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Depending on the context, low-voltage and high-voltage are relative terms and vary by definition. Understand the type of electricity – mains electricity – delivered to your home.

CAT III Rating: Refers to measurements on hard-wired equipment in fixed installations, distribution boards, and circuit breakers. Other examples are wiring, including cables, bus bars, junction boxes, switches, and socket outlets in the fixed installation.

CAT IV Rating: Rated test instruments are designed for testing on the primary supply source, which also includes 120V or 240V overhead or underground lines that power detached buildings or underground lines that power well pumps. The CAT IV rating covers the highest and most dangerous level of transient over-voltage.

Top Pick: Klein NCVT-4 w/ IR Thermometer

Klein NCVT-4IR Non-Contact Voltage Tester
Klein NCVT-4IR Non-Contact Voltage Tester Klein NCVT-4IR Voltage Tester Overview and Features

What to like:

  • A voltage detector may not need to be built to survive the demands of a rugged environment, but I still appreciate the use of thick plastic and heavy-duty construction.
  • Having a screw cap for battery replacement may seem like a small detail, but compared to other brands and models that require squeezing and / or prying the battery cover off, the screw cap is a great feature.
  • You’ll notice the absence of the flat extended tip. The high sensitivity of this detector can detect voltage on all receptacles, including tamper-resistant receptacles, from the surface of the receptacle and doesn’t require a tip or test probes to be inserted into a receptacle.
  • The dual-range capabilities (12-1000VAC) can detect voltage on AC electric throughout the home: outlets, cords, switches, circuit breaker, power strip, thermostats, doorbells (before and after the transformer), humidistat, and security systems.
  • There isn’t a flashlight on the NCVT-4, as the IR thermometer takes up that space, but the Blue LED standy lamp is bright enough to help light dim areas.
  • The IR thermometer is very useful for investigating air leaks and lack of adequate insulation. Is the built-in IR thermometer a proper substitute for a thermal imaging camera? No! But you can conduct surface temperature variation tests to make a few home efficiency improvements.

In Summary: I have always preferred Fluke electrical tools, and I wasn’t initially convinced that I needed to keep a non-contact voltage detector as my Fluke T+PRO Electrical Tester already has a lot of great features: detect live voltage even when the batteries are dead, detect AC/DC voltage, GFCI trip, and the backlit LED display gives exact voltage numbers.

As useful as the Fluke T+PRO is, the Klein NCVT-4 also has it’s key attributes. I’m happy to keep both devices in my electrical tool kit.

Quick Tips: Essential Electrical Tools and Their Functions

Channellock 908 Wire Stripper
Klein Screwdrivers
Twist Wire Connectors
IDEAL Specialty Wire Connectors
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Level Buying Guide http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/level-buying-guide http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/level-buying-guide#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 19:06:56 +0000 http://www.diyhousehelp.com/?p=4002 The act of “eyeballing” may work when hanging a single picture, but you’ll want a more accurate means of leveling for any other project that needs to be level.

Not only is a level is an invaluable tool to make sure the project you’re working on is flat, but a level can verify a needed pitch, too.

  • A window sill, garage floor, walkway, or any other place you don’t want a flat surface and standing water, needs a pitch for water runoff.
  • Plumbing needs to have a continuous downward pitch from the fixture drain to the main exit.
  • Gutters need to have a continuous downward pitch from their capped ends to the drainage downspouts.

That’s the generic overview. Now we’ll deal with the more specific questions of “which level to use… and where?”

Common Levels

A Torpedo, I-Beam and Box level have a multitude of uses and will be the most common go-to tool for leveling.

What to look for (homeowner):

  • An economical level with horizontal and vertical (plumb) vials is fine for simple tasks: hanging a picture, leveling furniture or shelving. The better build quality and advanced features of premium levels will go unnoticed for light-duty projects. Although, I’m guilty of being drawn to the better engineering and quality of premium tools, even though they can be overkill for the intended use.

What to look for (contractor / tradesman):

  • A contractor and tradesman needs their levels to withstand the abuses of a daily work environment – along with having level features specific to the trade for increased accuracy and efficiency. E.g., Stabila manufacturers top-quality levels with a focus on strong build quality, sustained accuracy, and offers a lifetime warranty on their vials.

Torpedo Levels

A Torpedo level – or named a toolbox level – is a convenient size (8-12″) level for the most popular projects, and may be the only level a homeowner needs.

Level: pictures, shelving, wall-mounted tv’s, appliances, thermostats, furniture, hardware, switch covers, air return grilles, and more.

Empire 9” TRUE BLUE UltraView LED Magnetic Torpedo Level
Empire 9” TRUE BLUE UltraView LED Magnetic Torpedo Level Empire 581-9 Magnetic Torpedo Level Empire em71.8 - 8 Sola PH 22 plastic potter spirit level with block vials Kapro 935 OPTIVISION Red Torpedo

What to look for:

  • Full Plastic Body – A plastic body is lightweight, won’t mar surfaces, and reduces the risk of damaging a floor, counter, etc., if it falls. Most plastic levels are based on economy, and that’s fine for light-duty homeowner use, but the inferior feel compared to metal levels can create dissatisfaction. Check out the Sola PH 22 and Sola PT 25 for premium full plastic levels.
  • Die Cast – A die cast aluminum level benefits from: the ability to create complex shapes with close tolerances, durability, dimensionally stability, corrosion resistance, and monolithic (the single structure of the body doesn’t rely on multiple pieces that need to be properly assembled, aligned, and sealed).
  • V-groove – A V-groove contours to pipes and also works as a handy slot when using with a steel rule for layout and measuring.
  • Better Readability – The vials can be enhanced for better visibility with an LED light, magnifying lens, and high-contrast vials.
  • Acrylic Block Vials – Solid Acrylic Block Vials are formed by machining a vial into a solid block of acrylic; creating a stronger vial than tube vials.
  • Adjustable Angle Vial – An adjustable angle vial has incremental angle markings and allows the vial to rotate. An invaluable feature when wanting a precise angle.
  • Magnetic – Rare earth magnets give maximum holding strength… opposed to levels with weaker strip magnets. Note: Torpedo levels can have the flat edge or the V-groove edge (if applicable) magnetized, but not both. Make sure the magnetized edge meets your needs.
  • Machined / Milled Edge – A premium feature for aluminum levels is a milled edge on one, or both sides, to eliminate any imperfections and creates a true flat edge. Note: This is only a positive attribute for levels used in building and construction; the raw milled edge can scratch finished surfaces.
  • Digital Readout – An advanced digital display helps with precision leveling and angles.
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I-beam and Box Levels

Using an I-Beam and Box level starts where a Torpedo level ends. These levels range in fixed lengths of 12″ – 96″ to best span the project at hand.

There is no one-size-fits-all, but I find a 24″ level to be versatile for many projects; then add various lengths to your level collection if needed. E.g. a carpenter may want a 4-6′ level for framing walls and the longer sides of doors and windows to ensure more accurate leveling across a longer section, or a mason wants to check level and flatness across a longer span of concrete, brick or stone.

The differences between an I-Beam (shape of an “I”) and Box level (shape of a box) may be irrelevant for homeowner projects, but we suggest reading articles by level manufacturers Johnson and Kapro for a further understanding of levels and the variances.

I-beam vs Box level
I-beam vs Box level Stages of Stabila's solid acrylic block vials Empire Magnetic Digital Box Level Kapro Die-Cast Aluminum Levels Stabila XTL Extendable Door and Window Levels Level with built-in rules

What to look for:

  • Full Plastic Body – A plastic body is lightweight, won’t mar surfaces, and reduces the risk of damaging a floor, counter, etc., if it falls.
  • Die Cast – A solid die cast aluminum level benefits from: the ability to create complex shapes with close tolerances, durability, dimensionally stability, corrosion resistance, and monolithic (the single structure of the body doesn’t rely on multiple pieces that need to be properly assembled, aligned, and sealed). Designed for masonry work.
  • Wood Level – Designed for masonry work. Smith and Crick are long standing and well known wood level manufacturers.
  • Handhold – A handhold can make carrying a level more convenient, but if it’s an unneeded detail that makes cleaning the level more difficult, buy a solid body level.
  • Measuring Scale – Levels with built-in rules are helpful for measuring and layout. You get two tools in one without the hassle of using a separate tape measure. Checkout the Sola ELECTRIC and Sola MARK-IT for a level with adjustable measuring scale markers.
  • Machined / Milled Edge – A premium feature for aluminum levels is a milled edge on one, or both sides, to eliminate any imperfections and creates a true flat edge. Note: This is only a positive attribute for levels used in building and construction; the raw milled edge can scratch finished surfaces.
  • Magnetic – Rare earth magnets give maximum holding strength… opposed to levels with weaker strip magnets.
  • Better Readability – The vials can be enhanced for better visibility with an LED light, magnifying lens, and high-contrast vials.
  • Acrylic Block Vials – Solid Acrylic Block Vials are formed by machining a vial into a solid block of acrylic; creating a stronger vial than tube vials.
  • Safety Bumpers and Endcaps – Rubber bumpers keep the body of the level from touching the surface (prevent marring) and endcaps protect levels when dropped.
  • Digital Readout – An advanced digital display helps with precision leveling and angles.
  • Extendable – Stabila has sophisticated extendable levels that eliminate the need for multiple lengths of levels. The Stabila Type 80T levels (25″ to 41″ or 36″ to 59″) are a worthwhile consideration for homeowner use.

Tip 1: The body of the level works great as a straight edge for marking and scoring.

Tip 2: Adding a simple bolt hanger to the end frames of a storage rack is a convenient way to store 1 or more levels.

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Specialty Levels

A specialty level has a more specific use and may not apply to the needs of the average homeowner, so we’ll only explain their basic functions in this article.

When a how-to project requires the assistance of these specialty levels, we’ll go into more detail on how to effectively use them.

Note: Stabila doesn’t have a labeled line of Screed levels, but amongst its many uses, the Type R300 R-Beam levels work for screeding.

Mini / Pocket Levels

A Pocket level is ultra-compact and offers the convenience of fitting in a belt holster (optional) or pocket.

A contractor may prefer to carry essential tools on them at all times: a tape measure comes to mind, and a mini level may be one of those tools too.

Yes, a mini level is a handy size to level small objects (thermostat or switch cover), but ask yourself, “how often am I doing these types of projects – and couldn’t I use my Torpedo level”.

Stabila mini pocket level

Stabila Pocket Level PRO Magnetic

Post Levels

Post levels read plumb and level for quicker and easier leveling of posts and poles.

Mounting includes (varies per manufacturer):

  • Adjustable straps
  • Built-in magnets
  • Nail through built-in nail holes
  • Clip-on
Kapro post levels

Kapro 350 Pipe Level Set (left) | Kapro 341 Mini Postrite Level (right)

Tip: A bungy cord can be used as a strap to wrap around the post and post level (clasping the end hooks together) for temporary attachment.

Line Levels

Line levels are small and lightweight levels that hook onto a taught string to find level on large projects: landscaping, concrete flooring, masonry, or leveling ground and footings for a deck.

Johnson has a how-to section on the various ways to use a Line level.

Stanley Line Level 42-287

Stanley Line Level 42-287

Screeding Levels

A Screed is “A tool, usually a long strip of wood or other material, for producing a smooth, flat surface on, for example, a concrete floor or a plaster wall.”, and can be fitted with vials for leveling.

Sola Screeding Levels

Sola Screeding Levels

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1/2-inch Square Anvil to 1/4-inch Hex Drive Adapters http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/half-inch-square-anvil-impact-wrench-to-quarter-inch-hex-drive-adapter http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/half-inch-square-anvil-impact-wrench-to-quarter-inch-hex-drive-adapter#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 17:11:23 +0000 http://www.diyhousehelp.com/?p=7775 impact rated adapters will allow you to use your impact wrench with Phillips and Torx driving bits.]]> A cordless tool kit offers value – but as a homeowner – the surplus of power tools may not be necessary, and that’s where power tool accessories create versatility for a single drill.

At some point I realized the jackhammer sound of an impact driver was too annoying for home improvement projects and I went back to using a drill driver to insert and remove fasteners.

Yes, much quieter. And after some time I realized I no longer needed to keep storing another tool and got rid of my impact driver. Great, less clutter too!

But I’d run into the occasional fastener that my lower powered cordless drill drivers couldn’t handle. Now what?

Even though I don’t like the excessive noise of an impact driver for small building projects; when doing automotive maintenance and repairs, a ½” square impact wrench is a much appreciated tool to tackle the common tightly fastened bolt and nut.

The same ½” square impact wrench can also serve as a converted impact driver – using the adapters mentioned – for those few building projects that a drill driver can’t handle.

What are these adapters for?
Convert a ½” square impact driver – to a ¼” hex power bit driver – to hammer in those difficult fasteners.

What’s a power bit (aka ball detent)?
The deep groove at the end of the shank is engaged by a metal ball or wire from a chuck to lock the bit in place.

Hex bit impact wrench adapters

Note: Use impact rated bits with impact tools.

Limited options for ½” to ¼” adapters
Locating ½” to ¼” adapters may not be an easy task, and you’ll most likely have to buy online, unless you have a specialty tool supply store nearby.

Two of the most common impact rated products we found are from DeWALT and Milwaukee. We contacted Wera about their 784C ½” Adaptor, but it’s not impact rated.

DeWALT Rapid Load (DW2298)

The DeWALT Rapid Load adapter doesn’t use a ball lock for the ¼-inch hex power bit shank, instead, a heavy wire locks the bit.

I appreciated the ease of inserting a bit and one-handed bit removal. After many uses and zero issues, this is the adapter I decided to keep in my impact wrench case.

**A response from DeWALT customer service informed us that the Rapid Load adapter has been discontinued and is no longer listed on the DeWALT website. However, this adapter is still available to buy online from tool distributors.

DeWALT Impact Wrench Adapter

Milwaukee Shockwave (48-03-4410)

My tool collection consists of many brands, with Milwaukee being part of the collection; and I was very confident in purchasing this smart looking adapter, but there was something wrong from the beginning.

Inserting and removing bits was difficult with the Milwaukee Shockwave (48-03-4410), and after a handful of tests, the locking mechanism failed, which leads us to believe the scenarios may be related, but no other products were purchased for further testing.

Milwaukee Shockwave Impact Wrench Adapter

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A few things caught our attention during testing

If the more compact design of an impact driver is important, using an impact wrench with an adapter may not be a suitable alternative.

A ½” square impact wrench with an adapter is 1.6″ (40mm) longer, on average, compared to an impact driver.

**Tool lengths will vary between manufacturers.

1/4

Complaint – “The ¼” hex quick-load mechanism is too deep, and a short driver bit is hard to remove”.

My Response – The proper bits to use are the longer, e.g. DeWALT 2″ Power Bits, as shown in the start of this article.

A shorter, e.g. DeWALT Insert Bit doesn’t properly work with these adapters.


Complaint – “Adapter is difficult to remove from impact tool compared to normal sockets”.

My Response – For safety, impact sockets require depressing the spring-loaded lock pin, for both attaching and removal. A screwdriver, torx, etc. will work to depress the ball spring.

Standard sockets don’t have the thru hole and just pressure fit, so they can slide on/off with greater ease.


Complaint – “Excessive wobble exists from the adapters on the ½” anvil connection”.

My Response – This issue is true and appears to be an engineering mistake.

The picture below shows the design of a IR (Ingersoll Rand) impact socket (a flatseat), where the locking pin pushes tight against the back wall of the pinhole, allowing zero movement.

Both DeWALT and Milwaukee (right) copied the tapered seat design of a standard socket, thus allowing the adapters to sit further back on the ½” anvil. This makes the pin sit more forward or center of the thru hole (allowing 1-2mm of loose travel).

Note: The wobble only exists in static mode and has no effect on driving a fastener once pressure is applied.

Impact Socket Locking Mechanism

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Incremental Steel Rules Uses and Buying Guide http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/machinist-incremental-rules-buying-guide http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/machinist-incremental-rules-buying-guide#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 21:04:37 +0000 http://www.diyhousehelp.com/?p=2456 A steel rule is an invaluable tool for a machinist, but I have also found many uses for these steel rules around the home, especially for building projects.

A tape measure works great for long measurements, but they aren’t as user friendly for short measurements. The large tape body, blade hook, and bowed shape of the tape become cumbersome in tight places and when working on small projects.

Steel Rule Features:

  • 6″length with clear and detailed increments down to 64ths or mm.
  • Some models have a conversion scale on the opposite side.
  • Pocket clip on some models, which can also be used as a sliding depth gauge.
  • Flat and stiff stainless steel bodies.

These convenient rulers are so economical and compact…I have several throughout the home and garage as a go-to measuring tool.

Machinist and incremental steel rules

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1) A very common and helpful use for a steel rule is to measure hardware length.

Get quick and useful information when buying replacement hardware, matching existing hardware, or needing a measurement for new hardware.

Quickly measure hardware length with a steel rule

Measuring door strikes and hinges is much easier to accomplish with a steel rule compared to a tape measure.

Note: A door hinge is going to have square corners or radius corners (1/4″ or 5/8″). To measure the radius, create imaginary lines as shown in the picture to square off the corner, then measure between where the radius begins on each side.

How to measure a door hinge length and corner radius

2) When I’m doing certain detailed trim work, I find these compact steel rules to be quicker and less prone to mistakes than a tape measure.

If fractions become a mathematical struggle, the metric scale with whole numbers works great!

A steel rule can be laid flat or on edge, and doesn’t have the hook at the end, like a tape measure, which can get in the way for certain measuring.

Steel ruler used for trim work

3) We wrote about how the Sola Cordinat level can aid in measuring the gaps when hanging multiple pictures, but these short rules can work as a cheaper solution.

  1. Hang the topmost picture.
  2. Measure the distance from the picture hanger nail or screw location and top of picture.
  3. Decide the gap between pictures.
  4. Add the measurements from steps 2 and 3.
  5. Place the steel rule at the bottom of the already hung picture and make your mark based on the total measurement from step 4.

Note: Picture hangers are seldom perfectly centered on the picture and almost never in-line from one picture to the next. Make sure to adjust the wall-mounted nail or screw from left to right for perfectly aligned pictures.

Use a steel rule for measuring the gap between pictures

These are just a few examples of where I tend to use a steel rule opposed to a tape measure.

There are often times during building projects where I rely on my steel rules, and you may just find yourself doing the same to make your jobs easier!

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4-Claw and Magnetic Pick-up Retrieval Tools http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/uses-of-a-grabber-tool-and-how-it-works http://diyhousehelp.com/tools/uses-of-a-grabber-tool-and-how-it-works#respond Thu, 07 Sep 2017 13:55:19 +0000 http://www.diyhousehelp.com/?p=2839 A pickup retrieval tool may be better known in the automotive world to recover bolts, screws, and washers that have fallen in hard to reach areas, but there are also plenty of uses in the household for these specialty tools.

Many times over the years I’ve found these to be great go-to tools in recovering:

  • Laundry that has fallen behind washing machines and dryers, or furniture.
  • Batteries that have rolled under washing machines and dryers, or furniture.
  • Anything that may have fallen down a sink drain.
  • Keys or small toys between car seats.

Flexible Claw Pick-up Tool

OEMTOOLS 4-Claw lighted pick-up tool 25293
OEMTOOLS 4-Claw lighted pick-up tool 25293 Maxcraft 4-claw lighted pick-up tool 60184 Mayhew 4-claw lighted pick-up tool 45046 OEMTOOLS magnetic lighted pick-up tool 25209

The small diameter flexible shaft easily fits in most tight spaces and the 4-claw models are good for non-ferrous items that magnetic models alone cannot attract.

Try one of the claw and magnetic combination pick-up tools for the ultimate in retrieving magnetic and non-magnetic items.

LED models are available to help see in those low lit spaces.

Update: As of 2017, the Tekton tool brand has discontinued both their claw and magnetic retrieval tools, but existing inventory may still be available through online retailers.

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Telescoping Magnetic Retrieval Tool

Telescopic magnetic pick-up tool
Telescopic magnetic pick-up tool General Tools telescoping pick-up tool 759398 Tekton telescoping pick-up tool 7601 Tekton LED Telescoping Pick-up Tool 7610

These telescoping magnetic pick-up tools can mimic the look and size of a pen when completely collapsed, but extend in increments of up to 2-feet or more when needed.

This small, yet long, tool is great for retrieving batteries, screws, or any other ferromagnetic object that has rolled under or fallen into tight spaces.

Want a larger grip area and stronger magnet? There are models available to fill those needs too.

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