types of axes

Types of Axes – What You Need to Know

The Different Types of Axes for Every Job

The axe has long been one of man’s best tools and an essential part of any outdoorsman’s survival toolkit. This spectacular tool has been with us for centuries and, just like us, it has evolved. Today, there are many different types and styles of axe. Whether you are chopping down trees or splitting firewood, there is a blade specially designed for the job. Each blade has a unique style and special characteristics.

There are many factors that make one axe better than another for a particular job. With hundreds of different blade / handle combinations now available on the market, it can all get a little confusing, especially when you’re trying to figure out which is the best axe for your uses. Let’s examine the 5 most popular axe styles listed below.

Splitting Blade

A splitting blade uses a weighted wedge shape design to cut logs along the grain. This axe is not likely to get lodged in the wood you are splitting because its heavy blade increases the striking force at impact. Splitting blades are usually complemented with a straight handle. This allows the woodcutter to lever the maul and deepen the cut.

When splitting logs, it may become necessary to hammer the blade through the log. The splitting blade incorporates the solution to this problem by having a broad butt that can be used to assist another splitter through.

Limbing Blade

A limbing axe is designed to be wielded while standing on a tree trunk and chopping downward at limbs from the tree. It is relatively lightweight (2lbs) and can be handled with one or two hands. Its medium length handle makes this axe well suited for the downward angle.

Hudson Bay

The Hudson Bay axe isn’t designed for chopping down trees in the forest. Its short handle (22in – 28in) and light weight (2lbs) makes it an ideal choice for turning medium logs into kindling. The Hudson Bay axe got its name because it was developed by French fur traders who traveled the Hudson Bay trade routes.


Broadaxes are used to cut logs into beams. Broadaxes are beveled on one side, which, coupled with a long beard (front lower blade), makes them perfect for this job. They are specifically designed for accuracy and can easily cut a log into a beam.


A felling axe blade is very thin and sharp. This makes it perfectly suited for cutting down trees. When you cut a tree down, you are cutting against the grain. A felling axe’s medium weight (around 3 pounds) allows it to cut deep across the grain. A 36in handle gives the felling axe great leverage. A felling axe blade is ideal for clearing limbs off downed trees.

Double Bit (edged)

A double bit axe has edges on both side of the blade. This can prove useful because it allows for combo blades. For example, one side could be a splitting blade, while the other side is a felling. The downside is some loss of mobility.

Shaping Blade

A Shaping blade is used to cut wood at very precise angles and locations. This axe has a flat blade that distributes your cut evenly. This helps keep your cuts even and accurate. Because of its flat blade, a shaping axe is much better at carving than chopping.


Hatchets can be great travel axes. They are usually half the size of a conventional axe, which means they are more suitable for traveling. A good hatchet can easily split logs into kindling.

There are also a number of different length handles you can get when choosing your axe. This is called the haft length and it usually comes in these sizes:

  • full length: 28in – 36in
  • medium length: 18in – 26in
  • pocket length: 12in – 16in

Transportation, and the amount of use, should be the deciding force behind your decision. If you are going to be backpacking in Yellow Stone National Park, I wouldn’t recommend a full length broadaxe. A pocket felling axe would be a much better fit and it will provide you with a lot more comfort on your journey.

The point here is – there is an axe to fit every need. Now that you understand the different types of axes, you can decide what axe is the best solution for your woodworking needs.

best axe

The Best Axe

How to Choose the Best Axe

One of the oldest form of crude tools was a stone axe head. And for good reason, axes can be used for chopping wood, skinning hides, and a million other things. That’s why having the best axe around is always a great idea. On the list of man’s tools, it probably ranks right behind fire, and who is to say the first fire wasn’t started with wood chopped by a primitive axe? History has shown that the original Stone Age axe had no handle. It was a simply a stone wedge that used a combination of dual inclined planes to reduce the power required to split wood.

Over the centuries, the axe concept was continually improved upon, with archeologists discovering axes made of various stones and metals all over the world. Eventually, man began to fasten a handle to the blade. This was the creation of the modern axe. All modern axes have two basic parts: the blade and the handle, also called the helve.

Anyone who has ever had to cut firewood using a dull axe can tell you that, it is no easy task. I have seen many callused hands as a result of using a cheap axe. A dull axe can make cutting the smallest logs an intense chore. A rough axe handle can also increase the impact force you feel per cut.  These reverberations are transferred to your bones and joints and can cause discomfort and fatigue.

All of this can make your axe a lot harder to hold onto and significantly increase your workload. If you are like most of us, you are probably ready for a new axe.

How to Choose the Best Axe

It is important that you understand that your body type will be a major factor in choosing the best axe. Also your exact cutting scenario will be equally important. If you are going to be cutting wood, you need a cutting axe. If the majority of your work is splitting firewood, you would want to choose a splitting axe. There are three main purposes an axe serves:

Cutting – A cutting axe is specifically designed to cut against the grain. It works like a heavy razor blade.

Splitting – This blade is wider than a cutting axe. The extra width in the angle helps tear the log in half.

Shaping – This blade is designed to produce an even cut. This is required when converting logs to beams.

Let’s take a second to examine the differences between a cutting axe and a splitting axe. Cutting axes differ from splitting axes in their construction. Most cutting axes have a shallow wedge angled blade. This gives you added precision but sacrifices a little power.

Splitting axes, on the other hand, are more likely to have a deeper angle. This deeper angle allows the splitting blade to penetrate deeper into the wood and assist it in chopping. Better penetration is the key to lowering the power required to split logs.

Over the last several thousand years, the axe design has remained semi-consistent with only the blade material really making improvements from copper to bronze, then from iron to steel. It wasn’t until recently that axe makers made significant improvements in these categories:

Blade material

Axes have seen a drop in overall weight and an increase in strength by utilizing new high carbon steel blades. They can also be infused with other state-of-the-art materials. This has also allowed for axe heads to become as sharp as razors.

Blade shape

There are 100s of axe head shapes. New technology has allowed for improved beveling and angles. All this means less resistance per chop and more control of swing.

Handle material

Carbon fiber composites can significantly reduce weight and user stress. The impact of your cut is absorbed and your cutting force is magnified.

Weight distribution

A perfectly balanced axe can be wielded with proficiency. It should balance evenly while holding the blade in your hand.

Your personal traits and cutting scenarios are a big factor to weigh when choosing the best axe. These are the 5 most important points to consider:

Your height

It is important to choose an axe that matches your height. If you choose an axe that is too short, you will strain your back, if your choose one that is too long, you can lose cutting power.

Your power

You should feel the weight of your potential axe to make sure you can easily manipulate it. You don’t want an axe that is greatly overweight. It will increase your fatigue and the chances of missed cuts.

How often you will be cutting

It is important to consider how often you will be using your axe. If you are planning to do some serious woodwork you should consider spending the extra money on a high end brand.

What you will be cutting

Do you plan on cutting a lot of oak, pine, or birch? Each wood has its particular peculiarities that can affect your axe’s performance. Knowing your wood is an important part of becoming an axe smith.


How will you transport your axe? Are you expecting to carry it for long periods of time? Is it primarily for camping? All of these questions can help determine which axe makes the most sense for you.

The right axe should feel comfortable and precise. It shouldn’t be too heavy and it should be tailored to your specific needs. With all of these factors choosing the right axe might seem overwhelming.  Let’s take a look at a 5 of the bestselling axes on the market.

Axe Comparison Chart

ImageAxe ModelPriceRating
Fiskars X27Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe, 36-Inch$$$4.8
Fiskars X15 Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe, 23.5-Inch$$$4.8
 Estwing E3-FF4Estwing E3-FF4 4-Pound “Fireside Friend” Wood Splitting Axe/Maul with Shock Reduction Grip$$4.8
 Estwing E44ASE 16-Inch Special Edition Camper’s Axe Estwing E44ASE 16-Inch Special Edition Camper’s Axe$$4.7
 Estwing E24ASEA 14-Inch Special Edition Sportsman’s Axe Estwing E24ASEA 14-Inch Special Edition Sportsman’s Axe$$4.6
Estwing E45AEstwing E45A 26-Inch Camper’s Axe$$$4.5
 Gerber Gator Combo Axe II Gerber Gator Combo Axe II $$$4.5
 Graintex CA1752 Single Bit Camp Axe Graintex CA1752 Single Bit Camp Axe$4.5
TEKTON 3284 20-Ounce 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp AxeTEKTON 3284 20-Ounce 14-Inch Fiberglass Camp Axe$4.3
 Seymour AX-P3 3-1/2-Pound Pulaski Axe Seymour AX-P3 3-1/2-Pound Pulaski Axe$$4.1

Fiskars x27

It only takes one swing to realize that the x27 is a cut above the rest. The Fiskars x27 super splitting axe is the culmination of years of research, design, and use. This highly advanced axe originates from Finland. When Fiskars created the x27 design, their goal was to create an axe that was simple but highly effective. They definitely succeeded.

Fiskars x27


Axe Head

The x27 incorporates an ultra-sharp edge. The axe head uses optimum blade technology to increase splitting power. The use of a softer metal allows the blade to become extremely sharp and the beveled design creates a splitting action as soon as the blade impacts the wood.

The non-stick coating on the axe head works great and the narrow blade design helps keep this axe from getting lodged in your logs. The 27 can easily cut hardwoods such as oak or aspen.

Balanced Weight

This axe uses state of the art material to increase strength and lower weight. The 4-pound head can easily turn logs into kindling.

 Advanced Handle

The patented FiberComp handle is specially designed to absorb the impact shock of your swing. This longer handle translates into more splitting power.

Blade Lock

This locks over your axe head preventing the blade from catching or dulling. The easy-open lock is located at the back of the axe head can be released in seconds. All this means you can transport your axe with greater ease and safety.

Lifetime Warranty

If your handle cracks, you just contact Fiskars and they will replace your damaged axe.


  • ideally suited for taller users
  • state of the art blade angling
  • lifetime warranty
  • perfect power to weight ratio
  • state of the art design provides maximum force


  • due to its longer handle, it is a little more common to over swing
  • loss of some portability due to longer size


The Fiskars x27 definitely holds its own against the competition. Fiskar’s excellent quality control and advanced manufacturing techniques make the x27 stand out among the crowd.


The Fiskars x27 is a great multipurpose axe and a great addition to any outdoorsman’s tool set. The added technology really makes this axe a great solution.

Fiskars x15

It is lighter and stronger than its predecessors. Fiskar’s patent pending design is a break-thru in axe technology. It’s a great alternative to a full size felling axe. When it comes to clearing trees, or cutting downed trees into logs, few midsized felling axes can compare.

Fiskars x15


Axe Head

The x15 incorporates ultra-sharp edge technology into its hardened steel blade. This new axe head is thinner and stronger than previous models.  The use of softer metals allows the blade to become extremely sharp, and the thin blade penetrates deep into the trees with ease.

Balanced Weight

This axe incorporates space age composites to reduce its overall weight. New carbon fiber composites have been specially engineered to increase strength and durability.

 Advanced Handle

A vibration-absorbing chamber keeps your cuts stable by deferring the impact of your chop and dispersing it within the handle. The carbon fiber reduces stress and fatigue and, if your handle shows any signs of breakage, Fiskars will send you a replacement model at no cost.

Blade Lock

Fiskars’ easy to use blade lock allows the x15 to be easily stored. The carrying handle is the perfect size for transportation and it keeps your blade sharp and safe.

Lifetime Warranty

You know a product is built with superior materials when the manufacturer provides a lifetime warranty. Even though the x15’s handle is advertised as indestructible, there is always a slim chance your product could have an issue. If you happen to be one of these unusual cases, you can have peace of mind knowing that your product is protected for life.


  • lifetime warranty
  • lightweight
  • cutting edge blade technology
  • blade sheath


  • due to its smaller size, it can be uncomfortable for taller users
  • slight loss in cutting power due to size


The x15 has some unique features that make it stand out amongst the competition. The shorter handle gives it more mobility with little to no loss in chopping power.


If you need a portable axe that can produce results similar to a full size, the x15 is a solid choice for you. The new material used in the construction makes the x15 lightweight and much easier to handle than the competition.

Estwing E3-FF4

The Fireside Friend is a great camping tool, especially because there are a lot of scenarios when a full size axe is not reasonable. You can use it to easily split logs, and the hammer side of the axe head can be helpful when it’s time to nail tent stakes in. The Estwing Fireside Friend truly is the perfect tool for camping.

Estwing E3-FF4


Axe Head

The 4-pound head is perfectly suited for splitting logs with the grain. The patent pending double-tempered axe head design utilizes three tools in one. The E3-FF4 has a maul/splitting axe head that combines many characteristics of a felling axe.

Balanced Weight

Because of the E3-FF4’s lightweight design, you don’t have to lift the axe above your head to make your splits. This increases safety and accuracy by creating the ideal leverage and power for easy wood splitting.


The Estwing E3-FF4 is a small size splitting axe weighing in at 4lb of true cutting power. The Fireside Friend is the perfect size for portability, making it the ultimate camping tool.

 1-Piece Forged Steel

The one piece forged steel design makes the Fireside Friend an incredibly strong axe. It also increases its durability and lifespan by decreasing any weak points.

 Advanced Materials

The Blue UV coating and shock reduction vinyl grip handle reduce impact shock by 65%. This added comfort means you can cut longer and stronger without fatigue setting in.


  • 1-piece design
  • double tempered head
  • balanced
  • made in the USA


  • no sheath
  • small size


Estwing hit a homerun with the E3-FF4. Taking the place of your axe, and your sledge hammer, the E3-FF4 is the culmination of years of experience in axe production. The Fireside Friend balances portability with splitting power.


The Estwing E3-FF4 Fireside Friend makes keeping the campfire healthy easier and quicker. The solid steel one-piece design makes it a sturdy alternative to traditional axes. Whether camping in the middle of a forest or splitting logs for your fireplace, the Fireside Friend is an easy to use tool.

Estwing E45A

The E45A can be used for felling full-size trees without giving up any log splitting power. The E45 is a small to mid-sized axe. It is very similar to large hatchet. The Estwing Axe Company has been providing top quality tools to outdoorsmen since 1923. They are recognized around the world as one of the premier axe manufacturers. This axe also includes a lifetime warranty. It’s a great axe for around $40

Estwing E45A


Axe Head

This unique axe head is designed to be useful in a number of traditionally knife scenarios. The E45 can be used to notch wood and you can even use it to create feather sticks to start a fire. It comes very sharp from the factory and the axe head has an elongated beard like broadaxes. Its compact design is particularly suited to chopping small to medium logs.

Balanced Weight

This axe weighs in at 3.7 pounds. The axe is expertly balanced to increase your power per swing. The balance also helps decrease missed cuts and splits.


This axe is specifically designed for camping. The 26in design means you can store it in your camping gear without having to choose between your axe and other essential tools.

1-Piece Forged Steel

The E45A is constructed from a 1-piece forged steel design. This means an increase in durability and a decrease in weight.

Advanced Materials

A nylon-vinyl deep cushion grip ensures heightened accuracy with every swing. It also absorbs the majority of the impact from your chop. You can even use the E45A one handed comfortably.


  • 1-piece design
  • double tempered head
  • balanced
  • made in the USA


  • no sheath
  • small size
  • loss of leverage due to its smaller size


The E45A provides an inexpensive solution to your campfire needs. It is much more affordable than the competition, costing almost half as much as the leading competitor’s brands.


The combination of different axe components makes this a very useful companion to have in the wild. If you are planning a camping a trip and are in need of an affordable mid-sized axe with excellent chopping power, the Estwing E45A is a solid choice.

Gerber Gator 2

A traditional small sized axe or hatchet can be useful when it comes to splitting medium to small size logs. This trade in size vs. power can leave you at a disadvantage in certain scenarios. The Gator Combo Axe solves this problem with a unique twist. Housed inside the patented lightweight fiberglass filled nylon handle is a 10in saw blade.

Gerber Gator 2



The Gator II includes the benefits of a small axe melded perfectly with the accuracy of a saw. The stealthily hidden saw blade easily springs into action in under a second. This innovative design continues to impress campers worldwide.


The Gator II is specifically designed to work in the roughest conditions. The space age materials provide much more strength than its predecessor, while not sacrificing weight.

Axe Head

The forged steel head of the Gator II is specifically designed to retain its sharpness. The 2.7in blade can easily split medium to long size logs with ease. The blade is slightly curved to assist in the penetration of logs and the blade is slightly wedged to help split firewood.


A patented fiberglass-filled nylon handle means you can swing your Gator II with confidence. The improved weight-to-power ratio means the Gator II can handle extreme workloads without any compromise in results.


The overall length of the Gator II is 15.6 in. This makes it the perfect travel axe as it can easily be stored in your backpack. The Gator II lets you free up space and backpack weight while increasing your ability to handle wood-working situations.


  • light weight and small size
  • durable
  • multi-purpose
  • nylon carrying case
  • one handed use
  • textured handle


  • loss of power
  • one handed


The Gerber Gator II provides allot of unique features that can make your camping experience much more enjoyable. Its short size and lightweight make it a better choice than competitor’s brands and no other brand incorporates a built-in saw.


The Gerber Gator II is a perfect example of merging two very necessary tools to create a light-weight multipurpose device. The Gator II improves on its predecessor in a number of ways, including size and strength. All of these points make this a better axe and a great addition to your camping tool kit.

How To Remove a Stuck Screw

How To Remove a Stuck Screw?

Almost everyone under the sun has experienced the horror of a stuck screw or bolt, and each craftsman has assuredly fought off more than his fair share of frozen screw frustrations. Trying to remove a stuck screw can fast turn into one of the worst jobs around the house or in the shop – it can feel like a physical impossibility to remove bolts or screws if they become stuck, frozen, or their heads has been stripped or broken.

Many will go to excessive and extraordinary lengths, using back-breaking force to remove these stubborn parts, but when temperatures cool down and the dust settles, craftsmen find the screw extractor. Good things do come in small packages and though the screw extractor is a small, its a tremendous device that gets into the center of a stuck screw, and releases its gnarly grips from the inside out.

The screw extractor is a small tool with big results designed to dive into the interior of a stuck screw (through a pilot-hole), bite into the it and turn the screw out counter-clockwise. Screw extractors range to fit screw-heads from 3/32″ and 1/2″ in diameter. They are built with a square head and shaft on one end and reverse tapered (cutting screw) threads on the other. The square head is designed to be fastened to a T-handle providing leverage to turn the extractor into the frozen screw. The square head can also be turned with some type of pliers like vice grip pliers or an adjustable wrench.

Extractors are manufactured with superior grade steel so that the shaft can be gripped with vice grips or an adjustable wrench for additional force or turning power. The extractors tapered threads are the real muscle of the device biting into the insides of a screw. The treads are designed to turn counter-clockwise, or backwards, reverse drilling into the center of a screw to pull it out. As the extractor is turned, it bites down tighter and digs deeper into the frozen screw and eventually begins turning the damaged screw with it. Essentially the extractor reverses the screw out of its frozen position.



Drilling a pilot-hole into the damaged screw is the first step to getting it out: With a power drill, drill a hole into the center of the damaged screw’s head. Start by using the smallest drill bit available and work your way up to a larger sized bit for a larger pilot-hole. Because the size of the pilot-hole will vary depending upon the size of the extractor, the extractor should come with a bit size recommendation on its packaging; this should help eliminate most of the guess work on your part.

After drilling the pilot-hole, firmly grip the extraction bit with a T-Handle or pliers and insert the extractor into the pilot-hole. Tap the top of the extractor with a hammer to secure it firmly into the screw. While exerting downward pressure on the extractor, turn it counter-clockwise (to the left) to begin releasing the stuck screw. If turning the extractor is difficult or unstable, tap the extraction bit down a bit more firmly into the screw. This should give the threads a better hold, and better biting power into the screw.

You may also press down a bit more firmly on the top of the extractor, but be careful not the break the extraction bit off into the stuck screw. If a better bite, or increased pressure doesn’t make the process any easier, you may try enlarging the pilot-hole. Slightly enlarge the pilot-hole and attempt the process again. This should have that stubborn screw out in no time.

Before loosing your cool over that blasted stuck screw, look to the screw extractor to break it free with minimal time and effort. Rather than resorting to the most drastic measures, allow the screw extractor do the dirty work you and eliminate the stress and headache of tackling the seemingly impossible on your own.

The Last Resort

If all else fails, then you’re going to need to drill out the screw completely and re-tap whenever it is you’re working on. For this you’ll need a drill and a tap and die set. A standard tap and die set literally make a new screw hole for your new screw to thread into. It is always a last resort but is unavoidable when you have no choice but to drill out the entire screw. This often happens when it is too rusted, or seized in some other way. There are a few of the best tap and die set reviews here if you’re unsure which set to get. They aren’t the cheapest option, but some times you just don’t have any other choice.

slip joint pliers

Slip Joint Pliers

What Are Slip Joint Pliers?

Although there are many types of pliers, the one model that always stands out is the pair of slip joint pliers. They are versatile and should be in every person’s toolbox.slip joint pliers

Slip joint pliers are a device that consist of a fulcrum or a pivot point. The fulcrum is moved in order to increase the size of the jaws. Most of the slip joint pliers allow the pivot point to be changed and the pliers can be opened in several positions. These pliers are also called lineman’s pliers. In fact the slip joint plier is a hand tool which is devised for gripping, bending or mending the apparatus. German pliers are usually considered as the well developed and advanced class of the slip joint pliers. For working on electric appliances insulated pliers are the best known types of pliers.

The have a long nose with a slip joint spring which is loaded on the comfort handles. With handles these pliers provide a lifetime warranty and packed in the blister pack. These pliers can be of many kinds like Hand pliers, steel pliers, locking pliers, miniature pliers, multi Stanley pliers and so on. Many tool manufacturing companies that make the slip joint pliers along with the other instruments like German pliers, insulated pliers and other equipment also offer shipment facilities for the slip joint pliers in bulk.

The material of construction of a slip joint pliers are different and may vary from different materials like wood, copper, steel, bronze and so on. In fact it is the material of the tongs of the pliers and not the jaws which are made of different materials. The jaws of the slip joint pliers are always made of the same material all over and that material is stainless steel.

While making purchase for a slip joint plier the assortment regarding different forms of slips joint pliers which differ from each other in both material and functions. A slip joint plier can produce twelve out of thirteen models of pliers which can be purchased online as well as from the outlets where professionals dealing with the instruments and tools can guide you very well regarding the purchase of slip joint pliers.

The main criterion which determines the accurate working and functioning of the slip joint pliers depends on the depth of its jaws, the directions in which the fulcrum or pivot can be rotated and how to use them.

Because the handles of slip joint pliers are longer in size than the jaws, for this reason the handles of the can act as levers and these long handles have the ability to increase the force which is being applied to the object. Basically these pliers are meant to gripping and holding of the objects. For this reason the pliers are designed in such a way to provide a good grip to the user of the objects being held. The holding capability of slip joint pliers can be enhanced by coating of rubber or any friction reducing agent.

The pliers also include the cutting features and the sizes of slip joint pliers are decided according to the work which they perform for the user. The history of these pliers dates back to more than 4000 years when it was used in Europe and with the passage of time the structure was modified. In the beginning it was a simple structure with two handles joined at the neck or pivot. The adjustment point of the slip joint pliers is joined in two ways. The jaws are designed in such a way so as to give an opening angle of 45 to 60 degrees in the centre.

types of pliers

Types of Pliers

Types of Pliers and Their Uses

Just about every household tool set on the market includes a pair of pliers. Like many hand tools, the design and function of the different types of pliers hasn’t changed much over the millennium. Way, way, way back in the day, pliers were made of wood. In fact, ancient Greek art depicts the god Hephaestus using pliers in his forge. Apparently even a god can get a boo-boo by grabbing a hunk of superheated metal!

As the centuries rolled by, specialized styles and shapes evolved to meet the unique demands of a task. Think of the old west blacksmith who had to shoe horses all day long and how much the right pair of pliers helped him avoid a swift kick in the behind.

Over the past few decades, advances in metallurgy and ergonomics have led to refinements, but it’s likely our ancestors would instantly recognize and understand the function of a pair of modern pliers. Seems you can’t improve a whole lot on a classic.

So if you find yourself confused about the right style of pliers to use for a project, get a grip on yourself and read this summary of the most common and useful pliers.

Plier Types

Slip Joint Pliers

Slip Joint PliersBy far the most common type of pliers and probably the most versatile too. You can use them to pull nails out of walls and boards, grip, yank andturn stubborn objects and even use them as a makeshift wrench for very small nuts and bolts. Though we don’t recommend it, pretty much everyone has use slip joint pliers as a makeshift hammer. “Slip joint” refers to a simple jaw positioning scheme, which allows you to adjust the jaws for a narrow or wider grip by opening the handles wide and slipping the jaw pivot post into a new position. Hard to explain, easy to figure out and pretty darn handy sometimes. There are a few different sizes available, with the 6 inch length by far the most common and suitable for just about everyone.

As with pretty much all types of pliers, the cheapest slip joint pliers have bare metal handles and loosey-goosey pivot joints. Not great but adequate for occasional household use. More expensive models offer heat-treated carbon, nickel or chrome vanadium steel, more comfortable and ergonomic handle designs and tighter joint tolerances.

Groove Joint Pliers

Groove Joint PliersGroove Joint Pliers, A.K.A Tongue and Groove Pliers, have jaws that can be adjusted for a wide range of openings.  Each “groove” represents a slightly wider span between jaws, from touching two or more inches apart. This feature, along with serrated jaw teeth, makes it handy for grabbing, holding and turning lots of different sizes and shapes, from round to hex any pretty much anything in between.  These are popular pliers for plumbers and contractors and can come in pretty handy around the house too.

Here’s a tip: if you want to loosen or tighten a showerhead, faucet or something else with a nice finish that you’d like to avoid scratching, first wrap the showerhead etc. with a rag, and then grip the rag with your groove joint pliers and turn.  If you can’t get enough leverage to loosen it this way, then it’s time to employ a pipe wrench or strap wrench.   Groove joint pliers come in sizes ranging from 8 inches to 18 inches or longer.  The most versatile size that provides enough leverage for most household jobs would be 12 or 14 inch sizes.

Long Nose Pliers

Long Nose PliersLong nose or “needle nose” pliers are suitable for holding smaller objects, these pliers are widely used for electrical, electronic, jewelry and hobby tasks. The long narrow jaws with serrated teeth can fit into confined spaces and hold very small objects. When used for jewelry making, the jaws are often smooth as not to harm the softer metals needed for jewelry making.

Long nose pliers are available in lots of handle lengths, from a mini size 4 or 5 inch handle suitable for jewelry to long handle models with 11 or 12 inch handles that fishermen and women swear by for extracting hooks. They’re great for hobby crafting with a dremel tool too.

Diagonal Pliers

Diagonal PliersProbably the second most useful household pliers, diagonal pliers don’t grip, they cut. Which makes them indispensable for any kind of electrical project as they are great for cutting and stripping wires.  They’re also perfect for snipping cable ties and bicycle brake and shifter cables. They’ll even cut thin sheet metal in a pinch.  Sizes range from 4 inches to 8 inches, with a 6 or 7 inch size being about right for household tasks

Locking Pliers

vice gripsLast but not least are the handy locking pliers.  Locking pliers are designed to clamp firmly onto objects, with a built-in spring loaded locking device that holds the pliers jaws together until you unlock them. This makes them ideal for gripping and turning stubborn pipes and they can be pressed into service as a clamp as well. Clamping force can be adjusted via a thumbscrew which adds to the versatility of these pliers. Sizes range from 4 inches to 12 inches and curved or straight jaw styles are available as well.  A 10 inch size would be a good choice for most tasks.

How to Use a Dremel for DIY Projects

How to Use a Dremel or Rotary Tool Correctly!

dremel toolFew power tools are as versatile as a rotary tool, and for some jobs, a rotary tool is the only practical choice.   Just try and name another tool that can drill, cut, grind, sand, file, buff, debur, carve, engrave and polish.

A rotary tool is pretty darn easy to use, too.

There are three keys to success:

  • Select the right bit, wheel, brush or other attachment for the task
  • Set the correct tool speed
  • Apply the right amount of pressure to the workpiece


Let’s start with the basics.  I’ve selected a typical Kawasaki Dremel Tool Set that includes a rotary tool and a vast selection of accessories. A kit like this will pretty much answer the needs of every hobbyist and do-it-yourselfer on the planet.

Kawasaki Rotary Tool Set

Let’s look at the rotary tool itself.  First make sure the tool is unplugged now and whenever you change bits, clean, maintain or store your rotary tool.   One of the keys to the versatility of a rotary tool is the variable speed function.   This Kawasaki model has a speed adjustment dial on the back of the tool that allows speed adjustment from about 8,000 RPM to 30,000 RPM.   Adjustment is made by rotating the dial, in this case clockwise for higher speed and counterclockwise for lower speed.

rotory speed dialRotating The Speed Dial to Adjust RPM

Now is probably a good time to don some safety glasses, plug in your rotary tool (without any attachments attached), turn it on and play with the speed control. This is a good way to get an idea of how the tool feels when running at slow, medium and fast speeds.

There is a noticeable difference, as the tool motor exerts a bit of centrifugal force as speeds increase.

Now turn off the tool and unplug it – let’s look at the business end of the tool where bits and accessories are attached.   Note the silver shaft lock button on the side of the tool.
rotary lock button

Rotary Tool Shaft Lock Button

If it weren’t for this button, you’d never be able to load a bit into the tool.   To see why, grab the knurled collar at the end of the shaft and try loosening it by turning it counterclockwise.   You can turn it all day by hand and nothing useful will happen.

Now push and hold that silver button with your thumb and turn the knurled collar counterclockwise again.   The collar will spin freely for part or most of a revolution, then the silver button will depress all the way into the tool body.   At this point the knurled collar will stop spinning uselessly, and you can loosen and/or remove it either by hand or with the mini-wrench included in the kit.

Pushing the Shaft Lock Button

Go ahead and spin the knurled collar off the threaded shaft.   Underneath that collar is another critical part called a collet.  The collet can be pulled straight out of the shaft by hand -go ahead and pull it out and have a look at it.

Rotary Tool Collet Assembly

Note the collet has slits cut into the sides; this allows it to clamp down on the shaft of a bit.   Some rotary tool kits like this one have a few different collets included of varying shaft diameter.

Changing a Dremel Bit

Different bits have different shafts diameters to match these collets. Take a look at the drill bits in the set we’re using – note the shaft size difference between the smallest and largest bit.

Rotary Tool Bits with Various Shaft Diameters

I’ll bet you can guess what to do next – yep, you’ve got match the collet size to the bit shaft size. This is a trial and error process, but not a difficult one.  Once you’ve selected the correct collet size, load it into the tool then screw the knurled collar back into place lightly.

Load the bit into the collet, then push that silver button to lock the collar and tighten the whole assembly down.   Don’t go all he-man when tightening the bit;  the design of the collet assembly is such that it will hold a bit firmly without a lot of torque.

Selecting the Right Bit

Now that we know how to load a bit into the tool, the next task is to figure out which bit to use for a particular task.

The Kawasaki rotary tool kit we’re using here has over 190 bits and attachments, which is a testament to this tool’s versatility.    Let’s start with the most familiar: drill bits.   Why use a rotary tool to drill holes if you have a perfectly good cordless or corded drill?

Rotary Tool Drill Bits

Two good reasons are precision and control. It’s much easier to hold and control a relatively small and lightweight rotary tool versus a heavy full size drill, especially when using a very small diameter drill bit to drill very small holes. If you need to drill the hole in a precise location, again this will be much easier with a small lightweight tool.

When drilling holes, keep the tool speed at a medium setting;  too much speed will make it difficult to control the rate of drilling and may distort or melt plastics. It’s also critical to keep the tool and drill bit aligned with each other and square to the workpiece to avoid breaking a bit with sideways pressure.

Some rotary tool kits have unusual looking bits with odd-shaped sparkly tips. These are diamond-coated engraving bits. As the name suggests, these can be used to engrave or cut hard materials like metal, gemstones, ceramic, glass and plastic. The different shapes can be used for everything from drilling to channeling materials.

Diamond Coated Engraving Bits for Rotary Tools

Up next are grinding stones. These come in a myriad of shapes and sizes.  Two common stone materials are red aluminum oxide and green silicon carbide.   In our Kawasaki rotary tool kit, both the red and green stones are 120 grit, a medium grit useful for general grinding and shaping.

Rotary Tool Grinding Stones

These stones can be used to grind and shape precious metals, gemstones and non-ferrous metals like aluminum and brass.  When grinding, it’s best to keep tool speed on the slower side to help control the amount of material you’re removing.  Here’s another important tip for grinding stones – never use a grinding stone that is cracked or chipped as it can fly apart at high speed and cause property damage or injury.

Many rotary tool kits also come with a selection of brushes. For example, our Kawasaki Rotary Tool Kit includes nylon, stainless steel and brass brushes.

A nylon brush is handy for buffing, polishing and light duty cleaning. The metal wire brushes are much more aggressive and thus useful for removing tarnish and rust from metal surfaces.

Nylon and Wire Brushes for Rotary Tools

Next up are mandrels and the various accessories that are attached to the rotary tool using a mandrel.   The Kawasaki Rotary Tool Kit we are using here includes three types of mandrels:

  • One that looks like a shaft with a wood screw on the end – used for attaching “soft” accessories like cloth polishing wheels
  • One that has a small screw and washer threaded into one end – used to attach “hard” accessories like polishing stones and cutting wheels
  • One that has a rubber drum on it used to attach sandpaper drums