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September 2021
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Remodeling Tools Notes and Tips: Pliers – Electricians Pliers

Just about every set of pliers I have mentioned previously Slip Joint, Vice Grips, have a ‘wire cutter’ at the base of the jaws. None of them work well.

The last set of pliers to consider for your remodeling toolkit is a pair of electricians/linesman’s pliers. I am going to show mine, My Klien’s. I am not bothering to show any other as it would just make them cry and in this category there is only one.

This is a Klein D200-9NE Linesmans Pliers.
These are the only set of electric pliers you will ever need. This is only my second pair. I had my first pair 15 years until somebody stole them. I have had these 10.

They cut wire, nails, screws and most hardened wire.(not that you will run into hardened wire in the typical house) The plastic handles are NOT an insulator, so make sure the electricity is off when using these around electricity!

Here is a closeup of the business end.

These are so well constructed you need to look close to see the rivet. The gap on the top is by design, and not a defect. In addition to being a superior wire cutter, (note the location of the rivet being closer to the cutting edge giving you more force applied for cutting) The ‘v’ opening on the left works to hold the end of the wire so you can bend it to fit around the screws as you install outlets and switches.

The slot on the bottom of the jaw works well as a wire stripper without nicking the wire. It takes a little practice to get used to, but one of the best electrician’s I ever met did all of his connections with only a set of Kliens and a screwdriver. He could cut, strip, twist and install a outlet or switch faster than you just read this sentence.

The milling on the jaw ends is crosshatched giving you more gripping power than a straight tooth.

They are so well machined that there is no side wobble even after 10 years. If I don’t lose these my kids will fight over them when I die.

Remodeling Tools Notes and Tips Pliers – Vice Grips

In my previous posting on slip joint pliers, I mentioned the versatility of them. One of the drawbacks to them is the ability of applying force to them while you are turning them. In the case of loosening a nut or bolt, you need to get a firm bite on it as you apply sideways pressure to turn it. The typical slip joint pliers is probably responsible for easily 50% of the profanity in remodeling projects, as well as keeping the band aid companies profitable.

For the most part, basic hand tools  have been invented and it is  details and quality which sets various tools apart. Occasionally something new does get invented that does one better. The Vice Grip Pliers is such a tool.

These are two  Vice Grip style pliers. The one on the left is a knock off that is so bad that the only identity mark on it is Taiwan. The one on the right is the real deal. Despite Vice Grip being bought by Irwin (another tool maker) the quality has not been compromised. I mentioned before that ‘branding’ is not necessarily any guarantee of quality. This is one of the few cases where the brand is the real deal.

Here is a detail of the various parts of it.

On the top in this photo is the ‘fixed ‘ handle containing the adjustment knob, spring(not visible) and the fixed jaw.

On the bottom is the movable  handle with quick release lever to release the tool after clamping it on your work, and the movable jaw. You use this by adjusting the jaws around your work and then clamping the handles together. The clamping action allows you to apply more force in turning than you get with ‘standard’ slip joint pliers. Here is a link for more info.

In addition to the positive locking feature, you also get a much broader range of sizes that you can clamp and turn, This 10” set will grip 3/4” galvanized pipe for example, without smashing your hands. (YMMV)

This is one of those cases where a tool can be improved.  You will not save money by buying a knock off. The no name on the left looks sorta close, but on examination you can see that the ends of the jaws do not meet, the teeth are junk, and the manufacturing quality is so poor they needed three rivets to hold the fixed jaw in place.

A vice grip is really the only adjustable pliers you will need in your remodeling kit. Highly recommended.

Remodeling Tools Notes and Tips: Pliers – Slip Joint

The most important thing in remodeling are your tools. For all you folks starting your first project to seasoned serial remodelers, what will set your work apart from the rest is your tools. Good Tools work better. Because they do their jobs well, your jobs will be easier and safer. Good tools last and perform better.

For those of you of a delicate persuasion who are offended by salty language, you should probably go somewhere else as it will be getting salty soon. The theory that some folks hold dear that profanity has no place in discourse and that folks who use it are somehow less intelligent, have limited vocabularies and or live in ‘those’ areas, have never remodeled.

But I am not here to cure Experience Deficit Disorder, I am talking Tools and Remodeling. Both of which require intelligence, specialized vocabularies, shopping in ‘those’ areas, and a desire to increase their knowledge and abilities. Moving on…

There are no magic brands out here or branding fairy dust that make shitty tools work better because they are a ‘brand name’ . Bullshit words like “Professional Grade, Industrial Grade” have become marketing slogans rather than qualitative distinctions in material, construction and fit and finish. Good tools are expensive. Shitty tools are cheap.

No finer examples of Branding Bullshit  can be demonstrated than by talking about the lowly pliers. You have at least one pair in your stuff, maybe two. The reason I have more is I hate giving up any tool. Either as something that I use every day, or as a painful reminder never ever to spend a dime on a particular ‘Brand’ ever again. That I post about it is gravy for you.

This is multi tool that everyone owns. These are what usually come to mind when somebody says, “Hand me a pair of Pliers” (No, I don’t know why pliers are referred to in the plural when in reality you are using a single tool)

These are standard slip joint pliers. On the left is a pair of “Stanley”, center is a “Fuller” right is a “Powermaster” When I was a child, learning carpentry and cabinetry from my grandfather, who was  a master cabinet maker from Sweden, there were Stanley tools all over. Not anymore. Since becoming a conglomorate, outsourcing their manufacturing, and slapping their name on any vaguely home related product, their quality has gone into the toilet. Here is an example of this.

As you can see the teeth are broken the chrome plating has worn and chipped. This plier was produced in Japan. Fuller has been building hand tools around 50 years and are a great  value where available. Also forged in Japan.  The tool on the right is a Powermaster I picked up in a box at a yard sale. Powermaster is a brand for a group of Korean foundry’s cranking out tools. Not a bad tool, but there are better choices.

All of these pliers have serrated jaws on the top for gripping material, The larger teeth are for gripping and twisting, small nuts, bolts and pipes. You can see the slip joint which allows the pliers to grip larger diameter material. The little slots below the larger teeth is allegedly a wire cutter, but trust me, none of them work well.

Things to look for in pliers.

Check that the biting surfaces are even and sharp. Uneven or dull teeth will not grip, will slip and hurt you.

Check that the outside ‘checkering’, knurling, outside surface is consistent in pattern,(not off center, disappearing) If it is not this not indicates how little they care about the outside, it also indicates that the tool is made out of trash material and will fail.

Check that the handles open and close smoothly, and there is no wobble at the slip joint. Here again, it is all about quality.

Check for a comfortable fit. Because unless you lose them they will be with you for a long time.

Storage Project 4 Details - Long Post

At the beginning of the Storage Project I said, “What I am going to do is to open this side of this wall, remove the pocket door and frame in the opening, remove the short wall between the existing opening and the new wall creating a long storage room. I will wire it for cable, network and electricity for future uses.”
This is standard stuff and sounds easy. If you do this for a living it is. If you are just starting with a small project around your house, here are some of the drywall detail work to help you conquer your projects.

I have mentioned that I screw drywall. After you have bought the basic drill, circular saw, and hand tools, you very next purchase should be a screwgun. Screws work better for holding drywall. A screwgun has an adjustable nose so you can set depth of your screws just below the surface. This is important because of the design of drywall screws and the ability of them to hold the drywall to the walls without popping.
You cannot use a regular drill and get a consistent depth for maximum holding power by hand. You will be either not deep enough requiring you to use a screw driver to get them deep enough or you will go to deep past the paper making the screw useless in terms of holding power. Trust me on this one.

Here are a few of the details on this project.
Wall Fix.
This is the wall where we removed the small wall that formed part of the old storage closet.

The ceiling is how they hung the drywall just over the top plate. You can barely make out the mesh tape I have bridged the gap with. The wall was a little different. I cut a line into the inside of all the corners before removing the old drywall, to prevent the walls from running. After I removed the old drywall and studs, I used a 4” mud knife and slid it along the wall cutting into the leftover corner material before filling in the gap left by the old studs. I screwed the drywall to the blocking that was in the wall that they used to build this wall. I meshed taped both seams. This will be filled with speed set. I use speed set for pre fill as it dries quickly and shrinks very little requiring much less labor to blend. (That comes later when I skim coat) Also I can add less water to produce a stiffer mix to fill these gaps without runs or bulges.

Ceiling Outlet Repair

This is a typical ceiling outlet hole.  This is made by using a circle cutter and then bashing it open with a drywall hammer. When you are hanging footage, it takes 5 seconds to bash the hole, and up to 30 seconds to use a keyhole saw. Bashing the hole this way breaks the core of the back side of the drywall, which you remove by sweeping it with the hatchet side of your drywall hammer. You should take the time to cut these out with a keyhole saw.

I mention this because if you have small pot lights or retro fit ceiling cans, that keeping falling down or loosening up, this is the reason. There is not enough material around the sides to allow the clamps to hold it tight to the ceiling. You can loosen the clamps, rotate the light and hope you get lucky, or remove the light and build up the top of the sheet with compound. It doesn’t work very well in most cases.

Squaring the hole.

Just like it sounds. Cut a square scrap of drywall, cover the hole, trace around it, and cut it with keyhole saw.


Install blocking above your hole. This is a scrap lumber that is long enough to extend beyond the cut line and narrow enough so that you can hold it tight while you screw it in place. The point here is to repair the area and keep it flat. On walls you can use the “tapeless drywall patch technique” But on ceilings I recommend blocking.


Screw in the block that you used as a template for cutting the hole.

Mesh tape and you are ready for mud.

Here is a wall patch. This was an exploratory hole for a cable run into the dining room. Measurements get you only so far, Sometimes you just have to perform surgery. Here also I used blocking rather than a tapeless patch which is really much better on smooth walls.

Here is our hole covered before skim coating.

Here is another patch. This is actually a twofer. When I disconnected this outlet, it turned out not to stop here but was also connected to the porch light. So I had to cut it open both top and bottom to trace the wiring. I wire nutted the connections, pushed them in the box, and will be covering this with blank cover plate.

Never !Ever! bury  a box that contains live circuits. It is against code, and if there is ever any problem, you or your electrician will thank me.

Note that I covered the box opening with blue tape. This prevents filling the box with mud as you work. This saves time and aggravation when it comes time to  install outlets,switches,  and cover plates.

It makes taping easier not having to worry about crap in the box or loose wires sticking out, live or not.

Drywall over Concrete
This is the west end of the storage area. On the left and back is the concrete block that forms part of the veranda in front and the garage wall.

Here we use drywall with heavy adhesive(PowerGrab) on the back and use short spiral shank concrete nails to hold it in place while the glue sets. Here is the intrepid client lending a hand.

In the photo below on the right side, the brown area is where we did not cut the inside corner deep enough  so when we pulled the drywall down, the top ran, taking the paint and texture off. This will have to be pre-filled before skimcoating.

The walls are taped and covered coated prior to skim coating the walls smooth. Because there is so much patching, skim coating is the best wall treatment.

Skim Coating
Because of depth of texture multiple coats of mud will be needed. This is the first coat applied vertically. The second coat should be applied horizontally, and the final coat, with vertically. I used speed set for the fill coats and Dust Control mud for the final coat. Because you have to sand it smooth eventually:)

Second Coat.

Sanded and Primed

Not everything goes according to plan. In finishing up one last connection in the attic, which is another whole post. Suffice to say , in arizona the shortest distance for wiring is anywhere you want.

Attics are dark dusty, and slippery.

One small step for mankind, one more repair for the taper.

Here we installed blocking between the ceiling joists, and screwed through the joists into the blocks with 3” screws, because folks will step on any thing that looks solid. So screw up the drywall, tape over the cracks, and skim over it.

The repaired area is in the middle of the ceiling over the end light. Came out okay.

These are some of the most common challenges you may face in remodeling, but hopefully not all at the same time or in the same room.

Tape Measure Skilz

Tape measures are for measuring things mostly. This is a new use for one.

Hattip Kotke

Gift Ideas for Home Improvement DIY’ers

Over at One Project Closer, the lads have a list of gifts for the DIY’ers and remodelers. Some nice stuff.

I would like to add to the list with a excellent plastic storage container. This is a Workforce parts container I picked up at the orange store about 3 years ago. They are around 12-15 bucks a copy. You may only think you need one, but like potato chips, that won’t fly long. These are very durable made with thick plastic.
They are 18” wide, 12 1/2” high, and 3 1/2” deep. The handle is integral, and comfortable, especially when you have it filled up with stuff.

The dividers are very well made and sit in the boxes well.  They are adjustable and come with the box. The lid holds them in place when transporting.
This is the one I use for nails.
The top from the left I have 16d sinkers, 10d brights, 8d sinkers, 2” ringshanks
Next 6d commons, 6d finish, 4d finish, and 16d duplex
Next 8d finish, 3d finish, 1 1/2 ring shank, and 4d galvanized.
the bottom spaces on either side of the handle are for misc. stuff although under the plastic bag on the right I have a number of nail sets.

My screw box.
Here I have deck screws from 1 1/4 to 3”. Drywall screws from 1” to 1 5/8”, both coarse and fine thread. I have specialty screws in 1/2”-3/4”. This is where I keep various plastic wall anchors, and all my counter sink bits.
Did I mention that they are stackable?
These are well designed and tough. A worthy addition to your remodeling arsenal.

Drywall ‘Kicker’

‘Modern’ platform framed houses have walls that start out being over 8′
tall. the 92 5/8” for the vertical stud, the 4 1/2” of the bottom and
top plates, giving you 97 1/4” roughly. Most  drywall is 48” tall giving you 96”. Hold that thought. No we are not having the 54” drywall discussion, since why the hell would you build a house that 1/3 of your cubic footage has to be cooled and heated that you get no benefit from (and how many of you are between 6 and 8 1/2 feet tall?) except being able to brag to the neighbors that your utility bill is bigger. This is not on your top ten list of things to accomplish on remodeling.

Hanging drywall is a procedure, that goes ceiling then walls. Drywall doesn’t care which way you hang it. I do. You can hang drywall parallel to your framing, but it is not recommended as wood moves, and on ceilings if it does you will have cracks that run the entire length of the sheet, requiring you to fix over your head. Trust me, you are not going to like taping the first time around, the second time around there is more stuff to work around.

If you stand the sheets up on your walls, not only do you have a crack problem, but it is a lot harder to tape. By hanging your drywall perpendicular to your framing, you will minimize  cracking and being able to tape the wall seam at 4′ is a lot easier than getting up and down sawhorses and ladders.

One of the lesser known drywall tools is the ‘kicker’, or floor drywall lifter.

Remember the 48” tall drywall? Two sheets are 96”. Even with 5/8” drywall on your ceiling, your wall is around 96 1/2” high. the top sheet gets pressed to the ceiling and nailed off. The bottom sheet sitting on the floor has a serious gap. This is where the ‘kicker’ makes its entrance.

This is the most common variety. It is a noisy steel contraption whose sole purpose is to lever the bottom wall sheet tight to the upper sheet on your walls. You kick it into place, and push down with your leg and nail or screw the sheet tight to the upper sheet.

Better seams, better taping, better job.

This is also handy for short lifts like lining up solid doors to slip in hinge pins, lining up cabinet faces.

It is one of those tools that most folks do not need for small projects. Check with your neighbors. There is an alternative using a wonderbar.

The Drywall Buffer and ‘salty’ terminology

Cutting drywall is a simple operation in most cases. Sometime the cut edges are not clean, having bumps where the material is sticking beyond where your  cut line is.

In the trade these are known as ‘dogballs’.(no i have no clue either, it just is) It is important to clean them up for a clean tight drywall job. For that you need a Buffer.
This is a Stanley Pocket Plane, aka the mutherf*cker.

(another bit of salty trade terminology whose antecedents goes back to time is money. Drywall hangers for the most part are paid footage, which means that having to stop to buff off dogballs means taking time away from hanging, making the job less profitable, which is why they call this the mutherf*ucker. Professional drywall hanging is much more precise than it seems.)

Having a situation, and a buffer, a few quick strokes, and you are ready to hang your sheet.
Db2 The tighter your joints, the easier to tape, the cleaner and better job you will produce.

You can use the edge of your keyhole saw or the edge of a taping knife to do this, but it is more time consuming, messier and less elegant.

Drywall Circle Cutter

One of the more recent trends in home design for the home remodeler is the installation of recessed can lights, and speakers. Marking and Cutting the holes for them is real easy with a
Drywall Circle Cutter.Circlecutter1
This is one of those tools that is not strictly necessary for the home remodeler, but if you are doing a lot of round lights or speakers, will make your life a whole lot easier.(this one allows you to mark holes up to 16'')

It is a very simple tool. It has a cutting wheel and a movable pivot. Once you have determined your hole center, by measuring the center of your light/hole from the edges of the sheets or walls, and transferred these to your drywall, you loosen the pivot and move it to the size you need, remembering that your measurement is at the front edge of the pivot. The photo below shows us we are making a 2 /3/4'' diameter hole. 

Note: You may want to make your hole a bit larger than your fixture diameter. A 6'' hole you may want to cut 6 1/4'' to allow for any imperfections in fixture or measurements. Care needs to be taken here, especially if using narrow trim rings.


Note that the pivot point is lower than the cutting wheel to allow you to get a solid pivot point. 

You press the pivot into the center of your marks and rotate the tool around, maintaining pressure on the cutter to cut through the paper.


Once you have completed your circle, depending on the size and location, either carefully hammer inside the circle to break the drywall,(you will need to use your utility knife to clean up the edges if you hammer) or use your keyhole saw to cut it out. 

This can also be used for the holes for the waste lines in your kitchen/bath/laundry rooms.

Demo Tools – Cats Paw

The Cats Paw.

This is a standard cats paw. About 12 ” with two claws to allow you to hammer below nails to pry them up, so you can remove nails and separate the studs and stuff that you are demoing.  This is an Orphan Tool. Really doesn’t do anything else.

This is a great tool when you are doing a partial wall demo for loosening bottom and top plates as well as corner and wall studs. But if you are doing a lot of demo, this is a great addition to your tool collection.

Japanese Cat’s Paw


Lighter, a little more elegant but the same tool.