Top 3 Submitted Articles

#3 - Greg Rye II

Many of us like cool gadgets – me included.   They are a lot of fun.  Yet, the fundamental purpose of tools is to perform a function; a job.  In many cases, the most functional tools are the original hand tools.  Let’s take a look at screwdrivers.  The viability of a screwdriver is undeniable.  While it is true you can find various tips, the mainstay of any toolbox is a Straight Screwdriver and a Phillips Screwdriver.  There are four features to point out when buying a screwdriver:   Warranty, Tip, Size, and Handle. 

The Warranty portion is fairly straightforward.  Look for tools with a lifetime warranty.  Companies like Snap-On have wonderful products, but unless you are going to chase the truck down the street, most of us do not have access to them.  The easiest thing to do is to find a brick and mortar store.  Now, accessibility is easily accomplished just in case you need to use the warranty.

When looking at the tip, you are looking at two things.  First, is it magnetized?   While it can be argued, both for and against, the debate is both short and unnecessary.   Simply pick one.   I own both and it usually does not matter whether or not it is magnetized.  The important part of the tip is the shape and making sure the shape is the best for the job you are trying to do.    There is Torx, Square, Straight and Phillips.  Torx is the tip many people call “star shaped”.  Unless you are repairing specialized electronic equipment,  you will seldom need a Torx tip.  Just as the name suggests, the Square tip is square shaped.  As with the Torx tip, you most likely will not need a square tip screwdriver unless you are using it for specialized jobs, like furniture repair.  The Straight or “flat blade” is the oldest and most widely known screwdriver.  The Phillips screwdriver has been around since the 1930’s and is probably the most common in use today.  

While each of the four tips uses different connotations to denote their size, the main reference is to its width, while length is referred to as length. I would also like to mention how to choose the correct size.  With a Torx or Square it is simple, it either fits or it does not.  The straight and Phillips require you to pay closer attention.  Use the largest size that will fit the head of the screw, smaller sizes will slip causing you to strip out the head of the screw and nobody enjoys that nightmare.    A greater length of a screwdriver allows you to apply greater torque.   When dealing with large screwdrivers you need only use quality steel.  The easiest way to accomplish this is to use name brands with a trusted warranty.  That is how I take care of the guess work.

 In my opinion, a good screwdriver handle is the most important part in choosing which screwdriver to purchase.  A good handle allows for good grip which is necessary for proper control.   In man’s quest for improvement, he has committed a transgression by altering the handle.  Some companies try for an ergonomic design.  This is about as accurate as “one size fits all”.  The cushioned grip handle may feel nice while in the store, but they do not last.  I have had some peel and separate.  Currently we have been issued Kobalt screwdrivers at my work.  During a repair I had liquid running down my arm and dripping from my elbow.  Naturally, I gripped the needed tools and finished the repair.  By the time I finished gathering the tools and returned to the shop, the liquid had already started to degrade the soft part of the handle.  Now, I am left with a screwdriver handle that is sticky and gets my hands dirty each time I use it.  There is a long list of materials used in our modern history.  Few have stood the test of time. Most grandfathers’ toolboxes have a set of Craftsman screwdrivers with the clear plastic handles.   In my personal toolbox there is a set from 1994 and they are still in good shape.  My Dad has a set of Stanley screwdrivers with plastic handles that have performed well.    I have worked with tools professionally for over twelve years.  In all that time I have seen new many gadgets some last, some fail.  I always return to my hand tools.  I always advise having quality hand tools as the backbone of any toolbox.   Investing in a good set of screwdrivers will save you time, money and frustration through the years.

#2 - Jennie Brynne Lindstrom

Mama always said that if you want something done, you got to do it yourself. When those things need to be done at the end of the day, don’t you just want it to be simple? Why have every little thing required multiple steps with hard to understand instructions? It would be impractical to hire a professional to do every single task that needed to be done around the house, but it would be nice. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just press a button and know from logical sense how and why it is supposed to work? Doesn’t that sound like a dream? The idea of purchasing something having it work exactly like it is supposed to with little headache and hassle? Does such a thing actually exist? Why yes it does! Command picture & frame hanging strips do just that. It doesn’t matter if this is your first home or your fifth, hanging pictures is difficult and a headache. Similar to Velcro, these plastic strips are attached to the wall using the adhesive sides and after 24 hours of being placed with no weight, the adjustable non-adhesive side of the frames can be attached to their buddies on the wall. This allows you to have adjustable and worry-free hanging. It really is that easy, all you have to do is make sure you have enough strips to account for the weight of the frame because most strips hold roughly a pound. Not only are these little do dads easy to use and put together, the amount of time it takes so hang up your frames is so small that you can get that photo ready to hang during the commercial break of Dancing with The Stars and still be back on the couch when the show begins. Because no one wants to miss knowing who gets voted out this week! The best part is that no matter what type of person you are, there is a reason these strips will work for you.

Are you the “I have no clue what I’m doing” type of person? That’s ok, because if you accidently hang your photos upside down, sideways, or crooked you can easily fix and adjust until they look completely perfect. Each strip has quite a bit of space that allows your photos can to be adjusted about an inch in every direction as needed. I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to worry about leveling, hammering, or creating hard to fix holes in my walls just of discover that everything is off center and crooked.  If by chance you did make a mistake that cannot be repaired by a simple adjustment on the strips, pulling on the command strip tab will easily remove the strip connected to the wall with no damage. So, no matter what no one will have any idea that you don’t know what you are doing. It’s not just you, if your significant other is a Do It Yourselfer, but in all the wrong ways, you can fix the problems before they even notice. At the end of the day, command strips let you tackle tasks without the worry of any damage being done.

Do you have commitment issues? These strips allow you to switch up and change your photos as much as you want before you create too much a bond. So even if you end up having regrets from that one night where you hung too many photos up on the wall, there is every opportunity to go back and right the wrong. This allows you to be able to decorate for the holidays, throw a surprise party, and hang all the kid’s artwork at any point you feel like it. There are no long-term relationship obligations with the command strips. You can break up, be on and off, see other people, or commit for the long run. With the command strips, there is no fear of exiting or being unable to go back.

Are you a perfectionist? Does the idea of something being off center or tilted drive you insane? Then you will understand what makes the ability of flexibility important. Command strips allow the perfectionist in you to get every detail of that photo collage perfect down to the very last inch. It’s true that the perfect artwork can really bring out a room, and if you like things a certain way then you can be at peace knowing that those photos are exactly where they should be. You can really channel that type A personality and know something is going to be done right. No one will ever know that you hung everything up without a professional’s help.

 Now, there are substitutes to the command strips. There’s the famous and college noteworthy tape, but do you really want to go back to your poster days? We have also talked about hammering nails into the walls, while yes secure, without paying a professional or dealing with a level how do you know that everything is even? No, the best option if you have any doubt or worry about what you are about to hang on your wall is to use command strips. They were the best option for myself when I move. When I do have a home, I will be using them as well. These strips do what they say they are going to do, there are no gimmicks or extra processes that are required. When finding a cost efficient and low risk solution to making your home fit to your taste and style, command strips are the answer. Command strips are flexible to the person you are, regardless how often that may change. I would recommend these strips to anyone who is looking for a hanging solution for pictures or artwork and wanting their walls to express themselves. In the words of Juan Montoya, “A room should never allow the eye to settle in one place. It should smile at you and create fantasy.”

#1 (Winner) - Natalie Kokoska

Recently I worked with the Black+Decker Classic Mouse Detail Sander. I used this sander to prep a dresser and nightstand that I wanted to refinish for my college apartment. The furniture was given to me by my step-grandmother and was painted a vintage white that had faded into a pale yellow, so it was in dire need of a refresh. I decided to refinish this furniture to make my new home more “home-like”, with a nice light gray color and silver adornments (a change from the faded bronze color). The mouse sander provided me, an inexperienced furniture-flipper, with an easy to use instructional manual and complete ease of use, so for these reasons, I would definitely recommend it to people of all skill levels.

Before beginning on this refinishing project, I asked my parents what was necessary to get the job done. I confess that I didn’t even know I would need to sand the furniture, so thankfully I did consult my parents. Once they explained the process of sanding, wiping down, painting, and sealing of the furniture, I was sent on my way with the Black+Decker Mouse Detail Sander. I had no idea how to use the tool, but I was easily able to read the instructional manual. The product is fairly simple to use, so there was not much to read, although it was very detailed and comprehensive. Once I read the manual, I plugged in the sander and got to work. Due to the fact that my dresser and nightstand both were sealed with a shiny varnish, I had to press harder than normal in order to completely sand off the top coat, in order to leave a paint-ready surface. The whole process of sanding a 36" wide x 20" deep x 48" high dresser and an 18.94” wide x 15.62” deep x 23.5” high nightstand took me about 2.5 hours. Again, I have never refinished furniture before in my life and was completely able to use the product on my own, with little help from others. Overall, it was a very simple, quick, and successful process.

In comparison to other products, I do not have much background, but upon looking up different products within its category, I was able to form small opinions about each. One sander I came across was the Genesis Corner Palm Sander. This sander looks much more compact, is priced for less, and comes with 3 additional sanding pads. On the contrary, the Black+Decker sander only comes with one sanding pad, is much larger, and is double the price. In comparison, I enjoy the larger size of the Black+Decker sander with the ability to control the movement, but the Genesis sander seems to be very compatible with the size of my hand, making it easier to maneuver and due to the small size, is probably better suited to fit in small areas like those on my dresser and night stand. Despite the smaller and more compact stature of the Genesis sander, the Black+Decker seems to be much sturdier and got the job done for me. The second sander I looked at was the Trademark Tools sander, which was about the same size and price as the Black+Decker, making it easier to compare. Upon review of the features of this sander, it seemed as though they were virtually the same product, although the Black+Decker sander could produce 14,000 orbits per minute, while the Trademark Tools sander could only produce 13,000 orbits per minute. This is a very small difference, but may make a slight improvement in the amount of time one would have to spend on a product, considering more power would be used. In comparison to these two sanders, the Black+Decker seems to be the best option for myself, although I think any of them would have gotten the job done.

In terms of functionality within the industry, I think this sander belongs in the amateur home improvement industry. This sander would most likely not be used by professionals, as they would use a more powerful and advanced sander, so beginners would mostly benefit from this product. So, speaking in terms of a first-time user, I believe this sander was perfect and provided me with everything I needed when refinishing my dresser and night stand. The only complaint I have about this product was the fact that it was not cordless. Because it was so small, it came in a very small case and therefore had a small cord attached to it. This was most likely to prevent the amount of room it took up in the package, but made it necessary to employ an extension cord into the project. Although not a problem for myself due to the amount of extension cords I have lying around my house, I could absolutely see this being a problem for future customers who only want to deal with one piece of equipment when taking on a small project. Other than this one complaint, the sander was magnificent for my project. I would recommend this for anyone looking to take on a small home improvement project on their own, especially if they are not skilled in the area. This was easy to use, compact, and provided me with all I needed to make a beautiful new piece of furniture.