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Buying guide for Electric Screwdrivers

If you're a DIY enthusiast, an electric screwdriver is a must to help speed up everyday jobs. Tighten and loosen all screw shapes and sizes by interchanging bits. It can be especially useful where lots of screws need to be tightened quickly and precisely.

Before you buy an electric screwdriver, decide what types of jobs you will be doing and bear in mind:

·         Power rating

·         Variable speed

·         Spindle lock

·         Lithium ion technology

·        Integrated light

·         Shape

·         Torque

·         Reverse action

·         Fast charge battery

Power rating 

The electric screwdriver's power is measured in Volts. Most are cordless and are powered by a rechargeable battery with a charging cradle. Generally the higher the Voltage, the more efficient the screwdriver, and the more work can be done before it needs recharging.

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A screwdriver can either come in a simple-to-use straight design, a pistol shape or can be multi- positional. The straight electric screwdrivers are the most basic, whereas the pistol shape helps to access awkward angles, and a multi-positional screwdriver will give you the best of both worlds.

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Variable speed 

As with most power drills, you can vary an electric screwdriver's speed to provide greater control and adapt to different materials and screw types.

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A screwdriver's rotating force, known as torque, can be varied according to the size of the screw - some need more force than others. While a screwdriver with lower levels of torque will be sufficient for occasional day-to-day tasks, a screwdriver with variable torque and a higher range is better suited to more involved assembly jobs where there are lots of different screw types required.

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Spindle lock 

A lock mechanism that temporarily switches your electric screwdriver into manual for better control.

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Reverse action 

A reverse action allows screws to be removed quickly and easily.

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Lithium ion technology 

This is new technology used in rechargable batteries that means they can be much smaller, so screwdrivers are much more compact, lighter and easier to use. The added benefit of lithium ion technology is that the battery will not run down while the screwdriver is idle (like other models).

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Fast charge battery 

A feature that enables the screwdriver battery to charge up in an hour or less. This is ideal if you have forgotten to charge the battery beforehand.

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Integrated light 

A light built into the screwdriver to help visibility in dark conditions.


 Buying guide to buying jigsaws


A must for any toolbox, jigsaws make straight, curved and internal cuts through a variety of materials including wood and ceramic tiles. Unlike heavier circular saws that cut just straight lines, jigsaws offer the combination of cutting agility with portability and lightweight size. They can make light work of many cutting jobs including holes in worktops and openings for electrical sockets.

As with all power tools, the more features the jigsaw has, the more expensive it's likely to be. However, no matter which brand you opt for, jigsaws operate in the same way using a tiny vertical blade that moves up and down at a rate of up to 3,000 strokes per minute. They're not the fastest saws, but they're precise and easy to manoeuvre. Think about the types of jobs you need it for and then decide on the type of jigsaw and features you'll really benefit from.

·         Corded or cordless jigsaw?

·        Speed

·         Pendulum / orbital action

·         Dust extractor

·         Using a jigsaw safely

·         Power

·         Jigsaw blades

·        Adjustable base plate

·         Laser generator

Corded or cordless jigsaw? 

Battery operated jigsaws are convenient - they can be flexibly used anywhere in places you can't get too with a corded jigsaw. Although cordless models can cut tough materials, it drains the battery quicker so they're best for softer materials such as wood. They also have a limited run time.

Mains operated jigsaws are better suited to tougher cutting jobs or continuous use. Corded models are generally better for regular use and for tougher materials such as thick boards, light metals and hard woods.

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The more power the jigsaw has (measured in Voltage for cordless and Wattage for corded), the faster the cuts and the deeper they are - up to 70mm in timber or 8mm in steel.

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A jigsaw's speed is measured in RPM (Rotations Per Minute). For occasional use, or for less demanding jobs, a single jigsaw speed may be sufficient. However, a variable jigsaw speed that can be adjusted for different materials, is a good all round option. Some materials such as wood benefit from a fast saw speed which reduces vibration, whereas other materials may get too hot and require a slower speed which also allows more control. When used with the right blades, variable speed provides cleaner, faster cuts through different materials.

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Jigsaw blades 

As with any saw, the key to getting the best cutting result from a jigsaw is to choose the right blade for the job. Jigsaw blades are classified by the number of teeth they have per inch (tpi). The higher the blade's tpi, the smoother the finished cut and the lower it is and the quicker the cut.

Jigsaws work better through thinner materials, as blades can bend and overheat when cutting through material that is too thick. Depending on the material, jigsaws may require fine, medium or coarse cutting blades with a variety of teeth. High speed steel and Bi-metal blades are used for wood and light metal, Cobalt steel blades are also good for wood and metal but are harder and more durable. While Carbide grit blades are used to cut masonry board

A quick blade release feature enables a quick blade change which is handy if you're dealing with lots of different materials.

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Pendulum action  

The jigsaw's orbital action, which is rather like a pendulum motion, moves the blade side to side as well as up and down. The added motion allows the jigsaw to cut faster, reduces jamming and extends the blade's life. Most orbital action jigsaws have settings that adjust the amount of side-to-side motion depending on the material being cut.

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Adjustable base plate 

A jigsaw's adjustable base plate allows the operator to make bevel cuts up to 90 degrees - essential for mitre cuts.

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Dust bag 

A dust bag collects sawdust and prevents it from obscuring the cut line, as well as maintaining a cleaner, more pleasant working environment.

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Laser generator 

This creates a laser line from the jigsaw along the material to provide a guide for cutting a straight line.

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Using a jigsaw safely  

Look out for the following safety features:

·         Safety switch or lock off button

·         Some saws have a soft start feature that starts the saw at a slower speed.

·         Blade guard that shields you during use

Buy a Jigsaw from The Online DIY Shop


Power Drills Buying guide

Take the hard work out of DIY with a good drill. It's likely to be one of the most versatile and useful tools that youbuy. It will save time and make easy work of drilling holes into wood, metal and concrete, as well as drive screws and fasten bolts given the right adaptors. It's worth getting familiar with a drill's main features before you buy.


·         Corded or cordless drill?

·         Variable speed

·         Torque

·         Other features to look out for

·         Power rating

·         Hammer action

·         Chuck type

Corded or cordless drill? 

Power drills can either be corded and connected to the mains, or cordless and be powered by batteries or a charger. Weigh up the features that are most important to you:

Cordless drill

A cordless drill is generally lightweight and easier to handle. It can be used anywhere.

·         Lightweight, easy to handle and comfortable to use

·         Safer to work with as there's no trailing cord

·         More versatile - can access more tricky to get to places and can be used anywhere, there's no restriction on distance or electricity supply

·         Batteries can be interchanged for continuous power

·         Some models double up as an electric screwdriver

·         A 'quick charge' feature is handy if you've forgotten to charge it in advance.

·         Not as much power as a corded model and has limited battery life

·         You need to remember to charge the battery before use

·         Some are not capable of drilling through masonry

Corded drill

A corded drill with extra power, torque and additional features is better for tougher jobs and the more experienced user.

·         More power and torque

·         Always ready to use and provides continuous power

·         May have extra features not available on a cordless model

·         Models tend to be heavier than cordless models

·         The cord can be restrictive and intrusive

·         You're reliant on a nearby electricity socket.

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Power rating 

The higher your drill's power rating, the quicker and better performance it will give. A drill's power is indicated by Volts for corded drills and watts for corded. Generally, the more powerful the drill, the more expensive it's likely to be.

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Variable speed 

A drill's speed is measured in RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) and it plays an important part in how it performs. Single speed drills are not as flexible at dealing with different materials as those drills with variable speeds.

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Hammer action 

Many drills come with a hammer or percussion action that can tackle harder and heavier materials such as concrete. Using a pounding action, it pushes the specially toughened tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) masonry bits in and out at high speeds of thousands of beats per minute. Hammer drills can be tricky to control so a secondary handle or grip can make it easier and more comfortable to use.

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Most drills come with five torque settings so that the level of twisting force and speed can be adjusted to suit the drilling task. It also allows better control.

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Chuck type 

The drill's chuck holds the bit tightly in place and its capacity dictates the largest size of bit the drill can take. A chuck capacity of 10mm will suit most users' needs. There are 3 types of mechanism: key operated, keyless or SDS. The most suitable depends on the type of drilling that needs to be done.

Key operated models are generally more secure as the chuck is tightened using a key. This helps to keep the drill where you want it, even when tackling hard materials. However, as some key adjustment is required, bits take longer to change. Keyless models normally come with a standard 13mm chuck and as there is no key, bits can be changed quickly. SDS chucks lock bits into place using a fast keyless mechanism. Often available on the top of the range drills, the SDS system is good for using on tough drilling jobs.

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Other drill features to look out for 

There are other useful features which are all designed to make drilling easier including:

Depth rod

This allows you to set the maximum depth of the hole that you want to drill.

Front secondary handle

Two handles enable you to get the best balance and position to apply more pressure and accuracy, especially helpful for more control when using the hammer action.

Reverse action

By reversing the direction of the drill, it's quicker and easier to remove. It's also handy if you're using a screwdriver or bolt adaptor.

Integrated magnetic bit holder

It's easy to lose small drill bits. An integrated magnetic bit holder provides a convenient place to store them exactly where you need them - on the drill itself

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Pressure Washers


When you've got a tough cleaning job ahead, a pressure washer will help you save time and effort. It blasts a powerful jet of water to help lift dirt and grime off a number of outside surfaces from brick walls, garden furniture and roofs to driveways, patios and cars.


·         How do pressure washers work?

·         Pressure washer accessories

·         Choosing the right pressure washer

·         Using your pressure washer safely

How do pressure washers work? 

A pressure washer is a machine that increases water pressure and then distributes the water in a controlled manner. The combination of water flow and pressure created by your machine is what provides the rinse and cleaning action. It's plugged into the mains electricity and can either be connected to a mains water tap, a water tank or a water butt via a garden hose. If you use a tank or water butt you need to attach a filter as there's a risk of sediment getting into the machine. Make sure the tank always contains plenty of water. If it runs dry, you may damage the pressure washer.

Before you tackle a job, adjust the pressure and try out on a small area first to gauge the maximum amount of water needed for effective but safe cleaning. Pressure is measured in bars, with lighter cleaning jobs such as a dirty car needing around 100 bar, while tougher and harder to reach jobs like the roof needing at least 120 bar.

By attaching nozzles you can increase cleaning power by up to 50%, and optional attachments designed for specific jobs will get jobs done more effectively.

A pressure washer is a really efficient alternative to a garden hose. It uses about 400 litres of water an hour to provide up to 25 times more pressure.

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Choosing the right pressure washer 

Pressure washers are rated in two ways - by water pressure and water flow.

The water pressure rating measured in bars, indicates how much pressure is available for cleaning. Generally, the more pressure the machine delivers, the more power it has to lift dirt.

Just as important is the amount of water that's delivered, which is measured in litres per hour. The more water the pressure washer distributes, the faster debris can be washed away. Both pressure and flow are important in determining the right washer for the jobs you'll be doing, and both affect how much time it will take to do the work.

Here's a guide to what pressure you are likely to need to need to carry out the most common domestic cleaning tasks:

Light tasks - 100 bar

·         Garden equipment: furniture, tools, barbecues, compost bin

·         Motorbikes

·         Cycles

·         Kids toys

·         Bins

Medium tasks - 110 bar

·         Cars and other vehicles

·         Fences

·         Guttering

·         Boats

·         Swimming pools, hot tubs and spa pools

Tougher jobs - 110-130 bar

·         Roofs

·         Garden decking

·         Paths, driveways and patios

·         Brick, stone and concrete walls

·         Farm machinery

Also think about:

·         How far away from the water and electricity supply you will need to reach. You'll need a sufficiently long cable and hose.

·         Storing and maneuvering the pressure washer. Wheels and a handle are useful, as are upright models where you have limited storage space.

·         An auto stop/start feature that will prolong the life of the motor.

·         A detergent tank that will provide extra cleaning power by releasing the right amount detergent in the waterflow.

·         A built in storage compartment that safely tidies away trailing cables and hoses.

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Pressure washer accessories 

·         Take advantage of additional pressure washer attachments such as brushes, that have been designed to do specific jobs.

·         Use a specially formulated detergent for extra powerful cleaning.

·         A vario lance regulates the rate of water flow through the nozzle so it can be adjusted for different areas being cleaned.

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Using your pressure washer safely 

As with any piece of equipment, it pays to use it correctly. Remember to:

·         Read the accompanying manufacturer's instructions before use.

·         Wear the appropriate protective clothing including footwear and goggles - debris has a habit getting everywhere and could cause harm.

·         Use the pressure washer for what's it's intended for. Don't point water at people or animals.

·         Tidy up the hose and the cable to avoid damage and accidents.

·         Keep the cable away from water as much as possible.

·         Plug the pressure washer into a socket with RCD protection that will switch off the electricity automatically if an earth fault's detected.

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