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Photo of Workshop

You can't make repairs without some tools. You won't need many to fix a toilet, but you will need a few. Most plumbing tools are not expensive, and given a reasonable amount of care they are a lifetime investment. Your initial costs will usually be recovered with the first repair you do.

There are some single-purpose plumbing tools such as a spud wrench for installing or removing a flush valve from a toilet tank and a plunger for clearing a clogged toilet, but most of the tools you will need are used for general home repairs as well. Toolbox

Some hardware stores and plumbing supply shops will loan or rent plumbing tools that you only use once in a while, but you should buy an adjustable wrench, a pair of pliers and several screwdrivers, both philips head and regular types, a plunger and a toilet auger. Then buy the rest as the need arises.

Bare Bones Plumbing Toolbox

In addition to the above named tools every household should keep an all purpose penetrating lubricant on hand. Most plumbing parts are made of materials meant to be in contact with water and not rust, but they will collect minerals that will cement the parts together. You will use penetrating lubricants for not just plumbing repairs but many other household problems such as squeeky doors and sticky windows. A penetrating lubricant will make many jobs much easier. On tough jobs such as separating a toilet tank from the bowl, you want to give the lubricant time to work by applying it hours before you expect to actually do the work. I have applied it the night before and re-applied it the next morning for jobs I knew were going to be stubborn. LPS-1 lubricant

My particular favorite is LPS-1 Greaseless Lubricant; I've used it ever since I saw a demonstration years ago of its many uses. It is a fast acting penetrant that displaces moisture, loosens rusted or frozen parts and best of all it's not greasey and doesn't stain. LPS-1 uses a nonflammable propellant and is non-conductive so it can be used on electrical components. It also makes it easier to remove those nasty labels on jars or bottles that you'd like to reuse. When my sewing machine begins to be sluggish, I spray all the moving parts with LPS-1 and give it a thorough cleaning with a small soft paint brush. It's amazing how much lint collects in and around the moving parts.

The lists of uses for LPS-1 is endless. While I have purchased LPS-1 in a local hardware store, it is not always easy to find. Now I order it on the internet.

Phillipshead Screwdriver
Adjustable Wrench
Straight Edge Screwdriver
Hex Wrench
Toilet Auger
Slip Joint Pliers
Toilet Plunger

An Expanded Tool Box

You may think you're not up to doing your own plumbing repairs, but when something starts dripping late on a Friday night, you'll want to be prepared to do some damage control fast. This Old House plumbing contractor Richard Trethewey suggests every homeowner should have basic plumbing tools on hand — he says, you could get everything on his list for between $100 and $150 and, as Richard says, they don't go bad.

DIY Plumbing Toolkit

Rex Cauldwell, a third-generation electrician and a master plumber, has written widely on both subjects, most notably in Fine Homebuilding magazine and the Journal of Light Construction. Rex says, "Few things strike terror in homeowners' hearts like plumbing gone awry. And, conversely, few things are as satisfying as having the right tool handy when trouble strikes. You could save yourself the cost of a new floor. Likewise, if you want to extend supply pipes or install a faucet, the job will be a lot easier with a few specialized tools such as the ones on his tool list. Lastly, Rex suggests a child's little red wagon is a handy way to transport your tools from your shop to your plumbing project—if your child isn't using it, that is.

Toilet Seat
by Clayton Pond 1981
Silkscreen, 24 x 18" (page 122)

Tools as ArtTools as Art: The Hechinger Collection
by Peter Hamill

This book showcases the collection of art belonging to John Hechinger, the owner of the Hechinger chain of hardware stores in the eastern US. Most of the art was originally exhibited at the company headquarters in Maryland before the company closed its brick and morter stores; HechingerHechinger Art is now online.

The National Building Museum

Photo of Great Hall at the Building Museum

Since the above book was published, John Hechinger, has donated the collection to the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. The exhibit, Instruments of Change, traces the use of tools as a hallmark of civilization and a source of artistic creativity through sculptures, paintings, photographs, crafts, prints, and drawings. The Collection left its original setting for public display in 1998. At present, it exceeds 375 works by 250 leading modern and contemporary masters as well as emerging artists, and is still growing. Spanning a wide range of media, styles, and themes, the Collection celebrates the dignity of common tools and the intrinsic beauty of their design.

Christopher Pelley, Pandora's Box

Christopher Pelley, Pandora's Box, 1996,
Oil on Linen, found objects, 56-inches x 48-inches

The National Building Museum is at 401 F Street, NW, Washington, DC at the Red Line Metro Judiciary Square Station. The Museum building was completed in 1887 and originally housed the Pension Bureau. Today, it is recognized as a marvel of engineering. The Italian Renaissance design, with its central fountain and eight 75 feet tall Corinthian columns -- among the tallest interior columns in the world -- makes the 15 story high Great Hall one of the most spectacular structures in Washington. Created by an act of Congress, the Building Museum is the only institution uniquely dedicated to exploring the what, who, how, and why of American building.

Future handymen and handywomen can have fun learning the art and craft of building at the National Building Museum’s annual Festival of the Building Arts held each autumn. Practice hammering and nail-driving skills, create photo stands with quick-drying concrete, build a city out of boxes, lay brick, thatch a roof, climb aboard construction equipment, help build a log cabin, and much more! A free hard hat will make youngsters part of the team and the action!

For a virtual tour of the Building Museum visit their web-site at http://www.nbm.org/Virtual_Tour/Virtual_Tour.html.

The Davistown Museum

Prescott Block, 58 Main St. #4, P.O. Box 346, LIBERTY, ME 04949

The Davistown Museum is a regional history, tool and art museum in the hill country of central coastal Maine. The missions of the Museum are: To recover, display and interpret the hand tools of Maine and New England’s maritime culture. To serve as a clearinghouse for information on the history of hand tools and their role in the early industries and technologies of Maine and New England.

coverFine Tool Journal

The Fine Tool Journal

The Fine Tool Journal is a comprehensive resource on hand tools devoted to learning about hand tools - their history, their use, their beauty, their value. Whether you collect hand tools, use them, or just study their history, "Fine Tool Journal" can help expand your enjoyment horizon. The Fine Tool Journal is published four times a year.

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