Tools and Techniques - General

Tools tend to be a major, expensive and very personal part of robot building. Most people build up a collection of their own tools, starting with screw drivers and hammers. The way that they are used and the way they perform is as much down to the way a person uses them as to a particular technique. Therefore all information on techinques listed here is intended as a guide only. RW101 does not subscribe to the idea that there is a definate right or wrong way of using tools - just some ways are more effective than others.

Purchasing tools is as much down to budget as anything else, but it is important that any tools bought are correct for their purpose. This may sound obvious, but its amazing how many tools are bought and very quickly break or become damaged. Here are a few very basic tips:

  • If the tool is going to be used a lot and/or is going to be used for heavy work (for example a spanner being used for a high torque bolt) then spend enough money to get a decent, preferably brand name product. For example, I bought a Bosch drill for over £100 many years ago and it is as good now as ever. If it is only going to be used occasionally, then consider a cheaper, perhaps own-branded equivalent.
  • When buying power tools, consider carefully what features you actually need (as opposed to those you want) and make sure the product has all of them. It's not worth spending £10 less only to always wish you had bought the next one up. If you are not sure, buy it anyway - but don't buy based on gimmicks.
  • Hand tools must be comfortable as well as strong. There is nothing worse than a driver that cuts your hand or a hammer that never feels quite safe.
  • If you are buying 'bits' (drill bits, blades, driver ends, sanding products) don't buy inferior ones. They just break. Even good ones break, but some cheap ones can shatter sending nasty shards in all directions. If you are not sure about a brand, just buy one to start with and see how you go.

It is always tempting to lend tools out to friends - and borrow other peoples. We say DON'T unless you are really sure you can trust them. You may never see it again and good tools are difficult to replace. If you really must lend them, remember that no one will use it in quite the same way as you, so expect some wear and tear when it comes back. And if you borrow tools, treat them with some respect even if you don't treat yours that way - it's a very quick way to lose a friend.