Tech Talk
Basic Hand Tools

Tech Talk:
Basic Hand Tools

by Brian Pollard

When choosing hand tools go for a reputable make. Cheap tools open up, wear and fail when you most need them. Spanners come in three main styles: open ended, ring spanners and socket spanners.

Open ended spanners allow access to restricted areas such as lock nuts etc. They are designed to provide sufficient leverage to tighten the nut/bolt without shearing the bolt. Cheap spanners are oddly sized and can shear a bolt or spread their jaws before reaching the correct torque. Being open they do flex slightly under extreme pressure and will take the corners off a nut or bolt head if not used correctly. The spanner should be used with as much of the jaw as possible in contact with the nut or bolt head. Choose with care and enjoy using them for years to come. If they wear to the point burrs appear at the jaws then it’s time for buying a new, decent, replacement.

Filing the jaws is a very short term workaround. In exceptional circumstances spanners can be modified to slim the jaws in width or thickness but this variance must be viewed in the light that it is deviating from the manufacturers specification and will not perform as designed. It becomes a tool for a specific purpose and saved for just this purpose. A prime example is a spanner cut in half to access the mixture jet on a mini cooper. Don’t be afraid to build up specialist tools at the expense of cutting or grinding a spanner. Be encouraged by knowing all top tuners have a handful of favourite, sometimes modified, spanners.

Tip: tape up the shank of that pair of spanners used for that essential ‘tune up’ just prior to the final. You can then lay your hands straight on to them and do the job correctly first time.

Ring spanners are great for applying maximum torque to a nut/bolt, if access is sufficiently clear. They must be correctly fitted to the nut or bolt head to prevent accidents when tightening. They must be used with care if the bolt is tapped into alloy, or of smallish diameter, as the force required to shear the bolt, or the internal thread, is not very high and as manufacturers make small ring spanners quite long care must be taken.

Tip: you will inevitably use ring spanners with open ended spanners so tape them the same and make finding the ‘pair’ so much easier.

Socket spanners are a great boon when tightening or slackening a bolt with long lengths of thread. The average kart can be built with a socket set of 1/2" iand a few 3/8" drive sockets. Typical, normal length, sockets suit most applications, with long reach sockets needed for wheel nuts and some engine work. Quality is again of paramount importance in choosing tools that will perform correctly and not damage the hexagon heads of any bolt or nut.

As well as a range of sockets for your kart I would suggest a couple of extensions, both short and long, a ratchet for easier working and a speed brace for quickness. If possible double up on purchasing the tools necessary for rear wheel removal and you will be able to press another pair of hands into service when next changing to wets for that crucial heat or final. A final socket spanner tip: when removing spacers, from front stub axle set-ups, place them on the shaft of the socket extension and they will be there for when you change back to previous set-up.

Files are for removing small amounts of metal. The metal should be held securely in a vise if possible. The file is used in two hands and always with a handle on the file. The metal found on a kart is likely to be either Files come in different grades. They are coarse, for rapid removal of large amounts of metal ( which belies my opening statement regarding files...), medium for normal metal removal and fine for finishing the job and for draw-filing a piece of metal until it is smooth enough to 'ring' together with a mate,

Let me explain a few of the previous phrases...

Normal metal removal is achieved by holding the file horizontal and pushing it across the metal, and thus removing metal as it passes over it. At the end of each stroke the file is lifted clear of the work by a very small amount, just sufficient to avoid friction. The next stroke is now attempted, again in a horizontal plane and of just sufficient pressure to remove a small amount of metal. The principle of filing is to gradually remove the excess metal, while keeping the profile of the job as square as necessary. Long, controlled strokes will achieve the requires result.

During the filing process take care to maintain accuracy by stopping before tiredness causes errors. A short rest will refresh your arms and allow you to continue accurately. Many a job has been spoilt by rushing to finish it. If you are filing metal that clogs the file then brush the excess filings from the file with a brass wire brush, or a piece of wood. Look after the file and it will perform well, Misuse the file and it will tear great lumps from the work and cause great problems. Draw-filing is when you hold the file in two hands across the body and at 900 to the work. You stand in line with the metal instead of at right angles to it. Instead of pushing the file across the work you draw it towards yourself, and the push away from yourself, along the edge of the work, removing very small amounts of metal each stroke. This method only uses a small area of the file but produces a very fine metal finish. When used accurately the work can be so flat after filing that it can be made to stick to a similar piece of metal just by twisting them together. This is called ‘ringing’. Files come in differing cross sections. Most useful are flat, round and half round. Look for the 'safe' edge of a file and use it to protect work when filing close by.

Hacksaws are used to saw metal and remove excess metal prior to filing. There is the normal hacksaw and the ‘junior’ hacksaw, which use much shorter blades. There are two main types of blades - fine, with lots of teeth per inch, and coarse with fewer teeth per inch. Coarse blades are for cutting soft, thick material.

Fine blades are for cutting thin material or higher grade steel. A guide to which blade is best is by using my rule of thumb which states there must always be three teeth on the job at any time during cutting.

Hacksaw frames are designed to tension the blade. Finger tighten the blade until slack is not evident and the further tighten the blade by three turns to tension the blade and allow yourself to cut a straight line. With practice accuracy will come and filing will only be necessary to finish off any cut. Use the full length of any blade, when sawing, and build up your arm muscles to the point you are in control of the blade and not vice versa.

Telltale signs of a blade wearing out is when it does not cut smoothly. This is caused by the ‘set’ of the teeth wearing down and the clearance becoming too small to allow cutting to take place.( the set is the wavy appearance of the blade when view from above).

Tip: use old/damaged blades as scrapers, but make up a handle of thick tape to protect your fingers from cuts.

This article was produced by Brian Pollard, author of "Preparing the Gx160 for 'open' racing" which is available on CDROM, in multimedia format, as an e-book, and in paper form. All enquires should be sent to the above e-mail address.

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