Week of December 8, 2008
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Builders’ Tip: A Cutting-Edge System to Keep Chisels Sharp

Keeping chisels and other edge tools sharp is a habit that I insist that all our crew members develop. Not only that, in my company, keeping tools sharp also boosts moral, promotes safety and sends a valuable lesson to new crew members.

With so much importance placed on sharp tools, we have developed a low-cost sharpening system that ensures that we have a ready supply of well-honed tools available at all times.

In my company, different employees with different skill levels have access to particular tools. The sharpening system we use also helps my crew members determine which tools they are qualified to use.

Here’s how the system works:

  • Every week, we collect dull, nicked or chipped chisels, drill bits, planer knives and other edge tools and put them in a special drawer in the service body of one of our trucks.

  • Then once a week, I or one of my qualified employees sharpens the tools on my Delta sharpening center. This tasks usually takes about 1-1/2 hours and ensures that my 25 employees are always equipped with sharp tools.

  • Once the tools are sharpened, we clean them with a solvent to remove the sharpening compound and allow them to dry.

  • Then we dip the sharpened edges into a can of liquid electrical tape ― a liquid plastic readily available in many colors — to a depth of about 1/2-inch above the sharpened area to seal out moisture and dirt.

  • The liquid tape dries in about 15 minutes and can be removed with a quick pass from a utility knife when it’s time to use the chisel.


As an added benefit, the plastic coating also does an excellent job of cushioning the newly-sharpened tools when they rattle around in toolboxes to and from the job. In fact, when I recently took the coating off a chisel that had been sitting at the bottom of a bin for more than a year, it was as sharp as the day it was sharpened.

Because the liquid tape comes in several colors ― we use black, blue, red and green in our shop ― we color-code the tools to designate how sharp they are and how much care was used for each tool during the sharpening process. The color-coding also designates the skill level requred for each tool and gives my newer and less experienced crew members a goal to work towards.

For instance, our green-coded, hollow-ground, microbeveled chisels are used for intricate work by our highly-skilled workers. Our apprentices, on the other hand, only use the black-coded chisels because they are working on jobs like removing brick veneer that do not require high skill levels or highly-sharpened tools. As their skills progress, however, they also advance to using the next level of color-coded tools.

Through the years, I've seen them develop a real sense of pride as they graduate to jobs that require using the most refined-edge tools.

— John Avitabile, Trabuco Canyon, Calif.

Tips & Techniques provided by Fine Homebuilding.
©2008 The Taunton Press

To contact Fine Homebuilding, e-mail Christina Glennon.



Set Yourself Apart With CGB Designation

Join the ranks of the nation’s top building industry professionals with the Certified Graduate Builder (CGB) designation. The “Builder Assessment Review” (BAR) is your first step towards obtaining the CGB.

This comprehensive assessment measures your expertise in the four key areas of the building industry: building technology, business and finance, project management and sales and marketing.

Your results will show the areas where your knowledge is strongest and weakest and will help determine the courses required for you to obtain your CGB.

To learn where the next BAR will be held, visit NAHB’s education listings, or call the Professional Designation Help Line at 800-368-5242 x8154.



BuilderBooks.com Offers More Than 250 Books That Help You Build Your Business

BuilderBooks.com is your source for training and education products for the building industry. The official bookstore for NAHB, BuilderBooks.com offers award-winning publications, software, brochures and more available in both English and Spanish.

To view these publications online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.



Free NAHB Kit Gives Builders Back-to-Basics Tips to Navigate the Slowdown

What was once expected to be a relatively mild housing slump following three years of record new home construction and sales has given way to a significant downturn.

To help members navigate the uncharted waters of this slowdown, NAHB has compiled a comprehensive “Back to Basics” online toolkit — the best of the basics, the tried and true and the truly new. To access the toolkit, click here.

To access the “Back to Basics” toolkit, you must be an NAHB member and have a login to www.nahb.org. To create a login, go to www.nahb.org/login or click on the log-in button on the main menu bar.

For assistance, call the NAHB Member Service Center at 800-368-5242.

 
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