Halloween is a great time for kids to dress up and go Trick-or-Treating, but what is it all about? Well, Halloween is a shortened version of All Hallows Eve, which means the evening before All Hallows (or Saints) Day in the Christian calendar. However, the origins of Halloween as a night of celebration date back to medieval times with the Festival of Samhain, an ancient Celtic tradition when people would dress up to ward off evil spirits.
Halloween was introduced to America by Scottish immigrants in the early 1900s, and thus began the commercialization of the occasion. It died off somewhat in Britain and Europe, just as the celebration of All Saints Day on the 1st November became just another date on the calendar.
However, as with many things and mainly thanks to Hollywood, what happens in the States one year will happen in the UK the next (or in this case half a century later) and Europe inevitably follows.
Trick-or-Treating also has its origins in Medieval Britain, when the poor would beg for food and in return, they would pray for the dead on All Souls Day, which is the 2nd November. Again, this all but died off until it appeared in America in the 1920s when the Scottish tradition of “guising” was introduced. This was when children disguised themselves as something frightening (to reinforce the “Trick” or threat) and went from house to house demanding “Treats”, usually sweets or candy.
The decorating and placing of pumpkins outside the home may seem a very American thing to do, but again, this was brought over by Irish immigrants in the late 19th century.
Back in Ireland, they wouldn’t have used pumpkins though. It would most likely be a turnip or a potato, hollowed out and carved into a face.
A candle was placed inside to provide the light and they called it Jack O’Lantern (as in Jack-of-the-Lantern).
Nowadays, people are quite creative in their carving, turning it into quite an art form.
So, contrary to what many people think, Halloween, trick-or-treating, pumpkins and dressing up is very much a British and Irish tradition that was introduced to America by Scottish immigrants, and then taken on board again by the Brits in the late 80s. early 90s.
Although most jobs can be undertaken using hand-tools, there is no doubt that a bit of power makes a job quicker and easier. So, which power tools should you go for?
If you have a workshop, the possibilities are endless, however, if you only have a small part of a cupboard under the stairs to store your tools, you have to be a bit more selective in your choice. Here are our top 6 essential power tools for your DIY projects.
1. A Cordless Drill
This was included in the last blog post on essential tools, and I make no apologies for including it here once again. Whether you are putting up shelving or building a backyard shed, the job will seem so much easier with a cordless electric drill.
There are lots on the market so chose wisely. These are the key elements to look for.
Power. If you are drilling into concrete or brick, some drills will “die” on you part way through your first hole. You will need a drill with around 50Nm of torque and one with a spare battery so you always have one on charge.
Versatility. A drill with multiple settings, such as hammer, drill and screw, will give you just about everything you will need. A hammer setting to drill into concrete, a drill setting for wood, and a screw setting for, well, screws, obviously.
Variable speed. If your are going to be using the drill for different purposes, it is important that you can vary the speed to suit.
Cordless or plug-in? Most professionals these days go for cordless to avoid trailing leads everywhere. They are much safer on site, especially outdoors where you also have the weather to contend with.
2. Electric Saw
These can be grouped into two types—hand-held or bench-mounted. Bench-mounted tools tend to be best suited for those with a workshop of some kind, although some benches can be folded for easy storage. You can find a good range of these and other electric saws on the SawingProws website.
Of the hand-held variety there are four types you might want to consider:
The reciprocating saw. This saw uses a push-pull action to cut through anything from wood to metal. They are heavy and you need two hands to operate it—more suited to demolition and cutting through dry-wall.
The jig-saw, for a fine cut and circular work. Ideal for cabinetry and for cutting out shapes.
The circular saw. This is a versatile woodcutter, good for cross cuts and rip cuts and it will also cut through plywood. The bench-mounted version is known as a miter saw which cuts in a downward motion making it more accurate but far less versatile.
The chain saw. This is a beast and is usually associated with cutting down trees and lopping off thick branches. However, with proper training and the right PPE, it can be a useful tool to have around.
You won’t need all of these, to begin with, but your choice will be governed by the types of project you may be undertaking.
3. Electric Screwdriver
Even though you may have a screwdriver setting on your power drill, it is always useful to have a dedicated electric screwdriver to hand. These are much smaller and easier to use than the drill but obviously, not as powerful. You can quickly change the heads as most simply push in and pull out.
Buy one with a short magnetic extension piece—this will hold the screw while you offer it up to the hole, enabling you to do some small jobs with one hand. Always use the correct bit for the screw, otherwise, you will strip the screw head, and gently squeeze the trigger to control the speed.
A planer is used to take off a skin of timber, the thickness depending on the setting, to reduce the size. It is usually applied to an edge rather than the flat surface, for example, to ease a door that won’t close properly.
Make sure you apply even pressure with each pass, otherwise you will take more off on one side than the other.
Warning: these things are extremely noisy so you may want to consider wearing ear protection. Also, think about others who might be in the vicinity.
A sander can be used to reduce the size of timber by small increments to ease a door for example, but the main use is to smooth down a surface. As such, they can be used over large areas such as a table-top or a door.
Mostly the choice is between an orbital sander or a palm sander. Orbital sanders, as the name suggests, are circular in shape and the sanding heads move in a circular motion. They are more aggressive in the way they sand down a surface than the palm sander, which is better for a fine finish.
Although these come with a bag to collect sawdust, a lot still gets into the air so you should wear a mask and goggles while working.
The other type you might come across is the belt sander, which uses a continuous strip of sandpaper to work the surface of any piece of wood. They are a heavy-duty option for sanding and leveling surfaces such as floorboards. Not something for the average DIY enthusiast, but ideal for a renovation project.
6. Rotary Multi-Tool Kit
I just thought I would throw this one in as a wildcard. Often referred to as a ‘Dremel’ – which is just the trade name of a popular make – this tool comes with many accessories including a flexible attachment that allows you to get into awkward spaces.
Some might regard this as one for specialist craftwork, but these kits work in all kinds of ways, like cutting through pipework in awkward areas, smoothing off rough edges on metalwork and removing paint splashes.
Whenever you are planning a project, always remember the rules on Personal Protective Equipment. See my post on Essential Hand Tools for more.