The must-have tools and techniques for the DIY job in the garden

Keep it simple while you acquaint yourself with the tools and techniques you will need for DIY. If you select the job that is compatible with your abilities, you’ll have it nailed in no time, writes Kya deLongchamps.

The must-have tools and techniques for the DIY job in the garden

Keep it simple while you acquaint yourself with the tools and techniques you will need for DIY. If you select the job that is compatible with your abilities, you’ll have it nailed in no time, writes Kya deLongchamps.

According to research carried out for the Hardware Association of Ireland (November 2017), Irish people spend a hearty average of €600 a year on hardware and tools.

And, apparently, 71% of males and 73% of females also turned to Google or YouTube videos for help and advice on DIY projects.

DIY or woodworking courses for homeowners? As rare as hen’s teeth.

Still, the enthusiasm to craft, even with a virtual mentor, is clearly alive and kicking. The June Bank Holiday will see many of us cramped and cursing over an adjustable spanner or wildly walloping a curling nail — but how should we really approach making that first timber thing from scratch for the house or garden?

Brian Burke, DIY and garden expert for Woodies DIY, nurtures customers through hand and power tools basics, helping them grow their skills in woodworking.

His advice: “In a nutshell — start small. “Don’t write a cheque that your fledgeling abilities can’t cash. It’s all about the three profound little words we find so hard to say — keep it simple — while you acquaint yourself with the various tools and techniques involved.

“There is no point in taking on a job with complicated jointing and angles until you have ramped up to the skill and confidence levels required to do it well.

"Poor execution of an over-ambitious project will only serve to discourage you. Select the job that is compatible with your abilities.”

The art of assembling is a great place to find your feet — reading diagrams, finding elements and fixings, but beyond the ready cut, kit-job, what are essential skills?

“Get familiar with the basics of accurate measuring,” Brian says, “square cutting, selecting appropriate fixings for a range of situations and substrates, and you will steadily build the confidence to move on to the pergola, the lean-to for the side passage, the dog kennel, the gazebo, the skateboard ramp.

“That raised Victorian wraparound hardwood deck you’ve always wanted is just around the corner.

"Some great projects to get things moving and build confidence are raised planters, tables and bench seats, wall cladding and screening, a fuel bunker, a small play tower, potting benches for the shed or greenhouse.”

So, there you are, the Pinterest instructions paused on the laptop, the Black & Decker workbench cranked open for action.

‘Tooling up’ might seem intimidating, but to just get practice on off-cuts and self-assembly, it’s time to commit to a few investment buys. I use my hammer, drill, and jigsaw at least twice a week, so let’s start there.

A hammer should suit the person using it the most. Its weight (450g to 680g) and the comfort of the grip will suggest the model. Act out a short swing in store.

The ‘face’ — that’s the business end, should be level smooth and reasonably flat (slight convex at the edges is fine).

Timber handles look scrumptious but don’t shield you from the resonance of the blow and can be slippery in untrained, sweating hands.

I couldn’t manage life without a tack hammer in the area of 55g. With their relatively tiny head, they deal a precise shot at tacks and small nails, great for cabinet work, upholstery and light fidgety jobs.

Jason Maher, category manager at Woodies, offers advice on saw choices. “Choose which type of grip suits you best. We use a display table in store which allows you to pick up the tool and get a feel for a barrel-handle jigsaw or the top-handle jigsaw.

“It’s largely a comfort choice, so try out both. Then look for jigsaws with an orbital setting. Standard Jigsaws cut in an upstroke and the orbital setting controls how much the blade moves back and forth.

"At zero, the blade moves straight up and down like a sewing needle.

“When making a cut, make sure the shoe [guide for blade], is level on the cutting surface. If it isn’t, it’s possible the blade could jump.

"Keep a firm grip on the saw to prevent the blade from jumping. Let the saw do the work. Do not push or pull the saw. This could drastically affect the cut.”

So, what about my next cordless drill? “First identify what application you need the drill for,” Jason says, “drilling larger holes will require a larger chuck, generally all cordless drills have a chuck capacity of 3/8inches.

“Once you have your chuck size, and then look at your gear speed, the majority of drills have two speeds.

“This will impact on price and will impact performance when you are drilling holes or driving screws. Voltage, this is key — the higher the voltage the higher the power.

"Finally; battery, again these have the biggest impact on cost. Two batteries are the norm but units that have one will generally tend to be cheaper.”

Times have changed, the old knowledge has dulled. We don’t all have a gifted elder or generous neighbour on tap. Beyond night courses and online primers, Brian emphasizes the place of the DIY team on the high street.

“If you want a second (or even first opinion) on finding and using the right tool for the job, reputable DIY stores like Woodies have expert advice on tap, in-store — so just pop in and ask.”

  • Sample Tool Kit for around €175 (start with what you must have, and build and update your collection)
  • Adjustable Spanner – A calibrated full jaw width of 24mm will suit most beginning woodworkers. €10.
  • Bradawl – Essential for stabbing out starter holes. €4.
  • Chisels –A fine blade for wood – two sizes best and ‘spoon’ if you’re crafty. €6.
  • Craft Knife – Retractable, disposable blades please.
  • Cross-cut Saw – Large saw used for cutting large timber sections. 20”-22” from €12 (often less on sale).File – General purpose round file. €6-€7.
  • General Purpose Saw. G-Clamp –100mm and 200mm. €8 each.
  • Mini Hacksaw – With changeable blades. Versatile. €12.
  • Grab onto nails to nip them from wood or walls. With wire cutting ends, €20.
  • Pliers – Standard and needle-nosed set. Chrome nickel from €12.
  • Screwdriver kit 20 pcs’ (cross-head and flat) – Insulated handles will protect you from shocks. €25.
  • Rubber Mallet – for a soft tap that won’t ruin wood surfaces. Fibreglass handle, €12.
  • Spirit Level – A long and short level for vertical and horizontal levels.
  • An Infrared level is useful for larger jobs and instant measuring. With magnetic base from €9.
  • Steel Measuring Tape – 5 metre tape. Draper, €5.


Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve your Harvest by Joyce Russell (Frances Lincoln 2016).

Known widely in GIY circles for their polytunnel book, this volume by Joyce & Ben Russell shows you how to build, protect and nurture crops in style. €23.80, Eason.

The Little Veggie Patch Co DIY Garden Projects by Dillon Seitchik-Reardon and Mat Pember. Hardie Grant Books.

Intended for everyone from the complete beginner to true weekend warrior with all the skills, have a go at everything from a playhouse to cold frames and containers (with an emphasis on recycled materials). €28 Eason.

Black & Decker, Complete Outdoor Builder, Updated Edition: From Arbors to Walkways

A very complete DIY guide with a great thump specific to the garden and garage area, we love the updated version of this great book for 2018.

Featuring 150 projects it’s a must-have for anyone demanding more from their garden, and themselves. €35 Eason.

She Sheds: A Room of Your Own. Erika Kotite, Cool Springs Press 2017

Some feminine allure for a humble shed built from scratch or adapted to suit you. If it’s escape and personalising you’re after, nice book to get you scampering to the underbrush. €23.85

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