An Introduction To Hand Tools

by MOTORHEAD Tools Team on December 29, 2020

Handheld instruments were around long before power tools, which were first used by the ancient Egyptians. One of their signature tools was the bow powered lathe, which allowed them to construct the great pyramids. While people powered these lathes, later versions were powered by horses in the 1700s in the United Kingdom.

Even though these power devices were able to tackle larger jobs, the tactile and simple functionality presented by earlier hand instruments was coveted by builders, which is why so many are still being used today.


Where Hand Tools came from

Handheld tools date back as early as the mid-Pliocene Epoch, nearly 3.3 million years ago, when rocks were being used to alter and fashion other natural elements to create weapons for hunting and living. Using stones and sticks to create devices with a purpose is what began differentiating humans from animals. One of the main priorities of our ancient ancestors was cutting the meat of animals they hunted as humans were unlike some carnivorous animals in that they did not have sharp teeth or claws.


During this time, the first devices were made from naturally sharp stones, followed by rocks that were hand-sharpened. Fire was a great contributor to the development of handheld devices as it helped shape wood for weapons, which inspired the further stone models. The discovery of these tools by archaeologists confirmed the existence of homo sapiens at this time. Here, handheld devices began their evolutionary ascent into the tools we use today. Some of these modern-day tools are saws, screwdrivers, hammers, and nails.


What is a hand tool?

A handheld tool is a device used without any electricity to complete a plethora of tasks. The manual operations of these devices could be anything from chiseling, forging, sawing, or hammering. In some cases, to get hand tools working, an auxiliary device is needed such as a vise. Many building instruments require another building instrument to be effective. For example, a nail needs a hammer and a screwdriver needs a screw.


Using these types of devices rather than power alternatives gives young craftspeople and trade students a better understanding and appreciation of manual work. While power alternatives have their uses, often using these before learning the basics can result in rushed and shoddy work. Through an intro to hand tools, a training artisan can understand the importance of precision, measurements, detail, and patience.


Types of Hand Tools

Cutting tools

A cutting tool is a sharp edged utensil  used to cut off the excess material for a certain size or shape. The sharp edge is securely shaped to the tool itself and in this case, is used with pure manpower. Examples of cutting tools include: 

  • Pull saw
  • Axe


Measuring Tools

Measuring tools are sensitive surface instruments with scales of different degrees of accuracy. Measuring tools are mainly used in single-part production and maintenance work. Examples of measuring tools include:

  • Laser distance measure
  • Digital measuring tool
  • Leveling Cross line Laser


Hammers and Mallets

Hammers and mallets are handheld tools made to deliver impact force. A hammer has weight that is concentrated in a particular spot to create massive force. Types of hammers and mallets include:

  • Fiberglass Handle Hammer
  • Wood Handle Rubber Mallet

Garden Tools

A garden tool has many different forms for various requirements made for gardening, such as shears or push lawn mowers to spades, and garden forks. Some of our garden tools include:

  • Bypass Lopper
  • Pruning Shears
  • Split Axe

Wrenches and Prying

Wrenches are made in various shapes and sizes and are used for gripping, fastening, turning, tightening and loosening things like pipes, pipe fittings, nuts and bolts. Types of wrenches include:

  • Ratcheting Wide Mouth Wrench
  • Adjustable Hammerhead Wrench
  • Wide Mouthed Adjustable Hammerhead Wrench


Common Hand Tools- A Deep Dive

The Hammer

The hammer is one of the most easily recognized building devices in the world. It consists of a long shaft for holding and a head with two different ends. One end is used for striking nails into other materials for attaching purposes or wedging. On the other end is a claw-like mechanism used to remove the nails that have already been driven in. In most cases, this device is one piece of metal; however, there are various models now available that utilize synthetic materials.


Pro Tip- Start slow with small taps with your hand holding the nail in place. Once the nail is firmly rooted in the wood, take your hand away and drive it in with heavier blows. It is best to hold your hammer further down the shaft when doing heavy blows.

The Screwdriver

A screwdriver is similar to a hammer in that it is used in tandem with another device for attachment purposes. Instead of a straight nail, the spiral rib on the screw requires it to be spun for attachment. The screw has a slotted head which the screwdriver enters. There are various types of heads, including Philips, flathead, Torx, hex, and several others.


Pro Tip- Always keep the screwdriver perpendicular to the screw and ensure that the size is exact. If you try and use the wrong screwdriver, it can tear the screw, making it impossible to turn in with a screwdriver.


The Saw

The saw was one of the greatest innovations with the ability to cut entirely through the wood rather than just mark the surface. It consists of a thin metal sheet with grooved teeth on one end. Some earlier versions were made of bone and rock. This tool has several types, with the most popular being the hack saw.


Pro Tip- Mark a line where you want to cut. Keep the teeth close to the wood initially, using long strokes. If you secure the wood in place before you saw, it will guarantee a cleaner cut.

What's next?

With a better understanding of the history and applications of these manual instruments, you can better grasp what is possible in your own home.

If you want more information and access to a wide variety of consumer-grade tools, contact us today.


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