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© Copyright 2006 Work-4 Projects Ltd.

By Jon Eakes

The Tools of Demolition

Almost all renovations start with removing the old, so since this issue of Home BUILDER concentrates on renovations, I thought I would seek out some of the front-line tools: the tools of demolition.

Renovation gloves
What better place to start than with the greatest new gloves on the market from Irwin? They set about making a pair of gloves specifically for demolition. What they came up with was good flexibility and breathing by combining various different materials, leaving the joints to flex perfectly while doubling and tripling stress points like finger tips, palms and even the backside of your thumb! I guess they simply studied where all regular gloves wear through and then beefed them up. Best of all, rather than follow the traditional flared cuff, they went for an elastic arm cuff that gently but effectively keeps dust and debris out of the glove, just like snow gloves keep out the snow. I can't wait to try them out on a plaster and lathe removal job.

Dead blow hammer
Of course, the heavy hitters in demolition are sledge hammers, which come in various weights and various handles length. But have you ever tried a "dead blow hammer"? It comes with replaceable plastic heads that can not only knock out 2x4s but also leave less of a mark on things you don't want to damage with a regular hammer. The secret to the dead blow hammer is that the head is filled with free floating shot. It is heavy like a sledge hammer but, as it swings into contact with the wood, only about half the weight hits first. Then, just when a regular sledge hammer would bounce back and shock your wrists, the shot slams forward, totally removing the rebound and transferring all the momentum of the hammer to the wood. There is no rebound, no shock to your wrists, and more power applied to the job of moving a piece of wood, either knocking it out of the wall, or forcing a structural piece into place. After your first strike with a dead blow hammer, it will be a permanent part of your tool box.

Wrecking bar
They call them "wrecking bars" because they were not meant for gentle persuasion. They come in all sizes but, for each size, they are heavy and made for abuse. To some extent, they can even be used as sledge hammers, but the rebound on the wrists is not nice. At least one big one - two to three feet long - is a necessity when simple brawn is needed over brains.

Nail claw
Designed similar to the wrecking bar is the "nail claw". Where the short end of the wrecking bar is built for strength, not finesse, the nail claw is a bit more refined and is limited specifically to getting under and pulling nails where your hammer ears don't fit well. It is often used just to pull the nail up high enough to grab it properly with either a hammer or the wrecking bar.

Claw bar

When you start working with trim and other material where you actually want to save the wood, the "claw bar" comes into play. This is actually a machined tool and, although it comes in different sizes, it is generally under a foot long. The machined foot is specifically designed to be hit with a hammer, allowing the sharpened claws to cut into the wood to get under the head of a nail, often a finishing nail. When you can't pry something apart and pull the finishing nails through the back side, this is the tool that will grab a nail head with the least damage possible to the wood.

Wonder bar

The "wonder bar" has been around for a long time and, although it does not have the strength or the leverage of a wrecking bar, it is an incredibly versatile tool. Its wide but thin configuration makes it a good pry bar. Both ends pull nails in a manner similar to a wrecking bar. The fulcrum point curve makes it a great lifter for raising things into place with either arm pressure or foot pressure - quite similar to a dedicated drywall lifter. Because of its lifting and prying functions, it is good to purchase the wonder bar in pairs; one holds things while the other goes in deeper.

New demolition blade

Of course, we couldn't talk about demolition without talking about reciprocating saws, or at least about their blades. Bi-metal blades are the norm for these saws: high temper steel in the centre sandwiched by flexible softer steel on either side to give the cutting edge lasting power while preventing the brittleness that would snap the blade easily.
Now Lenox has come out with what it calls the "Demolition Blade". What the company has done is add a coating of titanium to the cutting edge - that gold stripe on the teeth. The combination of three different metals allows Lenox to claim it is the longest-lasting blade on the market. I found it impressive as I cut through nail after nail just to test it.

Demolition utility knife

Lenox put that same titanium gold strip technology to utility knife blades to give them extra life when working in the difficult environment of demolition. In addition, they put out a special knife. The gold rim on the front of the knife is not just advertising - it is a sturdy metal hoop through which the blade passes, totally eliminating the sidewise pressure we often put on the clam shell structure of these knives. Working hard with this knife will never cause the handle to pop open. They have incorporated their slide-forward-then-to-the-right technique for easy blade removal and insertion, which really works once you get the knack of it. You only open the clam shell for access to the blade storage. HB

Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.


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