Hand tool faults are not uncommon. I have been guilty of them several times, albeit shamefully. I am either using a box-end wrench on a ratchet, using a wrench as a tubing bender, or even as dumb as using the incorrect size of a screwdriver. Every craftsperson will admit to having incorrectly used a hand tool at one point. 

The most prevalent types of faults when using hand tools include using pliers as a wrench, using a screwdriver as a chisel or as a pry bar, and using screwdrivers and pliers to achieve increased torque. These faults could destroy the job, the tool, or even injure the craftsperson.  

10 most common hand tool faults

Selecting the wrong tool for the job, misusing the tools themselves, or using poorly crafted tools are generally the most widespread mistakes when using hand tools. In this guide, I will tell you the top 10 faults in using hand tools. 

Using a plier as a wrench

Pliers are versatile. From bending to cutting and holding objects, pliers get the job done. But pliers are not wrenches. 

Frequently, I am tempted to quickly use my plier to deputize for my wrench, especially my use tongue-and-groove pliers. But this is wrong. 

Wrench – not pliers – should be used when you have bolts and nuts to turn. Tasks involving tightening and loosening bolts and nuts should be left to wrenches. 

Compared to pliers, wrenches provide better torque. Unlike your plier, a wrench is far less likely to damage fasteners or round them. 

Using the wrong size of screwdriver

It is vital to use the befitting screwdriver size. I bet you don’t know there are four types of Phillips screwdrivers. This runs from #0 to #4.

#0 is the smallest Philip size, but #2 and #1 are the most prevalent. If you still have beloved grandpa’s car from the 60s, you can see many of these pretty large #4 screws holding the door hinges. 

#4 are not in vogue anymore, but #1-3 are found in almost everything. While a #2 driver would fit into a #3 size screw, the reverse doesn’t work. 

Now, the screwdriver head must be snugly fit before you start. If it is too thick, it will be strip. The same happens if it is too narrow.

Using a box-end wrench on a ratchet

Aargh, I hate stubborn bolts – and I know you do too! Sometimes in a bid to gain leverage on such annoying bolts, we use box-end wrenches on ratchets. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing criminal about using leverage. But with a wrench, there is the risk of it slipping and getting your knuckles hurt – if not broken. 

Standard practice advocates achieving extra leverage with an appropriate breaker bar. You could also use a piece of thick-wall pipe.

Using a screwdriver as a pry bar

Tell you what, across my many years of using hand tools, I am yet to see a tool as commonly abused as the screwdriver. Screwdrivers’ versatility means we tend to do too much with them (far more than their dedicated role of removing and installing screws), even using them as a pry bar. 

When you replace your pry bar with your screwdriver, you are almost sure to get the shank bent. But that is not all the damage you do. 

You can also end up breaking the shank and hurting your hand with the broken pieces. It is not like buying a small iron pry bar will not get you bankrupt either.

Using other tools as the hammer

Of course, I don’t have any issue with you lightly tapping your bolt with a ratchet or wrench when you want to push your bolt out of a hole or into it. But most people make the mistake of using ratchets and wrenches for high-impact tasks supposedly devoted to hammers. 

Wrenches and ratchets don’t have the impact force of hammers, being too light and with round edges. When used, your wrench can not only dent your sheet metal, it can also hurt your fingers severely. 

Using screwdrivers and pliers for enhanced torque

A screwdriver’s handle largely determines the torque it gives you. You can only expect me to derive more torque from a screwdriver with a thicker handle and longer than I would with a stubby screwdriver.

Many people make the mistake of trying to get more torque on the tool by adding pliers. This can be devastating: from a stripped head to adding more side pressure to the screw and even destroying the handle. 

It is recommended that you use a longer driver with a bigger handle if you want more torque. You can also achieve more torque by using screwdrivers with shanks enhanced with a hex. 

There is also the option of using impact drivers. For this, you can resort to either manual or cordless impact tools. 

I agree, the manual impact tools are more exerting. You have to keep the tool in place using a bit in the screw. Next, you apply force with your hammer hitting the backside. 

Life is much easier with the cordless variant. It is shaped like a drill and more comfortable to use. 

Replacing a tubing bender with a wrench

This is one stupid hand tool mistake DIYs deserved to be smacked for. Many people find it smart to bend tubing by deploying double wrenches against each other. This is to get the hard lines bent. 

No doubt, it looks smart in the short term, but the truth is that you would be spending more using the trick in the long run. 

Using two wrenches as described will definitely leave a kink in the line. You will be forced to replace this later on.

This is why it makes more sense to readily procure a tubing bender to bend hard lines. You don’t need to mortgage your home to buy a tubing bender either. They are very cheap!

Using torque wrenches as breaker bars

Trust me, lots of torque wrenches have been damaged by craftsmen using them in place of breaker bars. 

From the way torque wrenches are designed, the torque measuring parts don’t operate backward. This is despite them being heavy-duty and long. 

So when you apply torque, you would only get a wrench torque that has been knocked out of calibration, leaving them useless. I will advise you to get a befitting breaker bar to do the job.   

Using a screwdriver as a chisel

Don’t deny this buddy, haven’t you once used a screwdriver as a chisel?

While a common hand tool fault, there are fewer worse ways to use a chisel. First, a screwdriver is inadequately sharp, especially the flat blade variants. 

Secondly, screwdrivers don’t have the shape of a chisel. If the screwdriver shatters – and it tends to a lot – you can get shrapnel flying around, even into your eyes.  

Incorrect usage of utility knives

Please permit me to touch on this mistake longer. This is because utility knife mistakes are some of the most fatal when using hand tools. Within seconds, a utility knife can cut you mercilessly to the bone. 

Utility knives are commonly deployed to cut straps, open packaging, or puncture shrinkwrap. Isn’t it frightening that retractable blades like utility knives cause about 40% of American workshops injuries?

Some of the most common accidents involving utility knives include cutting more than your utility knife can handle, using a knife with a dull blade, drawing your utility knife towards your body rather than away, and storing the knife incorrectly with an extended blade.

It is essential to use the right blade size when using retractable blades. Also, if the retraction mechanism of your knife is faulty, change it immediately. 

Many craftspersons have been seriously injured from blades not retracting properly into the handle. If you can afford it, use self-retracting knives that automatically retract when you do not use the utility knife.

  • Here are some crucial safety tips you should observe when using utility knives:
  • Before you use the utility, make sure to position the blade appropriately
  • Do not apply excessive pressure on your blade
  • Avoid prying loose objects with your utility knife
  • Ensure there are no extremities in your cutting path
  • Prioritize using rounded tip blade if the task allows
  • Dispose of broken blades or the ones that are dull in a container – preferably a container resistant to puncture
  • When changing blades, religiously adhere to directives from the manufacturer