Best water quality meters and test kits

Friday, September 6, 2019

How to choose the best water quality test kit 

Did you ever hear of a place called Flint in Michigan, USA?

It's famous for having perhaps the poorest drinking water quality in a first world country. You literally cannot drink the water as the city's pipe infrastructure is rooted which resulted in lead leaching from the pipes and eventually into its citizens directly.

There's no need to use a water meter in Flint because the water comes out rusty red and the locals have to make do with bottled water.

So much for water quality.

We state this to highlight that water quality is massively important - from keeping the human population healthy right through to testing river pollution though to making kombucha or homebrew beer (pH levels are super important), there are a million reasons why brewers, scientists and swimming pool users need to check water:

  • Too much chlorine? 
  • A bad swimming experience? 
  • Is your water too hard?
  • Excess iron
  • You're getting calcium build up?
  • Suspect your house's old lead pipes are leaching?

If so, you are looking for a water quality tester, here's the range of things a good tester can account for:

  • bacteria presence
  • chlorine
  • copper
  • iron or lead
  • pH levels - alkalinity
  • pesticides
  • nitrate and nitrites
  • hardness or softness
  • salinity
  • dissolved oxygen

But at the end of the day, most users just want to know if the water is good for cooking, cleaning, and drinking. Especially if you are checking the water that has gone through a home filter.

water quality tester phHome testing kits and meters are great because you can get fairly instant results and you certainly do not have to send off samples to an expensive laboratory or testing company!

So what are the best water testers?

If you want to just check out the best of the best, here are our top five recommendations for pH testers:

  1. Hanna Instruments HI 98128
  2. Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter (Amazon Best Seller)
  3. Oakton EcoTestr pH 2+ Pocket pH Meter
  4. Hach Pocket Pro + Ph meter
  5. Apera Instruments AI312 PH60F Premium pH Pocket Tester

Read on for a more in-depth discussion about how to choose the best water tester for personal use.

First up, here's some of the functions and features that you might want to consider when buying a meter.

  • You want the damn thing to be accurate. And frankly, you probably want laboratory results accurate because 'near enough' doesn't cut the mustard when we are talking about drinking water or swimming in it!
  • What kind of probe does it come with? Is it easy to calibrate and clean? Is it strong enough to withstand a little bit of a bump and are the probes cheap to replace (they can wear out over time and quite quickly if they are not properly cared for. A good kind of probe to keep an eye out for is a multi-sensor probe which usually allows for the measurement of standard parameters including pH, oxidation reduction potential (ORP), conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and of course, temperature.
  • Is the display waterproof? Sounds stupid to ask but you kind do want a waterproof tester because...water. Especially if you are using a smaller, handheld device that you could potentially drop in a bath or pool eh?
  • The device needs to be simple to set up, basically, you want it to be able to be turned on, calibrated and sampling without undue fuss such as pressing too many buttons.
  • Are you intending to use a 'simple' handheld meter? If so, do not be tempted to buy a cheap one. They will crap out pretty early on and will quite likely not give you results accurate to the degree you need. Spend a little more, to get a quality tester. 

Drinking water test kits

Water testing kits are different from digital testers or meter tools.

Say you want to test for the presence of bacteria in your water source. 

Say you're concerned that the water in the tank that's connected to your beach house, hen house or outhouse may have water that's given you an upset stomach due to the bacteria. 

A simple test will help you determine if there is some contamination.

Basic kits will have a vial which you will carefully open up. 

You then carefully take a sample from the tank or tap, add it to the vial and wait a short while to see what happens. The kit is usually designed to change color if bacteria are present. 

The color will depend on the kind of kit you have. Once you have determined the presence of bacteria, you'll then need to take action to remedy the contamination. 

Other tests for the presence of lead or pesticides are usually undertaken by taking a specialise strip into a sample of the water to be tested. 

Back when we where kids on holiday, our Great Aunt would add a teaspoon of bleach to the old metal tank that was connected to our beach house. That sure killed the mosquito larvae that were often found swimming around in it...

The reality is the point of these kits is they are a screening test and not a comprehensive data set of results. If you get a negative result then you'll need to think about how to take proper remedial action and this may include further testing as a starting point to actually identify what bacteria is present.

So, what are the best kind of water kits to use? Maybe this one:
What are the containment levels that are of use?

While most countries have different standards, the famous American agency, the EPA has the following guideline standards for these commonly tested areas:

Bacteria presence None
Lead Below 15 pp billion
Pesticides Below 3ppb (atrazine), Below 4ppb (simazine)
Nitrite < 1.0 pp million
Total Nitrate/Nitrite < 10.0 ppm
Water hardness 50 ppm or less
Total Chlorine Below 4 ppm
pH level 6.5 to 8.5

How to test water for pH level

Speaking scientifically, pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity of a solution, where the number of hydrogen ions is measured.

You basically want to test the pH level of water so you can drink it (such as for making beer), or to be sure that the level will not hurt your eyes and ears when swimming for example.

To use your meter for testing pH levels, you will need to calibrate your instrument. Essentially this means you take a known reading from a calibration solution, configure your device, drop the electrode in the sample solution and you are away.

One of the most popular pH meters on the market (and a huge seller on Amazon) is the
Milwaukee MW102. We're not kidding, beer brewers love it because it's reliable, durable and doesn't break the bank cost wise.

Indeed, it's at the cheaper end of the mid-range pricing scale.

Newly legalised marijuana growers in California love it too (we're talking hydronics here) ! Kombucha brewers can even use it!

The MW102 is portable and gives fast, accurate and reliable measurements whether you're in the classroom, laboratory or for general field use:.

Check out the price on Amazon:

How to test for dissolved oxygen in water

No one likes to jump the shark when it comes to testing for dissolved oxygen levels.

That's why people use the... Winkler Method.

The Winkler Method is checking for the amount of oxygen in the water as this can be a great indicator as to the health of the water. If your sample has a high oxygen content, then it's likely healthy water that can be drank and support life such as fish. Ponds and lakes that are not refreshed with water (or suffer from too much pesticide runoff) will suffer from low oxygen levels, become stagnant and not able to support aquatic life. 

Scientists can use these levels to determine how much biomass a lake or river can support, and the amount of decomposition that's occurring. 

While the Winkler method is quite a formal testing method which encompasses using titration, home users or enthusiastic amateurs can simply use field kits. 

The short description of the test is a sample is mixed with reagents (kind of like the Marquis reagent testing process). When the endpoint of the chemical reaction is reached, you can determine the result, again by judging the color result against the guide. The Apera Instruments PC60 Multi-parameter Tester simply tests pH, salinity and temperature in an accurate, quick and reliable manner: The multi-parameter probe is replaceable, and equipped with Apera's unique BPB (Brush-Resistant Platinum Black) sensor, ensuring an accurate and reliable EC measurement in a wide range.

Testing pool water with strips

While some hardware stores such as Home Depot may offer free instore testing of your pool's water, it can be a pain in the but to get there and you just now you are going to get sold the 'up sell' when they give you your results. If you have a pool testing kit, you can do your own testing at your own pace, when you want.

So what are you testing for when you check your pool or spa or 'hot tub' water?

If you are properly maintaining your pool, you are probably using chlorine to keep the bacteria at bay. Which follows then you need to check the chlorine levels are withing swimming range - especially if children will be using it. While a lot of chlorine will plenty of bugs, it will hurt a swimmer's eyes. 

So what is the test then?

There are two simple ways - and again it's by taking a liquid sample or by using a test strip. 

There's a handy way to test for seven key points of health check using a single test strip.

AquaChek strips are a quick and simple test. These strips tests for 7 important pool chemistries rather fast and those being:

  • Total water hardness
  • Chlorine
  • Bromine
  • Chlorine
  • pH level
  • Total alkalinity
  • Cyanuric acid

To use the strip, quickly dip it in your pool or spa water for one second and remove it immediately. The strip will react immediately to the water and any indicators of the tested substance will be quickly revealed. You conduct your analysis by matching the resulting colors to the color chart that is supplied with the kit.

AquaChek strips are tried and tested. Here are some reviews from users on Amazon:

" I do thank you for having a very good product and would highly recommend the strips since they have been pretty accurate so far. I work on about 50 pools a week so I am fairly knowledgeable on the subject."

"These are the only strips I use. They tell me everything I need to know about my above ground pool. The only thing they can't tell you is if you have algae or cloudiness, which... are both obvious to the naked eye."

"I was a skeptic after using the little chemical droplet tester my whole life but decided to give these a try anyway. They work great! Just to test the accuracy it ran a test strip them brought a water sample to my local pool supply for testing and their results matched the strip perfectly. No more messing around with color coded chemical bottles for me!"

If these test stips sound like they might help you check your pool health, easily and efficiently, then check out the price on Amazon:

digital pool water tester bestIf you don't wish to use strips, then a digital meter, such as the Safedip meter will serve you well.

The Safedip digital meter from Solaxx is designed to make measuring pool parameters easy.

It's simple to use. collect the water sample from the pool or spa using the onboard cup and press the Start button to take your measurement. The results will quickly be displayed on the large digital LCD display and easy push- buttons make the meter easy to read and easy to use. 

This pool meter measures pH, levels, the total amount of free chlorine, salt, TDS (total dissolved solids), ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential) and temperature.

The best feature is that the LED indicator light illuminates if the pool or spa is safe to swim which takes a bit of brain work out of it, which is handy if you're keen to just jump in the pool!

best aquarium test kits

Checking water in fish tanks and aquariums

Like the people of Flint, your fish need clean water to drink and swim in too.

Given that pet fish can be extremely sensitive to chemical treatments being added to their water and even to temperature changes (tropical fish are famous for needing water within the right ranges) then as a pet owner, one really does need to ensure the quality of the aquarium water is just right.

Because no one likes a floater right?

So, when checking aquarium water, what should be tested for? I think we can cover off the temperature pretty easily. As a responsible pet owner, you will already know the temperature that is ideal for your fish and you will simply use your thermometer or digital meter to take a reading to check. Some aquariums simply have a thermometer permanently placed inside the water so readings can be closely monitored.

Fish also need to breathe.

So, naturally, you’re going to want to ensure your aquarium has an oxygen pump at play. If you recall above we talked about testing lake water for dissolved oxygen as a higher rate demonstrated that the water was ideal for fish and biomass?

It’s the same thing for a pet fish’s aquarium!

When testing specifically for fish water quality, these are your typical checks using a test kit:

  • Nitrite
  • Nitrate
  • Ammonia
  • pH level

Fish excrete and then have to swim around in it. Over time this can build up making their water pretty disgusting so a health check on the water so you know to change it or to work out how well your filter is working is a good idea.

High nitrate levels will stress your fish and also provide a catalyst for algae growth (phosphates too) and everyone hates it when fish tanks get overgrown with green algae (and all over the gravel) as it doesn’t look good and is hard to actually see and enjoy your fish!

Many fish experts stated that if you detect ammonia in your water then you should immediately add 20 percent fresh water to reduce stress on your fish. Then gradually make adjustments to the water over time.

As aquariums ‘bed in’ over time, the pH level can change. Too much alkalinity is not good for fish so keeping an eye on that level is crucial for having healthy fish. Sudden changes in pH due to a new addition to an aquarium (e.g. plant material, food, new water) can stress fish so bear that in mind.

The good news is that there are plenty of test kits out there  for both freshwater and saltwater which allow you health check your water very simply, and just like testing most pool water, it is just a matter of taking a test strip and dipping it into the sample and then comparing the results to the color chart to determine the level of pH, nitrate or ammonia.

You can also measure salt or salinity with a refractometer or hydrometer.

This is one of the most popular test strip kits on Amazon:

Using glyphosate weed killer safely around the home

Friday, August 23, 2019
best weed killer glyphosate

Using glyphosate to kill weeds effectively and safely

Glyphosate (Glyphosphate) is a herbicide that when applied leaves of plants it will kill both broadleaf plants and grasses. It is one of the most effective weed killers on the market and is perfect for use around the family home.

Perhaps the most famous branded version of glyphosate is Roundup which was made popular by Monsanto.

It's considered a nonselective weed killer so it isn't picky about what plants it will work on so if you accidentally spray it on your lawn like I did last summer (I swear I picked up the prickle poison!) then it will kill your entire lawn. Thus when using glyphosate, you need to be careful about spray drift onto flowers or bushes.

It is arguably the most commonly used herbicide in the world:

Why is glyphosate so effective as a weed killer?

Glyphosate (or glyphosphate) is a clever little chemical when it comes to killing plants. It works by preventing the plant from making certain proteins that are required for growth by cutting off its food supply. When the plant cannot function as it normally would, it slowly begins to die. The roots also die, meaning there is little chance of the plant regenerating.

How to safely use glyphosate

At small quantities, glyphosate is very safe for use around the home but commonsense rules about safe application practices should of course apply. There's no point unfairly exposing yourself to chemicals is there? 

So when using weedkillers like glyphosate you should follow these safety practices:

  • Work in good weather only
  • Wear clothing that covers the whole length of your arms and legs.
  • Use goggles, gloves, and a face mask to limit exposure, especially if you are spraying about shoulder height
  • When mixing the herbicide, you really should use some plastic gloves to protect against spillage.
  • Do not touch plants that have been sprayed with the herbicide
  • After application, safely dispose of your plastic gloves and then wash your hands and face with hot water. Have a hot shower if you can. 

How long does it take for glyphosate to work on plants?

It takes around two weeks to really start to show that it's working but starts working on killing the weed as soon as it enters the plant's system.

You will notice that the plants you have placed it on are slowly starting to go yellow as they die.

The herbicide works best when the air temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and finally, there should be no rainfall for at least two days after application.

If you are watering flowers or the vegetable garden, be mindful of getting water where you may have sprayed.

how long does glyphosate take to kill weeds
Dying lawn grass

How do I apply weed killer like glyphosate?

If you have a large volume of weeds to cull, it's best to use a pump sprayer that has a wand attachment to help you target where you spray and to assist with wide coverage. 

In our personal experience, a sprayer with a shoulder attachment is a really good option because a gallon of mixed concentrate can suddenly start to feel really heavy on the shoulder blade!

If you are doing some spot work, then a hand held spray bottle will help with surgical placement of the weed killer. 

You can also use sprayers that connect to your garden hose which means you do not have to mix up the chemicals. You just connect your hose, spray and then walk away!

When is the best time to use glyphosate?

It works best when the temperature is warm and there is no rain likely. If it rains shortly after spraying, it may not adhere to the plant and be washed off and you'll need to reapply it to the target area.

Who discovered glyphosate?

Glyphosate was first synthesized in 1950 by Swiss chemist Henry Martin but his work was never formally published. It wasn't until the 1960s when it was patented for use as a chemical chelator. Its use as an effective herbicide was discovered popularized by Monsanto in the 1970s, leading to its popular use around the world for helping with cropping and home maintenance under the Round Up brand.

best weed killer spray

How safe is it to use glyphosphate?

This product has been approved for use in many countries around the world under approval from responsible regulatory regimes that have recognized the benefits of its use when considered against potential hazards. 

Though there has been a lot of debate, the general scientific consensus is that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans or genotoxic which means damaging to genetic material or DNA.

In short, it's largely safe unless you are exposed to large quantities for a lengthy period.
This chemical does, however, kill bees so for any amateur bee keepers out there, we'd recommend you do not use this product near your hives.

And as for most chemicals, do not add this product to waterways such as home fish ponds as it will kill your fish. 

How long does glyphosphate last on the ground?

While it may be detected on the ground, glyphosphate is not active for a long period. It degrades relatively quickly by the soil's microorganisms. Because of this, it's unlikely there will be enough glyphosate in the soil to cause plants to die.

So yes, glyphosate can be detected in the soil for quite some time after application, however, it has no practical effect as a herbicide. This means when it is used between cropping seasons, it won't have an effect on the new plantings.

Many tests have been completed which demonstrate that glyphosphate does not transfer to crops that are subsequently planted after its use.

Idiot getting saved by his own idiocy

Friday, August 16, 2019

Check out this video of gentlemen trying to use a chainsaw in a confined space whilst at the top of a ladder.

It's an obvious recipe for disaster which is what just about nearly happened.

This user managed to cause a kick back action because of where he placed the chainsaw blade. By using the bar's tip end, it caught on the wood which immediately caused a kick back action.

Normally, this would have meant a good chance the bar would have cut into the face of the user and done some considerable damage.

The user, however, was saved by his own idiocy and the bar hit the ceiling rather than their face. 

He knew it too and we hope he learned his lessons such as never cut above your waist & never use the tip stupidly, hold the chainsaw firmly and for goodness sake, wear safety gear like a helmet and chainsaw gloves!

What is the best oil degreaser for cleaning hands?

Sunday, August 4, 2019
great cleaner for oily hands

Best hand cleaner to remove grease and oil 

When I was a young lad I used to work in a butcher's as a cleaner.

I'd clean the machines that cooked fat and mince which was turned into all kinds of things.

I'd clean the mincer.

I'd clean the tools & floors.

And I'd get the maggots out of the bins using chlorine to kill them all.

Despite using gloves at various times, at the end of my shift, my hands were stinky as. I'd clean my oily hands with a soap degreaser. It was the best stuff and it smelled great.

Now, years later as a real adult who cleans lawn mowers, uses chainsaws, and does the odd DIY car repair, I fully appreciate how a good degreaser can keep hands clean free of oil and gosh knows what else I can get on my hands.

I've also come to realize that most workshops, mechanic floors, and factories seem to use specialized hand cleaners because when time is money, there's not much point wrestling with a bar of soap at the tap when you could be getting onto the next job ticket.

Sure there are plenty of home remedies you can try to clean your hands (baking soda and lemon solutions spring to mind or using a spray of WD40 across the hands...oddly enough, rubbing your hands with some sugar before you add soap can work too) but for this hand cleaning gentleman, I want the heavy-duty product, especially if I've been doing some mechanical repairs!

One thing you're gonna have to learn is that for some reason, the most popular degreasers have orange in them. We presume this is related to marketing initiative where it was deemed that 'orange' would be the manly scent that men would be OK within their oil degreasers.

Not melon.

Not lime.

Not lemon.


And so my citrus orientated friend, let's check out Permatex Fast Orange Smooth:

best hand soap for cleaning oily hands

It's kind of the perfect consumer product. Biodegradable, waterless, petroleum solvent-free. It contains no harsh chemicals, petroleum solvents or ammonia (which means no stinging cuts and abrasions which can occur after a heavy workday).

Even though it smells of oranges, Permatex Fast Orange is fortified with aloe, lanolin, glycerin to lovingly condition the skin. Moisturizers are added to replenish the skin of the natural oils that can get stripped out.

But what about its cleaning power?

Permatex boasts that it's product will remove the toughest dirt, oil, grease, grime, paint, soil, printers ink, epoxies, paint, rubber cement, gasket, and even tile cement.

It comes in a 1-gallon container with an easy-to-use pump dispenser.

Check the price on Amazon:

The second of our orange scented hand cleaners is GoJo's Natural Orange Industrial hand cleaner with pumice.

Yes, it's orange but it's full of gritty bits of pumice which will scrub your hands to help clean a broad range of industrial soils, dirt, and grease:

GOJO Natural doesn't have any harsh solvents so it is fairly soft on your hands.

Gojo has been in the business for over 70 years so if the success of a company depends on the quality of their products, you can be sure GOJO's hand cleaners actually work.

Gojo's hand cleaner is definitely for removing oils, grease, and grime. It is not suited for removing paint, dye or adhesives.
zorange zalpon professional hand cleaner
The third orange cleaner is the heavy duty Rozalex’s Zalpon Zorange.

It's a mouthful of a name but that's the point. Zalon Zorange or simply Zorange is an extra heavy-duty hand cleaner containing natural orange oil, pumice and esters.

It's designed for the removal of the most ingrained oils, greases, paints, inks, tar, and general dirt and grime.

It also features pumice pieces and esters to give superior performance over other cleaners and when coupled with moisturizers to relieve hard-worn skin and an obvious orange fragrance it leaves the hands feeling fresh and clean.

There's an alternative to these kinds of degreasers, you can choose to use wipes - if you need oiled removed then a heavy-duty cleaning wipe might just be what you need to get the cleaning job done. These are also brilliant for cleaning tools and parts and engines.

Check out these Brute Strength Wipes:

best wipes for hands

Actual users who've bought Bruste Strength Wipes on Amazon have used and reviewed the wipes stating great cleaning results:

'Cuts through grease, soap scum leaves a nice scent.'

'These are great, they clean up well and don't leave a film like feel like some other wipes do. I will be buying more of these.'

'I like how these wipes are thicker, they seem to hold up better and hold more soap.'

'These are durable and cut through engine oil, grease, grime really quick. We use them in our airplane hangar where there isn't easy access to sinks.'

Clearly then wipes are more versatile than just for cleaning hands but are good for working out in the field, out of the office or just for being left in the truck for those moments when you just need to clean some goo off something.

Check out the price on Amazon:

Best tyre pressure gauge

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
I once saw the mighty and magical David Bowie play. Near the end of a great show, he pulled out the song he did with Queen, Under Pressure. It was simply magic as it was pouring with rain which quite matched the lyrics of the song.

And you know what else works well under pressure? Tyre pressure gauges.

If you drive your car with under pressured tyres you'll suffer performance issues such as longer stopping distances, put more heat stress on the tyre itself, use more gas & petrol and increase the chance of having a road accident.

So if you want to check that your tyres are properly pressured, then you'll need the best gauge to take the measurement. These units are really handy if your car has a 'low car tyre pressure indicator'. If you cannot determine which tyre is low by simple observation, a quick check with the gauge will immediately tell you which tires need some air (or nitrogen if you're that way inclined!)

We'll now check out a few of the better gauges on the market, see how they perform and ensure that you get the right gauge you need to measure the air pressure of your tyre. 

In this modern era, the best tyre gauges are those with a digital display. Such units properly measure the pressure and give you an extremely accurate reading. This is very important because many tyres perform best when filled with air to the manufacturer's instructions and intentions. 

Take a racing bike tyre.

There's a certain ideal amount of rubber that needs to be on the road for an efficient ride.

Too low a tyre pressure, and there's too much surface tension and you'll be slower. Too much pressure and you'll run the risk of a blowout. It's even more important for races where every second counts. 

Enter the AstroAI Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge:

tyre pressure guage
At less than ten of your Earth dollars, the Astro AI pressure gauge should be right up your ally as a cost-effective tool.

Obviously, this unit is designed to help you maintain correct tire pressure with the goal of reducing tire wear and extend tyre life. 

It features a digital display with the reading being displayed instantly and clearly being shown.

The nozzle part easily forms a seal with the valve stem on schrader valves, giving quick and accurate readings in 0.5 increments; 4 settings with range: 0-150PSI / 0-10Bar / 0-10Kgf/cm² or 0-1000KPA.

The gauge automatically shut off in 30-40 seconds to save on battery power.

Its grip texture makes it easy to hold onto and the ergonomic design is both suitable for anyone's hand.

At less than ten bucks, it's worth having one to sit on the boot of your car or in your mechanical kit. 
But what would we know?

Here are some reviews from real users who have brought the gauge via Amazon and used it:

"I bought this for around $9 from here. First thing I noticed was how cheap it felt in the hands when I pulled it out of its box. Thinking to myself, what a cheap piece of crap I bought. I drove to Costco and filled my tires with nitrogen and put it up against their pressure gauge. Holy moly, this gauge was exact compared to Costco's pressure gauge monitor to the T. I was left scratching my head. How can something so cheap in price and and plastic we were so damn good. I'm 100% satisfied and glad I purchase it. Lol. Thank you Amazon and to this company for a great deal."

Sounds promising then...

"So this is the second tire gauge I've bought through Amazon. The first was completely useless. Didn't measure any pressure. At $5 wasn't worth returning. Sucky. This one is great. Seems very accurate, is extremely easy to use and is great at night. You know you need a tire gauge at all the inopportune times. I love that it takes a reading and holds it so you can bring the gauge to your face, rather than having to squat in a ridiculous position to read the gauge. GREAT IDEA!! It also allows you to bleed off extra air, which I didn't see mentioned - but that works great. This one is A+++++ "

Sounds like we have a winner...

"The ergonomic design makes it easy to hold & the quality for the price is impressive. I used it yesterday for the first time & it was a lifesaver. My low tire light was on & it enabled me to pinpoint which one. I am a 75 year old woman & if I can use it anyone can! By the way, the instructions are well-written & clear.

If those genuine product reviews check your box, check out the price on Amazon:

 If you don't fancy a digital gauge and you want that classic mechanical dial display then the Jaco gauge might suit your needs.
jaco tyre gauge for air pressure
It's a genuinely quality tool that has been performance-tested, certified as accurate, & calibrated to ANSI B40.1 International Accuracy Standards (±2-3%).

This means you will precise tire pressure readings and you'll not need to rely on battery power!

This unit feels solid in the hand as it is crafted from premium heavy duty components and it's shielded by a rugged shock-resistant protective guard.

It also features a flexible no-leak air hose which gives you plenty of room to check the pressure.

But don't listen to us, listen to real users who are very satisfied after field testing the units on their cars:

 "Gauges are well built and very legible. The chuck fits the tire valves well and I did not experience any of air loss common with cheap gauges. These gauges actually swivel at both ends of the rubber hose. No problems using them regardless of the tire valve position. The 100% lifetime warranty is a bonus."

"It's a good size and easy to hold and read as a result. The hose is a good length. But the big question with tire gauges is: how easy is it to seat on the valve of the tire? This one has a swivel at the gauge and another about two inches from the head.... easy to maneuver and easy to get a good seal on the valve and therefore a good reading."

" I checked all 4 tires on my wife's car because her warning light was on. Found one tire that needed air. It was down about 7 lbs. As I moved to a darker part of the garage, the dial face lit up with a bright green luminescence. I didn't even know about that feature. The swivel head and the pressure relief button are fantastic features as well. No more pencil types or digital ones for me."

 Sounds like this gauge as won over some fans. If it floats your boat, check out the price on Amazon:

What are the best chainsaw safety chaps and trousers to use?

Sunday, July 21, 2019
using chaps for logging trees

Why you should consider using safety chaps for chainsaw work 

In many countries, the forestry or logging industry have  extremely high death and injury rates when compared to other workforces.

This makes sense given trees are being felled and a lot can go wrong because of accidents and user failure with dangerous machinery.

Now think back to the good old days when chainsaws began to gain widespread use in the logging industry.

Did those crude saws feature safety innovations such as chain brakes?

They sure didn't and many users were maimed and killed as a result.

If that was bad enough, think of their safety gear. No chain safe safety chaps were issued by employers 80 years ago. Instead, hungry & honed blades cut through denim work jeans into bone and arteries without a care in the world.

In the present, more safety-conscious age, the modern chainsaw user has a much safer gig when chopping down a tree however they must take precautions and using properly designed safety chaps is a great way to prevent harm to your legs.

It doesn't matter if you are a forestry worker or an experienced weekend warrior, using safety gear should be a standard part of your chainsaw practice.

Let's not waste your time.

If you just want to know which is a great pair of chaps then the Husqvarna protective wrap chaps are quite suitable for most users.

husqvarna safety chaps

These chaps feature:
  • 1000 denier polyester with PVC coating with Tek warp protective layers
  • Can adjust the waist up to size to 42 inches
  • Felling wedge/gear pocket and acetyl Delran buckles
  • Meets ASTM f1897, American National Standards Institute z133.1, and OSHA regulation 1910-266
  • Underwriter Laboratories certified

The real question you might want to ask yourself is do these chaps work?

Here's a picture an Amazon buyer left in his review. He described the situation as that he: "Put a running saw to my left leg while limbing some cedars. Strands stopped the saw and didn't even have a bruise."

chainsaw chaps prevent a leg injury

If that proof is enough pudding for you, check out the price on Amazon

How do safety chaps protect legs from a chainsaw blade?

Let's be upfront and make it clear that safety chaps are not a suit of armor that will save you from every accident.

If you wanted absolute protection from a chainsaw, then you may as well suit up like a Knight. 

However, that's not too practical when chopping wood, so chaps offer the versatility of movement with the knowledge they are designed to reduce the severity of the cut should an accident occur.

What we are saying here is there a trade-off between practicality and safety here.

If the idea is safety, then placing a user in cut-retardant chaps that are too restrictive or that become too hot in itself is unsafe so many internationals safety standards for chaps and personal protective safety wear recognize this. 

When a chainsaw comes into contact with the safety trousers, the outer layer is immediately cut through by the blade but the inner layer of fibers (such as kevlar) are drawn out by the chain and into the machine. It wraps around the saw's drive sprocket. The tough fibers lock the sprocket in place thus halting the chain and hopefully limit damage to the chainsaw operator's leg. 

That said the stronger the chainsaw, the more chance of damage can occur to the user. It also depends on how fast the saw is going, the strength and angle of the saw. 

Here's a great video which demonstrates how chaps work when they catch a saw:

Does it matter what kind of chaps to wear if I am a casual or a professional user?

If you are simply doing a bit of yard work or lopping the occasional branch off a tree, it might not make economic sense in buying the best professional pants there are. 

You may simply decide to use something that will help keep you safe but is perfectly functional for your needs. At a minimum though, the pants should still be designed to meet a suitable product safety standard. 

To that end Husqvarna's chainsaw chaps are ideal. An economical buy, they fit quite comfortably over your work jeans:

safety chaps husqvarna economic

Do these chaps work? Here's a real-life example described by a user:

"First day of sawing, running a bigger saw than I had used in the past, tired and neglectful that it idled down slowly - saw pivoted in my L hand as I reached for a branch with my R hand, and I felt a "bang" on my left thigh and the saw was suddenly quiet. I looked down and had crossed the blade onto my leg - the blade was now stuffed with white strands from the chaps, and I was unscathed. Saved me from my very own trip to the ER and allowed me to cut another day"

If you don't feel like getting your quads cut, then check out the price on Amazon.

Just be wary of buying pants which are designed only to protect from flying debris / keeping your work pants clean. These are not designed in any way to protect your long limbs from a chainsaw bar cutting into your leg. They are only good for keeping the grass off.

What if I really only want budget pants?

There are a few protective pants out there that are handy for those on a budget. Remember, you should only wear pants which are designed specifically for use with a chainsaw and thus should have been fully tested to comply with the relevant safety standards.

For the cost-conscious, the Forester range of apron chaps might be the ideal choice. We hate to use the word 'casual' but for those that only use a chainsaw every so often, then these chaps could be ideal.

They provide good coverage for the front of your legs. The only drawback is they are not designed to protect against the really high powered saws and they certainly won't halt an electric engine from rotating. They are do however meet the STM F1897, OSHA 1910.266 standards and are UL Certified. We suggest if your day job requires chaps, then you go upmarket, such as the Husqvarna 587160704 Technical Apron Wrap Chap.

Buying safety gear gives the user the confidence that it will do what is asked of it t - i.e. reduce the chance of severe leg injury. In terms of aesthetics, Forester describes them as "sleek, durable, lightweight, and comfortable chaps are chainsaw oil- and water-resistant". The chaps also feature a large side pocket and a flip adjustment belt for a perfectly secure fit.

Again, we always ask - do they work?

This chap on Amazon shared his review and experience:

"I needed to drop about 8-10 small trees and just out of habit put these on. That day it was the smartest thing I did because not only did they save my legs from injury once but twice the same day. First time I just cradled the chainsaw on my leg and had not set the brake, the chaps stopped the chain from cutting into my thigh right where I bend. I surely would have bled out before EMS got to me."

Check out this picture of a save by these pants:

forester chainsaw protective pants

The wearer is uninjured which is a great result because that cutting area is pretty damn close to the femoral artery.

Which, you may know is a pretty major one and a severe cut can result in a bleed out.

If you think protecting your femoral artery might be a good idea, then check out the price on Amazon.

Is it true electric chainsaws will cut through even the best chaps?

Yes, this is true as they are not configured the same as gas powered saws. As they have higher torque than gas engines, electric saws will continue to cut the chap fabric and chaps are generally not designed to withstand contact with an electric saw.

Sure, you should still wear chaps when using an electric saw but do not rely on them to reduce the chance of personal injury. 

What length should chainsaw chaps be?

Chaps (which go over trousers and legs) should be long enough to cover the tops of your boots.

To figure out how long your chaps need to be, measure from your waist (just below your belt where the chaps will sit) to the beginning of your foot. This length will provide suitable coverage and protection.

It's important you order and use the right size - a shorter than necessary chap will probably result in a piece of your leg exposed which it Murphy's law kicks into force, your chainsaw will find it. If your chaps are too long, they could be too loose, which may be annoying at best and at worst, could cause you to trip or stumble.

When ordering chaps it's important to understand that the advertised length is the overall length and not the length of a traditional measurement of the inseam.

When you're thinking about buying safety gear, whether it be chaps, gloves or protective eyewear, it's always really good to remember that no one ever died just because they bought quality gear. Actually, we think the adage is no one ever regretted buying quality but you get the point.

I know we keep talking about it, whatever buying decision you make, you really should consider if your safety gear has met the requirements of the most relevant safety standard.

Your femoral artery might just thank you for it.

Did you know you can wear chaps when lawnmowing? Particularly handy if stones and any wood chips are likely to flick up at your legs. Same goes for an activity like hedge trimming.

If you've got this far, well done. Now, head to Amazon and have a look at the best safety chaps they have.

How to replace a spark plug in a lawn mower

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Replacing a spark plug for a lawn mower

Lawnmowers are basically engines with a lethal blade that spins around cutting grass as long as there's gas in the engine and a spark plug that's combusting the fuel.

But if your spark plug looks like the one above and it's overworked and corroded, it's probably not firing properly and it's time to replace it.

You can tell if your spark plug needs replacing can include:

You begin to hear rattling, pinging or noises that suggest your mower's engine is knocking.

You could also find you are using more fuel than you consider is normal for the operation of your mower. This is a key reason to ensure are spark plug is changed regularly as using excess fuel costs you money and you could be spending it on a chainsaw instead!

The classic problem is of course that the spark plug has failed and you cannot start the engine at all!

If the plug is misfiring, you may notice you may feel combustion is not efficiently happening. This occurs due to the aging of the plug.

As a spark plug ignites, there's a 'gap', in which its reach occurs. This gap eventually widens as a result of repeated use under extreme temperatures, normal wear, and tear. If the 'gap' is becoming too large, the unit's efficiency declines and combustion becomes erratic.

How to replace the spark plug in your lawnmower

  • When the engine is cool, remove the spark plug wire.
  • Clean any debris off the wire, ensure the metal is clean of rust etc.
  • Use a spark plug wrench to gently unscrew and remove the plug. If the plug is sunk in tight, do not use excessive force. A bit of CRC or WD40 style lubricant may help. Using the correct sized plug wrench is also very important.
  • Use a spark plug gauge to measure the gap between the two electrodes and make sure the gap reflects the recommendation of your lawnmower manufacturer - check the user manual. 
  • With your hands, sub in the new correctly sized spark plug. Screw it in gently. Then with your wrench, finalize its position with a firm turn but not so the plug is in too tight. 
  • Replace the spark wire, ensure it is correctly connected to the plug
  • Test you've installed it right by turning on the engine. If it fails to ignite, check the spark wire is connected.

Here's a handy tutorial video on how to replace a spark plug:

What is the correct spark plug for my lawnmower?

This was a good question to ask because even though several different spark plugs may screw into your mower, if it is not the correct type your engine will likely suffer performance problems.

If you don't know off the top of your head what kind of spark plug is in your mower - look for the number on the ceramic and match it to the brand. The internet is your friend.

Indeed, you can also take the whole unit into a service agent or hardware store and compare so you have like for like.

The best trick is to look at the user manual of the lawnmower for advice.

It is not imperative that use you use your mower brand's spark plug. You can use a generic substitute or another brand as long as the size and type are correct.

Generally speaking a tried and true brand like a Briggs and Stratton spark plug will work well in most engines.

Battery-powered lawn mowers, of course, do not need plugs!

Need to change your lawnmower's oil? You may need to use an adjustable wrench.

White Ox Logger Gloves for heavy duty use

Saturday, June 22, 2019
white ox protection gloves

Genuine White Ox gloves for logging and heavy duty work

I saw this picture on Reddit and I just knew we had to cover it on The Tool Yard.

The original poster of the photo said:
"Firewood cutting on Tuesday. I felt a tug on my glove while loading a 6’ white pine log in my truck. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed this hole. You can imagine what my finger would’ve looked like, had I been barehanded. It’s not easy to rip open a White Ox logger’s glove."

review white ox glove
Seeing as this glove did its job and protected the dude's hand while loading pine after cutting wood, I thought we should check this glove out. 

And it turns out, this is the kind of gauntlet style glove that serious working men and women use for carrying work, rigging, welding and all kinds of duties like equipment handling and have been made for 70 years by North Star. 

Let's be clear, the White Ox Glove is a top the line glove that one uses every day when the construction or farming job demands a safe pair of hands. 

North Star's gloves have become the name brand that people turn to for protecting their fingers on the basis these gloves do the job you want them to do. Like when welding, gotta keep those sparks at bay!

Usually sold in bulk by the dozen, because all gloves eventually do wear out when used by hard working people.

Here's the design description:

  • 100% cotton; fourchette pattern (the most comfortable of glove patterns)
  • Double ply quilted palm equates to construction from canvas of 22 ounce thickness
  • 10 oz. canvas smooth back; knit wrist. 
  • Fuzzy nap both inside and outside. 
  • Reconfigured index finger seam gives the same protection as wrap around construction.
  • Fast red dye for printing does not bleed. 
  • Near leather hand safety for the price of canvas!
  • Have elastic banding
welding gloves best
The gauntlet is ideal for using when welding

Don't let the hype sway you, check out these genuine reviews from actual users on Amazon:

"Boxy at first. I’ve found that it helps to get them wet and wear them until they’re dry to speed up the break in period. Once they shrink, they are a truly custom fit. Easy off and on. Tough gloves. Very glad I discovered these. Much cheaper and way better than the work gloves I was wearing."

"These gloves are tough, well fitting, comfortable, and with double layer construction they provide some good thermal insulation also."

"Favorite gloves for logging and sawmilling."

"Exactly what I expected. Good quality, cheap work gloves best suited for hard use and if you end up getting them saturated in bar oil / sap / gas / nasty stuff, you can toss them because they aren't that expensive and you have 11 other pairs in the truck."

"More expensive up front, but more comfortable and far outlasts other cotton gloves."

"All good quality gloves are expensive, however I have used this brand for over 50 years and I still prefer them to all others. I choose this site as it provided the best price. I expect that at my age, this bulk price quantity will out last me."

If those reviews do sway you, check out the price on Amazon! Hand sizing is across the board so you be able to find a pair that fits. If you don't have access to Amazon and you're feeling blue abou that, you can always try Lowes or Home Depot.

Why are White Ox gloves made of cotton?

You were thinking if want the best welding gloves or heat resistant gloves, they wouldn't be made of cotton right?

It almost seems counter-intuitive as cotton can burn as fast as paper can under the right conditions.

The reason these gloves are made of 100 percent cotton is because synthetic gloves will tend to melt under heavy heat conditions. Given cotton actually has relatively good thermal properties, they do the job that's required.

There are other more durable gloves that can handle the heat on welding jobs and the like, however cotton gloves also provide the dexterity that many users need.

How to choose the best chainsaw for your cutting needs

Sunday, June 16, 2019

You need a fallen tree cut & cleared.

You need it cut down today because it has fallen over your driveway and you need to get the car out.

So what do you do?

Grab that chainsaw and cut it up for firewood?

Ideally, you would but seeing as you are here looking for the best chainsaw to help you out with that situation, let's help you choose the best chainsaw for your needs.

In this case, we presume you are a homeowner, renter, back yard enthusiast, weekend warrior kind of user. You want a chainsaw to cut down the odd tree on your section, and chop out branches that are poking out awkwardly across the driveway or hindering your view.

We'll focus on the best range of chainsaws that can you might want to have tucked away in your shed for such occasions and safety industrial chainsaws for cutting down forest pine for another day.

Here are some questions that you may want to think about when trying to decide what is the right kind of chainsaw to buy:

  1. Am I experienced enough for this particular chainsaw? Basically the bigger the chainsaw, the more experience you need. 
  2. How often will I be using the chainsaw? Maintenance is a bitch. Sharpening. Chain stretching and maintenance. If you're doing very simple yard work, a smaller saw is for you, perhaps a battery powered saw?
  3. What type of wood will I be sawing most often – hard or soft? If you're cutting down apple trees, you don't need a beast of machine. Chopping out redwoods, well...
  4. Does the size of the trees I want to cut matter? Understand this: a 30cm guide bar can cut almost twice its length – that's about half metre diameter log. If you wanting are cutting big trees that have aged many years and you're reading this page, you're an amateur so you might want to get a pro to fell your trees...

Only ever buy a chainsaw with a chain break

The first choice you are going to make is one of safety. A chainsaw is not a toy. It is a killing machine if you screw up and cur your femoral artery in your thigh and you bleed out in the middle of a forest

You must only ever buy a chainsaw that features a chain break.

This is a safety feature that will prevent the chainsaw from cutting your arm or eyeball out if you get what's called a kick back, which is when the chain catches and the force causes the bar to raise up towards you at a speed your brain cannot comprehend.

If you are buying a second-hand chainsaw then you need to really check that it has a chain break.

Most new saws on the market will feature the safety measure as it's the law in several countries, however, older units which have been sitting gathering dust in a shed for a 10 - 15 years will not necessarily have a chain break.

If you think we are being pedantic and overzealous with this safety caution this simply Google something like "chainsaw kickback accident face" and check out the horrific images of facial injuries.

Will you use petrol or an electric chainsaw?

The second choice you might want to actually consider is whether you buy a gas or petrol powered electric (battery powered or corded)

Each has its merits and drawbacks.

Petrol chainsaws will need more maintenance and fuel and oil but can go all day and are a bit more portable in a sense.

Electric battery powered chainsaws need less maintenance but their batteries will wear down meaning you'll need spares if you have a big cutting job to do. You do still need to use bar oil with an electric chainsaw.

If you think a battery powered chainsaw doesn't have the balls to cut wood, they do. Check out how well the DeWalt 60V FlexVolt chainsaw performs on the length of a fallen tree:

Which means it will do the job if a tree indeed falls over your driveway and you want to clear it after the storm...

Corded chainsaws will never tire but you're stuck with operating them only when they can be connected to mains power and, like with an electric lawn mower, you need to be careful of the cord when using the machine.

We flesh out the discussion on gas or electric chainsaws here.

If you've decided you want the good old two-stroke gas engine (so you'll need to mix gas with oil), them read on for what are some ideal choices for the beginner or semi-confident user.

Despite what you may have heard:

Size matters when it comes to bar length and engine power

The 'power' or length of the chain bar is often used as a means to 'value' a chainsaw in terms of its performance. In a sense this is true but the reality is you do not need a 20-inch bar if you are not going to be cutting down 20 inch trees and are probably an actual arborist.

Makes sense right?

If you are just going to be doing home handyman type tasks, a  12-inch bar is an ideal starter length for you. This is because they are fairly easy to maneuver into place and they can get in to tricky, small spots more easily and safely. If you want to meet midway, you can always have a crack with a 16 inch bar.

The weight of the chainsaw is a real factor too. Unless you have arms of steel like Superman, you will suffer arm fatigue and you will probably find a few muscles in your back that you didn't know existed as well. Standards to reason, a lighter chainsaw is suited to the learner so you can focus on cutting efficiently rather than worrying about holding it up!

The same can be said for engine size. You probably don't need a 70cc engine (which can in effect be stronger than a moped motorcycle!).

You probably actually might want to consider the Husqvarna 14 inch 120 Mark II:

best husqvarna chainsaw under $200
Husqvarna is a tied and true brand of chainsaw, known for quality.

Husqvarna knows their target market and this machine is just perfect for beginners and homeowners who aren't professional lumberjacks. They have also given it a nice price at under $200 bucks.

  • It's designed to start up easily, just learn to use the choke properly.
  • Has the chain break feature we mentioned above.
  • It's quite ideal for everyday backyard tasks such as tree pruning, hobby work or firewood cutting
  • The chain tension system allows for quick adjustments on the fly
  • Ideal for light duty, light-duty, occasional trimming and pruning tasks
  • Husqvarna offers a three-year warranty!

Best battery powered chainsaw under $200 bucks

If you want the same kind equivalent tool as above but battery powered, Dewalt has you covered with their 20 volt Max XR 12 inch. It's a deal at under $200 bucks.

dewalt best electric chainsaw under 200

This yellow and black beauty is a smaller and easy-to-use saw which is designed for home use by weekend warriors and odd job specialists who will use the saw a couple of times a month or season. 

If this sounds like you, we suggest you check out the delivery options on Amazon:

DEWALT DCCS620B 20V MAX XR Compact 12 in. Cordless Chainsaw (Tool Only)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 by 586 reviewers on

Using medium size chainsaws for serious wood cutting

If you're a seasoned 'around the home user' and you want to sneak out to the back blocks and log some felled timber, then it might be time to consider moving up into what we could call a 'medium range' chainsaw. 

We're thinking you've probably used your original saw many times and have a good knack for using it. 

You're experienced enough using it that you can make good clean cuts but now you really want to be able to literally able to sink some metal teeth into some big trees - winter's coming and you want that woodshed full!

We're talking about chainsaws that have blade sizes between 14 to 18 inches, with engine displacements of 40 to 50 cubic centimeters (CC). These kinds of engines are a serious step from lighter use electric saws that's for sure!

And given that, the risks and dangers of using these cutting machines increase and we strongly recommend you start to think seriously about safety wear such as trouser chaps, gloves and full face helmet and visors. The truth is, you won't likely get a kickback to the face with a one-inch sapling branch but if you catch a snag on the middle of a thick trunk, the engine will kick back harder and faster than a stone flicked up by a car into your windscreen.

So, y'all ready for this?

First, to embrace your inner lumberjack, get out your best flannel shirt, put it on and then check out this beauty:

Husqvarna 18-Inch 50.2cc Gas Powered Chain Saw

best 55cc chainsaw

This monster will do some serious cutting so give it some serious respect as part of your decision making process. Even if you're just a tyre kicker, check out what it offers:

  • The 450 delivers 3.2 horsepower, making it well-suited for medium-duty jobs, such as pruning and domestic cutting
  • 3.2 HP X-Torq engine reduces harmful exhaust emissions and increase fuel efficiency
  • LowVib vibration dampening; minimal effort via Smart Start feature and combined choke/stop control
  • Centrifugal air cleaning system; inertia activated chain brake; snap-lock cylinder cover
  • Purchase this Husqvarna handheld item along with 3-32 ounce cans of Husqvarna pre-mix fuel, register your product online, and your consumer warranty will be extended from 2 years to 4 years
  • The 450 has a lightweight frame that minimizes strain on your body, even after extended use
  • Auto return stop switch and visible fuel level makes the saw easier to handle. Equipped with Smart Start and fuel pump to every time ensure easy starts.
Here's some reviews from users who have brought the unit via Amazon:

"This beauty (back to the chainsaw) has fired up first time, every time for a year. I just follow the cold start instructions that are clearly marked on the saw. I do live in FL but have used it in OR when the temp was around 38. I do not know about sub freezing start ups. Husqvarna is a Swedish company, so I think it will do well in the very cold"

"I truly love this chainsaw. Oh yeah, I used it to take down a deck. It was just 2x12 and 4x4 PT wood, but it made the job quick and easy. I did NOT cut through any nails or screws. Just wood. I would recommend this product to everyone."

" I wasn't disappointed. No problem with start-up. The first job I had was to clean up some storm damage. Had a large red oak uproot. At the stump it was about 29" diameter. This saw cut through that like a knife through butter. I cut up that tree in no time. "

"It's a hell of a saw and definitely glad I made this buy. It's been put to work and has yet to leave me down."

If those reviews are enough for you, check out the pricing on Amazon:

And there you have it, three great options for buying a chainsaw for the home owner.
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