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, 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 you could be spending 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's 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 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.

How to sharpen an axe (so sharp Gimli would use it)

Sunday, June 9, 2019
gimli swining battle axe

How to properly sharpen an axe 

Think back to The Fellowship of the Ring when Boromir is checking out the broken Sword of Elendil and he says of it "still sharp".

This is an in-joke to Sean Bean's character Richard Sharpe from his show Sharpe who was a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars.

And if Sean Bean knows the importance of a good sharp joke, he'll understand how important it is to swing a sharp axe when chopping wood or bringing down a horde of Orcs!

After all, one does not simply walk into Mordor without a sharp axe!

You also need to take Gimli!

It's obvious that one sharpens an axe so that it cuts wood better but a sharp edge means you can apply less force which means you can cut more accurately and for longer. A sharper blade also reduces the risk of an accident occurring because the edge is less likely to slip from where it lands.

Here's how to sharpen your axe

As always, use the right tools, secure working space and play it safe with gloves as apt. Or use your bear hands, you know what to do right?

And you know that preparation is key.

There's a saying I came across a while back that goes something like this: if you have six hours to chop down a tree, then you should spend the first four of them sharpening...


To begin.

If there is any rust on your axe you should clean it off with a rust eraser or steel wool. You don't need to polish the axe head so you can see yourself in it but why have a rusty axe? 

Sharpen an axe with a stone or file

If you have a sharpening stone, then you're on a path to sharpening glory.

Ideally, your stone will be coarse, maybe even a diamond-coated sharpening stone. 

Or you have a file. 

When you sharpen a knife, you move the blade against the stone which is stationary. 

The reverse applies when sharpening an axe or hatchet. Your file or stone will be what moves so you axe should be stationary. 

Ideally, you can clamp it in a vice so it doesn't move but a great trick I learned as a lad in Scouts is if you place a plank of wood under the axe head, you'll be able to raise the edge of the axe enough so you can sharpen at a good angle. You can hold the axe handle down by standing on it and then use firm strokes over the edge.

Just like this:

sharpen a hatchet with a file

When you have made good progress on one side, flip the axe over and repeat. 

You'll know your axe is sharpened well enough when having swapped sides, a nice shiny 'raw' edge appears that looks ready to split wood. 

Using a grinder to sharpen an axe

Electric grinding tools are a legitimate tool to sharpen an axe with but there are some real risks when using these tools - for goodness sake, only use a grinder that the safety guard still attached and wear protective eyewear and gloves to keep those hands and eyes safe.

When using a grinder, the key thing is to ensure you you maintain the correct cutting angle of the axe itself. If you are not careful, the grinder could level out the whole blade - which would be detrimental to the 'splitting power' caused by the different thickness at the edge of the blade. 

Here's a handy video which shows how to cut -doesn't necessarily follow our suggested safety guidelines....

This is bascially the same method you can use to sharpen a lawn mower blade!

Best oil for ride on lawnmowers & garden tractors

Saturday, June 1, 2019
best ride on tractor oil

There's a real satisfaction when you've finished mowing the lawns.

You look around and your yard looks magically awesome, it's the best feeling.

This can be the most rewarding part but for this 'lawnman', the best part is doing maintenance and doing stuff like changing spark plugs and adding oil to your ride on.

There's something really satisfying filling oil into an engine.

It's like you know you are doing something worthwhile, something that says to your mower, I love you and when I ride on you, I know you're not going to let me down.

OK, now let's cut the crap and get on with what you want to know:

What is the best oil for a ride on lawn mower?

First up, you need to appreciate that ride on mowers (and garden tractors) have a larger oil capacity than push mowers. Their capacity is typically 48oz or 64 oz to bear that in mind when purchasing your oil. You may need to purchase two bottles, depending on their size.

Here are three great options that are excellent choices for you to use in your grass cutter. Let's start with one of the most popular lawnmower brands in the world, Briggs and Stratton

briggs stratton ride on oilBriggs and Stratton's oil will keep your mower's engine running strong with this oil specially formulated for use in higher operating temperature ranges.

SAE 30 oil is a stock standard 'weight' which means that this oil will work a treat in 40°-100° F temperatures. Make no mistake though, Briggs and Stratton's version of SAE 30 oil is the 'top shelf' of oil products.

Naturally, it suits all 4 stroke or 4 cycle engines, so don't use it in a chainsaw (use two stroke oil!)... Oils like Pennzsoil are designed for more modern mower engines.

Amsoil oil is a small engine lubricant full of chemical compounds that are artificially made using chemically modified petroleum components.

Pennzoil Ultra is synthetically developed. This means that if you regularly use it in your lawnmower (over the long term) then you greatly increase the chances of long service life and reduce the need to replace your lawnmower at year 7 instead of year 7. 

This is of course hyperbole and you absolutely need to regularly maintain your engine to lengthen its lifespan!

Can I use synthetic oil in my ride on lawn mower?

toro best oil lawn mowerYou sure can use synthetic oil in your ride on mower. It's really important to understand that your use of synthetic oil does not absolve you from performing regular lawn mower maintenance.

Toro, is a tried, true and trusted brand amongst many consumers and their synthetic oil is considered a good standard.

What makes synthetic oil so good is that it in terms of characteristics it is more 'oily' than most mineral oil compounds. They lubricate engines better which results in the oil being consumed more efficiently.

How often should I change the oil in my ride on lawn mower?

The oil should be changed approximately every one hundred hours of use and at the very least you should change it once a year. 

What is the best oil for a chainsaw engine fuel mix?

Monday, May 27, 2019
best chainsaw engine oil

Choosing the best chainsaw engine oil for fuel mixtures 

Just like a car needs the right engine oil, and your lawn mower too, your chainsaw will benefit from using the correct engine oil too.

In case it's not clear, we are talking about the kind of oil you mix with petrol before you add it to your two-stroke engine not oil for the chain bar!

Chainsaw engines are smaller that lawnmowers and of course cars, so run differently - different speeds, different accelerations and at different temperatures.

If you want to ensure your chainsaw engine is properly maintained, then you need to use oil design for use in a chainsaw.

When filling a small engine such as a chainsaw with fuel, it's quite likely to be a 'two cycle' or two-stroke engine. This means the fuel added will be a mixture of gas petrol and oil, usually in a 50 to 1 ratio of gas to oil.

Do not add car engine or lawn mower oil to your chainsaw! The quality of petrol and oil used is quite important to the proper running and life of the engine.

Unsuitable fuels or mix ratios that do not suit the manufacturer's design and intended use of the machine can cause damage to the engine which can include piston seizing and excessive wear. Gaskets, fuel lines and the fuel tank itself could be damaged if the incorrect oil is used.

It should now be clear that you should only ever use 2-cycle engine oil with your chainsaw*. Anything else will probably wreck it so, no you cannot put ordinary car oil in it!

What kind of oil to use? You'd be pretty safe with any of the major brands such as Husqvarna or Stihl.

*Can I use synthetic oil in my chainsaw fuel?

Just like their use in lawnmowers, synthetic oils have been demonstrated to have superior combustion characteristics over mineral oils on top of delivering great lubrication on chainsaw engines.

Synthetic oils will leave you with a much cleaner engine. They usually also have additives like octane enhancers, detergents and stabilizers to help burn cleaner than other engine oils. This means they will cause much less smoke as well.

You can also use semi-synthetics which cost less than fully synthetic oils. They still have fine combustion properties and give you better lubrication than you’d get from standard mineral oil.

Pros of using synthetic chainsaw oil

  • Will lubricate better than standard oil
  • Less coating on the piston and in the crankcase
  • Leaves your engine cleaner, produce less smoke exhaust

Cons of using synthetic oil

  • Price is the only real issue!

Here's some popular brand option for which it is hard to go wrong on choice!

How to mix gas and oil for a chainsaw

Before fueling the chainsaw, clean the fuel cap and the area around it to ensure that no dirt or wood chips fall into the fuel tank.

Have your oil and gas ready. You may wish to have a high octane gas.

Have your chopper positioned so that the cap points upwards.  

In order to reduce the risk of fuel coming in direct contact with skin and inhaling fuel vapor, remove the fuel cap carefully so as to allow any pressure build-up in the tank to release slowly. 

Your container for mixing should be clean, free of dirt and debris and one that is actually designed for holding fuel.

Pour the oil into the canister first and then add the gasoline or petrol. Make sure you get the ratios right by using the measured marks on your container.  

Close the canister and shake it vigorously to ensure proper mixing of the oil with the fuel.

Then pour into your chainsaw. Close the caps firmly and place your saw upright.

How long can I store mixed gas and oil fuel for?

It's recommended that you only mix enough fuel for the activity for which you are about to undertake. 

The mixture will deteriorate over time which makes engine performance suffer and even make it hard to start chainsaws (so you can remove fuel from your machine when storing if you wish to avoid that). 

Many brand manufacturers suggest one month but in our personal experience, you can go a fair bit longer. Any fuel stored longer than three months in the engine itself is likely to not be worth your time. 

Once as a cheeky fix to spark some new life into the fuel that would not start, I added a dash of gas and it helped the chainsaw start, though begrudgingly!

Using synthetic oils in a lawnmower engine

best synthetic oil lawnmower

What is the best synthetic oil that I can use in my lawnmower?

Did you ever watch Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Because they were supposedly enlightened people and had no apparent reason to get plastered to help them forget all the horrible stuff they went through and sew Picard's crew would drink synthehol.

And it had no effect on the body in terms of inebriation.

What a waste.

What is not a waste is synthetic oil for your lawnmower.

The best synthetic oil will offer the best engine protection at all temperatures as well as improved starting with less oil consumption. They will ideally help ensure your lawnmower is more likely to start in a cold climate!

What makes synthetic oil so good is that it is simply more 'oily' than mineral oils. As it is more 'slippery' it lubricates better and faster meaning it is consumed more efficiently.

If you are looking to use synthetic oil in your lawnmower (or another small engine like a chainsaw), then you are thinking smartly because synthetics also have properties which mean they tend to collect dirt and debris in the engine system better than traditional oils such as 20w50), meaning that when the oil is changed, more particulates are removed from your oil system. That can prolong the life of your small engine and it will perform better if as it will be less clogged by engine gloop. Yes, that's a technical term, ask Gwyneth Paltrow...

One of the most popular synthetic oils just so happens to be produced by one of the most famous lawnmower engine manufacturers, Briggs and Stratton. This author bought a Briggs and he will probably only ever buy their engines in the future because that brand represents assured quality. And you can say the same for their synthetic oil, SAE 5W-30 or 10W30 which is ideal for use in all air cooled 4-cycle engines.

Why was synthetic oil developed?

These lubricants were first synthesized, or man-made, in significant quantities as replacements for standard mineral lubricants (and fuels) by German scientists in the late 1930s and early 1940s because of their lack of sufficient quantities of crude for the needs of their military.

This was because of the need to operate machinery on the Eastern Front, which if you know a thing or two about that part of the world, is damn cold in the winter time. Those scientists were trying to find ways to keep the oil fluid in the cold.

At the other end of the spectrum, there was plenty of research into finding synthetic oils which worked better than mineral based oils at high temperatures.

By the 1970s, synthetic oils had developed to the point they were suitable for commercial application and were released for the automotive market and lawnmowers!

 A significant factor in its gain in popularity was the ability of synthetic-based lubricants to remain fluid in the sub-zero temperatures of the Eastern front in wintertime, temperatures which caused petroleum-based lubricants to solidify owing to their higher wax content.

The use of synthetic lubricants widened through the 1950s and 1960s owing to a property at the other end of the temperature spectrum – the ability to lubricate aviation engines at high temperatures that caused mineral-based lubricants to break down. In the mid-1970s, synthetic motor oils were formulated and commercially applied for the first time in automotive applications

Can I use 20w50 oil in my lawn mower?

Sunday, May 26, 2019
what lawnmower oil to use

Can I use 20w50 motor engine oil in my lawn mower?

The short answer is yes, you can use 20w50 oil in a lawnmower but results may vary.

That's not the end of it though.

This kind of oil is not designed specifically to be used in a lawnmower. 20W50 is actually a fairly specialized petrol engine oil formulated for use in engines made generally before 1980.

The starting point for considering what kind of oil to add is the characteristic of the oil known as viscosity. This is the thickness of the oil and that has a direct effect on how well the engine is lubricated during use, especially when temperatures change.

Typically, '30 weight oil' (often referred to as SAE30) is used in lawn mowers as it is designed with the engines of lawn mower in mind - temperature factors are a key player here - both of the engine (which obviously heats differently from a car) and also the local weather conditions play a part in determining engine performance. The thicker viscosity of 30 weight oil assists air-cooled engines to keep them running... cooler!

SAE30 is very suitable for older, aged engines to use.

20w50 will work in engines for what could be described as the summer weather period. If you live in colder climes then you should really consider using 30 weight.

If you live in a region that has large temperature swings between summer and winter then a blended oil such as 10w30 may be suitable - the 10w reflects the winter use protection and the 30 reflects the warm temp.

If you've spotted a trend in those numbers, good on you - the colder weather in which you use your engine, the lower your W for winter number can go.

One thing to bear in mind is while winter oils can help improve cold weather starting they may contribute to an increase in oil consumption by the engine. You just want to get your grass cut though eh?
When in doubt, you should always refer to the user manual of the lawn mower. If you do not have it, then google it - the manufacturers place them online because they know their users will benefit from them - a happy user is a happy brand whisper naturally!

Another factor to consider in your oil choice is will it help keep the engine clean internally?

Will the detergents contained in the oil help prevent sludge build up?

Most quality engine oils will have such detergents added - and for this reason alone, we recommend you avoid using cheap engine oil if you can!

There is an argument that you see creeping in every so often that the modern mower engine, is still basically the same kind of engine that has been around for 60 years since the end of the second World War. Those original engines ran on the crudest, rudest kind of oils around. The modern oils, including synthetics, are clearly superior oils and probably do over and above what is required for many engines.  This train of thought probably underlies why many users report using certain oils in certain engines and never having any issues with the oil's performance.

Take that how you will!

Best Dewalt Brushless Grinder

Friday, May 24, 2019
best brushless grinder

DEWALT DCG413B 20V Brushless Cut Off Tool/Grinder Review

The DEWALT DCG413B 20V XR Brushless 4.5-Inch angle grinder features a brushless motor which delivers up to 57% more run time over brushed engines.  This is because brushless motors have vastly reduced friction and much less voltage drop that brushes create by dragging against the spinning commutator. The result is Dewalt's cutting tool works with greater efficiency offers a more durable motor.

This single speed motor actually translates into 9,000 max RPMs which means it can handle the same kinds of jobs as corded grinders.

The Dewalt has a paddle switch to operate; the brake is engaged as soon as the Paddle switch is released, bringing the wheel quickly to a safe stop.

This tool also offers a 2-Position side handle for user comfort and convenience. It weighs 3 and 3/4 pounds so it's very easy to operate.

If you've been in the game long enough, you might think a grinder is a grinder but these reviews from actual users who have bought the grinder through Amazon and put them through their paces.

"I have several angle grinders, all electric. Hesitated to purchase a battery powered but my other DeWalt tools do so well and the reviews were so good I thought I would go for it.

GLAD I DID! This angle grinder is the boss. No more do I need to find an extension cord to grind, cut off or sand some simple project!"

"It’s so easy to operate and has all the power I need for 70% of my projects."

"I will never buy anything else. This grinder has since February of this year already had a hard life. Then last Friday it got ran through my entire rock quarry plant. Which consisted of getting hit with rock and submersed under water and pushed out by a large auger and found in a rock pile before it was shipped out to be used in concrete. Let it sit for a few days and it still works. And that’s the battery that was on it when it happened. All still work. Impressive. The trigger is a little sticky for turning it on but still works."

Now that is a sure sign of durability!

"An incredible angle grinder and it’s cordless! Very pleased with this grinder. I upgraded to a 6.0 battery and it will grind for a good while before needing to be recharged. More power than I imagined and much quieter than other corded angle grinders. It’s worth every penny."

If you think these guys have made the right call, make the same and check out the price on Amazon We recommend you wear battle tested safety gloves when using this grinder and of course, a safety visor or glasses. These units are lethal if used incorrectly or if a blade snaps and flies of into your face. Google for some pictures of grinder accidents and you'll see what we mean!

Here at TheToolYard, we just love recommending Dewalt products as they are durable, they work and are quite reasonably priced in the DIY market.

Here's some Dewalt products we've recommended in the past - job site fan, nail gun cordless lawn mower, the best drill bet set and handy safety glasses to protect your eyes.

Best adjustable wrench for home maintenance

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
best 12 inch wrench

When I was a wee lad, we had a fantastic garage that my dad worked in.

It was huge. It had couches, a rocking horse, a clothes dryer and unbelievably old radio (made of wood) that he would play horses races on and a pool table.

All of that and the tools. There were tools for chainsaws, the lawnmower, and so many rusted hand saws.

But that crescent wrench of his! It was a shiny tool of wonder. He had painted the end blue so he would know it was his.

Even as a child, I knew it was something special. It was adjustable so as a kid, it meant I could use it for all kinds of mischief and later on, maintaining my bicycle.

And now as an adult, I miss that wrench.

So, dear reader, I'm in the market for a new spanner.

It's got to be a quality one.

One that won't rust if MY son leaves it outside in the grass for a week.

One that's easy to adjust and one that feels just right in the hand like my dad's did.

It's got to have a sense of weight about it that just says, yep, I can get this nut undone, piece of cake, just put some elbow into it mate!

So what's the best adjustable wrench on the market for me to have a look at then? Are they any popular brands or newer kinds of material I should be thinking about? I have no idea, so let's find out on my journey to get a new wrench.

The first thing to ask ourselves is what size wrench do we need? Are we fixing car engines, adjusting wheel alignment on a bicycle or what?

If you want a stock standard, no fuss wrench, then, by all means, grab a cheap steel wrench that will do the job but it might make you work a little bit harder than you need:

steel adjustable spanner

This kind of spanner will set you back less than 10 bucks on Amazon. It's the classic style, drop forged and made of steel with a chrome plated finish and it will do the job but it might not be the kind of tool you keep in the shed for thirty years.

We reckon though you should insist on a quality wrench, and we think Ares have just the tool for you.

The Ares15-Inch adjustable wrench boasts a 2-inch (50.8mm) jaw capacity and a precision machined 4-thread knurled non-protruding jaw adjustment worm, making it perfect for jobs requiring exacting precision in tight spaces.

Both the handle and jaws have an HRC 40-50 hardness rating, so it’s tough enough for stubborn jobs. It's tough as it is made of durable, heat-treated Chrome Vanadium Steel with a corrosion-resistant Manganese Phosphate coating.

Its handle grip features an anti-slip design which delivers the user more gripping power to help reduce fastener damage and provide more torque while preventing hand stress and fatigue during prolonged use. 

The wrench is a wrench for all jobs. DIY around the home, plumbing, working on the farm or doing automotive work. 

Here's the specs:
  • Size: 6-inch
  • Jaw capacity: 15/16-inch (23.8125mm)
  • Constructed of Chrome Vanadium Steel
  • Corrosion-resistant Manganese Phosphate coating
  • Unique jaw and neck design increases steel hardness (HRC) by 3 degrees and reduces the wrenches’ overall weight by 10%
  • Ergonomic TPR handle grip
  • Anti-slip design 
  • Precision milled 4-thread knurled non-protruding jaw adjustment worm
  • Metric and SAE measurement markings
  • Special jaw design protects nuts during use for increased torque

But you want to know if the Ares spanner is the real deal. Well, buyers on Amazon have road tested it and given their review feedback:

"I use this wrench almost daily. The grip is nice, fitment of the adjuster is excellent, the small teeth on the jaws are a nice for a little additional bite. Well worth the price for quality tools."

"Good quality and very small for very tight spaces"

So check out the price on Amazon:

Ares also do a pretty handy set of wrenches:

This sets wrenches features up to a 1 5/16-inch jaw capacity and metric and SAE measurements, eliminating guesswork when doing precision jobs.

The 8-inch wrench also features a V-jaw with aggressively angled teeth perfect for gripping pipes and rounded fasteners.

handy wrench set

Coilover spanners

coilover wrench
There are also plenty of other kinds of wrenches that have specific design features to help with particular tasks such as the coil-over.

Coilovers can be used to tighten side slot nuts on collars, lock nuts and bearings.

Because of the action when using them, they can give great leverage when turning stubborn bolts.

These kinds of spanners are very popular for motorcycle maintenance as they can fit shocks, steering columns, and all kinds of nuts.

Top five facts about spanners and wrenches

  1. Crescent wrenches are actually a trademarked brand all of their own!
  2. English engineer Richard Clyburn is widely credited with inventing an adjustable spanner in 1842.
  3. The first patent for a spanner was granted to Enoch Harris in 1885. This featured an adjustable jaw. Since then many different patents for differing forms of spanners have been accepted over the years.
  4. No one knows how the term "monkey wrench" came about
  5. The expression "spanner in the works" came about from employees deliberately sabotaging factory production lines with tools such as wrenches. Or not...

Best drill bit sets

Sunday, April 28, 2019
If you're anything like me, you'll find you keep breaking your drill bits and need to replace them with a new set.

So what are the best drill bit sets to choose from?

There are all kinds of drill bits and some suit various tasks better than others. For example, you're would never use a bit designed for wood when drilling into masonry, concrete or metal or even glass or porcelain. Well, if you're again like me, you may have tried and learned the hard way...

On that basis, let's consider the best bits for wood and the best bits for metal.

As always, we'd recommend that you don't cheap out with your tool purchases - if the issue is that you keep breaking bits, maybe it's because the parts are too cheap? Or maybe you just need to be a bit more gentle when drilling?

Drill bit sets for wood

When selecting the right drill bit for using with wood, it's important to understand that while soft low-carbon steel bits are inexpensive to buy, the con is that they do do not hold an 'edge' well and require frequent sharpening.

Such bits are only ideal for drilling wood; even working with hardwoods rather than softwoods can noticeably shorten their lifespan.

So with that in mind, we'd recommend that titanium drill bits are the order of the day if you intend to regularly use them, say if you are into joinery or carpentry as a hobby or profession.

So here are two great quality products:

best tool drill bit set replacement


You already know the brand stands for quality. Their set's titanium drill bits have a titanium coating that provides longer life when drilling.

These bits are very suitable for drilling in wood and plastic and are ideal for commercial and most home based applications. 

The set includes sizes from 1/6-inch to 1/2-inch in a plastic tough case.
  • Titanium pilot point for longer bit life
  • Starts on contact for cleaner holes
  • No spin shanks
  • Tapered web provides greater durability to reduce breaking
  • Includes sizes from 1/16-inch to 1/2-inch in a plastic tough case

Fisch FSF-364757 Imperial Brad Point Drill Bit Set

The Fisch chrome vanadium Imperial 29 piece brad point drill bit set is fantastic for normal drilling operations in soft and hardwood using cordless drills or drill press machines.

This 29 piece set is the perfect place to start when you need a quality drill set that will get the job done and give you years of service, which is what you expect when paying for quality.

This handy set includes common Imperial (Inch/fractions) sizes from 1/16” to ½” in 1/64” increments.

The drill bits have full diameter shanks on bits that are 3/8” diameter and smaller. The set sits in a quality plastic stand case that protects your drills and puts them at arm’s reach with a handy 'flip out' when it is time to get drillin'.

Here's a handy list of the specifications:

  • Chrome-vanadium steel lasts longer between sharpening
  • Less tear-out in hardwood, softwood and laminated materials which means less frustration when materials get ripped by bits.
  • Optimized outer spurs insure fast and easy cutting of the wood, scoring the outer rim of the hole before the main part of the drill begins to do its work
  • For use in soft, hard, exotic, veneered and laminated wood, as well as MDF board and even acrylic such as plexiglas!
  • Beveled cutting edge leads to clean drilling without any deviation while feeding the bit into the material which is handy when it's hard enough to get the bit centered!

Drill bit sets for metal drilling

If you are looking to drill holes in metal or stainless steel, then you need to consider using drills of a different composite from those designed for use with wood.

Drill bits composed of cobalt steel alloys are variations on high-speed steel that contain more cobalt. These kinds of bits hold their hardness at much higher temperatures - which is just what you need when grinding into metal!

Drill bits that are designed to cut through strong metals will also usually have a blunt tip, whereas a drill bit that is made for cutting through wood will have a pointed tip. So now you know the difference!

Given such drill bits are able to withstand the heat fairly well, they will endure, giving you a longer life span.

Meet the Drill Hogg for metal drilling

There's a reason Drill Hog steel bits come with a lifetime guarantee for the original owner. It's because these bits are tough cobalt bastards! These bits are made from Cobalt M42 Steel (HSS) which has a melting point of 2,853 degrees Fahrenheit! Wrap your head around that Ray Bradbury!

These bits will drill through the toughest steel like truck frames, stainless steel, farm implements, spring steel, grade 8 bolts, and more! Boss Hog is very proud their product is made State Side in the USA.

  • Premium Solid Cobalt M42 Super High Speed Steel
  • 1/16" to 1/2" in 1/64th Increments (Does not Skip any Sizes)
  • High Heat Treated Hardness 68-70 HRC (Rockwell Hardness Scale)
  • 135 Degree Split Point Prevents "Walking"
  • Tri-Flat Shank Prevents "Spinning" in Chuck

Handy hint for using a drill bit:

If you are able to, place a thick piece of wood under the metal you are drilling so that your bits won’t be dulled or damaged by your work surface when the bit goes through the metal and comes into contact with the surface.

Best drill bit set for concrete drilling

Last winter I was trying to install fire guard at my place and I needed to drill the screws into the brick around the fireplace. Having no idea about such things, I foolishly used my standard drill set and ended up getting nowhere. And that's when I learned about masonry drills bits for cutting into brick and concrete!

Yep, it turns out you do need specialized drill bits to make holes in concrete. These are commonly referred to as masonry bits. They often will often be composed of a steel body and a tungsten carbide tip to ensure they are tough enough the manage the effort required to cut through concrete. It is also best practice to use these bits with a hammer or percussion drill.

So what are the best sets for concrete drilling? As usual, let's avoid cheap 10 dollar kits and focus on branded quality:


Designed for the US market, these drills bits are ideal for drilling for medium depths of about 4 inches. Made with carbide tips that maximize carbide surface contact for longer bit life.

The special flute design clearing out debris for fast, efficient drilling. These bits are heat forged for strength and longevity with a sharp maximum impact on masonry/concrete material. Makita pride themselves that general contractors and many players in the construction industry use these tools.

Another great option for cutting concrete is yet again Dewalt's 7-Piece Premium Percussion Masonry Drill Bit Set:

drill into brick and concrete drill bit

  • Manufactured in Germany, so you know this is the real deal
  • Rock carbide tip maximizes carbide surface contact in the drill hole which results in longer bit life
  • The 'Four-flute' design assists in cleaning out debris out for quick and efficient drilling
  • Three flats on shank eliminate bit slipping in the chuck

What is high speed steel?

Known as HSS, high-speed steel is a material that can withstand incredibly high temperatures before it fails by losing its form or effectiveness. Thus, it's ideal for drilling in hard materials like metal.
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