Being a carpenter can have a special meaning for different people. For some, it can be the art of creating masterpieces from scratch or seeing the piece come to life in your hands. For others, it can be a great way to relieve stress and exercise your creative (and physical) muscles. But whether a beginner or a seasoned professional, a few essential tools and equipment are needed for all carpentry projects.
To help you learn about these must-have tools, we interviewed experienced carpenter and OLFA Pro All-Star Lucas D’Angelo, talking about his favorite tools and why they are always by his side.
What are the top 5 tools for carpentry?
When it comes to being a carpenter, the possibilities of which tools to use are endless and you may feel overwhelmed by which ones to choose. To help you prioritize what should go in your toolbox, here are my top 5 OLFA tools for carpentry and why:
- OLFA 18mm NL-AL Rubber-Grip Auto-Lock Utility Knife: This is the tool that I carry in my pocket every day and use for everything. Most recently, I’ve used it for cutting rigid foam insulation board to fill wall cavities and cutting underlayment for installing floating floors.
- OLFA 18mm LA-X Fiberglass Utility Knife with Multi-Pick: This one stays in all my tool bags. The most recent application I used it for was not even the blade portion, but the prybar on the back. I used it to break a caulking seal between a window and jams before removing the window.
- OLFA 25mm NH-1 Rubber Grip Ratchet-Lock Utility Knife: Keep this on-hand for fine cutting and trimming on trim and molding. Most recent use was flush cutting wooden hole plugs. This one is great when paired with the OLFA 25mm HSWB-1/1B Saw Blade.
- OLFA 40mm GSR-2 Stainless Steel Blade Mini Glass Scraper: Great precision scraper. I’ve used this to scrape caulking off of an old porcelain enameled tub and I also use it to scrape paint off of glass.
- OLFA 60mm SCR-L Multi-Purpose Scraper: This is more of a heavy-duty scraper. I’ve used it to scrape dried glue or sealants off of unfinished surfaces. There was one time when I was installing new floor in a bathroom and had to have it plastered. After doing so, I noticed there were a few drips of dried plaster on the surface, so I needed to remove those prior to laying the new floor. That’s when this OLFA scraper came in handy: I used the extra-strong wide blade to remove them with no damage to the subfloor.
How do you choose which tool to use on your projects?
There are two specific methods I use to pick the right tools for a particular project. The first one may seem strange, but it has worked well for me: I simply choose the tool that is closest to me. With OLFA tools being multi-functional and built tough, chances are that tool will do the job right— even if it’s not necessarily made for it.
The second method involves planning ahead, which in general is the better path to follow! I try to look ahead at my day or week, and make a list of what I need to accomplish. Then based on that list, I choose tools specifically for each task. For example, if I know I’m doing touch-up painting or re-caulking a tub, I’ll grab the OLFA GSR-2 Scraper. If I’m hanging doors or trim, I’ll make sure I have the OLFA NH-1 combined with the saw blade.
What is one uncommon use you’ve found with any of these tools?
Something I’d like to share with my fellow carpenters (or DIY lovers) is that many of the OLFA 18mm Knives feature a metal blade guide at the front of the tool, which makes a great punch down tool for data cables. In fact, there was one time where I needed to replace a CAT6 ethernet jack and did not have a punch down tool for the back of the connector. I grabbed my OLFA 18mm NL-AL Rubber-Grip Auto-Lock Utility Knife and retracted the blade all the way in. Then I used the front edge to punch down all 8 wires into the new jack. Worked well and saved me a trip to go look for a punch down tool.
Ergonomically, what are your favorite features of these OLFA tools and why?
I like a tool with good ergonomics. While I’m not super picky about shape, I am definitely a little more interested in general size and handle material. I tend to prefer the rubberized or comfort grip tools, such as the OLFA NL-AL or the LA-X that feature a plastic body with rubber handle. I like that the plastic doesn’t get too cold in the winter, unlike the aluminum of other knives. The GSR Scraper also has the same plastic/rubber mold that I love, so no surprise to see it amongst my to-go tools.
Do you use any specific OLFA blades with them?
I use a few blades specifically. My go-to are the OLFA 18mm LFB-10B Ultra-Sharp Black Speed Blades. They seem to last the longest for me. Of course, I use the OLFA HSWB-1 saw blade as I mentioned before. If I know I’m going to be cutting a lot of rigid foam insulation or faced fiberglass, I’ll use an OLFA 18mm LWB-3B Insulation Blades with one of my 18mm knives. This blade can extend for deeper cuts and features a serrated edge which makes it perfect to cut those materials.
Why would you recommend these tools for carpentry?
The main reason I like these tools for carpentry is that they are small and compact, but heavy-duty and comfortable. It’s like having one little tool that can fit in my pocket but that can accomplish the tasks of several larger tools. For example, the OLFA 25mm NH-1 Knife with the HSWB saw blade can replace a larger pull saw for most of the work I do, and in some cases even replaces a jigsaw!
As a contractor who does all my own framing and carpentry, I like quality tools that I can do a lot with but also save time, and that’s what OLFA tools accomplish for me. To make you understand that I’m not lying about these multi-purpose tools, this is what I’ve been able to accomplish today with OLFA from the moment I walked into my apartment: slotted a screwdriver for electrical plate covers, used a knife to score drywall for removal, another knife to cut caulking for demo, one knife to cut underlayment, a scraper to remove excess glue and, a blade guide used as pry bar to lift up staples, another knife to cut tape for masking, one to cut sheathing from wire and strip wire, another OLFA knife to sharpen carpenters pencil… and honestly, that’s just off the top of my head.
All those tasks with a few OLFA tools that live in my pocket. They always save me so much time, and also guarantee excellent performance– these are the tools that should be in every carpenters pocket!
Lucas D’Angelo Bio:
Lucas is a carpenter and fabricator based out of Eastern MA who loves to work with both wood and metal. He is also a vintage machinery enthusiast, and enjoys the process of restoring antique tools and machinery. Whether it's trimming out a room or machining replacement parts for a restoration, he’s always up for a challenge and loves problem solving. If you want to learn more from this talented professional, you can find him at the links below:
YouTube: Mann Made in MA