February 2010: Toolbox

Whether you own your own home or rent an apartment, the putty knife is up there with the screwdriver as a must-have tool. That’s true even if you’re the type who calls a handyman just to hang a picture for you. With its flat blade and sturdy handle, the putty knife is like an industrial-strength kitchen spatula.

They come in two different types—flexible blade and stiff blade—and you should have both. The latter is best for scraping things like paint and wallpaper, while the former is good for spreading things like spackle. Hardware stores carry putty knives in a range of sizes and prices, though all are fairly inexpensive.

There are even so-called “disposable” ones where both blade and handle are made of plastic, but I suggest you get yourself putty knives of decent quality with a metal blades and wooden handles. They’ll last a lifetime, and the soft wooden handle will feel so much more comfortable in your hand when you’re, say, scraping away layers of moldy contact paper from a vintage linen closet. Or patching the nail holes in your walls from all those pictures, so you can get your security deposit back.

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