Works for me #7: Tool Manuals and Parts Lists

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Blog entry by Dave Owen posted 03-18-2010 09:37 PM 2112 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Blade Cleaning Part 7 of Works for me series Part 8: Poorly connecting vacuum fittings »

As I was reading SPalm’s post about PDF files, it reminded me of something I do that might be of use to some of you.

I’m sure most of you keep all your tool manuals and parts lists. I do too, but when I needed to refresh my memory about something covered in the manual – or wanted to look up a part number – I found digging it out of the file, using it, and putting it back was more time consuming than I wanted it to be. Now I keep all that information in my computer in PDF format.

To make it convenient, I created a folder on my computer desktop named “Tool Manuals”. In that folder I’ve downloaded the tool manuals and parts lists for all of my major tools – as well as many others – from the manufacturer’s website. It cost nothing but a little time, and now I have them all in a readily accessible place.

If I need a page of the manual or parts list in the shop, I print it out. Then, if it gets torn or dirty, I haven’t messed up my hard copy. When I need to order a part, I bring the parts list up on the screen, grab the phone and order it. Over the past couple of years I’ve really found this method useful.

My PDF reader is by a company called “Foxit”. Their free version works very fast and well, but by paying a small fee, the upgrade comes with a couple of functions I’ve found very useful. One is a typewriter function that lets me insert any notes or other information I wish in the manuals and parts lists (such as telephone numbers, contact person, order date, etc.). Another is a ‘snapshot’ feature that lets me select and print any part of a page I want – at any scale. I’m sure many other readers have similar functions.

If this has any appeal to you, give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

-- Dave O.

11 comments so far

View JimNEB's profile


239 posts in 3038 days

#1 posted 03-18-2010 09:56 PM

Great idea…

-- Jim, Nebraska

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3278 days

#2 posted 03-18-2010 10:00 PM

That is a very good idea. I keep all of my owner manuals in a portable plastic file hanging box to keep them portable and together…but having them on the computer sounds even better.

View jm82435's profile


1285 posts in 3712 days

#3 posted 03-18-2010 10:39 PM

I sooo agree. I hate looking for hard copies of anything. Great tip. thanks.

-- A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3407 days

#4 posted 03-18-2010 11:07 PM

Got iTunes? it’s for Mac and Windows. Most people use it for their music these days and it’s free on Apples website. But since Apple sells music, books, movies, etc. iTunes will accept and catalog and play just about anything. Make a new folder (playlist) in itunes. Name it Woodworking pdf’s then drag all your pdf’s into it. itunes will catalog them for you and when you ask it to play them it will ‘play’ the pdf in whatever pdf viewer you have built into your computer. On a Mac it comes up in about 2 seconds in Apple’s preview. On a PC it might be adobe reader or something else.

A good place to keep all your stuff.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3744 days

#5 posted 03-19-2010 02:19 AM

Another great idea. Thank you!

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3456 days

#6 posted 03-19-2010 03:15 AM

went paperless years ago. here’s a tip, back up your hard drive regularly on an xternal hard drive. they are cheap these days and real cheap insurance against data loss. otherwise all those .pdf files will go poof. and not to fear, your hard drive will fail, sooner or later, usually sooner (2 to 4 years). a real bummer if you like all your digital pictures, music, pdfs, etc.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Dave Owen's profile

Dave Owen

254 posts in 3044 days

#7 posted 03-19-2010 03:18 AM

Good point about the backups, David. I do exactly that – having been down the road you describe twice.

-- Dave O.

View 559dustdesigns's profile


633 posts in 3137 days

#8 posted 03-19-2010 11:10 AM

Wow, that’s a very organized way to keep information. Thank you Dave for this procedure.

-- Aaron - central California "If you haven't got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?"

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3407 days

#9 posted 03-19-2010 01:05 PM

Speaking of backups. If anyone is using a Mac. Get a big hard drive and use the built in Time Machine that’s part of the OS. Automatic, you can’t tell it’s happening, instant backups of anything new to your computer and you can go back in time at any point and make your computer look like it did at that point. Even if you trashed a bunch of files they will still be there as if you were looking at your computer screen from two years ago. Nothing ever goes away. And, it doesn’t fill up the external hard drive much over time. I don’t know how they do it, compression or something but they do. An amazing feature.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3085 days

#10 posted 03-19-2010 04:41 PM

thank´s for sharing those tips
they are great


View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3618 days

#11 posted 03-19-2010 04:51 PM

I do the same – but on top of that. I don’t actually keep the documents on my local harddrive, but keep them online. I personally use Apples’ .Mac service, and also google docs. this way, it’s organized, backedup, and I can access it from any computer, at any time, from anyplace I’m at.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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