Tools of the Trade

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by Coach Rob Balfanz

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a three-part blog series focused on workforce development in 2021. This post offers tips on recommended tools of the trade, so you are armed with information on the right tool for the right job!


It has been said when all you have is a nail, everything around you looks like a hammer, right? Wrong!

Why should you use the right tools of the trade? It’s simple: each skilled trade tool is designed for a specific purpose. For example, a trowel is used by a brick mason, a nail slot hole punch tool is used by a vinyl siding installer. So, choosing the correct tool will decrease the amount of effort required to get a job done, get it done on time, and, even more importantly, get it done right.

When installing vinyl siding, how do you avoid quality concerns? You can start by using certified products for the project, ensuring you have the correct tools for the job and having your team trained on how to use the tools and install products correctly.

If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. – Abraham Lincoln

As many of you know, there are plenty of useful tools out there today–hand tools, power tools, technology tools and so on. There are even helpful websites and YouTube videos available to learn about the proper application.

However, there are so many available that it can be difficult to distinguish which ones will provide immediate value to your business, especially because so many of them look alike. So, for those of you looking for the right tools and products available that may provide an immediate impact on your business, here are a few recommendations to get you started:

I have broken these down into two buckets – Basic Hand Tools & Field Forming Equipment.

Vinyl Siding Installation Specific Hand Tools

Zip Lock Tool - One of the primary tools that you need for a siding installation, particularly if you are removing old siding, is a zip lock tool. Because of the small hook at the end of this tool, along with an appropriate angle, you won’t need to exert too much effort in popping the old siding of your project.

Nail Hole Slot Punch – Perfect for adding or widening holes in vinyl siding. Horizontal slots allow for natural expansion and contraction of vinyl siding panels.

Snap Lock Punch – This tool is used to form a raised tab to secure vinyl siding and plastic skirting to finishing trim.

Aluminum or Tin Snips – They look like, they say, gardening shears all day long, but they’re intended to cut varying gauges of aluminum, steel, tin and even vinyl siding. There are many kinds of tin snips, like “aviation snips,” that are named after their importance in the manufacturing of planes and other aircraft. Be sure to keep the blades sharp for that clean cut!

Trim Nail Punch – A must-have for every craftsman. A trim nail punch drives trim nails into soffit, fascia and other finishing trim without denting or marring.

Aluminum Hand Seamer – Hand seamers are perfect for folding bends without marring the paint finish in light-gauge aluminum flashing, coil stock or fascia materials.

Aluminum or Light Gauge Sheet Metal Field Forming Equipment

Field Forming Brake - Sometimes called a siding brake or an aluminum brake, this tool can be used for cutting and bending flashing for siding, windows and doors and for cladding for exterior soffits and fascias. It also can be used for any number of small projects that require bent light-gauge sheet metal or vinyl.

Field forming brakes come in a variety of sizes from 4ft. to 12ft. to accommodate projects of all shapes and sizes. The convenience and mobility of the various sizes help contractors fit into tricky places that require you to get “closer to the work.”

Once you get really good on the brake, don’t forget to ask about the various accessories that go along with these units, from bend and angle gauges, cut off tools, coilers, stands to forming tools, these pieces of equipment can be set up with everything but the kitchen sink, so you are more than equipped to complete the job.

Give ordinary people the right tools, and they will design and build the most extraordinary things. – Neil Gershenfeld

Some Final Thoughts

All of the tools and equipment mentioned in this post are only recommendations. There are many other tools and resources available to you and/or your businesses. Each of the tools and resources mentioned should be evaluated first to see if they are the right fit for your company.

And don’t forget, safety is everyone’s responsibility. So, take it personally!

Want more recommendations and contractor tips like this? Stay tuned for future blogs from Coach Rob! Have suggestions of your own, want more information on any of the recommendations, send Coach Rob an e-mail at

In the meantime,

Be Resilient – Add Value – Stay Healthy - Trust the Process!

To your success,

“Coach” Rob Balfanz, Director, Workforce Development, VSI