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© Copyright 2007 Work-4 Projects Ltd.

By Jon Eakes

When New Is Actually Better

Given the competitive nature of our society, the push for manufacturers to always have something new creates a lot of products that are new just for the sake of being new or different, not because they represent some form of real progress. In fact, the marketing of "new" lines often involves a mere colour change or some other minor adjustment, which presents a challenge for a magazine issue dedicated to new products. Then there are always the "wow" products that are not only worth noting but also worth looking at closely.

Is a better mouse trap really possible?
Stanley has come out with a portable work centre - one of those clamping tabletops with two cranks and surface dogs to hold just about anything. Although the top is made out of a sturdy composite material, there is nothing too special about the work surface except a convenient hole for your drill. Not extremely large, it is a convenient 20" x 23" with 4" movement on the jaws. The reason for the moderate size work surface is what is really fantastic about the FatMax Mobile Project Center. It not only has solid ball bearing wheels for dragging it around, but when you fold down the table and kick out the pallet, you suddenly have a most useful hand cart. Not only do you avoid toting your work bench around, but the work bench carries the tool box or the mitre saw or both... which is why they built it small enough to roll through doorways. Stanley even built in a comfortable carrying handle if you want to carry it flat, a feature sadly missing with most of the competition.
Although it has a small footprint and can be tipped sidewise, the structure both as a hand truck and as a work bench is very solid. Stanley also added in an extension cord storage and a three-outlet power block: two more things that it carries for you. The hand cart handles pop up and down easily but, most impressively, you can open and close the entire unit with ease, again something terribly lacking on most collapsible work centres. Selling for under $100, this has suddenly become my traveling companion.

The instant locksmith
Okay, what's so exciting about a key? These are actually ordinary keys, although Weiser calls that little skinny thing in the middle of all the keys a SmartKey. With the new SmartKey locks, you can re-key a lock in 15 seconds without taking it off the door. You could change a lock in your house temporarily for workmen, and then change it back when they are done. Even more exciting for rental housing, you can instantly change keys as the last piece of furniture goes out the door. For new construction, you can install a brand new key for the home owners as part of the handing over the keys ceremony, showing them how to do it themselves at the same time and locking out all the keys used during the construction period. You can then use the construction keys on the next site. In fact, your site supervisor could have one key for all your SmartKey sites. This system can eliminate locksmith costs and delays - both for you during construction and for the home owner the rest of the life of the house.
SmartKey locks use a ring system rather than pins and tumblers, which allows you to simply use the working key to turn the locking mechanism a quarter turn to horizontal. Hold it there and insert the special pin in and out to suspend the rings. Remove the working key, without turning it, insert any new key and then return the lock to the vertical position. It is now re-keyed. The old key will no longer work and the new one is now the working key. You can move on to new keys, return to old keys, key all the locks to the same key... all in seconds. Keys are standard and can be duplicated anywhere keys are sold. Weiser SmartKey sets can be purchased with new random teeth, which give you six everyday keys, two alternate keys (colour coded) and the special SmartKey (with a special keychain so you won't lose or misplace this little useless looking thing).
So with all this sudden convenience, is it secure? Although anyone can buy a SmartKey pin, it doesn't do anything unless you have the working key to turn the cylinder a quarter turn as the first step. If you lose or misplace the SmartKey pin, they give you another one with every set of new keys. By eliminating the traditional pin and tumbler system, SmartKey Locks cannot be "bumped" or sheared by a thief. In fact, this lock is classified as Grade 1 security, having passed the most rigorous UL lock picking test. If you lose the working key, you can take the lock off the door and, with a special Weiser jig, a locksmith can re-key the lock.

Getting to the point
WOOD
Irwin offers faster cleaner boring with their new SPEEDBOR "MAX" Wood Drilling Bit. This bit is half way between a spade bit and an auger bit. They cut faster than spade bits while leaving a cleaner hole than an auger bit. The tapered flute reduces drag, the tempering the full length of the bit cuts on the sides rather than binding and the redesigned screw draws forward with less resistance, allowing you to drill large clean holes with a cordless drill.

TILES
There is finally something really designed for site work with a handheld drill on hard materials such as Class 5 tile, marble, porcelain, granite, slate and even glass. Hitachi went a step beyond carbide and has designed a whole set of diamond grit drill bits from 3/16" to 1", costing in the $15 to $25 range. The first good thing is that the speed and durability of diamond grit over carbide grit means faster and better work - at a lower cost per hole than with existing bits.
Second, the head is wider than the body, permitting less-than-perfect positioning without cracking the material. The centre core is the guidance system that keeps it going in on track. You actually start tilted to the side to get a footing on the material and then rise up to vertical and proceed. There is a core ejection slot to allow continuous drilling hole after hole.
These bits do require water lubrication, which is easy to do on a horizontal surface. A special Hitachi Drill Guide and Water Cooling System is available for vertical materials for around $20. The guide and water reservoir is suction cupped to the wall, assuring that the hole is in exactly the right place and that there is a constant trickle of water on the bit.


CONCRETE
While we are working on hard materials, how about a chisel with less steel and designed to wear? Now, that sounds like value for the dollar. Bosch brings us the Self-sharpening Star-point concrete chisels. Named for its innovative star-shaped design, each Self-sharpening Star-point chisel uses a specially engineered and hardened star-shaped cross-section. This innovative design creates five fraction points when impacting any material, rather than only one with a standard pointed chisel, resulting in better overall performance. Furthermore, less steel centered at the tip means the Star-point does not dull like a standard chisel. Rather, it wears laterally at each rib, retains its shape and re-sharpening itself throughout the chisel's operating life to save time and remain productive from start to finish. Bosch claims a 30 per cent higher removal rate that is consistent throughout the life of the chisel.


Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.
www.JonEakes.co


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