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.
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.
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.
to the point
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.
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
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.
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.