Simply Clever Solutions
From pliers to painting accessories, to reciprocating saws and laser-driven measuring devices, this month's picks are simply clever solutions to make life on the job ... simpler.
Recip Saws Keep Changing
In the 1950s Milwaukee invented the reciprocating saw and called it the SAWZALL, a name we all tend to use generically. These tools that push the blade forward and back in a reciprocating action have two little brothers.
There is the longstanding jigsaw with its much smaller blades, and now the one-handed recip saws, what Milwaukee calls the Hackzall. The one-handed saws first showed up as a 12-volt alternative to the large 120v corded recip saws. They could get into tight places, have less chance of punching something out on the other side of the work and actually did a decent job on copper pipe, plastic pipe, drywall and sheet metal (remember there are now special very short square tooth blades for drywall and narrow very small tooth blades for sheet metal). Appropriately called Hackzall, they basically provided a small power tool alternative to the cumbersome and slow Hacksaw. But they, like the hacksaw, were hard pressed to drive a blade through lumber even though wood cutting blades fit into the tool. You could notch a 2x without having to change tools, but not much more before you simply overloaded the saw.
Milwaukee called their little tool the M12 Hackzall. For me, it was a small troubleshooting tool that could get into tight places better than a jigsaw or a hand-driven hacksaw. Now Milwaukee is competing with itself with its new upgraded version, the M12 FuelHackzall (#2520-20). The "Fuel" line of tools has its latest POWERSTATE Brushless Motor and other upgrades and, interestingly enough, all the 12-volt tools work with all of tMilwaukee's 12-volt batteries-so you can step up to longer work times even though the tool is significantly more powerful than the old 12-volt model.
This new Fuel(tm) Hackzall can do everything the old saw did while now being able to do some significant lumber work. The first saw had a 1/2 inch stroke, the new one 5/8 inches ,and that makes all the difference for cutting wood. Understand that it is not a demolition tool like the full sized "stronger than corded" Fuel M18 FUEL SAWZALL that I talked about in the last issue, which has a 1-1/8" stroke. It weighs about half a pound more than its little brother, but 5.7 pounds lighter than the demolition Sawzall. The Fuel Hackzall actually bridges the gap between the full size demolition tool and the original very marginal one handed recip saws. It is so good, and almost as small, that I suspect the old Hackzall will disappear.
One Tool That Finally Got Simpler
For years we have seen more and more sophisticated calculating laser-driven measuring devices coming down in both size and price. But suddenly Bosch has jumped over incremental changes to bring out a distance-measuring device that is simply simpler.
The Bosch GLM15 is very small, "plain Jane square" to sit well on all surfaces and fits into any pocket. It is accurate to 1/8 inch with a 50-foot range. It only has one button. Push once, it comes on and gives a dynamic measurement to your target, meaning you can easily walk to the distance you are looking for. Push again and it holds the first measurement. Push again and it shows your first measurement and goes dynamic again for a second measurement. Keep pushing and it kicks your last measurement up to hold while finding a new one. Hold the button and the device turns off. That's all it does. That is a learning curve that I really like. Store price is less than $60 with the durability and accuracy of Bosch behind it.
Two Revolutionary Painting Accessories
Unless you are a professional painter with automated pumping or spray equipment, you are always dealing with paint trays, paint cans, spills, drips and spending as much time moving your paint source as you do putting it on the wall or trim.
...On the Floor
The Roll & Stow started out as a rolling catch basin that would hold a paint tray, then was reworked to even handle paint (or mortar) pails up to 5 gallons. Of note is that the wheel system is very effective, allowing moving in all directions by simply pushing it around with the roller pole, even over tarps or tiles. No bending over. Then amazingly, it doesn't move as you load the roller! Drips off the tray or pail fall into the rolling bin.
Then the designer decided to give it a lid with a sturdy handle to make it into a storage and transport toolbox for your brushes, rollers, tray, tape, rags etc. Once he had a lid, he then discovered that he could close up a tray full of paint, with both a roller and a brush (handles sticking out) and paint would stay fresh for at least a week. No short-term clean up between work sessions and no drying out. I tested it. It works and I am more than impressed.
Invented in Quebec, it is easily available in Quebec from a number of paint and renovation outlets, and for the moment nationally only at Home Hardware and BMR.
... And on the Ladder
The other advance that has changed my dislike of painting is the Paint Handy, a pizza-sized tray with a kind of foam/Velcro cushion in the bottom, and a hand-strap on the backside. It looks like one of those shopping channel gadgets that you don't want to waste your money on- but it really works! You load this with paint and nothing drips. As you see, you can totally not pay attention to your paint source, even hold it vertical, and it will not drip! Roll it to the backside of your hand and use both hands to climb the ladder. Use a small roller or a brush for all your up-the-ladder trim work. It actually holds a lot of paint, enough to keep you working until you need to move the ladder anyway.
Using the same storage concept as the Roll & Stow, you seal the disk and brush in a furnished zippered plastic bag, and the paint won't dry for at least a week. Simply open and go with that second coat. This is an American invention, for the moment only available on the web at www.PaintHandy.com, but I am sure that this one will catch on too.
Put these two advancements together and painting just got easier, both on the floor and in the air.
Finally the Manufacturer Makes It the Way We Use It
We use locking pliers in all shapes and sizes and for years manufacturers have innovated with locking and unlocking systems. What has stayed constant was that finger knob for setting the tension. Milwaukee went on site and saw in the metal working trade that the tradesmen had soldered rings onto the end of that tension knob to allow flipping in a screwdriver for quick strong leverage before or after using the clamping mechanism. Not so complicated, replace the finger knob with a ring and a whole new line of locking plyers has been born. Milwaukee calls it the TORQUE LOCK.
Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert
Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.