Fine Tuning Standard Tools
What is in your Boots?
Teaching Old Dogs Old Tricks With New Tools
The Flip Joint from Wiss is a single tool that cut electrical cable up to 10/3 very efficiently with its very sharp oval shearing jaws; then you flip the handles all the way around and use the stripping notch as a sheath knife, then flip the handles back and strip the wire in the notch made just for that.
Having used standard pinch-type diagonal cutters all my life for forcing my way through electrical cable, I never realized how easily and cleanly you can cut electrical wires with a shear and how quickly you can strip wires when you slice through the insulation rather than pinch through. Electricians will appreciate its rugged construction and 3-in-1 features, and the rest of us can appreciate that we just learned something about working with electrical wires. www.wisstool.com.
Same Work, Less Noise
The roaring noise of an air compressor is considered one of the necessary evils of the construction site, especially indoors. So DeWalt took on the challenge of cutting down the noise while maintaining performance adequate for finishing nailing. I have tested it; it is not silent but at 71.5 dB the noise is way down. I was impressed that the 2.5-gallon tank filled completely in 1 minute, 20 seconds, which also keeps the overall noise down. Loading to 200 psi max and delivering 3 SCFM at 90 psi working pressure, it draws only 12 amp. They call it the Quiet Trim Compressor - DWFP55130. Suggested retail at $299. www.dewalt.com.
Special Features on New Utility Knives
Every company makes utility knives so they are constantly trying to add new features to keep you faithful to their line of tools. This month: a quick look at new special features that two companies are offering for their folding utility knives.
DeWalt - DWHT10261: Folding Retractable Auto-Load Knife. The special feature is that, after removing a blade, a new blade automatically loads from its three-blade storage inside the knife. That's about the simplest fresh blade change-out that exists. To use the second point on a blade, simply return the half used blade to the storage with the sharp edge pointing forward. There is also a very nice rubber pad for applying finger pressure just above the blade. This knife is designed for one handed opening and closing, although that is slightly cumbersome in both directions. www.dewalt.com.
Milwaukee - FastBack Flip Utility Knife (48-22-1901): Their special feature is that, with a push on the lock, you can swing the blade open with the one-handed ease of a flick knife. Push that same button again and you can freely swing it back. In fact, that same flick knife action is used on a number of folding knives in their FastBack lineup of tools. This knife sacrifices storage of extra blades for a slot in the back that accesses the folded back blade for cutting cords and packaging strapping. In the open position there is a lower blade reveal for stripping wire safely. www.milwaukeetool.com.
Stabilizing the Angle Drive
Driving screws straight forward or at 90º is quite stable but at angles in-between, flex cables and floating angle elbows are difficult to control and not suitable for impact driving. Milwaukee's Shockwave 11PC 30º KNUCKLE (#48-32-2301) locks forward or locks at 30º. Specifically designed to work with an impact driver, it is the only odd angle driver that I have been able to use one-handed.
Reducing the Hub
Reducing the hub size while maintaining strength and adding the impact reflex shaft, Milwaukee's 7/16" small hub extension drivers fit easily through a 1/2" hole. Now available in 6- and 12-inch lengths for impact driving where you previously couldn't go. www.milwaukeetool.com
Shop Tool Modularized for On-site Work
The 48" "Pan Style" mini-brake from Malco is assembled in two pieces, making it easy for one person to move this heavy-duty brake on and off a worksite. Now bending up to 135º in 22-gauge galvanized steel with 1/2- to 3-inch pan-height/flanges for onsite pans and boxes, flashing and fascia corners, plus large metal duct, and roofing components can be done on-site to real dimensions. Malco MB48B. www.MalcoTools.com.
The One-handed Zipper for Dust Control
Dust barriers are good ideas but often too much trouble to really use. How about one-handed zipper action that is easily opened from either side? You don't have to hang on to the plastic to raise the zipper. Made from heavy-duty 6mil fire-retardant poly, the QSR Dust Containment Door Kit from Task Tools can cover 8' high and 4' wide. There is a good dealer locator on their website: www.Task-Tools.com.
Low Voltage / High Voltage: It Knows
Having two voltage detectors or having to switch between scales can cause you to miss a reading. Milwaukee's non-contact dual voltage detector tells you if there is juice in a wire and whether it is in the 10-49 volt range or the 50-1,000 volt range without you second-guessing anything. Don't miss a power reading for LED lighting, fire detection & suppression systems, HVAC controls, and security & access controls, along with many others. The range of this one tool spans from 10 to 1,000 volts and it tells you which range it is detecting with coloured LEDs and audio signals, plus a built-in white LED for lighting dark areas.
Changing the Grip
A tape measurer that will catch the round surface of a pipe is new to me. The tip on the Swanson Tool GripLine tape will grip in all positions, including on the side when extending the tape out horizontally to avoid tape collapsing. But most uniquely, the extra-large textured tip will grip round corners and objects like plastic or metal pipe up to 2" in diameter.
Swanson's ProScribe tape has a scribing guide that is housed in the tape case and pops out as a collar around the tape. You hold the scribe fence in place on a tape dimension with your finger but don’t drag your finger on the surface, collecting splinters as you slide along an edge--the bottom metal reinforced edge does that for you. It also has a pin-like protrusion on the bottom to lock this point in as the centre of an arc. Then you mark the straight line or the curve with a pencil or knife hooked behind the extra wide front blade as usual. www.swansontoolco.com.
Helping A Recip Saw Outperform a Circular Saw
The Winnipeg-born ReciProMate guide allows for a smooth straight cut across a 4x4 where most circular saws don't have the depth of cut to make that cut in a clean single pass. You screw one of the double "L" rails to the post, then drive in the nuts to clamp down the other one on the opposite side. That does make it very sturdy. Slide in the recip blade and it can't go anyplace but straight. It works as advertised and leaves a perfect cut at any angle.
The only drawback is that in using a carbide blade as recommended, probably to protect the teeth from the metal guide, after 5 cuts I was grinding the guide itself rather thin. I am not sure I am going to get much more than one fence built with each guide. $30 from Amazon.com.
A Match Maker Your Wife Would Approve of
Need a match for existing ceiling tiles? Armstrong teaches us what great customer service is all about. They have a web tool called the "Ceiling Replacement Finder" on www.Armstrong.com. You take three photos of the tile you want to match: face, edge and back of one tile. Upload them to Armstrong, even from your cell phone right on site, and within two days they will come back with the best industry match-made by Armstrong or not. This is not some tiresome "work your way through questions" but live human beings with a very large graphical database, and real human suggestions on where you might find some in stock.
What is in your Boots?
I keep getting companies sending me advertising about their latest work boots but I admit to not being much of an expert on boots and I would love to get all of you to write in to the Magazine and tell me what you like about your boots, what you don't like about them and what you would invent if you were a boot designer: They may end up listening.
To start off this "boot camp" discussion, I decided to test out a pair of really unusual boots from Australia-no laces. Yes these are CSA GreenPatch boots with steel toes and protective soles. What is unique is the wide elastic section with the two rabbit ear pulls designed strong enough to really stretch the elastic and pull the boots on or stretch to pull them off. They are the lightest CSA construction boots I have ever worn, and comfortable. They claim they are warm, but although Blundstone.ca sells them in Canada, they are made in Tasmania (since 1870). But the lowest recorded temperature in Tasmania was in 1983 at a whopping -13ºC, while generally minimum temperatures are above freezing. I would not call these a Canadian winter boot, but I would call them great construction boots. And they have women's sizes as well!
Improving On Boots
While I am asking you to write in with what you would want in boots that you can't find, I have dug up a couple of boot "aftermarket" accessories that are really interesting.
The Boot Saver is a tough rubber toe bumper that you can glue onto any new work boot. Why? When you wear out the leather on the toe enough to expose the metal, they are no longer CSA legal. Since I started using these bumpers many years ago, my boots have never worn out at the toe. The only place I know to get them is at www.Amsalinc.com.
Heated insoles are not new, but the ThermaCell ProFlex is. What is new is a High / Medium / No Heat remote control. High is for when you are standing still or sitting around on ice: Your feet need help. Medium is for normal working and it warms up to normal body temperature. You don't feel any heat but you don't feel any cold and you don't sweat, which is ideal for general outdoor cold surface work. No-Heat is great if you start moving and your feet risk sweating just from body heat. And the remote control is so that you can adjust all of that without breaking stride. The batteries are rechargeable and can be changed without removing the soles from the boots. They replace any existing boot insoles without changing the fit of your boots, be they construction boots or winter sports boots. It has gotten cold enough just long enough for me to become a religious convert to these insoles. Available at Canadian Tire and on-line; see www.ThermaCell.com.
Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert
Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.