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© Copyright 2006 Work-4 Projects Ltd.
By Jon Eakes

TOOLS: Re-invention & Innovation

It is that time of year again when the editor asks me to put together the most interesting things I have discovered about tools recently. Although I do mention some power tools, this year's list is more about the accessories, the blades or even the uses. Here are some things that I think you may find very interesting for your sites.

In the category of "re-inventing an old standard", this year has seen two radically new utility blades come onto the market. Irwin, also marketed under the name Lenox, has come out with a bi-metal utility knife. We use bi-metal blades all the time in recrip-saws because you can bend them like crazy before they break. By sandwiching hard steel (the cutting edge) with soft steel (the body), you get a blade that stays sharp three times longer and won't snap when you accidentally bend it.
Showing up under the name Rapid-Edge is the world's first serrated utility knife blade. What a concept. I can't get this blade to bunch up the paper on drywall.

When we work with concrete, either drilling or chiselling, we use hammer drills and usually SDS chucks. Because most of us in North America work with wood, not concrete, we are not all aware that there is a variety of small but powerful drills designed to drill, hammer-drill or simply hammer. Hence, you can have a multi-purpose drill that can serve as well as a small jack hammer. What even fewer people know is that Bosch makes a full set of wood chisels with SDS shafts for use with those three-purpose hammer drills. If you have ever struggled to chisel down some framing where you can't get in with a recip-saw, you will love using these power wood chisels.

Another innovation from Bosch is a "quick-connect" hole saw arbour unit. They sell a whole line of hole saws with special collars that quick-connect into their own chuck for instant size changing. Wide-set teeth make for a loose plug inside the saw and, with the drill bit that stays back with the drill, it is easy to eject the plug by pushing right up through the centre of the saw.

One more Canadian invention has been added to the list of hole saw ejection mechanisms. This one is beautifully simple and sturdy. Lenox was apparently the first to think of using extended locking pins to push the plug out of the hole saw, but an inventor from Alberta took it one great step further. He put those extended locking pins onto a reverse threaded shaft and called the thing the Twister ezeOUT. Mount your hole saw as usual then push up the locking pins as usual. They lock into place with a little collar on the threaded shaft. After you drill your hole, you simply stop the drill, hold the rear collar with your hand and reverse the drill. The collar will thread up on the shaft, driving the plug neatly right out of the hole saw, even with wet wood. It is hard to find but you can locate it, as well as a video of how it works, at www.norstarmarketing.com.
A couple of years ago, consumers got a little plastic gadget called Caulk-Away that would rather easily scrape out silicone caulking from around the bathtub, both sides in one pass. Contractors liked it but wanted something more sturdy and able to handle tougher caulking beads. So the company just brought out the Caulk-Away Pro, a sharpened metal version with replaceable blades. It will cut on both the push and the pull, gets deep into the corner and has a rear scraper much like an old beer can opener, which was always one of the best tools for opening up hairline cracks.

Why yellow safety glasses? You may not be aware of it, but yellow safety glasses increase contrasts and improve vision in dimly lit areas like basements. Yes, wearing shades indoors can even make your work safer and easier on your eyes.

Here is a trades cross-over. In the top right photo you see a lag bolt going into a 6x6, such as for deck and dock building. To its right you see a mechanics impact wrench, modernized by being neither pneumatic nor corded. This small, lightweight battery-operated impact wrench will drive in lag bolt after lag bolt without even tiring your hands or your arms, because there is almost no kickback and definitely none of that drill twisting right out of your hands when you hit bottom. It never occurred to me to use an auto mechanic's tool for woodworking, but I was amazed when someone had me try it.

What is the first thing to break on any circular saw? The cord, right where it enters the saw. So Bosch decided to simply take the cord off. Now you lock in your own extension cord with the new "Direct Connect" saw. This tool is designed to use the cord to lower a saw down from the rafters and you will never have to send it in for repairs for a damaged cord - just change the extension cord if you have a problem.

The Tiger Claw from Porter Cable is not a new tool this year, but it has got me out of so much trouble that I just had to include it, in case you haven't noticed it yet. The first joint sets to several useful positions, and then the business end can be set to any position, or rotated freely during cutting a full 360 degrees.

You can actually use it like a jig saw to cut a circle where you could not even reach with a regular cut-saw. As we continue to cut large ventilation duct holes in tight places, this thing is indispensable. When I really want to see a speciality saw stay on the market, I will keep talking about it.

The latest Alberta invention is a simple set of four handles and hooks called Slab-Setter. Now you can place those patio blocks without sliding them and messing up the sand below them - and keep your back straight while you are at it. They won't hit the store shelves in time for this spring, so I have put them in my on-line store at JonEakes.com.

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


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