By Jon Eakes
This whole issue is about new products, so when we're talking about new tools, I like to mix up the little gems with some powerhouses.
First up - reinventing
something as uninteresting as the jigsaw shoe. Collins
Tool Company has developed what they call "the Coping Foot".
The key is that it is not big and clumsy like a shoe but rather limber and
skilled like the pointed foot of a ballet dancer.
This gadget fits in place of the manufacturer's shoe on most professional jigsaws. It provides support near the blade while allowing true freehand movement. This is ideal for coping crown mouldings and other complex shapes. Since, in this type of operation, we want to control the cut on the bottom of the board, this tool is usually used with the blade pointed up as in the photo. This also means that you are watching the clean side of the cut, permitting very accurate work.
In addition, it can help in doing regular jigsaw work close to a wall or backsplash. Back bevelling can be done easily because you are not fighting a flat shoe. Basically, it converts your jigsaw into a power coping saw. At only about $30US, it should last longer than a few of your jigsaws.
It seems that these days I can't write a column without talking about some kind of laser device. We have had right-angle lasers for years, but now they are becoming less and less expensive.
Stanley enters the field with its lightweight S2 Laser Level Square designed for interior use. It projects two laser lines at 90o to each other up to a working range of 32 feet. The backside has marks allowing you to rotate from a base line in 5o increments. Chalk lines that can't be covered up or erased are great and that is what the projection of a laser line is all about. You can fix this square into place on the floor or the wall with retractable push buttons that use adhesive putty. Whether laying out tiles or wallpaper, laser squares are making our lives easier. Suggested retail is $60.
Paslode cordless nailers have always won the race for the lightest cordless and hoseless nailers with their gas cartridge plus battery power system. Now Paslode has come out with an even lighter, but still powerful, 16-Gauge Straight Finish Nailer.
They say it is ideal for door jams, door stops, base shoe, baseboard moulding, chair rails, paneling, window casings, crown moulding, cabinetry, and pick-up-and-service work, as well as overhead use. This smaller model weighs in at just 4.75lbs, justifying the claim that it is perfect for overhead use, and meaning less arm fatigue throughout the day. Just 11.5 inches from nose to cap makes it very manoeuvrable for fitting into tight spots.
The company claims a light touch that is easy to operate. You only need to depress the nose 3/4" to drive a nail. Their powerful motor drives 3/4" to 2-1/2" fasteners, making a single tool quite versatile. The new tool features a tool-free depth of drive adjustment, nail lock-out to prevent blank firing and minimize wood damage, an extended nose with excellent sight lines and a quick-clear nose cover providing easy access to remove jams. The fuel cell drives up to 1,200 nails per cell and the battery drives up to 4,000 nails per charge.
Suggested Retail price in Canada is $550.
The other form of cordless is, of course, electric batteries. I have mentioned several times that part of the game of power tool competition is to make all batteries incompatible between companies in a struggle to develop brand name loyalty. So, inevitably, the battery competition takes many forms. In the last issue I talked about Ryobi's "half price" 18-volt battery system. This time we take a look not at price competition but at performance competition.
Many of us thought that 24 volts was already beyond the upper limit to cordless tools because of a lot of weight and little more performance than 18-volt Ni-Cad batteries. That is probably why the 24-volt batteries have not eliminated the 18-volt market nor seen their own market grow significantly. NI-MH batteries looked promising as an alternative but were, shall we say, cold weather intolerant - a real problem in Canada. Now Milwaukee is venturing into the competition with its V28 line of cordless power tools. This means, of course, that they pack more power. But they didn't just up the voltage. They made a new generation of power tool batteries using the Lithium-Ion technology, previously reserved for long-lasting light duty service in cell phones and cameras.
Milwaukee's battery and unique charging system has harnessed this technology for heavy duty use. Without cadmium, it is more ecologically friendly, and lithium-ion batteries have little loss of performance in extreme hot or extreme cold conditions. If your hands still function, the batteries will be working fine.
So what does lithium-ion or, as Milwaukee calls it, the V28 do that is different? It can have stronger batteries with less weight - so the more powerful 28-volt system is no heavier than traditional 18-volt batteries, with twice the run time. That alone beats the pants off of NiCad 24-volt batteries.
The V28 doesn't lose its voltage at the end of the charge. It runs full power right up until it needs to be charged. According to the manufacturer, when running circular saws in tough cutting, you can't tell the difference between a V28 tool and a corded tool - the power is the same. The V28 has a battery fuel gauge display, showing you remaining run time so you know before starting a job if you have enough power to finish it or if you need to get a fully charged pack before climbing a ladder or squeezing into a crawlspace. The battery fuel gauge eliminates the guesswork of which battery pack has the most juice left. The little chip that controls that gauge also does such things as record the date of the first charge for warranty purposes and records performance for factory feedback directly from the field and, therefore, product improvement.
Milwaukee claims that the V28 has absolutely no memory effect. Charge it when you want. They claim up to 2.5 times the lifetime output compared to 18-volt NiCd batteries. Of course they are not just selling batteries, but have come up with a whole line of heavy duty tools matched and designed to the V28 battery.
With corded tools, you could buy any variety of tools you wanted from a wide variety of manufacturers. It is a bit frustrating but today, with our appetite for cordless tools, we really do need to study all the competition and get ready to marry a specific battery system, at least within a specific power range. Milwaukee's V28 line is not cheap, with a street price of $219 a battery, but when cost effectiveness is measured in labour productivity, the V28 is a significant step forward.
Worm-Drive circular saws going out for testing
The gear mechanism in a worm drive saw delivers more power to the blade than the common direct drive circular saw, but generally makes for a heavier tool. The blade is on the left side, giving most of us a clearer view of the cut. Generally considered a framing tool, many people use them for all their power cutting.
We had a lot of guys asking to receive one of these Ridgid R3210 saws for testing, so how did I choose? Of course, off the top, I try to spread them out across the country. This time it was in reading all of your comments that I realized there were two groups of people interested: those who have never used a worm-drive before and those with lots of experience looking for certain new features. So, rather than try to compare Worm-Drive to direct drive with new users, I limited myself to the numerous requests from experienced users. Their stories may help the others to decide if they want to make the switch. So guys, give these tools hell this summer and let us know what you think.
Our testers are Daryl Waddell, Abbotsford, British Columbia; Nathan Hill, Calgary, Alberta; Ken Mackinnon, Barrie, Ontario; Jason Dimalta, Bowmanville, Ontario; Normand Bossé, St. François de Mad, New Brunswick and Steven O'Neill, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Our tool testing has become very popular and everybody wants in. The manufacturers are lining up to offer us tools, but I would like to hear from you as to what you would like us to test. Drop me a line (Ask the expert) and explain why you would like to see a particular type of tool field tested by our readers.
Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.