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© Copyright 2006 Work-4 Projects Ltd.

By Jon Eakes

Ode to the Little Things

You have probably seen all the advertising about the new Lithium-Ion power tool batteries. I even wrote a lot about them in this column recently. Well, Milwaukee sent me a compact little 18-volt half-inch hammer drill (Milwaukee 0824-20) that runs on both Lithium-Ion and Ni-Cad batteries, so I could compare the two on the same tool. The comparison simply confirmed the advertising: the same power with both batteries except that the Li-Ion lasted much longer and did not fade at the end of a charge.

The drill was a little gem with a ratchet chuck, which grabs the bit without ripping the skin off your hand (I've been spoiled: ratchet chucks are the only ones I use anymore), and lots of torque. But I must tell you that the first thing that really impressed me, before I even turned on the drill, was the power cord on the battery charger.
It is so simple that it is brilliant. The charger requires two amps and an outlet becomes full using only about four amps, so we always carry around buss bars to plug all our chargers into just one outlet. Look at this Milwaukee charger, which, by the way, charges 18v Ni-Cad, 18v Li-Ion and 28v Li-Ion batteries. It plugs into the wall and you can piggyback another plug on the top of the first one. It has its built-in multiple outlets! These are the little things that really make me happy in life.

To test the power of the batteries, they sent along a 2-9/16-in.self-feeding plumber's bit (Milwaukee 48-25-2561) - sort of like a hole saw but with no plug. In fact, it is a giant rough cut Forstner bit that cuts a circle and chips out the stuff in the middle with a shaving blade. I actually was a bit doubtful given the rather small size of the cordless drill but, after the first hole, I found myself saying out loud: "I'm impressed." I had to drill one hole in my floor joists, just to prove that the bit and drill do in fact fit squarely between joists on 16-in. centres. The self-feeding screw meant that I didn't even have to push to cut the hole. You can drill off-square about 15 degrees, but no more. However, because it is not a hole saw, you can just keep on going and it can be sharpened with a simple hand file.
For the battery test, I made Swiss cheese out of a 4x4 with no effort.

Portable assistant
How about a little consumer item that may be as good as another man on the payroll? Ryobi basically makes consumer tools and sells them uniquely through Home Depot. When they first sent me publicity on the MultiTASKit, I passed over it, thinking it was just another gadget. When they sent me a kit, it sat on the shelf for a while because suction-cup gadgets never stick very well and always end up leaving marks on the wall. It's too bad they don't really explain its revolutionary nature in their marketing materials.
Above you can see the base unit that holds various accessories, and the suction cup on the bottom. What is so special is that it is actually a battery-operated vacuum pump, and you keep that pump going while you are using it - so it really does stick to just about any surface with tremendous holding power. Even if you have a bit of a textured paint surface, there is a cushion pad to put on the wall and the vacuum efficiently closes up the gaps. So there is a base unit that sticks where you want it to stick, and can be quickly and easily moved with no marks.

Now you can use the recessed magnets to hold a tape measure, anywhere on any surface, not just on the edge of something. You can also add the magnetic tray accessory to keep screws close at hand. Of course, there are both flashlight and laser beam accessories.
And my favourite is the "helping hand" - a spring-loaded, extensible third arm. As well, a base plate will substitute magnets, straps or screws for that vacuum suction cup. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but for the solo renovator, how many times have you needed an assistant just to hold the other end of something? This is a consumer tool well worth looking at and handling with care so that it will last a long time.

Chalk lines, the smart way
Stanley deserves some praise for its new FatMax Xtreme chalk line box. The first visible innovation is a pair of windows that let you see just how much chalk is in the box. Then you have to get the knack of how to release the string hook, which no longer just hangs around getting caught on things in the tool box.
You push the shaft of the handle and the line is completely free to pull, without the handle moving at all. When you open the handle, a very efficient gear mechanism engages to pull that line in incredibly rapidly. What you don't see in the photo is the belt hook, so it is easier to take with you than ever before. Good job, Stanley.

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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