When it comes to tool technology, sometimes all it takes to really make me smile is a sensible solution to an old problem. Nothing so cutting edge that I find myself immersed in instruction manuals…just a little a tweak here or there to make life on the job a little less of a job…
Fast Fit Fix
There is a growing trend for tool manufacturers to team up with product manufacturers to solve specific difficulties. If you have ever used, or asked a plumber to use, Uponor’s great ProPEX fitting system (where both the tubing and a fixing ring are expanded, the fitting slides into place and everything shrinks down tight), then you know the problem comes from the large two-handled expansion tool, which simply doesn’t fit into tight spaces.
Milwaukee specializes in HVAC, plumbing and electrical tools, so they came up with the M12 ProPEX Expansion Tool. With one-handed operation. The pyramid-shaped head goes into any size PEX pipe, and stretches it open while rotating — without moving your arm — until it is ready to receive the fitting. Bingo and it’s done. This fast PEX system just got faster. The lightweight 12-volt model will handle all residential PEX tubing up to ¾” in diameter.
As we find ourselves using the lightweight but powerful impact drivers more and more, you may be realizing that screwdriver heads and even wench sockets are not holding up so well to the banging. Most of the manufacturers are now bringing out one form or another of what DeWalt calls Impact Ready accessories. Hidden in DeWalt’s whole new Impact Ready line-up is what they call a Pivot Holder. It is a bit difficult to control, especially to get a screw started, but it has the durability that most angle gadgets don’t have.
While we are on screwdrivers, I must show you the only really new screwdriver invented in years. Actually, the screw has been driving us crazy for years and Milwaukee, in a new launch of hand tools, has solved an old problem. Those little screws found primarily in electrical boxes, that used to be slotted, then got a cross (Phillips) added to the slot, and then the square socket was added (Robertson) on top of the other two. Some now call it the “universal” screw but I call it one rather useless, overworked screw. So Milwaukee said, “If we are stuck with this dumb screw, why not make a screwdriver that actually fits it?” And we now have the absolutely brilliant EXC screwdriver which snuggles in solidly to every part of this stupid screw. Give it to an electrician friend and he will be a friend for life.
Five Heads are Better than One
Another growing trend is the “multiple tools” category, where one tool with various adaptors can accomplish a variety of tasks. This concept has always existed in the DIY market, but quality tools are beginning to show up for the professional who needs some tools only occasionally. Actually, the appearance of these tools seems to be tied to the development of the 12-volt lithium ion batteries which are giving so much more power in smaller packages.
The Rigid JobMax has brought a very nice mix of functions in a slim handle that holds both the 12V battery and the motor — and then various heads snap onto the top, even allowing you to rotate them with respect to the trigger: an Impact driver, a right angle drill head, a ratchet head; an oscillating tool head and even a nail hammer.
Bits & Blades
This month’s drill:
I receive so many new drill bits and saw blades from manufactures that I think I will start adding one to the bottom of every Tool Talk column.
Bosch just brought out one of our dreams-come-true, an auger bit that eats nails. Actually, they call it the “Nailkiller Auger Bit” — a cross between a spur auger and a ship auger. It has a reinforced tip that pushes hidden nails to the side when the bit makes contact and allows a more aggressive part of the bit to cut through the fasteners. It attacks the nail twice per revolution, reducing the kickback in the handle. Tests counted it cutting through 301 hidden nails compared to 33 for the current market leader. Of course, hardened steel screws are still to be avoided.
This month’s blade:
The Lennox Diamond Cast Iron reciprocating saw blade. At $15 it tested out cutting through 4” cast iron pipe three times faster than carbide, making over 15 cuts per blade. Finally, a clean quick cut through cast iron with your existing tools. It has been around for a couple of years, but it’s one of those sleepers you should be aware of.
Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert
Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.