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Tool Talk logoBy Jon Eakes

Non-traditional Solutions

Impact Driver for Decks
Yes, Porter Cable is stepping out of the workshop, its traditional kingdom, to present products for general site work. One of the first tools out of the shop is a very nice full-powered impact driver—the primary fastening tool for all deck builders. What is most amazing is the marketing hype with it:
Lighter weight than any equivalent cordless impact driver;
Full power all the time, never slows down at the end of a charge;
No more dying batteries nor the cost of battery replacement;
Powered by an incredibly reliable technology: a power cord.
Please do not read any sarcasm into my words. Cordless tools certainly have their place, but running through batteries is simply not the best choice with the non-stop heavy use of an impact driver when building a deck, be it driving lag screws or deck boards. I applaud Porter Cable for bringing out the PCE201 Impact Driver, a new optimized tool—with a cord, and a price tag of only $80 with no expensive batteries to change out later! Available now in Lowes and BMR or check PorterCable.com for Independent Dealers.

Driving Screws into
Decks Just Got Better

Driving screws into synthetic boards, like Trex and AZEK, can destroy the whole look of a classy deck. StarBornIndustries.com has invented two incredible screws specifically for these two types of materials.
First there is an augur point on the screw to open the passage as the screw drives in, then a fine thread for driving and holding well into the joists. Then there are special course thread counter spirals where the screw will remain in the synthetic material, made differently for composite or Capstock materials, which serve to clear out and remove the distortion stress on the surface eliminating mushrooming. Finally, the uniquely engineered head itself bites in and pulls down the countersunk surface. The end result is a colour-matched screw head embedded cleanly into the synthetic deck board.

A Screw for Structural Metal Studs
While I am talking about screws, let me jump to a new one for metal studs. Those who work with them know exterior metal studs present special problems, because the metal gauge is simply thicker. If you harden the screw to drill better, it becomes brittle; if you leave it ductile for strength, it doesn’t drill well.
Simpson Strong-Tie has just released their new EXQ screws. Only the tip is hardened to 52 HRC, while the body is kept at less than 34 HRC for twisting strength. The “Q” stands for their Quick Guard rust control coating.  Designed specifically for cold-formed steel framing and exterior applications for Strong-Tie connectors like Trex Elevations steel deck framing. You may only know because XE is stamped into the head, but you will feel it with faster drilling and less snapping.

Blade of the Month:
Milwaukee Double Duty Upgrade

Milwaukee has overhauled their entire line of reciprocating saw blades (actually they are the only ones that can actually say “Sawzall blades” since they invented the Sawzall a long time ago). What they have done looks weird but is important: They have greatly increased the size of the blades to carry away heat and to allow for significant strengthening upgrades.
The larger tang is actually embossed to add strength in all directions. The wide body of the Torch model is embossed in a honeycomb fashion for extra strength as well, giving straighter cuts than ever. The Thin version profits from the extra strength in the tang to allow the flexibility needed for flush cutting without snapping at the mounting, the weak point on ordinary blades.
The Double Duty label refers to the fact that all these upgrades makes the blade last twice as long as their own previous blades.www.milwaukeetool.com.

Drill of the Month: 
Metabo Solid Carbide Head

Metabo Corp. has just brought out their Ultra-X SDS-Plus drill bit for cutting rapidly through concrete and re-bar. Start with a one-piece solid 4-cutter head with a point to keep it centered. Then pass to a special flute design which pulls dust out quickly. Punching through material and getting dust out quickly go together to reduce flute wear, tip heating and chatter.


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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