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Tool Talk logoBy Jon Eakes

Designed with Distinction
Sometimes, itís the tweak that makes all the difference.

The tool business is a competitive one with rapidly evolving technology. Even a small tweak can make all the difference. Something that was state-of-the art five years ago might get relegated to next summer’s garage sale. With that in mind, let’s review the latest tools and techniques that impressed me enough to make these pages.

Everything to Everybody
This month it was DeWalt’s turn to invite the trade journalists to their annual unveiling. Of note in what is referred to as Stanley Black & Decker Inc., is that Black & Decker, Stanley Tools, DeWalt, Porter Cable and Bostitch are all under the same roof. Although each one traditionally targeted slightly different clients, the retail distribution channels have pushed each to provide at least a minimum lineup of basic power tools that all appear quite similar. So, thanks to their effort to be everything to everybody, you will see a full lineup of basic tools from each of these brands—a bit of an exaggeration—including a full line of new electric tools by Bostitch coming out in Wal-Mart.

DeWalt’s New Site Saw
But there are some gems at DeWalt’s unveiling, starting with this really great new site table saw from DeWalt. The DWE7491RS is a 10” 15-amp saw with some really great features. Guard insertion, removal and adjustment without tools and with on-board storage, even for the extension cord. The kerfing blade can stay in place even if the upper shield needs to be removed! The fence uses a double rack and pinion for equal top to bottom movement. A 2-1/4” dust port will help to keep the site clean. The whole thing rolls on and off the site with a quick and sturdy folding frame with built-in wheels.

Replacing the Worm Saw With a Tiny Cordless
Milwaukee has just started to ship its little M18 FUEL 6-1/2” brushless panel and framing saw. Milwaukee claims that this new lineup of brushless cordless tools will perform as strongly as corded tools doing the same job. I tried it myself and was blown away at the ease with which it ripped through three ganged sheets of ¾” OSB, even through Parallam. The power is there, as is a dust blower and a rafter hook. It has the motor on the right, as do the old worm saws, and site testing shows that it is replacing those saws at a fraction of the weight and without a cord. I’m betting that they will come out with a standard motor-on-the left carpenter’s saw next.

Metabo Breaks A Battery Barrier
Metabo, which makes only heavy-duty tools, has just released its 5.2Ah battery. Amp Hours (Ah) is a measure of the run time of a battery under heavy use. Up to now, most good cordless tools had smaller 2.0Ah or double size 4.0Ah batteries. So we have seen voltages go all over the place, and then both batteries and tools changed to give us power we didn’t dream of five years ago. And now the competition for “run time” is officially launched.

Stanley Breaks A Price Barrier
Electronic measuring tools used to be of two different kinds: sonar, which had a lot of trouble focusing on a target, and true laser, which could read distances accurately right through rail spindles or tightly into a corner. But the last precise laser distance measuring tool I bought cost about $2,000. Now Stanley has that range of precision measuring and useful calculations down to $300 with the TLM330.
This tool measures the precise distance to anything (330ft. at +/- 1/32in.) and also measures the angle to horizontal. Those two pieces of information allow it to be pointed at the top of a building and read out the vertical height. You can point to any place visible on the wall and it will give you the horizontal distance to that wall, despite there being landscaping or a truck in the way. Marking out every 32 inches sets the spacing distance, and then as you approach the far wall, it tells you where to place a sequential mark. Square feet, cubic meters—no problem.

DeWalt – Gyro Screwdriver
The only question about this little 8-volt pistol grip, or twist it to an in-line screwdriver shape, is: “Is it a toy?” There is no on-off trigger or button, no speed trigger. Put it on the screw and make a motion like you want to drive in the screw, and it drives. Twist your hand further and it drives faster. Slack off and it slows down. It even has screw settings for a clutch action. Twist in the other direction and it reverses. It sounds like a toy, but for light duty driving, like electrical or finishing work, it is a gem of a tool with the intuitive action of a Wii game controller.

Cold Climate Skylights Are Back
Back in 2004 I did a TV show where I was happy to show off “insulated curbs” from Velux as finally one way to deal with our cold climate problems with beautiful southern skylights. A few years ago the insulated curbs disappeared from their catalogues and they now reference “site built or prefabricated curbs, provided by others.”
So now, 10 years later, I am happy to write about a new set of competitively priced roof window and skylight products that are actually and effectively designed for a cold climate. Features include: almost twice the width of a wooden frame; no metal brackets to conduct cold or create problems with elastomeric flashing, but screws buried through the thick wood frame; insulated flashing; less thermal bridging through glass to curb junction; total fram sealing to glass and roof deck; and an effective outside draining system for condensation. That’s just a teaser but it is worth taking a look at Fakro.ca.

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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