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Tool Talk logoBy Jon Eakes

Clever & Compact
Innovative Solutions for Every Job Site

This month's entries have a lot in common: They're compact, they're clever and they fill a much-needed niche.

Band Saws Keep Getting Smaller

The original band saw was a woodworking mastodon standing six-feet high in a workshop. Then the utility of a moving band of teeth for cutting metal came to the job site with large miter-box types of circulating blades: automated hacksaws. They evolved to heavy hand-held devices and have not stopped evolving since.
Although there is no stopping a good corded band saw when cutting through all kinds of metal on construction sites, the cordless are doing a respectable job, making it even easier to get into awkward places. DeWalt has just joined the competition with its Compact Band Saw for metal cutting applications fitted to their 20V MAX Lithium Ion battery system. Key with this tool, they have trimmed the weight down to 9.4 pounds including the battery, just under Milwaukee's 18-volt model, which weighs in at 10.25 pounds.

And Smaller
If you work in tight places and don't really need full power, you might want to look at the Milwaukee Sub-Compact 12-volt 6.75-pound model. The Sub-Compact is lighter duty with a shallower cut but only 11 inches long and performs surprisingly well with the RedLithium 12 volt battery. www.milwaukeetool.com.

The Mini-break
Sheet metal folding tools are certainly not new, but Malco has now put out one of the easiest to use: Drip Edge Folding Tools specifically designed for flat pan standing seam roofing panels. They are also handy as a mini-break for any flashing job. IAvailable in both 18" and 24" models, their permanently welded halves make 1" and 1-1/2" deep bends in maximum 22-gauge steel. What I really like is the nylon reinforced handle, which gives high leverage in making the bend. www.Malcoproducts.com

Marking Like You Have Never Done Before

I put my hat ON for Milwaukee for their new jobsite permanent marker: the Inkzall. My hat on because it is uniquely made to clip onto a hard hat! As for writing, you can choose fine or medium points-but both the point and the ink were formulated just for our work. The durable non-mushrooming clog resistant tip can withstand writing on OSB, cinderblock and concrete, and write through dust, grease and water. Reverse the pen and the backside, where in the old days you might find an eraser, and you'll find a tablet/phone stylus allowing you to use your smart phone without removing your gloves. I've used it. I'm impressed.

Tools Should Be Sharp—Even Carpenter Pencils
If you still want to use a pencil, you need it sharp. Flat carpenter pencils are relatively easy to trim with a utility knife but that is uneven and often breaks the lead. A flat pencil does not sharpen well with a round rotating sharpener. I found the only one that actually works at Lee Valley Tools.
With four flat blades, one for each side of the pencil, sliding back and forth in one end brings down the two flat sides, back and forth in the other end trims the two edges. In a few seconds you can keep a pencil very sharp and never break the lead. It is not just saw blades that need to be properly trimmed. www.leevalley.com.

Schluter Shower Prefabricated Niches
If you haven't caught on yet, Schluter Systems sells a drywall and cement board replacement for tile substrates called Kerdi Board. It is a foam board with the waterproof tile-ready Kerdi membrane as the skin on both sides to give the foam strength. With the joints banded, it is a rigid waterproof surface with no expansion and contraction making it the best wall backer board available for tiling. The 1/2" board is a direct drywall or cement board replacement and 1-1/2" or 2" boards can be the entire counter or bench top ready for tile (no plywood). It installs easier than drywall and the tiller himself can install it quickly just before tiling. But if you already knew that, you might not have seen the 1/2" Kerdi Board prefabricated shower niches. They are basically instant waterproof niches that fit between studs and flush to the Kerdi Board on the wall. Now tillers can concentrate on laying tile and not worry about substrate or niche construction problems handed over from other trades. Everything is square and no water can get past this niche. www.schluter.com.

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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