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Jon Eakes 2016Tool Talk logoBy Jon Eakes

Snakes, saws and thermal breaks: a selection of innovative products from some of today’s top tool manufacturers.

The Really Portable Mitre Saw
Years ago, Festool brought out their track saw system (TS models); they were essentially circular saws with guide grooves in the shoe and a long track for straight cutting across doors or panels. It was basically competing with a table saw, taking the saw fence to the wood rather than the wood to the machine, with clamps to hold it in place.
This year, Festool is taking on the mitre saw with their HK system. HK stands for timber construction in German, but they call it a “carpentry saw” in English. Again it is their 6-1/2” quality circular saw with track guides in the shoe. But now the track is part of the saw and you take the two to the lumber. Stops under the track catch the edge of the wood to set your angle and you can accurately cut square, mitre angles and even mitre bevels. Available in corded or cordless, three track sizes will give a cut width of 10”, 16-1/2” or 27”, effectively cutting wider than a sliding mitre box, and even wider than a radial arm saw. Simply disengage the saw from the track for standard circular saw use.
You can even use it to cut panels almost as accurately as its big brother, the TS saw, thanks to the riving knife. Cut the length of the track, stop the saw, move forward and set the riving knife into the kerf—the TK is now lined up for an extension of the cut.
Festool is moving out of the woodshop and into the construction site. www.festool.ca.

A Cordless Table Saw
One of the impressive new tools in DeWalt’s powerful 60v FlexVolt lineup is a battery-operated table saw. This is a portable construction site table saw with all the expected features: great guards, good fence adjustments and riving knife, and it runs surprisingly quietly. It holds an 8-1/4” saw blade, giving a depth of cut of 2-1/2” at 90 degrees. With its 60v battery, it is totally cordless, although DeWalt does recommend using its own battery-friendly blade. Yes, drills and blades are changing to get the cut done with less demand on batteries.
This is not a compromised tool too small for the job; I have cut, even ripped wood on it. It is particularly interesting on a site with no electricity. Although they don’t have the120V AC adaptor that was made for their double 60v system on the FlexVolt mitre saw, they do sell a fan-cooled fast charger that will charge in 60 minutes. www.dewalt.ca.

The Snake with a Pivoting Head
Milwaukee has brought to the renovation site one feature of snake cameras previously only available on cameras costing several thousand dollars: the pivoting head. The M-Spector Flex camera is available in 3- or 9- foot lengths and the 1/2” diameter camera head can be pivoted 270 degrees by way of a knob on the pistol grip. Often, snaking a camera into a wall requires delicate gymnastics to bend the cable just right so it goes from your entry hole to what you want to see, and often you have no idea where you are in the wall or what it is you are looking at. Rotating the image on the screen helps, but the pivot head actually permits a bit of a “look around” as you go. Suddenly the image takes on perspective and you understand what you are seeing. Being able to bend the head actually allows you to turn the tip of the snake to slide into a hole or around the corner.

Although photos are great, recording video tells the story far better and allows you to grab the single good shot out of the video (Google the free VLC player). The 640x480 resolution is the same for photo and video. In addition, the viewing screen and camera controls pop off the pistol grip handle and become wireless, allowing you to look at the screen comfortably while moving all over the place to manipulate the snake. Simply pull the trigger to take the picture or start the video recording. There is a USB connection and removable SD card. The M-Spector Flex camera is selling in Canada for around $900.
If you really need a smaller camera, the 1/4” diameter camera on the little Stanley STHT77363 3-foot snake camera gives an equally good image while fitting into a smaller hole. But for $150, you don’t get any image recording, although it does have a video out connector for video recording, if you have an old VCR that accepts an RCA input. www.milwaukeetool.ca.

Drill/Mixer Combo Tool

Finally, a tool specifically made for heavy duty drilling into wood or metal with a shift to the low speed, high torque required for material mixing. The Bosch GBM9-16 5/8” mixer allows you to buy one tool for tasks that used to require two separate tools. The eight-amp motor provides a maximum torque of 767 in./lbs. www.boschtools.com.

The Old “F” Clamp Gets Improved
Rockler has just come out with a new “F” clamp that is very interesting. First the “piston” in the clamping mechanism has two excellent features. The contact surface does not turn as you tighten the clamp, so it doesn’t mar the wood. Now, that is the objective of some tips that have ball joints, but eventually that exposed ball joint gets dirty or glued and starts to turn. Here the piston is encased inside the mechanism to keep it clean. Second, there is a double thread so as you turn the handle, the piston moves forward twice as fast.

The downside to a faster clamping piston is that your hand has less force to clamp it to its final position. But Rockler has dealt with that and made the handle so it can pivot 90 degrees to make it into a lever to finish the action. Straight, it drives fast—then, levered over, it gives more turning force than any straight handle. www.rockler.com

Blades Designed to Help Batteries Get More Work Done

The competition to get more work done per battery charge is not only changing batteries and tool motors, but it is changing the blades, too. For years, tool manufactures boasted about developing saw blades that could cut more and more material before the blade died. It is particularly interesting that Milwaukee’s new AX reciprocating saw blade with five carbide teeth per inch not only claims 30x longer life, but now they are saying 25% more cuts per charge for the battery. The demand today is to last longer and cut more efficiently as well. Carbide teeth, rather than bi-metal teeth, designed to cut both wood and nails along with a weird plunging hook up front, make Milwaukee’s  “AX” a very interesting reciprocating saw demolition blade.

Small Thermal Breaks Can Have Significant Effects 

Heated tile floors over concrete often never perform very well because the concrete becomes a heat sink, stealing heat from the tiles. Take a minute to study these two charts that record how long it takes for tiles to warm up after turning on electric heating cables.
The blue lines are with regular Schluter Ditra-Heat membranes, the red lines with a new Ditra-Heat-TB (Thermal Break) membrane, which is only 1/16” thicker and gives a thermal break of only R-0.35. That is extremely little insulation.

The first chart shows very little effect when installed over a wooden floor. Don’t bother, the wood is not soaking up the heat. But the second chart shows what happens with a tiny thermal break between the membrane and the concrete. Heating response time for the tiles is improved by 70%! Radically improving response times for heated tiled floors is in the forefront of customer satisfaction. www.schluter.ca.

Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.

Publishing date: November 2016


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