Tool Talk: The tools of 2003

As you can imagine, a multitude of tools are introduced every year for professional builders/remodelers, woodworkers, and the do-it-yourselfer. Recently I decided to round up a dozen or so such tools that have either been introduced this year or stood the test of time through frequent use. What follows is a quick look at each.

Within the past year, Bosch Power Tools introduced two additions to its professional line of cordless power tools — jigsaw and 3-1/4-inch planer. Both tools rival corded units and are available in 14.4-, 18-, and 24-volt models.
I have been testing the 18-volt Bosch jigsaw (#52318) for several months and find it can do anything a corded jigsaw can do. It has a variable speed motor, 0-2,000 rpm, and a lock-off switch just above the trigger. The new Bosch one-touch blade change system is simple and fast. Installing a new blade involves pushing a T-style blade into the drive shank until it clicks into position. To remove a blade, simply press a small lever and the old — and usually hot — blade is ejected. The drive gear housing of this saw is made from lightweight magnesium for durability and long life. Cutting capacity is 2-3/4 inches in wood and 5/16-inch in steel, the highest capacities of all the cordless jigsaws on the market. Other worthwhile features include an aluminum foot that bevels 45 degrees left or right, a smooth removable plastic foot cover that protects the workpiece from scratches, a dust blower, soft grip handle, four position orbital selector switch, and great balance. The new Bosch cordless jigsaws retail for $219, $249, and $299 respectively (14.4, 18, 24 volts).
I have also been testing the Bosch cordless 3-1/4 inch 18-volt planer (#53518). It’s very handy for projects around the shop and on the job. It can be used for trimming or beveling door and window edges, rabbet joints, trimming protruding window jambs, or scribing workpieces to fit irregular surfaces. Depth of cut can be adjusted from 0 to 1/16 inches. A 14.4 model is also available. Retail price $219 for 14.4-volt and $249 for 18-volt planer.
Bosch also offers a unique 12-inch sliding compound miter saw (Model 4412) that is tops in its class as a professional miter saw. It features an upfront bevel lock lever and bevel adjustment knob which makes it very simple to set up for cuts from zero to 47 degrees left or right. Another handy feature is the four-position trigger handle that allows the user to reposition the handle to the most comfortable position. Retail price is $699.

Cordless impact drivers are undoubtedly the handiest power tools for driving a wide variety of fasteners during almost any type of construction project. They’re compact, lightweight, and compared to a standard cordless drill, can deliver an amazing amount of speed and power. After you try one of these tools, you’ll wonder why you never picked one up before.
While most fasteners can be driven with a standard cordless drill/driver, it is not possible to accurately control the amount of torque with these tools. Cordless impact drivers, on the other hand, operate in blows per minute in addition to revolutions per minute, and this translates into much greater control when driving any type of fastener. Typically all DeWalt cordless impact drivers deliver from 0-3,000 bpm at 0-2,400 rpm. For example, a 9.6-volt impact driver will develop about 900 inch-pounds of torque while the same voltage drill/driver only develops around 200 inch-pounds of torque maximum. As a further comparison, a 24-volt hammer drill/driver only develops around 550 inch-pounds of torque at its full 2,000-rpm limit. The weight of the impact driver is 3.5 pounds versus 9.3 pounds for the hammerdrill/driver. If you have hundreds of fasteners to drive in a day, which tool would you rather be using?
With a drill/driver, the user has to literally hold on while the tool delivers the torque in inch-pounds. The 24-volt hammerdrill/driver is going to give you 550 inch-pounds from the start and that means holding on with two hands (the tool does have a side handle for a reason). The impact driver, on the other hand, delivers 900 inch-pounds 3,000 times a minute so it can easily be held with one hand — you simply do not feel the reactionary torque as it is delivered to the fastener, not to the user. The end result is you can drive fasteners all day long without the fatigue normally associated with a conventional drill/driver.
DeWalt cordless impact drivers have an internal brake — when the trigger is released, all movement stops. This feature allows you to stop instantly if you feel enough torque has been applied, or stop and start again to apply just a bit more torque to the fastener. This feature virtually eliminates snapped off fastener heads — a fact of life when using a drill/driver for driving fasteners.
Cordless impact drivers are compact, about 35 percent the size of a comparable drill/driver. It’s an ideal tool for getting into tight places during various fastening tasks. This smaller size also allows for easy carry in a tool pouch or holster.
When using a cordless impact driver for driving any type of fastener, a slightly different technique is required compared to a standard drill/driver. Once the fastener starts into the work, a light grip is all that is required to drive it home. Unlike a drill/driver where the fastener must almost be forced home while bearing down, an impact driver will do most of the work for you.
To be sure, cordless impact drivers are noisier than drill/drivers — remember up to 3,000 bpm — but not even close to the decibel output level of impact wrenches used at the tire store.
DeWalt cordless impact drivers are available in 9.6-volt, 12-volt, and 14.4-volt models. These units sell for $179, $199, and $229 respectively.
Accessories include hex head nut drivers, power bits, spade bits, and twist drill bits available from DeWalt and after-market manufacturers.
Another introduction by DeWalt was the heavy-duty 2-gallon cordless/corded wet/dry vacuum (model DC500). This powerful vacuum does not have a lot of features — such as tool-activated switch, large capacity, or extra long hose — but it’s very useful for quick clean-ups of wet or dry materials. It is very portable, weighing only 7.2 pounds, and is powerful enough to suck a string through electrical conduit prior to pulling wires. This handy vacuum sells for around $99, battery and charger sold separately.

Stanley Tools
This year Stanley introduced two tools worth noting — the IntelliLaser pro laser line level/stud finder and the Bostitch RN46 coil roofing nailer.
The IntelliLaser is unique in the growing field of lasers in that it combines three tools in one — spirit level, stud finder, and vertical/horizontal layout tool. The spirit levels (there are three) are used for leveling this laser both horizontally and vertically. The stud finder feature detects wood or metal studs and joists through up to 3/4 inches of drywall or other common wall materials.
When used as a laser layout tool, the IntelliLaser features a push button activated laser that pivots every 45 degrees up to 180 degrees to provide accurate layout angles. This laser is complete with level and plumb vials to help users perform a wide range of leveling, aligning, and squaring applications faster and more conveniently than using a traditional level or chalk line. The IntelliLaser is bargain priced at around $55.
The new coil roofing nailer from Bostitch is the latest addition to a growing family of lightweight pneumatic nailers. The magnesium framed RN46 weighs only 4.9 pounds yet delivers 410 inch-pounds of energy, giving this tool the lightest weight and the highest power-to-weight ratio of any roofing nailer. This innovative coil nailer features an exclusive lockout feature to prevent cycling when empty. A tool-less shingle guide adjustment provides fast, simple adjustments for proper shingle spacing and a positive stop depth adjustment knob, which quickly enables you to set fasteners at the proper depth to prevent overdrives. Additionally, the handle has an ergonomically designed over-molded rubber grip to provide all day comfort. The Stanley-Bostitch RN46 coil roofing nailer sells for around $299.

This past year, Sears Craftsman introduced an improved line of kneepads — GelTek — with wider caps to provide greater surface contact and protection. GelTek kneepads have an air-injected gel core and are available in a hard swivel cap for flat surfaces and a soft skid-resistant cap for wet or uneven surfaces. The QuickSwap model has Velcro-backed hard plastic faces that can be swapped with all-terrain gripping caps. Gel’s reactive properties during impact and compression provide excellent shock absorption and superior comfort. GelTek kneepads sell for $19.
As you can imagine, Craftsman introduces new hand and power tools every year and I wish I had room to talk about more of them.

In October, Lufkin introduced its Pro series fiberglass long tapeline with longer lasting, heavy-duty blades and a super fast retrieval ratio. This line of long tapes consists of 100-, 200-, and 300-foot long fiberglass tapes. All tapes are double-sided with engineer scale decimal markings on one side and inches/feet on the other.

Recently, Ryobi introduced a combination cordless tool kit certain to become popular with professionals and do-it-yourselfers. The Works is a cordless combo kit with seven 18-volt tools, an electronic measuring tool and a 41-piece accessory set that comes in a wheeled duffel-style bag to go anywhere. The really good news is The Works (Model CK818K2) is available at The Home Depot for $299.
The Works includes a new 18-volt chain saw and jigsaw, as well as Ryobi’s highly popular 18-volt reciprocating saw, circular saw, drill/driver, wet/dry Tuff Sucker hand vac and flashlight. Also included is the new Ryobi Measure Tech electronic hand tool, a handy 50-foot sonic measuring device.

One of the biggest news items this year has been the introduction of a line of 35 power tools from Ridgid. This line consists of handheld corded, cordless, benchtop, and stationary power tools for professional contractors, builders, and woodworkers. The Ridgid line became available in retail and industrial outlets in October.
Three innovative features on selected Ridgid power tools are a 12-foot long durable power cord with lighted plug to indicate when the tool is hot, a backlit icon of the tool for easy identification when multiple tool cords are plugged into one power strip and a Velcro cord wrap. Auto-stop brushes halt the tools’ operation when they are worn — before they can damage the motor. Another Ridgid power tool worth noting is the 1/2-inch hammer/pulse drill (model R5010). This German-made 9.0 amp variable speed drill can be switched from drill mode to hammer mode by sliding a switch on top of the unit.
I wish I had more space to cover more of the tools that have been introduced this past year. That will have to wait for future columns.

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