New Tools and Gadgets You Never Knew You Needed
Check out the coolest new tools, materials, and other gadgets you never knew you needed on the job.
A Better Subfloor Adhesive
Touch ‘n Foam’s Gel Foam Subfloor Adhesive might make you want to chuck your caulking gun for good. It comes in a can and dispenses like the spray-foam insulation everyone is familiar with. It lays down a bead way faster than tube adhesives without the endless, wrist-busting trigger squeezing. And you’ll be able to keep working up to 10 times longer without stopping to reload. There’s no downtime due to wet or frozen lumber, and the can is reusable up to 15 days. To use Touch 'n Foam Subfloor Adhesive, you’ll need an applicator gun (the same one used for expanding foam). There’s also a 46-in.-long barrel for the applicator gun that will save your back from a whole lot of bending over.
Carbon Fiber Composite Level—Lightweight but Tough
DeWalt just introduced a new lightweight level. Interesting…but for folks accustomed to lugging around sheets of 9-ft. plywood, and 80-lb. bags of mortar, aluminum levels aren’t really all that heavy. But the carbon fiber composite that makes this new level light is the same reason that it’s tough enough to spring back from impacts that would permanently throw an aluminum level out of whack. The DWHT43134 level is also mar-resistant, partially because of the design, partially because it’s 35% lighter than its aluminum counterpart.
Cordless Track Saw
Breaking down heavy sheet-goods on a jobsite table saw is difficult, and dang near impossible when working alone. That’s where a track saw comes in handy. A good quality track saw can produce cabinet saw results out on any job. Now, this portable tool is even more portable. The FESTOOL TSC 55 is a cordless saw that has the same features and performs just as well as FESTOOL’s corded saw, including the cut capacity and blade speed. It also has a collection bag that actually works, collecting up to 90% of the dust. The batteries are compatible with other FESTOOL tools and the saw runs on their standard tracks.
Comfortable Work Boots
Work at a place where you’re required to wear a steel-toe boot? Then listen up. Wolverine just introduced a new boot that’s much more comfortable but still offers solid impact protection. Instead of steel, CarbonMAX boots have a protective cap made of carbon nanotubes, making them lighter and thinner. And if anyone knows about making comfortable work boots, it’s Wolverine—they’ve been making them for more than 130 years.
New Life for Old Tools
Do you have older 18V DeWalt tools that are still near and dear to your heart but need new batteries? Consider firing up those old tools with 21st century technology. Now, 18V tools can be run on powerful 20V lithium Ion batteries with DeWalt’s new battery adapter. The adapter slides into the tool and the battery hooks onto the adapter. It works on most 18V DeWalt tools but not all. It’s sold two ways: the adapter alone (DCA1820), or the adapter with two compact 20V, 2.OAh batteries and charger. Now you’ll be able to hold on to your favorite cordless reciprocating saw forever!
Shim in a Bag
No, it’s not a blood pressure tester. It’s an inflatable shim sold by Calculated industries. What in the world would you do with an Air Shim? Well, you could hold a window in position (by yourself) while setting the permanent shims, or prop up a door slab during installation without scratching the hardwood floor. Use it to align base cabinets or level appliances. You could even trick your big, burly buddy by betting him that your 10-year-old can pick him up off the ground. And you will win that bet because the Air Shim is easy to pump and it holds up to 300-lbs. Deflate it as slow as you want for uber precision adjustments.
Space Saving Dust Collector
Limited floor space is a problem in most shops, but that’s no longer an excuse for kicking up a bunch of dust without a dust collection system. Grizzly now makes a wall-mounted dust collector. It’s equipped with a powerful 1-HP motor prewired for 120V. It features a canister filter with six times the surface area of a standard bag-filter, yet it takes up less space. The filter is easy to keep clean with the hand crank filter-cleaning brush.
Finally! A Quiet Air Compressor
California Air Tools make great air compressors. One of their most popular models is the 2010A. The aluminum tank makes it light (35-lbs.) and eliminates those stains from rusty water draining from rusty tanks. The oil-free dual-piston pump provides a fast recovery time—fast enough to run a framing gun. It also draws less power and performs well in cold weather. There’s no doubt that you’re going to like all the features of this compressor, but you’re going to love how quiet it is. It runs at about 60-dB, which is about the same as a conversation in a restaurant. So, no more hollering at coworkers or cranking up the radio to hear the music over a screaming compressor.
Find the Hot Spots
Thermal imaging systems work great at finding water leaks, electrical hot spots, and insulation gaps in walls. But until recently, thermal imaging systems were not a practical tool for the average contractor because they cost thousands of dollars and were the size of a microwave oven. But now, this extremely helpful technology is accessible. FLIR’s new C2 compact imager is pocket-size but has most of the same important features as larger models. The touch screen controls are intuitive to use, and it acts as a regular camera as well, which helps when pointing out to homeowners or coworkers where exactly the trouble spots are. They also make models that work with your smartphone.
A magnetized screwdriver or driver bit makes starting screws a lot easier. It’s like having an extra hand to hold the screw. We like to magnetize a screwdriver when working with tiny screws that are nearly impossible to find if you drop them (been there?). You can use a magnetic bit holder in most cases, but not in tight quarters. Instead, you can just magnetize the bit. We’ve even magnetized tweezers to help pick up tiny parts.
Magnetizers like the one shown are a cinch to use: Just slide the tool into the hole, rub it back and forth, and it’s magnetized. You can also demagnetize. Made by a variety of manufacturers, this handy tool is available at home centers and online.
Spring-Loaded Hinge Pin Remover
We’ve all messed up the trim around doors by using a screwdriver and a hammer to pound out stubborn door hinge pins. Instead, use a spring-loaded nail set to do the job with perfect results. It takes about three shots and the pin is out. You can find a spring-loaded nail set at rockler.com.
Blade Height Adjustment Guide
We’ve always relied on small blocks of wood to set the cutting depth on the table saw blade. Even though each block was labeled, they inevitably get knocked onto the floor and swept into the trash, and then you have to make another one.
We no longer have that problem because we picked up a set of Mag Shims from FastCap. Mag Shims are 1/8-in. magnetic spacers. If you need a blade height of 7/8 in., simply stack seven spacers, and raise the blade to match. They also work great for setting the depth on router bits and drill presses. We stick them right to the backside of the fence, so they’re always at hand and never get lost.
Hang It Up Already
When you're working alone, it's not easy to have to measure, mark or position lumber while holding a gun with one hand and using the other hand to prevent falling off a ladder. Some framing guns have factory-installed rafter hooks, but you can still upgrade your favorite framer with a Sky Hook from Gunook Products. The hook mounts just behind the air nipple. You may need to buy a 3/8-in. to 1/4-in. NPT Bushing to install the hook depending on the type of gun you own. The Sky Hook is light and durable, and you can purchase one online or at pro tool stores.
Stop Wasting Foam
You can't beat spray foam for sealing around windows and doors or sealing large gaps and cracks in old house walls, foundations and attics, but how often have you run a can empty when you were so close to being finished? And how disappointing is it to use
a partial can, knowing you'll have to throw the rest away? If you're a regular spray foam user, it might be time to step up to a foam dispensing gun.
A dispensing gun allows you to save foam if the job requires less than a full can. Once the job is finished, just set the gun aside until the next time you need it. Leave the can on the gun if you know it will be used in less than 30 days, or pull the can off, cap it and then clean out the gun with cleaning solution. Besides saving you money on foam, the dispensing gun provides much greater control because you're not working with a flimsy straw, and the trigger can be adjusted with a turning setscrew to control the rate of flow—nice!
A Vise for Your Pickup
The ATV All-Terrain Vise is a tool for those of you who work out of your pickup at job sites and need a serious on-site vise. And this vise is worth the price! It slips into any 2-in. receiver hitch and has a sizable flat anvil area for pounding. It comes with a bracket for attaching to any sturdy surface, such as a trailer, if you don’t want to use your truck. Check it out and find a dealer at wiltontools.com.
Handy Wheelbarrow Handles
We recently upgraded a wheelbarrow with Simply Dump It pivoting handles. They slid right over the handles and took about five minutes to install. If you're tall, you probably hunch over when you roll your wheelbarrow around the yard so you don't end up nose-diving the wheel guard/brace into the ground, resulting in messy spills and the occasional expletive. The Simply Dump It handles raise the grip location a few inches, which lowers the handles, which in turn raises the front wheel brace. The handles not only prevent sudden stopping syndrome but also make the wheelbarrow easier to control, especially on rough terrain. And the pivoting action all but eliminates the awkward torque on your wrists when you empty the wheelbarrow. You can get Simply Dump It handles online.
Keep Your Tootsies Toasty
To save money, we keep the temp in our shop down low when we're not in it and crank up the heat when we return. But even when the air temperature hits 70 degrees F, the concrete floor is still Minnesota-cold. We tried a space heater under the bench, but it broiled the shins and still left us with cold feet. So we recently bought a foot-warming mat, and now our feet stay toasty warm. Plus, it uses a fraction of the electricity and is a lot safer than a space heater. Cozy Products makes the mat. The folks at Cozy suggest putting a chunk of cardboard underneath it if you use it on flooring that could fade from the heat, like carpet or wood.
Practical Job Site Power Strip
The Stanley 32050 FatMax Power Claw is a clever power strip built into a clamp. It can grab on to a stud, rafter, sawhorse or ladder. Hang it wherever you need power. This strip works great at keeping extension cord connections off the ground. That’s convenient, but it makes even more sense if you’re working outside on a wet surface. The Power Claw has three grounded outlets and a 15-amp breaker.
The Best Chain Has Hexagonal Links
A heavy-duty hardened steel chain with hexagonal links will thwart nearly every thief with a bolt cutter. Hexagonal links (or square or trapezoidal) make it impossible for bolt cutters to get a grip. You may be tempted to buy chain by the foot at the hardware store, but it's designed for lifting and towing, not theft resistance. Even the thick stuff is likely to have round links, and frankly, if a hardware store clerk can cut the chain easily, a thief can too.
A Stud Finder to Love
One of the best stud finders you’ll ever use is the Franklin Sensors ProSensor 710. It’s unique in that there’s a whole bar of red lights that light up whenever it detects a stud. Unlike other sensors, which have a single light that stays on as it passes over the wood, the lights on the 710 tell you exactly where the wood stops and starts. No guesswork. Push a button, drag it over the wall and those hidden mysteries reveal themselves. You won’t even need to read the directions!
Make a Circle with Your Square
Most construction tasks consist of a series of straight lines, but occasionally you run into a situation that requires an arc or a circle. A trammel is usually the best tool for the job, but there’s only so much room in your toolbox. M. Power makes the Tri-Scribe, which hooks onto tools you already have, like the tongue of a square or a metal ruler, and transforms it into a flat-lying trammel. Strike a circle or an arc from 1 in. to 6 ft.—you’re limited only by the length of your rule. You can either make your mark with a pencil or insert the knife blade and score the surface. Best of all, they take up hardly any room in your toolbox.
One Size Fits All
No one ever complains about having too many wood clamps. Even if you own more than a dozen, for any particular job only a few are the right size. You can use pipe clamps for larger projects, but they’re a pain to store and always leave behind oil or rust stains.
We truly do love Stanley’s new 2" x 4" Clamps. They can span whatever length 2x4 you decide to attach them to, and when you're done clamping, pull them off the boards, and they take up hardly any space on your pegboard. You can even flip them around and used them as a spreader. Pick up a pair for at your local hardware store or home center.
Everybody has a home remedy for sealing partially used tubes of caulk. But what if you had a single product that could seal caulk cartridges, squeeze tubes, glue bottles, felt-tip pens and anything else that has a nozzle? Well, these Little Red Nozzle Caps are just the ticket. Roll the cap down the nozzle to seal out dirt and preserve the remainder of the bottle, tube or cartridge.
Remote for the Shop
OK, the Long Ranger’s been around since Marconi. But we love it. Simply put, this Long Ranger III Remote Dust Collector Switch is a remote system for turning on your dust collector out in the shop from whatever tool you’re operating. It plugs into the wall, you plug your dust collector into that and you’re done. Push the button on your remote and it fires right up. It’s saved us about two years and 1,300 miles of walking back and forth to the dust collector switch.
Hanging upper cabinets is a tough task for one person. Having a lifting buddy to help is usually a good idea but costs extra. Little Hands HD is perfect for the guy who mostly works alone. The 6 x 6-in. base keeps the cabinets stable, and each lift can handle 150 lbs. The lever action can be raised a tiny fraction of an inch at a time, but sneak up on your target height because lowering the lifts isn’t quite as easy.
Little Hands HD has a range of 16.5 in. to 22.8 in., so the lower cabinets need to be installed first. With this guy on site, if you can lift it, you can hang it completely solo. You can buy one at fastcap.com.
A Riveting Repair Tool
This copper rivet setup has become our secret repair weapon for leather and much more, saving the day many times. The system has three parts: a supply of copper rivets, copper washers that fit over them (leather folks call them “burrs”) and a setting tool.
Here’s how it works:
- Step 1: Punch, drill or burn a hole through the materials you want to join.
- Step 2: Insert the rivet through the hole and put the washer over it.
- Step 3: Use the hole on the end of the setting tool to pound the washer down tight.
- Step 4: Nip off the excess rivet with a side cutter.
- Step 5: Use the cupped end of the setting tool to peen over the end of the rivet.
Voilá! A tight, strong mechanical fix. You can buy the rivets and setting tool at leather craft stores, or go to tandyleatherfactory.com.
These tweezers are perfect. They’re nice and small and infinitely better than the cheap ones sold out of fishbowls at the home-center checkout lane. Their sharp, sturdy precision tips can grab even the tiniest sliver. Put them on your key chain and you’ll have a really high-quality stainless steel tweezers ready for the next time you have to perform a little surgery on the battlefield. They fold up like a pocketknife, so the business end doesn’t get wrecked. They’re available only at pocketweez.com.