March 28, 2011

JLC Live: Rhode Island - Recap


Last Friday, we hopped in the truck and drove on down to the annual JLC Live trade show in Providence, RI. While we would have like to have seen more small companies (the kind comprised of one dude and a good idea), there was a pretty good showing from the tool crowd, particularly those who cater to the residential construction sect. It also seemed like we couldn't take three steps without bumping into someone who wanted you to check out their new hidden deck fastener system.

A few of the tool highlights....

Starrett - About a month ago, we made the joke that Starrett is the company that makes a million tools, of which we can only use and understand one (their magnificent combo square). The statement was a bit of hyperbole in action, but it wasn't until we saw their booth that we realized the full extent of what they offer. There is not only plenty in the way of high-quality accessories like jigsaw blades, hole saws, and recip saw blades, but there are also a bunch of cool construction protractors. We had seen the 505A-2 Protractor in the past, but our eyes were opened when we saw it in action at the show. It's a really nice item and one that has the ability to really speed up work for a carpenter.

We got to talking to the Starrett guys and it sounds like there's going to be some good stuff coming out of the company in the next year or so. As we find out more, we'll let you know.

Festool - We have tried and tried not to become one of those Festool Zombie Cult members, but the more we learn about their tools, the more we realize that resistance is futile. They've got all kinds of new goods in the works. There's the new Rotex sander (which we're currently testing and hope to have a review up soon), a bizarro-world workstation that's compatible with their CT vacs (also being tested), and there's also this really sweet 12-volt driver that's not only very small, but also engineered to near perfection. But the tool that kept getting our attention was the new Carvex jigsaw. It not only has a really nice blade stabilizing system, but it's got a freaking strobe light that's synched with the blade stroke so you can see exactly where the blade is at all times. It's strange: the motor is running and the saw is cutting, but it looks like the blade is standing still. It comes with a standard foot plate, but an accessory kit can be bought that has a number of different foot plates (i.e. a padded one for delicate surfaces, etc), the most interesting of these is the 'butterfly' one which opens and closes like a hinge for your scribe work, countertops, and all other angled cuts. Pretty badass.

Bosch - Of the large companies, Bosch was the only one in attendance, which may have been one reason that their booth was about 4-deep with people the whole time we were there. Joe the Pro was on-site demoing their new corded oscillating tool, which looks great. And from what we saw, we weren't the only ones who thought so, seeing as half the people at the tradeshow seemed to be carrying a newly-purchased one around under their arm. Bosch was also showing off a cool little job site table saw built specifically with portability and transportation in mind. In addition, there's a new cordless finish gun (18v) and a really nice 7-1/4 saw blade.

Stabila - These guys went for the jugular, by taking apart one of their levels and three of their competitors levels (Stanley, Johnson, and someone else we forget, maybe Swanson or Irwin) so we could see what was inside and it was surprising. The Stabila vial was fully stabilized in all kinds of ways while the others seemed to be floating there just asking to be knocked out of alignment. They also had a new laser distance measure tool (LD500) that completely blows away all of the other ones we've seen. This one has a tilt sensor, it can calculate roof slope, and it even has a camera with cross hairs, so when it's bright out and you can't see the laser dot, you can see exactly where you're pointing the tool.

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at March 28, 2011 6:03 AM
Recent Comments

Right. Empire. Thanks. I agree that Stabila did a good thing by taking apart the levels. With so many similar looking items, there needs to be some education as to why their products cost three or four times what the others cost.

Posted by: Tool Snob at March 28, 2011 10:14 AM

The other level you don't have the name for is "Empire" ( It's nice to see that Stabila cut open their levels to show the differences. Many level manufacturers are trying to copy the look of the Stabila but there's a lot more than the "look" in making an accurate level.

Posted by: Glen at March 28, 2011 10:11 AM
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