July 19, 2010
If you're like us, there's a whole lot you're completely in the dark on. And because of that fact, it means that, like us, you probably only think of Starrett as "that company that makes those really nice combo squares." They don't do anything else, do they?
Well, as it turns out, they do. In fact they do enough to result in a densely crammed 566 page catalog (and we mean densely). Starrett just released their latest Full Line Catalog and sent us one to peruse and the amount of tools and equipment in it is head-spinning. Judging from the catalog, Starrett is a company determined to measure, or have the ability to measure, everything on the planet (including the rate at which a head spins).
The catalog has everything from electronic gauge amplifiers (p. 215) to micrometer depth gauges (p.66) to gauge blocks (p.355-401), and thank heavens, they also have a selection of optical comparators (p.419-428). If you're not ready for it, it's all a bit overwhelming.
And all the way back on page 245 is our combination square. It's funny but previous to seeing the catalog, we thought the combo square was the highest achievement of the company, but now it seems almost like an afterthought and even a little out of place when compared to the massive torrent of machinist measuring devices and electronic micro-gauges. There is also another section in the back devoted to jobsite and workshop tools (pages 429 to 466) that has things like rafter squares, levels, and tape measures of every variety you could ever imagine.
The catalog is available online and if you have the time, it's worth flipping through. There's no doubt you'll be impressed.
Visit the Starrett site here or go directly to the catalog here.
Starrett tools at Amazon.com
The press release on the catalog release, if you're interested, is after the jump.
Continue reading: "Starrett Full Line Catalog #32"
June 7, 2010
It's almost Father's Day again, so it's time to start quantifying your love for the old man into a dollar amount. Being the helpful types, we've put together this list of a few items we think any dad would get a charge out of. So onward....
Rockwell JawHorse ($170)
Since we first got our hands on this miraculous tool it has made every single gift guide we've written (and it probably will continue to do so until the apocalypse). We can go on and on and on about its uses and how helpful it is. We use it all the time, and we're not talking, "all the time, meaning once every month" or "all the time, once every week," no, we're talking more along the lines of, "every time we set foot in the shop, we're utilizing this fella somehow." It's really amazing and worth every single penny. Our review is here.
Bosch PS21-2A ($130)
Finally, a 12-volt drill with some serious *expletive deleted*. This mini-tool is a monster. If you're not a fan of the 1/4" hex chuck, we're in the process of reviewing the 3/8" 3-jawed chuck version (PS31 - $150) and it's looking like the same great tool, but with even more functionality. For a lot of people, this uber-compact driver may be the only one you'll ever need. Our review is here.
PS21-2A at Amazon.com
PS31-21 at Amazon.com
Craftsman Cordless Pruners ($50)
Does your dad long to create massive animal topiaries, or maybe the hedge maze from The Shining? If so, he can get started (and save his hand strength) with the Craftsman Pruners. Our initial reaction to the tool was that it was sort of silly, but once we started using them, we really got to see the value of them. Our review is here.
Ridgid JobMax (kits $180-$200, additional heads in the $50 range)
An idea so crazy that it actually works great. Five different tool heads, one body. The only problem we have is that it's only available at Home Depot and their website is such a mess, it's nearly impossible to find. Searching for 'JobMax' only brings up the individual heads, the link on the front page is busted, and we found one of the kits under the heading 'Close Quarters Kit.' Totally bizarre. Our review is here.
At Home Depot
Insulate and Weatherize ($14)
Even though it's socially awkward to give dad a gift that essentially gives him a work directive, Insulate and Weatherize is a great book for any homeowner. The scope of it goes far beyond what you would expect from the title by taking a holistic approach to your home. It's really a 'how to properly condition the air in your home and deal with moisture' book. It's all very interesting and anyone who is curious how their house works should own it. Our review is here.
Dremel 4000, or the cordless companion, the 8200 ($80-$100 depending on the kit)
Dremel has once again amped up their rotary tool and this time the results are both sleek and powerful. The 4000, and its cordless companion, the 8200, have both spent quality time in the back seat of the truck and proven themselves to be jobsite-worthy. Our reviews are here (4000) and here (8200).
4000 at Amazon.com
8200 at Amazon.com
Dead-On Annihilator ($35)
Is your dad the Harley type? Does he want to be? Well, instead of wiping out your college fund with a motorcycle, you could just get him this wrecking bar. It's functional and has a skull and crossbones on it (not to mention a bottle opener). It should appeal to any dad's dark side. Our review is here.
We also recommend checking out last year's list (which has links to the previous year's list and so on).
April 14, 2010
Tony Saucier of the DIY website Pounded Thumb has compiled 40 sites that he thinks are worth following on Twitter (and in general). The sites are ones that stand out among the crowd for any of a number of reasons. At Tony explains,
It could be sharing tips (@make_tips), sharing deals (@northerntool), or telling great stories (@ExtremelyAvg). In any event, all are worth checking out.
And in a strange twist of fate, we made the list. Thanks Tony.
Check out the other 39 for yourself over at Pounded Thumb. It's a good collection of sites, no doubt.
March 25, 2010
Tool catalogs are pretty much entirely online now. All of the stores have their databases and their shopping cart icons and their category lists. This is fine if you're looking for a specific tool, but what the online catalogs will never do is recreate the act (or art?) of browsing. If we go to the online Northern Tool + Equipment catalog looking for a drill, we go to category-->power tools-->drills. Hooray, we found the drills and nothing else.
If, on the other hand, we pick up the NT+E master catalog (which just showed up last week) and look for drills, we find the 4 Outlet Faucet Adapter (might need that), then we stumble across the 7000 lb. Full-Rise Scissor Lift (looks cool, but can't afford it), then it's onto the 4' Peavey (been meaning to pick up one of those), and after that the High Performance Suspension Truck Seats (no need for that).
The point here is that we highly recommend getting a big, fat, varied tool catalog and just flipping through it. If you're looking online, you're only going to find what you're looking for and all the other interesting things will remain out of sight and out of mind.
The 591 page Northern Tool catalog is free and you can get one here.
February 25, 2010
It's unreal how much useful information is sitting over at InspectApedia.com. It's essentially a compendium of all the knowledge that a home inspector has when he shows up at the dilapidated shack that you're looking to buy. the site is decidedly low-tech and it's pretty easy to get confused with the left navigation (we use the site map instead), but it's really all about the info...the gobs and gobs of mighty info.
So if you're really interested how the parts of your house work (or why they don't), just click over and wander a bit. If you're the curious type, it could be hours before you come up for air.
Here's a taste:
Check out the main page here, or just go to the site map here.
November 23, 2009
Yes, it's not even Thanksgiving and we're putting together our gift guide (sort of like wearing white shoes after Labor Day). Still, it's better that it's up sooner rather than later, so looking back on the past year, these are the stand outs that we think your favorite DIYer would appreciate.
HK1 Hydrokinetic Wrench - Honestly, we haven't used this tool as much as we originally thought, but it has definitely come in handy from time to time. Usefulness aside, it's a great gift for, "the guy who is impossible to shop for." It's a strange item and its unique fluid adjustment will likely appeal to both the DIY set and the gadget crowd. Our review is here.
$25 at Amazon.com
Dremel 4000 - We've been playing around with one for a couple weeks and we can say that it's easily the most accomplished rotary tool that Dremel's released. It's got a few new attachments and the power lifts it up to a construction site level. Our review is here.
Kits from $80 at Amazon.com
Fein MultiMaster 250Q Top - How can we do a list without the Fein? We use this fella all the time (twice today, actually). Its power and unique blade change remain unmatched among the oscillating tools. It's not cheap though. Our review is here.
$399 at Amazon.com
Craftsman Propane String Trimmer (Powered by Lehr) - If you've got a large lawn, this may be the perfect trimmer for you. The 4-cycle engine is a monster and if you're the obnoxious type, the fact that it uses propane fuel allows you to condescend to your neighbor with the gas trimmer. (Our review is here)
$149 at Sears
iRobot Roomba Pet Series - We brought one of these into our house months ago and haven't let it rest since. Because it's so effortless, you can always be in the process of vacuuming the house, even when you're sitting on the couch with a 30-pack of Miller High Life. This one's a real time saver. Our review is here.
$300 at Amazon.com
Nail Hunter- Still the best nail puller we've ever used. Good for everything from framing nails to 23-gauge pins. If someone in your life is still fighting with a cat's paw, toss one of these their way. Our review is here.
$25 at Amazon.com
Rockwell JawHorse - Like the Fein, this one just never stops showing off its usefulness. It's a work station, an extra set of hands, and a vise all in one. Rockwell also makes a handful of attachments to it that widen its uses even more. Our review is here.
$180 at Amazon.com
Setting Up Shop by Sandor Nagyszalanczy - This is the bible of workshop organization. We're always referring back to it for ideas and new ways to improve work flow in the home shop. It doesn't matter if you've got a three car garage at your disposal or if you're limited to a small corner of a basement, this book will be good for you. Our review here.
$15 at Amazon.com
We also recommend any of the products from our Tools We Keep in the Truck list. There's also the 2007 Holiday Gift Guide and the 2008 Holiday Gift Guide which we still stand behind.
September 10, 2009
There are very few tools we keep in the truck at all times. The small space behind the seat is prized real estate and not to be wasted on redundant tools that are easy to come by on a job site. Instead, we reserve this spot for those special tools, the ones that can do things no other tool can. The ones that, when you need them, you need them. Over the past few months, we've narrowed down our repertoire to a select few. They are as follows:
Hitachi 12-Volt Right-Angle Impact Driver (our review here): This tool is worth it's weight in gold, which, oddly enough, isn't all that much because it's so light and compact. It has a clearance that is so small it can fit anywhere and while it's powerful enough to drop a 2" screw in a 2x4, where this tool shines is with the small fussy tasks, like working up in a shade pocket or behind a fan coil unit.
Fein MultiMaster (our review here): With the expiration of Fein's oscillating tool patent, the market has been flooded with other models by everyone from Craftsman to Bosch to Dremel to Rockwell. But the funny thing is that even though there are now a ton of oscillating tools on the market, the Fein still has no real competition. This isn't to belittle the others, we've tested out the majority of the new tools and they're fine, it's just that the MultiMaster is nearly a work of art. Once you hold one, you'll know what we're talking about.
Milwaukee Hackzall (our review here): Of the tools on the list, this is the one that has elicited the greatest response from the rest of the site. It has been affectionately dubbed, "the turkey carver" and it's constantly getting borrowed by carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and anyone else who needs to make a quick, no-hassle cut. The only downside to the tool is that it comes with the single worst case in tool history.
Milwaukee 12-volt Power Port and Flashlight (our reviews here and here): This is sort of the emergency kit and hangs out under the passenger seat next to the first-aid bag. It's always good to have a flashlight on hand and the Power Port is good for a quick cell phone charge here and there (the truck stops charging when the engine is off).
...and those are the ones we keep close at hand. Granted, we've been in the finish phase of the job, so these are all detail oriented tools, good for the small fussy stuff. It's likely they'll get cycled out during the framing of the next job, but for now they're there, constantly getting us out of trouble.
HItachi Right Angle Impact Driver at Tool Barn
Fein MultiMaster at Amazon.com
Milwaukee Hackzall at Amazon.com
Milwaukee Power Port at Amazon.com
Milwaukee Flashlight at Amazon.com
August 21, 2009
Finally, a tool catalog so badass it has to be delivered in a cardboard box. And it's freakin' hardcover! To us, the Northern Tool catalog marks the seasons more reliably than the solstice. Even though it's still about 97 degrees where we live, the fact that the Fall/Winter catalog just hit means that it's time to start thinking about the first stages of buckling down for the winter. Should we pick up a generator this year (after being without power for six days last December)? Is it time to get one of those tent vehicle enclosures? Should we stop wearing white, now that the Fall/Winter catalog is here? These are some of the thoughts prompted by the arrival of one of the best tool catalogs out there.
And it's not just tools. In fact, power tools only take up 27 of the 591 pages here. The rest is packed with automotive, heating, storage, hydraulics, and on and on and on.
Order your free catalog here.
June 12, 2009
This is great. Our pals over at Tool Crib have compiled the ultimate Harbor Freight buyers guide. It's a massive list of what tools are worth buying (for maybe one or two uses) and which ones to avoid like the plague. The article is split into the following chapters...
1) Developing Your Harbor Freight Shopper Philosophy
2) Top Ten Things NOT to Buy at Harbor Freight (Humor)
3) Derogatory yet Slightly Loving Harbor Freight Nicknames
4) My Harbor Freight Prediction: Prices Way Up Soon... End of the HF?
5) The List: Good Enough, the Bad, and the Abysmal
6) Harbor Freight Tips and Tidbits
7) Harbor Freight Resources Used in this Article
That pretty much says it all. It's fantastic stuff and a good example of why the internet was invented in the first place. If you have your own harbor freight stories, you're encouraged to leave a comment at Tool Crib. It might make it to the next update to the guide.
Check out the Harbor Freight Buyer's Guide here.
May 26, 2009
Father's Day is June 20th this year, so it's time to start thinking about getting the old man a token of appreciation for all the times he's bailed you out of jail. A nice new tool seems like a fitting gesture, so we've put together a small list of potential gifts.
Nail Jack & Nail Hunter - Since reviewing the Nail Jack a couple months ago, we've only gown more impressed with the tool. Of all of the items that we look at, not many make it into our day-to-day repertoire of tools, but the Nail Jack certainly has and each day it proves its worth. Our full review is here. Nail Jack and Nail Hunter ($25-$30) at Amazon.com
Skil 7.2 Li-Ion Power Wrench - We've been fans of this tool for a while. It's a versatile around the house screwdriver/right angle drill that can help with any number of small projects. We also just noticed that Amazon is selling it for $22 which is quite a bit lower than the $60 when the tool first hit the market in late '07. Our full review is here. At Amazon.com
Milwaukee Hackzall - Like the Nail Jack, the more time this tool spends with us, the more useful we find it to be. Just the other day, it was our main weapon in a vicious battle against the bittersweet invasion into our yard. Later that day, we used it to cut a pipe in the basement. Even for the amount of time we've spent with this tool, we're far from discovering all of its uses. Our full review is here. $175 at Amazon.com
Rockwell JawHorse - It's hard to explain how useful the JawHorse is. It's an extra set of hands, it's a clamp, it's a work station, and it's a sawhorse. Honestly, it doesn't matter if dad's a beginning wood butcher or an experienced cabinet maker, he'll be really into the JawHorse. If you don't believe us, page through the Amazon customer comments. Our full review is here. $180 at Amazon.com
Subscription to Extreme How-To - There are a million do-it-yourself, construction, and woodworking magazines out there and of all the ones we've read (and we've read thousands), Extreme How-To is one of the best. The articles are about things you actually do to your house. How to correctly build a fence...how to install crown molding...how to frame a deck...etc. The writing is clear and concise and the advice is all good. They've got a sample issue online at their site. Get one year for $19 or do what we do and get two years for $35. Subscription details at Extreme How-To.
Also, check out our '08 Father's Day Gift Guide (with links to the '07 guide).