Have you ever washed your house? It's crazy the difference it can make, especially on a white house. What it does is remove a "dumpiness" that you didn't even know was there. You look at your house every day, so you get used to how it looks and you never notice the slow degradation over time (sort of like your waistline). But, yeah, it builds up and when you clean it off, it's a total facelift. You can wash a house with a bucket, a scrub brush, and an extension ladder (fun level: 5%), or you can use a pressure washer (fun level: 95%). The last time I did it, I used the Karcher K3 Follow Me Pressure Washer, which they nicely provided for me to test.
A while back I reveled in reviewed the Hardcore Hammers Naturalist Hatchet. I loved it for it's....everything. Late last year, they sent along their newest hatchet, the Ultimate Survivalist for me to try out. And try out I did. Over and over and over. This new version polishes up some of the functionality of the older one and adds a few things. It also has a head that is nearly indestructible and holds an edge for a long time, which is really what you want if you're out in the middle of nowhere relying on your tools.
Without question our all time favorite ladder is the Little Giant Select Step (our review here). You can set it up on stairs, position it right up against a wall, or just utilize it as a standard 5,6, 7, or 8 foot step ladder. It's kinda heavy, but the innovation contained within is more than enough to off-set that.
And the good news is that the company has turned their attention towards the standard extension ladder. Just the other day we got word of something called the Little Giant Velocity 24' Extension Ladder. After a quick run-down of the features it's looking like Little Giant has solved many of the irritations associated with using a large extension ladder.
Craftsman has just released two mowers with something called "Quiet Technology," which, as you would assume, makes the mowers much quieter than the norm. How quieter, you ask? According to Craftsman, it's 65% quieter than a comparable Toro, which is significant (but still, don't expect to be able to run one of these down the center aisle of the local library). The company has also redesigned the blade so that it also makes less noise. All of this quiet sauce is the result of a partnership with Briggs & Stratton, the reputable engine manufacturer.
So now, disturbing the neighbors will no longer work as an excuse not to mow the lawn. Lucky you.
Because I grew up in Vermont, those super-stiff John Deere mesh baseball hats have a special place in my heart. My childhood is filled with images of ancient farmers with those boxy green and yellow hats perched way up on the tops of their nearly bald heads. What this boils down to is that even though we're heading into winter, I'm going to make note of the new line of mowers that Deere released earlier in the year, the X700 Signature Series.
These tractors have a lot to offer, but it's the Auto-Connect that is the real stand out. It's a great solution to taking the mower on and off the tractor. Here's a video:
The tractor also got awarded a "Best of What's New" from Popular Science, which is no small bag o peas.
The tractor is about 10K, but as we all know, nothing runs like a Deere (full press release with tons more info and all the rest of the features is after the jump).
Also, pick up one of the great old boxy JD hats at Amazon. Or if that's not your style, they have other ones that have a more "this century" feel to them. Like this one. It's a cool hat, I used to have one similar to it that we wore all the time. That hat started a lot of conversations, but not any more because it got stolen by some lowlife a couple years ago.
Since we first heard about them a year and a half ago, we've been very impressed with Hardcore Hammers, so when they dropped us a line letting us know they were getting into the hatchet business, we were pretty excited. Then, when they asked if they could send us one to review, we went out and told the woodpile that the day of reckoning was near.
Husqvarna has announced the release of something called the Fast Tractor. It's apparently the fastest riding mower in its class (mowers under $2500). And it's not just a little faster, it's quite a bit faster. Regular boring mowers top out in the turtle-like range of 5-6mph, but this cheetah can chase prey in the 7-8mph range.
This is from the folks at John Deere and it's about mower maintenance. If you're like us and have an "on-again-off-again" relationship with small engines, below are a few tips worth following to keep the frustrating machines in working order.
Our feelings on these engines is summed up by something we overheard FOTS (father of Tool Snob) say a few weekends ago regarding his string trimmer: "I don't care if it trims grass, I just want it to start."
5 Tips for Mower Maintenance this Fall
We are well into fall and the dog days of summer are behind us, but before you abandon your lawn care duties, remember that your mower can be used year round for Mother Nature cleanup duty. Most riding lawn mowers, like the John Deere X310, or zero-turn-radius mowers, like the Z665 Ztrak™, come with a variety of attachments that can change with the seasons. When using your mower to mulch leaves this fall, be sure to provide proper and frequent maintenance checks for optimum performance.
Look for leaves. Fall leaves, though beautiful, present a particular challenge for mowers. Double check your air filters for stoppage. If filters are blocked, they will suck unfiltered air from elsewhere and damage the motor.
Stay sharp. The added strain of leaf mulching may dull the mower blade more quickly. You can use 20 percent more fuel with a dull blade, so either sharpen up or have a spare blade on hand.
For those who prefer to let their mowers hibernate for the winter months, there are a few important things to check before putting your machine in storage. Don't wait till spring to clean up your machines. A little work now will save you time and money when it comes to rolling your mower back out of the garage next year.
Hit the deck. Clipping and debris buildup under the deck can cut airflow and reduce effectiveness. A dirty deck can also cause rust and corrosion during winter storage. Turn the mower on its side and clean the undercarriage with a hose.
Fuel Fix. Add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank to prevent separation that can lead to corrosion. After adding the stabilizer, run the engine for five minutes.
Give it a once over. Tighten all nuts and bolts; check belts filters, safety shields and guards. Replace any damaged or missing parts, including spark plugs. Check tire tread and pressure. Make sure your mower will be ready to hit the ground running next spring.
Spending a little bit of time maintaining your mower throughout the fall and possibly prepping it for winter storage will save you a lot of hassle in the spring. As temperatures drop, don't drop the ball on important lawn care duties.
We're fully aware that BBQ grills don't fall under the typical umbrella that this site covers, but the Stok Quattro has a significant connection to the tool world: it's made by Ridgid.
Yeah, that Ridgid. Sorta funny, isn't it. They've chosen Stok as the name they're going to make their grills under and at first glance, we thought it was some Nordic company founded by vikings (the 'o' in Stok has an accent line over it, giving it the pronunciation 'Stoke').
Familial heritage aside, this looks like a pretty cool grill. The distinguishing feature of it is the removable inserts that are actually built into the grill surface. The way it works is that the grilling surface has two circular areas that can pulled up and swapped out with either a vegetable tray, a pizza stone, or a griddle. All of the parts fit in nicely and add quite a bit of functionality to the grill. It's sort of like the JobMax of the grilling world.
If we're not making any sense, here's a video:
The Quattro works on propane and goes for $250 and is available only at Home Depot. There are also charcoal versions available
Black & Decker has revamped their selection of outdoor tools and they've based them around their 20 volt platform (it's 20 volt max...18 volts to the rest of us). They recently send us one of their string trimmers and a sweeper to check out. We gave them a good go round and here's what we thought...
Late last year, True Temper sent us their new Total Control Wheelbarrow to check out. Winter hit, so we didn't get to dig into it too much, but now that spring is here, the wheelbarrow with the funky handles is getting a workout.
With gardening season just getting underway here in the Northeast, Ames sent us a sample of their Planter's Pal, a sort of an all-in-one gardening tool. When we got it, we immediately handed it over to the head gardener, Mrs. Tool Snob, since it seems like we're only allowed in the garden when heavy things need to be moved. Other than that, it's off limits to us.
John Deere is introducing a bunch of new lawn mowers this season; 8 new ones in the 100 series and a couple of zero-turn models. The new 100s are marked by better fuel efficiency and lower emissions, as well as a redesign of the operator area. The zero-turn mowers, according to John Deere, come equipped with more horsepower and faster speeds than any other residential zero-turn units. There is plenty more information about these new releases in the press releases, which we've put after the jump.
John Deere has also put together a list of items to think about if you're considering a riding mower purchase this summer. We usually don't publish articles that come directly from a manufacturer, but this one doesn't specifically promote John Deere and it's filled with good points. A riding mower is a big investment and if you're thinking of getting one, these items are a good place to start. Here goes...
Choosing the right mower:
There's a number of elements and factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing a new mower this spring. Here's a few tips from John Deere:
Know your lawn - How big is your yard? Is it flat and smooth, or sloping? Do you need to mow around trees, sweep off your patio or plow yourdriveway? All of these are questions you want to ask yourself when considering buying a new mower. They'll help narrow down your options and ensure you pick the right mower for the job.
All grass isn't alike - Grass comes in a variety of types and it's important to know what makes up your lawn. If you want your mower to stick around for a while, you'll need to make sure you have enough power to handle the grass in your yard
Think about after-sale service - The goal is to save money AND headaches in the long run, so make sure your equipment provider offers reliable after-sale support and can guarantee quick repair if you run into any problems.
Keep it safe - It might not be the most interesting book on the shelf, but the operator's manual is essential to understanding the specific safety features on your equipment. General safety reminders and standards are also available through the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute at www.opei.org.
Riding mower or tractors versus zero-turn radius mowers:
Both machine types offer benefits and features that cater to different types of properties, understand the difference by reviewing below.
Choose a riding mower or tractor if:
You have plenty of jobs to do around your property and need a variety of attachments. In other words, you want to do more than just mow.
You have uneven terrain that you have to navigate.
You like using controls that are familiar and auto-like.
Your property has plenty of obstacles you need to trim around.
Choose a zero-turn radius mower if:
You want to improve your productivity, mowing your property in as little time as possible.
Your property is fairly flat.
You enjoy a mower that has more speed and can turn quickly.
You just want to mow, pure and simple.
More information at John Deere. And as promised, the press releases follow...
An inevitable byproduct of tinkering around on your house is something known in English as 'trash.' Scraps of sheet rock, cut-offs, demo'd materials, etc. For the big jobs, you go and get a dumpster, for the small ones, you cut everything up into small pieces and use contractor bags. But what about those mid-sized projects like a big set of built-ins or relocating a wall? The answer used to be: "find a friend with a pickup truck who lives in a town with a lax dump policy," but now, the answer may very well be, 'get a Bagster." Waste Management, who runs the Bagster program, was nice enough to let us fill one up for a review and here's what we found...
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