July 22, 2009
Remember how Luke would put R2-D2 in the X-Wing and the little robot would essentially take over all the heavy lifting? Luke would sort of pretend to fly, but we all knew it was R2 that was making all the important decisions. That's sort of what the SawGear does to you and your miter saw. The tool, which made its big debut at this year's AWFS in Vegas, looks like it wants to take over all the measuring and marking, leaving you with only the brainless task of making the cut.
The tool is essentially three parts, a little computer unit, a rail, and a small carriage with a stop that runs along the rail. The SawGear attaches to your miter saw stand, and then after what looks like a quick and easy calibration, you just punch in the measurement that you want to cut and watch the carriage zip over to that distance and create a stop for your lumber.
The SawGear is smart enough to cut miters (no word on bevels though), and it can work in fraction or decimals. It can also evade a squadron of TIE fighters and lob rockets successfully into the Death Star's thermal exhaust port.
Over at the SawGear website they're saying that the tool can cut job completion times by 25%, which is quite a claim. Can it really eliminate one day of a week long project? If this is true, or even if they're exaggerating and the number is something like 10%, it's still a huge dollar amount that you carpenters out there could be potentially saving.
It's a cool idea and we're interested to see how it does in the marketplace. The $3000 price tag is going to scare away most homeowners, so it's up to the carpenters to make or break this one. Like we said, it'll be interesting. It seems to us that the majority of carpenters are tradition-bound and are likely to be suspicious of something that will take away their ability to mark out incredibly over-sized crows feet. But we did hear that a number of units were already sold at the AWFS, which speaks to how impressive this tool must be in person. At most trade shows, we'll happily lay down a hundred bucks (mostly at the bar), but to be inspired enough to drop a few grand, that must be a pretty impressive tool.
Purchase, videos and a ton more information over at SawGear
July 16, 2009
If you took all of the construction projects ever attempted in the history of man, all of the skyscrapers, all of the pyramids, all of the bridges and all of the dams, and you could crush them into a one inch by one inch cube, that cube would probably smell like WD-40. WD-40 smells like accomplishment and, like duct tape, it evokes a consensus of admiration from anyone who has ever used it (which is essentially everyone).
But, if you went around and asked people, "what's the worst thing about WD-40?" the answer would be unanimous: "the effin' little red straw that I keep losing." The straw is essential, but it's a pain in the ass and once you lose it, like you always to, there's not much you can do to control the spray of the magic elixir. But here comes WD-40 with a new way to dispense the good stuff. The new container is a non-aerosol spray bottle and we brought one to the site and then into the workshop in order to test it out.
Guess what? It's WD-40 in a Windex bottle. Nothing more, nothing less (well, actually the bottle is metal, so it is a little more). But it's the same functionality with the narrow spray and the wide spray. The WD-40 hasn't changed, so it's all about application. The Trigger Pro doesn't replace the old red straw method, but it doesn't try to. It's just a new and different way of laying down the WD. There are times when only the straw will do the trick, like getting into a cramped engine, for example, but there are also times when the spray bottle is faster and more efficient, like cleaning up the gears on a table saw or lubing up a large chain. Overall, we felt there was more control with the spray bottle because it's easier to limit the amount you're applying.
WD-40 Trigger Pro costs around $13 for a 20oz bottle and is likely to be available where WD-40 is sold. We suggest picking up a bottle.
WD-40 also comes in a one gallon can (like paint thinner), so you could also pick up one of those and a spray bottle to get the same effect. A gallon costs about $20.
Factoid Alert: WD-40 stands for "Water Displacement, 40th formula." It was the 40th, and most successful of the recipes tried for a liquid that would displace water and prevent corrosion. Interesting, eh?
WD-40 at Amazon.com
July 9, 2009
In order to exist on our jobsite in any functional manner, we need to have on us, at all times, eight different driver bits. It's a total nightmare, but that's just the way it is. We have all sorts of screws for all sorts of different applications and during the course of a day, we're involved with just about every aspect of the site. We need a P2, P3, 5/16" nut drive, 3/8" nut drive, 1/4" nut drive, R1, R2, and the Timberlok Spider Bit. We used to carry them around in an Altoid tin, but now we just have them in a pocket. It's a complete pain in the ass to have to constantly switch out bits.
So anything that takes even one of these bits out of the equation is something we're going to love. Enter, the Bosch R2-P2 Driver bit. Very simply, it's a bit that can drive both P2 screws and R2 screws. If you're unfamiliar with the terminology, Ps are Philips bits and Rs are Robertson bits (aka: square drive).
We got our hands on one of these dual bits and used it quite a bit. We ended up losing it somewhere along the way, but in the time we had it, it held up great and it took some of the bit-searching agony out of our day. We lost it before we got a chance to work it to death with the impact driver, so we can't comment too much on the strength of the bit, but because Bosch makes it with something called S2M steel, it likely would have lasted longer than normal.
There's not a whole lot more to say about the driver bit other than that it worked and that for a brief shining moment, we had one bit where we now once again need two.
We can't find these for purchase online, but they'll likely show up at Amazon.com and Ohio Power Tool.
July 7, 2009
At first glance, we thought the LogJaws were about the silliest thing we'd ever seen. We're huge fans of the JawHorse, and use it all the time, but who would really need to clamp a log at waist height? Definitely not us, and we heat with wood.
To use the LogJaws, you first have to invest in the Rockwell JawHorse, which we think is a good idea no matter who you are. So if you don't have one and you're interested, our review of that tool is here. But simply put, the JawHorse is a workstation centered around a large clamping jaw and Rockwell makes a number of add-ons for the unit, including these, the LogJaws.
What the LogJaws do is give the JawHorse the ability to clamp a log or really any other oddly shaped item that's going to have problems in the parallel clamps that come standard with the JawHorse. The LogJaws sit higher than the regular clamps and have these mean looking teeth that are perfect for sinking into a nice chunk of rotted oak. The LogJaws attach very easily to the JawHorse, just a few screws and it's done. Maybe two minutes max.
We discovered quickly that the LogJaws really are great for clamping cut logs, branches and other bits of tree debris. But where exactly do you go from there? What sorts of things can you use it for? The JawHorse sits too high to use it for your utility, "need to fill the woodshed before the first snow" log cutting. We just don't think it's worth it to haul one end of a 100 lb log into the jaws just so you can cut 18" off of it and then have to reposition the whole thing. But if you're only going to be cutting smaller branches and kindling, then it'll work great. We actually see the LogJaws as more for the wood carving/woodworking crowd. And in fact, we used it to make some nice tree limb coasters (directions here).
The LogJaws also have these little brackets that flip out and allow you to clamp your chainsaw bar so you can easily sharpen your chainsaw, saving valuable knuckle skin.
In a way, the LogJaws sum up the glory of the JawHorse; you can get the basic unit, which is extremely useful, and then you have the ability to customize it, in order to suit your niche needs. The LogJaws aren't for everybody, but if you're one of the people who it is for, you'll love it.
The LogJaws cost about $40 which puts them on the lower side of things when compared to most of the other JawHorse accessories.
As an aside, if you are a wood carver, we suggest checking out our reviews of the Arbortech wood carving tools, the Mini-Grinder and the Power Chisel.
July 6, 2009
We used to own a Jeep Cherokee which had its ups and downs, but would always charge our cell phone even with the engine off and the keys out of the ignition. Now we drive around in a Tacoma which is great but the truck kills the outlets as soon as the engine is off. We're pretty good at keeping our phone charged either at home or during the commute, but sometimes (like the other day) we forget and arrive at the site with the battery not fully charged. The point of this story is to relay how we became fully dependent on the M12 Power Port the other day. If we didn't happen to have it on us, we would have been completely screwed.
The M12 Power Port is a simple affair, about the size of a bulky remote control. It has an indicator light to let you know if the battery still has some juice and a little flip down door to protect both the USB port and the DC port from dust and dirt when it's not in use. To use the item, just plug in your cell phone, iPod, whatever and the 12-volt battery starts transferring the charge.
But back to our story. It was one of those end of day "how come the condenser stopped working?" things where we had to call the HVAC guys and the electricians multiple times and do all sorts of coordination and troubleshooting. During the first call the phone went dead. After a quick hustle to the truck to get the Power Port, we were back in action and resolved the situation. If we hadn't had the Power Port on hand things would have gotten ugly.
So what does this all mean? Well, the M12 Power Port is not going to be your full time charger. Why would it? You would constantly need to charge a battery in order to charge a battery. But what it is is a nice insurance policy, a safety net. The price is right too. If you already have a Milwaukee M12 tool with batteries and charger, the Power Port is only going to set you back about $25, which isn't a whole lot for something that you'll use in an emergency. It would probably be nice on a camping trip too, but we're going to keep ours in the glove box.
At Amazon.com (tool only)
June 29, 2009
Yet another interesting item out of Australia. This one appears to be a mini track saw with a miter gauge. If it works as advertised, it has a lot of the functionality of a sliding compound miter saw but with a much longer cut. While it can't do crown molding, the basic kit can slice up to about 3-1/2'.
It looks like it just attaches to your circular saw and you're ready to go. There's no information on saw compatibility (do Australian saws have different footplates than US saws?).
The AusAngle basic kit costs $299 ($240 US) which is a more than fair price considering that a decent miter saw is at least that. Rail extensions are available as well.
There is a little more information and photos over at AusAngle.com.
Here's a video of a guy making a bunch of cuts. Looks handy.
June 15, 2009
Last week we were lucky enough to go out to the Milwaukee Tools HQ to get a glimpse at some of the new releases they've got all geared up for this year. As one of our favorite tool companies, they didn't disappoint with the sheer variety and usefulness of their new tools and accessories.
A few of the highlights of what we saw were...
18-Volt Cordless Bandsaw - They're still putting the finishing touches on this one, but were nice enough to let us try it out and, honestly, it's the kind of tool that makes us wish we had taken up plumbing instead of carpentry. It's got a whole lot of power but it's light enough to easily work with both above your head and in tight spaces. Having an awareness of how people will be using it, Milwaukee has made the shoe retractable, so the tool is able to cut a pipe that's already attached to a wall. It's one of those tools that makes your chest swell a bit when you hold it. There will also be a corded version available and both will be hitting the market probably in October.
Shockwave Driver Bits - This is one of those ideas that, once you hear it, you wonder why it took so long for someone to think it up. Driver bits built specifically for impact drivers. Anyone who spends time on a job site these days (like we do), knows that impact drivers are taking over. That said, they really do a number on driver bits so Milwaukee has tailored this new line to withstand the abuse. In addition to other features, the new bits have a slight degree of flexibility in order to handle the added intensity of the impact driver.
Cordless Tubing Cutter - Much like their copper pipe cutter from last year, this one is a real niche tool. We tried it out and it had no problem slicing up pex and pvc. It has a great feel and possibly the power to do a little topiary sculpting as well.
Testing and Measurement Tools - This is a new area for Milwaukee, but judging from what we saw, they're going to quickly establish themselves in the market. Of the tools, the most interesting is the Sub-Scanner which is sort of like an amped up, battle-crazed stud finder. It can be used to find studs and pipes in walls and ceilings, as well as rebar in concrete. The cool thing about it is that it lets you know the exact depth of what it is you're finding, so if you only have one option for placing that pipe hanger, you'll know that only a 2" screw will work because of the rebar that's hidden in the wall.
Those are just some of the highlights and by no means a complete overview of what we saw. Milwaukee is also rolling out some nice 12-volt LED flashlights, a 12-volt power port, a very cool looking mini-radio, oh and about a thousand new grinders.
Follow the action over at Milwaukee Tools.
Milwaukee tools at Amazon.com
May 29, 2009
UPDATE: A second version of the Easy Chamfer has been released. Details on that model here.
We get sent some strange stuff to review, but the Easy Chamfer is by far the oddest. But odd doesn't mean bad, it just means, well, odd. The Easy Chamfer is a tool that fits on the end of a drill that allows you to chamfer the ends of a pvc pipe. And it looks sort of like a space station.
The Easy Chamfer is extremely well built and consists a base plate with two handles, three adjustable rollers, and a conical bit that fits into any drill. To operate the Easy Chamfer, you fit the rollers snug around your PVC piping and then activate the drill which spins the bit and plunge into the end of the pipe. At this point you just have to work the tool around the edge of the pipe, giving the end a nice chamfer.
The first thing we noticed about the Easy Chamfer is that it's not easy at all. In fact, it takes quite a bit of getting used to. We tested it out a number of times and it took quite a while before we even got close to the results in the video. Time and time again, our chamfers kept coming out uneven and with little shavings of Schedule 40 hanging off in every direction. After a while though, we started to get the hang of it and came up with a few acceptable chamfers. But still as difficult as it was to get used to the tool, it was still far, far easier and faster that chamfering with a file. And like we said, this is all initial difficulty, a byproduct of using a very unfamiliar tool. Spend a little time with the Easy Chamfer and you'll probably be like the guy in the video, minus the accent.
There is no question as to the item's durability. It's built to last; the body is made of thick metal plate and the rollers are of a very dense plastic. The spinning blade also has the look of a high-quality router blade.
This isn't a tool for the DIYer or even the residential carpenter. This is something for the industrial/commercial crowd, people who are putting down pipe after pipe after pipe. The price only reinforces the niche quality of the tool. The Easy Chamfer sells for around $200. It sounds like a lot of money, but like we always say, if it's something that you're going to use and it replaces a slow way of doing things, it's not going to take long before you make that money back.
There is a video of the Easy Chamfer here and more info on this unique tool at easychamfer.com
March 12, 2009
As part of our ongoing series cataloging all of the JawHorse accessories, we've finally come to the Miter Saw Station (see below for a list of the other accessories). The Miter Saw Station is simply a platform that attaches to the JawHorse and can support your miter saw. There are also two rollers that can be used as out-feed support if attached to a 2x, which is also clamped in the JawHorse. It's a pretty basic affair and it costs about $80.
Now, we're fans of Rockwell tools, as anyone who reads the site knows, but we've got to say that this seems like a whole lot of money to spend on something that could be made out of scraps kicking around the shop. To us, anything that needs a customer-supplied 2x4 in order to work, shouldn't cost $80. But that's just us. If you've bought into the JawHorse system and want everything to fit together perfectly and have a similar look, this could be a nice addition to your workshop.
At Amazon.com and Rockwell
Our review of the JawHorse is here
Our thoughts on the Plywood Jaw Accessory are here
Our thoughts on the Jog Jaw Attachment are here
January 21, 2009
Table saws aren't just for cutting straight lines. A while back we found a video of someone cutting a perfect circle on one and just yesterday while we were flipping through the new Rockler catalog, we were reminded that you can also use a table saw to mill up crown molding.
In the past, we've played around with the process just to see the general idea of how to do it and we found that it's actually not that hard. It boils down to running a board over the blade at an angle, making sure to keep the angle consistent and to not try to take off too much wood in one pass. The reason why the Rockler catalog jogged our memory is because they've got a special jig for the process.
The jig is available only at Rockler and costs about $90. If you're the type that gets off on manufacturing every single aspect of a project, or if you're trying to match some ancient crown molding, it's probably worth the cost. For us, though, it's just too easy to head down to the lumber yard and pick some up there.
An article about using the jig is here and we also found a video.