Last week I was able to head off to Milwaukee Tools for their annual Product Symposium where they unleashed all of their latest and greatest tools and gear. There is a lot coming too. To get a sense of what I'm trying to get at, picture a giant red tidal wave with white lightning bolts shooting out of it (a toolnami, if you will). Hearing about each and every one of these new tools over the course of a single day was like being attacked by a grizzly bear made entirely of information. Honestly, towards the end, my mind was beaten down to the point where I felt like Brad Pitt from 12 Monkeys. Now here I am a few days later, trying to decipher my scribbled notes and jumbled memories.
There's a special ball of rage deep in my belly that I reserve for halogen work lights. How a tool that is so irritating in all ways has become a job site standard ranks right up there with the Easter Island heads for total depth of mystery. They're bright, yes, but beyond that, pure torture. "Whoa, the housing is like a million degrees...what's that smell, oh, a burning moth...let it cool down for an hour before you change the bulb...make sure to wear gloves so you don't get any oil on the bulb...where's your screwdriver to open up the cage?...Oh those little ceramic bulb ends are pulverized in the sockets?...right, why don't you just pick up a new one the next time you're at the lumber yard."
A while back Festool released a little worklight, called the SysLite. They sent us one a looong time ago and we haven't gotten around to reviewing it until now. This is actually pretty strange. It's not like we've forgotten about the light. How could we? We use it for literally everything.
Most work lights don't offer much beyond, "here is the bulb and here is a swivel adjustment." Not so with the Festool. The SysLite is a whole different animal.
We're starting to get into this flahslight thing. We were just wrapping up our review of the fantastic Coast HP7 flashlight when Spotlight came out of nowhere and said, "hey, wanna check out some of our flashlights. "Sure do." we said. And the verdict is....
Since we started writing this site, we've become aware of a strong flashlight sub culture; a group of people obsessed with lumens, watts, and focused beams. These apparent dwellers of the dark seem to go hand in hand with knife enthusiasts, because, when you think about it...if you need a flashlight...there's a good chance you could also use a knife. So it's not much of a surprise that Coast is a company that has built a reputation around this marriage of steel and light beams. Recently, they sent us a knife to check out (more on that another day) as well as a flashlight, their HP7, and a headlamp, the HL7. And while we're by no means manic about flashlights, we are definite fans of their practicality and lead a lifestyle where they are an essential part of existence (i.e. "is that a raccoon up in that tree?" and "yes, dear, I'll go out to the wood pile even though it's 11:30 pm and the wood box is full).
Anyone who has ever worked in construction, particularly remodeling, knows that a flashlight is nearly as essential as a hammer. Not a day goes by where we're not peeking in a crawl space, looking down a duct or peering down a joist bay. Over the years, we've also gone through flashlight after flashlight. Much like blue tape, sharpies, pencils, and sash bars, they tend to have the ability to 'get lost,' and, of course, when we say, 'get lost,' we mean, 'stolen.'
But that's not the only problem we've had with our flashlights. A lot of the ones that we've used have the annoying habit of turning on while they're in the pocket and thus draining the battery to nothing, rendering them useless when needed. So we were actually between flashlights when Icon dropped us a line telling us about their new Link flashlight. Would we like to try one out for a review? Of course we would...
Ever since it saved our asses in the power outage of '08 (six days with no power in the middle of winter with Mrs. Tool Snob 8-3/4 months pregnant...awesome), we've been big fans of the little Striker Magnetic LED. It's just a teeny thing, but it's pretty bright and ever since we first took it out of the packaging it's lived on the fridge, always there, always ready to go. Now, it seems that Striker has developed a larger version that's bright enough to really light up a work area. They've also made a promotional video hosted by "product tester" Terri. If you can make it 30 seconds into this thing with a straight face, you're a better person than we are.
...you're not hallucinating. Yes, she did, in fact just refer to the light as a, "baaad mamma jamma."
Not sure why, but this video makes us wonder what ever happened to Erica from Hot for Tools.
To be honest, we're mainly posting about this tool because we think that it has the coolest press image that we've seen in years. Other than that, our guess is that this is a great flashlight. We're pretty vocal about our sheer admiration for the Milwaukee M12 LED flashlight (our review here) and this one, powered by the Ryobi 4-volt battery boasts even more brightness (220 lumens to Milwaukee's 160). Probably doesn't even matter though, once you get up into that level it's all blinding.
The Ryobi is going to cost about $50 and it comes with a battery and a charger. Might seem like a steep price, but judging from how much we use our Milwaukee, it's probably not.
At Home Depot
Careful, though. It looks like Ryobi has another, less powerful light in their Tek4 lineup...make sure you know which one you're getting.
With all the la-de-da over inspection cameras like the Ridgid and Milwaukee, it's easy to forget about the usefulness of a good old pivoting mirror. Sure, they can't wind through a wall, but they can get around a corner or up above a pipe in a cramped joist bay.
So to bring the antiquated technology one step closer to post-wheel civilized man, General Tools has added two LEDs to the end of the mirror. It's a great feature, and if you've ever used an inspection mirror, you probably think so too. Getting a flashlight and a mirror up into whatever awful space it is you're trying to investigate is terrible work. Then you've got to angle the light just right, oh no a little to the left, now, back to the right a bit. Forget it.
So for Halloween, I did a tandem costume with Tool Snob Jr. (TSJR). He was Yoda and I was Degobah Luke. But my problem was that, other than a dirty shirt and a lame attitude, Luke didn't have much to distinguish himself during those scenes. So in order for me not to hear, "so what's with the filthy clothes?" all night long, I needed some additional accessory that would complete the costume. I needed a lightsaber.
Out to the shop I went, looking for a good lightsabery item. There really wasn't any question about it, the Milwaukee M12 Flashlight was my guy (my original review here). If it weren't for the fact that it only has a one-handed grip, it could be a real movie prop.
So I ended up being the filthy guy with the flashlight. Creepy.
Didn't matter thought, Yoda got all the attention.
Note: Yoda's ears and head were lovingly hand-knit by Mother of Tool Snob (MOTS). If you're interested in fine, high quality yarns (from the fleeces of very happy sheep) or if you just want to learn a thing or two about haying, head over to The Sheep's Company. Also, if you bargain a price she may, just may, knit you a Yoda head as well.
Black & Decker has released a number of energy saving and monitoring products as part of their Energy Series. We've already covered the Thermal Leak Detector and the Power Monitor so now we're moving on to the last of the line, the Black & Decker AutoSwitch.
The AutoSwitch is a unit that you place over an existing light switch which converts it to a motion sensor light. The unit has a switch, so there's still a manual override and you also have the ability to set it to a sensitivity of 1, 5, 15, or 30 minutes.
If you're the type who comes home from vacation and realizes that you left every light in the house on for over two weeks, then it might be a product worth looking into.
Of all the major tool companies, it seems that only Milwaukee is really digging into the flashlight and giving it the respect it deserves. Last year, they released their 'brighter-than-a-thousand-suns' 12-Volt LED (our review here), and now they're coming with an LED upgrade for those of you who want to convert your incandescent work lights to the updated bulb.
According to Milwaukee, the upgrade kit works on most 9.6 to 28-volt cordless lights. This includes, not only Milwaukee products, but other leading brands as well (DeWalt, Makita, Ridgid, Ryobi, etc.). There's no indication of how you'd go about discovering if your light falls under the 'most' category, but a call to Milwaukee is probably the best place to start.
The full press release is after the jump, if you're interested.
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.
Steve: I have this light and have used it a lot. read more Rob: Nail guns with gas cartridges have always seemed to work read more toolsnob: yes, yes, yes. Thanks, I'd blame it on autocorrect, but read more SteveR: Nice article. I think you meant "subtlety", however. read more Grant: Check out our Centerfire Blade that won. I believe it read more