Judging by the number of new tools and accessories I saw in November at the annual Specialty Tool and Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) show in Atlanta, 2004 is going to be a very cool tool year. STAFDA’s annual trade show has become the premier event in the tool industry. We love it because tool company execs bring us behind closed curtains to show us their top-secret stuff months before it hits the market. We also get quality time with some of the leading product specialists in the world, talking about technology we might not see for years.
This year’s branding buzz centered around the emergence of Irwin Industrial Tools as a master brand, combining Vice-Grip, Marathon, Quick-Grip, Speedbor, Strait-Line, Unibit, and Hanson into one family. The Industrial Tool group is part of the Newell Rubbermaid Corp., and has attracted some hot talent from around the industry who are charged with creating 30 percent of its revenues each year from new tools and accessories–so keep an eye on Irwin and its seven sub-brands.
- One of the most interesting and unusual conversations I had was with Lyle Habermehl of Quik Drive, a leading manufacturer of auto-feed screwguns for driving collated drywall and decking fasteners.
- Starting in the first quarter of 2004, Quik Drive is going to distribute free, disposable tool attachments designed to drive between 100,000 and 200,000 screws, then be replaced. “Drywall dust is very abrasive and damages even the heavy, expensive driving attachments” says Habermehl.
- “So I decided to make a lightweight tool that will last for a while, and then be easily replaced for free.” The new Quik Drive attachment snaps onto any make of drywall screwgun, and will be distributed with orders of the company’s fasteners.
As always, walking the show floor revealed a great variety of brand new products and a fair share of improvements to recent models. Here are some of the tools that caught my eye. (For more details on some of these products, see “Hot Finds,” page 19.)
Stabila is producing new spirit levels in lengths to fit today’s construction better, including 16-, 32-, 59-, and 78-inch models. The 78-inch level has three flush-mortised magnets that align with metal hinges for hands-free work. The company also introduced a new work-tough self-leveling laser.
Porter-Cable will roll out the industry’s first circ saw with tool-free blade changing in March. The 7 1/4-inch Mug Saw has a sliding lever on the face of the arbor nut that lets you unscrew the nut to change blades.
Senco has a new construction stapler for sheathing, a roofing coil nailer, and a 24-volt DuraSpin auto-feed screwgun.
Bosch’s RotoZip brand cutout/cutoff tools are now available in heavy-duty pro models with larger motors, tougher bodies, and convenience features like a removable D-handle and keyless chuck.
Hitachi is making the first tools ever available with internal double insulation (IDI) for extra electrical protection. In addition, I saw a new laser-line miter saw, with the laser mounted on the tool body behind the blade.
Panasonic is expanding its cordless line to include a 12-volt impact driver, a heavy-duty 18-volt drill/driver, and an 18-volt recip saw–all with new low-profile batteries that make it easy to get your hands around both sides to press locking clips for battery changes.
Delta took us in the back room to try out a new 12-inch compound best miter saw with front bevel controls, quick-release adjustments, flip-up molding stops, and enough cutting capacity to handle 73/4-inch crown or 9 1/4-inch base.
Freud’s new SD608 stacked dado set has an ingenious twist–literally. Once you set up the dado blades and chippers for your cut, you can then micro-adjust the width of the cut while the dado is mounted on the saw by twisting a dial attached to the inside blade. Each click of the dial changes the width by .004 inches, with a total range of 1/4 to 29/32 inches.