The Mother of all Hole Saws
One of the great things about I-joists is that you can cut monstrous holes for ductwork and other mechanicals. But using a recip saw to make those holes is slow, and there's always a risk of cutting into a flange. A better method is the Matrix Xtreme hole saw. Its billet aluminum frame holds three easily replaceable blades that, according to the manufacturer, resist binding and cut faster than the teeth on conventional hole saws. In addition, the cutters are mounted about 3/8 inch from the outside edge, which prevents the blades from getting too close to flanges. They'll work with an ordinary heavy-duty 1/2-inch drill because the small cutters require less torque than the continuous teeth on conventional, large-diameter hole saws. Sizes go from 3 5/8 ($88) to 12 1/2 inches ($167). Matrix Xtreme, 866/320-5340, www.matrixxtreme.com.
Don't Forget To Flush
Making flush cuts with a recip saw usually requires dragging your knuckles and bending the blade — a blood-letting practice that can damage materials you want to salvage and greatly reduce a blade's lifespan. But the Flush Cut Adapter does the same thing without the knuckle dragging or broken blades. The add-on blade holder has a 1 5/8-inch offset and uses the saw's existing blade clamp assembly. The company also makes rasp and file adapters for recip saws that can get you into a tight spot. The Flush Cut Adapter goes for $40, and the rasp and sander attachments sell for $30 each. Flush Cut, 707/632-6854, www.theflushcut.biz.
Comparing a Microplane rasp to a Surform rasp is like comparing a Ferrari to a Checker cab — they'll both get you where you're going, but one can do it a lot faster. After trying a Microplane a few weeks ago, I would guess that the stainless-steel blades are twice as sharp as the blue steel blade on a Surform. They're sold in round, half-round, and flat varieties. They also make drum-shaped versions for your drill press as well as replacement blades to boost the performance of your Surform. A single-handle flat rasp sells for about $12. Grace Manufacturing, 479/968-5455, www.microplane.com.
I was under the impression that knives with breakaway blades were only for scrapbooks until I saw these utility knives from Olfa. The pro-grade tools not only give you a new edge in seconds, but a blade with a few segments left can be extended a couple inches for cutting thicker materials like rigid insulation. There are many models to choose from, but the L2 shown sells for about $9. The company also makes the nicest circle cutter I've come across. The CMP-2 has a comfortable handle and also uses break-away blades. It looks perfect for cutting in can lights and round fixture boxes in drywall. It goes for $39. Olfa, 800/962-6532, www.olfa.com.
A New Angle on Miters
Determining accurate miter settings for crown molding and inside and outside corners can involve a lot of trial and error, but a new tool from Starrett can speed the process considerably. The sturdy aluminum ProSite Protractor gives you both the actual angle in degrees and the miter setting on your saw. I was especially impressed with the tight tolerances of the rotating joint where the two legs meet. It holds its position firmly and can be adjusted with an Allen wrench. The tool measures 12 inches long and costs about $40. Starrett, 978-249-3551, www.starrett.com.
A template is often the fastest and most accurate way to make complicated cuts on floor tile or trim. If you don't feel like carrying scraps of plywood in your toolbelt, you could use the Angleizer. It's a four-sided adjustable template made from a sturdy but flexible plastic material. Measurements are imprinted on all four sides and will hold up when scraped with a utility knife. It sells for about $20. General Tools, 212/431-6100, www.generaltools.com.
I've found that, unless you're a deck builder, most board straighteners aren't very useful. They're big and bulky and rely on some method to grab the joist — not much good if you're installing hardwood over a subfloor. The BowJak is the one board-straightener that I think is worth its salt. It's small enough to keep in your toolbelt and allows you to pry against a wedge driven into the subfloor or framing member — instead of a joist. I found it on the web for $32. Vaughan & Bushnell, 815/648-2446, www.vaughanmfg.com.
No Knuckle Dragging
Nailing off subfloor with a framing nailer is fast and easy, but bending over a nailgun with your knuckles dragging won't do much for your image, and it certainly won't help your back. You can make the whole process a lot more civilized and easier on your back with a Pneumatic Nailgun Extension from Sure Drive. According to the manufacturer, the steel extension fits on "virtually" any framing gun and permits standing upright while you're nailing subfloors and decking. Comfortable rubber grips for both hands help with accuracy, and a wire hook near the top holds the hose. The suggested retail price is $90. Sure Drive USA, 888/219-1700, www.suredrive.com