Not long after I finished last month's review of lithium-ion
combo kits ("Lithium-Ion Cordless Kits"), my editor sent two
brand-new lithium-ion tools from Panasonic (800/405-0652,
www.panasonic.com/business) for me to
Compared with the cordless behemoths from Bosch, DeWalt, and
Milwaukee, the EY7440 drill driver and EY7540 impact driver
look like toys. Each is powered by a lightweight 14.4-volt
3.0-amp-hour lithium-ion battery pack that's not much bigger
than a can of sardines. The impact driver, which measures 61/2
inches from nose to tail, weighs all of 3.1 pounds with the
battery. The slightly larger drill — 7 1/2 inches in
length — tips the scales at 3.5 pounds.
The charger has all the diagnostic messages we've come to
expect with cordless tools, and will restore a fully discharged
pack in 50 minutes. It has two ports: a shallow recess for
recharging lithium-ion packs and the traditional black hole for
Panasonic nicad and niMH batteries. According to the company,
the electrical contacts in the nicad hole are disabled when the
unit is charging a lithium-ion pack. However, I was unwilling
to test that particular safety feature; I kept my fingers well
clear of the nicad port whenever the charger was plugged
Panasonic offers the drill and impact driver in separate kits
containing one tool, a charger, two batteries, and a hard-shell
case. The impact-driver kit costs about $340, the drill driver
about $320. I was surprised to find that you can get both tools
in a combo kit (EYC140B11) for only a few dollars more ($400 at
Panasonic's compact new 14.4-volt lithium-ion drill driver
(left) and impact driver (right) offer power and runtime
rivaling those of many 18-volt cordless tools.
When I first picked up these drivers, I thought Panasonic had
somehow taken an impression of my hand and made them to fit.
They're extremely well-balanced and the rubberized grips are
perfectly contoured. If you have paws like a bear, the handles
may feel snug. But if you're a southpaw, you'll appreciate how
the belt hook attaches to either side of the tools.
Like many other lithium-ion tools, each driver has a control
panel on its base with a low-battery indicator and a bright LED
work light. Panasonic's control panel includes a light that
illuminates when either the battery or the tool motor becomes
overheated; if you ignore this warning, the control panel
assumes you're not to be trusted and kills the power.
There's an additional feature on the impact driver's control
panel: a push button that gives users a choice of three impact
modes — soft, medium, or hard. Switching to a higher mode
pulls out the stops on speed and torque, as well as impacts per
Both of Panasonic's drivers have control panels with
switched work lights and warning lights that indicate
overheating and low battery power. The impact driver (on the
right) also features a push button to adjust the impact mode
from soft to hard.
Because the impact driver was so small, I expected to have to
supply a lot of my own muscle to set large fasteners. Not so.
With a square drive bit inserted, the tool easily drove 7-inch
gutter screws full-depth into a stack of framing lumber. I
attached a socket driver and drove 1/4-inch lag screws in
predrilled holes: a piece of cake. When I skipped the
predrilling, the difference was imperceptible.
But I still hoped to put a hurting on the little driver, so I
pulled out the 6-inch-long 3/8-inch lags. Despite its lack of
mass, the tool drove the big lags all the way home while
transmitting little torque to my wrist.
Although the drill, too, is small, its performance is anything
but. It features a 1/2-inch chuck, 18 clutch settings, and two
speed ranges that max out at 1,350 rpm. Not surprisingly, I
found this tool extremely useful in tight quarters and awkward
To measure the drill's runtime, I tossed a soaking-wet
pressure-treated 4x8 beam over a pair of sawhorses and emptied
a box of 21/2-inch #8 screws on the surface. After I had sunk
261 screws, the low-battery warning light came on and I called
it quits — even though the drill wasn't even breathing
hard. I've used 18-volt nicad drills that couldn't match that
To inflict further stress, I duplicated a test I'd performed on
the drills in the lithium-ion combo kits. With a 1-inch auger
bit and a 2-by fir plank for a target, the Panasonic bored 94
holes, a better showing than two of the 18-volt lithium-ion
competitors were able to manage.
I was slightly disappointed to discover that neither driver
included a bit holder. I also found the work light on the
impact driver most annoying because it tended to shine in my
eyes; the one on the drill is surrounded by a clear plastic
lens that focuses the beam straight ahead.
Owners of older Panasonic cordless tools will appreciate
the charger's ability to refresh nicad and niMH batteries as
well as lithium ion.
Apart from those minor annoyances, I really liked Panasonic's
new drivers. In sheer power, they don't rival high-voltage
lithium-ion tools, but they're serious machines that can tackle
a surprising number of jobs. If you want 18-volt performance in
a tool that can hang on your belt all day long, either of these
tools would be an excellent choice.
Andy Beasley is a veteran woodworker in
Festool TS 75
Festool TS 75 EQ
Depth of cut with guide rail: 2 1/8 inches at
45 degrees; 2 3/4 inches at 90 degrees
Blade diameter: 8 1/4 inches
Rpm: 1,350 to 3,550
Bevel capacity: 45 degrees
In my work as a professional handyman, I'm called upon to do a
wide variety of finish carpentry tasks. Many of them are made
easier by Festool's TS 55 plunge-cut saw, which I've owned for
a year now. Recently, I had the chance to try Festool's newest
plunge-cut saw, the TS 75 EQ. It's similar to the TS 55 except
it has an 8 1/4-inch blade that allows it to cut 2 3/4 inches
at 90 degrees and 2 1/8 inches at 45 degrees. (The TS 55's 6
1/4-inch blade cuts 1 15/16 inches and 1 7/16 inches,
In my opinion, all finish carpenters, cabinetmakers, and
remodelers should consider adding one of these two tools to
their arsenal. Although it won't replace an everyday circular
saw for cutting framing, it's the perfect tool for special
The secret to these saws' accuracy is the guide rail: It comes
in eight different lengths from 32 to 197 inches. For greater
versatility, connectors are available that allow you to join
The rail has a rubber lip that presses onto the workpiece to
prevent splintering; it shows the exact path of the blade even
when the saw is set to cut on a bevel. You don't have to
compensate for the width of the saw shoe the way you do when
you use a shooting board or aftermarket guide — you
simply put the rubber lip on your measuring marks and start
cutting. And you don't need to clamp the guide; it stays where
you put it. Just remember that you'll need to trim the rubber
strip by making a full-length test cut before using the guide
for the first time.
The tool's plunge-cutting action is unique, too. The TS 75 EQ
doesn't have a rotating lower guard, like an ordinary circular
saw; instead, its blade pivots through the bottom shoe. It's a
great design, and I think it's safer than a conventional blade
guard. Marks on the housing show exactly where the blade will
enter the wood and where the cut will stop. I've heard that
this feature makes the saw a favorite among high-end hardwood
flooring installers, who use it for cutting in decorative
The TS 75 EQ weighs 13 1/2 pounds — a little heavy, but
it's so well-balanced the weight isn't really noticeable. Since
Festool is a German firm, the saw has metric depth-setting
marks, which I found a little annoying, but after a while I got
used to eyeballing the correct depth. An intelligently designed
modular carrying case keeps the saw protected and the
accessories organized. All the company's tools are packed in
"Systainer" cases that stack and lock together for
My first day out with the TS 75 EQ, I made several crosscuts
on a sheet of 3/4-inch cabinet-grade plywood. After marking
measurements on both sides of the panel, I placed the 55-inch
guide rail on the marks, set the depth adjustment, and started
the saw. The motor has a soft start and maintains a constant
speed under load. It also has a variable-speed function for
cutting everything from wood and plastics to aluminum and
ferrous metals. The saw cut the veneer plywood in no time flat
and provided straight, splinter-free cuts on both sides of the
One of the saw's few sticking points is the metric markings
that show the depth-of-cut.
Making straight cuts on panel products is easy with the TS
75 EQ. The saw's aluminum guide rail comes in eight different
lengths and has a nonskid bottom that eliminates the need for
In my job, I hang a lot of new doors in old jambs; most times I
have to trim the door bottom. The saw and guide worked
beautifully for this task — even when the cut tapered
down to zero.
Perhaps the greatest challenge I threw at the saw was trimming
6 inches from a laminate countertop. Since the counter didn't
have a backsplash, I used the guide to make this cut. The saw
worked perfectly — the guide didn't slide around and the
laminate blade provided a smooth, splinter-free cut.
I highly recommend this saw. It does everything the company
says it will and then some. Perhaps the only obstacle is the
price. The rig I tested — the saw, a 75-inch guide rail,
an extra laminate blade, and a pair of rail connectors —
sells for $750, a sizable investment. Still, I don't mind
spending money on tools that work well and save me time. As far
as I'm concerned, buying a TS 75 EQ is money well-spent.
Kreg McMahon owns Honey-Do Handyman &
Carpentry Service in Huntersville, N.C.
Sawhorsesby Norm St.
The legs adjust from 32 to 39 inches by means of a sliding
latch. Footpads make it easy to raise the height while the
horses are set up.
Since I work mostly in older, occupied homes, I appreciate the
minimal weight and portability of plastic sawhorses. They're
easy to carry, and they're pretty forgiving on walls, floors,
and furniture. They do have one weakness, however: If you snap
the four-pin plastic hinge where the lower shelf meets the leg,
there's no real fix. The horse gets tossed. After throwing away
four of these plastic horses for that very reason, I started
looking for something that would be just as light and portable
— but tougher.
FatMax sawhorses have independently adjustable aluminum
legs and notched tops that accept standard 2-by stock. A handy
tray on the bottom holds small tools and parts.
I found what I was looking for at my local big box: Stanley's
FatMax Adjustable Sawhorse. Several features set this model
apart from the all-plastic ones I'd been using: metal
adjustable legs, continuous piano-type hinges (instead of the
pin hinge), and notches on the top that accept 2-by
Adjustable legs. Another difference is the
telescoping legs, which adjust independently from 32 to 39
inches. This feature is great for working within the space
constraints of funky old houses. It allows me to take advantage
of the top or bottom step of a stairway to set up in a short
hall; it accommodates subtle floor-height changes from room to
room; and it helps when I'm working on cabinets or other tall
items or when I need to support bulky tools like portable
planers and table saws.
Stable table. Notches on the top of the sawhorse are
just snug enough to securely hold pieces of 2-by stock.
Spanning two horses with two 2-bys produces a very steady
platform that takes some persuasion to pull apart; I often
screw a piece of plywood to the 2-bys to achieve a work surface
that's as stable as any collapsible table.
Although Stanley claims that a pair of FatMax horses will
support 2,500 pounds, I'm not convinced they could withstand
the rigors generated by a framing crew. On the other hand, I
recently lost control of a 10-foot-long pressure-treated 6x6
and dropped it on my horses from about 18 inches up. They
didn't flinch. When that happened with my previous all-plastic
models, they broke.
The FatMax sawhorses are sold individually and in pairs and
cost about $40 each.
Norm St. Onge owns St. Onge Renovations in
North Bennington, Vt.
I've seen countless
door stands and benches, any of which could help you prep a
door. Until recently, though, I hadn't seen one that could help
you hang a door, too. The Door Dolly — invented by GC
David Williams — is one of the best ideas I've come
across in some time. Its quick-release clamps hold the door
during prep work; afterward, you use the dolly to wheel the
door into position and line up the hinges. According to
Williams, the product is also suitable for moving drywall and
panel products. It costs $300 plus $35 shipping.
Williams Development Group, 888/875-3667,
carpentry requires measuring with a greater degree of precision
than is possible with your PowerLock. In those instances you
might turn to Starrett's fractional dial calipers, Model 1202F.
Its 6-inch capacity allows you to quickly and accurately
measure inside and outside dimensions as well as depth; its
large dial is graduated by 64ths and decimal equivalents. I
found it on the Web for $110. Starrett,
Light and Airy.
When it comes to
air compressors for finish work, bigger is not necessarily
better. The one-gallon Maxus EX1001 weighs a mere 19 pounds but
boasts heavy-duty components and an integral handle and roll
cage; the tank pumps up to full pressure in about 90 seconds.
The whole rig is covered by a five-year warranty and delivers
.66 scfm at 90 psi. It costs about $150.
If you're in the
market for a drywall gun, check out Bosch's three new
offerings. The SG45, SG45M, and SG45M-50 all feature huge
triggers for a two-fingered grip, and "depth-retention"
nosepieces, which allow the user to slip off the nose and then
return it to the gun without resetting the depth. The SG45
($80) has a plastic housing and a 6.2-amp motor. The SG45M
($100) has a metal nosepiece and gearbox and a 7-amp motor; its
twin, the SG45M-50 ($110), also has a 50-foot cord.
I've never met
anyone who enjoys sanding drywall, but a new tool could make
the job more palatable. The Speare Ultimate 90 corner sanding
tool is a corner sander and flat sander in one. The pad —
which accepts hook-and-loop sandpaper — covers 30 percent
more surface area than the pads for most other sanding tools
do. It costs about $40. SpeareTools,
There are dozens of
tools for texturing walls and ceilings, but few look as easy to
master as the Magic Mudder. According to the manufacturer, this
device can create virtually any texture pattern and is often
faster than a spray rig. It comes in both pole-mounted and
hand-held versions; prices range from $32 to $60. For details
on how the tool works, visit the manufacturer's Web site.
Magic Mudder, 832/667-7322,