Work Lights That Work
Finish Carpentry Tools
Work Lights That Work
Cheap halogen work
lights found at the home center generate a good amount of
light, but they also have some pretty significant drawbacks.
Heat generated by a 500-watt quartz bulb can burn your fingers,
ignite adjacent combustibles, and make a small space
uncomfortably hot in a short time. If you're ready to upgrade,
McGill's 175-watt Wide-Beam Floodlight uses a 175-watt
metal-halide lamp that provides as much illumination as a
typical 500-watt quartz halogen bulb. The smaller bulb results
in lower energy consumption and cooler operation. A rugged
stand, a cast-aluminum housing, and a 15-foot cord make it a
pleasure to use compared with low-quality, home center work
lights. It costs about $200 to $225.
Years ago, I
bought a Petzl headlamp for camping and backpacking. When I
used it recently to run a wire through a dark crawlspace, I
discovered that the high-quality lamp is perfect for hands-free
lighting of construction tasks as well. The lightweight
waterproof lights are comfortable to wear, direct the light
where you want it, and cost about the same as a good
flashlight. One of the newer offerings, the Tikka Plus,
designed primarily for close-up work, will burn for up to 150
hours on three AAA batteries. It costs about $35 (batteries
included), and it's worth every penny.
Petzl, 801/926-1500, www.petzl.com.
work lights on Makita's eLuminate series of 12-, 14.4-, and
18-volt battery packs make drilling and driving tasks easier.
The LED bulbs generate a surprising amount of light and save
you from the time-consuming hassle of setting up work lights
for small projects. The new packs are especially useful in
spaces without convenient outlets, like closets, attics, and
crawlspaces. The bulbs are said to last more than 10,000 hours
and are virtually indestructible. According to the
manufacturer, they use so little additional energy that run
times are unaffected. The 12-volt pack has a street price of
Every well-equipped work
rig needs one of these. Maglite, long known for its
bullet-proof flashlights, offers an equally sturdy rechargeable
version that's popular with police and rescue units. The NiCad
RX1019 includes both cigarette lighter adapter and 110-volt AC
converter. The kit also includes two mounting brackets, so you
can take the flashlight into the garage or the house at the end
of the day. The maker claims that it will burn for 1 1/2 hours
on a full charge. Like other Maglites, the RX1019 has an
aluminum housing sealed with O-rings and a spare bulb in the
tailpiece. You can find it on the web for about $90.
Mag Instrument, 909/947-1006,
Precision Router Guide.
think router guides are all the same, you probably haven't seen
the Micro Fence. The heart of the system is a micrometer
adjustable edge guide that brings a new level of precision
(.001 inch) to your hand-held router. Generally speaking, you
can use the tool for just about any mortise or dado you're
likely to come across. Optional accessories increase the tool's
versatility; for example, circle and oval cutting jigs are
available for round casings and curved inlay work. Optional
vacuum bases hold the guides stationary without tacks, making
them ideal for furniture and solid-surfacing. According to the
maker, the Micro Fence is compatible with more than 50 routers
and laminate trimmers. Prices start at $160 for the basic guide
with no accessories. The circle jig also costs $160, while
ellipse jigs start at $200.
Micro Fence, 800/480-6427,
A Cut Above.
Some cuts you simply
can't afford to mess up; stair treads are among them. But you
can practically guarantee accurate cuts and a tight fit with
the Stairtool, a well-made aluminum template with the single
purpose of fitting treads on a finished staircase. The standard
model works with treads from 34 to 50 inches, and the maker
claims that it's appropriate for more than 99% of
installations. An optional shorter set of tracks with a 27- to
42-inch capacity is also available. Large plastic knobs with
steel inserts make the tool easy to adjust. You can order it
from the manufacturer for $93 (shipping included).
Dragging around an
80-pound hand-carry compressor to run a single brad nailer or
finish gun is probably overkill. If you're looking for
something a little more manageable, the PC1010 might be just
what you're after. At only 20 pounds, this little compressor is
a breeze to carry, especially up steps, and the tiny motor is
surprisingly quiet. Although it looks like a toy, it's built
with easy-to-service pro-grade components. For less than $200,
you can buy it packaged with a Senco FP18 brad nailer and a
25-foot coiled hose. That makes it about $200 cheaper than the
industry's favorite cordless brad nailer.
Senco, 800/543-4596, www.senco.com.
If you want the
best and most complete lock-boring jig made, the Bore Master
from Templaco should definitely be in the running. It adjusts
for both 2 3/8- and 2 3/4-inch backsets and for door
thicknesses from 1 inch to 2 7/8 inches. High-speed steel spur
bits in 1-, 1 1/2-, and 2 1/8-inch sizes are also included.
Unlike most door boring kits, the Bore Master includes router
templates for common latches and strikes, as well as a
spring-loaded corner chisel for squaring up your hinge and lock
mortises. It sells for $365.
Templaco Tools, 800/578-9677,
Milk crates are
about as common on construction sites as port-a-johns and power
tools, but using them for any purpose other than transporting
milk from the dairy can lead to a hefty fine. When the
penalties for stealing the handy stackables were increased
tenfold, every discount store on the planet began selling cheap
knock-offs. While the imitations might work fine for furnishing
your kid's dorm room, they aren't up to the demands of
construction work. Now Duluth Trading offers a Black Plastic
Crate that's the same size as and as sturdy as a milk crate.
It's perfect for carrying tools and other job-site essentials.
The crates are about 12 inches square by 11 inches deep and
cost about $12 each.
Duluth Trading, 800/505-8888,
A Bit of Good Design.
managing driver bits for your cordless drill or impact driver
is often a bigger pain than it should be. Most of the cases
included with a set of bits have cheap latches that won't stay
shut and hinges that bend and break. Even more frustrating is
opening a case only to have it spill all your bits into a can
of fasteners or on the floor of the truck. DeWalt's ABS Tough
Case has a sturdy hinge with a steel pin and a latch that stays
closed. Interior lids prevent spills, and adjustable dividers
allow you to organize it the way you want. But the best feature
is an intelligent design that won't allow you to close it
before the interior lids are latched tight. That way, you won't
dump everything the next time you open it. The Tough Case costs
DeWalt, 800/433-9258, www.dewalt.com.
having trouble organizing stuff in your toolbelt, you might try
a Skillers Tool Vest. The lightweight cotton canvas vest has
plenty of pockets for tools and fasteners, and the design
spreads the load over your upper body for greater comfort.
According to the maker, the 10-ounce canvas is better for warm
climates, while the vest made with 12-ounce duck fabric might
be more appropriate for cooler climes. You can have your
company name embroidered on either one. The Tool Vest sells for
Skillers Workwear, 800/325-8707,
Plenty of Pockets.
A tote with
pockets is much easier to organize than a toolbox. Plus, if you
can develop a system of always putting tools
in their proper pocket, you will notice when something is
missing, and hopefully you can track it down before you need
it. Irwin's new Soft-Sided Tool Organizer is made of heavy-duty
polyester and features lots of deep pockets with wide openings.
Rubber-covered handles and a shoulder strap make it easier to
carry than a bucket organizer, and a large footprint prevents
spills. The bag is available in several sizes and sells for $20
Irwin, 800/464-7946, www.irwin.com.