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Toolbox, continued


Ladders & Scaffolding

Drill Bits & Accessories

Safety Gear

Ladders & Scaffolding

Roof Ladder.

Steep roofs can make otherwise simple tasks like installing a vent flashing or ridge cap into a huge project. Setting up the necessary roof jacks and dragging up planks can take more time than the actual job. A great solution is the Chicken Ladder from Lynn. The tubular steel ladder hooks over the ridge and rests on the roof. Because the roof provides support, the ladder's weight can be kept to a minimum. It's more comfortable to use than a standard ladder with a ridge hook because the rungs are spaced farther from the roof. The 6-foot hook section can be combined with other 6- or 14-foot bottom sections and joined with bolts and wing nuts. A 6-foot hook with a 14-foot bottom section weighs about 40 pounds and has a suggested price of $350.


Lynn Ladder, 800/225-2510,

Featherweight Scaffold.

Baker-type scaffolding, the kind favored by painters, drywall finishers, and maintenance personnel, has great capacity and excellent stability, but the weight of the steel sections can make them hard to move around, especially from one job site to the next. Lynn now offers the AMP6 Aluma-Pro aluminum maintenance scaffold. The 6-foot-long scaffold fits through a 30-inch door and has a 500-pound load rating. It's adjustable in 2-inch increments from 3 to 6 feet tall. Best of all, the entire platform (without toe boards or rails) weighs only 80 pounds. It sells for $345.


Lynn Ladder, 800/225-2510,

Boot Camp.

Proper footwear makes construction safer and more efficient, and your stepladder should sport the right footgear as well. Louisville's Brute 375 industrial stepladders are now wearing what the maker calls Da Boot. The non-marring boot surrounds the fiberglass rail for increased stability and rigidity. Da Boot's open back allows inspection of the fiberglass rail for cracks and splits. The type 1AA (375-pound duty rating) is available in sizes from 4 to 12 feet. A 6-footer retails for between $79 and $89.


Louisville Ladder, 800/666-2811,

Show Your Colors.

Enough of boring yellow and orange. Werner's new FiberGraffix Series industrial ladders come in a cool-looking, patriotic red, white, and blue scheme. The new line is available in both step and extension styles. Type 1 (250-pound rating) stepladders are available in 6- and 7-foot sizes, and 1A stepladders (300-pound capacity) come in 6- and 8-foot heights. Both duty ratings feature tool trays, pinch-proof spreaders, and slip-resistant steps. The type 1A extension ladders come in 24- and 28-foot lengths and have reinforced slip-resistant rungs and adjustable footpads. Additional styles are planned for the near future. The type 1 6-foot stepladder has a street price of about $60.


Werner, 724/588-8600,

Drill Bits & Accessories

Drilling With Jack Rabbit Speed.

If you're looking for the slickest way to predrill and drive screws without two drills, the Jack Rabbit beats every other system I've seen. Like an ordinary quad driver, the tool drills a pilot hole and countersinks in one step. But unlike a quad driver, an adjustable brass stop prevents overdrilling, and the soft metal dissipates heat better, making it less likely to burn or mar delicate surfaces. Instead of hard-to-find taper bits or the flat-sided twist bits of other countersink systems, the Jack Rabbit uses ordinary twist bits. You might expect the bits to slip or spin without a flat side, but the tool's unique design holds them firm. After drilling, the outer sleeve removes easily, revealing a standard-size, hex-shaped driver bit. Unlike ordinary countersink and boring bits that require odd-sized plugs, the Jack Rabbit's countersink is designed for easy-to-find 3/8-inch plugs (the #12 size calls for 1/2-inch plugs). The kit even includes a removable, high-powered magnet for holding screws. The Deluxe Kit includes four bits that work with #6 to #12 screws. It's a great tool that's easily worth the $60 price tag.


Jack Rabbit Tool Co., 800/445-5969,

Better Boring.

Fast and inexpensive, spade bits are probably the best way to drill medium-sized holes. Bosch recently added a new twist to high-speed drilling. Its new RapidFeed Spade Bits use a self-feeding screw tip to make drilling faster with less effort. Six-inch bits are available in sizes from 1/4 inch to 1 1/2 inches. Sixteen-inch bits are available in 3/8-inch to 1-inch sizes. According to the manufacturer, the bits drill three times faster than standard spade bits. A 6-inch, six-piece set (3/8-inch to 1-inch) sells for $16.


Bosch, 877/267-2499,

Bit for Sawing.

When I first saw this product in a Lee Valley catalog, it seemed too good to be true. In the past I've had little success enlarging holes by working a drill bit horizontally. But the Saw Drill does what it claims. After punching through the material, you can actually use the bit to cut. It doesn't cut as fast as a jig or spiral saw, but it works well for enlarging holes in plywood and paneling. According to the manufacturer, the bit's titanium coating makes it last longer and cut faster. You're not going to use it every day, but at $7 it seems like a good thing to keep in the drill case.


Lee Valley Tools, 800/871-8158,

Safety Gear

Shock Stopper.

About ten years ago, I bought a Santronics AC Sensor (part no. 3115), and I use it constantly. The pen-sized tool has earned a permanent spot in my toolbelt because it's fast, easy to use, and takes up a minimum of space. Instead of holding two probes on potentially dangerous bare conductors, you just touch the detector to the wire's insulation and the tool glows red if it's hot. The slim, tapered end also fits into receptacles and bulb sockets. Quite simply, it's a great tool. Not only does it make remodeling safer, it saves time. Two AAA batteries provide power, and, at $20, it costs about half of what it did ten years ago.


Santronics, 800/628-1632,

Cool Cap.

You don't usually think of hats keeping you cool, but according to its manufacturer, the EvapCool Hat from Gorgonz will keep your head comfortable during the hottest days of the year. After you douse the inside and top of the cap with water, the rather ordinary-looking ballcap's special fabric evaporates the water to keep your head clear and cool. A watertight interior liner keeps the inside dry. It comes in navy blue and khaki and costs $25.


Gorgonz, 410/534-6320,

Even Footing.

Although it looks more like an athletic shoe, the Phoenix Oxford from Dickies has all the makings of a good work shoe. Steel toes and shanks prevent injuries, and a padded collar and tongue make kneeling down more comfortable. As in the best running shoes, an air-filled chamber under the heel keeps a spring in your step even after eight hours. The shoes are available in three colors, in men's sizes from 7 to 13. They cost about $66.


Dickies Footwear, 877/795-2410,

Heavy-Duty Gloves.

I see more and more carpenters wearing work gloves all the time on the job site, and for good reason. The new generation of gloves offers excellent protection with a minimal sacrifice in dexterity. The latest offering comes from Milwaukee. The new gloves have an impact-absorbing foam to prevent fatigue when running high-vibration tools like recip saws and demo hammers. They also have silicone fingertips that help with grip. Ventilated backs make them comfortable in all weather. Maybe the best part, the simple black color with tasteful lettering doesn't look as silly as offerings from other makers. The retail price is about $20 to $24.


Milwaukee Electric Tool, 800/729-3878,

Rail Supports.

Temporary safety rails don't have to be a huge production. The Safety Boot is an easy-to-use temporary safety rail system meant to protect workers from falling down stair openings or off balconies. The plastic boots receive ordinary construction-grade 2x4s, and they can be screwed directly to the floor surface. According to the manufacturer, the Boots' high-impact polymer will last for years. They retail for about $23 each.


Safety Maker, 800/804-4741,