Toolbelts and Bag.
Great Curves. If complex curves are finding
their way into your tile work, there's really only one tool for
the job: the Revolution Tile Saw. It uses a 10-inch ring blade
that can cut 21/2 inches thick, 25 inches long, and up to 18
inches on the diagonal. Besides having great capacity, the saw
can make tight radius cuts that would otherwise require
multiple relief cuts or tedious nipping. The drive system puts
water right on the blade, eliminating a separate pump for
cooling. According to the maker, the 61-pound tool is so clean
and quiet you can set it up inside. It sells for about $1,300
and includes a plastic protective cover. Gemini Saw,
Clean Machine. Grouting tile is a slow and
messy job, but the 18418 Professional Grout Cleaning Set aims
to cut down on the mess and speed up the process. The system's
long-handled sponge is cleaned on a stainless tray that's
suspended just above the water level in the bucket. Once the
sponge is clean, you can squeeze out any excess water with the
attached wringer. Not only does this reduce the amount of time
spent on your knees, it keeps your hands out of that cold,
nasty water. The set sells for about $350 and includes all the
tools you need for grouting tile, including a float, squeegee,
bucket, clean-ing tray, sponge, and wringer. The company also
makes less-expensive versions, if you're willing to sacrifice
the lever-operated wringer. Karl Dahm, 772/463-9590,
Holey Tile. Drilling holes in tile and glass
can be an exercise in frustration if you don't have the right
tool. Fortunately, the seven-piece PH 5050 Perfect Hole Cutter
Kit from Nattco will drill holes in porcelain, glass, glass
tile, marble, and granite. The kit includes 1-, 13/4-, 13/8-,
21/2-, and 4-inch hole saws and bottles of fine and medium
liquid abrasive. Compared with conventional core bits, these
cutters cost less and should last longer, because most of the
cutting action is done by the liquid abrasive and not the
cutter. Each size includes an appropriately sized plastic dam
that centers the pilotless cutter and contains the abrasive
slurry. The manufacturer "strongly recommends" using the system
with a hammer drill. I found the kit on the Web for $122. Watch
for a comprehensive review in an upcoming Toolbox. Nattco,
TOOLBELTS AND BAGS
Heavy-Duty Leather. For maximum durability,
there's nothing like genuine full-grain leather. Occidental
Leather makes a complete collection of full-grain leather
belts, bags, and accessories produced from thick-skinned
American cows. For framing carpenters, there's the 5080 Pro
Framer ($160; far right, top). This rig is practically
bulletproof and packs 20 pockets for tools and fasteners. It's
compatible with Occidental's padded suspenders, dubbed the
Stronghold Suspension System (item no. 1546, right). Trim
carpenters should check out the 6100 Pro Trimmer ($150; far
right, bottom). With 16 pockets, it's a little lighter than the
Pro Framer rig but still has plenty of space. Both bags come in
right- and left-handed versions and fit waist sizes from 30 to
54 inches. Occidental Leather, 707/824-2560,
Rock Solid. Disappointed with the durability
of your lightweight nail apron? Take a look at Boulder Bag's
wares. The company — which offers tool bags to
accommodate the specific needs of most trades — says its
products last three times longer than most lightweight nylon
bags, without any sacrifice in comfort. Options run the gamut
from lightweight Carpenter belts with a quick-release buckle
($88; left, top) to Ultimate Pro-Framer belts with extra
pockets and space for fasteners ($125; left, bottom). Boulder
Bag, 801/265-8089, www.boulderbag.com.
Super Size It. Since introducing the Veto Pro
Pac a couple of years ago, former builder Roger Brouard has
sold about 8,000 of his well-crafted and functional tool bags.
He recently introduced two new sizes to complement the original
XL. One side of the XXL ($150) organizes and transports your
smaller hand tools (top left); the other accommodates larger
tools like 2-foot levels, wrecking bars, and even a framing
square. The LC ($100) is slightly smaller than the original
size and stores about 75 hand tools. Like the original, the new
bags feature a carrying strap and sport vertical pockets and
zippered flaps to keep your stuff neat and protected. Veto Pro
Pac, 877/847-1443, www.vetopropac.com.
Plenty of Pockets. With Milwaukee's new
five-piece, 33-pocket Heavy-Duty Tool Belt, you've got no
excuse to leave any tools in the truck. Made from ripstop
polyester for lightweight durability, the heavy-duty belt
boasts built-in suspender clips, a roller buckle, and die-cast
tape holders that accommodate both 25- and 30-foot tapes. The
large pouches have a flat-bottom design with reinforced corners
to prevent blowouts. The belt also includes a cell-phone pocket
and three hammer loops. I found it on the Web for about $75.
Milwaukee, 800/729-3878, www.milwaukeetool.com.
Tool-Toting Backpack. Duluth Trading's new tool-carrying system
makes long walks from the truck much easier. Configured like a
conventional backpack, the Master Series Tool Backpack offers
lots of space for tools and frees your arms for carrying other
items. Small front pockets accommodate hand tools; a large rear
compartment holds extension cords, cordless drills, and larger
hand tools. A removable cell-phone pocket is mounted on the
strap. Thanks to a semi-rigid design, the pack will stand on
its own. It sells for $55. Duluth Trading, 877/382-2345,
I have never been on a job site where there wasn't someone
playing music or listening to the radio. I consider a radio one
of the most important tools I have, because it makes for a
happier and more productive crew.
A few years back, DeWalt introduced the first radio designed
specifically for job-site use. I bought one early on and used
it every day for years. Since then, DeWalt has introduced a
newer model and Milwaukee and Bosch have brought out models of
their own. These new radios are more refined than our first
radio and are equipped with an array of features. Recently, my
crew was given the opportunity to test three of the latest
radios. Here's what we found.
DeWalt DC011 Heavy-Duty Worksite Radio Charger
The DC011 is a combination radio/battery charger and is an
improved version of the DW911 that I used to own. The earlier
model was tuned with a dial and had no presets. This version
has a digital tuner with a seek function and an LCD display.
You can preset up to eight stations and change them by hitting
a button. The sound quality is good and there is enough volume
for the job site.
When you get tired of the radio, you can plug a CD player into
the auxiliary port and listen to CDs. We like the plastic
storage case on the side of the radio because it gives us
somewhere to store our CDs and player, reducing the likelihood
that they will be damaged or misplaced.
The radio, which is protected by a shock-mounted roll cage,
proved to be very durable. It kept working even after it was
kicked and dropped and showered with falling objects. The unit
contains a one-hour charger that accepts most DeWalt batteries.
It can charge the battery or run off of it. The DC011 sells for
about $130 and is the radio to get if you are a heavy user of
DeWalt's cordless tools.
Milwaukee 49-24-0200 Job Site Radio
It's obvious that Milwaukee spent some time designing this
radio. It has a lot of features, produces excellent sound, and
is made to withstand job-site conditions. The steel handle
doubles as a roll cage; the shell is made from impact-resistant
plastic. The antenna is flexible and would be difficult to
break. According to Milwaukee, the radio can survive an 8-foot
drop onto concrete. We tried this and the fall did not cause
any damage. This radio also endured being kicked and left out
in the rain overnight.
The AM/FM digital tuner works very well and allows you to
store 10 presets for each frequency. There's also a weather
band for picking up National Weather Service broadcasts.
Milwaukee's radio is equipped with a 12-volt output jack for
powering a CD player or charging a cell phone. An auxiliary
input jack allows you to use it with a separate CD player or
MP3 player. The 10-foot cord has a pass-throughstyle plug
so you can plug it in without tying up the outlet. A storage
bag on the back of the radio can accommodate a cell phone, an
MP3 player, or CDs.
The radio won't charge batteries but can be run off the same
batteries that power Milwaukee's cordless tools. I was told the
manufacturer left out the charger because charging lowers sound
quality. I don't own any Milwaukee cordless tools, so this
wasn't an issue for me. Even if I did, though, I'd opt for
better sound over another place to charge a battery.
Sound, in fact, is the best thing about this radio. It has
weather-resistant polypropylene speakers with separate tweeters
and is powered by a Rockford Fosgate sound system. Rockford
Fosgate produces high-end audio systems for cars, so this radio
is loud and very clear, even at high volume. I never expected a
job-site radio to sound this good. The Punch EQ feature allows
you to boost the level of bass. Personally, I think when you
turn up the bass the sound suffers, but it sounds great on the
lowest setting. Milwaukee's radio costs about $90, so it's
significantly less expensive than the other models we
Bosch PB10-CD Power Box
We couldn't wait to get our hands on the Power Box, because
it's equipped with a ton of features. It has a digital AM/FM
radio and a built-in CD player that will accept regular CDs and
MP3 disks. Other features include the ability to charge or run
off Bosch batteries, 20 FM and 10 AM presets, an equalizer with
four presets, and an auxiliary input jack for an MP3 player. A
protective metal cage encloses the cube-shaped unit.
The best thing about this radio is the built-in CD player. I
burned an MP3 CD with 40 songs, so we can go almost all day
without hearing the same song twice. It's much more convenient
to play a disk in the Power Box than to haul around a separate
player. The CD player will not skip, even if you hit or drop
Another feature we like is the four built-in GFCI outlets.
Power is always in short supply on the job site, so it helps to
have this extra space for plugging things in. The Power Box is
well-designed and has become a regular part of our tool kit.
It's the first tool we take out in the morning and the last one
we stow at the end of the day.
The one thing we don't like about the Power Box is the quality
of sound. It's not bad for a portable radio, but it doesn't
sound as good as the Milwaukee radio or the most recent model
from DeWalt. When the Power Box first came out, it had an
internal antenna, so the AM/FM reception was pretty poor. The
current version is equipped with a flexible external antenna,
which has improved the reception. Still, it could be better.
Based on sound alone, I would not buy this radio, but after
using it for a few months it would be very hard to give up the
built-in CD player and the GFCI receptacles.
Bosch makes two versions of the Power Box. The one we tested
contains a CD player and sells for about $180. The other costs
about $150 and has a radio but no CD player. Since the CD
player is the best thing about the Power Box, there's not much
point buying the model that doesn't have
Even though we used these radios for a few months, it was
difficult to pick a clear winner. The DeWalt DC011 produces
good sound and charges DeWalt batteries. I own some DeWalt
cordless tools, but I would not automatically select this
radio. It doesn't sound as good as the Milwaukee and it lacks
some of the features found on the Bosch.
The Milwaukee radio has far and away the best sound. We wear
earplugs on our job site; when we turn the Milwaukee up high
enough to hear, the sound stays clean. With other radios, the
sound becomes distorted at high volumes. A possible negative,
however, is that the Milwaukee unit doesn't charge batteries.
It's not a problem for us, because we're framers and rarely use
If I hadn't heard the sound produced by the DeWalt and the
Milwaukee systems, I might have thought the Power Box was the
ideal job-site radio, thanks to features like the built-in CD
player. I would not want to go back to using a separate player.
But its quality of sound just isn't up to the level of the
other models we tested.
Even so, I would still have to say that the Power Box is my
favorite radio, because of the CD player and the GFCI
If I could create the perfect job-site radio, it would have
the overall design and features of the Bosch but the sound
system and radio reception of the Milwaukee.
Tim Uhleris lead framer for Pioneer Builders in
Port Orchard, Wash.