DrillSpotter Exit Hole
It Wobbles, but It Won't Fall Down
The Baggy Look
Drilling a hole through a foundation wall or between floors can
sometimes be a "guess and hope" job: guess where to drill and
hope you don't destroy anything. Recently, I had to run some
wires through a block foundation in a finished basement. A
small closet allowed access on the inside, and on the outside,
I had only a few inches of clearance around obstacles. Drilling
the hole once was the only option, and that led me to the
DrillSpotter (First Edition Products, 877/276-7300,
This electronic tool, consisting of a transmitter and a
receiver, helps locate the exit point of your drill bit. The
manufacturer claims that it works with walls up to 40 inches
thick — even through solid concrete. I didn't have an
opportunity to check its accuracy through such thick material,
but I did find it handy a number of times on several remodeling
The two-part DrillSpotter
helps accurately place exit holes so drill bits don't
damage adjacent mechanicals or finished spaces. The
transmitter is placed where the hole should exit, and
the receiver is moved on the other side of the wall,
floor, or ceiling until the two components line up.
Double-sided tape can hold the transmitter if you don't
have a helper.
The transmitter is placed at the desired exit point and can be
held in place by double-stick tape when a helper isn't nearby.
The receiver goes on the other side of the wall, and four
arrows light up to indicate which direction the receiver should
be moved to align the units. When the components are lined up,
all four arrows light, and you mark the hole in the center of
Red arrows tell
the user which direction to move the receiver. When all
four arrows light up, the two components are aligned.
The maker claims that the device can also alert users
when large metal obstructions are in the drill
While I was testing the DrillSpotter, I passed it around to
some of the other tradesmen I frequently work with. A plumber
used it while running a new water line through a 20-inch-thick
stone and stucco foundation for a remodeling project. Using the
DrillSpotter, he was able to get the hole in the easiest
location for him to work without hitting the electrical
service, located close by. That was a great test of the tool's
accuracy because the wall thickness required drilling from both
sides. The alignment was off by 1/2 inch but proved close
enough for the 3/4-inch hole — we attributed the near
miss to the drill operator holding the bit at a slight angle.
Our electrician also used the tool, and it made running new
wires in an old building easier.
The DrillSpotter comes with transmitter, receiver, and a
plastic storage case for about $200. It seems like a fair
price, but as a remodeler, I don't think I'd use it enough to
make it worth the cost. Mechanical contractors doing remodeling
and renovation work would probably find it well worth the
money, however, if it prevents even one mishap.
Jeremy Hessis a carpenter with D.E.R. Construction
Inc. in Bainbridge, Pa.
It Wobbles, but It Won't
Fall Downby Patrick McCombe
When my supposedly "professional-grade" halogen-tower work
light took a dive for the third time in one day, there wasn't
much left worth salvaging, so I collected the sad remains and
chucked the whole thing into the dumpster. It was actually
somewhat therapeutic because like many tradespeople, I've
struggled with cheap work lights for years. The halogen bulbs
get incredibly hot, the cords are never long enough, and the
wobbly, top-heavy construction makes moving them (or around
them) an adventure.
A few weeks before my light's demise, I saw an ad for the
Wobble Light, a unique buoy-shaped work light. Since I didn't
need a new light at the time, I forgot about it — but now
I had an excuse to give one a try.
The Wobble Light (Wobble Light, Chicago, Ill.; 773/463-5900,
www.wobblelight.com) uses a 500-watt
halogen bulb that's cooled by a small fan for longer life. A
protective spring wrapped around the bulb provides impact
protection, and the cylindrical lens puts out a 360-degree beam
of light. But the coolest feature of this lamp is the weighted,
rounded base that rights the lamp whenever you knock it
The Wobble Light has no cord; instead, it has a male plug
built into the base. At first, I thought it would be a pain
connecting an extension cord every time I used it, but the
8-foot cord on my old light was seldom long enough, anyway, so
it was actually easy to get used to. A female plug is also
included, so you can plug in another power tool without running
My only complaint is that at 3 feet tall and about 18 inches
in diameter, the Wobble Light is a little bulky in the truck.
Other than that, it works great. I especially liked the ability
to move around a room without constantly stopping to adjust
where the bulbs are pointing. Even though the quality and
quantity of light are excellent, the real reason to buy this
tool is the self-righting base. I whacked it really good more
than once and cringed instinctively each time, but nothing
happened. Sometimes it took a few seconds to settle down after
a good hit, but it stayed lit, no pieces broke off, and I
simply went back to work. I'm hoping the makers come out with a
cordless drill — I drop those a lot, too. It sells for
The Baggy Lookby Dave Holbrook
I admit it: I've gone soft, and I wish I'd done it years ago.
My first pickup was still brand new when one of my employees
struck its open door with a metal toolbox. It didn't have to be
Although I've disparaged gatemouth bags for their untidy main
compartment, not all hand tools require the near-anal level of
organization I enjoy in other tool carriers. The Estwing
flatbar, my other hammer, a spare tape measure, chalkline,
nailpick, headphones, 6- and 12-inch speed squares, 12-gauge
extension cord, three-way power tap, cordless drill-driver, two
caulking guns and tubes, and two staplers fit with room to
spare in the gaping Master Series Tool Bag (Duluth Trading,
The 1,200-denier ripstop fabric bag's 18Lx10Wx14H-inch inner
compartment is ringed by 12 open pockets, where boxes of
staples, a bottle of chalk, my Wiggy voltage tester, a diamond
whetstone, and other small items can go. Sixteen exterior
pockets provide places for frequent grabs like utility knives,
channel-lock pliers, and sheet-metal snips.
Inside, this gatemouth bag
has 12 open pockets around the edge; outside, a 2-foot
level can be strapped aboard.
The three positive closures include a rugged-looking main
zipper, attached in a single, continuous strip around the bag's
rectangular mouth. At the terminus is a D-ring for padlocking.
A zippered pouch on one end of the bag provides a place to keep
wire nuts, the little book that came with your square, maybe a
CM calculator, or a big packet of beef jerky. A velcro-flapped
pouch at the opposite end holds a cell phone. A pair of
speed-cinch straps on the outside secures a 2-foot level.
There are more pockets on this bag than I know what to do
with. For the $30 price tag, I just might get a second one for
standard power tools, bits, and blades. I think I could get
them all in.
measurements from scaled drawings couldn't be easier with a
Builderscale Planreader tape. One side of the tape has standard
fractional measurements graduated in 16ths of an inch, but the
other side shows measurements on a 1/4-inch scale. The tape
allows carpenters to take measurements directly from scaled
drawings faster and without the risk of conversion mistakes.
According to the maker, the tape has a heavy-duty nylon-coated
blade with large numerals and comes in a comfortable,
shock-resistant case. It's available in 16-, 25-, and 30-foot
sizes; 25-footers sell for about $20.
Get in Line.
When you're talking
about framing layout, few tools are more important than a chalk
line. Unfortunately, most tool manufacturers have done little
to make them last longer or perform better. The notable
exception is Tajima and its new Chalk-Rite Gear Drive Snap
Line. Instead of a twisted cotton string that produces fuzzy
lines and balls up in the housing at the first sign of wear,
Chalk-Rite's braided line makes distinct, uniform lines and
lasts longer than other types of string, according to the
manufacturer. The tool also has a triple-gear drive for fast
returns, a folding handle that won't get hung up on your
toolbelt, and a sturdy and comfortable aluminum housing. The
red metallic paint job looks pretty cool, too. It sells for
Bigger Is Better.
are indispensable for layout work, but some jobs, like locating
partitions, laying out tile, and squaring corners, would
benefit from a little extra length. The 3x4-foot aluminum
Folding ASquare by Hanson has it. With a couple of spring
clamps, you could even use it for crosscutting panel products.
It folds for easy storage and sells for about $50.
C.H. Hanson, 800/827-3398,
Anchor Bolt Marker.
With this tool,
even your least skilled carpenter can transfer anchor bolt
locations to sill plates quickly and accurately. The rotating
head has five detented positions for anchor bolt sizes from 1/2
inch to 1 1/4 inches in diameter. After cutting the sill to
length and positioning it alongside the bolts, you hold the
Bolt Hole Marker against the bolt, and a hammer blow marks the
spot for drilling. It sells for $40 and works with both 2x4 and
2x6 plates. The company also makes a stand-up version that
sells for $45.
Big Foot Tools, 702/565-9954,
production framers have made and used layout sticks for a
couple of generations now, it's surprising how many carpenters
don't know about them. Instead of ticking off stud locations
from a tape, these 4-foot sticks allow you to mark them on the
top and bottom plates faster and with greater accuracy. You
just mark the three or four studs (depending on the spacing),
slide the stick along, and mark again until the wall is
finished. It's a task you could give to your helper while you
mark more complicated stuff like window and door locations and
intersecting walls. While you could make your own sticks from
scraps of plywood, the Aluminum Layout Sticks from Pairis are
ready made and long lasting. They're available in 24- and
16-inch layouts for $27; a version with both 16- and 24-inch
spacings sells for $30.
Pairis Products, 760/868-0973,
Wacker Dirt Packer.
rammers are very effective and work fast, but the constant
vibration can be tiring. According to the maker, the handle
system on Wacker's BS-50-2i reduces hand-arm vibration by 40%.
The tool also features an efficient oil-injection system that
cuts down on fouled spark plugs and lung-clogging blue exhaust.
Additional features include a low-oil shutdown switch, an air
filter minder, and an improved carburetor for easier starts.
The BS-50-2i has an impact force of almost 2,700 pounds per
blow, a compaction depth of 20 inches, and weighs about 130
pounds. It has a list price of $3,425.
like the Multiquip MVH-306 are perfect for larger compacting
jobs like driveways and retaining walls. The MVH-306 has an
18x34-inch plate that generates over 10,000 pounds of
compaction force. The machine can be equipped with either a gas
or a diesel engine and features handle-mounted hydraulics that
make it easy to operate. A plate cover protects the bottom belt
from rocks, and a steel roll cage with a skyhook protects the
engine. The 675-pound machine has a list price of from $8,800
to $9,700, depending on the engine.
Tiny Power Tamper.
A hand tamper is
great for compacting post footings and prepping small walkways,
but using it for any duration can be tough on your arms and
back. If you own a rotary hammer, you can use the Bosch HS1828
Tamper Plate instead. The 5-inch-square plate works with the
chip setting on your combination or demolition hammer and
should be kinder to your back. It's also the perfect tool for
compacting fill before patching concrete. Shanks are available
with SDS max and hex mounting systems. The plate sells for
about $60, and the shanks sell for $50.
the best ways to minimize the danger of working in trenches is
to keep people out of them. That's the rationale behind the
remote-control BCT13 Trench Compactor. The operator uses a
433-MHz transmitter to control the compactor while he watches
from a safe distance. According to the maker, the compactor can
turn around within its own length and can work on grades up to
48%. You can find it at many rental yards that cater to
professionals. Once the backfilling is done, you can challenge
the kids to a radio-control demolition derby.