Several months ago, I tested cap nailers and staplers for a
JLC tool test (see "Pneumatic Cap Nailers," 8/06). Shortly
afterward, Bostitch came out with a whole new gun, and
Spotnails updated the model I'd tested. For a follow-up
article, my co-workers and I spent about three months using
these two latest versions, mostly to install housewrap and
roofing underlayments on various projects. Both guns can also
be used to install foam sheathing and other types of rigid
Bostitch N66BC-1 Cap
The N66BC-1 is Bostitch's second cap nailer; its first was the
SB150SLBC-1 18-gauge cap stapler. Other than sharing the same
cap magazine, the two tools have little in common.
The size difference between these two tools becomes obvious
when they're placed side by side: Whereas the Spotnails is a
medium-crown stapler, the Bostitch is essentially a siding
nailer. The author prefers the smaller size and lighter weight
of the Spotnails, but the Bostitch — which accepts up to
a 2 1/2-inch nail — is better-suited to installing thick
layers of foam insulation.
Bostitch introduced the nailer version for locations where code
requires that felt paper and housewrap be fastened with nails.
It's based on the company's N66 siding nailer and shoots
15-degree plastic or wire collated coil nails from 1 1/4 to 2
1/2 inches. Because of its ability to drive a 2 1/2-inch nail,
the N66BC-1 would also be good for installing 1-inch or 1
1/2-inch foam sheathing.
The first thing I noticed about the new nailer was its large
size. It weighs almost 6 pounds, about a pound more than the
stapler. Simply put, I didn't like this tool as much as the
stapler, which was my favorite in the original test. My biggest
beef is with the cap capacity. Since it holds only 100 caps,
you end up reloading twice before you empty the 300-nail
Still, the gun does have some nice features. The company
includes the optional bump-fire trigger in the kit so you don't
have to go scrounging for it later. The gun also has an
effective depth of drive, adjusted by a simple thumb-wheel. And
though it may not be that important on a tool like this, the
adjustable exhaust is a nice feature, too.
The verdict. The N66BC-1 would not be my first
choice for a cap gun; it's just too big and heavy compared with
all the other offerings.
However, if your code specifies nails for roofing underlayment
and housewrap, or if you need a gun for installing foam
sheathing, this one could prove to be a worthwhile investment.
We didn't experience any jams during our testing, and we found
both of the tool's magazines well-designed and easy to
Though Spotnails didn't completely overhaul its Crossfire cap
stapler, it definitely made some improvements. A new belt hook
makes the small tool even nicer to use on steep roofs. At less
than 5 pounds, the Crossfire is easy to handle, and —
thanks to its rear-mounted magazine — well-balanced. It
accepts staples from 5/8 inch to 1 1/2 inches, so you can use
it with thinner sheets of foam insulation.
In my original test, my major gripe was with the caps
themselves. They were held together with a strip of clear tape
that sometimes failed to tear, resulting in a string of caps
being pulled out of the magazine when you repositioned the tool
for the next shot. Spotnails has remedied this huge annoyance
by connecting the caps with tabs of plastic instead of
Spotnails made revisions to its Crossfire stapler in
response to user complaints. The biggest problem was the tape
used to collate the caps. Plastic tabs now connect the caps and
break reliably on every shot (top). The company also added a
belt hook to the front of the housing (bottom).
My other major complaint was with how the older caps were
collated: All but the most careful handling resulted in a ball
of tangled caps. The manufacturer solved that problem, too, by
tightly winding the caps on a sturdy spool.
The verdict. We had no problems with the redesigned tool and
caps. Depth of drive was consistent and there were no jams. The
gun holds a roll of 200 caps and 200 18-gauge staples, giving
it the second-best magazine capacity in the cap nailer
category. (The Hitachi NV50AP3 holds 350 of each.)
With the bugs worked out, this gun quickly became a crew
favorite, and we ended up relegating our old cap nailer to the
tool trailer for backup.
Jeremy Hess is a lead carpenter with
Heisey Construction in Elizabethtown, Pa.
DeWalt D24000 Tile
Sawby Michael Byrne
DeWalt D24000 Specs
Weight: 69 pounds
Capacity: 24 inches ripping; 18 inches
Water capacity: 5 gallons
Street price: $900
As a former machinist, I like nothing better than to assemble a
new tool, get it aligned properly, and figure out ways to
improve its operation. Usually I find that I have to make
adjustments to improve accuracy, or file the rough edges on
aluminum castings. So when I first opened the big box
containing DeWalt's D24000 10-inch tile saw, I was excited on
two counts: I was happy to have a new tool, and my inner
gearhead was delighted at the prospect of spending several
hours fine-tuning it.
The instruction manual is printed in three languages and is
quite clear about how to assemble the saw, which for the most
part is preassembled and aligned at the factory. After
familiarizing myself with all the parts, I put everything
together in less than 15 minutes.
It was a four-step process. First, I connected the motor arm to
the frame of the saw with four Allen bolts, using a
factory-supplied wrench. Next, I loosened the blade cover and
installed the diamond blade included with the saw, then set the
depth with the blade stop located at the top of the motor arm.
After that, I attached the sliding table to its supporting
frame, which didn't require any tools. The fourth and final
step entailed connecting the water pump to the supply line and
positioning it in the catch pan.
Once I'd checked that the saw rotated and that its pump
supplied a reasonable amount of water to the blade, I put it
into service by making cuts for three medium-sized bathroom
projects. It performed well, so I took it back to my shop for a
few accuracy tests.
Alignment and Adjustment
In my mind, a saw that cannot be aligned or adjusted is of
little use to an installer. The D24000 has multiple adjustments
that allow quick and precise adjustment.
The author's D24000 proved accurate right out of the box. The
blade was perpendicular to both the table and the crosscut
fence, and the pointer for 45-degree and 22 1/2-degree beveled
cuts was correctly adjusted.
For most cutting, a saw's blade should enter the tile
vertically and leave a crisp 90-degree angle on the cut. To
check on this with the D24000, I used a combination square to
make sure the blade was square to the sliding table; then I
loosened the bevel lock knob on the back of the saw,
repositioned the cutting head at a 45-degree angle, set the
locking knob, and checked the angle of the blade once
To make sure that the saw would make parallel cuts, I checked
that the blade was oriented 90 degrees to the sliding table
fence and then used the square to check the adjustable
There was nothing I needed to change on the DeWalt, but I was
happy to see that it had adjustments for blade square, table
square, 45-degree angle cuts, cutting depth, and rail
Part of this machine's appeal lies in its relatively light
weight of 69 pounds; most professional tile saws are closer to
100 pounds. Unfortunately, lighter saws are more likely to
vibrate. To test this on the DeWalt, I attached a dial
indicator from the motor arm down to the saw frame, turned the
machine on, and made a half-dozen cuts through 1/2-inch-thick
hand-molded porcelain tiles. The indicator registered less than
.011 inch of vibration movement during the cutting, which is
comparable to other saws I've tested.
I made test cuts with scrap ceramic and stone tiles, using the
general-purpose blade supplied with the saw. I practiced with
crisp-edged machine-made ceramic tiles as well as with
irregular-edged hand-molded tiles, and found the cutting action
to be smooth and clean with no excessively flaked or spalled
Next, using scrap tiles again and the supplied adjustable
fence, I cut 10 narrow strips and measured their width with a
1-inch micrometer. I measured each cut strip at three places
— at both ends and in the middle — for a total of
In a perfect world, all 30 measurements would have been the
same, but for this test, the measurements ranged from .521 inch
to .534 inch. With a difference of less than 1/64 inch between
the largest and smallest measurements, the DeWalt did very well
— especially since the manufacturing tolerance for
ceramic tiles allows a size variance of up to 10 percent.
I tend to focus strictly on a saw's cutting ability; based on
that alone, the D24000 is a welcome addition to my tile-tool
kit. However, it also has a number of perks that make it one of
the most feature-packed saws you can buy.
In addition to outrigger pans and flaps that help contain
spray, the saw sports a clip that holds the two tools needed
for blade changes and adjustments; a blade location indicator
and a slotted table for making 45-degree and 221/2-degree miter
cuts; an easy-to-use blade-tilt adjustment; an adjustable
coolant nozzle; and an adjustable blade-depth stop. One of my
favorite features is a plunge-cutting mechanism that allows the
user to do safe inside cutting without holding the tile
Among the clever features on DeWalt's first tile saw are
on-board tool-holders (top left), adjustable coolant nozzles to
reduce spray (top right), an adjustable indicator for angled
cuts (bottom left), and a unique plunge-cut mechanism (bottom
I give the D24000 very high marks — but before it could
be the perfect tool, it would have to undergo a few minor
First, DeWalt needs to fix the blade slots: They're too wide.
An installer who wants to make rips of less than 1/2 inch wide
will find gripping the offcut difficult. Also, with no
undersupport, slender cuts tend to break during cutting. I plan
to fill the slots on my machine with epoxy to overcome this
Second, I would like to see a positive stop (with adjustment)
for the 22 1/2-degree angle slot instead of the somewhat
ineffectual indicator arrow located at the front of the
Third, the adjustment screws for the blade-angle feature don't
feel snug enough; in fact, they slipped a bit during use. Once
I added some Loctite to the threads, the adjustment stayed
On its initial shakedown, the DeWalt tile saw worked fine, and
the simple tests I performed verified the manufacturer's claims
of accuracy and quality control. All tests were done using the
purpose blade supplied with the saw. Later, I got improved
cutting action on porcelain tiles by fitting the saw with an MK
Hot Dog blade.
The saw is relatively easy to set up and knock down, and its
many features add to its usefulness. Happily, the additional
features don't add significantly to the cost. At $900, the
D24000's price is comparable to that of other
professional-quality wet saws.Contributing editor Michael Byrne is a
tile-setter and consultant in Los Olivos, Calif., and the
moderator of JLC Online's tile forum.
Framingby Patrick McCombe
Makita circular saws
have long been admired for their nearly bulletproof motors
— I'm still using the hypoid saw I got as a
college-graduation present in 1994. But now there's even more
to like about these tools. The most recent versions have
lightweight, heat-dissipating magnesium housings plus cushioned
grips and adjustment levers. Additionally, Makita has boosted
the bevel capacity to 51.5 degrees. The right-bladed sidewinder
Model 5007MG (top) sells for about $150. The left-blade hypoid
Model 5377MG (bottom) costs about $180. And did I mention that
they look good, too? Makita, 800/462-5482,
A Better Toolbelt.
Looking for the
toughest, best-designed tool bag out there? Check out the
offerings from Diamond Back. Designed by a professional
carpenter as a way to alleviate his frequent back pain, this
company's wide, comfortable belts pack roomy bags with tons of
pockets to keep your stuff organized and within grasp. You can
configure your own custom belt or opt for one of the standard
rigs, like the Ultimate Framers Outfit (top; $350) or the
Remodeler (bottom; $385). You may scoff at the prices, but keep
in mind that these belts are made in the U.S. — and that
you probably use your toolbelt more than any other job-site
essential. Diamond Back USA, 800/899-2358,
When it comes to
framing houses, I've found that the first day of work often
sets the pace for the rest of the project. I've also found that
Bigfoot's Bolt Hole Marker is one of the easiest ways to save
some time on this all-important day. The device works with 2x4
and 2x6 plates and with the five most common anchor bolt sizes.
It comes in stand-up ($38) and hand-held ($26) models; in my
opinion, either one pays for itself the first time out.
Big Foot Tools, 888/798-4499,
Falls are still the
single biggest killer of construction workers in the U.S.
— which is a real pity, because preventing them is a lot
easier than it used to be. Products like the Protecta
Self-Retracting Lifeline (Model AD230AG) are easy to use and
can make the difference between life and death. Weighing about
27 pounds, the Protecta line holds 100 feet of 3/16-inch
galvanized cable. When a worker starts falling, centrifugal
force activates the device's two-pawl braking system, stopping
the fall after less than 2 feet. It sells for about $900.
Capital Safety, 800/328-6146,
Even though women
make up an ever-growing segment of the construction workforce,
most manufacturers continue to make personal-protective
equipment sized only for men. Fortunately, AOSafety has seen
the light and is offering a line of safety gear designed
specifically for women. The Select line includes eye, ear, and
respiratory protection in smaller sizes. High-quality particle
masks sell for about $5; a five-pack of disposable earplugs
goes for about $3; safety glasses cost between $10 and $14.
I seldom see
hard hats on residential construction sites, but that doesn't
mean wearing one isn't a really good idea. One crack in your
coconut could change your life forever. Once you've got that
hard hat on, you can start protecting your eyes, too, by
wearing Foresight Safety Glasses. These ANSI-approved specs
won't slide down your nose or irritate your ears. With a hard
hat, they cost between $29 and $34, depending on the lens.