Senco Brad-Nailer Value Pack
Hilti PD30 Laser Measuring Device
It seems that an increasing number of products sold today are
available in a "value pack," and they're no longer reserved for
the warehouse club. Even tool manufacturers have jumped on the
value-pack bandwagon, and Senco's FP18 combo kit is a good
example. For less than $200, you get everything you need to
start nailing trim, including a brad nailer, a tiny compressor,
a coiled air hose, and even the air fittings and an assortment
of nails. The compressor is so small that I can carry the whole
kit in one hand, making it almost as portable as a cordless
|The FP18 value
pack includes a reliable 18-gauge brad nailer with
adjustable depth of drive and a tiny 20-pound
compressor to run it. It even includes the air
fittings, a coil hose, and an assortment of nails
— everything you need to start running trim in
one box. You can get the whole thing for about
The Brad Nailer
The 18-gauge Finish Pro18 included with the kit shoots nails
from 5/8 inch to 2 inches long. The gun is new to Senco's line,
but it seems well constructed and includes all of the features
we've come to expect on a pro-duty nailer. Well-balanced and
light (2.9 pounds), it has no trouble setting nails in
hardwoods. And amazingly, it only misfired once during three
months of testing.
The FP18 includes an adjustable depth of drive controlled by a
thumbwheel on the trigger, but it's one of the features that
need a little work. It works well in most cases, but sometimes
I couldn't set nails deep enough when using trim with an
elaborate profile. The problem was most noticeable when the
nosepiece was placed in the recessed areas of a molding.
Fortunately this was only a minor inconvenience, and was easily
resolved by paying attention to how and where I positioned the
nosepiece. Loading and switching nails is easy, and the
110-nail magazine includes an indicator to tell you when you're
getting low on fasteners. However, it doesn't have a lockout to
The FP18 includes a plastic belt hook on the left side of the
gun; you can switch to the other side if you're left-handed.
Unfortunately, with an air hose attached, it doesn't hold the
gun as securely as I'd like.
The heart of the kit is the
PC1010, a tiny 1-gallon compressor. It delivers .6 SCFM
at 100 psi, plenty of air to run the brad nailer, but
using it with your 15- or 16-gauge finish nailer might
leave you waiting for the pump to build pressure.
Despite its small size, it uses standard components,
including the gauges, the regulator, and the pressure
switch, so finding replacement parts shouldn't be
The tiny 1-hp 1-gallon compressor is definitely the most
unique aspect of the kit. It weighs a mere 20 pounds, which
makes it the lightest compressor I've ever used. Despite its
small size, it works fine for a brad nailer, holding enough air
to shoot about 12 nails before recharging. The downside to this
portability is a small pump, which translates into longer
charging times. When filling up from empty, it took just over
two minutes to reach its maximum 150 psi, and 35 seconds to
fill from 90 psi. The compressor is very quiet, however; you
can keep it in the room where you're working without it being
too obnoxious. Other carpenters often asked me how big a nailer
this compressor could power. The answer is it depends on what
you're doing. When hooked it up to my 16-gauge finish gun, it
fires about six nails before it starts recharging, so it's not
going to keep up with a fast-moving carpenter installing trim.
But I'm sure you could connect the same 16-gauge finish nailer
and use it for punch lists or installing a prehung door or
For punch lists, installing base shoe, and other similar small
jobs, I really appreciate not having to drag my 80-pound
compressor through someone's house. At $199, I also think this
kit is a good value. After using it for several months, I
decided to buy it.
is a carpenter with D.E.R. Construction
in Bainbridge, Pa.
Hilti PD30 Laser Measuring
Deviceby Dave Haines
Hilti recently released a new compact laser measuring device,
the PD30. I've had the opportunity to try one for several
months, and I think it's a great addition to the company's line
of laser measuring tools. The PD30's most noteworthy feature is
that it's about half the size of other Hilti models. It
measures 4 3/4 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and 1 1/8 inches
thick; it weighs about half a pound.
The user interface is new and easier compared with the other
Hilti laser measuring devices. The big button in the middle
turns on the device and starts measuring with a second push.
All you do is push the button, hold the unit against one wall,
and aim the laser at another wall (or other target). With
another push of the button, you have the room's length or
width. If you want to use it like a measuring tape, just hold
the main button in for a few seconds and the tool goes into
tracking mode. In tracking mode, you can aim the laser at a
target and watch the measurement change as you move the tool
closer or farther away from the target.
By using the + or buttons you can add or subtract from
any measurements stored in memory. After measuring a room
width, for example, you can subtract the distance to a door to
determine the door's location along the wall. The screen always
shows the last three measurements together with the current
measurement, which is helpful if you're recording dimensions on
a sketch pad.
|Hilti's PD30 is
about half the size of most laser measuring devices,
making it easy to keep it in your pocket or toolbelt.
The easy-to-use device has common geometric functions
built in and includes a display that shows the last
Like other laser measuring devices, the tool has built-in
functions for common types of measurements. If you want to
record a room's cubic volume for hvac calculations, simply push
the "cube" icon button, and measure the length, width, and
height. When you've finished measuring, the tool will
automatically display the total volume. You can also take
measurements in yards, which is handy for estimating concrete.
The "rectangle" button works similarly. Press the button, then
measure length and width; the unit will show square
Besides measuring in feet and yards to the nearest 1/8 or 1/16
of an inch, the unit can also take measurements in meters,
millimeters, and decimal inches, feet, and yards. There's also
a "fold-out spike" for getting into a tight spot or for hooking
over the end of a wall. When the spike is out, the tool
automatically compensates for the added length. Plus, the
device has a built-in spirit level to make measurements more
No Two-Point Function
The one thing the PD30 lacks is the Pythagorean function, which
allows you to determine a measurement by doing indirect two- or
three-point measurements. For example, other laser measuring
tools allow you to determine distances when an obstacle
prevents direct line-of-sight measurements. After prompting you
to take the measurements, such tools will perform the
calculations for you. If you need to make these kinds of
measurements regularly, you'll probably want a tool with this
function built in.
The PD30's maximum range depends on the target material.
Against drywall, it's 210 feet; against less reflective
materials like concrete or brick, it's 150 feet. According to
the manufacturer, the PD30 can take up to 10,000 measurements
on a pair of AA batteries.
Even without the Pythagorean function, I like the PD30. It's
small enough to fit into a shirt pocket and it's easy enough
for anyone to start using right out of the box. It sells for
Dave Haines did a
complete test of laser measuring tools in the April 2004 issue
the owner of Haines Contracting in Doylestown, Pa.
Mixing mud with a
heavy-duty electric drill works fine, but it's not exactly the
right tool for the job. If you're looking for a better machine,
you might try the CX-20 Hand Mixer. The tool has ergonomic
grips that maintain an upright body position and a powerful
drive unit that the manufacturer claims is more durable than
any drill's. Besides mixing joint compound, the maker claims it
will also mix mortar, grout, and concrete. I tried one at last
year's Builder's Show and found it efficient and easier to
control than a drill. It has a list price of $340.
No-Flip Pole Sander.
like barrel-vaulted ceilings present a problem for conventional
pole sanders: The rigid sanding head and rectangular shape can
leave stripes that are hard to disguise. Now there's an
alternative: the Radius 360. Designed by a professional
finisher, it has a round sanding head with a replaceable foam
backing pad, which means the sanding head can better match
irregular and curved surfaces. But perhaps the greatest
benefit, according to the manufacturer, is that it won't flip
or roll over when you change sanding direction — even
when it's attached to a 20-foot pole. The sander uses 8
3/4-inch hook-and-loop sanding discs and sells for $35.
Full Circle International, 888/284-7716,
Barrel vaults, curved
walls, and domed ceilings all require curved framing members.
While you can cut the curves out of plywood or OSB, the process
is slow and presents a problem when fireproof materials are
required. An alternative is subbing the work to a
metal-fabricating shop, but you might need some extra time in
the construction schedule. If you find yourself doing a lot of
this work, you might consider the Track Bender. The portable
tool takes to the curves by crimping standard C-shaped 20- or
25-gauge track and studs right on the job. Using 3 5/8-inch
25-gauge track, it can make inside radii from 22 inches and
outside radii to 320 feet. Prices start at about $4,000.
Radius Track Corporation, 888/872-3487,
Cutting narrow strips
of drywall using a knife and tape takes time to master, and if
you don't get it right, the wavy cut will make hanging and
finishing more difficult. If you're looking for another method,
you might try the Speed Rocker. The retractable utility knife
holds the hook of your tape, so you can pay more attention to
keeping your fingers safe and guiding the cut. The multipurpose
tool also includes a folding keyhole saw and a rasp on the
handle. It sells for $22.
CH Hanson, 800/827-3398,
If your company does
its own drywall finishing, you might give serious thought to
getting one of these good-looking and effective taping tools.
The Pneumatic Paper Taper from Apla-Tech uses air power to
dispense the compound, so there's less drag compared with
cable-driven taping machines. The amount of compound applied to
the tape is adjustable, and it works with flat seams, inside
corners, and off-angle seams. It's available with 2-, 3-, 4-,
and 5-foot tubes, allowing users to fit inside closets and
reach 10-foot ceilings without a ladder. The manufacturer
claims the tool will run off of any 3/4-hp or larger
compressor. It sells for about $1,300.
Low-Tech Pipe Cutter.
kitchen remodels frequently require tapping into the DWV lines
for a new drain or vent. Unfortunately, there's not always a
lot of room for a recip saw or hacksaw in many stud and joist
cavities. However, Cable Saws like this one from Superior can
fit in the tightest spaces possible. It also works great for
underground PVC pipe in narrow trenches. You can usually find
one for about $6.
Superior Tool, 800/533-3244,
Unless you're a plumber,
it's tough to get excited about pipe wrenches, but the
Vise-Grip's quick-adjusting Pipe Wrench could be the notable
exception. The aluminum-bodied tool fits better in tight spaces
and weighs 40% less than comparable iron wrenches. In addition,
you can adjust it with one hand instead of two. It works with
pipe up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and sells for $30.
Pedestal Sink Wrench.
tailpiece or trap on a pedestal lavatory can be a tough job.
Many times, the pedestal base prevents swinging a wrench or
getting a sufficient grip with a pair of channel locks. Here's
a specialty tool that makes it easier. The Pedestal Sink Wrench
from Superior has a stubby handle with an offset that makes it
easier to remove 6-, 8-, and 12-sided nuts on trap assemblies.
It's offered in both 1 1/4- and 1 1/2-inch sizes and sells for
Superior Tool, 800/533-3244,
If you're looking
for a new or better way to cut copper tubing or EMT, you might
want to take one of the new Lenox Tubing Cutters for a spin.
The new cutters improve upon just about every aspect of this
handy tool, starting with the comfortable rounded housing that
doesn't pinch your fingers. The mechanism that adjusts the
cutting wheel is fast and smooth acting; even the slide-out
reaming tool works better than most. But the best feature is
the spare cutting wheel mounted on the handle —
surprised if your plumber shows up with one of these amazing
tools sometime soon. The 320-E is Ridgid's new 14.4-volt
cordless crimping tool, designed for its ProPress
copper-crimping system. The tool squeezes gasketed copper
fittings around conventional K-, L-, and M-copper tubing. The
crimps take seconds, and the system eliminates the risk of fire
associated with sweat connections. The system includes more
than 240 different fittings from 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter.
According to the manufacturer, plumbers using the system are
reducing their labor costs by 50%. The downside: The fittings
cost three times that of conventional sweat fittings, so don't
expect any big changes in your estimates. I found it on the web
for about $2,100, which includes three sets of jaws for 1/2-,
3/4-, and 1-inch tubing.