Like most people I don’t have a dedicated workshop, meaning my power tools share the garage with lots of things that aren’t happy about sawdust wafting over them like the morning dew. The solution is a Shopvac, but it can be a real hassle remembering to turn it on/off as I turn on/off my table saw, hand sander, Ridgid Oscillating Belt & Spindle Sander, etc. I’ve been woodworking at home for perhaps 18 years, and the best solution I’ve found is one of these little outlet boxes, which powers up multiple tools automatically.
You simply plug your main tool into the top outlets, then plug your vacuum or work light into one of the other two accessory outlets. Whenever you turn your tool on, it will automatically turn the other outlets on. When you turn your tool off, it waits a few seconds before turning the accessory outlets off, which is useful for clearing the line of dust, etc. I have two in my shop — one for each Shop-Vac so I never have to reconnect power cords or vacuum hoses!
I’ve been using these switches for four years. They definitely save time. On a given woodworking project, I generally turn machines on and off every few minutes and move from machine to machine. Without this switch, you would spend an extra 3 seconds and 2 steps turning it on and another 3 seconds and 2 steps turning it off. Doesn’t sound like much, but in reality those seconds and steps really start to add up, so you’d just end up leaving the vacuum on or using some other less effective dust collection (for example, an on-tool dust collection bag).
I had a discussion with someone about 9 or 10 years ago about how you could build one – and I actually found schematics for a load sensing relay that you could make one with. But for $20, this switch certainly beats trying to round up the components and DIY.
Sanding drywall is messy and nasty — it’s hard on both your tools and lungs. With this system the majority of the dust is sucked up right at the sanding pad. The sanding head, which uses standard sanding screens, is attached to a hose that runs to the Aquair Water Filter, a five gallon bucket that has a another hose you attach to a Shop-Vac (not provided). As you sand, the dust is sucked through 36 little holes on a pad attached to the sanding head. When the dust hits the water it goes into suspension, and doesn’t reach (or ruin) the Shop-Vac. Note: after a good bit of use, you will need to change the water.
As a builder sometimes forced to live at the site (the horror!), I can say that this has made my life (and marriage) much less messy. Even if you’re a homeowner and not a professional, this tool is especially useful, as drywall dust is incredibly pernicious. It can blow all over the house and settle everywhere. With this system, you can sand in the areas that you live in with significantly less clean up – and you won’t even need a mask!
I’m preparing a tool kit for my college-bound daughter and I wanted a cordless screwdriver that was small, tough, and long-lasting in dormant battery mode. Something she could quickly grab, hold securely, and be sure it would still be charged despite not being used or plugged in for months on end. I found the ideal tool in the Skil iXO. It uses the new generation of tiny Lithium-ion batteries which reduces its overall size to nearly fitting into my palm.
Once I started using it, I bought one for myself. I throw it in the desk drawer where my other simple household hand tools live. It’s held its charge with gratifying dependability. (Skil claims it will hold its charge for 18 months to 2 years of non-use; I haven’t had mine that long.) It’s not that powerful, but good enough for around-the-house chores. Occasionally I need it because it can squeeze into places my larger cordless driver can’t.
Its eager readiness, and tiny size, make it the driver I reach for first.
Skil iXO Cordless Palm Sized Screwdriver
Available from Amazon
Manufactured by Skil
The same drill is sold under the Bosch name in Europe.
What makes a ladder really useful are individually adjustable legs. I’ve had adjustable legs on my ladders for 30 years. You can bolt them almost any ladder. (Ours is a 12-footer straight convertible into a 6 ft stepladder.) They let you level the bottom end of the ladder on uneven ground. Mine will handle 18 inches of difference.
There are several brands, many of which will only fit certain ladders. Most of those only accommodate three inches of difference, which is not enough. Also, the levelers you want are like this kind from McMasters, which are infinitely adjustable; most accessory levelers I’ve seen have a selection of set incremental positions that are, of course, not quite right most of the time.
Mine make their variable adjustment by means of a stack of tightly-fitting washers on the extension tubes. A spring holds them free when you squeeze the stack. Let go and the washers jam tight permitting no slack at all. They are very easy to adjust without tools. I think that there must have been a problem with liability lawsuits, otherwise the things would be in every hardware store. But even a ninny couldn’t mess them up. A guard protects the washers stack. They’ve never slipped or failed me in any way for 36 years.
The kind here costs less in real money than mine did in 1970 when I paid $20. I literally use mine every time we use the ladder here, at the chicken farm. They can also give you another 15″ or anything in between when leaning the ladder on something. You’ll love ‘em.
A nail puller like the ones reviewed in Cool Tools earlier (here and here) is not the best. It will gouge a quite horrible crater in your material unless the nail is at the surface, or just the right size. With this one, on the other hand, I can extract a headless nail from more than a centimeter inside a beam. The wood was not unscratched of course, but since it was compressed rather than splintered, a bit of water can make it swell back up somewhat.
– Gaute Amundsen
This design is not new. You can find antique nail pullers like this hundreds of years old. The sharp teeth of this tool are perfect for slicing into the wood, yanking out deep air-hammered nails, or finishing nails from a surface you care about. There are several different makes; none are cheap, but these last a lifetime.
Cooper Group 56 Nail Puller
Available from Amazon
Bahco Nail Puller
Available from Builder Depot
I’m finishing my basement and am in the drywall phase of this year-long solo project. After renting a 100 lb drywall lift for a weekend for $60 to get the largest ceiling panels positioned, I found Free Hands on the internet. They are simple plastic cleats which you screw into the studs or joists to provide a ledge to support an edge of the drywall while you position and screw it in place. I’ve been using them for all the rest of the odd-sized and half-sheet drywall panels on the ceiling and all the panels on the walls. It takes about a minute to attach and remove the two cleats each time. The smooth plastic surfaces allow me to slide the drywall up onto the cleats and move the panel around until I get a precise fit. They’re sturdy and inexpensive, and I’m making good progress with them. I could have made cleats out of scrap wood, but I really doubt they would have performed nearly as well as these. They’ve made one-person drywalling possible for me.
I recently needed to remove several panels of particle board subflooring while preparing to install a hardwood floor. These panels were fastened with a gazillion ring-shanked nails, driven in by an overly enthusiastic pneumatic nail-gun operator. After much sweat and frustration with a conventional assortment of hammer claws, cat paws, and pry bars, I finally came across the magic tool. It’s the Japanese manufactured SharkGrip Nail Puller. The tool very efficiently gets underneath the offending nail head and will even latch onto the nail’s shank should the head shear off. It’s available in various sizes and configurations.
This tool is awesome, I use it all the time. The hawkmate is a spackler’s hawk [tray for carrying mixed spackle] with a plate on its underside that holds the taping tools. I no longer have to hold multiple knives in my hand or in my pockets. Also when I put the tool in my truck the knives stay protected from chipping or bending.
The Japanese Kugihiki flush cutting saw saves me time, makes a cleaner cut, and needs no setup time. Since the teeth have no set, you can slide the saw against a surface without marring it.
These and other Japanese hand saws such as Dozuki and Ryoba have caused me to abandon power tools for many jobs. The cut almost never needs cleaning up and is good for many materials. The Ryoba looks intimidating but can replace a cheap circular saw any day for a lot less money.
I use small/micro screwdrivers all the time to work on cameras, computers, micro electronics etc. I’ve had the same set of Wiha microbits for going on 10 years now. I bought the following special bit set and have never needed another screwdriver set or bit. They make many other kinds of drivers and bits as well.
ESD SAFE MicroBit Set #75992
Slotted, Phillips, TORX, Inch HEX
Precision ESD System 4 MicroBit Set
27 Pieces In Molded Indexed Box
4-Slotted Bits: 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0,
4-Phillips Bits: #000, #00, #0, #1
9-TORX: T3, T4, T5, T6, T7, T8, T9, T10, T15
8-Hex: .050, 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 7/64, 1/8, 9/64, 5/32
1-Extension: 100mm Long
1-Handle: ESD Safe Anti-Static
They are made in Germany of course.
Wiha Microbit Set, 27pc
Manufactured by Wiha Tools