Striking a balance with our tool news

We’ve always done things a bit differently at Woodshop News, especially when it comes to information about new tools. While I can’t say with absolute certainty that we haven’t made exceptions in more than 23 years of publishing this magazine, I do know it’s always been our policy to not review tools. Instead, we give the manufacturers an opportunity to discuss the features and benefits of their latest offering, while doing our best to eliminate the hyperbole that often dominates the accompanying marketing material.

Our standard procedure is to use a new-product announcement — which usually reaches our office in the form of a press release — as a starting point to determine if the tool, machine or accessory is appropriate for our audience of mostly professional woodworkers. Then we contact a product manager or company spokesman for pointed questions about their claims. Any technical information is conveyed to the readers through direct quotes or attribution.

We hardly ever have possession of the new tool or machine we’re writing about. In fact, we discourage manufacturers from sending us new products for “review.” That policy has as much to do with the logistics of shipping, receiving and storing products as it does with the perceived influence of receiving “free” gifts.

But admittedly, relying on the manufacturer-supplied product information — though filtered through our objective journalistic practices — has its pitfalls. For example, we routinely report the manufacturer’s stated motor capabilities of rpm, horsepower, amperage and torque, when applicable. We haven’t independently tested that company XYZ’s table saw has a true 5-hp motor, but report that company XYZ says the saw has a 5-hp motor.

That’s a significant difference from other magazines, which routinely print new-product press releases verbatim and without proper attribution to manufacturers’ claims. And while many magazines also include tool reviews, I could argue that any review — no matter what stringent procedures for fair testing have been adapted — contain a subjective element in its conclusion. The reviewer, for example, may ultimately decide that Tool A is better than Tool B because the grip feels better in its hand.

Are we the best source of new-tool information? I think we take a unique approach, but that’s really for the reader to decide. But based on some recent queries about how we select and convey information about new products, I thought this explanation was necessary.

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This might make our job easier in the future:

Members of the Power Tool Institute, which include Bosch, Delta/Porter-Cable/DeWalt, Makita, WMH Tool Group, Hitachi and Milwaukee — have agreed to adopt a new testing procedure to measure the sustained torque in corded and cordless drills.

Prior to the new standard, power tool manufacturers conducted their own torque measurement in-house or with third-party testing labs. The torque numbers were not useful for comparison since the testing hardware and methodologies were not standard.

As far as I can tell, Makita is the only manufacturer to publicize the standardized torque results, though DeWalt’s Web site (www.dewalt.com) contains extensive information on torque measurement and tool comparisons with other manufacturers.

To learn about the test procedure, visit www.powertoolinstitute.com.

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When I was a kid, everything we needed could be found at Sears. Washer, TV, tools … we’re talking one-stop shopping.

Now, come to find out, you might be able to land your next remodeling job through the retailer’s new Web site, www. servicelive.com. “We have created a marketplace that puts the homeowner back in the driver’s seat by allowing them to name the terms and manage the process completely online,” says George Coll, president of ServiceLive, in a press release.

Here’s how it works: Users review and select prescreened service providers in their area, and then describe a repair or improvement project in detail, including the price they want to pay and desired appointment time. The project is then routed to selected providers after the user uploads funds to his or her ServiceLive account. The first provider to accept the terms electronically wins the project. After a project is completed to satisfaction, the user pays and rates the provider online.

What will they think of next?