Smaller, better, cheaper

34_smaller_better The fact that new woodworking products are being designed based on portability and convenience is not just a trend anymore - it's a way of life. Just like smart phones are being introduced to consumers at a rapid pace for business and personal use, the power tool industry is revolutionizing itself as well. People want to be mobile.

In addition, there's no denying that modern job-site tools are also being designed to enhance the quality of experience for the craftsman. Experts in the woodworking product development industry have shared thoughts on what they believe is pushing the drive for manufacturers to create more portable and convenient, yet efficient, tools. Likewise, companies have shared their latest products, many of which were shown at IWF 2010 in August.

Source list

• Amana Tool. Tel: 800-445-0077. www.amanatool.com

• Bessey Tools North America. Tel: 800-828-1004. www.besseytools.com

• Bosch Tool Corp. Tel: 877-267-2499. www.boschtools.com

• Bostitch. Tel: 800-556-6696. www.bostitch.com

• DeWalt. Tel: 800-433-9258. www.dewalt.com

• Dremel. Tel: 800-437-3635. www.dremel.com

• Festool USA. Tel: 888-337-8600. www.festoolusa.com

• Irwin. Tel: 800-464-7946. www.irwin.com

• Micro Fence. Tel: 800-480-6427 www.microfence.com

• Milwaukee. Tel: 800-638-9582. www.milwaukeetool.com

• Porter-Cable. Tel: 866-375-6287. www.deltaportercable.com

• Reibling Machinery. Tel: 845-915-0058. www.riebling.com

• Rockler. Tel: 800-260-9663. www.rockler.com

• Rockwell Tools: Tel: 866-514-7625. www.rockwelltools.com

• SawGear. Tel: 503-914-4400. www.sawgear.com

• SL Laser. Tel: 704-561-9990. www.sl-laser.com

• Tornado Mfg. www.tornadomfg.com

Bill Harman, director of product development for Delta Machinery, says the main reason for portability and convenience is that jobs are being done directly on the job site from start to finish. In the past, work was often partially completed first at the shop.

"More recently, I've seen guys doing professional cabinetry work right in the store or place where it will be installed. I'm also seeing bigger panels being cut by the job-site saws and more of the prep work being done on the job site that used to be done in the woodshop," he says.

"Tools are getting lighter, more portable, their capacity is getting bigger, and the fact that a lot of these cabinetmakers and other professionals don't have the money or the space to invest in a full-blown shop and outfit a truck with all the tools they need to get the job done means they're trying to get as much as they can out of the back of the truck."

Laser systems

The laser-measuring category is an area where new products have at least doubled their popularity through the years because of increased affordability.

Jack Wolf, product manager at Bosch, discussed how the alternatives to these devices are not very productive. Leveling around a room for a chair railing is one example. In this case, it would require a two-man operation to create the accurate guidelines. By having the laser, it becomes a more productive one-man operation.

"For these digital measuring products, we're certainly in a tremendous growth industry, and we're starting to see our products get into retail settings that they were probably too expensive to fit in before and that's been a tremendous boom for the market, when you're spending a third or maybe even a quarter of what you used to have to spend."

Wolf suggests woodworkers use the Bosch GLL2-80 360 degree Dual-Plane Line Laser, in which a complete kit sells for less than $500.

He adds that the GLL2-80 is capable of projecting constant lines on both vertical and horizontal planes, making it ideal for alignment and leveling applications when installing cabinets, floor and wall tiling, drop ceilings, interior framing, decorative finish, trim work and more. For specific applications, the device quickly switches between dual-plane, vertical-only and horizontal-only modes.

35_smaller_better_01SL-Laser Systems offers the ProCollector Laser Templating System for capturing job-site measurements and digitizing irregular radiuses found in today's architecture. The ProCollector can template complex soffits or stair runs.

"Woodworkers are always one of the last trades on the job site. This makes it necessary for the woodworker to adjust their designs to compensate for other trade's mistakes and changes to the plans that were never annotated," says product manager Scott MacDonald.

Routing

The router is a traditional shop staple and now can be brought to the job site, too. Ideally, a compact job-site router merges the ergonomic features of a trimmer with the power of a full-size router to deliver maximum performance and versatility. DeWalt introduced the Compact Router, which combines power and ergonomic features for maximum performance. The model is available as a fixed-base unit (DWP611) and a fixed/plunge base combination kit (DW611PK).

35_smaller_better02"The compact router bridges both the professional and hobbyist users who want to do work out in the field, like routing stairs that are already in place or make alterations to a cabinet set that's been installed. You can do all of that with this router instead of going back into the shop and take out a big router," says Harman.

Other applications include joinery, inlay work, edge treatments and more. The router has a 1-1/4-hp motor and includes several ergonomic features for improved operator control.

Nailing

When it comes to securing trim work in the field, a good finish nailer will help you make the finished product quicker and easier. These tools have always been a part of the job-site tool list, as its main purpose is to hang trim on the spot. There are still consumer demands for improvements, with one of the main trends being easy maintenance, says Jorge Silveira, product manager for Porter-Cable.

36_smaller_better01He discussed the features of Porter-Cable's new maintenance-free 23-gauge nailer, the 1-3/8" Pin Nailer Kit (model PIN138), saying it offers a long life, consistent performance and innovative on-board features. The nailer is appropriate for light fastening and clamping applications including small trim and small decorative moldings, cabinet crown molding, raised panel doors, rope and bead molding, mantle building and wood joining.

One highlight of the tool is that it's designed with a "maintenance-free long life" motor that requires no oil to be added to the tool. The motor uses a dual-stack ring system where the outer ring is designed to minimize internal friction, resulting in longer tool life, according to the company. Power is delivered through an internal piston catch that holds the piston-driver assembly at the highest position in the cylinder, resulting in maximum power on each shot and ensuring accurate nail setting. It also features a dry-fire lockout and weighs only 2.2 lbs. It retails for $149.

36_smaller_better02For those who want to be free from the leash of a compressor, Bostitch offers a new gas- and battery-powered cordless framing nailer, model GF28WW. It operates on a 7.2-volt Ni-Cd battery.

"Our new cordless framing nailer offers professional contractors the best of both worlds - the freedom of a cordless nailer combined with the ability to drive full round-head wire-weld framing nails," says product manager Dennis Danville.

It drives nails from 2" to 3-1/2" in length, comes with a one-hour battery charger and the fuel cell can drive approximately 1,200 nails per canister.

Bostitch also offers oil-free pneumatic nailers as well, including the new 15-gauge finish nailer kit, model N62FNK-2. The tool weighs 4.15 lbs. and can fire nails between 1-1/4" and 2-1/2" in length.

Compressors

Porter-Cable's new four-gallon model C2004-WK is a new pancake compressor that packs 165 pounds of usable air per square inch, which can support up to three nailers, according to the company. The unit weighs only 29 lbs. and sells for $199.

"In response to the need for a quieter, more compact unit that will perform well for a long time, the C2004-WK offers convenience and efficiency on the job site," says product manager James Vintzel.

Bostitch offers the oil-free Next Gen TrimAir compressor, model CAP1512-OF, with a 1.5-hp motor that delivers up to 2.8 cfm at 90 psi, according to the company. It weighs 23.5 lbs. and sells for $149.

For much larger compressors, DeWalt recently introduced the Quadraport Regulated Line Splitter to run up to four framing nailers at once. The accessory sells for $59.

Saws

Rockwell offers a new job-site table saw that can cut a 4x4 in a single pass and a 30" rip capacity to the right of the blade, handy for splitting a fully supported 4x8 sheet of plywood. There's a sliding table extension and what's called a "finisher" attachment for planning the edges of wood up to 11" wide and 3-1/8" thick. The saw sells for about $350.

37_smaller_better01The latest 12" dual-bevel miter saw from Bosch features a patented axial-glide system. While the traditional sliding-compound miter saw approach enables users to make wider crosscuts, that system takes up more space and is prone to misalignment and stickiness over time, says the company.

The axial-glide system operates by folding the articulated arm flush with the back of the saw, saving up to 12" of work space compared to a traditional sliding-compound miter saw and enabling the saw to be operated with almost no clearance behind it; ideal for job sites and cramped workshops. The saw also offers expanded cutting capacity. The GCM12SD Glide Miter Saw provides 14" of horizontal cutting capacity, a 6-1/2" max vertical cutting capacity against the fence (for base) and a 6-1/2" cutting capacity when cutting crown molding against the fence.

Accessories

This category is virtually endless as it includes adaptors, blades, clamps, jigs, storage solutions and more.

Amana Tool's new Mamba saw blades feature a thin-kerf design that requires less horsepower and produces less waste, making them ideal for contracting applications in decking, framing, ripping and finishing with wood materials, as well as projects with non-ferrous metals, plastics and PVC.

37_smaller_better02Bessey Tools offers several clamping solutions to fit various business needs. Andrew Fera, the company's vice president of marketing, says the most popular models for woodworkers are the UniKlamp, TG Series bar clamps, KliKlamps and the H Series pipe clamps.

"The UniKlamp is a great clamp when you don't want your parts sliding out of position. It applies moderate pressure - 330 pounds of clamping force - and holds parts square with even pressure along the joint because of the large jaw surface," Fera says, adding the product is available with openings of 6", 12" and 24", and prices are around the $20 range.

In addition, the TG Series Bar Clamps are ideal for use when lots of clamping force and quick adjustment are required. Sizes range from 6" to 12" openings and offer 600 to 1,320 lbs. of pressure. The KliKlamp is ideal for small, lighter-duty tasks that need to be quickly set up. The H Series clamp assists with making glue-ups easier because of its large base and is available in 3/4" and 1/2" pipe diameters.

Bosch Accessories debuted its Oscillating Interface System (OIS), an adapter that can be used with other brands of oscillating tools with Bosch attachments. Other adapters utilize a pressure fit solution instead of an actual interface fit for the multiple interfaces available, sacrificing performance.

37_smaller_better03"OIS is a unique 12-pin system from Bosch that provides a secure, reliable connection between the tool and the accessory. That's important, especially with today's high-torque oscillating tools," says Ken Osberg, Bosch group product manager. "It also enables users to position accessories in 12 different angles to deliver great maneuverability and access to work spaces."

38_smaller_better01Dremel, a division of Bosch, also offers the Multi-Max Universal Adapter, which allows all of the company's accessories to be used with any brand of oscillating tools.

Bostitch's accessory offerings include the new Twin Blade Knife that allows users to alternate between two blades without carrying more than one knife. Also, a new 24" Clamping Box Beam Level offers the advantage of hands-free operation while positioning wood to a level or plumb setting. A 20 oz. steel anti-vibration hammer features patented torsion control stabilizers to reduce arm fatigue.

38_smaller_better02Festool USA offers a variety of tools that are well-suited to the job site. Product manager Rick Bush discussed the range of offerings.

"Assuming the job site is usually someone's home, our line of dust-extractable tools and matching dust extractors provide a cleaner environment for the worker and the homeowner. Also, our system of storage boxes, Systainers, allow for easy transport, storage and organization, so it is easier to move into, through and out of the job site, keep an uncluttered work area and keep everything you need at hand," says Bush.

"Chiefly, the performance of our tools helps with everything on the job site from installing cabinets, hanging molding, trim carpentry or cutting large sheets on the job site. We have many customers that do all the work on the job site either because it is remote or they don't have a shop. They will build cabinets, built-ins, etc., in the customer's home the entire time."

Irwin Tools, inventor of the Vise Grip, has introduced a curved-jaw version. The locking pliers feature a "self-energizing" lower jaw that delivers three times more gripping power than traditional locking pliers, with absolutely no slipping or stripping, according to the company.

"Other manufacturers' traditional locking pliers only allow a couple of contact points on a round or hex workpiece, resulting in the tool slipping or failing to loosen a frozen bolt," says Curt Weber, Irwin's director of marketing. "[Ours] establishes multiple contact points with the workpiece, guaranteeing a significantly tighter grip. They cannot be beat for tightening, clamping, twisting and turning."

38_smaller_better03Micro Fence has introduced a new metric version of its award-winning plunge base for laminate trimmer motors. The plunge base (and accompanying edge guide and circle jigs) can now be ordered to fit virtually any router or trimmer with imperial (.001 readouts) or metric (1/20th of a millimeter) dials.

Milwaukee has redesigned its Sawzall wood-cutting blades. The most notable change has been the shift from a six-teeth-per-inch pattern to a more aggressive five-teeth-per-inch pattern. To increase tooth durability, Milwaukee has developed the patent-pending Nail Guard tooth design to prevent nails from fracturing the blade's teeth upon impact.

The cutting edge of the new tooth form remains engaged with the nail, rather than allowing nails to drop into the gullets and cause teeth-fracturing impacts. The combined result is a blade that is tougher and cuts two times faster, according to the company.

39_smaller_better02Porter-Cable has introduced the Quickjig Pocket Hole Joinery System, model 560, that the company says is easy to use and sets up quickly for accurate and consistent results. The patent-pending auto-adjusting depth and thickness gauge is the secret to the new tool's performance. It sells for $230.

Riebling Machinery offers the Jowi Mobile Rack, model VV, for storing workpieces during the assembly process. The rack is equipped with four support columns, each with 16 support bars. Rear extension legs can turn the unit into a double-sided rack. Swivel columns on each side supply V support on each end for small panels. The rack can also be extended out to 60" for larger panels with support bars of 23" or 31" long.

Tornado Manufacturing offers a solution for cleaning a shop vacuum filter. The F4 Filter Cleaner is a barrel-style container that turns the filter using power from your cordless drill. Debris is collected neatly at the bottom for easy disposal.

40_smaller_better02Rockler Woodworking and Hardware launched its share of innovative products at IWF. One is the Pro Shelf Drilling Jig, an adjustable jig that streamlines accurate pre-assembly drilling of shelf pin holes. Constructed of 1/4" acrylic, two identical drilling templates slide along an adjustable extension tract to accommodate stock from 8-1/4" to 25-1/4". The jig sells for $80.

The Bench Dog Crown Molding Support is another helpful product, ideal for installing crown molding on a job site. In addition, the bench cookies, which resemble hockey pucks, are ideal for elevating and stabilizing materials on a work surface.

SawGear, a sister company to TigerStop, recently launched a miter saw automated-stop gauge. Dimensions are entered on a keypad and the stop is automatically set, accurate to 1/128", according to the company. The stop is available in 8' and 12' lengths.

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.