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New year, hope, products

The Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) held its 32nd annual convention and trade show Nov. 9-11 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, with 882 exhibitors showcasing their products for approximately 4,500 members of the trade. The association is comprised of distributors, manufacturers, and rep agents of light construction, industrial and related products. STAFDA has nearly 2,850 members from the United States, Canada and overseas.

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Trade shows during 2008 have seen a drop in attendance because of the downturn in the economy. But show promoters have repeatedly stated that, despite lower attendance figures, those that made the effort to go to the shows were more serious about buying. A STAFDA official echoes that sentiment.

“The overall consensus that we heard from the exhibitors was that the right people were at the show,” says Georgia Foley, executive director of STAFDA. “Many of them had probably their most successful STAFDA trade show ever because [attendees] were willing to spend, plus the exhibitors were offering some really enticing show specials and special terms and discounts, etc. So it was a win-win for the distributors who were there, [and] the attendees.”

The largest exhibitors were DeWalt, Bosch and The Stanley Works, all displaying products for contractors, remodelers and job-site workers. Besides those showcasing woodworking items and accessories, exhibitors targeting the metalworking, plumbing and heavy construction industries were also on hand.

“The economy has really punched the residential guys and those that are involved in commercial projects; it’s slowing down,” Foley says. “But the beauty about STAFDA members is that they serve a lot of different channels. Even though the overall economic climate now stinks, they’re kind of able to explore other channels that they haven’t been involved with so much. Most of the distributors that we’ve talked to are flat this year. A couple of them are reporting down 1 percent or down 2 percent, but certainly it’s not down 25 or 30 percent. So, ‘flat is good’ is what we’re hearing this year.”

The majority of exhibitors contacted by Woodshop News at the show told a different story, reporting sales down 25 to 35 percent on a year-to-year basis from 2007.

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“The convention continues to do well for us and I would say … that the overall atmosphere of people who were there was very positive,” states Foley. “They understand that the economy is in trouble and their markets are in trouble, but I think it was the importance of networking amongst our members, and relationships with their vendors and their reps. It was more of a commiserating, I guess, type of thing, and what we’re going to do in the future.

“A lot of them feel that for the most part, the economy probably for the residential hasn’t hit bottom yet, but it’s darn near close. So it will slowly, hopefully, start to inch in late ’09 and into ’10. And that’s what some of the economists said that we deal with, providing us with some statistics on the industry that probably near the end of ’09, ’10 we’ll start to see a slight uptick.”

Many of the exhibitors displayed new products or recently released products. Here’s a look at some of those that caught our attention:

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It was impossible to walk the aisles of STAFDA without seeing hundreds of power nailers and staplers. About 60 companies displayed their versions, most of them quite similar, and there were at least an equal number of drill/drivers brought to the show. For cordless tools, lithium ion was undoubtedly the choice for batteries with 18-volt models definitely the most prevalent, while 12-volt, 14.4-volt, and 24-volt versions were also available.

Cordless and pneumatic nailers were everywhere including small framing nailers, finish nailers, brad nailers and pin nailers. Staplers were also abundant for applications including small trim work, picture framing, crown molding, cabinetry, drawer assembly, upholstery, and furniture framing. Larger tools for flooring, decking, roofing, aluminum siding and other construction projects accompanied the smaller models.

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Addison, Texas-based 10C Technologies displayed its universal battery chargers for cordless power tool batteries. The company has its Pro Charger, which is suited for one battery, and its Crew Charger, which handles four batteries at one time.

“We can charge most of the major brands of battery-operated power tools out there and we can do voltages from nine volts up to 19,” says Jack Holland, spokesman for 10C Technologies. “We can also do the different chemistries such as nickel hydride [NiMH] , the cadmium [NiCad] and the lithium ion [Li+].”

The universal battery chargers are capable of providing most batteries a full charge in 15 minutes. A patented technology charges with a pulsation with the least amount of heat possible. Holland has conducted extensive testing of dead batteries and manages to bring an average of seven out of 10 batteries back to some stage of life.

“When you buy the Crew Charger, you select the adaptors that you want for your makeup. And we have the Pro Charger, which is just a single unit and is obviously for one battery. With the Crew Charger, you can plug it into any 120 [volt] outlet or, if you have a generator, it works great off a generator. The Pro will work off the same thing, but if you have a 400-watt inverter in your truck or car, it will work off of that, too, and give you the same results.”

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Including the adaptors, the Crew Charger is priced at around $500 and the Pro Charger costs about $170.

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The best tools can often be the simplest, and that’s the case with SLK Development Group’s Level Best2  combination square and level.

“The original idea came from an actual contractor,” says company president Stephannie Keller. “He was building my house and was telling me that he always wished he had a tool that was basically a square with a level in it. After talking with him for a little while [about] why he would want that, I decided to go ahead and turn it into a tool. It’s the first time someone has incorporated two level vials into a square.”

The 12" x 12" Level Best2 is designed for cabinetmakers, window installers, stair makers and picture framers.

“We had cabinetmakers tell us it’s great for when you’re building and installing cabinets,” Keller says. “Its one quick tool that shows again that you’re perfectly square and level. It’s just that it’s always taken two tools in the past. You need a framing square to make sure it’s square and then, when you’re installing the cabinets, you’re using a level to make sure you’re installing them straight. This just allows you to do it with one tool with one hand and get what you need.”

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The tool is lightweight, two-sided, durable and 1/2" thick. The Level Best2  also has a stair tread and stair rise minimum and maximum for use as a template to cut stringers. During stair installations, the tool allows the user to know that everything is perfectly square and level.

The 12" x 12" model retails for $19.95 and a 6" x 6" version will be available in February for $12.95.

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Jet Tools, a division of WMH Tool Group, unveiled a line of benchtop job-site tools at STAFDA. The line, called Jet B3nch, consists of three miter saws, a 10" compound saw, a 10" dual-bevel sliding compound saw, 12" dual-bevel sliding compound saw, a 10" job-site table saw, a 10" band saw, a 12" drill press, an 8" jointer/planer, and a 10" jointer/planer. There is also a 500 cfm dust collector and an AFS 400 air filtration unit.

“What we’re tying it to is the three Ps — portable, powerful and precise,” says Patrick Curry, director of product development for Jet Tools. “We decided to create a bench-top line of products that would do three things. It would appeal to the job-site guy, but also appeal to homeowners that want to do DIY-type work and then the entry level woodworker. We have all these stationary products and more products tailored to the high-end woodworker, and we’re missing the entry level woodworker, homeowner or job-site guy. Our strategy is to go after the complete shop with these type of tools.

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“We’re trying to say you can actually, for around $2,000, have a complete shop — one of the miter saws, the band saw, the drill press, the job-site table saw, one of the jointer/planers, and one of the dust collection items.”

Perhaps no one enjoyed STAFDA more than Joerg Zellerhoff, DeWalt product manager for portable woodworking. Zellerhoff was in Denver demonstrating DeWalt’s corded and cordless TrackSaw, a 12-lb., 6-1/2" saw, similar to a circular saw, which guides down an anti-slip aluminum track to deliver a perfectly straight and splinter-free cut. Additional tracks fit together to increase the track length and cutting capability. The tool is designed specifically for job-site use, providing table saw precision, panel saw capacity and hand saw portability.

“Instead of taking your material to the saw, now you’re taking the saw to the material, and on the job that normally requires two people,” says Zellerhoff. “Now you can cut a big panel, cut a door — it’s a one-man job. So some people call it a table saw in my hand, and some other people call it the do-it-myself saw.”

DeWalt designed the TrackSaws for cabinetmakers, remodelers, finish carpenters, general contractors, furniture makers and hardwood floor installers

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“Most people will get the corded saw because of price point. The cordless offers you additional versatility because of portability. If you’re hooking up dust collection to this saw, the cordless doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So the cordless makes sense to a lot of people who work outside where they don’t have the power saws available. Those could be high-end deck building, somebody building a dock, or someone out working on a boat.”

The TrackSaw has a 6-1/2" blade and a 20 mm arbor size. The corded version with 59" track is priced at $499; the 28-volt lithium-ion battery-operated model is priced at $899. Longer tracks are available.

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Bossmate Tools of Chattanooga, Tenn., touted its work stations as the simplest and most useful ever designed. The company manufactures the Bossmate, Mightymate, Handymate, combination kits, board supports, roller supports and a shelving unit.

“Our most popular unit is the Bossmate combo kit and the reason is because it’s our most versatile unit,” says Claytor Thompson, spokesman for Bossmate. “It comes with a roller support unit and board supports as well as the traditional Bossmate table. Basically for the contractor or woodworker, it enables them to do a number of different tasks. It turns the table into a precision chop-saw table; you can put a table saw on it and adjust your roller support height to match it. It just makes it a multi-functional unit.”

The work stations are constructed of 14- and 16-gauge carbon steel, robotically welded, have a lifetime warranty, and are extremely strong and durable. The Bossmate has a load capacity of 600 lbs., and Thompson says people work off the top of them for jobs such as lower level siding-type work.

The Bossmate combo kit retails for $129.99.

General Tools and Instruments, a manufacturer of specialty hand tools, and test and measurement instruments, introduced several LED and digital moisture meters. The company’s MME1 LED model and MMD4E digital model are suited for various woodworking and lumber inspection applications and are powered by a single 9-volt battery.

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“With the MM1E, some people like to look at the LEDs and get a relative reference point where the differentiation is about 2 percent at each point,” says Kevin Basso, spokesman for General Tools and Instruments. “The MMD4E will give you an exact digital reading of the moisture content. You insert the probes about 1/8" into the wood, maybe a bit deeper; but just enough to get into the wood fibers below the surface that you’re trying to check.”

The company also offers non-invasive moisture meters for applications such as fine woodworking, antique furniture restoration or polished wood surfaces (flooring, and expensive wood panels), where you don’t want to puncture holes.

The LED and digital moisture meters are priced at $32.95 and $54.95 respectively.

“These two units are very economical for the woodworker,” Basso adds. “They are very accurate, yet very cost effective. We do have a much higher line for the professional such as our MM70 and MM70D, which run about $200 and give you more features, higher accuracy and more versatility.”

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Empire Level Manufacturing Co. introduced its new e100 Digital Level at STAFDA and it will be available in February or March in 24" and 48" lengths. The e100 level has an aircraft aluminum chasis, True Blue acrylic vials that won’t break, fog or leak, and dual-molded rubber endcaps for shock resistance. The e100 is similar to the e70 series levels, but features a digital readout.

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“We’ve been hearing from retailers and pros that they were looking for a level that is accurate, durable and readable just like an e70 [but] is also digital, so we built a product to meet those specs,” says Ged King, spokesman for Empire Level.

The level contains a Gun Sight Laser that is calibrated in the X and Y axis, which projects angles and slope, making it useful when working on decks, patios, ADA ramps, driveways and landscaping.

“We’ve included a laser on it so you can read the slope over a long distance,” King adds. “The accuracy is +/- 0.25" at 50' horizontally. We offer a design that has all the patents of the e70, so it has great shock resistance and durability. We wanted to make the product easy, and so the system is very simple to calibrate. It also detects temperatures, so it will hold its calibration for a long time because temperature is the primary thing that changes calibration.”

The 48" level will be priced about $150; the 24" version will cost about $130.

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The Gorilla Gripper, from Landon Innovations, is a gripping hand tool that allows one person to easily lift, carry and move large sheets of material such as plywood and drywall. The tool is self-gripping and the weight of the material is what pulls the plates together so the heavier the material, the heavier the grip.

“It’s made in the United States out of aircraft aluminum and there are rubber gripping pads on the inside of those two gripping plates made by 3M,” says company president Jim Cole. “The plates are thicker than they need to be, we kind of built the product to an overkill geometry.”

The Gorilla Gripper is manufactured for panels — drywall, plywood, MDF, melamine or any materials that have flat edges on both sides. The minimum material thickness is 3/8" and the maximum is 1-1/8"; the gripper was originally designed for sheets of 3/4" plywood.

“So if you are lifting 200 lbs.; that is just an enormous amount of pressure on that 200 lb. sheet. The average 4x8 sheet of 3/4" plywood is probably about 45 to 50 lbs. It doesn’t let go until you lower the handle. That’s why we say it should be on your left side or your right side, but not carried over the back because if you start carrying it over the back and you start pulling down on the handle that is curved forward, that will release the plate. n

Source list
10C Technologies, 14285 Midway Road, Suite 125, Addison, TX 75001. Tel: 972-385-2486.
Bossmate, 1919 Rossville Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37408. Tel: 800-651-6904.
DeWalt, 701 E. Joppa Road, TW395, Towson, MD 21286. Tel: 800-433-9258.
Empire Level Mfg. Corp., 929 Empire Dr., P.O. Box 800, Mukwonago, WI 53149. Tel: 800-558-0722.
General Tools & Instruments, 80 White St., New York, NY 10013-3567. Tel: 800-697-8665.
Jet Tools, WMH Tool Group, 427 Sanford Road, LaVergne, TN 37086. Tel: 800-274-6848.
Landon Innovations, 11968 Challenger Ct., Moorpark, CA 93021-7119. Tel: 805-523-1800.
SLK Development Group, 5101 Gorgas Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55424. Tel: 866-930-5203.
Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association, P.O. Box 44, Elm Grove, WI 53122. Tel: 800-352-2981.
Stanley-Bostitch, Stanley Fastening Systems L.P., Briggs Dr., East Greenwich, RI 02818. Tel: 800-556-6696.

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