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Ask the Builder: For cool new tools, think cordless

Tim Carter Tribune Content Agency

DEAR TIM: I just sold some old stuff I no longer needed. My intent was to get cash together to add to my hoard of hand and power tools. Can you share some of the coolest tools you’re aware of? I’m interested in versatility and quality. If I need more cash, then I’ll sell more of my stuff! – Kevin F., Liberty, Maine

I could go on and on about all sorts of new tools, as I get to see so many each year. That’s the problem for me. I see so many, I don’t know where to start, but I’ll give it my best shot.

1. Cordless circular saw: One of the coolest tools I saw at a recent conference is a cordless 7 1/4-inch circular saw. Smaller diameter cordless saws have been on the market for years, and some cut fairly well but overall were a disappointment to me.

When you increase the blade diameter, you need more power to spin the blade to cut through thick material. Milwaukee Tools has developed a cordless circular saw I tested, and I was blown away by what it could cut.

The reason the newer cordless tools are able to work as hard as traditional cordless tools lies in both the batteries and the onboard computers in the tools that manage the power to the tool. The microprocessors ensure the power in the batteries is not wasted.

2. Combination pliers/ wire stripper/cable cutter: If you dabble in electric repairs around your home, then you’re going to love the all-purpose pliers I now use made by Klein Tools. This precision hand tool combines a wire stripper, a needle-nose pliers and a cable cutter!

In the past I used three tools to cut a romex cable, strip the insulation from the wires then bend the wire tip to go around the screws on outlets and switches. No more! This all-purpose pliers does all three jobs.

3. Cordless impact driver: Another cordless power tool you may want, but don’t currently own, is an impact driver. This tool used to be just found in an auto mechanic’s garage. You’ve seen or heard them used when they rat-a-tat-tat the lug nuts on your car or truck wheels. In repair shops these tools are almost always driven by compressed air.

A few years back, however, some crafty power tool engineers decided to bring these impact drivers into the construction field and power them with batteries. The first time I used one, my jaw dropped. The tool drives screws, bolts and tightens nuts with speed and precision.

You’ll simply not believe how versatile an impact driver is. All of the major power tool companies make these. I seem to favor my DeWalt 18-volt impact driver, but I’ve had great success with the Bosch and Milwaukee brands too.

4. Laser measuring tool: You’ve seen the laser measuring tools, right? Well, how about one that’s tiny, fits in your pocket and has but one button that controls all the functions? And you want it to be accurate within an 1/8 inch in 50 feet? You need to try out the Bosch GLM 15.

I got this tool about two months ago, turned it on and used a traditional tape measure to test it for all sorts of distances. It was extremely accurate. There are all sorts of uses for it around the home, including taking simple room measurements, finding floor to ceiling height in seconds, and taking diagonal room measurements to check for square.

5. Multi-bit screwdriver: Sometimes I prefer to use a traditional screwdriver for a job. Multi-bit screwdrivers are not new by any means. I’ve tested many and always wanted one that had a certain heft and ergonomic design. What I’ve come to discover is that since each person’s hands are not the same size, it’s hard for a tool manufacturer to satisfy everyone. What feels right in my hand may feel too big or small in your hand.

Well, Milwaukee Tools didn’t disappoint me. They came out with a multi-bit screwdriver that has seven bits, six of them stored in the outer edges of the tool handle. Each bit is about 3 1/2 inches long and connects to the tool handle with a strong magnet.

There’s little wiggle between the bits and the handle. That’s important to me because I want the tool to be steady when in use. The bit steel is also tough and fits nicely in slotted or Phillips screw heads.

This multi-bit screwdriver is front-and-center on my metal pegboard made by Wall Control that’s just behind my workbench in my garage. Don’t forget that you need a tool storage solution that looks great and is highly functional. That’s why I use metal pegboard!

Carter’s past columns are archived at his www.AsktheBuilder.com. You can also watch hundreds of videos, download Quick Start Guides and more, all for free.
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