BeraKor

Necessity was the mother of this simple-looking invention for mixing powdered goods (concrete, grout) and liquids (paint). The inventor, G. Bear Berube, is a master tile setter. On a rush job two hours from home, someone left the thinset mixers behind. Not to be slowed down, Berube grabbed a torch, pliers, and an umbrella from the trash; in a few minutes, he made the first Rapid Rodd and chucked it into his drill.

That was 16 years ago. Berube, who now makes the mixer from stainless steel so nothing sticks to it, says the Rapid Rodd has never let him down. It's made to exacting tolerances so it spins true in your drill chuck and it comes in small, medium, and large sizes. Berube says his tool mixes materials to perfect consistency. Whether you're mixing up fast-setting joint compound, concrete, floor-leveler, or oil-based paint, the Rapid Rodd covers all the bases. You can even use it to cook your crew breakfast?Berube says it's great for scrambled eggs. The Mini sells for $9; the Standard sells for $12; and the Heavy Duty Rodd for $15.

For more information, contact BeraKor, 714-460-2720; www.berakor.com.

Vermont American

Less is more for cordless tools' bits and blades. The less resistance when a bit or blade passes through material, the better tools perform. Teamed with aggressive cutting geometries, Vermont American says its X-Tend bits and blades prove this idea.

The drill bits combine a fast-cutting point with a helix angle that immediately ejects material from the hole. The bits cut faster, require less power, and provide up to four times more holes per charge than ordinary bits. For circ saw blades, Vermont American's super-sharp Micro-Edge Technology tooth design combines with a micro-thin kerf on the blade bodies, resulting in about 40 percent more cuts per charge. Similar thinking goes into recip blades, nearly doubling the number of cuts of a standard blade on one charge.

The circ saw blades come in diameters from 3-3/8 to 6-1/2 inches; recip saw blades come in 6- and 8-inch lengths; bits range from 1/16- to 1/2-inch diameters.

For more information, contact Vermont American, 800-742-3869; www.vermontamerican.com.

Cordless Impact Drivers

We think cordless impact drivers are one of the breakthrough tools in the cordless category that have the potential to change -- and improve -- how we drill and drive on our jobsites. Three impact drivers from our First Test in the July/August 2002 issue made us look twice. Milwaukee's 14.4- and 18-volt tools impressed us with massive power and Panasonic's 15.6-volt is the first tool to marry an impact driver with a cordless drill/driver.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee's tools hit hard. The 14.4-volt 9081-22 is compact and comfortable, providing serious power for screwdriving and nut-tightening applications. At 740 inch/pounds of torque, it's three times more powerful than a drill/driver of equal size, according to the company. Plus, it's about 2 inches shorter at 7-1/2 inches long. It spins 0 to 2,200 rpm and has 0 to 2,500 impacts per minute. That's plenty of power for driving loads of deck screws or sinking 1/2-inch-by-6-inch lag screws into old sill plates. And because impact drivers spin the bit so forcefully, you don't have to push as hard to set a screw.

The big dog on the block is Milwaukee's 18-volt 9079-22 impact wrench. With a special attachment, you can drill big holes in large timbers where you'd otherwise have to plug in. With 240 foot/pounds?that's 2,880 inch/pounds?of torque and a 1/2-inch drive for big sockets, 1/2-inch lag screws are no problem for this tool nor is heavy-duty bolt tightening or removal. And for a big, heavy tool, it's very well-balanced. Both the 9081-22 and the 9079-22 come with two reversible batteries; the 9081-22 sells for $245 to $343, and the 9079-22 sells for $295 to $413.

For more information, contact Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., 877-729-3878; www.mil-electric-tool.com.

Panasonic

Cordless impact drivers are great when you need raw power, but there's a trade off: They're as loud as they are small. That's no problem when tightening foundation bolts outside, but if you've got your head inside a cabinet with a cordless impact driver, it's a different story. Plus, you don't always need full-blast power.

Panasonic's EY6535NQKW 15.6-volt cordless impact driver is a triple threat that solves these issues. You get great power in impact mode with 1,100 inch/pounds of torque and 3,300 impacts per minute. The tool also has two drive shafts, 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch, which is unlike any driver we tested. But Panasonic's snap-on interchangeable chuck is the truly innovative advancement: It turns your impact driver into a nice, quiet cordless drill/driver, which has 286 inch/pounds of torque, a two-speed gear box, clutch, and electric brake. The tool ships with a 45-minute charger and two 3.0-amp-hour NiMH batteries. It sells for $299.

For more information, contact Panasonic, 800-338-0552; www.panasonic.com/cordlesstools.

Spec out Cordless Impact Drivers on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products(TM).