FastCap's Best Fence system is intended to provide shop accuracy in the field. It consists of a portable miter-saw stand with a pair of 57-inch aluminum extension tables. Your saw clips on and off with two lever-operated brackets that bolt to existing holes in the base.
The extensions are aligned with the saw but not connected to it. Instead, they clip onto brackets on the stand and telescoping support wings. Alignment is achieved by turning knobs on the brackets so that the extensions are flush and parallel to the saw's fence and table. The settings can be dialed in with great precision.
Each extension is equipped with a scale and an easily calibrated length stop. The included extensions provide approximately 68 inches of runoff, and since the system is modular you can add a second extension to the end of the first. The Best Fence includes a stand, saw-mounting brackets, two 57-inch table extensions, and a pair of length stops. Price: $500. 888-443-3748. www.fastcap.com.
There used to be two ways to fasten shingles: by hand with a hammer or pneumatically with a coil nailer. But now — courtesy of Duo-Fast and Paslode — there's a third option: using a fuel-powered nailer. Last year these sister companies introduced identical (except for the color) cordless roofing nailers: the Duo-Fast DFCR175C and the Paslode CR175C. These tools will be familiar to anyone who has operated a fuel-powered nailer. Using them is faster than nailing by hand and more convenient than using a pneumatic — there's no need to haul around and set up a compressor, hose, and cord. It's a lot easier to work on a roof if you're not dragging a hose behind you.
The Paslode and Duo-Fast guns were designed for repair work, small roofing jobs, and installation of flashing, vents, and ridge caps — basically any task where ease of use and quick setup trump nailing speed. (The guns are slower than pneumatics and not intended to replace them on large roofing jobs.) Each comes in a soft backpack with a battery, a charger, and a combo pack containing a fuel cell and 720 roofing nails. Web price: $399. Duo-Fast: 888-631-2020, www.duo-fastconstruction.com. Paslode: 800-222-6990, www.paslode.com.
Functional Work Clothes
The Swedish company Blaklader uses the term "functional workwear" to describe its European-style work clothing. Its offerings are more specialized than what we're used to seeing in the U.S., where a tradesman might wear kneepads and a toolbelt over jeans or a pair of carpenter's pants. But in Europe, those pants would have built-in nail pouches, leg pockets to hold gel or foam kneepads, and additional pockets and loops for tools, keys, and I.D.
It's not just pants; other garments are similarly optimized for trade work. A jacket might be gusseted for ease of movement, and have rain flaps on the main pockets and zippers on the chest and arm pockets. A work vest might have nail pouches, utility pockets, and places for pencils, pads, and other small items. Durability gets a lot of attention, too. Details vary by brand, but you're likely to find triple-stitched seams, Cordura fabric in wear areas, and pouches with no bottom seams so fasteners don't break the stitching.
Only a few companies sell European-style workwear in the U.S. — the main supplier is Blaklader. Two other manufacturers — Bjornklader out of Sweden and Mascot out of Denmark — have more limited distribution. Blaklader: 800-948-6452, www.blakladerusa.com. Bjornklader: 877-234-9511, www.facelineinc.com. Mascot: 800-325-8707, www.repconnw.com.
Hilti's TE 3000 AVR is a 65-pound electric demo hammer that the company says is as powerful as pneumatic models of comparable weight, but is far more portable, because it doesn't require a compressor. An active vibration reduction (AVR) system reduces user-felt vibration to very low levels by completely decoupling the handles from the motor and housing.
This is the only breaker of its size with a brushless motor — a type of motor that is particularly light and durable. An active cooling system circulates air over the motor, gears, and electronics, which extends the life of the tool by keeping operating temperature low. A service indicator lamp comes on after 90 hours of use, and if the tool reaches 100 hours without being serviced, the electronics will prevent it from operating until service has been performed.
The tool includes a lifetime warranty against defects and a lifetime service agreement. Price: $2,299. 800-879-8000. www.us.hilti.com.
Ridgid's R3250 is the first dual-blade saw designed with the tradesman in mind. Like other dual-blade models, it has a pair of close-set blades that spin in opposite directions, which virtually eliminates kickback and makes for easy plunge-cutting. The provided carbide blades cut cleanly in wood, steel and stainless steel, aluminum, copper pipe, and plastic. But unlike earlier grinder-based models, this saw is configured like an inline circular saw, so the ergonomics and handling are better.
It differs from a circular saw in that there's no shoe — though at the forward end of the blade housing there is a small foot intended to be used as a pivot point during plunge cuts. Because there's no kickback, the saw can safely cut forward and backward, making it ideal for cutting openings for skylights, hvac ducts, and the like. It also works well as a cutoff saw.
The 10-amp tool has 5-inch blades and cuts up to 11/16 inches deep. Price: $130. 800-474-3443. www.ridgid.com.
Smartphones have made it possible to communicate from the job site as easily as from the office. And with the right construction apps, phones can also help you do and manage the work.
Here are a few you might want to know about. Be aware that apps are available for many platforms — Android, iPhone, Windows 7, BlackBerry — but not all apps are available on all platforms.
Several companies — including BuildCalc and Calculated Industries, maker of the Construction Master — offer apps that allow you to use your phone as a construction calculator.
With apps such as My Measures and D Measures, you can take a photo with your phone, put dimensions on the photo, and then save it or email it to a sub or supplier.
Time-tracking apps such as Time Capture and Tsheets can help with billing and paperwork.
While not specific to construction, Dragon Dictation is a handy way to take notes and write email; just speak into the phone and the app turns your words into text.
A growing number of manufacturers and vendors offer free apps. Sherwin Williams' ColorSnap app can analyze a color in a photo, match it, and provide a list of complementary colors. Home Depot and Lowe's have apps that scan a product's SKU and display pricing and other information. Other apps provide directions to nearby stores.
This is just a small sample of what's out there. We expect to see many new construction apps in the coming year.