Last week I attended the 33rd annual STAFDA convention and trade show in Atlanta, Georgia. For those of you not familiar with the trade association's acronym, it stands for Specialty Tools And Fasteners Distributors Association, and its membership includes distributors, retailers, and manufacturers of light construction tools and related products. This show is always interesting for Tools of the Trade because it is where we find the latest in tools and equipment that relate closely to the trades of our readers.
Heavy rain showers associated with Hurricane Ida scared a lot of people to the airport early so the second day was sparsely populated, but it gave the rest of us more room to maneuver the hall and get face time with the manufacturers.
Here are some of the highlights from the floor.
Bernzomatic has their new Quickfire mini torch out and ready to fire. Its tiny 5.45-ounce tank of propylene gas is the key to its compact size and very light weight, and the mini tanks will also fit other torch tips rated to use propylene or MAPP gas. This mini torch isn't intended as a replacement to a plumber's everyday rig, but as the most convenient tool to grab for smaller jobs.
Bosch's biggest news seems to be their rapidly-growing laser tool line, and the most interesting development is their two-plane laser that projects a 360-degree plane without a motorized spinning beam. Instead, it projects the laser beam onto a reflective cone that flattens it out into a plane. This unit is the first to have a vertical plane created by a cone. The level has no motors and is being touted as an economical alternative to 360-degree plane lasers that rotate.
Cadex led the way in our 23-gauge pinner test a few years ago with one of the first tools to shoot up to 2-inch pins, and now they have an updated version of their smaller 1-3/8-inch model with all the bells and whistles such as dry-fire lock-out, a swivel air fitting, and a built-in blower. An improved 2-inch model is on the way too. Cadex also displayed 21-gauge pinners which they say work better in some hardwood applications when using pins over 1-3/8-inches long because the thinner 23-gauge pins are more are likely to curve with the wood grain.
DeWalt showed off a new worm-drive circular saw that is made to be even more durable than their previous model which won our tool test in the category years ago. The new model has extra-sturdy pivot-point hardware to keep the cuts at 90-degrees, a magnesium shoe, and a dual-thickness rafter hook that fits over both 2-bys and I-joists. The saw is designed to be safely lifted by its cord thanks to a suspension joint in the handle that isolates the wiring from shock loads in both the fixed-cord and twist-on cord versions. An extra large accessory rip fence for the saw folds up for transport and storage, and its two long arms accommodate rips up to 17-inches wide.
Fein premiered a new 4-1/2-inch round sanding attachment for its Multimaster that covers more surface area than previous sanding accessories, and it also features through-the-pad dust collection. And one of the most innovative products of the entire show was the brand's new angle grinder design with four contact-patch switches recessed in different places in the tool body. Named Tip Start, this feature provides true dead-man switch operation but adds flexibility as the user can keep the tool on with either a thumb or forefinger on the front or rear hand. For safety, a front and rear switch must be held down simultaneously to turn the grinder on, and a contact switch can be let go of for up to 1-1/2 seconds to allow for hand repositioning. The grinder motor is isolated from the tool's body which is said to greatly reduce vibration, and its commutator-forward design provides more direct venting of heat. This new design can be found on five grinders in 4-1/2-, 5- and 6-inch sizes. For more on this new grinder design, see the Hot Finds section in our next issue.
Greenlee's latest products include two auger bits that are designed to cut through more nails than previous designs. The Nail Eater extreme has a curved cutting edge that pulls nails toward the center of the bit to shear them cleanly instead of scraping against them repeatedly, and the cutting edge is hardened through instead of being case hardened to survive more nails and more sharpenings. The Nail Eater RT has a replaceable cutting edge tip and a replaceable feed screw to last longer than one-piece auger bits and to provide better cutting economy over its lifetime. The quick replacement of the extra-hard tip is also intended to reduce downtime on the job.
Hitachi showed a lot of new products in different categories in their booth including a long-awaited 23-gauge pinner that shoots fasteners up to 1-3/8-inches and a tiny palm nailer that may or may not be introduced into the US market. A 6-1/2-inch blade corded circ saw premiered and may prove to be the impetus to get other brands to compete in this category that previously had only one player-we'll see. A new metal cutting circ saw and a small rotary hammer with a dust collection unit also made their trade show debut. Hitachi-owned outdoor power equipment manufacturer Tanaka occupied an adjacent booth and we were told that some of their select tools would also be marketed in green trade dress as a Hitachi product.
Irwin has a new jaw design for their Vise-Grip locking pliers that shifts under a twisting load and self-tightens, similar to the action of a pipe wrench. This means that the grip strength of the tool isn't determined solely by the crushing force of the jaws, and may prevent the deformation of some materials the pliers are used on. The brand's 4-point utility knife blade is also new. For cuts in most materials, the tip usually wears out first so the blade is scored so it can be snapped off a little ways behind the point to expose a new tip, possibly increasing the blade's life two times for some uses.
Jet displayed industrial hammers with handles that are guaranteed to be unbreakable. The super-tough plastic handles have 4 steel rods embedded throughout their length to keep them in one piece despite the best efforts of your strongest employee. Available in ball pein, cross pein, and sledgehammer models in many sizes.
Makita's biggest hits were their high pressure nailers and compressor. We already tested them for our current issue, but this was the first time most folks got to see them in person. The first in a new line of drywall screwdrivers debuted, as well as two new compact angle grinders. Makita's sequential hit pattern technology used in their larger hammers is now available in a small 7/8-inch rotary hammer. This mechanism synchronizes the blows and rotation of the bit so the bit doesn't strike in the same place twice in succession. Pulverizing the concrete evenly in a hole adds to the tool's efficiency and reduces drilling time.
Milwaukee has two new standard-duty Sawzalls with 12 amp motors. One has a 1-1/8-inch stroke for standard wood and demo applications and the other has a short 3/4-inch stroke for metal and other hard material cutting.
Milwaukee's Stiletto brand announced they are coming out with a new version of their all-titanium framing hammer called the TiBone 3. (Its predecessor–The TiBone 2–was a favorite in our test of new-technology framing hammers a few years ago.) The first all-titanium trim hammer-dubbed the TrimBone– is coming from the brand too. And we were privy to a sneak peek at a few other hand tools under development; all we can say is they are tools found in a carpenter's nail bag, but you will have to wait until next year to hear any more about them.
ModBox is a modular job box that a lone contractor can carry and assemble from seven interlocking panels without the use of any tools. The fact that the box comes in multiple pieces means that it can be set up in places where other boxes can't go such as up the stairs at residential jobs or in older buildings without spacious elevators. The modular construction also makes the box easier to ship, transport to jobs, and store when not in use.
Pneu-Tools showed a unique mid-pressure nailer that can shoot pins into steel at 150 to 180 PSI. Some newer compressors pump up to 200 PSI to provide more storage capacity so this tool does not necessarily require a special compressor to run. Gas powered framing and trim nailers were also displayed, as was a coil nailer that uses a plastic collation strip that the nails shoot all the way through so they won't leave any collation scraps embedded under the nail head.
Rapid Tools has the first serrated utility knife blades we've seen. The undulations in the blade are designed to help them slice through some thick materials longer than straight blades because the raised parts of the serrations stay sharp even when the bottoms of the teeth are beginning to dull. Sounds like just the thing for cutting carpeting, cardboard, shingles, vinyl flooring, etc..
Rockwell is starting their collection of subcompact cordless tools with a 12-volt drill/driver, an oscillating-blade multi-tool, and what must be the smallest rotary hammer in the world. Another interesting tool is their compact corded 3-1/8-inch blade saw that can be fitted with blades for cutting wood, metal, or tile.
Stanley Bostitch is in the middle of a game-changing business deal that has everyone abuzz-namely being in the process of buying Black and Decker which owns the DeWalt, Porter-Cable, and Delta brands among others-but we won't let that overshadow their new product news. The Fat Max Extreme tool line name is being discontinued, and new construction-grade hand tool products will be marketed under the Bostitch name. The minds at Stanley Bostitch figured that since guys are using their nailers on site, the Bostitch name already has a certain heavy-duty brand equity that can be applied to their job site tools such as tapes, chalk lines, levels, hammers, pry bars, and a few others. The most interesting new tool is a 4-foot level with clamping arms that grip 2-by and 4-by materials for hands-free use. Their booth was also the place to get autographs from This Old House star Tom Silva, and our very own ToolHound from our current issue, Chris Dutra.
Senco Out of alphabetical order here, but in just the right place to receive my highest trade show honors.
Senco's innovative Fusion nailer design was a real show-stopper and I hereby bestow upon it the "COOLEST THING AT THE SHOW" award.
The Fusion is a battery powered nailer design with a real difference-it works more like a pneumatic nailer. Instead of using a flywheel that has to get up to speed before a nail can be shot, the Fusion uses pressurized nitrogen gas in a closed system that drives the piston down just like an air-powered nailer. The gas is re-pressurized when the motor forces the piston back up after each shot, and can cycle about three nails per second. A 15-gauge trim nailer and 18-gauge brad nailer were at the show and we can't wait to test them. When we do, you can be sure we will let you know what we find out.
For more on this new nailer design, see the Hot Finds section in our next issue.