• Van Layout

    Buying a work van just got a lot more efficient–and fun.

     
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    Crack-Free Slabs

    One word describes successful concrete work: consistency. Exercise the same level of care at every stage of the process.

     
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    Work Boots

    Standing all day on rooftops, hot pavement, and cold scaffolding, your work boots can be as important a tool as your cordless drill. And thanks to new technologies in materials and construction, as well as some existing proven offerings, there are plenty of options for your feet that not only keep...

     
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    28-Volt Breakthrough

    We haven't seen much lately about the cordless race for higher voltage, since tool companies started realizing what contractors have known for years: If you're going to work with a cordless tool all day, 18 volts gets the job done–but 24-volt tools are too heavy. 'The breakthrough,' tool experts...

     
  • Plywood Turns 100

    Industry celebrates anniversary in Portland, Ore.

     
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    Roof Mates Air Knife Pneumatic Shingle Cutter

    Roof Mates' new Air Knife is a real knuckle saver. A cross between a pneumatic tool and a hook-blade utility knife, the Air Knife's reciprocating piston zips the 1-1/4-inch-deep hook through shingles in a blur with just a light draw force. It's great for trimming rake edges and valleys, and cutting...

     
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    Block Work for Dummies

    Most builders sub-out block work. In my practice, however, doing block work myself increases profits, lowers costs, and maximizes my control over jobs. It also gives me another service to offer prospective customers. The key to working with block lies in developing a few basic skills: Unit layout...

     
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    Cutting Rafters

    Cutting rafters one at a time works, but it's slow. With the right tools and layout tricks, I can gang-cut entire roof systems accurately and quickly.

     
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    Hitachi KM 12VC Router Combination Kit

    Sometimes combination tools have to make too many compromises to perform their numerous functions. Fortunately, that's not the case with Hitachi's new KM 12VC router combination kit. This smartly designed, solidly constructed, and well-outfitted tool fulfills its promises as a fixed-base and...

     
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    Safety Gear, Work Gloves, New Tools

     
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    Rotary Hammers

    If your hammerdrill struggles in concrete packed with heavy aggregate or while using large bits like mine does, and you carry star drills or sharpened masonry nails to break up hard aggregate, then this Tool Test is for you. I tested seven hammerdrill-sized pistol-grip rotary hammers that take...

     
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    Laser Level Layout

    It used to be that laser levels and the cutting-edge technology that powered them were so rare and expensive, only the largest or most profitable contractors could afford them. Now, of course, prices have fallen dramatically (indeed, one manufacturer's rep described some lasers to me as...

     
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    Tim Landry and Dwight Sherman

    You think you've got a lot of tools? The three super-size Berland's House of Tools near Chicago, where Dwight Sherman and Tim Landry run the show, each boast 30,000 square feet of tool space, housing 30,000 SKUs of tools from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. They should really be called Berland's...

     
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    Giant Steps

    What do you get when you combine gray and yellow? Graylo? How about when you add a bold red to orange and blue? I guess what I really want to know is, 'What do you get when DeWalt buys Porter-Cable and Delta, and Milwaukee joins Ridgid and Ryobi?'

     
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    Hall of Fame 2005

    Marshall Burns may be one of the last bridges still spanning the historic past and boundless future of the tool industry. Certainly few people have witnessed firsthand the changes in tools and technology that he's seen in his lifetime. And even fewer have taken part in shaping that change.

     
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    Quality Is Your Choice

    Sometimes when I look at the pressures encroaching on jobsite performance, I wonder how construction crews and their companies can even come close to succeeding. It's no wonder that quality levels can come into question: Time constraints, physical barriers, jobsite politics, technical issues, and...

     
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    Window Installation

    Before I became a field-training consultant for builders, I was a builder and remodeler. Even then, long before mold was a hot topic, it bothered me how many different methods were used to install windows. Stucco guys did it one way, East Coasters another, and production framers in California had...

     
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    Ed Williams

    Ed Williams is a one-of-a-kind carpenter who does one-of-a-kind work in one-of-a-kind houses near Dallas. His business, the Great American Carpentry Co., is a full-dress cabinet shop and 24-man custom trim crew. But his real job description–other than payroll conduit–is problem solver.

     
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    Cordless Jigsaws

    The cordless jigsaw category is open for business. We compared five models for power, performance, and convenience. Eight years ago, I tested one of the first cordless jigsaws to hit the market, and it was awful! It had the power of a dull handsaw and the maneuverability of a concrete block...

     
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    Utility Knives

    When I started in construction, I pilfered a bunch of tools from my father, among them his old fixed-blade utility knife. After about six months, the blade made its way through the bottom of my leather tool pouch and into my leg. (I guess I deserved it for raiding my father's tools without...

     
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    Give Me a Break

    Here's a good one: As of this past February, the 14th to be exact, young carpenters and roofers, and any other 16- or 17-year-olds trying to get a start in the construction trades, are banned by the Department of Labor (DOL) from working 'upon or in close proximity to a roof' because of the...

     
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    Out of the Chute

    Few places in construction are mistakes harder to correct than the surface of a concrete slab, so you've got to pay attention to the basics if you want to get the quality and finish your customers expect, whether it's a driveway, patio, or floor deck.

     
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    2005 Editors' Choice Awards

    Cracking the code, cutting a new edge, shifting a paradigm, or re-imagining the commonplace are the traits that drive companies, designers, and engineers forward. They are what makes them great at their jobs and what compels them to create the new tools, ideas, and innovations that make it easier...

     
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    Tool Storage

     
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    Framing With Light-Gauge Steel

    I learned how to frame with 2-by sticks, and in those days the idea of framing with steel was about as foreign to me as speaking Russian. But after setting up shop in New York City, fire codes and commercial building practices left me with no alternative, so now I speak Russian.

     
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    Harry Bryan, Wooden Boat Builder

    People think I don't use power tools,' said my friend Harry Bryan, a wooden boat builder and designer I was visiting on the coast of New Brunswick, Canada. Maybe that's because his shop is unusual: It's off the grid.

     
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    14-Inch Band Saws

    Before I went into woodworking and custom boat building, I built and remodeled houses. Oddly, some of my earliest band saw work came framing a cloverleaf-shaped custom home. We spent days pushing 2x12s through the boss's rickety band saw, making miles of curved plates and parts for a funky mansard...

     
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    Straight-Magazine Finish Nailers

    In the old days it was easy to pick out the better finish nailer because cool features like depth adjustment, no-mar caps, and swing-out noses for clearing jambs were few and far between. Now these features–and more–are pretty much standard on most pro-grade nailers, and the definition of a 'good'...

     
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    Realtity Check

    OK, I'm probably the only person left in the world who doesn't get a kick out of 'reality' TV shows–but I don't. If watching TV is a waste of precious time, then watching these 'redesign a room in two days'/'build a mansion in a week' shows are the ultimate. I know I'm on shaky ground here, given...

     
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    Construction Master

    When someone says 'framing square,' we all probably think of the same object. But before it became a mass-produced tool in early 19th century America–and the tool we all think of–medieval European timber framers used framing squares to lay out bents and ribbed vaults for houses and cathedrals. It...

     
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    Radius Layout

    The architects I work with love to design arches–sometimes even serpentine soffits that roll like ceiling-mounted ocean waves–but they don't spend much time on layout, leaving us to figure them out on site. Fortunately, not every arch we build requires the math department at Columbia University to...

     
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    Hans Nebel

    It's not what Hans Nebel does with his tools that's important. It's what the tools do for him.

     
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    Coil Roofing Nailers

    Coil roofing nailers are the most abused tools on my jobsite. They withstand blistering rooftop heat under summer sun, take two-story high-dives onto frozen mud in winter, and endure constant grinding as I drag them across 10-grit shingle granules. And that doesn't even account for the grime that...

     
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    Trim Routers

    When you're working with historic buildings, there's one thing you can depend on: You can't depend on anything. Over the last 150 years, changes in hardware, trim details, and other product introductions and evolutions (weather stripping for example) have led to the need for a versatile tool like a...

     
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    Do You Believe in Magic?

    A piece of life's puzzle fell into place for me last week: The connection between Knowledge and Magic. First, I got an e-mail from reader Joe Novack, a former contractor and director of the Building Trades Department at Madison County High School in Virginia, asking us to spend more time promoting...

     
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    Mud Bath

    Sometimes you have to do it yourself–and that means taping, mudding, and sanding drywall. Maybe the job is too small or the timeline is too crunched for your sub, but whatever the reason, knowing the tricks to drywall installation can keep your crew moving and your schedule on track.

     
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    New Pro Tool Lines

    Power tool shelf space is getting more crowded, as still more pro tool companies and brands enter the U.S. market. During the past few months, we reported on two new brands, Moty-ko and Perles. In addition, at least four other pro tool lines have been launched this year: Worx, Dodge Hemi, Kawasaki...

     
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    Laminate Countertops

    OK, I know what you're going to say–building laminate countertops is crazy. And years ago when I was running a big framing and trim crew, I would have agreed. Nowadays, I remodel more and work with smaller crews, so the ability to manage when and how the countertop is built and installed gives me...

     
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    Brad Nailers

     
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    Worm Drives/Hypoids

    Getting framers to tool-test wormdrive saws is like convincing kids to eat ice cream. After telling my lead guys we'd be testing the classic saws alongside the newest introductions in the category, I realized that I could have charged them money and they still would've showed up early for testing.

     
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    Laser Tools

     
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    Shariar Ghalam, Residential Remodeler

    Shariar Ghalam's father knew his dream for his son to become a musician was long gone when he discovered the boy had taken the strings off his violin to make a crane. It wasn't too much of a surprise. Ghalam kept his parents on their toes by disassembling his toys and revamping them, and later as a...

     
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    3-HP Cabinet Saws

    The undisputed king of the woodshop is the 10-inch cabinet saw. Along with a good workbench, a well-tuned and -outfitted cabinet saw with a good blade and a proper out-feed is the beating heart of the shop. As such, choosing which saw to buy is a big decision. A good machine will prove both...

     
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    The Long Haul

    Once again, everyone was glued to the television watching with horror something that always happens to other people, somewhere else in the world; everyone, of course, except those actually fleeing from our Gulf Coast states and what was left of their lives there. 'Somewhere else' feels a lot closer...

     
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    Launch Time 2005

    This month members of the tool industry will descend on Baltimore for the annual convention and trade show of the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA), an organization made up of manufacturers and distributors of construction/industrial products. The benefits for you and...

     
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    Side Job

    The only time I used to touch vinyl siding was to tear it off an old Colonial or Victorian I was hired to rescue, or to hang it on unremarkable buildings like strip malls, multifamily units, or a shotgun ranch. So, I was shocked when a client asked for vinyl on a new $700,000 custom home.

     
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    Valley Techniques

    There are lots of techniques for shingling a valley–woven, cut, open metal lined–but there's one you just won't find described on shingle wrappers that's easier and faster to install, is just as weather resistant, and looks great. It works with laminated or random-pattern shingles that comprise...

     
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    David Marcelli and Barney

    Seek.' That's the only command mold investigator David Marcelli of Westminster, Md., has to give his two best inspectors to set them off in search of mold. That's right, his best searchers are dogs.

     
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    Feature: Quality Check

    Building a high-quality house has never been easy. But with houses that are required to perform better than ever before combined with ravenous demand and a shifting labor market, it's harder than ever to please customers, go fast, and keep the bottom line black. This dynamic has tested how we...