I finally got a chance to walk part of the AWFS show floor here in Las Vegas and take in some of the new stuff for woodworking.
Makita is coming out with some exciting new “black and white’ cordless tools that will appeal to the home woodworker and do-it-yourselfer. They’re 18v tools with 1.5 amp-hour batteries that will recharge in 15 minutes, according to Wayne Hart, Communications Manager for Makita. To me, these tools look the same as their traditional teal-colored tools. The only difference is the smaller battery size to make them lighter in weight. The larger, higher-capacity 3 amp-hour batteries can also be used on these “black and white” tools. One thing about Makita tools that becomes apparent when you pick them up is their quality. The operation of the cordless drills and impact drivers is smooth. The trigger action is effortless. The combo kit you see pictured here retails for around $329. That’s a bargain, considering the drill alone retails for around $200. This kit includes a flashlight, drill, impact driver, radio, and an “intelligent” battery charger (each battery has a built-in CPU to monitor voltage and prevent over-charging).
Of course, the big buzz on the show floor concerns the “stone-faced” tools from Steel City Tool Works. I spoke at length with Mark Strahler, President of Steel City about his new line of tools with granite tables. The table saw with granite table is based on their hybrid saw. This gets around the problem of mounting the trunnion assembly to the table top as with most contractor saws. The granite tops are really flat…dead flat. So flat in fact, that one of Steel City’s customers requested that Steel City supply them with some granite surfaces to use as reference tables in their machine shop. The other advantage is that they will never rust.
Granite will be available for only a small upgrade charge on their table saws, band saws, and jointers (for the fences). Steel City will guarantee the granite for ten years. It’s an interesting concept that proves that Steel City is thinking “outside the box” when it comes to the design of their tools.
Speaking of thinking outside the box, Mark showed me a pre-production sample of the new Steel City “Dust Collector in a Box.” It is literally small enough to fit inside a small shopping bag. It’s designed for benchtop planers in shops that don’t have a traditional dust collector. It’s a small blower motor and housing that attaches with a flexible rubber connector to your planer. The dust chute exits into a large bag off to the side. The expected retail price will be around $99. Pretty cool.
Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve seen today is made by Penn United Technologies, manufacturer of Penntek tools. These are the guys that originally produced the Robo-Grip pliers which have been redesigned into the newer MagnumGrip pliers. They also licensed the Versa-Clamp and are producing it. But the most unusual thing they had was a new hammer call the PowerPull. The first thought I had was, “How can you improve on the traditional hammer?” They took a traditional framing hammer and added a pop-up “foot” that provides extra leverage when pulling nails. When retracted, it looks just like a “button” on top of the hammer head. When extended, it gives you several addtional pounds of leverage to pull that stubborn nail. It gets around the problem of having to use a scrap piece of wood for extra leverage. Very unique.
Tonight, I’ve been invited to a “press party” by Porter-Cable. As I said yesterday, they’re going to be announcing some new products. More on that tomorrow.