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Posts by: Chuck Cage

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We receive at least 20 emails a week from folks asking us where they can find replacement parts for a tool. So we thought it might be worth a post to explain how we go about finding this information for our own personal needs. This might seem a bit simple to some of you, but the volume of mail we receive indicates that it’s a topic we should address. If you’re already very comfortable finding this information yourself, we’d love it if you’d add your own recommendations in comments for future readers who find the post and can benefit from your experience.

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Any power tool consists of a power system — a drive motor, essentially — and a series of mechanical devices that interconnect that drive to some kind of spinning or reciprocating tool: a drill, saw, or driver. So why not just make the motor and handle detachable from the rest of the mess (interconnect and tool) and sell the latter separately so you can just swap them onto the tool when you need them?

Well, we can think of three or four reasons why it might not work. But Black & Decker decided to give it a try. They’re calling it the “Matrix” system: a battery/motor/trigger in a drill/driver form factor along with a series of attachments, currently a drill/driver, oscillating tool impact driver, jigsaw, detail sander, trim saw, and router.

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We’re not at all like those “crazy” people on TV, right? I mean, it’s not like we keep a collection of 25,000 popsicle sticks, or retain the box for every single light bulb we ever buy. Of course, we do keep that leftover piece of scrap wood. And metal. Hey — that stuff is expensive! We’ll use it eventually. And don’t forget the specialty blade set for the table saw. And that awesome (rarely-used) power tool we scored at the flea market.

Actually, more than a few of the people I know through the tool world would easily qualify as hoarders, at least by the definition of “norms” not initiated to our world. In fact, I’ll admit it: I am (well, was) a Toolmonger hoarder. I fixed that this weekend. Read on to find out why — and how.

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Cutting oddly-shaped crown molding on a miter saw is always a little tricky. Besides holding it firmly in place, you also need to make sure you’ve got the molding properly registered against the saw so that the compound angle you painstakingly calculated and dialed in on the saw transfers to the molding — and your walls. One solution, at least for those of you who own Bosch’s axial glide saw, is a crown-specific stop kit.

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The 20V MAX battery system is winding its way through the Stanley Black & Decker product chain, and what you see above represents the Porter Cable take on it, starting with the most common tools — a drill/driver and impact driver. Read on for details as well as some comparisons to the line-founding DeWalt models.

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You know how regular toggle bolt wall anchors always require extra space behind the drywall, and to remove you unscrew them, dropping the toggle behind the wall? This week I found the best toggles I’ve ever used — SnapToggles, made by Toggler. They’re much easier to install, and they stay in place when you unscrew the bolt.

They’re odd-looking, which probably explains why at Lowe’s I found a box opened and a few scattered around the wall anchor area. While traditional toggle bolt anchors consist of a single bolt with “wings” at one end that pop open after being pushed through the wall, the SnapToggle’s two parallel plastic straps tee into a single bar-shaped anchor. The straps can move up or down independently, see-sawing the anchor to form an “I” or a “T” as needed. To install, simply push the toggle long-wise through the hole you drilled (generally a half inch, or about what you use for a medium-to-large standard toggle), then line up the straps to flip the toggle 90 degrees. Next, push the cap along the straps, zip-tie style, until the toggle lies flush behind the wall, and pull the toggle tight with the straps. Finally, just break off the straps flush with the cap. The cap and toggle stay in place, allowing you to install the bolt whenever you like.

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A couple of years back, an “upscale” North Texas community’s HOA published a list of proscribed doings which included–and I’m not kidding here–parking a pickup truck on the street or in a driveway visible from the street. No, really. Luxury trucks, however, like the Lincoln Mark LT don’t count. “It doesn’t look like a pickup,” the HOA chairman told local media; “It’s fancier.”

I don’t point this out to make fun of the HOA (which others have already done in spades), but rather as a great example of just how crazy the excess of 2007-8 got in terms of trucks. The luxotruck market started with the Lincoln Blackwood, essentially an F-150 crew cab with a few slightly different body parts, a fancy leather interior, and a bed turned into a large, square, crappy trunk via a permanently-fixed electric bed cover. For these bonuses, buyers shelled out just over $50k–almost $20k more than the most expensive F-150 of the time. GM followed with the Escalade EXT, a similarly-dolled-up version of the Chevy Avalanche. To cut a long history short, the Blackwood became the Mark LT in 2005, and bit the dust in 2008 after the economy took a big bite out of the more-money-than-brains market. The Mark LT lives on, though, in a more work-friendly format: the F-150 Platinum, which (what a concept!) has a functional bed. 

Bottom line: trucks without beds aren’t trucks. They’re crappy cars, and they’re the epitome of the wannabe culture. It seems even the GQ crowd agrees, naming the Mark LT one of its “Douchiest Cars of All Time,” awarding the EXT honorable mention.

Just to be clear, we have zero issue with the idea of decking out your truck. Though we tend to prefer trucks that get the job done for less, we certainly don’t believe that hauling stuff means you should be stuck with no amenities. We just can’t get behind the idea of a truck without a bed, or a truck that carries a price large enough to buy another truck–and doesn’t offer any functionally superior capability.

That said, we do take issue with a few of GQ’s other “douchiest cars.” They hate the Trans Am, for example, citing the bird’s giant hood decal, “steamship levels of understeer,” and poor performance as douche-factors. We humbly suggest that they missed the point. Sure, the stock small-block won’t get out of its own way, but a number of GM crate motors make for an easy swap, delivering more power than anyone really needs. And who buys a Trans Am for the handling?

GQ also dumps on the Dodge Viper, correctly pointing out that it’s difficult to drive and pretty low on creature comforts. It’s just that “hot, smelly,” and loud functionality that we like–because it pisses them off.

Anyway, let us know (as always) what you think. Is the LT really a great deal? Did we miss something?

 

If you’re new to welding and want a full set of safety gear, or if you need a second set for travel, Lincoln offers two “package” deals called Ready-Paks. The basic version includes a cloth welding jacket, a set of leather work gloves, a set of welding gloves, Lincoln’s low-end safety glasses, and Lincoln’s Viking 1840 variable shade (9 to 13) welding helmet. Pictured above is their new “premium” version, which subs in the upgraded Viking 3350 helmet (with a greater shade range, 6 to 13), a leather sleeved jacket, and an upgraded set of welding gloves and safety glasses — plus some leather welding sleeves. In both cases you get a big (and pretty durable-looking) duffel bag in which to carry the gear.

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Happy Friday, everyone. Sean sent me the video above, and I had to share. What you see is the making of a John Neeman axe. As others have pointed out, the sale of handmade products — especially bespoke products — put food on the table of artisans. So we love to see the process, and we also like the idea of spreading the word about their products. The forge has always struck us as pretty primal, and watching someone use one to make one of the oldest (and most useful) tools around seems like a great way to end the week.

Enjoy, and we’ll see you next week.

UPDATE: Apparently the original video owner decided to make the video private on Vimeo. Thanks, Aleksejs, for pointing out an alternate YouTube link in comments. I swapped it out above.

 

A disclaimer up front for this week’s video find: After all the difficulty I’ve been through in the last few years — and the far, far worse crap I’ve seen friends and others go through — I freakin’ hate conspicuous consumption. Seriously; there are FAR better ways to express one’s identity than buying some damn expensive and unnecessary item. So please forgive the absurdity of paying $200k+ for a car that doesn’t functionally do much more than a Malibu.

I chose this video not because of the product these people are producing — but rather because the individuals who produce them and the surprising facts about the way the cars are made really caught my attention. Specifically, Bentley factory staff tells us in the video that woodworking represents the most complex task in building the cars, and therefore is the first task they start when building a car. (Apparently all Bentleys are custom-order, not built on spec.) Despite the assembly-line appearance of the factory and the application of automated tooling whenever possible (note the CNC laser-cutting of veneer, for example), Bentley employs a ton and a half of skilled woodworkers to craft the interiors of their 7,000 cars made each year.

Those look like interesting people. I’d love to meet them.

Have a good weekend, and drop us a line if you get a chance to let us know what you’re doing out in the shop or on the jobsite.