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With severe drought crippling a significant portion of the U.S. this summer, lawn irrigation is an art every Toolmonger with a yard has considered. While I don’t have an in-ground irrigation system, I’ve been somewhat successful using a few Nelson’s Raintrain traveling sprinklers. They can cover a significant portion of the average yard in the limited hours available for best watering, saving money and allowing you a full night’s sleep. However, just like any car or household machinery, these suburban practice farm machines sometimes break. Fortunately, with an online part order and a little time, they can be brought back to life to water again another day.

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Despite the Tim Allen-grunt-inspired popularity of chainsaws, we’ve recommended safety saws for most homeowners. They’re not as versatile as full-on chainsaws, but they trade a little bit of utility for a ton and a half of safety, which can make all the difference for someone who probably picks up a saw only once or twice a year. We’ve heard plenty of good things about Black & Decker’s Alligator Lopper, and Worx offers something sort of similar — but even simpler in operational terms. They call it the JawSaw, and it’s a little cheaper now than when it was first introduced.

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With the introduction of the green-batteried li-ion line a few years ago, we became fans of Ryobi’s power tools. While the early (blue) One+ line pretty much defined (in our opinion, at least) the price-cheap and quality-cheap low-buck tool line, the updated li-ion versions flat blew us away. We thought the li-ion One+ drill compared favorably to models offered at twice the price; you could actually pick up a whole multi-piece kit for under $200. That’s not bad. Of course, Ryobi has always been in the garden tool market as well, so we’re interested to see what comes of Ryobi’s new 40V li-ion line, which applies most of the same technology to a battery pack large enough to power higher-draw tools, like the chain saw pictured above.

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At no point in my life have I ever looked upon yard work with the same soft-focused, warm fuzzies that seem to inhabit many of my neighbors. They talk of string trimmers the same way I might describe a muscle car. For my part, I just want the least amount of hassle with the easiest care possible. Black & Decker sent me something that actually fits that bill in the 36v string trimmer. It cuts with the same grunt as a gas trimmer but without all the pulls, fuel mixing, and sore shoulders.

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Yeah, it looks more like one of those kiddy-castles than it does a shed. But still, this might be the only real solution for some folks (like me, sadly) whose overly-zealous homeowner’s association won’t allow any kind of construction of any sort in a backyard — even if it’s not visible from the street. So if building one’s own isn’t an option, do these sheds hold up?

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The larger li-ion battery packs tool companies are putting out today are getting closer to giving us the kind of power and duration they’ve been promising since the eighties. Just slide a pack in and do whatever you need to do — like mow the lawn. Sure, Ryobi isn’t the first electric mower or even the first to use a battery. What it really does is prove engineers are still working on solving all household issues with reusable battery packs; hell, Craftsman’s even got a 48v mower.

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For many, this time of year signals the yearly struggle to keep the yard clear of leaves for a few more weeks while you can still see the ground (and ominous wintry clouds plot from a distance). For Texans, it’s admittedly more pleasant, a time of year when we can step outside without the ever-present blast of nature’s convection oven. But even in Texas, deciduous trees shed everywhere — and with the shedding come the teeth-rattling noise and noxious fumes of the leaf blower.

Okay, so not everyone sees it that way. But sentiment on the acceptability of leaf blowers runs strong — a quick search online yields hundreds of articles pleading for the outright ban of these tools, citing inefficiency, negative environmental impact, hearing damage, and plain old annoyance. Those in favor of leaf blowers tend to focus on the convenience and stick with practical advice: gas or electric, alternate uses such as snow clearing and dryer duct cleaning, or ergonomics.

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We’re in the middle of a scorched-Earth summer here in Texas, but I know that some of you up north –especially those of you into gardening — are already starting to think about how you’re going to handle the snow-laden “off” season. Here’s a thought: Build yourself a low-buck greenhouse. What’s “cheap” for a greenhouse? Try $140.27. At least that’s what David LaFerney claims he spent to build the one you see pictured above.

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At some point I’m going to have to break down and build some furniture for my patio. We visited a friend’s house recently and were blown away by the awesome landscaping and fence work in his backyard, which turned it from small, crappily-fenced square (i.e. like ours) into a relaxing miniature oasis. I understand the fence construction and landscaping, and I could definitely assemble some nice mission-style furniture for the project. But here’s something I’ve always wondered: Does furniture designed to have large cushions, like that pictured above, really work outdoors?

To survive the weather, the cushions must be made of durable material. For example, the ones above (for sale at Lowe’s, link below) are made polyester and acrylic. They look comfortable, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re really scratchy and rough. And do they hold up well, or do they die a quick death in bright sunlight like the webbing in old-style folding chairs?

Or does it make sense to simply have indoor cushions and just store them indoors until you’re planning to go outside? (That’s probably stupid, but I’m sure I’m not the first one to think about it.) Anyway, if you have some experience with all this, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. Save a fellow Toolmonger some mistakes, eh?

 

It seems that more than one or two folks like to have the basic small cutting ability of a chainsaw without the sometimes very costly learning curve that goes along with running one. So in addition to the Alligator Lopper from Black & Decker comes the Worx Jaw Saw.

In operation it works much like the old Nerf-style robo-grabbers you might have had when you were a kid. Put something smaller than 4″ in the jaws and squeeze the handle. Instead of two little grabbers, a chainsaw blade swings down and cuts whatever’s between the bottom jaw and the blade. It can even be put directly on the ground and operated that way without fear of stopping the chain or kicking into your leg. Bonus.

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