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Rather than trying to guess what various tradesmen and consumers will want to buy together (and then creating a zillion different “kits”), Hitachi’s trying something new — simply offering what amounts to volume discounts on purchases of a broad category of tools. In this case, they’re trying out the idea with compressors and nailers. This strikes us as a great idea.

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Here’s how it works: when you buy Hitachi’s EC510 compressor, you automatically get 20% off the price of one of five finish nailers. (See below for the full list.) If you buy two of the nailers, you get 30% off the package. If you buy three, you get 40% off the package. It’s a “roll your own” kit.

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We wrote about Craftsman’s Hammerhead “Auto-Hammer” way back in 2008. Our initial take: It was an interesting solution to a pretty rare problem. When came in possession of one a good bit later, we were surprised to discover that it worked as advertised. (For those of you not familiar, a small anvil inside the hole you see on the head drives a nail with hundreds of short but powerful blows. It feels a little like a pneumatic palm nailer, but it’s battery powered and — as we mentioned back in ’08 — features a much different shape.) But we just couldn’t see it as a serious solution for driving thousands of nails. Rather, we suspected it would find a home more as a specialty tool for tasks like, say, driving a nail in between studs or in other tight spaces.

Enter now the updated version, the Hammerhead G2, pictured above. What, you ask, might they add? Try a light. And a rotating head.

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When I think “cap gun,” an entirely different image comes to mind for me than the one pictured above. However, this cap gun from Duo-Fast is a pneumatic-powered monster of a helping hand. Roofers and siding guys normally look upon cap staplers as a necessary evil with their jams and constant need to fuss over them. Duo-Fast’s DF150-CS claims to fix that.

Offering a significant boost to productivity on the job is Duo-Fast’s exclusive 240-cap spool system. The system enables Duo-Fast to offer the best cap capacity in the category, a perfect compliment to the tool’s 110-staple capacity. When it is time to add fasteners, an open-loading design makes reloading quick and easy and eliminates the hassles that previously accompanied the process.
Users can easily switch between three firing modes: bump, sequential, and staple-only. The three-mode firing system is new to the industry and is certain to make a lot of end users happy. When driving both caps and fasteners, the 18-gauge stapler drives 3/8” crown staples 1” in length. In staple-only mode, the DF150-CS is capable of driving narrow crown staples from ¾” to 1-1/2” in length.

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These are the Buffalo Tools pneumatic air shears. As far as we can tell they’re supposed to cut metal and plastic. We can’t confirm this, however, since they’ve never worked out of the box and continue to be a pain in our rear. So we followed the directions and manual that came with them to get what turned out to be a broken part replaced. Pain and suffering followed.

Round 1: As instructed in the booklet, we emailed the manufacturer about our broken shears. They promptly sent back word that the shears were not their product and not their problem.

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9 minutes. This air-fitting blower attachment for our compressor testing lasted all of 9 minutes. A simple drop onto a concrete floor from bench height, and this bad boy was leaking air in all the wrong places — like the thread collar.

On balance, it was a cheap-o Harbor Freight unit that cost us a whopping $1.50 in the bargain bin. You do get what you pay for, but I did hope the fitting would last longer than a beer break.

Is this a sign that all cheap tools are crap? No, of course not. It’s a lesson that we should be more careful not to drop the tools that are made from thin, breakable materials when we know damn well they’re not built to last.

 

About a week and change after posting our first article on the beginnings of our compressor test, we found two things. We’d missed a few brands that needed to go along with that test, and we’d have to wait a little to get them and put them through the same ringer the rest of the field endured. In that spirit, a Bostitch, a DeWalt, and a Porter Cable compressor joined the cast of competitors.

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Shop air compressors are very much like the heater in your home: If it’s working, you really don’t pay it much attention. Only recently when we had a hiccup with our five-gallon Ridgid twin-stack did the thought even come up that this was a 5-year old unit that had put in hundreds of hours of tireless service. We decided to see how our favorite old compressor does against a field of modern competitors.

We shopped around until we found a good representative product from several manufacturers. The rules were pretty simple: Each unit had to be available at a home center or gear equivalent, needed to be in the 2-to-5 gallon range, and finally had to be able to power the shop tools we put into circulation on a regular basis such as trim guns, air blowers, and so forth. Four challengers to the Ridgid arrived in the shop for test. They are, in manufacturer’s alphabetical order: Bosch CET4-20, Campbell Hausfeld FP2602, Hitachi EC 89, and Makita MAC2400.

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The 5-gallon Twin-Stack Ridgid compressor in the shop has been pushing nails and powering tools for the last three-and-change years without so much as a second thought. Though it took a little longer to fill the tank in the last few weeks it’s been as solid as can be — until yesterday.

Because it’s cold out, I had the door closed. This meant that all the dust I was making cutting miters right above the compressor started settling around  and on the compressor. This normally isn’t an issue since I get a brush and broom and sweep it all outside or into the collection bin. Did I mention it was cold? So I just kept going without sweeping and knocking the dust off.

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The easy play that comes naturally to most folks when they look at a set of tools that’s not the utmost in professional quality is to declare it junk, cite a scenario where the tool in question won’t work, and move to the trumpeting of the favored brand or product. Campbell Hausfeld’s FP260097 combo kit sports a large “kick-me” sign. We liken it to the rep the “smart” kids suffered from in high school — it’s largely undeserved.

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For every Arthur there is an Excalibur — together they create the seamless integration of human and machine that heralds the fulcrum of change. It could be anything, really; for Wyatt Earp it was the Buntline Special, Indiana Jones never left home without his whip, and for Eddie Rickenbacker it was the SPAD S.XIII. Everyone’s got one, even if they don’t know what it is exactly. After careful thought, mine is the 18ga. pneumatic brad nailer. It’s the weapon of choice in my shop, so it seemed only natural that I host a small test of nailers and see how they stack up to each other.

To that end, for the last few months we’ve been testing five models of 18ga nailers in the shop against the rigors normally associated with shop use. Then, for a little extra kick, each was loaned out to a rougher environment like a trim carpenter crew, cabinet shop or furniture repair retailer for a few weeks. Once each came back from the field, we compiled and compared the data.

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