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When they’re a part of a large system of many nailers and compressors, pneumatic brad nailers are cheap to buy and operate. But if you don’t own any pneumatics at all and just want a nailer, they’re expensive as hell. The extra cost of a compressor, hose, and regular maintenance proves a killer for low-end DIYers. So a while back manufacturers started offering electrics — a bit more pricey off the shelf when comparing gun to gun, but much cheaper than a whole system. Sadly, though, due to their low-budget “weekend warrior” target market, these early electrics were plagued with quality and reliability issues.

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Then DeWalt came along to enter the market, which is interesting because they clearly don’t intend to sell this almost $300 tool to hobbyists. If they’d wanted to do that, they’d have released it under the Black & Decker banner, and it’d cost half as much. So why did they launch this tool? And what makes it different from others?

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When I first saw the flashlight component of DeWalt’s 12V MAX line, I thought, “Wow, that sure is odd-looking. It’s square. It’s gonna be uncomfortable to hold. And what’s with that gimmicky swivel head?” Then I picked it up. Surprise! It’s actually quite comfortable in your hand. It’s bright, too, and the swivel head makes it easy to direct light where you need it. In short: I’m a fan. It’s one of the most popular flashlights around the TM shop now, and at home as well. So read on for the details about an accessory that most reviewers will toss to the side to get at the drill driver — DeWalt’s new flashlight.

The Light

Like most modern flashlights, the DeWalt incorporates a bright-white LED which, combined with a small reflector, creates a wide dispersion pattern and a pretty intense white spot in the middle. A significant departure from Milwaukee’s carefully-engineered no-bright-spot design, this design decision was intentional: DeWalt says they want to provide you the ability to direct bright light on whatever you’re looking at, or to aim it off to the side to provide more of a dim wash. See the results for yourself:

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If you’re looking for a small, easily-pocketable utility knife, you’ll want a folder. But non-retractable folders are a pretty serious laceration hazard: You’re prone to leaving it lying around with the blade exposed, and you’ve got to deal with an exposed blade every time you fold it shut. That — plus seeing a friend cut the living crap out of himself folding one once — kept me from owning one. DeWalt’s new model, however, both folds and retracts, offering the same tiny stowed form factor without the danger.

I wrote a preview of this knife when I saw its announcement a while back, but this week we got one in the office to play with, and as promised, I thought I’d share the details.

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Sean gave you a quick mention of DeWalt’s new 20V MAX line recently, and I’ll agree: it’s damn interesting. We’ve got a lot more information on these coming, but let’s start out with the most commonly-purchased power tool, the drill/driver.

First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way: If you looked at the 12V MAX line and thought, “Wow! That looks pretty modern compared to previous DeWalt tools. I wish they’d update the 18V line the same way,” then you’ll be happy. That’s pretty much what they’ve done. But as the origin tools of the new 20V MAX line, these three tools say a lot about DeWalt’s latest direction. Read on for details.

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Since DeWalt was acquired by Stanley, we’ve had a sneaking suspicion the the yellow and black would be appearing in many arenas of retail combat where they currently do not. That was correct, but the speed and quality with which they began the assault was classic Stanley planning. Take the launch of the 20v Max line, for instance: 13 tools that look great and, from everything we’ve seen, function on par with the biggest names in Li-Ion.

DEWALT announces the launch of its new 20 Volt MAX* Lithium Ion system, which includes a compact drill/driver (DCD780C2), premium drill/driver (DCD980L2), two impact drivers (DCF885C2 and DCF885L2), compact hammer drill (DCD785C2), premium hammer drill (DCD985L2), reciprocating saw (DCS380L1), circular saw (DCS391L1), SDS rotary hammer (DCH213L2), right angle drill (DCD740C1) and work light (DCL040).

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Everyone’s seen the Stiletto. The shoe from which the Stiletto draws its name is designed to perfectly support and accentuate a woman’s legs to render them sleek and sexy, and the hammer tries to do the same(ish) for grunting, farting framers: no one looks quite as cool as the guy who owns the $240 titanium hammer, right? Snickery aside, the science makes some sense.

A hammer’s striking force is determined by multiplying its mass by its acceleration — the change in speed from the hammer at rest to the speed it’s traveling when it whacks the nail. So we can increase that force one of two ways: We can make the hammer heavier or swing it faster.

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Our compressor test has finally come to a close, and here are the results. We looked at all manner of compressor tools and tests and found what we consider to be some truths and untruths about what’s handy and what is scrap. To be honest, we didn’t find any flaming bags of poo in our test, just some compressors built for different kinds of jobs and a few we didn’t really get along with for one reason or another.

Performance

As you might expect, performance testing was largely a matter of looking at the numbers. The more CFM the tool required, the more challenging it was to keep up using low CFM compressors. So an 18-gauge brad nailer might go 50 brads before it needs to cut in on a 4.2 CFM compressor, where something like the CH got somewhere around 12 brads. Did both do the job? In a word, yes.

However, there was a large difference in how fast the tank refilled and how quiet it was while doing so. Compressors like the Bosch and Makita would only kick in for a few seconds — the DeWalt and Hitachi for around 20 seconds and something like the CH would go chugging on for a full minute or so.

There was also the matter of what you were going to be doing with the compressor. For instance, intermittent or continuous tools will make a large difference in what compressor you use and how well it works. Intermittent tools like 18 gauge nailers running at 90 psi (or even framing guns) might be fine for lower CFM rigs or compressors that have a cut out of 130 or 165. This is because you aren’t using it all at once and the motor can catch up to your use by replacing pressure when you’re lining up the next shots.

But when we hooked up an air-powered drill (continuous) with a CFM rating of around 6.5, the results were, well, not good. A few seconds of pulling the trigger and every one of the tested machines was pedaling at top speed to keep up. Eventually they all spun down into gasping out whatever the pump would push. The lesson: Don’t use continuous tools higher than the CFM rating of the compressor, or they won’t perform like they should.

So to better understand where machines that seem similar on the outside really start to differ, we put up a few baseline numbers.

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If you’re a metalworker, you probably have a polisher sitting around with a knot-cup brush fitted. If not, you probably see them at the car wash where guys spend a lot of time trying to bring out the shine on cars that’ve seen a dearth of TLC over the years. Either way, you realize they’re not exactly spotlight tools. Generally you don’t call your friends and say “Holy crap, come see my new polisher!” like you do when you score a new table saw, welder, plasma cutter, or even cordless drill. But hey — that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep up with what’s going on in the polisher world, right?

So a couple of months ago DeWalt updated their 7″/9″ polisher line. Their focus: control.

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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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Any trim-work pro — or anybody willing to help friends and neighbors out with home improvement jobs — needs a miter saw and a way to set it up and use it on the jobsite. So anything that makes that job simpler is a win, including the myriad of portable stands available from most manufacturers. Here’s DeWalt’s latest entry: a modular stand that accepts a variety of saws and lots of optional equipment. The idea is that you’ll customize the stand for your particular saw and use scenario.

The stand itself seems pretty straightforward. It’s 5-1/2′ wide, but extends to support up to 16′ lengths of material. DeWalt claims it’ll hold up to 500 lbs. of saw and stock, which sounds pretty conservative to us. (It’s amazing what good engineers can do with aluminum sheet metal these days.) Like most stands, its legs lock into place. Levers near the top of the legs release them to fold for transport, and levers also quickly release and lock the extensions as well. Rubber feet on the legs keep you from chewing up that nice hardwood floor you installed last summer.

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