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One of the really cool upshots of the last few years’ more powerful and more compact drivers has been the renaissance of the impact driver. The small 10.8-12v models are incredibly powerful, able to drive screws bigger than the damn driver itself. And the 18v models, while still remarkably compact, can handle gargantuan driving tasks. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve succumbed to grabbing a tiny impact driver (the PS40, actually) to drive fairly large screws while fixing a fence, chucking up some non-impact-ready driver bits in the process. While it drove a few screws without problems, I chewed up a bit before I was done, thrashing the head and stripping a screw in the process.

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So it’s no surprise that 1/4″ quick-change impact-ready bits are starting to get some R&D focus — and some cool upgrades. Irwin’s new line includes fastener drive bits, nutsetters, bit holders, and socket adapters, all with new features. Read on for the details.

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When it comes to making smooth cuts without tearing the crap out of your workpiece, blade selection makes all the difference. Sure, a little filler can hide small cut imperfections, but nothing matches the quality (and simplicity) of a good cut the first time. So if you work with different kinds of wood in different situations, you probably keep a number of different blades on hand to match the right specs to the current job. Now you have one more choice: Irwin.

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I have a much older and much less nice-looking version of the square pictured above hanging around my shop. I use it primarily for metal work, but as I’m sure most Toolmongers will attest, once you start using a tool for one purpose, you’ll pretty much reach for it whenever you need to do anything similar. So mine gets a little woodworking use as well. The one pictured above showed up in an Irwin press release we received last week, and though I’m not sure it’s really updated or new, I still wanted to mention it because at around $8 it’s just a great thing to have around.

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There are two interesting things about Irwin’s “National Tradesman Day” slated for the 16th of this month. The first is the obvious declaration of a national “day” that, sadly, will mostly only be observed by Irwin. The other is the fact that we even need a Tradesman day. But before you work up a righteous indignation, let me explain.

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When installed correctly, most oil filters will pop right loose with just hand pressure. But if a buddy torqued it down like his life depended on it, you might need some help getting it loose. These Irwin pliers look like a better solution than many of the oil filter-specific tools we’ve seen.

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TM reader rrcarlson12 posted some pics of the ViseGrip locking pliers above to the TM photo pool. He writes: “They have a patent date of 1942 and don’t have a separate release lever. But these weren’t made by Irwin, who released a similar model within the last few years as stated in the post on CH Hanson locking pliers.”

Indeed! The “new” Irwin ViseGrips without a release lever seem to work pretty much the same way as the ones pictured. (Check the photo pool for additional photos, including some closeups of the mechanism.) As far as I can tell the only major difference between the modern ones and the WWII-era pliers are the thermo-plastic rubber overmolds.

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We’re a big fan of learning to work with tools while young, and so is Irwin. Normally when we get press releases about tool companies and cars, they tell us about this motocross rider or that well-known race team that they are now sponsoring. In truth it has nothing to do with tools and everything to do with branding. Branding doesn’t build anything other than bottom lines — but Skills USA is a different story.

In partnership with Irwin, Skills USA puts hundreds of thousands of kids looking to go into technical lines of work together with hands-on training with the tools of their future craft. It also teaches young people ethics in the work place — how to work hard and how to solve problems while doing so.

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Irwin released a new SpeedHammer SDS-plus masonry bit line today aimed specifically at avoiding bit breakage due to rebar. Just like remodelers who tear into studs hoping not to snap a recip blade on a nail, folks drilling into masonry fear rebar — the steel reinforcement added to concrete projects. It’s damn tough to know exactly where they lie, and they’re hell on bits.

Irwin claims the new bit is “optimized for cutting through rebar at high speed” and offers “twice the life of traditional masonry bits.” The press release is a little light on technical details, but we’ll definitely follow up with some questions. In the meantime, you might want to give ‘em a look.

 

I thought I had snagged a pretty good deal a couple of days ago at Menards when I bought two 6″ Irwin Mini Quick Grip clamps for $10 after a $5 rebate. Then I stumbled upon the above display at Home Depot — an eight-piece set of clamps including: two 6″ and two 12″ inch mini clamps, two 2″ spring clamps, and two 2″ Handi-Clamps for $25 total, no rebate required.

Personally, I don’t use spring clamps very often, so in my opinion they don’t add much value to the set. I also wouldn’t pay more that a few bucks a piece for the Handi-Clamps since I’ve only used mine once, but I never have enough Mini Quick Grip clamps. And four for $25 isn’t such a bad deal.

I’m not sure when the deal ends, but the display was in Home Depot’s “gifts” section, so presumably they plan on selling it either until Christmas or until they run out of stock. So if you’re looking for stuff to put on your Christmas list, this set is a pretty safe bet — I know it’s going on mine.

Irwin Clamp Set [Home Depot]

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My old dovetail saw gave up the ghost in the middle of building a toolbox for the side of my bench. The saw was one of those reversible types with a spring-loaded pin; the pin no longer held and was releasing in the middle of cuts. So I headed to the store to try to find a replacement. Rather than buy the same type of saw, I wanted to find a saw that was made for finer work. I spotted Irwin’s dovetail pull saw and figured I could hardly go wrong for $10.

Even thought Irwin uses the word dovetail in the name, they don’t include cutting dovetails in their product description. What they do say is they designed it primarily for flush cutting dowels and “any detail cut.” Then they give examples of people who would use the saw: an interior trim contractor or a fine woodworker. While the saw works well, there are a few reasons why this probably isn’t your go-to saw for fine woodworking.

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