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A few years back, Irwin released a series of Vise Grip locking pliers without a release lever. (You simply pulled on the handle to release them.) Now CH Hanson’s come out with another innovation in the field: self-adjusting pliers. Just squeeze to clamp ’em down an whatever you’ve got at hand.

We received the pliers in a press kit, complete with a set of brand name Irwin Vise-Grips and a little piece of steel with two different-sized nuts welded to it and a stopwatch. CH Hanson’s challenge: Lock each of the pliers onto both bolts plus the thin metal to which they’re attached and time the process. So we did. It took us 38.15 seconds to grab all the obstacles with the Vise-Grips and just 19.31 seconds with the CH Hanson automatics. One point for Hanson.

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Tons of gimmick-laden hand tools grace the shelves at the local home center every year — and they come and go with such speed it’s hard to keep track. But C.H. Hanson has rolled out a new locking set of pliers that seems to be as far away from late night infomercial as you can get. If they work half as well as the video demonstrates, we might have a winner here.

The term “automatic” in this case refers to a knobless adjustment for gripping items of different sizes. Instead, you set the desired clamp pressure in the center with a small knob and squeeze. To release, just flick the lever at the back end (with the same hand you’re holding it with) and the clamp releases.

C.H. Hanson says its automatic has more power than standard locking pliers as well, so you’re not losing anything with their new style. Here’s a chunk from their press release:

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CH Hanson sells two low-cost accessories to protect and enhance your marking tools: Pencil Armor and Crayon Armor. Although I find it hard to justify spending a few bucks to protect a ten-cent pencil, I’ve held the pencil armor and it does look pretty cool. Armor for crayons, on the other hand, might make more sense since they’re a bit more expensive and fragile.

CH Hanson designed the aluminum Pencil Armor to work with rectangular carpenter’s pencils. The armor only exposes as much of the pencil as you need. You advance the pencil by sticking your thumb into the slot and pressing forward. The Armor also has a clip so you can keep the pencil in you shirt pocket.

The plastic Crayon Armor securely holds one of CH Hanson’s crayons and protects it from breaking since it only exposes enough crayon for marking. There’s a thumb slot for exposing more crayon and a lanyard strap.

The Crayon Armor will cost you about $4 and the Pencil Armor will run you $2 before shipping. Before paying double the product’s worth in shipping charges, check out your local Home Depot; mine carries the Pencil Armor, so maybe yours does too.

C.H. Hanson [Corporate Site]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Crayon Armor Via Amazon [What’s This?]
Pencil Armor Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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If you’ve seen any old WWII movies that feature planes at all, one of the first instruments they zoom in on is the artificial horizon indicator. It’s the big ball in the middle of the cockpit that shows how the aircraft is positioned relative to the ground. The CH Hanson 50024 Precision Ball Level has the same kind of thing, and it’s sweet.

Someone should have thought of this years ago. The aviation-style ball, which replaces a bubble vial, is both accurate and simple to read. Because the level is ball-style it can measure in two directions at once, just like the one in a plane. Plus, it measures angles in degrees or pitches.

We love the idea and how large the ball-style readout is. If it can make it through a few drops around the job site without the ball shattering, it looks like an extremely handy rig to have. We wonder how long it will take for other manufacturers to try to follow suit. Pricing starts at around $40 for a 24″ model.

Note* Thanks to reader Kyle for the heads up.

50024 Precision Ball Level [CH Hanson]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


C.H. Hanson calls their Slide Square the next generation of layout tools — it’s a square, it’s a caliper, it’s a protractor, and it fits in your pocket.  It also features holes for marking bolt locations in 2×4 and 2×6 sill plates.  Multi-tasking is a beautiful thing.

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The carpenter’s pencil hasn’t seen much innovation in the last 300 years, primarily because it works pretty darn well. But C.H. Hanson claims to have found room for improvement, resulting in their Superpencil — which they say lasts seven times longer than the standard shop pencil. We recently got our hands on a Superpencil in the Toolmonger test shop and gave it a go. Read on past the jump for our experiences and lots of pictures.

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Marketing Picture of Angle Snap

C. H. Hanson, manufacturer of the Chalk Hog, now offers something called the Angle Snap — a chalk line jig designed to simplify complex layout on sheet goods like plywood, sheet rock, or OSB. With built in positive stops for fast placement on edges and corners, it works with any standard chalk line to mark angles simply and accurately.

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This year we’ve seen many tool manufactures making great strides in chalk and chalk lines.  Pros will tell you this has been a long time coming.  We ourselves have seen our fair share of blue-stained toolboxes from snap lines that couldn’t hold their powder.  C.H. Hanson claims the way of the future is more chalk and a beefier housing.  Meet the Chalk Hog.

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The Speed Rocker drywall knife adds a “tape hook” on the thumb rest so you can hold a measuring tape and make a score mark at the same time, and some drywall guys love the fact that there’s a fold-out drywall saw hidden in the handle.  But at $20, it’s a bit expensive for some people’s taste.

It’s solidly built — nice and heavy-feeling in your hand — and one side of the handle is also a drywall rasp for truing up edges, though we wonder if you’d still want to grab it after filing down drywall with the handle.

We’ve seen this knife a couple of times in the toolbelts of professional drywall workers, but we’re still a little held up on the price — and its specific combination of features.  What do you think?  Let us know in comments.

Speed Rocker [CH Hanson]
Street Pricing [Froogle]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]