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From the (virtual) mail bin: “Have you seen or used the one-handed reciprocating saw? Home Depot and Lowe’s both have one, and I was wondering how well they work.” Indeed we have. Read on for details.

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Before you head out to get your lawn and landscape machinery humming again, check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recent tool recalls (beginning January 1, 2013) to avoid unwanted burns, gas leaks, lacerations, and explosions.

Recall: Briggs & Stratton Ariens Compact Snow Throwers
The carburetor bowl nut on Ariens’ orange-and-black 24-inch Snow-Thro can allow gas to leak from the unit, causing a fire hazard. The model number is 920014 with serial numbers from 100,000 through 119,039. They were sold from August-September 2012 at Ariens and Home Depot locations nationwide.

Recall: Ryobi Lithium 18 V 4Ah Battery Pack
The cordless tool battery pack, model P108 and part number 130429028, can overheat and burst while on a charger, causing fire and burn hazards. They were sold at Home Depot in the U.S. and Canada from September-December 2012.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHIR9N6K8kY

The History Channel has been playing the damn Kobalt Double Drive mini-infomercial between breaks so much I would actually buy one if I thought it’d make them stop playing it. The funny part is, as much as I’d like to make fun of it, the twisty ratchet does look pretty cool. The basic premise is, if you click it to double mode, a barrel twist each way will advance the head in the direction you’d like to go.

The Double Drive form factor isn’t funky or out of line with what a ratchet should look like, and it delivers more functionality than a standard ratchet. It reminds us a little of when the GearWrench pass-thru system first came out, but not nearly as groundbreaking. For around $20 it seems a decent investment to throw down for.

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You know how regular toggle bolt wall anchors always require extra space behind the drywall, and to remove you unscrew them, dropping the toggle behind the wall? This week I found the best toggles I’ve ever used — SnapToggles, made by Toggler. They’re much easier to install, and they stay in place when you unscrew the bolt.

They’re odd-looking, which probably explains why at Lowe’s I found a box opened and a few scattered around the wall anchor area. While traditional toggle bolt anchors consist of a single bolt with “wings” at one end that pop open after being pushed through the wall, the SnapToggle’s two parallel plastic straps tee into a single bar-shaped anchor. The straps can move up or down independently, see-sawing the anchor to form an “I” or a “T” as needed. To install, simply push the toggle long-wise through the hole you drilled (generally a half inch, or about what you use for a medium-to-large standard toggle), then line up the straps to flip the toggle 90 degrees. Next, push the cap along the straps, zip-tie style, until the toggle lies flush behind the wall, and pull the toggle tight with the straps. Finally, just break off the straps flush with the cap. The cap and toggle stay in place, allowing you to install the bolt whenever you like.

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For retail workers, Black Friday represents a dark scourge and harsh hours. It is a time of great sadness punctuated by crazy people hunting bargains much like zombies crave brains. For the rest of us, you either do Black Friday or you don’t. There are actual deals to be found but, as always, take care that what you’re feverishly spending your cash on is, in fact, a deal. Let’s take a small sampling:

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Harbor Freight is a dangerous enough place without the allure of tent sales that offer even greater discounts on cheap-ass tools. About 3 months ago Harbor Freight opened up a location about 15 minutes from my house. I held out as long as I could. But when the tent sale flyer arrived in the mail I had to go. It was a moral imperative.

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If you’re worried that someone might steal your license plate, Amazon offers a $5 solution to the problem in the form of specialty fasteners. They’re designed to make your plate just a little harder to steal than the one on the car next to you. I came across this while spinning around Amazon looking at tools, and I’ll admit my first thought was “Really? These are necessary?” Apparently so, at least if you believe the review comments. Check out the first one in which “psnorb” shares his experience of having his plates stolen and promptly used in a high-speed chase with police. (Interestingly, his biggest gripe is that the police kept his plate as evidence.) I have no idea where “psnorb” lives, but I’m guessing it’s not here in Dallas, TX.

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Let me be clear: we’re not necessarily recommending you buy this. In fact, we wonder whether it’s worth the cash or not. That said, however, we’re always interested in cheap-ass tool alternatives, and there’s something intriguing about the idea of a sub-$100 portable band saw. (Compare that, for example, with about $230 for Mikwaukee’s model.)

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In case you haven’t noticed already: Fiskars makes a number of pretty slick-designed tools beyond scissors. From what we can tell, their MO is to update classic cutting tools with a liberal dose of modern design and materials. Consider their X7 hatchet, pictured above. On the surface it looks like a MOMA interpretation of the one that’s probably kicking around your shop right now. But peel away some of the fiberglass, and it’s pretty clear that (in classic modern design style) its appearance is totally driven by its functionality.

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Though we haven’t tested one of these in person, we’ve been quite impressed with the bang-for-the-buck value of Ryobi’s updated One+ line, identifiable by their video-game-green color. And we’re glad to see the cordless recip get the updated treatment as well. Besides the obvious new look, some other pretty upscale features lurk under the hood, including a cushioned anti-vibe handle and an adjustable, pivoting shoe.

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