The latest news in hand tools
The best news in hand tools for construction pros is that hand tool manufacturers are going straight to the jobsite for ideas to remedy problems that waste time and rob productivity. A prime example of this is Milwaukee Tool’s recent launch of its HollowCore nut drivers. Milwaukee’s core customer base helped the company deliver a breakthrough design for these hand tools.
“We found professional tradesmen were often modifying their nut drivers to work in long threaded-rod applications by cutting off the back and drilling out the core,” says Ryan Schwoegler, product manager for Milwaukee. “This gave them the flexibility to perform applications such as running a 9/16-inch nut infinitely up a 3/8-inch diameter rod for hanging uni-strut ductwork.”
The result is the HollowCore line of magnetic nut drivers with a thread-thru design that allows the rod to pass through the entire handle of the tool. The magnetic driver head also features a universal design that can even remove rusted and stripped bolts.
Milwaukee also got contractor input when designing its 10 in 1 Multi Bit Drivers. Milwaukee research determined that users of typical multi-bit drivers were dissatisfied with the lack of power-tool compatibility with the ball-detent bits they used. So Milwaukee developed power groove bits for its nut drivers that will work in any drill/driver or power screwdriver that uses common hex bits. The 10 in 1 nut driver also features a built-in wire stripper, loop maker and wrench-ready hex shank for even more functionality and productivity.
Other manufacturers are also introducing hand tools with increased flexibility, so contractors can use the same tool for multiple tasks. Crescent’s new Code Red Adjustable Pry Bar is a good example.
The versatile sliding jaw acts as a hammer/ripping claw to tear through hard materials, and it also slides and locks into position every ½-inch for a portion of the tool’s shaft, making it perfect for pulling, prying or straightening a wide range of building materials. Crescent got hours of feedback from professionals to develop this adjustable pry bar, along with nine other demolition tools it introduced recently.
Empire Level also went straight to the user for input to develop its second-generation E70 series levels. “We listened to pro builders from all over the world and responded with innovations that match up with the features they told us are important to them,” says Jenni Becker, president of Empire Level.
For example, at the request of finish carpenters who often need to strike clean lines all the way into corners, the new series of Empire levels features removable end caps. The improved frame of the tools creates a nice edge for striking precise lines and the tool’s center vial system features a proprietary two-part epoxy for improved durability.
“Levels get dropped at the site every day,” says Becker. “This mechanically bonded center vial greatly improves durability and maintains accuracy so you can pick up the level and keep right on working.”
The cutting edge
Even hand tools you wouldn’t think need advancements are constantly being improved. Milwaukee’s line of Fastback utility knives now has faster, safer opening. A press of a button and flick of the wrist opens the knives three times faster than the traditional press-and-push of common utility knives.
The line has become so popular Milwaukee is introducing more knives in the Fastback line, including the Hawk Bill, Smooth Pocket Knife and Spring-Assisted Smooth Pocket Knife. Also at the request of users, a reversible wire form clip for comfortable pocket storage is now standard on all models.
OLFA, a longtime maker of simple and popular construction and utility knives, is also revamping its time-tested knives to improve user satisfaction. Its popular heavy-duty ratchet-lock knife features a contoured handle for improved comfort and a professional-grade stainless steel blade channel secures the blade and makes removing the worn blade to expose a sharp new edge a snap.
Sometimes the coolest advancements are the simplest. Anyone who has ever used a tape measure on a jobsite has placed a finger in the front of the tool to regulate blade retraction or quickly hold the blade in place for a simple measurement. But you have to adjust your grip and sometimes you can nick or cut your finger on the blade’s edge or pinch it during blade retraction.
Lufkin took care of this with a simple, yet clever fix. The new Control Series tapes feature a unique “drag strip” feature on the bottom of the tape to allow regulation of feed and return by simply applying pressure to the blade with an index finger in its normal, comfortable position. “We think the drag strip is one of the greatest design innovations in measuring tools in years,” says Tobias Bridges, product manager for Lufkin. “This tape is a great addition to any toolbox.”