The Contractor's Dream Toolbox
August 30, 2010
No matter how cluttered your toolbox or truck gets, it seems that you can never have enough tools. You may have to dig pretty deep to find it, but it’s always worth it to find that one little tool that does that one specific task like nothing else. Sure, when you’re in a pinch, it’s always possible to improvise and make ingenious use of the tools you have on hand. But maybe it’s time to consider adding a new tool to your chest that will solve some of the pesky problems encountered on the job.
The following roundup includes hand tools that fulfill a variety of needs for HVAC contractors. Read on and see what’s missing from your toolbox that you just might need to get your hands on.
LIGHTED MIRRORAlthough it sounds more like a tool used by a beautician than a contractor, General Tools & Instruments (www.generaltools.com) offers the UltraTECHTM lighted inspection mirror. According to the company, the lighted mirror makes working inside dark, confined spaces a lot easier. The tool incorporates a 2- by 3-inch shatter-resistant glass mirror topped with two extra-bright LED bulbs. Its ergonomically designed 8-inch handle can extend out to 33 inches. The tool also features a 360-degree swivel joint to align the mirror for very hard-to-see areas. The unit is powered by two CR-2032 batteries.
So, when would a contractor need to pull out a telescoping, illuminated mirror? Well, it’s not designed for checking to make sure his hair looks good. The company says the UltraTECH lighted inspection mirror is useful in maintenance and troubleshooting for finding the locations of cracks, leaks, or blockage in tubing, ducts, or insulation. And the mirror can be useful for reading serial or model numbers of equipment hidden deep in a system, or for locating a dropped screw or missing part.
CUTTERS AND CRIMPERSThere are a variety of tubing cutters on the market. Recent product introductions include a compact cutter from Lenox, a ratcheting cutter from Ridgid, and a PEX pocket crimper from Superior Tool.
Lenox (www.lenoxtools.com) offers a full line of tubing cutters with a compact ergonomic design. And contractor Steve Girard, a technician with Girard Heating & Air Conditioning LLP of Westfield, Mass., has found the Lenox cutters to be an invaluable tool in his toolbox. “The Lenox tubing cutters are comfortable, easy to work with in a tight space, and can be easily used with one hand,” said Steve Girard. “I can get a grip on any surface of the cutter. The entire tool is like a handle.”
According to Lenox, the new design keeps the wheel sharper longer because its full-stop system keeps the wheel and roller from colliding after cutting. In addition, a cutter’s shock-resistant steel with optimized blade geometry increases the life of the cutting wheel for cleaner cuts with less burr, which ultimately allows for more cuts, says the company.
Lenox cutters are available in cutting capacities from 1/8- to 2-5/8-inch tubing. The two small-capacity 5/8- and 1-inch tubing cutters feature a new compact design to get into smaller spaces when cutting soft copper.
Ridgid (www.ridgid.com) also promotes its RC-2375 ratcheting plastic pipe and tubing cutter. The company says its advanced blade design combined with a ratcheting mechanism reduce the amount of force needed to cut through plastic pipe and tubing up to 2 3/8-inch outside diameter capacity.
“The addition of the RC-2375 completes the Ridgid plastic cutter line,” said Renee Brown, product manager of plumbing technologies for Ridgid. “The RC-2375 cutter addresses the need to quickly and easily cut larger plastic pipe diameters that have increased in popularity.”
The RC-2375 is lightweight, can fit in a pocket, and is operated with one hand. According to Ridgid, its durable aluminum construction and ergonomic handles provide a comfortable grip for cutting plastic pipe and tubing such as PVC and CPVC, PEX, polyethylene, polybutylene, and rubber hose.
With its X-CEL® quick-change technology, the RC-2375’s blade can be changed quickly without the use of tools. The quick-change pin has no clips or screws that might be lost during a blade change.
Superior Tool Co. (www.superiortool.com) offers a PEX Pocket Crimper as an alternative to heavy, bulky PEX crimpers. Superior’s pocket version is 6 inches long and weighs less than 2 pounds, so it can fit into tight spots.
Using standard 10-inch locking pliers, the PEX pocket crimper crimps all three common sizes of PEX black copper ring - 3/8, ½ and ¾ inch - without adjustments. According to the company, the user simply slides the ring over the tubing 1/8- to ¼-inch from the end, inserts the fitting, positions the crimper over the ring, and squeezes the tool closed with locking pliers in four to five small stages. The pocket crimper also comes with a go/no-go gauge for testing. It can be slipped over the ring to test for proper crimping.
It comes in a package that includes the crimper, the gauge, and a carrying pouch.
MIG WELDERMiller Electric Mfg. Co. (www.millerwelds.com) now offers a new welder, the Millermatic® Passport® Plus, which replaces its original Passport model. The Passport Plus is an all-in-one MIG welder that provides a superior arc in a 45-pound, portable package, says the company.
“People, especially those in maintenance, like the Passport’s portability and performance on steel and stainless steel, but increasingly they need to weld aluminum. Now they can,” said Jon Ertmer, product manager with Miller. “The Passport Plus takes advantage of the Spoolmate 100 Series’ capabilities to provide superior performance on aluminum as well as mild and stainless steel.”
By plugging in the direct connect Spoolmate™ 100 Series spool gun, switching to argon gas, and selecting the aluminum mode on the front of the machine, users can weld up to 1/8-inch aluminum on 115-V power, and ¼-inch aluminum on 230 V. In addition to aluminum, the welder’s material selection switch also sets optimal arc characteristics for steel or stainless steel.
FASTENING SYSTEMAccording to Hilti (www.us.hilti.com) its GX 120-ME gas-actuated fastening system frees electrical and mechanical installation professionals from the constraints of batteries or the need for an electrical supply. To give users more mobility with the tool, Hilti made the GX 120-ME completely gas driven. It is designed for fastening on concrete, plastered masonry, sand-lime block, concrete block, and steel.
Hilti says that the GX 120-ME speeds up jobs by eliminating drilling and delivering consistent, reliable fastening. Its design is streamlined and features a keyless, adjustable, and removable nosepiece to allow fastening even in tight corners.
Using its electronic gas injection system, the GX 120-ME can drive 750 fasteners with a single can of fuel. And according the company, this new tool features the world’s first LED gas-level indicator, so it saves the user time by giving plenty of notice before the can needs to be replaced.
OFFSET AVIATION SNIPSAccording to Midwest Tool and Cutlery Co. (www.midwestsnips.com) its Midwest Snips® left-cut and right-cut offset aviation snips are tradesman preferred for their superior performance and durability. The company says that offset snips are preferred by contractors because the offset blade pattern keeps the user’s hand safely above the material and the offset design flows the material away from the blades, making long cuts easier. Offset blades also cut tighter curves than regular aviation snips.
Midwest’s snips feature hot drop-forged blades made from 4063 molybdenum alloy steel for long edge life. Kent White, founder of distributor TM Technologies, based in Nevada City, Calif., said that the forged blades are the reason his company carries Midwest Snips, since other manufacturers have changed to cast or stamped versions.
Midwest snips also meet all pertinent ASME cutting standards for aviation snips, which includes making a minimum of 30,000 cuts in 18-gauge sheet metal without requiring adjustment and cutting with less than 80 pounds of hand pressure.
VAN STORAGEWhen talking about tools, it’s always smart to also consider how to store them. Weather Guard (www.weatherguard.com) has introduced new van storage solutions for the Ford Transit Connect van, an enormously successful commercial vehicle in Europe that is now available in the U.S. market.
Weather Guard’s storage solutions for this van include a custom bulkhead, space-maximizing design, and a wide range of shelving and accessory options.
According to the company, the custom bulkhead provides excellent protection against shifting loads, minimizes rattling, and optimizes space. As an option for greater visibility, a wire mesh bulkhead is available along with wire mesh window screens.
The shelving units are designed to fit tightly to the Transit Connect’s walls, thereby freeing up floor space. There are also 12- and 14-inch shelf widths for storage flexibility.
In addition, a wide range of cabinets, drawer units, and floor storage options can be customized to specific contractor requirements. Other Weather Guard products, including the Pack Rat® and Itemizer® drawer units can be purchased in a variety of sizes and configurations to further customize and enhance the storage capability and efficiency of the vehicle.
Additional capacity can be achieved with Weather Guard’s roof racks. The racks are made to be versatile and strong for hauling multiple ladders and equipment. And to make loading and unloading even easier, racks can be purchased with an optional gas spring-assisted Quick Clamp.
Sidebar: Win a ChestThis year Knaack is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special sweepstakes. The “Nifty Fifty Jobsite Storage Giveaway“ is an ongoing, online product giveaway of a jobsite chest, the Limited Edition Knaack® Model 50 jobsite storage chest valued at $699.
The first winner of the giveaway was John Lucas, service manager for Falcon Heating and Air Conditioning in Lincoln, Neb. “I won a Limited Edition Knaack Model 50 jobsite storage chest with casters,” Lucas said. “I plan on using it to store our on-site refrigeration tools/supplies.”
To enter the “Nifty Fifty Jobsite Storage Giveaway” sweepstakes, qualified end users must register online at www.knaackfifty.com. It started on June 7, and then every 50 days for a full year, Knaack LLC will randomly select a winner who will receive a Model 50 jobsite storage chest.
Also, end users who upload a qualified Knaack jobsite photo will receive a Limited Edition Knaack 50th Anniversary cap.
Publication date: 08/30/2010