Premium tools - some are worth it!

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I have been thinking about the usefulness of some "premium" tools, and thei r uses over the years. Most of them are quite affordable now due to the fa ct they have outlasted their patent protection, manufacturing techniques ha ve improved, and in some cases there is better technology available. But s ome stand out, even to this day.
I think there are a few tools that are in the "super premium" price range t hat have proven their worth over the years. First one I noticed was the Saw zall from Milwaukee. I remember back in the very early 70s when I used one to remove some framing (I was working as a laborer for a framing contracto r) that it like being a surgeon to cut out and replace a section of finishe d wall. They were so expensive though, that there weren't many out there. I still have my first Sawzall, bought second hand in '76 when I started my own framing outfit, and it still works! I don't use it as it is only a 3.5 amp model (replaced by a 15 amp oscillating model) but it served well for years. At the time I bought it used, it was more than a genuine Rockwell 3 15 circular saw!
Second would have to be a framing nail gun. At one time these were precisi on tools, and were priced the same way. I bought my first nail gun in '78 for $495. To put that in perspective, I bought my second used pickup 4 yea rs before that for $750! It was expensive since I had to buy hoses and a c ompressor to go with it for another $400, but worth it. This was a solutio n for me at a time when the young guys weren't able to drive nails all day, so it made a lousy hand pretty good. The young guys lined up to do buildu p all day as they loved shooting the nail guns. Since the job site idiot c ould now shoot a couple of thousand nails accurately to nailing specs very rapidly without tiring, the gun paid for itself in no time. This was a gam e changer in its day for the simple reason you had 100X the speed of drivin g framing nails over hand driven, and you could have someone just over the laborer status on the job master the gun.
Third, the biscuit joiner. Didn't buy the Lamello, although I knew I guy t hat had one with his own custom cabinet shop. He used that tool like Leon uses his Domino, for everything. And when they started making different si zes of cutters and biscuits, he was in heaven. I bought a PC model, and it paid for itself in short order. I was sorry I didn't buy one earlier as i t turned out to be a perfect solution for my style and requirements of buil ding.
Next, the oscillating tool. Robatoy needled me <<endlessly>> about buying the Fein model, years before their patents expired and the onslaught of kno ckoffs flooded the market. But I never got a chance to use one. I only sa w a couple on the job site and they were rarely used. The guys that bought them at Woodcraft paid several hundred dollars for them, and their blades cost more than a good circular saw blade. But after using my HF knockoff f or years now, I couldn't imagine going to a repair or install without it. It has a thousand uses and had I known just how handy this tool was I would have purchased it when Woodcraft started carrying it about 20 - 25 years a go, and would have gladly paid the $595 kit price for the multispeed, dust collecting, metal boxed kit that included the sanding attachments. There i s no doubt that some of my repairs and installations would have been a bett er end product and achieved more easily.
Add to the list the small, drill sized hammer drill. To recognize how impor tant that tool is, just try drilling a hole in decades old concrete with a standard drill and masonry drill bit.
Cordless drills? I bought my first one in the mid 80s, and used it to hang mini blinds in my condo rehabs I was doing. It was a 7.2V, took all night to charge, and had little torque. But it did its job, and even at $250 it was a great investment. The first time I used one to drive some small scr ews into a flashing on a roof and realized I didn't string out a cord, didn 't have to find power, and the drill fit in my nail bags, even 30 years ago I knew that the battery powered drill/driver was a winner. For any repair guy, this is one of the most important tools in the box.
I think when the Domino or its subsequent offspring become more affordable, it will go into that arena of classic tools that were game changers for wo odworkers.
Seems like things have been slower than usual on the NG, so I thought I wou ld post some random thoughts.
Robert
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On Sun, 30 Nov 2014 13:19:32 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@aol.com"

Having a couple of houses under construction within earshot has made me wonder how many more nails are used in house construction now that we have nail guns. It seems like they drive half a dozen nails in each joint.
--
Peter Bennett, VE7CEI Vancouver BC
peterbb (at) telus.net
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On Sunday, November 30, 2014 6:56:51 PM UTC-6, Peter Bennett wrote:

Nailing patterns and framing methods have not changed in (guessing) about 5 0 years, and in most processes probably about since standards and protocols were set just after WWII.
Plywood deck is still the same nailing patterns, shingles the same, insulat ion the same, etc. Roof decking on an average house uses about 3500 nails, back in the bad old days, driven by hand. Covering that same roof with shi ngles will use more than 11,000 nails (25 squares, 3 bundles each, 5 nails per with extra for ridge, valleys, etc.) and on an on. Still the same patt erns in your buildup... the nail patterns on the insulation was printed on it back in the mid 70s by manufacturers... so no, not much has changed. I am sure if you aren't used to the constant banging, it sounds like they are using them for everything possible. Knowing that most guys simply can't d rive nails these days, they probably are.
Ironically, the nail gun did us small framing contractors no favor. Since the big boys had money for as much as TWO nail guns, they could really move as they used them to build walls as well. So what that did was mean the t ract home builders we worked for shortened the amount of time we had to get a house finished. If we couldn't meet the new, shorter deadlines then we couldn't get a house to frame. So we had to buy more guns. Then the build ers reasoned that since it took us less time to get the houses framed, then they didn't give us any more money, even though we had to buy larger compr essors, more hoses, and those nasty expensive gun nails.
The same thing happened when we started trimming out houses inside. Now we had to buy DuoFast guns since they were the only ones that made trim guns. They guns were so expensive we rented them from a friend of ours when he wasn't using them until we could buy ONE. Of course now, they are poorly m ade and cost almost nothing. That's a good thing, too. There was a perfec t collision of materials and lack of skill a many years ago. Most of the " clear" trim was no longer an undefined semi hardwood, but yellow pine! Nas ty stuff to work with,it chips, breaks, cracks and generally resists all ma nner of mechanical attachment. Later, all the South American made trims ma de their way here and they weren't (and still aren't) any better. Then alo ng came MDF trims.
At that point, trim nailers became self defense. I am not replacing them e xcept as needed, but at one time I had something like 12 trim guns that sho t brads, angled trim nails, straight nails, T nails, pins, and even 1/4" cr own staples.
Now I think nail guns of all types are a must. The speed required to satis fy the consumers, the poor quality of materials we use and the lack of an o ld skill (the ability to drive all sizes of nails with ease) are all factor s where nail guns have filled the gap.
As a sidebar, I must say that I truly enjoy taunting the "long time profess ionals" that come to work on my jobs that can't drive a nail. I have embar rassed more of them than I can count.
Robert
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On 11/30/2014 6:56 PM, Peter Bennett wrote:

That's one of the things we, as builders, have to watch for by actually being on the job and _supervising_ .
Not much actual supervising going on these days, but a lot of macho cowboy playing with nail guns. From years of observation it appears to be partly a youth thing, and partly cultural. AAMOF, I've seen some structural beams that had to be replaced due to being turned into swiss cheese with a nail gun.
Many of the "builders" in these parts, who wear khakis and a blazer while driving around in a Lexus talking on a cell phone, rarely notice these things.
--
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On Tuesday, December 2, 2014 6:52:35 AM UTC-6, Swingman wrote:


The last two generations of "carpenters" (boy... do I use that term loosely ) have grown up with nail guns. They don't worry about accurate placement of a fastener, they just hit it and go. And if three nails is good, then f our nails is better, and five is superior.


Tagging with my earlier comment about how many nails get used, the carpente rs have no understanding of nail as a structural component when fabricating beams. I know you know this Karl, but few builders see the nails in a bea m as anything more than a mechanical fastener. When I started framing with my own company in the late 70s, I had to figure out for myself what size t o make a beam over an opening, and what materials to use. When I went to t he library to find a book on framing that was suggested to me by a structur al engineer, they had a brief but enlightening discussion on the structural value of the nail and the importance of laying out the nail pattern.

It's the same way here. At least they quite wearing those ugly ass corduro y jackets with the large suede patches on the elbows. And with their cell phones attached to their ears, they miss the "rhythm" of a job. To me, a jo b site has a certain sound, a cadence to it when certain trades are on it. I expect to hear a certain amount of sawing, compressors running, nail guns , and I expect those sounds in a certain way depending on the trades on the job.
Most builders today have never used a tool for more than a few minutes, so when I bring that up, they have no idea what I am talking about.
Robert
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On 12/2/2014 11:59 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Well put...
I was thinking about the "sound", as well as the smell, of a construction site as I was writing that, and how you instinctively/subliminally know when things are going the way they are supposed to be going, or not.
Working out of a construction trailer "office" a few years ago building a house, a noise or smell, or absence thereof, was something reacted to without even thinking about.
--
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On 12/2/2014 11:59 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Now be nice about those crews. :~) Most of them have had their "you know whats" cut off and they proudly dangle them from the trailer hitch on their trucks.
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On 11/30/2014 3:19 PM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Thank you Robert.... My first rechargeable screw driver, 1981. Disston brand. Battery popped out and plugged directly into the wall outlet. I knew this was the way screws would be driven from here out. A bit OT, in the late 80's I saw lap top LCD screens and knew one day they would dominate video of all types. In 2001 I bought my first 18" LCD monitor for about $1000.00 12 years later I bought my first 70" LCD TV about double the price of that 18" LCD monitor.
Robatoy was bad like that huh? Probably responsible for me buying Festool and replacing many tools that I thought were top of the line.
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Going off on a bit of a tangent from your theme, but I can't think of a case where I regretted paying for a "premium" brand tool, even the ones I only use once in a blue moon. There are, unfortunately, quite a few cases where I regretted buying the economy brand, most of which have had to be replaced...
John
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On 11/30/2014 7:34 PM, John McCoy wrote:

You might regret buying the premium tool when you have a team of "professionals" not experts learning the trade, that use those tools.
I am pretty sure nailshooter would have mo'betta tools if he were the only one using them in his own shop. It is much easier to replace a less expensive tool that works, should it disappear or get damaged, than a premium tool that comes at a premium price.
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How many whacks for a 16d into yellow pine 2x4s?
--

dadiOH
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On 12/01/2014 04:31 AM, dadiOH wrote:

Don't know about yellow pine, but my brother (rest his soul) did a tap and whack to set 16ds in doug fir with a 24 ounce framing hammer.
--
"Socialism is a philosophy of failure,the creed of ignorance, and the
gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery"
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On 12/1/2014 8:29 AM, Doug Winterburn wrote:

Yellow Pine is almost a hard wood and can bend a nail to follow the grain as it goes in.
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On Monday, December 1, 2014 5:31:18 AM UTC-6, dadiOH wrote:

When I was framing all day, one to set the nail, two to drive it and sink i t 1/8" to 1/4". I had lots of practice, so at one time I rarely missed.
Once you get promoted from material mule and job site cleanup, you usually go to build up. So you stand and drive nails all day making corners, "T"s, bucks, headers, etc. Later, released into the general population after le arning to drive a couple of thousand nails (literally) a day, then you get to nail off decking as well.
As an teenager learning to drive them, my arms grew so weak during the day I couldn't grip a hammer. (Back on the broom I went...) My right arm and s ide hurt for months, then finally I got to where I could a drive a 50# box of 16d commons like the big boys.
Couldn't do that now if my life depended on it.
But I can drive nails "up" into wood, so upside down. I can and do drive a ll sizes of nails in tight spaces like this: lay the hammer on its side pa rallel with the floor with the head on your body side, handle facing away. Driving a nail in this position takes a lot of practice and skill as it is all wrist motion. Start the nail, and standing in front of the nail, driv e it in by flipping the hammer with your wrist, keeping the hammer parallel with the floor.
This is a really handy skill in tight places, or in special conditions. Al though I can drive large nails doing this, I learned to do it when installi ng paneling and trims, so no misses! You get to an inside corner when inst alling paneling, sheetrock, or any other sheet goods and you face this prob lem, so it was a skill I had to learn. Now I see guys with their faces mas hed onto an adjacent wall trying to carefully tap nails in holding the hamm er in straight up and down, the only way they know to do it.
Robert
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

My neighbor asked me why I used nails rather than screws to put up my drywall, and though I didn't say it at the time, I think the best answer is because I wanted to swing the hammer. Nails work BETTER than screws near corners too, and leave a nicer dimple I think (could be I'm inexperienced with screws).
Bill
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Bill wrote:

Thought I should clarify. By "corner", I meant the corner of the piece of drywall.

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On 12/1/2014 9:21 PM, Bill wrote:

typically in my new neighborhood the installers use nails to "get it hung in place, sometimes. But for the mass of the attaching it is with a drywall gun. These screw guns will not over drive and leave a smaller dimple to have to fill.
And the screws tend to not pop back out down the line.
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Leon wrote:

Sometimes I let my emotions get in the way. I admit that for me it was mostly a sentimental choice. None of my "memories" had drywall guns in them. And they are still selling drywall hammers at the store (somebody's buying them).
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On Monday, December 1, 2014 11:44:20 PM UTC-6, Bill wrote:

Around here, they still use hammer and nails. One tap to set, one whack to drive it up. A second whack may be needed, but not often. Those guys are much faster than screw guns, and the cost of nails is a tiny fraction of sc rews. I saw that years ago when in the commercial end of things.
That being said, if I have helpers attaching sheetrock, I pop lines on the sheetrock and have them use screw guns. Reason being they don't beat the c rap out of the sheetrock, and none of them can drive a nail over their head . The screw gun is the right tool for them. And since I use a lot of 1 1/ 4" screws for repairs I always have them around.
Robert
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I snapped chalk lines on my sheetrock too (putting masking tape on the floor first). Otherwise, I'd have been too afraid of "missing" with my hammer. I found other ways to ruin sheets of drywall. For instance, I think the difference between lengths measured on the inside and outside of my framing square is about 2". I bought an extra sheet on my first trip, but had to go back for more twice.
Ah, that was a fun project. My taping improved dramatically after I started dipping the paper tape in water first. Maybe if I had mixed my own joint compound, I could have compensated by using more water. Not sure, but I know my "failure rate" was about 30% until I started dipping, and maybe 5% after that. I hope my comments help motivate someone to try it. The other secret I learned is to be organized. I marked off and numbered my drywall with a pencil into 16-32" partitions, top (A) and bottom (B), which I used to help keep track of which ones still needed this or that, from day to day. That system made the complexity manageable for me. I finished the day by making a list, on paper, of the next day's goals. That really helped when the next day turns out to be a week or more later, and all the walls looked the same (hard to believe, but true).
Bill
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