YouTube power tool review channels

Seven different channels

While the internet sometimes seems to taketh away more than it giveth, there are some excellent YouTube channels that review both power tools and the manufacturing strategies behind them.

As we all know, the internet today can often seem to be a seething pool of abject untruths catering to something other than what Abe Lincoln referred to as the "better Angels" of our characters. A good contrary argument, however, can be made for some types of specific content available, and HNN would make the case that one of those content types would be power tool reviews on YouTube.

For hardware retailers, these sites can be a good guide to the latest offerings from different power tool makers, as well as providing a valuable longer-term perspective on some tools. Even if you mainly sell one or two brands of tools, it's helpful to know how other brands compare, and when some trusty favourites are on the brink of being discontinued, or altered in an important way.

This content falls into three wide categories. There are the "semi-pro" entertainers, who have a sometimes enjoyable "boys with toys" attitude, and just have a great time showing off the latest gear, or commenting on upcoming developments. This category is somewhat dominated by North Americans.

Then there are the amateur tool users, who don't always get every detail right, but offer up a very unbiased, clear-sighted view of how a tool works for them.

Finally, there is a third category that is usually made up of building professionals, who have had a lot of experience with tools, and provide a daily-use perspective that is very valuable.

This last category, HNN would have to admit is our favourite, not least because some people from Australia and New Zealand do a great job on their channels.

Australia/New Zealand

Tools & Stuff

By far our favourite reviewer at HNN is Tools & Stuff, which is put together to a surprisingly high standard by a New Zealand builder and carpenter.

It's hard to explain exactly what makes this YouTube channel so enjoyable and informative. One part of it is that the presenter strikes just the right balance with a casual but highly informative approach. This is backed by good production values. The lighting is bright, the camera is in focus, and whatever detail he is pointing to is clearly evident. He has taken the time to add in information displays, so that when he references a different tool, or an accessory, those details are right there, and easier to understand.

He's also very adept at ordering the information he provides, so that rather than drowning his audience in detail, he mentions some aspects of the tool as teasers for later, then follows through in thoroughly explaining them.

One of the best reviews on Tools & Stuff is a recent one for the Makita 40v 125mm Circular Saw HS005G. This is really a "classic" review for this channel. First of all, it is currently a Japan-only saw, so it has been purchased over eBay. It's an unusual saw, because it combines a small blade with the power of the 40-volt motor. And, as it turns out, it has some very interesting, specialist features.

To outline three points that show how engaging these reviews are. First of all, there is some time spent on the primary safety switch (depressed to release the trigger). This is an interesting evolution of the Makita design, as the presenter points out. He shows the other two designs that are available, the push-in button, and the flip-down lever, on different Makita circ saws. Then he illustrates the new design that combines those two: it's a button set on an angled surface, so that it can be depressed by sliding your thumb over it.

That might seem like a very small design detail, but as anyone who has used a circ saw finds out, especially if you are repeatedly cutting short lengths, that control can become very annoying. It's a great design solution on this saw.

The second thing he points out is that while it is great the saw is so lightweight (he weighs it on an electronic scale at 2.2kg) that does make it a little difficult to keep perfectly straight on long cuts. As he points out, that has a lot to do with the size of the blade. Spinning at several thousand times a minute, larger blades do act as a kind of gyroscope, creating torque-induced precession.

It's the third area of investigation that really shows what this channel is all about. This saw has two unusual features: part of the plate (or main shoe as it is sometimes called) can be removed, and the saw blade can be bevelled in the reverse direction to a normal bevel. When you put those two things together, as the presenter points out, you end up with a saw that can be used for tasks such as cutting a damaged floor out directly along the wall mouldings.

Of course it is one thing just to say that, but he reviewer goes on to build a small section of demonstration floor, then shows how the saw can be used to cut that out.

As one commenter on the review put it: "I already have 6 circular saws and now I need 7".

Tools & Stuff

Oz Tool Talk

The one thing you can say about this channel to begin with, is that it has the perfect name to describe what it is. The two presenters, Mike and Dwain, showcase and used tools, then talk about them together as a review. The two are a perfect complement, with Mike the more fast and direct one, and Dwain a little more contemplative and thoughtful.

The conversations about the tools are lively and intense. While they are not always amazingly technically detailed, and sometimes seem to wander a little from what an electrical engineer would probably say, what they do get right is the emotional side of tools, how they impact on tradies, and what things tradies value in their tools.

There is a great discussion, for example, over the new Makita 40-volt range, how that impacts on buying decisions, and the difficulties of running several different battery platforms at once.

The production values are generally good, but there is frequent use of smartphone footage (in vertical orientation), and while focus and lighting are usually pretty good, there are some shots that could have been improved.

For retailers, this is a great way to find out what the customers are probably talking about and thinking.

Oz Tool Talk

Scott Brown Carpentry

Scott Brown is another New Zealander (who knew that New Zealanders had these video talents?), and his approach is a bit of a mix between Tools & Stuff and Oz Tool Talk. This is another single-person show (except when he ropes in his wife to participate), but Scott is basically having a conversation with the viewer. The show is also very crisp when it comes to its video presentation, and has a slightly more professional soundtrack, with great use of music in transitional segments.

Where Tools & Stuff is more technical, Scott Brown is slanted towards the experiential and practical. Except when it isn't, which is best illustrated in his video about multi-tools, which rapidly becomes all about multi-tool blades, and you absolutely simply must watch this:

(Note: this was done during Auckland's pandemic lockdown. If you've been through a lockdown, you know what to expect.)

A more "normal" Scott Brown video is probably his particular take on the Makita 40-volt system.

So, basically, this is a somewhat mixed channel, with bits of building, lots of power tools, and doses of slightly offbeat humour.

Scott Brown Carpentry

North America

The Honest Carpenter

While this is a channel that is as much about carpentry as it is about power tools, it is also a practical resource for hardware retailers, because it can help to fill a particular gap.

One of the mysteries that we confront in hardware retail is that while Australia has fantastic regulations governing gun ownership, just about anyone can walk into a hardware store and buy a chainsaw or a circular saw. Particularly when it comes to new DIYers, there is really only so much that can be done to help ensure their safety.

The Honest Carpenter - or, to give him his proper name, Ethan Daniel James - can at least help provide some guidance to what is one of the most dangerous tools in the hands of an amateur. In particular, his video entitled "11 Worst Circular Saw Mistakes" should be compulsory viewing for anyone new to circ saws. He explains not only the main source of injuries with the saws - kickback caused by the blade binding in the kerf - but also covers basic saw care issues - such as never putting the saw down on concrete (that scuffs the plate, which then scratches any wood you cut with it).

For people interested in the trade economy, Ethan also has a really interesting commentary piece entitled, "Did IKEA Destroy Carpentry and Woodworking?". It is far from being a rant, as he accepts the benefits consumers get from IKEA. What he points to is that IKEA has fundamentally reset people's expectations for the costs of custom woodworking, citing examples where customers want something done for $1000, when the real cost would be over $10,000.

What retailers can really learn from Ethan is how to best relate to new DIYers. He's able to explain simple, basic things without a hint of condescension. Above all, he manages to suggest that this kind of manual, careful work deserves respect , and that far from being intimidating or off-putting, that requirement actually makes the work worth doing.

The Honest Carpenter

Belts and Boxes

Belts and Boxes is one of the most professional power tool news and reviews productions you can find on YouTube. It's hosted by two professional presenters, and puts out the Power Tool Week in Review every Friday at 5pm (US East Coast time). It's a fun 10 to 15 minute series of actual news announcements, as well as referrals to a range of other review sites (some listed here). It's a good way to stay on top of new developments in the industry.

Belts and Boxes

Pro Tool Reviews

The website for Pro Tool Reviews has been one of the very best power tools sites on the web, though over the past year or so its standards seem to have declined slightly - perhaps due to some pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The YouTube channel is quite good. It attempts to bridge the gap between sites that are all about personal reviews, and sites that are all about technical specifications. Sometimes this works great, and sometimes it ends up being confusing.

For example, the feature "Best Cordless Drill" compared 50 different drill models. This consisted of a series of performance tests, all of which are detailed in the video. However, Pro Tool then applied a series of additional tests that were partly performance-based, and partly opinion-based, to derive a final score for the winners.

That is all very useful, and interesting if you are a "tool geek". However, it doesn't necessarily go to the real questions that actual consumers face, which, for pro customers (tradies) comes down to which overall platform they should adopt.

To do that, of course, they would need to go just that one level deeper, beneath the veneer of "which tool is the greatest", and into the place where business needs and technology meets. There is just such a great and capable team working at Pro Tool Reviews, HNN would guess they get to that point before the end of 2022.

That said, anyone selling tools to tradies really should put the Pro Tool Reviews YouTube channel on the rotation of channels you check into from time-to-time. In addition to the actual reviews, they also provide wide-ranging background videos that explain some of the strategic complexities in the industry.

Pro Tools Reviews

Jonathan Katz-Moses

This is one of HNN's favourite industry YouTube channels. Jonathan runs a woodworking shop in Southern California, about 200km north-west from Los Angeles. He's one of those affable, entertaining people who also have a very serious, very smart side to them.

Perhaps it's a little due to being in that part of the US, but he is way ahead of most woodworkers in terms of adopting technology to his needs, including computer numerically controlled (CNC) routing. One of this most interesting videos is on the potential for a new generation of robot arms, designed to work cooperatively with humans (eg., if the arm meets any kind of resistance it shuts down instantly). These could help transform repetitive processes in the woodworking shop, in areas such as repetitive sanding.

If you really liked that, check out Jeremy Fielding's YouTube channel as well.

Jeremy Fielding

A more typical video from Jonathan is his review of eight different laminate trimmers, on a regular feature he runs, "Tool Review Tuesdays". It is an almost ideal combination of someone who knows what routers should do, and can easily identify any flaws. He's also very open to learning things as he reviews: like many woodworkers he is a self-described "Makita fanboy", but he found out that the adjustment on the Makita router was not as good as that on the Bosch Colt or the DeWalt DWP611 (the DeWalt he found the be the best overall, while the Bosch was the best value).

The quality of these videos is excellent. Jonathan does have a second camera person, and the inventiveness of some of the scenarios is quite surprising.

Jonathan Katz-Moses


While these seven channels represent far from comprehensive coverage of the YouTube channel tool review and usage segment, they do give an idea of the range that is available. Hopefully, as much as anything else, this might encourage readers to do a bit of their own exploring, and to find some informative sources of information.

On a side note, watching some of these channels might encourage hardware retailers to consider launching their own channels, as a means of promoting their retail operations. That can be done, and with some success, but everyone needs to be aware of exactly how much time and effort this can take. It's doubly difficult for retailers, as successfully creating a channel that is honest and entertaining, but also helps your business, is going to be a really tough project.


Two cordless staplers indicate future tools

Power tool makers constantly explore possibilities

Cordless tools are often seen as "just" a convenience. Once we disassociated them completely from their corded forebears, however, a new range of possibilities could open up.

The first cordless power tools were based on pre-existing corded power tools where the functionality could be improved by making them cordless. Drills were the most obvious starting point, but circular saws came along soon after. A second strand of development was turning air-powered tools into cordless electrical tools. The impact driver, for example, started out as an air-powered tool, and was adapted to cordless electric power.

The one cordless tool that continues to be sold and used in its air-powered version is, of course the nailgun. With smaller - even cordless - compressors, air-power continues to be popular for particular situations.

In more recent developments, however, power tool makers have begun to see the construction building site as a workplace where productivity needs to be improved. The tools they are starting to design make use of cordless capabilities in quite a different way.

One illustration of this - though it was released at the end of 2018 - is DeWalt's 18V XR Electricians Stapler, with designation DCN701D2-XE in its kit form with two batteries.

There is an interesting video that effectively previews this stapler at an event covered by Cop Tool, a review website:

Here's the sales pitch offered by "Bill" who was manning the stand:

This particular product, we went out on job sites. And what we tried to do was to view all kinds of different hand driven applications: nails, staples, etc. And one of the things that we saw was a lot of folks that do hang Romex cable, so from the junction box, roped through the house, and then down the stud to the actual receptacle or outlet.
This particular tool, fastens those staples, instead of doing - they're actually doing it by hand. And they're using a hammer doing it by hand, and with a staple a lot of - well, when you see these guys, they'll have bummed up fingers. Quite honestly.
And you know, this particular product, it's at least two times faster [than by hand], it saves the users about 30 minutes per day. And over the course of a month, that's going to really add up for a much more efficient [workflow].

One interesting thing about this, of course, is it has little to do with replacing a previous air-powered, or a corded tool. Bill makes the point explicitly that the tool is ideal also for data and communications cables - Cat5 and Cat6 cable.

If you've ever had to hang cable in a house or office building, you know it means getting into all kinds of inconvenient places, especially when - as is usually the case - you are dealing with an existing building. An air-powered or corded tool would just never work.

But the real point of interest is that the entire sales pitch, and the purpose of the tool is all about increasing productivity. That's the driving force behind the tool development.

It's also not so surprising that the stapler takes a special kind of staple from DeWalt. As Bill explains this:

The staples themselves, they have a plastic gasket, if you will, that, you know, the fix is set right on top of the Romax and it doesn't pinch the wire. It actually leaves a little bit of breathing room, and it'll do all of the common sizes. So you're 14-2 to your 14-3 12-2, all the way down to 10-3, so your larger cable as well. It'll also do your Cat5, your Cat3, your telephone cables, that kind of stuff. So it really is a handy tool for any electrician.

Milwaukee fencing stapler

Over at the website Pro Tool Reviews (PTR), the team has uncovered a new Milwaukee tool set to release in 2022, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Utility Fencing Stapler.

Pro Tool Reviews Milwaukee Stapler

According to PTR, the tool will use a 3.0Ah High Output battery, which will be able to driver 600 staples per charge. Milwaukee also claims that the tool will set staples up to six times faster than using a simple hammer, and is powerful enough to use on telephone poles. The controls on the tool are slightly oversized, making it easier to use when wearing protective gloves.

And, of course, it will only work with proprietary Milwaukee staples. These staples have a diamond crown, specifically designed to work the driving mechanism of this nailer.


If tool design for productivity turns into an accelerating trend, as seems likely, what kinds of developments could we expect in the future?

At the moment, a cordless tool consists of an electric motor, usually brushless, attached at one end to a mechanical mechanism that performs the necessary action, and at the other end attached to a battery. We've seen in the past the development of "wearable" batteries, largely designed to power leaf blowers and string trimmers in the outdoor power equipment world. Typically these are backpacks which carry multiple batteries and plug into existing standard power tools through an adapter.

Is it possible that we will see these rigs, complete with power tools designed specifically for them, on future worksites? One advantage could be that these units featured a range of connectors that could step-up or step-down the current, so that they could power tools from 12 volts up to 70 volts.

This would accomplish several objectives: voltage determined platforms would cease to be such a concern; moving the weight of the battery from the wrist and arm to a backpack would reduce stress and tiredness; and recharging would cease to be as much of a concern.

The objection, of course, is that this would depart from the image of power tools as we've thought of them over the past 40 years. But the point is, really, of these two tools, and of the future of tools, that these traditions now tend to inhibit our capability rather than enhance it.


Amazon's Ring launches jobsite security system

Provides remote monitoring of small to mid-sized construction sites

With theft a major cause of concern for builders, the Ring Jobsite Security package provides the basic tools needed to digitally secure a jobsite. This is a combination of a mesh router, cameras and lights, which can be comprehensively extended.

Amazon's Ring division, best known for its video doorbells, has released a security package named Ring Jobsite Security, currently only in the US. Designed in association with US big box home improvement retailer The Home Depot, the package includes the all-new Ring Alarm Pro. Retailed through Home Depot for USD400, It is designed to provide an affordable, customisable solution that can be used to protect small- and medium-sized job sites from intruders and theft.

According to Jamie Siminoff, founder and chief inventor at Ring:

We've seen how effective Ring devices can be in neighbourhoods, and we're excited to team up with The Home Depot to bring affordable, easy-to-use security solutions to job sites. Security of small and mid-sized sites is often overlooked, and Ring Jobsite Security directly addresses security issues contractors face. Now they can leverage the entire suite of Ring devices and services to create a personalised solution that works best for them.

At the heart of the system is the just-released Ring Alarm Pro. In many ways, this is a device designed to overcome some of the faults many perceived with previous Ring designs. The Alarm Pro links into Amazon's mesh WiFi network system, known as Eero. Unlike conventional WiFi routers, the Eero mesh routers do not all need a direct connection to the internet. Instead its routers talk to each other. That means the range of a wireless network can easily extend, effectively via a "daisy-chain" system.

In addition to the WiFi capabilities, it also makes use of a second networking protocol known as Z-Wave. Developed out of the popular Zigbee protocol, still used today for many smarthome devices, this means the Alarm Pro can be easily connected to window and door sensors, as well as smoke alarms, thermostats and even carbon monoxide sensors. Effectively, it is a portable security hub.

One of its most important features of the Alarm Pro is the ability to process and store video from connected security cameras on-site. That means that the system is safe from an interrupted internet connection - though there is also the option to backup video on the internet cloud.

In fact, connectivity is a key feature of the Alarm Pro. In addition to hooking up to available internet, there is also a built-in connection for cellular-based internet provision. This can be used to back up a standard connection, or, on sites where standard internet is not available, can be used as the primary connection for the system.

There is also power backup available, which is robust enough to use as a primary power source if connected power is not available.

The USD400 kit includes the Alarm Pro base station, a battery-powered camera with spotlight, a smaller battery-powered camera, a spotlight, a battery-powered motion sensor, and a powered case, which provides protection to the devices when in transit, as well as a "home" for the base station. It includes a cooling fan, padlock and slots for backup power packs.

The result is a comprehensive system for jobsite security that will send both alerts and video through to the Ring app on mobile devices.


While this seems like a relatively minor announcement, it could presage the beginning of a move to the connected jobsite for smaller projects.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if an innovative tool company such as Techtronic Industry's Milwaukee linked with a security supplier such as Alphabet (Google) to create an integrated security system. Adding security cameras to Milwaukee's extensive range of lighting products would be a good first step, and integrating further with One-Key might produce theft protection benefits as well.


Federal government boost for timber

Targeting timber affected by Kangaroo Island bushfires

Salvaged softwood from Kangaroo Island will be used to ease an acute shortage of building timber

The Australian Government has announced an additional $15.1 million investment to deliver bushfire-affected softwood to under-utilised timber mills, according to The Market Herald. The program will target timber on Kangaroo Island that could provide enough timber for between 8000 and 10,000 new houses.

Kangaroo Island, located 112km southwest of Adelaide, was impacted by fires in January 2020, and the program will help transport bushfire-salvaged softwood to mills.

While about 18,000 hectares were impacted in the fires, the Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers company said most of it was salvageable with the latest government assistance set to save those logs from being burned or left to rot. The bushfire-salvaged construction-grade softwood becomes less viable as structural timber the longer it sits unprocessed.

Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Ross Hampton said without the investment, up to 10,000 house frames of timber would have been bulldozed and burnt. He told The New Daily:

At a time when our builders and home owners are desperate for timber, this would have been an extremely poor outcome.

Federal Minister for Housing Michael Sukkar said the scheme will stimulate the construction industry and alleviate building material shortages.

We have seen more than 135,000 HomeBuilder applications ... and by ensuring our supply chains can support the pipeline of new builds, we are helping people get into their new homes as soon as possible.

Managing director of the Housing Industry Association Graham Wolfe said constraints in the availability of building materials, such as timber, have had a significant influence on ongoing housing developments.

Building product supply constraints have had a material impact on housing projects under construction. They also delay the commencement of new projects coming on line...
Timber supply in particular has been affected by a range of factors, including last year's bushfires and skyrocketing global demand.

Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said the new program was a great move.

The acute timber shortage is causing delays and cost increases that are hurting our members and negatively impacting their clients. Builders and tradies around the country will be breathing a sigh of relief.

South Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said the South Australian government has committed up to $3 million to bring more timber to the local housing sector, and he praised the federal government's assistance package.

This transport subsidy will maximise the amount of sawmill quality log available to local processors which will boost supply and support local jobs in our regions and across metropolitan Adelaide.
The community now needs Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers to open up access to its bushfire affected pine plantations for harvesting and allow local sawmills to get busy.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the program expands on the $15 million Forestry Salvage Transport Measure, to allow for both intrastate and interstate transport of remaining bushfire-salvaged construction-grade softwood to mills in any state with the capacity to process it.

  • Sources: The Market Herald and The New Daily
  • products

    Dulux UltraAir for interiors

    GREENGUARD Gold certified

    UltraAir is an ultra low chemical emission paint that helps to maintain indoor air quality, according to Dulux

    Manufactured in Australia, Dulux UltraAir is positioned as a premium water-based interior range that significantly reduces the number of chemicals present in the air during and after application.

    Dulux said it is the first locally made GREENGUARD Gold certified ultra low chemical emission paint. GREENGUARD Gold is a third-party certification that tests for over 10,000 chemicals and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions, helping to reduce indoor air pollutions and the risk of chemical exposure.

    Dulux Interior category manager Heather Hart said there has been an increasing number of brands emerging - worldwide - with a focus on "air/odour". However, there has been a gap in the Australian market and this has led to the development of Dulux UltraAir. She said:

    Proven to emit fewer chemical emissions, Dulux UltraAir helps maintain indoor air quality. It also has hardly any odour, so you can get back into the room a lot quicker, which is especially important with Australians currently spending substantial amounts of time in their homes and needing to live in their spaces as they renovate them.

    Research by Environmental Health Australia found indoor air quality can be 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor air quality. Ms Hart explains:

    Traditionally in paint, we have always measured VOCs, which are present in materials used to make paint. With UltraAir, we don't just stop at measuring the VOC in the paint can, we also measure what is released into the surrounding space whilst the paint dries. These are the chemical emissions which you are breathing in.

    Each coat is touch-dry after two hours but users will have the convenience of using the room almost immediately upon applying paint due to the combination of ultra low odour and ultra low chemical emissions. Ms Hart said:

    With ultra low chemical emissions, GREENGUARD Gold certified UltraAir might assist families who may be prone to sensitivities such as asthma or allergies, in addition to other respiratory or skin irritants...

    UltraAir is tinted off a white base in a low sheen or matte finish, giving customers access to around 90% of Dulux's full suite of colours, an estimated 4000+ hues. It comes in a range of sizes: 1L, 2L, 4L, 10L and 15L tins (depending on the product).

    About GREENGUARD Gold certification

    UL's GREENGUARD Certification helps manufacturers make and market products with low chemical emissions that contribute to healthier indoor air. UL helps companies to demonstrate safety, enhance sustainability, strengthen security, deliver quality, manage risk and achieve regulatory compliance.

    GREENGUARD Certified products are recognised, referenced or preferred by more than 450 customers, green building rating tools and building codes worldwide. Doug Lockard, vice president and general manager of the retail and consumer products division at UL, said:

    The GREENGUARD Certification Mark indicates that representative samples of a product have undergone rigorous scientific testing to meet some of the world's most stringent chemical emissions requirements.
    Australia has had a strong interest in green building for many years and continues to be part of the growing green building movement. Dulux demonstrates their commitment to sustainability by pursuing GREENGUARD Certification for UltraAir.
  • Main image credits: Dulux Australia; colours: Dulux Light Ceramic (wall), Dulux Snowy Mountains Half (trim); stylist: Bree Leech; photographer: Lisa Cohen; artwork: Fenton and Fenton 'Watermelon For Two On Pink', original artwork by Melanie Vugich
  • products

    Mortar made for trade

    New product from Cement Australia

    It is suitable for all laying of bricks, masonry blocks, stonework and general-purpose mortar applications

    Cement Australia's Trade Mortar is an M4 rated bricklaying mortar mix made in Australia and conforms to Australian Standards - AS3700.

    Trade Mortar provides a strong and reliable mortar - bag to bag, batch to batch. It is a high quality drymix that offers reduced potential errors from on-site mortar preparation, eliminating rectification costs from out-of-spec mortar.

    The consistently proportioned blend of cement, sand and additives removes quality control concerns from contamination of sand on site and raw material variability. It delivers a reliable performance, in strength and colour as well as general mortar repairs. For users, it is quick and easy to use - just add water.

    This Australian made pre-blended mortar can help with faster project turnaround without compromising quality.

    The Trade Mortar product also received an endorsement from Jamie Gray at "What Tradies Want" magazine. In a video, he said, "In terms of quality and quantity, each 20kg bag will get through about 20 house bricks or if you work with masonry blocks a 20kg bag with a 10mm mortar joint will get you about 10 blocks laid."

    Bon Rich from BR Masonry added, "It's our 'go to' product when we need a pre-mix product. We usually use it for white or black bricks if we need a coloured mortar for consistency. It's easy to work with [especially] on hotter days."

    To watch the video, go to the following link:

    Cement Australia's Trade Mortar and "What Tradies Want"

    Transform Box: A new way to look at DIY customers

    DIY is good for hardware retailers, but how can they build the market?

    Any hardware retailer could list 10 or 12 "standard" DIY projects without having to draw a second breath. However, much of that portfolio is likely, given today's circumstances, to be somewhat dated. New developments, such as open source furniture designs, might be the best pathway to encouraging more DIY sales.

    Is there a way to better hang onto DIY sales as Australia slowly pulls its way out from under the duress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?

    It's no secret that one reason why hardware retailers have seen their revenues increase over the past 14 months is due to an increase in DIY sales. That hasn't just helped with revenue, it has also, of course, boosted earnings as well, as most DIY sales come with higher margins than typical trade sales.

    While shorter lockdowns might give sales something of a boost, it's unlikely that the DIY boost will continue to grow, or even persist at the levels seen in 2020. To paraphrase the inimitable words of Bunnings' managing director Mike Schneider, while giving investment analysts a dose of reality, homeowners might continue to invest more in their gardens, but they certainly are not going to paint their houses two years in a row.

    Hardware retailers are thus seeking out ways and means of holding on to some of the inrush of DIY customers they have enjoyed. This brings to the forefront some of the reasons (besides ongoing and increasing competition from Bunnings) that smaller independents have seen DIY sales steadily decline over the past couple of decades.

    While some have put this decline down to a gradual diminution in the skill sets of average homeowners, with the essential parent to child link breaking down somewhat, a better understanding might just be that "traditional" DIY projects have simply lost much of their appeal to more recent generations. The most common "basic" project was, 30 years ago or so, building a bookcase. Today, there is not only reduced demand for bookcases (because of eBooks, for example), but you can also pick up three two-metre tall Billy bookcases from IKEA for $240, take them home in your hatchback, and have them assembled in about an hour.

    The new DIY

    If we want to define something like a "new" DIY, we need to start by looking at how people make use of their houses and apartments these days. One outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the era when most dwellings had single-function rooms has come to an end. It turns out that, you can convert just about any room into a workspace - to accommodate the work needs of two adults, and the study/online learning needs of two or three children as well.

    We could say, in fact, that people have moved away from the fixed idea of "rooms", and more towards considering their dwellings as composed of "spaces" - discrete areas that can be turned to a number of different purposes. When you start down that pathway, that question becomes most important is how do you go about making spaces that can be transformed from one purpose to the next?

    Sadly, most of the "solutions" to this problem we've seen from the past tend to suffer from a range of problems. Take, for example, the "study in a closet", where a closet is transformed from storing clothing to housing a desk. For temporary, short-term use, this no doubt is a good solution, but who really wants to spend 30 hours a week staring into a closet? Plus there is always the interesting question as to where clothes are supposed to be stored, as the statement "this apartment has way too many closets!" is something that your hear, well, just about never.

    Designed solutions

    This kind of problem is one which, however, has received some attention in the past, though not directly for homeowners. One company that has been working on solutions is the Japanese firm NOSIGNER. You might think of NOSIGNER as being very committed to DIY as well, but coming at the problem from a different, less traditional and more modern perspective. As the company states on its website:

    In this modern age, when we want to acquire something of value to us, we just buy it. This is our standard behaviour. However, this consumer behaviour became common only from the 18th century when the market economy was established. Before this, people made the things they needed themselves. It thus added value to these things.
    Now that buying has become common, we humans are forgetting our natural, creative processes and actions to make things. Even so, it is a fact that digital fabrication equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters provide the means for more creative handiwork.
    Meanwhile, the intellectual property system, which is a precondition of modern manufacturing, has a history of only about 500 years since the world's first patent was issued in Venice in the 15th century. In human history, this is a relatively recent development. The negative aspects of the modern intellectual property system are often cited such as being an economic wall and impeding creative innovations. We cannot deny that this could be one factor inhibiting the "creativity" that only humans possess on Earth.
    Under such conditions, we have proceeded with open-source design projects to promote people's creativity and the value and joy of making things with your own hands. Our initiative has resulted in diverse examples such as Open Source Furniture and OLIVE. Although open-source design has gained some traction, it is still far from being a widespread alternative for consumers to pursue DIY.

    Basically, NOSIGNER works on furniture designs for new environments, then releases the plans to these as open source projects (under the Mozilla license terms). One set of its designs are based on helping people to transform unused warehouses into effective office spaces. As with many other countries, Japan has seen its economy shift over the past couple of decades from being more manufacturing-based to more intellectual property based. Thus there has been an increasing demand for office space, and decreasing utilisation of former warehouse spaces.

    However, many of these designs can now also work well for homeowners looking for ways to make their own space more multifunctional. One very good example of this is NOSIGNER's Re-SOHKO Transform Box. The Transform Box, when closed, is 1.1m square on the sides, and 1.7m tall. It is on castor wheels, which means it can be pushed to a corner when not in use, then brought out into the room when in use.

    The box folds open via two wheeled cabinet doors, creating two work areas separated by a divider. It provides commodious storage for tools and other work elements, and it is "wired" via a spooled extension cord. While designed primarily for being used as creative workstation in a "maker" type of environment, it can obviously be easily repurposed for knowledge work or study.

    NOSIGNER has, in line with its open source promises, released seven pages of building and assembly instructions, which present the Transform Box components in exploded view. Construction consists of building four boxes, which are then mounted into each other. The main material used for the original is thick plywood, but there are unstressed elements that could be made with MDF as well.


    Much of the thought that has gone into making DIY more relevant to homeowners has concentrated on elements such as skill sets, easy of construction, availability of materials, and time required to complete a build. However, the most important element of any DIY project, HNN would suggest, is how much value the builder will get from the project after is has been completed.

    Projects such as the Transform Box might seem more fringe than mainstream to many retailers, but the reality is many homeowners would extract a great deal of value from a concealed workstations such as this one. While this might not be "the" project of this type, it is a great example of what could be more possible in the future.


    Price of local timber continues to rise

    However, falling lumber prices in the US have been helping builders and DIYers

    In Australia, houses are expected cost more to build and construction to take longer, according to industry and financial experts

    Builders and timber producers around Australia have warned that rising wood prices have not ended despite a cooling international market, based on a report in The Age,

    International prices for timber hit unprecedented heights this year due to a combination of COVID-related shipping delays and high demand for new home builds across the United States and Europe.

    Prices increased nearly 250% to highs of USD1711 (AUD2305) per 1000 board feet in May. They have since dropped to USD774 as demand eased and supply improved.

    Jim Bindon, managing director of timber products company Big River Industries, said while prices had not gone up as high in Australia - rising only 30 or 40% - a decline was still a few months off with costs unlikely to settle until at least September. He told The Age:

    Here in Australia, we didn't see those huge percentage increases. Locally, there are still some further price increases to come through.

    Major timber suppliers in Australia have notified Mr Bindon they expect further price rises in August and September, though he doesn't expect an increase of more than 50% from the pre-COVID norm. However, the increase is likely to hit new home builds around Australia, with framing timbers being an essential and difficult-to-replace part of house construction.

    Issues around timber supply led financial analyst JP Morgan to warn that growth of major building supplies company CSR would probably be curtailed by a lack of available wood. JP Morgan timber industry analyst Brook Campbell-Crawford said in a note to investors:

    We believe shortages could significantly influence ... housing construction in Australia over 2021-23.

    The note follows warnings last month in Victoria - both by homeowners renovating or building, and the construction industry - that the shortage of materials including timber and bricks was leading to costly delays.

    Master Builders Victoria (MBV) believes the situation is set to get worse. MBV chief executive, Rebecca Casson told The Age:

    While there is a limited amount of timber at present, demand is still not expected to peak for another few months.

    She said builders, tradies and suppliers were "withstanding the worst of the price increases and delays", and hold-ups were unavoidable and needed to be factored into construction timelines.

    US market for timber

    The price of timber in the US has slid about 60% from its peak in early May. In that month, prices for two-by-fours surged to more than twice their previous record, set three years ago when there were about 15% fewer homes being built. But wood prices have since plunged back to levels resembling those before lockdowns cut supplies short and boosted demand.

    July futures ended recently at USD521.40 per thousand board feet, down nearly 70% from the high of USD1,711.20 in May, when wood-product supply lines were still being unknotted after the lockdown and before Americans began to shift spending from home improvement projects to vacations and dining out.

    The decline is benefiting builders and DIYers and helping to allay fears of runaway inflation hamstringing the economic recovery. Still, buyers of new homes should not expect discounts.

    Home builders in the US say they expect to collect higher profit margins rather than drop asking prices. That is typical following periods of rising commodities costs, when the broad economic growth that normally accompanies higher raw-materials prices enables companies to pass along more expenses.

    It is a different story at Home Depot, which Americans in lock down flocked to during the pandemic. The home improvement retailer has lowered its lumber prices in recent weeks. Eight-foot studs that were offered in Ohio stores for USD7.48 on June 21 were priced at USD6.25 on 14 July. In Utah, pressure-treated two-by-four boards for outdoor use fell to USD9.17 for an 8-foot length, down from USD13.37 around 23 July.

    Retail prices remain high relative to historical levels, but the cuts show the decline in futures and sawmill prices is trickling down to shoppers.

    A number of factors are shaving hundreds of dollars off the wholesale price of softwood lumber. According to Dustin Jalbert, an analyst with Fastmarkets, the US turning the corner in the pandemic has meant that sawmills have been able to ramp up production and some people who had been working from home are returning to offices and other workplaces. He said:

    If you're spending less time at home, you're probably spending less money on the home. That remodelling, renovation, DIY boom - that's also softening.

    Consumers are also allocating funds to businesses such as those specialising in hospitality and travel as more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Bank of America analysts. They wrote in a recent note:

    Our recent research ... suggests a combination of high housing and wood product prices and the shift of expenditures to services (from do-it-yourself home projects) in the reopening has negatively impacted new and repair/remodel construction expenditures.

    Mr Jalbert added that the demand for lumber is expected to drop as construction slows in the colder months in North America later this year, driving the price down even further.

    But even then, he added, "people should know that prices are probably not going to fall to the levels that they were before the pandemic".

  • Sources: The Age, Wall Street Journal (Online), Business Insider (US edition) and NPR (National Public Radio)
  • products

    Bosch brings out a better cordless Dremel multi-tool

    A brushless motor brings a big boost in power

    The Dremel brand is virtually synonymous with multi-tools used for crafting and also production using 3D printers. The cordless versions are the most convenient to use, but have lacked power. Now with the new Dremel 8260, and its brushless motor, Bosch has launched a capable tool that's up to the expanding range of difficult task users face.

    While opinions about many Bosch tools vary, one tool that is almost universally acclaimed as the best in its class is the Dremel multi-tool. Bosch has now launched the next evolution of that product line, the Dremel 8260, a cordless multi-tool which features Dremel's first brushless motor.

    Bosch states that this tool is so powerful, it has 20% more power than the top-of-the-line Dremel 4250 corded tool. On top of that, Bosch claims the 8260 is the "world's first" connected cordless multi-tool.

    DIYers can pair the tool via Bluetooth with the Dremel app, which provides them with detailed information about expected battery life on a particular task, and predictive warning about problems such as overheating. The app also enables adjusting the speed of the Dremel's rotation to one of six possible settings. Just signing up to a free online Dremel account grants users and extra year onto the standard warranty.

    Bosch has also upgraded the Dremel website. This now includes inspirational features on how to use the Dremel to achieve a range of tasks, such as engraving on leather or glass.

    More accessories

    Along with the upgrade to its cordless line, Dremel has also brought out its "Dremel Max" range of accessories. These upgrade the previous accessories for longer life and better performance. For example, the Max EZ SpeedClic Premium cutting wheel has a lifetime 20 times longer than the standard accessory, and can be used to cut tougher materials, such as alloyed steel.


    Makita Cordless Impact Driver TD001G

    Is this the world's most confusing impact driver?

    Makita makes great tools. No doubt. But, as HNN has pointed out, the company has not kept up with recent trends in Bluetooth connectivity. This impact driver pretty much proves Makita is now bumping up against the limitations of its approach.

    How complex can a tool become, before it becomes too difficult to use?

    That's really the question we need to address when we look at Makita's latest "top of the line" impact driver, the Makita Cordless Impact Driver TD001G. This is part of Makita's recently launched 40V XGT line of tools. This range makes use of modern 21700 Lithium-ion battery cells to deliver either 40V (36V nominal) through a single battery or 80V (72V nominal) through a double-battery setup.

    As Li-ion tools have developed, and moved to running brushless motors, the electronics which control them have grown more complex. Older tools with brushed motors relied on mechanical parts to make their motors work, but brushless tools use elaborate, very fast switching circuits to alter the flow of current in the electric motor's electromagnets. That switching can be controlled on the nanosecond level, which boosts the range of ways these motors can behave. Today even the more basic circuit boards offer a wide range of features, yet the majority of tools have only just begun to explore their possibilities.

    The TD001G from Makita is one of the first of the Japanese company's tools to really dig deeper into what the tools can do. In many ways that is a great idea, yet it would seem to have run into some limitations that Makita has historically imposed on itself. The main limitation is simply that Makita has shied away from the role that software has to play in the modern power tool company. This means that while the number of modes the TD001G can enter into has multiplied considerably, the interface used to control those modes is copied from tools that might have a maximum total of only six or so modes to control.

    The solution to these control problems which companies - such as Techtronic Industry's Milwaukee brand - have pursued is to move much of the interface from the tool to the smartphone. If you have thought this was a bit of an "overcooked" solution in the past, then just looking through the instructions for the TD001G might convince you otherwise.

    Many of the tool's specifications are impressive, indeed. It has a maximum no load speed of 3700rpm, a maximum impact rate of 4400ipm, and a maximum tightening torque of 220Nm.

    Where the problems start to come up is when we begin to look at just the instructions for running the tool. That all begins with this diagram, which sets out the interface panels that are available.

    This is what the basic control panel looks like:

    Here is Makita's description of how the modes enabled by these panels work:

    Here is the diagram explaining how to use the "quick mode-switching button":

    That's what you need to know to make one button work.

    The impact force is relatively easy to set by comparison, as it is just a four-LED panel, which sets the number of impacts to 1100, 2600, 3600 and 4400 impacts a minute.

    The "assist type" is a whole different matter. The following is the chart to help you adjust that.

    Just to finish this off, this is the chart of "indication patterns" that communicate the state of the tool to its user.


    There is no doubt that the TDG001 will be a great tool, just like all the other Makita impact drivers. But this interface is going to be really daunting for all but the most die-hard Milwaukee supporters.

    What would be an alternative? Allowing the tool to interface with a smartphone over Bluetooth opens up a whole new world of configuration options. Here is a screenshot from a video produced by Milwaukee outlining processes for a One-Key drill:

    Those are just the basics. It's a simple matter to add more esoteric settings as well, such as the ramp-up duration:

    More to the point, to communicate what you need to do to set up a One-Key drill, the entire video is just two and half minutes long. It's that simple.


    HNN has been predicting for some time that Makita, pursuing its non-software path, would sooner or later run into limitations. This tool may still be a success, but at a guess the company is going to get some feedback about exactly how difficult it is to use. We would also suggest that most users are maybe going to learn how to set and use two or three settings, and let it go at that.

    Hopefully, what Makita will learn from this tool is that it really has no choice but to enter the world of Bluetooth connected tools, if it wants to provide this kind of advanced features.


    Bosch EasyHammer is easy genius

    The hammer drill for casual DIYers

    This is the first comprehensive answer to the question of what drill DIYers who mainly want to hang pictures on walls should buy. With an integrated Li-ion battery chargeable via a USB-C port, one switch operation, and size that fits easily in a kitchen drawer, Bosch presents a near-perfect tool for its market.

    Bosch Power Tools continues to be just about the only global manufacturer of power tools intent on developing the low- to mid-end consumer market for power tools as a unique category. While HNN has been impressed with many of the company's past offerings, including the upgrade to the IXO pocket screwdriver and its larger consumer drills and impact drivers, Bosch's latest product is the most impressive of all.

    The Bosch EasyHammer 12V is a hammer drill/driver which is close to pitch perfect when it comes to matching the needs of low-level, casual DIY customers. Many of Bosch's consumer offerings have been based on taking the standard model of larger power tools, and then scaling these down - with the addition of some clever electronics - for the needs of consumers.

    The EasyHammer has actually gone in the opposite direction. It appears to be heavily inspired by the best-selling IXO screwdriver, scaling that up, a feature at a time, so that it can perform the most common and basic tasks a homeowner needs to achieve.

    The tool Bosch ended up with comes with an integrated 12V Lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 2.0Ah, capable of drilling 10mm holes in concrete and wood, 6mm holes in metal, and setting screws up to 6mm in diameter. It weighs just 1.1kg.

    Bosch have evidently worked hard to make using the tool as simple and intuitive as possible. For example, there is a single switch set on the top of the tool where it is easily visible, with three settings: hammer drill, non-hammer drill or screwdriver, and reverse.

    There's a simple genius to that. Most drills have a separate selector for forward/reverse, and hammer settings. This removes that confusion, because the user will only ever have the one control to change if the tool is not doing what he/she wants it to do.

    Charging the drill fits into the same category, as it charges via a USB-C port. There is a special charger for the tool (which operates at 27 watts), but that is optional. As many people today will have USB-C chargers for larger devices such as laptops, this eliminates one expense, and the "yet another thing" fatigue that comes with collecting multiple chargers over time.

    The tool takes around an hour to recharge. Bosch claims the EasyHammer can drill 24 holes in concrete and over 160 holes in softwood on a single charge. The hammer mechanism is pneumatic (interesting, but we can't find further details) with up to 4300 beats per minute. Maximum, no-load speed is 850rpm. It comes with a "ring" light to illuminate the focus of the work.

    As impressive as all that is, there is one more step that Bosch has taken, that is the genuine article when it comes to the proverbial "thinking outside the box". Bosch has used an SDS+ chuck on the drill. From an ease-of-use standpoint, having a spring loaded mechanism is a great idea, but HNN would guess that the SDS extends to the way the chuck integrates with the hammer mechanism. That means that instead of the entire chuck itself moving, the hammer action will affect only the drill bit itself.

    This combination of low-level consumer hardware with a chuck construction usually only seen on heavy-duty rotary hammers is fantastic. It is design using all available resources to deliver the best user experience.

    The market

    What makes this such an excellent tool is that it answers a question that has gone without a decent answer for the past decade: what tool do you recommend to an amateur DIYer who simple wants to hang some pictures on the wall? In the past, most customers with that question have had to walk out of the store either with an inexpensive but clunky corded hammer drill, or with a complex drill, battery and charger to achieve what should be a simple task.

    More serious DIYers can usually make a case for buying a little too much tool for what they need - because there will be that job that comes up once a year where they need a little more power. But casual DIYers really do know exactly what the tools will be used for, and how much of a tool they need. For them the "extra" is not a comfort zone of capability, it's just another drag on their lives. The EasyHammer can be kept in a kitchen drawer or cupboard, somewhere under the sink, or in a broom closet. When it is time to use it, it can be recharged on the laptop charger. It's a low fuss, high availability option.

    While many hardware retailers today will scoff at this level of tool, this is an important area for them to integrate into their stores. Tools such as these are so simple and self-evidently fill a need, that it's likely Bosch's next move will be to skip selling this tool (along with the IXO) through regular hardware outlets.

    That doesn't mean just selling it through Amazon (though it is an online sales "natural"), but these could start cropping up at supermarkets and homewares stores as well. If you are buying some framed pictures for your home, it would seem natural to pick up what you needed to hang them with from the same store.

    And if a very casual DIYer decided to step up from a tool such as the EasyHammer, Bosch has the EasyDrill and EasyImpact waiting for them with a similar design, but exchangeable 12V batteries.


    Darlac gets gardeners swinging

    Product additions to the range

    New axes and hatchets have been added to Darlac's garden tools line, distributed in Australia by Mr Fothergill's

    International garden tools brand, Darlac has just released the purpose-designed Splitting Axe, Chopping Axe, Camping Hatchet and All-Purpose Hatchet. Mr Fothergill's managing director Aaron Whitehouse said:

    We are excited to introduce this selection of axes and hatchets to the Australian Darlac range. We pride ourselves on delivering visually appealing products that are made from top quality materials with precision engineering to withstand the rigours of our customer's projects.
    Created with the end user in mind, our axe and hatchet features include drop forged carbon steel and heat-treated heads for strength, fibreglass handles and, anti-shock grips, which cumulate in a lightweight design that assist in the reduction of user fatigue. They're versatile and can be used both in the garden, and on farms, as well as when camping in the great outdoors.

    The Splitting Axe is ideal for splitting, cutting, and shaping wood or harvesting timber, and suitable for landscapers, foresters, tree-surgeons, arborists and keen gardeners. It comes with a fiberglass sheath for storage.

    The Chopping Axe is used for chopping logs, trees and branches or harvesting timber. It can make aggressive cutting angles and is suitable for amateur gardeners.

    The All-Purpose Hatchet is for cutting small logs, trees, and branches, and useful for camping, farms and garden projects.

    The Camping Hatches are the smallest of the range and ideal for splitting light density wood and kindling as well as for use in tight spaces that require less backswing. They are lightweight and suitable when camping or for small home garden projects. They are also weather resistant with a tough fibreglass handle, and comes with a fiberglass sheath that has an in-built sharpener.

    The introduction of these axes and hatches are now part of Mr Fothergill's Darlac range that includes the Triblade Shear, Take Anywhere Tap and 5-in-1 Trowel, just to name a few. Mr Fothergill's also offers top quality seeds, propagation products, all-in-one kits, and garden gifts.

    The Darlac Splitting Axe, Chopping Axe, Camping Hatchet and All-Purpose Hatchet are being distributed through select independent garden retailers around Australia and online at

    Related: Mr Fothergill's buys garden tool brand.

    Mr Fothergill's expands through Darlac acquisition

  • HI News 3.10, page 17
  • products

    New products

    GARDENA wins Red Dot Design awards

    The GARDENA ClickUp! range, the RollUp wall-mounted and garden hose boxes as well as robotic lawnmower SILENO minimo have been acknowledged for their industrial design in 2021

    ClickUp! Is a "modern lifestyle system for the garden" according to GARDENA and consists of a handle and various attachments. The insect hotel, flower bowl, rain gauge, torch fireplace and bird feeder can be mounted on the handle with a single click. The geometric design of the attachments is simple yet sophisticated, combining a lifestyle product with functionality.

    The wall-mounted and garden hose boxes from the RollUp range are suitable for walls or the ground. They enable the hose to be rolled up precisely and evenly, with little effort. As the boxes are usually permanently attached to the wall of a house, they have a restrained and more architectural design to enable them to blend in as much as possible with their surroundings.

    Two new garden hose boxes are fixed into the ground using a ground spike, which allows them to be used in a flexible way.

    The Red Dot jury was also impressed by the SILENO minimo. The smallest robotic lawnmower from GARDENA is extremely compact, and can be connected to a smartphone at close range and controlled using the Bluetooth app. With softly flowing, yet clearly defined lines, the design represents the lawnmower's cutting-edge technology and high-quality standards.

    The origins of the Red Dot Design award go back for more than 60 years. To be given the highly coveted, internationally renowned Design Award, the products have to impress the jury in many different ways. Consisting of 50 international experts, the jury evaluates the products in terms of their degree of innovation, functionality and quality. However, the products must also meet ergonomics, durability and ecological requirements.

  • Sources: DIY Week and GARDENA
  • products

    Bosch Biturbo drills combine high power with super smarts

    85Nm of soft torque

    Powerful drills operating off of 18-volt batteries also provide smart angle detection, making it easier to comply with standards

    While other power tool companies have been concentrating on their higher-voltage tools, Bosch Power Tools has just released a pair of Pro (blue) 18-volt drill/drivers that set a new standard for torque in their class. It's a case of torque softly, but carry a big shtick - in this case an IoT shtick.

    The Biturbo GSR and GSB 18V-150 C Professional 18V drill/drivers are designed for tradies looking for heavy-duty, powerful drills that are not overwhelmed by the size of a heavy battery. The GSR is a standard drill/driver, while the GSB is a hammer drill as well.

    Maximum revolutions on both are 2200rpm, and both have high hard torque figures of 150Nm. Where they really shine, however, is in the soft torque (a better measure for screwdriving applications), which comes in at 85Nm. That easily tops out over the two nearest competitors, DeWalt's DCD998 18V Max Power Detect and the four-speed Hilti SF 8M-A22 22-volt cordless drill driver.

    It's an interesting choice in product development. While the market has been overtaken by higher voltage choices in cordless tools, increasing power really does not require a boost in voltage. The physics of power is that it is the product of voltage times current, so power can be increased just as easily by upping the current carried through the tool's motor.

    However, from a design perspective, increasing voltage makes for an easier way to design. Effectively, Bosch is leveraging the quality both of its engineers and its production processes in bringing out a pair of tools that can operate on the same Pro Core batteries as a wide range of tools, and yet (as Bosch claims) screw in up to 12 screws measuring 12 x 400 mm through soft wood on just one charge of the ProCore18V 8.0 Ah battery. (Though, to be fair, Hilti makes a point of under-stressing its tools; that's part of the company's design ethos.)


    Even as these tools came out, the overall Bosch company released its results, showing a fall in overall sales but an increase in its profitability. The company is, according to the announcement, banking much of its future on combining the internet of things (IoT) - essentially networked smart sensors - with artificial intelligence, which will interpret what those sensors report. Bosch is calling this combination "AIOT".

    While these two drills don't quite make it all the way up to AIOT, they do make an interesting contribution to IoT. HNN has commented in the past that it seems a pity that the "connected" tools we've seen seldom make it all the way to being what we might call a "smart tool". In some ways, these drills might be the best example we have seen as yet of what a smart tool could be.

    That's because in addition to their high power output, they also feature "Electronic Angle Detection" (EAD). Bosch claims this is a first when it comes to the 18-volt drill driver market. It has added this feature in order to help carpenters and others comply with stricter standards of construction in the European Union, where the angle of screws will soon come under scrutiny.

    The standard settings for 45 degrees and 60 degrees are built into the tool, and other settings can be established by connecting the tool to a Bosch's software on a smartphone. There is also a unique feature that enables the user to automatically adjust the tool's sensor to the pitch of a roof, so that screws can be set at an appropriately perpendicular angle.

    Once the angle has been set on the drill, there is an on-tool screen that will alert the user when the drill angle drifts more than three degrees out of true with it. This all but eliminates the need for the bothersome cardboard and plastic guides that carpenters have been forced to use in the past.


    It's really encouraging to see Bosch Power Tools open up the software development for drills in this way. It's likely that this particular pattern of development, where a power tool maker finds a very specific niche in terms of power, weight and software capability, and then develops a specific tool, is one we will see more of in the future.

    Though the next frontier in construction tools will likely be a move towards more automation, with developments such as mitre saws that include a wood-feed mechanism, meaning they could automate the cutting of specific sizes of wood, and similar advances.


    New crafting products

    Dremel rechargeable glue pen

    The WORX 20V MakerX Rotary Tool and Airbrush Combo Kit helps to elevate crafting tool design, performance and portability

    To inspire people to tackle craft and light home improvement projects around the home, Dremel has introduced the fast-heating, cordless and rechargeable Dremel Home Solutions[tm] Glue Pen.

    This tool features an integrated 4V MAX rechargeable lithium-ion battery and USB port for convenient charging. At 6 5/8-inches long, the glue pen is compact and designed to provide exceptional performance for its size.

    The Dremel Home Solutions Glue Pen is ideal for craft projects, decoration, frame embellishment, costume repair, glue-pen art and minor home repairs. Unlike corded glue guns that can take around five minutes to heat up, the Dremel Glue Pen heats up in approximately 15 seconds with its indicator light letting users know it is ready or when it needs to be charged.

    It also has a precision nozzle tip that is ideal for detailed gluing and reducing drips. The unique design allows users to hold it in a natural, comfortable position easing hand fatigue throughout your projects. Michael Landt, director, DIY tools at Dremel, said:

    A glue gun is always a handy tool to have around the home but the Dremel Home Solutions Glue Pen will transform your craft with ease and speed. This fast-heating cordless glue pen lets you freely move around your workshop or craft space without getting tangled in a cord or worrying about hot glue dripping with our innovative nozzle feature...

    The Dremel Rechargeable Glue Pen comes complete with the glue pen, four glue stick refills, power adapter and USB cable.


    The WORX 20V MakerX Rotary Tool and Airbrush Combo Kit brings a fresh approach to creative crafting tool design, precision handling and portability. The kit includes a MakerX Hub, 20V Power Share battery, 45 accessories with case, charger and storage bag.

    The rotary tool and airbrush crafter kit is part of the WORX MakerX system, which is centred around a MakerX Hub. Each compact tool in the system connects to the portable hub via a 4-ft. power cord. The hub is powered by a 20V, 1.5 Ah, Max Lithium, Power Share battery.

    Since the tools, themselves, don't contain batteries, they are lighter weight, better balanced, leaner and more compact than other models. Micro-ergonomic grips make the tools easier to handle and more comfortable, especially during extended use periods.

    The portable hub also eliminates the need to be near an electrical outlet. Uses can just pick up the kit and carry it to any work station or project location, indoors or out. The hub has an on/off switch and a variable-speed dial, from 5,000 to 35,000 rpm, depending on the tool that's connected.

    The MakerX Rotary Tool's applications include projects that call for cutting, drilling, detail sanding, polishing, engraving and etching.

    The rotary tool features a brushless motor for long life and smooth operation. Brushless motors run cooler and with less friction and vibration than conventional brushed motors. It also is 20% slimmer than competing models and has a narrow pencil-like grip for handling projects with precision and control.

    MakerX Rotary Tool accessories are not proprietary. The tool's 1/8 in. collet accepts other major brand accessories with 1/8 in. shanks. Other collet sizes, including 3/32, 1/16 and 1/32, also fit the tool.

    The MakerX Air Brush is the only 20V airbrush on the market today. It's ideal for light duty and intricate jobs, and handy for removing dust from woodworking projects prior to painting or staining.

    The highly maneuverable airbrush has a dual-function trigger control that separates air flow and paint volume. This allows the user to go from a wide spray pattern to a fine line, or vice versa, in a single stroke. It also helps avoid initial splatter by introducing paint gradually.

    The tool's diaphragm pump generates 14 to18 psi air pressure and has a run-time up to three hours. Its 0.04 mm nozzle provides a balance between fine detail and ample width of coverage.

    The airbrush accepts a variety of water-based and acrylic paints.

    The MakerX, 20V, Max Lithium battery is compatible with more than 35 other WORX DIY and lawn and garden tools through the company's Power Share platform.


    Weber's latest gas BBQ is smart

    It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and digital displays

    A new BBQ from Weber now has a similar specifications sheet to a smartphone

    Weber is expanding its line of internet-connected BBQs to encompass its gas models, including the company's entry-level Spirt lineup. They offer Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for tracking temperature and an integrated digital display.

    The Genesis EX-315, EX-335 and SX-335 and the Spirit SX-315 models incorporate the Weber Connect platform, which aims to make BBQing easy. Until now, the platform has only been available on the company's smart grilling hub and pellet grills.

    These models can now monitor temperatures and let users know when it's time to flip or serve food via an app. Guided recipes can take users through the entire process step-by-step to help achieve the ideal cook.

    WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity allow users to monitor how things are going while they are away from the BBQ. If they would rather not be checking their phone, they can use the built-in LED display and the grill's audible notifications. Users can keep an eye on how much gas is left in the tank via the app or on the BBQ.

    The three Genesis smart gas grills, including the EX-315 feature LED lighting, 669 square inches of grill space, three high-heat burners and a folding warming rack. The EX-335 and SX-335 have a side burner, and the latter has a stainless steel lid rather than a porcelain-enamelled one. The smaller Spirit SX-315 has 529 square inches of grill space.

    Connected BBQing isn't a new concept for Weber: the company has offered a line of iGrill meat thermometers for several years as add-ons for its existing grills. Last year, it debuted its second-generation Weber Connect smart grilling hub accessory, which offers a more advanced Weber Connect app. It has also offered Weber Connect smart grilling features on its SmokeFire pellet smoker.

    The latest models in the Weber Connect smart BBQ range is set to launch later the first half of this year.

  • Sources: The Verge, Yahoo Finance (Australia)
  • products

    Nippon Paint develops antiviral product

    Commercial launch in China

    The paint contains Corning Guardiant[tm] antimicrobial particles shown to kill 99.9% of the virus that causes COVID-19

    Nippon Paint's Antivirus Kids Paint uses Corning Guardiant[tm], an antimicrobial paint additive containing copper ions.

    When incorporated into the antiviral paint, the copper ions in Corning Guardiant[tm] create an effective defence against coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and 229E on the coated surfaces by either destroying viral envelopes to render them dysfunctional or non-infectious, or tampering with genetic materials so that the virus cannot reproduce.

    In late 2020, American multinational technology company Corning announced breakthrough test results demonstrating that paints formulated with Corning Guardiant[tm] showed a 99.9% kill of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on coated surfaces in less than two hours.

    Surfaces coated with Nippon Paint's Antivirus Kids Paint also showed a greater than 99.9% kill of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These tests were carried out in compliance with rigorous test protocols approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Joydeep Lahiri, division vice president and program director, Specialty Surfaces at Corning said:

    Nippon Paint's Antivirus Kids Paint creates a surface with in-built antimicrobial function, adding another layer of sustained protection to temporary disinfection measures such as liquid disinfectants.

    Results on the SARS-CoV-2 virus were obtained using test methods that simulate invisible contamination on dry surfaces. Coatings containing additives such as silver and zinc pass traditional "wet" contamination test methods, but do not perform well under more realistic dry test conditions. Nippon Kids Paint demonstrates effectiveness under both wet and dry test conditions.

    Apart from killing bacteria and viruses, Nippon Paint's Antivirus Kids Paint can eliminate formaldehyde across indoor environments, and its stain resistance meets the level-1 anti-pollution standard. The makers of this paint said it can provide healthy indoor air for users with indoor air quality improvement after rigorous tests certified by TUV and the GREENGUARD Gold Certification Standard and A+ Standard.

    A TUV certification means a sampling of the product has been tested for safety and found to meet the minimum requirements of the German Equipment and Product Safety Act.

    The GREENGUARD Gold Certification standard includes health-based criteria for additional chemicals and also requires lower total VOC emissions levels to help ensure that products are acceptable for use in environments like schools and healthcare facilities.

    In March 2020, before the antiviral paint product was commercially available, Corning and Nippon Paint jointly donated the first batches of Antivirus Kids Paint tested in US independent labs to four Chinese hospitals designated by the Department of Commerce of Hubei province. The surface space spanned a total area of 120,000sqm.

    Related: Nippon Paint acquired Australia's DuluxGroup in 2019.

    Paintorama: Nippon Paint - HI News, page 123
  • Sources: Global Times, China Daily and Globe Newswire
  • To read the latest edition, please download HI News:

    Download hinews-6-04


    Makita's first upright vacuum

    Japanese power tool company expansion?

    Makita, ever unpredictable, has decided to design and produce its own upright vacuum cleaner - though we don't really know why

    In terms of its overall strategy, Makita has increasingly become something of an outlier among the other four major power tool companies - Stanley Black & Decker (SBD), Bosch and Techtronic Industries (TTI).

    While the other three have embraced Internet of Things (IoT) links for their tools to various degrees, Makita has made only minor forays along that path, enabling, for example, a Bluetooth link between some power tools and a vacuum for dust removal.

    Also, while Makita has worked to expand its current range of tools, it hasn't done all that much to expand its product range footprint. SBD has acquired a mid-market brand in the US. TTI is constantly growing the versatility of its tools by adding cordless power to many small but time-consuming tasks (such as riveting). Bosch has made some great advances in areas such as consumer, DIY tools.

    But Makita, for the most part, has continued to develop great tools with a relatively narrow focus, though this has grown to include outdoor power equipment as well.

    All that makes it more than a little surprising to find that the company has released a new cordless vacuum cleaner, which is aimed at use by professional premises and professional cleaners.

    The 36-volt LXT Brushless HEPA Filter Upright Vacuum Kit has the product designation XCV19PG. It uses two standard 18-volt Makita batteries, and is, of course, Makita's first cordless upright vacuum. The company makes quite a point of the fact that it carries "the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Seal of Approval Certification for high performance in commercial cleaning applications."

    Makita describes the vacuum as using a brushless motor to generate 67 CFM of suction power and "120cm of water lift". The upright vacuum has a cleaning path that 30cm wide and four height adjustment levels to handle different floor types. The company claims that its two-stage HEPA filter will capture 99.97% of particulates 0.3 microns in size and larger.

    To be clear, this isn't the kind of stick vacuum cleaner that both Bosch and TTI have added to their consumer range of tools. This is a standard upright, with a constantly driven brush head.

    Makita cites several advantages for the vacuum. The company claims it is quieter than its corded counterparts (Makita claims 57dBa), minimising disruption, and that it provides long run-time:

    Makita-built motor and batteries efficiently use energy to provide up to 60 minutes of run time. Two 6.0Ah LXT Batteries charge in less than 1 hour, allowing for minimal down time.


    It really is difficult to work out exactly what Makita is doing with this product. It does fit into the product line somewhat, as Makita has long made a backpack vacuum for professional use.

    That said, many of the technologies required for a device of this kind are a departure from Makita's standard product line. There is, first of all, the ergonomics that go into the design of the cleaner itself, not to mention the design and function of the product's brush-head.

    There is also the matter of marketing. The 90-second video the company has produced is interesting in that the vacuum cleaner is never shown encountering actual dirt. It just constant cleans already clean floors.

    As it frequently the case with companies such as Makita, which are a little obscure in their motivations and strategies, this vacuum cleaner raises many questions. Is it an attempt to emulate the product diversification of Bosch, and especially TTI? TTI has, of course, parlayed its cordless technology in combination with its ownership of the Hoover brand (along with a number of other vacuum cleaner brands) to produce increasingly competitive products. Or is it perhaps a reaction to specific requests from its customers, especially in Japan, where cleaning might have achieved a higher priority due to the current pandemic?

    We can't really know, but we will certainly be following the success or failure of this product over the next couple of years.


    Crescent Z2 pliers and project kits

    Pliers get additional features

    Three new project kits provide the tools required to get common tasks done properly

    The latest Z2 Pliers from Crescent Tools have next-level design features that make them more effective, more efficient, durable and useful, according to the company. Jarrett Wolf, US-based product manager for Crescent Tools, said:

    When we set out to make better pliers, we turned to our customers to find out what features they needed to complete their jobs. We talked to professionals in different trades with different needs and distilled that information down to create features that make a difference in their day-to-day work.

    The Crescent Z2 8" Needle Nose Pliers feature:

  • High-leverage joint design provides up to 35% greater cutting power
  • Laser-hardened cutting edges cut clean and remain sharp 50% longer
  • Six-zone head with a cross-hatched jaw for gripping and pulling; wire puller notch for gripping, pulling and twisting fine wire; non-marring grip zone for gripping and turning decorative fasteners; torque zone for pulling, twisting and bending; fastener grip area for turning nuts and bolts; and cut zone for extreme cutting
  • Also joining the Z2 line are:

  • Tongue & groove pliers that have K9 Gripping Technology to grip and turn at angles up to 35 degrees. With up to 10 jaw positions, these pliers are more flexible and have greater jaw capacity.
  • Slip joint pliers have a curved jaw design that grips fasteners from 3mm to 25mm with a cross-hatched jaw, and the deep integrated wire cutter reduces cutting effort.
  • Diagonal pliers are designed with a 20-degree head angle for true, flush cutting.
  • Linesman pliers have a high-leverage joint that provides up to 35% greater cutting power, and the fish tape channel is designed for use with flat steel tapes.
  • The Crescent Z2 line includes 35 new products (18 groove-joint, 12 solid-joint, and 5 sets), and are available with dual-material handles that have tether points for increased safety, as well as dipped handles.

    Project kits

    Certain projects require specific tools that aren't necessarily staples in every toolbox. And when those projects come up, people may have to pay more for individual tools or for an expensive set that's not always needed. To help tool users out, Crescent APEX developed three project kits with the tools to help make quick work and move on to the next one.

    The eSHOK-GUARD Ceiling Fan and Light Installation Kit puts the tools for safe installation of a ceiling fan or light fixture in one place. The 11-piece kit comes with a e-SHOK-GUARD 1/4-inch bit holder that's designed with an isolation zone to withstand up to 1,000 volts, keeping users safe when working around electricity.

    Its impact-rated design withstands heavy use with an impact driver. The kit also comes with four bits, three strips of wire (black, white, and green) and three wire caps.

    Similarly, the 22-piece u-GUARD Drywall Anchor Kit can make installing drywall anchors easy. The set has a 3.5" Phillips u-GUARD covered impact power bit with its non-marring, free-spinning sleeve for a scratch-free finish.

    Lastly, the 5-piece u-GUARD Quick Release Bit Holder and Vortex Bits is suitable for installing doorknobs, hinges, and other surfaces that people don't want scratched.

    The kits have been developed for Lowe's stores.


    Creality mass production 3D printer

    A conveyor belt makes it a mini-factory

    Distributed manufacturing will see 3D printers proliferate. The Creality CR-30 is a starting prototype for that future.

    One of the trends that HNN has been tracking for some time is the gradual move of 3D printing from hobbyists, prototyping and a few specialists into the mainstream. We strongly believe that we will see a move to "distributive manufacturing". Hardware retailers will have 3D printers in their stores, and be able to customise and print out on the spot simple items such as cabinet handles, brackets and flanges.

    Creality is a well-known Chinese brand that has managed to take open-source designs, tweak them a bit, and produce reliable, easy-to-assemble 3D printer kits at a low cost. Recently, the company has become more innovative, and one result of this is the 3DPrintMill (Creality CR-30).

    What makes this 3D printer unique is that instead of printing an object onto a standard metal or glass bed, it prints onto a conveyor belt. This enables two additional ways to print objects: it can print very long pieces (for example, a duplicate of a floor moulding for restoration purposes), and it can print multiples of a single object.

    In the former case, the object just keeps moving through the printer as it rolls along on the conveyor belt, out to several metres in length, if needed. In the latter case, once an object is printed, the belt moves, dumps the object into a bin, and can start on a new project. The printer can utilise up to a 10kg roll of filament, to support these mass prints.

    The person who instigated the program to produce the CR-30 is a well-known 3D printing expert, Naomi Wu. She started pushing for the printer in 2016, but it wasn't until 2019 that Creality became interested. Ms Wu worked with another developer, Karl Brown, who had produced a kit version of a conveyer belt printer. She wanted to use some aspects of his Open Source design, but also felt he should receive acknowledgement and payback for his work. The other important contributor to the CR-30's development is Bill Steele, also well-known in 3D printing circles.

    Ms Wu was interviewed by Kerry Stevenson of Fabbaloo online magazine. Ms Wu pointed out that the printer is not for everyone:

    The people who need the 3DPrintMill know exactly why they need it the minute they see how it works. It's like a Bridgeport milling machine or high-end gaming computer. People who look at one and are like, "what's that for?" probably shouldn't buy it.
    This isn't for small figurines, it's not a good first printer for kids. I'm really targeting people or businesses who print long objects, like cosplay and prop makers, sign makers, restorers for crown moulding and other long decorative elements, but mostly those who need to fabricate 10-1000 objects - small scale manufacturing, Etsy and eBay stores, local machine shops as a cheaper alternative to CNC to offer customers, people printing PPE and emergency supplies - that kind of thing.
    Fabbaloo article

    The printer will be available by the end of 2020, but it can be pre-ordered through Kickstarter.

    Creality 3D printer on Kickstarter

    Dulux summer colour predictions

    Oceanic shades, sage green and dusty terracotta

    The Dulux Colour Forecast 2021 is based on extensive research into global design trends

    Colours from the latest Dulux forecast are drawn from nature, including brighter, oceanic shades of blue- green and coral, muted botanical greens, warm whites and soothing mauve-greys.

    To show what a big impact colour can have on the look and feel of a space, stylist Bree Leech introduced bold colour to a predominantly white 1970s home.

    Ms Leech chose brighter and uplifting colours from the Reset palette for her room makeovers. She explains:

    I wanted to show how you can create an entirely new look with little more than a paintbrush. The colours in the Reset palette have a fun, retro feel that's perfect for this 70s family home.
    For the dining room, I chose a beautiful deep blue-green, Dulux Wash&Wear in Daintree. This dramatic hue gives the room a distinct mood and enriches the space. The features of the room, such as the rustic brick wall, archway and timber lining, are all amplified through the use of colour and a backdrop is created to contrast against the crisp white pendant light. We painted the inner part of the arch in a neutral white, Dulux Wash&Wear in Snowy Mountains Half, to further accentuate the curve.
    The living room needed an injection of colour but to create a relaxing and casual feel, I used a gentler hue as the feature. The shelving unit is the hero of the space, so I highlighted it by painting the wall behind in subtle green, Dulux Wash&Wear in Light Ceramic.
    The kitchen is extraordinary, with high ceilings and warm timber cabinetry. I wanted even more warmth in this room and was inspired by that chilli red oven. I saw this space as an inviting place for the family to gather and selected a warm palette, giving it a different mood to the adjacent rooms.
    Painting the feature brick wall in Dulux Wash&Wear Gold Pheasant added that extra warmth I was after without taking away from the best feature - the oven. The accents on this wall didn't need to contrast, so I painted the shelving to match the wall and added an eclectic display of artwork and vessels in tonal shades.
    To soften the contrast between the feature wall and the white in the room, I opted to paint the rangehood a gentle blush - Dulux Wash&Wear in Treeless. This colour also sits beautifully against the brass tap.
  • Main image credits: stylist: Bree Leech, photographer: Lisa Cohen, colours: Dulux Daintree And Snowy Mountains Half, suppliers: hall painting by Elle Burguez and print by Stacey Rees - Modern Times; bench seat - Fenton&Fenton; cushion - Kip & Co; glass - House Of Orange; vases - Dean Toepfer; planter - Maker's Mrkt; rug - The Rug Collection.
  • products

    Future drill: The Bosch AdvancedImpact 18

    It's all about the customer

    The Bosch AdvancedImpact 18 is a drill designed to match the needs of beginning DIYers. Its advanced features make it one of the first "smart-drills".

    How many hardware stores today carry a cordless drill that is ideally suited to the needs of DIY customers? It's something to think about, as there has been a surge in DIY interest stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. That's not always going to be there, but this is a great opportunity to create some loyal, and longer-lasting customers.

    When we think of cordless tools, most of us regard the cordless drill as something like the "baseline" of any substantial range. It was the drill that really fuelled the move to cordless, as the first tool to be converted to batteries, and the most popular tool, today, for both consumers and trades to buy.

    Yet, while we've seen incredible advances in tools for tradies, it is a fact that development of tools for DIY consumers has lagged somewhat behind. One reason for this is that retailers, designers and manufacturers seem to think that a DIYer seeking to upgrade a cordless drill will simply move over to the high-end drills made for tradies.

    That may be true for most manufacturers, but there is one not so surprising exception: Bosch. And while, again, what we are looking at is in some ways "just a drill", HNN thinks it is something more significant than that. Looked at more closely, it's really a new way of looking at the market for cordless tools, and a new way of retailing to customers.

    The drill

    Let's start by describing this advanced drill, and some of the choices that Bosch has made in its design. The drill model in question is Bosch's AdvancedImpact 18. The main sales channel for Bosch - in terms of the most comprehensive range - would seem to be its Amazon store (which is one of the better online tool buying experiences). The drill sells as a "skin" for $159, or with one 2.5 amp-hour battery and a charger for $219 (with free delivery through Prime).

    While we do not know for certain what the design brief was for this drill, we can certainly work out some of the points the drill has been developed to solve. The three mains ones that we think probably applied are: a drill that delivers the best experience when setting a screw; a drill that has "one tool" versatility - you only need this drill to accomplish most tasks; and a drill that is compact and lightweight.

    The immediate outstanding feature of the drill is that first one: it is designed to make setting a screw as simple as possible. The main feature of the basic screw head is that it provides a magnetic attachment to hold the screw on the screw bit securely. This makes one-handed operation easy, freeing the other hand for positioning the drill target or bracing in tight situations.

    The drill also comes with a separate chuck head that can be used for drilling - including impact drilling in masonry - so there is no need for a second tool. There are also two additional screwing attachments available, one a rotatable offset head, and the other a right-angle head. The drill chuck can be attached to the right-angle head to enable drilling as well. All of these attachments are held securely to the drill by a system of shafts and magnets.

    The AdvancedImpact 18 also inherits some features from previous Bosch DIY drills. The direction of the drill is managed via an electric switch on both sides of the handle, and the direction is indicated by two LED arrows on the top of the case. Set the drill aside for more than 30 seconds, and it will automatically reset its direction from reverse to normal.

    Design choices

    Perhaps the most essential design choice Bosch has made, however, is to use a brushless motor - not to increase power, but rather to decrease the overall size of the drill. In this photograph, the brushless motor is on the right, next to the previous generation brushed motor.

    The power output, in fact, is a modest 36 Nm - around what most manufacturers would get from a standard brushed drill.

    The result, however is a drill that has a maximum 1500 rpm, weighs 1.1kg without battery, and 1.6kg complete with battery. It measures 58mm x 169mm x 224mm.

    The market

    For the most part, the consumer DIY drill market has been driven purely by price and consequent commodification. Bosch's real competition in the market would come mostly from the Bunnings captive brand Ozito, and Techtronic Industries' (TTI) Ryobi brand - both sold exclusively through Bunnings. There are also some cheaper drills by suppliers such as Rockwell, as well as somewhat outdated designs from brands such as Worx.

    Outside of DIY, the Makita MT series cordless drill kit would be a contender, as well as some of the Makita 12-volt drills. Then there are outside possibilities like some of the Stanley FatMax drills, and so forth.

    But none of these drills, none of these competitors actually offer what Bosch is offering in the AdvancedImpact 18. The mistake that the competitors have made is to think about drill capability, and price/value ratings as having to do with how big a job you can do with the drill. They mostly feature more power, bigger batteries, and so on.

    What they don't feature is a drill that has been designed and tailor-made to make simple, basic tasks as easy to do as possible. That is, HNN is quite sure, the mission-goal of the AdvancedImpact 18. It is a drill that belongs in the home, not just in a workshop.


    For some time now the hardware retail and home improvement industry has been somewhat haunted by what we might call the kitchen drawer drill. That's the drill that retailers cheerfully sell to customers - and ends up spending, over its six-year lifespan, literally 98% of its life on its side with a flat battery in that drawer.

    The industry, for a very long time, has almost always blamed the customer for this. If only the customer would learn how to use tools properly! If only the customer would get out and give it a go sometimes! And so on.

    The reality is that those drills sit in those drawers, wasting not only the customer's money but also the retailer's opportunity, because they are not very good. Let's be frank here: they are "dumb" drills. Making beginning DIYers use these drills would be the equivalent of giving a family a two-tonne truck to fetch the groceries with every week. They are, very simply, not fit for purpose.

    It's a frustrating situation for the industry to be in. Even as more customers come through the doors during these pandemic days, ready and willing to do DIY, a large number of them will end up discouraged because the industry just makes things too hard for them.

    It's important to remember that the people showing up in hardware stores with serious DIY intent for the first time probably did not spend hours as an eight-year-old holding pieces of wood steady for their Dad, and blowing the sawdust off the cut-line for the saw. And they are not interested in finding a way to replicate that kind of experience in their adult lives. They have jobs, often small jobs, more about assembly than building, and they need help to get through those.

    It would be a great idea, whatever you do in hardware retail and home improvement, to buy yourself a Bosch AdvancedImpact 18. Don't think of it as a tool, though. Think of it as a first step in a much-needed education. Because the very simple fact is, as hardware retail and home improvement develops post-pandemic, that we very much need to go to the customers, not sit back and wait for them to measure up to our standards.


    Will cordless housekeeping tools fuel new boom?

    As men do more housework, power tools are sure to follow

    Bosch, Ryobi move into a new sector where "handyman" and "housecleaner" merge. While vacuum cleaners are currently the major overlap, other tools are sure to follow

    One of the truly classic Australian comedy routines has to be the early, pre-Crocodile Dundee Paul Hogan, playing the character of "Hoges" on his TV show, getting up in the morning with his room mate "Strop" (John Cornell), and making toast. If you've never seen this, here's the link:

    Hoges fixes breakfast

    It's just perfect. The combination of earnest simplicity with subtle self-mockery, and a kind of pride, is something no Australian comedian has ever really matched. Hoges was just an absolute one-off.

    While most Australian men may have surpassed that mark in terms of their general domesticity, it's also true that the majority have lagged behind in terms of doing their share of the housework in family households. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey of 2018, funded by the Australian Government's Department of Social Services, states that:

    [W]omen still do the lion's share of housework and care - they spend 13 hours more than men each week doing unpaid work, while men spend 11 hours more on paid employment.

    A 2018 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study into paid and unpaid work by gender confirms this. At the time of its release, Australian TV media made much of the statistic that Australian men spent more total time on unpaid work than the men of many other nations. However, the real number to watch is the ratio of unpaid work women do compared to men. Chart 1 shows that Australian women do 180% of the unpaid work Australian men do - or, in other words, for every hour men do housework, women do over an hour and 45 minutes.

    In fact, in this statistic, Australia ranks 15 out of 33 countries, bested by both the UK and the US - not to mention New Zealand. A large determinant of women's unpaid work, of course, is the employment opportunities for women in paid work, which explains the very poor showing of India, Japan, Turkey and Korea.

    COVID-19 at home

    With the pandemic of 2020, it will be interesting to see how much these numbers change, and in which countries. Many families have found that, with both partners at home, the division of unpaid work has shifted. For one thing, there has been so much more to do, including keeping younger children occupied, and filling in for schools and teachers with older children.

    While there is, reportedly, at times even greater inequality in these new arrangements (with women doing more of the schooling), one thing is for sure: men are spending more time overall doing housework. Indications are that even when Australia gets back to some kind of "normal" - COVID-19 normal, or even, one day, you know, "normal normal" - things are not going to just revert to "2019 part two". Surveys through some Australian unions indicate that something like 80% of workers would like to continue working from home, at least some of the time.

    And what does more men spending more time doing housework mean, for the home improvement and hardware retail industry?

    That's right: power tools for cleaning. Of course.

    One direct entrant in that category is the Rubbermaid Reveal Power Scrubber, which is - wait for it - an electric toothbrush for cleaning "those hard to reach places". (Because you wouldn't want to use a manual toothbrush, now would you?) It features a small range of attachments, including one for cleaning grout.

    A slightly more ambitious product is the Dremel Versa PC-10 4-volt Cordless Cleaning Tool. According to its product description:

    Versa's spin brush and pads are best at removing grime, mould, mildew, grease, soap scum, lime build up, bug splatter, gunk and rust anywhere around the home.

    However, probably at the top of pack is the Ryobi 18V ONE+ Power Scrubber. Using standard Ryobi 18-volt batteries, the Scrubber rotates a 150mm stiff bristle brush at between 0 and 210rpm to help clean bathrooms and other hard surfaces. (As far as we can tell, this isn't available at Bunnings.)

    Serious vacuums

    While there is something just a little "gadgety" about these tools (as useful as they may be), when it comes to home vacuum cleaners, there is more serious product development underway.

    The maker of the Ryobi and Milwaukee brands, Techtronic Industries (TTI) also has a vacuum cleaner division - an act of real foresight by the company's CEO, Joe Galli. That division has some commercial cleaning products but is best known for its Hoover and Vax brands.

    One entrant in this area is the Ryobi 18V ONE+ Stick Vacuum, which seems to borrow heavily from Vax stick vacuums, but runs on the standard Ryobi 18-volt battery.

    A big advantage of this is that where most stick vacuums have maximum runtimes of around 20 minutes, the Ryobi can run for 45 minutes on a four amp-hour battery.

    Moving up a bracket from the Ryobi stick vacuum is TTI's Vax Blade 2 Max VX82. This has been reviewed by the consumer website Choice, and received its "recommended" designation, with a score of 82%. It came fourth in the ratings at $399, while the vacuum that came third, from LG Electronics, cost $1199. At number five is the Dyson V10 Animal - which costs $999.

    But the biggest surprise is that the Ryobi Stick Vacuum mentioned above is also on the Choice list of recommended appliances. It comes in at number six, also at $399.

    It is clear from this that the incumbent vacuum makers are facing a new challenge in the price/performance area. Dyson vacuum cleaners do have some unmatched features - but are these really worth the extra cost?

    All that said, however, the real winner in this category may end up being Bosch. Its Serie 8 Rechargeable Vacuum Cleaner Unlimited manages to combine the features of the Vax and the Ryobi vacuums: it uses a standard Bosch 18-volt battery (same as for Bosch "green" DIY power tools), but is designed to look sleek and modern, like the Vax.

    One advantage of this vacuum is that it is highly modular, with an array of attachments that make it ideal for a wide range of cleaning tasks, from cleaning the interior of a car, to dusting down venetian blinds.

    It's also interesting that Bosch has picked up on the "men's work" theme, with its main video advertisement for its line of tools featuring the guy doing the vacuuming while his partner reads on the couch.

    Future housework tools

    This is all very well and good, but is it really what men want in housework tools? Why can't we, for example, hook up our Playstation/Xbox controllers to one of those Roomba-like "intelligent" floor vacuums? And maybe amp-up the electric motors in the thing? Add a video camera, and you've not only got the makings of a way to share high-speed floor vacuum chases but (dare I suggest it?) the makings of a Twitch channel.


    All joking aside, it's evident that an evolution - even a disruption - is getting underway when it comes to cordless power tools in the Australian home. That disruption, in the classic Clayton Christensen sense, is especially evident in vacuum cleaners.

    The Dyson stick vacuums that both TTI and Bosch are competing against are, overall better, appliances. But the two entrants have worked out that most consumers will readily forego some of the extra features of a Dyson if they can save $600 to $800. As Prof. Christensen predicted, disruption often comes from new products that don't exceed the capabilities of established products but offer fewer features at a reduced price.

    With gardening surging in 2020, and likely to continue to grow through to 2024, there is big scope for consumer cordless OPE. Add to that an increased interest in home handyman DIY, and the ongoing growth of craft DIY, and it is evident home cordless will be profitable for retailers.

    In addition to those four areas - household appliances, gardening, home DIY and craft - there is a fifth as well: security. There are a lot of homeowners who would be pleased if they could have the ability to link to an external, cordless security camera from time-to-time. That could be for everything from while they are away on holiday, when they have a new puppy in the backyard, or to monitor their children having fun in the backyard.

    Another big opportunity in home cordless that manufacturers have yet to really take advantage of is the further development of Li-ion battery chargers. If we do see an increased surge in interest in battery systems, most homes will likely end up with at least two Li-ion batteries - a medium, four to six amp-hour battery, and a lightweight, two to three amp-hour battery. With those batteries getting a daily workout, most households would benefit from a two-port charger. Yet neither Bosch nor Ryobi offer such a device.

    Further, the battery charging station is really much more of an opportunity to sell a more expensive, higher-margin device than either Bosch or TTI realise. For one thing, in the home situation, the charger isn't just about how you charge up the battery, it is going to be the permanent home of the batteries. That means there is room for a more complex system that is as much about battery maintenance as charging.

    Nothing is worse for a Li-ion battery than keeping it at 100% charge for long periods. There is an opportunity here for a charger that charges a battery to 100% on initial insertion, then maintains charge at 80%. Better still, what about a charger that can be pre-set to peak charge at certain times, possibly through a smartphone app?

    Homeowners could set a 100% charge level for Saturday and Sunday mornings, for example, while letting the battery "idle" at 70% charge for the rest of the week.

    Still further, what if the charging station gains a few extra functions as well? A couple five-volt, 15-amp USB chargers would be an obvious addition. It would also be a simple design task to add a security camera or a temperature/humidity sensor, with links to a smartphone app.

    In other words, take the charger out of the cupboard or workshop, and give it a place in the kitchen or hallway. Instead of cutting charger costs as much as possible, make it an expansive purchase.


    For retailers, one of the first difficulties is simply brand access. Ryobi is (of course) exclusive to Bunnings in Australia, which pretty much leaves Bosch as the only alternative. The Black & Decker brand from Stanley Black & Decker, which is the third player in this general market, does not really have a high quality vacuum cleaner, and no such household appliance that is compatible with its Li-ion battery range.

    Bosch, which has not always received the support it deserves in DIY tools, has established a considerable presence on Amazon in Australia. It's a very successful effort, and retailers would have to offer something substantial to compete effectively.


    WD-40 rebrands Specialist range

    Redesigned products for easier identification

    In July, the California-based supplier called out Australia as one of its strongest growth regions

    WD-40 Specialist range of products - including lubricants, penetrants, greases, cleaners and degreasers, and rust-management solutions - now have the colours of the WD-40(r) brand. This means that for every challenging job, there is now a blue and yellow can.

    With the redesign, the WD-40 Specialist line more closely resembles the highly recognisable WD-40 multi-use product. The changes were made to make it easier for professional end-users to identify the brand.

    The Specialist products are suited to work in the most demanding situations in factories, facilities, garages and farms.

    Australian market

    Earlier this year, WD-40 President Steve Brass highlighted Australia to US investors and analysts during the third-quarter earnings update.

    Sales of its WD-40 lubricants and maintenance sprays, Solvol soaps and No Vac carpet sanitiser increased almost 20% in the quarter or 28% (after removing the impact of foreign currency movements).

    At the time, sales in Australia eclipsed those in its home market of the US, helped by hardware stores and other distributors being able to stay open during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. Mr Brass said:

    Though our sales held up relatively well compared to some industries, the performance of our individual segments in the third quarter was driven primarily by whether or not distribution channels were open in any particular market.
    We saw the most significant sales declines in markets that were hardest hit by COVID-19 and which had the most stringent lockdown orders in place...
    For example, in the US and Australia, sales increased 1% and 16% respectively. This is because in these markets most of our traditional distribution channels were open.

    The brands owned by WD-40 were helped by a spike in taking on home improvement and renovation projects as the coronavirus pandemic emerged and Australian consumers spent the majority of their time at home.

    This led to a sales boost for hardware stores including market leader Bunnings, Mitre 10 and independent outlets.

  • Sources: Business Wire and The Australian
  • products

    Bosch IXO VI screwdriver

    Small, and very popular

    Bosch continues to make tools that people actually use

    The IXO might, in fact, win the award for being just about the most copied design of any power tool. There are some, umm, surprisingly similar shaped offerings from companies like Ryobi out there.

    HNN has to admit that, in the past, we have had a bit of fun in describing both the IXO and some of its fans. In our defence, it's just hard to put power tools and sequins together mentally.

    However, whatever reservations we might once have had about the humble IXO, they have been firmly laid to rest by its most recent iteration, the IXO VI.

    It must have been quite a design meeting when the Bosch engineers came forward with the idea of radically changing the shape of the ultra-popular screwdriver. But, as it turns out, the new design is really a vast improvement on the more familiar IXO III to V design.

    Gone is the bulgy handle, and in its place is a design that is simple, clean and elegant. It's not going to put off your favourite aunt who needs an IXO for craft work, but it also looks at home in any handyman's toolbox.

    Two outstanding features are that it now has a squeeze-for-speed trigger, which makes it much easier to deal with tiny metal screws in assemblies such as PC cases, as well as starting self-tapping screws in some woods.

    Secondly, the IXO now has a top-mounted switch to control forward and reverse settings. We are very "into" switches here at HNN, and we have to tell you: this is one fantastic switch. It has a light, positive action, and that solid mechanical feel that gives you confidence it's going to be one of the last elements to wear out on the IXO - which has a fantastic reputation for reliability.

    The IXO recharges via a USB cable, though a dock is also available. It has also retained the twist off cover over the drive shaft, which enables it to accept many of the attachments previously made for the IXO V. These range from spice mills, to a higher speed drill fitting, a fabric cutter, and even a blower to help fan the flames of a barbecue grill.

    The one reservation that HNN would have about the overall IXO design has to do with the box in which the screwdriver is sold. Bosch is well-known for its high quality tool cases, but it does tend to make these a little bit larger than they really need to be, and this is also true for the IXO. It's a good case if you keep it in your garage, but too large for, say, a kitchen drawer.

    As a tool that is close to being a right-angle, it does present some challenges. HNN thinks that Bosch should have considered making the box taller but narrower, with the IXO held at about 60 degrees to the horizontal to conserve width.

    Additionally, it would be great to see some kind of arrangement where at least one extra screwdriver bit could be carried on the tool itself. A simple magnetic place in the right place, for example, could be a really useful addition.

    But these are, in the end really quibbles. HNN does think that Bosch has made a great transition for a DIY favourite.

    A growing market

    In fact, we are so in favour of the IXO that we will be basing a series of articles in the future around the screwdriver. HNN has long held the opinion that one reason why modern power tool makers and many hardware retailers have not done as well out of home DIY as they could have, is because they are really not making and selling the tools modern people need.

    The IXO, which can be found for around $80, might be compared with some cordless drill/battery/charger kits that can be bought for $99 (such as Ozito's basic PXC 18-volt kit). To people who come from a more "serious" DIY/woodworking background there is simply no comparison, and they would argue that the IXO does not represent good value.

    However, the real measure of the value of any tool is how often it gets used, and how important that usage is to the tool's owner. What needs to be understood about the potential of the IXO is that it isn't just a screwdriver that can be used as a drill in a pinch, it's really a highly portable, compact, electric motor platform, that can be used for a wide range of convenience uses. It's a question of providing just enough power in an accessible package.

    To name just one area where the IXO really shines, consider the act of assembling the very popular IKEA furniture. HNN has observed even competent DIYers with quite a few tools reduced to endless turning Allen Keys to tighten fasteners on furniture. The IXO makes a point of coming with a range of small hex bits - bits which, we would add, are sometimes just hard to find on their own in many hardware stores.

    But we've been taking the IXO considerably further than that. Wait until you see the IXO used as a drilling head on computer numerically controlled (CNC) unit!


    Victa's first robotic lawn mower

    Designed for easy maintenance

    The product is being offered as "affordable backyard luxury" for gardening enthusiasts

    The Victa Robot Mower RM100 has an LCD touch screen display to navigate a host of programmable features, including mowing frequency and time of day. It also has an adjustable cutting height for desired grass length.

    The robot mower boasts bump sensors to steer around unexpected obstacles and a rain sensor. If it starts to rain, the mower will simply return to the docking station and wait until the rain has passed before it heads back out to complete the task.

    The docking station, which also doubles as a recharge station, is the start and end point for the mower. The mower will release from the docking station when it is time to mow and find its way back when the job is done. Additionally, it will recognise when the battery is running low and take itself back to the docking station to charge. The lithium powered battery enables up to an hour battery life.

    The RM100 is designed to tackle terrain up to a 21-degree slope and cover areas up to 600sqm. Setting the lawn area for mowing is simply a case of outlining the area with the included boundary wires. It will then cut in a random pattern until the whole area has been covered.

    It comes complete with a PIN to operate and anti-theft alarm.


    Imex laser series updated

    Webinar series

    The leading construction laser now comes with a spare lithium battery as standard and first web-based laser level training

    The 2020 model iSeries rotary lasers from Imex have improved their serviceability and efficiency. A spare lithium battery now comes with every model, which increases productivity and adds extra value to the kit.

    A new battery cover clip makes it easier to open and close the battery compartment and the USB charging port in the front of the laser has been removed to provide better moisture protection.

    The lighthouse cover has also been given a makeover with slightly more height and ribbing for extra shock proofing integrity.

    This range features five models and has become a favourite with Australia's tradies, with the standard mm reading detector, lithium long run power sourcing, high accuracy and 5-year warranty.

    Online training

    With COVID-19 restrictions currently enforced in major areas of the country, the Imex team has developed new ways of conducting sales and product training for its customers. Its webinars are designed to help store staff and their customers know which laser to use for which task, and the functions and features of Imex products.

    The series of six weekly webinars conducted in June have now been made available on the Imex website and via its YouTube channel. They feature general laser level tips, informative answers to frequently asked questions as well as more in-depth information on individual models.

    Each webinar averages 15 minutes, is easy to listen to and conducted by Imex laser level experts who have years of industry experience.

    For more information, go to:

    Imex laser training webinars

    To read the latest edition, please download HI News:

    Download hinews-6-03


    Troubles in tool-land ahead?

    The ACCC watches over some big changes

    With the proposed Total Tools takeover, the acquisition of Adelaide Tools and Milwaukee tools in IHG stores, the power tool industry is set for some changes. But do those changes go far enough?

    Over the past nine months, there has been quite a bit of interest stirred up in the area of power tools here in Australia. Just back in October 2019, the Wesfarmers' owned Bunnings moved to acquire Adelaide Tools. Around about the same time, Stanley Black & Decker (SBD) Australia approached the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) with a request to make a minimum pricing requirement, but with a twist: retailers could sell DeWalt power tools below the recommended retail price (RRP), but they could not advertise them below that price. And finally, in June 2020, it turned out that Metcash has plans to go ahead and acquire the Australian power tools franchise Total Tools.

    All three of those moves had an intersection point with the ACCC. The ACCC in June gave the official "go ahead" to the Bunnings acquisition of Adelaide Tools. In the same month, they also completely nixed the SBD plan. And they have, as expected, launched an investigation into the not-quite-an-acquisition-yet of Total Tools.

    So many changes in such a short space of time would generally indicate that there are changes occurring that go beyond just one or two companies. Generally speaking, it means that something has shifted in terms of the underlying technology, markets and/or end-user distribution.

    In this case, it's likely that distribution is the primary driver. The real question the power tool industry has to respond to, is how much of the business will continue to be transacted in physical stores, and how much will become purely online. The tool industry is one of those areas of retail where there has been considerable movement in both directions. Sydney Tools, for example, expanded largely through its online business, then decided to expand into physical stores as well. However, it is arguable that many tool businesses will, in the future, see an increased amount of business done online.

    In terms of the Bunnings acquisition of Adelaide Tools, that business was one of the smaller, geographically marketed tool businesses that had a very competent and wide-ranging online tool offer. Though we have no direct knowledge of Bunnings' plans, if a company were looking for a company that could be expanded into a more extensive online offering of trade and professional tools (including Milwaukee), then Adelaide Tools would be a good place to start.

    It is also probable that SBD's efforts to get minimum price restrictions on advertised prices also relates directly to the internet. Competition online is so strong that companies can easily lose a sale on the basis of a few dollars in pricing. But, as HNN wrote at the time, it is also the internet that renders that kind of effort unworkable. Outside of direct advertising, it is not hard for retailers to get the word out about whatever their prices really are.

    With Total Tools, the two questions to ask are why the original founding members are willing to sell, and a why is Metcash/IHG willing to buy? At a guess, HNN would say that, strategically, the core or founding members decided Total Tools was close to its maximum value, and that it was vulnerable to online competitors. Meanwhile, IHG has a strong investment in physical stores, and sees itself as being able to resist online competition.

    Which way?

    From HNN's perspective, we would suggest that the power tool industry is somewhat overdue for disruption, but that it is unlikely this will come from anything as expected as online versus physical store retailing. In an age where technology has started moving so fast that consumers have almost become blase about the latest advances, power tools have continued to develop, but at nowhere near the pace of other technologies. There hasn't been a power tool equivalent of the modern smartphone, or the self-driving (almost) electric car.

    One reason for this is that the market remains largely driven by the business-oriented, trade and construction sector. We've seen most power tool manufacturers respond to that sector of the market by developing bigger, more powerful tools. These have grown so powerful that now they are replacing not only main-voltage, generator-driven tools, but also tools that have long relied on petrol engines. The trend started by SBD's FLEXVolt line, has been taken still further by Techtronic Industries (TTI) Milwaukee MX FUEL range.

    That's been partly driven by the adoption of new battery standards, specifically a move from the old 18650 format to the newer 21700/20700 format. The latter specifies a cylindrical battery that has a 21mm or 20mm radius and a 70mm length. Developed largely by Tesla, those battery dimensions make sense when it comes to battery physics, while the 18650 format was really just a convention, with inbuilt limitations and inefficiencies. The new dimensions, along with tweaks to anode and cathode composition materials, have enabled both smaller, more powerful battery packs, as well as higher capacity top-of-the-line batteries.

    We've also seen certain technologies, such as brushless motors, gradually make their way down from the premium level, to the mid-range. Today brushless has reached the premium budget range, where DIYers with an investment in a budget rechargeable battery system can "buy up" to something a little better. We're probably three years away from brushless becoming the "standard" tool.

    What is noticeable about these innovations is that they've been driven, indirectly, by pre-existing innovations in other areas of technology. Without the push to radically improve battery performance for smartphones, battery technology would never have reached the point it has today. And at some point, that technology was taken up by the electric car industry, which pushed it still further. Now, the next accelerator in that area is actually the aviation industry. There are already quite a few airplane prototypes that work just fine under battery power. However, few are commercially viable, due to weight versus power yield issues.

    The power tool industry has benefited from some advances made at the consumer end of technology, but it has applied these (mostly) to its commercial business. More importantly, power tool companies have tended to devalue developments that do originate in the consumer end of their businesses.

    There are likely a number of reasons that combine to create that situation. From the consumer side, it's difficult for people with little or no experience to commit to buying an "unusual" tool - they start out feeling uncertain, and anything perceived as being non-standard just increases that anxiety. There is also (for the most part) an inverse relation between how much DIY experience someone has and how powerful a tool they buy. More experienced DIYers, for example, might buy a cheap, corded hammer drill that will last 10+ years for drilling in masonry, and a lightweight 12-volt drill/driver for everything else. Inexperienced DIYers will tend to buy an 18-volt "do everything" cordless hammer drill - even if they end up using it for only two hours in total a year.

    The other factor at work is that consumers are quite happy to buy an inexpensive DIY tool, or sometimes a more expensive, "trade quality" tool. They are less inclined to buy an expensive DIY tool, especially one that is expensive because it has been designed to be easier and safer for them to use.

    The one company whose development is an exception to this has been Bosch. Bosch has been steadily producing tools really crafted for the DIY market since 2016. At the top of the list would have to be the EasyCut and AdvancedCut "micro chainsaw" tools. These use a small, flat blade that has the equivalent of a 1.5mm chainsaw to cut through a range of materials.

    HNN has been extensively testing these tools over the past year, and we remain impressed with them. While they do certainly have some drawbacks - the nanoblade remains expensive, at around $45 replacement cost, each - that is really made up for by the versatility and ease of use of these tools.

    One aspect of the nanoblade that seldom gets mentioned is that, as compared to both circular saws and standard jigsaws, they are relatively quiet. For the homeowner working away in their garage, that might not be terribly significant, but for the growing numbers of Australians living in multi-unit dwellings, keeping the DIY noise down has become a critical concern.

    Added to that are a range of Bosch drills, sanders, and grinders that are designed to match power and capability to DIY needs, while also enhancing ease of use. However, as good as these tools are, and as intelligently suited to DIY tasks as they are designed to be, sales have not really rewarded these innovations. For example, while Bunnings continues to supply nanoblades for the AdvancedCut and EasyCut, they no longer stock the actual tools.

    While there may be something of a marketing failure here, there is also the question of what kind of person typically sells power tools. Largely, these are not people who are amateur DIYers. Most have either a professional background, or are not overly involved with tools at all. The number of retailers and retail staff who are interested in the technological development of tools for DIY is quite limited - and not just in Australia.

    The new workshop

    It is very likely that the next real advances in power tools will originate in the consumer area. Probably those advances are not going to be anything the traditional tool companies acknowledge or take seriously (at first). The two most promising areas at the moment are 3D printing and computer numerically controlled (CNC) routing.

    One reason why HNN is pretty confident this is going to be an area of major interest is that the hardware needed to perform this kind of "making" has sharply reduced in price over the past two years. For example, in the 3D printing world, we've seen printers such as the Creality Ender 5 Pro emerge. This is a relatively large volume printer that moves good 3D printing just within the reach of the average DIYer, costing around $650.

    Moving up from that, to the more serious, high-quality work that a semi-pro could use, there is the Peopoly Phenom. The Phenom is a resin-based printer. Filament printers like the Ender 5 use a spool of filament to apply a thin layer of plastic, point by point, to build up a finished result. Resin-based printers use a vat of epoxy-based polymer resin into which they shine ultraviolet light, either through a laser or LCD array. The light causes the resin to fuse, creating the required shape.

    The resin printer offers faster printing speeds and higher resolution (more accurate printing). It's been held back largely by the cost, but the Phenom is one of the first $3000 printers to offer quality and reliability. While $3000 is a lot for DIY, it's likely to come down to around $1500 over the next two years, bringing it within reach of the serious DIYer.

    DIY what?

    From the point of view of conventional tool companies, and conventional retailers, the questions they have are: What will DIYers be doing with this technology, and why don't they just stick with wood and woodworking tools, or even a bit of welding?

    It's important to consider is just how successful some areas of retail outside of hardware have been. One of the traditional woodworking tasks, for example, was to build bookshelves. Leaving aside the fact that serious readers today are likely to have at least half their library in online ebooks, there are also just so many alternatives for inexpensive bookcases. The Billy bookcase from IKEA - all 2m x 0.8m of it - costs less than $80, and takes about 12 minutes to put together. The same relationship holds true for a whole range of other household furniture and fittings. Yes, there are some practical DIY things that remain viable - fitting a new door, fixing the roof gutters, painting, fencing and so forth - but the core range of activities is smaller, and continuing to diminish. What's left, for many, are just the relatively "big jobs": installing a new laminate floor, building a deck, fitting a kitchen.

    What can you do with 3D printing? Well, how about printing your own camera accessories - in fact, even entire film cameras?

    Goodman products are for anyone who has access to a 3D printer

    (Yeah, mate, best of luck with the lami trimmer, the jigsaw, and a bit of ply. I don't think so. I mean, good on you, but no, mate. Just no.)

    Looking for those special tiles, but not having much luck? Well, you can 3D print them, of course.

    How to 3D Print Portuguese Azulejo Tiles

    On the simpler end, what about a refrigerator storage box.

    Refrigerator Storage Box Fresh Spacer - Cults 3D

    Or a wallet:

    Sliding 3D printed wallet by b03tz - Thingiverse

    And something we could all use, a self-watering planter:

    3D printer model Self-Watering Planter - Cults 3D

    In terms of a CNC router, why go small, when you can build yourself an entire Le Corbusier LC-4 chaise longue out of plywood?

    CNC plans for LC4 lounge armchair by Le Corbusier - Etsy

    But what is really interesting in this field is the potential for more wide-spread use in the future. Consider, for example, spectacle (glasses) frames. Given a developed, standard lens size system, it would be possible print a wide range of frames that fitted the maker's face exactly. They would not be as durable as commercial frames, but they wouldn't need to be.

    In today's world, these are often the sorts of things that people want to make for themselves. And just as woodworkers of old relied on what they learned in workshop at school, and through working with their parents, these tools rely on what people know about design, computers, and a bit of trigonometry. It's the DIY of the service industries, not the factories.


    As we've said above, there really does not seem much of an alternative to a strong disruption of the DIY hardware industry at some stage over the next 10 years - though HNN would bank on this happening within the next five to six years. The threat to the hardware industry isn't that its markets are going to collapse - people always need a place to live, and the importance of that place has been growing over the past 30 years. The threat is that hardware suppliers and retailers will find themselves displaced in the market. At the moment, it is simply difficult to imagine buying a Ryobi CNC router, or a Stanley Black & Decker 3D printer.

    What we will likely find instead happening is that startups will begin to take over significant portions of the market - like Tesla - integrating with others in their area, such as smartphone makers, and eventually shouldering many tool companies out of the home market.

    Strategically, due to the complexity of this market, this isn't the case of waiting for the right moment to "catch the wave". That moment was yesterday, or some time ago. But, as always, businesses (especially in hardware) tend to look at their current circumstances as an indicator of the future, when in fact where we are today has more to do with the past.


    Lawn supplier gains Smart Approved WaterMark

    TifTuf Hybrid Bermuda turf

    Consumers can ensure their lawn is waterwise with the official recognition of the Smart Approved WaterMark

    Lawn Solutions Australia said it has become the first and only company in the world to have one of its turf grasses receive the Smart Approved WaterMark. It gained recognition for its TifTuf Hybrid Bermuda turf, which the company has been developing over the past six years. Scientific studies have proven TifTuf uses 38% less water than similar varieties.

    The Smart Approved WaterMark is a water-conscious certification provided to products so consumers can identify and access the most water-efficient products available on the market. It was established by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), Irrigation Australia, the Nursery and Garden Industry Association and the Australian Water Association.

    Managing director Gavin Rogers told the South Coast Register how the business achieved the WaterMark accreditation. He explains:

    Five years ago we started applying for it, but it was 'no you don't have enough data'...We've invested more money in turf research than anyone else in the southern hemisphere - a huge private investment - we've imported 90 varieties of grass, testing what would be best suited to the Australian conditions...We've had more Australia data done over four years and it has finally gained the seal of approval...

    The team has put every variety of turf grass in that category under two shelters - one is a total rain out shelter (no rainfall can get in and the moisture is controlled), the other is a total rainout shelter with 70% shade cloth to show what grasses can do in shade. Mr Rogers said:

    Every seven to 10 days we run a wear machine over them, which simulates things like rugby rucks, kids playing, dogs walking etc. We want to dry hell out of it - there is no point having a drought tolerant grass that can't handle wear and tear.
    All these things are considered and at the end of the trial period we can see what grass would survive with minimal input including chemicals and fertilisers. We've even allowed the grasses in the trials to get diseases to see if they can recover.

    The data was compiled independently by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), based in England. Mr Rogers said:

    We also had trials running simultaneously with the University of Georgia, the largest turfgrass research university in the world.

    And after all that data was compiled and submitted, TifTuf was awarded the Smart Approved WaterMark. TifTuf requires less inputs (fertilisers and water) and has a dense sward that enables it to handle high wear situations, while remaining soft and visually "superior" to other turf varieties. Mr Rogers said:

    We set up a criteria for the grasses we want, the universities give us 20 or 30 varieties that might meet what we want and test and trial them for our conditions...We do our due diligence on the grasses which can tackle up to six years. We trial them here at our main facility at Jaspers Brush (NSW) but we also have other members around the country trialling them to get a greater array of climate.
    We won't release a grass in Australia unless we know it will work in Broome, Melbourne, Cairns, Perth and everywhere in between - it has to be Australia wide.

    About Lawn Solutions

    The Lawn Solutions business began in 2000 with Sir Walter turf, with the Lawn Solutions Australia group officially forming in 2013. It now has 43 member farms around the country. The group produces 14 million square metres of turf grass per year - around 55% of all turf grass produced in Australia.

    Although restrictions surrounding COVID-19 has affected many businesses, Mr Rogers says it has achieved record sales in recent months. He said:

    Covid has been really good for the reestablishment of the Aussie backyard. We've started to work out spending time with the kids and family in the backyard is pretty good.
    We've lost the backyard over the past 20 years - you usually don't get one in the new blocks, but we've seen a huge shift back to the Aussie backyard and with people being forced to work from home, the do it yourself market has been incredibly strong.
    Christmas is traditionally the busiest time for the turf industry but a lot of us are having weeks that are better than Christmas weeks.
    One of our biggest competitors in the turf industry is the winnebagos and overseas travel. The baby boomers retire and they either spend money on their homes or take off overseas. We are going to see a return to spending locally which is good.

    The group supplies Bunnings Australia wide and is in every single market that turf grass is sold in Australia.

    At its Jaspers Brush base, it employs 15 staff in a variety of roles including research and development, marketing, agricultural scientists, greenkeepers and has a small team dedicated to social media.

    Along with its TurfCo operations the company employs more people across its four sites that has around 250 acres under turf farming. In addition to grass, there are fertilisers, pesticides and other turf products.

    Mr Rogers said the business is very family orientated, with his wife Sue also working with the company as do three of his children, Joe, Marcus, who is the general manager of TurfCo and Sasha who runs turf procurement and logistics, along with other family members.

    Sourced from South Coast Register


    Contemporary facade design

    Mixed cladding trend

    EasyTex by James Hardie can help builders reduce costs, increase efficiencies and still deliver high quality homes

    The "modern" home aesthetic is very popular, accounting for 61% of detached houses in Australia, according to research by BIS Oxford called, "Building Materials in New Dwellings, 2018". This trend is being driven by the "mixed cladding" look, which combines a range of materials from weatherboard and cladding profiles, to render.

    Combining a number of building products on one facade is not only aesthetically challenging, but can impact on budgets and timelines, as it can require multiple trades. As a replacement of those masonry elements, James Hardie's EasyTexTM fibre cement panels offer an embedded render-look finish, to achieve the style without the need for wet trades or expensive render texture coatings. Ronnie Nunez, product & strategy manager, James Hardie Australia, said:

    EasyTex provides a solution that is up to 50% quicker to install than rendered brick and Autoclaved Cellular Concrete (ACC). This results in an on-the-wall cost that is also up to 45% less than rendered brick and ACC.

    (Note: This is based on James Hardie internal data and engagement with qualified third parties. numbers and figures are indicative only.)

    EasyTex comes pre-primed and can be finished simply with two coats of paint. It can provide a more uniform look than traditional render. It is less prone to dirt build up and doesn't suffer from cracking or lime staining.

    It is suitable for use as an external wall cladding in residential detached and medium density buildings. In addition, it can be renovation solution for upper storey additions and ground floor extensions.

    EasyTex can also provide up to 11.27sqm of additional floor space over traditional masonry. (Note: This is based on James Hardie internal data and engagement with qualified third parties. numbers and figures are indicative only.)

    Craig Milson, managing director of Orbit Homes has used the product on a range of medium density and detached home projects. He said:

    EasyTex is easy to use, achieves the look I want and is faster and more cost-efficient to install than traditional materials. I can also use it in non-combustible applications, and being lightweight means I can use it on second levels where masonry would be too heavy. It's my go to for any modern home.

    EasyTex is available in an 8.5mm thickness and a range of panel sizes (2440 x 1200, 3000 x 1200, 3600 x 1200 and 3000 x 1350).


    Expanding deck possibilities

    It has been developed to be compliant in bushfire zones

    The use of multi-level decks and floating steps also helps to create visual interest and define different areas of an outdoor space

    Fibre cement products can open up new configurations including fire pits, BBQ surrounds, and poolside paths for today's homes.

    HardieDeck[tm] is a timber and aluminium alternative made using premium fibre cement, which is resistant to fire, rotting, splintering, and warping. With a higher level of durability over traditional materials, it can be finished in a range of colours.

    Its smooth finish is nail, splinter free and prevents wide gaps between boards. Made using an enriched composite of materials, HardieDeck is resistant to damage from moisture, heat, and sun, in addition to being deemed bushfire zone safe.

    With adequate cross-flow ventilation and a concealed fixing system, it is designed to increase the performance of low set decks and withstand the elements.

    To read the latest edition, please download HI News:

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    Women's specific safety boots

    Bridging the gap between safety and style

    They provide a sturdy, reliable and fit for purpose boot designed for optimum support, protection and comfort for women working on job sites

    Blundstone's Women's Safety Series boots provide an extra level of support and cushioning with the company's SPS Max Comfort system, featuring XRD(r) technology.

    XRD(r) Technology offers repeated impact protection by absorbing up to 90% of energy with every step taken. This changes the level of performance, comfort and confidence for the wearer and reduces fatigue and orthopaedic issues.

    The boots are designed with moulded TPU bump caps to avoid abrasions, built-in steel shank for maximum torsional stability, impact-resistant steel toe caps, and rubber outsoles specifically designed to increase slip resistance in varied environments.

    To read more in New Products, please download HI News:

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    ECHO re-enters the construction market

    Known for its cut-off saws

    After a brief absence from the Australian market, ECHO is back with its latest product

    The CSG-7410ES cuts metal and concrete with ease, according the manufacturer.

    ECHO has developed a brand-new 73.5cc engine for the CSG-7410ES that features a chrome cylinder and patented Kaniboron(r) piston plating to reduce friction and improve heat resistance. For the best power output and compression, a twin-ring system is used. For lighter weight operation and strength, the engine is fitted with a magnesium crankcase. Coupled with a 2.6:1 drive ratio to the 14" cutting wheel, the CSG-7410 provides the torque for exceptional cutting performance in tough applications.

    The CSG-7410ES has been designed for high frequency use with a patented 4-stage air cleaner system, dust sealed starter assembly, stainless steel shield, and brass water valve as standard. It is a robust unit made for years of service.

    ECHO has also considered the operator and the CSG-7410ES has spring assisted starting with a decompression valve and automatic fast idle for easier starting, a stop switch that returns automatically to the ON position, and a padded aluminium front handle and a shield adjustment lever. This ensures the shield is easy to rotate even when matted with dust.

    The cutting arm is reversible and can be fitted to the inside for ergonomics, or the outside to cut close to obstacles. Belt tension is easily adjusted from the side of the machine with a visible gauge for improved accuracy.


    IoT security system

    Indoor and outdoor cameras from Swann

    Both cameras are capable of being connected to power and can be set up on a smartphone via Wi-Fi

    DIY home security specialist, Swann has released a new Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem that includes DVRs with sensor warning light cameras (available in both 1080p and 4K Ultra HD) and 4K Ultra HD NVRs with more powerful spotlight cameras that have sirens. The Swann Wi-Fi cameras have the flexibility for users to choose a product to best suit their property needs - whether it is indoors or outdoors.

    The new Swann Security app also gives users the unique ability to control multiple wired systems, and Wi-Fi cameras from multiple sites, stream live video and receive notifications to know what is happening at all times. Users are able to get day and night access, with 1080p HD videos recorded to the cloud.

    Swann said it offers a line-up of wired and wireless security solutions that integrate with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

    To read more in New Products, please download HI News:

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    Linkware's ongoing innovation

    Patent designs

    In its 20th year, Linkware Australia continues to receive recognition for its products

    Plumbing and hardware manufacturer, Linkware has unveiled a number of enhancements to some of its products and released new ones.

    The round tapware style of its Loui Wall Tops has been heavily featured in popular renovation TV shows such as The Block. National marketing manager, Greg von Einem, explains:

    Whilst many suppliers produce similar items, our unique advantage - apart from being well priced - is that is can be used where the breeching piece is up to 18mm behind the wall. This is very handy for renovation work!

    The Loui Tapware range has a soft operating quarter turn spindle. It is suitable for up to 18mm recess application (wall top assemblies) with the use of the spindle adaptor provided. The elegant circular design comes in high quality chrome and matte black finishes.

    The company also has patent designed 360 degree mini cocks in three models: cistern, washing machine and three way. They are made with solid brass construction and includes blue and red buttons. Mr von Einem said:

    Unique and patent design saves time and money on installation as other items in the market require some adjustment to ensure the outlet is facing in the desired position. With this design, the end-user simply applies a threadseal tap to a wall outlet, and screws on the 360 mini. Once it is tightened, the mini can be rotated 360 degrees into the desired position.

    In addition, Linkware has upgraded the push button mechanism from a "spring loaded" design into a magnetic push design on its timed pillar and bib taps. This means the tap is easier to "turn on" with much less force than other items. The advantage is easier use especially in child care and aged care environments.


    Pro Tool Reviews Innovation Awards

    Cordless tools demonstrate advances

    Pro Tool Reviews covers a range of categories with its annual Innovation awards, but the cordless category typically has the most advanced innovations

    The US website Pro Tool Reviews - which has a lot of credibility, with experienced trade "pros" testing tools and writing about them - has released its most recent tool innovation awards, for 2019.

    Pro Tool Reviews Innovation Awards 2019 - Cordless Tools

    The cordless category tends to be the most interesting of the award categories, as most of the innovation potential of tool companies is focused on this type of power tool. HNN is not going to list all the award winners, just the seven that we think are truly innovative and identify some emerging cordless tool categories.

    EGO POWER+ BAX1501 POWER+ Commercial Backpack Battery

    At a cost of USD1300, this is the kind of really heavy-duty commercial gear the cordless electric outdoor power equipment (OPE) market has been looking for. We are talking a 56-volt, 28 Amp-hour battery (yes, 28, you read that right), with an IP56 weatherproof rating (you can use it in the rain), and a super-comfortable harness. It can go from low charge to fully charged in just 3.5 hours.

    This complements Ego's Pro range of OPE, which manage on average around 80% of the power delivered by petrol-powered equipment. It's the first really great looking power backpack we've seen from any supplier.

    Craftsman CMCF604 Gyroscopic Powered Screwdriver

    What makes this power screwdriver so special is that it looks like - well, a screwdriver. Slimmer than the similar DeWalt model, this screwdriver is powered by a four-volt rechargeable battery, and produces 5.5 Nm of force. Stanley Black & Decker claim it can drive over 300 25mm #6 screws into pine on a single charge.

    The screwdriver works in a very intuitive manner. Just insert it into the screw, then turn your hand clockwise to faster or anti-clockwise to extract. In the US it is priced at USD39.

    Milwaukee 2502-22 M12 Installation Drill/Driver

    Techtronic Industries' leading brand, Milwaukee, has spent the last three to four years carefully adjusting its range of power tools to appeal to fleet purchasers. That's often meant making specialty tools for areas such as power cable line workers and others. Now, the company is turning its attention to areas such as installation, and it has released a multi-headed driver that is ideal for tasks such as installing kitchen cabinetry.

    The 12-volt cordless M12 Installation Drill/Driver comes with a 10mm chuck, an offset chuck, a 6mm hex fitting, and a right-angle chuck. These can be attached in 16 different positions.

    The drill/driver itself is designed to work in tight spaces, with a flat top, and twin handle system that creates a slim profile.

    Milwaukee 2950-20 M18 PACKOUT Radio + Charger

    Most jobsite radios tend to compromise on sound quality and integration with cordless systems. The Milwaukee Packout radio and charger does neither.

    It starts with a 10-speaker system that can provide 360 degree sound with a high level of bass, and good volume. The system integrates into Milwaukee's existing Packout toolbox system, clipping right onto compatible toolboxes. And it also charges Milwaukee's 18-volt tools, providing a secondary source for battery top-outs on worksites.

    Ryobi Cordless Rotary Tool and Ryobi Hybrid Soldering Tool

    We've put these two tools together because, while very different in function, strategically they are quite similar.

    Both use the Ryobi One+ Li-ion battery system, but this provides a base station for a corded attachment. In the case of the rotary tool, this is a 90cm drive shaft that can spin a tool at speeds up to 34,000 rpm. The Soldering Tool also provides a 90cm lead, and features the convenience of operating with the Ryobi One+ battery, or by plugging into mains power.

    Just as Milwaukee's installation drill/driver helps extend that range into new specialised work areas, so these tools from Ryobi extend that battery system further into craft and electronics.

    DeWalt TOOL CONNECT Connector

    How exactly the world of connected cordless power tools is going to play out in the long run is hard to know, but this device from DeWalt help bridge the gap between connected and the unconnected tools. It fits onto a power tools, acting as an adapter between the tool and its battery. Powered by its own, individual coin-sized battery, it provides location tracking, along with the ability to lock a tool down so that it cannot be used. The battery recharges when the tool is connected to a battery.

    It's a simple way to upgrade unconnected tools, providing tracking and anti-theft services when coupled with DeWalt's smartphone app.


    Sutton Tools warehouse management

    Microlistics WMS partnership

    As a third party logistics provider, Microlistics has the flexibility to tailor a solution for its clients

    Cutting and power tools accessories maker Sutton Tools has chosen to work with Microlistics WMS as its warehouse management system solution provider.

    The decision to partner with Microlistics followed an extensive market review, according to Transport and Logistics News. Key factors included a requirement for robust and scalable technology, ease of use, and timely implementation at a competitive price point.

    Sutton Tools managing director Peter Sutton said the decision to partner with Microlistics reflects the company's commitment to driving innovation and agility throughout the supply chain. He told Transport and Logistics News:

    We export approximately 50% of our product to overseas markets, so it's essential we not only have industry leading distribution capability within Australia, but also the ability to maintain stock availability of more than 20,000 SKUs across four global regions.

    James Clark, chief supply and distribution executive, said another important consideration was the ability to deploy the new system with minimal interruption to operations.

    Microlistics have a proven capability to deploy their product quickly and seamlessly enabling us to roll out the new system with minimal impact on customers. The software itself supports existing technologies we use in our warehouse today such as RF scanning and automated stock replenishment and positions us well to deploy further optimisation in the future as we continue to grow.

    Mark Dawson, managing director at Microlistics, said:

    Sutton Tools appreciates our consultative approach and we're excited to have them on board. We look forward to providing a path for growth within their warehouses. We're working on exciting new technologies not only in wall-to-wall Voice but in vision and robotics.

    Sutton Tools Melbourne based manufacturing and distribution operations will be the first site to benefit from the new warehouse management system commencing this year, with deployments to international distribution centres in Auckland, New Zealand and the Netherlands to follow soon after.

    About Microlistics

    Microlistics WMS is an enterprise-grade suite of warehouse management solutions that supports RF-based technology to improve the accuracy and speed of inventory management.

    In late 2017, it was acquired by WiseTech Global and became part of the group. At the time, Microlistics listed Mitre 10 and Linfox as part of its roster of customers. When the announcement of the acquisition was made, WiseTech Global CEO, Richard White, said:

    With the impact of ecommerce and advances in automation, warehouse management is an increasingly complex and specialised part of the international supply chain. The combined strength of WiseTech's global innovation capabilities and our CargoWise One supply chain execution platform integrated with Microlistics' powerful warehouse solutions for enterprise, express, third party logistics and cold storage will provide significant benefit to logistics providers.

    Window safety and performance

    Protection against high winds and hazards

    The latest evolution in the world's only self-latching multi-point window system from Doric

    In response to Australia's increasingly extreme weather and the growth of high-rise commercial buildings and vertical living spaces, door and window hardware specialist, Doric has launched the DN9000.

    Like its award-winning predecessor, the DN8000, the DN9000 system holds the window open, only releasing it under high wind loads. The window then falls under its own weight and is caught by the self-latching device, which holds it shut avoiding wind damage. The handle is then operated to release the window when the weather improves. Mike Alchin from the Alchin Long Group explains:

    The DN9000 provides an innovative solution to window safety in high wind areas, which is especially important to high rise properties and homes. The updated system improves upon the reliability and performance of the DN8000.

    The smart window system is made to last as it is manufactured from high yield 304 and 316 stainless steel, which is corrosion free. Available in white, silver and black to suit modern home styles, the DN9000 is also designed with one-way and two-way opening options with top and front mounted handles as required.

    Established in 1972, Doric is Australia's largest privately-owned hardware manufacturer supplying innovative door and window hardware for residential, commercial and architectural applications. With its network of branches located in capital cities and regional locations, Doric is able to provide the service and delivery standards required by its clients across the country. It also has a global footprint with locations in the Asia-Pacific and Auckland, New Zealand.

    Alchin Long Group is a privately held, family-owned Australian group of companies, that started in 1969. It is the parent company of leading hardware brands Doric, Cowdroy, Colonial Castings, Azuma and Lock & Roll.


    Storage for drill and driver bits

    Developed by KwicTec

    The DrillKaddy Drawer is a product designed to save time, money, and frustration for all cordless power drill users

    The DrillKaddy Drawer (patent pending) is a drill and driver bit storage solution that easily attaches (and detaches) to the base of the batteries used in cordless power drill and driver tools. It securely holds the bits. This lightweight, compact, drawer provides users with easy and convenient access while they are on the job or working on a project - without having to return to the tool box to find the right bit or drill.

    All DrillKaddy products include high quality M2 HSS-TiN drill bits or chrome vanadium driver bits with quick attach hook and loop tape kits for multiple devices.

    DrillKaddy's designer, Donald Curchod, is a skilled mechanical engineer with numerous patents and more than 60 years experience building successful businesses from innovative ideas. Some previous "world first" inventions include:

  • Computerised wheel balancing and alignment machine
  • Computer golf simulator
  • Equiplite range of fibre loop yacht fittings used by racing teams and super yachts around the world, becoming an industry standard
  • The packs are available from Amazon inclusive with drill bits and impact driver bits.

    KwicTec is the registered Australian business that owns all manufacturing, marketing, distribution, patents and copyright to the DrillKaddy brand and products globally.


    Eye protection on worksites

    DeWalt safety glasses and goggles

    The choice of appropriate safety eyewear is dependent on the workplace hazards at hand

    The DeWalt range of safety glasses and goggles is certified to meet Australian and New Zealand safety standards, and boasts a number of technologies.


  • Advanced lens coatings for hard coat scratch resistant and anti-fog properties
  • High-end material for polycarbonate lenses, rubber nose pieces and frames
  • De-centred cut lenses to match the focal point with actual line of sight, ensuring optical eye clarity and reducing eye fatigue
  • 99.9% UVA and UVB protection
  • Polarised lens option for enhanced optical clarity
  • Frame

  • Hypoallergenic thermo plastic rubber technology increases the grip to keep the glasses on a face
  • Polycarbonate and nylon materials on frames provide added durability and protection
  • This range includes three key products; Rotex safety glasses, Excavator safety glasses and Concealer safety goggles.


    Available in Clear and Smoke colours, these glasses are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. With an ultra-lightweight frame, the Rotex safety glasses have a moulded nosepiece, flexible temples with rubber grips, and impact resistant polycarbonate lenses with 99.9% UV protection.


    The Excavator safety glasses have a self-adjusting rubber nosepiece and dual mould rubber temple grips to provide a comfortable, secure fit. The lens is made from a tough, polycarbonate material, providing impact resistance.


    Worn instead of safety glasses when there is a high dust element, risk of splash or over prescription glasses, the Concealer line has a ToughCoat[tm] lens or XtraClear[tm] anti-fog lens coating. Made of a soft, dual injected rubber that conforms to the face, the goggles are fitted with an adjustable, elastic cloth head strap that provides a comfortable fit. There are ventilation channels that allow breathability and added protection against fogging. The low-profile design provides a full field of vision.


    Dust control on jobsites

    USG Boral product restricts airborne dust

    The company said it advocates for healthier work sites in the building and construction industry

    Respirable dust is generated in on jobsites when jointed plasterboard walls and ceilings are sanded using hand or mechanical sanders. SHEETROCK(r) Dust Control from USG Boral is made to limit the pluming of sanded compound dust through air spaces. Technology contained in the product produces dust particles which fall directly to the wall or floor junction and react better to the vacuum of mechanical sanders. The result is far less airborne dust.

    Tested to the USA-based National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) Method 0600, SHEETROCK Dust Control produces respirable airborne dust at levels lower than the USA's current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). These are lower than the current PELs set by Safe Work Australia.

    Increase in silicosis

    Growing concern over the rise in reported respirable crystalline silica (RCS) related cases, is putting pressure on the construction industry to crack down on health and safety practices, according to USG Boral.

    While governments are targeting the stonemasonry industry, and specifically banning dry cutting techniques, the company believes the wording used in new legislation from the Victorian and Queensland governments implicates all processes and products which can generate RCS. This includes plasterboard and plaster-based products.

    USG Boral said it is committed to helping create healthier work environments. As a manufacturer of plasterboards and jointing compounds, it believes it has a responsibility to support employee and contractor health and safety, and reviews the products and services it provides to ensure they contribute to a safer work place. This includes improvements in the development of water-resistant plasterboard and new jointing compounds.

    The crystalline silica content of raw materials can vary considerably across industries. Exposure in the plasterboard industry comes from the use of gypsum and limestone. However, local sources of both are very pure, with low levels of crystalline silica content. Tim Harrington, USG Boral category manager - compounds, explains:

    Plaster based products contain very small amounts of quartz (crystalline silica) with finished plasterboard and plasterboard jointing compounds typically containing less than 0.1% respirable crystalline silica.

    The Safe Work Australia Permissible Exposure Limit for RCS is 100ug/m3 over an eight-hour work day. An employee's level of risk is a combination of the type of material being handled and the manner of the activity being undertaken. That is why high quartz content manufactured stone that is dry cut at high speed, producing respirable crystalline silica above the workplace exposure standard, is under the spotlight. Mr Harrington added:

    The onsite preparation and installation of plasterboard does not exceed the permissible workplace exposure standard.

    In the last few years, the construction industry has adopted numerous safety practices to minimise exposure to airborne hazards, including vacuum assisted sanding tools and more effective dust masks with higher protection against airborne particulates. Mr Harrington said:

    Not only do USG Boral's wet area plasterboard and SHEETROCK Dust Control provide unrivalled finishes, there are also real-world benefits. The work place of old is no longer the norm. Working in a dusty air space, spending hours cleaning up, covered in dust is not something which has to go with the territory.

    Rapidly setting mortar

    A new product from Cement Australia

    Pro-Strength Rapid Set Mortar is ideal for tasks such as setting the base of a toilet pan, plugging, grouting, and fixing brickwork

    Cement Australia has launched a new product that is set to become a favourite with tradies: Pro-Strength Rapid Set Mortar.

    The mortar is exceptionally quick-acting. It begins to stiffen in around 15 minutes, and will reach 20 mPA in three days, and a peak of 40 mPA after 28 days.

    The product is sold in a convenient eight-kilo tub. It comes in a plastic bag in this tub, so tradies are free to use as much or as little as they want - and they score a free tub into the bargain. With a shelf life of a year, tradies can buy the product and carry it with them as a "fix all" when they need a way to do rapid repair work.

    While Cement Australia has targeted the trade market, the product would suit DIYers as well. It does require a quick hand once it has been mixed with water, but it's great for work that is time-constrained, and where the tradie just wants to get rapidly on with job.

    As Tom Prendergast, regional sales manager for Cement Australia told HNN, "We're pretty excited about it. I think it's got a great application for a variety of jobs around the home workplace or wherever you want."


    New products

    Heavy duty axe

    CSR Gyprock has added Pro-Repair 10 and Imex cuts down the confusion on laser selection

    The latest product releases from hardware and rural supplier AgBoss, plaster products maker Gyprock, laser company Imex Lasers and paint manufacturer Wattyl.

    AgBoss back door splitter

    The splitter axe with a hickory handle from AgBoss has enough weight to split larger logs and is ideally balanced to help end-users work their way through kindling.

    The axe head is heat treated with polished ends. It is accredited by GS (German Standards) and has been TUV tested for safety, as well as Quality Assured by ISO accreditation.

    The handle is made from hickory imported from the United States and FSC Sustainable Forestry approved. It has a triple lacquer finish with a hang hole at the handle end. The bright orange colour means this tool will be difficult to lose.

    Small projects repair

    CSR Gyprock's Pro-Repair 10 compound is suited to small-scale jointing jobs, patching holes and defects in Gyprock plasterboard and Cemintel fibre cement. It is also tinted for easy identification on painted surfaces.

    Pro-Repair 10 is a setting compound with a defined working life of approximately ten minutes after mixing. This makes it ideal for repairing holes, nicks and cracks in new and existing plasterboard and fibre cement walls and ceilings. It also provides efficient coverage, with 8kg of Pro-Repair 10 providing approximately the same coverage as 10kg of a standard weight compound.

    Guide to lasers

    Specialist laser level manufacturer, Imex has introduced the Little Green Book to eliminate the confusion when choosing the appropriate laser level for different jobs. There is no longer one laser that suits all, and now that lasers have become more affordable many tradesman have more than one to fit their needs.

    The Green Book gives tradie and laser level stockists a quick reference with a maximum of four questions relating to the tasks and budget so the correct laser level can be purchased.

    Imex has also developed a free app available on Android Google Playstore or Apple App Store which provides instant access to the level selection guide.

    Safety in paint

    I.D Advanced, by Wattyl, has an ultra-low VOC formula at less than 1g per litre, which exceeds the Green Star requirements of the Green Building Council of Australia.

    The paint's Total Protection TechnologyTM delivers a new level of protection as the paint resists the growth of mould and fungus while offering advanced cleanability, washability and stain resistance, according to the company.

    Wattyl I.D Advanced interior paints are touch dry in just 30 minutes and ready for recoat in two hours. Coverage is up to 16m2 per litre.


    New products

    Pierlite Colour Select range

    The usefulness of trolleys in a DIY move and Nylex has made gardening twice as easy

    Three colour temperatures in one luminaire from Gerard Lighting; Kelso small or medium folding trolleys; and the Nylex Sprayer Twin Pack for a simpler gardening experience.

    Flexible lighting options

    Gerard Lighting's Pierlite Colour Select range offers installers the ability to customise lighting to suit certain environments while carrying less stock, saving valuable space. Each luminaire in this range is designed with three popular temperatures.

    The application of the luminaire determines the colour temperatures choice. For residential areas, colour temperature of 3000K and 4000K are the most common, while in commercial applications 4000K, 5000K and 6500K help to replicate natural light and promote work efficiency.

    The Pierlite Colour Select range includes:

  • ECO LED Colour Select Batten
  • ECO Colour Select LED Panel
  • Pierlux Colour Select LED Downlight
  • Litelux Colour Select LED Downlight
  • Litelux Colour Select GENII LED Downlight
  • Orion ECO Colour Select LED Oyster
  • Slimline Colour Select LED Oyster
  • Equipment for moving day

    Trolleys are a useful in a DIY move because they enable users to easily move heavy loads safely. The Kelso small or medium folding trolleys have 125kg and 150kg load capacities respectively, and can be folded and stored in small storage spaces in the car or home.

    They feature a lightweight, durable steel frame and flat-free poly-rim wheels.

    The Kelso large folding hand truck is specifically built for moving large furniture and white goods over staircases in a safe and reliable manner. It has a 250kg load capacity, 8-inch flat-free wheels, folding ergonomic handles and a lightweight aluminium frame for extra strength - and can still be folded for easy storage.

    Kill pests with twin pack

    Nylex has launched a 1.5L Heavy Duty Sprayer Twin Pack, giving professionals and garden enthusiasts a convenient solution to maintaining their gardens. "The Nylex Sprayer Twin Pack offers two separate bottles, one for herbicides and one for pesticides, minimising cross-contamination whilst still being compact enough for an effortless gardening experience," explains product manager Alyce Rigby.

    It is the first time the brand has released a dual pack. "To mitigate any confusion for consumers who work with gardening chemicals, the bottles and nozzles are also colour coded and clearly labelled," adds Ms Rigby.

    They have also been fitted with Viton Seals for enhanced durability. "They have a high chemical resistance making them tough and durable, so they can handle a wider variety of chemicals than standard garden sprayers which are fitted with normal seals that can degrade when used with harsh chemicals," she said.


    To read more in New Products, download the latest issue by clicking on the following link:

    New Products - HI News Vol. 4 No.8

    New products

    Boots for professionals

    Improved levels with exact measuring and garden tools with an assisted gearing system

    Crafting an ideal work boot; garden tool set for the sharpest cuts; setting standards for accurate measuring; and creating a pollinator friendly garden.

    Reinventing the work boot

    Boasting an oil and slip-resistant non-marking rubber outsole, the Detroit Boot by Keen Footwear is geared to ensure safety on site in the event of spillage or when faced with wet working conditions.

    For further resistance against the elements, the boots feature a waterproof Nubuck leather upper for comfort and dryness. Coupled with Keen's waterproof breathable membrane, this boot ensures a dry foot and prevents undue sweating.

    The Detroit Boot's durable contoured heel lock will also support and protect. The asymmetrical steel toes minimise the harm done by falling objects or sudden compression.

    There is a dual density compression moulded EVA midsole for better support of the arch, and torsional stability ESS shank for reduced fatigue in a user's calf and foot.

    Digital level technology

    Imex has released the new improved 2018 model of Storm professional digital spirit levels. These highly accurate units in 600 and 1200mm include a 9-measurement recall, shockproof ends, magnetic bases and a 30-year vial guarantee.

    These levels have been built with advanced electronics for precise measuring and are combined with a robust aluminium section. Specific features include:

  • 0.5mm/m accuracy
  • 180° Readout-readable when level is inverted
  • Hold function to transfer measurements
  • Large backlit LCD
  • Measure in degrees, percentages or m/mm
  • Buzzer at 0°, 45°, and 90°
  • Milled edges + magnets
  • Padded canvas bag
  • Pruning pack stays sharp

    Fiskars' PowerGear2 UltraBlade Ultimate Pruning Pack is a four-piece set that includes a pruner, lopper, hedge shear and saw. The PowerGear technology makes yard and gardening easier with an assisted gearing system, designed to greatly reduce tension on a gardener's muscles.

    Providing up to three times more power on each cut, the pruner, lopper or hedge shear will help slice through branches effortlessly and efficiently, even during heavy use.

    The pruner, lopper and hedge shear feature an UltraBlade coating which gives an edge that stays sharp five times longer than non-treated blades. This eliminates friction for a smoother cutting motion and excellent rust resistance for lasting value.

    Shake and rake seeds

    Mr Fothergill's Bee and Butterfly Seed Shaker Boxes contains100g of Shake & Rake mix - enough to cover 20sqm. The seed mixes are specifically selected varieties of flowers combined with vermiculite to aid germination.

    The varieties in both mixes have been selected to attract bees and butterflies to gardens, and provide them with the nectar they need to thrive.

    The bee friendly flower mix contains Calendula, Cornflower, Californian Poppy, Fineflower, Toadflax, Alyssum, Wallflower, Nemophila, Poppy, Marigold African, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Borage, Evening Primrose, Lavender, Native Violet, Swan River Daisy and Sage.


    New products

    Brushless, ergonomic sander

    Environmentally-friendly garden sprayers and fixing tangled trimmer lines for pros

    The Mirka Leros sander is going to change the way that tradesmen work, according to its Australian distributor Tenaru; Nylex sprayers can help reduce single-use plastic in outdoor spaces; a trimmer head and line system can provide contractors with precision and speed; and safety gloves have an added level of cut protection.

    Sanding reaches new heights

    Abrasives specialist, Mirka said its LEROS product is the world's first and only electric random orbital ceiling and wall sander. Weighing less than 3.5 kg, this tool is the lightest wall and ceiling sander on the market.

    Awarded the Red Dot Best of the Best Award 2018 for design, the LEROS features a 180-degree flexible 225mm sanding head and 5mm random orbital movement, which enables it to respond precisely to the operator's movement.

    The dual suction points in the sanding head and full force system allows the complete force to be transferred to the sanding head. This means that there is no need to press the tool against the sanding surface, removing the weight from the user's hands and reducing tiredness.

    The LEROS also has an optional 50cm-long extension shaft, specially designed for sanding high walls and ceilings.

    Sustainable garden sprayers

    Watering products supplier, Nylex, want homeowners to switch to re-usable products when fertilising, and managing pests and weeds. The Nylex 16L Heavy Duty Sprayer can be worn like a backpack so garden enthusiasts can easily cover large areas of tough vegetation in a single session.

    Alternatively, the Nylex 500ml Trigger Sprayer is ideal for spot maintenance of blooms and maintaining indoor plants. Product manager, Alyce Rigby, said:

    Ready-to-use weed and pest sprayers are notorious for being thrown in the bin after mere minutes of use, yet one bottle of concentrate lasts the equivalent of 32 on average single-use spray bottles -significantly decreasing the amount of plastic you throw away.
    These single-use sprayers also cost on average 76% more than buying a good quality sprayer and concentrate, so in choosing an environmentally friendly option you also get more bang for your buck.

    Simple reloading system

    The Gator(r) SpeedLoad[tm] trimmer head and line system is the solution for homeowners fed up with a tangled trimmer line. It eliminates the common frustration associated with reloading trimmer line, and reduces reloading time to 20 seconds or less.

    Designed for petrol-powered line trimmers, the system is made of a self-contained disk of double-ended line. With only two parts, the pocket-sized disk cartridges and the trimmer head, the Gator SpeedLoad is designed for ease of use. The innovative tongue-and-groove disk allows for a quick load double the durability.

    The Gator SpeedLoad Cutting System fits most straight and bent shaft products, including Victa, Echo, Shindaiwa, and other popular trimmers.

    Oregon is now available exclusively through Briggs & Stratton.

    Cut resistant gloves

    The Honeywell Rig Dog[tm] CR gloves feature moulded TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber) pads that are ergonomically placed to provide protection in impact situations along with an ANSI A7 enhanced cut-resistant palm to guard against cuts and slashes.

    The polyurethane (PU) slip-resistant palm features EVA foam pads for added comfort and some vibration relief. Hi-Viz Spandex(r) fabric stretches for flexing to help reduce hand fatigue.

    Hook and loop tab closure allows the wearer to tighten or loosen cuffs for a more comfortable and secure fit. The gloves are fully washable which helps to limit bacterial growth.

    Applications include rigging, warehouse, mining, mechanical, parts handling fabrication, heavy machinery and construction, automotive, oil industry and railway.


    New products

    Portable solar power

    Perforated plasterboard and Stegbar believes black will feature strongly in bathroom trends

    The Lithium Yeti is a range of portable power stations released by Goal Zero; CSR Gyprock launches Gyptone Flexible Plasterboard; black finishes are available in Stegbar's Grange showerscreens; and Husqvarna promises efficiency and increased performance with its new power cutter.

    Power anywhere, anytime

    Goal Zero has created a new category of portable power in motion, one that provides a safe, clean alternative, to traditional gas generators. The Lithium Yeti range includes the 400, 1400 and 3000 series.

    The Lithium Yeti 400 has real-time usage data via an upgraded display, two AC outputs, three USB ports, and a 12V output for devices designed for car cigarette lighters.

    The 1400 has 1400Wh of power with high-quality, replaceable lithium packs that yield long run times and feature additional monitoring electronics for safety.

    With over ten ports to pick from and 3000Wh capacity, the 3000 is ideal for using multiple devices, and comes with preinstalled wheels and a telescoping handle.

    Curves and contours

    CSR Gyprock has extended its perforated plasterboard range with two new profiles for curved ceilings - Gyptone Flexible 12mm Square and Gyptone Flexible Slotted Minigrid.

    Gyptone Flexible 12mm Square plasterboard consists of eight large square groupings per sheet, each with 400mm x 12mm square perforations at 25mm centres. Gyptone Flexible Slotted Minigrid plasterboard has eight large square groupings per sheet, each with 16 mini grids of six 6mm x 80mm slot perforations.

    Both plasterboard profiles have a black acoustic fabric backing that improves the acoustics of the ceiling.

    Activ'Air is also part of the Gyptone Flexible range. It is a patented technology that converts formaldehyde into non-harmful inert compounds that are permanently locked in the board and cannot be released back into the air.

    Monochrome bathrooms

    Stegbar's Grange Inline Showerscreen and Overlap Showerscreen comes in a new black finish. The sleek lines of the black slim perimeter frame act like the frame of an artwork - allowing the shower fixtures and splashback to take centre stage. Also practical in design, the slim perimeter frame has no hidden corners, making it easy to clean and maintain.

    Expertly engineered, the black Grange showerscreens are available in a range of configurations to suit any bathroom layout. Sleek in design and look, the Inline Showerscreen is a pivot door system developed to withstand everyday use. While the Grange Overlap Showerscreen is a semi-frameless structure with a functional difference - an overlapping pivot door to minimise water leakage.

    The big cut

    The K 770 power cutter from Husqvarna features a 5-horsepower 74cc engine, a 5-inch cutting depth, and may be used with a choice of blades with diameters from 12 to 14 inches.

    It has a vibration-damped chassis, and spring-loaded semi-automatic SmartTension technology that is designed to keep the drive belt at the correct tension. This allows for optimal power transmission, minimum wear and maximum belt life.

    The light weight, effective power-to-weight ratio, reliable start and low vibrations mean less strain and maximised productivity. Suitable for road work and easy to cut in a straight or curved track or close to sidewalk when used with the KV7 Husqvarna cutting trolley.


    New products

    Durable, lightweight axes

    Worx releases a circular saw and a new line of PowerPivot bolt cutters from Crescent

    DeWalt expands into sledge hammers and axes; Worx said its latest circular saw simplifies accurate rip cutting; the PowerPivot bolt cutters boast a double compound action system; and the Wiha e-screwdriver handles time-consuming screw-fastening.

    Axes and hammers from DeWalt

    DeWalt has a new line of seven ExoCore sledge hammers and three ExoCore axes, marking the company's first foray into this category.

    The sledge hammer range is designed to meet a variety of applications, from metal to drywall to driving a punch or chisel. The hammers are available in 6lbs (2.7kgs), 8lbs (3.6kgs), and 12lbs (5.4kgs) models with a 32" handle, and a 4lbs (1.8kgs) model with a 12" handle. A Blacksmith sledge hammer with a triangular head is also available. Each hammer features an efficient strike face and a carbon fibre composite overlay to mitigate damage to the tool.

    The ExoCore Axe range includes a camper's hatchet with a 12" handle, a 3.5 single bit splitter with a 32" handle, and a log splitter with a 32" axes. All of the axes feature a scalloped cutting edge, designed to ensure a deep cut and improved separation.

    Simple, accurate circular saw

    The Worx 20V 6-1/2 in. Circular Saw with ExacTrack can take the guess work out of straight line cutting by incorporating a tracking guide that enables accurate rip cuts.

    Weighing 6lbs (2.7kgs), the new Worx circular saw is compact and lightweight. It is powered by a 20V 2.0 Ah Power Share Max lithium battery and 3600 rpm (no-load) motor.

    It features a rubber overmould comfort grip and a spindle lock for fast and convenient blade changes. As part of the Worx Power Share program, the 20V 2.0 Ah battery is compatible with more than two dozen Worx DIY and lawn and garden tools.

    In addition to the saw, the kit includes a 20V 2.0 Ah battery, a 3-5 hour charger and a 24-tooth, carbide-tipped saw blade.

    More cutting power, less effort

    Crescent (H.K. Porter) has introduced its new line of PowerPivot bolt cutters. Featuring a compound action design, they can provide more cutting power, but require 30% less force to cut than traditionally designed bolt cutters.

    Blades are precisely ground then induction hardened for extended edge life and added ability to cut hard materials. Handles are made of tubular steel for extra strength and have durable rubber grips for added comfort and control.

    PowerPivot Bolt Cutters are available in five sizes with handle lengths of 14, 18, 24, 30, and 36 inches. All have been designed for high performance cutting capacity, both in diameter and hardness of materials.

    E-screwdriver promises fast work

    A new motor assisted screwdriver called the speedE from Wiha promises to halve the time users take to complete their work.

    An electric motor assists with fastening screws up to 0.4 Nm before disengaging to ensure that material is protected. The screw can then be fixed by hand with a deft touch, similar to a conventional screwdriver. An electric ratchet function assists users as they complete fastening.

    Thanks to its electric drive, the Wiha e-screwdriver handles screw-fastening at a rapid rate. This power transmission and torque control in electric mode brings a particular benefit to users for delicate screw-fastenings. An integrated LED light also ensures users are not left in the dark as they fasten screws.

    When fully charged, speedE can fasten electrically up to 800 times without re-charging the batteries.


    New products

    Hitachi cuts the cord on its pin nailer

    A family of Bosch lasers has been released and diamond tip screwdrivers from Crescent

    Hitachi said its cordless pin nailer is set to take carpentry to the next level; the latest lasers from Bosch feature exclusive VisiMax technology which monitors the laser's temperature to ensure maximum diode performance; Crescent screwdrivers allows users to apply greater torque and get jobs done faster; and Lufkin Self-Centering tape has improved comfort and control.

    Battery-powered pin nailer

    The Hitachi NP18DSAL 23 gauge cordless pin nailer is 100% battery-powered. With the lightweight BSL1830C 3.0 Ah Li-Ion battery, this sequential-firing pin nailer can drive 2 to 3 pins per second, shooting approximately 3,000 pins total per battery charge.

    Brand new to market, it is Hitachi's first tool to feature the brand's newly patented "No-Push" safety nose tip. Designed to reduce work related fatigue, users simply place the tool nose against their work surface and pull the trigger. This nose design also helps to prevent surface marring.

    Hitachi added a built-in counterweight to virtually eliminate tool recoil. Other user-friendly features on this cordless pinner include a slim nose (for serious accuracy between tight trim grooves), an ergonomic comfort grip handle, and tool body bumpers.

    Three-plane levelling lasers

    Bosch has introduced the GLL3-330CG, GLL3-330C and GLL3-300 three-plane levelling and alignment line lasers for the US market, beginning March 2018. The self-levelling lasers provide one 360-degree horizontal plane and two 360-degree vertical planes with references that cover the floor, wall and ceiling to serve all levelling needs. The two vertical lines cross at 90-degree angles so the user can quickly arrange and square the layout of the room from one mark.

    The GLL3-330C (red beam) and GLL3-330CG (green beam) are Bluetooth connected. With upgraded diodes and brighter beams, these plane lasers offer a visible range up to 200 ft. diameter, increasing to 330 ft. diameter when paired with an optional Bosch LR8 or LR 6 receiver for full jobsite coverage.

    Better grip for turning screws

    Crescent has revealed its new Diamond Tip Screwdrivers that are initially available in Phillips and slotted styles.

    A diamond-infused powder coating gives the tips up to four times the grip of non-coated tips, reducing slippage and cam-out. The handle design features thermoplastic rubber moulded over a tri-lobe shaped acetate core. The grip and comfort provided by the tri-lobe design allows users to apply up to 20% more torque than with more traditional handle styles. The translucent acetate used on the handles is specially formulated to provide superior impact and UV resistance.

    Slotted styles feature square shanks and red acetate handle bases. Phillips styles have round shanks with blue handles. All styles have black oxide blades with laser-etched markings.

    Tape engineered for longer life

    Lufkin has introduced a redesigned version of its self-centring tape measure, which makes finding the midpoint of measurements quick and easy. Improvements include a new ergonomic case and a quad-rivet end hook.

    The Lufkin Self-Centering Tape Measure features unique blade markings, resulting in a tape that takes the maths out of finding the midpoint of any measured distance. A black upper scale shows the actual measurement; a lower scale directly beneath it shows the midpoint in red. For example, if the upper scale reads 2-1/4", the lower scale will show 1-1/8".


    Quality, comfort and precision

    Fiskars PowerGear Aviation Snips

    The extended blade tang of these products improves cutting leverage and strength of the design

    Fiskars' range of PowerGear[tm] Aviation Snips is ideal for cutting assorted heavy-duty materials such as sheet metal, metal studs, siding and gutters. They are engineered to increase the efficiency of each cut with less energy from the user.

    PowerGear technology from Fiskars gardening tools has been introduced into the design of the Aviation Snips to provide tradies and weekend warriors with less fatigue, exhaustion, and muscle pain in the long term. It also means the users' hands will remain steadier while cutting, increasing the accuracy of cuts. Enhanced cutting force is also achieved while initiating the cut, reducing the amount of force required compared to traditional snips.

    With the micro-serrated blade edge, sheet metal is better gripped in the cutting area, providing better control of the cutting edge without damaging materials. The forged and heat treated steel construction from blade to handle improves the strength and power by 40%.

    A limited handle opening design prevents over-extension of the handle, maintaining optimal grip strength for smooth and effortless cutting, without sacrificing the length of each cut. The easy action handle opens automatically at the completion of each cut. The ambidextrous locking system also enables snips to be locked from above or to the side.

    SoftGrip[tm] handles with strategic texturing offer an ergonomic and comfortable grip. Knurled pins are also inserted during the manufacturing process to ensure the hand grips will not twist or slide off over time.

    The PowerGear Aviation Snips are available in the five standard declinations: straight cut, left cut, right cut and offset cut versions.


    Pliers built for tough jobs

    Knipex Tools introduces new gripping pliers

    Designed to deliver powerful results, no matter the angle or workpiece, according to the company

    Knipex Tools has released its series of gripping pliers. The 10" universal gripping pliers feature a pivoting bottom jaw that automatically adjusts to any workpiece in the field, including square, round, hex and flat materials. The pliers have toggle lever action for a high clamping pressure grip, making the pliers ideal for secure, one-handed operation.

    The 8" long-nose gripping pliers are bright zinc-plated and feature narrow, long jaws at a slim width of 1/4". The pliers are specially designed for areas difficult to reach. These pliers also have a non-serrated gripping area for pinching off hoses.

    The Knipex 11" welding gripping pliers have moveable jaws with clamps for cumbersome workpieces and sections with high ridges up to 1 1/2". The maximum gripping capacity of the pliers is 3 17/32".

    All Knipex Gripping Pliers have a heavy-duty design with an adjustment screw and release lever for ease of use. They feature one-hand operation and a toggle lever action for high clamping pressure. The body of the gripping pliers is made from high-strength rolled steel and the gripping jaws are forged out of chrome vanadium electric steel.


    Cabot's makes coating faster

    Eliminates the lengthy weathering process

    With half the recoat time, the Aquadeck product promises a durable, lightly pigmented finish

    Cabot's has introduced its fastest deck coating system ever - Finish in 1 Day - to speed up deck prep.

    With data from Pollinate Decking Consumer Research 2016 revealing 52% of deck owners take more than a day to complete the coating process, and one in five have never coated their deck, Cabot's three step Finish in 1 Day system responds to a demand for more time-efficient coating.

    As the name suggests, the Cabot's Finish in 1 Day system turns what is usually a six-week process into a one-day job, thanks to a series of new product developments.

    Designed to enhance and protect the natural look of exterior timber, Cabot's Aquadeck decking oil now has a new formula, cutting down the recoat time from two hours to just one hour.

    Cabot's recommends teaming Cabot's Aquadeck with Cabot's Deck Clean and Cabot's New Timber Prep, a new product that allows deck owners to skip the four to six weeks of weathering typically recommended for new timber. James Fisher, senior brand manager for Cabot's, said:

    We know that many deck owners struggle to dedicate time to maintaining their deck, despite it often becoming the hub of the home during the warmer months. With this in mind, the Cabot's Finish in 1 Day system has been developed to make sure deck owners are able to spend more time enjoying their deck than they do caring for it.

    In three simple steps for new bare timber, or two for pre-weathered/grey timber, deck owners can achieve a finish that can be easily touched up as required throughout the year.


    GoPak power tool battery

    It can charge phones too

    The GoPak System is designed to tackle household tasks, creative and refurbishment projects

    Black + Decker has launched the GoPak System, a four tool combo kit powered by the new 12V Max GoPak battery. Available as a four-tool combo kit, the system includes a drill/driver, jigsaw, detail sander, pivot-head LED work light and GoPak battery - the latter doubles as a power source to charge mobile devices on-the-go via a USB port.

    The drill/driver features an 11-position clutch to help prevent stripping of screws and the jigsaw blade can be changed without the need for another tool.

    The slim, compact design of the GoPak battery makes it easy to handle and take on-the-go. The integrated USB port, with 2.4A output, quickly charges devices such as phones and tablets, allowing users to charge devices when there is no traditional power outlet in sight.

    Rubber corner bumpers increase the battery's durability and the onboard LED state-of-charge feature shows the percentage of the battery's remaining charge.

    Targeting the DIY market, the GoPak System has been available in the US in October 2017. The GoPak battery will be available separately.


    Alt-toolboxes for tradies

    Solutions to modern problems

    The old rigid or metal toolbox is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, with backpacks and other soft-side storage taking over

    It's no secret that, for most trades, the number of tools each tradie needs to tote around increases every year. Whether its hand tools, power tools, or measuring and inspection tools, designers and manufacturers keep coming up with better ways to accomplish construction and maintenance tasks.

    With great power comes ... well, the need to tote around a lot of gear, actually.

    While for many the traditional style of toolbox continues to work well (pull up in ute/van, put tools in box, go to work), for many, especially those who find themselves working on multi-unit dwelling construction, tool transportation has become a bigger issue.

    Depending on the task at hand, there are two potential paths for this need breed of tradies to follow: they can go for the big, pull-along toolchest, which means they can take everything with them, or they can go for more easily transportable solutions, such as backpacks.

    Backpacks have been growing in popularity in part because they've become so much a part of our culture - it's what you carry your sporting kit in, your groceries, photography equipment, and so forth - and because they are a great solution when your workday begins with a kilometre walk, followed by a long climb up scaffolding and ladders to reach your worksite.

    What HNN is presenting here might be called the "alt-toolboxes", some well thought out solutions to new ways for tradies to keep their tools about on the different sorts of work environments they encounter.

    Veto Pro Pac's Tech Pac

    One of the best made and best designed (and more expensive) solutions, this backpack is specifically designed for use by tradies who need to walk a fair distance to the jobsite, or who need to work doing tasks such as servicing equipment on a ladder or elevated platform. The backpack has 56 pockets for tools in total, and is designed for quick and easy access to all of those pockets.

    The design was tested in the field, and resulted from a great deal of research.

    According to the designer of the pack, Roger Brouard:

    We wanted to see first hand how tradesmen in the field deal with those conditions, so I spent weeks with them on the job observing them - from looking at OSHA standards of three points of contact on ladders, hauling tools up with a rope, to the need for a backpack that would fit through cages and stand up when being used, to a backpack that is comfortable and won't get wet when placed down in wet or muddy conditions.

    Like better hiking packs, the pack features a thermo-formed EVA padded back panel that helps cushion the load, and also provides structural stability. A padded load displacing shoulder strap system with multiple adjustment strap points makes it easy to wear the pack for long periods. It's designed to not tip over when stood upright on the ground, and is the right size to fit through safety cages on construction sites.

    >}Veto Pro Pac's Tech Pac}

    Milwaukee Jobsite Backpack

    While this is a smaller pack, with just 35 pockets, its designed to suit most builders and construction workers. It features a total of 35 pockets, and six elastic straps to hold tools. On the inside it has a large pocket in the centre, two medium pockets to either side of that, a further 10 small pockets, and three zippered storage pockets. On the exterior, there are two side pockets, and another zippered pocket on the back, as well as four straps. Finally there is one very large pocket on the back, which could hold a hard hat.

    >}Milwaukee Jobsite Backpack}

    Stanley Fatmax 4-in-1 Mobile Work Station

    This is a unique product from Stanley. Packed up for transport, it's the usual tall and wide toolbox we're all used to. Deployed for use, however, it transforms into a four-area tool access stand, including a toolbox, parts bin, portable flat tray, and an oversized lower bin for items such as power tools. It comes with its own built-in wheels, and includes a telescoping handle. The designers even thought to include a V-groove in the top of the work station, making it easy to hold materials such as lumber and pipes steady for cutting. The whole box of tools can be locked at a single point.

    >}Stanley 4-in-1 toolbox}

    Stanley Fatmax Tool Back Pack

    With 50 pockets, the Stanley offering provides extensive flexibility for storage. It also features an internal sleeve for tool storage that can be lifted out of the backpack to provide ease of access to a wide selection of the tools. The backpack has a separate pocket for the storage of a laptop, or power tool.

    >}Stanley Fatmax Tool Back Pack}

    Irwin Centre Tote Tool Bag

    Something like a combination of a backpack and a more traditional toolbox, This tote bag offers 42 pockets for storage, along with a separate power tool holder. It features an open design that makes it easy to find and access tools. Comes with a padded shoulder strap, making it easier to carry tools and leave hands free.

    >}Irwin tote bag}

    Milwaukee Bucket Organiser Bag

    A great idea from Milwaukee, this is a like a tool belt for a bucket. It's a nylon belt that wraps around a standard bucket, and provides storage via 30 exterior pockets, plus two large zippered pockets.

    >}Milwaukee Bucket Organiser Bag}

    Milwaukee Bucketless Organiser Bag

    Like the above, but without the need for a bucket. Provides an additional 20 storage pockets, bringing the total to 50. Includes a hammer holder that keeps the hammer upright, and easy to grab a hold of.

    >}Milwaukee Tool's bucket bag}


    Equipped for adventure

    Spade has strength and rust protection

    Rhino-Rack's spade is made with solid dual core construction and enforced with hi-carbon steel

    When off-roading, overlanding or adventuring with mates, the quality of tools is an important consideration. Quality that ensures they are in working condition every time that they needed, and minimises maintenance.

    The new spade from Rhino-Rack wants to be one such tool. It is crafted using heavy duty, heat treated hi-carbon steel, and finished with zinc plating and a powder-coating.

    It is detailed with slip resistant grip that provides optimum handling. The spade is designed for comfort, ease of use and convenience.

    It is a compact 42-inch in length for increased manoeuvrability under vehicles. The size also aids in storage, whether it is stored inside the vehicle or utilising a mounting bracket.

    The versatile spade can dig out the vehicle when it gets stuck in the mud, or assist with other outdoor adventure related events.


    Manufactured stone cladding

    Inspiration for the modern landscape

    Striking exteriors and interiors are can be created with Cultured Stone products

    Pro-Fit(r) ModeraTM Ledgestone from Cultured Stone is the first of its kind in Australia, according to PGH Bricks & Pavers. Capturing the beauty of natural stone while being easier, cleaner and faster to install, it is a practical way for architects to achieve unique ledgestone looks inside and out.

    Saving installation time and effort, the primary building blocks of Pro-Fit Modera feature groups of small stones bundled together to form modular components of equal height.

    Available in three modern colours, including dark grey Carbon, sandy Vellum and chocolate Intaglio, Pro-Fit Modera provides a contemporary neutral palette for homeowners to decorate with colour using furnishings and accessories, or when landscaping.

    Cultured Stone is distributed by PGH Bricks & Pavers.


    Consumer laser levels

    Can you get a good one under $99?

    The consumer market is opening up, as laser levels become more commodified

    If you spend any time at all working on construction, whether professionally or as a DIY project, you eventually will become haunted by that one, single question: Is it level? Just about everything begins and ends with that question, because it establishes a key part of structural integrity, as well as a primary aesthetic requirement.

    As a result, not that long ago, if you stopped to watch tradies working on a construction project, you would see them taking up their bubble levels and consulting them with a frequency pretty close to that of teenagers checking their phones for text messages. All that started to change about 20 years ago, when laser-based levels began to become more affordable, a trend that has accelerated over the past ten years. Over the past two to three years, the laser level has passed an inflection point in its development, and has become truly affordable for even occasional DIY use around the home.


    Lasers were themselves initially developed in 1960. It didn't take too long for inventors to see how useful they could be in construction, and the first construction laser was launched in 1968 by Spectra Physics. This consisted of a simple laser that had to be levelled by the use of the traditional bubble level. The plasma tube, which contained the helium and neon gasses which were "lased" to produce the laser would last for up to 300 hours of operation. The rig cost USD8,000 - equivalent in today's US dollars to over USD56,000.

    The first development Spectra made was to add a motor to rotate the laser beam, which meant the level standard could be available to multiple workers building the interior fittings to a room. Next, the first self-levelling laser was developed, again by Spectra, in 1973. By the late 1970s there was general acknowledgement of just how useful the lasers were, with some sources stating they increased productivity by 30% to 40%.

    The next big thing to happen to the industry was the commercial development of the diode laser in the mid-1990s. These used semiconductor materials similar to those used in light emitting diodes (the familiar LED lights). Much less expensive to produce than gas-based lasers, and offering a much longer operating period, these began to fundamentally change the laser level industry. The effect was to produce lasers that lasted for 30,000 hours of operation instead of 300, and cost half the price of gas-based lasers.

    Over the past 10 years, as production in China and other low-cost labour countries has taken off, the prices of laser levels have plunged even further. Once used only on high-value construction sites, then by professional tradies, laser levels are today easily within reach of DIY consumers, as a convenience around the home.

    Types of consumer levels

    There are basically two types of laser levels for consumer use, with a third, in-between type emerging as well. The simplest type is basically a bubble level with a laser attached. These are typically fixed to a wall or other surface, levelled-up with the bubble level, and then project a reliable level laser line across the surface. These can be purchased for less than $45.

    The second, more complex type is the self-levelling laser level. These can sit on the floor, or, more commonly, be placed in a more elevated position, either by fixing to a tripod, to a special attachment fixed to a wall, or, using a universal attachment, to some other "holder" such as a ladder, plumbing, or even a chair back, bed frame - anything. Most consumer levels use a pendulum system to provide levelling.

    The third, emerging type is something of a hybrid of the other two. This makes use of a smartphone with an accelerometer. Connected to the phone via the headphone or connectivity port (Apple's Lightning port, micro-USB or USB-C), the connected device mainly produces the required laser line, while the phone provides the technology to sense when it is level.

    Market development

    Pioneered by companies such as Bosch, laser levels are becoming a more common consumer purchase. At the moment, there are not that many levels in the consumer price range produced by the major manufacturers.

    However, if we accept that these consumer products need a price point under $120, there are already a range of reliable trade offerings between $180 and $240. It won't be long before we see more of these these reach down to the $80 to $130 market, and begin to become attractive to consumers.

    Of course, what will cause that to happen will be a higher adoption rate of laser levels among consumers, driving better volume, and leading to manufacturing and distribution cost reductions. The question then becomes, how big is the potential market? Which leads us to an underlying question, just how useful is a laser level to the average DIYer?

    The answer, HNN believes, is "very useful". That is in part because we need to remember that the average DIYer today probably has fewer skills than the DIYer of 20 years ago. It might seem like a bit of a joke to suggest that using the traditional beam bubble level is difficult, but if you only ever put it to use a couple of times a year, it is tricky. Many DIYers confidently get out the level, draw a pencil line, put up a shelf or cabinet - only to find that things have drifted out, and the bubble in the level is now distinctly out of the middle-zone.

    In contrast, the laser level is a constant reminder to check the level, and offers an easy way to check and correct the seemingly inevitable drift. Spending $80 for what might amount to two hours of use over a three year period might seem excessive.

    However, while cost-saving is great motivator for DIY, once undertaken the main motivator is making sure that you don't make mistakes. The shelf that is out of level by enough that it needs to be shifted 2mm or 3mm creates all kinds of problems. How do you drill mounting holes for the brackets that are so close to the existing holes, for example. Correcting mistakes is particularly difficult if you are inexperienced, and don't know some of the tricks professionals can use.

    The levels

    Bubble/laser levels

    There are surprisingly few tools offered in this area by major manufacturers. This is likely due to increasing commodification. Doing a search for this type of tool on Alibaba, for example, returns a wide range of tools.

    Bosch PLL 1 P Laser spirit level

    With a length of 270mm and a width of 120mm, this is a simple, portable Bosch green tool that effectively boosts the functionality of a standard, small bubble level. One end of the level can emit a laser line, which has an effective range of around five metres. The other end can emit a single laser dot, which has a claimed range of 20 metres.

    >}Bosch PLL 1 P Laser spirit level}

    The level is attached to the wall using a mounting bracket. The bracket itself is attached to the wall using nails, pins, screws, or adhesive tape. The level then attaches to the bracket magnetically. The same mount can also be used to attach the level to a tripod with a 1/4 inch mounting thread. Once mounted, the level can be adjusted to an angle, for use in construction of items such as stairs.

    The laser is a class II, and accuracy is stated as around 0.5mm per metre.

    >}IKEA Fixa Level}

    Ryobi AirGrip Laser Level

    The AirGrip dates back to the time when Ryobi tools were darker blue/green and not their current colour, though a revised model in the current colour has been released. It's a device based on a unique idea. One of the main difficulties in using this kind of laser level is how to position it safely on a wall or other vertical surface. The AirGrip solves this problem by incorporating a small, battery powered suction pump in the design, which maintains enough of a vacuum, even when faced with some slightly porous surface, to keep the device in place.

    >}Ryobi AirGrip Laser Level}

    IKEA Fixa Laser spirit level

    We're including this to give some idea of the market. This is a very simple device, which provides means of attaching to surfaces magnetically, but in no other way, unless the user drives in a couple of nails to hold it in place. The laser has a limited range of three metres, and accuracy, at 1.4mm per metre, is not great.

    >}IKEA Fixa Level}

    On the other hand, it retails for $20, and is designed for light tasks, such as hanging pictures.

    Ryobi Phone Works Laser Level Device & App

    This is one of eight Phone Works products that Ryobi produces, including an inspection scope, an infrared thermometer, and active noise suppression earphones.

    Rather than relying on a bubble level to adjust the system, it instead relies on the inbuilt accelerometer in many smartphones. The advantage of the system is that it offers additional features, such as photos of the level line which can be shared. The disadvantage is that the accelerometers in many smartphones are notoriously unreliable.

    Often it is necessary to first calibrate the phone using a standard bubble level. Additionally, as smartphone design is quite variable, getting the laser attachment to line up with the phone display can be difficult.

    >}Ryobi Phone Works Laser Level Device & App}

    Considering that this approach costs more than many self-levelling laser levels, it's best to regard this as a developing area for special uses.

    Self-levelling laser levels

    Stanley Cubix

    The Cubix is perhaps the most interesting of all the self-levellers that would be suitable for consumers. While it is at the very top of the consumer price range, with an average price of around $105 on eBay and other places, it has a good range of features, and, importantly for smaller retailers who might only stock one item of this type, it is certified for trade use as well. About the only issue is that its accuracy is rated at 0.8mm per metre, with the laser line visible for up to eight metres.

    >}Stanley Cubix}

    It has most of the features needed, including the generation of cross-line for alignment, and the inclusion of a handy grip that slots into the body of the tool, making it easy to attach it to anything from a ladder to a vertical stud. It also includes a 1/4 inch socket for a tripod.

    Stanley Cross90 Self Levelling Laser Level

    The Cross90 is really pushing the upper end of the consumer price range, but it does deliver for the extra cost. It features a class I laser, and provides accuracy of 0.5mm per metre. Like the Cubix, it uses Stanley's mounting system.

    >}Stanley Cross90}

    Its unique feature in a device at this price point, is that it offers a second laser at an angle of 90 degrees to the main laser, making it easy to set up the Cross90 in reference to a secondary point.

    Bosch Quigo

    When you think self-levelling laser levels for consumers, the Quigo is one of the first devices that comes to mind. Bosch virtually pioneered the category with the Quigo, and now into its third generation, it remains a strong performer. It is a very compact design, which comes with a handy mounting grip included (the MM2 universal clamp), making it easy to set up on ladders, chairs and so forth.

    >}Bosch Quigo}

    Accuracy is rated at 0.8mm per metre, and the line is visible on surfaces up to 10 metres away.

    It is a Bosch "green" tool, but it does come with a two-year warranty, which is automatically extended to three years when the tool is registered.


    What HNN hasn't mentioned so far is that, outside of these major manufacturers, there is actually a very wide range of laser levels of all kinds available from a range of manufacturers in China.

    In fact, it's possible that the laser level market of today presages what much of the power tool market in general may eventually look like, in another 10 years or so. Log onto the Chinese online wholesale marketplace Alibaba and search for laser levels, and you will see over a hundred variations on every kind of laser level imaginable, ranging from $20 up to $1000. Even if you go to a website such as Chinese online retailer Banggood - which, in electronics, largely gives you an idea of what are the more reliable offerings on Alibaba, for an additional cost - there are still dozens of choices.

    This leaves Australian retailers in something of a tricky (and very interesting) situation. Some of those unfamiliar brands coming out of China will prove to be reliable, and offer customers a good deal - but which ones? While there are several Australian brands that have taken on the task of getting reliable laser levels manufactured in China - Imex, Redback and Spot-on, to name a few - these companies concentrate on trade-level devices. Except for the simplest levels, those used for tile-laying, they don't really cater to the consumer market.

    One way through that morass is, of course, for retailers to establish a relationship with a reliable Chinese supplier, and effectively "own brand" the product. That is what Sydney Tools has done, for example, with its CPI line of self-levelling laser levels. The CPI X-Line sells currently for $49, and the CPI Cube sells for $99.


    Trim routers

    Increasingly popular tool

    Makita pretty much rules the roost in routers in Australia

    As recently as six or seven years ago, just about any kind of router was deemed to be the sort of tool only a carpenter or dedicated woodworker would own. However, as prices have decreased, and quality at the lower end of the price range has increased, routers have become a more common tool.

    In particular, the smallest kind of router, usually called a "laminate trimmer", has grown in popularity over the past several years. That is in part because it is small - typically less than 250mm tall, and around 2kg at most - which makes it easy to use, as it can be operated one-handed.

    Most importantly, the laminate trimmer (or trim router as it sometimes called) solves the kind of basic problems that any tradesperson, and quite few DIYers, are likely to encounter. In fact, far from being an "expert only" tool, it's the kind of gadget that can help the less expert look a lot more expert.

    If you are not familiar with the laminate trimmer, the best place to start in understanding them is with the trimming bit itself. Image 1 is an enlarged photograph of such a bit. The laminate trimmer attaches to the top, smooth shaft. Below that is the cutting part of the bit itself, and at the base is the guide, which is a ring of smooth metal that runs on ball-bearings.

    Imagine that you are facing the fairly typical woodworking task of doing something like fitting a new top to a bedside cabinet. It might be plywood that will be painted, or a piece of 12mm pine wood you intend to stain. To make the job look really good, you are going to have to get all four edges of the top flush with the supporting frame underneath.

    If you are (like the editors of HNN) a bit of a duffer with a saw, it can seem like there is almost no way of doing this easily. Measure as you will, even with a good mitre saw it just seems inevitable that the end result will be a one or two millimetres out, spoiling the whole look. You end up filing, sanding, and so forth - and then you have to worry about keeping the edge perpendicular, and not rounding it out.

    With the laminate trimmer, you don't worry about cutting the wooden top precisely. Instead you cut it oversize by 10 to 15mm or so, then fix it to the cabinet frame, making sure there is overlap on all four edges. Using the laminate trimmer, using the flush trimming bit, you then simply run around the edges of the frame. The ball bearing runs on the frame itself, and the cutting portion of the bit removes all the excess wood. The end result is the the most perfectly flush finish you can imagine.

    There are only two "gotchas" to worry about. The first is to remember to move the trimmer in a counter-clockwise direction (push in and forward with your right hand), as, with the trimmer turning clockwise, this enables the bit to do its work. (If you are trimming inside out, such as when making the hole for a sink or tap in a counter, you move clockwise instead, for the same reason.) The second "gotcha" is to always start trimming wood on an endgrain edge. About half the time, at the end of the endgrain you will push off a chip from the grain edge - but it won't matter, because that's the very edge you will be trimming next.

    Once you've done this a few times, you will be tempted to move to the next stage, which is using a slightly different bit to produce a fancier edge. It's very easy, for example to put a nice 30-degree bevel on the edge (though you do have to think through how you want the corners to look).

    Beyond this specific task of trimming, it's also possible to use the the laminate trimmer as a kind of "light" router as well. A typical task where they are very useful is when installing a new door. With a proper router bit, they make mortising the space for hinges very simple (though you do have to dig out the corners with a chisel still).

    Even better they handle the surprisingly tricky task of cutting the recess for the latch plate on the lock, which goes on the edge of the door. These can be surprisingly tricky to do well, especially if the chisel is anything but your friend. Both of these tasks are best accomplished by using templates, which make it a matter of just guiding the laminate trimmer.

    As a trade sale, it really comes down to the choice of brand and size, as most professionals are well-acquainted with how useful the laminate trimmer can be.

    As a DIY sale, however, it can be one of the more difficult items to sell outside of people with some real interest in woodworking. The problem is that the laminate trimmer is, indeed, a specialised tool, and does not get used nearly as often as a hammer drill, or even an impact driver.

    The selling point is that it takes a task that can really consume a surprising amount of time, or end with a compromised result, and makes it easy to produce something that looks great. It's actually an ideal tool to sell through a short demonstration course - as long as the course sticks to the basics outlined above: doors and tops/bottoms to things. Most DIY courses that feature any kind of router seemingly cannot resist deep into the world of complex routing, and simple DIYers, who are seeking to solve problems more than to experience a craft, are simply not interested.

    The role of Makita: RT0770C trimmer

    While HNN does not have any statistical proof for this, only some anecdotal evidence, we do think it is likely the real spark to the growing popularity of the laminate trimmer was Makita's RT0770C trim router.

    Introduced in 2012, and revised since, the 770 was one of those classic tools that managed to combine two things: it hit an exact sweet spot in terms of size and capabilities, and it was very thoughtfully designed. Plus, as we often have said, it just had that Makita quality of having things in balance.

    In terms of the sweet spot, the 770 is a corded tool with a rated power of 710 watts. With most laminate trimmers ranging from 300 watts to 600 watts, that gives it just that little bit of extra power. At the same time the motor is small enough, when combined with an aluminium chassis, to keep the weight down to just 1.9kg - easy enough to handle one-handed.

    The great design mainly expresses itself in the set of three accessories available with the tool. It comes standard with a trimmer base, which is all you need if you are going to do the kind of trimming jobs described above. An option set of accessories includes two other bases, a plunge base and a tilt base. The plunge base converts the 770 into a lightweight plunge router, complete with soft-grip handles, and a rotating turntable of three depth stops, for different stages of a complex job.

    The tilt base is quite a unique accessory. It enables the trimmer to be rotated from plus 30 degrees out to minus 45 degrees. This has an interesting effect on custom router bits. For example, the flush trim bit can be used to make a bevel.

    >}The Makita RT0770C trimmer features a tilt base}

    In addition to these three bases, there is another, fourth base, sold individually, which converts the 770 into an offset router. Daughter gears transfer the drive to the edge of the base, meaning it can work as close as 18mm to a wall or other barrier.

    Where the excellence of design really shows itself is that the parts of the various bases are interchangeable.

    For example, the trimmer base has a round base plate, and the tilt base has a square base plate. Undo a few screws, and you can put the square plate on the trimmer base, which means you can use a straight edge clamped to the work piece to guide the trimmer for special uses. The soft-grip handles from the plunge base can be fitted to the offset base, for better control in tight situations. And so on.

    Then there are the other typical Makita touches. There is an integral shaft lock, so it takes just one wrench to change bits. The motor base is flat, and the power cord comes out from the side of the motor, so the unit sits flat when upside down. It has soft-start, making it easy to pause and begin again in the middle of trim. Just a great tool.

    Makita DRT50Z

    This new, cordless trimmer launched in Australia in early 2017. It is, basically, the 770 in cordless form. It even uses the exact same accessories. Without battery, it weighs just 1.4kg.

    The really exciting news about this trim router is the price. It retails for $249, just $60 or so more than the corded version. That doesn't include the battery or the range of accessories, but for tradies who already have Makita batteries and the 770, it's a great buy.

    >}The Makita DRT50Z uses same accessories as RT0770C}

    Makita 3709X and 3710

    Makita does also offer a simpler laminate trimmer, the 3709X. This is a corded tool, with a 530 watt motor, weighing 1.5kg, just 199mm tall. It is generally sold with an aluminium carry case. The Makita 3710 is basically the same trimmer with a tilt base.

    Makita MT Series M3700G

    In terms of sheer value, next to the RT0770C is this recent offering from Makita's MT Series, which replaced its previous value brand Maktec. This is essentially a slightly older version of the 3709X, but it sells for close to half the price of the pure Makita version. It features a 550 watt motor, and weighs 1.4kg.

    >}The MT Series Makita routers offer great value for money}

    Other brands

    To be frank, most of the other brands available in Australia really do not match up to Makita, with the exception of Festool, which makes very high end router products. In fact, these are such a speciality item (and typically cost over $700) that HNN simply does not have the technical knowledge to effectively provide a guide or review of them.

    DeWalt, for example, sells just one, corded model in Australia, the DWE6005, which typically costs more than the Makita RT0770C, and has specs that are not quite as good.

    Bosch sells a blue router, the GMR 1, with, again, similar specs to the RT0770C, but for, typically, a higher cost.


    Ryobi offers two laminate trimmer. The corded version has a 400 watt motor, weighs 1.67kg, and retails for a price close to that of the Makita MT Series M3700G. It's not a very impressive offering.

    The other laminate trimmer from Ryobi, however, is a real competitor. Newly designed, this One+ cordless trimmer (R18TR-0) is styled as a "palm" tool, with special attention paid in its design to permit easy one-handed use.

    Finally, there is the Ozito laminate trimmer. While this is the least powerful of all those covered here at just 350 watt, and it lacks basic features such as a spindle lock (which means changing bits requires two spanners), it really should not be dismissed. At $65 it will attract consumers who have very infrequent need for the tool, or even just one main period of use, when installing a new kitchen, for example.

    Other products

    While Makita seems to be the outstanding brand in this sector for Australia, that is much less the case overseas. In the US, for example, a Bosch router typically wins this category, with offerings from Techtronic Industries Home Depot-only brand Ridgid and Hitachi highly ranked as well.


    Drill uses advanced intelligence

    Developed by Worx

    The driver has combined features including the BitLock, SafeDrive and PulseAssist

    Worx senior product manager, Jeanne White, said advanced intelligence can be defined as the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. This is just what the company's engineers had in mind when they created the Ai Drill. She said:

    The Ai drill is almost intuitive. It's so easy to use that first time users and do-it-yourselfers will breeze through home and craft projects.

    The Ai Drill has three drive modes including drill, SafeDrive and PulseAssist, which are activated by touch sensitive keypads on the top of the drill.

    BitLock is another key feature of the Ai Drill. Load a drill or driver bit into the tool's chuck, and its motorised jaws tightens and self-centres the bit, and does it with 30% more torque than hand tightening, according to Worx. The motorised jaws also run in reverse to release the bit when it's time to swap bits or for storage. To engage BitLock, users simply turn and hold the collar ring until the chuck's jaws have tightened or loosened the bit.

    The Ai Drill has no clutch settings. It relies entirely on the tool's internal electronics to safely drill holes, drive and remove screws, regardless of the work material.

    When SafeDrive is selected, it delivers just the right amount of torque necessary to drive the screw and then backs off once the screw head is flush with the surface.

    With PulseAssist, the Ai Drill applies enough bit rotation to drive the screw snug to the surface without over-tightening or stripping the screw head. This feature also works in reverse to back out stubborn screws without damaging the screw head. The drill moves at a slow, optimal speed so it doesn't strip screws.

    The 3.1lb or 1.4kg (with battery) Ai Drill is powered by a 20V MAX 1.5 Ah battery. The battery is compatible with other Worx 20V MAX batteries used in WORX DIY and lawn and garden tools. It is also part of Worx 20V PowerShare program.

    The MAX battery recharges to full capacity in approximately five hours. The drill has a low battery capacity indicator. When the battery's power runs low, the drill's LED light flashes.

    The single-speed (0-800, no-load) drill has a 3/8 inch chuck. It is capable of handling a variety of drilling and driving jobs with 180 in./lbs. of torque. An integrated LED light illuminates the work area and is activated by pressing the trigger. The tool's drilling capacity is 1-inch in wood and 3/8 inch in mild steel.


    Meeting weeding needs

    Fiskars Xact Weed Puller

    Gardeners can avoid herbicides by using the weed puller, according to the manufacturer

    The Fiskars Xact Weed Puller means it could be time to ditch the potentially harmful chemicals in herbicides to eradicate weeds. The tool can help alleviate the effects of digging, bending, and backaches.

    Engineered to facilitate easy removal of root weeds, the Xact Weed Puller is ergonomically designed, and allows users to tackle weeding jobs of any size. A 1m reach means users don't need to be on their hands and knees in the garden, while the stainless steel prongs will penetrate the earth, grip the root firmly, and remove the weed.

    An innovative weed ejection system means end-users never have to bend over to remove the weed from the tool. Specifications include:

  • Dimensions - Height 1000mm
  • Weight - 950g
  • Material - Aluminium shaft/stainless steel
  • Warranty - 25 years
  • products

    Cub Cadet expands Z-Force range

    SX 54 and LX 48 models added

    The lawn mowers are high performance machines and easy to operate, according to the company

    Cub Cadet's Z-Force SX 54 is equipped with a 24 HP professional grade Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin engine. A 54" triple blade cutting system provides a wide cut, while its heavy duty welded steel frame gives the SX 54 a long life.

    The SX 54 features a steering wheel with patented Synchro Steer technology, providing 4-wheel control to create genuine zero-turn manoeuvrability and a PTO clutch, utilising electronic fingertip engagement. It also has a high-back elasticity vibration control suspension seat with armrests, which minimises fatigue and reduces the likelihood of back pain after sustained use.

    Similar to the SX 54, the LX 48 operates on a 24 HP professional grade Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin engine. A slightly smaller 48" deck allows users to navigate narrower terrain, while zero-turn capabilities maintain the same level of agility as the SX 54.

    Operated via a lap bar, the LX 48 is constructed from the same heavy duty steel frame as the SX 54.


    Shovel mounting bracket

    Making room for a shovel

    Manufacturer says it is suitable for long road trips or weekend warriors looking to escape the city

    The Shovel Mounting Bracket is the ideal accessory to keep a shovel at the ready when needed to dig snow, sand, mud or any other type of terrain, according to its maker Rhino-Rack.

    It mounts directly onto the Rhino-Rack Vortex crossbars or Rhino-Rack Pioneer systems. Rhino-Rack's Pioneer systems are designed to maximise load capability while freeing up space inside a vehicle.

    With easy installation and removal, users will be able to mount a shovel onto a vehicle with multiple configuration options. The brackets can be inverted to position the shovel above or below the tray and the hinged design allows mounting of a wide variety of handles as well. The safe and secure roof system holds tools to prevent any cabin damage from occurring.

    Constructed from steel with a high quality powder coated finish, this mount bracket is built to last and to hold a shovel in place for rough roads. It is backed by a 3-year warranty.


    Lightweight benchtop saw

    A mobile unit for light duty projects

    Manufacturer said it is suitable for home workshops, or easily carried right to the jobsite

    The Worx BladeRunner(r) X2 is a portable benchtop saw that does the work of multiple saws by making fast and accurate rip, crosscut, scroll, inside and mitre cuts using standard T-shank jigsaw blades. Sharon Blackwell, Worx product manager, said:

    What's nice about this benchtop saw is that it's not limited to only cutting wood. Oftentimes, homeowners need to cut aluminium, PVC, copper pipe or ceramic tile, and BladeRunner X2 handles all those materials by simply changing blades.

    BladeRunner X2's compact size makes a small footprint of 17 inches wide by 15 3/4 inches deep. The saw weighs 14.7 pounds (6.67kgs) and is 6 3/4 nches high, which makes for a comfortable work height when mounted to a workbench.

    An advantage of BladeRunnerX2 versus conventional benchtop saws is the ease of changing blades. There's no need for wrenches; just slide the blade release lever on the left of the tabletop to seat or release the blade. Once the blade is in position, guide rollers ensure accurate 90 degree cutting at all times.

    BladeRunner X2's adjustable hold-down arm matches the thickness of the work piece, and incorporates a splitter to help keep straight cuts on track. It holds the work piece against the table to minimise vibration, and flips out of the way when making interior cuts.

    The BladeRunner X2 fence has two adjustment knobs to align work pieces for straight and accurate rip cutting. Fence channels at both the front and rear of the tabletop have measurement scales for precise alignment. A mitre gauge also is provided for making angle cuts.

    This benchtop saw is powered by a 5.5-amp motor that delivers 3,000 strokes per minute. Its cutting capacity is 1 1/2 inch in wood, 1 1/4 inch in PVC, 3/8 inch in aluminium and ceramic tile, and 1/8 inch in mild steel. The blade stroke is 3/4 inch.

    The durable base is impact resistant and supported by four, non-marring rubber feet. Built-in storage is provided for the fence and mitre gauge. Other features include an on/off paddle switch with safety key to prevent unauthorised use, 6-foot power cord and built-in carrying handle.


    Secure your load

    Pioneer rooftop trays

    The Rhino-Rack range can maximise carrying potential, and free up space inside a vehicle

    Since developing the first of its kind lightweight aluminium rooftop carrier in 2010, Rhino-Rack has confirmed its reputation for durable and user friendly off road vehicle products.

    Constructed from aluminium and fibreglass reinforced nylon, the Pioneer range of rooftop accessories are suitable for both off-road enthusiasts and highway commuters.

    With a sleek and low profile design, the Pioneer Platform offers minimal wind drag and noise on the road. With a flat design and no side rails, the Pioneer Platform provides easy access to gear from all four sides. Simply slide goods on and off the roof and secure them to the bars or utilise the C-channel rail design and additional eyebolts.

    The Pioneer Tradie is a solution for the transportation of ladders, construction equipment and long loads that extend beyond the base of the platform. Fully welded rails on two sides provide a rigid tie down point, with hand grips built into the design.

    The versatile Pioneer Tray has been built to maximise load capability and provide added security against shifting loads while driving, and has a front wind fairing to facilitate a quieter drive. It also has a fully welded, closed rail sidewall.

    As a result of built in C channels running along the bars of the Pioneer range, many accessory options are available including jerry can holders, spare tyre mounts, bicycle carriers, fishing rod holders and more.

    The Rhino-Rack Pioneer Trays will fit an existing roof rack system as well as the Rhino-Rack low profile Backbone System. Finished with high quality powder coating, the racks will not rust or fade, and is backed by a 5-year warranty.


    More power, less effort

    Fiskars PowerGear X range

    The company continues to focus on enhancing the consumer experience of its products

    Fiskars' PowerGear[tm] technology has evolved to improve on the pruners, tree loppers and shears.

    With three times more power than traditional pruners, the PowerGear X range can help tackle tough jobs with ease. The mix of lightweight yet durable materials as well as innovative design have trimmed the weight of the PowerGear X range, providing an easy, more comfortable user experience.

    3D SoftGrip[tm] contour moulding will prevent slipping and reduce fatigue for the avid gardener. It is designed for a splinter-free grip and has anti-shock surface structures.

    The PowerGear X bypass pruners are simple to disassemble and reassemble for maintenance. They are available in two sizes with cutting capacities of 20mm and 26mm.

    The PowerGear X loppers come into their own when faced with young and tough green branches. Thanks to the patented PowerGear X mechanism, users will be able to effortlessly carve through branches of up to 55mm in diameter because cutting is up to three and a half times easier compared to standard loppers, according to Fiskars.

    Its PowerGear X shears have optimised tool balance, control, and improved weight distribution. They are a powerful tool when shaping, cutting and trimming bushes and hedges.


    Vanities blend form and function

    Latest range from Highgrove Bathrooms

    Designed to infuse warmth into spaces that result in a relaxed yet luxurious vibe

    The inclusion of natural timber accents and elements helps to break up the swathes of cool, hard surfaces that have typically dominated bathroom design. The new Lily Vanity Collection from Highgrove Bathrooms reflects this trend by combining modern sleek design with a timber accent.

    The range is crafted using a seamless white gloss polymarble inset basin and a moisture resistant, medium-tone timber veneer face. The deep drawer offers generous storage and is accompanied by push-to-open technology.

    Wall-mount vanity designs have recently been welcomed into bathroom design as an alternative to the heavy, weighed down vanities of the past. The Lily Vanity Collection brings the focus up off the ground and allows the flow of energy throughout the space, adding a light airy feeling to the room. It also features metal drawer runners and door hinges.

    With two available vanity sizes, there is an option for most bathroom layouts - a longer vanity which is ideal for a family or master bathroom centrepiece, or a smaller vanity that can be doubled up to create a "his and her" vanity solution.


    Z-Wave enabled locks

    Kwikset has five new residential locks

    They offer more security and convenience, and emphasise the company's commitment to style and design

    Kwikset showcased five of its latest residential lock products at ISC West, a trade show for the security industry, held each year in Las Vegas. They are expected to be released in the second half of 2017.

    The locks are said to be among the first to market with the Z-Wave 500 Series chipset, which offers extended wireless range and security.

    Among the latest offerings, the Obsidian is a smart lock that eliminates the need for traditional keys. It will be available with standalone and connected options, allowing users to lock and unlock their front doors using the touchscreen exterior or their smartphones.

    The sleek touchpad of the Obsidian - just like the volcanic glass - is black and makes up nearly all of the deadbolt's exterior. The lock's all-metal interior has advanced mechanical and electronic security features. Eliminating the keyway takes away the threat of "lock picking" and "lock bumping" attacks using specially cut keys to defeat conventional pin and tumbler locks.

    Kwikset's other offerings include the following:

    SmartCode 888 Touchpad Electronic Deadbolt - A contemporary version of Kwikset's SmartCode five-button deadbolt, designed to integrate with select smart home systems. The device can hold up to 30 different user codes and delivers convenience to homeowners with remote locking/unlocking via smartphones and tablets, as well as total home control.

    Kwikset Convert (Z-Wave Smart Lock Conversion Kit) - Replaces the interior half of an existing lock, and brings keyless entry and home automation to consumers. The new kit will appeal to design-driven homeowners who want a smarter lock but want to maintain the style of the front door or match the current handleset, and don't want to change the existing deadbolt. Available in brass, Venetian bronze and satin nickel. The kit can be used on Kwikset, Baldwin, Weiser and Schlage products.

    Contemporary SmartCode 914 & 916 - These locks address the needs of style-conscious consumers with contemporary versions of the company's traditional deadbolts. The locks integrate with home security and automation systems with remote locking/unlocking via smartphones and tablets.


    Dust-free sanding revolution

    For construction and decorating professionals

    Distributed by Tenaru as part of its portfolio of brands, adding Mirka to its offering

    Mirka provides dust-free sanding systems. Based in Finland, the brand develops and manufactures advanced sanding and polishing machines.

    Mirka's dust-free solutions are achievable through its innovative Abranet, a plastic-like net with thousands of holes providing effective dust extraction. Constructed with a dense network of polyamide fabric threads onto which the abrasive grit is bonded, this open weave net structure means no dust particle is more than 0.5mm away from a dust extraction hole.

    The use of Abranet also eliminates any clogging or dust build-up between the sanding disc and surface, providing a smoother finish more quickly and long-lasting sanding capacity.

    Designed to be connected to a commercial vacuum cleaner such as the Mirka Dust Extractor, sanding with Abranet produces 6900 times less dust compared to sanding with traditional paper abrasives, and it can last up to five times longer.


    Mobile tool storage

    GearWrench trolley and workstation

    The unit allows easy access to tools and has a tough, stainless steel work surface

    The GearWrench XL Series 11 Drawer Heavy Duty Cart Trolley & WorkStation, topped by a sturdy stainless steel sheet and underlying MDF top-board, is made to withstand rough use across all manner of tasks, including tearing down heavy components such as transmissions and differentials.

    At 1.2 metres wide, 79cm deep and weighing in at 143kg, this unit is suitable as both storage and workspace.

    Each drawer features auto-return, which snaps the drawers closed within the final inches of operation. Lined with a liquid and grease resistant EVA 2.5mm liner, this will ensure easy compartment cleaning and product longevity. The open side space is capped with an 8mm anti-slip EVA mat, to ensure no sharp or awkwardly shaped tools damage the physical unit during movement.

    The 11 drawers are supported by 45mm standard ball bearing slides and formed with rolled over drawer walls for added strength and rigidity.


    Gas-powered products for pros

    Stihl rolls out its latest products

    This large-scale launch involves 40 products and is the biggest in the company's history

    The latest professional models from Stihl will come with a host of enhancements. The string trimmers, edgers, KombiMotors and bed redefiner are designed with larger fuel tanks, providing 30% longer run times than the previous models.

    These units boast a simplified three-step start procedure enabled by the semi-automatic choke lever, saving users time on the job and reducing the chance of flooding the engine. Each product's vertical pleated paper air filter allows for better filtration, extended replacement intervals and long service life.

    In addition, the redesigned and lighter gearbox on the pole pruners and extended-reach hedge trimmers shift weight to the powerhead of the unit for balance and maneuverability. It can help users work for longer periods with less fatigue.

    The introduction of these new professional products is part of one of the largest product launches in company history. Other Stihl products to be introduced in 2017 include nine battery products, as part of the new Stihl Lightning Battery System[tm] and nine additional gas-powered models, featuring a line of Stihl pressure washers.


    Padlock uses fingerprints

    Hybrid solution for locking

    Benjilock can also be used with a key if the fingerprint sensors are not working

    BenjiLock is not a traditional padlock. A key can be used to open it but it's a lock that can also be opened using one's fingerprint. It was unveiled at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

    BenjiLock was developed by the Los Angeles-based company of the same name, which was founded in 2013 by CEO Robbie Cabral.

    The lock features a 7-pin cylinder and will come with a built-in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, charging cable and set of keys when it ships later this year at USD79.99 (AUD103.64), the company said. Consumers will be able to choose between sky white, jet black, stainless steel, copper and brass SKUs.

    There have been similar products on the market, Mr Cabral conceded. Tapplock is another padlock using fingerprint sensors. But competing devices don't tend to have a tough, stainless steel body, he said. BenjiLock also has a boron alloy shackle.

    Rival products also don't tend to provide the same "hybrid" solution for unlocking as BenjiLock. Mr Cabral notes that a key can come in handy when the fingerprint sensor isn't working for some reason.

    BenjiLock was named a 2017 CES Innovation Awards honouree in the smart home category. The Innovation Awards program is run by CES producer the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

    But it's open to debate whether BenjiLock is a true smart-home product. Smart, yes. The device is clearly designed to be used just about anywhere - from the home to the office to school to the gym. However smart-home products are also typically controlled by a smartphone or tablet app, or via a computer.

    Tapplock, in comparison, works in conjunction with a mobile app that can be used to grant access to family and friends and control the date and time the lock can be accessed. Unlike BenjiLock, the Canadian makers of that device turned to crowdfunding to help reach the market. Tapplock was successfully funded March 12 after raising USD328,959 (AUD426,397) via Indiegogo.

    The BenjiLock fingerprint sensor's ambient LED light is what makes the device smart once the user records his or her scan, according to Mr Cabral. Although the smart functionality is minimal, he said, his goal is to "build a relationship with the consumer of security," adding later versions of the device will "include apps and much more."

    The lock is charged via a Micro-USB cable and the charge "lasts a whole year with one single charge" based on tests in which it was used four times per day, he said.


    The shovel that's badass

    Female entrepreneur is behind the product

    The Alpha Shovel follows the successful launch of the Stealth Shovel in 2015

    Portable tools innovator DMOS has launched a second campaign on crowdfunding site Kickstarter to debut its new shovel for the active outdoorsman or DIYer. Supporters can pre-order discounts on the Alpha Shovel and its accompanying accessories: the T-handle saw and interchangeable T-grip.

    Last year on Kickstarter, DMOS introduced the Stealth Shovel, a pro-quality, packable tool for shovelling, raking, and biting through hard surfaces like ice and hard-pack snow. The Stealth Shovel went on to win the 2016 ISPO Brand New Hardware Award. (ISPO is a sporting goods agency.)

    DMOS out-performed its funding goals on its original Kickstarter campaign for the Stealth Shovel and received rave reviews from media outlets such as ESPN, Outside Online, and Freeskier Magazine.

    Using customer feedback to build the latest products, DMOS returns to the Kickstarter platform for further dialogue with the company's most supportive consumers. Founder and CEO, Susan Pieper said:

    The response to the original Stealth Shovel Kickstarter campaign was stellar; fans loved it and called for more. We listened and are very excited to return to Kickstarter with the Alpha Shovel and its accompanying accessories. Backers and early adopters demanded a shovel with a larger blade be added to the assortment, but it had to be as indestructible, well-designed and portable as the Stealth Shovel. We built the Alpha Shovel to be the top shovel of the pack...

    The Alpha Shovel campaign will enable DMOS to secure funding to complete production of the Alpha Shovel. The company will also offer add-on accessories of the saw and the T-grip as rewards for its Kickstarter backers.


    Briggs & Stratton industry showcase

    Generators for DIY enthusiasts

    Other products include the Vanguard oil system, Mow N' Stow engine and high pressure washers

    This year's Green Industry and Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), the outdoor power equipment industry's largest gathering in Kentucky (USA), provided a showcase for Briggs & Stratton. Dealers and retailers had the opportunity to see and test out the latest products.

    The 8,0002-Watt Elite Series[tm] Portable Generator with StatStation Wireless Bluetooth allows homeowners to monitor the generator from a smart device. They will be able to see the remaining fuel levels or capacity of the generator at a glance. The app also provides maintenance reminders and a store locator.

    The Vanguard[tm] brand launched Vanguard Oil, a 100% synthetic 15W-50 small engine oil designed for demanding commercial engine applications. Vanguard Oil is ideal for commercial-focused turf-cutters who push their small engines to the limits.

    Vanguard's Oil Guard System allows for 500 hours between oil changes. The system continuously exchanges oil between the engine and a large remote oil reservoir external to the engine. It protects the engine oil from thermal breakdown, extending maintenance intervals and producing a cooler running engine.

    The Mow N' Stow(r) + Just Check & Add[tm] walk mower engine combines two of Briggs & Stratton's most recent innovations. The engine never needs an oil change; owners need only check oil levels and add when necessary. This mower can be folded and stored upright even with gas and oil in the tanks, taking up 70% less space in the garage.

    EASYflex[tm] high-pressure washer hoses are designed to make pressure washer set-up and storage more manageable. At 30-feet long and more flexible than a standard pressure washer hose, it helps improve the pressure-washing experience.

    The Briggs & Stratton Protection Pack for pressure washer maintenance includes the exclusive pump saver formula to protect piston and seals from damage; O-ring replacement kit; and advanced formula fuel treatment and stabiliser to help prevent damage caused by ethanol.

    The third pressure washer innovation introduced at the expo is a rotating surface cleaner with detergent tank, which allows users to clean large outdoor areas such as driveways and decks. It comes in a 16-inch size designed for gas-model pressure washers and a 14-inch size for electric pressure washers. Both come with an integrated detergent tank.


    Upgraded surveillance system

    Wireless solution

    User-friendly with full High Definition 1080P digital encrypted video and audio

    Uniden has refreshed its Guardian digital wireless surveillance system range with the introduction of the G37xx series.

    The new DIY security systems offer homeowners greater flexibility and a host of practical, advanced features. The new models -- the G3720 and G3710 -- each include a seven-inch touchscreen tablet and weatherproof cameras (two and one, respectively).

    The range can be expanded to include up to four weatherproof cameras. In addition, the ability to install cameras where cables cannot reach means users can change the camera configuration quickly and easily as required.

    Suitable for monitoring the interiors and exteriors of residential properties, the G37xx series cameras communicate wirelessly via the touchscreen tablet. This can also connect to the internet for remote access from a smartphone.

    The touchscreen tablet has full High Definition (HD) 1080p resolution for clear picture quality, allowing homeowners to clearly see details such as registration plates and facial features that are critical in the event of an incident.

    Unique to the market is the introduction of an optional motion detection spotlight with a weatherproof outdoor camera. Enhancing night vision further, this deters unwelcome visitors by casting a bright light when movement is detected. Additional features include an infrared LED with infrared cut filter for true representation of daytime colour, HD picture quality and PentaZoom 2x digital zoom-in on live videos.

    Remote access via an iOS/Android app means homeowners can log on from anywhere to watch and record footage live as well as switch the optional spotlight on to deter intruders. The app also sends push notifications and email alerts whenever the system detects movement.

    Secure, digital and interference-free transmission can provide peace of mind while a two-way talk function offers interactive opportunities. The Guardian wireless surveillance series offers a plug-and-play set-up and can be ready to use within minutes.


    Smart yard systems

    Blossom and Rachio go after similar markets

    Smart controllers appear to have a bright future especially in drought-stricken areas

    David Witting lives in Southern California and was enjoying July 4th fireworks with a few friends on his backyard deck when, suddenly, his garden sprinklers went off. He said:

    I didn't have to rush into my garage with a flashlight to find the controller. I just pulled out my phone and turned them off in a second. It was pretty cool.

    This is what the "smart yard" is about.

    Mr Witting's irrigation system can be adjusted from an app on his iPhone that connects to the controller in his garage. Through his home WiFi, the controller also pulls satellite and local weather data from the internet. It automatically turns off his sprinklers when it rains.

    Mr Witting lives in a place where drought continues and water supplies are shrinking, where his tech-friendly systems could be crucial to conserving enough water for a growing population.

    His system is designed and manufactured by US-based Blossom, and is one of the latest inventions in the fast-expanding market of home automation.

    Manrique Brenes, Blossom chief executive and co-founder, holds 14 patents covering home networking and industrial Ethernet applications. He has worked with Blossom co-founder Kaido Kert at Skype and Microsoft. Mr Brenes said:

    Traditional irrigation controllers are just timers. They go off on a given schedule. But plants consume water as a function of the weather. As it gets cooler, they need less. And if it rains your sprinklers should turn off. What we do is 'smart watering'.

    With real-time weather data accessed through the cloud, watering in each section of a yard can be tailored to layout and vegetation.

    The two colleagues began shipping Blossom's first product, a 12-zone controller, in March 2015 after raising money through investors and a Kickstarter campaign.

    The 12-zone model is sold at selected Home Depots, Best Buys and online.

    A smaller, more modest version, Blossom 8, which covers up to eight zones, launched in June. It is offered on Blossom's website and on, with a broader rollout planned over the next two months.

    In California, where water is often priced in tiers with the higher tiers costing more, Blossom can lower homeowner bills by as much as 30%, the company estimates. The controllers connect to existing wiring, valves and sprinklers. Most users say installation is easy, taking less than half an hour.

    From the start, however, Blossom has faced competition. A Denver-based start-up, Rachio, sells a 16-zone smart water controller. It can work with other smart-home systems such as the Nest Protect smoke alarm, turning on sprinklers when smoke is detected.

    Rachio's 16-zone device is more expensive as well as larger than Blossom's 12-zone controller. And it garners superior reviews on Amazon: 4.5 stars out of a possible 5, as compared to Blossom's 3 stars. Recently, Rachio launched an 8-zone version that has also garnered 4.5 stars. Mr Brenes said:

    Much of our development has focused on our cloud-based infrastructure and we have returned to enhancing our Blossom App with new features.

    And Blossom's ambitions aim well beyond selling individual units to homeowners. Its founders are in talks to partner with Scotts Miracle-Gro that released a "connected yard" platform and a mobile app called "Gro" at the SXSW interactive festival this year. GRO app's information on individual plants, their geography, planting and fertiliser schedules could be integrated with Blossom's watering system.

    This video shows how Blossom works:

    Link to YouTube video


    The smart home moves outside - HNN Smart sprinkler controller at Lowe's - HNN

    Easiest-to-use ladder system

    Made to withstand extreme weather conditions

    Rhino-Rack's Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack is suitable for smaller trades vehicles

    Transporting ladders for tradies can be fiddly, especially if they are not operating a van. With that in mind, Rhino-Rack has designed the Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack.

    Most ladder racks are up to 3-metres long, and in their original form are only really useful on vans. The Rhino-Rack Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack is shorter, and can be used for smaller vehicles including single and dual cab utes.

    At 1.5-metres, the Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack can still carry long ladders, and has similar features that Rhino-Rack's other ladder racks do. This includes side rails that prevent lateral movement, as well as a rear strap, which reduces excess rope and straps. This means users only need the one strap to secure the ladder to the rack.

    The ladder rack system is fully OH&S compliant and has been rigorously crash-tested to ensure that the product is as tough as it gets. It is also constructed from anti-corrosive materials. The system is compatible with any ute with a canopy via Rhino-Rack's range of vortex and/or heavy duty bars (sold separately).


    A revolution in pest control

    Stay-Away product line from Earthkind

    Creating safe alternatives to the traditional pest control products that contain poisons

    Kari Warberg Block is the founder and CEO of Earthkind, a USD40 million dollar natural pest control company.

    Earthkind was created in 2007 out of a necessity for natural and eco-friendly products to prevent pests. Nighty-eight per cent of the products in the pest control industry contained poisons to get rid of rodents and the other 2% were sticky tape paper and traps.

    She could not find a single company that sold chemical free pest and rodent deterrent products. Worried about using poisons around her pets and children she looked into to finding out how she could get rid of pests and rodents naturally.

    Her idea for a pest deterrent product came from an incident that happened many years prior when she was on a date with her then-fiance. She had sat down and a mouse scurried up her leg. At the time Warberg Block was selling cosmetics and perfumes; she instinctively grabbed a bottle from her purse and sprayed around her thinking the smell would drive the mice away. It worked.

    Warberg Block also lived on a farm and everyone kept telling her that rodents were just part of farm life. Knowing that pests were a problem that all farmers dealt with she began researching the farming and pest control industries.

    One of the products Earthkind offers is Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent that repels mice. It can used be used in caravans, houses, barns, boats, garages and anywhere else that mice like to frequent. The Stay Away Pest Repellent line offers several different products to repel mice, beetles, moths, spiders, ants and rats.

    Earthkind had the first pest control product to meet the gold standard set by the EPA (Environmental Protective Agency). Its Stay Away product won best new product of the year in 2015.

    There has been an annual 2% growth for eco-friendly products in the pest control industry, but Earthkind's products have been so effective that the company has seen a growth of 85%.

    And the company's success has not been without some challenges. Earthkind is up against big competitors and many stores did not want to give them shelf space without having proof that they would make the store money.

    Lowe's was the first retailer to accept them because selling a safe rodent deterrent product was the right thing to do. Currently, Earthkind products can be found in ACE Hardware stores, Tractor Supply, Menard's, Target (US), and John Deere.

    The company is based in the United States and sources the materials for its products from small farms that are also located around the United States.


    Trade MX has your measure

    A tape measure is a tradie's best friend

    Lufkin's Trade MX could be the ideal companion and the hero of any tool belt

    Ergonomically designed to fit the contour of a hand, the Trade MX tape measure from Lufkin feels like an extension of the body. Specialised construction of the internal components means that the compact body of the Trade MX can fit snuggly in the palm of a hand.

    Gone are the days of wrestling a rusted old tape measure that jams more than it doesn't. A co-moulded grip and top lock button make for easy operation.

    A four-rivet end hook for superior strength will lock onto the slipperiest edges, while a clear coated blade will make sure the tape lives a long and productive life. The Trade MX's case is even built from rugged ABS plastic for improved impact resistance.

    Designed and made in Australia, every Lufkin tape measure is individually tested to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. The Trade MX is the reliable, tough sidekick tradies want when they are on the job.


    Painter's tape easier to tear

    ScotchBlue PLATINUM Painter's Tape

    3M is known for continuously innovating to meet the changing needs of the paint category

    3M Company has introduced the first poly-backed indoor masking tape that tears by hand at a 90-degree angle. ScotchBlue PLATINUM[tm] Painter's Tape enables painters to mask surfaces quicker and easier with just one pull - compared to other 3M paper-backed masking tapes. Mark Hodgins, global business manager -construction and home improvement markets division, said:

    We developed the new ScotchBlue PLATINUM Painter's Tape as the premium solution to challenges with paper tapes related to masking corners and curves, tape slivering upon removal, and paint seepage...

    This interior tape is the only one of its kind to use an advanced polyethylene backing with micro-replication technology. This poly material provides enhanced durability, making it possible for the tape to be removed in one piece without tearing or slivering and helping to prevent paint bleed - compared to other 3M paper-backed masking tapes. 3M's micro-replication technology allows for a straight 90-degree hand tear.

    ScotchBlue PLATINUM Painter's Tape is easy to apply and readjust. The 90-degree tear allows painters to mask corners with more accuracy than when using paper tapes. It is recommended for use on baseboards, trim, metal and glass. It is UV-resistant and compatible with zero-VOC paints in normal conditions. (A humidity level of below 50% is recommended for the ideal tape performance).


    Benefits of Structural Insulated Panels

    Cost-effective and environmentally friendly

    Designed for residential and lighter forms of commercial construction

    The Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) is a high performance composite material defined by the US-based Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) as consisting of "an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically oriented strand board (OSB)".

    SIPs are becoming a go-to option by a growing number of Australian architects and builders as it boasts to be a quicker and smarter method of construction.

    Unsurprisingly, the popularity of SIPs is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia because the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry has so far been fixated on more traditional construction methodologies. However, Bondor Australia - manufacturers of insulated composite roof and wall products such as the Insulliving building systems - believes the shift in the market is becoming more obvious. Bondor's national product manager for Insulliving and Solarspan, Paul Adams, recently told Architecture and Design:

    Our local rising energy costs, trade shortages and labour costs are now driving demand from the general public. [People are] seeking these alternative build methods to achieve for themselves a superior building environment that is more economical to construct and run, sustainable and comfortable to occupy.

    Central Queensland's first Eco Cool Home is made from Bondor Insulliving wall panels and a Solar Span roof. The display home has already achieved a 9.1 star rating, attained up to a C2 cyclone rating, with a constant temperature expected to be maintained within the home once completed. Lock-up times are expected to be between two to three weeks, according to Troy and Greta Tenheggeler from Tenheggeler Homes who are building the Eco Cool Home. It should be completed in August 2016.

    At the heart of SIPs' main benefits is a simplification of construction and. As Mr Adams points out, SIP construction effectively removes the "numerous layers of building materials that have been introduced over the years in an attempt to satisfy necessary building compliance, such as thermal or fire performance".

    In the real world, this translates to an ability to more easily resolve design issues despite being subjected to tight budget constraints. For instance, with insulation already integrated into the structure, less money will need to be spent on additional insulation products.

    Western Australian architect Andrew T Boyne, who used SIP panels for all the walls, floors and roof of the completed Augusta Beach House, said the use of SIPs helped him "create a building that was built of insulating foam like a huge esky".

    An exercise in lightweight construction, The Augusta Beach House utilises SIPS panels as the structure for walls, floor and roof. SIP panels, according to Mr Boyne, ensure that the structure is very rigid, has great insulating properties and is easy to transport and install.

    Contributing to this green badge is the use of fewer joints in SIPs, which means a tighter building assembly. A study by the largest US Department of Energy, Science and Energy laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, found that a SIP-constructed home was considerably more airtight than a wood-framed and fiberglass-insulated room when subjected to identical climate conditions and a blower door test. Mr Adams adds:

    Composite insulated steel products address deficiencies in energy efficiency by creating a continuous thermal barrier around the home. This reduces heating and cooling loss caused by air leakage and thermal transfer resulting in up to a 40% reduction in energy costs for the home owner.

    Since SIPs are pre-engineered, any waste produced during manufacture is minimised. Being produced in a controlled environment also cuts down on delays associated with weather changes that may be more common for traditionally constructed projects.


    X-Beam combination ratcheting wrenches

    Ergonomic design with 500% more surface area

    Flex-head designs can be ideal for hard to reach angles but sometimes "simpler is better"

    The average wrench features a squared middle and this can cause discomfort when working for extended periods of time. However the GearWrench 12-piece Extra Large X-Beam[tm] Combination Ratcheting Wrench Set has been developed to be a useful tool for fittings and fastenings, thanks to a 500% increase to surface area and 90-degree rotated wrench shaft.

    During use, these wrenches will rest flat on the palm of a user's hand while they rotate. This increases comfort and productive distribution of force. When coupled with an increased area size, they are left with a wrench that can do the job faster and more efficiently.

    In addition, the GearWrench XL X-Beam Combination Ratcheting Wrench Set has wrenches from 8mm to 19mm in length, with an overall reach that is up to 25% longer than average.

    Each ratcheting wrench is of a one-piece forged beam design with no twisting metal or weak spots. This ensures heightened levels of durability and strength for a longer product lifespan, as well as simplicity of use.

    In terms of functionality, each ratchet has the added benefit of a Surface Drive(r) on the box end, providing off-corner loading for better grip and reduced fastener rounding no matter the job. It can make slippage a thing of the past.

    This wrench set metric is designed to cover each and every base whilst working, with more user grip and less fatigue.


    DeWalt launches FlexVolt: 20V to 120V tools

    Batteries adapt to needs

    DeWalt may have closed the final gap between corded and cordless tools

    In a very clever and commanding move, Stanley Black & Decker's DeWalt professional power tools division has launched a range of high-powered tools and accessories.

    After "teasing" the market for over a month, on 21 June 2016 DeWalt finally released details of the new product it has been developing.

    Named "FlexVolt", the new product range is based on some unique battery technology. The FlexVolt batteries have a nominal voltage rating of 60-volt (maximum) or in the Australian market, a non-maximum rating of 54-volt. However, these batteries remain compatible with DeWalt's XR range of 20-volt maximum, 18-volt non-maximum power tools. Additionally, DeWalt is also producing some cordless power tools operating at 120-volt - the standard US household current - that combine two of the 60-volt batteries.

    >}The battery idea}

    Amazon is currently selling the batteries for USD199 for a two-pack of six amp-hour batteries.

    DeWalt is also selling a mains current adapter. This enables users to directly connect their FlexVolt cordless tool to household current, moderating concerns about running out of power on some tasks.

    DeWalt has also thought about the problem of air travel. Lithium-ion batteries about a certain wattage are not permitted on flights, as there is a potential they could catch fire. To get around this problem, DeWalt provides an air travel adapter that effectively makes the battery function like three smaller batteries tied together.

    Voltage switching is automatic between tools. Based on DeWalt's promotional video, the technology works by using three rows of batteries. When plugged into a 60-bolt tool, these connect in series. When plugged into a 20-volt tool, they work in parallel. The result is the high-power of a 60-volt tool, or what DeWalt claims as four times the runtime (per amp-hour) on a 20-volt tool.

    The FlexVolt range also includes what DeWalt is calling "high-efficiency" accessories, which it says are designed specifically to increase the runtime on cordless tools. These include circular saw blades, reciprocating saw blades, and disks for grinders.

    The tools

    DeWalt has announced two 120-volt tools and five 60-volt tools. In addition, it has announced plans to release three items of outdoor power equipment (OPE).

    The 120-volt tools are a fixed blade mitre saw, and a sliding mitre saw. The 60-volt tools are a circular saw, a table saw, a reciprocating saw, a grinder, and a stud/joist drill. The OPE range is expected to include a line trimmer, a blower and a chainsaw.

    Circular saw DCS575T2

    This saw has a 7-quarter inch full size blade, with an electronic brake that stops the blade after the trigger is released. This unit also has an LED light that provides clear sight to the cutline. DeWalt claims it can cut up to 339 cuts per charge in a 2x4 using a flexible battery.

    >}DeWalt DCS575T2 saw}

    DeWalt DHS790AB double bevel compound sliding mitre saw

    Designed for cutting wood, this 120-volt mitre saw is capable of 310 cross cuts in baseboard moulding, according to DeWalt. Tall sliding fences support crown moulding up to 185mm nested and base moulding up to 175mm vertically against the fence. The tool weighs 25kgs.

    >}DeWalt double bevel compound mitre saw}

    DeWalt DCS7485B table saw

    This table saw provides 600mm of rip capacity for ripping 4x8 plywood. Rack and pinion telescoping fence rails make fence adjustments smooth and accurate, with tool free adjustment of the guarding. Table coating reduces friction for smoother cutting. Adjustable rear feet are designed to level the saw on uneven work surfaces.

    >}DeWalt FlexVolt table saw}

    DeWalt DCS388T1 Reciprocating Saw

    The saw has a keyless lever-action blade clamp, and a variable speed trigger. DeWalt claims it can cut up to 158 cuts per charge in a 2x4.

    >}DeWalt FlexVolt reciprocating saw}

    Details on the other tools in the DeWalt line-up are a little hard to find just now, but HNN will keep you posted with more news as it becomes available.


    This is really a very good marketing move by Stanley Black & Decker. The need for more powerful tools, and hence a second battery system, has been growing over the past two to three years as cordless increasingly becomes the default, and having to make arrangements for corded tools somewhat annoying.

    DeWalt has managed to crack the primary problem with that: how do you introduce more powerful batteries without requiring clients to purchase an entire, second system of battery infrastructure? Using one battery that provides the extra power required, but remains compatible with the standard DeWalt tools, is very good.

    More than anything, though, this move has created a strong reason for businesses at the heavy end of building and construction to either stay with the DeWalt system they are already using, or even switch to it, either wholly or partially.

    Both Techtronic Industries (TTI) with its Milwaukee brand, and Bosch with its professional "Blue" brand, had begun to make inroads on that market through their adaptations of mobile phone technology, converting tools into part of the Internet of Things.

    That technology gap still exists, and Stanley Black & Decker will need to address it in some way in the near future. However, at the very least, this move provides the company with more time, and secures its credentials as being at the forefront of tool development.


    Fibre cement technology

    Suitable for backyard decks

    The durability of fibre cement can also appeal to prospective buyers when it comes time to sell a house

    A technology once used exclusively for home siding is making its way to backyard decks. It can eliminate costly repairs associated with water damage, fading deck colour, wood rot, wood-boring insects and board gaps.

    Water, humidity, pollen and sun exposure can leave an outdoor retreat looking faded and dingy after just one season. This can turn having backyard deck into a maintenance nightmare for homeowners. In response, many US homebuilders are turning to fibre cement decking by Allura.

    Fibre cement stands up to weather conditions in all climates, it does not rot and wood-boring insects are never an issue. The product is flame resistant, cooler on feet and unlike real wood, doesn't fade, peel or chip. Tom Taylor, Allura's director of customer relations said:

    The only time you have to repaint or stain fibre cement is if you want to change the colour. Allura decking looks like wood, but with none of the hassles. Fibre cement is changing everything we previously came to accept about backyard decks. It's an affordable choice for transforming a landscape.

    Restoring home imperfections

    All-purpose wood filler

    DAP plastic wood technology optimises strength and performance for DIY projects

    DAP(r) PLASTIC WOOD(r) All Purpose Wood Filler can help rejuvenate wood surfaces to make them look new again. And now, DAP PLASTIC WOOD-X makes the application process simpler with the patented DryDex(r) Dry Time Indicator. It has a unique formula which goes on pink and dries natural, letting users know when it's time to sand and stain.

    Both products feature a latex-based formula that is easy to clean up with water, low in odour and looks and acts like real wood.

    The All Purpose Wood Filler is engineered to dry with minimal shrinking and no cracking to provide a permanent solution for professionals and DIYers who want to repair interior and exterior wood surfaces. Its thick, knife-grade consistency spreads smoothly and evenly, which is ideal for vertical surfaces or to mould and sculpt corners.

    Once cured, the wood filler is three times stronger than most other products on the market and provides strong nail and screw anchoring capabilities. While other wood filler products appear speckled or discoloured, Plastic Wood All Purpose dries a consistent natural colour to maintain a blemish-free appearance that can blend well with real wood when stained or painted.

    It is also available in squeeze tubes and comes in multiple wood shades, including natural, golden oak, red oak, walnut and white. Kate Piche, group product director at DAP said:

    Using DAP PLASTIC WOOD All Purpose to easily repair unsightly holes, scratches and gouges in wood surfaces can give your home a refreshed look. It is the perfect solution for repairing imperfections in wood trim, floors, furniture, cabinetry, doors and more.

    DAP has made wood repair application process easier by adding its patented DryDex dry time indicator to the performance of PLASTIC WOOD - creating PLASTIC WOOD-X. Working in the same way as the All Purpose Wood Filler, PLASTIC WOOD-X goes on pink and dries natural so there's no guesswork when it's time to sand and stain. It can create an invisible repair.


    USA summer of tools

    DeWalt, Lowe's and Milwaukee releases

    As the days grow longer, tools just seem that little bit more beautiful

    If in the northern hemisphere spring a young man's thoughts turn lightly to love, by the time June rolls around the thoughts of building and construction crews have largely turned to three almost unanswerable questions:

  • Is it level?
  • Seriously, the guy who drew this thinks he's an architect?
  • And - especially for those just a bit older - how bad is doing this now going to hurt tomorrow?
  • Fortunately, there is relief at hand to these difficult questions, and it comes in one of the best forms imaginable: new tools.

    Well, "new" may be pushing it just a little, as some of the tools that get highlighted have been released a couple of months before, and some of then have been "pre-released" to the media, but they are certainly new to the people putting down some hard-earned money at a local hardware store, ready to invest in a new set of tools now that the work book is starting to fill up with new jobs.

    This year Stanley Black & Decker's top brand DeWalt has surprised us with some new specialty cordless power tools, the Lowe's home brand Kobalt has finally released the 24-volt tools it promised a few months ago, and Milwaukee is keen to remind us of the tools it has built, and the tools yet to come, including their promised 9 amp-hour 18-volt cordless tool battery.

    The buying decision

    Looking over the tools that are available, HNN would suggest there is something of a difference between this year and the past several years. Every professional/tradie buyer has a kind of imaginary meter in their heads: on one end of the scale is "Me like, me want to buy", and on the other end of the scale is "Could make a difference".

    That "could make a difference" reading is important to independent craftsmen and contractors. It can be the tool that saves that one crucial hour which means that the job gets finished, instead of having to come back the next day as well, or that saves a few percentage points on costs, or is simply safer, faster and gives a better finished result. It can be the difference between making a decent margin on a job, or keeping a key customer happy.

    This year there are quite a few tools that fall into the "difference" category. They do that by pushing the boundaries of what is expected just that one notch further. Rather than optional, nice to have if you have the money tools, they are what HNN is calling "the new essentials".

    DeWalt ramps up

    The big news coming out of DeWalt is something that hasn't happened just yet: the release of a "mystery technology" which it hinted at a month ago in its most recent results release.

    The hint has become a little more defined now, with DeWalt launching a landing page on the web that further teases the product with the brand statement "A Power Shift is Coming". Speculation is rife in the power tool community, and ranges from everything from a line of 24-volt tools to a more efficient battery technology.

    DeWalt promises that we will know all on 21 June 2016 in the US, which will be 22 June 2016 in Australia. HNN will keep you updated. Meanwhile, you can check out the tease at this URL:

    World's First at DeWalt

    20V Max threaded rod cutter

    Designed to easily cut through mild steel rods up to 13mm, and stainless steel rods up to 10mm, the DeWalt DCE350 will likely find acceptance with electricians, mechanics and plumbers currently using corded tools. It uses a four-sided rotatable cutting die, enabling the user to choose the right-sized die for each cutting task. Its design helps to cut down on chips and sparks in the cutting process.

    >}DeWalt DCE350}

    20V Max U-Type Died Crimper

    This is an interesting tool, as it is part of DeWalt's foray into more connected tools. The DCE300 has what DeWalt is calling its "Crimp Connect System". This system will record details of the date/time of a crimp, the force employed, and the total number of crimp cycles the tool has performed.

    While details remain incomplete, it would seem this data can be downloaded from the tool using a USB connector, possibly to custom software. A control panel on the top of the tool shows battery information and service requirements.

    The crimper can deliver up to 118 kilonewtons (12-ton) of crimping force. It features a head that can pivot through 270 degrees, and is designed for one-handed operation.

    >}DeWalt Died Crimper}

    20V Max Dieless Crimper

    The DeWalt DCE350 is very similar to the DCE300, except that it is dieless, of course. It features the same Crimp Connect System, and a similar control panel. It uses a four-pusher design and the head rotates through the full 360 degrees.

    >}DeWalt Dieless Crimper}

    20V Max Press Tool

    This tool can press pipe fittings from 12mm to 100mm in both copper and stainless steel. It also has the Crimp Connect System, and a control panel. The Dewalt DCE200 has a head that can rotate through 320 degrees, and is compatible with a wide range of crimping heads and attachments.

    >}DeWalt Press Tool}

    20V Max Cable Cutter

    No images of this tool are yet available. The DeWalt DCE150 can cut a wide range of cables, and features a hardened steel cutting blade.

    Lowe's Kobalt 24-volt tools

    While HNN has already previewed these, based on pre-release media coverage from the US, these tools are now selling in Lowe's, and user reviews give us a better perspective on them. One surprise is that Lowe's is already offering discounts on some of its 24-volt tools, cutting prices by around 15%.

    The average review rating on the tools ranges from four to five stars, which isn't unusual on the launch of a tool, as it is typically enthusiasts who buy them first. We're just going to look at three of the most significant tools: the circular saw, drill and impact driver.

    24V Max Circular Saw

    Reviews of the saw are particularly enthusiastic, with an overall five-star rating. Many users praise its extra power and depth of cut (it's a 6.5 inch saw, but has the cutting capacity of a regular 7.25 inch saw). For many it is evident this is the first cordless saw that actually makes sense, and helps them to do tough jobs such as cutting 4x4 fence post flush, with ease.

    Bare tool, USD129.

    >}Kobalt 24V Max Circular Saw}

    24V Max Cordless Drill

    As with the saw, this drill received a five-star rating. While users universally praised its power, a few also commented on its increased weight. At the same time most felt that it was a well-balanced tool, that felt good to use. Some mentioned a lack of small touches, such as their being no magnetic bit holder.

    With 2.0 amp-hour battery, charger and soft case, USD149.

    >}Kobalt 24V Max Cordless Drill}

    24V Max Cordless Variable Speed Impact Driver

    Two features of this Kobalt impact driver received a great deal of comment. The first was that it seems to users to be no heavier than standard 20V max impact drivers. The second was a real appreciation for the drivers "finish" feature. Pressing a button (which then illuminates) makes the driver use the hammer for only the first second of operation. This means the user can "pulse" the trigger, and hopefully get a better set to a screw, as well as limiting over-torque, which could snap the screw head.

    With 2.0 amp-hour battery, charter and a soft carry case, USD149.

    >}Kobalt 24V Max Impact Driver}


    Most of Milwaukee's most interesting innovations have to do with its One-Key system, which brings Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to power tools.

    This was the highlight of its annual (northern) summer promotional event, the New Product Symposium. However, there were plenty of coming innovations alongside that to keep most tool buyers interested. One of the most significant is the coming release of Milwaukee's 9 amp-hour battery. Promised for close to a year, Milwaukee says its release is now imminent.

    For the Milwaukee 12-volt range, the company is releasing a larger battery as well, increasing it from the current 3 amp-hour to a 6 amp-hour unit.

    Milwaukee is also at the start of making a major play in outdoor power equipment (OPE), using the same 18-volt batteries used in its cordless tools. This line of equipment is set to be launched in January 2017.

    Milwaukee heavily promoted its One-Key tool tracking feature, which seems to be evolving in terms of interface. As this system relies on an internal battery inside the tool, it is difficult to defeat - those batteries last for as long as 18 months. According to the company, something like 1000 tools that were lost or stolen have now been found again by using One-Key.

    One-Key has also added a lock-out feature, which makes it easy to remotely shut down a tool so that it won't work until its owner unlocks it.

    In terms of new tools in the One-Key line, the star is currently the M18 Fuel Sawzall. Here the One-Key system can provide a vital service. By altering the way the saw performs based on the type of material being cut, blade life can be considerably enhanced, and cutting tasks can be achieved both more easily and safely.

    >}Milwaukee M18 Fuel Sawzall with One-Key}


    The patterns that we have seen in tool development in the recent past have largely been about design convergence. Most cordless power tool manufacturers have been keen to match the offering of their competitors, and possibly squeeze out a slight advantage by offering just that little bit more.

    This year, each of these major manufacturers have largely gone their own way. We could interpret DeWalt's push into its downloadable data tools as being a "catch-up" effort in the face of Milwaukee's One-Key system. There may be an element of that, but these tools are also more likely to appeal to smaller contractors who are less concerned about connectivity, and don't find downloading data to be a bad thing to do.

    The Kobalt 24-volt tools represents a brilliant move by Lowe's. It has identified a particular strong slice of the market, which is those professionals/tradies who are unwilling to entirely let go of their corded tools as they don't like to compromise on power.

    These tools are, according to the initial reviews, well-designed, and deliver on the power promise. Lowe's also promises they will have long lives, due to using less-stressed systems, and time will prove whether this bears out. If it does, then Lowe's may be on its way to establishing a "must have" set of tools for specific contractors involved in areas such as fencing and framing.

    Milwaukee has done amazing things with its technological development of its One-Key tools. While the features it currently offers are very attractive to owners of large fleets of tools, it will be interesting to see how well the company "gears down" these capabilities so that smaller contractors and even individuals are interested in them as well.

    The One-Key Sawzall is one clear step in that direction. Being able to offer a high degree of fine control, as well as "remembered" settings for different situations would be enough to make heavy users of these tools take a second look at the Milwaukee system.

    The story of tool development over the next two years will be one of understanding how to bring more technology to specific markets, in such a way that its uptake is high enough to pave the way for yet more technology. Each of these companies has selected a specific path, and it is going to be interesting to see how these strategic choices play out.


    Troy-Bilt adds to FLEX line

    First-of-its-kind yard care system

    It helped to change the way homeowners bought and used outdoor power equipment

    Three new attachments have been added to Troy-Bilt's FLEX range, a customisable yard care system that was introduced last year. The system revolves around one engine that can accept multiple attachments.

    The FLEX Dethatcher, Plug Aerator and Water Pump now join the original attachments, the FLEX Wide-Area Mower, Leaf Blower, Snow Thrower and Pressure Washer. In the US, they are exclusively stocked at Lowe's stores.

    The FLEX system has been honoured by the Edison Awards with a gold award in the Home Tools & Maintenance category. Originally established in 1987, the Edison Awards have recognised excellence in new product and service development, marketing, design and innovation.


    The FLEX Dethatcher covers more ground in fewer passes, combing grass with 7.5-inch, zinc-coated, double-torsion spring tines. It offers six different height settings to ensure quality performance through all types of grass.

    Plug Aerator

    The FLEX Plug Aerator has a 28-inch operating width engaging sixteen, 12-gauge galvanised steel plug spoons that manually rotate to extract soil plugs as deep as two inches. The integrated weight trays accommodate several weight sources commonly found around the home - like cinder blocks or paver bricks - which will help dig even deeper.

    Water Pump

    The FLEX Water Pump has a 120gpm (gallons per minute) max water flow rate and a 20-foot reinforced suction hose designed to supply water to the pump in all appropriate pumping applications. The water surge is subsequently discharged through a 25-foot flat discharge hose, with up to 80-foot total lift and 20-foot suction lift. It can work in a variety of positions, high and low.

    Additionally, this water pump comes with all pieces and parts, including hoses, all couplings and integrated storage to keep everything in one place - so it's ready to go wherever and whenever it's needed.


    Modular yard care system - HNN

    Digital tools for renos

    Simplifying home improvement projects

    The ToolSmart range of is being sold at Lowe's Home Improvement stores in the US

    General Tools' ToolSmart[tm] line includes a free Android or iOS mobile app that uses Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technology to wirelessly connect to four handheld measuring and inspecting tools. Data from each device is instantly transmitted to the app, which automatically stores and catalogues the information and determines the materials and tools necessary to complete the project.

    The ToolSmart product range includes a laser distance measurer with a range of 100 feet; a video inspection camera with a pencil-thin camera-tipped probe that can capture videos and photos; a digital multimeter for measuring voltage, current, resistance and surface temperature; and a digital angle finder with a range of 225 degrees. Greg Bonsib, vice president of marketing at General Tools said:

    General Tools is excited to be teaming with Lowe's to help tradesmen, DIYers and craftsmen work smarter, measure better and be more productive.

    The design of the ToolSmart app eliminates the need to jot down readings on scraps of paper that often get lost in cluttered project areas. In addition, the precision of the ToolSmart devices combines with the app's capability to store and integrate data. This combination can also generate a list of materials and tools to minimise human error. Product manager, Andrew Micallef said:

    Working in concert, the ToolSmart app and devices provide precise support for even the most intricate and complex building, remodelling, woodworking or inspection projects.

    Founded in 1922 as General Hardware Manufacturing, General Tools has over 1,200 products including specific-purpose mechanical hand tools as well as precision measuring and inspection tools.


    Mow in your own way

    Cub Cadet LX42 mower is new to the market

    The company claims the engineering has surpassed "functional" to being something more

    The LX42 ride-on mower from Cub Cadet features a tighter turning circle, which enables the user to better manoeuvre in cramped areas and around common outdoor obstacles such as trees, fence posts and flowerbeds. This reduces the need for unnecessary laps of the garden and saves the rider time and fuel.

    As a standard, the LX42 is fitted with premium Multi-Trac[tm] tyres - with a uniquely designed tread to minimise slippage and spinning, even on wet grass. The tread directs power straight into the ground for less turfing, precise manoeuvring, and better results for lawns. Each ride proves to be smooth and efficient when partnered with a 22hp Kohler 7000 Series V-Twin OHV, and the hydrostatic drive system.

    Alongside precision handling and power, a mower must be hardy. The LX42's Corrosion Defence System is e-coated, delivering automotive-grade corrosion resistance against the elements, as well as general wear and tear. This provides users with the best-in-class protection of critical components.

    The LX42 is designed to be hassle free, allowing the operator to effortlessly change the deck height. The 107cm (42") deck lift is spring-assisted so that when the user changes the deck height, the spring applies force to the deck and takes the strain away.

    On top of convenience and accuracy, the LX42 mower has the new Cub Comfort[tm] seat, which features a 10-degree incline and slide mechanism to provide an ergonomic riding experience. This works in harmony with the smoothness of the cruise-control, and the high-back seat reduces fatigue when mowing for extended periods.

    The Cub Cadet LX42 ride-on mower is finely tuned and visually bold.


    Cutting through tough yard projects

    Troy-bilt introduces a new line

    Latest products include a string trimmer, leaf blower and hedge trimmer

    Troy-Bilt powered by CORE[tm] offers homeowners a different approach to cordless outdoor power equipment that rivals the power of gas. Products using this system include a string trimmer, leaf blower and hedge trimmer. A push walk-behind lawn mower is coming soon.

    The patented CORE motor design works together with a responsive, load-sensing controller to deliver more torque. By applying cutting-edge intelligence to basic power principles, CORE has been designed to draw power more efficiently and deliver concentrated power when and where it's needed. CORE co-inventor Lincoln Jore said:

    Real power comes from the motor -- the heart of the tool -- not the battery or the voltage as many may think. The battery simply supplies the energy, but the motor converts that energy into torque, which is what's needed to power through yardwork without slowing down.

    With more power, users experience a longer runtime, and can trim, blow and cut quickly to achieve what they want in the yard. The unique motor is smaller and lighter than copper-wound motors for easy manoeuvring. Its high efficiency leads to less heat, and less wear and tear. CORE also offers the industry's only motor backed by a limited lifetime warranty. Troy-Bilt brand manager Megan Peth said:

    Troy-Bilt has been manufacturing gas-powered outdoor power equipment for more than 75 years, so we know the types of challenges homeowners face in their yards. With this revolutionary cordless system, we're excited to offer the power and performance consumers expect from Troy-Bilt, but now without the gas.

    Using Troy-Bilt powered by CORE is simple. The proprietary CORE controller communicates with the motor to monitor how hard it's working and automatically responds when more or less power is required. By managing the flow of energy to and from the motor, the product can achieve maximum runtime.

    Additionally, the string trimmer and leaf blower are equipped with a colour-coded power display panel that tells users how much power is being used, giving more focus on the job and less on the equipment.

    All Troy-Bilt products powered by CORE units can operate on the same battery, allowing consumers to save money by purchasing just the bare tools if they already own one battery.

    All CORE tools are backed by a 5-year limited warranty. All CORE batteries and chargers are supported by a 3-year limited warranty.


    Makita replaces Maktec with MT Series

    Back to blue-green and no more orange

    New diffusion brand integrates with Makita Li-ion batteries

    Japanese-based power tool company Makita has launched a replacement for its off-brand Maktec range of power tools. The new diffusion brand, named "the Makita MT Series", signals a change of market strategy at what has been one of the world's best tool design/manufacturing companies. It is also inline with what seems to be a more general shift in the overall cordless power tool market.

    "Cordless" is a key term, as one of the major differences between Maktec and the MT series is that the latter (unlike the former) will include a range of Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery-powered tools. (Maktec did have one cordless tool, the Nickel-Cadmium battery-powered MT065SK2 drill.) Not only are they Li-ion cordless, but they also make use of standard Makita 18-volt 1.3 amp-hour batteries and chargers, showing integration into the main Makita line of tools.

    Why Maktec and MT Series makes sense

    The core idea behind Maktec - and behind the new MT Series - is a sound one. It relates both to market needs and the costs associated with the design and manufacturing of tools.

    At the end of any durable product's manufacturing run, the manufacturing company finds itself left with a number of valuable assets. There is the design itself, of course, but also the hard manufacturing assets used in production which, with the change of product, no longer have much residual worth. Added to that are the "soft" manufacturing assets.

    Typically, during manufacturing a number of lessons are learned, both in how to make a product a little better, and how to cut costs in numerous small ways, which can add up to considerable efficiencies.

    Maktec was likely initially conceived as a means of giving those assets a "second life". Power tools which had been superseded by newer and better designs, but which were still competitive against the average tools in the market, could be produced using some of the existing assets.

    Costs were cut by the reduced asset expense required, and also by shifting production from Makita's higher operating cost factories in Japan to its less expensive resources in mainland China. That worked out well, because the Japanese factories excel at the Japanese manufacturing art of continuous improvement.

    By the time manufacturing shifted to the purely cost-focused factories in China, the processes were highly refined. This resulted in an ideal blending of a higher-cost, high-development environment, and lower-cost, low-development manufacture.

    There is something in this of the Japanese concept of "shibui". On the surface is what seems a quite usual re-use of older assets. Underlying it, however, is a balancing of the strengths and weaknesses of the different resources in the company.

    The Maktec problems

    The problem Makita faced was that even when they were a couple of generations old, Makita tools were still so good that they could take market share away from Makita's newer tools - what is sometimes referred to as "cannibalisation". To help overcome this problem, Makita came up with the "Maktec" brand, which included different tool casing designs, in particular the orange colour that sharply sets these tools apart from Makita's teal tools.

    (There is also a degree of "colour play" in this choice of colours. The official Makita colour is defined under the Pantone Matching System as number 321. Reproducing that colour in red, green, blue (RGB) settings, it comes out as 0, 140, 149. So it is a close matching of green and blue, but slightly more towards blue. In the Japanese culture/language, this blue-green colour (which in English we call "teal" when it is more blue, and "aquamarine" when it is more green), is actually regarded as a primary colour, known in transliteration as "ao". So, in the Japanese language of colours, Makita has used a primary colour for its main Makita range, and a secondary, derived colour, orange, for its off-brand Maktec tools.)

    The Maktec tools, which were marketed in particular through Mitre 10, tended to confuse the market, as Makita was not always that clear about what these tools were, or how they expected them to be used. In promotional materials, Makita usually categorised the tools as being ideal for DIY and "semi-pro" uses.

    In the Australian context, the take-up of these tools for DIY use would seem to have been very low. The same would really hold true for both interpretations of "semi-pro": they weren't the tool of choice for odd-job handymen, and certainly not for the prosumer, either.

    They did have an appeal, however, for tradie/professional users who made occasional use of a certain type of tool, but not enough to justify buying the topline, most expensive model. Examples of that kind of use would include mixers, routers, and heavy-duty corded drills. Tradies liked the Maktec tools for these uses because the tools would be retained for long past their warranty, and used for the equivalent of two or three weeks a year. What they were purchasing was, in effect, long-term reliability.

    It's not surprising that one of the more popular Maktec tools was its line of corded routers. This is the kind of mechanically complex tool that Makita knows how to build as a hard-wearing, reliable unit, something that could not be said for most of the routers cost-competitive with the Maktec range.

    Makita resolves conflict

    As far as HNN has been able to determine, there seems to have remained something of a slight conflict within Makita management over what should be done with the Maktec tools. In the end the company chose to go ahead with the project, but the tools received quite limited distribution and promotion.

    These conflicts have been clearly resolved with the replacement of the Maktec brand by the Makita MT Series brand. Makita is now aligning these less-expensive tools with its main brand. The change in the name - now incorporating "Makita" - and the use of the primary Makita colour both reinforce this very different approach.

    Early indications are also that the company will be seeking wider distribution of the brand. For example, it is now available through the Hardware & Building Traders (HBT) group. The marketing approach has yet to be released, but the Makita stand at the HBT 2016 National Conference in Townsville, Queensland was strongly promoting the MT Series, and it seems likely this will be a general approach.

    What might have helped resolve the previous conflict over the Maktec brand is simply the accelerated pace of development in the power tool market. We are effectively entering, in 2016, the third stage of cordless Li-ion tool development, after the technology has been on the market for just 11 years. This contrasts with the relative stability of the previous Nickel-Cadmium (and its derivative Nickel-metal hydride) battery technologies, which evolved very slowly from their introduction in the late-1970s by Makita.

    For example, there is now a very clear differentiation between brushed and brushless power tools, with most professionals today unlikely to consider brushed motors for their daily use tools, as the advantages of brushless tools are considerable.

    One very important fact is that the MT Series cordless tools are being sold with the Makita BL1813G 1.3 amp-hour battery as standard. As long-time Makita users know, "high-drain" Makita tools are made so that they cannot use the 1.3 amp-hour batteries, requiring the 3.0 amp-hour and up batteries instead.

    What we could see happening over the next three years would be for Makita to move most if not all of its brushed tools into the Makita MT Series. This would offer a dual benefit. Not only would it establish a clear, individual brand identity for tools that were built to the same high standards as all Makita tools, but with lower-cost technology, it would also clearly define all the pure Makita branded tools as being of the highest quality.


    South-East Asian markets

    It's notable that other power tool makers have also adopted a downshift in the professional market. Most notably, Stanley Black & Decker (SBD) have begun a wider distribution of their Stanley FatMax brand, including through HBT.

    One cause for an increased interest in downscale tools is preparation for an expanding market in South-East Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, well as the Asian sub-continent. Not only are the tool manufacturers struggling with economies where much of the building is done informally and "on the cheap", they are also dealing with building professions where the move is not from corded to cordless tools, but from hand tools to cordless tools.

    The Maktec range has been used by Makita as a bridge into these markets. The front page of Makita's Vietnamese website frequently features Maktec tools. Makita's Indian site not only features Maktec tools, but also describes some models of these as designed specifically for the Indian market. It is highly likely that the introduction of the MT Series brand into these markets will boost sales considerably.

    Stanley has made some progress in these markets as well, especially in the Philippines. It does seem possible, however, that the Makita MT series may have an advantage over FatMax for the next two or three years in the less-developed markets, as its profile of high durability and ongoing repairability are a good fit.

    The Australian market

    Given this change in its marketing, and a far clearer definition of what Makita MT Series tools are, replacing the fuzzier sense of what Maktec tools were, which markets will find these tools appealing?

    One clear market will be professionals who, for a range of reasons, still need some corded tools in their kit for special uses. Another evident use would be as the "backup" tool to that one tool a tradie simply cannot do without, such as an impact driver. Instead of purchasing a cheaper brand, and thus a whole new battery system, as insurance against that day when the apprentice drops the Makita off the roof of a two storey building onto the concrete below, a builder can have a Makita-branded replacement ready, using the same battery system, without spending too much.

    Beyond those markets, HNN does also believe that the MT Series could find a decent market with a certain band of DIYers. These would be people largely involved in maintenance and repair work who, more than anything, are looking for a tool that can absorb bumps and small falls, and will last for more than six years.

    Where it is far less likely to succeed is in the field of prosumer users. These markets tend to look for advanced features. In fact, the Stanley FatMax brand is just about an ideal fit for the prosumer.

    The Australian situation

    It is possible that there is another, slightly more dire, reason why some of the power tool companies are marketing down-spec tools in the trade market. The forecasts from the Housing Industry Association and other sources indicate that both 2016/17 and 2017/18 are likely to see a mild decline in construction activity.

    At the moment the forecast would indicate a mild recovery in 2018/19. However, this is less certain than the declines over the next two years. It is just about as likely that 2018/19 will be a flat year for construction growth.

    Given that less than positive future, the tool manufacturers may be gearing up to supply tradies who are doing it tough with good-enough, less expensive tools.

    Tool company strategy

    With the introduction of the Maktia MT Series this is a good time to look at the overall strategies of the leading tool companies.

    There are surprising similarities in the strategies of Techtronic Industries (TTI) and Bosch. Both have two major lines of tools, one consumer DIY, and the other high-end trade/professional. While TTI's Milwaukee brand certainly has the technological edge at the moment with its One-Key connectivity options, indications are that Bosch is on a stretch project to catch up over the next two years.

    There are some similarities, but not as many, between the strategies of Makita and SBD. Both are offering a split range to the pro/tradie market. Bosch has a good product for prosumers, and Makita a good product for less-developed countries. SBD, let us not forget, also has a very good pure DIY offering with its Black & Decker tools, something that Makita has not developed.

    One real similarity between SBD and Makita, however, is that both companies are lagging in the Internet of Things (IoT) development of their tool systems. SBD has brought out a Bluetooth-equipped battery for both its B&D consumer range and DeWalt, but indications are that sales are slow for these products. SBD has promised a surprise hi-tech innovation for later in calendar 2016, but no details have become available as yet.

    Makita, on the other hand, has not indicated any development work in IoT product enhancements. This could, in part, reflect the fact that of the major tool companies, Makita has the lowest reliance on fleet tool sales, which is what IoT is generally aimed at.

    In terms of strategy over the next six or seven years, the difficulty HNN sees is that the endpoint of IoT development will be the integration of Hilti-like tool leasing arrangements for the major tool companies. If that does happen, Makita could find itself quite disadvantaged in the market.

    HNN has not, of course forgotten the other major power tool company, Hitachi Koki. Hitachi has made an excellent move in acquiring the German-based Metabo, but we expect the fruits of their merged technologies will not be available until mid-2017 at the earliest.

    That is something to look forward to. In fact, 2017 is set to be something of a "banner year" for tool development. We will likely see a second generation One-Key product from TTI/Milwaukee, Bosch will be launching its tools with integrated Bluetooth control, and DeWalt will be developing whatever its new innovation is.

    For retailers facing something of a "down" market in Australia, it will be particularly good news, as tool innovations will help spur demand for tools, and hopefully give revenues a good boost.