New products

Gyprock Enviro Paper Tape

ATG(r) Intelligent Glove Solutions said it has released the world's first hybrid glove, MaxiDex(r)

Manufactured in Australia from 100% recycled paper, Gyprock's Enviro Paper Tape is a more sustainable solution for setting plasterboard joints and angles, without compromising on performance.

Typically used to provide strength and to offer crack resistance in joints and corners, jointing tapes are bedded into a layer of base coat or all-purpose compound before the second coat and topping coat is applied. They are also used in conjunction with patching compounds to repair dents, cracks and holes in plasterboard walls and ceilings.

The new paper tape is high tensile strength and features a rough surface that provides better adhesion and the creation of strong joints. The Enviro Paper Tape is also perforated to prevent air bubbles forming under the tape and is designed with a crease along the centre line to provide a high-quality finish on corners and improved performance in automatic taping tools.

Featuring an ivory-coloured paper face and brown paper-back, the tape is easy to identify for correct orientation when installing. The 52mm wide tape is available in 70m and 140m rolls to suit all project sizes.

It is suitable for use on wall and ceiling joints and can be used in fire rated systems.

Enviro Paper Tape can be used with all base coat and all-purpose compounds and is recommended for all plasterboard joint and repair types. As buildings continue to have a massive impact on the environment, both in their construction and use, incorporating more sustainable solutions like the Gyprock Enviro Paper Tape can make a small but important difference.

Hybrid glove

MaxiDex from ATG Intelligent Glove Solutions is a hybrid glove that combines the best of mechanical handling gloves and disposable gloves.

MaxiDex is certified to EN ISO 374-5 VIRUS and incorporates a virucidal, ViroSan[tm], within the coating which not only protects worker's hands, but also their health. ViroSan[tm] prevents the spread of viruses which may deposit on the glove surface, and has been successfully tested against NL63, the human strain of COVID.

With all-day use in mind, MaxiDex includes AD-APT(r) cooling technology to keep hands cool, dry and productive. They are touchscreen compatible and this allows workers to conduct daily tasks without the need to remove their gloves while working, and are ultra-thin ensuring comfort and dexterity. MaxiDex can be laundered up to three times at 40°C, providing a longer life of the glove which can reduce waste and save money.

The gloves are suitable for assembly works, laboratories, janitorial, hospitals and hospitality, mechanical works, warehousing, horticulture, and aged care.

products

New product

Stratopanel is an air-purifying plasterboard

It addresses today's building requirements with a functional, aesthetic, and sustainable design. Stratopanel helps reduce waste and complex installation for builders, and helps create modern, comfortable, and cleaner indoor-air spaces.

Construction materials manufacturer Knauf Gypsum (Knauf) has released Stratopanel, a perforated plasterboard interior solution that helps to improve indoor air quality in commonly used spaces.

Stratopanel is a perforated plasterboard lining that offers acoustic performances of up to NRC 0.80, providing high-level noise absorption treatment for internal walls and ceilings. It also features CLEANEO, an air-purifying technology that utilises dehydrated zeolite to reduce smells and airborne pollutants.

Zeolite is a natural volcanic rock containing porous minerals with high absorbency and ion-exchange capacity, enabling Stratopanel to purify air that streams through its perforated surface, removing unpleasant pollutants and helping to improve indoor air quality.

Knauf R&D engineering services director Thanh Huynh said Stratopanel is an ideal solution for commercial indoor spaces.

Stratopanel design options combined with noise absorption capabilities make it perfect for a wide range of commercial projects in buildings where we spend a lot of time working, learning, and socialising such as educational institutions, hospitals, retail spaces, offices, conference halls, and hospitality venues.
The Knauf Stratopanel system is designed to reduce noise reverberation in internal spaces and is available in several perforation patterns for a range of different project design and acoustic needs.

Stratopanel is also sustainable in its material composition, manufacture, and installation. It has been independently tested to confirm compliance with Green Star specification limits for VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and formaldehyde (refer to report CETEC V2111). It is manufactured from a combination of low embodied energy, non-toxic natural gypsum, and liner paper.

Stratopanel can be installed with a cap screw system which makes the panels demountable and able to be repurposed, minimising unnecessary construction waste.

An innovation for both linings contractors and specifiers, Stratopanel perforated plasterboard features the unique UFF edge profile. The UFF profile ensures alignment of continuous perforation patterns and, when installed with Uniflott jointing compound forms a seamless, tapeless joint.

products

Timber shortages likely short-term problem

ABARES predicts lower exports, increased domestic consumption

While current global economic conditions have seen the costs of building materials, especially timber, rise substantially, future demand and supply patterns will likely stabilise prices. The interplay between domestic and imported timber will shift, but longer-term price increases are likely to be within an expected range.

To paraphrase an advertising slogan, sometimes economies ain't just economies. The big surprise of 2022 has been that one of the previous strengths of the globalised economy - the reduction of short-term localised shortages of essential supplies - has diminished considerably.

Nowhere in the global economy has this been felt quite so severely as in building and construction supplies. After a brief hiatus at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of building projects increased dramatically in Australia and elsewhere, despite the difficulties imposed by pandemic restrictions.

While many have sought to criticise central banks such as Australia's Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) for a lack of foresight which contributed to rising rates of inflation, the reality is that the combination of economies stressed by a pandemic, high demand and poorly performing supply-chains is something not seen in any developed economy since the 1940s.

Much attention has been focused on immediate causes of these shortages, but the shortages take place in the context of a changing global economy. The biggest clue to what is really happening can be seen in what is likely the most important shortage of all - that for silicon chips required in many manufactured items, from power drills to dishwashers to every single automobile manufactured today.

The fact is that value in many economies has moved away from the material nature of "things", and into the abstract value of software and networks. Mobile phones might seem a popular product to purchase, but what's really being "bought" is various forms of connectivity and the utility of being able to do things virtually rather than in a physical form.

What this has led to is a persistent disinvestment in more material business processes. In a different global economy, such as that of the 1990s, the shortage of shipping, for example, would have been met by a ramping up of supply chain resources. In today's economy, with longer term forecasts indicating, at best, very slow ongoing growth in shipping, potential investors do not see the potential for good returns.

Housing remains physical

The one outstanding exception to the move from the physical to the virtual is housing. Physical cars can be replaced both by virtual communications - work from home eliminates the commute, online ordering eliminates Saturday shopping - and better utilisation of public transportation, ride-sharing, and even eBikes. There is, however, no virtual replacement for a bedroom and a bed to sleep in.

What will happen eventually, over the next five to six years, is that the demand "bulge" created by the pandemic will be processed, COVID-19 will cease to place limits on Chinese economic activity, and there will be an ongoing decline in many manufactured goods - likely in the direction of fewer but better. This will result in more capacity for building and construction supplies, as well as shift of manufacturing capacity to that area as demand elsewhere decreases.

Ongoing high costs

Meanwhile, of course, the Australian construction industry continues to look down the barrel of ongoing shortages and higher costs, without a definite turning point in sight.

Timber is a particularly worrying element of all this. In a recent article in The Conversation, Flavio Macau, associate dean at the Edith Cowan University School of Business and Law, outlined the decline in timber availability in Australia. He quotes from an Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) report which indicates declining availability of both hardwood and softwood products.

There is a litany of shortage problems described by Prof. Macau:

In the 2019-20 bushfires, 130,000 hectares of plantation forest were burned. Recent floods didn't help.
Native forest harvesting is also falling; it will be banned in Western Australia by 2024. Victoria will phase out the industry by 2030.

As he points out, the solution to this is to increase the importation of timber. But this comes with considerable costs:

Logs cannot be manufactured. They grow, and this takes about 20 years. The only way to go through current shortages is by importing or replacing timber.
Importing timber isn't cheap. Australia has very low costs to grow and harvest, less than half of major global exporters. Adding to that, international shipping rates have surged in the past two years.

For housing construction, one way out of this is to switch to steel framework. But this has also encountered supply and price problems. Prices have risen by over 40%, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to further shortages, while additional duties imposed on Korean and Vietnamese steel have contributed to problems.

Prof. Macau does not see much hope for the future:

There is no indication timber prices will go down again, as they did in 2020. As for steel, 2013 was the last time there was a significant price reduction...
Will construction prices come down? One can only hope - but it's unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Eli Greenblat, writing in The Australian, has a less pessimistic outlook on, at least, the timber industry. As he reports:

Australia's construction industry sources as much as 20 per cent of its timber from overseas, and while it only makes up a minor proportion of all the lumber used domestically, industry experts believe that moderating prices for imported timber should flow through to prices for local timber too.
Construction sector reports easing of imported timber prices; The Australian

Mr Greenblat quotes the chairman of hardware buying group Natbuild, Mike Barry, as saying that:

Imported timber has traditionally been a higher cost than domestically sourced timber, and more recently it's been significantly higher. So yes, ultimately there will be some flow through to lower prices as imported timber prices moderate.
We are seeing a build-up in stock, holdings of timber, which would help supplies and lower prices. Timber companies now have increased comfort about access to supplies, so we are seeing that slowly being reduced.

Yet Mr Greenblat also points to the decline in Australian timber production, citing a report by the Australian Forest Products Association which indicates Australia's forestry plantation estate has shrunk by the equivalent of 76,000 house frames.

Analysis

It's a general rule of looking at timber forecasts that both despair and exuberance tend to be misguided. That's especially the case in a market where substitutions are expected to grow more common and to decrease in cost. The conservative note struck by the ABARES report "Global Outlook for Wood Markets to 2030" is probably closer to the emerging reality:

Based on ABARES modelling, Australian exports of roundwood are projected to decline by around 75% from 2020 to 2030 with logs redirected to the domestic market. Using 2019-20 values as the base year, the value of roundwood exports is expected to decline by $436 million or 74% over the period. However, the reduction in exports is due to substitution of logs away from international markets to domestic markets to meet growing domestic demand for roundwood. As such, the reduction in exports does not represent a loss. In fact, if global prices pass through to domestic prices (as assumed in this report) the value of logs harvested in Australia is expected to increase by 5.9% over the period.
Global Outlook for Wood Markets to 2030

In some ways we could look at this as a partial de-globalisation of the timber market in Australia. Exports decrease, while domestic consumption increases. It's a trend that could generalise as world markets come to be increasingly dominated by high-value, high-tech exports.

products

Bosch releases IXO Gen 7 personal screwdriver

Latest version of "cult favourite" reverts to earlier design

The tool that has helped to launch thousands of IKEA-styled homes now has a new, more powerful version. The most recent Gen 7 design of the IXO harks back to the Gen 5 design, which was, HNN admits, more fun if not that practical.

Bosch Power Tools has announced the release of the seventh generation of its iconic light DIY power screwdriver the IXO.

The latest generation has reverted somewhat to the design style of Bosch's fifth generation IXO. While Bosch has made no comment on this matter, it seems likely that the sixth generation IXO, with slimmer, more modern lines reminiscent of pre-Techtronic Industries European AEG drills, was not quite a success with the loyal IXO fan base.

One indication of this is that the older IXOs have remained popular, and even sell for a price close to that of the more advanced new model.

Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The new model brings back the squatter style of the Gen 5, along with its brightly coloured trigger, and black and grey trim accents, while retaining the simplified switching between different custom use chucks.

However, while Bosch has retreated in terms of design, it has continued to improve the functionality of the IXO. The company claims it now has 20% more power, and produces 5.5Nm of torque. The battery runtime is also improved, and Bosch says it can screw in up to 190 screws for a single charge, up from 100 for the previous, Gen 6 model.

Bosch has also improved the sustainability of the popular tool. Its storage box is now 90% recycled plastic, and much of the IXO also uses recycled materials.

Analysis

The Gen 6 IXO turned what had been something of a "toy" screwdriver into a fundamentally more useful tool. In particular, it brought a speed-control trigger, which Bosch has retained for the Gen 7. The lift in power is really all about the additional attachments available for the IXO, which include a spice mill and wine bottle opener.

It's always a risk changing or updating a much-loved design. While HNN welcomed the change, it's evident many IXO fans actually want something that looks a little like a "raygun" from Star Trek. It does also open up the question if there isn't room in the market for a screwdriver with the aesthetics of the previous Gen 6 IXO, but offering closer to 8Nm of torque, for slightly more advanced jobs.

products

New product

Herculiner puts load to bed easily and safely

Herculiner is the only polyurethane and rubber granule coating able to be applied in three easy steps to ute trays, truck beds and other surfaces

JB Weld has added Herculiner to its product lines. Its proprietary solvent-based formula allows Herculiner to adhere better to surfaces than water-based products, and it can bond to virtually any surface or material including wood, metal, concrete, aluminium, asphalt, rubber, fibreglass and plastics including PVC. This makes it ideally suitable for the automotive, hardware and industrial markets.

By sealing the surface Herculiner prevents rust, it is also resistant to petrol, oils, solvents and other chemicals. When cured Herculiner provides a textured tough, durable, skid resistant protective coating that won't chip, flake or peel and prevents rust.

While other coatings when damaged need to be removed or gouged, Herculiner adheres to itself and so can easily be repaired with additional applications.

Herculiner can be painted using a polyurethane-based paint. Other types of paints will not have the same pliability and so they are more likely to crack and peel off. The best time to apply paint is within 24 hours of Herculiner becoming dry to the touch.

Various methods can be used to apply Herculiner including a brush, roller or spray compressor.

An easy 3-step process allows any handyman to apply Herculiner. This starts by preparing the surface by cleaning it of dirt and grime and masking off the areas to be painted. All paint areas must be scuffed to remove gloss and the surfaces wiped down with Xylene (Xylol), Acetone or MEK solution using a rag.

In the second step it is suggested that Herculiner not only be thoroughly mixed before use, but it should be mixed during application to help the rubber particles remain suspended and ensure an even application. A light first topcoat acts as a primer.

Allow Herculiner to dry to the touch for four hours and when the topcoat of Herculiner no longer feels tacky you can apply a second coat. This second coat is to cure for at least 24 hours before light use or 3-5 days before heavy use.

Herculiner is available in a Bed Liner Kit which has everything you need to get the job done including two rollers, one brush, 3.78 litres of Herculiner and one abrasive pad.

For those who already have brushes and abrasive pads, there are two sizes of Herculiner tins. One is 946ml and will cover around 1.4 square metres with two coats, and the larger is 3.78 litres which will cover around 5.5 square metres.

Herculiner is also available in an aerosol spray which is very useful for touch-ups, cutting in before applying with a roller or for protecting hard-to-reach areas like wheel wells.

JB Weld is a leader in developing adhesives, bonds, epoxies, threadlockers and coatings. For more information, visit the company's Australian distributor, HPP Lunds website below or call (07) 3722 1111.

HPP Lunds, a leading independent wholesaler of automotive parts and accessories in Australia

Related

JB Weld's Essential Travel Pack.

JB Weld Essentials Pack - HNN Flash #104, July 2022

US-based JB Weld provides consistency of supply for Australian retailers.

JB Weld Silicones - HNN Flash #102, July 2022

FiberWeld is part of the JB Weld range.

FiberWeld joins JB Weld's range of products - HNN Flash #103, July 2022
products

New products: Workwear

Hard Yakka teams up with Thrills

The collection closes the gap between workwear and modern streetwear, all using sustainable-focus materials

Aussie workwear brand Hard Yakka has joined forces with cult Byron Bay streetwear line Thrills on their first exclusive collaboration. It spans 33 pieces of apparel and 10 accessories.

Hard Yakka is one of the most recognised workwear names in the country and its brand and content manager, Kathryn Dawson-Lee said the collaboration is not only a first in the brand's history, but one to go down in history, too. She said:

For over 90 years, Hard Yakka have built a strong legacy on being Australia's most-loved workwear brand and, even with overwhelming success, we're continually on the lookout to push the boundaries.
From the very first meeting with Thrills in 2018, we knew we'd work like a well-oiled machine. It was a new opportunity and major leap for us to widen our brand breath to an entirely new generation of cult Hard Yakka followers.
Together we've spent over a year developing durable pieces tough enough to withstand Australia's harsh conditions yet flexible enough to fit into any and all situations, spanning from men's and women's denim, shirts and tees to pants and accessories in Hard Yakka's iconic colourways.

Thrills designer Steve Fontes explained that each part of the project has been considered, from the timeless quality down to the consciously-chosen sustainable fabrications. He said:

The purpose behind the collection is far greater than the pieces; it's about taking accountability and doing our part to transform the industry through transparency and reduce our footprint on the planet.
Our greatest tool in the shed is organic cotton, which continues to give back to the world in more ways than one; being grown without the use of toxic fertilisers, capturing carbon and conserving biodiversity,
What we choose to wear says both who we are and what we stand for, so we wanted to give our customers the opportunity to express the kind of future they want to live in.
  • Source: Shop Eat Surf
  • products

    New products

    Knauf releases SHEETROCK ONE

    Master Lock has launched its new range of maximum security Magnum padlocks with longer shackles to ensure greater flexibility of use

    Knauf said it is taking simplicity to the next level with the launch of SHEETROCK(r) ONE. It is designed for seamless use across walls and ceilings, and expands the SHEETROCK range of products.

    SHEETROCK ONE is a single 10mm lightweight plasterboard solution for residential wall and ceiling applications, replacing current 10mm SHEETROCK wall and ceiling standard plasterboards.

    With a single board, SHEETROCK ONE enables more efficient manufacture and delivery, and is easier to order and store. Able to span up to 600mm without sagging, SHEETROCK ONE also makes installation simple, to help installers work more quickly on and off-site. Tony Charnock, managing director, Knauf in Australia said:

    Feedback from customers was one of the driving forces behind this latest product launch, informing Knauf of the many benefits of a single 10mm plasterboard compared to the traditional separated offer.
    Simplifying the 10mm Knauf SHEETROCK range will reduce complexity on site, simplify orders and help make installation easier. One board for both walls and ceilings will also free up space and time for distribution and delivery, with our customers ultimately benefiting from improved continuity and reliability of plasterboard supply.

    SHEETROCK ONE is now available in NSW, ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland, in a range of plasterboard sizes to suit residential 10mm wall and ceiling applications.

    The launch of SHEETROCK ONE comes after the successful acquisition of USG Boral by the Knauf Group. Now known as Knauf Gypsum, it is committed to helping customers meet the increase in demand for plasterboard products, building systems and materials.

    Related

    USG Boral rebrands as Knauf - HNN Flash #81, February 2022

    Master Lock Magnum

    The new Magnum range from Master Lock offers better security application options with the addition of a long shackle design (64mm shackle length), making it easier to safely secure more personal items (including with multiple chains and hasps).

    The range features boron carbide shackles that are 50% harder than hardened steel. The dual-armour construction with stainless steel laminated body provides maximum strength and security, as well as weather and corrosion resistance, even in prolonged extreme weather conditions. Each lock has a 4-pin cylinder for optimal pull and pry resistance.

    The new Master Lock Magnum Long Shackle padlock range is available in three variants: M1TLJ, M5DLJ and M5TLJ.

    They have been designed for both commercial and domestic uses, and can be purposed for a variety of functions including security on worksites, locking up fences, sheds and storage buildings, as well as safeguarding personal belongings.

    Related

    Master Lock celebrates its centenary - HNN Flash #31, February 2021
    products

    New product

    JB Weld Essentials Pack

    It provides effective repair options for DIYers, tradies, caravanners, 4WD enthusiasts, motor cyclists, as well as agricultural and marine applications

    JB Weld's Essential Travel Pack contains five travel-sized products including putty, two-part epoxy and silicone. There are three putty sticks: one for repairing steel (SteelStik), one for water-related repairs (WaterWeld), and one for repairing plastics (PlasticWeld). The two-part epoxy is designed to repair metals, while the silicone comes with its own applicator.

    All come separately stored in compartments of a clear plastic box. The back of the box has information including instructions, a guide for working times through to setting times, plus the overall rating once fully cured.

    When using any of the putty sticks, assess how much you need then cut a piece off and remove its outer wrapping. Begin to work the putty together in your hands - it's ready to be used once it's fully mixed.

    Each of the putty sticks have different applications, and their contents can be moulded into any shape. The curing time for the putty varies, with the SteelStik and WaterWeld requiring one hour. The PlasticWeld takes three hours.

    After waiting for the required curing time, the putty can then be drilled, tapped, sanded, filed, or painted, depending on the putty type.

    At the completion of the repair, you simply return any unused putty back into the tube so it's ready for the next repair.

    The two tubes in the pack for the two-part epoxy cold weld system require a mix of 50/50, so it's simply a case of squeezing out what you need from both tubes and mixing them together well. This product provides a permanent bond on a range of surfaces and takes between four and six hours to completely cure.

    The fifth pack product is a tube of Ultimate Grey Silicone. Although its label specifies it as a "water pump and thermostat housing gasket maker & sealant", it's the type of silicone that could be used anywhere a gasket repair was required.

    JB Weld Essentials pack covers multiple situations and is stored in a neat carry case not much bigger than hand-size.

    JB Weld products are manufactured in the United States and considered to be the "World's Strongest Bond".

    For more information, visit the company's Australian distributor, HPP Lunds website below or call (07) 3722 1111.

    HPP Lunds, a leading independent wholesaler of automotive parts and accessories in Australia

    Related

    US-based JB Weld provides consistency of supply for Australian retailers.

    JB Weld Silicones - HNN Flash #102, July 2022

    FiberWeld is part of the JB Weld range.

    FiberWeld joins JB Weld's range of products - HNN Flash #103, July 2022
    products

    New product

    FiberWeld joins JB Weld's range of products

    As the Australian distributor for all JB Weld products, HPP Lunds has access to more than 57 products that have a myriad of trade and consumer uses

    A number of weld products are part of the JB Weld range including PlasticWeld, ClearWeld, ColdWeld, KwickWeld, MinuteWeld, WoodWeld, SuperWeld, AutoWeld and now FiberWeld.

    After acquiring FiberWeld, JB Weld rebranded it under its own banner and the product then became an addition to the JB Weld range distributed by HPP Lunds in Australia.

    Four FiberWeld products are in the range: FiberWeld 1" Pipe Repair Cast, FiberWeld 2" Pipe Repair Cast, FiberWeld Permanent Repair Cast and FiberWeld Automotive Repair Cast.


    FiberWeld Permanent Repair Cast is a high-strength adhesive and fiberglass wrap, impregnated with a specially formulated resin. When activated by water, the product forms a strong, permanent bond that hardens like steel in 15 minutes with a bend strength of 1500 psi. All products in this range are the same formulation but packaged and tailored for different uses.

    FibreWeld 1" Pipe Repair Cast and FiberWeld 2" Pipe Repair Cast are the same formulation but made to repair pipes with either 1" or 2" diameters.

    FiberWeld Automotive Repair Cast is tailored to suit repairs to radiator and heater hoses, tail pipes and mufflers, oil and transmission lines, vacuum lines, exterior mirrors, roof racks, and RV and boat repairs.

    With FiberWeld, furniture, tool handles, yard equipment, pipes and hoses, plumbing, sporting and camping gear, motor vehicles and marine equipment can be fixed. It can also be used as a reinforcement. The product can be applied on metal, most plastics, wood, PVC, fibreglass, rubber and other surfaces.

    All JB Weld products come with a comprehensive set of instructions that cover safety, hardening times and uses. Depending on the product, JB Weld includes additional useful items such as protective gloves, or mixing tools. They are often supported with online videos to explain how to complete the repair.

    For hardware retailers, HPP Lunds offers a range of merchandisers including a full range wire rack display which can hold more than 50 products, and there are also counter displays.

    About JB Weld

    JB Weld products are specific to repairs of automotive parts, ceramic, concrete, metal, rubber, wood, brick, carpet, glass, plastic, plumbing as well as a host of general repair solutions.

    Some products such as the silicone gasket makers and adhesives are available in both smaller handyman sizes and larger cartridge sizes for trade use.

    JB Weld has an expansive range of adhesives, epoxies, putty sticks, gasket makers, super glues, silicones, thread lockers and sealants as well as repair kits and exhaust repair products.

    Its products are durable, high quality repair products and used by professional tradespeople on a daily basis.

    For more information, visit the HPP Lunds website below or call (07) 3722 1111.

    HPP Lunds, a leading independent wholesaler of automotive parts and accessories in Australia
    products

    Construction update

    Alternative to timber

    The devastation of Australia's bushfires in 2019-2020 is helping drive demand for a non-combustible aluminium product for builders and homeowners

    The Knotwood aluminium product, which looks like natural timber, is made on the Gold Coast (QLD) using sustainable manufacturing methods. The company said it is low maintenance, longer lasting and easier to use than real wood.

    Knotwood uses aluminium sourced from Gladstone in central Queensland and then powder coats and wraps the product in a printed film, baking on the design that gives it the wood effect with as many as 41 different hues.

    The end product is recyclable alternative for architectural facades, garage doors, benches, gates, shutters and decking.

    Knotwood's Mark Curran said builders and architects are seeking out the aluminium wood for its aesthetic appeal, as an alternative amid the current worldwide timber shortage, and for its high fire safety rating.

    After the experiences with bushfire season, especially in Victoria, Queensland and NSW, [when rebuilding] architects are looking for an alternative to wood.
    We can achieve the highest fire rating, we are a non-combustible product and that ticks a lot of boxes for builders and architects.
    ...The low maintenance is what the householder, the end user, loves...On top of that it looks really good.

    The bushfires burned more than 24 million hectares across the nation, and caused 33 deaths directly and almost 450 more from smoke inhalation, according to a study by the CSIRO.

    In the wake of the destruction, Mr Curran said local governments across Australia had sought out the product for its safety rating. As a result, the business has grown 25% year-on-year over the past five years, he said.

    Knotwood complies with Australia's highest Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating, which is an Australian government standard that measures the potential for a home to be exposed to bush fire attack. The BAL rating dictates the materials and building design elements that need to be taken into account during construction. Mr Curran said:

    If you are going to try and melt aluminium, it would be ridiculous because nothing else would survive at that temperature. It is at the highest safety levels.

    The company has also expanded its 16,000sqm manufacturing facility where it employs 75 people.

    Knotwood will soon open a manufacturing plant in Manchester, England after exhibiting the product at Grand Designs Live 22 organised by the British Institute of Interior Design. It exports to New Zealand, the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and South Africa.

    Knotwood remains headquartered on the Gold Coast. Founded by the Galway family over a decade ago, it is now owned by Darren Galway and business partner Michael Saba, previously a co-founder of Swisse Wellness.

  • Source: News Leads
  • products

    New product

    JB Weld Silicones

    Silicone sealant shortages are addressed by JB Weld products as companies experience difficulties in the supply of silicone, especially businesses relying on Chinese suppliers

    Supply issues will continue for some time in the manufacture of silicones and epoxies due to increased demand and the availability of raw materials.

    However, US-based JB Weld does not have supply problems and the company's strong ties with its Australian distributor, HPP Lunds means the large range of JB Weld Silicones can remain on shelves now and into the future.

    JB Weld does all its own blending, packaging and logistics so it has been able to maintain an exceptional supply rate. Additionally, the company has its own R&D department that quality checks every product batch to ensure its high level of quality is consistent and maintained.

    JB Weld also recently competed a major expansion of its Texas manufacturing facility, an investment made to ensure it continues to meet the demand for products locally and internationally.

    With confirmed factory support from JB Weld, HPP Lunds has been able to realise excellent fill rates on orders. At the same time, it has substantially increased inventory levels with many more containers ordered to ensure best possible supply rates for its customers.

    Products

    JB Weld uses 100% silicone for its product range which is ideal for gaskets because it has very low shrinkage when cured, and the material remains compliant without being hard or brittle. It is also resistant to gas, diesel, oil and other automotive fluids, so it won't disintegrate over time.

    Each type of RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanized) silicone - denoted by the differing colours - has its own characteristics that make one more suitable than another, depending on the application.

    Ultimate Black RTV

    Ultimate Black RTV is commonly used in OEM applications and has a higher resistance to heat with maximum oil resistance, high flexibility and it is sensor safe. Some items suited to Ultimate Black include sumps, valve covers, timing gear covers and transmission pans. Ultimate Black RTV is available in 85g tubes or 280ml cartridges.

    Ultimate Grey RTV

    Ultimate Grey RTV is for high torque uses like intake manifolds where high torque loads are applied to the sealant. This sealant is more flexible when cured and remains oil resistant. It is temperature resistant to 260ºC and is sensor safe. Ultimate Grey RTV is available in 85g tubes or 280ml cartridge.

    Hi Temp Red RTV

    Hi Temp Red RTV is designed for use in mechanical assemblies where the existence of higher, continuous temperatures up to 288ºC or 343ºC intermittent might exist. Upon curing, which occurs when the product is exposed to the moisture in air, the silicone forms a tough, waterproof seal on most surfaces. It will not shrink or crack, resists weathering, is sensor safe and ideal for many automotive applications. Hi Temp Red RTV is available in 85g tubes or 280ml cartridges.

    Copper RTV

    Copper RTV is three times more oil resistant than conventional silicones and designed to resist the high operating temperatures of turbocharged or high-performance engines. It is also designed for use in mechanical assemblies where high torque or closely spaced bolt profiles can lead to higher loads and cause gasket and sealing failures for average silicones. It is available in 85g tubes.

    Blue RTV

    Blue RTV is a general-purpose silicone. This product is not designed for high temperatures with uses including sumps and water pumps as it is waterproof, flexible and does not shrink. It is also very useful for mechanical assembly bonding of uneven surfaces. It is available in 85g tubes.

    Black RTV

    Black RTV is a general-purpose product used for sealing a variety of metals, rubber and glass. It has high flexibility and is waterproof and is also very useful for mechanical assembly bonding of uneven surfaces. It is available in 85g tubes.

    White RTV

    White RTV is a general-purpose silicone for use in mechanical assembly applications and forms a tough, waterproof, mildew and mould resistant seal. It is available in 85g tubes.

    Clear RTV

    Clear RTV is good to use where you don't want the product to be easily seen such as sealing windscreens. It works on ceramics, cloth, carpet, glass, rubber and metals. It is available in 85g tubes.

    While JB Weld RTV silicone is ideal for permanent seals, it can also be used in applications where repeated removal is necessary such as valve covers. The trick is to apply the silicone and allow it to cure before installing the part. This makes a flexible seal that does not bond to the other surface; however, the right amount of silicone build-up must be used to make sure there is a proper seal in place.

    For more information, visit the HPP Lunds website below or call (07) 3722 1111.

    HPP Lunds, a leading independent wholesaler of automotive parts and accessories in Australia
    products

    New product

    Tactica takes on multi-tool brands

    The Newcastle-based start-up has launched its first equity raise as it looks for growth in global markets

    Tactica began as one multitool product including a universal wrench and bottle opener. It was founded in 2016 by Sydney product designer Mike Chijoff, who studied material science and industrial design before running his own design consultancy in Melbourne. He also worked as a metallurgist for Smorgon where he gained experience in production, supply chain and logistics.

    As an outdoor adventurer, he had grown up using "carry" products like Leatherman, Victorinox and Swiss Army Knives, ultimately viewing them as too alike, costly and heavy. He told the Newcastle Herald:

    ...I realised there was a real opportunity to create a modern-day version using materials that are unique.

    Believing that many existing products had too many functions and weren't readily adaptable to suit myriad needs, he came up with what he believes is a lightweight, non-scratching, adaptable multitool product that can be used by anyone, not just tradies. He said:

    It is an engineering-grade, composite material made 70% from glass and it meant we could do things that weren't currently being done.

    The first product, known as the M100, was launched on Kickstarter in 2016. Growing its range to 22 products, Tactica has shipped more than 100,000 units to 100 countries and brought in close to $4 million in revenue.

    Designed by Mr Chijoff and employee Jake Baumann with a manufacturing partner in China, Tactica has to date raised around $1.6 million via three crowd-funding campaigns, based on product pre-sales. He said:

    We started on Kickstarter because we wanted to engage with the community from the very beginning so the community helped us start the business and over the years we have continued to involve the community to help test our products so that we ensure we have got our products completely field tested and refined before they get to market.

    Its latest campaign will help the company to continue to grow, expand on existing local and global markets and seek out new ones. Tactica is moving into products in the outdoor, sporting and adventure markets, including knives and torches. Mr Chijoff explains:

    Our first crowdfunding was reward-based as people were purchasing the product, this is now the first time we are doing an equity raise so they have a chance to buy a piece of the business ... it's an essential mantra of our operations that we maintain that connection with our supporters. They are the core of who we are, why we exist and why we keep continuing to grow, adapt and create new products.

    Mr Chijoff said the timing was right to expand further into the US market with the equity needed to invest in more resources, expanding its inventory and pushing ahead.

    Most of the company's sales are online and in the US, with the pandemic prompting it to work "smarter" to pre-empt any supply issues. Mr Chioff said the domestic feedback is important to the company.

    The Australian part is a small part of the global market but it's still a very important part because we love to be able to connect with our community here and talk to customers and get feedback but the bigger picture is the global markets - the outdoor adventure spaces is very big where we are expanding into and from there we are starting to look at specialised areas where we can create value, like snowboarding and dedicated sporting tools and products.
    Then we are also getting into torches and knife category so we can start to create a complement of product that people can utilise.

    He believes Tactica's approach to design and innovation will only increase appetite for the product.

    Our product will grow because we design all our products, they are original and we always involve the community in that process too so we know when the product comes out they are a great fit.

    Tactica is based at i2N Hub Honeysuckle, a coworking space for startups and scaleups, located at Newcastle University in NSW.

  • Source: Newcastle Herald
  • products

    New product: Husqvarna

    K 1 PACE power cutter receives Red Dot Award

    The K1 PACE can deliver power and performance equivalent to petrol-powered cutters, according to Husqvarna

    Husqvarna's K 1 PACE high-performance battery power cutter has won the Red Dot Award 2022 for design quality in the product design category.

    The Red Dot Design Award is one of world's largest design competitions and an internationally recognised seal of design excellence. In 2022, manufacturers from around 60 countries participated in the Red Dot Award's product design discipline. The 48 international members of the Red Dot jury assessed each product with the guiding motto: "In search of good design and innovation".

    The design features of the K 1 PACE which the Red Dot jury deemed to be outstanding include its cordless convenience, low vibrations, built in X-Halt TM brake function for operational safety and zero direct emissions.

    With the launch of K1 PACE, Husqvarna has taken a significant step towards supporting professional users in the transition towards battery powered equipment for heavy duty jobs. This is the first product to be launched on the company's new battery system, PACE.

    The PACE battery system can be applied to more machine lines as the battery-powered family expands. In addition to power cutters, diamond blades in 12 in. and 14 in./300 and 350mm have been optimised for battery operation. Mattias Holmdahl, global product manager - power cutters at Husqvarna Construction, said:

    We see an increasing number of construction companies striving for carbon-neutral workplaces and as a leading supplier we feel a responsibility to contribute, together with our partners and customers, towards greater sustainability.

    The machine is also equipped with X-Halt brake function capable of stopping the rotation of a blade in a fraction of a second for enhanced safety. Mr Holmdahl said:

    We do not compromise on quality and safety. With K1 PACE, customers ... can expect lower vibrations and smoother cutting. The machine's low weight and optimal centre of gravity will help reduce the strain on their body.

    The release of the 94 V battery powered K1 PACE power cutter for the construction industry is part of Husqvarna's ambition to electrify 67 % of its motorised products by 2026.

    Related

    GARDENA wins Red Dot Design awards - HNN Flash #43, April 2021
  • Sources: Husqvarna Group and For Construction Pros
  • products

    New product: Garden shed

    Darley 20 Garden Shed

    Made by Urban Caves, the Darley 20 Garden Shed is the company's only product

    The Darley 20 Garden Shed is a fully insulated 20sqm cabin with double glazed stacker door, window, fly screens, cantilevered awning and optional deck and cedar feature wall. Externally clad in Colorbond, the sheds require zero maintenance and are internally lined and trimmed ready for painting.

    Katoomba-based business Urban Caves is the creator and maker of the Darley 20 Garden Shed. It carries out site preparation, including excavation and retaining walls, and installs the cabin as a "non-habitable" garden shed. This means there is no need for council approval thanks to the NSW Exempt Development legislation.

    Urban Caves managing director Guy Brown said access is "never a problem" and installation takes only five days. He told the Blue Mountains Gazette:

    We have a display cabin in Katoomba viewable by appointment and carry out free site assessments throughout the Blue Mountains.

    Mr Brown is a civil engineer and there is a team leader and three installers, as well as someone to look after the administration and accounts. He said their "urban caves" tapped into the need for a dedicated space for those who choose to work from home and needed room to focus.

    For those working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic, it can create a dedicated work area outside of the main living areas. Mr Brown said:

    These days owner occupiers are renovating and developing rather than moving house. People are travelling less and remortgaging to tap into the equity in their homes.

    Mr Brown said the future looked bright for Urban Caves with plans to launch a 50sqm version of the garden shed for use on rural zoned land, initially focusing on the Megalong Valley and Lithgow areas.

    Due to the global shortage in building materials causing builders and carpenters to have a long backlog of work and the stress of the last few years, more people will be looking for quick and easy solutions to their lifestyle needs.
    People want to move forward, get on with their lives and focus on what they're passionate about and this will result in an increase in sales of 'one stop shop' services and prefabricated kit solutions.

    The company has been established for six years and lists Bunnings and Mitre 10 as partners on its website:

    Urban Caves
  • Sources: Blue Mountains Gazette and Urban Caves
  • products

    New products: Workwear

    Blundstone announces arrival of RotoFlex

    A tradie believes he has made Australia's "comfiest performance workwear brand" for other tradies

    RotoFlex by Blundstone is a design-driven range of composite toe cap safety boots, developed using the latest biomechanical technology.

    Created on new tooling and hardware, the RotoFlex range has safety and comfort features that provides protection for the worker who wants strong yet flexible footwear. Adrian Blandford, Blundstone's global work & safety range manager, said:

    The RotoFlex boot system is unmatched in its combination of stability with the freedom to move. This is achieved through biomechanic expertise, using the science of human structure and function and applying it to the requirements of a modern Australian work boot. The result is each component working together to create a new boot system that is safer, more comfortable, better performing and longer lasting...

    The biomechanics system central to the design of each boot can be broken down into four key elements: GripTek HD, Fortalite, Aircell and Softcell.

    GripTek HD is Blundstone's new sole design can provide all-day stability and comfort. The sole (with its unique tread pattern) is lightweight, durable and specifically crafted to make the RotoFlex boot suitable for hard surfaces and graded ground. Developed for the worker who wants the feeling of stability and comfort as they work, GripTek HD provides a strong foundation from the ground up, through the polyurethane (PU) tread patterns and super-cushioned midsole, with zoned support carefully designed to provide comfort for the entire day.

    The Fortalite toe cap is for the worker who wants a boot that meets leading safety standards without compromising comfort, ease or unnecessary weight. It provides compression-proof safety by using a patented Polymer composite material that holds strong under immense pressure. The Fortalite toe cap retains its shape without restricting toe movement or all-day comfort.

    An AirCell footbed provides ultimate air flow and full-body comfort with every step. This is achieved with a specialised zoning design, where the footbed is constructed to activate ventilation, moisture control, and cushioning comfort. The material breathes, pumps air, and is soft - but at the same time robust - ensuring workers get better air circulation and cushioning from their boots.

    Blundstone's fit system, SoftCell creates more room to move within a stable foothold. This is achieved through expert understanding of the connection between a moving foot and the inside of a boot, providing a form-fitting and comfortably snug boot with space to move.

    The RotoFlex range brings six new safety boots into the Australian market and includes four unisex styles: the six-inch #8560 and #8561, the five-inch #8553 and #8550, and two women's boot styles; the #8863 and #8860.

    The RotoFlex range is available in September 2022.

    Related

    Blundstone has released the #243 "crew boot" - HNN Flash #85, March 2022

    Form Workwear

    Form Workwear founder Liam McKay said he had grown frustrated over the low-quality, overpriced workwear that he and his colleagues bought year after year. So he created his own performance workwear brand.

    Form Workwear claims to offer the most comfortable performance workwear for Australian tradies. At its core, the brand has been focused on listening to and being inspired by the real needs of Australian tradies to reflect its main message of "by tradies, for tradies".

    It believes it has created high-performance workwear products for men that are comfortable, durable, and perform on a jobsite. The range of products include shirts, pants, shorts, hoodies, T-shirts and jackets. Mr McKay said:

    I heard from my mates on site that they felt like there isn't an apparel or workwear brand that really delivers on the promises their marketing makes. As a tradesman myself, I feel a responsibility to create products that you can purchase with confidence, knowing that it's comfortable and going to last. We engineered some things differently with our products, and it's those innovations which make all the difference.

    One such innovation is the Form Workwear pants that have "reversed fabric" so the softer side of the fabric is on the skin. The pants are available in navy, khaki or black. Mr McKay's hands-on experience has ensured that all Form Workwear garments are thoroughly tested for quality and comply with Australian and New Zealand hi-vis standards

    The day-to-day workload of a tradie is hard enough without having to wear uncomfortable, stifling workwear. I know what I want out of my gear. So I went ahead and made my own.

    Check here for more information on Form Workwear:

    Form Workwear
  • Sources: Blundstone and Digital Journal
  • products

    Bosch FY2021 results

    Strong growth in revenues

    Bosch managed to grow overall revenues by 16%, with growth of 14% in the Asia-Pacific. The company credited its innovative products, open battery platform and online store development for much of the growth.

    German-based Bosch Power Tools has reported sales revenue of EUR5.8 billion for its 2021 financial year. The company states that this is an increase of 14% over the previous corresponding period (pcp), which is the 2020 financial year. Allowing for the currency exchange rates, this is a 16% increase.

    One of the core drivers of sales was Bosch's direct online business, which accounted for 30% of all sales. The result has been a significant increase in revenue across a broad geographic range. In constant currency terms, the increases were:

  • Europe overall: 19%
  • Germany: 13%
  • North America: 10%
  • Africa: 34%
  • Latin America: 37%
  • There was an increase of 14% for the Asia-Pacific, which is Australia's region.

    The company said that it had benefitted from elevated levels of demand during 2021, but that:

    The market environment remains challenging for the current year. In view of the high level of uncertainty, at present, it is not possible to make a reliable business forecast.

    Open platforms

    Bosch said that a major contributor to the company's growth has been its move to open its battery platform for both DIY and professional trade tools. According to Henk Becker, president of Bosch Power Tools:

    The opening of our 18V battery platforms was an important strategic milestone. We established two cross-brand systems that are highly regarded and well accepted by our DIY and professional users.

    For professional tools, the partnership includes: Brennenstuhl, Cox Sulzer, Fein, Heraeus, Klauke, Ledlenser, Lena Lighting, Sonlux and Wagner. Fein and Heraeus are the two most recent additions. For DIY tools the list includes: Steinel, Flymo, Gardena, Gloria, Wagner and Rapid.

    Bosch says that revenues from these open platforms increased by 150% for 2021 compared to the pcp. While Bosch emphasises the convenience and cost savings for users of the open platform, as well as the ecological credentials of cutting down on polluting Lithium-ion batteries, many of the advantages are really at the manufacturer level. Maintaining individual battery platforms during a time when battery technology is constantly developing would have become increasingly expensive for the partner companies.

    Bosch tools

    While Bosch has opened its battery platform, it has also worked to expand its own-brand range of tools. Over the past two years, Bosch has launched some 60 new cordless tools, with 25 of those developed during 2021, and plans to launch a further 40 during the 2022 financial year.

    In DIY tools, Bosch continues to innovate for convenience, ease-of-use and unique versatility. For example, its Keo garden saw is designed to make cutting branches easier, but the saw can also be used to cut lumber efficiently. Bosch has finally made its famous green jigsaws cordless, and also introduced a consumer cordless trim router.

    Analysis

    Bosch is one of the few power tool companies that has truly grasped that the needs of customers in its professional and DIY lines are broadly very different. It has continued to develop tough, very powerful tools for use by professionals, with innovations centred on safety (such as dust extraction) and raw power.

    Much of its interesting work, however, has been at the consumer end of the market. Bosch's insight has been that DIYers do not want to buy cheaper, less powerful versions of professional tools, but tools that help to guarantee they will complete DIY tasks successfully.

    A good example of this is the Atino line laser with integrated tape measure. The Atino is purpose built to make installing decorative wall elements as easy as possible. It attaches to the wall with a gel pad or pins, then automatically provides a level reading. The built-in tape measure can then be extended alone the level laser line to mark the wall, enabling accurate installations.

    products

    Category update: Pet supplies

    Spending on pet vitamins and supplements is growing

    Over 20 professional athletes across AFL, soccer, rugby league and cricket are the latest to invest in online pet supply retailer Pet Circle

    Close to 70% of Australian households now have a pet - and they are willing to spend huge sums on them. A survey of more than 1,000 pet owners by Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) in 2021 suggests dog owners spend $3,200 a year on pet care, while cat owners spend $2,100 a year.

    There are around 6.3 million dogs and 4.9 million cats in Australia and the AMA estimates Australians spend nearly $31 billion just on them.

    Australia's multibillion dollar pet supplies business was growing at around 4% annually prior to the pandemic but revenue growth has more than doubled between 2020 and 2021, according to industry research firm IBISWorld.

    IBISWorld senior analyst Tim Calabria points out that medicines, wellness products and "fancy" pet foods have boomed throughout this time, with dogs and cats not the only growing markets. He told the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH):

    Although cats and dogs constitute the vast majority of pets in Australia, exotic animals like ferrets, lizards and cockatoos also grace more homes than ever before.

    Australia's COVID-fuelled pet boom has introduced a string of lucrative new business lines from pet insurance to professional dog walking to pet-friendly yoga classes. Another is the $4 billion-a-year animal wellness industry. Analysts describe a trend of "humanisation of pets", a shift in the way families value their animals that has made them keen to find pet equivalents of human wellness products, like vitamins.

    ASX-listed health supplements provider Blackmores has seen the opportunity and has been telling investors that its Pure Animal Wellbeing (PAW) line of pet products will be a core part of its strategy moving forward. The company now makes multivitamin chews for pets, a fish oil supplement for dogs and products for soothing stress and anxiety.

    Blackmores chief executive Alastair Symington said consumers have become more in-tune with their pets after two years of working from home. He told the SMH:

    We spend on our pets as much as we do on anyone. For us, it's about providing those natural healthcare solutions that you can build into the daily routine.

    Mr Symington expects supplements for stress reduction to be a "very big product for us" as Australians return to the office, leaving their four-legged friends at home after two years of living in close quarters.

    Competitor Swisse also has a presence in the space, with its parent company H&H Group buying animal supplements maker Zesty Paws in August 2021.

    Meanwhile, over at Australian founded online animal pharmacy Pet Chemist, there are supplements for lizards and a probiotic for birds. Earlier this year, ASX-listed dog sitting business Mad Paws bought Pet Chemist in a $25 million deal.

    Mad Paws chief executive Justus Hammer said Pet Chemist was a natural acquisition for the business because enhancing the health of animals was now a top priority for owners.

    It's a big market, and it's fast growing. The online penetration is still low, but that's also fast growing.

    Related

    Big business in pet care - HNN Flash #03, July 2019

    Pet Circle

    World Cup champion cricketer Alyssa Healy invested in Pet Circle with husband and fellow cricketer Mitchell Starc. She said the company was instantly appealing as an investment, given how regularly the couple shop on its online platform. She told The Australian:

    ...You need to believe in the company you are investing in, and Pet Circle's vision to improve the lives of pets and pet parents through greater product choice and better services really resonated with us as dog parents.

    Mr Starc added:

    The pet industry is booming and Pet Circle is at the top of its game, so we also see huge growth potential in the business.
    Like many Aussie families, we have a very busy schedule, so shopping for pet supplies needs to be easy and convenient and online retail is where the opportunity lies.

    Other athletes who have invested include cricketers Moises Henriques and Rachael Haynes, AFL players Toby Greene, Phil Davis, Josh Kelly and Taylor Adams, NRL players Cam Murray and Angus Crichton, and soccer player Stefan Mauk.

    They made the investments through Athletic Ventures, an investment syndicate for former and current elite athletes founded by GWS Giants midfielder Matt de Boer. He said:

    Athletic Ventures invests in world-class, high-growth technology and consumer companies so as an e-commerce disrupter Pet Circle was a company that we wanted to be a part of.

    Mike Frizell, Pet Circle's co-founder and chief executive, said the Athletic Ventures investment, which forms part of Pet Circle's Series C $125 million funding round, would be used to accelerate Pet Circle's growth plans, including a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week free Vet Squad service.

    Pet Circle is now valued at more than $1 billion.

    Related:

    PetCulture at Woolworths - HNN Flash, March 2021
  • Sources: Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian
  • products

    Bosch and Ryobi evolve DIY tools

    Ryobi launches another tool aimed at trades, while Bosch expands its DIY range

    With Ryobi, it's getting harder to tell the DIY from the trade power tool. Meanwhile Bosch continues to refine its introductory power tools.

    It has become evident as we move into 2022 that the DIY tool market is developing into a series of sub-category niches. This is something that has been in progress in past years as well, but it is now more of an open strategy.

    You need only look at the types of tools that Ryobi is developing. One of the most recent releases is the 18V One+ HP Brushless Airstrike 18Ga Brad Nailer (model P322). This can drive 54mm nails into hard wood with a magazine capacity of 105 brad nails. Ryobi claims it can drive up to 2250 nails on a single charge (presumably using one of the larger Ryobi batteries). The HP range in general is based on compact brushless motors which Ryobi claims can produce 60% more power than its older, brushed models.

    There is a wide range of tool-free adjustments available, as well as Ryobi's "AccuDrive" nose, which has been designed to provide a better line-of-sight to where the nail is actually going.

    What is most revealing, however, is this statement in Ryobi's product description:

    Great for window, door and cabinet trim, this ONE+ HP Brad Nailer is the perfect addition to any carpenter or DIYer's tool collection.

    The key word there is "carpenter". While there is little active marketing of Ryobi direct to trades, with recent advances such as a tracksaw and cordless table saw, it's evident the company is broadening its market to appeal to professional handymen, and to trades where the very high power of Milwaukee and DeWalt tools is not really needed.

    One reason why that market may be opening up is that increasingly brands like Milwaukee and DeWalt have concentrated on the top end of the power tool business. In effect, Techtronic Industries (the Hong Kong-based owner of both Ryobi and Milwaukee) is disrupting itself, in the classic Clay Christensen sense, by stripping out unwanted features, and providing a more tightly focused, less expensive alternative.

    At the same time, Ryobi is also introducing new tools at the "home crafts" end of the DIY market, including power woodworking chisels, rotary tools and soldering irons. It's also planning to launch a new 4V USB rechargeable screwdriver in the new future.

    One interesting consequence to consider is whether this will affect the tool ranges sold at the newest venture by Bunnings, the Took Kit Depot (TKD) stores. There are two main possibilities that could emerge over the next couple of years. Bunnings could move to stocking mainly Ryobi tools (at the moment it doesn't seem to have even half of the available range available), along with its more basic Ozito brand tools, and perhaps a small, "rump" display of more professional tools by Makita, DeWalt and AEG. That would drive more tradies to TKD for their power tool purchases.

    Alternatively, Bunnings could go the other way, and bring the HP range of Ryobi cordless power tools in the TKD stores. In terms of actively competing with franchise stores such as the Metcash-owned Total Tools, that could give them a considerable advantage. Inexpensive but good value trade tools is one category that only Ryobi really covers in Australia - the Stanley FatMax brand is in the same general area, but very limited in terms of range.

    Bosch DIY

    Bosch, in sharp contrast to Ryobi, is going down a very different DIY route. Where Ryobi is seeking out the more dedicated end of the DIY spectrum, whether it is trade or craft hobby, Bosch has for at least the past three years been narrowing its focus to people who will use its tools more out of necessity than choice. Bosch has been steadily working to refine its drills and impact drivers in particular to make them more friendly to first-time and very casual users.

    In its latest iteration, Bosch has further segmented this area of the market. Where before the choice in DIY drills and impact drivers was between the basic Universal tools and the more complex Advanced ones, Bosch has introduced a set of pure entry-level Easy models, while also refining the Universal models.

    What is of particular interest is the naming convention that Bosch has introduced for its new lines: EasyDrill 18V-40; EasyImpact 18V-40;UniversalDrill 18V-60; and UniversalImpact 18V-60. The suffixed numbers - 40 and 60 - actually refer to the Newton metres (Nm) of torque produced by these tools.

    That is truly one of the most market-aware and cleverest things HNN has seen for some time. When it comes to these more entry-level tools, that's the number that is going to tell you exactly how versatile they will be, and what the most basic value-for-money proposition is.

    These also are not quite as basic as they might seem. All come with a 13mm keyless chuck, a two-speed drive, 20 setting clutch and LED lights. The Universal is distinguished from the Easy by the inclusion of a brushless motor and Bosch's much-marketed Syneon chip, which provides a closer link between batteries and tools.

    Trim router

    A slightly surprising addition to Bosch's DIY cordless power tools is a simple cordless trim router, the AdvancedTrimRouter 18V-8. This is a small, compact router using a brushless motor. It weighs in at 1.1kg without battery (about 87% the weight of Ryobi's competing cordless router), and it takes 6mm and 8mm bits. Another interesting feature is that the router incorporates a dust port, something seldom seen on entry-level routers.

    This really is a significant expansion of Bosch's DIY range, as previously it has been limited to cutting and drilling tools.

    Analysis

    Looking to the future, one of the most interesting developments in this area of market is the potential meeting point for what is often described as the "maker" movement and the DIY market. The former is frequently (but not always) associated with more digital technologies such as 3D printers and CNC routers. DIY is clearly, based its acronym if nothing else, about displacing the need to hire professionals to achieve a result, as a kind of active substitution. Makers are quite different in that what they achieve could frequently never be duplicated by today's professionals.

    To take an example, consider a kitchen refresh where homeowners go in and either switch up or paint over the doors and fronts to their kitchen cabinets. That is, for the most part, a pure DIY job. But from a maker perspective, one element you might choose to add is changing the handles on the cabinets to your own custom design. There aren't really any professionals who would do that for you, but for a maker it's a simple matter of borrowing from open source or building your own 3D model of the handles you want, then printing those on a 3D printer.

    The reason why much of the maker world is separate from DIY is that it's a little more complex and purely technical, especially as it usually involves electronics at some point as well. But it is likely we will see both some of the technical rough edges getting smoothed off, and this kind of technical know-how becoming more common in the future.

    products

    USB-C charging comes to power tools

    DeWalt and Ryobi launch new charging systems

    Changes to the specs for USB-C have made it an attractive platform for universal charging. High- and low-end products take advantage of the opportunity.

    The latest evolution in the power tool industry could be in how Li-ion batteries get charged. This is reflective both of the ongoing evolution of charging in the USB environment, and of a shift in direction in how power tool companies are developing their platforms. USB is set to radically increase the power available for charging (up to 240W), and power tool companies are moving from the strategy of "locking in" users to a single platform, to enabling multi-platform use instead.

    Influence of tech on power tools

    The power tool industry has, over the past 10 years, found itself moving from the strictly mechanical and electrical and more towards high-tech electronics. This has largely been driven by three factors: the use of Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries which require complex electronics to function; the move to brushless motors, which also require complex electronics; and influences from both the burgeoning mobile smartphone industry and the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The former has brought down the cost of radio communications hardware (Bluetooth, WiFi), and the latter has helped in the development of higher capacity Li-ion batteries.

    One consequence of this is that we've also seen a growing confluence between power tools and other forms of at-home technology. Most notably, there's the cordless stick vacuum cleaner from Techtronic Industries' (TTI) Ryobi brand. Based on a design from TTI's VAX home cleaning brand, it uses Ryobi Li-ion batteries for power. Bosch has done something similar with its vacuums, but not quite so overtly.

    There is also an ever-expanding line of home cleaning power brushes from Ryobi and other brands, essentially repurposed power drills. Bunnings in Australia even sells a pack of home cleaning brushes for use in drills, marketed under its Ozito budget power tool captive brand.

    USB and power tool batteries

    This kind of strong influence is, however, somewhat different from what might be called true cross-over between power tools and high tech. At the moment, that crossover is most evident in the gradual adoption of USB as a standard for charging batteries.

    Many tradies and handymen have discovered the trick of buying a USB converter for their brand of batteries. These typically provide two USB type A connectors (the most common type of USB port) that enable users to charge their smartphones or iPads from their power tool batteries.

    The charge delivered through these adapters has typically been quite low. The standard specification allows a maximum of 1.5 amps at 5 volts, for 7.5W power. However, some chargers will supply 2.1 amps at 5 volts, for 10.5W power - though this is non-standard.

    Moving up from USB-A to USB-C, however, brings considerable power benefits. The base USB-C specification enables charging at 3 amps and 5 volts, for a 15W boost, and usually involves using the USB-A source to connect to a USB-C or custom connector (such as Apple's Lightning connector for its mobile devices).

    The real news, however, is in the USB Power Delivery Rev. 2.0 (V 1.2) spec from 2016 which enabled charging at 5 amps and 20 volts, for a considerable 100W boost.

    Further, with USB Power Delivery Rev. 3.1, first released in May 2021, this goes up even more, to 5 amps at 48 volts, for a boost of 240W. This boost is delivered intelligently, in steps at 15 volts, 28 volts, 36 volts and 48 volts, delivering power at 75W, 140W, 180W and 240W. Devices can request the charger to deliver the appropriate voltage, ensuring a high degree of safety in charging.

    While we have yet to see products emerge that make use of the full 240W, the 2016 lift to 100W has changed many high-tech products. Prior to 2021, Apple's line of MacBook Pro laptops, for example, were charged through USB-C at the 100W limit.

    DeWalt's USB-C charger

    Given that background, it's not surprising that the power tool industry is seeing its first USB-C based battery chargers appear on the market. The most developed, so far, is DeWalt's USB Charger/Adapter DCB094K, which is set to be sold in the US from March 2022. This adapter includes a 12W USB-A port and a USB-C port capable of 100W of charge.

    That charge is bi-directional, meaning the adapter makes it possible to charge devices such as laptops from any of the standard DeWalt 18 volt batteries, as well as its 54 volt FlexVolt batteries. However, the device can also charge up those same DeWalt batteries as well. The DCB094 kit includes the adaptor, a USB-C cord rated for 100W, and a plug-in wall charger, rated at 65W.

    This story was initially broken by the very good tool review website ToolGuyd back in October 2021.

    ToolGuyd DeWalt USB-C charger

    As is noted in that article, while the DCB094 offers good speed for a USB charger, it's far below the kind of charge offered by other dedicated DeWalt chargers, which can offer 12 amps at 18 volts, which is 216W.

    Sean Hollister of high tech website TheVerge spoke with Sean Fitzgibbons of DeWalt, who pointed out that the main aim of the charger was to provide versatility.

    I think we've got a sleeper hit here because we designed right up to the threshold of what's defined in that USB standard itself. It gives you a solution for an in-vehicle charger, now you've got your batteries charged on the way.
    The Verge: Power tool companies have discovered USB-C

    Ryobi and USB-C

    While the development of an accessory that can provide a high power output for a laptop and also be effectively charged through USB-C without the need for a dedicated charger is significant, it will likely remain a niche product. If the task is to have a means of charging a laptop without mains power, there are lighter, cheaper solutions, which can combine charging with hub functions, for example.

    A probably more evolutionary use of USB-C in power tools is the new line of craft/maker tools that will be launched by Ryobi in 2022. There are powered by 4 volt battery that is recharged through a USB-C connection.

    Back in 2009, Ryobi launched an entire line of 4 volt tools with a removable Li-ion battery. Knows as the Tek4 sub-brand, these included "utility" tools, such as infrared thermometer, laser distance measure, flashlight, and - eventually - a drill.

    The weak point of that line of tools was the battery recharging time, which, according to the industry tool review website Pro Tool Reviews, could take up to five hours for a full recharge. That tool line-up has not been continued, with the exception of the screwdriver.

    Pro Tool Reviews on Ryobi's Tek4

    The new 4 volt tools from Ryobi are branded as its USB Lithium line. So far there are four tools scheduled for release: a rotary tool, a power carver for woodwork and a power cutter, strong enough to cut through carpet, rubber and leather. There may also be a screwdriver planned, but this is less certain.

    These tools represent the point where a number of cross-currents in the power tool industry meet. First of all, as HNN has suggested previously, the craft/maker area of the market is likely to grow, partially replacing a substantial chunk of the standard DIY market. The second trend is the idea of more attention to "right-sizing" tools - the idea that the "standard" drill is a good fit for every household, for example, is being challenged.

    Perhaps most importantly, however, is a larger change in the industry that has to do with platforms. Just six or seven years ago most customers, in both DIY and trade, were getting used to the idea they were best off if they remained loyal to a single Li-ion battery platform. That way they could reduce expenditure on chargers, and effectively share a small number of batteries among many tools.

    That really began to change around 2020 or so, as there has been a steady move towards customers accepting that they will likely end up using multiple platforms. This can be seen in, for example, DeWalt's development of its FlexVolt platform to create a bridge between two quite different platforms, as compared to Makita recently launching its 40 volt platform, with few concerns the incompatibility with its 20 volt platform would create any real problems.

    Where before having relatively high-priced batteries and chargers helped to secure customer loyalty, in the new environment that is less helpful. It is a time for fewer, lower barriers. Companies such as Bosch are moving to make their battery systems compatible across a range of tool companies, some of which are even competitors.

    It's likely that, given this situation, the DIY market will find itself moving more towards using USB-C for charging. That doesn't only eliminate the cost of specific chargers for batteries, it also cuts down on tool clutter and confusion.

    This could lead to the revival and repositioning of some 12 volt DIY power tool lines, such as those for Ryobi and Bosch (green) tools. Eliminating the need to purchase a dedicated charger would move these into a more affordable category, and polish their appeal.

    products

    Hilti launches Nuron 22V in USA

    New power tool line relies on super 22V battery

    Hilti has launched a new line of tools, branded as "Nuron", destined to replace its existing Hilti 22-volt cordless range. The focus is on the batteries, which provide exceptional power, as well as data connectivity.

    Lichtenstein-based global power tool company Hilti has released a new line of 22-volt tools, branded as "Nuron". These tools are set to entirely replace Hilti's previous line of 22-volt tools. The company will continue to support the previous 22-volt tools, as well as its 36-volt and 12-volt tools. This includes providing an adapter that will enable previous 22-volt tools to work with the new Nuron batteries. Hilti has also indicated that most - though not all - Hilti accessories will work with Nuron tools.

    While Hilti is taking measures to safeguard the past investments of its customers in newly superseded platforms, indications are that Nuron will eventually become the sole platform to receive future development funding by Hilti.

    One sign of this is that Hilti is offering over 70 tools (according to company claims) at launch. These tools will produce over twice the power of previous 22-volt tools, and also be more powerful than Hilti's range of 36-volt tools. The company claims that these batteries can produce power that matches that of the 60-volt (max) tools from DeWalt, as well as the 72-volt tools from Techtronic Industries' high-end Milwaukee tools. It seems likely matching these other battery systems will involve pairing the Hilti's 22-volt batteries.

    Better batteries

    At the core of the Nuron power tool range is a new kind of battery that Hilti has engineered. This is a result, HNN would suggest, of an interesting insight that Hilti has had into its markets - resulting in what could be described as a bit of a strategic gamble.

    Firstly, it is probably best to briefly note the electrical characteristics of the batteries and motors used in most power tools. One misconception that power tool customers typically have is that increasing voltage is the best way to increase power. This isn't necessarily the case. A 22-volt tool can provide the same power as a 72-volt tool. The real point is that as power demands increase, keeping the voltage lower results in some serious design issues that need to be overcome.

    Voltage and power

    The word "power" is very easy for any actual user of a tool to understand - it's all about how thick a plank of wood a circular saw can cut, or how quickly an impact driver can drive a screw through a plank of decking. When we come to describe this in more abstract terms, it gets somewhat more complex. For electrical motors, power is defined in watts, which is derived by measuring volts multiplied by amps.

    If you needed a power output equivalent to 720 watts, for example, you could use any one of the following combinations:

  • 12 volts at 60 amps
  • 24 volts at 30 amps
  • 36 volts at 20 amps
  • 72 volts at 10 amps
  • But this is only part of the story, as it describes the energy that is available to the motor. In terms of actuating the motor, and determining the potential power it produces when being used, we run into a derivative of Ohm's Law, which describes how voltage (volts) relates to current (amps) and resistances (ohms). Basically the power produced (in watts) is determined by the voltage squared divided by the resistance of the motor. So as the voltage increases, the power increases on an exponential basis, for any given resistance.

    Lowering resistance

    However, this is only part of the story. There are, evidently, two ways to increase the power of a tool. The first is certainly to increase voltage, and the second is to decrease resistance - which involves not just the tool motor, but the battery in particular.

    That is exactly the strategy that Hilti has adopted with Nuron. According to statements from Hilti, the new batteries - available in at least the four standard sizes of 2.5Ah, 4.0Ah, 8.0Ah and 12.0Ah - are something of a technical tour de force.

    As stated in a promotional video supplied by Hilti:

    We start with highly efficient 21700 cells that run cooler, and a new high performance interface designed to deliver up to twice the current [higher amps]. This interface includes large braided copper wires that can handle heavy loads and last longer, with plugs [terminal connections] that are spring loaded to maintain solid contact, even in high vibration applications.

    (Hilti does note elsewhere that it will continue the use of 18650 battery cells for some purposes.)

    As with new batteries from DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee, the cases of the battery hold the cells in individual slots:

    New cell holders encapsulate each individual cell in one solid continuous construction for better heat management.

    Protected batteries

    The company has also invested heavily in measures to ensure the batteries have a high degree of physical durability:

    Nuron batteries go beyond the industry standards of ABS housings with ultra-robust glass fibre housing and bumpers on the outside to help protect against drops.

    That protection extends to the electronics as well:

    The electronics are potted rather than lacquered, to provide a better seal against dust, moisture and other contaminants.

    "Potting" electronics means that rather than just protecting the delicate connections on circuit boards by coating them in a thick adhesive lacquer, the cavity housing the board is completely filled with an inert agent such as epoxy. That seals the board completely, and contributes to its rigidity.

    The Hilti video that supplies many of these details is worth watching:


    Beyond these physical protections, Hilti has added better monitoring of the battery's electronic state of health as well. Firstly, the charge indicator on the battery will remain always on, which means users can tell at a glance what their charge level is. Secondly, that same light will help users monitor the level of stress on the battery. As Hilti describes it:

    If your battery is too hot too cold or overloaded you get a yellow flashing light letting you know to either ease up on the tool, shift down a gear, or go up in battery class for the application.

    Thirdly, there is a button to press that will cause the battery to perform diagnostics on itself. If the battery has had its charge retention reduced to less than 50% of stated capacity, a red light will illuminate, indicating it should be replaced.

    The cloud connection

    The capabilities of the new Hilti battery do not stop there, however. Hilti has for some time lagged behind the industry, in particular Milwaukee Tool, when it comes to making possible the "connected tool", but with Nuron batteries, it plans to reduce that gap.

    In a pattern familiar across many industries, Milwaukee, with its launch of One-Key in 2016, essentially developed the technologies that Hilti should have developed, thus beginning to erode some of Hilti's competitive advantage when it came to tool fleet management. Yet, of course, Hilti was unable to develop those technologies, as that would have meant partially disrupting its own, highly profitable business model - which relied on largely analogue processes to do what One-Key could do digitally.

    (This is similar to what happened to Kodak. The company invented the digital camera, but chose not to pursue it, so as not to disrupt its main source of revenue, analogue chemical film products.)

    For Hilti, the batteries play a key part in connectivity. While tools are in use, they download data to the battery, which stores the information. When the battery is connected to a charge for recharging, the charger then utilises in-built connectivity to upload that data back to Hilti (but only if the user has opted-in to this feature). Writing in Pro Tool Review, ace writer Clint DeBoer had this to say about that connectivity:

    The battery charger features a global SIM and 3G cellular connection that automatically updates the data during the battery charging process. If the network isn't active, the charger retrieves the data and then uploads it when it next comes online.
    Hilti Nuron Power Tools and Battery Technology

    There is, of course, a bit of a problem with this - as the USA along with Australia and many other countries are shutting down their 3G networks. It's likely Hilti/Mr DeBoer really means 4G.

    For users who do opt-in to the service, Hilti is offering to perform fleet analyses that will assist customers in maximising the use of their tool assets. As the promotional video states:

    For instance, Hilti will automatically monitor the parameters of every battery and predict when a battery will wear out. In that situation, we will notify the customer to confirm where we should ship the new battery. In addition, customers can identify tools or batteries that are sitting idle or that were lost and transfer them to where they are needed. They can also see the overall utilisation of their tools and avoid unnecessary additions to their cribs. These data driven services and transparency will help our customers more efficiently manage their cribs and increase their bottom lines and they are just the beginning.

    The battery strategy

    What exactly is Hilti doing with the launch of Nuron? In HNN's view, it is partly coherent analysis, and partly a bit of a gamble by the company.

    The downside of the strategy is that, of course, these are going to be quite expensive batteries to make, therefore costly for customers to buy. Cost reduction through the use of less expensive materials (such as reduced use of copper) is one reason why power tool companies have looked to higher voltage tools to increase power. Hilti is, in part, wagering that the considerable advantages of just having one battery that works across every single new tool a customer will buy is going to outweigh other cost factors.

    The single battery strategy has advantages in terms of logistics in that it eliminates working out which battery needs to be where to ensure that construction work continues. It aids redundancy in reducing the number of "spares" that need to be on hand, and it also reduces the number of charges that will be required to keep construction teams up and running.

    On top of that there is everything that Hilti is doing with connectivity, one aspect of which is making sure customers get as much use as possible out of every battery they own. That should mean they need to own fewer batteries, making the per-battery cost easier to bear.

    Looking at the design of the batteries, and Hilti's in-field curation of them, one question also worth considering is whether there isn't a plan to re-use the battery casing and electronics. If Hilti is able to detect batteries that have dropped below 50% capability, and then replace those, might this be something more of a battery exchange?

    Could Hilti simply refurbish these batteries by replacing their Lithium-ion cells? That would help to amortise their cost over more years of service, and would also be a very strong statement about environmental sustainability.

    Yet, even all of this doesn't really fully capture what Hilti's strategy may well be. What the company is really saying is that, in its view, the part of the technological puzzle that is going to develop the fastest over the next decade or so will be batteries. We've already seen DeWalt come out with its "pocket"-based Li-ion batteries, and there are more developments set to make their way from the electric vehicle area to power tools. By having (essentially) just one type of battery, Hilti will be able to quickly adapt to these new technologies, and disseminate them throughout their range, while companies that rely on a range of different battery types will face a delay in getting them through production.

    If that is true, then this is quite the strategy - and also, really, quite the gamble as well.

    The company

    Overall, Hilti has shown an acceptable level of growth for the past five years, with the exception of the company's FY2020, which saw significant declines in both sales and net income. As the charts below show, its a less positive picture than that of several other power tool companies.

    However, according to a press release from Hilti in September 2021, things are looking up for the current financial year, with the results listed in Swiss francs (CHF):

    The Hilti Group achieved a sales growth of 13 percent up to CHF 3,872 million as per end of August 2021. Both the operating result and net income significantly increased compared to one year ago, with CHF 613 million (+38%) and CHF 466 million (+48%), respectively.

    Analysis

    With this evolution of its product line from Hilti, the global power tool industry is now in what is a unique position as compared to the past decade or so: every major tool company now has its own particular stance in the market. Those stances are largely demarcated by their battery strategies. These range from the single battery strategy of Hilti, to the "everything" battery strategy of Stanley Black & Decker (SBD).

  • Hilti
  • One battery, universally applicable across the entire range of tools.

  • Bosch
  • Bosch really has a battery strategy similar to that of Hilti before Nuron. In trade tools, it is mainly focussed on its 18-volt "ProCore" range of high-performance Li-ion. It does offer a good range of 12-volt (max) tools, as well as a limited range of of hammer drill/drivers and rotary hammers with a 36-volt battery.

  • TTI/Milwaukee
  • Milwaukee's 20-volt (max) battery dominates the brand, but there is also strong representation for its 12-volt (max) system. In addition, there is the 72-volt MX battery line, for high-end, heavy-duty tools.

  • Hikoki
  • The brand formerly known as Hitachi Tools, now amalgamated with Metabo, has pushed into what it terms its "MultiVolt" system. This means that its 36-volt battery system can also power its 18-volt tools - or at least most of them, if not all.

  • Makita
  • Makita at the moment has two parallel lines of tools: its "standard" 18-volt system, and its newer 40-volt (max) system. There is considerable speculation about whether Makita will drop its 18-volt system sometime in the next two to three years, or, alternatively, drop its 12-volt (max) tools, and move its 18-volt system into more compact tools.

  • Stanley Black & Decker/DeWalt
  • DeWalt is largely responsible for the move to higher voltage battery systems with its FlexVolt range released in mid-2016. It currently has the most integrated range of multiple voltage batteries, from 12-volt (max) up to its double-FlexVolt 120-volt (max) tools.

    While this range of diverse approaches is in several ways something of a good thing, as the home improvement and building/construction trades now have a wide variety from which to choose a battery platform solution, it is also more than a little confusing.

    One thing that Hilti has done with this announcement is to end any potential confusion for Hilti customers - they can make long term plans based on the Hilti single battery strategy.

    That said, it does seem likely that the future of power tools is going to go far beyond just how big and how good a battery system can be. It's far more likely to have something to do with automation and robotics, in particular the far wider introduction of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines for performing precision repetitious tasks. That's the only real pathway towards improving productivity in the construction industry.

    In a more near-future sense, you also have to ask what the balance needs to be between system-wide efficiency gains, and more "tool-by-tool" efficiency gains. Having a centralised system of battery registration, tracking and checking will bring systemic gains to productivity. But, as an alternative, imagine simply implementing the kind of wideband tracking technology that Apple provides on its AirTags product on every tool a company has in its inventory.

    Rather than just providing the vague indication provided by Bluetooth tracking - alerting that a tool is somewhere in a 15-metre radius - wideband can track down to less than a metre of resolution, and provide directional arrows to aid location. At a guess, as wonderful as fleet management may be, eliminating the hours spent by construction crews trying to find a specific tool would provide an instant productivity boost.

    products

    IKEA and its place in home improvement

    IKEA sales up for FY2021, as 26% of revenue now from online

    After a difficult FY2020, FY2021 has seen IKEA improve back to FY2019 levels. Can hardware retailers do more to gain from the company's market share?

    Global big-box flatpack furniture retailer IKEA has released results for its FY2020/21 (FY21), which covers the trailing 12 months to 31 August 2021. The company saw sales of EUR41.9 billion, an increase by 5.8% over FY20. Really, however, this was a return to the sales performance of FY19 of EUR41.3 billion. Yet, in a sign of ongoing tough operation conditions, net income for FY21 was EUR1.4 billion, down by over 17% on FY20.

    In explaining its tough FY21, IKEA stated:

    In FY21, the continuing effects of the global pandemic forced a large number of IKEA stores to shut. Some were closed for even longer periods in FY21 compared to FY20. When most stores re-opened in late spring, customers returned and in FY21 IKEA stores welcomed 775 million visitors. This is below FY20 (825 million visits), causing a store sales decline of 8%.

    The composition of IKEA's sales channels changed sharply over the past year. Online sales grew by 73%, and now represent 26% of overall sales revenue, the result of over five billion visitors to IKEA websites worldwide. The shift to online, and ongoing problems in sourcing adequate supplies as global logistics slowdowns and capacity limits hit impacted overall performance. Speculation is that IKEA will be forced to increase in-store prices, possibly by as much as 9.0%. In fact, prices on popular products, such as the Billy bookcase, seem to have already increased in Australia.

    Despite these COVID-19 pandemic created setbacks, IKEA states that it has continued to innovate in products, and has further plans for expansion. As Jon Abrahamsson Ring, the CEO of Inter IKEA Group, stated in his review of the year:

    This year nearly all stores have re-opened and together welcomed nearly 775 million visitors. Around 45 new IKEA locations (including tests) opened in FY21, including the first stores in Mexico and Slovenia. In September, franchisees opened the first full-size IKEA store in Puerto Rico and launched e-commerce in the Philippines. Our first store in the Philippines is planned to open in November, and nearly 60 more locations are expected to open this financial year.
    In fact we're expanding as fast as ever. Between FY19 and the end of FY23, we expect to open 17 new markets in total and an average of 50 new locations per year (including tests).

    Mr Ring also highlighted IKEA's new range of lightbulbs, and a move to more plant-based foods as significant innovations:

    We've continued to launch new products and solutions to enable customers to live healthier and more sustainably. SOLHETTA, our next generation of LED bulbs, is one example. They're more affordable than our existing bulbs and on average 35% more energy-efficient. We also see an increased interest in plant-based food such as our HUVUDROLL plant ball and the VARLDSKLOK plant-based mince. By 2025, 50% of the main meals offered in IKEA restaurants should be plant-based.

    Perhaps the biggest signal of just how much IKEA is planning to change in adjusting to a different retail future, the company no longer produces its once-iconic catalogues. With online access to the same information, there simply is little need for it.

    IKEA in Australia

    According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Sarah Danckert, the Australian operations of IKEA also saw an uptick in sales for FY21:

    Meanwhile, Sweden's IKEA has posted its first profit in five years as Australians spent their lockdowns with Allen keys in hand, putting together flat-pack furniture. Sales for the year jumped to $1.62 billion up from the $1.55 billion it posted in 2020. The strong sales drove IKEA to a net profit of $7.89 million for 2021 against a loss of $8.66 million in 2020, according to accounts filed in late December.
    SMH: Overseas retailers boom as local groups struggle in lockdowns

    IKEA and home improvement

    A year after Woolworths launched the initial Masters Home Improvement stores in late 2011, HNN had the chance to talk with one of that venture's senior executives. When we asked her how she planned to compete with IKEA, she just laughed. IKEA, she told us, was in a totally different business, and it would not affect Masters at all.

    While Masters hardly stands as an icon of sound strategic management for the hardware/home improvement industry, it was not alone in seeing IKEA as not affecting the home improvement market. Ten years later, many - if not most - hardware retailers would agree that IKEA is a considerable player in their market. Even with that realisation, however, they remain unclear what to do about it.

    That's largely because it is a confusing picture. Clear areas of direct competition are often hard to locate. Perhaps the most evident is the competition between IKEA and the captive kitchen brand for big-box home improvement retailer Bunnings, Kaboodle. Whether customers are planning to build their own kitchen, or are sourcing a kitchen to be assembled by specialists in flatpack kitchen installation, the two main choices remain IKEA and Kaboodle.

    Kaboodle is more affordable, in general, bundling high-style into systems that many regard as being made with inferior materials to those used by IKEA. On the other hand, basic IKEA kitchens are quite affordable, but once the designer goes beyond the basics, rapidly increase in price.

    But what about the other areas of IKEA? While it pulled out of laminate flooring several years ago, the company has remained competitive in other areas, particularly plumbing, kitchen appliances such as stoves and microwaves, and in general categories including light fittings, lightbulbs, batteries, and, increasingly, the smart home.

    While all those areas are certainly places where IKEA competes with some vigour, the real competitive pressure that comes from IKEA is actually somewhat subtler. Ethan Daniel James, who runs a YouTube channel on woodworking for DIYers called The Honest Carpenter, has a video on what he terms "The IKEA Effect". The problem that he outlines is that as a carpenter in North Dakota, USA, at one time he found himself driving to customers' homes to quote on work such as built-in cabinets and bookshelves. He would estimate a cost - typically around USD10,000 - only to have the customers protest that it would probably cost them just USD1500 using prebuilt items from IKEA.

    As Mr James himself says, he doesn't necessarily see this as such a bad thing. After all, it means that people with a limited budget have better access to stylish furniture that, with a little DIY effort, can look custom-made and built-in. The difficulty is that, depending on how it is treated, it won't stay looking good for more than five to eight years, while custom built cabinetry will last over 20 years, and just keep looking better.


    So the more subtle effect of IKEA is that it deprives some of the best customers of hardware stores - tradies, especially carpenters - of a certain proportion of their potential income. Which, of course, flows through to hardware stores.

    A secondary loss is that customers who can do "traditional" DIY are influenced to go with IKEA furniture instead. Materials for a simple bookcase to match the IKEA product (particle board/melamine/16mm with shelves 44cm) are going to cost somewhere between $150 and $200. Even with the recent cost increase for the basic white Billy bookcase to $99, this remains more cost effective for the average DIYer, let alone DIYers with only basic skills. A customer with three bookcases (which is a common number), will save $200 or so, not to mention less time and little need for power tools.

    IKEA opportunities

    While all this might seem something of a net loss for home improvement retailers, there is also an upside to all of this. Going back to the ever-popular Billy bookcase, hiring specialists to assemble IKEA furniture has proven so popular with customers that IKEA now incorporates these services into its online checkout page. For the bookcases, the fee is around $24 each - which doesn't seem too bad, except that there is also a $40 "callout" fee for each assembly service visit as well. That means the total cost for assembling three bookcases would be over $110.

    The market opportunity that exists here is for enabling the lowest skilled sector of the DIY market to be able to do the usually very simple tasks associated with flatpack furniture. When it comes to assembling the furniture, the major source of problems come from the various types of fasteners. And, especially for IKEA furniture, the fasteners that cause the most problems are screws and complex locking units that require the use of a hex Allen key.

    Three solutions

    There are two different solutions that could be applied to this problem. The first is to find some hex key drill bits that would fit in an existing or newly purchased cordless drill/screwdriver. The second is to purchase a cordless screwdriver that comes with at least an adequate number of hex key drill bits.

    A set of hex key drill bits

    The easiest and simplest way to overcome problems with the Allen key is, of course, to buy hex head screwdriver bits which can be used in a drill. So, here's some news for the home improvement industry: just about no retailer in Australia actually sells sets of consumer-grade hex bits, which would need to cost less than $15 for a set.

    For example - to go to the biggest possible supplier - Bunnings does not seem to offer an exact match at the consumer end of the line. The best fit is the Craftright 100 Piece Screwdriver Bit Set, which retails for $9.98, and provides six hex key bits.

    There are two problems with that. One is that for most inexperienced DIYers, the idea of buying 100 bits when they really need just seven (six bits and a bit holder) is just bewildering. The second is that, umm, let's just say experience indicates one often encounters screws that are made of stronger metal than these bits - in other words the bit strips before the screw does. (Of course, what do you expect for $9.98?)

    Bunnings Craftright 100 bits

    Amazon in Australia also doesn't have a ready solution (though US Amazon does), but you can find something decent on eBay, a set of eight hex bits for $9.99.

    eBay Hex Bit Set

    Looking overseas, neither Lowe's nor The Home Depot really have a good offer for consumers, but - perhaps not so surprisingly - B&Q in the UK does: an eight-bit set for GBP4.00 (around AUD9.30).

    https://www.diy.com/departments/universal-hex-screwdriver-bits-set-of-8/1738507_BQ.prd

    In fact, the B&Q website successfully makes just the right suggestion in its "frequently bought together" section for flatpack assembly:

    (Though, while GBP20 for the cordless screwdriver is a great deal, what's with the GBP3.04 for the bit holder?)

    A driver with a set of hex key bits

    The solution from B&Q is a way of bundling the requisite elements together, but there are - even in Australia - examples of "pre-bundled" cordless screwdrivers with just enough hex key bits to at least be of some help.

    To go through the basic details of what is on offer, we can start again with Bunnings, which offers the Ozito cordless screwdriver/torch model SDL-5000. This comes with 24 bits, including six hex key bits, from 1mm to 6mm. The SDL-5000 produces 3.5Nm of torque, runs at 3.6V, and takes three to five hours to charge over USB. Bunnings retails this for $34.98.

    This contrasts with the IXO version VI (as in "six") from Bosch. This comes with fewer screwdriver bits, but includes the 4mm and 5mm hex bits. It is also 3.6V, and can produce up to 4.5Nm of torque. It takes two hours to charge over USB. It costs $79 on Amazon Australia.

    Finally, there is what is apparently known as the Black & Decker Hex Driver - though that name does not appear on the tool, the packaging, or in the manual, though it is referenced as such on Amazon. Instead, in its materials it is referred to as the "furniture assembly tool".

    What makes this tool unique is that it does not come with any hex bits at all - not a one. Instead, the Hex Driver's chuck has been slotted in such a way that the user can slot in either a standard bent Allen key, or a double bend, two-head Allen key. It also comes with four standard screw bits, two flathead and two Phillips head. It normally retails for $40, but can be found on sale on Amazon Australia for $30.

    The Ozito SDL-5000

    How to even get started describing this tool?

    Perhaps the best place is the stand. The SDL comes with a stand that not only keeps it in the vertical position, but includes a clear acetate cover to the stand, all the better to display it. HNN is not sure exactly where you are going to display it (on a mantlepiece beside your Agorafocus wood burner?), but why else would it have a transparent acetate cover?

    The stand itself is a little reminiscent of the post-War, 1950s designs that came out of Italy, in that it appears heroic, but has some functional flaws. For example, the stand for the screwdriver is canted over the six-by-four receptacle for the 24 bits in such a way that it is impossible to remove the bits in the centre without taking out a bit at the edge. Worse, at the back, near the stand arm, removing one bit requires first taking out four other bits.

    The stand features four, large green LED lights. You might imagine these show the level of charge in the screwdriver, but they do not. Instead, while the tool is charging they flash in sequence, and when the tool is fully charge they all turn on. The same utility could have been achieved with a single (smaller) LED. (Perhaps as it can take five hours to fully charge, this is regarded as a event worth marking with a light display.)

    On the subject of lights, there is a white LED at the front of the screwdriver intended to illuminate - one presumes - the fastener being fastened at the end of the bit. It does not. Cleverly enough the chuck of the tool cuts the light off, leaving everything illuminated except the work area. The screwdriver does have one clever trick: by pressing a button and twisting the handle, it becomes a "straight" screwdriver.

    In terms of actually getting an Allen head screw to go into a pre-drilled hole in IKEA particle board, the SDL did this competently, and a little faster than the other two screwdrivers. That's mainly because the single speed that it can achieve is geared to be a little faster. It also has a torque clutch, with nine settings, and this appears to work, though determining the best setting is difficult.

    The screwdriver can be set in forward and reverse rotation, which is achieved by a "pass through" switch immediately above the trigger, similar to the system common to most larger cordless drills. This is, without question, the jankiest switch HNN has ever seen on a power tool, both loose and vague in its action.

    The SDL also features a flashlight, on the opposite end to the chuck. It works.

    Bosch IXO VI

    In contrast, the IXO is an exceptionally well-designed tool. It has a modest, flat case, which, while a little larger than it really needs to be, is designed to be conveniently stored on a shelf, or packed into a drawer.

    The tool itself is refined in every place the Ozito SDL is not. The light, for example, is placed on top of the screwdriver, so it directly illuminates the fastener and the work area. It also remains active for three seconds after the trigger is released, meaning it can be pre-triggered before fastening, so as to aid positioning.

    Charging is indicated by three small green LEDs on the top of the tool, and these do indicate battery charge, battery charging progress, and full charge. The LED's activate whenever the trigger is pressed, and during charging.

    The main upgrade for the version VI IXO over the version V is that the trigger is progressive, enabling the user to better start a screw with low revs, and making it easier to set the screw precisely flush, especially in the softer woods used in flatpack furniture. There is no apparent torque clutch - except that there is. Bosch realised that a torque clutch with settings is not what this tool is about, so the torque clutch is simply there, as an automatic safeguard against kickback.

    The tool can be placed in forward and reverse by moving a vertical switch at the back of the tool, where it is handy to the user's thumb. This is truly one of the best switches on any tool. Its action is quite soft and smooth, but its setting is also definite.

    Black & Decker Hex Driver

    While even the Ozito SDL-5000 probably deserves to be called a tool (though a flawed one), it's likely the Hex Driver falls more into the category of "gadget". It's not that it lacks features and utility, it's just that it delivers these in a slightly odd way.

    The biggest draw for the Hex Driver is, of course, its ability to use standard Allen keys. But why, exactly, is that so important? It's important because the people who will have most trouble assembling IKEA and other flatpack furniture will likely not be able to relate the idea of a hex bit to a standard bent Allen key. This tool isn't just convenient because it means it can work on any flatpack furniture using any Allen key, it's also conceptual.

    A good illustration of its gadget nature is how its work light functions. There is a translucent ring around the chuck, and there are two white LEDs in that ring that activate when the trigger is pressed. This does illuminate the work area, but with a widely diffused light that lacks intensity. It is, well, sort of a bit more towards "cute" than functional.

    Outside that it does its limited job relatively well. It's easy to insert an Allen key or a screwdriver bit. The trigger is single speed. It might be a little bit down on power as contrasted to the other two, but not by much. The forward/reverse is set by a sliding switch on the top of the tool. There's a single LED on the front of the handle that indicates charging condition.

    Conclusion

    If you throw away the case for the Ozito SDL-5000, and find a different way to store the 24 screwdriver bits, as a single-purpose tool for flatpack assembly, it might win purely because of its low price. If, however, the tool is destined to be used for anything more complicated than tightening the screw on a saucepan handle, or taking the covers off electric switches before painting, then the Bosch IXO is by far the better option.

    It might cost more, but the IXO is the "I've got you" tool. Need to see what you are doing? Want to always be safe from kickback? Want to be able to quickly recharge? To be alerted to a low charge level, rather than just guessing? It is just very well designed.

    That said, the Black & Decker Hex Driver is genuinely a clever gadget, and might make the difference from someone overpaying for outsourced assembly.

    Analysis

    When you think about the number of IKEA (and other flatpack furniture) customers there are out there, endlessly twirling their Allen keys, it really is a little mystifying that DIY grade hex bit sets are in such sparse supply.

    More than that, though, why has this entire, thriving sector of the DIY/home improvement market continued to be so neglected? There is ample evidence that "IKEA hacking" - as it has become known - has long been a thriving part of the market as well. People buy IKEA furniture designed for one purpose, and find creative ways to make it work in a different way, or take relatively plain IKEA products and turn them into something elegant and interesting.

    IKEA hackers is a well-known website that gathers such hacks (though it has become almost unreadable lately due to a plethora of Google Ads). One of its most popular conversions is about the use of the IKEA Pax closets to create a walk-in closet.

    Hands Down The Most Stunning Walk-In Closet

    The list of supplies needed to make this work includes:

  • 1/2? Poplar Plywood Sheets
  • Mitre Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Construction Adhesive
  • Painters Caulk
  • BIN Zinsser Shellac Primer
  • Paint
  • Spray Gun
  • Laser level
  • Drawer Hardware
  • Unfinished Wood Hanging Rods
  • Obviously, that's not all that different from a typical DIY project list. This isn't just a small, niche activity either. According to website The Hustle, there have been over 64 million views of TikTok content tagged as #ikeahacks, and 500,000 posts on Instagram tagged with #ikeahack.

    The thriving business of 'Ikea hacking'

    Of course, what really stands in the way of Australian hardware retailers following this path is much the same cultural factors as prevent the Honest Carpenter, Ethan James, from adapting more to his available market. It simply isn't the kind of business that most Australian hardware retailers thought they would be in.

    Which brings us to the subject of broader strategy. If hardware retailers do want to continue to enjoy increased DIY sales going into 2022, it is vital that they contemplate this kind of shift in their markets. The fact that customers were virtually forced to go to local hardware retailers during the pandemic is a great start. But we know just about all of that trade is going to go away, if hardware retailers do not adapt, and actually start selling to customers in the way the customers want.

    products

    Worx MakerX competes with Dremel

    Unique system offers six tools

    Worx has developed craft tools that split the difference between corded and cordless. Using a standard Li-ion battery with an attachable hub, the MakerX system is portable and easy to use.

    Worx tools have long had something of a mixed reputation. On one side, they are seen as innovative, unusual solutions to needs that many homeowners have. On the other side, some of their tools can remind customers of the sort of thing their favourite crazy uncle/aunt comes up with - possible, but not necessarily practical.

    At least, that's the way things looked prior to 2021. One big shift that came with 2021 was that, Flex, a sister company of Worx (both are owned by China-based global top-ten power tool company Chervon) became a major player in the North American market with the release of a range of 24-volt cordless tools for professionals/tradies. These were not without their flaws, but were generally well-received in the market, distributed mainly through big-box home improvement chain Lowe's.

    (Part of the backstory to that move by Chervon is that Stanley Black & Decker's Craftsman brand is going to replace some of the Kobalt brand tools - which are also made by Chervon - in Lowe's stores. Effectively, the Kobalt tools, aimed at tradies, are being split into semi-DIY/handyman for Craftsman, and ultra-pro for Flex.)

    The main area where Worx has excelled in the past has been tools for gardening. Its earliest success came with garden line trimmers. One of its least-acknowledged, but really well-designed products is the Aerocart, which transformed the humble home wheelbarrow into a multi-purpose carry tool, along with a wide range of accessories which greatly expanded its capability.

    More recently, Worx has turned its attention to one of the sub-markets inside the wider DIY markets, with its new MakerX range of "hobbyist" tools. Actually, though it is not immediately apparent, it's about two such sub-markets. The most evident sub-market is the same one that the Dremel system (made by Bosch) is aimed at, which involves small-scale carving, mostly of wood, but other materials, including metal and hard plastics.

    To concentrate on that market for the moment, we could say that MakerX is pointed directly at one of the quandaries that has troubled Dremel in its tool development. Dremel were, of course, for a long time strictly a corded tool. When they went cordless, the designers had to choose between making a tool about the same size as a corded Dremel, which would have meant limited battery life, or making the Dremel thicker and heavier, due to the larger battery. The company chose the latter - and that was probably the right choice.

    That has resulted in a Dremel that has the convenience of being cordless but is - especially for those with smaller hands - more difficult to hold, and a little wearisome to use for long periods, due to its weight.

    Worx has done with its MakerX range is to more-or-less "split the difference". They have developed a "hub" that attaches to the tool slide on a standard Worx 20-volt battery, with an on/off button and a dial that controls the voltage (and therefore speed/heat etc.).

    While this doesn't give quite the "freedom" of a fully cordless device (there is still a cord from the hub to the tool), it does make the tool more manoeuvrable, and usable beyond the reach of an extension cord. This also means, of course, that without an integrated battery the tool can be slimmer and lighter. That means being able to hold it in the "pencil grip" for fine hand-motor control, and that its weight is reduced to the point where it will seldom create wrist fatigue.

    Worx has gone on to extend that basic system to include an entire range of small, easy-to-use "maker" tools, for the hobbyist/DIY market. These include:

  • The Dremel-like rotary tool
  • Soldering iron (described as a wood/metal crafting tool, as it can also be used to mark wood)
  • Heat gun
  • Air brush
  • Angle grinder
  • Rotary cutter
  • Hot glue gun
  • Mini-blower
  • These tools are further tweaked - just a little - to make them useful across a broader range of activities. For example, the air brush is food-safe - meaning it can be used for tasks such as spray-painting a cake, or applying a thin glaze.


    The other market

    While all that describes tools that will prove popular with a considerable slice of the hobbyist market, there is another market they also suit ideally: the makers who use 3D printing and CNC routers to build projects.

    In 3D printing, for example, most objects require some amount of "scaffolding" to prevent the object from drooping of collapsing during its construction. This is added on to the model by the software that controls the printer. After the print in finished, there is a finicky process required to remove all the scaffolding elements so as to leave smooth surfaces.

    Furthermore, many projects require additional steps. Large curved surfaces need to be smoothed over, parts glued together, and, very often, paint applied to the monochrome plastic.

    The range of MakerX tools are well-suited to those tasks. One sure sign that this maker community has spotted the advantages of MakerX is the number of 3D designs already available publicly to enhance the system's utility. These include accessories such as a clip-on belt holder for the battery and hub, and a range of nozzles for the blower.

    Analysis

    With 2022, the hardware retail industry is going to start to enter into what we might term the "new DIY". The experience during the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that there actually is more of an available DIY market out there; the question is, how do you successfully engage with it?

    One part of that is looking a little more towards the part of it that verges on craft. While many hardware stores do stock Dremel tools, these are usually isolated in power tool bays, rather than in craft-focused areas.

    Beyond craft, however, is the ongoing rise of the digital maker culture. While this is still a relatively small area of DIY, it's also the area – outside of the prosumers - which is willing to spend the most on its activities. These are people willing to pay over $3000 for some types of 3D printer, and they do need a range of accessories to support that engagement.

    And, of course, in relation to all this activity is that magic, golden word, one which all hardware retailers love to hear - accessories. There is range of supplies, from hot glue to abrasive disks and model paint, that these types of DIYers are going to need.

    In fact, this future DIY is probably going to be defined more by its diversity than its similarities. That's really the strategy behind Worx's MakerX products - building a highly versatile system that can be used in a wide range of circumstances. Hardware retailers might want to take note of this, and emulate that approach in their own stores.

    products

    New product: Strucket

    More than just a bucket

    Strucket is the first strainer-meets-bucket product and is stocked in a number of Bunnings stores

    With multiple uses, Strucket was created out of desperation after Kelly Lavery, who is based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, searched far and wide, but failed to find a product that would allow no-touch soaking of laundry items. Ms Lavery told her story to the Courier-Mail:

    We have two girls and then we had a 'whoops' baby. I was in my late-30s and thrown back into the trenches of motherhood and you forget how messy it is and you're faced with buckets of baby mess.
    Putting my hand in a bucket of soaking nappies was like putting it in a dirty toilet! I hated it and wanted a better way.

    After failing to find a product like Strucket, she decided to create one after doing a professional patent search and found that nothing what she envisaged existed. An industrial engineer created a prototype and then the tooling machine was built to manufacture it.

    Ms Lavery said they had connected with product design specialists Evolve Group to "bring the product to life".

    In 2016 no one would look at us because the big companies like David Jones don't want to take the risk on something they didn't know would sell. So we started selling online and then to smaller retailers and the nappy industry has been very supportive.
    In fact we've done very well from the get-go and been in the black for the last couple of years.

    There are now more than 150,000 Struckets in Australian homes, according to Ms Lavery. The innovative product is designed to fit inside the laundry sink and has been built to handle the weight of wet clothes without users losing their balance. It allows people to soak, separate, and drain and for those with sensitive skin, there's no more worrying about getting chemicals on their hands - it's all hands-free.

    Ms Lavery admits to more than a few "pinch me" moments during the journey, especially in June this year when Bunnings contacted her about stocking Strucket in their warehouses. She said:

    It's a funny feeling when Bunnings gives you a call. It's quite a surreal feeling knowing that the store that I originally went to in search of a Strucket some six years ago, now stocks the Strucket on their shelves.

    Ms Lavery said her Buderim Bucket Company continues to expand and she is now looking offshore for growth. She said:

    We're deep diving into our export strategy. We sell in the US and UK and a little bit in Europe but we are looking at growing in the Americas in 2022.
  • Sources: The Courier Mail and The Australian
  • products

    Ryobi Link disrupts tool storage

    Mobile storage meets wall storage

    Released in the US in mid-November 2021, the Link storage system offers a unique way to store and access tools for the next generation of DIYers, as well as trades.

    The Link system from Ryobi is a new design that combines mobile toolboxes with fixed tool storage. There are two core ideas behind Link. At the heart of Link, and what makes it so unique, is the system used to stack tool storage on a mobile trolley, making it easier to move tools from a ute, truck or van to the actual worksite.

    The second idea, and the one which gives this system its name, is that it "links" fixed storage and mobile storage into a single system. Fixed storage organises the tools, which are then selected to be included into mobile storage, customised for the tasks needed for that day.

    Toolboxes

    The other meaning of "link" is that the system relies on a unique way of attaching toolboxes to each other. It resembles Lego bricks in some ways. Place one toolbox on top of another, push down, and a passive latch joins the two together. To release, simply pull up on a handle, and the teeth securing the joint are retracted.

    This is down to a hexagonal design, with hexagonal depressions on the upper surface, and hexagonal bumps on the lower surface. The slanted sides of the hexagonal pattern easily position the two surfaces so that the latches align. There is no need for a secondary action, such as securing latches.

    The system is built, according to Ryobi, to be very tough. The mobile trolley can support a little over 90kg, riding on 230mm wheels. The trolley handle extends up to a length of 1120mm and can be detached from the trolley to make it easier to store in utes and vans, and is made of heavy-weight steel, rather than the aluminium channel found on some toolbox systems.

    Link tool boxes are certified to IP65. The first digit of that certification - "6" - indicates it is dust-proof to a high standard. The second digit - "5" - indicates it is waterproof against jets of water, which means rain or even being hosed down.

    Wall storage

    The fixed storage part of Link is anchored by wall rails that are 838mm wide - which means users can always find a pair of studs to anchor them to, providing better sturdiness and strength.

    The mobile tool boxes click directly onto these, using the same hexagonal mechanism. There is a range of different hangers that click on as well, making it possible to store everything from brooms and rakes to bicycles.

    Combining these results is a highly versatile system that "links" the mobile and fixed storage (which could be fixed to a garage, workshop wall, a van, or trailer) together, helping to keep everything organised. Instead of having to load and unload toolboxes, the toolboxes transition between fixed and mobile storage.

    There is no indication as to whether Link will come to Australia, which would mean it would go on sale at Bunnings, the sole distributor for Ryobi.

    The strategy

    Over the past year or so, Ryobi has been accelerating its product development, especially in areas such as cordless, battery-powered outdoor power equipment (OPE). This is likely in part a response to environmentally conscious US states such as California imposing curbs on OPE relying on petrol fuelled motors.

    That said, though, there has also been a growing expansion into tools that were somewhat outside of what has been Ryobi's previously self-declared focus on DIYers, as well as the handyman market, and workers in what US experts term "MRO" - maintenance, repair and operations, usually involving plant and buildings, but including areas such as road signs and bus shelters.

    With the release of Ryobi's Link system, the company has clearly broken out of the confines of those categories. Now it is targeting what in the US is called the "Pro" market, basically trades and tradies. That was made clear in an introduction to the Link system by a Ryobi representative:

    A significant part of our Ryobi user base is our Pros. This is our remodeller. This is our MRO. This is our handyman. This is our roofer. This is our siding guy, right? They are out there on the jobsite using Ryobi tools every single day. What's important to these guys is to have one cohesive system, that not only transports their tools to the job site, but they can use for their entire storage needs.

    That quote comes from a video recorded by Clint at Tool Review Zone. His video covers an introduction to Ryobi Lihk provided to him at Ryobi's factory in South Carolina. You can view that presentation below:


    Another good introduction to Link is provided by Ryobi itself, showing the system in detail:


    Whether Ryobi has any place in the toolboxes of "pros" has long been something of a vexed issue. As Pro Tool Reviews states on their website:

    Often when we tackle Ryobi tool reviews we suffer a backlash from Pros. Yet, we see professional tradesmen using RYOBI tools on the job site every day. When we do hands-on field testing, we find that while Ryobi underperforms some of the top brands, they offer an incredible value. Pros appreciate tools like the Ryobi 18V brushless impact driver. It provides plenty of power for most tasks and costs just USD99 for the bare tool. RYOBI also makes some of the handiest and creative tools we've seen on the market - all of which work on the Ryobi ONE+ platform.
    Ryobi review: Pro Tool Reviews

    It's not just the tradies who object to Ryobi being taken "too seriously". In the past, there has sometimes been some gentle pushback from TTI as well. The most likely reason, one imagines, is that they have been concerned about Ryobi "cannibalising" Milwaukee Tool, as well as the other TTI pro brands, Ridgid and AEG.

    Link provides an interesting window into that concern as, of course, it is a similar system in some regards to Milwaukee Packout. It's similar, but significant differences are immediately obvious. Packout is all about transporting tools on a worksite. Link is about storing and selecting tools, allocating them to the task at hand.

    Strategically, where Link aids the Ryobi brand is in taking advantage of some of the brand weaknesses in the lines of Stanley Black & Decker tools. There's a chart from a 2019 investor report (repeated in 2021 materials) by SBD that sets out how the company sees its tools relate to the market:

    As several commentators have noted, there is quite a bit about this chart that doesn't make all that much sense. It's important to note, though, that many of the SBD brands make hand tools as well as power tools, which explains some of its oddities.

    For example, Stanley FatMax is widely regarded as being a better version of Stanley tools, but it's difficult to see how FatMax qualifies as industrial quality tools (though the brand does have, for example, some very good hammers). Similarly, suggesting that the trades don't use DeWalt, but do use Stanley doesn't jibe with international experience, especially in Australia.

    The huge amount of the market, around two-thirds, allocated to the newish Craftsman brand is also quite unexpected. It sweeps all the way from consumer - overlapping with the low-end Black & Decker brand - to touch specialist industrial brands such as MAC.

    The Ryobi mission seems to have become, over the past year in particular, to move the focal point of the brand further to the right, but without sacrificing its reach to the left as a consumer brand. Link is great for that purpose, because its appeal is broad, but also particular. In terms of usage, for example, consumers will make the most use of the wall storage, while for the pros, it will be more about the mobile storage.

    Of course, SBD does offer tool storage. In fact, it seems like just about every tool brand in the company - Black & Decker, Stanley, Stanley FatMax, Craftsman, Porter Cable and DeWalt - has its own storage system. It's quite a jumble, with seemingly little interconnection within brands, and almost none between brands.

    The language of Link

    One of the most interesting aspects of the Link launch was a shift in the language being used to describe how to use Link. The Ryobi staff member said:

    So you can get all your things up off the floor onto the wall in an organised way, to use as an application-based menu based on your daily tasks that you need to execute that particular day. You can take your organiser bins off the wall, take your power tools off the wall, load them up in your toolboxes... So you make it application-based, cater to your user needs, everything you need to do for that particular task that particular day.

    "Application-based" is really a software use/development term, but it is no accident it is cropping up in the Ryobi Link introduction. It's an overt effort by Ryobi to appeal to a segment of the market that might be much more familiar with soft rather than hardware. That's not just a potentially younger generation, it's a younger generation more likely to have a good income and the capability to learn new things. Not to mention, an attraction to systems of organisation.

    Analysis

    The business case for Link is easy to make: more people are doing DIY, there is increasing pressure for more effective use of space in homes as they increase their multitasking use cases (work-from-home, hybrid-schooling, gym/exercise, etc.). Link enables homeowners to establish a flexible, organised place for DIY tools in shared space environments, such as garages and garden sheds.

    However, there is more than just that going on with Link. While there is information which indicates some kind of structural change in DIY spending - both in the US and in Australia - the source of that change is not only a "revaluing" of home spaces. It is also that, as house prices increase, and the construction industry gears up to build more dwellings, prices for renovation and repair have increased. Combine that with less expensive tools and instructional videos on the internet, the result is homeowners taking on more routine and non-complex tasks.

    Which is something to watch, of course. If house prices fall off a cliff in 2023, and the construction industry slows, tradies could find that they've permanently priced themselves out of the market for minor home repairs.

    Similarly, for the tradie/pro market the problem now is how to increase productivity. Link offers a rare - and very rare, in the industry - contribution to this.

    For the moment, though, let's hope that Link makes it way to Australia. There is certainly a market for it here, but it would likely see a sharp adjustment made at competing brands which have not innovated much over the past two decades.

    products

    Workwear with a conscience

    TradeMutt is Australia's "loudest" workwear

    The company is known for its bold work shirts and has extended its influence from the building trades to agriculture

    What began as a conversation starter in the trades about mental health, workwear brand TradeMutt is now starting more discussions in agriculture. It is being embraced by saleyards, charities, cattle companies and seed businesses.

    The founders of TradeMutt, former carpenters Dan Allen and Ed Ross, told

    Queensland Country Life that they've seen a "massive" uptake of the clothing in regional communities. Mr Allen explains:

    There's such a massive need for mental health support services in regional communities and we feel like we're contributing in providing that solution.
    We've had individuals who will buy a shirt and wear it in their community and everyone gets onboard. I think pretty much every person in the Goondiwindi Region owns at least one TradeMutt shirt, so we owe Goondi a couple of beers.

    More recently, TradeMutt signed on major saleyard operator AAMIG, whose facilities include Central Queensland Livestock Exchange. Mr Allen

    AAM Investment Group is not only decking their staff out with shirts, but they're also a top-tier alliance partner for TIACS for the next 12 months, so they're funding over 1400 hours of care, which is amazing.

    TIACS (This Is A Conversation Starter), which Mr Allen and Mr Ross started in 2020, provides a free text, chat and call back service direct to mental health clinicians.

    They recently collaborated with a not-for-profit foundation Dolly's Dream, designing a kaleidoscope work shirt aimed at shining a light on the effects of bullying and the importance of being a mate. Proceeds of these sales go towards supporting Dolly's Dream and TIACS.

    TradeMutt has also teamed up with major cattle operation Consolidated Pastoral Company, as well as seed and chemical company Corteva Agriscience Australia. Corteva Agriscience communications leader ANZ Karen Deane said its journey with the clothing company started in 2019. She told Queensland Country Life:

    Up until then, TradeMutt's workwear had mostly been taken up by the building, construction and mining industries, but we could see a lot of similarities in the rural communities where Corteva works with resellers and farmers.

    Ms Deane said they had distributed more than 500 unique Corteva TradeMutt shirts to agricultural suppliers, staff and customers, and the impact the shirts had on Corteva staff and company culture could not be overstated.

    The shirts have created so much more awareness of the importance of reaching out, asking if someone is okay and starting conversations on a regular basis.
    Beyond our own office walls, out on the road for our sales managers, it is amazing to hear how customers are opening up to a conversation based simply on the TradeMutt shirt.
    We're hearing how farmers are sharing worries of their own that we would never have known about otherwise. Mother nature has a huge impact on farming in positive and negative ways, which is particularly challenging, so as a company we feel humbled that this relationship with TradeMutt have allowed us to play a part in supporting our farmers in a new way.

    Background

    Mr Allen and Mr Ross founded TradeMutt in 2016 when a young friend committed suicide and they realised something had to be done to improve mental health in the construction sector.

    TradeMutt's story was recently featured on Channel 9's "My Way" program. Mr Allen told The Courier-Mail:

    Ed and I met on a building site, and even though we came from different backgrounds we became best mates. I am from western Sydney and Ed is from Longreach, but we shared a lot of the same interests. We were always spit-balling various ideas for businesses and gaps in the market, and we came up with the idea of workwear.

    Now their work shirts are worn by (male and female) tradies working for Rio Tinto, Hutchinson, BHP, Brisbane City Council and Bretts in Queensland among others.

    Growth for the social enterprise seems inevitable as the pair look to forestry and garden workers, especially with Mr Ross' strong ties to the bush, coming from Longreach.

    Both Mr Allen and Mr Ross also travel to schools, rural and remote areas, construction sites, and events across the country to spread awareness and educate communities about the importance of mental health. Mr Allen said:

    Mental health remains a major problem in the building trade. It is a very macho environment, and if you show any emotion, you are a 'pussy'.
    Most blokes don't even know they have mental health issues. The idea was to change that.

    Related: Tradies can buy workwear that shows their support for mental health initiatives.

    Workwear with a social conscience - HI News 4.3, May 2018
  • Sources: Queensland Country Life and The Courier-Mail
  • products

    DeWalt PowerStack pouch battery

    DeWalt DCBP034 PowerStack 1.7Ah battery

    DeWalt has utilised a battery type developed in 1995 to provide its tools with a more compact, higher output power source. The "pouch" style battery provides size and performance advantages, but requires very high standards of manufacturing.

    The DeWalt professional power tool subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker has become known for it advances in Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, most notably its FLEXVolt range, which combined 18-volt and 54-volt outputs.

    Now the company has developed a new type of battery for power tools, using a configuration known as a "pouch" cell. The company calls this its PowerStack battery, and it is set for release in December 2021.

    Types of battery

    The PowerStack battery uses a technology first seen in production in 1995, known as a "pouch" battery. The other two most common types of batteries are the cylindrical battery, which is the most common in cordless power tool platforms, and the "prism" battery, which is commonly found in electronic devices, including laptop computers and smartphones.

    The cylindrical battery is made through a "jellyroll" process, where an insulating sheet is laid down, followed by a thin layer of anode material, a separator layer is added, and a cathode material makes up the final layer. This sandwich is then rolled up and inserted into a hollow cylinder casing. This was the same process used to make Nickel-Cadmium batteries, but it goes back even further than that. It was actually first used back in 1859 by Gaston Plante when he produced the world's first rechargeable battery.

    The prismatic cell directly layers the same types of material in what is usually a rectangular container, often made of welded aluminium. These layers can be wound as in the cylindrical cells, or stacked instead. They enable better use of available space (as stacked cylindrical cells always have gaps), but suffer from less viable thermal management, and typically will have reduced lifespan as compared to cylindrical cells.

    The pouch cell does away with any kind of rigid enclosure, relying instead on an aluminium plastic film. The layers are of the same type as the other batteries, but are often folded into place. They provide the best power to weight ratio, and the best size to power ratio as well. These usually deliver both more longevity, and high power output than prismatic batteries.

    However, pouch cells are difficult to manufacture reliably. Errors in manufacture can result in cells that swell. According to Tesla, which prefers to use cylindrical cells, there are also problems with thermal efficiency. Cylindrical cells can last longer in high vibration environments, while pouch batteries can be sensitive to environmental factors such as heat.

    Finally, there is a cost factor as well. Jelly roll cylindrical batteries are very easy to mass-produce, while pouch cells cost more per unit of power.

    The PowerStack

    This means that for DeWalt to use the pouch battery technology in power tools, it must have found a source for these batteries that has made considerable technological and manufacturing breakthroughs.

    The DeWalt DCBP034 PowerStack 1.7Ah battery uses a stack of five pouch batteries. The company claims the battery will provide 50% more power than the comparable DeWalt 2.0Ah DCB183 battery. Where the DCB183 commonly has a life of 500 cycles, the new DCBP034 has a life of 1000 cycles.

    The new battery also has just 75% of the volume of the older compact battery. It measures 104mm long by 64mm wide. (Conflicting dimensions are listed for the older DCB183 battery.) The price of the newer battery seems to be 20% above the price of the older battery - well worth it, if the longevity numbers are accurate.

    Online reviews

    Perhaps the most interesting review comes from Clint at the Tool Review Zone, where the new battery was attached to the new DeWalt compact impact driver, the Atomic DCF850 and put up against Milwaukee's M18 Red Lithium High Output CP3.0 battery mounted on the Milwaukee Generation III Fuel impact driver. The test consists of driving large lag screws without any pilot hole - not what impact drivers are really designed to do, but a good stress test.

    While the Milwaukee driver does end up coming out ahead of the DeWalt, the most interesting result is that when the DeWalt is fitted with the older, 2.0Ah battery, it does not perform nearly as well as when using the new battery.


    At Shop Tool Reviews, the PowerStack battery is tested when used to de-torque nuts. Again the new battery outperforms the old battery.


    Analysis

    On the face of it, this is pretty amazing news for the power tool industry. The one thing we don't know as yet is what the runtime is going to be like, and if there will be additional technical challenges in stacking the pouch cells further in the batteries to deliver more amp-hours. Even if that is not possible, having a 1.7Ah battery that is compact and delivers more power than DeWalt's (admittedly ageing) standard 2.0Ah battery is going to be good news for users of the DeWalt compact Atom 18-volt range.

    The only real reservation that HNN does have is that pouch batteries have proven really tricky to manufacture reliably. They have been used in a number of electric vehicles (EVs), and the batteries in some of those have been subject to recall. So, it is quite possible that over their first year of release, we could see some defects develop. That's not really a criticism of DeWalt at all, it is just that we've seen some very good companies experience problems in getting this type of battery right.

    But, overall, it is certainly good news, and a potentially important advance in portable power tools.

    products

    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

    Conclusion

    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.

    products

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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"
    products

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    Alternatives

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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 www.mrfothergills.com.au.

    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.)

    IoT

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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.

    WORX

    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.

    products

    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

    products

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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
    products

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    Retailers

    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.

    products

    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!

    products

    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.

    products

    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

    products

    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.

    Analysis

    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.

    products

    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

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    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).

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    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:

    Download hinews-6-02

    products

    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:

    Download hinews-6-01

    products

    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.

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    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:

    Download hinews-5-04

    products

    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.

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    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.

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    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.
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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    Lens

  • 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.

    Rotex

    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.

    Excavator

    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.

    Concealer

    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.

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    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.
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    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."

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    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.

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    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.

    Download

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

    New Products - HI News Vol. 4 No.8
    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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".

    products

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/vetopro.jpg}Veto Pro Pac's Tech Pac}http://hnn.bz/vetopro.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/milwaukee-backpack.jpg}Milwaukee Jobsite Backpack}http://hnn.bz/milwaukee-backpack.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/stanley-4-1-person.jpg}Stanley 4-in-1 toolbox}http://hnn.bz/stanley-4-1-person.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/stanley-backpack.png}Stanley Fatmax Tool Back Pack}http://hnn.bz/stanley-backpack.png

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/irwin.jpg}Irwin tote bag}http://hnn.bz/irwin.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/Bucket_Organiser.jpg}Milwaukee Bucket Organiser Bag}http://hnn.bz/Bucket_Organiser.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/m-bucket-bag.jpg}Milwaukee Tool's bucket bag}http://hnn.bz/m-bucket-bag.jpg

    products

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    History

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/bosch-pl-laser.jpg}Bosch PLL 1 P Laser spirit level}http://hnn.bz/bosch-pl-laser.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/fixa-laser-level__0161653_PE316526_S4.JPG}IKEA Fixa Level}http://hnn.bz/fixa-laser-level__0161653_PE316526_S4.JPG

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/ryobi-airgrip.jpg}Ryobi AirGrip Laser Level}http://hnn.bz/ryobi-airgrip.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/fixa-laser-level__0161653_PE316526_S4.JPG}IKEA Fixa Level}http://hnn.bz/fixa-laser-level__0161653_PE316526_S4.JPG

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/Laser_Level_00089.jpg}Ryobi Phone Works Laser Level Device & App}http://hnn.bz/Laser_Level_00089.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/cubix.JPG}Stanley Cubix}http://hnn.bz/cubix.JPG

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/cross90.jpg}Stanley Cross90}http://hnn.bz/cross90.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/Bosch-Quigo.jpg}Bosch Quigo}http://hnn.bz/Bosch-Quigo.jpg

    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.

    Conclusions

    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.

    products

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/rt0701cx3-7.jpg}The Makita RT0770C trimmer features a tilt base}http://hnn.bz/rt0701cx3-7.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/drt50_2.jpg}The Makita DRT50Z uses same accessories as RT0770C}http://hnn.bz/drt50_2.jpg

    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.

    >http://hnn.bz/makita-mt-lt1.jpg}The MT Series Makita routers offer great value for money}http://hnn.bz/makita-mt-lt1.jpg

    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.

    Bunnings

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

    products

    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.

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