Hammers, Saws, and Laser Levels - The National Hardware Show
There is also a profusion of contractor-grade hand and power tools available for amateur builders with excess income. Think HumVee with a snow plow.
Stanley is among a host of manufacturers who are designing smart-looking traditional tools. The company's slope-nose Composite Hacksaw with a bow structure puts a little bit of Eero Saarinen in your hands. The narrow entry of this good looking saw will be a real asset in tight places. But the lack of any forward hand grip suggests that contemporary culture has quite forgotten the time-honored two-handed expert's technique for sawing metal.
At the show, Stanley introduced a line of Fat Max hammers, measuring tapes, and utility knives. Meeting the goal of feeling comfortable, being color coordinated, and looking sharp, Stanley's new line could embarrass more than a few homeowners into redecorating their workshops.
And when you get around to that redecorating project, you will want to dress properly. When Frank Lloyd Wright designed, he put on his best suit of clothes to elicit his highest quality work.
No hands-on architect will feel properly dressed without the new Work Vest from Fiskars. Stylishly adorned with multiple pockets and hoops, it is like a photographer's vest on steroids. Slip off your suit coat and into the Work Vest, and in seconds you are ready to take on any home improvement assignment imaginable.
Just make sure you load it with a stylish Japanese pry bar imported by Shark Corporation because, to misappropriate Frank, "I corrected more mistakes with a crowbar than an eraser."
Other cool tools from Shark include a full line of traditional Japanese pull saws. Instead of cutting on the push, Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke. In addition to requiring less effort, they look really nice, especially the two-edged fine-cut saws. The wooden handled two-edge models are suitable for display. Tagaki's new framing hammer with a duck-like head to eliminate shock is a real looker also.
From Traditional to Futuristic
Laser leveling and measurement tools are everywhere. The laser products have been around for years, but they are becoming very refined and inexpensive. Zircon has a full line of rotating laser levelers, plumb line projectors, electronic stud finders, and their newest addition, a laser tape measure.
Shoot the beam of a LaserVision DM at an object and you get an automatic readout of the distance up to 200 feet, accurate to an eighth of an inch (third of a centimeter). Press the square foot calculator button, shoot two beams, and get an automatic area reading. Switch the control, shoot three beams and get the volume of the space. You might only need it a few times, but it will be a lot of fun when you do.
And when you use laser products, make sure you have some really cool Smith & Wesson safety glasses from Olympic Optical. At the show, I got zapped in the eye with a laser beam and my eye was feeling it for a few days. Olympic Optical and others are putting a consumer spin on their professional-quality safety glasses. You might just pay more attention to eye care if you get to wear these while adding a deck off the kitchen.
Although it might not help with a kitchen addition, the new Swiss Army Mini Grip from Wenger puts a toolbox in your pocket. In a heated battle with Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. to achieve dominance in the all-in-one tool market, both companies are adding new bit sets to their compact products. The Mini Grip offers a choice of flat head or needle nose pliers and includes six screwdriver bits, a hex head, pliers, a file, and a mini-saw in addition to the traditional knife. Sorry, no tooth pick.
Following Work with Play
Nothing says eight years of unprecedented economic growth like stainless steel for your outdoor barbecue area. It was everywhere at the show. You can now choose from restaurant-quality stainless barbecue grills, stainless steel outdoor fire boxes, and stainless coolers and garbage cans. Also available are shapely industrial-strength parasol outdoor tower heaters made of stainless steel in case the stainless steel fire box isn't kicking out enough heat.
Coleman is a leader in the stainless steeling of America with a full line of products. The Steelman II Deluxe from StraubelStone weighed in with the most stainless per square inch of grill surface. Park this puppy in the yard and the aesthetic of your house is altered dramatically.
While you are grilling, send the latest robotic lawnmower from Friendly Robotics out to do the dirty work. While many people talk about having this super quiet robotic mower cut the lawn at night, it looks so good and will complement your home so well, you'll want to send it out during the day.
Like other products at the National Hardware Show, it will save your back and look great in the process.
ArchitectureWeek Correspondent Michael J. Bordenaro is an independent writer and architecture marketing consultant based in Chicago. He was the Singapore Correspondent for Electronic Business Asia and was an associate editor with Building Design & Construction.