The right tool for the job depends on you… and if you can use it as a hammer

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“The right tool for the job.” It’s a saying that my father used quite a bit.

It’s a saying, “the right tool for the job,” that’s so popular it’s been co-opted by other, non-trade industries, but I never fully appreciated it until recently.

From experience, I’ve learned it basically means “If you have the correct tool for the job, you probably won’t ruin things, and you’ll curse much less.” For my decades of putting tools to the test, it all comes down to one thing… can I use it as a hammer?

Of course, by that I mean, “Which tool will be the highest quality, most durable and the best bang for my buck?” But also, I’m probably going to use it as a hammer eventually, either because of frustration, rage or pure necessity. There are so many places to find yourself the perfect pipe wrench, drill press, or miter saw for whatever job you’re tackling, that it’s mind-boggling to think about. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 categories to help you decide not what tool is best, but what tool is best for you.

Homeowner tools

Congratulations, you just bought a house! You’ll need tools for up-keep, and repairs. Just go Craftsman, hit up Sears, or find a nice K-mart special-30 piece tool set. That’s all you really need. No need to spend a Corvette’s worth in tools for light-bulb fixtures and table leg repairs. Done.

DIY / hobbyist / garage-r tools

You’re a serious DIYer. You need a quality tool for the job but you don’t need the best tool on the market. I’ve worked on my car since I Corey's Dad-Tool Box purchased it at 14 using whatever tools my dad had. They usually weren’t the best quality, but I still use some of them to this day. Go Craftsman for hand tools or better. Their wrenches, pliers and hammers are perfect for everyone from the weekend track racer to the most Ron Swanson of us all. The higher initial price is out-weighed by the lifetime use of the tool. Just check for the warranty so you can replace it if necessary.

Full-time trade and craftsman tools

If you make a living off your tools, you’re going to want something that will pay for itself over the years. You need power, precision, and durability. The hands down consensus is that if you want the best tool that’ll last a lifetime, you want Snap-on.  If your company is paying, or if you can afford it, Snap-on is the best bang for your buck for any dedicated, daily wrench jockey. They have consistently beat any challenger for best in the business. If that isn’t a possibility, brands like SK, GearWrench, Matco Tools and Mac Tools offer replacements with warranties that are just as good with only a minor sacrifice in strength and durability.

Still not sure which tool is right for you? Start simple and build up from there. You may find that, most of the time, you need the basics but for a few specific jobs, it’s worth investing in the right tools. Like my dad always said, “The right tool… “

Product Review: Fibre Metal Pipeliner

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I obtained 2 Fibre-Metal ‘Pipeliners’ around February. Initially I had planned on reviewing one with Sellstrom’s Lift Front Adapter and one unmodified at the same time, but the modified version is awaiting a paint job. So, for now we have the stock version, and a Jackson Huntsman to compare it to.

Time to get down to the nitty gritty. This is the first pipeliner I have used having previously used a Jackson Huntsman and several other versions of the Huntsman line. Immediately the weight difference between the two is very noticeable, the pipeliner is significantly lighter. They both have different versions of the plastic nuts that are tightened to adjust the tension on the head gear that keep the hood up, both are less than ideal.

For head gear, the Jackson uses a ratchet type which adjusts snugly and stays fitted. The Fibre Metal Pipeliner comes with your standard head gear (strap over the middle of the head and around the forehead), but uses a thick rubber belt that is pulled from both ends to adjust tension on the back of the head. I don’t know how else to say it so I’ll be blunt, IT SUCKS! It might stay put for a minute or two, but as soon as you flip your hood down it’s back loose. There is a remedy though that has been around for years and keeps the hood secure while adding comfort, and that is using a piece of surgical tubing in place of the rubber belt. It is laced though the retainers just as the belt it’s replacing and secured on both ends using electrical tape. This keeps the head gear snug while keeping your head comfortable.

The light weight of pipeliner allows the user to wear it for multiple hours without suffering neck fatigue. After using the Huntsman, I would sometimes forget I had it on my head, especially once I installed the surgical tubing. The size of the shell provides excellent protection from sparks from nearly every angle except behind you. This comes at a price though as the length of the hood limits your ability to look down at your work because it hits you in the chest. This is easily remedied though by removing a 3/4″ or so strip of material from the bottom, thus further reducing the weight.

The lens retaining system is pretty standard, you insert your lenses, a plastic spacer, then install the plastic retainer. It works great and allows for use of thicker clear (glass) lenses or ‘cheater’ lenses without modification.

As for durability, there is a reason this hood has been around for so long and is widely used in the field (and in the shop), it’s damn near bulletproof. Although I’ve only been using mine for a brief period of time, it has been dropped, had stuff dropped on it and with the exception of some nicks and burns on the white paint, it is essentially still brand new. I have worked with welders that have had theirs for numerous years, on numerous jobs, in numerous conditions, and aside from the appearance they still work just as well as they did on day one.

So, is it worth the $50 price tag? Absolutely, the Fibre-Metal Pipeliner hood is a sound investment whether you are a hobbyist or rig welder.

I will be reviewing the modified flip front version in the coming weeks so, stay tuned.

Review: Phillips-Safety’s Super Magenta Drop in Welding Lens

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Everyone wants to weld with or at least try the unicorn of welding lenses, the AO Weld Cool and as most of you know they stopped making them a while ago causing them to fetch often outrageous prices, as high as $500 (good ol’ supply and demand). This has left welders with very few options, some get lucky and score one for a decent price from someone who doesn’t know what they have (or in my buddy’s case finds a stack of them still new in the package tucked away in the corner of his shop), and some give up their first born for one. Many companies have claimed to replicate the “Cool Blue,” but we all know it’s BS, that is until now. Phillips-Safety has developed a line of drop in filters that turn your standard lens into the closest thing to a Cool Blue that I’ve come across and at a fraction of the cost ($79.99 for the 4.25″ x 2″ and $169.00 for the 5.25″ x 4.5″).

I received the first prototype “Super Magenta Drop In Welding Lens” from Phillips back when I ordered a couple of their gold lenses (shades 9 and 10). It came enclosed in bubble wrap and had tacky brown paper on both sides protecting it from scratches. The filter, as the name implies is magenta in color and approximately 1/8″ thick. I unwrapped my gold filters, stacked the Super Magenta on top them and looked into the lights in my house (it was night time otherwise I would have used the Sun) and the light appeared almost white, far from the traditional green tint.

When welding with the filter in place, the blue is very apparent. It’s a darker blue than the AO provides not darker overall, but a darker shade of blue. I consider the AO to provide a light blue, the Super Magenta provides a pure blue. I paired several lenses with it (Phillips gold, Comfort gold, Anchor Gold, and Omni gold) and found I liked it best when used with a Comfort gold shade 9. I found this combination, when TIG welding with amperage’s over 120amps was not dark enough for me as I experienced some post welding flare once I raised my hood. Paired with the Comfort lens your field of view is pretty amazing compared to your standard passive lens, you can see not only your work but everything around you in a vibrant blue hue. Imagine wearing a pair of sunglasses with blue lenses and that’s what it looks like under the hood once you light up. The clarity of whatever lens you choose to pair it with is not affected at all, virtually everything remains the same except for the color spectrum, specifically the puddle and arc itself. The arc becomes white with all lens combinations and the puddle color varies from light orange, light yellow, gold, and white depending on the passive lens you combine it with.

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I put a in a lot of time under the hood with this filter and the only downside (if you can call it that) that I found is the filter slightly darkens the shade of the lens in front of it, not to a darker shade, but it’s noticeable if you’re looking for it. Aside from that, I don’t have one single complaint about it. As a matter of fact I was sent two additional lenses and filters to try and have yet to use them because I like this one so much.

At the time of me writing this, I have no reason to not recommend this filter to everyone and don’t see me coming across one anytime in the future. I have let others use my hood and everyone that has wanted to know where they could buy one immediately (but they weren’t available for purchase at the time). Well, today I have good news and that is they are currently available for purchase through Phillips-Safety’s website.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be reviewing both their AlloWeld and Super Blue Drop in Welding Lenses so, stay tuned.

 

Phillips-Safety Gold Lens Review, UPDATE

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What’s going on, ‘Hands!

I’m back with my update on Phillips-Safety’s gold lenses. To get you new users/followers up to speed, a couple months back I conducted a welding lens shootout (review) that included American Optical’s (AO) Weld Cool, Phillips-Safety gold lens, and Harris Products’ Omni View gold lens. All three lenses provided excellent clarity and visibility, but the gold coating on the Phillips-Safety gold lens flaked off as soon as I put them under water to clean them, directly out the package. I sent an email to Phillips-Safety informing them what had happened and was contacted immediately the following morning, by one of their staff. They paid the return shipping, sent me replacement lenses and assured me that this was a fluke.

Over the past several months I’ve been putting these replacement lenses through the wringer, taking them out of my hood almost daily to clean them with soap and water. I made sure not to exercise the same caution I normally would with gold lenses, applying more pressure than I normally would while cleaning them under running water. Heavy duty liquid detergents, brown paper towels, rags, t-shirts, I used anything I thought someone would have on hand in a shop or out in the field to clean their lenses with. I wanted to make sure the gold coating was not coming off and did everything I could think of (aside from intentionally scratching them) to get it to delaminate from the glass.

At this point I know you’re thinking, “enough BS, how did they do?” Well, I’m happy to report they exceeded my expectations and the coating did not flake, actually they didn’t even scratch. Phillips-Safety’s gold lenses passed my tests with flying colors and officially have my stamp of approval. If you’re in the market to purchase a new lens, I’d definitely recommend giving these a shot.

A special thanks goes out to Bill B. over at Phillips-Safety for his great customer service.

Work safe and have a great day,
-Alejo

The Caterpillar AP 1000E Has Bells, Whistles, And Power

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We’ve demo’d a couple of pavers this year: a brand new Caterpillar AP 1000E as well as and a two-year-old Vogele. After trying them both, we decided to pony up the cash and keep the CAT.

Here’s what we know: the CAT is a powerful machine. The tractor is equipped with a C7.1 Acert Caterpillar diesel engine with interim Tier 4 emission ratings. In laymen terms, it puts out a lot more power, and a lot less pollutants than previous, equivalent size machines. This CAT engine is displacing 427 cubic inches and pumping out 225 horsepower, making it completely capable of pulling the massive 22 feet wide passes we had to make. But enough with the specs, you can read those out of the book.

What I like about it is that the operators console is so customizable that you would think it’s a Lincoln Town Car. You can adjust the seat position, giving the operator many choices and views of the mix flowing in and the truck he is pushing down the highway. You can also set a personal profile that adjusts feeder controls and operating speeds for different material applications. Most impressive was the reaction of my father, who has been paving for 40 years. He started off skeptical of the fancy new operator’s console adaptations, but soon he was actually running the computerized controls and liking them! It’s definitely fun to watch a guy who started off with equipment that was cable drawn deftly working the computer controlled hydraulics and having the CAT follow his every command.

Even with a heavy spray of asphalt emulsion and a width of 22 feet, the tires never even began to slip. Front wheel assist worked like a charm. The screed is now controlled with Trimble automation. I personally learned on Top Con and Niveltronics, but was able to pick up this user-friendly interface quickly. I gave the user manual a glance and realized it was very similar to other automation controls I had used – probably closest to a top con system, if I had to say. I ran slope on my right hand side and matched the joint on my left. The mill was working hard in front of us but we managed to put down 300 tons of 19 mm binder in about an hour and a half and even beat the rain that was headed for us.

It was only my first day on this machine, and I really enjoyed it. The CAT had quick reaction from the screed, and plenty of power to move wings and augers. I’m planning on taking the auger extensions and screed extensions off tomorrow and going through the screed with a fine tooth comb to get it right. I’ll soon be putting in base and binder with this machine and top shortly after. So far two thumbs up!

 

Photo courtesy of: Robert Carr