National Hardware Show
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Wood Magazine

National Hardware Show



Welcome to the National Hardware Show in Chicago, the largest event in the Western Hemisphere for the hardware, home improvement, DIY, lawn & garden, and building supplies industries. As WOOD magazine's Woodworking Products Editor, it's my job to scour the more than 3,000 exhibits covering over 1.3 million square feet for tools and products that will make your woodworking life easier.

So, I laced up my Hush Puppies, grabbed WOOD magazine's Managing Editor Jim Harrold, and we hit the show. On the following pages, you'll see some highlights from the thousand or so booths we visit. Look for more reports -- made fresh daily -- through the final day of the show, Wednesday, August 16.

Dave Campbell WOODŽ magazine


Sun. Highlights

The first day of the National Hardware Show in Chicago brought a few surprises and more than a few sore feet. On Sunday, WOOD magazine managing editor Jim Harrold and I spread out across the 1.3 million square feet of display space at McCormick Place and barely made a dent in it. By the time the show ends Wednesday, we'll have visited about 2000 booths, searching for the most promising new woodworking products on the planet. In the meantime, here are just a few of the new things we saw Sunday.

Although they're not exhibiting at the National Hardware Show, Black & Decker representatives started the first day of the show with a hearty breakfast and a side order of new power tools. Clearly tired of being considered the "disposable" tool, B&D expanded their cordless Firestorm brand with a cordless reciprocating saw and a 12-volt "3-in-one" tool. This tool features a single power supply that accepts three interchangeable heads: a jigsaw, a sander based on their popular "Mouse" design, and a drill/driver (not shown). Because the battery hangs forward of the tool's handle and trigger, I expected it to feel much more front-heavy then a cordless drill. While it felt somewhat imbalanced, It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. The jigsaw head features a quick-release blade-holder, and the sanding head felt as aggressive as the "Mouse." The 3-in-1 will retail for about $100.

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when a Black & Decker rep told me their new RTX tool would outperform the leading high-speed rotary tool. But the proof was in the pudding, or threaded rod, in this case. The RTX tool makes a couple of nice improvements on Brand X. For example, I cut the same piece of 1/4" threaded rod with both tools, and found I could cut the rod in about half the time with the RTX. Also, the collet lock is designed to prevent accidental locking of the collet while the tool is running. You'll find the general-use version of the RTX at department store for about $59; a woodworker's version includes a flexible shaft and a different set of accessories more geared to power carving, and will sell at home improvement centers for $10 more.

You've seen those plastic devices you put on top of a garbage can to make it act like a cyclone dust separator, right? Jet Equipment and Tools plans to eliminate the middle man by creating a dust collector that fits on any 30-gallon garbage can, as shown left. The 110-volt 1 hp motor pulls 650 cfm, and is expected to sell for about $300 when it arrives in woodworking stores this winter. This version is still in the prototype stage, so we couldn't test it at the show. But look for us to test it and include our findings in an upcoming issue of WOOD magazine.

If your sawhorses aren't the right height for your height, you might find yourself hunched over like Quasimodo by the end of a project workday. But these new folding sawhorses from Zag adjust in height from 30-37" (photo left) to suit you.

The horses also extend width-wise from 40-48" (photo right) with one flick of the wrist to fully support sheet goods. The horses set up in a heartbeat and will hold 1,000 pounds when set at its lowest height; at 37", it'll hold 800.

So, how much will they set you back? A pair of these Zag sawhorses including a pair of v-groove accessories (not shown) will cost about $50 when they come out in October.


Mon. Highlights

Mon. Highlights

On the second day of the National Hardware Show in Chicago, I discovered that true innovation in the power tool arena is in short supply this year. However, I did find a couple of unique clamps, and a new twist to the old-fashioned spade bit. One thing I've learned over the last few years of attending this show is that manufacturers just can't seem to leave well enough alone. (This year alone, I've seen at least three different "improvements" to the tried and true tape measure!) In any event, here are the products I saw today that I thought you might find handy in your shop.


One of the chief complaints against American Tool's Quick-Grip clamp was that, yeah, it was easy to use, but it didn't clamp as tightly as a bar clamp or a pipe clamp with a screw-type jaw. With the screw-clamp jaw on the Quick-Grip Advantage clamp, shown left in the hands of WOOD magazine's Jim Heavey, you get the ease of their original one-handed bar clamp and the gripping might of a traditional bar clamp. And, unlike the original Quick Grip, which is made mostly of plastic, the Advantage's body is entirely made of heat-treated steel. I like the solid feel and 600-lbs of pressure the Advantage delivers, but it's a bit pricey: the 12" model lists for about $48; the 12", $51; and the 24" for $55. (The actual selling price at retail will likely be lower.)


The Gross Stabil Contact Clamp uses a pair of cam-shaped rotating heads to grip the edge of a shelf, eliminating the need for long bar clamps in case construction. You simply place the clamp on the shelf (or rail in rail-and-stile construction), as shown left, and tighten the handle. As the clamp pulls that butt joint together, the cams actually increase their grip on the workpiece. The Contact Clamp is currently available at a list price of $64.


When I first saw the Whizzz bit, I thought it was just another spade bit. But a closer look revealed that the bit twists at the business end (see photo at left). The net effect of this patented design change is to make the bit act like the teeth on a saw blade, shearing the wood instead of hammering through it. I tried a spade bit side by side with the Whizzz bit and found the Whizzz much more aggressive (but not too aggressive), while still leaving a pretty clean-edged hole.


The dimple on the face of the bit, shown right, acts almost like an ice-cream scoop, dishing out chips better than an ordinary spade bit. We'll test the Whizzz further and report our findings in an upcoming issue of WOOD magazine.


Tues. Highlights

Tues. Highlights

I spent my last day at the National Hardware Show meeting with some of the tooling manufacturers, and lurking around the tiny-but-expensive booths at the back of McCormick Place. That's not really as sinister as I make it sound. Often in these booths, I find the guys who've mortgaged the house to rent space at the show, hoping to get noticed by a big manufacturer. Or just noticed at all. This year's show was a little short on entrepreneurs, but there were some eye-catching entries from players large and small.


If you've been around woodworking more than a few years, you've probably seen how to make cove molding by running stock diagonally across your tablesaw blade. While the process works, the blade's teeth can leave deep scratches all along the cove that have to be sanded away. The large, circular cutting head of CMT's Lonnie Bird Crown Molding Set mounts on your table saw's arbor and leaves a cove so smooth, the manufacturer says only minor sanding is required to clean it up. Besides the cove-cutter, the set also includes enough bits to cut a half-dozen different profiles along the edges of the molding. When the set comes out in November, it should sell for about $400; you can also by the cove-cutter alone for under $100.


From our friends down under comes the Multi-Stand, a work-support stand that you might find handy all around the house. For outfeed support on the tablesaw or mitersaw, set the tilting head level and the low-friction plastic caps let the workpiece slide along. Between these two caps is a trough where you can clamp a 2X on edge and use the Multi-Stand as a sawhorse. Or, tilt the trough perpendicular to the floor and use it to hold a door in place for installation. That same tilting head can even compensate for a sloping floor or account for a step. Triton Manufacturing and Design expects the Multi-Stand to sell for around $70 once stateside distribution is in place.


Bessey K-body clamps are considered by many woodworkers to be the Lexus of the long clamp. Now, Bessey has introduced the Vario-Clamp system. Basically, the system consists of two tracks, shown left, that turn a K-body clamp (or your 3/4" bar clamp) into an adjustable bench vise. The tracks carry the clamp above the bench or alongside, and pivot the clamp to the best working position for your project. The Vario-Clamp System sells for about $60.



Wood Magazine