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.