Tools: More Useful Equipment to Make Your Job Easier
By Joe Spry
In the water treatment industryas in every other industry todaythe major concern driving new product innovation
is increased productivity. People want tools that do more than one job, so they can work faster and increase productivity
and the profits of their company, which translates to personal earnings. And people want tools that are more ergonomic
so they don't tire as quickly and can maintain high levels of productivity.
As marketing manager for Sears Industrial Sales, it's my pleasure to review thousands of tool innovations every year
for possible inclusion in our Industrial Tool
Book. The following are a few that may prove valuable to businesses that
work with plumbing fixtures and other piping materials:
A number of tool manufacturers are providing innovations that help increase productivity. One of the most clever
and popular is the clench wrench. The harder the user pulls on it, the tighter it gets. The clench wrench performs the
functions of an adjustable wrench, a combination wrench and pliers.
For any application, the clench wrench is easy to use. Its jaw is spring-loaded and self-adjusting, so it automatically
grabs onto whatever size fastener you're working on. Its comfortable, vinyl-grip handle makes it easy to pull hard,
increasing torque and tightening the grip on the fastener.
It keeps a tight hold as well, maintaining self-ratcheting, continuous contact with the fastener. Yet the jaws open
easily with a thumb-lever release.
Aluminum pipe wrenches
Another innovation that makes the job easier and less fatiguing is the advent of the large-size, heavy-duty aluminum
pipe wrench. The increased sizeup to 48 inchesgives
it greater torque. And the aluminum handles are about 40
percent lighter than comparable cast-iron models, so the user can work with them longer with less fatigue. Yet they retain
operating strength far above U.S. specifications.
As aluminum-handled pipe wrenches become more popular, manufacturers are making them in specialty designs as
well as larger sizes. For instance, there's now an aluminum-handled offset pipe wrench for easier access into tight spots.
It features a design where the jaw opening is parallel to the handle and a narrow hook jaw head.
Internal pipe wrenches facilitate the removal of broken threaded ends of pipe, pipe plugs and fittings. They have
hexagonal bodies that can be used with a wrench for greater torque.
Tap and die sets
Improvements in metal technology also make high-speed steel tap and die sets possible. These have longer life
that carbon steel, and they withstand heat longer so they stay sharper than carbon steel. They're available with
rust-resistant satin finishes that provide smoother cuts with less friction.
On-the-job rethreading of damaged and nicked nut and bolts is now easier with a portable tap and die set in a
blow-molded case that weighs under four pounds, yet contains most standard and metric sizes needed for immediate
repairs. Components are color-coded by plating for easy identification as well.
Pipe cutters now feature tee-shaped handles for greater torque and comfort. Some have oversized handles as well
for quicker and easier adjusting. A sliding feature on one pipe cutter provides zero clearance for confined workspaces,
while still providing greater torque for easier cutting. A pipe cutter for plastic piping has a compound leverage ratchet
mechanism and hardened steel blades that permit one-handed operation.
Propane torches now are available with handles and triggers, permitting one-handed operation and eliminating the
need for matches or spark-lighters. Just pull on the trigger for an instant flame.
Magnetic pickup tools
An exciting innovation for retrieving hard-to-access metal objects is the magnetic pickup tool. The telescopic tool has
a patented "powercap" that slides over a powerful neodymium magnet, focusing its attracting power so it can lift up to
10 pounds. The cap also shields the magnet's sides so it won't attach to unwanted metal surfaces. The handle
telescopes from six to 30 inches.
The flexible pickup tool is 24 inches long and can be twisted in almost any shape. It reaches into confined areas where
no direct route is available. Its neodymium magnet, located at the end of a plunger rod, is also shielded so it won't attach
to unwanted metal surfaces. To activate it, just depress the spring-loaded end-cap to extend the magnet beyond its
shield so it can retrieve the object. It can lift up to five pounds.
Lighted tools not only illuminate the work areathey reduce the need for auxiliary lighting and power. It's almost
like getting an extra hand. There are at least a dozen new lighted tools on the market. One popular and handy one is
the driver lighta high-torque magnetic screwdriver with a recessed push-button light built-in magnet for holding on to bits.
Mobile tool storage
The need for increased productivity also drives the trend toward more portable tool storage. Units that combine
plastic and steel provide lighter weight and higher performance and durability. The chests include small parts storage that's
so important in the field, with clear lids for easy identification. Wraparound bumpers help resist scratching and
marring. Compound action drawer slides open and close smoothly even when fully loaded saving time on-the-job and
increasing productivity. And the comfort-grip handle makes carrying a loaded chest easier.
Truckbed tool boxes use the dead space behind wheel well for secured storage with easy tailgate access. The boxes
lock onto 16-gauge mounting brackets. A keyed cam locking system secures tools against roadside impact. They fit full-
and mid-size pick-up trucks, vans, sports utility vehicles and RVs.
Whatever the particular need, there's usually a tool out there that can help you do your job quicker and easierand
with increasing emphasis on ergonomic design, one that reduces strain on muscles and joints. This article highlights just a
few of those. You can learn more by asking other dealers and your tool supplier for the latest information on new tools
that might prove useful to you and your employees.
Reprinted with permission of Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine, Copyright February 2000. Any reuse or
republication in part or whole, must be with the written consent of the Publisher.