It doesn’t matter if you’re a contractor, a die hard do-it-yourselfer, or just like to decorate around the house -sooner or later, pretty much everyone needs a level. And there aren’t many all-purpose levels that are better than the Torpedo Level from Klein Tools. I had my first brush with this gadget a couple of years ago, while we were getting ready to film a product demonstration video. What I really like about this level is that it doesn’t only gauge how level an object is, but can also tell you if it’s set at a proper 45° angle, or whether or not something is plumb.
Now, of course, if you look at the Torpedo Level’s packaging or product detail page, you’ll see that it has Rare Earth magnets built into its aluminum frame, which allow the level to grip very strongly onto steel and other ferrous metal surfaces. But when I was testing the level out for the first time, it had already been stripped of its packaging, and the whole magnet thing came is as a big surprise – I was testing the levelness of some metal trim around one of our warehouse doors, and much to my surprise, the level clamped right onto it. It has some seriously strong holding power, which I can imagine comes very much in handy for those times that you need to leave a level in position without actually holding it in place.
Another detail I was surprised by was how rugged the level’s casing was. We heard that it could withstand a lot, so we decided to test it out. First, we set the level on the floor just how you’d place it if you were measuring with it (on its narrow edge). Then, one of my coworkers actually stood on it – several times – and nothing happened. It’s one tough little tool.
The Klein Torpedo Level has a couple of other cool features, the first of which is the glow-in-the-dark material that frames the vials. Even if you have to check the level of something in a dark or dim area, you can still see the readings, because the frames illuminate the vials within them. And there’s the top-read window, just in case you have to use the level in a cramped area and need to be able to read it from its narrow edge. Like I said before – whether you’re remodeling a home, building a coffee table or just hanging pictures, this is a must-have addition for any tool kit.
Call centers, computer training facilities, IT labs and conference rooms are all environments that face challenges in the area of power and data distribution. Locations like these always have many computer workstations, which raises the need for a high number of power outlets and data ports. And while these can be provided without too much trouble at the time of construction, what do you do when you need to reconfigure a room for the 1st, 10th, or 20th time? Since it’s really not feasible to have an electrician and network technicians come in and relocate power and data connections every time you make a change (that would cost a fortune, and waste a ton of time), an alternative is needed, but what’s out there? Try Powerflor©.
The Powerflor© raised flooring system is a pre-wired, plug-and-play modular floor that installs right on top of your existing floor, with absolutely no structural changes to your facility required. Made up of 18″ x 18″ x 3″ carpet-covered panels, Poweflor© can be configured with as many power outlets and data ports as you need, and the best part is that when you have to reconfigure the layout of a room, you can just switch out and move around the wired panels as needed, to ensure that each workstation has all the necessary connections, no matter where it’s located.
When Powerflor© is completely installed, it has the benefit of looking like any other carpeted floor, so no one will ever know the difference. To help with this illusion, Powerflor© panels are shipped with a Volara foam underlay, which prevents any lateral movements of the tiles, and helps to dampen noise within the room. Powerflor© is also remarkably strong – they can handle a uniform weight load of 10,000 lbs per sqare foot, and a rolling load of 600 lbs. And if you ever move to a new building, you don’t have to start all over again – just pick up your Powerflor© and take it with you.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about one of our Friday training sessions, so today, I’ll get back on track. This morning, we met with a rep from Vutec, a well-known projection screen manufacturer that’s right in our neighborhood. About a year and a half ago, I got to take a very interesting tour of their manufacturing facility (it’s like being inside an episode of “How It’s Made”), but this morning we focused less on the process and instead took a more detailed look at their projection screen styles and fabrics.
They offer a lot of very cool options, among them an acoustically-tranparent screen material that lets you hide your speakers behind your screen, with no decrease in sound quality. But my favorite product from this morning’s meeting was the SilverStar™ Projection Screen, a rigid (read: non-fabric) screen that utilizes some very unique technology developed right at Vutec.
SilverStar™ screens have a high gain (6.0), which means that they give you a nice, bright picture with excellent contrast, even in rooms with a lot of ambient light. While high-gain screens make for a terrific projected image, many of them have one not-so-small problem: their “viewing cones” are smaller than low and medium-gain screens. “Viewing cone” refers to how wide an angle you can view a screen at and still be able to see the projected images. For example, many low-gain screens have a 180° viewing cone, meaning that you could be positioned at a 180° angle to the screen and still be able to see a clear picture. The thing is that, in most cases, the higher the screen gain is, the narrower the viewing cone becomes, so you need to sit as close to the center as possible to get the best picture. It’s a trade-off.
But not with Vutec’s SilverStar™ screens. Vutec developed a silver-based material that provides multiple optical layers, so you actually get the sharp, bright picture of a 6.0 high-gain screen, with the wide viewing angle of the lower gains. You can get the best picture possible, but still have lots of flexibility in seating options, which comes in handy when you want to watch a movie with more than 2 or 4 people in the room.
It’s the best of both worlds.
If you need to firestop smaller cable penetrations, construction gaps, or openings in electrical boxes but are tired of dealing with some of the messier caulks and foams out there, then I think you’re going to like today’s featured product. My attention was recently caught by SpecSeal® SSP Putty from STI, a clay-like firestopping agent that can be applied without tools or mess. Like I said, this putty is very malleable, just like clay, so all you need to do is work it into openings with your hands, instead of hauling out a caulk gun or trowel. Sounds nice and easy, right?
It is. But no-hassle installation is only one of the benefits of SpecSeal® putty. First of all, it has very strong adhesive properties, so it sticks really well to just about any type of building material, as well as pipes, conduit, and cable jackets. Next, it goes through a two-stage intumescence process when exposed to fire, meaning that it swells (to up to 8 times its original size) to create a gap-free barrier to block the passage of smoke, flame, water, and fumes. As a matter of fact, it’s even great at blocking noise, which makes it ideal for soundproofing as well.
If you’ve ever firestopped with caulk or foam, you’ve probably found that once it dries, that’s it. If you need to make any changes, you need to pull out all of the cured intumescent material, update your cabling and make any other necessary modifications, and then refill gaps with a fresh application of foam or caulk. But one of the really interesting features of SpecSeal® is that it never dries or hardens, so it’s reworkable at any time. This can save you money in the long run, because you don’t have to invest in new firestopping putty every time you need to update a cable configuration. And even though it doesn’t dry, it stays put, so you don’t have to worry about it falling or sagging out of place. In addition, there’s no “cure time,” so you don’t have to wait hours for it to become fully effective – it’s ready to go from the start.
SpecSeal® SSP Putty is rated for up to 3 hours of fire protection, per the requirements of ASTM E 119.
Would it be weird for me to say that there’s a utility knife out there that might actually make you feel like a kid again? (Well, it did for me, anyway). Meet the Shark, a (you guessed it) utility knife that really does look exactly like a (you guessed it) shark. At this point, you’re probably wondering why on Earth someone would want a tool that looks like an ocean predator, and who even thought of inventing it in the first place. Well, let me enlighten you. To the first question, the answer is: me. And to the second question: Rapid Tools, because they realized that many people who use razor knives also use wire strippers, so they just decided to combine the two tools into one. The fact that they could make it look like a shark is just an added bonus.
So, now for how it all works. The cutting blade pops out of the knife’s slanted front, just like with any other razor knife (except with this one, the front end is the shark’s “nose”). But here’s where it gets fun. Remember how I mentioned that Rapid Tools managed to integrate a wire stripper into the design? The stripping blades are set into the front bottom of the knife, and look like perfectly scaled shark’s jaws. And you operate them with a little handle that pops out of the back, which also happens to look an awful lot like a dorsal fin.
No utility knife named after a toothy carnivore can get away with anything less than a serrated blade, so that’s exactly what you’ll find in the Shark. While it can still cut perfectly straight like a standard utility blade, the serration of the Shark’s blade lets it cut a much wider variety of materials. All in all, this is a very simple but brilliantly creative tool, and it can save you the time it would take to keep switching tools, and the eliminate the hassle of carrying around several single-function gadgets. And have I mentioned that it’s fun? Just don’t let them catch you humming the Jaws theme on the job.
Measuring the length of a conduit run with ordinary fish tape can be a real pain in the neck. First, you have to work the fish tape down into the conduit. Next, you have to haul it all back out again – but make sure you marked the depth first! And finally, you have to break out a tape measure to measure the fish tape against. That sounds like too many steps, doesn’t it? There are better ways to use your time on the job, and nobody knows that better than Klein Tools, the company that developed Depthfinder™ fish tape.
Klein Tools realized that the hassle of measuring fish tape could be reduced to one simple step, provided that the fish tape is marked with incremental measurements, just like a measuring tape. So they got down to business, and turned that inspired idea into reality. And that’s how we got Depthfinder™ fish tape. To get an accurate measurement, you only need to thread the tape down a length of conduit, and then take a look at the markings on your end once the fish tape has reached the end of the line. How’s that for saving time?
Depthfinder™ flat steel fish tape comes in an ⅛″ width, but you can choose from lengths of 60, 125, or 240 feet, so it has you covered for just about any job. It’s high-impact plastic winder reel is bright orange for easy visibility, and has an extra tough internal reel that helps prevent the tape from kinking and jamming.
Remember that old Krazy Glue commercial where they glue a contruction worker’s hard hat to a beam and leave him dangling in midair? The first time a saw Loctite’s Power Grab® , I though of that ad – it’s almost that strong. While it isn’t actually glue (it comes on a roll like tape) and can’t quite keep a 200 lb. helmeted man suspended above a construction site, Loctite® Power Grab® is incredibly strong – each 60-inch roll has the power to hold up to 100 lbs of pretty much anything you can dream up.
Power Grab® is waterproof, resistant to UV rays, and works well within a wide range of temperatures (from -40°F to 248°F), so it’s not limited to indoor use. You can use it inside to hang pictures, coat hangers, and other decorative objects to your walls, and then bring it outdoors to adhere street numbers or address plaques to your home or business, or even mount a door-knocker on your front door. But don’t limit yourself – those are just a few basic ideas.
Not too long ago, a few of my coworkers filmed a demonstration video for Power Grab®, and just to show how strong it really is, they used it to mount a tool box to a wall. But it didn’t end there. Immediately after sticking the tool box to the wall, our spokesmodel proceeded to drop (not gently place, but drop) a variety of heavy tools into the box, and that tool box stayed exactly where it was supposed to. And keep in mind that our demonstration team had been forced, in the interest of time, to forgo the recommended curing period that allows the adhesive to fully set and activate. Now that’s a high-performance tape.