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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Indispensable Tools

Thought I would share some thoughts on some of the more uncommon tools I have found indispensable. I would classify "uncommon" as those tools not typically found in a garage (i.e. not the typical cordless drill, saw, router, etc.)

Pacific Laser Systems's PLS2
Is a laser level device that projects bright sharp crosshares completely level and perpendicular. You can optionally project the horizontal, vertical, or both. This is very handy for aligning pieces for matching heights and positioning verticals. One area where I used this device was installing the floor/tank cleats in the compartments under the main salon floor. The device has a wide angle spread (maybe 160-170 degrees). It projected a level line most of the way around the tank compartment. The top edge of the cleats are then aligned to the beam, and screwed in all the way around the compartment. No measuring (except initial height) and no sprit level needed. And quick!

Now, don't confuse this with those "cheap" laser leveling devices you see at Home Depot (I mean the sub $50 thingys, not the nice DeWalt rotary laser levels). The PLS2 uses real optics to bend and spread the beam to produce a nice solid line. Unlike the cheapies that use a diffraction grating which produces more a dashed line, and, not as wide of a spread.

Use of this, of course, requires the boat to be level, which it is. I also have the PLS5 which will project verticals and perpendiculars in 3D space which is very useful for aligning pieces on BOTH sides of the boat perpendicular to the centerline. But, the PLS2 has got the most use.

Black & Decker Workmate

Yes, the one you get bombarded with ads about just before Christmas. This is ideal as a portable worksurface in the boat, where you are constantly moving things around. And, the vise feature is a great third hand for clamping and holding pieces that need grinding and trimming.

Dust Collector w/Wireless Remote Control
We have one setup to go to the shop, and the boat. It is a 220v 5HP device with a series of ducts and gates connecting the saws and routers. Ducts also go in through the fore and aft hatch openings of the boat. This is very useful for controlling/removing dust when grinding glass on the inside of the boat. It does not replace a respirator, but helps keep dust to a minimum that you would otherwise have to vacuum up. Also, it helps keep the inside of the boat ventilated when working with resin that produces VOC gases (stuff you really shouldnt breathe).

Also part of the dust collection setup is a "cyclone catch" that separates the larger particles from the finer dust to help extend the life of the motor and impeller.

EOS Wireless iPod Speakers

Ok, so not really a tool, but I need my music damnit. I also listen to a number of podcasts in the shop. And there is nothing worse hearing an interesting topic, then having to go into the boat and missing the rest of the segment. I tried cobbling together a wireless solution using existing computer and car-stereo components I had laying around, but it just didnt work well. These are great and have really good fidelity. You can wirelessly connect up to 4 pairs of speakers wth a claimed range of 150 feet. WiFi and bluetooth will not interfere.

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