I've been plugging away at this blog for 5 years or so, and I finally got the ultimate reward of blogging: FREE TOOLS!
A representative from Keson got in touch with me a few weeks back and asked if I'd like a free SOLA level to review. It looks like Keson is taking over the distribution of SOLA products in the USA, and they wanted to get the word out about their product.
I've had my levels for 20-odd years and they're getting pretty beat up, so I jumped at the chance.
They bravely sent it to me in just a cardboard mailing tube. The level came with a handwritten note that said,
If our levels can survive the Postal Service, they can definitely thrive on the job site.
Ha! Well put. And it did come through in good shape.
Out of the box, the first thing I noticed was the bright red color. It's easy to lose tools on a busy job site, so this will be easy to find.
I also noticed the rubber end caps.
Let me explain why this is great: when you're hanging a picture on a Sheetrock wall (for example) you have to be careful if you're using a solid metal level. One hard bump and you've dinged the wall and have to patch the ding.
Anyway, the rubber end caps will make my job a little easier. Also, I can casually set it down on a floor without making a big loud CLANK, and it's easier on the level. So if you're sensitive about being careful with your level like I am, you'll be able to relax a little bit.
But the real star of the show is SOLA's patented vial technology. For one thing, the liquid in each vial is bright green with a big, clear bubble that stands out well and is easy to see. My vision isn't what it used to be, and I'm usually too busy to fool with eyeglasses when I'm on a job site, so this is a nice touch. And the shading on either side heightens the visibility as well.
Also notice that the horizontal vial is notched into the side. On most levels you have to look through a little hole in the side, kind of like a port hole, and it gets kind of tricky to see, especially when you're holding it over your head. This one will be much easier to use.
And then there's this:
I assume this machined side has an important function, like resisting dings so your straight-edge stays straight. But I also like it because it's shiny.
Since it's been awhile since I went shopping for one of these, I dropped by the local Big Box hardware store to see what the competition looks like. I didn't see anything of the same quality. Certainly none of them had the little green vials with the great big bubble.
However, the Big Box levels had one thing in their favor: at about $15 to $50 in price, they cost a little less than the Big Red, which runs at about $57 according to Google. So if you're just starting to build your tool kit and need to cut costs, this might not be the right level for you.
But the bottom line is that the SOLA Big Red Spirit Level lives up to its reputation: it's the equivalent of a custom red Karmen Ghia with a chrome-lined engine.
If you need a handyman with all the tools, give us a call. We've got them.
As a trim carpenter, I'm always looking for new ways to do a better job. One of the problems I regularly run into is breaking caulk lines, and I think I've finally found a solution.
When I install trim, I caulk it where it meets the wall so that it looks continuous with the wall. If the caulk breaks, as it often does due to the natural movement of the wooden trim, it leaves a dark gap.
Here's an example via Allan Bailey, one of the craftsmen in our network. On the left you can see trim which was installed a long time ago, where the caulk lines have all broken. In this example, the problem was caused by moisture from a poorly sealed shower door, but it can also happen when new trim is installed and dries out as it adjusts to the local humidity.
On the right, you can see where Allan has re-caulked and painted the trim. It looks much better, doesn't it?
Caulk lines have such a high tendency to break that we don't warranty them on handyman work. But I do like to do things right, warranty or not, and that's where Big Stretch comes in.
It's a new product by Sashco which supposedly resists moving and cracking. Here's a video to show the difference. (Warning: it's a little bit corny.)
I've been putting Big Stretch to the test on some of the built-in furniture projects I've finished lately. On most of these projects, my goal is to install a piece that looks like it's part of the home, like these two benches which I installed on either side of an existing fireplace.
So far Big Stretch has held up well.
The only drawback I noticed is that although Sashco says Big Stretch is "easy to install, even for a novice," I find it to be a little trickier to work with than regular caulk.
I usually like to go over my caulk lines with my fingertip to smooth them out. You can do that with Big Stretch, but you only have a few chances to get it right before it starts boogering up.
But overall I'd give this a "thumbs up" rating. The superior performance outweighs the slight difficulty of installation.
If you're looking for a handyman who loves to do things right, give us a call. We've got a whole network of craftsmen who are at least as picky as me.
I was not compensated for this review.
I have a perfectly good indoor workshop, but on days like this you won't catch me in it.
Need someone with all the tools to get your job done? I've got them.
I usually use this blog to show off glamorous photos of my latest job, but today I thought I'd give you a peek behind the scenes.
I've been getting a lot of built-in shelving jobs this year, and although I usually do a lot of prep work in my home workshop, there are often a few last-minute details to take care of onsite. It just makes for a better shelf if I can fit the piece to the space.
With that in mind, I'm always tinkering with the setup in my van, and I recently hit upon an awesome set-up!
When I first got the van, I built a set of custom shelves in an H layout that puts all of my tools right at my fingertips. There's always been space underneath for carrying plywood or painting supplies.
My latest brain wave was to install a drawer under the shelves. First I laid down some simple runners made from leftover pieces of half-round trim. Then I greased them and laid plywood over them. I added some runners above to hold the plywood in place.
My table saw fits there perfectly, and it even doubles as a counter.
When the drawer is pulled out, voila! A rolling workshop.
All of that organization is for you, so your special project is done right.
If you need someone with a rolling closet full of tools to pull up to your door and get your projects done, give us a call. We love this stuff!
It must be Springtime, because I have a new house guest... or perhaps I should say "shop guest" because she moved into my workshop.
She's right in my walkway, but well out of reach of the barn cat.
She's not sure what to think of the camera.
Well, I guess I won't be using that rope anytime soon.
Now that Spring is here, why not get started on all of those little projects you've been waiting for all Winter long?