The World of Concrete held every February in Las Vegas is one of the most fun trade shows that I attend. Besides providing a welcome respite from the Colorado cold at the peak of winter, it gives me a chance to run a lot of power tools and equipment in a hands-on setting. Most of the tool brands get booths outdoors in the front parking lot of the convention center to allow show participants to drill, chip, break, and cut concrete to their hearts’ content. A few of the major brands bring their full line of corded and cordless construction tools as well as their related accessories so folks can also try out the latest circular saws, impact drivers, and bits and blades. And it all takes place in a carnival-like atmosphere with the sun shining, the music blaring, and excited attendees shouting over the din of dozens of jackhammers.
Scattered among the more familiar tools are booths with remote control demolition robots in action, large slabs with personnel whizzing around expertly on ride-on trowels and concrete polishers, and even a separate lot where you could test drive small equipment, and if qualified, concrete mixing trucks, bulldozers, and more. It was quite a stimulating place to be if you happen to be into tools ranging anywhere from 10.8-volt cordless drills to concrete pump trucks with a 200-foot reach.
Ironically, handheld power tools for concrete construction are usually meant for deconstructing part of a concrete structure. Rotary hammers, chipping hammers, breakers, and even grinders and polishers all remove concrete in their own way. Besides the obvious goals of increasing power and speed for all of these operations, tool designers have two other main design criteria to follow based on forward-thinking European Union (EU) directives. To protect worker health and safety, directives are in place to reduce operator-felt vibration that leads to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) as well as those to limit workers’ exposure to harmful silica dust released when working with cured concrete and masonry products.
This means that there are more technological advancements being built into tools to allow them to still hit hard without beating up the user (brings to mind Muhammad Ali’s catch phrase “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”). This also accounts for the rise in tool-mounted dust collection shrouds and high-efficiency job site vacuums. For European companies like Bosch, Hilti, and Metabo, making tools that comply with EU directives is a given, but every company that wants to compete in that market is bringing their designs in step with the directives too. The US is not saddled with most of these standards and regulations (yet) but due to the concerns elsewhere in our global tool market, even those of us in the Wild West can enjoy a bit less shakin’ with our breakin’.
An apples-to-apples note on impact energy ratings for breakers and demo hammers: If reported values seem lower than you expect, check to see which standard the manufacturer is testing to. A few companies have agreed to use the more stringent European Power Tool Association (EPTA) standards on new tools going forward, but existing products listed in catalogs and websites will likely not be updated and will show higher values.
Here are some power tool highlights from my three deafening days in the outdoor lots (presented in alphabetical order).
Shakin’ and breakin’ alongside each other were Bosch’s largest breakers: the 60-pound class Brute and the 23 percent more powerful Brute Turbo. The second generation Brute “classic” in its traditional yellow color has been out a few years but the newer Turbo model in more typical Bosch trade dress just hit the market at the time of the show.
Brand new is Bosch’s DH1020VC breaker in a size class more useful to most remodelers and plumbers. At 25 pounds, this tool can be used upright like a larger breaker but also held horizontally for use on wall and foundation surfaces.
Bosch’s smallest rotary hammer with a chipping function is their new 18-volt, 3/4″ cordless model RHH181-01. Besides having a high-tech brushless motor for greater efficiency, the tool also boasts the brand’s highest energy-density battery at 4.0 amp-hours. With those two runtime-enhancing features, this compact tool can drill many more holes on a single battery charge than the brand’s much larger 36 volt rotary hammer according to Bosch.
Not specific to working with concrete but noteworthy just the same were a few other new tools that caught my eye. Joe the Pro, the in-house spokesman for Bosch power tool accessories was showing off the new Daredevil circular saw blades made specifically for cutting treated deck lumber. Since this wood has high moisture content when sold, the new blade has a more aggressive hook angle to cut and clear sawdust better in wet wood. The blades are available with round arbor holes for sidewinders or diamond holes for worm-drive saws.
And what’s a jobsite without tunes? A new radio is available from Bosch that runs on their diminutive 12-volt max batteries. Besides connecting to external media players, the radio also has a battery fuel gauge on the display so it can pull double duty as a state-of-charge tester for your batteries. Stay “tuned” for the full review on HomeFixated soon.
And not exactly new but just so cool were the virtual walls of L-Boxxes stacked around the booth. Seeing them there all sleek and modular and snapped together made the organization freak within me yearn for a stack of my own.
DeWalt’s main focus on job site dust management had their new DWV012 vacuum taking center stage. This 10 gallon wet/dry vac has some impressive job site tough features like a telescoping handle and large rear wheels to allow you to roll it over rough terrain like a hand truck. It also sports various lift and tie-down points for hoisting it up and securing it to scaffolding. Another of its well-thought-out features are legs that support the motor head and keep the filters from touching the ground when the drum is being emptied.
In use, the vac can be run manually or set to turn on automatically when an attached tool is switched on, and the motor speed can be dialed down to lower suction power (or current draw) as needed. Any time it’s on the unit runs an automatic filter cleaning function that pulses air backwards through the filters every 30 seconds to keep airflow at its best. And with its HEPA filter, this vac is ready for EPA-defined RRP lead-hazard jobs as well as sucking up silica-laden concrete dust.
To go with the new vacuum, DeWalt offers variety of tool-mounted shrouds to contain and collect concrete and masonry dust as close to the source as possible. Attachments are available to fit small rotary hammers and grinders fitted with tuck pointing cutters or surface grinding wheels. The most novel of these attachments doesn’t mount to a tool, but rather to the wall directly. The DWH050K dust extractor, which we mentioned after an earlier trade show, sticks to the wall and sucks up dust all with the power of the attached vacuum. To use, the unit is simply placed over the intended hole position on a wall and the vacuum power holds it in place. This type of dust collection is less unwieldy for horizontal use than mini tool-mounted vacs or telescoping attachments that hang the weight of the vac hose from the front of the tool.
Hilti premiered the single most exciting tool of the show – the TE 30-A36 Combihammer — a 1” cordless rotary hammer with a chipping function. This 36-volt tool features a high-tech brushless motor and a class-leading 6.0 amp-hour battery and was convincingly demonstrated by racing and consistently beating similarly sized corded rotary hammers. To temper its power and speed, the tool has active vibration-reduction features and a circuit that shuts the tool off instantly if the bit binds to prevent the tool from violently jerking the user’s hands.
I got to try out this awe-inspiring tool when I visited Hilti’s corporate headquarters in Liechtenstein in 2011 but was sworn to secrecy about it until its US release just this month. The capabilities and costliness of this type of cordless tool aren’t desired by everyone, but in my estimation, this is an important tool in the evolution of developing pro grade cordless tools that will competently replace corded tools on the job sites of the future.
Hilti’s standout accessories were definitely the TE-CD and TE-YD hollow drill bits. When drilling dowel or anchor holes in concrete, dust buildup in the holes slows progress, creates extra wear on bits, and must be cleaned out following specific code-required steps before epoxy or mechanical fasteners can be inserted. Hilti’s new bits have hollow shafts and small holes at the tips to allow dust to be vacuumed up while the hole is being drilled. A vacuum hose attaches to a collar that rotates freely on the bit directly over a single exhaust hole. Since certifications for this sort of commercial fastening are granted based on specific testing funded by the manufacturer, currently only a single Hilti adhesive is approved for use with these bits without performing the standard specified cleaning steps after drilling. But a good idea is a good idea and use of these bits can make cleanup easier in any application.
Makita came to the show with just what I like to see — tons of cool power tools and the spacious Rockstar RV that a visiting journalist could lounge in to rest his weary self. After a refreshing energy drink from said bus owner I was ready to end my VIP experience and enter the fray and talk tools again.
The most eye catching development from Makita was their unique battery solution to get more users acquainted with their only 36-volt cordless tool on the market in this country, a lonely 1” rotary hammer with a chipping function. Since most Makita users already have Makita 18-volt lithium-ion batteries and since those batteries have remained completely compatible for many years (Thanks Makita), the brand developed a battery mount that allows two 18-volt batteries to power the 36-volt tool. This series wiring essentially creates a 3.0 amp-hour 36-volt composite cell if both batteries are fully charged. This ingenious solution keeps users from having to invest in a 36-volt charger and batteries that they can only use in one tool, and allows the brand to sell a lower cost version of the X2 rotary hammer sans batteries called the HRH01ZX2.
Another interesting cordless rotary hammer from Makita is the 18-volt LXRH011. This tool is basically their LXRH01 1” brushless motor rotary hammer mated to a mini HEPA dust collection vac. The vac has its own motor that is powered by the same battery as the tool. Like other new cordless rotary hammers with high-tech brushless motors, this tool is part of the growing trend of small cordless hammers that include a chipping function — traditionally a feature reserved for larger tools.
At the heart of Makita’s increased focus on job site dust collection is their new VC4710 Xtract Vac, a 12 gallon vacuum we mentioned in the last Tool News Nirvana that can be outfitted with optional HEPA filters for RRP lead-hazard jobs. The variable speed vac features an automatic filter cleaning cycle that blows air back though the filters at regular intervals, and can be started and stopped either manually or via an attached power tool. The filters were placed as high as possible in the unit in order to maintain maximum airflow even if the vac is nearly full.
A little out of the needs and budgets of most of us, but I couldn’t resist including Husqvarna’s super-heavyweight class Battle Bot contender. These remote control demolition robots perform the heavy work much easier than a human could, but are compact enough to be used in indoor spaces inaccessible to most motorized demo equipment.