The World of Concrete trade show is celebrating its 45th year as an event where construction pros can converge to see the latest tools and equipment from hundreds of manufacturers, and of course have a little fun while they’re there. Besides the general distractions provided by the backdrop of Las Vegas, the World of Concrete show hosts an annual competitive spectator sport known as the Bricklayer 500, and you can also chance to find live chainsaw carving, axe throwing, and other delights in the outdoor lots. As always, I get my steps in, by the mile, traversing this giant show to seek out interesting tool and worker gear for our Home Fixated readers. Here are some of the highlights.
As the power tool industry continues moving towards the cordless jobsite, bigger and stronger tools are incrementally being added in cordless versions that wouldn’t have been expected just a handful of years ago. Of course, we’re already there with the largest tools–bulldozers, graders, and excavators have no cords at all–but now the industry is filling in the gaps in between those behemoths and cordless drills. Things like demo hammers and combi hammers for drilling and breaking concrete and masonry.
Last year Hilti released their first cordless SDS Max cordless combi hammer in their 36-volt battery platform, and this year they’re following up with the first dedicated breaker in the same weight class, the TE 500-A36. Also known as a chipping or demolition hammer, this SDS Max tool is the right size for using on horizontal and vertical surfaces. The TE 500-A36 delivers 5.8 ft-lbs of impact energy at up to 3,300 impacts per minute, and it fits standard SDS Max or Hilti’s equivalent version, TE-Y bits.
For breaking with the unlimited portability afforded by a cordless demo hammer along with the need for dust collection as required by OSHA, the TE 500A-36 can be connected to Hilti’s cordless VC 75-A22 vac. To make the setup even more mobile, the small vac can be toted around in a backpack accessory. And even this smallest Hilti vac provides OSHA Table 1 compliance for breaking (and drilling).
Other cordless tools premiering at the Hilti booth included five new metalworking tools. As an expansion to the brand’s 22-volt platform, these tools give fabricators and finishers alike a new degree of cordless freedom for their work. For cutting, Hilti has the SSH 6-A22 double-cut cordless shears and the SPN 6-A22 nibbler. The shears cut out a thin strip of material for wrinkle-free edges on both sides of the cut, and at the end of a non-through cut, the tool can cut off the waste strip. A variety of blades are available for different materials, and a variable speed dial lets you lock in your desired speed without having to hold a variable speed trigger in the same place while you work. Hilti’s nibbler also fits different cutter heads, and the heads can be rotated 360 degrees to make positioning the tool and curved cuts easier.
For metal prep and finishing jobs, Hilti’s other new cordless metalworking tools include their GTB 6X-A22 belt sander, GFB 6X-A22 band file, and GPB 6X-A22 burnisher. The flexible rollers that form the triangular shape of the belt sander allow the belt to wrap most of the way around cylindrical tubing for greater reach, and also provide for convex smoothing along the outside edges of rectangular tubing. And speaking of reach, the band file is essentially a needle-nose belt sander for low-profile abrading in tight spaces. One of my favorite tools for finishing metal (as well as rustic wood) is a burnisher fitted with a wire brush. Hilti’s burnisher features a quad-keyway spindle to fit industry-standard drums and other accessories, and the tool is claimed to be the first cordless burnisher with a variable speed dial.
On the lighter side, Hilti is releasing an updated line of 12V drivers for common drilling and driving tasks. Along with the size and weight benefits of being subcompact tools, Hilti says that their brushless motors and energy-dense 4.0 Ah battery packs provide more performance and runtime than ever. The new models include the SFD 2-A12 screwdriver, SID 2-A12 impact driver, and SF 2H-A12 hammerdrill/driver.
Other new Hilti cordless tools I got a glimpse of—all in their full-size 22-volt line–include a new premium, brushless motor hammerdrill/driver, a barrel-grip jig saw, and a price-competitive, workhorse recip saw.
iQ Power Tools
The folks at iQ Power Tools have made a name for themselves (though seemingly misspelled) by leading the way in dry dust collection for tools that usually rely on water to suppress dust. Tools like gas-powered concrete cutters, brick and block saws, and even a tile saw. By building saws with integrated dust collection systems aboard, iQ aims to keep dust at bay while avoiding the hassles and mess of wet cutting altogether. I can’t help but think of how much easier this method would be for work done during freezing winter weather or within the restrictions imposed by some remodeling work. OSHA hasn’t quite caught up to iQ’s way of doing things, so for now the company is relying on objective data instead of Table 1 compliance for satisfying the requirements of the crystalline silica regs. But a representative for iQ said that they are appealing to OSHA to someday allow these dry-cutting methods within the precious pages of Table 1.
For iQ’s handheld concrete cutter (iQPC912VSK) and their original 14” masonry saw (iQ360XT), the vac part is hidden away in the unit, with only the manual filter-cleaning knob visible. But the brand’s newer 16 1/2” masonry saw (iQMS362) and 10” tile saw (iQTS244) both feature a souped-up vac, complete with cyclonic separators (and still with a simple, manual filter cleaning mechanism) under the hood. And all except for the original masonry saw claim OSHA compliance. The cyclonic separators knock down most of the dust before it reaches the vac filter to keep up airflow and reduce the cycle time for filter cleaning. For next-level systems, iQ also makes saws with much larger integrated vacs, and even standalone HEPA vac units with filters that measure 144 square feet, and with airflow rates up to 4,000 cfm.
To help with saws and cutters without an integrated dust collection system, or for other job site dust collection needs, iQ Power Tools now has a portable HEPA vac (iQ426HEPA). Unlike most similarly-sized vacs used for this purpose, iQ’s vac has four stages of filtration, with a HEPA-rated filter as the last stage. Cyclonic separators serve as the first two stages, and according to the brand, their effectiveness lets less than 1 percent of the dust through to the filter. To outfit this 10 gallon vac for your kind of work, it can be accessorized with various nozzles, a heavy duty collection bag system, and a job site tough rolling cart with a steel frame and oversized wheels (though the stock unit does have standard casters attached).
Makita goes all out for the WOC shows, with more than 20 hands-on demonstration zones within their booth. This year, the fun things to try included cordless concrete cutting, job site lighting, “smart” impact wrenches, and of course, the most fun being chain saws.
Front and center in Makita’s booth was their new battery-powered XEC01 9” power cutter (demo/concrete saw). Like other large Makita cordless tools, the cutter takes two 18-volt battery packs to power its 36-volt motor. A built-in water feed system provides for OSHA Table 1 compliance when cutting concrete or masonry, and the cutter can be used indoors without the exhaust concerns of gas-powered saws. To protect both the user and the cutter’s motor, the tool has an electronic safety clutch that stops the motor when the abrasive wheel binds up—a feature unique in this type of tool according to Makita.
In dust collection news, Makita has a few new HEPA vacs designed for meeting the requirements for OSHA crystalline silica regulations, and both are compatible with the brand’s “AWS” tool-triggering system. Makita’s new flagship vac is the VC4210 wet/dry HEPA vac for collecting dust with 148 cfm of airflow, or slurping up slurry with 92” (H2O) of suction power. The vac has a capacity of 11 gallons and uses a reverse airflow system for cleaning its multiple stage filters.
For a HEPA dust collection solution you can take with you without rolling it around, Makita has a new up-sized 36-volt cordless backpack vac that can hold up to 1.6 gallons of debris. The XCV18ZX vac lets you choose between maximum airflow of 64 cfm for the best pick-up power, or a lower speed for longer runtime. And to keep you moving, the batteries on this vac are placed at either side, so you don’t have to take the unit off your back to swap them out.
Hot on the heels of the XDT16 Quick-Shift Mode impact driver we featured last year are Makita’s new impact wrenches with many similar “smart” features. Available in pin or ring locking versions for 1/2″ sockets, the XWT14/XWT15 models boast 516 and 738 ft-lbs of fastening and reversing torque respectively. The smart features include four fixed speeds or variable speed operation, and six “Auto Stop” modes to prevent overdriving in forward or spinning a nut or bolt off wildly in reverse. A 3/4″- drive version (XWT17) is coming out later in the year and has the added feature of a flexible connection between the tool handle and the battery housing designed to dampen vibration. And it’s not necessarily to protect the user, rather, the elastic isolation is to reduce vibration at the tail end of the tool that could cause arcing at the battery contacts. We also reviewed the Makita XWT11 late last year.
When you think about it, your cordless tools that spend the most time in the ON position are probably work lights, (either that or vacs). We already talked about the vacs, but there’s more to say about Makita’s latest cordless LED work lighting. The biggest of the bunch is the DML810 self-righting “upright light”, (so nicknamed, to avoid borrowing the often-genericized name of the Wobble Light brand). The unit provides illumination up to 5,500 lumens and runs on one or two 18-volt battery packs or AC power. When plugged into line voltage, a power receptacle on the light allows a user to daisy-chain several together, or just have a handy place to plug in a charger.
And if you need to crank it up to “Las Vegas skyline” bright, there’s the new DML809 cordless/corded light capable of a blinding 10,000 lumens. The light can be attached to an optional tripod stand to set up an array of widespread site lighting. Other new portable lights on display included the 3,000 lumen cordless/corded DML811 and the 1,250 lumen handheld DML812 with spot, flood, spot+flood, and strobe modes.
Makita has more models of battery-powered chain saws than any other major power tool brand (at least half a dozen), and their latest is their most powerful 36-volt, top-handle saw for capable cutting up in a tree or bucket. Available as the XCU08 with a 14” bar or the XCU09 with a 16” bar, these saws feature brushless motors for more get-up-and-go, and a 10-second “turbo boost” feature for even more gettin’-up-and-goin’. And like all of their battery chain saws, these saws use Makita’s common 18-volt battery packs, and fit standard bars and chains from Oregon and other compatible brands.
Exciting things are happening with “the brand formerly known as Hitachi” now that they are being operated by a smaller, more agile corporate structure. Under the new Metabo HPT moniker, the company’s cordless tools are advancing by leaps and bounds as we’ve witnessed in the last few years. One of the hottest cordless tool topics is battery-powered (hoseless) nailers, and Metabo HPT has as the most complete line out there. On top of that, the brand is showing off their first duplex-head nailer–and not just the first battery-powered one–but the first ever in the nailer giant’s history. There may be a pneumatic duplex-head nailer out there, but I know I’ve never heard of one before Metabo HPT leaked the news about this one to me a year or so ago and I reported it to Home Fixated readers. And there certainly wasn’t one back when I was on a concrete crew pounding in double-16s with my framing hammer, but looking back, that would’ve been awesome.
In the brief amount of time I spent checking out the new nailer, I saw the same reaction from a lot of guys who still drive these nails by hand, so I guess it’s still going to be awesome even in modern times. I couldn’t get all the details at the show, but this new nailer shoots 2” to 3 1/2″ duplex-head, fits the brand’s 36V MultiVolt batteries or the corded AC adapter, and will be sold in a kit for $599. The tool has the premature trigger lockout time of 2 seconds that bugs me about all Metabo HPT battery-powered nailers, but hey, you don’t have to worry about aiming so precisely ‘cause you’re gonna pull the nail out anyway.
Cordless rotary hammers in the SDS Max class were a big step in cordless development a few years ago when manufacturers first got them on the market. Now that these tools are old hat, tool brands are busy filling in any gaps in their lines so users have no reason to look outside the cordless realm for most drilling in concrete. Following up DeWalt’s big 2” hammer from last year is their latest, the 1 3/4″ DCH614 model, which completes DeWalt’s lineup of four SDS Max rotary hammer sizes. This 60V Max Flexvolt tool features a brushless motor, variable-speed operation, and an electronic clutch for enhanced user safety.
For drilling and driving concrete screws (like DeWalt’s 3/16” and 1/4″ “Ultra Con” screws) without having to make major bit changes in between the operations, DeWalt introduces thier DW5366 drill-drive system. After drilling the pilot hole, a driver sleeve snaps over the bit for quick operation, and the system works with DeWalt’s integrated dust collectors.
Among the new tools in DeWalt’s mainstream 20V Max line is a new premium fast charger. The fan-cooled DCB1112 is a 12-amp charger, pumping out way more juice than the brand’s current 8-amp fast charger. To take advantage of some of that quick storage capacity is an equally thirsty tool, DeWalt’s 20V Max chain saw. The new DCCS620 features a 12” bar, tool-free chain adjustment, and an actual chain brake – an important feature not always found on the smallest battery chain saws.
Most tool manufacturers offer cordless LED work lights, but most brands don’t offer the flexibility to power them like DeWalt does. The new DCL077 light works with the brands various 12V, 20V, and 60V Max battery packs. This IP-rated light can be posed with its adjustable stand, or attached to a tripod.
And for kicking the tunes on the job site, but not too loudly, DeWalt’s new medium-size Bluetooth radio should fill the bill. The DCR028 boasts 100 feet of Bluetooth range, and can be powered by 12V, 20V, and 60V Max battery packs, or with AC power.
Stihl had so many things for me to focus on, we’ll be covering the latest in Stihl news in a separate article in the next week or two – stay tuned!
The party scene continued at the Bosch booth this year with music, axe throwing, and free tattoos applied to those willing to sport the Bosch brand forever. With the festival atmosphere seemingly bucking the reputation of this otherwise staid German tool manufacturer, the message of quality tools and interesting innovations still came through, despite the distractions.
Another thing that continued in the Bosch booth from last year was the display of new track and circ saws. This year Bosch introduced their cordless plunge-cutting track saw, the GKT 18V 20GC. With its 5 1/2” blade, the saw cuts up to 2” deep, and by removing a plastic filler strip in its shoe, the saw can fit onto other brands of tracks.
As I reported from the WOC show last year, Bosch had two next-gen 18-volt cordless circ saws on the way. Last year turned out to be a really early look at them, because the arrival of the same saws is still news, but they still seem really cool. So, to recap my coverage, the GKS 18V-264GC is a programmable 7 1/4” construction saw with European flair. Features like the front and rear bevel locks, a handle-mounted depth-setting button, an integrated vacuum port, and adjustable motor-speed settings are similar to those found on Euro track saws. In fact, a slot in this saw’s show also lets it run on Bosch’s saw tracks. The saw’s Human/Machine Interface (HMI) display module lets you scroll through six preset speed settings for the tool’s brushless motor, and you can adjust the rpm of each speed setting through the Bosch Toolbox app. This feature may be unnecessary for most wood cutting uses where full-throttle operation is the rule, but could come in handy for dialing in the proper speeds for cutting certain composite materials used in cabinetmaking without melting or burning the edges. Setting the saw to Eco mode limits the motor to 70-percent output for longer runtime.
The second saw (GKS 18V-25C) shares the architecture of the premium model, but lacks a lot of the electronic gadgetry. The saws will be priced at $279 and $129 respectively for the bare tool models.
KEEN Utility, Keen’s working footwear division, is going strong, with new styles coming out faster than I can keep up with them. Continuing trends include more athletic-inspired models, more models built in the USA, and the expansion of KEEN Utility’s women’s workwear styles.
New in Keen’s lighter duty offerings are the Flint II and Flint II Sport. Both models feature the brand’s “ReGen” midsole to put more bounce in your step than a standard foam midsole, and are available in both men’s and women’s sizes. The Sport model comes as a low-top shoe with protective toe caps made from carbon fiber, while the regular Flint II is available in low or mid-height, with waterproof, protective toe, or soft toe varieties. There are also CSA-rated versions with puncture resistant insoles.
For workers who crouch or kneel a lot, Keen Utility has developed a 6”, medium duty boot with unprecedented flexibility. Named after Keen’s hometown, and built nearby, the new Portland model has a flexible bellows between the laces and the toe cap, designed to prevent cracked leather uppers and/or a worker’s squished instep. These boots are the first to be produced with protective carbon fiber toe caps in Keen’s own factory in Washington.
Adding to KEEN Utility’s range of heavy duty footwear is the 6” Cincinnati. Joining some of the brand’s boots with a more traditional look, this new model has a wedge sole, moc-toe, and all leather uppers, and is conspicuously missing Keen’s signature rubber toe cap. The waterproof leather is “SPR”-rated for barnyard use, and the comfort of the boot is enhanced by a padded “PolyAer” footbed above its padded midsole. Available with soft or carbon fiber toe caps for men, and for women, the Cincinnati will start out in an 8” soft toe version.
Since OSHA’s new crystalline silica regulations hit a few years ago, the topics of dust suppression, collection, and protection have been brought to the forefront of how working with concrete and masonry should be. Of course, not everyone follows the rules, but the smart ones at least try to. Worker safety and health concerns are important enough in the here and now, and may be even more of a consideration some years distant when late night ads for class action suits begin with the dour appeal “Did you work in the concrete or masonry industry and suffer permanent injury because your employer failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment…”.
To protect against the known hazards now, PPE requirements are pretty easy to follow, but even properly-rated dust masks may not always provide adequate protection with real-world obstacles such as facial hair or improper placement of a mask’s elastic bands. A full degree of magnitude better than a flimsy, disposable paper or fleece dust mask is a half-face respirator. With soft rubbery seals and stronger elastic straps, there’s less of a chance workers will don it incorrectly, and the intake filters and exhalation port seal much better than textile masks, and both can be pressure tested.
You’re probably used to seeing respirators with plastic-bodied filter cartridges attached, but 3M’s HF-802-SD reusable respirator also fits dust filters. Both types of filters easily snap into the brand’s respirator bodies with a “secure-click” function, and a button at the center of the unit blocks the airflow to the filters so you can pressure test the fit of the respirator to your face. And like the dust filters, 3M’s cartridge filters also protrude out to the side to gather air from a wider area than traditional filters with an intake on only one side.
Hearing protection is another crucial element of PPE, but earplugs and standard muffs can make clear communications with coworkers difficult. 3M now has an affordable ($80) add-on Bluetooth communication headset that simply snaps onto any of their X-series muffs. The MT67H05WS6 headset accessory doesn’t interfere with your hearing protection, and the unit’s microphone enables noise-cancelling talk in an environment with background noise up to 95 dB.
Uvex by Honeywell
Safety glasses probably spend more time attached to you than you spend with your favorite power tools, but you probably don’t put as much into picking out the best model of glasses when compared to your tools. Luckily, the major manufacturers have designers that make it easy enough to find a stylish pair that combine good looks and adequate protection. The looks aren’t quite as important for clear safety glasses, but your safety shades may be asked to do double or triple duty for driving around town or even doing whatever you do on your days off. That’s when the cool factor of the glasses really counts. Uvex is one of the Honeywell brands of PPE which specializes in protective eyewear, and I checked out their latest safety shades at the Honeywell booth (however, the same models are also available in clear).
The packaging of the S2881HS Avatar model lists 12 different component features, more than I expected the designers of “disposable” safety glasses to concern themselves with. The highlights include wire-core temples that also ratchet up and down with 15 degrees of adjustment to dial in the fit to your face, a floating nose loop for comfort, and a vented and padded forehead surface. The latest glasses from Uvex also employ their “Hydroshield” anti-fog coating that they demonstrated convincingly in a foggy box at the show. Workers often take their glasses off when they fog up on the inside, and thereby lose all eye protection during the time they wait for them to dry. To keep the glasses on-time to the maximum, anti-fog features are a very important area of development.
Another Uvex model I discovered at the show is the S2601HS Livewire. It also features the brand’s “Hydroshield” fog protection, which is extra helpful for this padded-lens, hybrid glasses/goggles style. To keep wildly-flying debris from tools like pressure washers, grinders, and chain saws out of your eyes, foam padding surrounds the perimeter of the lenses to fill in the space between the glasses and your face. Of course, this padding reduces the airflow between the lenses and your hot, steamy eyeballs so the condensation resistance of the “Hydroshield” really earns its keep in this application.
One other great, actually really great feature of the Livewire is the included elastic goggle headband. I spend a LOT of time wearing over-the-head hearing protection muffs—my favorite ones block noise while playing music, while others are components of my arborist helmets and forestry hardhats–and the biggest problem with them is that they make it very difficult to wear any type of glasses. You either have to stick the temples under the muffs–which causes painful pressure and lets half the noise in, or prop the temples above the muffs at a steep downward angle—which distorts your vision and interferes with proper eye protection. Wearing the Livewire safety shades with their goggle straps makes using hearing protection muffs much easier and all-around safer for both your eyes and ears. What’s not to like?
AND, as usual, I saved my most notable find of the show for last. But this one deserves a little preamble. When Skilsaw’s first cordless wormdrive saw was announced late last year, it was a momentous enough occasion. After all, the iconic brand waited a long time to release a cordless version of their iconic 7 1/4″ rear-handle saw.
What did they need a 48-volt battery for? Skilsaw knew what for, a long time ago. So, this year’s “Coolest thing at the WOC show” award goes to…
The Skilsaw SPTH70M 10 1/4″-blade circ saw—aka, the cordless Sawsquatch. The first 10 1/4″ cordless circ saw, and in fact, the largest cordless circ saw we’ve seen to date.
With the ability to slice through 4-by lumber, this is a groundbreaking saw. And in my initial tryout, it did a great job in 4x4s, and not just with crosscutting. The saw rip cut respectably in wet PT lumber—as in wet enough that the kerfs started drying out from the friction and pinching the blade, but the saw just shrugged it off and powered through. Overall, a pretty cool find for contractors who want to work cordless in the thicker sawn and composite lumber sizes in use today. The limits of technology are made to be broken, but if it comes to pass that Skilsaw releases a cordless version of their Super Sawsquatch, I may just have to retire because then I’ll have seen everything.
More Quick Glimpses from World of Concrete 2020
In the Fraco booth, I watched a demonstration of the “Exoskeleton by Mawashi”. While wearing the device, a worker’s efforts are aided by this futuristic-looking framework and its multiple battery-powered mechanisms.
The exoskeleton doesn’t multiply your strength, but its elastic system essentially nullifies the weight of your arms, and once you lift something, its mechanical joints can lock and hold it in place without demanding so much muscular tension from the wearer.
Speaking of tools that could never be cordless before, select cordless tools from Milwaukee’s MX FUEL line were on display at the White Cap booth, including a jackhammer, coring drill, light tower, and demo saw (not shown). I’m just waiting for the MX chain saw with a 20” bar and full-size 3/8” chain to come out. If I can lift it, I’ll fell and buck trees with it. If I can’t, I’ll mount it to my portable sawmill. Win win.
Whatever this is, stay away from it when it’s moving. It looks menacing. Actually, it’s a drum cutter for a Brokk remote-control demolition robot for carving into stone, concrete, or whatever else is standing in its way.
Not a concrete tool by any means, but really cool nonetheless is the new super-premium 18-ga. brad nailer from one of the best manufacturers of nailers out there. I enjoy the quick convenience of battery-powered trim nailers, but for production work, you’re still going to need a serious pneumatic tool like the new NF255SF2/18 SuperFinisher by Max. It has all, and I mean all of the bells and whistles available on a brad nailer, but what sold it for me was the passive “reverse-action” safety tip that you don’t need to jam against your wood before nailing. That feature alone is the best thing to happen to pneumatic finish nailers since compressed air.