By Joe Spry

In the water treatment industry—as in every other industry today—the major concern driving new product innovation is increased productivity. People want tools that do more than one job, so they can work faster and increase productivity and the profits of their company, which translates to personal earnings. And people want tools that are more ergonomic so they don’t tire as quickly and can maintain high levels of productivity.

As marketing manager for Sears Industrial Sales, it’s my pleasure to review thousands of tool innovations every year for possible inclusion in our Industrial Tool Book. The following are a few that may prove valuable to businesses that work with plumbing fixtures and other piping materials:

Clench wrenches
A number of tool manufacturers are providing innovations that help increase productivity. One of the most clever and popular is the clench wrench. The harder the user pulls on it, the tighter it gets. The clench wrench performs the functions of an adjustable wrench, a combination wrench and pliers.

For any application, the clench wrench is easy to use. Its jaw is spring-loaded and self-adjusting, so it automatically grabs onto whatever size fastener you’re working on. Its comfortable, vinyl-grip handle makes it easy to pull hard, increasing torque and tightening the grip on the fastener.

It keeps a tight hold as well, maintaining self-ratcheting, continuous contact with the fastener. Yet the jaws open easily with a thumb-lever release.

Aluminum pipe wrenches
Another innovation that makes the job easier and less fatiguing is the advent of the large-size, heavy-duty aluminum pipe wrench. The increased size—up to 48 inches—gives it greater torque. And the aluminum handles are about 40 percent lighter than comparable cast-iron models, so the user can work with them longer with less fatigue. Yet they retain operating strength far above U.S. specifications.

As aluminum-handled pipe wrenches become more popular, manufacturers are making them in specialty designs as well as larger sizes. For instance, there’s now an aluminum-handled offset pipe wrench for easier access into tight spots. It features a design where the jaw opening is parallel to the handle and a narrow hook jaw head.

Internal pipe wrenches facilitate the removal of broken threaded ends of pipe, pipe plugs and fittings. They have hexagonal bodies that can be used with a wrench for greater torque.

Tap and die sets
Improvements in metal technology also make high-speed steel tap and die sets possible. These have longer life that carbon steel, and they withstand heat longer so they stay sharper than carbon steel. They’re available with rust-resistant satin finishes that provide smoother cuts with less friction.

On-the-job rethreading of damaged and nicked nut and bolts is now easier with a portable tap and die set in a blow-molded case that weighs under four pounds, yet contains most standard and metric sizes needed for immediate repairs. Components are color-coded by plating for easy identification as well.

Pipe cutters
Pipe cutters now feature tee-shaped handles for greater torque and comfort. Some have oversized handles as well for quicker and easier adjusting. A sliding feature on one pipe cutter provides zero clearance for confined workspaces, while still providing greater torque for easier cutting. A pipe cutter for plastic piping has a compound leverage ratchet mechanism and hardened steel blades that permit one-handed operation.

Propane torches
Propane torches now are available with handles and triggers, permitting one-handed operation and eliminating the need for matches or spark-lighters. Just pull on the trigger for an instant flame.

Magnetic pickup tools
An exciting innovation for retrieving hard-to-access metal objects is the magnetic pickup tool. The telescopic tool has a patented “powercap” that slides over a powerful neodymium magnet, focusing its attracting power so it can lift up to 10 pounds. The cap also shields the magnet’s sides so it won’t attach to unwanted metal surfaces. The handle telescopes from six to 30 inches.

The flexible pickup tool is 24 inches long and can be twisted in almost any shape. It reaches into confined areas where no direct route is available. Its neodymium magnet, located at the end of a plunger rod, is also shielded so it won’t attach to unwanted metal surfaces. To activate it, just depress the spring-loaded end-cap to extend the magnet beyond its shield so it can retrieve the object. It can lift up to five pounds.

Lighted tools
Lighted tools not only illuminate the work area—they reduce the need for auxiliary lighting and power. It’s almost like getting an extra hand. There are at least a dozen new lighted tools on the market. One popular and handy one is the driver light—a high-torque magnetic screwdriver with a recessed push-button light built-in magnet for holding on to bits.

Mobile tool storage
The need for increased productivity also drives the trend toward more portable tool storage. Units that combine plastic and steel provide lighter weight and higher performance and durability. The chests include small parts storage that’s so important in the field, with clear lids for easy identification. Wraparound bumpers help resist scratching and marring. Compound action drawer slides open and close smoothly even when fully loaded saving time on-the-job and increasing productivity. And the comfort-grip handle makes carrying a loaded chest easier.

Truckbed tool boxes use the dead space behind wheel well for secured storage with easy tailgate access. The boxes lock onto 16-gauge mounting brackets. A keyed cam locking system secures tools against roadside impact. They fit full- and mid-size pick-up trucks, vans, sports utility vehicles and RVs.

Conclusion
Whatever the particular need, there’s usually a tool out there that can help you do your job quicker and easier—and with increasing emphasis on ergonomic design, one that reduces strain on muscles and joints. This article highlights just a few of those. You can learn more by asking other dealers and your tool supplier for the latest information on new tools that might prove useful to you and your employees.

About the author
Joe Spry is marketing manager for Sears Industrial Sales and its Craftsman line of tools in Hoffman Estates, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. He can be reached at (800) 776-8666, (847) 286-1864 (fax) or espry@sears.com

More information
To get a free copy of the current Sears Industrial Tool Book and price list, just phone (800) 776-8666, fax your request to (800) 233-4557, or visit our website: www.commercial.sears.com

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