Tools Archives

August 30, 2006

Mail order tools from Lee Valley

I generally like to buy things from nearby. It strengthens the local economy and is easy to take something back if there is anything wrong with it. But I make an exception for a couple of companies. Lee Valley is one of them. The reason is that they do business as if they really care about their customers.

Their catalog and website highlights the strengths (and weaknesses) of the things they sell. I have not had to deal with their customer service, but every report I hear has been that they do whatever it takes to retain a satisfied customer.

What is more, they also design and build new innovative products. Some are improvements on existing ideas like their series of hand planes, and others are jigs and measuring tools which help get the job done better than before. With these qualities is it any wonder that they have outgrown their native Canada and spread to the US and beyond?

The best way to get acquainted with them is to visit their website and if you are interested, sign up to receive a catalog. The next woodworking catalog is due out in early September.

August 31, 2007

Abalone Iron and Floatline


The California Abalone is a big gastropod and adheres to the rocks it lives on very tightly. This makes removal of them a tricky process. When the fringe of the abalone detects a visitor, the thick muscle pulls the creature tight against the rock. So to get them off the rock you need to slip one of these stout abalone irons under the shell very quickly, surprising the abalone and not allowing them to suck down tight. The edges are rounded so that it doesn't cut the abalone.

There are a wide variety of abalone irons, but it is probably a good idea to pick one with a built-in gauge. Divers are required to carry a measurement device with them whenever diving for abalone and having it built-in to the iron helps.

The other thing shown in this picture is a floatline. This one I made by feeding some fluorescent orange line through a length of polyethelene tubing. The ends are sealed with some plugs with a stainless steel ring at each end. I put some heat shrink tubing on there to neaten things up. The float line is then tied to the end of the abalone iron. It does not float enough to lift the iron, but it does float up and mark the spot where the iron is. So, when diving in rough murky conditions where the swell and current are moving you about, you may find an abalone lurking but not have enough breath left to spend time to remove it from the rock. Or you may want to come back to the spot for a second look. So all you need to do is drop the iron right there and surface for another breath. Then when you are ready, follow the line back down to where you were.

The float line also allows you to determine how deep you are diving or how deep the water is where you are. I'd consider it an essential accessory for any abalone or sea urchin diver.


May 1, 2009

Corona Aluminum Handle Bypass Loppers Review

These are the best loppers I've used. I've broken the handles on a couple of wood handled loppers over the years, but the aluminum handles on these are both stronger and lighter and can get wet without cracking and getting splintery. They are also replaceable as are the cutting blades. You can take the blade off pretty easily to sharpen it when the need arises too.

The bypass style doesn't give quite as much leverage as you would get with a geared anvil type lopper, but I think that the blades stay sharp longer with this style, and there is plenty of leverage for cutting anything that you would use a lopper on. Anything too big to cut whith these you should be sawing anyway. But note that if you are frequently cutting bigger branches you should get the type with 31" handles instead of the 24".

You can see a bit of rust near the blades from the times when SOMEONE in the house has left them out in the rain or sprinklers, but the plastic coated handles are fine even after long exposure to the sun.

One minor feature which bears mention is the set of rubber pads you can see right near the pivot point. They really do work to cushion the impact you get when the blades cut through, Anvil cutters meet with a sharp snap. These cut past the end and then those rubber pads cushion the blow. When you are chopping a lot of stuff, the little touches make your day nicer. Occasionally I tuck one handle under my arm and cut one handed. In that position, a soft cut is appreciated!

Overall, I don't think you could do much better than these loppers. I'd buy another pair, but I have a feeling this 10 year old pair is not going to wear out anytime soon. Mine is an older model so it does not have the "Stratashear" teflon-coated blades like the #AL 8240, but they are fine without it.

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