Chris Schwarz's Blog

Silly Woodworking Devices

Someday, someone is going to invent a battery-powered scratch awl.

I know this is true because I have seen toolmakers go to ridiculous extremes to sell us something new. A laser on a jigsaw. A battery-powered tape measure. A chisel with rasp-like teeth on its shank. Rulers that don’t begin at zero.

But the silliest woodworking tool I’ve seen so far is the Black & Decker AutoClamp. It’s a cordless C-clamp. It runs on AA batteries. Well, it used to run on AA batteries. The batteries that came with the clamp leaked and now it’s an ex-clamp.

The magazine’s staff bought me one for my birthday, and though I haven’t used it much in the shop, I have delighted in playing with it in my office. You would be hard-pressed to make this thing press hard.

Though there is a safety-release button to disengage the clamp in emergencies (or when the batteries run out), it’s difficult to imagine hurting yourself with this. When I clamp my hand with the $30 AutoClamp it feels about as firm as a handshake.

The company says you get 350 pounds of pressure. It didn’t feel that way.

Now I hate to pick on Black & Decker too much. The company makes a lot of important tools affordable for the beginner. My first corded drill was a Black & Decker and it lasted me 10 years.

But the company does have a penchant for putting a battery on almost anything. An electric caulk gun. Battery-powered scissors. A battery-powered wrench.

So what’s the silliest woodworking tool you’ve encountered? Leave a comment below. You just might save someone from making a serious mistake.

– Christopher Schwarz

107 thoughts on “Silly Woodworking Devices

  1. zippy

    Silliest tool ever? What about a dovetail jig? Spend some time, learn to cut them by hand and become a better craftsman when the day is done. Use the $200 you were going to spend on the jig and buy a really nice dovetail saw instead.

  2. Rick Ellinger

    Tools that annoy me:
    Scratch awls that fall out of black machine square with the sliding rule.
    "Measuring tapes" that are off by 1/8 inch in 8 feet.
    Counter-sink centering drills with loose-fitting off center drill bits.
    Spade bits without outer scratch cutters.
    Table saw sliding miter guides in T slots that fall off the far side of the saw!
    Measuring tapes that can slam a finger or fail to retract.
    Screwdrivers that don’t fit screws.
    Any clamp with non-ductile iron that snaps.
    Miter-saws or chop boxes that jump from torque on start and stop.
    Binding tilt mechanisms on most skill saws and jig saws.
    Any motor marked in PEAK HP, a measure of when it melts, not how much power it produces. (None can produce more power than they receive from the wall outlet.)

  3. Allan Hawley

    The battery powered tape that was big and heavy and would not pull the tape back.
    The battery powered sizzers work very well. I use them to cut cloth rags and sandpaper.
    Someone gave me for Christmas a small battery powered sabor saw. I have not used it but I am sure it will be great when I find a use.
    I read that some lab has transmitted electricity over a short distance. This may put an end to all "battery powered" tools.

  4. doug

    My wife bought that darn electric tape that takes 15 seconds to retract, I had to work really hard to act like I was thrilled.(It’s the thought that counts, right?)
    As far as the comment about working with one arm, it is Awesome to see that a disability hasn’t kept you down. when I was a kid, one of the guys that taught alot about basic carpentry was our landlords maintenence man, Jack. He lost his left arm in Vietnam, and could do any job, with any tool. He was a skinny guy, but I was AMAZED as a child to see him start a nail by shoving it in with his bare hands! To the point of the silly tool though, if a clamp can’t squeeze tight, has it really helped the disabled person, or has it just wasted his or her hard earned money in a tough economic time? At least a vice grip type clamp will hold something pretty good, and costs less. I would never recomend this or the auto tape to an impaired woodworker. Now an auto nail starter would be useful, but that’s what air nailers are for.

  5. j patrick lane

    the silliest tool I believe is the tool that thought up this story. sure a battery powered clamp makes no sense and a lot of crummy tools dont. Part of the problem with tool and tool equipment companies is marketing tools that woodworkers dont need and dont improve on basic craftmanship. More stories need to be written and discussed that help the novice shop guy learn and better than most experienced woodworker get better. Too many tools especially battery operated ones have gotten so damn expensive that the novice or average woodworker that would like to equip a shop cant or turns to inferior tools that dont measure up. the silliest tool I have found is probably myself who has bought a battery operated tool that was only as good as the battery which turned out to be a joke. So for me write about the battery operated tools battery life or how much of the tool is made with plastic gears and whats a good better best tool for the money and remember not everyone needs to have a $300 drill and/or could afford it. jpl

  6. Christopher Schwarz

    Bill (and others),

    There are *far* more effective clamping solutions for people who have one hand or a reduced capacity to grip.

    Any quick-release "Quick-Grip" clamp can be used one-handed and can provide far more clamping pressure than the Auto-Clamp. And they are faster.

    Also, there are a wide variety of variations on the quick-release clamps that compensate for a reduced grip.

    And none need batteries!

    Chris

  7. Bill

    Maybe instead of laughing at the tool, consider its advantage to a person that does not have the ability to use both hands to put something in position to hold some in place.

  8. Brad

    Let me start by saying, I love my wife. But the battery powered tape measure was just too much. For some years now she has been buying me tool as gifts. Some good, some not. But after recieving the Black and Decker Auto-Tape I finally had to tell her, gently of course, no more tools. If I dont already have it, I probably don’t need it. While I’m sure some people like these battery powered thing-a-majigs, I’m not one of them.

  9. John

    The first time I saw the electric clamp in the store I though that’s the gift for the man that has at least two of everything else. But, if you seal asphalt for a living, and do a good job, you caulk cracks first, and after an hour of that, you really appreciate the electric caulk gun. Ditto for the electric wrench if you do a lot of small engine and bicycle repair. If you have a lot of sheets of pulp board to cut, the electric scissors are a big help. None of these tools are in my wood shop, but they are in my garage. The right tool for the job, even if it’s electric sometimes.

  10. Ricky Elton

    Several years ago, my son bought me one of the battery powered tape measures by none other than B&D. I was able to return it after Christmas for about half of what he paid for it since I did not have receipt. Besides needing batteries, it was too heavy to be of pratical use. Then a couple years ago, he gave me, not one but 2 of those battery powered clamps. I hate to seem ungrateful, so I did not return the clamps right away. I even opened one just to see how terrible it would be to use. I felt it was almost as useless as the battery powered tape measure. When I tried to return the other clamp, I was unable to find anyone, Lowes, Home Depot, or even Wal-mart that would admit they ever sold those things. So I have 2, one still in the original package that I would sell cheap.

  11. Frank Chennells

    Well, I guess I am lucky! No one seems to have bought some of these more interesting gadgets, but then come to think about it; I’m the only one who buys me tools. I have a talking tape measure that works well for a blind person, but one day I left it on the material being measured. It’s a foot shorter.

  12. Glen Morgan

    Most useless thing ever invented is super glue. Not once have I managed to connect the parts the glue was applied to without it drying before I put the tube down.

  13. Stephen

    I must say that the most useless silly tool I’ve ever ended up with is the jig saw jig for the Triton router table. I have never tried to use a more badly designed, chopped up idea ever.

  14. Dave

    As Tim "The Toolman" Taylor (who put a Harley motor on his garbage disposal) would say, "If you put enough power to the laser, you wouldn’t need the saw or the drill."

  15. Kevin Thomas

    How long before someone puts a laser on your handsaw or hand plane? Since a laser seems to make everyting better, it will probably happen. I can’t figure out how to get the laser on my jig saw curve around those corners.

  16. Pete

    Actually, I am a HUGE fan of the "laser-guided" technology, except that I’ve bumped into a few in which the laser line actually drifts slightly as the blade of the mitre saw approaches the board. I’m thinking that a laser-guided laser might just do the trick…

  17. Bob

    My wife loves gadgets like this and I have the battery powered clamp and the tape measure, and I like both. And!! I have the wrench. The tape measure is great when you’re trying to measure something by yourself, aim it the far wall and push the button. I’ve used it enough to wear out three sets of batteries. The clamp works, as some of the previous writers have noted when you are trying to hold something into place and clamp it at the same time. One of those times when three or four hands would work well. It’s not the greatest gadget, but like some other stuff when you need it you need it. Same with the wrench. I’ve grabbed it when I needed to quickly tighten or loosen something and couldn’t see it well enough to get an idea of what sized open end I needed.

    I would vote for the pencil sharpener for carpenter’s pencils that makes a nice point rather than the chisel edge.

  18. Mike Canavan

    My vote’s for the little pencil sharpener thing (supposedly) designed for carpenters pencils.Haven’t seen one yet that sharpens anything.Always end up using a utility knife instead.

  19. Tom

    There’s one tool I would like to see made. Jorgensen has a patent on a fast-action handscrew, which as far as I know they have never marketed. You squeeze it and it releases the threads so you can quickly slide the jaws, then you twist the handles as usual. It would be very useful for glue-ups where you need lots of strong clamps but not a lot of jaw length. I would not consider this to be a silly tool.

  20. Bill Gibbs

    I have several silly tools… they don’t look silly, in fact they look very efficient. Like fishing lures. So I carry them with. I never use them, ever. I should throw them away, but now that I have put so many years keeping them close to me, the investment too, I can’t let go. Like a monkey with a coconut and a pebble inside. Battery powered caulk guns ROCK! I use one every day!

  21. Shannon Brown

    Hey Gene, may-be while Sears is it at, they can up with a new chamelion circut for the T.A.R.D.I.S as well. Always glad to see other "Whovians" online.

    But seriously, whether a tool is silly or not often is in the eye of the beholder. At one time, all power tools were seen as silly. Some people think "anti-vibe" hammers are silly. Some find metal bodied planes to be silly. Heck some people find hand tools to be silly. At the end of the day, it’s all just preference and opinion.

  22. Wayne Bishop

    Not to pick on Black and Decker because I have owned some decent B&D stuff over the years but my silliest tool was a B&D 1/2" drill motor. It was very frustrating because it had a cord on it about 6" long. I fought with it for one project then went to a hardware and bought an after market service cord to install. I could not make it work because of the anti-kink device on the drill so I took it to a B&D servce center and told them to put a respectable length cord on it. They gave it back to me in a box in a million pieces and said it was not financially worth repairing. I could buy another drill cheaper. I forget what I paid for that drill but it did ot drill more than 25 total holes in its life and was totaled out as being not worth fixing. Ah well…Another life lesson that I still remember.

  23. Jon Moller

    The silliest tool I’ve ever received was Black and Decker’s battery powered tape measure. Ever with new batteries it will not extend the tape past 10 ft.

    It was a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law, so can’t return it, but it does look nice setting on my work bench (where she can see it when she comes into my garage).

  24. Tony

    Generalising for a second – If you think about it absolutely everything necessary to build furniture, boats, houses, toys and everything in between to the highest imaginable standards has already been invented – long ago in some cases.

    Outside of machinery and power tools, very few individuals or companies are makig a genuine contribution to the evolution of woodworking tools.
    Several are doing wonderful things to reintroduce quality and useful forms that were all but forgotten. But the reality is that most modern tool manufacturers, besides the obvious exceptions already mentioned, deal in junk-tools and gizmos.

    Gizmos that work, and gizmos the don’t work – or don’t work for very long – but most of which are directed at people who want to achieve something without spending even a little bit of time developing a small dose of skill or physical competence.

    The junk keeps coming, and the consumer-unit remains incompetent.

  25. Bob DeViney

    "The exception proves the rule."

    If the only comeback to a silly tool nomination is that it might be useful to someone with a handicap, then it’s still dumb. NONE of those manufacturers designed, built and marketed the tool for such a narrow market segment. They were, in fact, actually convinced a large profitable market existed for their products. [For all I know, the gag-gift market is huge.]

    Solar/crank powered flashlights would probably find a lot of happy users in third-world countries, or in disaster preparedness kits.

  26. Phil Wilson

    United States Patent 5,557,993
    Austin September 24, 1996
    Slide actuating mechanism for open-end adjustable wrench

    Abstract

    "An adjustable open-end wrench of the type having fixed and movable jaws at one end with a worm gear for advancing the movable jaw toward and away from the fixed jaw includes a slide-type actuating mechanism in the handle made up of thumb buttons which are assembled in elongated slots on opposite sides of the handle to engage a helical shaft and impart rotation to the shaft and to a complementary bevel gear which engages the bevel gear on the worm to cause opening and closing movement of the movable jaw. "

    they sell some wrenches based on this slide-to-adjust idea at home depot and they are crap. they readjust themselves continually. too heavy, and thick for most useage. waste of money, waste of toolbox/toolbelt space. better to have a proper, standard crescent wrench. i never had issue with the thumbwheel…

  27. Phil Wilson

    United States Patent 5,557,993
    Austin September 24, 1996
    Slide actuating mechanism for open-end adjustable wrench

    Abstract

    "An adjustable open-end wrench of the type having fixed and movable jaws at one end with a worm gear for advancing the movable jaw toward and away from the fixed jaw includes a slide-type actuating mechanism in the handle made up of thumb buttons which are assembled in elongated slots on opposite sides of the handle to engage a helical shaft and impart rotation to the shaft and to a complementary bevel gear which engages the bevel gear on the worm to cause opening and closing movement of the movable jaw. "

    they sell some wrenches based on this slide-to-adjust idea at home depot and they are crap. they readjust themselves continually. too heavy, and thick for most useage. waste of money, waste of toolbox/toolbelt space. better to have a proper, standard crescent wrench. i never had issue with the thumbwheel…

  28. Gerry Geistler

    I have a set of the famous chisels with the rasp teeth on the shank. A gift from my son. They are essentially useless as the teeth get in the way when you want to use them as chisels and the chisel end is dangerous and gets in the way when you want to remove stock. I turned them into rasps only and they are quite nice and easy to use with the handle on them.

  29. Bill Donnelly

    I agree about the Craftsman tools. Dad had a 100-foot steel tape, and a carbide-tip blade on the radial arm saw, all Craftsman. When building a deck, the saw was in the backyard, on about a 3 degree slope. Not enough to make the saw unstable on its table, but just enough that the motor/blade would slide along the arm on its own. He forgot and put the tape on the table, and the motor was still winding down from the last cut. 10,000 pieces of measuring tape later, they replaced (lifetime warranty!) the tape AND the blade, free.

    Dumbest tool I’ve seen was a set of open-end wrench heads that fitted onto a ratchet. You know, so you only need the *heads* of your wrenches. I guess that might be good if you had a small toolbox and a long 3/4" wrench wouldn’t fit.

  30. Tucker Laskey

    This was really good reading. I’m glad to see that I’m not alone. B&D tools have been good to me over the years but the afore mentioned ones are the pits. I have the tape and clamp, they make good loaners. The caulk gun is another story, I bought a air powered caulk gun, put on the quick disconnect, loaded the caulk, they didn’t say it needed an external regulator, we all got a good laugh when I pulled the trigger, man you can’t imagine how quick you can empty a tube of caulk at 90 PSI or how far it will travel, still have some on the 20 ft ceiling.

  31. Dave Blancett

    Too bad B&D has chosen the "cheap and useless" path for their marketing. Years ago they were a respected name in the tool market. I too own a magic electro-clamp. I have used it maybe twice in three years. Both times, it took me longer to figure out how to get the most efficient positioning (because it is so bulky) than the amount of time the clamp was actually in use, clamping. I agree with the gent who kept his ScrewBall (yes, they were called that) Sometimes a tool has to lay around, waiting for usefulness to come and find it. I fear that the electric C-clamp will be languishing for a very long time.

  32. doug damon

    chris
    I agree with battery power tapes and adjustable wrenches. they are a waste of resources and hard earned money. people who think they need these things should not be doing tradesman work as could hurt themselves.

  33. G.J. Martin

    Left-handed hammer. Since I’m Left-handed, this seemed to be a useful tool for me; "BIG MISTAKE" !! Not only did it weigh more than a conventional hammer, but it was akward to use. Perhaps it is because I’ve adapted to using a "neutral" hammer over the years or perhaps it just was not that important to begin with. The good news is, it has become quite a conversation piece with my "tool collecting" friends, and it is rather entertaining to see right-handed guys try to use it. One point scored for functionality, ten points scored for humor. GJM

  34. DG

    I’m not handicapped but these so called "silly" tools may be of great use to someone with limited use of their hands.

  35. Dan Miller

    I may get smacked for this, but have any of you seen Glen Drake’s Double Handled hand saw. I won’t even bring up the left and right handed chisel hammers. Seems to me that as long as woodworking has been around (started shortly after the invention of dirt) most things have been figured out and lost and figured out again quite a few times.

  36. Richard Dawson

    This isn’t a silly tool, but the result of a silly (or stupid) action: Anything I loan to my son-in-law. Every tool he has borrowed has come back trashed, or not come back.

    He gave me a B&D stud finder a few years ago, and confided that one reason for the gift was so I could "test drive" it for him, in case he wanted to get one for himself. It was good for a lot of laughs for my carpenter friends. Unfortunately, he hasn’t borrowed it from me.

  37. roger tumbleson

    received one as a gift. It is like a wedding dress, used once and hung up, can’t throw it away.

  38. Michael Brown

    I’m only chiming in because I received from my Father in law, who by the way is a master cabinet maker, a pnuematic grease gun. I lovingly took it from him and swore I would use it daily. 3 Years later and I have used it once. Power up the compressor, unferrel the hose, load the cartarige, and still have to squeeze the handle just like a manual one. Ten minutes to grease a wheel, or 20 seconds. It doesn’t even make a good paper weight.
    Also! I have two battery powered tape measures. I do use these daily. I don’t always have someone there to walk the tape to the end of a room, or for that matter the end of a sheet of plywood. Squeeze the trigger and off it goes. It’s like magic. When finished it returns without all the bouncing and noise of a normal tape. All it need now is a laser and I am in heaven.

  39. Randy Whitton

    In regards to the battery operated caulking gun (B.O.C.G.), while I haven’t used the black and decker one, I use a B.O.C.G. everyday in my line of work. While I do alot of Carpentry projects,. my main line of work is running a glass shop. We use the B.O.C.G. to pump out urethane for windshields. The urethane is so thick that you can’t pump it out with a normal C.G., and the b.o.c.g. works absolutely great ( its an 18 volt dewalt ) We thank god for whoever invented these. As for the battery operated tape measure, if I brought one of those onto a job site, I’d probably be laughed off the site for it.

  40. Gerald Jensen

    My grandson gave me a carpet knife with a battery and flashlight bulb for Christmas last year. Nice of him to think of me, but the the ‘tool’ is pretty much useless.

    Careful talking down B&D … I have a B&D ‘Junior’ 1/4" drill that my Dad bought the day before I was born (I have the original receipt!). I put new brushes in it abotu 30 years ago, and about every ten years I change the grease in the gear-reduction. It gets used all the time, and is still going strong after 62 years.

  41. Bob McDermid

    The drill powered carpenters pencil sharpener,my goodness it takes 10 times longer to get the drill out and chuck it up than to just sharpen it with the utility or pocket knife that every carpenter I know carries with them already.I have afeeling that they are targeting Joe or Jane Homeowner.

  42. Bob McDermid

    The drill powered carpenters pencil sharpener,my goodness it takes 10 times longer to get the drill out and chuck it up than to just sharpen it with the utility or pocket knife that every carpenter I know carries with them already.I have afeeling that they are targeting Joe or Jane Homeowner.

  43. Fred West

    I am very much looking forward to the handsaw with the laser. I feel that this will greatly aid me seeing how far off the line I am and indeed thus turning it into an inadvertent taper jig. How could you not want something so cool.

    Fred

  44. Tom

    The silliest hand tool I have seen is the $200 titanium framing hammer. It falls right in line with prescription potting soil (surely somebody makes that) or the 9-hole watch winder.

  45. Worth Holmes

    Yes, I agree on the stupid thing. I got one of those battery powered tape measures for Christmas. It sat in my drawer for about a year, and of course did not work either. I replaced the batteries out of curiosity, tried it at poking my dog with it, removed the batteries, and discarded the device. Worthless.

  46. Larry Lukens

    "Actually a battery-powered 10′ pole could be useful. "

    I’m with you there, Chris. I love my "third hand" support for all sorts of jobs that require more than 2 hands. If it had a motor and a remote that I could hold in my mouth, that would be cool.

  47. Don Schwartz

    Philips screwdrivers and bits – hands down! They’re vastly inferior to Robertson (square) & Torx. Even old-fashioned slot drivers are better!

  48. Christopher Heiler

    battery operated 12 inch cabinet saw???
    this is a tool I MUST see. The battery has got to be the size of a Buick.

    As for the silliest tool. The whench gets my vote. the hammer is just a poorly executed palm air/driver. The clamp I’m still wrapping my head around how that one got out of the design room.

  49. tom b

    hey chris c. the clapper thing sounds great. as much as i loose stuff, you think you can invent a voice command? ya could say "where’s my d— tape" and it could beep. maybe if it was battrey operated it could run to ya??!!

  50. fred

    I own a blue battery powered caulk gun that is not black and decker. Use it alot and once laid down 17 tubes of caulk in less than two hours. Moderate hand fatigue much less than attempting it manually. And still use it after four years.

  51. Allen Fredrickson

    I am a carpenter and use my tools a lot. Black and Decker ruined their reputation years ago making tools that might not last one weekend of use. They go to the bother of making a nice looking, useful tool out of inferior materials, that wont even outlast the batteries used to power it.
    However Craftsman is now ruining their reputation doing the same thing. They won’t honor the lifetime warrenty on a lot of their tools and that new line Sears is carying is worse than Black and Decker. Buyer beware.
    Then they wonder why we purchase foreign brands that work well and last for years with lots of hard use.

  52. Richard

    Useless except perhaps to a one armed person. Personally anything that has "Black&Decker" I wouldn’t touch with a 10′ pole.

  53. Mitch Guzik

    Easily the silliest tool I have received is the battery powered wrench. I’ve never used it and as a result I’ll probably never wear out the batteries. I also have a battery powered tape measure.

  54. Mike McCoy

    I was given this power clamp for Chistmas, used it once and quickly passed it on to another lucky fellow who is just getting started in woodworking!

  55. Jack Guzman

    Electric paint scraper.

    I have no idea where I found this thing.Most likely in a box of junk bought for $5 at a yard sale.After I looked it over,I threw it in a drawer.Took it out a few years later and tried it on some flaking paint.It vibrates to assist in paint removal.My hand scraper was faster,and the blade is soft metal so it dulls fast. Who wants to drag the cord around anyhow.I finally gave it away to a painter.I wonder how long it took him to toss it?

  56. Curtis

    Many years ago, when I was a youngster, B&D made some very fine tools, as did many American companies. Then they discovered that there was a lot more money to be made by manufacturing junk that they could sell to the "Lady of the House" so that she would have a tool to give at Christmas. Years ago I was given one of their battery powered screw drivers. It was to say the least, worthless. I tried to sell it at a yard sell but had no takers. I finally had a grandson and gave it to him, poor soul.

  57. Greg

    When I got my battery operated 12 inch cabinet saw I thought it would be great. Only problem is that I have to recharge the lithium batteries after only using it for about 3 minutes and the batteries need to be charged for 45 minutes
    When I first bought my Makita cordless drill and Jig saw with the little LED light, I thought they were a joke. Now I have found them to be so very useful in situations where the light is minimal.

  58. Greg

    When I got my battery operated 12 inch cabinet saw I thought it would be great. Only problem is that I have to recharge the lithium batteries after only using it for about 3 minutes and the batteries need to be charged for 45 minutes
    When I first bought my Makita cordless drill and Jig saw with the little LED light, I thought they were a joke. Now I have found them to be so very useful in situations where the light is minimal.

  59. Dave Brown

    My 6 year old grandson gave me one for Christmas last year, he thought Grampe would love it. I’m not about to destroy his self esteem by telling him it’s "silly". Actually it works-slowly..

  60. Charlie Brown

    Since I am soon to be 70 I have had time to see all kinds of contraptions that at first looked dumb and useless. A cheap ratcheting plastic ball-handled screwdriver was given to me for Christmas 40 yrs ago. I nearly threw it away. Turned out to be one of the most useful tools to have.
    The instrument maker has a use for the battery operated c-clamp. The person doing woodwork in a non powered situation need to be able to charge his flashlight, the laser guided handsaw helps the beginner to keep his saw lined up with the pencil mark, a drill with lasers mounted at 90 deg to each other will help align perpendicular holes.
    Good designs frequently need tweaking, the powered wrench is a good example of that. I too don’t like the little dust bags but they do reduce the dust in the air and the clean-up. I might buy a battery powered tape for when I am on a ladder and need to extend a tape for a measurement. Just don’t judge a tool because you don’t have the right use for it.

  61. Jimmy Coleman

    The Black & Decker battery powered adjustable wrench is a nice toy but totally useless on an automobile or around machinery. The switch is forever being touched by something and it is a lot faster to use a manual wrench.

  62. Kent M McDonald

    Yep, I’d vote for that stupid clamp, I was given one for my birthday, I even said wow thanks. My nose grew an inch.

    I hate to admitt it but I wasted a set of batteries on it and used it once, once only.

  63. Bob Puckett

    OK, the clamp is a bit inane!
    The wrench (ratchet) is too. I had one years back. Had to rewind it after about 6 revolutions either way. Worked OK for putting the seats back in my van when I had to haul the kids baseball team around, but wasn’t worth much doing real work.
    I’ve seen all the gadgets mentioned above in catalogs and am amazed that someone actually makes these things… Geez, I think the only ones who would buy this stuff is either a woodworkers/handyman’s family or a person who wants to be a woodworker/handyman. Most of the ideas don’t hold up well to intellectual or mechanical scrutiny. But I’ll bet they’re moneymakers! 🙂
    The caulk gun is ok if you’re not burning a case of caulk. I used one, was ok for small stuff but wasn’t well made.
    I bought a pneumatic gun for gluing down my wood-shop attic floor. I did 2 sheets of flooring and had cramps in the palms of both hands! That was enough suffering for me!
    As far as the "Auto Hammer" goes… that sounds like an oxymoron to me. (With the accent on moron!)

    Happy hammering..
    Bob

  64. Eddie Sheffield

    Actually the concepts behind a lot of these tools are pretty good. But in the attempt to make them affordable / mass marketable / profitable there are too many corners cut. There are MANY times I’ve wanted a powered clamp – seems I never have enough hands to hold whatever I’m working with AND operate the clamp (you all must be Venusian tentacle aliens!). And the auto-hammer would be great for tight spaces IF it worked well. Attaching electrical boxes to studs comes to mind. Really it’s just an electric version of the pneumatic palm nailer. And after 20+ years programming computers, my hands a wrists cramp up quick using most hand tools (including scissors), so powered versions are a Godsend for me in many cases.

  65. Chris

    I come from a whole family of woodworkers and received a B&D battery tape measure for Christmas a few years ago from a brother in law. Now this tape measure is circulated (regifted) throughout the family for just about any celebration. Rest assured every birthday or Christmas everyone is on the lookout for the useless orange tape measure.

  66. Lynn

    I agree with you about the chisel/rasp. I have, or maybe had, one of those. It was given to me by a friend who worked at the company that makes files. I knew it was a bummer when I saw it. Maybe I used it once.

  67. dave schabel sr

    gee all these wonderful near automatic tools, how great they art. i thinf there is a need for a battery powered battery charger, with a laser light to guide inserting the battery. it also should have a switch to eject the fully charged battery.

  68. Robert

    I have a a laser guide for my drill press. My eye site is somewhat restricted and the guide, when properly set up, is very helpful.
    What I’m looking for is a laser guided hammer and and laser guided nails. Might help to keep me from hitting my hand and get the nails placed in the correct spot.

  69. neil

    The battery powered tape measure takes the cake! I got 2 as gifts, 1 is still in the packaging to re gift to someone I don’t know to well! A good powered caulk gun is a great tool on big jobs, putting a small bead down before painting trim its a wrist saver!

  70. Ralph Livingston

    How about those silly little dust bags on the end of portable sanders, about as useless as……..well, you know what, on a bull.

  71. Dave Lewis

    A battery powered clamp at first glance is kind of like the brail keypad on a drive up ATM. I suppose that sometime there may be a good use for it, but we seem to be sliding downhill on useful inventions

  72. Charles Sharp

    You just don’t understand the proper use of these tools. The battery powered tape measure is great for playing with the dogs. As for the electric scissors, I break them out every Christmas and use them when wrapping presents. What I’m waiting for is a laser guided chisel for making dovetails and perhaps a laser guided mallet to go with it.

  73. Larry Lukens

    PS: Tools like caulk guns and scissors come in compressed air versions that actually work. If I had to shoot a case of caulk, I’d get a pneumatic gun.

  74. Don

    I think one of the real advantages for battery assisted tools like these are for people with disabilities or without the strength to operate conventional tools. Fortunately, I do not fall in that category, but many elderly or handicapped woodworkers may benefit from these.

  75. Capt Walt

    The Battery Powered Adjustable Wrench:

    I just recieved one for Christmas and did not want to disapoing the gifter so I opened it up and tried it right away.

    Went outside in sub-zero cold to adjust the headlights on my snowplow. (as with most snowplows they get knocked out of adjustment every storm)

    So. Wearing gloves I tiggered the button and the wrench automajically adjusted to fit the nut wirrrrr. Then as I went to loosten the nut the wrench majically opend up. wirrrrr. It seams that the designer thoughtfully put the switch on the handle in just the right location so when you try to apply pressure to actually do any work the wrench opens and closes just when you dont want it to. This results in extra skinned frozzen knuckles that quickly asorb the hydraulic fluid.

    I figure that since this was a toy most likley only costing a couple of dollars and not worth the $5 in fuel I would use to drive back to the store to return it I just gave it to my kid to play with. Besides the batteries go dead overnight when left in a cold truck.

    Thats why I VOTE the Battery Wrench as the biggest piece of Junk!

    Give me MANUAL TOOLS WIth good quality anytime.

    damm, my kid just came in with a battery powered tape measure!

    Capt Walt
    Newenglandcharters@maine.rr.com

  76. Larry Lukens

    Shucks! I was going to nominate the solar-powered flashlight I got for Christmas. Where the heck do you store a solar powered flashlight? In a window? Oh, yeah — it also has a crank on the side so I can charge it by hand. Ever try to hold a flashlight in one hand, turn the crank in the other, and then actually do some work (with my third hand???!!!)?

  77. John LeClaire

    Actually I have one of those clamps, and in my instrument repair buiness,I find it extremely handy.It doesn’t clamp with enough force to crush a mandolin body or any other stringed instrument, but enough to hold everything in place till the glue dries. So I guess there is a use for everything. I do check the batteries quite often ,to avoid problems there ,but overall I do like and use that clamp a lot –sorry to bust your bubble

  78. Charlie

    Hands Down a battery operated tape measure!

    Not only does this thing weigh a ton (and drag my pants down to plumber levels), but it manages to spit the tape out about 6 feet before the weight of the tape bogs down the little motor.

    I’m much happier with Old School for this tool.

  79. Gary

    I was given one of those battery powered caulk guns, and it has worked like a charm, as long as the batteries are fairly charged up (I used rechargeable ones). I have arthritis in my hands, and using a caulk gun all day it torture. Yeah, I would like to have a pneumatic powered one, but in some tight places in a 80 year old house, it just wouldn’t work. I agree that are some dumb tools, but on that one Chris, I disagree with you.

    TH

  80. Gary Roberts

    I really don’t see what the fuss is all about. I have an early Dietz kerosene lantern mounted on my type 1 Ryobi surface planer (the one before the dust chute was offered). Just in case the power goes out so I can see what I am planing. Even met a guy up in Maine who stuck a candle on his Millers Falls brace so he could bore after hours.

    Lighting up work has always been a challenge. We even have a laser here at work that lights up the room just fine. Of course, it also will bore a hole in anything non-reflective, but that is small price to pay for illumination.

    With a little inventiveness, any limitations can be overcome. More power to the Inventor, I say!

    Gary

  81. Glen

    Bob – your every wish is here!

    As I was reading this blog and the responses I heard "You’ve got mail" and saw this little update in my inbox: "DRILL PRESS LASER." http://www.woodcraft.com/product.aspx?ProductID=146709&FamilyID=5475&refcode=09IN03NL

    I’m waiting for Wii to come out with Woodshop 2009(c). No dust and no noise problems. You get to select your power source (electric or hand), your workbench(s), the line of tools, and which project you will build.

  82. Bruce Jackson

    Hell, yes, I’m still buying tools at Sears! You know, half the trick of buying imexpensive tools is learning to maintain them – sharpen chisels, align bandsaw guides, replace stock bandsaw guides with aftermarket guides made from ceramic carbonate or whatever (works like a charm on those resaws), etc., etc.

    Whether I build or buy a lathe, I’ll probably get the turning tools mail order (don’t see them in my local Sears), or I could save money on the shipping and get a slightly more expensive set from the Woodcraft next block down.

    BTW, my Craftsman 12" bandsaw is about 25 or 30 years old. My Craftsman chop saw is about 20 years old. My Craftsman drill motor is about 15 years old. My Craftsman 1/4-inch router is about 35 years old. All stil run like new. Previous owner was a machine repair and toolmaker supervisor for 18 years for a company to which he gave more than they gave him. He also happened to be my father.

    Don’t badmouth Craftsman tools – they may last longer than you.

  83. Dan Sayler

    Silliest tool of all time has to be the solar powered flashlight . . .and (sadly) they exist.

  84. ryan prochaska

    As a galoot, I am somewhat adverse to anything with batteries that replace a little sweat. As a professional, I really wish I would have had access to an electric caulk gun while I was stationed in Mcmurdo Base, Antarctica. While building one large project, we used dozens of tubes of caulking that were all just on the edge of being frozen rock hard. It gave a serious workout for my forearms, which I believe was the beginning of a serious bout of tendonitis that lasted almost two years. A little electric assistance would have been nice.

  85. Keith Mealy

    Here is what I do to avoid landfill detritus:
    Old cordless phone. Duct tape it onto a cordless drill. When you need to find it, press the "Find handset" button on the base unit. When you recharge the drill battery, throw the handset on the charger, too. Red Green would be proud.

    Gosh, people still buy tools at Sears???

  86. Gene

    I’m waiting for Craftsman to finally come out with a Sonic Screwdriver. You can fix anything with one of those!

    Sears could do a little cross-marketing with the "softer side," and package it with a really long scarf….

  87. aris

    Wow! I had no idea these electric tools existed. I agree with Steve about the landfills and I have to add that the only electric tools that tend to last also tend to be quite expensive. I am however eyeing the electric scisors. I have quite a bit of cutting coming up and I would love to give them a try. I just hope they won’t give up on me within a couple of weeks.

  88. John Cashman

    I’m surprised no one got to this first: the AutoHammer. Remember those from all the TV ads a few years ago? It had an empty plastic yellow handle that you loaded up with nails, and it would load them onto the magnetic head automatically so you could nail one-handed. It’s 100 percent Galoot, as no power cord or batteries are needed. Cheney would have loved it.

    I paid a buck for one a couple of years later at the dollar store, and it’s still in the original package. It ought to help with my retirement.

  89. AAAndrew

    Bob beat me to the handsaw with laser. To me, that’s the ultimate piece of tool ridiculousness. Just because the laser is along the line does NOT mean you’ll still cut straight. It’s a sucker’s saw. At least things like Lee Valley’s magnetic dovetail guides work ok. The laser handsaw looks like something made as a gag. Unfortunately it isn’t.

    AAAndrew

  90. Bruce Jackson

    Why not buy a cell phone for each major portable tool you have? Then when you misplace your tool, whip out your own cell phone and call it? Don’t hang up till you find it.

  91. Stuart Houg

    Chris, I too was given the Auto-clamp as a gift (Christmas), My loving wife got it for me as the "gag gift" that year. She knew positively that I would enjoy the laugh. Now, whenever I do something stupid, I just pull out the clamp, and am reassured that I will NEVER be a complete idiot! Oh, the wonders of modern home psychiatry!

  92. Christopher Schwarz

    Well if the caulk gun and wrench are built to the same quality standards as the battery-powered tape measure, you might get a half day’s use out of it.

    Our tape measure (yes, we had one) failed on its first day.

    An industrial caulk gun would be useful for some, I agree. This is not the droid you are looking for….

    Chris

  93. P.M. Leenhouts

    A battery powered caulk gun is a ncessity when using tubes of heavy caulk such as sikaflex. For that matter, a battery-powered or electrical caulk gun would be a boon to older or handicapped people that lack strength in their hands. I agree with Ryan Prochaska (previous) – I find no joy in squeezing a caulk gun all day. Or even half a day.

    Now, the Chris’ "clapper" for lost tools? (heck, lost "anythings") – there’s a good idea whose time has certainly come! Where’s the future when you need it? (laughing).

  94. Chris C

    A battery powered clamp? That is sad. As I recall, Bob Lang
    had described a chop saw that had some sort of video
    camera connected to it if I am remembering correctly. That
    had to be the all time worst idea ever.

    But I have my own invention I’d like to run by you
    guys(nobody steal it please). I am always misplacing things
    like my cordless drill. So I have invented the "clapper"
    for my cordless drill; when it has gone amiss, I clap
    twice real fast and it beeps! You know you want one!
    ( I am thinking about allowing such options as a song
    playing instead of the beep. Maybe the theme from the
    new yankee workshop. Or maybe "Informer". Whatever.)

    Chris

  95. Bob Demers

    How about a laser guided handsaw! I kid you not, where? But at Sears no less..
    http://tinyurl.com/4z3jys

    Cant wait to see handrill with laser, so I know exactly where im about to drill 🙂

    Bob, saving his hard earned cash for the laser guided screwdriver due out soon (?) 🙂

  96. Steve

    This brings up a topic I’m passionate about. We know that we’re draining the planet of finite resources yet we keep on going out to buy tools we know damn well will end up in a landfill. When you factor the environmental costs to manufacture and ship, we’re doing the planet a disservice by buying el cheapo battery operated gadgets. If they use disposable batteries, the sad fact is 95% of us don’t use rechargable or don’t recycle the batteries. If they use proprietary (built in) batteries, they’re good for a couple of years at best and end up in landfill (I’d hazard that 98% of us don’t recycle those).

    Do yourself a favor: spend a bit of money on a quality, hand powered clamp that you can give to your grandchildren. Unless of course you’re handicapped, then all bets are off.

    SD

  97. Mattias in Durham, NC

    The battery powered wrench is actually a pretty good wrench. I got it from my wife for xmas after a bit of a miscommunication. (that taught me to use item numbers on my wish list.)

    But to be serious, I don’t think you should pick on these things too much. There is a place for these "gadgets" too. What if you lost both arms in a horrible alligator accident and had to operate your tape measure with your toes?

    Re: the clamping pressure. That’s probably psi. If you file the business end of the clamp down to 1/8", you might get to 350.

  98. Chuck Brewer

    I was pretty skeptical about the battery-powered wrench but I picked one up for my 75 year old dad and he is a pretty big fan of it now. He’s got problems in his joints, his hands in particular, and it’s been a real helper for him.

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