Tools & Materials
Awesome New Tools Seen at the Green Industry Expo (GIE)
As expected, we found a bunch of cool new products that you landscapers, hardscapers, and tool junkies are going to love. We’ll highlight some products that will help you get it done, faster, safer, and more comfortably. And a couple others that we just thought were cool.
IQ Dustless Masonry Saw
There was a bunch of excitement over IQ Power Tools’ new IQ360x Dust Control Table Saw. This 14-in. saw allows you to cut bricks, pavers and stone veneer without breathing in a bunch of dangerous silica dust. IQ claims the saw collects an impressive 99.5% of the dust, and because there’s no water, there’s no sloppy slurry to deal with or scrambling for a water source. Now you can cut right where the action is, eliminating countless long trips back and forth to the saw. Go to the manufacturer’s website to check out their convincing video and to find out where to buy.
Pull Starts are for Suckers
Stihl was showcasing their new BR450C-EF backpack blower, which features a quiet 4-stroke engine and air speeds faster than its predecessor, the BR550. But the feature that really sets it apart is the electric start. Think of it: You’ll never have to take it off your back to restart. Now there’s no reason to waste fuel idling the engine walking long distance to your next spot. When you need to talk to a customer or coworker, just hit the kill switch on the handle; say your piece, and hit the start button to get back to work. This is a great move by Stihl.
Honda 4-Stroke VersAttach
Honda introduced its new VersAttach line of lawn and garden equipment. One power head can operate six different attachments, including a string trimmer, pole saw and hedge trimmer. The engine powering all of these attachments is a lightweight, mini 4-stroke. Besides meeting the environmental requirements for all 50 states, the benefits of 4-stroke engines are many: no pre-mix fuel, cleaner and quieter operation, better fuel efficiency, and very little exhaust fumes. The best part about running the Honda 4-stroke is the low vibration, which means longer working time with less fatigue.
A Tailgate Your Kid Can Lift
Does the tailgate on your trailer seem to get heavier every year? Gorilla-Lift might have the solution. They make spring-assisted cables in low-profile housings that attach to the top of a trailer’s side rails and to the tailgate. It makes lifting a tailgate virtually effortless and won’t interfere with the functionality of the trailer. It works on most utility trailers with 12-in. to 24-in. side rails and 4-ft. to 6-ft. gates. Go to the manufacturer’s website to find a retailer near you.
Eliminate the Excavation
What’s the worse part of installing a paver patio or walkway? It’s the excavation of course. Hauling out soil and hauling in base is messy, difficult, time consuming and expensive. Alliance makes a polypropylene mat called Gator Base that can be laid down on a 1/2-in. bed of sand instead of your typical 4-in. to 6-in. of base. It’s easy to cut, easy to install, and it transfers loads similar to 6-in. of crushed stone. It also insulates against freeze/thaw cycles the same as 18-in. of crushed stone! There doesn’t really seem to be a downside. Check out Gator Base at your hardscape supplier.
That’s One Smooth Ride
Here’s what you’ll get operating the new Ferris Zero turn mower equipped with four-wheel independent suspension: faster mowing speeds, and a smooth cut that hugs the contour of the ground. Here’s what you’ll lose out on: metal fatigue caused by frame flex, and an aching back. Enough said.
Ok. Here’s a product that’s specifically designed to put you groundskeepers out of business, so we apologize up front. Battery-powered robotic mowers have been around for a while, but Husqvarna had their Automower on display at the show, and we got a chance to actually use one last summer on a real-life lawn. It worked great! The guide wire that runs around the perimeter of the yard was held down with stakes, so no trenching was necessary, and programing was simple. The whole set up took less than 90 minutes. After that, all we had to do was remember to look out the window once in awhile to admire our mechanical groundskeeper hard at work.
A primary feature that makes this machine excel is the retractable, razor-like cutting blades. They’re just a fraction the size of thick steel blades, which makes for clean cuts, longer run times, and super-quiet operation. We ran ours three times a week. The grass always seemed the same length, and because the clippings were so small, they quickly broke down into fertilizer, and the grass actually looked healthier than usual.
It worked, rain or shine, for the few months we used it, even on the hilly parts of the yard. And because of the random cutting pattern, it left no tracks around trees or against the fence. Find a dealer near you, and check out the cool video at the manufacturer’s website. While the Automower may be a job killer, you have to admit—it’s still pretty cool.
Cut Faster With Less Fatigue
Oregon, the world’s largest manufacturer of chain saw bars and chains, has just introduced their new narrow kerf SpeedCut System. The narrow kerf removes less material with the same amount of force, reducing cut times by 10%. And because the bar and chain are thinner, they weigh 20% less, which is great when sporting longer bars. Oregon was able to achieve this feat with a lightweight aluminum core and by laminating the bar rather than riveting or spot welding the two halves together. The new SpeedCut System should work with your existing saw. Look for it in 2016.
Good News for the Foot Guys
Which is the best way to control a skid steer, with your hands, or with your feet? The controversy has been raging for centuries (ok, maybe a few decades). Case skid steers have traditionally been equipped with hand-operated joysticks, leaving the poor foot fanciers in the lurch. Foot controls, which control the bucket and boom, have been available on the Alpha series Case skid steers for three or four years. But as of March 1, 2015, the foot control option was made available on ALL Case skid steers, including the large frame models.