The Latest Power Tools and Accessories for Drywallers

Jason Feldner

November 2006

When it comes to power tool and accessory technology, the old adage certainly applies; "If you blink, you might miss something.” From new screwguns and cordless tools to specialty bits and blades, it can be hard to keep track of the latest innovations in ergonomics, power and design. But with the right tools you can increase productivity and even limit jobsite injuries and downtime—a bottom line savings anyone can appreciate. The following update will provide insight into some of the major tool and accessory trends and innovations shaping the way your drywallers work.

Screwguns. Designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to drive screws by the thousands, screwguns are the industry’s recognized workhorse when it comes to hanging lift after lift of drywall. While older generation models borrowed their designs from drill platforms, the newest screwguns, guided by ergonomics and productivity, are designed from the ground up for drywallers.

Special ergonomic grip areas are contoured for optimal hand positioning, maximum comfort, better control and minimal fatigue throughout the day. Designs are shorter from nose to grip for better access in tight locations. Lighter weight tools with plastic gear housings and nose-pieces reduce fatigue and make working overhead easier. More powerful seven-Amp motors and optimized 0–4,500 RPM afford users better productivity. Finally, new innovative nose-piece designs offer better depth retention when constantly removed and replaced between framing and screwing off drywall all day.

Battery Power. Cordless power tool technology continues to improve. But while cordless screwguns still don’t offer the consistent runtime necessary to compete in a professional setting, growing numbers of other drivers are making waves. For example, impact drivers, also referred to as fastenin rivers, recently burst on the scene. High speed and high torque, 0–2,800 RPM and 1,350 in/lbs for an 18-volt NiCd model, and half the weight and size of a standard drill/driver, impact drivers are the perfect alternative for light to heavy gauge metal stud framing applications, especially when working overhead.

On the truly cutting edge side of battery technology, ultra-compact 10.8V lithium-ion drill/drivers offer big power in a small package and are changing the industry’s perception of cordless. Weighing around 2 pounds, these new drill/drivers can drive up to 100 3-inch screws on a single charge, but are small enough to be carried at the ready in your tool pouch or pocket. New 10.8-volt drill/drivers with a mere 3 1/2-inch long, 90-degree articulating head, for example, are perfect for accessing the tightest corners when framing out a ceiling or simply working overhead. Where a larger drill/driver would tire anyone quickly, the lightweight and powerful designs are truly unique.

Bit Tips. Accessories have also seen improvements. New titanium coated bit tips, for example, offer better grip and fewer stripped screws, especially for single threaded fasteners in lower quality steel studs. Bonded to high quality bits, the coating creates a rough surface that utilizes millions of microscopic gripping points to hold the screw. As a result, bits grip 75 percent better and reduce stripping for increased productivity.

For those tired of digging through a pouch full of screws to find their extra bit tips, creative solutions such as the self-feeding bit clip are available. This handy ammunition clip-like device connects to your tool belt to store and transport 15 #2 Phillips 1-inch bits. When you are ready for a new bit, simply push the top bit forward and a heavy-duty internal spring mechanism pushes the next bit up and into the ready position.

Spiral Saws. From cutting out electrical boxes to tracing door or window framing, nothing can beat the speed and efficiency of a Spiral Saw®, also commonly referred to as a "drywall router.” More ergonomic tools designed to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand are coming to market. The option of a 50-foot tool cord eliminates the need to constantly switch power between your screwgun and Spiral Saw. Or choose an 18-volt NiCd model with significantly more power than previous cordless Spiral Saws and compatibility with other system tools, such as circular saws, drill/drivers and reciprocating saws.

Other improvements include more powerful five-Amp motors that turn bits 30,000 RPM for quicker cuts in drywall, plywood, cement board, tile and more. Dust sealed switches and internal ribbing also enhance the tool’s durability. Plus, manufacturers have addressed the number one complaint—bit breakage. New stronger, longer lasting bits—some that last five-times longer than previous generations, and durable and more powerful tools can save you time and money.

Hammer Drills and Rotary Hammers. When powder actuated tools are too expensive or not an option for fastening track or other framing to block or concrete, drilling for anchors with your hammer drill or rotary hammer is the next best solution. But keep in mind the difference: hammer drills are most efficient when drilling into brick/block and light concrete utilizing the pressure of the user to engage the internal impact mechanism. Conversely, the rotary hammer’s impact mechanism is more robust, hitting harder and consistent as soon as you pull the trigger for the most efficient drilling into precast and all other concrete applications. Simply put, the right tool can save you a lot of time, sore shoulders and the cost associated with replacing hammer drills destroyed from improper use.

When it comes to hammers, your return can be gauged on the drill’s speed and long-lasting durability. The introduction of a special reversible brush plate enables the tool to boast the same level of power in reverse as forward. This enables users to remove bound or jammed bits with ease, saving time and avoiding potential injury. Also, each tool offers more durability and longer life with the newly optimized brush placement. Overall, you can expect better performance and a bigger return on your investment.

Reciprocating Saws. For remodeling jobs, such as installing windows or doors or expanding rooms, the most efficient demolition tool is the reciprocating saw. The tool is capable of removing large sections of drywall and studs in a single pass. The latest models offer more power—up to 13-Amp and 2,800 strokes per minute. Orbital blade action increases cutting speed on some models, while vibration dampening components make the tools more comfortable to use. New features, such as a rafter hook to hang the tool between cuts and innovative tool-less blade holders for one-handed blade insertion and ejection make reciprocating saws more user-friendly. Various sized models are available from all the manufacturers ranging from heavy-duty 13-Amp to smaller cost-sensitive nine-Amp solutions.

Just as good tires are essential to the optimal performance of a car, so are blades to a saw. And reciprocating saw blades continue to improve year after year with various specialty and general purpose models designed to cut and slice at the user’s whim. Today’s 6-inch drywall blades offer six carbide teeth per inch, a zero-degree tooth pitch and 5-degree tilt angle for fast, clean, controlled cuts and improved durability. All-purpose progressive tooth blades, tooth size and pattern progresses from large to small, cut through all kinds of thick and thin material. Application-specific blades, such as carbide for cement board/fiber/plaster, heavy-metal, wood with nails, cut fast and accurate to save significant time. And while it may seem minor, some manufacturers even color-code their blades and print the specified application directly onto the blade body. So, when you are digging through your stash of 25-plus blades, you always know you are grabbing the right blade for the job.

Manufacturers, such as Bosch, spend a lot of time visiting job sites and talking to power tool and accessory users. That feedback, combined with ingenuity and creativity, leads to many of the industry’s most innovative time- and money-saving solutions available on today’s market. If you want to work faster and smarter, don’t hesitate to contact your local distributor or even various manufacturers for more information on the newest technology coming to market.

And remember: Don’t blink, because you just might miss a new tool or accessory that could save your business time and money on the next job.

About the Author
Jason Feldner is PR manager for Bosch Power Tools and Accessories and a former commercial drywaller.

For More Information
Bosch Power Tools and Accessories is the North American branch of the largest power tool and accessory manufacturer in the world, Robert Bosch GmbH. Bosch provides a complete line of corded and cordless power tools and accessories engineered to survive any job site and allow professionals to take control of their work. To learn more, call toll free (877) BOSCH.99 (877.267.2499) or visit www.boschtools.com.