Is spite of what the typical SEMA show coverage would suggest, there’s a lot more on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center than just shiny cars and car parts. There’s one whole section of the convention center devoted just to wheels and tires, and another just for tools and shop equipment. Most of those items are targeting shops and business owners, but there was still plenty of eye candy here for the home hobbyists and “prosumers” in our audience. Here, in no particular order are some of our favorites, tools that would be very helpful to the weekend warrior DIY car builder.
The name is no joke, Mike and Paul Mittler founded the company in 1980, operating out of a 2,500 sq.ft. rented space. Among their first products were a hydraulic tubing notcher and the Super Socket used by NASCAR pit crews. Since then, they’ve expanded into a 50,000 sq.ft. manufacturing center in Wright City, Missouri and have developed a complete line of shop and metalworking tools. In the convention center, we had our eyes on their bench-top tube notcher, which would make quick work of even the toughest roll cage tubing. The louver press and dimple die punch is another tool we would love for our shop. We’d use them to make an engine compartment vent and some a custom gauge panel. The bead roller is a tool we really should be looking at more. We spoke with metal fab guru Jamey Jordan about some of his artwork on display made with nothing but a bead roller- amazing stuff. The pleated panel in the accompanying picture could be used as a custom door panel or dashboard accent. Check out www.mittlerbros.com to see their full line of products.
Trick Tools, the retail arm of Van Sant Enterprises, combs the world for the best quality metal working tools, selling everything from a $55,000 200-ton press to shears, saws, benders, and mallets. We liked their combination belt sander and bristle brush and could find lots of things to use on it. They also carry Ron Covell’s line of metal-shaping tools, including this English wheel, which retails for around $3,500. Also, check out that clever, serpentine belt sander from Hardcore Products. The different roller shapes and curved edge guards allow you to grind, debur, or polish a variety of shapes. The pedestal tilts for maximum convenience. See more at www.TrickTools.com.
Miller continues to update and improve their products for the home user, and the Millermatic 215 is their latest offering. It performs MIG, Stick, and DC TIG welding and operates on either 110 or 230 volts. It’s got enough juice to weld 3/8-inch steel in a single pass, and the LCD interface makes the operation incredibly easy to set up and run. It weighs just 38 pounds, so you can throw it in your truck and do mobile jobs for extra dough! Priced at around $1,400 it offers a lot for the money. See more at www.MillerWelds.com.
In business since 1951, Burr King makes professional grade grinders and polishers. While most are intended for the pro shop, they still have plenty to offer for the dedicated home builder. They manufacture belt sanders and grinders in a wide variety of shapes and configurations to fit the most oddly shaped part. We especially liked their variable-speed wide reach buffer. The two-foot span between the wheels lets you clean and buff big parts like intake manifolds.
Just yesterday, we were wishing we had a set of these wrench extensions while trying to tighten a header bolt buried in the back of our engine near the heater box. Tite-Reach wrench extensions are available in a variety of lengths in ½-inch, 3/8-inch, and ¼-inch ratchet sizes, and the pro-level models can be used with an impact wrench. The aluminum housings contain a sprocket and chain drive that turns the socket drives at a 1:1 ratio. They’d be especially useful for bellhousing and balancer bolts, door and fender hardware, basically anywhere hard to reach. Buy online at www.Tite-Reach.com.
Spring Tools Punch Set
Here’s another clever tool you could find a variety of uses for. Spring Tools offers spring-loaded punches and chisels in a variety of shapes and sizes. We liked the number and letter die set, which you can use to mark connecting rods, among other things. Use the tapered punch tip to center in a bore and snap the spring to mark sheetmetal for a precise drill location. Find more information at www.SpringTools.com.
Screw-type air compressors are rapidly replacing piston-type air compressors in pro shops, especially body shops where high volume air tools are always in use. It’s only a matter of time before someone plops one of these smaller units in his man cave. They’re quiet, more efficient, and deliver cleaner air than piston compressors. Kaeser is a leading global manufacturer of rotary screw compressors and had this cool-looking mock-up on display. They look and operate just like a screw supercharger that we hot-rodders can all relate to. Yes, they’re extremely pricy, but one of these could be a good investment for the weekend warrior who does lots of side work. We also liked their Smart-Pipe air distribution system. Much safer than PVC pipe, the aluminum tubes are easily connected with O-ring-sealed compression fittings. They are customizable and configurable, so you can add drops in all corners of your shop. Find more information at www.US.Kaeser.com.
Assenmacher Specialty Tools
Here’s a tool we wish we had invented: check out the Wire Soldering Clamp from Assenmacher Specialty Tools. So simple, it’s genius. Feed the two wires you’re soldering into either end of the wishbone, clamp them down, and you’re ready to solder. The magnetic base and flexible handle fits a variety of spaces, and you don’t need three hands to solder a connection anymore. Find more information at www.ASTool.com.
You know this company for their ball hone cylinder brushes, but Brush Research has a huge product line-up that includes more than cylinder refinishing abrasives. We really like the Flex-Hone for Brake Rotors. You attach it to a drill or angle ginder and attack your brake rotors when you change pads. It leaves an even, non-directional pattern ideal for bedding in new brake pads. Cool tidbit- it works on flywheels, too! Go to www.BrushResearch.com for more information.
Malco Autobody Tools
Being fairly well-versed in the art of autobody repair, we appreciate a good sanding block, and this flexible sander from Malco definitely caught our eye. It accepts Hook-It and similar Velcro-backed abrasives and bends to fit contours in the body panel. It holds it’s shape while curved, which is helpful while shaping body filler. They are online at www.MalcoProducts.com
As promised, feast your eyes on Precision’s new GEN2 118mm turbocharger. This thing was nearly the size of my head! For comparison, that’s a Grande cup of Starbucks next to it for reference- this thing is pretty huge. It supports more than 2,800 hp and is the biggest Precision offers in their automotive performance line-up. GEN2 means it’s been updated to include Precision’s Competition Engineered Aerodynamics turbine and compressor wheels, meaning it spins up more quickly and delivers the air more efficiently than the previous design. It costs about $3,800, but that’s certainly appropriate considering it’s potential. There’s plenty more info and turbos for your application at www.PrecisionTurbo.net.
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