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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  11 Apr 2014  |  Comments (8)


This beautiful-looking tool is called a Latthammer, and it's Germany's version of the carpenter's hammer. The square head ("for greater precision," as Picard's booth representative explained at Holz-Handwerk) is the first thing you notice, and then a closer look reveals this groove at the top:


The sales rep's English wasn't great and my German is non-existent, but through pantomime he explained what it was for. There are times when a carpenter needs to drive a nail in a location over their head, where they cannot reach their other hand up to steady the nail. In these cases, the nail is placed into that groove, where it is held fast by a magnet. The carpenter can then single-handedly whack the nail into the surface far enough to get started, and can then drive it in the rest of the way with the same hand. Observe:

I call that brilliant.

Picard is a German tool manufacturer that's been around since 1857, by the way, and they make every type of hammer you can possibly imagine.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  10 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


Here's an interesting design challenge that extends beyond the design of the object you're trying to get into people's homes: Imagine you and your team have designed your thing, whatever it may be, and have engineered the parts to be manufacturable. Now you have to design an additional line of objects that people can use to assemble the initial object with complete precision.

That's the challenge faced by companies like Häfele, Hettich and Blum, as the fittings they devise in their respective studios must be physically installed at the end-user's location by a legion of independent tradespeople. While Ikea handles this by using simple designs, knockdown screws, cam nuts and black-and-white illustrations that any idjit can follow, the fixtures by the previous three companies—just look at Blum's Legrabox, for instance—require ultra-precise assembly by a professional in order to function properly. And because most European cabinetry is made from melamine-covered particle board, there's no margin for error: Holes must be drilled perfectly perpendicular and at the correct depth on the very first try, as there's no patching up marred laminate and shredded screw holes.

So we found Blum's side booth at Holz-Handwerk pretty fascinating, since it was aimed not at consumers or designers but at the tool-toting tradespeople who will be installing Blum's designs in their own clients' homes. Blum has produced a line of drilling machines, assembly rigs and clever jigs, along with CG videos, that tradesfolk can use to get everything together. And these assembly devices, which will never be seen by the general public, are all beautifully designed in their own right. Here's their drilling jig for installing cabinet door dampers, either into the edge of the cabinet wall or affixed to the side of it:

This jig for drilling mounting plates uses a simple trick that carpenters who've ever drilled holes for shelf pins will recognize: A metal pin, placed into the first hole, ensures the second will be precisely spaced.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


If you're a furniture builder who likes the vacuum clamping set-ups we looked at, but don't have the four- and five-figure budgets to add them to your own shop, there are lower-cost alternatives. Schmalz is a Germany-based global company that's been in the vacuum technology game for some 30 years, and they manufacture everything from high-end vacuum clamping tables used in CNC operations to small desktop units. Their Multi-Clamp VC-M is the entry-level product, aimed at the lone tradesperson who wants to bolt it to their own workbench in place of a vise.

The benefits of vacuum-clamping versus a vise or mechanical clamping are manifold: You don't need to take any protective measures to shield the piece from the vise's jaws or the clamp surfaces, you can get at five sides of a piece at once, and the articulating nature of the clamp means you can quickly reposition the piece—for example, to go from sanding the face to one of the edges—without having to unclamp and reclamp. And the second-tier version of the VC-M can not only be tilted, but rotated and swiveled as well.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   8 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


Every workbench needs a vise—or at least they did, until the advent of vacuum clamping. After seeing Guido Einemann's homegrown table at Holz-Handwerk, we spotted a multitude of more big-dog versions made by Barth Maschinenbau, a Bavarian engineering company whose goal is "to optimize the work processes in both craft and industrial businesses" for furniture- and cabinet-making.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   8 Apr 2014  |  Comments (7)


Shots from the German catalogue. Read it and weep, Yanks

To an American, the old-world European way of doing business can be frustrating to encounter. You have these companies making incredibly refined, sophisticated products, yet their websites are from the '90s, they often lack high-res video demos on their YouTube channels, and many do not bother distributing in the 'States.

At the Holz-Handwerk show I snapped up the very last 808050P Ratcheting Screwdriver at the Bahco booth, as it's not currently for sale here in the 'States (even though the Bahco brand is owned by U.S-based Snap-On!). At press time there was no demo video of this new product on their website, so I just shot a rather lousy one at my workbench. Check it out:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   3 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


In 1968, the Winkler family patriarch was a cabinetmaker working in his native Austria. He needed something to help him maximize his shop space, particularly where materials and cabinet parts storage was concerned, but could not find existing products on the market to suit his needs; so he set about developing a series of rolling, adjustable storage carts of his own design.

Winkler soon began selling the carts to other cabinet shops, building up a small, successful business in Austria. But it wasn't until the '90s that his son took over the operation and hit up their first German trade show, propelling the company into the global market. Jowi, as the company is called, now does business on three continents.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   2 Apr 2014  |  Comments (2)


I have a lot of respect for companies that can redesign basic, everyday items, like screwdrivers, to make them more functional. Wiha Tools pulls this off admirably with their line of innovative screwdrivers and bit-holders, and while their booth at Holz-Handwerk was small and humble, the demos of their goods blew me and the passersby away.

Wanna see what I saw? Check out their Magazin Bithalter LiftUp 25 Schraubendreher:

Look at the sweet design of their BitBuddy and how it works:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   2 Apr 2014  |  Comments (5)


You'd think the humble screwdriver has reached the zenith of its design refinement. As long as the tip type and size matches the pattern of the screw head, you can't get any more friction than that, right?

Wrong. German tool manufacturer Wera figured out that if they laser-etched diagonal grooves into the tip, the striations left by those grooves would actually bite into the screw, providing even more purchase.


The "Don't you hate when this happens" example the demo video kicks off with is overblown, but the point is taken.

Spotted at Holz-Handwerk.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   1 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


Germany's Festool makes amazing power tools, so I expected their booth to be as mobbed as it was at Holz-Handwerk. But there was one repeating demo in particular that seemed to draw inordinate crowds, that being for the machine above, the Conturo KA 65. So what the heck is it, and what does it do that caused such a stir? Well, have a brief look at the (admittedly crappy) video I tried to capture by wriggling in and out of bodies:

Yes, it's a portable edge-banding machine that can do curves (both concave and convex) as well as beveled edges! And unsurprisingly Festool seems to have thought of everything when designing it: For you furniture designer/builders who work with plywood or (shudder) particle board and need to cover those raw edges, you know how frustrating edge banding can be—you can spend $300-plus on a fiddly machine while resigning yourself to only designing pieces that have straight edges. Aligning the two guides can be like performing neurosurgery, and once it's all done you can still screw the whole operation up by making a sloopy end-trim with a pair of snips. But by designing the Conturo to have one point of contact, curves are no prob, and they've designed a handy snipping accessory to snip the waste just right.

The following, professionally-shot video shows the entire process of edge banding using a Conturo from start to finish, including the post-application role of the trim router and a handy little scraper. (By the bye, the UK-based demonstrator refers to edge banding as "lipping." Discuss.)


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   1 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


We previously looked at the Gorilla Gripper and the Handle on Demand, two portable solutions for hauling heavy sheet goods. From Germany's Zieker Innovationen comes an equally portable, but arguably easier to use solution: Push rather than carry.




Posted by core jr  |   1 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


If there's one thing that'll kill the creative process quicker than a computer crash with no Time Machine backup handy, it's a lack of understanding and communication when creating a new product in a collaborative environment. Our friends at IDSA have teamed up with Loughborough Design School to create a simple way to keep us all on the same page during the New Product Development (NPD) process. If you've been to a previous IDSA conference, you may remember their token informational fold-out iD cards (not to be confused with these). The cards break down the names, descriptions and images for 32 different design representations in four different groups—sketches, drawings, models and prototypes. The cards share what the representation stands for in terms of use and the information it provides.


The new app that consolidates the cards and information in one convenient, color-coded resource, taking the mystery out of unknown terminology with straightforward appeal to all levels and genres of design, making it easy for for teams to work together cohesively. Check out the video overview of the app and its features:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   1 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)


From German machine manufacturer Martin comes the Speed 20/10, a rollable spray station for varnishing. The one-meter by two-meter surface is covered with a roll of ordinary, cheap packaging paper, which varnish won't stick to; so when spraying your piece, there's no need to mask the underside. And it has a couple of other cool tricks, watch the vid:

What you might not be able to see in the vid is that it's foot-pedal controlled; tap one pedal to get those two rollers to pop up, so you can lift your piece away from the sides, or you can hit the other foot pedal to either advance to a clean sheet, or roll smaller pieces off of the surface and into your waiting hands. The action requires an air compressor, being all-pneumatic; they don't want any electricity jumping around, the rep explained, if folks are spraying explosive substances.

Spotted at Holz-Handwerk.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)


At the Holz-Handwerk show there are tons of circular saws, tons panel saws and tons of CNC mills. But there's only one Logosol M8 Portable Sawmill. This crazy contraption is something like a chainsaw combined with a tracksaw, and one man (or one Swedish man, anyway) can unload the thing off the roof of his Volvo, carry it into the forest, and start making boards.

You're undoubtedly wondering, from the photos above, how that lone dude got that big-ass log up onto the stand all by himself. It's not just brute strength, there's design involved, as you'll see around 3:08 in the demo video:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  31 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)


A gentleman with the unlikely name of Guido Einemann sought to design and build, as Ron Paulk did, the perfect workbench to suit his needs. But unlike Paulk's mobile solution, Einemann wanted something shop-based. A master carpenter & cabinetmaker by trade, Germany-based Einemann needed something that could hold unusual-shaped pieces like staircase stringers, could expand to hold wide pieces, would feature a vise for clamping, could change height while he worked on assembling cabinetry, and could be wheeled around his shop.

Thus he developed Der Montagetisch Einemann, a line of scissor-lift-enabled worksurfaces incorporating a variety of clever features, including vacuum clamping! Check it out:

Here's a closer look at that overhead, powered, tool-holding, cable-and-hose-managing contraption (der Multischwenkausleger, or multi-swiveling boom) and how the vacuum-clamped finishing process works:

Spotted at Holz-Handwerk.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  28 Mar 2014  |  Comments (4)


Hey folks, your correspondent is on the ground at Holz-Handwerk, a massive trade show in Germany covering everything under the sun related to woodworking and furniture building. Here they've got machines, tools, jigs, inventions, contrapations, guys named Hans, and all manner of cool stuff that you can use to make other cool stuff. The exhibitors seem to be primarily German, though there are pockets of companies from all over the world here.


Unsurprisingly the Italian machines (like this planer from SCM Group for when you need to work boards that are a freaking half-meter wide) have a little flair

With thousands of exhibitors spread over six-and-a-half massive exhibition halls laid out like a sprawling college campus, I realize that I could not possibly see half the stuff in here if I had twice the time, and that makes me want to cry. Plus the flowing crush of 100,000 attendees makes shooting video demonstrations of anything just about impossible. Still, the intrepid Core77 editor soldiers on, bolstered by discoveries like the following:


Deep down inside, I always suspected this is what bored craftsman raised in rustic settings did with wood cut-offs


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  26 Mar 2014  |  Comments (4)


First things first: This is without a doubt the worst demo video I've ever shot, in terms of A/V quality. The surly gentleman in the video refused to perform a demo for the camera, only agreed to let us shoot if he was trying to close a sale with a "real customer" and would not repeat actions for close-ups. (Plus he kept calling me "Junior.") To make matters worse, you can't really hear much after the guy in the next booth fires up his own tools.

Nevertheless, Bad Dog Tools' Bad Dog Biter is amazing enough that I had to try to capture what I could, lack of cooperation be damned. This drill-mounted nibbler is designed to cut all the tricky materials you hate cutting, whether plastic, metal or laminates, and whether they're in sheets, corrugated sheets or tubes. Check it out:

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  25 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)


Here's another product showing Festool sweating the details, those little things we industrial designers are trained to look out for.

If you're using a drill to drive something into an overhead surface, you'll find that pulling that trigger subtly changes the balance of your grip. This is a minor issue for the DIY'er hanging a pair of IKEA lamps, but a major issue for someone who hangs drywall for a living and will drive hundreds or thousands of screws in a day. Thus Festool's DWC-18 series of cordless drywall screwdrivers feature an "Auto" setting, where the user simply presses the attachment's plunger against the surface to drive the screw.

Ergonomically speaking, this means you're just cradling the unit in your palm and pressing upwards, rather than gripping, squeezing and pressing upwards. Multiply that subtle energy savings over a full workday, across thousands of tool-buying customers, and that small design feature makes a profound impact.

Here's how it looks in action, and you'll also hear the rep run down the full list of the tool's stats and features:

Once again we must apologize to our U.S. readers, as this was one of only two Festool demos we were able to capture at JLC Live—and both of those tools are Euro-market-only, at least for now. (If you haven't yet seen the other, the dust-free TSC-55 track saw, be sure to check that out!)

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  25 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)


We recommended the Grabit Pro Screw Extractor in last year's Gift Guide, and mentioned the Accutrax Pencil Blade here. Here they are in action, as demonstrated by tool entrepreneur Bob Cumings of Prazi USA:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Mar 2014  |  Comments (1)


We headed up to the JLC Live show in Providence last week, so we just had to stop by Festool Connect, the awesome one-day outreach event where the company gives demos of their latest and greatest. As most of you know, Festool is a company with a reputation for unmatched product design—go through their user forums and you'll find a fervent following backing that up, if you don't already have Festool product in your own shop—and they certainly didn't disappoint for 2014.

While we had a hard time capturing video of all of their tools we wanted to show you, thankfully were able to get footage of their wicked TSC-55 cordless track saw, which somehow magically spirits the dust away without being hooked up to a vac! You have to see this thing in action:

Our European readership is in luck, as the tool will be available April 1 on that side of the pond. For us Americans, alas, the U.S. release date—if there's even going to be one—is TBD. We'll keep you posted if we hear anything.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  26 Feb 2014  |  Comments (1)


One of our first assignments as industrial design students should have been to design and build our own carrying cases. But no, we students were too busy being taught crap like theory, so we all coughed up twenty bucks for a plastic ArtBin. Which is a shame. A simple modular toolbox would have been relatively straightforward to design and build, while providing us with the perfect, individualized product to field test and tweak the design of over the course of a semester.

From Germany comes what they're calling the Toptainer, seen here. Once loaded up with tools, it's meant to fit into an older plastic Systainer design.



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  25 Feb 2014  |  Comments (0)


Ever since spotting that unique, hinged toolbox that Matthias Wandel did a video of, we've been wondering where it came from. The German marque Würth can clearly be seen on Bruhn's box. The Würth Group is a Germany-based global wholesaler of tools and hardware, but it does not appear that they designed the box; a German manufacturer of cabinetmaker's tools callled E.C. Emmerich sells an identical box, as does hardware manufacturer Häfele.

Far as we can tell, it's a German company called Domini Design that actually designed the thing. They call it the Mobilo Box, and it comes in a variety of sizes. The Mobilo Box 43 is the smallest version, "suitable for managers," as Domini says (read: people who don't really need to get their hands dirty):



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  24 Feb 2014  |  Comments (3)


When Gregor Bruhn moved his cabinet- and furniture-making business Hand Werk from Germany to Canada, he brought with him tens of thousands of Euros' worth of state-of-the-art German manufacturing machinery. But it was a humble-looking wooden object that most caught the eye of Matthias Wandel, the woodworking scientist behind Woodgears, when he paid Bruhn's shop a visit (and thankfully for us, he shot video). Check out the slick hinge linkage on Bruhn's tool chest and watch what it does:

Amazing, no? And after viewing that video above, where Wandel deconstructs how the hinge works, two young carpenters from Brazil decided to see if they could make their own. David Zimmerman Júnior and his pal Jean Pierre Lana sent their results in to Wandel, who shared it with the rest of us. Check out the video of Zimmerman and Lana's impressive creations that incorporate their version of the dobradiças inteligente:


Posted by Arthur Young-Spivey  |  11 Feb 2014  |  Comments (8)


Every once in a blue moon, some piece of 3D software comes along and just makes one wonder "How'd I ever survive without it?" The Foundry's new plug in for MODO, MeshFusion, is what I'd consider to be the most amazing piece of software written in a decade. I know it's a bold statement to make, but for the designer in me, it's brought something to the table that no one else has quite put together so eloquently.

When it comes to 3D software, MODO is an amazing rendering, sculpting and animation design suite, featuring materials systems for renderings that work very much like Photoshop. It also runs native on Mac, PC, and Linux and, if nothing else, fits nicely anywhere into the design pipeline that's asked of it. I wouldn't even know where to begin when it comes to the list of features in Modo but let's start with just a few:

Tool Pipeline: Gives the ability to create your own tools based upon existing ones. No scripting needed, just pick and choose the features need and go. This offers an almost unlimited amount of combinations of functionality. This quick video showcases the capabilities.

Particles and Dynamics: Just scratching the surface on these opens up the possibility to help set up shots for renderings in a whole new way. Think of creating a table; add a flat surface above it and some curves above that. Now add the option for the table to be a Passive Rigid Body, the flat surface to be a Softbody and the curves to be an emitter... now let gravity take over. The flat surface falls and wraps around the table and the particles add rain all calculated in a matter of minutes. Now add textures and you're well on your way to rendering out an outdoor picnic scene.

Fall-offs and Action Centers: Think of the 2D gradient tool in Photoshop... now think of the possibilities of this in 3D. Throw in the ability to add in the Move/Scale/Rotation based upon what's selected and it's a field day for 3D design.

Rendering Booleans and Volumetrics: Creating that "Just in Time" photorealistic shot always requires some extra finessing that usually requires a work around. If nothing else this aspect of Modo just makes the creation of a product shot that much easier. The Render Boolean works by using geometry to cut away from geometry (think about a block of swiss cheese), that can be used in both renderings and animations. Volumetric can be used to add smoke, fog, clouds, in ways that use to take a ton of postproduction work in Photoshop, After Effects...etc.



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  29 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)


As we saw with the Hungarian dude making cutting boards, when you need to crank out the same item thousands of times, you'll make a jig to speed your work. And if you've got a workbench like Ron Paulk's, you'll use the dog holes to clamp stop-blocks, straightedges and fixtures. But Woodpeckers Inc., the Ohio-based manufacturer of small-run woodworking tools, is betting that there's a class of craftspeople who haven't gotten to bench dogs yet. For them they've created the X-Mat Assembly System.


The X-Mat is a simple 12”×12” square made of chemical-resistant resin and gridded up with X-shaped sockets. By interlocking multiple X-mats and dropping in a bunch of Woodpeckers' accessories—L-Supports, box clamps, anchors and painting fingers—the idea is that you can quickly create temporary jig set-ups for assembly. My first thought was "Who would buy this?" but after watching the video, I must admit there are a lot of times I could've used something like this:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Jan 2014  |  Comments (3)


Whether you're an ID student working wood or an architecture student making foamcore models, you need a pencil to mark dimensions on the material prior to cutting it. And you quickly learn that on high-tolerance projects, a regular and unsharpened pencil can have you off by as much as 1/16th, or worse if you're a sloppy cutter; the things need to be kept sharp.

So next you figure mechanical pencils are the way to go for accuracy. But mechanical pencil leads always seem to break off when they're jostling around in your ArtBin or toolbox, and those little plastic tubes that hold the replacement leads like to disappear when you're pulling an all-nighter. Plus a mechanical pencil lead has the same problem as conventional pencils—they're worthless for marking on black foamcore or darker woods like walnut.

One potential solution is the Accutrax Pencil Blade, a piece of graphite shaped like a utility knife blade.



Posted by An Xiao Mina  |  17 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

Palette-HERO.jpgPalette buttons can be re-arranged and customized by the user.

As any artist, designer or technologist will tell you, we rely on a wide variety of software in our day to day lives, from the Adobe Creative Suite to some sort of office bundle, as well as music and movie editing software. Each of these programs has custom controls on the software side, but on the hardware side we have the same set of tools: a keyboard and a mouse.

And while the multiple buttons of a keyboard are endlessly adaptable, that same sort of logic doesn't apply in other interactive environments. Think, for instance, about the vast difference between driving a car and riding a motorcycle, or playing a video game on Playstation vs. operating a remote control for a television. Although the input devices and mechanisms share some obvious, similarities, the hardware experience varies substantially.


Which is why I was excited to learn about Palette, a "freeform controller" made of movable, interchangeable parts. Starting with the building blocks of buttons, dials and sliders, Palette allows users to create custom controllers based on how they want to interact with the computer.

The minimal aesthetic belies the original inspiration behind Palette. "Looking back at old transistor radios and war era type machines," noted CEO Calvin Chu, who observed that these devices were "really robust." "Why not make a way that even with all these different use cases, we could abstract these elements and rearrange them in different ways, just like Lego blocks?"