What is the "COOLEST" tool, gadget, or product in your shop?

Rob Markoff

PFG, Picture Framing God
Mar 8, 1999
San Diego, CA USA
If you had to pick one (or maybe two) very cool tools, gadgets, or innovative products that are in your shop, what would they be?

Once someone posts something, please try to come up with something else!

I'll start.....I LOVE my CENTERFINDER tape measure that has a scale on the bottom that is half of the scale on the top so you don't have to do the math of finding the center of a frame or a wall!
If I ever have a fire in my shop, I'll grab my Incra marking rule. It's a t-square device for accurately marking lines parallel to the edge of a mat in 1/64" incriments.

I took the measuring stops off my Fletcher 2100 a long time ago and line the back of the mat instead.
No question, now that I have smoothed out the bumps(pun intended) it has to be my brand spanking new mitre sander. That baby takes corners like she's on rails!
Emibub beat me (and I'm sure others) to it....the mitre sander.

My high grade callipers would be next on the list. I used them in nursing to interpret EKG's. Fortunately, over many years, the sharp tips bent just enough that when I use them now, there's no damage from the sharp points. I use them to measure the distance from the mat to the image borders to make sure the picture is centered. It makes quick work of it.
the next best thing we own is a Stairway Ladder

If you do installations it is a lifesaver. Helps justify the $150 bill for allowing me to punch holes in my customer's walls :D


[ 12-11-2003, 11:35 PM: Message edited by: AWG ]
I'm surprised no one mentioned their Wizard, so I will

I just got my first roll of Linco frame lining tape - the metal stuff with blue backing. I am hooked. I reframe maybe three things a year when the project absolutely requires it, so I'm probably the last person in the world to try it, but omg, no more "bits and pieces" in the framing package. This stuff actually makes reframing fun!

One of my favorite tools is my Keeton circle cutter that I bought 20 years ago. It is hand-held, about 8" long altogether, and it cuts circles from 3/8ths inch to 8" - straight not beveled, but I use it ALL THE TIME!
With out a moments hesitation, the first thing that came to mind was my Hoffmann joiner. This sucker has saved my neck more times than I can count em. Worth every penny a few times over.

By the way Rob if you ever have a tough shadow box type moulding to join, your more than welcome to use it any time you want, since your the guy who turned me onto it in the first place


[ 12-12-2003, 02:20 AM: Message edited by: JRB ]
For measuring equal distances accurately, I use a seam gauge, available in any fabric ntions department. Has a metal slidy thing in the center... you may have one in your sewing basket.

But the thing that makes me clap my hands has to be that new attachment to the ATG gun. It has a wheel to run along the edge of the frame and lays the ATG down nice and even. No more rubbing off the excess ATG and getting finger blisters... and I could have invented it, if only I had be Thinking!
A long, narrow strip of mylar I use to grab stray goobers from under the glass after I have one or two sides of the mat package taped together with 810 tape.

Then my miter sander.

Yeh, I know I already posted my entry, but I just have to mention Nori paste as possibly the coolest "new" product for framers.

It makes it SO easy to be good, so it reduces the temptation to be bad. ;)
Gee, I like all my tools! The porter cable biscuit joiner is pretty cool, and the 3 M Mini weld has saved me plenty of time on a few jobs. However, I don't want to ever have to go back to cutting all mats manually on my 2100. Still do it manually once in a while, but I wouldn't be without my 6100.
Like Rob's rule I have a "BubbleStik" level with a centering rule. A must when doing installations.

I have a handfull of used surgical and dental tools that have no known names that I use all the time.

I have my Mom's pallet knife that has a razor thin blade that I used to slice old hinges.

An acrylic mat guage I made to lay out French mats.

John, is the Hoffman joiner the one that uses dovetail keys?
I have this neat litle tool I got thru United that you put into your drill or screw driver gun and it helps you put screw eyes into the frame in nothing flat!! Just place the screw eye into the end, slide the cover down and place into the indent you made in the wood with an awl and away you go.
I love the little doodad with the slot in the end that you pull spring clamps out of metal frames with. That has made my life SO much easier!

That screw-eye adapter for the drill sounds like a winner, too.
:D The red plastic dust cover trimmer :D

And its always a crowd pleaser - anytime a customer is watching me do a fitting, they gasp and demand to know where to buy one (even though they know they have no use for it).
Ellen, I agree with you about the seam gauge. I cannot eyeball measurements to within a 1/16". My seam gauges are invaluable.

I've noticed that the newer ones aren't as sturdy as in the old days. I have my favorites and when they wear out I sometimes can even repair them.

Other small tools that I use regularly are a thimble, a seam ripper, and one of those disposable knives with the snap off blades.

These might not be the coolest tools in the shop, but boy, do they come in handy.
No brainer here- the Wizard and my miter sander.
Wally, that's the one. It uses heavy duty plastic or metal or even wood dovetail keys. Note: The wood dovetail keys are not structural, they are for aesthetics only.

Hanna's fondness for the thing used to get the spring clips out reminded me of another favorite tool--the fletcher gizmo you use to get framer's points out of a frame. comes in handy when you have to take a frame apart to get that clump of crud out that you missed.
My Black & Decker rechargeable screwdriver for putting those neat D rings on frames. Beats those screw eyes any day and looks neater.
Would love to use it for WallBuddies. But the UK is still way too behind. But Hey, next year is another to try and get our suppliers up to date..
Among my favorite small tools are two very thin-gauge plastic rulers made by C-Thru that I picked up for free years ago at a trade show. They are great for measuring things and marking mats, because they have easy-to-read markings and their thinness eliminates the parallax problems you get using thick rulers.
This will sound crazy, but my next favorite is a chunk of rubber. It is a 3/4" thick, triangular shaped slab of some very dense industrial type rubber that is perfect for equalizing the uneven levels of a scoop or reverse moulding under the hold-down clamp of the v-nailer. It saves a lot of time by avoiding lots of readjustments, while guarding against clamp-related dents in the moulding.
I would also have to put in a vote for my ancient Gene Green mini oval cutter. It could use some fresh parts, but it is a very handy little item.

:cool: Rick
My favorite tool is my Lite Grip glass cleaning thingy. No more need for a dedicated glass cleaning area - just open this baby up and clean away! It also makes sliding the art package into a metal frame much easier.

That's my vote!
I like my ATG eraser. It saves the thumb and takes ATG off fallouts quickly and completely.

Like Wally, I have a cigar box full of assorted medical and dental tools that just lie there until you need that tiny little pick or a long surgical tweezers for something that nothing else will work on.

My Olfa(?) rotary cutter is indispensible for cutting Mylar, fabric, or anything else that it will cut through and my self-healing cutting board is right up there with the rotary cutter for anything that needs cutting on the work table.

I made a glass cleaning board out of 4 or 5 layers of double thickness cardboard covered in black kraft paper. The paper shows every little smear or crumb of dust and it dries quickly when cleaning glass with spray glass cleaner.

OK, I also couldn't do without my set of ceramic sharpening stones from Spyderco! I keep my fillet chopper blades razor sharp with a few swipes on the ceramic stones. And, if you want to see just how cleanly and easily you can cut a linen matboard or an 8 ply board, try honing a matcutter blade on an ultra fine ceramic stone before installing it in your mat cutter. It will amaze you how a really sharp blade will glide through matboard like soft butter. (No, matcutter blades are NOT that sharp straight out of the box!)

Well, I guess I am like katman, I like most all of my tools in my shop.

Fletcher 3000...hands down.

I know that shows no imagination, but I do remember life without him...oh I mean it. We like to call him Fletch.

[ 12-13-2003, 01:56 PM: Message edited by: What? ]
The red plastic dust cover trimmer

I went and bought a grey one.

heard that United is not selling them any more.
Without question... my internet connection. Without that, I would not have the Grumble! :D

After that? Hmmmmmmmmm... probably old Bic pen caps. I use them to wax frames. (They are strong enough to force wax into small cracks in a frame, but flexible enough not to scratch a frame.)
After reading this and the "worst tool list", I couldn't help but notice the number of tools that made both lists. Go figure.... :confused:
Rob, I forgot to show you my latest very cool tool. This thing is called the Turbo Carver and is basically a dentistry tool... the scary one. Makes signing my frames a breeze, plus it has irrigation, so I can carve steel and glass too.
It runs off the air line that is shared by my other favorite cool tool, the Pro Spray system. Now THAT rocks! It's a real breath of fresh air in a shop as small as mine.
I was just thinking of oredering the plastic dust cover trimmer from UMS........but Lessafinger says they do not carry anymore. Where can I get one? Anyone know?
Lessee...Well, there's my diamond tipped glass cutter for one...I looooove my Keeton mat cutter (I'll be buried with that sucker)...I like my matsmackers...The Incra T-gauge is great, but I'll still hang on to my dwindling supply of X-acto Paralell Line Marking Tools (if anyone has a few they'd like to part with, I'll take 'em)...I have three cenetering rules I use all the time...I have a tacking iron I'm partial to, and then there's my 15 year old Elpa nail gun.
1.Fletcher Glass Nipping Pliers save me when the glass is just a little too big and I have to take that 1mm off.

2.My new DREMEL rotary tool. One of the things I should have had from day 1.

Purchasing a laser level has been on my wish/to do list for some time but when I looked at one they have at Sears I believe that it attached to the wall by means of a nail or pin going into the customers wall. Does yours attach to the wall? I haven't done to much looking yet so hence the questions.
I would have to say my vacuum press has never cease to amaze me. (I guess I am easily amazed) I have a 40x60 press with a rotary vein pump. I have used it to shoot a screen for silk screening, I have mounted 60 11x14 at one time, I have used the pump to vacuum pack various herbs, did you know that a yellow jacket cannot fly in a vacuum, it just flaps it's wings. Bubble wrap and marshmallows expand in a vacuum. You put in a wrinkled rolled up print and pull out a perfectly flat print. It is amazing what a little vacuum can do.

And of course the Wizard and the new 5.0.2 software is full of useful tricks.
Two oldies but goodies that I like are a foam brush for brushing the little specs from a suede mat. Thanks to Candi Wilson for that idea. I also like my one inch wide paint scraper bought at the local hardware store for a couple of dollars. It is great for removing glue and crud from the back of old frames that have come out of the attic to be refit. Although these are not my favorites I thought they deserved a mention.

A few years ago we had a PPFA meeting where everyone was supposed to bring an uncommon tool that they use in there shop and explain what they use it for. It was a fun and educational meeting.
For checking vendor chops or sander calibration,
Folding mitre gauge (45, 90 & 135 degrees)

It's accuracy is guaranteed to +/- 0.06 degree or 1/1000 inch per inch. (even after thousands of operations)

Lee Valley is another source of cost effective tools and gadgets.

ANOTHER is my "Fast-R-Frame" underpinner for '15 & 1500' profile metal mouldings. I'm not even sure that Frame-Tek is still marketing these tools, but it sure has been a timesaver. But then, I've never been disappointed by a Frame-Tek product.
Way cool tool, Rick!

What do these squares use to position the blade exactly at the same angle each time?? That has been a big problem with adjustable squares in the past. They would wear down their detents and lose accuracy after extended use.

These look like a nice takeoff of the Engineer's Squares that I use to calibrate my chop saws. I bought mine over 20 years ago and still use them to check out my saws and also to check the setting on my Euro 9009 underpinner. It has an adjustable fence on it that has a tendency to work out of adjustment from the pneumatic pressure exerted on it from holding a mitered joint in position. I would be lost without these little squares in the shop.

How long have you had these adjustable squares? Would you buy another set if you had the opportunity? I am just asking to see if there is anything you DON'T like about them. (I COULD have asked "What don't you like about them" but that would be too easy) I may have to invest in a set of these as they have the capability of a 45 degree angle which mine don't have.

Thanks for posting these.

My hot poly glue gun is one of my fav's. Also, latex putty.
Yea Rick I've been wondering where to get a good Protractor like that for trueing our saw to 45. I use a machinist dial indicator for the verticals. For framingal, my favorite laser is a P.L.S. (plumb, level, Square). The three axis are mounted on a pendulum so the beams are always level + - 1/4" in 100' unless it is blinking. It has a threaded magnetic base for flexibility in mounting options. Shoots a beam straight up and down, right and left and forward. Some call it a five beam laser. $200.00 at home depot.

[ 01-04-2004, 01:40 PM: Message edited by: J.Lyons ]

I've been using it for 45 & 135 deg for almost 4 years now... Though spec'd at .06 deg, it is actually much better than that. It uses ball detents at 45/90/135 degrees milled into the housing that have a really nice, tight feel to them; not a one-handed task to change. Specs guarantee accuracy for many thousand cycles which will far exceed my use. I only have the 6" version and can't see that I'd ever need to check the mitre on moulding much wider than that. I use fixed engineers squares for all the 90deg stuff and engineer angle blocks for the odd angles.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one or the larger size just in case I ever needed it (or if I thought that I might need it).