Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Tool school
Cool new stuff to improve your autumn mood
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

The Tek 4 rechargeable lithium-ion battery runs 11 different Ryobi tools and saves thousands of conventional throw-away batteries.

In honour of school starting this fall, here’s a quiz for you. Please circle all true statements:

• Driving by your local office supply store during the past month, you’ve felt the urge to go in and inhale the hypnotic fragrance of pencils and binder paper.

• You’ve started reading a new book because your brain knows that fall signals new learning.

• You underline important stuff in your new book, such as “Mandy’s shoulders were shapely and powerful, like twin Evinrudes strapped to a slender dinghy.”

If you circled one or more of the above, you’ll benefit from a couple of small new accessories to distract you from the fact that you’re way past your schooling years.

Tooly, madly, deeply

Ryobi Tools recently introduced an extremely efficient rechargeable lithium-ion 4-volt battery that replaces the power of 3 AA batteries. The Tek 4 battery runs a collection of 11 tools that will imbue your home skills with a little zing. I’ve recently tested these products, and here are my favourites so far.

Toilet-proof camera

If you’re a spiller or a dropper, you’ll be all over a camera that’s waterproof, dust-proof and impact-resistant.

The DuraShot Tek 4 digital camera is designed for use in workshops, construction sites and on outdoorsy trips where it can get banged around, buried in the sand, soaked by ocean spray or dropped in a pitcher of margaritas.

The Tek 4 battery is good for 800 photographs per charge, and you can record a voice memo on any photo – a helpful feature when you’re taking technical shots or building a trip journal. The camera also shoots video, has a high-powered flash and includes a 1G SD memory card, charger and case.

It would be nice if the 3x zoom lens was a little stronger, but it’s true optical zoom, not digital, so that’s a plus. And you can actually shoot underwater with this camera; how many point-and-shoot cameras do that?

The Durashot also has big buttons, so you can easily operate it while wearing gloves or after applying tanning oil. Picture quality is middle-of-the-road, but that’s a small trade-off for extreme durability. And if you get it dirty, just give it a bath in the sink. $199, including battery and charger, at The Home Depot

Feel the heat

If you’ve got areas in your house that feel way too hot in summer and way too cold in winter, this heat-sensing laser can identify where wall and ceiling insulation is insufficient.

Point the unit at any surface, up to 30 feet away, and it instantly records the surface temperature (from -20C to 310C). It’s freakishly accurate.

The charge from a single Tek 4 battery will give you 4,000 measurements, more than enough for entertaining house guests with a game of “Guess what temperature your cocktail is!” $79.99, includes battery and charger

Sound hound

If you want to protect your hearing while using power tools or mowing the lawn but miss your favourite tunes, Audio Plus Noise Suppression Headphones play your MP3 files while reducing harmful noises.

It would be nice if they had a better bass response, but overall sound quality is crisp and clean.

These headphones also feature a dial that allows you to monitor close-range conversations, so you don’t have to rip off the phones in irritation when someone asks you a question; simply adjust the knob. And wear a smug expression, because while the technology looks expensive, the headset only costs $69.99 (with battery and charger).

Ohm away from home

The Portable Power Source is a slick little backup for your cell phone, iPod or other small electronic devices. When you need a charge on the road, this unit supplies up to 80 hours of audio runtime. $19.99, includes cables for most cell phones (battery and charger sold separately)

One last learning: If you buy any of the Tek 4 tools, invest in the Rapid Charger ($39.99). It charges two Tek 4 batteries in 30 minutes flat – a huge improvement over the 4-5 hours it takes to charge a battery with the supplied single-charger.

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life, starting October 18 on CTS. Visit her website at

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