Power Tools

Previously we have discussed manual cut-out tools and now let’s talk power cut-out tools.  Power tools come in three power options, two blade actions and two that are completely different in regards to separating the adhesive from the vehicle. I will discuss the blade style tools this week and the unique tools next week. I will be using the brand names of some tools, but please note that I am not making specific recommendations. Most of my readers identify these tools by their name and not by its description and we want to avoid confusion.

As for my friends and colleagues in the auto glass tool manufacturing and distributing industry, for the purpose of this blog I am marking your tools’ names with the appropriate © and ®.  Thank you all for the information and research you provide the industry. Without you we couldn’t do our job as well as we do.

Let’s begin with the three main power sources, pneumatic, electric and cordless. Obviously each serves its purpose and the choice of which to purchase depends on what your business model demands and what your pocketbook will allow.

Typically the pneumatic tools are less expensive and more durable than the other two because of fewer moving parts to wear out and simplicity of design. If most of your jobs are completed in a shop environment with compressed air available, then the pneumatic is for you. It is cheap, durable and usually smaller in size so it can reach the hard to get to areas of the cut out.  Another benefit is that the power is constant as long as the compressor can produce the air pressure to power the tool. The down side of pneumatic tools is the air hose. The hose must be hooked up and dragged to the work area. If the hose is dragged through dirt and dust from the floor, then the interior of the vehicle must be protected carefully or cleaned thoroughly after the installation.

The electric tools are more expensive than the pneumatic but a little cheaper than the cordless.  The benefit to electric tools is that it is unnecessary to have an expensive air compressor on premises and the power is also constant. The body of the tool is usually larger to handle because of the motor of the tool so it is a little harder to get into tight areas. Yes, it also has a cord to drag along with you and make messes where you wish they were not but all in all the electric tools are a good compromise.

Lastly, there are the cordless tools. The cordless power tool is by far the technicians’ favorite for a number of reasons. It seems that the initial burst is more powerful than the electric or the pneumatic so the tech gets the feeling of control. The batteries allow freedom to move where you have to with the minimum of effort. The convenience of “pickup and go” is the biggest advantage of cordless tools. However, if you talk to a shop owner or manager they have a few other considerations. The cost is usually higher, the size of the tool is bigger, the durability seems to be less desirable, and the battery costs may be prohibitive.

Power cut-out tools that use blades have either an oscillating or reciprocating blade action.  Oscillating means the high speed vibration of the blade either back and forth or side to side.  Reciprocating action is the slower movement of the blade in and out.  Examples of the Oscillating action tools are the Fein® Knife or Vibra Knife.  The examples of the more popular reciprocating tools are the Original Equalizer® Magnum XP, Extractor, Equalizer® Express®, and BTB Tool.  All of these tools work well in what they are designed to do, cut out the glass from the body frame but each also needs some instruction to use the tools properly and without undue damage to the vehicle.

There are a couple of facts you should know when using a power tool that are consistent with all auto glass cut-out tools.

  1. The closer the blade edge is to the power source the better the cut out.  In other words, make sure you use the right blade for the job.  I know that changing the blade is a pain – though tools are making quick change blade housings – but the fact is that if you use a long blade when a short blade is called for, the cut-out will be harder, the blade and tool will be damaged faster, and the chance of vehicle damage will be higher.
  2. The flat side of the blade should always be toward the glass.  Almost all blades are purposely sharpened on one side and flat on the other. The purpose of this is to have the blade rise to the glass surface and away from the metal and interior mouldings to prevent damage.  If the blades are reversed, the blade dives to the metal. There are occasional reasons to reverse the blade; I am only saying that the blade design is made for control and not convenience of manufacture.  If you prefer the blades that are beveled on both sides, then the technician must control the blade with the hands to shave the adhesive from the desired surface. This takes a lot of skill and control.
  3. Lubricate the cutting surface and the blade. I cannot stress this enough. Lubrication improves the life of the tool, makes the cut out easier, and eases the effort put forth by the technician. If there is a helper handy, have them continually lubricate throughout the cut-out procedure and feel the difference.

I wish I had the luxury of power tools when I started in the industry.  It would have made a huge difference in the ease of installation and wear and tear on my body.  I urge all of you technicians out there to take advantage of the tool options given you.  You won’t be sorry; I promise you.