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Tools

Best Heat Gun

Heat guns aren't really one of the first tools that most people think of when stocking a workshop, but they’re surprisingly useful tools. You can think of a heat gun as an industrial strength hair dryer, providing more heat and air volume. Of course, that means that they consume more electricity as well so you want to be careful of what else you have one of these units plugged in with.
 
Probably the most common use of heat guns in the home workshop is for stripping paint and varnish. Rather than use chemical strippers, many people prefer a heat gun. The gun softens the finish, allowing it to be scraped off the surface with a putty knife. Heat guns are also useful for removing linoleum floor covering or pretty much anything held in place with an adhesive or mastic. The heat from the gun softens the adhesive, just as it does with paint. This allows tile or whatever else to be scraped off. The only limitation is that you can't use it with wallpaper, as there's a good chance of catching it on fire.
 
There are many other places where these tools can be useful, such as shrinking heat shrinkable tubing for wires, forming PVC pipe and thawing out frozen pipes. You can even use it for welding plastic. Once you have a heat gun, it seems that uses for it just seem to keep showing up.
 
The key to an effective heat gun is of course how much heat it can put out. First of all, there's the power consumption of the gun as all but a very small amount of that power is being converted from electrical energy to heat energy by the electrical coil itself. The other major factor is airflow; the more air flowing through the gun, the less the heating coil can heat it up. While a large airflow is desirable, if it’s too large, then it reduces the actual output temperature.
 
All of the guns I've selected have a maximum output temperature of at least 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's usually enough for most applications. Some of the guns provide you with temperature control circuitry and a LCD readout of the temperature you've selected. Others just have a high/low switch for you to select the approximate temperature range you want.
 
Before selecting a gun, think of how you are going to use it. If you are mostly using it for heat shrinkable tubing, you don't need all that much heat or airflow but you do need a gun that concentrates the heat in a small area. If you're using it for stripping paint and tile, you're going to want a lot of heat and airflow. So, understanding how you are going to use it will help you pick the best gun for your needs.

Steinel 34890 HG 2510 ESD Programmable IntelliTemp Heat Gun

If you're looking for the mother of all heat guns, this one is it. With a temperature range of 120 degrees all the way up to 1200 degrees, it's the hottest gun on the market. Airflow is continually variable, allowing you to custom set how you want the gun to work and an LCD display tells you exactly what temperature the gun is operating at. The controls include four customizable preset temperature and airflow combinations, so you can establish settings for the most common ways you use the gun. Maximum airflow is 17.6 CFM. It is electrostatic discharge safe (ESD) for use with sensitive electronic components and circuit boards.

Milwaukee Variable Temperature Heat Gun 8988-20

Milwaukee's heat gun is very similar to the Steinel, however it has truly variable heat, which can be set in ten degree increments. Airflow is preset to three different ranges, with the lowest being a "cool down" mode. The temperature range on this unit is from 110 to 1150 degrees and the maximum airflow is 17.6 CFM. The back of the gun is designed to be a wide base, for hands free operation. An impact resistant heating element, housed in a ceramic heat chamber provides long tool life without problems.

DEWALT D26960K Heavy Duty Heat Gun with LCD Display

DeWalt offers excellent value with this heat gun kit. Not only is it reasonably priced, but you really don't lose anything important over the more expensive units. A built-in LCD display shows the temperature that you've set the gun for, which can be adjusted to 50 degree increments with a temperature range from 150 to 1100 degrees. A cord protector protects the power cord from tearing away from the unit and an innovative "kickstand" supports the unit when using it hands free. The kit comes with a case, fitted with ten different nozzles and tools.

Bosch 1942 Heavy-Duty Heat Gun

Bosch's unit is the most powerful heat gun on this list. Not only does the heating element put out over 1700 watts of heat, but the blower operates at up to 23 CFM. However, the output is limited to 750 to 1000 degrees. A mechanical air intake regulator adjusts the temperature to the requirements of the job. The unit has a cool air setting, for cooling the tool down after using it while a base allows for hands-free use. The tool comes with a range of accessories for use in specific applications.

Wagner HT 775

Wagner makes paint application equipment, so this gun is created specifically with the idea of using it for stripping finishes with the temperature being adjustable from 750 degrees to 1000 degrees. Like the Bosch unit, this one also has a cool setting, for cooling the unit down safely. One of the nicest things about this unit is it’s been designed with a replaceable heating element. Considering that's the part which is most likely to go bad, that helps ensure that you can use it for a long time. There is an integrated stand for hands-free operation.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

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