Volume 14, Issue 5 - September-October 2010


I Can’t Live Without It!
Window Film Installers Reveal Trusted Tools
by Katie Hodge

Everyone has had one of “those days.” The kind of day where nothing seems to go right and every task takes twice as long. Thankfully, most of us have a few items or trusted sources on which we can always rely to help get the job done. The world of window film is no different. While jobs vary and environmental factors are uncontrollable, most installers have a few helpful tools that make the process quicker and easier.

The typical technician carries his tools with him all day and juggling them can be a challenge. Joel Marler, president of Architectural Window Film in Salt Lake City, is grateful for his vest and his caddy.

“I like a tool vest instead of a tool belt because your shoulders support the vest instead of your hips. Also, I use a film caddy, a canvas film tote. It enables quick and easy handling of materials, supplies and tools.”

When it comes to installers’ favorite sidekick tools some say the “chizler,” the “bulldozer,” “tail fins,” and the “E-Z reach” are among the top tools.

Nick Lowery, a master installer of automotive window film for Quality Glass Tinting Inc. in St. Louis praises his bulldozer.

“It can get into places that most other tools can’t get into with a lot of pressure. It has a nice wide bill on it that is angled so you can shove it behind brake lights. It has a nice long handle so that if it’s hard to reach you don’t have to work very hard to get to it,” says Lowery. “It’s allowed us to quit removing back decks out of cars or having to remove a lot of stuff out of the car and just use that tool to get the film back behind places. It’s definitely made [the job] a lot easier.”

Gordon Watson, owner of Gordon Watson Window Tinting that installs commercial and residential film in Santa Cruz, Calif., agrees with Lowery about bulldozers.

“The bulldozer is one of those tools that I consider mandatory,” says Watson.

Lowery is also a big fan of chizlers, but tweaked with his own personal touch.

“It’s a nice, hard composite so you can get into tight spaces and get the pressure that you need. What we have done with the chizler is cut them in half and make this little spock ear out of it. We essentially cut it in half so we have a nice, long, sharp point and we can get behind gaskets and stuff like that as well as really tiny windows,” says Lowery.

The EZ reach is also an installer favorite across the board. Mark Killmer, manager/owner of Jazz It Up in Centennial, Colo., has benefited from making the EZ reach a part of his automotive tinting tool kit.

“We use the EZ reach, which comes in gold and silver. The gold one is a medium strength tool and it reaches in a lot of corners. You can almost use it like a chizler,” says Killmer. “For some cars where the front corners are very hard to reach or to get into the EZ reach works very well for that.”

Watson agrees, “A platinum EZ reach tool can also be used as a five-way tool to give you the gap on residential or commercial applications.”

Old Favorites
In addition to specific tools, there are components of window film installation that installers say are mandatory.

“These are things you have to use to keep warranties valid such as distilled water, X-100, stainless steel razor blades, and white nylon scrub pads,” explains Watson, who also uses Plexus on every single installation. “That is an incredible plastic polish and sealant and it is also anti-static. Every singe piece of film that we install gets coated with Plexus and micro fiber towels.”

Under Pressure
One thing that many installers agree on is that without a pressure system the job just can’t be done properly. Watson has created his own system, which he considers one of his most valuable tools.

“It’s a three-gallon tank just like everybody else has and I have mounted a motorized pump on it,” says Watson. “In addition, in our tank I use chainsaw filters and those can be coupled to the pick-up tube inside the tank with a small piece of gasoline line and the chainsaw filter, which you can pick up at any small motorized tool company or online,” says Watson.

Watson says his system, which runs 80-100 PSI, was hand-made for a fraction of what a similar system would cost. “The pump was $89 and I probably spent another 10 bucks on Ts and fittings and stuff like that. I probably was out the door for $130 and it is the best tool I have ever used. The pressure tank with the hoses and the nozzles blasts everything off the glass and the edges. It saves time because you don’t have to pump it at all. If you are on a ladder you don’t have to get down. It saves me more time than anything,” Watson adds.

Other companies have also bought pressure systems or have tweaked their systems.

“We have a pressure system which enables an installer to have 80 pounds of constant water pressure using carbon dioxide paint ball containers and the standard Cornelius tanks,” says Marler.

Tool Innovation
While the world of tools is constantly evolving, installers are also thinking about what they could do to make a tool work better or tools they wish would be manufactured.

“Over the course of the past five years I have seen a lot of tools being developed that are really good for the installer,” says Lowery. “These are mainly a lot of long tools that will help you get behind and down into back decks and behind brake lights.”

Killmer made a few modifications to the tail fins in his shop to create a better tool for his team.

“We drill two holes at the top edge and you can stick your finger in one of those tools and drag it across the window a lot better,” says Killmer. “Those things are so hard to hold onto when they are wet so I drilled two holes into it and that helps.”

When installers look back just ten years ago to the tools available to them, they say it’s obvious that the industry has changed quite a bit. Ten years from now what kind of tools will installers be raving about and what will they say about the tools that are so loved now?

Katie Hodge is an assistant editor for Window Film magazine.

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