Volume 11, Issue 3 - May/June 2007
|How to Build a Tinting Toolbox
Tinters Nationwide Share
Which Tools They Use To Get The Job Done
by Megan Headley
When asked what the top selling window film tools are for Performance Tools, Patric Fransko, sales and marketing manager for the Dublin, Ohio-based company, couldn’t stop at just one. He’s found that the basic tools are essential for every job.
“Everybody pretty much has a knife that they tend to prefer more than another one,” Fransko says. For Performance Tools, the Olfa SVR1 is a top seller. Fransko listed a number of tools necessary for installation, including a white Teflon card and the Lil’ Chizler. He says that he has found the Poly II and Impact 2-quart sprayers to be popular items among tinters. He also sees the company’s edge trim guide as a “must-have” for the architectural tinting tool-box, with the 6-inch Triumph angle scraper and blade setting the standard.
“The other thing I would say is that all the tinters need a good heat gun,” Fransko says.
When asked which tools are the top sellers at Filmhandler Tools in San Diego, Tom Byrd, senior sales representative for Filmhandler, couldn’t narrow it down to just one tool either.
“Everybody prefers something different. It really comes down to what feels good in your hand, as simple as that,” Byrd says. “Chizlers, Teflon cards, squeegees—[it] can be anything.”
Byrd noted that he’s often asked, for example, which among the many squeegees offered by the company is the best for the job. His answer? “Well, it’s the one that feels best in your hand,” Byrd says.
The reason companies offer “30 squeegees,” as Byrd notes, is because each tinter does his job differently. However, with experience gained on the job, some tinters can offer insight as to which tools they find perform the best on the job. That’s why we randomly surveyed several Window Film subscribers for their tips on the tools they’d recommend to their industry colleagues.
Bryan Corder, president of Eclipse Window Tinting Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., has become a fan of the Yellow Quick Foot, which was designed to help tinters reach hard-to-reach places.
“It helps out in getting in the tight spaces on door windows and quarter windows,” Corder says. “It’s nice and firm. It’s not real flexible so it works a lot of water out, and it gets in the seals really good, and gets all the water out of the seals.”
Corder also made note of a tool that he has adapted to help him on window film installations.
“It’s called a carpet shield,” Corder says. “It’s a small plastic L-shaped tool, probably about 3 feet long but you can cut it … It goes in between the seals and the glass so you don’t have to tuck the seals. It gives you a little bit more access.”
When asked what one tool he feels no tinter should be without, Eric Reuter, owner of Sun Patrol Window Tinting in Coventry, R.I., agreed that it would be hard to narrow it down to just one tool. He laughed, “I would definitely have to say the squeegee.”
Carlton Hughes, owner of First Class Window Tinting in Macon, Ga., says the Teflon hard card is the one tool no tinter should be without. “I take the hard card and I cut it in a triangular shape. It helps when you’re tucking the tint down in the bottom of the window and pulling the rubber seal back,” Hughes explains. “It helps to do that and get [film] in the corners.”
It’s just the basic tools for Richard Mendoza, owner of R M Window Tinting in Albuquerque, N.M.
“Squeegee, Clear Max and the Red Little Foot” are the tools that come to mind for Mendoza when it comes to making a recommendation for other tinters.
“I would say before I used the Red Little Foot, I always had trouble finding a corner tool,” Mendoza adds. “I’d recommend that to anybody.”
James Cox, co-owner of First Coast Glass Coatings in Green Cove Springs, Fla., had one tool jump to mind when asked which tool he uses that he would recommend to other tinters.
“Squeegee,” Cox joked. “I’d recommend that to every tinter.”
After some careful thought, though, he realized that wasn’t so far from the truth. “Actually there are just a couple of tools that I really like, one of which is called EZ Reach Corner tool,” Cox says. “There’s another one that I like … it’s a Side Swiper. That’s for the back windows. Those are really my favorite tools, other than just a squeegee.”
Red Ramquist, owner of McKinney Auto Tint & Detail in Mckinney, Texas, casually says that the tools he uses “don’t really have names.”
Tinters don’t need fancy tools to get the job done. As Ramquist notes, “We just use hard cards, and a squeegee and a bottle of water.”
However, Ramquist did have one interesting afterthought to add to his list: “A computer.”
Whether it’s a plotter helping to make the job more efficient and the cuts more detailed, or the computer is just another efficient tool for keeping track of customers, the basic window tinting job these days can require a little technology after all.
“There’s actually a bunch of little tools that we use, depends on what we’re doing,” says Bear Howard, a tinter at Detail and Tint Co. in Covina, Calif. “There’s no real specialty tool. You’ve got your squeegee, your knife, your razor blade.”
Howard notes that he prefers to use the Lil’ Chizler and a tool called the Blue Max.
“Anybody that’s doing tinting has the access to all the same tools,” Howard says. However, Howard added that most tinters have a tool that they’d like to see manufactured to make their job easier.
“We’ve taken a tool that they’ve already made and just revamped it,” Howard says, “to fit different applications, tight areas that you’ve got to fit.”
Usually, according to Howard, it’s just a matter of shaping or cutting down a tool that already exists.
“Some of the new cars you’ve got the back window low down … you can’t get your hand on there to get pressure on it,” says Howard. Howard says he purchased a tool with a long handle that was supposed to fix that problem.
“The length is OK,” says Howard. “[It’s] made out of hard plastic so it doesn’t have any flex to it.”
Howard says he can find a tool that’s either just long enough or just flexible enough to make his job easier, but is still searching for the tool that combines both qualities.
Matt Britton, owner of Rocky Mountain WindowTint in Livermore, Calif., says that there are a number of important tools necessary to do the job right.
“It depends obviously on what step you’re on in the application,” Britton says. Like other tinters, Britton starts with the basics: “A squeegee, of course; you’ve got to get the glass clean.”
However, Britton does have a word of advice when it comes to the type of sprayer to use to dispense the mounting solution. “We don’t use hand sprayers, we use larger tanks of two gallons to mix our application solution, and that really allows us to speed up process,” Britton says.
“When you’re using a hand sprayer you … have to go and constantly fill it up after every job.” With the larger tanks, Britton says he’s able get through a whole day on just one fill. Using the tank sprayers also allows Britton to control the pressure by pressurizing the tank. He says that is able to adjust the pressure of the spray at the nozzle.
For Britton, who only does automotive tinting, transporting the tanks is not a question. However, he notes that he has a colleague who has made use of the tanks for his work on commercial projects.
“[He] has the sprayer hooked up to a dolly and he rolls that to wherever the job is,” Britton says. “For doing the large jobs, it’s great.”
“There’s one tool that is probably an integral part [of the job], and that’s the power squeegee,” says Randy Hutson, owner of Five Star Window Tinting in Grand Rapids, Mich. “When you finish the job, you know you’re going to get a good finish on the film looking from the outside.” Keeping the glass clean is critical, and to that end, Huston makes one other recommendation for tinters: Bounty paper towels.
“Here’s the thing—I’ve used every towel in the industry,” Hutson says. “That, hands down, is the best absorbing towel and most lint-free towel—which is what you need for the finish work.”
Hutson says that this is one tool every tinter should have and is worth an extra buck to do the job right.
Megan Headley is a contributing editor for Window Film magazine.