Every rodder's dream is to have all the tools he could ever hope for

This month we introduce a new column to STREET RODDER called Workshop. The idea behind this column is to take a look at the tools each of us might want in our garage-our workshop.

The column is sponsored by the Eastwood Company (www.eastwood.com or (800) 345-1178). Eastwood has worked with rodders since 1978 and is dedicated to offering unique automotive tools, especially in the body, paintwork, and related arenas. Each month we will take the time and space needed to check out an Eastwood tool as well as other tools. In some instances it will be staff, other times it will be shops that we visit and ask for their input. But it doesn't stop there. From time to time we will review a tool that will carry with it an added bonus, such as free freight if you order it based on the STREET RODDER column.

We will cover tools from a number of different companies, like Snap-on, Craftsman, Harbor Freight, and others. (In fact, should you have a tool and would like to see it reviewed, drop us a line by phone or email.)

For instance, this month we reviewed the Eastwood Lead-Free Body Solder kit and their Shrinker/Stretcher combo kit. As you read this column you will see the full review. In the future we will cover home powdercoating systems, simple (yet handy) power tools, shop vacs, power washers, loads of body and paintwork systems, the list goes on. Hopefully, you will find the column entertaining and useful and, of course, if there is a tool you would like to see reviewed please contact me (brian.brennan@sorc.com) and we'll see if we can make it happen.

The Eastwood Company's basic Lead-Free Body Solder kit with DVD Solder as a body repair medium has some great merits. Among them is toughness: it's great for building up stressed or exposed shapes, like edges and character lines.

The problem is that lead, the standby, is tremendously poisonous. It permanently damages organs, including kidneys and the brain. Protective measures are nearly ineffective as lead dust can work its way past particulate filters and through exposed skin. Simply for that toxicity issue, the Eastwood Company packages a line of lead-free substitutes in a body-soldering starter kit.

The problem with most substitutes is that they generally fall short of expectations. Marshall Woolery (Thun Field Rod & Custom) certainly assumed a lead-free solder substitute wouldn't stack up. In fact, even after he agreed to test it he mocked it.

Anyone willing to risk health just to push lead can be considered old school, but Woolery's hard-line stance softened the instant the supplied tinning compound flowed as well as his beloved Dutch Boy. What doubt that remained practically evaporated once he started pushing the tips of the heated sticks into the body. "Whoa, this ... goes on just like lead," he remarked. Working the solder to shape initially proved a little bit tricky, as it has a narrower temperature range, but Woolery and Josh Higgins (Amocat Speed Emporium) adapted quickly and successfully pushed the solder into shape with the supplied paddles.

Their surprise isn't accidental: the backbone of Eastwood's kits are the chemicals and lead-free solder, which is manufactured by a company that worked with GM and Ford to develop the respective manufacturers' lead-free mandates so it could comply with global lead-free mandates. Unreliable is unacceptable on an assembly line, a standard that reveals itself in a very user-friendly product.

In the end Woolery and Higgins both deemed this solder-free kit (PN11465) a success. It requires a slightly different heat approach (that we'll address in a future article), but its greater strength and ability to be safely ground and sanded more than make up for any shortcomings. "This is a viable substitute for lead," Woolery admitted-and not even begrudgingly in fact. (There are two other upgrade kits: PN11466 and PN11467.)