Top of the Toolbox

April 4th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

By Chris Collier

Every installer has tools of choice, and the market is brimming with assistants for hire. From squeegees to heat guns to hard cards, the industry’s workforce has past and present preferences. Tony South was a massage therapist for 26 years prior to entering an industry requiring a varying form of handiwork.

Tool Time

“It wasn’t that weird for me,” says South, who changed industries when he opened Greenville, S.C.’s, Precision Tint USA in early 2021. “My previous industry was pretty much all tactile, so I’m used to feeling things. The [strangest] part was feeling what was going on through the squeegee rather than my fingertips.”

Precision Tint USA focuses on automotive tinting, but South plans to transition to purely architectural projects in the future. The 46-year-old newcomer learned the trade with training online and says, “I like the predictability of flat glass; that’s calling me.”

South’s first installation involved his own 2018 Ford Focus ST. His instrument of choice? The BlueMax Power Squeegee, which he used to tint an estimated two dozen cars. “I practiced on my car, and then I did my wife’s car,” he adds. “She had a Subaru Impreza, which has difficult quarter windows, but I was getting the hang of it.”

Mixing and Matching

Hunter Lloyd entered the industry in May 2019 but still considers himself an aspiring installer. Currently a machinist at a welding and fabrication shop, he aims to break into the film industry full-time within the next six months. He wielded the EHDIS Window Tint Conqueror Squeegee for his first few applications, but today’s instruments vary.

“I have [Omoletski Enterprises Inc.’s] Jason Omoletski to thank for this,” Lloyd says. “He’s gotten me hooked on Gasket Pro Tools and their squeegees. The Sledgehammer and the De-Hydra are the two I use most.”

Montana Johnson, owner of Tint Guys Super Shop in Augusta, Ga., has been tinting since nineteen. Autos account for 75% of business, while residential and commercial work facilitate 25%. Johnson finished hundreds of initial jobs with a yellow Go Doctor squeegee in hand, swapping out worn blades when necessary. He first tinted his 1984 Buick Regal.

“I used it for five or six years,” says Johnson, who’s now 43. “I still do like them. I have a couple of them around and use them now and then.”

Like South, Patrick Latman transitioned from a different field when he entered the film segment. The former banker and landscaper made a move in 2015 and now owns Sun Solutions Tinting in Port Richey, Fla. Latman first cut film with the NT Cutter® PRO Auto-Lock Stainless Steel Graphic Knife.

“I was determined,” says Latman, whose business’ mix is 80% automotive and 20% residential and commercial tinting. “I saw the possibilities the industry offered and knew I had to buckle down to get a handle on the actual craft.”

Many pair products to create their masterpiece. Latman combines Olfa AB-50S Stainless Steel Blades with his knife, which is tattooed on his forearm. “These have micro-clicks,” he says of the knife. “One click will only put a small amount of the blade out. A small amount of blade is the difference between tearing up rubber on a car or not.”

Latman created his latest helper: Dry Shrink Prep. “For dry shrinking, the main way to prep the glass was by applying a dryer sheet,” says Latman, who tints an estimated 1,000 cars per year. “The problem is that dryer sheets are toxic, especially in the capacity that window tinters use them. There was nothing on the market for a healthy alternative.”

Johnson wields Gasket Pro Tools’ Sledgehammer blade with Fusion Tools’ 5” Fusion Shorty Handle, completing an estimated 600 jobs with the duo. “The Sledgehammer pushes water out; it’s great to get as much water out between the film and glass as possible,” he says.

The Sledgehammer is a hot item for many, South included. He recently tinted a RAM 1500 TRX with the product, which he’s used for an estimated 30 projects.

The Big Question

What’s most responsible for clean installs? The applicator or their assistant?

“I like to invest in tools because the right [one] for the job helps you out,” Johnson says. “It’s less stress on you. But if you’ve got skills and the right tools, that’s two powerful ingredients.”

South falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. “I think a good installer can install with [anything]; it comes down to skill,” he says. “Once you reach a certain level, the tool becomes more important. With skills, you can modify techniques no matter the [instrument] and get good results.”

Lloyd says, “I’ve seen good installers use [poor] tools and get good [results].” Latman says you can’t have one without the other.

“You need the car and the driver,” Latman explains. “If you take the driver and put him in a ’98 Honda, he isn’t doing well. If you take the car and put a 98-year-old woman in there, she won’t do well. It has to be a combination of both to succeed.”

Chris Collier is the assistant editor for Window Film magazine. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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