|Here's a weekend idea that may floor you
Invention is showcased in Popular Mechanics
By WENDI WINTERS, For The Capital
|By Wendi Winters, For the Capital
Peter Gargano, 50, a resident of the Whitehall neighborhood on the
Broadneck Peninsula, shows off the tapping bar and pull bar he
develped to install new locking Lyptus flooring planks. The planks'
wood veneer is a recently develped hardwood, a hybrid of two
Popular Mechanics is the well-thumbed bible for generations of people who have
hunkered down, read the directions, and set about replacing a timing belt,
caulking a shower, removing a car battery safely or creating a "green home" by
They can do all that, and more, after reading the March 2007 issue of the
magazine. It boasts a circulation of 1.3 million and more than 6.7 million avid
readers each month.
Since it was first published in 1902, getting a mention in this magazine devoted
to workshop tools, cars, souped-up lawn mowers and complex electronic gadgets
has been like reaching the summit of Mount Everest. But that's what happened to
Peter Gargano, a resident of the Whitehall neighborhood on the Broadneck
A set of tools - "The Ultimate Tool" - was prominently featured in an article
headlined "Flooring It: Install a floating hardwood floor in a single weekend."
Mr. Gargano, 50, is the inventor of the professional flooring tool kit touted in
A first-generation Italian-American from Corning, N.Y., he has lived in the
region for 31 years, and in Annapolis since 1993. He and his wife, Wendy, have
three children. Giovanni, 13, and Francesca, 11, attend Severn River Middle
School, and 8-year-old Alesandro goes to Windsor Farm Elementary.
Mr. Gargano is the business development manager for ILEX Construction &
Woodworking, based in Baltimore. Earlier he held a similar position with LCM,
and was with the company as it grew from nine employees to more than 150. After
he left LCM, it was taken over by ILEX. He worked for Weyerhaeuser, purveyor of
paper and building products as a market development manager for 2Â½ years before
being lured to ILEX.
Part of his job at Weyerhaeuser was creating demand in the architects' market
for flooring and other products milled from a new hardwood species - a hybrid of
eucalyptus grandis and eucalyptus urophylla.
"There's 1,000 species of eucalyptus. Two were crossbred. In 15 years the hybrid
grew incredibly fast," he reported. "It was 115 feet tall and 23 inches in
diameter. Normal hardwoods take 60 to 100 years to grow that much. It's
absolutely gorgeous and it weighs a ton. The wood is the color of cherry, with
the grain of mahogany, and is harder than maple."
A renewable resource, the wood is grown on Brazilian plantations that were once
clear-cut of their forests, now reforested with the special eucalyptus. The
trees are grown among indigenous trees and more still are planted as buffer
zones to prevent logging dust runoff from reaching streams. It's the "wood of
the future," he claimed, adding ithat n an 18-month period he did lunch
presentations showcasing the wood for more than 1,200 architects and builders.
One of the Lyptus products Weyerhaeuser sells is an engineered floating hardwood
floor made of locking planks that are milled and pre-finished in Brazil. The
3/16-inch veneer topping the plank is Lyptus, Weyerhaeuser's brand name for the
wood, glued to a Â½-inch strip of rubberwood. The plank is glued on four sides;
friction causes the glue to heat up and bond with other glued edges.
The first demonstration didn't go well. When a distributor tried to do a trial
before installing it in a customer's home, his workers were smacking the planks
to get them to lock.
"If you don't resolve this issue," warned the distributor, "we'll pull your
product from our dealerships on Friday."
Mr. Gargano arrived armed with special tools suggested by the manufacturer. They
didn't work well: The heavy-duty tapping block was a lightweight piece of junk
and the pull bar "was wobbly, poorly designed and badly slapped together. I hit
its anvil section hard with my hammer and hit my hand. Plus, you could go deaf
from the noise," he said.
In a demonstration spot he set up in his basement, he showed how the recommended
tools were poorly thought-out. On his own time, he created sleek, elegant
heavy-duty pieces a professional installer can use for years.
The pull bar is lined with foam tape, to avoid scratching the surface of the
wooden planks. The anvil portion of the pull bar has a high-density plastic cap
that muffles the sound of tapping, and it's welded at an angle that reduces the
chance that an installer will whack his or her hand with a hammer.
He also redid the tapping block, using heavier material, a better handle and
beveled edges. Analyzing how the interlocking floors need to be laid correctly,
he developed an "Ultimate Tool Kit" containing a 24-inch pull bar with a 7-inch
end and one with a 2Â½-inch end, tapping blocks in 24-inch and 6-inch sizes and
10 heavy plastic spacer blocks. All the pieces are made with a black finish and
finished off with an attractively designed logo plate.
When he began arriving at demonstration classes, installers asked to buy his
"I had connections in the industry," Mr. Gargano smiled. "Within a month, I had
the kit manufactured in a custom-made cardboard box. I priced the kit for $199
plus $20 shipping and set up a Web site: www.ultimatetoolinc.com . I also
applied for a patent."
The Ultimate Tool Kit is also sold at Elias Wilfin in Owings Mills.
Joseph Truini has written about do-it-yourself projects for three decades. Based
in Connecticut now, he was Popular Mechanics' shop and tools editor in New York
for seven years, followed by 13 years as senior editor at Today's Homeowner. In
2000 he returned to Popular Mechanics as a freelance writer and contributing
"I've installed several floating floors," Mr. Truini said. "I found out about
the Lyptus flooring and proposed a hardwood flooring story to the magazine. When
I contacted Weyerhaeuser, they mentioned Peter's tool kit. When I got a set from
him I could tell it was obviously designed by a guy intimately involved with
"I've installed five floating floors in the past, and you really need good
tools. Peter's tool kit absolutely works better than anything I've seen," he
raved. "It's the easiest way to put down a floor. Without his tool kit, it would
be twice as hard to install this type of floor.
"I've never seen a flooring kit before other than from manufacturers. Pete's kit
is priced for professionals. If you're doing a whole house, it makes sense to
buy it. Otherwise, people might want to rent it for one room."
Mr. Truini is shown on page 87, wrestling a plank into place, with Mr. Gargano's
Ultimate Tool Kit at his feet.
"Since the magazine came out in mid-February, my Web site's been getting lots of
hits," Mr. Gargano grinned. "Installers and regular people are buying the
The Ultimate Tool Kit's success got him thinking about improving other areas of
his life. "Wait till you see my next invention," he teased. "You'll wonder how
you made a tuna sandwich without it."
- No Jumps-
Published March 12, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright Â© 2007 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.