The best way to be sure a new product works is through the acid test of hard daily use. That’s exactly how Zack Giffin is certain that his family’s Zack Rabbit™ interchangeable countersinking system works better than any other option he’s tried — by using it to build custom woodworking projects as lead carpenter on the television show “Tiny House Nation” (season 5 premieres this month on A&E and Netflix).
“The Zack Rabbit is much faster, shorter and far more durable than other options,” Zack says. “You can attach and release the tool in a split second using just one hand.”
Zack’s father, Brian — who invented the original Zack Rabbit prototype back in the late 1990’s — concurs. “Screws are such a large part of woodworking. If you can improve the speed of this one step, you can save time over and over, for a lot of people.”
The heart of the Zack Rabbit system consists of three sizes of snap-on shafts with a knurled interface on one end and a countersink on the other. They are color-coded in red, green and blue to match the color to a specific drill bit size: 9/64-in. for countersinking #10 screws (red), 1/8-in. for handling #8 screws (green) and 7/64-in. for installing #6 screws (blue). The knurled end contains a proprietary spring design that enables Zack Rabbits to simply snap onto the relief cut in impact-rated driver bits. Sliding the knurled collar forward releases the countersink.
“It is the most durable locking mechanism we could develop and does not seem to be negatively affected by heat or wear,” Zack adds. “The real trick with our product was achieving a very light release without it ever slipping.
Zack testifies that after many thousands of repetitions, there seems to be no change in the tool’s function over time. And, the countersinks can be used with most brands of impact-rated driver bits that have relief cuts near their tips.
But, the knurled countersinks are only part of Zack Rabbit’s integrated system. The other time-saving feature is a plastic Quick-Draw Holster™ that stows the three countersink sizes, plus several other accessories, when not in use. The holster has a pair of clips in back to mount it to a tool pouch or a belt. Brian believes the holster helps to not only distinguish Zack Rabbit from other countersinks but also sets it ahead of the competition.
“Quick-Draw Holster is the result of a huge amount of R&D, rapid prototyping and end-user feedback by Zack,” Brian says. “You can use it to attach and release the (countersinks) without using your hands. Many times you might not need to use it, but when you are up on a ladder or in an awkward situation, it’s a fantastic advantage to have.”
Even the drill bit style is contrary to many other countersink designs these days: Zack Rabbit uses straight-shank bits rather than tapered-style bits. Brian explains that tapered drill bits are both fragile and more expensive to replace. They also are holdovers from the days when screws were made with a cut thread. Since wood screws are now predominantly manufactured with a rolled thread, that has eliminated the need for a tapered pilot hole.
“We use standard jobber length drill bits made by Viking (a Minnesota company) because they are the best quality we have found.”
Three spare drill bits and an Allen wrench, plus two double-ended driver bits, are included with the “fully loaded” version of the Quick-Draw Holster Set. Clipped to the back side of the holster, the company provides a 3/8-in. tapered plug cutter for making wooden screw plugs to cover counterbored screws. There’s also a patented brass Mag Ring® — another Giffin family innovation — that magnetizes driver bits to keep steel screws from falling off.
“My older brother Jeff Giffin developed the idea while he was studying magnetism under Nobel Award-winning physicist Carl Weismann,” Zack says. “The magnets are arranged with their polarities opposing each other. When you insert the steel driver bit (or a screwdriver shank), they switch their force and magnetize the tip. Mag Ring adds no extra length, and it’s the perfect addition to the Zack Rabbit system.”
Even with this family tour de force of inventiveness, bringing the Zack Rabbit countersinking system and Quick-Draw Holster to market has been no small undertaking. Brian has been a self-trained inventor and machinist since the late 1970s when, as a professional potter, he developed and patented the Giffin Grip® — a three-jawed chucking solution for holding clay on a pottery wheel. It’s now distributed worldwide “as somewhat of a standard” in the ceramics industry, Brian admits. That experience parlayed into developing this wholly different product for the woodworking and construction market. For would-be inventors, he shares the following hard-earned advice:
“Be prepared to become your own rough expert in many fields. Whether it’s learning CAD design, people management, machining prototypes, patents and trademarks, graphics, photography or website development, you need to believe that you can learn just about anything,” Brian says. “Persistence is more important than brains any day. Treat all of your suppliers and customers with great respect, then good luck will have an opportunity to find you … I was taught that if you build a better mousetrap, the necessary money will follow. It seems to work, but it always takes years longer than you wish.”
The Giffins are also firm believers in the value of manufacturing Zack Rabbit entirely in America rather than abroad. Zack explains that that commitment is part of the reason why a (standard) Zack Rabbit Holster Set built stateside costs $60 whereas it might only cost $40 if made in China.
“My father has been manufacturing his potters tools domestically for more than 40 years and has worked with all the same suppliers since the beginning. The business has been a stable source of income for many families over the years, and that contribution is a source of great pride for us,” Zack says. “The tools we produce are inherently more expensive, but it works if you sell a product that saves time and lasts for years … If the tool lasts for 10 years of hard use, the extra $20 really doesn’t matter in the long run.”