Flex DW45 18.0-EC: Collated screwdriving, cordless style

THIS new collated screwdriver from Flex is part of its move to EC or brushless motors on most of its new cordless tools. The benefits of EC motors have already been explained, so let us skip lightly over to evaluate the driver itself, explains PETER BRETT.

On those house-beautiful programmes on the telly, I have seen skilled workers bashing up plasterboard in minutes with a collated screw driver.  They make it look so easy with barely a pause between screws as the plasterboard is fixed into place. However, when I tried it myself for the first time a few years ago, I was somewhat chastened as to how many factors on the tool had to be taken into account, so my first efforts were clumsy to say the least. Fortunately, it was a practice piece and my reputation didn’t depend on it.

It helps to have a good quality driver

Since my first efforts at butchering plasterboard I have used several collated screwdrivers of varying quality and cost, and it is true to say that there is a correlation between cost, quality and ease of use. Usually, the more expensive, the better they are to use.

What I have against some of the less efficient drivers is that they usually have a fiddly quality to making adjustments for screws and driver. It is so much easier if these are tool-free, easy to locate and easy to adjust, because setting up a driver properly can involve a bit of trial and error depending on the hardness of the material you are driving into and the depth to which you need the screw heads to be countersunk. If I were in the market for a collated screw driver, I would reject outright any driver that was complicated to set up and required tools! So there!

What does the Flex DW45 have?

None of my no-no’s feature in the arrangements on the DW45. It follows a very well-established shape for collated drivers that is a bit more pistol-like – more like old-fashioned corded drills. The reason for this is that the forward effort to drive the screws is needed directly behind the line of the screws so that they can be driven straight and the driver point will not cam-out of the screw heads. The hand arrangement then is that the thumb and forefinger fit into the grooves above the main handle, while the last three fingers can operate the elongated trigger.

Slick and skilled users will bypass pressing the trigger for each screw – they will simply push in the trigger and lock the drill in ‘on’ position by pushing in the lock button that is located high on the handle. In this way, they can keep up a continuous run of screws – something I have done a few times but not nearly as often as I would wish. Perhaps if I was regularly fixing whole sheets of plasterboard on jobs instead of mainly doing fill-in repairs?

Forward, lock and reverse settings are done via a small lever switch rather than a push-through switch found on drill drivers and such. This is because the second finger doesn’t have an opposing thumb on the other side to push the switch back when needed.

Flex engineers have done a good job in making the handle grippy and ergonomic, with enough black rubber moulding to provide comfort and efficiency. There is a ‘bumper’ around the base of the handle where it connects with the battery slider, but otherwise overmould is kept to a minimum. A decent-sized belt hook and bit holder can be screwed to either the left- or right-hand side of the handle base, with provision for a wrist strap too (strap not supplied).

Basic mode

In basic mode, without the screw magazine fitted, a simple cone-shaped stop sleeve fits over the hex clutch drive into which a driver is fitted. The depth of drive can be adjusted by screwing the cone to clockwise or anti-clockwise. It is easy to do and clearly marked so I was actually ready to work in a minute or so and I had a 99.9% success rate in driving the screws, singly, to the depth I wanted.

There was ample power, the driver feels progressive and since it is easy to control drive speed through the trigger, results into hard or sift materials are easy to control. To be honest, in this mode I could achieve good results on any small job with confidence.

Fitting the screw magazine

For screwing industrial quantities of screws, the magazine needs to be in place. This simply clicks into place on the nose of the driver – without the cone of course.

Screw depth adjustment is via a big ridged dial near the back of the magazine. It will require a bit of trial and error to get the results you need.

The sliding steel nose arrangement is adjusted back and forward for the size of the screws needed. On the right-hand side is metric, while the left has imperial measures. A simple press of the red knob on top of the releases the lock on the nose so users can choose the size of screw needed.

Feeding a strip of collated screws is easy – just follow the arrows. I always use the best quality of screws that I can as cheap ones will cause jams and hiccups. I must credit the DW45 with making me a far more proficient user of collated screw guns. For one, it is light and compact, so it feels light enough (at 1.4kgs with a 2.5 Ah battery) to handle easily so that I could get the all-important lining up of the screw and driver head that makes for trouble-free screwdriving. I started slowly, and increased speed as my confidence grew. Even though I was using a practice piece of timber to drive into, so it was harder and more difficult to start into than a piece of plasterboard, I soon had a rhythm going and even felt capable of setting the motor to continuous mode after I had had more practice.

There is a nice LED light – it comes on when the trigger is pulled. A motor brake helps keep control of driving too – I need such refinements.

Once again, the basic kit comes in a custom fitted L-Boxx with charger, batteries and bits, and there is room for the magazine inside the box too.

The DW45 is new, interesting and capable and definitely worth a look and a demo.


Flex; screwdriver; DW45 18.0-EC; power tools;
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