Hitachi C18DBAL Cordless Circular Saw - 6Ah and Saw = Magic Performance

Aimed at: pro users or anyone that needs a really good cordless circ saw. 

Pros: powerful, accurate, and easy to adjust- with all the modern electronics to guarantee effiency. 

Hitachi power tools have always had a reputation for rugged build and solid performance and I think, have been unjustly overlooked in some quarters. Possibly this might have been because of their quirky detailing and “individual” presentation, but every Hitachi owner I have ever spoken to will refer to the solid reliability and long working life of their Hitachi tools.

With the launch of the Hitachi 6Ah battery pack earlier in the year, a number of cordless tools that can take advantage of them were launched simultaneously. I tried the 136Nm DV18DBXL Combi Drill and risked broken wrists trying to get the most out of it – but it sure underlined the power on tap from the new brushless motors and 6Ah battery packs. And no-one could complain about the sophisticated restyling and ergonomic handling of it either.

So the chance to get my hands on the C18DBAL cordless circular saw just as I was about to start my annual spring activity of cutting hardwood planks into more manageable sizes for furniture making, was well timed.

Although available in what is becoming the “compulsory” plastic stacking boxes, I was happy to get the saw in its “naked” form – without batteries and charger, for the review. For end users this is a great way of saving money and space – there are only so many batteries and chargers that we can accumulate before we have enough.

Just by picking it up users will realise that a lot of work has gone into the design of the tool to make it robust, easy to handle and very functional. For example, the main handle is covered in black grippy rubber overmould with the bottom part of the handle dimpled for extra grip. There is a handy black knob handle for the left hand to grip onto for providing a steady guiding influence on the cut.

Another good feature is the rubber “bumpers” provided on the left hand side of the motor and battery housing. These allow the saw to be safely sat on its side rather than on the blade cover, which may risk blade damage.  

Just underneath the handle right on the centre of gravity, is the surprisingly compact motor and just behind that, the robust slides for the battery pack. This system of battery mounting works well, as well as concentrating the weight at the bottom of the saw. I largely used the 6Ah battery pack for my review, but the Hitachi mounting has full compatibility with all Hitachi slide-type battery packs – and these go back some years.

One of the main reasons why Lithium Ion has finally been “tamed’ as a reliable power source, is that engineers have managed to build in sophisticated electronic controls on motors, chargers and battery packs to prevent overheating and deep discharge, as well as allowing optimum times for battery charging. The Hitachi system is completely up to date and uses some of the most reliable battery packs available today, so it delivers punchy power for every charge, as well as ensuring that battery packs last as long as possible.

There are a couple of nice additions to this saw that users can either ignore or use, depending on their tastes. Directly under the main handle is a small panel of indicator lights. Press the battery icon and it will show the state of the battery charge. Press the middle switch and the user has the option to select a bright LED worklight that illuminates the cut line when needed. This turns on automatically when the motor trigger is pulled and goes off after a short time when the motor stops.

There is also a “silent” mode that can be selected. This allows the motor to run at reduced revs and more quietly when it is not under load, but as soon as the blade engages with the workpiece, full power kicks in.

I used the saw mostly for cutting 45 and 50mm thick oak and beech and I soon came to appreciate the solid cast alloy base and guarding of the blade, as well as the spring-loaded bottom blade cover.

The base is very rigid with straight sides so it is easy to use with a guide rail if needed.

Other controls are simple and effective too. A clearly marked depth of cut quadrant is easy to set via a cammed lever that make adjustment quick, easy and secure. With a depth of cut of 66mm at 90 degrees and 45mm at 45 degrees the saw has enough capacity to deal with “second-fix” carpentry needs, and could probably take on some “first fix” applications where portability is a requirement.

Setting angles for angled cuts is again very easy as the two angle quadrants are part of the robust cast base and all that is needed is to unscrew the fixings (no tools needed) and set the angle. As is the case with all portable saws, if you want perfect angles, make sure you have an angle finder with you for the settings, because the markings on the quadrants are only guides. But what is good, is that there is an adjustable grub screw that can be used to set perfect right angles from base to blade should that become necessary.

Safety-wise this Hitachi is advanced. It has an electronic motor brake that stops the blade within seconds once the trigger is released. It also has an electronic kick back prevention system that monitors blade speed in use and will stop the motor if it feels like the blade is binding in the cut. I really needed that a couple of times when I was cutting up some very twisty elm that seemed to move with every cut I made.

There is an optional dust collection nozzle that can be attached to the top of the main blade guard and both main and sliding blade guards are strongly made and operate effectively.

After using this saw for several days cutting a variety of timber and boards I came to like it – a lot. And I found that my site mate reached for it very often too. The combination of cordless motor, 6Ah battery pack and advanced electronics coupled with a really solidly made body meant that it was a safe and versatile workhorse of a machine that embodies the tough and reliable image of Hitachi.

For more information on Hitachi Power Tools, please visit www.hitachi-powertools.co.uk

 

The DC 2900c from Dustcontrol UK - Best Selling Dust Collection

Aimed at: "small" pro users who need efficient and easy dust control. 

Pros: lots of them, including easy to move, easy to change bags and filters and very verstaile on or in workshop.

Dust control of all kinds at work sites is very high on the Health and Safety agenda at the moment. We have known about the dangers of dust for over 100 years – historically, the coal mining industry was particularly callous in the way that it treated employees with dust damaged lungs. And yet, when I look about me on building sites and public places, I still see many examples of poor practice. One of the worst examples I have seen was a crew of contract workers laying kerb stones along the Thames Embankment. One worker was using a disc cutter to cut a concrete kerb stone. He had no ear, face or dust protection and the disc cutter had no dust damping or vacuum collection attached. I watched as he and members of the public were engulfed in a cloud of dust as he finished the job.

Hopefully, now, councils and employers are more up to speed, and such sights have become rarer, but I still think that knowledge about dust control is patchy and the advice to people is not as informed as it might be. Anyone who works where dust is created should really take a close look at the latest advice – and I mean anyone from the bloke in a shed to a worker in a huge factory. A very good starting point would be to consult a company like Dustcontrol UK. Its incredibly knowledgeable representatives will not only provide very good advice, but will be able to supply a wide range of machines, devices and accessories to help solve the problems of dust.

And so to the review – most of the dust I produce is via woodworking machines, both static and portable, or on small building and decorating jobs where a wall sander is used before final finishing. After a chat with Phil, the Dustcontrol man, I worked out that the vacuum machine I had been using was not quite up to the job for a variety of reasons, mostly the filters and hose functioning. And of course emptying the thing was a H and S nightmare. Phil introduced me to the DC 2900, one of Dustcontrol’s best selling machines and ideal for use by “small” tradespeople. It is affordable, highly portable, very versatile and will fit into the back of an estate or van quite easily.  

The DC 2900 stands over a metre tall, but is quite slim, with a handy set of wheels mounted on the rigid steel chassis, so it is very easy to move, even up stairs and over rougher surfaces. At around 14Kg all up, it is not too difficult to lift either, and lifting is made easier by the addition of an auxiliary handle on the front filter housing. Getting through doorways for example, is actually a lot easier than some of the wider and squatter vacuums commonly used on sites. The result of pulling some of the “squatter” vacuums along by the suction hose is that the machine is pulled over since the wheels tend to be quite small. Dustcontrol have actually built in a solution to the problem by building in a suction hose retainer belt that prevents kinks in the hose and lowers the centre of gravity of the machine so that it can be pulled along quite easily. Working reach is impressive since the machine has a 5m long hose and about 6m of electric cable. Both of these are easy to tidy away – the electric cable is wound around the push handle and the suction hose around the top of the filter housing – thus making movement and storage pretty easy.

Most of the “works” of the DC 2900 is taken up by the all-important filter system. Inside there are two filters. One is the fine filter that is the first line of protection. Inside this filter sits a conical HEPA H13 filter that is incredibly easy to change as it simply lifts out, and this makes regular maintenance about as easy as it could be.

The motor is powerful but very quiet, with typical noise levels of only 68dB(A) and I can vouch for the fact that customers like a vac machine to be as quiet as possible, especially if vacuuming goes on for more than five minutes at a time. The all-important vacuum flow is a very impressive 190 cubic metres per hour via the antistatic, kink free, 38mm diameter suction hose. Anti-clogging is done via a cheeky little rubber flap on the side of the filter housing – a very simple but effective solution.

With the confidence gained from knowing that you are using a top class machine it becomes a lot easier to work safely and to minimise exposure to dust. Phil pointed out that even the traditional sweeping up at the end of the day, usually done by the apprentices, is unsafe because it simply makes dust particles airborne again. Far better to use the robust and carefully designed floor cleaning kit supplied. This has adjustable wheels on the vacuum head so that anything from fine dust to fairly sizeable lumps of plaster can be swiftly vacuumed up.

Emptying a vacuum can be as much of a hazard as working in a dust laden atmosphere, but the DC 2900 makes it as safe and easy as possible. Simply loosen the retaining strap around the filter housing and unloop the handles and the bag slides off. The handles are then tied together to make a package of dust that can be safely disposed of. Some users might be disconcerted that the dust bag is sucked flat by the vacuum during use, but then when the motor is switched off, all the dust that has been collected via the cyclone falls into the bag as the vacuum is lost.

Dustcontrol also makes a good range of accessories for its machines and I was able to see the pointing device demonstrated as well as trying out the core drilling accessory myself. Both collected dust very efficiently and having used the vacuum core drilling device for real, I see no reason why mess or dust should ever trouble your clients’ floors or your lungs again.  

Now that I am better informed about dust and dust control I certainly feel empowered to work more safely around dust. Of course it is key that dust control requires a good vacuum machine and the DC2900 is certainly that. It is well designed for safety and ease of use with a huge range of accessories too. The DC 2900 is a very good way to start the proper ongoing protection of your lungs as well as meeting statutory rules and regulations.

For more information, please visit Dustcontrol at www.dustcontroluk.co.uk

Welding Has Changed – And I Get my Hands Dirty Proving the Point

In Europe, “ordinary” DIYers and small trades think nothing of reaching for a welder when they need one. But in the UK we shy away from welding. But GYS are about to change that. 

Working with wood is my key skill, but I have done some fairly regular “maintenance and repair” welding. My visit to GYS UK in Rugby was a chance to experience the best of modern electronically controlled welding to see if I could improve my welding skills. My tutor in this experiment was the charming and knowledgeable Amaury from France who informed me that he could make a difference to my welding skills in about twenty or thirty minutes. It is a tribute to his patience and skill that I managed a run of competent looking welds in about twenty minutes and I came away more confident knowing what I could do in future to make stronger and neater welds.

I started with the GYSmi 80P – the cheapest and smallest of the GYS MMA Inverter range of welders. I think this was just to prove that being the smallest in the range doesn’t mean that it is inferior. Amaury showed me how to set the dial on the 80P to suit the size of the electrode – there is only one control so this is simplicity itself. Making the necessary connections and setting up the cables is easy too – they are all provided in the box. The only extras needed are electrodes and PPE before I was ready to go. Amaury suggested that I test the welder’s ability to avoid the electrode “sticking” at the start of the weld and after a few attempts I was able to start smoothly because instead of having to pull the electrode sharply away when it stuck, the welder’s electronics simply cut the power and made the “stick” easy to release.

Amaury’s demo weld showed a curved herring bone pattern that I did my best to emulate, and after ten minutes, when I had got used to the fairly rapid feed rate needed on the electrode, I managed a slightly wobbly weld that met his approval. Apparently all I need to work on is my coordination between the hand and electrode to ensure that the weld remains even and strong.

The second welder I tried was the GYS SMARTMIG 162 aimed at the professional or semi-professional user. I have never done MIG welding before but I had seen it on the telly and it looks like fun – a good reason, in my view, to give it a go.

Again, Amaury explained the very simple set up of the machine using the SMART control panel to set wire speed and power, all I had to do was select what I knew about what I wanted to weld, the wire diameter and thickness of the metal. This set up gives workable parameters, but experienced welders will know when to adjust the dial a fraction here and there because local conditions like ambient temperature can make a difference.

Amaury also explained to me that the hand position in MIG welding was different to MMA because the feed is forward and the left hand needs to support the torch to get a smooth movement and therefore a smooth, neat weld. I must admit that it took at least six attempts before I got a weld that I actually liked and that matched the demo weld somewhat, but I think that MIG welding could be for me – it feels smoother and slightly easier for me to do. According to Amaury, from now on, it is just practice that will develop my welding skills. I am willing to believe him, but the point is that in a short time I learned a lot more about MIG welding than I thought I could.

For more information on GYS Welding, please visit www.gys.fr

Fein, Starlock and Me - The Future of Oscillating Tools?

The new Starlock Technology from Fein, is set to change the way Oscillationg Tool users go about their work.

The Fein Company, based at Bargau, near Stuttgart, in Germany, is most famous for its MultiMaster range of oscillating tools. I use my Fein MultiMaster regularly and in my view it is the best “get out of trouble” tool around. So when talk of a new “Starlock” system gathered pace, I was intrigued – how could the development of the famous Fein “Multi” Machines be moved even further on?

Jointly developed by Fein and Bosch, the Starlock system will be fitted onto all Fein oscillating power tools in the coming months. Current Fein and other brand oscillating tool users need not fear - the new Starlock system is backwards compatible with older tools.

There are several areas in which the Starlock range is different. Engineering logic tells us that in order to achieve the most efficient cutting, scraping etc, the connection between the tool and the blade has to be made as tight as possible, so that any oscillating movement is translated straight to the edge of the cutting blade and not lost in slackness or free movement. The Starlock system has introduced a “dish” into the blade fitting that has corners similar to a socket or ring spanner. These engage with the head of the tool and enable the blade to be held securely without any play. Fein has put some figures on it: - in their tests the new system has proved to be up to 45% quicker for the new Supercut and 35% quicker with the new MultiTalent and MultiMaster.

Making a revolutionary new blade fitting system is not easy if you want to ensure full backwards compatibility with your own machines, as well as ensuring that the new system will fit other brands of oscillating machines. Accordingly, Fein has introduced three new classes of cutters, Starlock, StarlockPlus and StarlockMax.

Through the new coding into performance classes, FEIN ensures that only the accessory that matches the performance of the machine can be clamped on, thus preventing overloads. The Starlock covers the lower performance range and is compatible with all FEIN oscillators and common multi-function tools on the market. StarlockPlus works perfectly with all oscillating power tools from FEIN and all multi-function tools with a StarlockPlus mounting. StarlockMax is the right choice for very powerful oscillating power tools, such as the FEIN SuperCut Construction, and all multi-function tools with a StarlockMax mounting. Accessories for lower performance classes can also be used on tools with more power. Current SuperCut users will require an adaptor to fit Starlock blades, a minor compromise to allow access to larger, more readily available accessories.

Revolutionary Blade Mounting

For me, the technologies highlight  definitely the new blade mounting system on the new range of Fein oscillating machines. Instead of using a mushroom-head pin that was pushed through the blade fitting and held securely by the QuickIN system, the user simply pulls a lever on top of the machine and a pair of spring-loaded clamps grab hold of the cutter and when the lever is returned these grip the Starlock cutter securely, without any play, onto the machine. The spanner-like recess helps guide the cutter into place and the whole thing works so smoothly that blade changes are possible in about three seconds. For a bit of fun I placed a row of blades on the demo bench and there is now a video of me out there somewhere, changing 3 blades in less than 10 seconds. I am definitely looking forward to giving this system a thorough testing when I get my hands on one of the new machines.

Innovation – The Key to the Future?

I am sure that many UK users will be just as impressed with the Starlock system and furthermore, how Fein operate as a company.  

I am always pleased when I witness a way of doing business other than the inevitable “bottom-line” thinking of margin cutters and cheap and cheerful manufacturing that seems to be the most common way nowadays. Above all else, it is a sustainable method – and who wouldn’t want a quality, sustainable set of tools to work with?

To see my review on the Fein Cordless Multimaster, click here. For more information on Fein, please visit fein.com

Wera: Tool Rebels or Conformists? TBH investigates!

While at Cologne ToolBUSINESS+HIRE  got the chance to speak to Martin Strauch, President and CEO of Wera and Ian Walford, MD of Wera UK. 

The perennially crowded, noisy and Gemutlich atmosphere of the Wera stand at the Cologne Tool Fair is a difficult place to have a serious chat with two important people in Wera about what makes the company tick. The two people concerned were Martin Strauch, President and CEO of Wera and Ian Walford, MD of Wera UK. Perhaps the reason why the interview worked at all was the interviewees showed enormous patience, incredible good humour and a sheer sense of mischief that helped us gain at least one key insight into Wera - namely that it is a serious company making seriously good products, yet one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. A paradox indeed, that may make more sense as we move on.

It all started as a chat with Ian Walford from the UK, who had promised us a cameo on life at Wera. He was in full flow, having ordered us food and drinks from the ever-busy Wera kitchen on the stand, when he spotted Martin, the CEO across the stand. Saying something like “You don’t need to hear it from me, hear it from the top man himself.” Martin was persuaded to join us and it was clear from the start that he was no stiff and starchy figurehead standing on his dignity, and very soon we were engulfed in a wide-ranging chat about many things – tools, Wera, invention, life and everything.

Martin’s starting point was Wera’s belief and aim that their tools “make life simpler, safer and full of joy for their users.” These are a set of company aims that underline the paradox of Wera in my view. Conventional companies might go for the “simpler and safer” bit but many would shy away from the “full of joy”, simply because its not corporate enough, or because they think that they can’t be responsible for its customers’ joy in using tools. The paradox was further underlined by the obvious expression of mischief in Martin’s face as he delivered the lines, and yet he took the work seriously too.

Some of this down to earth attitude might come from the fact that Martin is not a “business” person complete with MBA and accounting qualifications. He is in fact, a time served, qualified engineer with a profound understanding of the trades that are Wera’s customers, who understands that there can be as much creativity in solving an engineering issue as painting a portrait.

It is this creative approach that Martin says will make customers happier and “full of joy.” Wera’s approach to creativity is to be wide open to all and sundry ideas no matter where they come from.

It is fashionable in the tool trade to send out “field teams” to interrogate tradespeople about what they want and then translate these into new products. Again, with tongue firmly in cheek, Martin says that if Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted they would have replied that they needed “faster horses.” The point is that creative solutions often surprise a market, with consumers soon adopting the solutions on offer.

Wera’s creative approach has echoes of Steve Jobs’ mantra of “selling dreams, not products.” The new style of jet black packaging also echoes the distinctive, high quality ethos of Wera that makes the customers feel valued and proud to choose a superior product.

Martin also emphasized that Wera’s focus is relentlessly simple – “We focus on the screw,” so there is no fiddling on the periphery trying out ideas that are marginal to the Wera product offer. With a smallish team of engineers working full time on R&D, new ideas do not come only from them. All members of the Wera team are welcome to contribute their ideas for consideration. Ian pointed out that it was his idea to store the release pin of the new extension ratchet handle in the end of the handle itself and this is now in production (review in this edition)

The product design team also does a lot of work demonstrating their products at shows, thus completing the loop. They not only get to meet the customers who are hopefully “full of joy,” but may also pick up ideas that could lead to further developments.

Martin also had an interesting take on manufacturing. He argues that if Wera had a forging plant for instance, it would feel obliged to use the plant for production. But this might limit the possibility of exploring other manufacturing methods that may be needed to realize a range of new products. For this reason he told us that Wera is never constrained by production methods. As long as quality can be guaranteed, Wera is happy to outsource production, even outside Germany, in its search for tools that “fill us with joy.” This approach can have its downsides too, as sometimes the search for an appropriate manufacturing partner can take a long time, thus slowing the launch of a new product.

It was very clear from the reception and attitude of all Wera staff that not only do their tools try to “fill us with joy”, but they also enjoy working there. Martin confirmed that staff turnover is minimal and all are on board with the prevailing ethos.

Customers too, have their own joyous outlet for ideas and expression. Wera users are encouraged to join the Wera “Tool Rebels” website where they can share their own sensible, inventive, odd or eccentric ideas for using their tools as well as expressing their passion for the Wera philosophy.  Again, this creates a great feedback loop for R&D, and becomes a forum for problem solving and idea sharing. The kind of feedback that companies pay valuable money for, and it sure beats focus groups.

So, next time you buy a Wera product, you might have a bit more of an insight into what goes into it – another loop completed, and yet still the same Wera paradox applies: - a fun company with serious products? Or a serious company with fun products? Or do they both exist?  

To read Peter's Wera Reviews, click here.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk.

Flex CHE 18 EC SDS Hammer-Prepare to be Surprised

Aimed at: Small trades and those who need a compact and capable machine. 

Pros: Very good, even in very hard materials, and the battery lasts well too. 

Why Join the Cordless Party?

With so much competition in the cordless power tool market, it would seem that anyone wanting to join the party is either foolhardy or determined to prove that they can offer a really good alternative to other brands. Flex falls into the latter category, although the company has a long history of power tool manufacturing in Germany and, indeed, bringing many innovations to market. Its world-leading “Giraffe” wall sanders are a classic example.

Cordless tools also bring another big factor into play since the choice of battery platform is the biggest decider in what tools may be bought in the future. So, anyone wanting to join the cordless competition has to be sure that they have something different or extra to add to their tools in order to persuade buyers to make the initial purchase of a brand.

Flex has done a lot of homework and research, and in my view, has come up with a genuinely unique system for its cordless battery cells that will not only help the tools to perform better, but will add significantly to the range of cordless battery technologies out there.

The enemies of Li Ion

In an article I read recently, it was pointed out that the real enemies of cordless batteries are deep discharge and heat build up during operation. An overheated battery pack will deliver much less than its stated capacity and forced “overheating” breaks can cost tradespeople valuable time. The answer to these issues is to build in electronic controls to tools, battery packs and chargers so that they all work together to prevent them. How manufacturers program these into their tools will always vary and of course how end users treat the tools is always an unknowable…?

Solutions

Flex has joined the cordless competition with solutions on all three fronts. Firstly, a patented system of “Keep Cool” technology that helps to keep batteries cooler in order to deliver maximum power for longer. Secondly, a unique diagnostic charging system uses an LED display to inform users exactly how long the battery charge will take amongst other things. Thirdly, the smallish, but growing, range of German-designed and developed cordless power tools have electronic controls built-in. These controls are unique to each type of tool to take account of the way in which each tool uses power. For example a cordless drill/driver does not have the same power usage profile as a reciprocating saw and therefore the electronic controls will respond to maximize power delivery and battery life.   

The above may be a long introduction for a power tool review – but the question in my mind when I tested the 18V CHE SDS Hammer was whether the new Flex cordless technology would make a difference.

I will immediately confess that my answer is yes – this little Flex tool is a great tool to use and it seemed to have much longer legs than some other cordless SDS hammers that I have used – but that is just the bare bones of the story.

And Now to Work ..

First impressions of the 18EC SDS are very favourable. Mine came in a stackable custom-fitted Sortimo box with charger and battery pack. On first charge, the charger told me that I needed to top up the battery for 25 minutes, and so it proved. The LED display on the neatly designed charger tells you what you want to know without the usual confusion of a series of flashing lights. By pushing a small button on the front of the battery pack users can get an up to date display of the state of battery charge – four bars is full, one bar is 25% or less.

A bright LED light on the handle base aimed at the chuck end is also a very useful addition for me – I need light when I work nowadays!

Handling – It Feels Good

When I first lifted up the hammer I immediately felt at home with it because the balance is spot-on. The handle is well covered with grippy, vibration absorbing rubber overmould and it slims down towards the bottom for a real ergonomic feel. Forward/reverse is chosen by the trusted method of the push through switch.

Since this tool is going to be driven into hard concrete amongst other things, there is a substantial thumb and forefinger groove right behind the axis of the drill point in order to apply maximum control and performance. There is also a big removable auxiliary handle attached to the front collar. This is covered with grippy rubber too and can be moved to any suitable position by unscrewing the handle a bit. An adjustable bar-type depth control is also part of the handle.

A rotatable switch on the left side of the hammer is used to choose either drilling, hammer drilling, neutral or chiseling mode. This system is easy to use and very positive as each position has a click stop to show that it is engaged.

The battery pack is attached via a substantial slide and is easy to attach and detach. The whole tool can be stood on the battery base because it is flat and right in the middle so it provides a stable position.

Brushless is the Way to Go

Flex’s new range of tools all use brushless motors, and this machine uses all their advantages to do a great job. With a 10mm SDS bit and a hard concrete paving stone I drilled hole after hole without a lot of effort on my part. I would go so far as to say that I was quite astonished by how easy it was to use and how willing the tool felt as I used it – it really seemed to want to get on with the job. Other people I showed it to had a similar reaction – surprised that a drill so compact could feel so capable.

With a maximum capacity of 18mm diameter in concrete, this SDS drill will, I am sure find a number of happy users amongst building and plumbing trades etc. At the moment, it shares a battery platform with a few more commonly used Flex tools like drill drivers, impact driver and a recip saw, but Flex, as we speak, is developing and launching further tools into the range, some of which will be reviewed in these pages.

I am always happy when there is competition in a market, and in my view I think this SDS drill/hammer in particular, and the new Flex range of cordless tools in general, certainly add to the choices we can make. My experiences with Flex tools so far have been very positive and make them definitely worth a closer look. 

To see further FLEX Reviews, click here.

For more information FLEX, please visit www.flex-tools.com

 

 

 

 

 

Zyklop Hybrid from Wera Extra-Refined with Extended Capabilities!

Aimed at: Professional and Industrial Engineers. 

Pros: Super strong and easy to add the extension plus the 'Take it Easy' Tool finder

There is innovation and then there is innovative refinement. As a company, Wera has proved to be good at both of these over the years. The result is that we tool users get to enjoy classic Wera products, but with the knowledge that the Wera R&D team is looking, listening, refining and innovating so that these products will be ahead of the game wherever possible.

An example of what I am referring to was launched at the Cologne Tool Fair at the beginning of March and I was lucky enough to have a sample arrive for reviewing soon after.

Users and retailers alike approve of the dramatic new black Wera style of packaging that emphasizes the quality of what is inside, as well as providing versatile ways of display in retail premises. The rigid ballistic nylon wallets inside the box have also undergone some refinements that may not always be obvious. For example, the flexible plastic outline of the tool attached to the wallet near the hook and loop closure helps the user to identify the kit if it is in the bottom of a toolbox or bag, or if conditions are dark- something that happens quite often on worksites in our dank and cold winters – in my experience January is the worst.

Another refinement is the inclusion of a strip of self-adhesive hook and loop fixing. The Wera team has worked out that sometimes it is handy to be able to attach the kit to a vertical or flat surface so that it is instantly available where expected, and also so that it doesn’t move around.

Perhaps the thing that most users will notice when opening up the wallet will be the coloured bands around the sockets. From now on, if a user decides to work by colour, a light blue band indicates a 19mm socket. For others, the black band around the business end of the socket with large clear numbers gives the same message. This identification system is a refined and more user-friendly way of identifying sockets and tools compared to the usual Wera method of laser etching. To help replace the sockets correctly into the wallet after a job, the sewn in numbers 10 to 19 along the line of socket carriers provide a third line of organizational defence. Without my glasses, I found that both the numbers and colours worked well for me. “Pass the green socket” might soon become a comprehensible instruction in a workshop near you, no wonder that Wera calls it the “Take it Easy” tool finder system.

But as is usual with Wera, refinement doesn’t mean just one improvement.

Clearly the product design team has worked out that bigger sockets need more friction to stay on their square pegs in the wallet, and this can mean that they need more of a tug to release them. I just love the twist and lock system that has now been used to locate and hold the sockets in transit. To release or lock the sockets into place takes a fraction of a twist – a really easy and neat method that saves time and adds a lot to efficient use.

All the sockets now also have a system of holding fasteners so that they can be presented to the corresponding bolt. Anyone who has ever done anything slightly complicated with spanners, nuts and bolts will recognize the scenario where the nut or bolt needs to be taken to its corresponding partner that is stuck behind a bulkhead for example. What then usually happens is a juggling act, balancing the nut in the socket until, by trial and error, the nut can be screwed onto the bolt. A pain in the proverbial, as I am sure you will agree.

To solve this particular dilemma Wera has introduced a couple of sprung ball bearings into each socket that securely hold the hex head of the fastener so that whatever angle it is held at it, it will not fall out. Problem solved easily and elegantly I think.

The Zyklop Hybrid kit is a weighty kit, not only because you get one of the well-established big Zyklop ratchets in the wallet, but a ratchet and extension handle too.

The original Zyklop Speed is well known for having a fine 5-degree ratchet angle so that it will work even in the tightest spaces – the new Zyklop Hybrid boasts an equally fine-tooth mechanism. Hybrid also features a quick and easy left/right switch lever on the ratchet head. I am also very much in favour of the holding and quick release function on the ratchet drive. Sockets are held in place with a ball bearing but will literally fall into your hand as you press the release button. So much easier than having to pull at it, especially since your hands will probably be greasy from working anyway.

A Zyklop ratchet on its own is a formidable beast, including this newest member of the family, but Wera has added extension handle functionality to the Zyklop Hybrid. When using this extension bar, Wera warns users not to exceed torque limits of 600 Nm! I dare any users to do it, and I doubt whether any of them will ever need 600 Nm of torque in any common applications!

The ingenuity of the extension bar is up to the usual Wera standards. To attach it, simply push it as far as it will go into the base of the Kraftform handle on the ratchet, then give it a twist and it will lock firmly. This gives a 50cm long lever that is more than enough for many engineering tasks. This extension will laugh at wheelnuts – I tried it on my car and didn’t even break a sweat.

The extension is released with a typical bit of Wera engineering humour – a tiny Kraftform handle with a loop on it is stored in the handle end of the extension. Just push the release button with it and one becomes two again.

The socket extension is very robust with the usual rotating sleeve to aid quick work and complements what is a VERY USEFUL kit.

Engineers and mechanics will really value the quality, as well as finding the fastener holding and “Take it Easy” tool identification an aid to speedy and efficient working. That is where constant innovation and refinement take us. They are things that Wera does very well and we end users are the winners every time. Long may it continue. 

To read more of Peter's Wera Reviews, click here.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk.

Husqvarna K3000 - Wet Dampening Dust, but Not Performance

Amied at: Pro Users who need quieter mchines and good dust dampening.

Pros: Powerful and more compact than a two stroke machine, but just as capable.

The Husqvarna K3000 fits into my category of interesting and useful machines since it is a big, powerful disc cutter with an electric motor. The advantages of electric power are many. The K3000 is quieter, lighter than its two stroke equivalents, unpolluting and fume free. Singlehandedly, it banishes loud two stroke motors and their accompanying hassle. No need to pack fuel or a spare spark plug and there is not the hassle of struggling with a starter cord on a cold morning. All I needed to get the K3000 started was a 110V site transformer and an electrical power source.

Electric power makes the K3000 an ideal machine to use in semi enclosed spaces where there might not be enough ventilation to prevent a build up of petrol fumes and it is also useful where irritating engine noise could be a problem. Worksites near schools and hospitals for example, should aim to keep noise pollution to a minimum.

For “dry” dust collection an optional special dust collection shoe can be purchased that fits under the disc, dust is then sucked from there into a powerful industrial vacuum extractor. For this review I had the “wet” version that uses water to dampen the dust, and it also has the side effect of cooling the cutter. Some of the readers might now be scratching their heads and saying that a “wet” dust dampening system and an electric machine really shouldn’t be paired. Husqvarna, of course, has got there before us. The all-plastic body is fully earthed and very well sealed against splashes from the dust damping water. In the UK the K3000 is mostly used with a safety site 110V transformer but in other places there is an earth fault circuit breaker built into the power cord that will cut the current immediately if there is a problem.

Reassuringly, the power cables are heavy and covered with insulating rubber so could withstand both wear and water. Just don’t clean the machine after use with a hose or pressure washer, because that would be pushing your luck and the boundaries of good insulation.   

The K3000 can be used with different types of cutting discs and I was sent a large 350 mm diameter diamond disc for my testing. Mounting it is pretty easy because the socket spanner is included in the kit and there is a handy spindle lock for quick and easy tightening and loosening.

Once the disc is mounted you can definitely feel that the weight of the machine has increased from a dry 8.5 Kgs to over 10kgs. Nevertheless this is still a bit lighter than some of the petrol powered disc cutters on the market and my back certainly noticed the difference after a few periods of working with the machine.

The “wet” option for dust control is quite a clever solution because it is flexible. The K3000 uses a standard Gardena hose connector for the wet system so it is quite possible to connect the machine to a hosepipe with suitably adjusted water pressure and flow to control the dust output. However, not all situations have a handy hosepipe around, so Husqvarna have delivered the WT 15 water reservoir. This tank is a large-ish, translucent 15 litre water tank with a big screw type filler cap that makes it easy to fill via hose or jerry can. Some systems that deliver water for controlling dust use air pressure created by the user having to vigorously pump to create the air pressure needed to drive the water to the machine and the disc. The trouble with this system is that if the air pressure runs out unexpectedly, the user can be left with no water to control the dust. Or else one has to have an assistant to ensure that some quick work on the pump can be done to start the water flow again.

Husqvarna’s system is ingenious and makes use of the ubiquitous rechargeable Li ion battery pack. Concealed in a robust casing on top of the water tank is a place where a small water pump, powered by the battery, is used to pump water down the 12mm diameter hose to the Gardena connector on the disc cutter.

The charger and battery are stored together in this casing so they should be difficult to lose, and a clever system of winding the hose round the base of the tank makes for easy storage and portability.

Although it is a small diameter, the 12mm diameter hose delivers enough water to the disc cutting edge to ensure that dust is effectively controlled without wasting water. The reinforced hose is about three metres long so the tank can be positioned safely away from the machine and the operator.

A simple push switch on the top of the tank is used to start the water pump. About 40cm away from the rear handle the water hose and power cable are yoked together so that the operator knows exactly where both of them are. Included in this arrangement is a flip switch that is used to control the flow of water. Thus the operator has all the controls near to hand and has no need to return to the water tank to switch off the water, for example.

I tried out the K3000 in both delicate and demanding cutting. The delicate was cutting up a piece of 20mm thick marble into fairly accurately squared pieces. Of course I needed full PPE gear of goggles, ear defenders, appropriately rated breathing mask, hard toed boots and workwear.

Harder work was cutting up some 50mm thick paving slabs that needed adequate support so that the blade could not be trapped or pinched.

I can’t say that I noticed that the K3000 had any different levels of power than a two stroke machine, but levels of vibration and noise were definitely more comfortable and therefore seemed to make using it safer and more manageable and for the marble cutting, more accurate. The dust management system worked a treat because the water is delivered very close to the point where it is created, so not a lot of it escapes. Given the choice, I think I prefer electric power to two-stroke power, and with the bonus of excellent dust control, the K3000 is a winner.

For more information on Husqvarna, why not check out Peter's review of the Husqvarna K760 Cut-n-Break or alternatively, you can visit www.husqvarnacp.co.uk

The Weld Off – British Style Phil Winnington Throws down The Welding Gauntlet

Phil Winnington, Managing Director of Morris Site Machinery, has a mission – to make The Weld Off 2016 bigger, and better than ever before. He took some time out of a busy schedule at the Executive Hire Show to talk to ToolBUSINESS+HIRE to tell us more about the competition.

The Weld Off is now in its third year, and its profile, along with that of UK Welding continues to grow. This year Morris Site Machinery, Speedy Services, EAL and KEMPPI will sponsor the competition aimed at young welders throughout the country.  Phil believes that this is the type of competition that will inspire the next generation of welders, a profession that has slowed down in recent times. As Phil says ‘You want real life things to aim for within colleges, so to get young welders involved in something which was targeted, has enabled us to introduce ourselves to the industry at grassroots level.’

After the initial comprehensive assessment of largely college-based applicants, the judges choose the four teams to compete in the final at the Speedy Services base in Tamworth on May 11th 2016. Like the Great British Bake Off, knowledge, skills and creativity are tested in full on the day of the final via a rigorous process. It begins with a questionnaire establishing the teams’ knowledge of welding practices and design, amongst other skills, as well as the all important Health and Safety regulations. Two members of the team are then chosen to compete in an extended skills test during which they have to demonstrate full familiarity with a variety of welding techniques.  Finally, the whole team has to cooperate to design and make a big piece – this year’s theme is “God Save the Queen” to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. Also, the Sex Pistols made the charts with their version of the national anthem 40 years ago, so this could add a different slant to the theme. The chance of potentially witnessing Punk Welding is a notion I find very intriguing!

The previous two competitions have given a real indication of potential diversity and progress being made by young people within the sector.  Phil spoke highly of the collaborative nature of the competition, ”If you are putting a team together for a design piece, so you may need one or two be the lead creative, and then two more with strong hands on skills. It is important to have all four working alongside each other as a cohesive team.” The first year’s winners also included a young woman, which is a real step for the future of welding and engineering in general.

Phil went on to explain that Morris Site Machinery would like to expand the scope of the Weld Off in the future. This would ideally involve regional finals so that more students would have the opportunity to enter the competition and be more  “hands-on”, with the strongest candidates heading for the finals.

From Phil’s words and indeed all those involved with the Weld Off, it is clear they are keen to raise the profile of welding as a key skill in the British industrial landscape. The competition will help further this aim; introducing a skill that could provide both young and older men and women with an exciting career that has good prospects for the future.

ToolBUSINESS+HIRE will be in Tamworth at the finals of the 2016 finals, which take place on May 11th, so watch out for full coverage of the event in the June Issue. After speaking to Phil, I for one am very much looking forward to checking it out.

If you would be interested in getting involved with the Weld Off 2016, or future events, please contact the Morris Marketing Department on 01743 234 224 or email [email protected]

New Venom Saws from Draper - A Sharp Start in Saws?

Aimed at: Pros and serious DIYers who need a serious saw at a good price.

Pros: Well made with 1mm thick "wobble free" blades and fast cutting tooth configurations.

The handsaw business is competitive. Full stop. Site chippies buy them in their thousands and it is not unusual for a hard pressed first fix carpenter on piece work rates to start each new day with a new saw.

There is also a hierarchy of used saws – once it has lost its perfect edge it may get moved to MDF and OSB duties, and the final indignity for a saw might be cutting a few Aerolite blocks or insulation before it is skipped.

The result of this high usage is that the cost of saws and their performance is critical for end users. There can be some brand loyalty too, but often carpenters are forced to buy whatever brand is on offer or is stocked at the outlet where they happen to be that week.

The net result of this is that the margins on saw prices have become increasingly squeezed – in some cases to the point that they are only stocked because they are a “must have” for the customers.

The new range of Draper Venom saws have already “bitten” the market and have made a very good impression for a variety of reasons. It seems that users who have tried them have already come back for more. So, time to look at them and find out why.

The Venom range has the enormous advantage of being comprehensive from the off. There are 550mm, 500mm, toolbox and tenon saws as part of the range. Apart from the tenon saws, they all are available in double ground and triple ground tooth options so users have a fine choice to suit their preferences and needs.

I was pleased to notice that the blades are a full 1mm thick so are not “floppy” in the cut and the result is that it is a lot easier to keep to the cutting line. To reduce friction the blades are coated with a transparent lacquer that also helps to reduce corrosion.

Saw manufacturers have also learnt that users need decent grippy ergonomic handles – and the Venom saws have particularly good ones, with deep checkering for the finger grips and a good size for both big and small hands.

Also required is that the handles should be able to be used as 90 and 45 degree marking out guides to save dragging a try square up onto the scaffolding. I checked the pencil lines I marked on a piece of MDF on all the four saws I was sent for review, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the guides are accurate enough for first and second fix use. The marking edges are also long enough to ensure that the saw doesn’t simply slide around when you are trying to mark the line.

When it comes to tooth options users once again have a good choice with the Venom saws. My “prejudice” is for the double ground tooth formation. With this option, the teeth are pointed and ground on both sides of the point. I find that this tooth option is easier to start in the cut and easier to control down the cutting line. Some users might say that it is a bit slower than using a triple ground saw, but I think you get a slightly better finish to the cut.

The triple ground option looks similar to the double ground at the sides of the tooth, but look closely and you will see that the bottom has been ground off at about 45 degrees to leave a chisel-like tooth that really attacks the wood. Users who need really aggressive and quick cutting would choose this option – and they usually have the arm muscles to go with it, since they are cutting loads of timber and boards every working day. I find that the triple ground option is a bit harder to start the cut, but then I am usually cutting finer boards in hardwood and birch ply.

Draper has also been very careful to provide a sensible range of options for buyers. Firstly, there is a choice between 550mm and 500mm saw lengths in both first fix (8PPI) and second fix (12PPI) saws and in double or triple ground tooth options. The 8PPI will give very aggressive cutting rates, but won’t leave as good a finish to the cut. I like a smooth finish, but roofers and other first fixers like the cut to be quick above all else.

I use toolbox saws a lot and have several in various tool configurations. The Draper toolbox saws are 350mm long, so fit perfectly into a bag or toolbox. With double or triple ground options why not have one of each?

With all of these options, users and dealers need a way of distinguishing them apart. Draper has cleverly used colour coded handles to help users choose. Triple ground saws have a red or orange handle – orange for first fix and red for second fix. The double ground saws have a lime green or yellow handle, with lime being the first fix and yellow the second fix. If it has a blue handle, then you have chosen a tenon saw.

I tried the saws in hardwood, softwood, OSB, MDF, and ply. My prejudice still applies – I prefer the double ground tooth pattern. The triple ground teeth cut very quickly, particularly in softwood and I could see that some users would routinely use this tooth pattern to save loads of time.

But the double sting of the Venom is also in the price – looking around the market, I would expect to pay around £4.79 ex VAT/£5.75 inc VAT for my favourite 500mm double ground Venom saw. But I would recommend dealers to look at the deals that Draper has on the table, both in terms of the merchandiser options and the pallet quantity options. The Venom Saw Range has a lot to offer – not only are they very competent trade saws, but the prices are keen too. Everything to like.

Why not check out more Draper Reviews, or for more information, please visit www.drapertools.com

 

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