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Three Driver Sets from Wera - Spoilt for Choice-Again!

Aimed at:Pro users who need just that something different to solve some screw driving dilemnas.

Pros: Professional quality kit that is always well designed to be part of a comprehensive Wera System. It helps solve problems everyday.

Just when you think that there is nothing more to be developed (after all, a screwdriver is a screwdriver, is it not?)  along comes Wera with tools that just seem to go that little bit further along the road and solve a few more fixing puzzles.  For some, these tools themselves might seem to be unnecessary, but as I have found, they can often be the solution for a difficult fixing dilemma or a get-out-of-trouble-tool that leaves you wondering why no-one except Wera seems to have thought of the idea before now.

The Wera KK Pistol RA is a classic example of this. There have been pistol shaped drivers on the market before now, but I suspect (know?) that none has been as good as this one. To start at the beginning…

For classy presentation it is hard to beat the black Wera presentation boxes that simply ooze quality – great for both retailers and purchasers. The KK Pistol RA box can be stood on a counter or hung on a toolbar. On the back of the box are clear illustrations to show the basics of operation, as well as a list of contents. Open the box and there is the pistol held in a neat black nylon holster complete with belt hook - ready to be added to a technician’s on-the-go toolkit straightaway. And my guess is that this is largely how it will be used – namely as a first call tool, ready in an instant without the need for the bulky toolbox with all the other tools that might be needed later.

My first instinct on getting hold of the pistol was to find the best grip on it for maximum twisting power. The handle is cleverly designed using the Wera Kraftorm handle design so that users can choose their own grip according to taste or circumstances. But the one that I liked best was using my last three fingers on the handle and allowing my forefinger to point along the axis of the driver bit. Then, when I wished to change the direction of the ratchet I could simply do it by gripping the ratchet collar between thumb and forefinger and giving it a twist. Three ratchet positions, left, right and lock, can be selected and the resulting handling is so quick and simple that you may even start to think that Wera engineers had designed it that way…

The driver bits are hidden, but a quick push on the green button on the end of the pistol handle causes it to spring open to reveal a cartridge of six driver bits – two Torx, two Pozi and two Philips – the most commonly used bits for most users. The bits are fitted to a Rapidaptor-type mini-chuck by simply pushing them in to fix and pulling on the revolving collar to release. It will be second nature to regular users of Wera drivers, ewcomers will take thirty seconds to learn just how easy it is.

I found the pistol helped me out of a particular jam when I had to remove some woodwork done by someone else who thought that an impact driver was meant to drive the screwhead 20mm deep into the wood. The result was that the thread on the screw had chewed up the wood and could not be removed with a cordless driver. With the pistol I was able to reach the head, and put a bit of an angle on the screw to get enough bite on the thread to slowly twist the screw out. Result. In my view, the pistol is another simple but great tool to add to the well thought out Wera System.

Perhaps not as conceptually sophisticated concept is the 60RA, another Kraftform Kompakt set. It too has a black nylon wallet with a belt loop. The wallet contains the Kraftform Kompakt handle and sixteen 89mm long driver bits. – five hex bits (6mm to 3mm) five Torx bits, three Pozi bits, three Philips bits and a slot screw bit. Again, all commonly used bits that are easy to replace or customize as required, and also all following the very useful Wera tradition that all Wera bits are laser marked for easy identification.

The Kraftform Kompakt handle has a Rapidaptor style hex chuck for easy placement and removal of the bits and the rotating collar is a great help for smooth and accurate work.

The ratchet on the handle has a fine toothed ratchet so screws can be tightened or loosened with precision even in very tight spacesand the neutral lock position means that fine adjustments can be carried out quickly. However don’t let all this precision stuff fool you – the 60 RA can exert torque of up to 50Nm if needed!

In my toolbox I like having the 60 RA as a screwdriver set. I like the robust, non-roll handle design as well as the fact that I can simply swap driver bits to fit the screwheads I come up against. I also save a lot of space by not having the usual half dozen or so screwdrivers to accommodate.

The “traditional looking” KK 27 RA screwdriver completes the trio. This looks like a meaty, old-fashioned screwdriver with a hex bit holder on the end. But it has some of the sophistication of the tools above in the sense that its handle conceals a cartridge of six driver bits (2 Pozi, 2 Philips and 2 slottted) and it also has the excellent ratchet system of the other two tools above. Again, with left, right and lock positions the ratchet can be used with precision, but also has a lot of torque strength to drive big screws if necessary.

The hex socket end has a powerful magnet so there is no danger of losing any driver bit slipped into it. With a 100mm long hex shank it is clear that this tool could be a bit of a ruffian if required to be. And, it is another space saver for the toolbox that is always welcome.

For me, Wera drivers of whatever type and design always have two common themes. Firstly they are very well thought out and designed as part of the greater Wera system, and they are a great way to solve screwdriving dilemmas. These three tools have once again proved this point. 

For more Wera reviews, visit our Wera Section, and more general information, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Rapid Alu 940 Stapler Nailer – Less Energy Needed!

Aimed at: Pro and DIY users who want to save energy and be sufficient. 

Pros: A quality tool with serious capabilities that won't hurt hands or wrists in prolonged use.

Up until a few years ago I was happy to use bulky “traditional” hand operated staplers. Sometimes I even preferred them to electric ones because they were more reliable and didn’t need to be near an electric plug. But time and heredity have ensured that the arthritis that plagued my mother is now bothering me, with the result that these hand staplers are a pain in the arm to use regularly. So, when I was doing a job erecting a large chicken run in a field too long for an extension cord, that involved stapling many metres of various kinds of mesh I looked for a pain free solution. It came in the form of the Rapid ALU940 that I had seen at Cologne in 2014.

Now Rapid is not a company that introduces new products without careful thought and research. Through customer research and feedback Rapid had discovered that users do not want a workout when they use a stapler or nailer – they want to use less force and less energy to achieve their aims. As regular stapler users will know, there have been quite a few attempts to redesign staplers to achieve this end. These includes changing the shape of the levers, using reversed levers, longer triggers for more leverage and the addition of grippy materials to focus the effort from the hand. However, none of these are “proper” solutions because the amount of force that has to be applied to drive, say, a 14mm staple into hardwood, remains the same. But, how that force is generated needs to change if you are going to save energy and arthritic hands like mine.

Rocket science dictates that the force needed to drive a 6mm leg staple is clearly less than a 14mm leg staple, so it would help that the amount of force needed could be altered to suit the staple being used. So, there is simply no energy saving in having a “one shot” stapler that shoots all staples with equal force.

With typical thoroughness, Rapid used physiological data to work out that actually, the hand is giving the strongest force profile right in the middle of the trigger stroke. Obvious in some ways, because starting to press the trigger, our fingers are extended and are relying on the muscles to curve the fingers round to grip the trigger. On the other extreme, when the trigger is fully pulled, our fingers are curved around so cannot exert full force, so it is logical that when the fingers are in the middle of the trigger stroke they can exert the most power.

Using this information, the Rapid R and D team went away and developed the Powercurve Technology, which is now used in the lever of the new range of Rapid staplers. I wish I knew more of the details and how it works, but Rapid, for obvious reasons, is not giving away that information and it is well patented.

Simple tests have shown that the amount of force required to fire a staple from an “old style” stapler is around 100N, while the new Rapid staplers require only 35N for the same task - reduction of about 65%.

The really interesting thing is that this can be easily demonstrated by simply comparing two staplers – one old, one new – by firing off a few staples into a lump of wood. You really can tell the difference. I also noticed that there seems to be significantly less “shock” transferred through the stapler to the user’s hand. When I first tried the Rapid at Cologne I must have got through a whole magazine full of staples just proving to myself that the Powercurve Technology did indeed work.

Real testing on real consumers using the Borg Scale of perceived exertion showed that they rated the new Rapid staplers as “really easy” to operate compared to the “really hard” rating they gave to traditional staplers.

As ever, I really wanted the technology to serve my needs, so back to the damp, cold autumn field and the 24 metre run by 2 metres high run of wire mesh I had to fix. I needed to use maximum power because I was using 14mm staples for best effect. Each pole support needed at least 12 staples to fix the mesh and the corner poles double that. Plus all the extraneous ones that are needed to hold the mesh in place while it is pulled into shape in order to look neat. I used roughly 350 staples and had very few that I had to redo.

I addition, the top of the run needed to be covered with a light nylon mesh to discourage the buzzards etc that seem to be becoming more frequently seen down in Sussex. This mesh needed only 6mm staples, but many more of them in order to avoid any “gapping” that could occur. I can report that my right hand did indeed cope very well with firing off about 8 or 900 staples in a day and I didn’t suffer with any pain at all. Proof, I think, that Powercurve Technology does indeed work.

As for the stapler itself, it is robustly made in blue painted alloy with generous rubberized grip areas in grey on the handle and front. A simple yellow slide switch has three positions marked so that you can choose the level of force for different sizes of staple.

Loading with staples or nails is about as easy as it could be – turn the stapler upside down, release the magazine via the simple catch on the back and it will gently spring open to reveal the steel magazine into which the fixings can be loaded. Not only simple to fire, but also simple to load.

If I wanted to pick out my key word to describe this Rapid ALU940 it would be “easy” – my hands feel the difference any time I use it and it is now a regular in my site toolbox. Pick one up and try one – you WILL feel the difference. 

For more information of Rapid products, please visit www.rapid.com

Ben Law talks Grand Designs to Peter Brett

A Woodsman, Author,National Eco Builder, and whose Woodland House is one of the great success stories of Channel 4's Grand Designs. 

Ben talks to Peter Brett about his home, his methods and staying true to his principles. 

The Woodland years.

PB:How did you acquire your woodland and what drove you to adopt the woodland lifestyle?

BL:I acquired my woodland by Barter. Work in exchange for land. In the late 1980’s I received a leaflet through my door describing the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. After visiting the Amazon and meeting forest dwellers, I decided the best way to take pressure of the rainforest was to manage a wood sustainably and provide local wood products as opposed to tropical forest alternatives.

PB:How long did you live in your “tent” before you decided to build yourself a house?

BL:I lived under canvas for about 6 years and then in a caravan for another three until I got planning permission to build my house.

The Grand Designs Experience

PB:What was the process of getting your house onto Grand Designs?

BL:I knew I was embarking on an unusual build and wanted it filmed for educational purposes. I approached Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  who put me onto Grand Designs.

PB:How did it influence your approach before going on the show, and did that change after you had been on it?

BL:I had no idea what ‘Grand Designs” was when Hugh put them in contact with me and I was surprised by the huge response the show had.

PB:I am told that your particular Grand Design and revisit is one of the most popular of the whole series. What do you believe it was about your Grand Designs Experience that made you stand out from the others? What do you think it says about the viewers’ aspirations?

BL:I think it was the reality of my situation. I was living in a leaking caravan and needed a home. I was building on a tight budget – not throwing thousands of pounds at a sofa or bathroom. I also think it unlocked some latent feeling deep within us, the simplicity of life and need for shelter, most people who watch it resonate with that and want to experience it.

PB:f you could do it all again, is there anything you would change?

BL:No, I enjoyed the build and I am happy with the end result.

PB:You’ve shown it is possible to stay committed to Eco Living whilst raising a family. What advice would you give to someone who wants to adopt a similar approach, but lives in a more urban environment?

BL:Keep things simple, enjoy time in the outdoor spaces around you. A walk costs nothing and is a great family experience.

PB:More generally, with regards to heating, electricity and energy, how do you feel “ordinary” homeowners could help reduce their carbon footprint without necessarily adopting the high tech solutions that are available?

BL:Improving insulation of their homes, knit a jumper rather than turn up the heating, move to LED lighting, fix dripping taps and reduce dependence on the motor car.

PB:What’s the worst criticism you have received regarding your eco approach?

BL:I haven’t received much criticism. Criticism is usually reserved for those who talk about doing something as opposed to those of us who actually do it!

PB:You run courses that explore country ways. During the sessions, what are the key messages you attempt to get across? What kind of feedback have you received thus far?

BL:My courses are designed to help improve peoples skill set and to encourage them to have a go themselves. I try to empower people to believe they can do it, my Roundwood Timber Framing courses are internationally attended and students go away with the knowledge of how to build a Roundwood Timber Frame house – feedback and results are positive.

New Building Methods

PB:There is a lot of new tech out there making new building methods possible – eg the Wiki House using OSB ply and cutting out components with CNC machines. Or the greater use of prefabrication. like the Userhuus. Have you got a “take” on these, or would you use any of them if you were to build another project?

BL:I think some of the straw/clay panels that have been developed are a useful way of getting natural building materials into the mainstream but the roundwood poles I work with ask for a human hand and a chisel. I am currently cleaving 56,900 chestnut roofing shakes for a local project, each one is split by hand with a froe, shaped with a side axe and bevelled with a draw knife – I think the CNC machines might struggle to do these!

Tools –after all this is ToolBusiness and Hire Magazine!

PB:What are the top five tools that you use most days?

BL:Billhook, Side Axe, draw knife, Japanese saw, framing chisels

 

PB:Which tools particular have benefited you in your eco approach?

BL:The combination of battery tools and hand tools. I love using my timber framing slick but I have got to admit a pleasure when I use the impact driver!

PB:Could you foresee any ways that power tools could become more eco efficient?

BL:I think it is already beginning with the improved battery powered tools. I use a 12 inch bar Stihl battery chainsaw for coppicing and I am able to charge the batteries on solar power. In fact my whole workshop runs of solar power (no 3 phase mind you!)

 

 

Wera Kraftform Kompakt Kits-Giving Trades the Tools They Want +Wera Kraftform Competition!

Aimed at: Pros who value convience and space saving, but also a comprehensive range of combinations of tools.

Pros: Neatly packed, high quality kits with all the Wera Virtues.

Wera are in continuous dialogue with UK tradespeople, and have found many create their own customised kits from the wide Wera range. To begin with they would buy the nearest Kompakt kit to the one required - meaning they sometimes had items they didn’t need, but also couldn’t fit other products that they did need into the pouch. 

So Wera took on the challenge of creating kits specifically tailored to end-users. The PlumbKit, was first, and was soon followed by kits designed for those working with metal and wood, and those are the two I am reviewing today.

Both of the kits in this review are presented in the new style of black card boxes that ooze quality and style to end-users. The usual Wera attention to detail is noted by the fact that the boxes have a pull out plastic tab so that they can be hung on a standard display stand.

The new style nylon wallets have rigid sides and each tool has a place. Users can therefore easily keep track of their tools and ensure that they don’t get left behind or lost. The wallets fold flat and are kept tightly closed with a hook and loop strip, so are handy to carry onto site and lay out flat when in use.

Time to examine the Kompakt Woodwork and Metalworking kits in detail, in order to fully appreciate their features.

The Metalworking kit has a smart little logo of an RSJ on the front to identify it and consists of 40 individual pieces that are logically grouped for easy location.

Right on the edge of the kit by the hook and loop strip is the useful voltage tester screwdriver. This has its own set of instruction attached to the removable pocket clip and is a useful safety item for metal workers working on electrical installations.

In my view the key piece of the kit is the now famous Zyklop Speed ratchet. It is so versatile and I can remember how many times it has got me out of trouble. It has a tiny 5-degree ratchet so it is possible to tighten up nuts in tiny spaces, the head can be angled and also used at 90 degrees like a screwdriver, AND it even has a rotating plastic screwsleeve on the shaft. I appreciate its virtues almost every time I use it.

To complement the Zyklop there are a long (150mm) and short (55mm) extensions and eight sockets ranging from 5.5mm to 13mm that cover the range of most commonly used sizes. A Rapidaptor bit holder accessory with a hex end can be fitted to the Zyklop so that screwdriving bits can be used.

On the other side of the wallet is a range of thirteen 90mm long screwdriving bits. There are 5 Torx bits, 3 Phillips bits, 4 hex bits and a slot screwdriver. Useful too, and I use mine often, is the screwholder. This slides over the shaft of a driver and the two flexible wings are used to hold screws in place as you manoeuvre them into position in tight spaces using only one hand. To drive the bits, the classic Kraftform screwdriver handle is supplied. This has a quick release Rapidaptor chuck that Wera users are familiar with.

However, to really underline that this is a metalworker’s kit the last pieces of this kit are 6 drill bits and 6 screw taps designed to complement each other in sizes. They are quite short and are clearly meant for use in thinnish sheet material. They can also be used to clear and redefine worn screw threads in rather overworn installations and can be driven with a cordless drill, the Zyklop or the Kraftform handle.  

I really like the way that each bit or socket has been etched with its size and designation and diameter where needed. It really helps keep track of the pieces as well as allowing you to keep order in the kit.

The Woodworking kit is identified by a logo of a plank of wood on the front and it consists of 41 pieces. Inevitably there is the electrical current tester that seems to be a reminder to woodworkers that they too need to be aware of electrical current where they might be working. The screwholder is a useful addition too.  

The kit concentrates largely on screwdriving and drilling, as we would expect. So there is a choice of sixteen 90mm long driver bits. There are 5 Torx bits – now very commonly used as a way of driving woodscrews and a necessary inclusion in my view. Four hex bits are also needed because they are often used in window installations. Of course you will also use the three Pozi bits (1,2 and 3) and the three Phillips bits (1,2 and 3) as well as a slotted driver bit almost every day.

 A set of 5 brad pointed drill bits has hex shanks that will fit a Rapidaptor or a drill chuck. They are genuinely sharp and cut nicely defined holes in wood very quickly.

On the other flap of the kit is a large Kraftform handle with a difference – it has a ratchet on the bottom of the handle as well as the customary Rapidaptor chuck. I like this handle because it is big enough to provide a solid grip for a maximum torque drive and the ratchet is easy to operate between thumb and forefinger.

Further driving flexibility is provided by a set of six smaller 25mm long drivers, and an extension holder. 

A set of seven sockets is placed along the spine of the wallet and these can be driven either by the Zyklop Mini bit ratchet and its 75mm long extension or the small 25mm long extension that will fit into the Kraftform handle. I never cease to be amazed at just how flexibly all these components can be made to work together and they will surely add versatility to the kit of any tradesperson.

I’ve always liked Wera Kompakt sets, both for use in the workshop and on site. They save on toolbox space, are easy to carry to the job and I can personally vouch for how many times the kit combinations have got me out of trouble. So taking these to the next level, with these tailored Trade Kits including a wider range of Wera products, is a welcome development.

For a chance to win any one of the four Wera kits reviewed in December/ January and February editions of ToolBusiness and Hire, send us an email  saying which kit you would like and why. The editor’s choice is final and your reasons may be published! 

To find out more about Wera Products, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Hitachi DV18DBXL Combi-The Torque of the Town

Amied at: Professionals in all trades who need a drill with really serious levels of torque for BIG drilling.

Pros: Excellent ergonomics and loads of torque and a 6Ah battery too, for longer working times.

This torquey Combi drill from Hitachi is a brand new, “from the ground up” development, although it would be hard to tell that from just its external appearance. The two key developments on it are the use of a “biggest ever” 6Ah lithium ion battery pack, which is actually the same size and weight as the 5.0ah pack, and a competition-busting 136Nm of “torques”, as Jeremy Clarkson would say.

I have already had a comment from a tradesperson who sniffily told me that trades didn’t need that amount of torque, but I disagree. I seem to have had a few situations recently where I could have done with quite a lot more torque from my drill! For example, using a 75mm hole saw through a bit of 20mm thick hardwood. You may not need the torque often, but when you do, its nice to know its there. Also, with all that torque on tap, the drill seems to work more quietly and responsively – but maybe I am getting ahead of myself.

A quick run down of the Hitachi DV18DBXL proves that the innovations are largely internal – its functions and controls follow a very familiar pattern. The speed sensitive trigger is large enough for a gloved finger and the forward/reverse function is via the push through switch above it.

Behind the quality metal- bodied 13mm chuck, the large collar for changing torque settings is large and easy to grasp and therefore easier to adjust. It has 22 torque settings as well as drill and hammer modes. A slider switch on top of the ABS body casing selects slow or fast motor speeds.

But I think that what users will notice is the very ergonomic handle that the drill boasts. I think it is genuinely comfortable to hold and provides very good grip, especially at higher torques. My feeling was that the designers have made the grip a bit smaller and slightly more hand-shaped to give the level of comfort needed.

Below the handle there are several important features. Not least of these is the 6Ah battery pack, which has a flat base so the drill can be stood on it.

The rails for sliding the battery packs are robust and the battery slides easily on them. The spring-loaded buttons for releasing the battery pack operate positively as well.

On the base of the handle is a bright LED light aimed at the chuck. This switches on and off automatically, and is definitely not a gimmick or “me too” as anyone working in the semi dark or in enclosed spaces will tell you.

Just behind the light is a battery charge indicator so that users can know when to charge up.

There is the customary reversible belt hook too, probably only usable if you have a proper weight-bearing belt round your waist.

The small RFC logo on both sides of the motor housing stands for Reactive Force Control – a posh name for a sophisticated safety clutch. Basically, should the drill bit or whatever, become stuck in the material, the RFC electronics will cut in and stop the motor before the operator breaks a wrist or fingers (with 136Nm of torque on tap it is best to be wary)

The electronics will also cut in to protect the combi from heat build up, battery overloading and deep discharge, as well as maximizing the torque usage, speeds etc of the new brushless motor.

What was a big surprise for me was that this Hitachi combi comes with a 37cm long auxiliary handle. This handle screws into either left or right hand side of the alloy gearbox housing on the front of the tool. The “hand” end has an ergonomic handle with big flanges to prevent hands from coming off it.

I confess that I thought that the length of the auxiliary handle was a bit over the top when I saw it, but when I started testing the torque available from the combi, I realized that there would be times when I would need it.

Unfortunately, because of the demand for sample tools to test, I had a relatively brief window in which to try it out, but I did my best. In the past I have found that some drills I regularly use are unable to drill holes in hardwood when using the three-fluted spiral “speed” drills on the market. In fact, I have often managed to stall a drill bit into the material just past the pilot screw. No such trouble with the Hitachi DV18DBXL – it eats such stuff for breakfast. I drilled 25mm diameter hole after 25mm diameter hole, through 30mm thick, dry and hard oak with the drill not even breaking into a metaphoric sweat. It really has so many guts that you will like having the long auxiliary handle to help control the torque effect.

While it might not look like it because it retains the current Hitachi look and livery, the DV18DXBL is in fact a deliberate move into a new era of drilling by Hitachi.  Using a new and powerful brushless motor and a 6Ah battery pack, there is a focus on compact power that uses the latest electronics to deliver maximum performance for the end user while reducing energy sapping heat from both the motor and battery packs.

The pairing of the 6Ah battery packs and brushless motors maximizes power and run times without the expected extra weight – the new battery packs weigh the same as the “old” ones. Hitachi also assures us that there will be full compatibility with every “slide battery” from 1.5 to 6Ah, and that chargers will be similarly compatible. Charge times will of course vary from old to new, with the new battery packs expected to charge in about 35 minutes.

But even better is that Hitachi intends pricing for the new drill to be VERY competitive. We users will not know the exact pricing details until the launch of the drill in February – but I am sure it will be a pleasant surprise.

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

Warn Drill Winch from Arbil- It Works!!

Aimed at: Users who need to move heavy objects with minimal effort.

Pros: Using a drill as a power source is a convenient and versatile way of powering the winch without always relying on mains power.

I must admit that when I heard about the Warn Drill Winch I thought that it was perhaps an idea too far. Or maybe it was a gimmick with too little capacity to be of much use to anyone, let alone anyone needing to move anything substantial.

However, I was wrong on both counts. This winch will move bulky and heavy objects up to 227 Kgs using the power of a corded or cordless (18v and upwards is best) drill. Having tested a cordless drill this issue with a 136Nm torque rating, it looks like the future may well bring even greater capacity for cordless tools and by extension, tools like the Warn Winch.

I have used winches before to pull heavy objects up a ramp laid on steps, drag heavy things into place and also to pull down semi-cut branches from dreaded Leylandii trees into a very limited space accurately. I very quickly learnt what is needed on a winch, and an examination of this one reveals that it is well made, robust and has all the features needed for a useful working life.

There is a nice big grippy handle made in moulded plastic right on top of the winch. The handle makes it easy to carry as well as orienting the user to the two main working ends of the winch. The grey plastic body actually covers the whole of the winch, which of course helps keep fingers and hands well clear of winding parts. Importantly, there is a clear plastic window underneath the handle so that the cable can be monitored as it is wound or unwound. For safety, the cable needs to be wound on so that it does not concentrate on one part of the spindle winder. It is best for the cable to be spread evenly and neatly over the whole drum and the window allows this.

 

Underneath the plastic body is a pressed steel body that is integral – in other words the cable, winder and anchor end are all made in one solidly bolted together unit so that they will not part company under load. There is a rugged cast cable fairlead that serves as a guide to the cable and it will no doubt come in for a bit of friction wear from the cable.

The winding drum is also a solid casting that holds about 10 metres of 4mm diameter steel cable. On the working end of the cable a cast hook with spring closer can be attached to the load usually via a nylon strap. Handily, there is also a red nylon strap that fits onto the hook so that users can pull the cable out without having to touch it, which although very shiny and smooth when new, will soon develop barbs as it is stressed under loads.

It is worth noting that the cable ends are properly attached using steel loops, strong bolts and D Shackles that are clearly strong enough for the specified loads that this winch will pull.  

The “anchor” end of the winch also has a cast hook with spring loaded closer. The hook is designed to rotate using a castellated nut through a big D shackle. Since the “anchor” end is just as important as the “pulling” end when attaching a load, users will need to use these features to get a secure fixing.

On one side of the winch is a big red switch that locks the drum clutch into free or pull mode. This is really easy to use and well marked to minimize any user mistakes.  On the other side of the casing is the 5/16ths inch hexagonal driver shaft onto which the chuck of the chosen drill can be tightened.

One of the ways in which a cordless drill can be used on a winch to pull a substantial load is by using appropriate gearing, the lower the gearing, the greater the load that can be pulled. However, this means that the cable winds very slowly as well. This can be minimised by the way in which the user plans to work with the winch, and remember too that the further out the cable is, the more power is available at the winding drum. As the cable winds onto the drum, the gearing factor will change to be less advantageous.

I looked around for a suitable task to test the Warn winch and a good one presented itself when I had several 25mm thick MDF sheets delivered on a pallet, and I had to move them from the car park to the side of my workshop so that they could be protected from the weather.

Fortunately I have a couple of substantial trees on the edge of the space that I could use as an anchor for the winch. A suitable nylon loop from a local trade outlet was passed around the trunk and the winch was attached with the anchor hook.

I only had to free about 5 metres of cable before I was able to loop securely through the slats and base of the pallet ready for the pull.

I used an18v newish cordless drill driver and an older 650W corded drill for the pull so that I could compare results.

I expected the cordless drill to struggle a bit with the load but the winch gearing is such that it more or less keeps up a constant speed of wind that doesn’t seem to stress the drill motor at all. There is no need to use low speed on the drill either.

I also expected some backlash on the drill handle, but there was none. Clearly the clutch mechanism on the winch works well. With the corded drill of course, there is no danger of running out of battery power, but it was very effective and never felt strained.I was happy with the results because I managed to move about 100 Kgs of MDF sheets single handedly and safely across smooth tarmac. My back was happy too! 

The pull was a bit slower than some winches I have used, but to be honest, I expected that because it is probably the only way to use the power of a cordless drill on a winch. The compact Warn winch is effective, and would be useful for users who need to move or pull heavy things. The freedom of using a cordless drill as a power source will be a major plus point for these users. It is definitely not a toy or a gimmick and is robustly made – so try one!

For more information please visit www.arbil.co.uk

The New Induction Heater Plus From Sykes Pickavant - Leave No Bolt Unstuck!

Amied at: Professionals and keen amatuer engineers and car buffs.

Pros: Easy to use and effective solution to locked on nuts and bolts.

In the past, when I have had to struggle with loosening bolts and nuts that had corroded fast I had only a very few strategies. The usual ones were first to try a longer spanner, then the application of a hammer on the end of the spanner, then a patient sit down while hopefully the WD40 or similar worked, and finally perhaps, using a gas blowtorch to heat the nut to see if the differential expansion would loosen it.

The last option was rarely used because most often I was working on a car and I was scared of starting a fire or causing further damage. The solution in many cases involved a broken bolt, skinned knuckles and a lot of bad language. The Sykes Pickavant Induction Heater is the professionals’ solution to a locked-on bolt where incidental damage to a client’s vehicle is not an option.

The Induction Heater Plus is apparently the redesign, upgrade and replacement for the Sykes Pickavant Miniductor II that will make it more efficient and easier to use.   

If, like me, you had never used an induction heater before, it is time for a bit of science. Although the ultimate effect of using the induction heater is an intense and focused heat, the heat itself is flameless, an important safety factor in motor and engineering trades.

What actually creates the very focused heat is the use of high frequency magnetic fields created by passing a strong electric current through a conductor. Remember making your first electromagnet in Year 8 Science? Remember how it used to get hot if you kept it on too long – well I guess it is the same principle.

What is different about the Induction Heater Plus is that the magnetic fields created around the nut or bolt heats them up in seconds, thus minimizing danger and localizing the heat to where it is most needed.

Hopefully, the first application of heat will be enough to expand the ferrous metal bolt and therefore release it enough for it to be unscrewed using a spanner. 

Most readers are probably wondering what an Induction Heater Plus might actually look like. Imagine a black plastic hexagonal tube about 38cm long. About half of the hexagonal tube is slim enough for an average sized hand to hold it securely. There is a black push button switch in the middle of the tube that has ridges around it to prevent accidental switching. There is no need for a “lock on” switch because the induction heater is so efficient that a few seconds of current is often enough to do the job required. 

The other half of the tube is a couple of centimetres thicker. At the “thick” end there are two plastic ended wingnuts and a grille-like heat shield. The wing nuts are used to secure the ends of the choice of coils that are fed through two holes in the grid so that the electric current can pass through them.

The Induction Heater Plus that was sent for review had about three metres of cable and a standard 110v site plug, although a 230v version is also available.

It is clear that Sykes Pickavant has decided to make this device as versatile and useful as possible and accordingly has provided three heating coils with the basic machine.

The coils each have two strong and rigid uninsulated ends that are pushed through the heat grill into the holes that will provide the current. In the comprehensive instructions it is made clear that the ends of the coils need to be firmly fixed in place with the wingnuts so that good electrical contact can be made and maintained during use.

In the instructions there are also a few pictures of what happens if the coils are used incorrectly or overheated, so there is no real excuse to get it wrong.

The rest of the coils are covered in a silver coloured, finely braided material that clearly has a great resistance to heat.

The first coil I picked out is coiled into a circular shape rather like those “travelling kettle” heating elements you can buy to make tea in hostel rooms!

When in position on the heater, this sticks out ready to be placed over a nut or bolt head up to about 20mm in size. The instructions recommend only a few seconds of heating before using a spanner to release the nut. Further similar applications of heat can be done if it doesn’t release the first time. I hadn’t noticed it before, but a nice bright LED worklight on the end of the tool shines straight onto the working area – no doubt very handy wherever you are working.

Next up was a U-shaped loop that can be custom formed to fit nuts larger than 20mm. Sykes Pickavant recommend that the coil should be formed around the socket size needed for the nut concerned and also reminds us that more coils means more heat – just like putting more windings on your school electromagnet – you get a more powerful magnet, but a lot more heat too!

Lastly in this kit, there is a “free form” coil that can be shaped by the user to a sort of “P” and this can be used to “pop” soft dents in metal. It needs careful handling because the heat can very quickly burn paintwork. I am very glad I tried this function out on a scrap piece of mild steel into which I had hammered a couple of dents. Let’s say I need a bit more experience in using this method before I try it on a real car!

Readers might also like to know that there is an optional heated “mat” that can be used to remove decals, bonded parts and graphics etc. Similar safety and effectiveness rules apply.

Clearly aimed at professionals and enthusiasts, the Sykes Pickavant Induction Heater Plus comes with a Year’s Warranty. It is packed into a custom plastic case with enough room for cable and coils to be packed safely away. It worked very well for me on a set of rusted wheelbarrow nuts and no doubt will be even more useful for professionals where safety and efficiency are crucial. 

For information about Sykes Pickavant, please visit www.sykes-pickavant.com

Fein Cordless Multi Master + Video Review - All the Capability of Mains with the Portability of Cordless

 

Aimed at:- Pros and Canny Amateurs who need the cordless convience of a good multitool.

Pros:- The Cordless verision does what the corded one does alongside a good control of vibration and noise. 

I know that there is a lot of brand loyalty out there when it comes to power tools, and manufacturers now have a big advantage because the major brands of cordless tools mostly have a battery platform that fits all the other cordless tools in their ranges.  But, in my chats to people in the trade, there seems to be common consent that Fein still has the advantage when it comes to making oscillating Multi Tools. There is still something in the “Original and Best” slogan that apparently makes sense to end-users.

With Fein’s launch of a new version of the corded MultiMaster a while ago, that had noticeably much less noise and vibration, the goalposts moved significantly. And now that the cordless AFMM18 is on the market Fein MultiMaster users have a significant choice. Perhaps a difficult choice to make?? Corded or Cordless?

Left to myself I would have both versions, but then I am greedy and could be accused of being fussy too. In truth, there is a fraction of difference in the weight, handling and size of the corded and cordless models – the Fein Engineers have done a great job ensuring that the balance and ergonomics of both tools suit their power sources. In my view, either tool is a good choice, but if you have any other cordless Fein tool, then perhaps the cordless AFMM18 would be a good choice to take advantage of the battery platform.

The “working” end of the AFMM18 is almost identical to the corded Multi Master and therefore includes Fein’s rather good system of isolating the oscillating movement, and its accompanying vibration, from the body and the hand of the operator. My own experience of the vibration and noise levels from this tool are very positive. I have no official measures, but I did feel comfortable doing several hours worth of sanding of exterior window frames. The stop/start nature of the work means that your hands don’t ever really feel uncomfortable.

I am always a little chary of the “Quick-in” lever on the top of the machine. The “Quick-in” idea is a good one, because the old system of hex keys was very slow, but some users have complained to me that it can trap an unwary finger as you snap it down to hold the working cutter in place. This is no longer the case. Although it still sounds very snappy, in fact the composite lever has lost its spring loading as it reaches towards being at right angles to the body, so fingers are not really in danger as the system snaps firmly onto the cutter.

On the body, the black rubber overmould that provides good grip and some protection from vibration is sparing but well placed so that the palm of the hand is where the grip is. There is a simple thumb operated slider switch for off/on that is perfect to use, and a few centimetres behind that is the 6-position knurled wheel switch for selecting oscillating speeds. Again, simple and efficient. With an oscillating speed range of 11,000 to 18,500 /min there is enough of a range to sand and cut effectively, as well as work carefully at low speeds on sensitive operations. I would say that in my experience of the tool, this speed control was one of the key features of the tool that added to its usefulness.

Placed carefully for balance on the rear of the machine, is the battery pack. The kit I was sent for review had two 2.5 Ah packs with it, and frankly I found that they lasted long enough for me not to hanker after a bigger 5Ah battery that would last longer, but also be heavier. Fein has one of the simplest and most robust battery pack mounting systems on the market which I like a lot, as I hate fiddling with buttons that you have to squeeze in on each side to release the battery. The new battery packs are very slick looking with a black base colour and Fein Orange stripe, but more importantly the right side of the battery pack houses a system of four lights that indicate the state of battery charge. Also important in avoiding deep discharge, the enemy of Lithium Ion, a continuous red light will show when the battery needs a charge urgently and a flashing red light says “charge me NOW! although the electronics will not allow the tool to operate on a dangerously uncharged battery.

The charger is compact and the series of lights indicate very clearly the state of the battery. A fan will cool the pack if it is too hot to charge and it usually takes about 40 minutes or so for a full charge.

As is recognized by oscillating tool users, they can do jobs that other tools can’t, and although I do use the delta sanders sometimes, the things I have found that they are best at is blind cuts through surfaces, slicing the bottoms of door frames when fitting flooring, cutting out old grout from between tiles and scraping off old adhesives. This cordless Multi master does not disgrace itself performing any of these functions. For some reason, maybe because I am developing a steadier hand, I found the tool easier to control especially when plunge cutting.  The correct choice of cutters is vital and there is now a huge range of accessories available. Included in the kit is a scraper, a delta sander and sanding sheets, a semi-circular wood blade, a straight wood blade and a straight wood and metal blade, but in my view the carbide coated cutters are also a must for me.  

A quick word about the box – like all Fein boxes they are well laid out, have ample space for bits and pieces and the moulded polystyrene inner will hold the tool safely and firmly while in transit – easy to pack too and carry too.  

When I compared noise and vibration levels between mains and cordless they were so similar that I am sure that a blindfold test would not be able to tell which is which. Suffice to say, working up a ladder for example or on mains-free worksites, the AFMM18 is a perfect solution.

For more information on the Fein Multimaster, please visit www.fein-uk.co.uk

Wera Technicians’ Kits – All the Necessary?

Aimed at: Pro specialist technicians,  electricians and fitters.

Pros: Well- chosen key tools in a handy to use kit. Easy to take on site for diagnostics and repairs. 

I recently overheard a comment at a tool show by someone who was clearly a tradesman, to his mate about his Wera tools. The comment was along the lines of how “joined up” all his Wera tools were, because they were “designed that way”.

Clearly an appreciative and perceptive end-user, and I am sure that Wera should collectively pat itself on the back. As an end user it is comforting to think that a system that you might have bought into years ago is still expanding (sensibly and quite rightly driven by design, innovation and end user requirements) and is therefore still useful, compatible and up to date.

The two kits Wera have sent for review illustrate the above very nicely. Aimed at plumbing and heating engineers and maintenance technicians respectively, they are a kind of “first call” toolkit that is easy to carry to site and, in many cases, will be all the tools that are needed to fix a problem.

The first kit I opened was the Kraftform Kompakt SH1 PlumbKit. Handsomely presented in a black nylon folding wallet, the set consists of 25 assorted tools, essentially divided into two parts on each side of the wallet. All the pieces are familiar as they are part of the wider Wera range, but as a combination they are pretty comprehensive.

Firstly there are two VDE screwdrivers and a voltage tester for the electrical element of a plumbers’ job. The small screwdriver is a Kraftform Plus VDE Extra Slim with integrated insulation, which is useful for sunken and spring elements, while the bigger one is the Kraftform Plus VDE Lasertip. The tip of this screwdriver is roughly laser engraved with lines that bite into screwheads, preventing slips.

Next in line is one of the most useful tools that Wera produces in my view – the Kraftform Plus Chiseldriver. With its hex section blade it can of course simply tackle large slotted screws, but can also be hammered directly onto, thanks to the integrated impact cap on top of the handle and twisted with a 10mm spanner via the hex holster under the handle  - ideal for those really tight screws!!! It is also great for chasing out in plaster walls, and stays useable as a screwdriver after even long chisel use.

Two large handled Kraftform Plus HQ Nutdrivers in 10mm and 13mm complete that side of the wallet. These two socket sizes are the most commonly used in electrical and plumbing apparatus.

The other side holds a more mixed selection. The 10mm and 13mm Joker combination ratchet wrenches are some of the best I have ever used, simply because they solve a whole lot of problems in one tool. The reversible fine ratchet is strong and has a tiny 30 degree throw for confined spaces, while the open-ended spanner not only grips the nuts well, it will hold a bolt head or nut so that it can be brought to the corresponding part without the user having to hold it in place. They can be used in confined spaces and are also VERY strong when it comes to applying torque to them.

In my view the key piece on this side of the wallet is the small Zyklop Speed ratchet. This is incredibly easy to use, the angle of the head can be changed, sockets ejected etc etc. It is a great piece of engineering and I have heard so many positive comments from end users about it that it has truly become a classic. The Zyklop can be used as a screwdriver by attaching the Rapidaptor bit holder adaptor and using one of the twelve driving bits in the kit. A bronze-coloured set of 6 Torx driver bits (TX sizes 10 to 40) have a “holding function” that hold Torx screws tightly so that they can be presented to their positions before they are tightened.

The set of three sockets (7mm, 10mm and 13mm) fit the Zyklop and the last set of longer shank driver bits are a mixture of four hex and two Pozi bits.

All the pieces are laser marked with sizes and designations so that they are easy to identify and of course, for users who need to customize their kits, all the components are available from the Wera range individually.

The Wera W1 Maintenance Kit comes in the new style of textile box with rigid sections. These sections make for a container that is very robust and durable, and can even be stood up on its end for easy shelf storage. It also means that if any individual pieces somehow come loose, they would find it very hard to escape once the large hook and loop closure is pressed shut.

This 35-piece set has quite a VDE presence with twelve interchangeable Kompakt VDE screwdriver blades in Pozi, Phillips and Torx configurations and a detachable Kraftform Kompakt VDE handle. Despite this handy detachable blade format this, like all Wera VDE kit, is guaranteed for safe working up to 1,000V (as per EN60900:2012).

Another nice touch is the red plastic Screwgripper that is used on the end of a screwdriver blade to hold screws firmly when needed. Think of having to place a tiny screw at the back of a casing that would be a pain to find if you dropped it while trying to screw it in.

There is also a small voltage tester screwdriver – still one of those safety essentials for maintenance operators.

Gathered round the essential Zyklop Speed ratchet is a set of eight sockets. These range in size from 5.5mm to 13mm – an essential range for maintenance. To make life easier there is also a small extension bar (also with a plastic rotating collar for speedy work – the attention to detail is amazing, and totally Wera) and a Rapidaptor adaptor to hold the selection of seven driver bits. These cover four sizes of hex, one Torx and two sizes of Pozi. There is also a slimline standard hex magnetic bit holder that would fit an appropriate Kraftform handle or cordless driver.

Finally there is a double-open jaw Joker wrench with popular 10mm and 13mm ends. This has the holding function and limit stop so that the user can’t push the bolt or nut past the spanner jaws. With its smart jaw design the Joker has a small return angle – ideal for use in confined spaces.

I expected the trades to which I showed the kits to be either sceptical or to tell me that the kits were too similar. In fact, I got neither of these reactions. The favourite seemed to be the maintenance kit, but that was maybe due to the preponderance of electricians in my sample audience!! For these end users, quality and design is now so firmly established as a Wera selling point that it becomes purely a question of how much it costs and whether they need it now or next month.

Read more Wera Reviews, such as the Kraftform Kompact VDE and the Wera Joker

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

JCB Workwear – It’s the Season for Warmth

Aimed at:- pro and amateur workers who need tough clothing that washes well and is totally practical.

Pros: Coordinated colours, toughly made, lots of pockets. The hoodie is warm and the bomber jacket is well waterproofed.

The workwear for this review was perfectly timed in its arrival – from the twenty degree temperatures of late October to the wet, and later, frosty weeks of November. The weather proved to be a very good test of the capabilities of the workwear, and I was able to appreciate even more the old axiom that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

I’ll start with the “easy” stuff – when a work day on site felt like winter was never going to come and the clocks hadn’t yet gone back -when the day did really feel like a whole working day rather than the slow descent into murk that is currently the case. This really was “T-shirt weather” and it is amazing how warm you get when you are lifting, cutting and joining. The JCB T-shirts I wore are part of the JCB Heritage Range. Made of 65/35 Polyester cotton, they come in four colours – Olive, Graphite Grey and Sand. Each has a trendy Union  Jack Flag and JCB logo printed on the front. In truth I didn’t much like the colours, but they are practical and of course they blend with the ranges of JCB trousers and shorts. JCB workwear users can look smart and coordinated because the JCB designers have done the work for them.

After several outings I began to appreciate the T-shirts for a lot of other things. They are strong – even snagging them on weldmesh didn’t seem to cause much damage. They are comfortable too and maintain their shape due to the triple stitching on the main seams and half moon yoke – that is, the reinforced semi-circle of stitching on the back under the neck stitching.

The shirts hang easily and absorb a decent amount of sweat and heat so that you feel comfortable. They are long enough to tuck in to trousers or to leave untucked, but the best bit was how easy they are to wash and care for. Since I only had three shirts to test, regular washing was necessary and I found that the formula of one being worn, one in the wash and one drying, worked well for me.

As the weather got colder, I found myself “layering up” starting with a T-shirt, then a work shirt and finally a hoodie or rain jacket, depending on the conditions. The t-shirts proved to be just as good as undershirts as they had been as outerwear.

My favourite bit of kit in this test was the Hixon Hoodie – especially when the weather got very frosty and working outside was a bit of an issue for me – I like my creature comforts! Made from 65/35 % polyester cotton of 300grams per square meter weight fabric, it felt substantial and warm, and more to the point – able to withstand the rigours of sitework. The inside of the hood and body of the garment is completely lined with a soft, thick (fake) fur lining that is reassuringly warm and comfortable. The colours of the hoodie are much more to my taste – a practical black with patches of grey stitched under the arms to enable free movement. There is a printed JCB logo on the front that manages to be subtle and understated. There are a couple of hand pockets on the front, big enough, as I discovered, for my large tape measure in one and my 10.8v compact driver in the other. As seems to be the fashion these days, the knitted cuffs have thumb grips sewn into them. This can be useful in preventing the sleeves from riding up and making you cold.

I was pleasantly surprised by the way the hood part was designed. The zip goes right up to the neck so that it holds the hood tightly to the head, keeping cold draughts out and warmth in. I really appreciated this on a couple of cold evenings because the elastic drawstrings complete the job of making a nice warm seal around the face. This is one piece of kit that will definitely find its way into my winter site wardrobe especially since it seems to be very well made and properly stitched together for a tough working life.

In my mind it is a toss up whether the cold is worse than the wet, and I am still undecided on this matter, despite the best efforts of the JCB Clayton Bomber Jacket. It is a very practical garment and it only took a few minutes to feel completely at home in it in terms of comfort and user friendliness. For example, the cuffs are adjustable - being both elasticated and using hook and loop fixings. It is such a great thing to be able to close the cuffs tight enough so that you don’t get that cold trickle of water down your arms when you are lifting or working above shoulder height. The two-way zip is strong and easy to use and the zip itself is covered by a substantial flap that is a good waterproofer – preventing rain from seeping through. The jacket is designed to be long enough to sit just on the hips with an elasticated hem to ensure a good fit. This length makes for easy working, but if you are working out in steady rain, it is essential to have a pair of waterproof trousers to ensure that your bottom half doesn’t get wet.

I also liked the fleece-lined collar and quilted lining that provides a good level of warmth, especially if you are being quite physical. I found that when I teamed it with the hoodie in the cold and wet, I was really quite snug.

I had a couple of days of constant heavy rain to test the weatherproof qualities of this bomber jacket – and on both days the rain finally won during the last half hour of the working day. Nothing drastic, it was just that the prospect of a hot shower became very inviting as we packed up our tools.

Working in the dark I did notice the usefulness of the reflective tabs on the pockets and flash on the back.  There are four large patch pockets on the front of the jacket and they also include two lined hand-warmer pockets. My overall impression that this comfortable jacket just lets you get on with the job without feeling as though it is constraining your movement.

Now that winter seems to be here for the foreseeable, I will be using these garments, singly or in combination, to keep me warm and comfortable while I am working, and they are definitely worth a look for value and practicality. 

For more from the JCB Workwear line, click here.

For more information, please visit www.psf.co.uk

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