Draper STORMFORCE INTERCHANGE 10.8v Choose What You Like

It seems like there is an inexhaustible appetite from tool users for more power tools.  And more to the point, there is a huge range on the market to choose from, to suit everyone from occasional users to heavy duty professionals.

One of the newest ranges to be launched is the Draper STORMFORCE range – a set of tools that is so flexible that it offers users lots of choice. There are five Interchange tools in the overall STORMFORCE range of 48 products– a Drill/driver, a Combi hammer drill, an impact driver, a reciprocating saw and a cordless ratchet.  

All the interchange tools I tested  are powered by a neat little 10.8v Lithium Ion battery pack and can be bought as a complete kit with charger and spare battery, or “bare” – just the tool itself. In this way users can acquire a decent range of tools without having to buy any “unwanted extras”.

I was sent an eclectic range of tools to try out, so here goes….. Starting with the cordless combi hammer.

This arrived as a complete kit packed neatly into a black plastic Draper case, custom fitted with a place for tool, spare battery and charger. The quality of the tool inside looked, felt and behaved like an able bit of kit. I looked it over closely for any signs of corner cutting, but I found none. It has a good quality 10mm keyless chuck, there are well designed rubberised protection “bumpers” on the body of the machine and a very comfortable handle that provides good rubber grips and a perfect position for the forefinger on the trigger. The 1.5Ah battery pack slots into the bottom of the handle easily and is also easy to remove with no sticking on the catches. It is full of nice little touches like the big LED light above the trigger that comes on automatically when the trigger is pulled and stays on for a few seconds when the motor stops.

Battery charge is indicated by a three light indicator on the top of the handle and there is also a reversible belt hook, two speeds, a twenty-one position torque setting collar with drill, drive and hammer position marked too. The collar works positively in click stops and is easy to turn to select positions.

To test this combi I took it on a job with me and I was pleased with the way it performed in drilling and driving modes. I managed to drive enough screws to require the use of the second battery and it was great not to have to carry a big 18v drill upstairs to the loft in which I was working.

I tried it in hammer mode in a standard face brick, and while it did drill well enough to put in a plastic plug, I have been so spoilt by using SDS drills that It was too slow for me. 

There is no doubt that Lithium Ion technology has made smart little tools like this one real performers. The charger from flat takes only an hour to charge a battery but can be charged at any time. The tool will drill 25mm diameter holes in timber, 10mm in masonry and 10mm in metal.

Having tried the full kit I turned my attention to the “bare” versions of the drill and impact driver. Packaged into compact boxes, they look very much the same as the combi above and share the features like LED worklight, battery charge indicator and reversible belt hook. Again, the quality and “feel” of the tools in the hand is very good – helped by the generous grippy rubber on the body and handles.

The drill has the same 10mm keyless chuck as the combi, but the collar for selecting torque for screwdriving has 20 steps and a drill setting. Two speeds at least are a must these days, and the sliding switch on top of the casing is easy to slip forward or back, and with a specified 25Nm of torque on tap, driving quite large screws is possible. It will also drill 25mm holes in wood and 10mm holes in metal – the same as the combi above.

Impact drivers are also ubiquitous nowadays and they are useful, especially for removing screws that have been driven in too far. I wouldn’t be without one. The Draper STORMFORCE impact driver has an aluminium nose to house the impact mechanism and again, it is well put together. It has a spring collar collet chuck and will deliver up to 80Nm of impact torque, so it is no slouch. 80mm screws into thick softwood was no trouble at all for this little machine.

I would not be surprised if purchasers chose to buy all three compact machines for their toolbox or workshop – they complement each other very well and switching between them is easy. I began to wonder if Draper would make a combination case for all three machines with three batteries and a charger………????

Next out of the box was the “bare” cordless ratchet. With its 3/8” square drive it will fit standard sockets. Forward/reverse functions are chosen by simply rotating the little lever on the ratchet head and a large lever on the underside of the body is used to operate the rotation of the ratchet. A small switch can be used to lock the operating trigger in case of manual usage. There is a handy LED light, battery charge indicator and a useful 45Nm of torque on tap. This is definitely a useful tool for working on small mechanical projects.

I am a complete convert to small recip saws because they have a great performance packed into a small body and they are much lighter than the bigger 18v ones. This STORMFORCE saw is well specced. It has a quick release blade fitting, a decent worklight, battery charge indicator and trigger lock function. I used it to remove the 60mm thick old wooden frame of a window that I was replacing, and it proved to be incredibly useful. With its 130mm long blades (standard fitting and other sizes are available) it has a lot of capacity packed into its compact body – it will cut 65mm in wood, 50mm in plastic and up to 8mm in metal.

Self indulgent users, I am sure, will find excuses to buy all the pieces of the kit and store them in the handy kit bag that Draper supplies. Remember too, that spare batteries which are very reasonably priced and chargers are also available separately should they be needed.  

To sum up, individually they are all very useful tools, but together they probably amount to more than the sum of their parts. Definitely worth a look. 

Draper 15Kg Breaker – Value and Efficiency

Aimed at: Professionals and competent home builders.

Pros: Affordable and competent kit that comes ready to use.

Draper Tools has a huge and enviable range of products that is constantly being revised and uprated according to the needs of the market, so it was with no surprise at all that I took delivery of the 1600W 15Kg breaker (Stock no 83352) to review. I have tried out a few smaller breakers and hammers and have got on very well with them because I have always been able to use them on jobs where a bit of concrete needed breaking or a few bricks needed chopping out. More to the point – my back has not been strained by having to lift those much lighter tools. But the Draper 15Kg breaker took me to a new place – a really powerful tool meant for serious breaking of concrete and masonry – with a serious weight to it that is needed for doing such jobs. I had to ring round my friends to see if they had a job big enough to try it out on for a start.

Lots of small building firms need to use breakers, and I guess for many of them, the first call would be a hire shop to get an appropriate breaker for the job. However, with a typical internet price of around £150, this Draper 15Kg breaker is very affordable and stored in its plastic carry case, it won’t take up much space in the back of a van either. If my experience is anything to go by, the machine is capable of breaking concrete paving and floors as well as hard brick and stone up to a level that is more than enough for most small users. Workers on skyscrapers and major infrastructure products may need bigger breakers, but most builders would be happy with the performance of this one.

A quick check on the specs will show you what I mean. The breaker is a standard 230v machine with a weight of over 15Kg with a chisel fitted. The impact energy is a very decent 45 Joules at an impact rate of 2000r per minute. Chisel size is 29mm and with a sound power level of 105 dB(A) it is necessary to wear hearing protection during use. A breaker works by impacting on the concrete so workers should always be careful to protect hands from over exposure to vibration by limiting time spent using the machine.

I am a fan of plastic cases with enough room to accommodate all the odd bits and pieces associated with the tool inside. The plastic case with this tool has a big strong handle and latches and will easily hold the four-metre long heavy duty cord and the two extra chisels supplied (one pointed, one chisel end) as part of the kit. Nice touches are a plastic oil bottle and a spanner to do the simple maintenance required. A spare pair of carbon brushes is also included.

Construction of the body is mostly heavy duty metal that is needed for such a tool, and is well held together with no-nonsense hex screws.  Firmly attached to the main body is the main handle that is a large robust plastic construction that slightly isolates the users’ hand from vibration. The yellow trigger is large and can be locked into “on” position via a button for continuous use. There is some grippy rubber on this handle too to aid handling.

The auxiliary handle is a robustly made square loop with a big ribbed and softish plastic handle to grip. This handle definitely reduces vibration transmitted to hands and the whole thing can be adjusted a full 360 degrees to suit users’ preferences.

Underneath the main motor housing is the oil reservoir with its transparent cap so that oil levels are easy to check. Using the spanner and oil bottle supplied with the kit, it is easy to fill the oil when needed.

Inserting the chisels is very easy too. After a light greasing of the tool shaft the locking bolt is pulled out and turned 180 degrees. The shaft of the tool can then be inserted and the locking bolt returned to its original position. The chisel will be free to run up and down the shaft as the impact mechanism does its job.

One of my mates did come up with a suitable test bed – demolishing some concrete steps and adjoining brickwork so I hotfooted over to try the breaker out. The machine uses a standard moulded 230v plug so there was no need for a transformer – a simple plug into the extension cord was all that was required for the machine to be ready. Health and Safety says gloves, boots, eye protection and ear protection are needed as a minimum and once I had started the job I knew why. The Draper breaker does what it says on the tin – it breaks concrete etc very efficiently. It helped me that the weight of the tool does the job for you as well as helping to keep the chisel where it is needed. My job was largely to keep the chisel tip in the place where it could be most efficiently employed in breaking up the concrete. By focusing on breaking up the concrete from the edges and then also exploiting cracks that developed as I worked, it took about half an hour to break most of what we needed. The brickwork was much easier because they were just ordinary clay stock bricks and didn’t stand much of a chance against the chisel end.

I am still very glad that I don’t have to use breakers very often because my aging muscles don’t like it, but I am convinced that breakers fall into the category of Very Useful Tools because they do a unique job which is probably more commonly needed than I know. Because it comes as a whole kit in a case, ready to use, and because of the price point, the Draper 15Kg Breaker is a good bit of equipment for builders to include in their tool collection. 


SENCO GT 40FS Cordless Fencing Stapler: Big, Bold and Brash – and Very Effective

Aimed at: Fencing Professionals and Heavy Duty agricultural users.

Pros: Gas gives freedom from cords and enough power for heavy work. 

Up to now my experience of corded and cordless fencing nailers has been limited to ones with enough capacity to hold smallish mesh on big chicken runs and odd stretches of fencing. So the arrival of the SENCO GT 40FS, which is essentially a contract fencers’ version of a gas powered nailer, was a bit of a surprise. This clearly is a machine aimed at users who have to erect BIG fences and screens, where stapling is currently done using loose staples and a hammer. Think large-scale agricultural stock fencing and so on, often in low temperatures and in challenging conditions where this SENCO is quite at home.

Like builders’ gas nailers, it is a bulky machine because it is necessary to accommodate the piston and firing mechanisms as well as providing some weight to counteract the inevitable recoil when it shoots the heavy duty galvanised staples into wooden posts and rails. However, intended users will not have mains electricity or air powerso the portability and convenience of gas power is the only way to go.

The whole machine is in the familiar black livery with the big red and silver SENCO logo on each side of the body. Despite the necessary bulk of the head, the handle underneath is well-designed for easy grip with a rubberised and ridged overmould. A compact, 1.6Ah Nimh foursquare battery pack slots onto the base of the handle where it is protected from accidental knocks by the reversible belt hook. Any user who needs to hang this tool on a belt will need the American style rig with over the shoulder braces to support the bulk and and its 3.7 Kg weight. And bearing in mind that this tool will be used outdoors in rough conditions, putting it down on muddy and unstable ground might not only be unsafe, it would also be inconvenient to have to bend over and pick it up after every use. The weight doesn’t prevent this tool from being a one-handed operation, something loose stapling on fencing certainly isn’t.

The staple magazine and feeder mechanisms work in a familiar way so regular users of nailers will do it as second nature. The stapler rail is a light alloy that is firmly fixed both front and back, no doubt to withstand the odd knocks it is likely to receive in jobsite use. Behind it is a moulded plastic cover that covers the back side of the staple strips. To load the staple strips, the release button is pushed so that the spring loaded feeder shoe can be pulled back and locked into “open” position, ready to load a couple of strips. Once these are inserted over the rail, the feeder shoe is released so that the staples are firmly held and can be spring fed into the machine as the staples are fired.

I have used numbers of galvanised wire staples in smaller machines but one of the things that made me realise that GT 40FS is a heavy-duty tool was the size of the staples it will fire. With a capacity for 12.2mm crowned hot-dip galvanised staples between 25 and 40mm long it needs all its power and size to fire them. The staples come in weatherproof plastic containers containing either 2,100 40mm staples or 2,700 33mm staples, and have divergent points which mean the staple legs splay out on driving so giving extra hold in the timber. The other great advantage of collated staples over loose is that you’re guaranteed to use every fastener you buy – no more dropped and lost staples.

Preparing the tool for use is a simple process. A fully charged battery takes about two hours on the simple charger supplied, but there is no danger of downtime since the battery power is used very slowly and will easily last a long time –SENCO estimates around 5200 staples per charge. Plus there are two batteries supplied in the kit – enough power even for demanding users.

The 40g gas fuel cell needed to fire the piston mechanism is expected to last around 1200 shots, so again users can expect to have a relatively uninterrupted working day.

Preparing the gas fuel cell is easy too. For safety during transit the valve is separated from the canister, so the user has to press the front and then the back of the valve into the rim of the canister so that the seal is pierced and the gas can flow. The prepared fuel cell is then inserted into position by lifting the lid of the cell housing and inserting it so that the valve mechanism is aligned with the small gas feeder hole leading to the piston mechanism. Simply close the lid to seal the fuel cell off.

Once you are satisfied that the machine is ready to use, the staples have been inserted, and the requisite safety gear has been donned it is time to get to work.

There are a lot of skills associated with using gas staplers safely – and a key one of these is to ensure that you locate the position of the staple safely into the workpiece. Fortunately the GT40FS has a locating groove on the nosepiece to ensure easy location on every drive. Avoid stapling at an angle, never staple near an edge where it could split the material and go right through and avoid areas where there might be embedded metal etc, that could cause a staple to ricochet.

To begin work simply press the safety nose into the work and you will feel it give a little. This prepares the gas and piston, and then a pull on the trigger will fire the piston, which in turn will fire the staple. There is a pop, the fan disperses the exhaust fumes from the top of the tool, and within a few seconds you are ready to fire the next staple. It really is a case that the machine can work as fast as you can or need to. I calculated that around 30 staples a minute is the capacity of this machine, but I doubt that many or indeed any, users would be able to work accurately and safely at this rate.

It may take a bit of trial and error to ensure that staples are not over or under driven – but the depth is easy to adjust using the milled thumbwheel on the front of the tool, and depth of drive is particularly important for stapling wire on fence post which subsequently needs to be strained tight.

I always have a few seconds of trepidation when using gas powered tools – it reminds me of using a gun and I guess the comparison is apt. But when the staple is driven safely home with minimum effort from you, and the tool is quickly ready to drive another one, the trepidation turns to power and the realisation that you can work quickly and cost-effectively to get the job done.

Just as a quick aside – using the machine, I never needed to clear a staple jam because it worked faultlessly for me in the clean and undemanding conditions of an English summer. But it is incredibly quick to unjam staples with the hex key supplied. 


Flex Tools: Try One - Surprises in Your Pocket and in Performance

Aimed at: Professional users, with a bit of an eye on the budget without giving up on performance.

Pros: Impact driver has 180Nm of torque and the combi drill is compact, able and comes with an excellent metal chuck.

In a crowded power tool market it is great to have a niche in which you can dominate. Flex has done this with their famous range of Giraffe wall sanders, chasers, grinders and polishers. So, it is only natural that the company would want to join the competition in the cut throat cordless market too.

This it has done by developing its own lithium ion battery system, complete with sophisticated chargers, heat monitoring and electronic control for tools and chargers. Users would say that these are a minimum for professional quality tools these days, and they would be right. But as I have discovered, the Flex tools I have used match up to current standards and are not a poor relation.

However, in a very brand driven market it is sometimes hard to get the message across, and it is also quite difficult to get end users to think more carefully about their tool choices. On site, I rarely need to top up a battery if I have remembered to charge it up overnight, since my power needs are mostly confined to impact driving and drilling. My observations are that many other trades are in the same boat. But still the view persists that bigger is better. Whereas in fact, I often end up using optional 2.5 Ah battery packs because they are smaller and lighter than 5Ah ones. Surely here is a chance for end users to find ways to get the job done without necessarily paying top prices that premium brands can charge?

The two Flex drivers I was sent for review came well presented in stackable Sortimo L-Boxxes with custom fitted inserts to hold tool, spare battery, chargers and accessories tightly in transit. I like these boxes because they have top and front handles, are very easy to stack and lock together and are as compact as they need to be to contain the tools, so they don’t take up lots of extra space.

First up for review was the PD2G 18.0 Drill driver and hammer. Early impressions are very favourable because the build quality is up there with the best. Clearly this is no budget model and it feels solid and weighty in the hand. The ergonomics of the handling has clearly been thought through with a good rubberised grip on the well-proportioned main handle and a good balance in the hand. There are other strategically placed rubber bumpers on the rear and bottom of the handle so the tool can be stood up or lain down on surfaces without damaging it.

There is a quality, solid metal keyless 12mm chuck which works very well without slipping and is also easy to loosen and tighten. Behind the chuck are two plastic collars, the first to choose the 24 torque positions and the second to select drilling, screwdriving or hammer modes. Both of the collars are robust, move easily without sticking and have sensible grips on them to make adjusting them easy. On top of the drill is a slider switch for selecting high or low gear making speeds from 0- 1650 and 0-380rpm possible. In low speed torque is a very reasonable 70Nm which is enough for most purposes. Trigger arrangement follows the common layout of a push through switch for selecting forward/reverse and a speed sensitive trigger. All works smoothly and the spindle brake works very well too.

The PD 2G has a very good auxiliary handle that is firmly screwed, via tightening clips, onto the front of the alloy gear housing. This can suit left or right handers, but is not adjustable around a collar like some other drills. I also liked the belt hook – as I now sometimes have to use it to hold a tool when I am up on a ladder for example. There is also a handy bit holder that is screwed in opposite the belt hook. Again it can be useful - making it easier to find a driver bit rather than the usual scrabble in a pocket crammed with a whole lot of other bits and pieces.

I liked the smaller 2.5Ah battery at height and in confined spaces, and I found that charging was quick and easy using the diagnostic charger – usually taking about 45 minutes.

While the above drill/driver is good, I wasn’t prepared for the performance of the ID ¼ inch 18.0. It is simply amazing and I worked out why when I looked at the specs – it has an astonishing 180Nm of torque. I have never had it so easy driving concrete screws into dense concrete. It was the Torx driver bits that felt the pressure!

Similarly into wood, even the longest screws I used (150mm) were driven without effort or drama. It really is very good and I liked using it very much.

Like the drill/driver above, the Flex impact driver is very well made, and surprisingly compact in the way that modern impact drivers are. It has a similar pattern of rubberised grip on the handles, motor end and bottom of the handle. So handling and bump protection taken care of. The other controls follow a familiar layout and are thus easy to work with – ergonomics is a strong point on both of these tools.

I used the tools for several weeks on site and I also lent them to a couple of others to garner their opinions. One of the users is a welder who rarely uses cordless tools in his day job, but he was full of praise for their easy handling and they had enough power for him to drill and drive very happily (he used 60mm screws maximum)

The other user had a more demanding project and needed a pair of drivers to get him over a hump because his impact drill had broken and was in the repair shop. He was full of praise for the Flex tools, especially liking the handling and balance and their ability to drive 120mm woodscrews with ease. To say that he was impressed with the impact driver is understating it – I nearly had to wrestle it back off him and I think it is safe to say that he thought it was much better than the (branded) one that was returned from the repair shop.

So, definitely worth a look – my guess is that you will be pleasantly surprised.


Hitachi Power Tools launches extra battery offer on KC18DPL/JA and KC18DPL/JB two-piece kits

Hitachi Power Tools has launched a battery redemption promotion, with an extra 4.0Ah battery free, when redeemed on purchase of selected KC18DPL/JA and KC18DPL/JB 18V cordless two-piece kits. 

The offer is valid on a limited number of KC18DPL/JA and KC18DPL/JB 18V cordless two-piece kits, which feature a sticker on the case and redemption leaflet inside. To receive the extra battery, the customer simply has to complete the redemption leaflet, attach the sticker and post it to Hitachi with the proof of purchase.

The KC18DPL/JA and KC18DPL/JB 18V kits includes two 6.0Ah Lithium-ion batteries, two stackable cases and the UC18YSL3 superfast charger, which offers an outstanding 38 minutes charge time on a 6.0Ah battery, and an incredible 26 minutes for a 4.0Ah battery.

“This extra battery redemption promotion means there is even more reason to choose the tougher, faster, more advanced KC18DPL/JA and KC18DPL/JB 18V two-piece kits,” explains Simon Miller, Brand and Product Manager for Hitachi Power Tools.

Hitachi’s three-year warranty is also available on the tools when registered online within four weeks of purchase, meaning trade professionals can be assured of long service and peace of mind.

For more details on Hitachi Power Tools visit www.hitachi-powertools.co.uk

SMART Tools and Purple Series Blades - A Cutting Combination?

Aimed at: Anyone, amateur or pro who needs a well priced and oscillating Tool.

Pros: Combined with purple series blades it is a great performer on all materials. 

The market in oscillating multi tools is crammed with many good and excellent products from a majority of leading power tool brands. The result is a range of tools from good to excellent at various price points and the weak need not apply – because the market will be quickly find out the vulnerable.

SMART is not really a brand associated with power tools, and yet the oscillating tool I was sent for review showed all the signs of being a very good product – and to underline the confidence that SMART has in it, it comes with a Ten Year Warranty.

Well presented in a robust French Blue custom fitted plastic case with enough space for the tool and 3m of cord and a load of spare blades, it makes a good first impression. The presentation is neat and professional and with a SSP of £139+VAT it is very competitively priced too. For the tool and 60-piece accessory kit the price is only £30 more. A Fair price to pay for delta sander, scraper etc that put the “multi” into multitool. 

The body of the tool is, well, - sleek and very neat and it looks well made. There are no odd moulding “nibs” or other giveaway signs of a cheaply made product.  It is slim enough to get a really good one-handed grip and the panels of grippy rubber do indeed help to minimise the inevitable vibration generated by this type of tool.

A simple slider switch on the top of the body selects on/off and a six position dial at the cord end selects the speed. An alloy casing on the front contains the oscillating mechanism, metal gearbox and a bright LED worklight. On top of the casing is the blade release lever for toolless change of blades. This operates very smoothly with no “snap” for unwary fingers and the flange fitting is designed to accommodate pretty well all of the range of blades available on the market.  

The motor has the inevitable whine associated with oscillating tools and it is always better to wear ear protection when using them, but the SMART does not suffer from louder noise levels than most of the competition.

To complement the SMART 300W Multi-Tool, the company has focused on the development of its Purple Series of blades that is intended to create a simple solution for the end user - a pack of four blades with the same tooth design and capabilities but in different sizes according to the selected task. Generally speaking this translates into wider blades for bigger and softer materials and smaller blades for more concentrated tasks and harder materials. These bi-metal blades are coated in Titanium alloy to help keep the blade cool and this in turn helps that blades to cut quicker and last longer.

As oscillating tools are often used where there is a danger of hidden nails and screws, the Purple Series bi-metal blades are also designed to cut through through small metal obstructions that could be encountered.

They also have a universal fitting that is compatible with most leading brands of multi tools as well as those with the “quick release” design that simply slides out when the flange is released.

I use multi-tools a lot for my general woodwork as well as on site where they a brilliant “get out of trouble” tool that will do a job where others can’t. On a couple of small jobs where I took the SMART tool with me I found that it was very good at doing the cutting, slicing and getting into small spaces that multi-tools are made for. The range of Purple Series blades proved to be very versatile and I particularly liked the wide (70mm) blade that allowed me to trim off a rafter end flush with the brickwork. And it didn’t seem particularly bothered by the occasional brush with the brickwork either – it just carried on cutting. The semi-circular blade was also very useful cutting out odd pieces of plasterboard needed to fit around a ceiling repair.


Cutting through steel and galvanised nails was also quite easily achieved with these blades. In my experiments I hammered a couple of rows of nails into a strip of MDF and sliced them off level with the surface with no trouble at all. There appeared to a bit of wear on the teeth of the blades, but they continued cutting well.

Cutting the same nails that were deeply embedded in a piece of wood created a physical problem, namely that the friction of the cut creates heat, and this heat has nowhere to escape, so there is a danger of some smoke. Then the user has to take care to use the whole blade, a slightly lower speed and generally adopt a safety first approach. I must stress that this happens whatever make of blades you use, the Purple Series shortened the agony by cutting as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A much tougher challenge is cutting through modern case-hardened screws commonly used nowadays. They are designed to be very hard and cut their own path even into hardwood because they are driven effortlessly by powerful torquey drill drivers. Gone are the days of guide holes and hand screwdriving! And much softer steel screws!

I found that I could cut these screws by slowing the speed slightly and using the whole of the blade.  Again, the amount of heat produced shows just how hard the blade teeth are having to work to cut the steel. I did something I don’t normally do, and I used another brand of aftermarket cutter on the SMART tool just for a comparison of cutting speeds, and the SMART Purple Series blades edge proved to be far superior. It cut more quickly and lasted measurably longer. Certainly the teeth on both blades showed signs of wear and blunting, but the Purple Series blade would still cut wood and softer metals quite happily.

Cutting, scraping and sanding are also done very easily with a multi-tool and potential purchasers of the SMART 300W multi-Tool would be pleased to know that it performs just as well on these as we would expect. Certainly, the SMART plastic case is well-designed enough to hold a range of common accessories that might be used on a decorating job for example.

So, if you want a competent, well-priced multi-tool the SMART might be your answer. Combine it with the Purple Series blades and save yourself a lot of time and hassle too. 


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


New Metabo Trade-Rated Sanders Compact, Efficient and Quiet!


Aimed at:- Pro and keen DIYers with a decent budget.

Pros:- Quiet, vibration controlled and very effective stock removal.

Newly launched and aimed at the building trades that need hardy, compact sanders that work well and can take a few knocks, the Metabo SRE3185 and the Metabo SXE 3150 look like they might become favourites – much like the way my SXE 450 Duo has become an indispensable part of my workshop toolkit.

The SRE 3185 came in a simple cardboard box although there is a plastic case option, and first impressions were very favourable as there is a sturdily constructed and compact alloy base and platen with a rather nicely shaped ergonomic handle on top.As is the Metabo way, the controls are picked out in red – hence the two-finger trigger, the lock on button and the speed dial are easy to spot and use.

There is sparing but useful rubber overmoulding on the handle and top of the casing that aid handling and also make one-handed sanding efficient too, when it is needed.

With a motor rating of 200 W and small 1/3rd sanding sheet size, I found that there was enough power for the smaller jobs associated with a sander of this type.  Sanding orbit speeds range from 8,800 to 22,300/min and, even at the highest speeds, the motor noise is so well controlled that you won’t upset the neighbours or nearby tradesmen. The speeds are in a suitable range so that even sensitive surfaces like plaster and plastic can be sanded controllably.

The sander weighs only 1.5Kgs and while you are aware that the powerful little motor feels torquey in the hand, it is easy to push around while working. It also has enough stability to sand evenly and consistently.

My experience of Metabo sanders is that they do a very effective job of collecting dust even without vacuum extraction, and a pretty well perfect job with it. With a newly designed fabric dust collection bag attached to the rear of the base, I found that dust collection was excellent. The dust bag has several layers of material that do a good job of trapping dust, but also allowing the motor-induced draught to pass through freely. Metabo has also improved the way in which the dust bag is attached by moulding several ring collars on the alloy dust outlet that not only seals the dust in, but also make for a secure fixing into the dust bag nozzle. The dust outlet is a handy 28mm diameter that fits nicely onto the end of a standard vacuum machine nozzle.

Easily available hook and loop sanding sheets are my first choice for using with this machine as they come pre-perforated to aid the dust extraction through the perforated base. However, users have a choice of using standard 95mm width abrasive papers held in place with the strongly spring-loaded clips on front and back of the sanding platen. Since high quality hook and loop sheets have a decent service life these days, I think that only the most parsimonious will opt for the spring- attached sanding sheet option especially since you will have to make your own perforations for dust extraction.

Professional users will also value the long 4.5m length of power cable that enables a decent work radius.

Using this machine on some planer-finished brown oak, I was pleased that I managed to get a decent sanded finish quite quickly and without much effort on my part, other than simply ensuring that the sander was moved up and down in the direction of the grain of the wood to ensure a scratch free finish.

For a small sander, the rate of stock removal is rapid and it is a really nice machine to use.  

My favourite sanders tend to have a round base because they serve my needs best and the SXE3 range can be bought with 125mm or 150mm diameter bases. I also tried out the SXE3150 model and the first thing I noticed was that it is very compact for a 310W machine and when I switched it on I was amazed at how quietly it ran, especially at slower speeds.

The hook and loop base has a variety of perforation patterns to suit a number of different makes of sanding discs, and I also like the mesh backed and multi-perforated types of discs that are equally efficient.

The machine follows a fairly standard layout with the centre of gravity right above the sanding disc with the weight of the motor above. While it can be used in a single hand, I got best results using two hands, with my left hand guiding the machine via the nicely comfortable overmould on the top of the motor housing. Speeds, from 8,000 to 24,000 rpm can be set via the toothed wheel on top of the main handle (which also has a small but effective grippy overmould on it) and off/on is via the two-finger sized trigger beneath. A lock-on button is easy to push in with your thumb.

Like its sibling above, the SXE3150 has a dust extraction spout moulded as part of the cast alloy base and it too has the multi-ribbed outlet that holds either the fabric dustbag or a vacuum extraction tube firmly in place. And, it too is very effective at collecting dust. Even working indoors I noticed very little dust in the air (wear a mask please) because there is inevitably some dust that escapes as you sand over edges, but the vast bulk of the dust is safely collected. Almost perfect results can be achieved with vacuum extraction.

The SXE3150 also has a goodly length of rubberized cord (4.5m) so the work diameter is a useful one.

Users must remember that it is an orbital sander and has very good rates of stock removal, but in order to avoid “swirls” in the workpiece, the machine has to be kept steadily moving. On wood, best results are achieved by moving up and down the grain as well.

I liked this machine from the off, it is light, compact, quiet, easy to use, has good balance and is a very effective performer. I am sure it will find many friends in the market.  

In short, these two models are a valuable addition to the Metabo range of sanders, and with the keen pricing in the market, they are definitely worth a look. 


Get Your Trade Ready with the Ultimate Solution

Trade Ready Solutions, the complete package solution first announced in 2014 by Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle solutions in partnership with Hitachi Power Tools and Bri-Stor Systems, has been updated to include new van models, racking systems and tools with the addition of new vehicle signage.

Included is a choice of four Hitachi Power Tool packages which are covered by a three year warranty and a free tool refresh after three years, keeping jobs on track. Each pack comes with multiple cross-compatible batteries with all batteries and tools stored in stackable tool boxes for complete safety and professionalism.

To secure and store these tools, Bri-Stor Systems offer and supply five exclusive racking packages designed for trade professionals such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and builders. Packages include angled, multi-shelf and shelf-and-box storage solutions, all of which are designed, produced, installed, tested and warranted by Bri-Stor in the UK.

For 2015, two new van models are available for immediate customisation; the Ford Transit Connect and Transit Custom, but almost all other makes and models are available to order through the offer.

Simon Miller, Brand Manager at Hitachi Power Tools, added: “Our tougher, faster and more advanced power tools, combined with market leading service backup and lengthy warranties are an unbeatable offer. Being able to access all of these with a vehicle, racking and graphics for one monthly cost is a fantastic proposition to trade professionals of all disciplines.”

More information on vehicles, tools, racking and signage options can be found on the dedicated website, www.tradereadysolutions.co.uk

Draper Tools launches impressive new Storm Force range of air tools

Introducing Storm Force from Draper Tools, a brand new range of feature-packed air tools designed to cope with a variety of tasks. Featuring drills, screwdrivers, grinders, hammers, chisels, ratchets, sanders and more this is a comprehensive collection that’s ideal for the workshop. Available in a distinctive bright green shade, the Storm Force collection will really stand out and grab the attention of customers.

The Storm Force air tools are packed with the latest technology and materials, offering some fantastic product features that will really impress customers. Each tool is designed with housings made of lightweight composite materials, which deliver an impressive power to weight ratio, while providing less of the ‘Cold Sink’ effect that traditional metal air tools can be prone to.

This is a cutting-edge range of tools that look great and deliver a powerful performance, offering an attractive upgrade option for customers who might traditionally purchase aluminium-bodied air tools. The impressive features and comfortable ease-of-use will really appeal to trade and professional users.

To find out more visit www.drapertools.com or speak to your Draper Tools sales representative.


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