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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. 

Delta Quick Steel Repair and Retain and All Trade Workshop Wipes

WhyBuys?  Quicksteel Repair and Retain

  • Versatile method of compensating for wear and tear
  • Used correctly it does the job
  • Easy and cheap to get hold of
  • Uses limited by your imagination?

WhyBuys?   All Trade workshop wipes

  • Not the cheapest wipes – but they are excellent
  • Well-designed tub
  • Wipes come out evenly
  • Makes hands feel smooth and protected
  • Works on foam – a big bonus for me

Delta Quick Steel Repair and Retain

A Paste Repair for Metal Parts

It does still seem strange to me that carbon fibre is used to make Formula 1 cars and wings for jet liners – somehow the materials just don’t fit. But clearly they do. Having examined a Formula 1 car close up and then seen how strong they are in televised crashes where the driver walks away from a 150 mile an hour pile-up, I have no grounds to be sceptical.

However, when presented with a plastic canister of Delta Quick Steel my scepticism was once again awakened – how could a silver-looking viscous liquid be used for retaining and repairing worn metal parts – even on working machines.

The Quick Steel is presented in a plastic container that has a hard outer body and a squeezy telescopic inner lining. The compound inside is delivered via a small plastic spout with a tip that is cut off to suit the size of the amount you want to squeeze out. This in turn is covered by a white cover that no doubt helps to keeps a bit of a seal on the contents for some kind of shelf life.

The liquid itself seems a lot like a thick but viscous steel – with what looks like particles of steel in it.

To quote the blurb – “Quick Steel Adhesive is an anaerobic adhesive which is designed to retain close fitting metal parts which have signs of wear.”  

In my mind this means that the adhesive has some body that is designed to harden fully when it is used to fill the small scores and lines that sometimes mean that bearings or keys can’t be retained in place. It is quite unlike the “normal” adhesives that we would use to join things, in that the Quick Steel needs to be in a closed anaerobic environment adjacent to the steel which it is meant to replace. So it is the case that the user might have to be very careful where the Quick Steel is put so that it repairs rather than clogs. Clearly there is also a limit to its usage in the sense that it would hardly be used to rebuild the end of a stub gear shaft, for example.

In terms of marketing niche, I think the users of this product will largely be the skilled and resourceful owners of vintage machines, cars, bikes etc and backyard mechanics who love old machines and need a way to compensate for the inevitable wear and tear that these old machines show. It may be the last throw of the dice before, eventually, the part has to be very expensively milled from scratch.

I had to scratch my head for a while to find a suitable test situation for the Quick Steel. I confess that any machines I use that break down, are usually repaired with replacement parts or recycled. However, I was keen to fix a slipping keyway on an electric motor I use to power a polishing mop. I applied the Quick steel, set the key and drive wheel, wiped off the excess and stood back to let the adhesive do its work. I did check a couple of times to find that the Quick Steel was going off quite slowly – no doubt due to the fact that it has been the coldest week of winter in Sussex so far. By moving it to a slightly warmer environment I speeded up the process (an accelerator is available)  The result that I got was very pleasing – the key firmly held in place and no rattling drive wheel when I switched the power on. Very useful stuff in my view. 

Delta All Trade Workshop Wipes

The Engineers’ Friend

Tubs of wipes of various kinds are now a feature of many worksites and I use them regularly myself. Even clients ask me where to get them, once they see how useful they can be in cleaning up stains, spills, marks and dirty hands at the end of a day. But wipes have now also been round long enough for us to realise that we have to choose between them carefully. Some of the cheaper ones are cheap for the reason that they don’t work that well, while some others are expensive for a reason, but that reason may not be the stuff we are trying to get off our hands after work.

So, it is time we got to grips with what various brands and types of wipes will do and then choose from the range that suits us best.

These Delta wipes are labelled All Trade Workshop Wipes and are “specially formulated for removing oil, grease, paint, expanding foam, sealants and adhesives from hands, tools and surfaces.”

This list covers a lot of trades from plumbers to decorators to mechanics. But it is interesting to note that the basic materials that the wipes will clean are all basically greasy or sticky and as such they should work well. In my experience, other surfaces may need a “biological” wipe, a textured surface wipe, or some other variation. Like kissing frogs to find a prince, you will just have to try lots before you find the solution that is best for you.

Not all wipe containers are created equal either. I have seen many tubs with the lids taped on because they have been broken off. A loose or broken lid will allow the wipes inside to slowly dry out and become useless. The Delta Wipes, fortunately, have a nice close fitting lid with an easy-to-use system for pulling the wipes through so that they arrive one-by-one and separate from each other easily. The lid sealer also fits tightly so that evaporation is minimised.

Perhaps the most important thing of all is the formulation of the cleaning solution that the wipes contain. Ultimately that, and the strength and texture of the wipe itself, will determine its effectiveness. To answer the above, the Delta wipes are made of polypropylene (don’t flush them – put them in the rubbish bag) immersed in a cleaning solution that also includes lanolin for protecting hands from drying out and anti-bacterial agents for killing the usual 99.9% of germs.

Armed with only these wipes I set out for a job that involved a replacing a window from a wooden framed one to a uPVC unit.  This, of course, meant using the dreaded expanding foam, and also some minor making-good redecoration with both gloss and emulsion paint. In my experience, only very few wipes will actually shift expanding foam, even if they say they do. The Delta wipes were pretty good at removing expanding foam and worked particularly well on hands. The odd spot or two on smooth surfaces was also swiftly dealt with, and any drops of paint were also easily cleaned up – even when they had dried a little.

The end of the day final wipe of hands showed that my hands were clean, sweet smelling, and not dried out from powerful solvents – in my book they tick all the boxes so I would definitely use these again. 

Wiha MagicRing L-Keys The Non-Magnetic Solution for Screwholding

Enter the L-Keys from Wiha. Designated the MagicRing and MagicSpring range they offer several features that will surely find favour with many end users – particularly those whose everyday jobs have very specific requirements.

Such is the pace of innovation in the fixings and fasteners arena that it is sometimes not enough to introduce one innovation at a time – they have to come in twos or threes. Enter the L-Keys from Wiha. Designated the MagicRing and MagicSpring range they offer several features that will surely find favour with many end users – particularly those whose everyday jobs have very specific requirements.

Retaining the fasteners to the driver is a feature that many users like. It is really handy to be able to start the process of screwing in a fastener by introducing it into the aperture mounted on the tool, and being able to get the thread started. In cramped spaces this is often a necessity. The usual method of retaining a screw fastening to the tool is to use a magnet – and this is usually very effective. However, what if the magnet is near to sensitive electronic components or what if the fastener is made of quality stainless steel and is therefore not magnetic? Clearly time for a bit of head scratching and a referral to the R and D team.

Wiha’s team has come up with several solutions that fit the bill – and they have already found favour in the market.

The first of these that I looked at was the ErgoStar MagicRing Hex key set. Retailers and end users will like the clear plastic bubble packaging that shows all that you need to know before purchase. A clear graphic shows all nine sizes of metric hex key in the pack and shows that only the biggest six sizes have the MagicRing feature – the smallest keys are simply too small to machine the retaining ring and spring onto them.

Made from 57-60 HRC Chrome Vanadium steel and meeting all the ISO and DIN standards for these types of tools, they are up to the demands of professional users who need quality every time they use the tools.

The MagicRing feature is very easy to see on the largest key on the set (10mm). On the long end of the L, a small groove is machined into which a round spring washer is inserted. When the hex end is pushed into the corresponding head of a screw, the spring washer slides into it, but still exerts some pressure onto the inside of the hex head, thus retaining it strongly enough for it to be held securely. This is enough to hold a screw in place while it is located and then screwed in.

Also only on the long end, Wiha’s designers have include a “ball end” – essentially the way that the hex shape has been relieved by cutting a big v-shaped slot into the end so that the key can be used at angles up to about twenty-five degrees off the right angle when loosening and tightening a fixing.

Clearly this makes it a lot easier to work in confined spaces and also to locate the screw in the first place. What I liked about the MagicSpring feature was that it did its job without affecting anything else that a hex key is supposed to do. It held the fastener securely, but not so securely that it interfered with tightening or moving it.

With the removal of metal required to create a ball-end, the hex keys, particularly the smaller sizes, are not as strong and could therefore be short in the applied torque department. However, Wiha has made the solution obvious by keeping the short end of the L-key a full hex shape, capable of exerting the torque you need. With the short end of the L-key, it is usually possible to fit into most spaces.

The above is all very well for hex keys, but Torx fixings are becoming much more popular these days, especially for more demanding applications. Wiha also makes a ball end Torx L-Key and its engineers have solved the problem of retaining a Torx bolt onto an L-Key. The clue of course lies in the name – the ErgoStar MagicSpring.

The MagicSpring Torx L-Keys are packed in a similar transparent plastic bubble pack so that buyers can see what is in the set.

There are 13 pieces in the pack and they are made with the same steel as the hex keys above, but with a black finish. The range is in several popular Torx sizes from T45 down to T5. I chose the T45 to examine because it is easiest to see how the spring retainer works – looking at it through a magnifier I could see a couple of springloaded hooks that grip into the side of the Torx aperture of the fixing. It is an impressive bit of micro-engineering since it needs precise placing on the end of the L-Key to ensure that it works correctly. And it does work. It was easy to set a fixing into and then place it into the right spot to start threading it into place. There is usually a little bit of angle flexibility on Torx fixings so there is some scope to use the L-key at a slight angle and still get good results.

But as I have said, multiple innovations seems to be the norm these days, and the presentation of the sets will win friends. The standard method of presenting a set of L-Keys is to slot them into a plastic block arranged in order. It is time consuming and fiddly to access the keys like this so Wiha has come up with a neat solution. Each laser marked key has its own slot in a plastic block, but simply pull one of the keys out to 90 degrees from the storage position and all the keys are revealed and ready to pull out without interfering with each other. The geared mechanism enclosed in the block works smoothly and the casing also has each size of each key marked in its position.

Included is a wall hanger for the entire set so that it can be attached to a rack or van interior.

Overall, there is no doubt that these Wiha L-Keys are professionally rated pieces of kit with a few handy innovations that will make jobs easier and more efficient. 

 

Work trousers from JCB Cotton Comfort from Progressive Safety

Aimed at: Regular users, pro or otherwise who need solid workwear in cotton for a change.

Pros: Comfy and practical with pockets galore.

Workwear of various kinds is now a requirement in my life and I am lucky enough to have had a good choice of various kinds to try out.

While I can see the practicality of synthetic materials for making work clothes because of ease of washing and drying and even a measure of light water resistance, I actually like the comfort of cotton – so I was pleased when the postman delivered a couple of pairs of cotton work trousers from the latest collection by JCB Workwear.

The first pair I opened was a standard camouflage colour and I sort of wondered - Why camouflage? The answer, in part, seems to be that often agricultural workers like to wear camouflage colours in the country, but I have seen it on work sites too.

What struck me the very first time I tried them on is that the cut is comfortable but possibly a bit unfashionably baggy for younger, slimmer figures. But I was able to bend and stretch easily and they were comfortable around the waist. No danger of builder’s b*m if you had a decent belt because there are six belt loops – the back one is about 50mm wide – so they hold up very well.

 

Whatever trousers I wear I always manage to end up with a pile of stuff in my pockets. With ten pockets altogether there was enough space for smaller stuff like pencils and my utility knife. The main pockets are like jeans pockets and are quite deep, so will not spill stuff out if you bend over. On the left leg just underneath the main pocket is a deep (20 cm) gusseted pocket that would easily hold all manner of items and with the buttoned flap, the items are quite secure too. Also on the front pocket is a smallish zipped pocket that is big enough for the inevitable smartphone.

In the right hand pocket is a riveted small change pocket and on the back of the right leg above the knee, is a collection of three pockets – one of which would hold a rule and the others, things like a screwdriver etc.  

Placed comfortably high up on the back are a pair of seventeen cm deep patch pockets with hook and loop flap closures. I always have a wallet with me (lunch money) so I like having the security of a flapped pocket but pliers and screwdrivers tend to end up in the left hand one because they don’t stab you in the leg when you bend down.

The kneepad pockets are top loading for ease, adjustable, and with a secure hook and loop fastening so that the kneepads – your favourite ones will fit – will not fall out.

Pretty well all the seams on these trousers are double stitched for strength and durability, so should last the course

Next in the parcel was a pair of 1945 Work Jeans. Jeans are the fashion statement of the moment, so I guess it is no surprise that there is a demand from work people for denim work trousers. These trousers are in fact not 100% cotton – they are made of 85% Cordura cotton with 15% nylon. The material is also four times more abrasion resistant than comparable cotton denim so is ideal for heavy use.

The pockets and other features of these 1945 Work Jeans are exactly the same as the camouflage ones mentioned above so will suit general site workers. If anything, I found these work jeans even more comfortable than the camouflage ones!

 

Two Diamond Cutting Discs from Klingspor Making the Cut

Aimed at: depending on the grade all the way up to demanding professionals

Pros: Made in Europe OSA approved for safety and ingenious design makes for good cutting performance.

To speak to some tradespeople it would seem that the most important thing about a diamond cutting disc is the price. Not the materials it was designed for cutting, not safety, not speed of cut nor the amount of noise it made. Now I am definitely keen on getting value for money, but I am also keenly aware of my safety and my time.

However, I do get a sense of satisfaction when I get a tradesperson come up and ask about a particular piece of kit and I am able to make the point that good kit, used well, can be safer and quicker, thus saving time and money, as well as making for happier clients.

Of course there is the sharp intake of breath when I tell them, for example, that my rail saw cost £500, but the message remains that sometimes, its not all about the price you pay – sometimes the bottom line needs a bit more sophistication when being calculated. It can be a case of penny wise but pound foolish.  

Diamond cutting discs are squarely in the area of you “get what you pay for”. There are literally dozens of makes of cheap diamond discs on the market. They all vary enough in appearance and packaging for you to be vaguely able to tell the difference so that you can find them again. But my argument is that a good quality diamond disc, chosen with the job in mind, is more likely to perform well, save you time and minimise wear and tear on your disc cutting machine.

Enter the two diamond discs sent by major abrasives company, Klingspor. Established in Germany in 1893 by Johan Friedrich Klingspor to make a variety of abrasives, the company was behind the development of abrasive cut-off wheels and grinding discs in the 1950s and 60s. With manufacturing facilities in Europe, the US and Mexico, the company is one of the four largest abrasives companies in the world and produces a huge range of abrasives of many types – hence it has a lot riding on getting its products right both in terms of price and performance.

Klingspor makes a point of providing discs at three price points (good, better, best) to meet the needs of customers’ varying needs and its in-house R and D facility in Germany offers continuous review, development and improvement of its products. ALL of Klingspor’s diamond discs are Organisation for the Safety of Abrasives (oSa) accredited – the highest level of safety accreditation available.

I was sent two mid-range discs for review, a DT600U and a DT612AB. The DT600U is so designated because it is a mid-priced universal blade meant to be used on pretty well all construction materials from natural stone, to reinforced concrete and all stations in between. This blade has proved to be very successful in the market – not only because of its pricing but also because of its design – a design that makes for rapid cutting as well as a long disc life. Now normally, these two features would work against each other. Long disc life usually means having a slightly thicker blade and deeper segmentation of the blade. On the other hand, a thinner blade usually means a quicker cut because there is not so much dust to remove from the thinner kerf, but the thinner blade then wears more quickly. You can also make a blade last longer by making deeper segments, but that brings other issues into play like the safety of the weld of the segments onto the disc.

What Klingspor has managed to do with this blade is to strike the correct compromise between thickness and wear and the secret of this is in the design of the segments. This 300mm diameter disc has 32 segments squeezed onto its rim. Each individual segment is 10mm deep and it has 25mm deep gullets that are wider at the bottom, that slim down a bit before ending in a precisely drilled hole for reducing noise. The wider slot at the bottom allows dust to be shifted quickly from the cut. A look through a magnifier reveals a fairly close, but random, distribution of diamonds on the segments, but if you think that more diamonds always equals faster cutting, then you are wrong. You may not get optimum cutting if too many diamonds produce too much dust to shift from the cut and then cause clogging.  But the key design feature is the number of segments on the rim – 32 segments with regular slots to disperse the waste quickly has proved to make a blade that not only cuts quickly, but lasts well too. By the end of my tests on steel, concrete, marble and bricks, I could barely see any sign of wear on the rim at all, promising a longer life – I still expect to be using this blade in a few month’s time.

The DT612AB disc is a more specialised design for use largely on concrete and asphalt and has been a hit with utilities, road repair contractors and general construction firms.

The one thing that is very obvious when looking at the segments of this blade is that the diamond distribution is much closer than the DT600U. The diamonds are also coated in titanium powder for maximum adhesion as asphalt and concrete are very aggressive and tend to tear away diamonds that are not tightly bonded. With eighteen larger segments and much larger open–ended gullets cut into the rim, it is clear that dust removal is one of the main aims of this design. Nothing for it but to mount it on the machine and try it out on some concrete and asphalt. Fortunately, I have a small asphalted area where I park my car, and I was struck by just how “clingy” asphalt can be when cutting, as the heat melts the tar and sort of gums it up. But the big gullets do their job and cutting is quite quick – if you are not careful you can go too deep quite quickly. Concrete is a doddle with this disc, no wonder road repair firms are buying it – it is perfect for cutting kerbstones.  I know I had a relatively short time of testing, but the wear on the disc at the end was very small, meaning that I can use the disc on other jobs….

In the end, quality always wins out for me – I have proved to myself again and again that you get what you pay for. These Klingspor diamond discs, tick lots of boxes and I will certainly keep an eye out for them when I have worn these ones out.   

 

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. 

 

Metabo KGSV 72 Xact SYM - Mitre Saw Magic

Aimed at: Professional and demanding amateurs

Pros: New and genius design is accurate, easy to set and adjust and saves a lot of time on angles and mitres.

A quick look at Metabo’s mitre saw line up – everything from a cordless 18v to the massive saws capable of mitring 150mm thick roofing beams - will convince you that Metabo engineers understand what constitutes a good mitre saw. And now, at a stroke, the revolution has been advanced by the use of two new features on the Metabo KGSV 72 Xact SYM.

The first innovation is the motor head and guide rail set up. The rails are now fixed instead of moving and the head slides on them. The result is that the whole footprint of the machine is much reduced and there is no need to allow space at the back of the machine to accommodate the rails as the head is pushed through the workpiece. It is possible to work with the machine almost flush against a wall – handy in a workshop or on site.

The addition of a foldable carry handle where the “old” rail system would have had a bearing enables this saw to be carried easily. Someone tall and strong enough would indeed be able to carry it one-handed – although I doubt this is recommended.

The SYM model of the KGSV 72 has the second innovation added to it and will be of greatest interest to second fix chippies, shop and kitchen fitters and the like. By a clever bit of turntable technology the side fences operate like a pair of geared dividers. Release the fence catches and if you pull one side of the fence towards you, the other side will move exactly the same amount. So what, you might say. But if you are a tradesman constantly having to bisect angles to fit skirting on the inevitable out-of-square walls that are found in most houses, then this saw will provide an incredibly time-saving solution. It works like this: - simply use the sliding bevel (supplied) to make an accurate reflection of the angle of the corner where the skirting is to be fitted. Offer up the sliding bevel to the adjustable side fences until they fit the angle on it and then tighten the fences. The resulting cut through the skirting will automatically bisect the angle correctly for a perfect mitre fit. Trust me, I tried it and it works. It takes a bit of care to be 100% accurate – like ensuring that the skirting is firmly held during the cut - but experienced mitre saw users will get the hang of it very quickly.

Secondly, this system also cures the problem I have when I make mirror frame mitres for example. It helps to have only one registering surface when making frames and the adjustable side fences mean that one can cut mitres without having to work (in my case) left-handed as each registering surface has to be swapped from one side of the turntable to the other. A small point maybe, but an indication that many end users will find their own shortcuts and handy tips when using the facilities offered by the SYM version’s moving side fences.

Sophisticated innovations aside, the KGSV 72 is still the classically well-made Metabo mitre saw with the kind of specs that make it very useful both onsite and in the workshop. A quick examination will convince you that it is robustly and neatly made, with compactness a priority in the design. All the systems and controls are logically laid out and the machine works smoothly, with adjustments easy to do and secure for accurate and repeatable end results.

The 1.5kW motor is belt driven and is adjustable for speed via a toothed wheel on the front of the motor housing. With the correct blade fitted and correct speed selected, wood, plastics and non-ferrous metal are all within the remit of this saw.

The soft start on the motor is a good idea and noise from it is well controlled especially at slower speeds.

The KGSV is no monster – but at at 90 degrees it will still cut 305mm x 72 mm, reduced to 215mm x 72mm at 45 degrees. The great thing about the SYM system is that while the width of the workpiece is necessarily reduced by the angled side fences, a thickness of 72mm can still be cut so the target market should be more than well catered for.

We are all used to the fact that on Metabo tools the red bits are the controls. On the KGSV SYM we have to get used to quite a few more red bits because there are more moving parts. For example, the side fences each have two locks that need to be secured before cutting safely.

What really struck me about the controls was that the Metabo engineers have excelled themselves not only in placing the controls logically, but making them all act so positively. When a lock is locked, it stays locked and you can feel it locking. This adds a lot to the feeling of safety and efficiency that is needed for a safe mitre saw operation.

For speedy working it is great to have fixed detents for angles like 45 degrees. But at the same time selecting and securing custom angles is made a lot easier by having easily readable scales and quick, lockable adjustments. The inevitable knocks of site use will eventually require the saw to be zeroed again, but this is made as quick and logical as possible too.    

It may be a function of my age but I really like the fact that the saw has two switches near the main trigger handle. The first controls the excellent LED light that illuminates the workpiece well and the second controls the double line laser that I found even more useful for accurate cutting. The double laser indicates the cutting kerf so all the user needs to do is line up the relevant line on the pencil mark and accuracy is assured.

There is so much to like about the KGSV 72 Xact SYM that I could go on for hours- but I won’t. I will simply say that this is one of the best pieces of kit I have used for a while and one that I found easy to acclimatise to and very accurate. Now I need to get back to the workshop and find some more jobs to do with it. 

Wiha BitHolder Sets - A Cure for Crowded Toolbox Syndrome?

Aimed at: Pros with crowded toolboxes

Pros: Capacity for lots of screwdrivers without the bulk of a screwdriver set.

Crowded Toolbox Syndrome afflicts many UK tradespeople. With so many useful and even “must have” tools available these days it doesn’t take long to end up with one or more heavy toolboxes that always seem to end up on the site just because “we might need them.”

This is particularly true with screwdriving tools. Not long ago we only needed a couple of Phillips, a couple of Pozis and a slotted screwdriver or two, with a nondescript “big one” used for levering, breaking and chiselling. Now, we have to have all of the aforementioned, plus Torx in various sizes, several hexes and maybe even a couple of square drives. Chuck in a VDE set and that all adds up to a lot of individual drivers – and inevitably to Crowded Toolbox Syndrome.

Various companies have come up with ingenious solutions to the problem and for that we have to be grateful because it really does help avoid a crowded toolbox.  In the past Wiha has come up with some of the best solutions for using the screwdriver handle as a method of storing the range of extra driver bits without losing its excellent ergonomic handle design in the process. And now there are a couple more designs that extend Wiha’s range that you need to consider in your quest to reduce toolbox clutter.

The Wiha 26 One has been around for a few months and as the name suggests it has one handle but 26 different driver bits in the kit. Wiha suggests that it will save 90% of the volume and 85% of the weight of carrying all of the individual screwdrivers and that is a claim that is easy to believe.

The bits supplied are 2 slots, 4 Phillips, 2 Pozi,4 Torx, 10 hex drives (metric and imperial) and 2 square drives. Clearly some of the hex drives are aimed at the American market so I would have extras of some tips – frankly, I always like to have a couple of spares of Phillips and Pozi.

The real ingenuity of the 26 One is the way in which the Wiha engineers have shoehorned the 26 bits into the handle without making it too bulky and without making it too fiddly to find the bits. In fact, they only had to find space for 12 bits because the tips are double ended. They are all clearly laser etched and logically arranged – for example both square drives are on the same tip, as are 2 Phillips, 2 Pozis etc.

The bits are sprung out of the handle by pushing in the red release clips on the top of the handle. They are then revealed with their ends at a handy angle for easy access. The bit holders are made of a flexible red plastic so that bits are easy to take out and replace and the holders are also open top and bottom for easy identification.

The whole “carousel” of bits can rotate easily so aiding quick identification.

Simply push down on the red top of the carousel to close it down into the handle.

The trouble with some of the handled bit sets is that when it comes to everyday use they become impractical because the tips can easily fall out of the hex bit holder on the end of the driver shank. To cure this the Wiha engineers have introduced a spring loaded collar that locks the bits into place. The collar can rotate too, so is handy for the one hand to hold when guiding screws into place while the other hand rotates the handle. The clever packaging is not only eco-friendly and fully recyclable but the transparent sleeve also provides potential buyers with a very good look at the way in which the tool works as well as details of the bits.

The market is a good test and so far the 26 One is selling very well as trades make an effort to unclutter their toolboxes.

The LiftUp Electric is a VDE version of the 26 One seems to have the same size handle and bit storage mechanism, but with VDE safety levels. However, pushing in the release clips reveals only one set of six bit holders, each with a different version of the Wiha Slim VDE bits in it. The bits are: - three slotted, a PH1, a PH 2 and a SL/PZ2 – some of the most commonly used driver bits in VDE circles. Each bit is fully insulated nearly to the tip and certified to highest VDE standards, as is the handle, so the choice of this tool is not a second best. The insulation is flush with the blade and gives full access at any time.

The flexible bit holders in the handle carousel again make it easy to take out and replace the screwdriver tips and the spring mechanism is so slick that it works smoothly every time with no danger of the tips getting caught in it.

Unlike the 26 One, the VDE screwdriver bits are simply pushed into place and held there by friction and a small detent. The hold seems to me to be quite secure and the tips never felt in danger of falling out. There is also a rotating collar on the screwdriver shank and in electrical work this is quite important because the screws can often be small and need the guidance from both hands to locate successfully.

To be honest, when working with the VDE BitHolder I often didn’t bother with a toolbox – I just took the BitHolder, and a pair of VDE pliers and shoved them into my back pocket. The ultimate revenge on Crowded Toolbox Syndrome.

Finally, in tool reviews as in life, I have kept the smallest to last. The Stubby BitHolder is a short and chubby screwdriver with magnetic hex bit holder and 6 bits stored in the short handle. There is no room for springs so the cap that holds the bits is kept in place by a friction ridge and is easy to lever off with a fingernail. There are three slot bits and three PZ bits, but it would be easy to customise for your needs. I know that some trades can’t live without stubby drivers because they reach to places longer drivers just can’t, and it is really handy to be able to change bits to suit rather than carry a number of “Stubbies”.

So, by now you should have had some clues on how to solve the problem of crowded toolboxes. The Wiha drivers are excellent solutions with the necessary quality and strength for professional users.  

 

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. 

 

SMAARTWIPES - Get the Ones You Need

Aimed At: Professional and home users who need efficient wiping power.

Pros: They do what they say they will do, saving time and looking after hands too.

Confession time. I never thought that I would become a fan of wipes, that is until I was given a tub to try out some years ago. I was surprised to find out how good they were for wiping hands and surfaces and not daunted by oils, paints, adhesives or even expanding foam. So I was hooked, and what’s more, whenever I take them on site I find that I am particularly popular at the end of the day at cleaning up time. I have gained quite a few converts to wipes this way and sometimes even the clients ask where they can get them – having seen how effective they are in cleaning up.

While the original tub of wipes that I used were quite generalist, it has only taken a couple of years for manufacturers to launch more specialist ranges aimed at different trades like technicians, decorators and builders.

We really can say goodbye to the skin-damaging rinse of the hands with white spirit or meths and then the inevitable struggle with whatever soap or washing-up liquid we can find.

The range of SMAARTWIPES is comprehensive and I was sent four different kinds to test in various scenarios.

The Universal Tough Wipes come in a flat plastic waterproof pack similar to the kind in which baby wipes are packaged. The pack of 30 wipes is accessed by simply lifting up the resealing strip and pulling up the wipe underneath.

These wipes really are for general trade or household use, and would not be out of place in a garden shed or home workshop. I tried them on a range of paints and adhesives, oil, silicone and grease and found that they cleaned up very well.

The wipes themselves are large enough to do a “two-handed” clean up of hands and the pleasantly scented lemon solvent cleaner lasted all the way to the last wipe. The perforations in the wipe surface give a texture to them that helps to shift ingrained dirt and makes them very effective especially on grease and oil.

I found that they were a great to leave on the shelf in my workshop or as a last minute addition to one of my toolboxes before loading the car because the flat pack is easy to stow and doesn’t require much space.

The next test was not one that I scheduled. While inspecting the crop on my plum tree in my front garden I stepped on a rather unpleasant “gift” from one of my neighbour’s cats and I didn’t realise it until I got to my front door and porch.

For this unpleasant job I used the tub of SMAARTWIPES designated for Carpets and Upholstery. There are 40 wipes in the tub and the label indicates that tea and coffee stains, pet stains, footprints and hand marks are all within the remit for removal using them.

Fortunately, the floors near my front door consist of coir mat and oak, so the contamination was able to be quickly dealt with by the judicious use of half a dozen or so wipes. The lemon scent helped to disguise the whiff of the mess and the strength of the 18x20 cm textured wipes was such that I felt confident that I didn’t have to touch the dirt.

I did also try the wipes on a couple of existing marks on the carpet that were a bit more “innocent,” like tea and coffee stains. These stains required a couple of minute’s effort and application to remove, but I found that they did indeed lift out and the evidence was clear to see on the wipe as well as a much cleaner carpet. My leather sofa also benefited from a clean over on some of the more obvious marks too.

These particular wipes are presented in a 23cm tall tub with a foil seal that has to be removed before the wipes can be accessed. As usual, it is very tempting to simply pull the wipes from the top quite quickly, so it is easy to get more than you need at one go, nevertheless, in my view, they are a very good addition to the dirt-fighting armoury of a well run household.

Also having a rather specialist use was the tub of 40 Stainless Steel Tough Polishing Wipes. At first I thought that they might be too specific for my purposes, but the recommended uses include removing smears, residue stains and oil and grease, so I had the ideal task to try them on – my cooker hood. Now, even the famous Muscular brand of cleaner has difficulty removing the grease from the top of my cooker hood so I was worried that the wipes would be ineffective. But a couple of the textured wipes wrapped together and the application of a bit of elbow grease removed coated grease and oil very effectively and left a clean surface with no feeling of slight oiliness that I get with some cleaners. The wipes gathered grease so quickly that I ended up using about 8 of them to end up with a shiny, grease free cooker hood. Again, the evidence was on the wipes to show how effective they had been and since the wipes are completely non-abrasive, they do not scratch or damage the stainless steel surface.

Lastly, I was given a big tub of 100 Trade Cleaning Wipes – of the type that I normally buy when I work on site. They are very generalist in application – removing everything from paint to oil, silicone and expanding foam. They are indeed as billed on the tub – Simple but Effective.

The non-woven wipes have a very effective cleaning formula that effectively lifts dirt off surfaces and my tests using my usual range of dirt –oil, grease glues, paint and expanding foam - proved that the wipes really do work. The addition of Aloe Vera also helps to protect skin from the damage and drying out usually associated with using solvents to clean up. They are now a regular part of my kit both in the workshop and on site.

For me, wipes are now a necessity, and the range of SMAARTWIPES is a welcome addition to the competition because they work very well and are very competitively priced. Smaartwipes are exclusively available from Toolstream.

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