New Range of Socketry from Draper

Socketry? Me?

If anyone asked me a few weeks ago whether I regularly used socketry I would have probably replied with a resounding ‘No’. But just to prove me wrong I have used socketry of various kinds on the last three jobs I have done – so it was really quite handy to have several samples of the latest Draper Socketry range to try out.

But a bit of background first.

Draper has been a supplier of good quality socketry for as long as I can remember – in fact I have an old imperial set in a metal case tucked away in the loft ‘just in case’ I ever have the urge to get myself a vintage car to restore. But things move on, and as Draper has become more involved with supplying larger items like workshop lifts and tyre changing kit for the automotive trades, it seems appropriate that a new range of socketry would fit nicely into the range and continue to be one of the cornerstones of Draper’s business.

Time to Try

Draper generously allowed me to choose a few sets to use at my leisure for a couple of weeks. I was more interested in smaller sets that would be used as part of my larger toolkit, and needed for maintenance and disassembly.

The first set I used on site was a Draper Expert 75-piece socket set that I chose because of its versatility – you can always guarantee that the worksite will throw up some little problem that is easy to deal with if you have the right tools, but is a right pain if you haven’t.

I was drawn to this set because of the choice of sockets – it has sixteen long ‘Go Through’ sockets in metric and Imperial and a further twenty-one shorter sockets – also in metric and Imperial

The sockets are all of the 6 point HI-TORQ type.

Alongside the sockets there is a collection of twenty-seven screwdriving bits in various formats like Hex, Torx, Phillips and Pozi. Using the adaptor, these bits can be driven using the screwdriver handle, the quick release ratchet, the flexible handle or the sliding T-bar. Sometimes, there is more chance of solving problems if you have a greater choice of weapons at your disposal.

Also included are three socket extensions with built-in ‘wobble’ for extra flexibility, a universal joint and a flexible extension bar.

The plastic case opens out flat revealing all of the tools at once. Only the long sockets in the lid are held so that they don’t fall out. Mercifully, all the other sockets fit loosely into place and don’t require a case-upsetting pull to get them out. Metal latches are indeed robust and the carry handle is comfortable with a rubberised overmould.

This set managed to solve me a problem the first time I used it – when I had to remove, recondition and replace the cables on an ‘up and over’ garage door. Specifically the long, slim Go Through sockets enabled the easy removal and replacement of the rails and the ‘wobbly’ extension bar provided enough offset that was needed in a tight corner.

What was also noticeable was that the quality of the kit was excellent. All the components felt well-made and professional with a modern design that felt good in the hand.

Kit No 2

This kit was chosen as a small ‘emergency kit’ – easy to carry, but with enough capability to be able to diagnose the problem – and possibly even fix it. It consists of 47 pieces of which 21 are metric sockets covering a range of 4mm to 14mm. There are 8 long slim Go Through sockets that are sometimes a problem solver.

There is also the range of 19 driver bits and an adaptor to fit the screwdriver handle and the quick release ratchet. Packed into a compact case that is just 25 cm long,18cm wide and 5cm deep, it can be tucked into a carry case or under an arm. For a few weeks I carried it around packed into a tool case where it was consulted a few times on various small jobs. A very useful addition to a general toolkit, and one that is small and lightweight, but very versatile.

And the VDE…

I work with an electrician sometimes so I chose this 18 Piece Draper Expert VDE kit for him to use and evaluate. His initial comments were that that, “quality looked great” and I think that even though I rarely use VDE stuff, just playing with the set and trying out the fit between the various components, I could appreciate that it is well made.

The kit comes in a bright VDE Red plastic case with plastic latches, and consists of 13 sockets ranging from 4mm to 14mm. Each socket is completely encased in insulating plastic, with the only metal bit to see being the socket end. A long sleeve that fits right into the ratchet handle means that there is no gap between socket and ratchet, and it safely covers the ¼ inch square drive on the ratchet.  On the end of the150mm long ratchet handle is a corrugated black button, used to lock and release the sockets by simply pressing down on it. Turning it left or right will change the direction of drive, and there is clearly no way that a user’s hand might touch an exposed bit of metal on the tool itself.

Also included are 4 extension bars – a 6 inch, a 4 inch, a 3 inch and a 2 inch.

All components are safely held in the case by a custom fitted layer of closed cell foam that protects them in transit, as well as helping ensure that the user will quickly see if any part of the kit is missing. My electrician friend endorsed his first impression of the quality of the kit after using it for a few days, and he also liked the compact case a lot because it kept all the kit together and well organised, as well as being light and easy to carry.

And So…

It is clear that Draper has put together a range of socketry that will fit the need of any number of end users. Not only is the quality excellent, but the choice of kits and the way they are encased provides a huge choice for them. Add to that Draper’s Lifetime Guarantee and a choice of finishes and they are definitely in the mix for users looking for high quality and versatile tools. It looks like Draper’s ‘Strength in Quality’ strapline points the way.

Wiha’s MagicRing and Magic Spring L-Keys

Why Get Them?

Sometimes you need to attach the fastener to the L-Key without a magnet – computer for eg don’t like magnets!

Wiha’s team has come up with several solutions that fit the bill

Features

The pack of nine ErgoStar MagicRing Hex keys have a ball end with a spring retainer – they retain the fasteners even at an angle of up to 20 degrees on the ball end.

Made with 57-60 HRC Chrome steel and meeting all the ISO and DIN standards they are of professional quality.

The short end of the keys allow max torque and maximum access for the tools in confined 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 in a 13-piece pack and have a black finish.

 The same ingenious holder is used so there is no hassle needed to get at the keys, but at the same time the set stays safely together.

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. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJzGksW1oi8

Christmas is Coming – What to Give to the Tool Rebel Who has Everything?

Aimed at: Tool rebels and aspiring tool rebels who want everything.

Pros: Keeps you guessing all the way to Christmas.

Wera’s “Tool Rebel” concept is a great idea, with the “rebels” identifying strongly with the brand at the same time as being able to feed back their ideas and solutions to the company. It is witty conceits like the “Tool Rebels” idea that make Wera a company that is close to its end users- and these same users become loyal brand ambassadors, many of whom feel that they can completely trust the brand, but also recommend it to others.

But many, if not most, Tool Rebels have a wish list, so what better present than a big Wera Advent Calendar from their nearest and dearest at Christmas? When you think about it, it is this wry sense of humour that makes for a great idea. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the marketing people first kicked about the idea of an advent calendar that contained 24 Wera tools aimed at adults rather than 24 chocolate shapes aimed at kids. 

The Wera Advent Calendar is big at 57cm long, 47cm wide and 5cm deep and is illustrated on the front with a typical Christmas scene with several Wera “clues” on it – for example Santa is using a Kraftform Kompakt screwdriver to mend the wheel on a toy car. If the donor doesn’t want to give all its the secrets away, then he/she should remove the outer transport packaging that has all of the items listed on it.

As we would expect from Wera, the contents have been thoughtfully designed to be revealed in a particular order to make a couple of small kits that would grace a toolbox and a workshop – with a couple of typically witty parts that would make a Tool Rebel smile – like the bottle opener with the Kraftform Handle. Typically these things come with cheap pressed steel openers – but not Wera with their fully hot forged version, fixed into the handle in the same way as their screwdrivers, for long service life.

In true Advent Calendar tradition, the doors are randomly dotted about the box in no particular date order – so it will be part of your Advent routine to find the door and open it to find the surprise. I couldn’t wait until the 1st December so I had a few sneak previews to help me write this review…..???

I got a bit of a clue as to what might follow when opening the double doors of no 1 when out popped a Special Edition Wera Bit-Check – clearly there were more parts to collect here and opening day no 2 confirmed my suspicions when a Phillips No 1 screwdriver bit was revealed and was quickly slotted into place in the first compartment of the Bit-Check. I am not going to reveal all in order to retain some element of surprise, but it was very tempting to continue to open a couple more doors just to see…

In order to retain some mystery, the parts of the kits are not revealed in any particular order so when the Screwdriver Board was released from its compartment it creates a little curiosity about what might follow.

An Advent Calendar needs to be hung up or stood on a mantelpiece for easy access day by day, and Wera has obliged by providing a couple of hooking spots to hang it up and a foldable stand so that it can be stood up on a flat surface like a workbench.

Retailed at around the £40 mark (typical internet price) it is clearly not just “a bit of fun” with throw away parts that will be easily lost and discarded. I am sure that many Wera Tool Rebels would love to have one given to them by a wife or partner because the whole adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. In fact, the calendar is very good value because all the pieces bought separately would easily add up to more than double the value of its retail price.

There may also be many retailers who would want to reward big account customers who have spent thousands with them all year and for whom the cost would not be more than say, the cost of a few bottles of wine or a decent bottle of malt whisky. If so, they had better get their orders in quickly because the calendars are selling out fast, if recent experience at tool shows is any guide.

But I couldn’t help myself from exploring a few more doors trying to second guess the contents. I did all the usual stuff like shaking the box near my ear to decide if I could discern the difference between various screwdrivers to stick into the Screwdriver Board. And this is another way in which the Wera guys will keep us guessing because although the size of the doors is somewhat of a guide to what is concealed underneath, it is not an infallible guide – sometimes the blades of the longer pieces have been deliberately slipped into voids left behind the calendar façade so all is not what you might think.

Most readers will not be surprised to learn that in the end I couldn’t contain my curiosity and I ended up opening all the doors and assembling the kits. Suffice to say that each of the two kits is very useful because they are made up of the very latest incarnations of the tools. Each of the bits, for example, has been marked with the latest Wera Take it Easy identification sleeves and is in impact-friendly BiTorsion format and the blades are diamond coated for longer life and better grip (anti cam-out).

The Bit-Check has gone straight into my newly bought 10.8v drill driver/ impact driver set and it complements it very well. The Screwdriver Board, with its contents, is now hanging in my indoor work room where it will be immediately available rather than having to search through my toolboxes. Apart from the bottle opener that is – straight into the kitchen drawer ready for its intended use over Christmas. Oh to be a Tool Rebel!

 

For more information please visit http://www.wera-tools.co.uk/

 

The Metabo WPB 36 LTX BL 230 - A 36v Cordless Disc Cutter to You and Me!

Aimed at: Pro users who need the capability of a 9 inch cutter but the freedom of a cordless

Pros: powerful, effective and cordless!

The vision of the future for many power tool manufacturers is the cordless worksite – and on many levels it makes sense. The freedom of movement provided by cordless tools is great and the tangle of trailing cables plugged into heavy transformers is something I wouldn’t miss. But we can’t say goodbye to mains power just yet – despite our best efforts, batteries still need charging and they still run out at inopportune moments.

But if you ever needed proof that a cordless tool can perform as well as a corded one then just have a try with the WPB 36. What is also very clear is that this cordless lacks none of the refinements and features of a corded version – so you are not getting a cordless poor relation version of the “real” thing.

On first reaching for it out of the box I had a thought that I might find the weight of the tool a bit much for daily work. It weighs a cool 6.1kgs but actually after a few attempts at putting it into a working position I came to realise that the design of the handles and the weight distribution makes for a comfortable balance. The 36v, LiHD 6.2Ah battery pack is used on one end of the handle to partly balance out the grinder head where all the action is taking place. Having a good amount of weight on the cutting end combined with the stabilising force of the whirling disc helps to keep the disc safely in the cut and less likely to kick back dangerously.

The main handle has a number of features that aid easy use. Firstly it is large enough to easily accommodate a gloved hand and there is ample grippy rubber on top of the handle for a good hold. As has been the practice for many years, items picked out in red on a Metabo tool are controls. So picked out on the long black trigger is the red safety lock button – to start the machine it is simply pushed forward with the side of the forefinger and the trigger can then be pressed to start the motor.

On the top of the handle set into the black overmould is a dual function red button. This can be depressed so that the back handle can be rotated 180 degrees in 90 degree steps to suit a users’ preference. This feature is common even on some of Metabo’s smaller grinders and I was not at first that impressed with the idea, as it seemed like an unnecessary complication and a way of tangling internal wiring by constant movement. However, there was nothing quite like working on a “real” job in a tight space at an awkward angle for me to realise that having a number of holding and tool presentation options is easier and usually safer because I could retain a firm grip on the tool for better control of the cut.

The red button also serves as an indicator that the machine is running and, as I came to find out quite quickly on the first job I did with this machine, it also indicates (when flashing) that the electronic battery and motor protection circuits have cut in and stopped the motor and will also indicate if the battery has been overheated or needs recharging. I quite like the idea of electronic idiot proofing on modern cordless tools – largely because heat build up in batteries and motors is their number one killer and the scientific consensus seems to be that the reasons why batteries explode or burst into flames is because they become too hot from too much power drain at once.

Also, batteries are now an expensive part of a cordless tool – it seems like good sense to look after them to ensure maximum battery life. Metabo takes this so seriously that you might notice the alloy plate mounted on the rear handle just above the battery housing – to protect the battery from the inevitable sparks created by the cutting discs.

Moving forward to the working head past the motor casing there is a sticker with four main features of the tool marked on it – namely brushless motor, electronic safety clutch, restart protection and the soft start feature, not to mention a fast brake also!

Perhaps more visible is the large auxiliary handle that has grippy red mouldings, flanges to prevent hand movement and a vibration-reducing collar between it and the tool. The handle can be screwed in, in three different places – left, right and centre, so that users can choose the best holding configuration for safe working. The cast alloy head is well finished and slopes downwards to reduce the bulk of it for easier access to the job. The important spindle lock button is handily placed for easy access for one hand while the other wields the pin spanner needed to remove and replace cutting or grinding discs.

The well-established and excellent Metabo system for moving and adjusting the cutter guard is another great feature here – simply lift the lever, move the guard and lock the lever again. It takes seconds and makes life so much easier when having to adjust the guard at different stages of a cut.

Metabo sent me some excellent quality cutting and grinding discs for the machine, but before they arrived I was so keen to try the machine out that I used some cheaper discs on a big job that had been pending for a while. What I learned was this - and it is only common sense -  that better quality discs make for an easier cut or grind and also make the battery last a great deal longer. I managed to use up a battery with the cheap discs in about twenty-five minutes – along with several warnings from the flashing red light that I was overloading the motor. With the Metabo disc mounted, the sparks were uninterrupted, I did more cuts and I still had more than a quarter of the battery left. This was true for both cutting with a diamond disc and grinding with a composite disc.

For those who want cordless freedom, the WPB 36 LTX BL 230, to give it it’s full title, is a very good solution. It is genuinely capable and excellent to use as well as having all the electronic protections built in. Go for it!

 

Hitachi C9U3 – The Site Workhorse Reshod and Ready

Aimed at: demanding pro site carpenters who need a capable and hardworking saw.

Pros: big powerful, more sophisticated with a facility to collect more dust if needed.

 

Hitachi portable circular saws are renowned as the workhorses of the site. Tough, robustly made and expected to cut to the limits of spec when required - i.e. often. I have lost count of the numbers of battered Hitachi saws I have seen on various sites, but their owners always swear by them. The last one I observed was being used by roofers to cut fibre cement soffits and it was being worked very hard – but I was too polite to ask if they had fitted the correct blade!

The Hitachi C9U3 is a replacement for the C 9U2 and is definitely a sleeker and more modern take on the old one, and just a little bit heavier too. No doubt the extra weight is accounted for in a few extra features on the C9U3. So the changes are not just cosmetic – Hitachi has uprated the saw to make the genuine improvements needed for a newer model.

My first impression of the saw is that it is a bit of a monster – it weighs 7.2 Kgs all up. But it does handle well and with good balance, so the weight does not feel onerous. It is now common, thank goodness, to have a cast alloy base on saws like this and the Hitachi version is strong and rigid and with a big flat ground base that sits nicely on the work. It is finished in a dull grey alloy colour, like the upper and lower blade guards and it is genuinely smart looking and has the promise that it will be hardwearing too. A rigid base is easier to work with since it does not flex and makes cutting and saw adjustments more accurate.

Two other features of the base are the adjustable cutting line guides and the blade perpendicularity adjustment. The first of these is easy enough to use – it is just in the front of the base and is adjusted to the cutting line by unscrewing it and then resetting. At this point I should also mention that the side fence is attached to the front of the saw here. The side fence is made from pressed steel, but is more robust than some I have seen, so it will perform under pressure. It has milled slots on the back of the bar for extra grip as well as metric and imperial measurements on the top of the bar, so some accuracy must be expected from it.

More important on a site saw is that the blade should be perpendicular and that it should return to right angles when the users sets it back after an angled cut. Under the base, a grub screw can be adjusted to set the blade at right angles using an engineers’ square. Inaccuracies can creep in on site saws like this, so it is handy to be able to zero it occasionally.

The motor housing and handles are made in the familiar green Hitachi ABS plastic and both handles have generous black rubberised overmoulds to provide grip and some protection from vibration. Included in the kit, is an extra black plastic front handle that can be located underneath the main front handle with a single screw. This provides the user with a grip a little further away from the blade guards, but also lower in centre of gravity terms. This will help in difficult cuts where it is necessary to give a bit more push to the saw.

Both upper and lower blade guards are made from a well finished grey alloy and they are substantial and rigid to provide good protection from the 235mm diameter 20 tooth TCT blade. There is a substantial black riving knife to help prevent binding in the cut and the lower blade guard has a nicely gauged spring loading that is easy to use at the start of the cut as it is pushed into the work, but provides enough snap to get the blade covered asap after the cut is finished.

The upper blade guard also doubles as a dust collector and dust blower. A smallish vent at the back of it spews out a lot of dust when the saw is at full throttle. As we would now expect, there is a dust collection option. A strong black plastic spout can be attached (one screw) over the dust vent. This spout is ribbed so that a standard dust collection hose can be fitted over it. More importantly, with a decent vacuum dust collector attached, the amount of dust collected is very good – not much is left lying around. But you will still have to clean up later because there is no such thing as 100% dust collection on this type of portable saw.

If you do decide to use the dust collection spout you also have to change the little handle that lifts the lower blade guard. The original handle is large and keeps your fingers well away from the blade, but the dust spout handle is a lot smaller so you need to take a bit more care to keep fingers safe.

Just on the front of the upper guard a small plastic hump directs air from the motor fan directly over the cut line so that it remains dust free and easy to see – I do like this feature very much, perhaps I am getting spoilt?

Height and angle adjustments of the blade are really easy to do and the mechanisms for each adjustment are strong. I particularly liked the blade height adjustment arrangement because the substantial knob handle that sticks out under the main handle is easy to reach and grips strongly when tightened so that there is no danger that the saw will suddenly plunge down deeper into the cut. Another nice little touch is the cord holder function under the handle – this allows the user to loop a bit of the cord around the holder so that it can be kept out of the way when cutting.

But was the C9U3 a workhorse? Well I ran it repeatedly through some damp 100x75mm tanalised timber without it so much as a change in motor note. I moved on to some very dense beech and then some old and very twisty elm. Again no problems. In my view, this new version will build a reputation of its own as a robust and accurate site saw that will keep Hitachi aficionados happy and will also gain lots of new fans too. 

 

 

The Makinex Easy Lift 140 from Morris Site Machinery Lifting without the “Heavy”

Aimed at: Anyone who needs to move, load and lift stuff – single handed!

Pros: Simple to operate, capable and easily manoeuvrable. 

Only yesterday I had to call on a friend to help me rearrange my workshop with the arrival of my new mortising machine. The old mortiser had to be dismantled from its base, re - crated and the new one installed in its place. With both machines weighing over 100kgs each, we had our work cut out to manoeuvre them into place. It took a couple of hours to achieve this safely and without straining our backs. Ironically, I could have achieved the same result in a quarter of the time if I had waited until this morning with my review of the Makinex Easy Lift 140

Looking like a cross between half a scissor lift and a barrow, the Makinex is a brilliant answer to the huge number of lifting operations that must take place in workplaces throughout the UK. So it is worthwhile to explore it in a bit more detail to get an idea of just how it works.

The main component is a simple chassis made of two rigid alloy extrusions that converge into the wheel structures. The wheels are large enough to run easily over rough surfaces and are placed far enough apart so that the Makinex will fit through a standard doorway. At the other end of this chassis is a pair of handlebars with a control on each side – on the left hand side is the wheel brake and on the right a simple switch for moving the lifting beam up and down. The alloy extrusion lifting arm is pivoted just in front of the handlebars and a simple Swiss-made ram powered by a standard 18v Makita battery pack, is used to lift the lifting arm. The lifting capacity is 140Kg and is therefore capable enough for a vast majority of daily lifting operations in industry and manufacturing. A pair of foldable jockey wheels hold the chassis at roughly the height of a pair of hands so that you don’t have to bend down to operate the machine.

I was fortunate to have a slick demonstration and some training and tips from Chris Cartwright from Morris Site Machinery before I was let loose on the Easy Lift 140.

In less than a couple of minutes – I timed it – Chris lifted a 86Kg machine from the road, moved it to the rear of the van, loaded the machine and then gently dropped it onto the van bed. With some very simple instruction, I was able to unload the machine again, gently lower it onto the road, unhook it and then repeat the loading process. It took me only slightly longer than Chris, which proves that even novices can soon make the Makinex work for them. And it felt safe and manageable – and you also get that slight feeling of “superpowers” as you lift a heavy machine with the press of a thumb on a small switch.

I thought I might have some difficulty locating the lifting hook onto the lifting ring on the target machine, but I managed it first time as the whole framework is so balanced on the wheels that fine and precision controlled movements are easy to perform.

There are lots of other advantages of the Makinex Easy Lift, apart from its lifting capabilities. It is really easy to maintain since moving parts are few, the whole thing folds flat and will fit easily into a standard van, and since it weighs only 40Kgs itself it is easy to handle. Chris single-handedly packed it into the van by making use of the balance of the machine and the jockey wheels so that he never had to lift the weight of it – he simply slid it into its correct position. In fact the hardest part of using the Easy Lift 140 seems to be to remember to charge the battery pack when needed. 

The height of the lift has been carefully calculated so that it will easily reach the height needed for loading the average builder’s lorry. Loading up to tailgated vehicles is easy too because the scissor design allows the arm to reach past the tailgate onto the lorry bed – something not always possible when using a forklift to load up.

The target market for the Makinex Easy Lift 140 is potentially vast. I think it is a case that once potential clients have seen the Makinex in operation, the more thoughtful of them will see the advantages more or less immediately. They will see easy and controlled lifting, a lot more Health and Safety boxes ticked and efficiency savings. This machine can be used by everyone from a Scottish fisherman to unload his catch and load it onto the market van, to an automotive factory that needs temporary (or permanent) help with lifting components onto a production line. Chris tells me that once customers have bought the Makinex, they very quickly learn to apply its talents to a much wider range of lifting and moving tasks.

But maybe there is another aspect to using the Makinex that makes a lot more sense to employers. It costs British industry thousands, if not millions, to deal with the days off ill with bad backs and other lifting injuries that employees suffer with. Not to mention the injury claims that come to court, leading to an average of around a £5,600 payout to the injured party. Judicious and controlled use of lifting machinery can and should result in far fewer injuries and the Makinex is a cost effective, simple and reliable method of lifting heavy things.

If the Makinex makes sense for a self employed Scottish fisherman, it should make even more sense in factories, builders yards and building sites – and all for a price of less than £3,000 ish! 

LED Lenser P7R – Rechargeable Quality

Aimed at: Pro and demanding users of torches.

Pros: Rechargeable, compact with a powerful and adjustable beam.

In the increasingly competitive market for torches, consumers have been spoiled. We can get torches from the £1.99 petrol station special up to devices costing £200 or £300 with beams like lighthouses. We have come to expect bright LEDs, focusing optics and some degree of weather and shock protection as standard. It seems as if we are all lumen hungry now, where 15 years ago we didn’t even know what a lumen was.

Pitching unashamedly into the quality end of the market is the new LED Lenser P7R – part of LED Lenser’s Professional Series of torches. If you want to shout quality these days, then the torch (or whatever) has to be presented in a well made and striking presentation box into which the product is nestled like a piece of expensive jewellery. The P7R is no exception – as the picture shows.

Printed discreetly on the lid are the key specifications of the product – 1000 lumens beam strength, a maximum beam distance of 210 metres and a battery life of up to 40 hours at Eco setting. Not bad for a torch that is 15cm long and will fit comfortably into a wax jacket pocket.

Underneath the dense foam packaging is all the stuff you need to get the torch working. There is a well made ballistic nylon belt pouch with elasticated sides to hold the torch securely. With its red stitched highlights and hook and loop fastening, the pouch looks like it has been specially made for the P7R and is not just a “generic one size fits all’. There is also a nylon wrist strap that can be attached to the base cap if needed.  And then, of course, there is the all-important charging base. There is definitely a touch of the “designer” about this base. Made out of strong black plastic it has complex curves like a shoehorn, with the USB charging lead on one end.

This base is designed to be attached vertically to a wall with the screws and plugs supplied. There is about a metre and a half of cord attached to the charging end, so it should be enough for most users to find a convenient place to put it. Although there is only the USB option to plug into the charger this may not be too limiting. Apart from being able to charge from a laptop or desktop computer, mains plug sockets with USB fittings are commonly available nowadays.

Once fitted to the wall, the torch has a strong magnetic cap that holds the torch vertically while it is being charged. This charging solution, I have to say, is neat, efficient and stylish and minimizes the clutter that usually surrounds the “charging stations” that are a feature of modern life with all our rechargeable devices.

Unusually, the rechargeable battery was not in the torch when it arrived for testing. It was packed into the nylon pouch for protection. All it takes to mount the battery is to unscrew the back cap of the torch and mount it into the removable cartridge, taking care to observe the polarity. When the rear cap is removed it is an opportunity to have a close look at the design and engineering of the product, the body is made of alloy, and there is no doubt that it is high quality. The milled grips are well done and the black finish is thorough.

The rear cap also contains the switch mechanism, and I am pleased that the designers have adopted a simple switch system that does not entail switching through all modes whenever you use the torch. A simple hard press on the bright chrome switch will turn on full beam and another firm press will switch it off. However, a quick double press will select Eco mode that is significantly less bright than the main beam.

The beam focusing system is similarly simple. To unlock the torch head simply twist it to the right and then it will slide smoothly backwards and forwards, using your thumb and forefinger. The user can choose whatever setting he wants between full beam and flood beam and then lock this position by a simple twist to the left.  

Not all LEDs are created equal, and I was pleased to see that the quality of the LED Lenser LED was good. Shining it onto a wall, at full beam, there were no black spots or rings. This shows that the focusing optics are doing their job and the intense spot needed at the end of a beam will be there. Similarly, at full flood setting, there was a good even spread of light with no spots or rings. In the full darkness of my back garden (no street lights out here in deepest Sussex) the flood beam illuminated a wide area that made it possible to work over the whole 12 metre wide garden.

The spot beam is powerful too, and shone right across the playing fields opposite with a noticeable centre to the beam.

The P7R is positioned at a very competitive centre of an already competitive torch market so is up against some stiff competition both in terms of price and quality. In my mind there is no doubt about the quality of the LED Lenser P7R – the designers have done a good job designing a torch with an LED that is super bright and then allied it to a simple patented focusing system with quality lenses that make the most of the bright beam.

The packaging and accessories reinforce the quality message, as does the elegant charging system. As usual, quality does not come cheap, so the target market is not those who would be happy with a cheap copy. Regular users might be police and emergency services etc, who need a reliable, robust torch that will deliver the light needed as well as being easy to carry and hold and then recharge at the end of a shift. 

Princeton Head Torch - A New American Rival in a Competitive Market

Aimed at: Everyone from campers to anglers to kitchen drawer domestic occasional users.

Pros: Light, compact, adjustable with red beams too

Head torches have become very popular in the last few years – every naturalist on telly has one, as does every competitor on a survival show. Anglers, campers and just about every trade uses them, especially as the evenings draw in. There is a market niche for every single one of them - from £5 Bonfire Night single use and then into the kitchen drawer, to the powerful rechargeable, adjustable lights used regularly by professionals.

Enter the Princeton Tech REMIX, a 150 lumens compact head torch that is, unusually, made in the USA. From a dealer’s perspective it is well packaged for information and security. Mounted on a card so that potential buyers can look closely at it, its five major features are clear to see – namely 150 lumens of light, a beam distance of up to 73m, four modes of light, IP4 weather resistance rating and adjustable beam settings. Its two sets of beams are contained in a small casing about 55mm long and 45mm deep. The main beam is a bright white LED beam, and the smaller lights are a cluster of three red LEDs.

On the back of the blister pack are the three Duracell AAA batteries, the head strap and a simple set of instructions explaining the four mode switch and the single twistable bracket to enable the beam to be aimed where it is needed. LEDs are very energy efficient, so users can expect a runtime on full beam of about 28 hours, while on the lowest setting (flood low) we can expect batteries to last about 150 hours.

Although the buyer has to attach the head strap and insert the batteries after purchase, these are not difficult to do. The adjustable elasticated head strap is 25mm wide, so is comfortable and easily supports the 83g weight of the torch without that feeling that it is slipping down one’s forehead.

Most compact head torches rely on a multiway switch to select different light modes and the REMIX is no different. In this case it is handy to read the instructions because the timings on the switches are critical to change modes. Get used to a lot of quick double – clicking and you will soon be able to select the mode you want without having to flick all the way through the switch cycle.

Light quality is good for such a compact head torch and the cluster of three red Ultrabright LEDs are particularly bright on full setting. I know that many hunters, anglers and naturalists like red LED lights because not only do they use less battery power, but they are also less dazzling than white lights, so eyes do not have to become accustomed to the dark again once the white lights are switched off. Animals are also not spooked by red lights either.

In a competitive market, price points are vitally important, but this little head torch is well made, efficient, has the right specs and is light and compact, so it has all the ingredients to compete. 

 

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.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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