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Accurate insulation needed? Try the Festool

I HAVE seen lots of different styles of insulation – from the ‘stuff-it-in-andhope-for-the-best' method, through to the obsessively neat ‘no gaps at any cost’.

Obviously the nearer you get to the ‘no-gaps’ style, the better the insulation factor. The Festool ISC 240 is the tool to help you do it.

Two Blades for Different Insulation Types

If you think of a cordless jigsaw with much longer and specialised blades, then you have a basic grasp of the way in which the saw works – but this being a Festool, the simplicity is only skin deep.

For the most rigid types of insulation material like PU foams, the jigsaw type of toothed blade is required.

This blade is supported by a wide blade backing, which keeps the long blade straight for accurate cutting into insulation, that could be up to 25cm thick.

Longer blades are available - I am told.

For less rigid insulation materials like rockwool or woollen batts, a different blade formation is required.

This consists of two extremely sharp ‘wavey’ blades, one of which reciprocates up and down the other - creating a kind of scissor action cut, that shears through material which tends to give a bit.

And the extras…

To ensure users get a straight and accurate cut, Festool engineers have designed a couple of bases to go with each blade type. The first of these clicks on near the top of the blade.

The base has two channels on it, that can be fitted into the channel along the back of a standard Festool guiderail. These enable users to cut millimetre perfect straight lines in harder types of insulation.

Again, for softer insulation where accuracy may not be as critical, but is certainly desirable Festool engineers have designed a small-wheeled sled that runs in the grooves of a Festool guide rail.

This sled is attached to the bottom end of the sharp ‘wavey’ blades.

When cutting, the guide rail is slid underneath the insulation so the insulation rests on it, and then the saw is slid down the guide rail - where the small weight of the insulation helps to keep it down for easier cutting.

A word of warning though – the ‘wavey’ blades are so sharp - it is best to keep them covered with the supplied bladeguard when they are not in use.

Cordless convenience

While it looks a bit like and cuts like a cordless jigsaw, the insulation saw has several features that sets it apart. For example, most users would notice the fine mesh covering the motor ventilation holes – these replaceable filters are designed to keep out fine insulation particles that could spell an early death to an electric motor.

The on/off switch cannot be accidentally switched – a definite safety factor with extremely sharp blades in action. It needs two quick pushes to start.

Dust extraction is extremely good, via the port on top of the saw head – it needs to be slid back to allow blade changes.

And finally, Festool has included two of its latest Bluetooth batteries that allow remote switching of a compatible vacuum extractor. A truly good thing, as the last thing any user wants to do is inhale ne insulation particles.

There is much more to say about this insulation saw. Having used it, I am impressed with both the ease of use and the accuracy.

Add to that cordless convenience and Bluetooth switching, and you have a very user friendly tool.

Here’s to warmer houses, courtesy of the Festool Insulation saw.

www.festool.co.uk

Dart Angle Driver – Popular and Award Winning too!

WhyBuy?

  • Handy
  • Well priced
  • easily adjustable
  • well made
  • could get you out of a spot

In many drill driver kits these days an angle driver head will be included. Belatedly, in some cases, we have woken up to the fact that not all screwdriving is a simple straight line function. Sometimes we have to work at very odd angles and around corners and in tight spaces, and the angle driver, in very many cases, allows us to do just that. In fact, I chose to purchase a particular brand of small combi drill on the basis that it was the only one, at that time, that came with a quick release angle driver and chuck. Frankly one of the best decisions I have made in tool purchases because I have used it more often than I thought I would.

So the market was crying out for a well made angle driver that could be simply mounted in a standard chuck. DART Tools, masters at sourcing tools, stepped in, and so popular has its angle driver been, that it won the Innovation Award at the Torque Expo Show in October 2016. It was chosen by the visitors – who represent a wide range of trades and businesses in the fasteners and fixings industry.  

What the voters could clearly see was that the angle driver is very well engineered and its angle gearing works smoothly – so it is a high quality 90° extension to the normal Driver Chuck.

Any close examination of the driver will reveal that it is satisfyingly heavy – so enough metal has gone into its construction for it to be robust enough to withstand trade use. The outer casing of cast alloy has been well finished and is smooth to the touch. To mount it up for work, all the user has to do is attach the hex end of the driver to a chuck (it could also be one of those chucks mounted on a flexible drive cable) and find the angle that they want to drive at before tightening it.

Again, the hex end is strong and capable of delivering the maximum 57Nm of torque that can be put through the gearing.

At the driver end is a small spring-collared and magnetic bit holder. Since this is a standard fitting there is no reason why the user couldn’t customise usage by mounting drill bits, etc, from one of the comprehensive hex bit sets available from many manufacturers.

An absolute necessity in my view is the small handle attached to the driver. This is adjustable into three positions, so that the user can maximise its potential. In my experience it was very handy to be able to use the handle to guide the screwdriver bit onto the screwhead, and then apply some pressure to keep it there while driving it home. A nice touch is that the top of the handle can be unscrewed revealing a compartment just big enough for a spare driver bit – how often have I needed one of those!

The angle driver can be used at speeds up to 2000 rpm even though screwdriving will be done at much slower speeds – but it does allow the option of using drills and even small cutters and burrs mounted on a hex shank.

A neat idea, neatly realised, and one that will be a very useful solution to many screwdriving dilemmas.

As one happy customer remarked, “This product is designed to enable me to screw or drill in that impossibly tight position where no other could - it has saved me from failure many times”

 

Coleman – 115 years of lighting experience

Aimed at: regular users who need a good torch for many purposes.

Pros: Battery lock prevents battery leakage, well made quality product.

Coleman is a long established brand in the camping and leisure market and is well known for providing clever solutions for campers since 1901 but their range of battery lights is perfectly suited to the DIY and Hardware retailer of today. With the UK torch market very well served for everything from the almost throwaway £2.99 special to the £200 (and more) specialist torch, it almost goes without saying that you have to bring something more to the market than just another range of torches.

In Coleman’s case it is something that I have actually wanted for a while – Coleman’s BatteryLock - a way of isolating the batteries from the torch that prevents the slow micro-seepage of power from the batteries, as well as ensuring that they do not start leaking. Battery leakage in torches that are not regularly used is a sure way of killing a torch – they will probably never work again once they are filled with the nasty goo from a leaking battery. I have tried cleaning the goo out in order to reclaim my torch, but it rarely works as a permanent solution.

I was sent three Coleman torches for this review – the Divide+ 700 LED, the Divide+ 200 LED and the CXS+ 250 LED Head Torch. All of these models have the new BatteryLock technology and in each case it is very easy to operate so it should just become a habit to do when the torch is switched off and stored for any length of time.

On the Divide+ 700 and 200 torches, the bulb head is marked on the barrel with padlock symbols for lock/unlock. To go into BatteryLock mode simply twist the torch head towards the “lock” symbol and it disengages it from the barrel that contains the batteries. It also reveals a red line on the torch head that is visual proof of the torch being in BatteryLock mode. Changing from one mode to the other takes less time than I can type this, so it is not a chore to do it in order to have peace of mind from battery leakage.

On the head torch, it takes a bit longer to go into BatteryLock mode because the case is smaller. I found that the easiest way was to grip the casing with my right hand finger and thumb holding each side and my left hand finger and thumb holding top and bottom and then simply pulling the casing apart. This again reveals a red line marked on the casing that tells you that you are in BatteryLock mode. 

The Divide+ 700 Torch has an RRP of £49.99 which makes it quite competitive in its market segment.  I like the simple rubber button switch at the torch end of the barrel that is pressed once to go to full beam, pressed twice for low beam and then again for off. The quality of the beam is very good – a bright white light with a circular focused spot in the middle surrounded by a distinct secondary beam that illuminates a much wider area.

At 700 lumens the full beam has a range of 330 m and after trying it out in the woods, I would agree with that. At low beam the LED delivers only a tenth of the light intensity at 70 lumens with arrange of about 110m – so for most general purposes the low beam is more than adequate and it won’t blind other dog walkers and campers. The payoff for using low beam is a much extended battery life – on full beam the six AA batteries will last about 7 hours – enough for a police manhunt I guess, but on low beam batteries will last an impressive 55 hours

There are a couple of other things to like about the Coleman Divide+ 700 – it is made of anodised aluminium and feels solid and well made. I “accidentally” dropped my sample on a wooden floor several times when I was using it and it didn’t seem to suffer at all. With its IPX 4 weatherproof rating it should also withstand the occasional wetting or even a short dunking without damage. The ideal torch for use in the garage, in the car and to help with those dark DIY jobs.

Coleman Divide+ 200

For more occasional users and those who want a torch for the pocket of a wax jacket the Divide+ 200 should be considered. It is compact at around 125mm long, and quite light too. Powered by three AA batteries housed in a neat cartridge within the anodised aluminium body, the 200 lumen LED has a range of about 200m on high beam and about 70m on low beam. Clearly a good general purpose, household/dog walking/ power cut torch that could be stuffed into a kitchen drawer as easily as it could be used on a campsite. With the three batteries using full beam will only last about 2 hours, but at low beam (20 lumens) this is extended to 35 hours. Again the aluminium body has an IPX 4 weather rating so will be strong enough to resist rainy walks in the rain and the occasional puddle, too.

For me the base criteria for a head torch are that it should be comfortable to wear, it should not flop about once it is put on and the switching system should be easy to manage since you can’t see the switch. The 25mm wide elasticated strap of the CXS+ 250, which has an RRP of £42.99, is comfortable and stays in place well and the slim pad behind the torch back cushions the pressure against your forehead. There is a large switch placed centrally on top of the head torch body so is easy to reach and operate. It is a cyclical switch so you have to cycle through all 5 modes to select the one you want, (the modes are red, low, medium, high and extra-bright). It also features Kinesix which allows you to change the lighting mode with a simple swipe of your hand.  

With its three AAA batteries it remains compact, but the payoff is that at extra-bright beam (250 lumens) the batteries will last only 2.5 hours. Switch to low (25 lumens) for a 40-hour life span, or for even more, use red mode – much favoured by anglers and hunters since it doesn’t frighten wildlife. The range is a very decent 40m on extra-bright beam down to 10m on low beam which is more than adequate for a head torch, since it is meant to be used close up. Its IPX 4 rating indicates good weatherproofing for outdoor use.

There are other torches in the Coleman range, and from what I could see from these samples they are well made and fit for purpose – I can imagine that they would be a popular purchase for multi-purpose, DIY, campers, anglers and anyone who need a reliable and usable torch.

 

For more information please visit www.coleman.eu/uk or email [email protected]

 

 

Flex 18v Recip Saw – A Welcome Addition to the Flex Cordless Range

Aimed at: Pro users who need cordless flexibility to demolish and cut. 

Pros: A powerful and flexible cutting friend- just chose the right blades for success. 

Too many years ago than I care to remember, I reviewed a recip saw newly arrived from the US. After using it a bit I showed it to some tradesmen, who almost universally dismissed it. They told me it was too heavy and clumsy (no 18v Li ion cordless then!) but look around now on sites and recip saws have been wholeheartedly adopted – especially by window fitters and first and second fix carpenters. This is just because they are VERY useful tools – doing things that others can’t. And now with a variety of blades that will cut timber, steel etc etc they are assured a place in the van.

Many things have changed in the intervening years, like SDS blade fitting, lighter weight and compact versions for use in tight corners. But the real revolution in the last few years are the cordless recip saws with enough punch to do the job. Enter the Flex RS 29 18.0!

This tool is part of the new 18v range from Flex of Germany. It too, takes advantage of the advanced 18v battery system that Flex has launched a few months ago. The system is designed to prevent battery packs from overheating during use and safe from deep discharge, thus ensuring longer battery life and reliability. The diagnostic charger is unique too – the only one I have seen that uses an LED screen to count down the minutes to “fully charged” so that workers can keep track of the battery power available.

 

Flex tools are aimed at professionals and are generally sold through trade outlets, and it seems that, these days, professional power tools need to be presented in stackable boxes. Accordingly, the saw arrived in a smart black L-Boxx with discreet Flex logo. A custom insert held the tool securely in transit and included in the box were two battery packs, a smart charger and a pack of blades.

I had lined up several jobs to do with the Flex RS 29 – namely cutting up some old uPVC window frames, removing another frame and then a bit of not-so-gentle pruning of a quince tree that is slowly taking over a corner of the garden and annoying the neighbours. These jobs are perfect for a recip saw, especially a cordless one, because they demonstrate how the saw can jump from one job to another by simply changing to a suitable blade.

For some reason recip saws are always heavy. Maybe something to do with the recip mechanism hidden in the nose of the saw, and at around 3.6 Kgs with battery pack, the Flex feels quite chunky. However, because of the nature of recip cutting, you don’t really want something too light because you need the weight to keep the saw stable and in the cut.

The rear part of the saw is in familiar Flex red with a black and red battery pack (2.5 or 5Ah) slotted onto the end of the main handle. A comfortable and well-designed rear handle has enough grippy rubber to be comfortable, and the trigger and interlock are well placed for average hands. Speed is controlled via the trigger and is especially controllable at low and high speeds. (0-3100 rpm)  Of course, there is some vibration, as you would expect from a recip saw because of its cutting action. In my view, this vibration is about the same as I have experienced on other recip saws I have used. But it is not the kind of tool that I would use all day so you probably need not worry too much about vibration levels.

 At the “business end” we have very robust housing covered with a slightly rubberised black plastic coating. Some tradespeople who tried it liked the bulkiness as it gave them something to hang on to. In truth, I found it pretty much the same as any other recip saw I have used and the design allowed my left hand to guide and aim the saw accurately where I wanted it to cut.  Also on the “nose” of the saw, are the tool holder lever, the front shoe adjuster and the orbital stroke switch. I also liked the inclusion of a bright LED light right on the front end where it does a good job of illuminating the workpiece should you need it.

A good blade is worth the money on a recip saw and I started with a fairly fine-toothed metal cutting blade to cut up the couple of old uPVC window frames that needed dumping. I had set aside about twenty minutes for the job because they were large frames and I have a small car. The Flex was so efficient that I finished in fifteen minutes. Both plastic outer frames and internal steel strengtheners of the windows were cleanly cut without drama.

On another day with a bigger toothed and longer blade I tackled the quince tree – again I was very happy with the rate of progress. In the end, most of the tree was taken down to ground level simple because it was easier and I had a few encouragements from my neighbour to get rid of it completely.

I also ended up using the Flex on site to cut through the rusted screws holding the ply roof of a brick built shed and then cutting up the ply into sizes small enough to fit in my car. Demolition is truly the forte of recip saws and this tool has no reason to feel ashamed of its performance.

Some specs might help put all of the above into a real context. The retail price is around £110, so it is very competitive for a “real” trade rated tool. The RS 29 will cut 18mm thick metal, 100mm metal pipes, 200mm plastic pipes and 180mm thickness of wood – basically pretty well the sort of things that the average worksite will throw up.

In my view, the Flex RS 29 18 covers all the bases and the Flex 18v cordless system is as well thought out as most of the competition – so for a competitive price you will get a capable tool with a future. 

 

SMART Tools and Purple Series Blades - A Cutting Combination?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leatherman Surge – A Thoroughly Modern Multi-Tool

Aimed at: Those who need a high quality multi-tool for work or play.

Pros: Usable pliers and it doesn't bust your nails trying to get the blades out.

While some people rabbit on about Health and Safety as though they are bad – I take a different view. Changing rules on Health and Safety often allow us to take a fresh look, and the consequent redesign is usually much better – especially in the area of tools.

The first multi tool I coveted, years ago, was a crude device compared to the slick stainless steel Leatherman Surge that arrived on my desk a few days ago.

In its folded form, the Leatherman Surge is a weighty bit of kit that fits neatly into the palm of the hand. Made almost entirely from different grades of stainless steel, it is very well screwed together and there are no sharp bits sticking out. It feels like it will do the job!

The more I explored the features of the Surge, the more I came to appreciate just how much safer and more useful it is compared to my first multi tool.

Safety-wise it is simply great. All the blades are lockable so will not suddenly release to trap or cut an unwary finger. The big sharp knife blades will not open unless the handles are in the closed position – so basically they are available only when you need them.

Opening up all the tools is now not a job for steel fingernails – they are mostly released via a spring catch and a generous finger niche is provided to help them open out. On the other hand, both the serrated and standard knife blades can be opened with the flick of a thumb – something that I have come to appreciate when I have been been working on site.

There is also a bit of future proofing built in because key things that get blunt, like the wire cutters and reversible screwdriver bit, can be replaced very easily.

What set the original Leatherman apart from others was the inclusion of a pair of pliers that actually worked. The Surge carries on this tradition, but with bells on. The narrownose pliers are revealed by simply opening out the handles. Milled jaws provide a good grip on wire as well as small nuts and bolts and the wire cutters are VERY effective on both electrical wires and small gauge steel wire. Behind the fulcrum are an electrical wire cutter and crimper that work very well too.

Some multi tools claim to have legions of blades, but in my experience, they often don’t all work. This is not true of the Surge – all twenty blades are completely functional and some are ingenious. The scissors, for example, have a brilliant spring mechanism that means they actually work properly - I cut paper, card and hard plastic quite easily.

I was also pleased to see that this Surge came in a leather belt pouch with elasticated nylon sides that not only held the knife securely, but also had some space to accommodate a couple of spares like the diamond and metal file blades.

So, the Leatherman Surge is a really practical, modern and safe multi that would be perfect for campers, travellers and emergency trade use. I like it!

GYSMi 80P Welder - As Compact as You Dare?

Aimed at: General users who occasionally Weld.

Pros: A portable and capable little welder that can be brought anywhere. 

Remember when welders were so bulky you had to use them in a workshop or not at all? Sometimes they even had wheels to help you out a tiny bit. It wasn’t that long ago. But, in what seems like an almost single-handed quest to help welding reach the masses, the GYS Company in France has been using modern electronics to reduce the size and increase the capability and controllability of welders to the point where I have been reviewing and using a tiny welder that would literally fit into a child’s shoebox.

 

Measuring just 215mm long, 99mm wide and 143mm high and weighing in at around 2.5Kgs the GYSMi 80P has enough capability in its tiny casing to weld ferrous metals up to 5mm thick using welding rods from 1.6 to 2.5mm. With the right rods, steel, stainless steel and and cast iron can be welded. With its perfect portability it makes sense that this is a “go anywhere” welder for small tasks such as mending farm gates and steel frame buildings, so it is also great to know that it can be used in conjunction with a portable generator as low as 3kW capacity.

The GYSMi 80P is the smallest of a small series of welders that increase in size and capability in steps up to a very capable 200 amps and 5mm welding rods, so users can choose the machine to suit the tasks envisaged. They all have some very advanced technology built in, clearly the bigger they are, the more the technology that can be included.

However, the GYSMi 80P is no slouch. Electronic technologies have a great part to play in welding because they can be used to monitor the human input as well as the heat, current etc taking place at the welding point. Using all this data, the welder can optimise the weld so that even inexperienced welders can end up with an acceptable result. And with overheating etc overrides built in the user has the reassurance that he will not damage the machine by using it inexpertly.

This outcome is something that our Continental friends have been able to access for many years because welding is very much part of their DIY and light trade culture. I can only guess that in the past in the UK we have either been too scared of welding as it is seen as “dangerous” or “too specialised” or even too expensive to invest in for occasional use.

To give some examples of how the GYSMi 80P helps make better welders of its users, the electronics helps with some of the following: - The so called Hot Start increases the current at the start of the weld so that the user can get the weld going. This avoids the stop/start of the welding rod that many new to welding experience that usually results in a series of blobs on the welding line. In my short experience of using the machine the Hot Start feature was the feature that helped me get a weld going smoothly so that I could judge the feed rate of the welding rod.

The next feature is Arc Force – this increases the current when the electrode enters into melted metal created by the weld and then tends to stick. Again, this allows the user to remove the electrode and move on as smoothly as possible into the weld.

The Anti Sticking feature is the one that also helped me in my experience of welding. I tend to get a lot of “sticks” because I don’t feed the electrode smoothly and evenly enough to get that desired “ribbed” look of a successful weld.

Since becoming known as having a welder in my workshop I have had a number of requests to weld a few things. One of these was a set of weighted volleyball net holders whose legs had broken off from being bent over too far. In the end, it was a simple matter of realigning and then reattaching the legs by a couple of straight (ish?) welds. They are still in daily use weeks later, so my weld must have been good enough.

Other uses have been a couple of short welds for a friend who fancies himself as a sculptor. He is already talking about borrowing my GYSMi, but with a price of around the £100 for a ready to go kit, I am sure he could afford his own.

From the dealer point of view, welders like the GYSMi 80P are now not really any more specialised than some woodworking machines or power tools that they might stock. There could be many advantages in taking on a new line. Some dealers I have spoken to in rural areas have seen increases in business by stocking welding gear.

Like many other products, the welding machines are very competitively priced, but welding accessories are an absolute requirement for continued use, and these can help dealers develop healthy sales in electrodes, gloves, masks and other small tools.

It only takes one member of a sales force to have a bit of training and experience in welding for him/her to become a bit of an expert. At its HQ in Rugby, GYS UK is able to give the necessary training and product knowledge required to successfully stock and sell welders.

There is lots to like about the GYSMi 80P – not least of which is the fact that it is ready to go – all you really need to add are some suitable electrodes and basic safety kit like mask and gloves etc. And I have to say there is something very satisfying about being able to make a simple and quick, and hopefully long lasting repair, to something using a suitable weld. I have done the vain attempts to bind a pair of metal pieces together with wire, only to see the repair fail as the whole thing moves or falls apart because the strength of the repair is simply not good enough. And with a machine that helps you to be a better welder via its electronics – I will take that any day. 

Snickers All Round Work Trousers-Comfortable, Hardwearing and Above All, Stylish

The days of workmen and women turning out in jeans and a scrappy T-shirt are pretty well over.

We have all been blessed with a highly competitive market in work wear that ensures that pretty well 100% of work people have access to practical and hard wearing work wear.

But not all work wear is equal, as I have found to my cost, especially when I have impulse-bought cheaper trousers. My most common complaint is with the depth and placement of the pockets and of course the all important bending and kneeling test that can reveal just how much material has been saved in certain areas???

On the other hand, the Snickers All Round Work Trousers I have been wearing on site for the last week and a half have been incredibly comfortable and I am already considering the need for a second pair, despite the fact that they are not the cheapest trousers on the market.

It is only with extended wear that I have become aware of just how thoughtfully they have been designed and almost each day I have been surprised by one or other feature.

So, some facts: - they are made in Grey Cordura Nylon which is hardwearing, easy to wash and dries quite quickly too – especially over a radiator – so next day wear is on the cards if a spare pair is not available. Sizing couldn’t have been easier – although it was a bit of a shock to discover my growing waistline, the tape measure reading was spot on. To help you remember your size for easy next purchase, an orange tab on the leg reminds you and everyone else what your size is.

Belt loops are strong and frequent, including a double length loop at the back, so there is no gapping.

My first thought on all the pockets (I counted 15 of them) was that I surely wouldn’t need as many, but in the course of wearing the trousers I used them all, including the zipped holster pocket which held my phone and protected it from dust etc. The front holster pockets are simply great for holding screws, small tools etc and there are enough of them to allow me separate different sizes of screws, nails and bits. The standard front pockets are deep enough to hold car keys and change without any danger of them falling out if you have to kneel or bend. On the rear of the hips are a couple of tool loops as well as a screwdriver/plier loop on the right leg. One of the spacious rear pockets has a flap for safe holding of a wallet or even documents, while the other is a great place for a handful of sizeable nails or screws.

Custom kneepads are slotted into pockets on the knees – again so convenient to use and they didn’t end up halfway down my shins.

Two of the best aids to comfort is the stretch material used in the crotch and the ventilated knee sections.

Perhaps the best thing was that my clients both commented on how stylish and smart the trousers looked when I wore them. A small thing perhaps, but looks do count, and I can’t find any fault with the design either. These trousers definitely fall into my “Highly Recommended” category and I will continue proudly to wear them.

I also had the good fortune to try out the Solid Gear work shoes. These are in a “Tough Trainer” style with a Vibram sole and padded, moisture wicking inside. Key for me was the Boa Closure System on the shoes that allow almost instant tightening and releasing of the “laces”. On the particular job I was working on it was a great hit with me and the clients as I could quickly change shoes every time I went from indoors to outdoors without having to trail mud on the carpets and floors. I can foresee a time when all work shoes will be made like this…. 

For more information on Snickers Workwear and the Hultafors Brand, please visit www.hultaforsgroup.co.uk

Take it Easy with Wera Tool Sets

Aimed at: Proffesional fitters and mechanics. 

Pros: Easy to locate and identify the tools in their wallets or in a crowded toolbox. Pro spec means they are tough and help achieve a good job.

Wera users are familiar with the incremental approach to development that their new products have. Sometimes not so revolutionary but evolutionary, these tools develop and change, but never leave their past behind. So my ten-year-old Rapidaptor still fits the most modern Wera hex bit set, even though it may have lost some of its original purpose due to the increased use of impact drivers and the specialist bits needed for impact work.

On review this month are two of the smaller sets from Wera that really reflect how the tools are developed in order to improve the end user experience and make their lives “simpler, safer and full of joy”, the essence of the Wera mission statement.

I will start with the smaller of the two – the Kraftform Kompakt Zyklop Mini 2. It is packed into the dramatic black Wera packaging that says “quality and high value” to anyone who looks at it or handles it. Inside the box is the rigid-sided nylon wallet with a hook and loop closure to keep the contents secure. Underneath the wallet closure are two small ratchets moulded in plastic that can be used to identify the set by sight or by touch if the set is in the bottom of a toolbox for example. A subtle detail, but an interesting example of where the Wera mission statement is really applied – no detail is too small to be included.

Inside are 27 pieces all neatly attached into rows where they can easily be seen and accessed.

On the “lid” of the wallet is a row of 15 hex shanked drivers. The line starts with a square socket drive that will fit into the driving tools and it has a ballbearing socket retainer so that the sockets can be held securely. It is followed by a Pozi 1 and 2 bit, Phillips 1 and 2 bits, six Torx bits from size 40 to 10, and four hex bits from 6 to 3. Each is identified by its laser markings and is easy to replace in the flexible rubber loops. If you are a careful worker, they all get replaced correctly each time in their allotted spots, which will save you time searching. I am only as organised as that sometimes….

On the “side “of the wallet is a row of nine mini-sockets with popular sizes from 13mm to 4mm. They are mini-sockets since they are just 18mm deep and are designed that way to be as slim and as compact as possible. Intended users are fitters who often operate on small apparatus in limited spaces – think computer fitting technicians, specialist electronics etc. The sockets are firmly held in place on square plastic pegs and will not move in transit, and the laser etched identification marks are also echoed in the white stitching of the sizes on the wallet itself – no real excuse to be disorganised with the sockets.

On the other “side” of the wallet is a small Kraftform Kompakt driver handle. Obviously not intended for applying higher torque, it is small enough to be used in fingertips for delicate operations. The highly magnet hex socket will hold all standard size 6mm hex bits and with the ¼ inch square driver bit in the set, the sockets can be used as well. 

Finally we come to the mini-Zyklop ratchets – Zyklop Mini 1 and Zyklop Mini 2. I can always understand how people might want to fidget with these ratchets because they are so smoothly finished and well made that they are just very tactile. But that is to miss the point somewhat because they are also fully functioning ratchet tools with a fine tooth ratchet giving 6 degrees of turn for use in tiny spaces. The extra slim heads on the ratchets mean that they will fit almost anywhere and be able to function as intended.

Zyklop Mini 1 is just 85mm long and the ratchet head itself is just 12mm thick. Even with a driver bit in, it is only 28mm thick.

The more meaty Zyklop Mini 2 is 105mm long with an 11mm hex drive socket on the end. The sockets fit snugly into this and are retained securely by a sprung ring, so no need to worry that they are going to fall into the machinery and cause havoc.

Moving to the less romantically named 8740 c HF 1 we find a similar story in the packaging and presentation, but this time there is a hex drive socket on the front of the wallet for identification.

Inside are just nine tools – hex drivers intended for use in heavy duty mechanical engineering and automotive industries. You can really see and feel the difference between the delicate sockets in the Zyklop Mini set and these ones. They would be perfectly at home even on the extended version of the big Zyklop ratchet reviewed last month.

But even here amongst the toughies, Wera has managed to introduce a bit of sophistication to make users’ lives easier. The ½ inch drive sockets all have a deep ring around them into which are baked different colours that serve to identify them visually by colour. They are also laser etched in large letters (I didn’t need my glasses) on the drivers and to aid replacement in the wallet, white nylon stitching marks their positions as well. It could be as simple as telling the assistant to “pass me a red”  (the 6mm driver).

Because these are heavy duty tools, Wera has not simply relied on a friction fit to keep the tools secure in their wallet. The new release and retaining system uses a quick half twist on the anchors to release or retain them.

Another little bit of sophistication and usefulness is that the hex driver ends have been tweaked to serve as a holder function for the fastenings that they will be used to drive. This involves a spring – loaded ball bearing right on the tip of the driver where it will fit into the socket of the hex bolt and this will hold the bolt well enough so that it can be fitted into place before it is tightened.

 

For those lucky enough to have a workbench or mobile trolley to hold their tools Wera has also included a strong strip of self-adhesive hook and loop material that can be fixed to a smooth surface.  This enables workers to have a favoured kit on hand nearby.

These kits are aimed at different ends of the technicians’ market and yet still have the common thread of innovation and developmental improvement that Wera lavishes on its products. I think that is the reason why Wera continues to enjoy a loyal following of tool users and dare I say, “Tool Rebels.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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