Five Toughies – THE Competition in Turf Equipment?

Aimed at: Professional groundskeepers with LOTS to do.

Pros: Toughly built for a long life and very easy to operate. They are not toys, they do the job.

Little Wonder and Classen turf care equipment, marketed by Mantis UK Limited, is probably most well known by users who have significant amounts of land to look after. These machines are, without exception, toughly built in that simple “if it ain’t broke no need to fix it” American tradition. Largely made from sheet steel either welded or bolted together, they have a long working life built into them. Routine maintenance is generally easy because key parts are easy to get to by the simple wielding of a spanner or screwdriver. The almost universal adoption of consumer-favoured Honda four stroke motors has helped too – all five of the machines I tested used these, and despite all of them being brand new, they all started and ran without any difficulty, often on the first pull of the starter cord.

My overriding impression of the five machines I used was that they outperformed my expectations of them, making difficult and tiring jobs easier to do. As a relative novice, even I was capable of a level of productivity that astounded me. I could only guess at the productivity possible in the hands of an experienced and expert operator.

With guiding hands and sound advice from David Goose, MD, and Malcolm Mullender, Regional Sales manager, I was let loose on an umpteen acre area of land on which to test the machines. The tests were very realistic, encompassing steep inclines, heavy brush, the best damp English Autumn rain and heavy Sussex clay soil.

First up was the Little Wonder Pro Edger. These machines have been built in a similar way for over fifty years and what the pros want is a machine that is easy to use and will cut edges at around 28 metres per minute. The simple steel deck and tubular frame hold a 118cc Honda GX120 motor that drives the cast iron cutter head with two cutter blades via twin drive belts (no slippage and extra power delivery) User adjustment is tool free and easy – a ratchet system is used to set the cutter height and the motor is controlled from the handle that have anti-vibration grips. I was very quickly able to get the hang of edging with this machine because the four-wheel design makes it stable. At the same time it is easy to adjust side-to-side movement from the handle because the centre of gravity of the machine is quite low. I was able to look back over my shoulder at a 20 m long strip of edging that I had done that was not only quite straight, but didn’t need any further attention from a spade.

For the uninitiated a wide expanse of green grass usually signifies a healthy lawn, but apparently it is not that obvious. Grass needs to be raked regularly to ensure that moss and other intergrowth does not slowly choke it. The machine for this is the Classen TRS-20H Turf rake. A self propelled (thank goodness for that – I used it on quite a steep patch of field) machine with a top speed of around 3.4mph with forward and reverse drive. It is squarely and solidly built with a 5.5 hp Honda engine. The four wheels are semi pneumatic and the rear two are big enough to ensure grip and drive on slippery grass surfaces. Height adjustment is via a lever on top of the machine and the handle can be folded for easy storage in a greenkeepers’ store or the back of a truck. When I first used the machine it just seemed to chew up the grass surface, but when I cleared away the debris a bit, it was clear that the grass survived very well, only the entangling moss was ripped out, leaving a lot more room for the grass to spread out evenly into the space cleared.

Also needed for healthy grass is aerated soil. I remember helping my dad do it on our small lawns at home - plunging a pair of garden forks at intervals into the soil. We only did it once! The Classen RA-21 reciprocating aerator is the professionals’ way of doing the same job, and believe me, it is the only way I would consider doing it again. A look “under the bonnet” of the RA-21 reveals a sturdy cast iron crankshaft with the aerator cores attached to it. These cores can be solid or hollow according to need and soil type, but it clearly needs the powerful Honda GX120 motor for this demanding job. The steel chassis and foldable tubular handle are rigid and strong. There is no need for self-propulsion because the action of the cores into the soil drives the machine forward at a very controllable 2.8 mph and the specs say that an operator should be able to cover about 26,000 square feet per hour. I can believe this – I managed to aerate several hundred square feet in a few minutes, leaving a carpet of cores behind me.

What better to clean up the mess I had made with the rake and aerator than to try the Little Wonder Pro Vac SP? It is a big solid machine, but with its 270cc Honda engine and hydrostatic transmission it is very docile and easy to control. The vacuum nozzle is easy to set at the correct collecting height and it incorporates a shredding blade so that by the time the waste arrives into the 282 litre collecting bag at the rear it is as compacted as it can be. Emptying the bag is easy too – it simply unclips and with the aid of the handle underneath, it can be tipped onto the compost heap. Despite the damp conditions where the autumn leaves tend to stick to the ground, the Pro Vac left behind a clean wake on tarmac and grass. Definitely one of my favourites that day.

But the best was kept to last – the Little Wonder Hydro Brush Cutter is not so little, but it is wonderful. The machine is built from solid steel plate with massive tractor style 16-inch wheels on the back. With a Honda GXV390 engine it has a forward speed of up to 4.2 mph and a reverse of up to 1.7 mph. Despite the more complicated controls on the handles I was able to get the hang of it quite quickly and was soon creating clear spaces in patches of nettles and brush that was up to chest height in places. The brush cutter never faltered and I must admit the feeling of power was tremendous. It can cut individual brush stalks up to 50mm thick. The best fun I have had testing for ages. In my view it is one of those machines that once you have seen it working, you will be convinced – it is just very capable and strong and it looks like it will last forever. Apparently, a working life of over 15 years is not uncommon.

Despite the weather, I had a great day trying out machines that do exactly what they are supposed to do and are simple to operate to get the best out of them. Green keepers and estate managers everywhere should take a look. Highly recommended. 

For information on Mantis Products, please visit mantis.uk.com

 

Hitachi UR 18DSDL Site Radio -Wedge Shaped Sound

Aimed at:- Anyone who needs a tough radio – mostly site pros I guess.

Pros:- Bluetooth, phone charging and good sound and lots more.

Dedicated worksite radios are now quite common. Thank goodness.  The old paint-and-plaster-splattered, slightly out of tune, and usually very loud, radio tuned to Radio 1 is now nearly a thing of the past. The wonders of Bluetooth, MP3 players and new broadcasting technology mean that site workers have no excuses for poor sound quality and endless audio rubbish. Workers and clients can breathe a collective sigh of relief. In fact I had a client come over and examine the Hitachi a couple of weeks ago because he did not believe that the sound he heard (some Bob Dylan if you must know) was coming from something that he didn’t recognize as a radio.

I am rather taken with the shape of the Hitachi UR 18DSDL  - it is a bit like a Hitachi Black and Green cheese wedge trapped inside a wedge shaped cage. This not only looks very modern and “designer” but clearly the outside cage provides some bump protection, an assortment of ways to carry it and a stable base on which it can be sat. Even on a dirty and dusty worksite, only the cage will be in contact with the muck. 

Modern listeners have become fussy, so it is not enough to simply have a radio – lots of other features have to be included too. This radio has to be set up like any other electronic device like a phone or tablet. Time to head for the instructions!

Probably the key thing here is fitting the backup batteries into a small compartment contained within the main 18v battery compartment at the back of the radio. It is a bit of a fiddly job, but once done should last a long time.

A standard 14.4 or 18v Hitachi battery is probably the most common power source for the radio on site. All you need to do is open the back compartment and slide it in on the rails provided.

There is also a mains adaptor provided with the kit should you run out of battery and are lucky enough to have mains power on site.

Now you can set the time, date, alarm, sleep etc etc settings using conventional computer logic. Anyone used to setting up a tablet or phone or games console would be very familiar with this process. To tell you the truth I wondered about all the settings – it is just a site radio isn’t it? But a short poll amongst a few friends soon showed me. Apparently you never know when you might need these functions, so better have them than not.

The radio can receive DAB, AM and FM bandwidths, so users should have all they need, including listening to England (hopefully) winning the cricket on Test Match Special or on Five Live.  There is a choice of manual or automatic station selection and users can then select presets so that they can go to the stations they want very quickly. The folding antenna on the back of the machine can be adjusted for the best reception.

Digital radio can be very sophisticated and a good listening experience and this Hitachi has its DRC (Dynamic Range Control) system that can make quieter sounds easier to hear when the radio is used in a noisy site environment.

Equally, bass and treble can be adjusted to suit, so there really is no need for distorted sound whichever station or method you are using to listen.

I am a happy iPod user, and I love the idea of having only my choice of listening on hand, especially when I am on my own in the workshop where my choices won’t affect anyone else. The Hitachi is capable of playing back from smartphones, MP3 and other devices. Some devices small enough (like iPods) can be fitted into the front of the radio. Simply open the front cover and adjust the ratcheted holders left or right to hold the device securely. It took me only a few minutes to set up my iPod to play via Bluetooth through the radio. Simply select Bluetooth mode on the radio and on the device, and enable them to pair before listening!

Some devices will need either an L cable or straight cable to connect with the radio; both are cheap and easily available.

Smartphones and other small devices can also be charged via a USB cable connection to the radio in every other mode except AM mode. As long as the volume isn’t past 21 level, charging should take place.

There is a lot more to like about this Hitachi apart from its practicality. The two big speakers on each end of the radio provide good quality sound in stereo, where possible.

The wedge shape is quite compact and makes it easy to place the radio in a position where it is stable and not that easy to knock over. I found that I could run the radio for several days before I needed to recharge the main 18v batteries that I used. In the workshop, with easy access to mains power, it made sense to use the AC adaptor.

Just about everyone I asked commented on the quality of the sound. It is great to have the adjustments for bass and treble so that both music and speech radio sound good and are easier to hear.  Having all the radio options, FM, AM and DAB, means that you can have the sound quality and the stations that you wanted. Some of my clients thought that was a great idea – especially the more elderly ones to whom slightly out of tune Radio 1 was not their favourite!

The control panel is logical and easy to use, providing lots of options for the way in which to use the device. All in all, I think the Hitachi UR 18DSDL is a well thought out, well-designed piece of kit that I am sure many Hitachi users will adopt wholeheartedly. Adopting a battery platform these days means that brand loyalty is a major part of deciding which bits of kit to buy, so I think it might be a shame if this radio doesn’t get more of a following. Oh well, there is always the mains adaptor option! 

 

Click here for more on Hitachi, inculding  Power Tools reviews, such as the CV 18DBL Cordless Multi ToolCS Chainsaw.

For more information on Hitachi Products within the Tool Trade, please visit www.hitachi-powertools.co.uk

Draper Hard Graft Wipes -Effective Cleaners and Antibacterial Too!

Aimed at: pros and amateurs alike who need to clean up difficult things like grease and glues.

Pros: Easy to use, lots of them and big wipes too.

Wipes and cleaners have become very much part of the tool market as Health and Safety concerns have inevitably focused on healthy skin too. The days are gone when cleaning up was done with powerful solvents that left hands and skin stinging and dry. I confess that I always have a canister of wipes in my workshop and I use them regularly to clean away a variety of glues, paints, varnishes and oils.

The new Draper Hard Graft Wipes come in a large black and orange tub that holds 90 wipes. Opening the flip top lid seal the first time reveals a foil covering that seals the wipes for a good shelf life. Once this seal is broken you have to pull the first wipe from the centre of the roll. A simple system of grooves in the lid guides the wipe so that it can be pulled through and then separated from the next one, which is trapped in the groove ready to be pulled out for next time. The lid actually provides a decent enough seal to prevent the wipes from drying out.

Testing wipes is a good excuse for getting dirty hands, and it says on the container that Hard Graft Wipes are effective on glues, oils, sealants and paint – although this list is clearly not exhaustive.

Accordingly, my first job was to check and top up the oil in my car as this inevitably results in greasy, oily hands. I did all the other maintenance checks too, and when my hands were suitably dirty I pulled out a wipe and cleaned my hands. Results were pretty well immediate – the oil was quickly transferred from my hands to the wipe and I was left with sweet smelling, slightly slippery hands. If left for a while, the slippery feeling soon evaporates, but if you want to, a quick wash with ordinary soap returns the hands to “normal”.

Mostly I use woodglues, and even after I had allowed them to dry on my hands, the active ingredients in the wipes just lifted the residues off my fingers and left my hands clean. Superglues on the other hand, are very differently formulated. I had a little experimentation by putting a popular make of make of superglue on my fingers and letting it go off. Initially, the Hard Graft wipe didn’t appear to be shifting it, but after a while as I kept flexing my fingers the active ingredients crept under the glue and lifted it off. Result!

Both gloss and emulsion paints were shifted with the Hard Graft wipes, and as expected, the oil-based gloss took a bit more wiping and handwringing, but I was left with clean and sweet-smelling hands. 

With their capacity to shift oil and residues, the wipes are also great for cleaning tools and equipment and wiping down at the end of a working day. I used the wipes to clean dirty finger marks from a newly-painted door after I had fitted some new handles for a client, when a damp cloth had failed to do the job.

The Draper Hard Graft Wipes that remain have now been given a prominent place in my workshop ready for cleaning my hands as needed. Good Product!

Click on this link to see a video of the Draper Hard Graft Wipes: - https://youtu.be/F65OY3KMH1k

For more information on all Draper Products, please visit www.drapertools.com

 

Flex Random Orbit Sander -You’ll Wonder Where the Vibration Went!

Aimed at:- Pros in a number of trades– woodworkers, decorators, shopfitters, carpenters etc.

Pros:- Quiet with less vibration and very good dust collection system. An up to the minute product.

I am a great fan of random orbit sanders because they save me a lot of time. I do a lot of furniture making, general woodwork and decorating and the random orbit sander will cope with all of these various working conditions with the right speed settings and the right abrasive papers. Inevitably I have a few favourite sanders that I use constantly, and I have even been through a couple of them over the years. So, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed or surprised when the Flex ORE 150-5 landed on my doorstep – I thought it might be “just another random orbit sander.”

The Flex arrived in what now seems to be customary stackable Lboxx – not a criticism at all. I think the judicious use of quality kit boxes can help tradespeople be more organized and more secure, and as it happens, this particular Lboxx is one of the best. It has a custom space for the tool and accessories as well as for the long cord and all the inevitable bits and pieces, like sanding discs that collect with a tool.

Some might say I am being fussy, but another small point that I liked with this and most other Flex power tools is that the instruction books have dedicated pages to each language with all the good quality pictures and diagrams clearly marked with the language section. No need for that frustrating flip backwards and forwards between the diagrams and the instructions.

The tool itself follows the standard layout of a random orbit sander. The motor is placed vertically above the sanding platen with a nicely placed bit of black rubberized overmould where the sander can be guided right above its centre of gravity. A longer handle containing the switch trigger is at right angles and it also has a grippy bit on top. I am pleased to say that the trigger switch and lock-on button are very simple to operate because that is what is needed on a sander that is used continuously and switched on and off regularly.  

While the main body and motor housing is made of Flex Red plastic, the orbit housing is a solid alloy casting followed by a robust plastic skirt that holds the fan and dust extraction mechanism and port. The machine looks slimline and sleek and weighs about 1.8 Kgs – just enough to make it comfortable to use on walls and ceilings without too much hassle, but heavy enough so that you don’t have to push down on any horizontal surface being sanded.

Finally, the hook and loop covered sanding plate is of as good quality as I have seen anywhere, but has the added advantage of having a number of perforation patterns all over the base. This means that the Flex can be used with just about any brand of sanding disc as well as the multi-holed and mesh based discs on the market. A time and money saver for me – I like the flexibility of having a wide range of discs to choose from because I sand a wide range of surfaces.

Flex make two different versions of this sander – the 150-3 has a 3mm orbit and the 150-5 has a 5mm orbit and you can spot the difference because on the top of the handle there is a 3 or a 5 included in the overmould. The bigger orbit version will speed up sanding and I find that I don’t really need the 3mm orbit version for what I do – I simply adjust via the speed wheel and the grit of the sanding discs I use.

The milled wheel switch at the back of the top handle controls the orbit speed – a very useful range of 11,600 to 20,000 no load oscillations per minute, so you can be sure that work proceeds quickly.

Compared to yesteryear, dust collection on sanders is so much better now. Obviously, manufacturers have worked on this because we have discovered just how dangerous dust inhalation is. Flex’s solution is to use a clear plastic box holding a pleated microfilter that fits onto the nicely ribbed dust port underneath the main handle. This is as at least as efficient as any other good random orbit sander I have used, and is better than many. For most jobs this system will be good enough so that only the minimum of dust escapes. Of course users should always use a good dust mask when sanding, whether indoors or out.

However, connect the sander dust port to a vacuum extractor and the results for escaping dust are really excellent. Just remember to set the extractor so that the vacuum created doesn’t pull the platen too hard down onto the sanded surface.

Efficient sanding, good dust collection and easy handling are two boxes I would expect to check on any good quality sander I might use, but what makes a sander go from being one of the crowd to one that sort of becomes the one you choose to use every day – a sort of “go-to” tool?

We are now in the area of personal preference, but the one thing that stood out for me is that the Flex 150-5 is very well mannered. The motor noise is well controlled. I could easily use it in my back garden without annoying my neighbours over the hedge, about 20m away.

Secondly, the vibration transmitted to the hand is minimal so that I found that I could comfortably use it for longer. Now, there has to be some vibration because it is a random orbit sander – but lower noise and vibration levels make for a machine that feels modern and efficient – becoming a “go-to” tool?

Overall, there is a great deal to like about the Flex 150-5. It is unashamedly a professionally rated machine with a price tag that reflects this. There are no cut corners – it feels like a pro machine when you use it. From the 4m long power cord to the efficient dust collection options, it feels like a machine that will stand hard work every day. In my view a very welcome addition to the echelons of high quality random orbit sanding machines.

Aimed at:- Pros in a number of trades– woodworkers, decorators, shopfitters, carpenters etc.

Pros:- Quiet with less vibration and very good dust collection system. An up to the minute product.

For more information, please visit https://www.flex-tools.com

New Panasonic Brushless - Ultra Compact and Very Good

It’s not a coincidence that Panasonic cordless tools have a very dedicated group of followers. In my experience, Panasonic tools are not only advanced, they are also very good with a number of features that set them outside the ordinary – like the TOUGH TOOL IP system that protects tools and batteries both mechanically and electronically. Having seen a few very well used examples on worksites, I think they are up to the job.

However, life and cordless tools move on, and the launch of two new compact brushless drills from Panasonic now catches my attention. Having got just about everything else, it seems that end users are demanding compact size as well, and the new Cordless Impact Driver EY75A7 and Cordless Drill Driver EY74A2 are about as compact as currently possible. I can almost see the Panasonic fans queuing up to get a look at them at the next trade show!

I started with the impact driver – and first impressions really do underline just how compact it is - just 120 mm from rubberized rear end to compact hex chuck and a shade over 240 mm tall, standing on the new 18v 5Ah battery pack. With the optional 18v 3Ah pack it is only 230mm tall and also correspondingly lighter. An option that will definitely appeal to kitchen fitters. 

But it does not feel like a tiny tool – Panasonic has made the handling exemplary with a good balance and a textured grippy rubber overmoulding that covers the main handle and the base. Elsewhere on the tools, subtle patches of the new black “carbon fibre look” make it look ultra professional and modern, and with a few rubber “bumpers” on key parts of the housing, the whole should be able to take a few knocks.

The compact size is largely made possible by the all-new brushless motor developed by Pansonic. It is clearly powerful and smooth and raises the bar for other machines.

Panasonic likes to keep users informed about the state of the battery charge and to provide info there is a panel at the bottom of the main handle that indicates charge levels as well as impact speeds, a switch for the bright LED light under the chuck, and finally, a temperature warning for battery and electronics. 

Some changes are under the skin, so to speak, and Panasonic has improved the hammer, bearings, switches and anvil in order to ensure that the driver is up to heavy and sustained use. I can’t test the long term, but I had no difficulty driving the longest and thickest screws in my toolbox (85 mm) into dense Indonesian hardwood like it was butter using the EY75A7.

A new “self-drilling screw mode” automatically switches the rotation speed from high to low when smaller screws are used (15mm or less) so that they do not get overdriven or broken by the sheer power available from this motor.

Rather belatedly it seems to me, some end users have come round to the notion that bigger Ah battery packs aren’t always better. On smaller jobs, having a lighter and more compact battery pack makes sense because the tool can fit into smaller spaces and the effort of lifting the extra weight of a bigger battery saves muscle power and helps prevent fatigue.

Not only will this and most other Panasonic cordless tools take the new 3 Ah lithium ion battery pack, but they are also dual voltage - 18v and 14.4v. Clearly, there is no excuse for older battery packs to be abandoned and at a stroke Panasonic has ensured that users get the best use out of their battery packs – old and new. However, the advantages of the newer battery packs are considerable, with a working life of up to 250% more than the original Li Ion ones.

I feel as though I can almost guarantee a positive response from end users after they have tried this little machine. I liked it a lot and it would easily become one of my favourite tools – one of the ones that you reach for first.

Cordless drill drivers are expected to be workhorses on site and in the workshop and I do see them being stretched beyond their capacity sometimes…..???  Hence the importance of Panasonic’s IP system for the users with less sensitive hands and ears. With smart electronics and other tweaks, Panasonic has enabled the motor in the EY 74A2 Drill Driver to deliver more consistent and higher power (more than 70% up compared with previous similar Panasonic models) and I definitely noticed the difference - up to 50Nm of torque can be noticed at the wrists! 

Like the impact driver above, the new compact body has been redesigned for ergonomic handling and it also boasts the carefully designed rubber overmoulding and modern-looking carbon fibre patches on the body. At just short of 190mm long from motor end to chuck and 240mm tall with the 18v 5Ah battery pack it is very compact but feels impressive in the hand- it weighs a not inconsiderable 2Kgs with the battery.

Again, some of the new features are internal or would go unnoticed, but they nevertheless count as improvements. I particularly liked the new Hybrid Switch that has been designed to give increased switch durability as well as a more sensitive touch for users. Starting screws and drilling small holes need a sure but slow speed from the motor and this new trigger design allows users to select with ease by a simple progressive squeeze on the trigger.

The new electronic speed selection allows users to choose speeds when drilling sensitive materials like plastics and metals to prevent melting and scorching. Most will, I am sure, simply use the highest speed most of the time because it matches the jobs that need doing, but occasionally it is handy to have speed options.

Like the impact driver, users will be able to use older and newer 14.4v and 18v Li ion battery packs as well as the more compact 3Ah ones.

It is also comforting to note that features like the belt hook (L and R options), LED worklight and quality chucks are also used on these newer models. So you get the feeling that the new machines still retain a connection with the older ones, but are nevertheless more advanced. Users will be happy to note that these dual voltage machines are compatible with li ion battery packs dating back to 2007. Great that there is no built-in redundancy. I liked this pair of Panasonic machines a lot, and even if you aren’t a Panasonic groupie, they would definitely be worth consideration. 

Aimed at:- Pro users who need compact and powerful (and very well designed) tools with a varients of battery options available. 

Pros:- Little gems, will do the job nicely! 

For more information, please visit https://panasonic-powertools.eu/

 

Metabo KGS 305 Mitre Saw- Accurate, Adjustable and Powerful.

Metabo makes a wide range of mitre saws – from the excellent cordless KGS 18LTX cordless reviewed a few months ago to the powerful mains powered KGS 305 M in this review.

Mitre saws are now an absolute staple tool for both first and second fix carpenters and shop fitters for example. And I, and many other woodworkers, wouldn’t be without one in our workshops either!

The KGS 305 M is BIG – the box it was delivered in filled up most of the boot of my medium hatchback. It is easy to unpack and there is actually nothing needing doing to it other than setting the saw head to right angles and preparing the hold down in order to start work. It weighs a tad under 20 Kgs so it is still possible to carry around reasonably easily via the carry handle or base. The sliding arm needs to be locked tight and it also helps to make the saw more compact if the saw table is locked at a 45-degree angle.

To show how big the capacity of the saw here are some specs that will help readers: - at 90 degrees the cutting capacity is 305mm by 105mm and even at 45 degrees bevel it will still cut a healthy 215mm by 105mm. Add a 45 degree angled cut to the bevel cut and the capacity is still 215mm by 62mm, so it is clear that the Metabo will handle a good range of jobs. There are mitre saws with bigger capacities out there, but they do not necessarily have the portability and simplicity of the KGS 305.

My ideal mitre saw combines accuracy as well as capacity. Accuracy also means that it has to be easily adjusted because the angle readings can slip out of true during transit in the back of the van or if it takes a knock. This is normal.

When I checked it straight out of the box, both cross and vertical cuts were spot on. Adjustment of both bevel and mitre functions is easy using an engineers’ square and the hex key provided.

Consistent accuracy also depends on the quality of the sliding arm and the slide rails. I found that there was no play in either the saw head or the sliding rails (which, by the way, slid very smoothly on their smooth chrome). It helps that the saw head, upper blade guard and sawhead hinge is made from a meaty alloy casting. The lower blade guard is of transparent plastic with a roller on the bottom to help it run smoothly as it retracts over the cut – definitely a good safety feature.

Another thing I liked was that the power cord is fed through one of the slider rails so it is kept out of the way of the blade and workpieces. Plastic cleats are supplied on each end of the slider so that the cord can be wound around them for transit.

Fixing the sliding head is via a sprung screw knob on the left side of the rails. A pin on the right side locks the saw head down. They are both easy to find, because they follow the Metabo pattern of controls picked out in red. A horizontal pull handle with motor trigger and safety paddle switch is nicely placed for easy working. On the handle too, are the laser and worklight switches. Both of these lights are improvements on previous models because they are placed where they are less likely to pick up excess dust and are much easier to clean. Both lights are bright enough to be useful in indoor working conditions and I particularly liked the light spread of the worklight – it helped my aging eyes!

Dust collection on mitre saws tends to be an imperfect science because of the way they work, but this function has also been improved on by directing the dust via a flexible rubber port. The smallish dust bag fills up very quickly, so it shows that much dust is being collected, but for better performance the saw needs to be connected to a vacuum extractor pipe that is fitted onto the top of the sawhead. This will prevent clouds of dust in the workshop or worksite, but there will still be dust in the air – so a dust mask is definitely needed.

Standard movements like mitre and angle cutting are quick and easy to achieve using the required adjustment levers. I recommend that the bevel adjustment is always double checked for tightness because the saw head can be dangerous if it slips sideways during use.

There are two table extensions – one on each side of the saw blade. The right hand side one has a built-in stop for repeat cuts. They are easy to slide into place by simply undoing the tightening knobs on the base. They do provide a greater level of support for the workpiece, but for users consistently handling pieces longer than a metre or so I would suggest a solid mitre saw stand, or, at the least, a couple of robust trestles and a thick piece of ply to make a table on which to secure the saw.

The KGS 305 M comes equipped with a 56 tooth TCT blade that is good for general purpose use – it leaves a very smooth, almost planed finish when used with care on both hard and soft wood. Plastics and non-ferrous metals will need specialist blades fitted.

Although the motor has a goodly 1.6kW output of power, it runs smoothly once started. The motor advertises its power by starting with a bit of a roar and a jolt. If I could suggest one improvement it would be a soft start option.  

In the past I have cut big softwood beams up to 220mm wide and 100mm thick on the KGS 305 M and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the ease with which the job was done. Many buildings on the continent use big laminated beams on their roofing structures, so there is no need to guess why Metabo has the KGS 305 M in its saw line up.

In my workshop all I could find that would even vaguely test the cutting power and accuracy was a 150mm wide 70mm thick lump of hard Indonesian hardwood. The blade powered through with ease and accuracy and left a pretty smooth planed finish, despite some sparks from some silica trapped in the grain of the timber.

Aimed at pro users, this saw will deliver in spades. It is, perhaps, not as sophisticated as some on the market, and the price tag reflects that, but it sure delivers on capacity, accuracy and power. 

Aimed at: Pro site chippies, would be useful in a workshop too.

Pros: - Powerful and practical with good specs for cutting big workpieces.

 

New Komelon Tape Measures from Advent Tools- Quality is the reason

There can’t be a British tradesperson who doesn’t own a tape measure. But there is nothing quite like a pocketful of tapes to make you realize which ones you prefer and which ones simply go to the bottom of the toolbox and finally disappear……

Advent Tools is the UK’s leading supplier of quality own brand tape measures.

Recently Advent has introduced the Komelon brand to the UK to increase and complement the existing range of Advent tape measures. But a quick word on Komelon – the company has been making tape measures since 1963 and is a worldwide brand name. With patents including Hi Viz blades and Self-Lock to its name it is clear that Komelon has done its homework and earned its stripes.

There are lots of other reasons why the Komelon tapes have become favourites with end users and here are just a few: - All regular tape users will have seen the edges of tape blades wearing out more quickly than the middle, simply because the edges come into contact with the casing while in use. They often get rusty and can also give a nasty slice if you are unfortunate enough to catch a finger on an edge as it springs back into the casing. Komelon tape blades all have their edges deburred and then coated with the Dura NY coat – a nylon coating that reduces friction, wear, is also rust resistant and helps blades to last up to 10 times longer than conventional coatings.

Users will also value the Komelon blade printing – it is clear and sharp and a simple comparison with a “standard” tape measure will easily show up the difference in visibility and accuracy.

There is nothing quite like having literally a whole box of tapes to try out. The process forces you to look at each one and decide which features you need for the work you do. It also makes you realize just how much thought and design goes into a good tape measure, so you will never undervalue just how useful they really are to just about every trade.

I started with the Pro-Ergo R that is available in 5 and 8m lengths with list prices of £6.90 and £8.90 (excl VAT) respectively. With a solid plastic case that is almost completely covered in a grippy ridged rubber overmould it is easy to handle. There is a strong belt clip as well as a wrist strap for easy carrying. Key features for me are the blade lock on the top of the tape casing and the bottom “pause” button that stops the tape without locking it.

The metric and imperial blade is easy to read with each foot measurement outlined in black and each 10cm mark picked out in red. Stud measurements at every 16 inches are picked out too. It is a good “standard” tape measure suitable for general use and the trade users who I showed it to liked the price points…

The Pro-Ergo C Hi-Viz can’t be missed. Its casing has a shiny plated finish and it too, comes in 5m and 8m lengths with price points of £8.90 and £12.90. The blade is printed on both sides - on the top in a bright fluorescent green and the bottom in white. In a slightly dark room the extra brightness really does show up and of course, like the Pro-Ergo R above, all the commonly used “standard” measurements are picked out on the tape as well. The blade lock works efficiently and I think that this might be the tape for surveyors who value the smooth acting internal mechanism on their non-builder hands.

The Powerblade II is a big handful in its shiny plated case, but it is easy to handle because of some well-placed rubber grips.  A 27mm wide, dual printed, Hi-Viz blade and magnetic end hooks are the USPs of this measure and the whole package works well. For trade users in particular, “standout” is very important and the Komelon 27mm wide blades have a guaranteed horizontal standout of at least 2.7m, and I managed a bit more when I took care. I think metal fitters and welders would love this, especially with the price tag for the 8m version of £14.90

The SELFLOCK Evolution also has a dual printed Hi-Viz blade packed into a orange plastic casing with generous rubber moulding to aid handling. I have decided that this tape would be the one for me, not only because of the magnetic hooks, but also because the patented self-locking system allows the blade to be extended without it springing back into the case. When the blade is released, it returns smoothly into the casing.

Specialists will love the INOX Rubber tape with all 6 key parts, from spring to blade, made from stainless steel – the obvious advantages being that they are rust resistant. Available in a 5m length with a 19mm wide blade and a list price of £13.90 I liked the handling and relatively compact size. The stainless blade is a good contrast to the black printed measurements on it making them really easy to read.

Advent has also introduced several Komelon fibreglass tapes suitable for measuring on site, for example. They all have a high-speed gear mechanism that multiplies the winding speed by three, heavy-duty case construction and durable rollers to prevent the dual printed tapes from twisting. The fibreglass tapes are double coated for long life and also to ensure that stretch is minimal. Rubber bumpers on the exterior protect the tape from the inevitable knocks of site use. But what might be the best news is that the 30m version has a list price of £13.90 and the 100m costs only £31.90.

I don’t think value for money is an issue with any of these tapes especially since they are EC Class II accurate, whereas most comparable models are either unclassified or only meet Class III accuracy standards.

The last tape I looked at in this review was a long steel tape of the kind used in road construction. Accuracy is very important here so the dual printed steel blade is made from high-carbon steel that has been anti-rust phosphate treated. The paint and marking are baked on and then the whole blade is coated with a transparent nylon coating to create a tough embossed finish. The tape is wound onto a beefier, impact resistant winding frame with durable rollers to prevent twisting. These tapes are bound to be more costly, but with a list price of £49.90 for the 50m version, it still won’t break the bank.

Having given these tapes a good run round, as well as showing them to a few tradespeople, the general view is that they are very good and the price points appealed too. Just remember to look at the range, because there is a tape in there that will suit your needs perfectly.    

Aimed at: Professional users who need accuracy, convenience and long life.

Pros: Choose your tape with care – there is a good range with ones to suit your needs. Well priced too.

 

Vargus Deburring Set – One Stop Shop

Vargus deburring tools are widely used in engineering and manufacturing processes and there are many specialist tools provided by Vargus that I have looked at over the last few months. But I got a bit of a treat when the Mango II Kit arrived for review – this 23 piece kit is an excellent all-rounder because it contains pretty well all you will need for the general workshop that routinely handles a range of metals and other materials like plastics too.Vargus tells me that the kit has all the tools needed to handle over a thousand applications. At first I was a predictably sceptical, but the more applications I tried it on the more the applications mounted up, so I am sure that users more expert than I would easily pass the thousand mark.

To quote just a few applications from the blurb: - “deburring straight edge, hole-edge, hole-back edge, cross-hole both edges, sheet metal, flat surfaces and hole inner surface. The tools inside will cover a range of materials that includes steel, aluminium, copper, brass, cast iron, stainless steel and plastics”. The fact that it is all beautifully contained in a small but robust plastic case with decent catches, so it won’t open up accidentally in transit, makes it also an ideal kit for the fitter on the move. Maybe someone who doesn’t necessarily know exactly what materials or challenges they are going to be handling each day, so needs a bit of flexibility in the toolkit department.

The case is neatly divided into separate compartments to hold each section of tools, handles etc and the lid is lined with triangular-formed foam so that when the lid is snapped shut, the tools inside don’t move around and get confused with each other. 

I started by looking at the handle provided with the kit – this is made of a hard plastic with inset grippy rubber moulding and a strong spring-loaded collar on the base. The handle can hold the five blade holders supplied with the kit so that they can be each be used with the tools that fit them and also can be adjusted for length if necessary. Simply find the arrow on the collar and line up the milled part of the blade holder with it. Pull back the collar and insert the blade holder to the depth you want and you are nearly ready to go.

The five blade holders are needed because each type of deburring tool needs to be held in a different way for maximum performance.

A closer examination of the blade holders shows that they are well made with a few little details on them proving they were designed by people who knew what they were doing. For example, the hand countersink tool has a pair of parallel flats milled on it so that it can be removed easily with a small spanner, as the action of use will inevitably tighten the countersink onto the blade holder.

The other four blade holders are designed to hold various deburrers and so vary in detail.There are two bladeholders with steel spring-loaded collars that hold the deburring tools that need to move freely on the edge of the work to work effectively. A small ballbearing holds the tool firmly so that it won’t come out of the holder, while also allowing it to move freely.

The two toolholders are needed because the shanks of the deburrers are two different lengths to allow flexibility when doing different tasks.

The toolholder that fits the triangular carbide tool used for scraping surfaces and deburring sheet material has a small screw to hold the tool in place. The hex key needed to tighten the cutter in place is provided and the small lugs on the toolholder prevent the cutter from moving around in use – another example of thoughtful design that makes the Vargus tools easier to use and very practical.

The tools that I hadn’t used before were a pair of triangular file-shaped High Speed Steel scrapers. With their triangular pointed shape they were easy to insert into small cavities to scrape away residues etc and the toolholder designed to fit them is a model of simple practicality – the scrapers are simply screwed into the end of it and they are ready to be used.

The kit contains nine hook deburrers that can be used on straight or curved edges and also used clockwise or counterclockwise. A couple of the hooks have an offset and are a bit extended so that they can reach odd places and there is also a tool with a sharp hook that will deburr both sides of a hole simultaneously.While I tried as many of the tools in as many situations and as many materials as I could find in my workshop I knew I would never be able to reach the limits of this kit.  All the tools worked as I expected, and the more I practiced the better I got at using them – there are a couple of techniques that pretty well ensure a good result every time – like not stopping in the middle of a stretch for example. However, an expert would, I am sure, appreciate the range and flexibility of the kit.

At a push there is room in the case for another Mango handle so that users can simply put down one tool and pick up another. Of course, expert users would also be able to buy other cutters as needed for different applications, and there is also plenty of room in the case for those too. With a list price of £121.42 it’s a lot of kit for the money. Remembering also that it will only be the deburrers needing replacement, depending on how much use they are subjected to.

There is also a slightly smaller and cheaper version of the kit called the Top 3 Mango II starter kit that contains only the three most popular styles of blades that would keep the likes of me and my deburring needs more than happy.

For more information, please contact www.vargusuk.co.uk

Red Ten Core Drill Kit from DART Tool Group Cut to the Core

Core drills, by definition, have a hard working life, and over the years I have heard so many complaints, stories and comments from tradesmen about them that I am always keen to have a closer look – not just to satisfy myself that they work, but also to explore all the different variations that core drills come in these days.

The Red Ten Core Drill Kit comes in a very well made aluminium and plastic case with decent lockable latches and a comfortable carry handle. The case gives the message that the contents are valuable and need to be cared for. And indeed they are. All the components of the kit are snugly fitted into their own slots in the dense foam case inserts. 

Altogether, there are ten pieces in the case – five core drills ranging in size from 127mm down to 38mm plus the other important adaptors that make the kit versatile, are also included. A 250mm extension that is able to take either the drill hex adaptor or the SDS adaptor, a 10mm tapered shank TCT masonry drill and drift key complete the kit. So, in fact you do have a lot of kit for your money.

Quality is taken care of by the fact that the drills are ISO 9002, BS and EN 13236 safety standards compliant and come with a no-quibble guarantee. Tradesman can confidently buy a kit that will perform well and have a decent service life. 

Other important virtues are that the spiral apertures on the core bodies allow easy dust extraction and that the rated Hand Arm Vibration on the kit is very low. Good news for workers who use core drills a lot. 

But the best bit for many of the tradesman I speak to, is that the retail price of the entire kit is only £160. After I had dug out my biggest and most powerful corded drill out of the back of the workshop I had the chance to start exploring the variations that the kit offers the user.As I mounted the adaptors to the cores I was able to closely examine the cores themselves. The screw threads where the adaptors are mounted are substantially long so they should be strong enough to resist the strong torque pressures that they will be subjected to. Each core is 150mm long and the barrels are coated with a red finish inside and out. The barrels also have a number of spaced rings around them and two sets of three slots cut radially into them to aid the removal of the inevitably large amounts of dust associated with core drilling. They also give a rough idea of how deeply the drilling has proceeded.  

The adaptors are made from lathe turned steel bar and are heavy – as again they should be to absorb the torque loads they will be subjected to. Spanner flats on both cores and adaptors allow the items to be separated easily and the holes for the drift needed to push out the SDS guide drill are accurately cut and beveled. 

Quality-wise, the kit certainly looks the business, but as usual, it is in the using, especially the long term using, that customers might make up their minds.

I started big. I mounted the biggest 127mm core on the hex shank adaptor and applied it to a section of standard house face brick wall. It soon became clear to me that starting the hole accurately, courtesy of the TCT bit, was actually very easy, and there was minimal inaccuracy once the diamond cutters on the periphery of the core started to do their work. However, after only a few minutes work as cutting was proceeding well, I became very aware that the corded drill I was using was simply not powerful enough for the job I was trying to do. It was clear that the chuck on my drill, despite all the tightening I gave it, was slowly loosening.

Time for plan B since I don’t actually have access to a more powerful drill at the moment – builders’ holidays are a nightmare! – so I changed the 127mm core for the 52 mm diameter core and started again.

This core was even easier to start and within several minutes I had managed to cut about 20mm deep into the face brick surface and was proceeding happily. Noise from the core was minimal, the only huffing and puffing to be heard was from me and the drill. Dust and spoil from the cutting edges flowed out quite freely, but not in a dispersed airborne cloud, more as a steady stream of dust from the bottom of the core. Clearly, the spiral dust removal system was doing its job. 

On closer examination of the diamond-faced cutting teeth on the cores after use, showed that they had worked hard in the right places, with the cutting teeth creating a hole just a little bit larger than the body to minimize friction in the cut. By its very nature, core drilling is a chore and it takes time and patience, but I thought that these cores performed well to the use I gave them. 

I can’t go round the M25 these days without passing vans from specialist diamond drilling contractors, which shows that there is a flourishing industry in specialized masonry cutting – but for the many independent plumbers, builders or other tradesman, who rely on tools like the Red Ten Core Drills, there will continue to be a need for this product that delivers in many general applications. To find a kit like this with its range of most commonly used diameters and adaptors at an incredibly competitive price, which comes in an excellent storage case, and with a no-quibble guarantee, it seems to me that the Red Ten Core Kit is a definite goer. 

For more information, please visit http://www.serracon.co.uk

Husqvarna K760 Cut-n-Break A Very Useful Monster

Aimed at:- Professional builders and construction workers.

Pros:- It really works, a very efficient way of cutting apertures even in walls over 9 inches thick.

I first saw the Husqvarna K760 Cut-n-Break at the Executive Hire Show early in the year and I remember thinking at the time that it was a brilliant solution to cutting apertures in masonry and concrete. Since then, I have discussed it with various tradespeople and, as expected, they often expressed some misgivings about how a dual disc system would work, and also the “hassle” (their words) of having to break the masonry in the resulting channels cut before being able to cut any deeper. Then my own doubts started to creep in, so when the Cut-n-Break was sent for review I thought now is my chance to decide the issue once and for all. 

Husqvarna is synonymous with quality and this machine is no exception. Everything is put together very well, in its most compact and neatest configuration. The covers for various vital parts are robust and well sealed against the dusty and very tough conditions under which this machine will work. 

Husqvarna has built in a number of key design features that really do make this machine easier to use and ensure that it has a long working life. For example Active Air Filtration centrifugally circulates air to filter out heavier particles so that they do not get inside the engine with the inevitable wear that will result. A Smart Carb feature maintains high power and reduces fuel consumption.

I was also very interested in the Dura Starter and EasyStart System because there is nothing I hate more than pulling on motor starting cords with little result except hopeful sputtering. The Dura Starter system is a dust sealed starter unit in which the starter pulley and other components are literally sealed in so that they are virtually maintenance free. The EasyStart System reduces the pull resistance in the starter cord by up to 40% by reducing engine compression during starting. In my view this was very effective. It took me only two pulls to start the brand new motor on this machine once I had filled up with fuel and set the controls correctly. It was also able to idle happily at rest without constant blips on the throttle that two stroke machines sometimes need. With vibration from machines now a Health and Safety issue, the Husqvarna isolates the user’s hands from engine vibration by having both handles mounted on strong springs, although gloves are still recommended – for general protection, grip and extra vibration absorption. But with very respectable official vibration readings on the front handle of 1.9m/s2 and 2.8m/s2 on the rear handle, users can work significant parts of the day with this machine. 

When I first picked it up, the Cut-n-Break felt very heavy, and at 11.1 Kgs with cutters it is not lightweight. But in truth once I was actually using it, the weight is a safety factor, along with the gyroscopic forces generated by the spinning cutters as they tend to keep the machine in the cut and help avoid kickbacks. These kickbacks, which at the least could be very frightening and at worst, fatal, are to be avoided at all costs.  You get the picture; you have to keep your wits about you when using it.

The system of dual cutting discs is a very ingenious way of cutting in deep.

The outside of the specially-designed diamond discs are mounted flush so they do not drag against the sides of the cut, but the cut can only proceed as deep as the middle of the discs to the drive housing. Once the length of the cut has been done, the specially designed crowbar provided with the kit is used to break out the centre of the channel. Contrary to the misgivings expressed by my trade friends, breaking out the bits was very easy especially with bricks, as they tend to break off with the mortar layers. Once the cut channel is clear, the discs can be reintroduced to the channel and the process starts again and is repeated until you reach the other side of the wall! The arm holding the discs allows a depth of about 400mm to be cut – well past the depth of a typical double-skinned brick wall. 

The tradesmen were also doubtful about how easy it would be to finish the required aperture, as clearly it would be highly dangerous to use the K760 to cut a horizontal channel across the top. The answer, for a double skin brick wall at least, seems to be to cut a couple more channels in the middle of the aperture and then use a hammer to knock out the rest – I assure you it comes out more easily than you think.  In concrete, an SDS breaker would do a similar job of knocking out the middle. In either case making an accurate aperture would be quicker than knocking through by hand. Some builders use a single disc cutter that works well enough on single skin brick walls if the disc is big enough, but is not really an accurate nor safe enough method to be used on a double skin brick wall. So the Husqvarna double disc system provides a safer and more efficient way of cutting apertures in masonry. 

I must also point out that the built-in dust suppressing water system built into the machine operated very well.  Without it, the user would very quickly disappear into a cloud of dust, so simple safety procedures demand that the water system is used every time. The result of using it is the inevitable fine sludge that can coat the front of the machine, the floor and surrounding walls, but it is fantastically effective at reducing dust to an absolute minimum. 

When it comes to summing up this machine I am happy to say that I think I was right and the doubtful tradesmen were wrong. It is a powerful monster that will repay careful, safe and considered use, but the results speak for themselves. Making apertures in masonry is set to become a lot easier if the Husqvarna K760 Cut-n-Break has its way. 

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

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