Everbuild CLEARFIX Adhesive-Clearly Excellent

Aimed at:- Professional trade users and confident DIYers in the know.

Pros: easy to use, strong and flexible solution. Replacing nails?

Every time I go on site these days I see yet another way in which builders’ adhesives are being used. From worktops to skirtings, adhesives are clearly replacing mechanical fixings where possible. If used properly, adhesives can be quicker and as effective as nails or screws. They are especially good where a nail might be close to a pipe or electricity cable embedded in a wall.

So the case for builders’ adhesives has been made and proven – now we are onto the second stage where the alternative and niche products are being rolled out.

Most of the builders’ adhesives I have seen or used have been a dull khaki colour or white. These colours are not a problem if the adhesive is going to be out of sight, but there are dozens of places where a clear adhesive would be invisible or nearly so – think mirrors, glass and metals for a start. Everbuild’s Clear Fix is the clear (sorry!) solution to the problem.

I was sent a couple of standard glue gun cartridges of Clear Fix to try out, and you can literally see through the plastic cartridge as though it were empty – so it seems almost invisible. Apparently, under most normal conditions, apart from extreme UV light and permanent darkness, the adhesive will retain this clarity so its look should not spoil as it ages.

We are now totally used to wonder adhesives, so we probably have high expectations of the adhesive’s bonding strength. What can also be important is that the initial “grab” should be good and the glued tile or whatever should remain in place after the adhesive has set in other words “no slump or slip”. Clear Fix, in my experience has excellent grab and no slip after the adhesive has gone off. I glued a heavy mirror into a frame with Clear Fix, supported it in place with masking tape while the glue went off – and the result was a permanent strong fix.

What makes Clear Fix even more versatile is that it can be used both indoors and outdoors and can also be applied onto slightly wet surfaces without affecting its ability to set and grip. Once set, Everbuild claims that it is weatherproof and waterproof. I have to rely on this because my test isn’t long term enough to prove it one way or another, but I doubt whether Everbuild would make a claim that they haven’t confirmed in their own research and trials.

Clear Fix relies on a chemical reaction to cure so is free of solvents and can be overpainted by most paints if needed – but a quick trial of a small corner would probably be wise with some paints.

Another claim I couldn’t test is that Clear Fix can resist temperature extremes from – 40 degrees C up to +150 degrees C. However, since the glue is silicone based, this is not unusual.
Another thing that silicone is very good at resisting is a wide range of chemicals and petrol – hence its use in petrol feed pipes in cars for example. Clear Fix is resistant to many, if not most, commonly used domestic and light industrial solvents and chemicals so can be confidently used where these might be present.

Despite all of its many hi-tech virtues, application of Clear Fix is easily done with a common sealant gun. Most users will know that you have to carefully cut off the seal at the end of the cartridge and screw on the nozzle. The nozzle can then be cut to size to deliver a bigger or smaller bead according to the needs of the job in hand.

A normal range of working temperatures found indoors and out in the UK is good enough for applications, and even a little bit of damp shouldn’t stop you.

In use I found that Clear Fix has quite a reasonable body, so if needed, it can be used as a filler in small gaps. Because it is so clear it doesn’t really show up the gap as a glaring white or brown adhesive might.

Its use is also indicated on a really wide range of substrates from relatively porous plasterboard, bricks and sheet materials, to smooth materials like metals, fiberglass, tiles and glass. To me, it seems as though the Clear Fix adhesive is about as strong and versatile as it is possible to make an adhesive without being very difficult to use and apply in most situations.

I was able to do what I thought would be a good test of Clear Fix’s capabilities with a simple test. The editor’s outdoor metal postbox has lost a few panels due to age and insensitive handling from the postie. The metal surfaces to be rejoined are relatively smooth and shiny, and the resulting repair will be hung on the wall outside the front door in all sorts of weather and temperatures. Also, the metal has been bent in some places, leaving some small gaps to be filled in order for the postbox to retain its watertightness.

Applying the adhesive onto the metal was pretty straightforward with the sealant gun, but I did get a bit messy as I tried to push the panels into place. I clamped the panel into position with spring clamps once the box was reassembled. After an hour or so at room temperature the glue had cured and the result was a rigid postbox again, slightly battered, but as good as new in terms of its ability to do its job.

Cleaning up was easy – I simply used an industrial wipe to clean my hands and the box after I had finished the job.

I will be able to check on how the joints are doing on my regular visits to the ToolBusiness and Hire office.

For retailers, Clear Fix adhesive is available in a standard box of 12 cartridges and has a good shelf life of twelve months in standard conditions.

The New Flex Giraffe II-Improving on an Old Favourite

Aimed at: Drywalling and Plaster Pros who need quick and efficient sanding of big areas.

Pros: Built in dust extraction method makes for safe use, good finish is quick to achieve.

Builders and dryliners have been using hand and powered sanders on plaster walls for years, but the stakes were raised considerably with the launch of the Flex Giraffe a few years ago. The Giraffe, it is fair to say, revolutionized wall sanding – making it easier and faster. With the addition of a custom-fit dust extractor required by EC regulations, wall sanding became a lot safer too.

What Flex brought to wall sanding was a comprehensive, flexible and efficient kit that really did the job and inevitably, the result was commercial success.

However, things never stand still. Research and Development at Flex HQ in Germany, plus customer feedback, meant that a newer version of the Giraffe became inevitable. Flex gave an R and D team a budget and a space and told them to crack on. The hands on team weren’t averse to experimentation – the story goes that when it was thought that the main tube handle needed a bend in it for easier handling, it was placed between two bricks and bent by the subtle (?) addition of human power!

Since the launch of the new Giraffe late last year I have been waiting for an opportunity to give it a thorough going over, and now my chance has come.

The sample arrived in a tall carton inside of which was the incredibly organized nylon case into which the Giraffe 3 is packed. The case is semi-hard with polystyrene supports at each end to hold the handle and disc end, so that the whole machine is supported rigidly. But there is also a layer of padding on the outer walls and bottom of the case that will protect the Giraffe both on site and in the back of a van. The two loop handles in the middle of the case allow for easy transportation and it also has room for a large number of spare sanding discs and the inevitable other extraneous stuff that tradespeople gather. With a weight of only 3.9 Kgs the new Giraffe won’t be too heavy to carry onto site, nor too heavy to use for extended periods either.

There is much evidence of thoughtful and intelligent design on this Giraffe. The sanding head itself is a bit of genius. The cast alloy “gimbal” design on the head allows it to swivel freely at what seems like all angles. With a subtle change of pressure and direction on the handle you can move the sanding head up and down, side to side and even vertically to sand ceilings. This instinctive method of work means that users become proficient with the Giraffe very quickly – adding up to efficiency savings that will help to pay for the investment in a Giraffe in a relatively short time.

The 225mm diameter perforated sanding discs are available in a range of grits and are held in place with a very efficient hook and loop system. Underneath the hook and loop is a layer of plastic foam that acts as a sort of shock absorber and allows the Giraffe to float over some of the unevenness found on walls and ceilings, and yet it is firm enough to allow a fine, flat finish too.

Round the rim of the sanding disc is a row of stiff black bristle that contains dust, but allows a strong airflow through so that a very large proportion of the dust is sucked out through the sanding head, through a flexible hose, down the handle to the vac extractor. Along one side of the disc is a straight edge with plastic “bumpers” at each end. This edge makes it possible to guide the sanding disc all the way up to the edge of ceiling and wall junctions so that sanding is complete. Again, it is very easy to engage a straight edge on the sander without doing double somersaults on the handle end.

The handle end is very simple – rather like a traditional T-Handle spade – but it is comfortable to use and easy to prop into an elbow crook or the top of the thigh when your arms need a quick rest or need a change of position.

The Giraffe GE5 R also has a rotary switch near the rear handle that controls the speed of the sanding disc – from 1100 to 1650 /min so that users can keep control when sanding more delicate surfaces.

Also aiding handling is a 5m long cord so that users can move freely around the worksite. Combine this with a similar length of cord on the dedicated vac extractor and the usable radius of work is easily enough for most applications.

Although it can’t be seen, I know that the Flex R and D team worked hard to “beef up” the flexible drive that goes through the handle to the disc so that it would be easier to service, as well as being better able to cope with the abrasive plaster dust that is always present in a wall sander.

To me it would be a no-brainer not to use one of the range of Flex dedicated vac extractors with a new Giraffe. I was sent the VCE35 LAC as a partner for the wall sander. The VCE 35 is not the top of the range, but with a flow rate of 3660 litres per minute and 1380w of power it was a formidable sucker that could easily cope with wall sanding as well as providing general power tool extraction duties and cleaning up the site at the end of the working day. It uses the flat filter technology that is very efficient as well as not taking up valuable space in the dust collector.

Some tradesmen have commented to me that wall sanders can be expensive to buy. They may have a point in some cases: – for example general builders who don’t need them often. However, for professional dryliners and some plasterers, the amount of time and effort saved would be so great that I doubt that they could be competitive without using one. The new Giraffe Range is not only improved, but has a number of niches to suit different users. Purchasers can also have confidence in the nationwide service and repair network that Flex UK has put in place. Try a Giraffe, you might find you can’t do without one.

Draper 400mm Fretsaw-Easy to Use Detail Cutting

Aimed at: – Professional and amateur puzzle and model makers.

Pros: – well-priced, very competent machine with all that is needed to get to work straight out of the box.

Fretsawing is most commonly a niche pursuit with many expert amateur and professional practitioners operating out of large and small workshops all over the UK. Most of those intricate 3D jigsaws seen at craft shows that are cut out of a single block, are produced by skilled hands and a quality fretsaw such as this one from Draper.

And because a quality fretsaw is absolutely vital for these users, they tend to be very picky about what they look for. The table size needs to be big enough to support larger pieces of work, and it needs to be adjustable for angle too. The power of the motor needs to be more than adequate for near silent operation and for cutting hardwoods up to the specified depth. Blade changing needs to be simple and quick, with the options of using different blades for different materials. Setting blade tension needs to be quick and simple, and a dust blower is a “nice to have” while vacuum assisted dust extraction is the preferred option.

The above makes for a comprehensive list of requirements and fortunately this Draper Fretsaw performs to a professional standard at a typical internet price of around £110 – so it won’t break the bank.

It takes very little to get the saw ready for work. The packaging is comprehensive and provides good transit protection, but is easy to unpack and find the small pieces that need to be added before it can be used.

Three rubber feet are screwed in for grip and anti-vibration, the adjustable transparent plastic blade guard needs to be mounted and the flexible blower spout needs to be screwed in. All of these can be done without tools – and with a good read of the instructions, it shouldn’t take more than half an hour from opening the box to cutting some material.

This Draper fretsaw is certainly of robust build quality – cast aluminium for the main body with pressed steel covers for the rocker arm and on the base. The base provides ample stability for the tool and the three rubber feet gripped well on the MDF surface of my workbench.

The fretsaw weighs 22Kgs and is able to soak up the inherent vibration of the oscillating cutting action without moving on the worktop.

The 400mm measurement on the specs is, of course, the depth of the throat of the fretsaw. This depth is needed to accommodate the longer workpieces typically made in fretsaws, like custom-made jigsaw puzzles and intricate moulding patterns.

The table too is made of a one-piece iron casting with a groove on one side to hold a sliding mitre guide that is provided as standard. Underneath the table a quadrant is used to set the table angle. The quadrant has simple angle markings but users are advised to use an angle setter if absolute accuracy is required. The mitre guide channel is a loose fit – sometimes easier to use when dust is involved – but for accuracy, users have to ensure that they run the guide down one side of the channel by exerting a little side pressure on it.

Changing blades on old fretsaws used to be a nightmare because it involved clamping the ends of the blade into grips, often under tension too, because it was not possible to undo the tension on the rocker arm.

Blade changing on this Draper is easy and quick. The rocker arm can be “untensioned” by flipping over the rocker switch on the top of the arm. This switch also serves as a blade tension adjuster, needed when changing to thicker or thinner blades. By using pin-ended blades that simply slide into the grooves on the rocker arm and underneath the table, they can be secured very easily and the tension is restored by flipping the rocker switch back again.

Bearing in mind that fretsaw blades, by their nature and use, do not last very long (but they are relatively cheap to buy) it is very important that they can be changed easily.

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The dust blower is very gentle and very adjustable – it is as jointed as a crab’s leg, so can be moved in so many ways to be aimed at the point of the cut. It would not do for the dust blower to be too powerful – it merely needs to clear the cut line – not raise the airborne dust levels.

 

Underneath the table there is a standard-sized dust extractor nozzle. The flexible end on most vac extractors should fit it and I found my extractor worked pretty efficiently in removing most dust from the machine. Ironically, it is most likely that the vacuum extractor will make much more noise than the motor of the fretsaw itself

The fretsaw motor is almost silent in operation and certainly had enough power for anything that I used the saw for – mostly cutting blocks of 50mm thick softwood and 25mm thick handles for hardwood chopping boards. The saw kerf is very thin so that sawn pieces fit together very accurately – important when making jigsaw puzzles.

Perhaps the only addition I could suggest for this fretsaw is a worklight. This is me being demanding because it is actually easy to aim a separate anglepoise lamp at the work. My desire for a worklight maybe reflects my aging eyes’ inability to follow a cut line unless it is well lit.

I got to like this saw very much in the few weeks that I used it. It just goes about its work in a very competent, relatively silent and easy to control way, with relaxed effort on the part of the human too. I reckon it could fit easily into the budget for model makers and craftspeople of all skill levels and is safe enough to be used in schools too. Although the fretsaw market has many players in it, this Draper Fretsaw does not disgrace itself and definitely should be in the running for a purchase decision.

The Shaviv from Vargus-Let’s Deburr

Aimed at: Professionals and enthusiasts who have a bit of nous.

Pros: Easy to use, quick setting times and multiple materials covered.

I am willing to bet that many people with some experience in the tool trade have never come across deburring tools – simply because they haven’t ever had the need to use them. However, pretty well anyone who has any experience of manufacture or fabrication would routinely use deburring tools since their use encompasses a wide range of metals, plastics and hard rubbers. Deburring tools are used to get a clean, non-burred edge on edges, slots and holes so that the appearance of components is improved, but also so that fit and tolerances are better.

Vargus Ltd was established in 1960 and has been supplying cutting, finishing and deburring tools to more than 100 companies around the world. They mainly focus on three major product lines – VARDEX Thread Turning and milling tools, GROOVEX groove turning and milling tools and SHAVIV hand deburring tools.

The SHAVIV catalogue I was sent covered the whole range of SHAVIV Tooling and the range was bewildering. Vargus supplies such a huge range that the two products reviewed here should be viewed only as a tiny taster of what is available and in which configurations – left handed, right handed, clockwise and anti-clockwise etc, etc!

Although many people have never thought about the role of deburring tools, it actually doesn’t take a lot of imagination to expand one’s ideas of where they might be used. There are many manufacturing processes that involve metals, plastics and rubber and there is a correspondingly vast range of SHAVIV deburring tools covering applications in die making, electrical, plastics, automotive, metal industries, plumbing and aerospace.

By their nature, deburring tools wear out as their edges become blunt through use, so there is a constant demand for replacement tips – which makes them stock items – retailers might take note here.

To be honest, I have been using deburring tools for years, as I sometimes have to fabricate brass and alloy parts for my furniture making exploits. Once you have the knack – pretty easily acquired – they are a valuable time saver for removing burrs. In my case I usually use a fine-toothed hacksaw or metal snips to cut the metals, but these usually result in a slightly rough or raised edges on the cut lines. A simple sweep or two down the edges with a deburring tool results in clean, slightly chamfered edges that won’t endanger fingers and give a clean, finished look.

To give readers a snapshot of the applications and effectiveness of deburring tools Vargus sent me a couple of samples – The Mango Set E for heavy deburring and the SHAVIV Set for finishing.

Packed in a plastic clam pack for easy display and security, the Mango Set E series handle is red and black plastic and my example came with three different deburring blades – the E100, the E200 and the E300. More about these below.

The black highlights on the handle are a grippy rubber overmould to make handling easier, since there is likely to be grease and oil involved in the applications. There is a black cap on the end of the handle that can hold two spare bits, but the cap is quite fiddly to remove. What is much easier is the adjustment of the telescopic bit holder. Simply pull back the black collar on the base of the handle to free up the toothed ratchet. The telescopic shaft extends up to about 110mm so that the user can reach into spaces if needed.

Replacing the deburring tips is just as easy – pull back the metal collar on the shaft end and the tip can be pulled out.

As I mentioned above, Vargus supplies a huge variety of deburring bits and to give readers some idea of the differences, the three supplied in the Mango kit are detailed below. They are all designed for right-handed use.

The HSS E100 blade works in a clockwise direction and is used for heavy duty deburring of straight and curved edges on steels, alloys and plastics.

Also made of HSS, the E200 is used for materials with powdery chips like brass, cast iron and plastics and can be used in both a clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.

With a very curved profile, the E300 blade is used for materials with spiral chips and can deburr both inside and outside edges up to 6mm thick at the same time.

To test all of these I had to ferret around in my workshop for odd bits of steel, plastic and alloys. Provided one follows the instructions, for example, don’t try to go anti-clockwise with a tip if it is designed to work only clockwise, it is the work of a moment to get a finished edge on straight and rounded edges. Even working into corners is not difficult. The key is, of course, the handle – it holds the blade securely and allows it to swivel and change angle with the user’s need to realign his hand as the tool moves down the edge.

The second part of the review is concerned with the Shaviv Finishing Bit Set.

I admit that I got and will get much more use out of this bit set since it is particularly tailored to the needs in my workshop.

The advantage of the finishing bit sets is that they have a standard 6mm hex end to the bit so they will fit into standard hex bit holders. The bits themselves swivel freely in the hex base so can be used in either direction. They are held in place with a strong magnet that keeps them secure while in use. Plumbers, fitters, installers and even, dare I say it, DIYers, would be able to enhance the finish of their work by using the finishing set.

Vargus supplied me with a very nice heavy, robust handle with grippy rubber nibs on it to house the finishing bits. It is so perfectly made for using with the bits I think any potential user should simply buy the handle too – it won’t break the bank.

While testing these deburring and finishing bits I did show them to a few tradespeople who might use them in the course of their work. At least half of them had never seen such tools, but having tried them could see how much time they could save, and how easy they are to use. I guess the point for retailers might be to be aware of these bits and suggest them to potential users. The Vargus Catalogue is a good starting point in appreciating just how many ways your customers’ needs could be met.

Maruyama BCV5020 Brush Trimmer & Grass Trimmer – A Powerful and Efficient Performer

Aimed at professionals in grounds care and smallholders.
Pros:- Super quality, reliable, easy start with a fantastic guarantee too!

To give a little back story – By 2014, its 120th Anniversary year, Maruyama made 10 million engines. You can’t make that many motors without becoming an expert, nor can you disguise the fact that Maruyama is a major manufacturer of gardening and forestry related tools that deserves a far greater prominence in the UK market competing against the “market leaders”. If you learn one thing from this review I hope it will be that Maruyama machines deserve to be in any purchasing equation. It is always tempting to stick to the way you have done things in the past – but maybe after reading this you will go and try a Maruyama.

The company can be confident of its kit because ALL machines are tested before they leave the factory. Any machines that don’t meet their rigorous standards are not shipped! Traceability is ensured because serial numbers are logged against test performance.

Maruyama’s engineering tolerances in motors and gears are measured in the 10 thousands of an inch – as good as an expensive high performance sports car, and this may explain why their motors can deliver reliable high performance throughout their working lives. It also helps that all Maruyama engines have matched pistons and cylinder sets and final polishing and grinding of components is designed to make components fit together so well that “hand in glove” comparisons just don’t get close enough.

The Maruyama BCV is a big machine in all sorts of ways. It is a shade over 1.8m long,(6 feet) weighs 8.9 Kgs without fuel and has a 1.91 kW, 49.9 cc engine that can rev up to an amazing11,200rpm as a recommended maximum.

The heart of the BCV brushcutter is the motor – giving it all the power and sophistication it needs to perform well, and again there is a particular story to tell.

The NE series engine is built to deliver higher revs and higher torque – in engine design terms, a paradox. But Maruyama engineers designed a three-piece drop forged piston that is highly durable and combined it with a chromed alloy cylinder that is also lighter and longer lasting – making it possible for Maruyama to offer a Five Year Warranty to commercial and private users on motor and gearbox. (not hire for obvious reasons)

But back again to the review. As is common safety practice these days the motor is almost completely shrouded by a robust plastic covering with appropriate vent holes where required. This means that the user is very well protected from accidental burning by hot exhaust or motor parts. Equally, the shrouding is easy to remove for access to parts that need occasional servicing like filters and spark plug. The nearly transparent plastic fuel tank is slung underneath the left hand side of the motor with a strong black plastic captive filler cap. This is placed where it is really easy to reach it for filling and on the “natural side’ from which users will approach the machine. A protective plate sits under the motor on which the machine can be balanced for starting and also for protection against mud etc.

To comply with anti-vibration legislation the housing is isolated from the motor and driveshaft by flexible mounts and the cowhorn type handle is flexibly mounted as well. Measured vibration tests have shown 2.2m/s on the left handle and 3.2m/s on the right handle – lower than many competitors and vitally important for workers who need to be assured that vibration levels are controlled enough to do a decent length working day.

There is no doubt in my mind that Maruyama motors are easier to start than other two- strokes I have tested. This does have something to do with the Walbro combined carb and ignition module and the twin sprung system on the substantial (i.e. comfortable) pull handle and cord. Even in the cold and wet weather we have experienced recently, the motor was purring after a few pulls on the cord.

Getting the power to the business end of a brushcutter is more difficult than it looks because of torque and vibration issues. Maruyama have optimized power delivery by providing an aircraft grade aluminium driveshaft housing that is rigid. Along the shaft there are five sets of self – lubricating bushes to reduce wear and vibration. When testing the machine I really noticed the rigidity of the shaft and head, even when cutting some bamboo brush. It really does inspire confidence in a machine’s safety and capability when it doesn’t flex in use or feel slightly out of control. Readers might like to know that the driveshaft has a lifetime guarantee – confidence in your products???

The Maruyama harness supplied with the machine is a minor masterpiece on its own. With a large machine such as the BCV5020 the user has to have the weight of it distributed properly in order to work safely and for lengths of time. The full harness is well padded on the shoulders, back and waist as well as having a pad on the leg guard. With easily adjustable clips and snap-on buckles, users can easily customize the harness to suit their height and optimal working balance for the machine. The belt even manages to incorporate a small zipped mobile phone sized pocket on it!

It goes without saying that transferred vibration is minimal and the weight of the machine is well distributed over both shoulders allowing the user to work effectively at the chosen balance and height most suitable for them.

On the business end there is a massive red guard that conceals the cutter head (in grass trimming mode) from the user. This guard is easy to remove (one screw) and also has a black “skirt” that incorporates the line cutter that equalizes the length of the cutting lines as they are automatically extended during use. I guess that this “skirt” is ultimately sacrificial because it is easy to remove by unsnapping a series of clips along the back.

I found that the function of the cutting head was perfect when I was cutting long and even shortish grass and small brush – the line was always the right length and the cutting performance was optimized. All it seemed to need was a simple tap on the ground occasionally.

The line head needs to be removed completely when changing over to the wicked looking, matte-black, three-pointed brush cutter blade. This involves locking the gear head with a pin, removing the line head (left hand thread remember) and then using the box spanner to tighten the brush cutter blade securely with the nut and cup washer supplied. It takes less time to do than writing this, so not really an onerous job.

I can genuinely say that the Maruyama BCV5020 delivered all the power and performance I could expect from a heavy-duty brushcutter – it cut through quite heavy 12 to 15mm brush and trimmed heavy grass easily and magnificently. Vibration and noise were well-controlled and general handling and starting were really easy. I have no hesitation in recommending it as a professional quality solution.

Draper Expert Router-A Comprehensive Routing Kit

Aimed at competent DIYers and professionals.

Pros:- with optional fixed base and LED lights and variable speeds this router is very versatile.

Routers have become “must have” tools for pretty well most woodworkers – professional or amateur.Like most pieces of kit, the more you can afford the better, and this kit from the Draper Expert Range seems to be pretty comprehensive – enough for many woodworkers to stretch their routing capabilities if required.

The router kit arrived in a robust blown plastic case with each piece firmly in its own slot with enough space to accommodate the cord and the inevitable other odds and ends that will accumulate. A nice touch I thought was the rubber buffer in the lid that prevented the guide bushes housed in the base from coming loose in transit. A minor point but thoughtful and useful!

The router motor with cord and electronic controls comes packed as a separate unit from the base – in this kit the plunge base is the one included. A fixed base can also be used with the motor unit, and this can be purchased separately.

The advantage of the separate base system is that the user can choose whatever one best fits the bill for the job in hand. Many big routers for example, find themselves being used under router tables. The facility to remove the motor unit easily for bit changing and for non-router table use adds a lot to the versatility of the router package.

To start getting the tool together ready for use it is necessary to unclip the motor clamping lever and line up the geared rack in the recess. Then simply press the motor down into the base and tighten the clamp. This ensures that the motor and base are held together firmly.

Packed into the lid of the box is a pressed steel parallel guide fence. Unusually, along with the wheeled edge follower, this is held in place with a wingnut. Another thoughtful touch, as anyone who has ever had to pack a power tool into a case will confirm.

There is also a pressed steel spanner, three guide bushes, a centering pin, a trammel point, a dust extraction port and two collets enabling ½ inch and ¼ inch cutters to be used in the router.

With all of the above, most users will be able to rout circles, follow templates, follow edges, curved and straight, and do freehand routing with guide pin cutters. Frankly, that is just about most of what competent router users would do with their routers so the kit should find many friends.

Accurate routing is an absolute requirement for router users and the base of this kit reflects this. Made almost entirely from cast alloy it feels light and strong. The plunge mechanism is protected from dust by gaiters and there is a three-stop depth turret and a depth stop pin with micro adjuster to help get the exact depth of cut required. The depth of plunge is held firmly by a sprung lever adjacent to the right hand side handle and this works positively without having to apply excess pressure on it.

The motor unit is pretty well thought out too. Machining of the alloy parts of the housing is smooth and accurate, meaning that it will fit smoothly and snugly into the base.

On the left hand side of the motor unit is a sealed toggle switch. This is protected from accidental starting by a three-sided ledge arrangement around it. On the top of the motor there is a yellow dial to set speeds for the motor – a range of 12000 to an impressive 25000 rpm. Another good safety feature is the power-on indicator next to the cable inlet to the motor.

Near the collet there is a simple and effective spindle lock system as well as a very effective three LED worklight that comes on automatically when the router is switched on.

The operator is encouraged to make use of the other features, and to attach fences and other bits as they are pretty simple – neither fiddly or a hassle to use. For example, the guide bushes are attached by pushing them through the transparent plastic base and then tightening a nut on the top. The plastic base is adjustable so that the cutters can be centred using the centering pin provided.

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Routers used to be renowned for the nasty whining noises from both cutters and motors, but more recently they have become a lot quieter. With its soft start motor – a good feature on a router in my view, the Draper is no exception. At the lower rev range there is a quite civilized level of noise, and at 25000 rpm the noise is not excessive, but I had the feeling that the top speed will rarely be used because most users won’t need to go there – it is very fast.

While using this Draper kit on a variety of tasks, I could appreciate many of its virtues. It can be bought at very competitive prices online and in store and as is the case with so many Draper tools, you do get a lot for your money.

I mostly used the router with biggish ½ inch shank cutters so I never really had to use the higher speeds that would be associated with smaller diameter cutters. The router was always easy to control and it is easy to set the basic parameters for accurate working as they operate smoothly and stay set in use. Being part of the Draper Expert range, users would expect no less.

Features that came to my attention as being a little different from the competition were the thoughtful case arrangements already mentioned. I also liked the really good flexible plastic used for the dust extraction spout and base. They seemed to be very flexible and strong – not brittle, which promised a longer and more practical working life than other comparable router kits. Lastly, the position and brightness of the three LED lights, I found, were really useful. No doubt there is a comment to be made on my less than perfect eyesight, but the level and position of the illumination helped a lot in using the router.

Toughbuild Sawhorse - It's in the name

Aimed at:- Discerning amateurs and site professionals who need flexible and strong work support.

Pros:- Fold down and compact, very strong, can be made into work surfaces easily with a bit of additional timber.

It may still be a requirement in some places, but years ago, one of the first jobs that new apprentice carpenters had to do was to make a couple of sawhorses. There was a clear logic in getting them to do this – practising the skills of accurate cutting and joining as well as then having a couple of useful bits of kit to help them on site. A look round pretty well any small building site will confirm that wooden sawhorses are still around.

The problem with the wooden version is that while they are very rigid and strong, they are bulky and take up a lot of floor space in the back of the, usually, cramped white van, even if they are stacked one on top of the other.

It is not often that a product strikes me as “Very Useful” the first time I see it or before I have even tried it out. When I saw the TOUGHBUILT C470 and C420 sawhorses/jobsite tables at a toolshow I immediately thought – “Good Idea “– “well made” – “lots of applications.”

As it happens, I have been making a set of window and doorframes for a custom greenhouse/ outbuilding so I was keen to put the sawhorses to the test when they arrived.

Both versions of the TOUGHBUILT sawhorses are made of pressed steel. The steel is well finished with rolled edges and a powder coated bodies to protect against the inevitable wet weather and knocks associated with building sites.

I started with the lighter version – the C470. On its own it will support a massive 1100lbs (roughly 550kgs) but used as a pair will support double that. Bearing in mind that the C470 can be easily hefted in one hand without strain, this is remarkable. I doubt whether there are many jobsite applications that would demand such heavyweight capacities.

Getting set up is pretty straightforward and takes only a few minutes for a pair of sawhorses.

The legs sit one on top of the other when folded into the body, so you have to choose the outer pair, push the release button and fold the first set of legs down until they lock out. The folded legs are then pulled apart to form the rigid upside down V of the leg shape. The other legs are similarly done and the sawhorse will then be able to stand firmly on a flattish surface.

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When the legs are folded out they reveal a U-shaped end on each side of the sawhorse. These are made to fit CLS timber often found on building sites. With the timber in place on each side of the sawhorse it becomes even more rigid and stable, but it also makes it possible to place a piece of sheet material over the whole top to effectively make a work surface area. With the surface sheet clamped or screwed to the timber you have a rigid work platform that would support a considerable weight as well as being quick to dismantle and move.

Useful to site workers in general are the flip out support pegs on the legs. Using a pair of these on a single sawhorse, big sheets of material can be supported for cutting either vertically or horizontally, although it is probably a good idea to have an extra pair of hands or a clamp or two to secure the sheet material to the sawhorse.

The working height of the sawhorses is a fairly standard 75cm, so is quite comfortable for the likes of me.

To be honest, the C470 sawhorse has more than enough capacity for the jobs I normally do and its lighter weight makes for very easy carrying around site or for moving from place to place. The plastic carrying handles fit flush into the body of the sawhorse and the only slight criticism I could make is that the non-slip rubber on top of the body came unstuck fairly easily. Fitted with a top, a pair of C470s makes an amazingly useful workbench or mitre saw table.

In the big league is the much meatier and heavier C420 sawhorse that is, in my view, going to appeal to site workers who want really heavy-duty applications.

A single TOUGHBUILT C420 will hold a massive 1300lbs (roughly 590kgs) and double that for a pair. Part of the reason for the extra weight is the design of the legs. These fold out in the same way as the C470 but are more meatily made and individually adjustable. To set the legs to a good working height (there are 8 stops) simply press down the catch and extend the legs to the height required. The stops are quite small, so it would be possible to adjust the legs for uneven surfaces. This may involve a couple of blocks of waste ply under the feet. It also means that the sawhorses can be adjusted to sit stably on steps or a ramp for example.

Like its lighter sibling, timber can be inserted into the ends of the bodies to form a worktable or simple to make a more rigid table for circular sawing or routing for example.

The bearing surfaces on top of the body are robust plastic strips firmly attached to the metal. They also include the strap carrying handles that are needed to carry the C420s around.

In use, both the TOUGHBUILT C470 and C420 lived up to my initial expectations and the more I used them, the more I liked them.

Once you have mastered the method of folding and unfolding them (just following the correct sequence of moves) they have the massive advantage of taking only a 90cm long and 14cm deep space in the van and are a lot easier to carry both off and onsite than a standard wooden sawhorse. Knowing trades, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some people developing handy individualized work solutions like mitre saw and routing tables based on a pair of TOUGHBUILT sawhorses. I recommend that you take a look at them – I think you might like!

Panasonic Cordless Angle Grinder-Dual Voltage Versatility

Aimed at professionals who need cordless flexibility.

Pros:- Powerful, dual voltage with all of Panasonic's legendary electronic expertise built in to this Tough Tool.

There was something that appealed to me about this 125mm angle grinder the moment I took it out of the box – just the way it looked and felt in my hand made me feel that we could be friends. By adding a battery pack the impression was reinforced because the balance of the tool in the hand became pretty near perfect.

With time for longer reflection and a closer examination I found a lot more to like about the grinder. So, starting at the front…

Many end users have told me that they like to have a small grinder head that is as compact as possible because sometimes, small grinders, by definition, are required for use in applications where space is very limited.The compact grinder head itself is made of a very well finished alloy casting with a cast-in ventilation grille for the motor. The draught from the grille blows outwards, so don’t fret that the dust is being blown inwards across the vital motor bits. Also included is a well guarded but easy to use spindle lock button to enable speedy disc changes. A cranked pin spanner is supplied for tightening and loosening the disc nut. The crank allows easy access to the nut over the edge of the disc guard.Two threaded holes, one on each side of the head, allow an auxiliary handle (provided) to be fitted for easier handling.

The cutter guard is substantial steel pressing that provides excellent protection to the user and disc. Some users might complain that it has no quick-release adjustment system, but in fact all that is needed is to loosen a single screw easily accessible screw to adjust the angle of the guard or indeed to remove it.Four sturdy screws attach the grinder head to the Panasonic grey and black body of the grinder. Right behind the head is the black rocker switch that seems to be a standard on grinders these days. This switch design is perfect because it actually requires some intention on the part of the user to switch the machine on. However, a quick press on the back of the switch is all that is required to turn the machine off.

The switch itself is protected by a ridge around it that would help prevent the grinder from being switched on accidentally –for example if it was packed into one of the soft bags that many tradespeople use these days.The grinder’s body is really quite slimline and my small hands had no difficulty gripping it securely. Grip is definitely helped by the careful and intelligent use of a rubberized overmould around and under the body. The top and bottom of the grip are slightly shaped into an oval for more comfort.

In a cordless machine the battery is a very important and on this grinder the position of the battery pack is arranged to balance and offset the weight of the grinder head at the opposite end.However, when you buy a Panasonic machine you also buy into the reputation that Panasonic has for excellent electronics and battery technology. Accordingly, this little grinder is not only a dual voltage machine, but also has a built-in warning light near the base of the body which indicates if the battery is being overloaded or is too high in temperature.

The advantages of a dual voltage machine are many – not least is that end users who have one voltage, say 14.4v, can buy a more powerful and longer lasting 18v battery to use in the same charger and in a range of different Panasonic dual voltage tools, without having the worry of which battery fits where. In my experience, having used this dual voltage system on a variety of Panasonic tools I have tested, I can say that the system is completely seamless and may even make Panasonic users a bit smug since they can be very flexible on tools and battery packs.

Another key ingredient for the grinder is that it is part of the Panasonic TOUGH TOOL IP system. In essence this means that the grinder has enhanced protection and sealing against water and dust, efficient cooling systems for motors and the use of alloys in gearboxes and other moving parts and the incorporation of electronic protection systems for motors and battery packs.

Users can confidently use this grinder on site and in the toughest working conditions knowing that it is up to the job.

When I collected the grinder from Panasonic the parting shot was words to the effect of ”give it some beans”. Clearly the team at Panasonic has great confidence in their little grinder. So I did just that, I gave it as much “beans” as I dared. Using a variety of thin metal cutting and grinding discs for cutting and grinding on a number of metals I laboured for quite a long time exploring the limits of this little grinder. In effect I treated the grinder like a mains-powered machine and I was as relentless as I could be without wanting to break it. It came up trumps – it really is a nice well-balanced, sufficiently powerful and easy machine to use. Definitely Recommended.

Wera Kraftform Kompakt VDE- All the Drivers Needed?

Aimed at:-Fitters, maintenance/electronics engineers and anoyne who needs an easily portable set of general fixing tools. 

Pros:-Brilliant small kit in a new nylon case. The kit is amazingly verstatile and very well made.

Sometimes the right tools are just the ones needed for the job in hand – the fewer the better. And sometimes the right tools are the ones that you thought you might not need, but thankfully you have them there anyway. The Wera Kraftform Kompakt VDE sent up for review belongs to the latter category. With seventeen pieces in all it is probably everything an electrician would need in the way of screwdrivers for most, if not all jobs.

I should note first of all the black nylon wallet into which the kit is all carefully arranged. It is as compact as it can be as well as being compatible with ensuring easy use on site.

When folded up via the strong hook and loop closures, it could easily fit onto a waist belt. Indeed, there is a strong belt loop provided on the back of the case.

If used this way, all the tools are made to hang down so that they can be easily accessed from above.

I am not one for carrying stuff on a belt, so I found it equally easy to simple lay the opened case out flat on the floor or a flattish surface. In this position, there are two Wera Kraftform Kompakt handles at each end of the wallet. Wera has listened to some end users who said that sometimes they use more than one driver tip on a job so needed another handle for speed and convenience.

These Kraftform handles are famous for having been tested under very arduous conditions – under crushing loads and right down to -40 degrees Celsius where some plastics can become brittle and hence non-insulating. I guess that electricians working in London boroughs might be well reassured!

But the thing I most like about them is the ease with which it is possible to change driver tips. Simply push back the locking collar between forefinger and thumb, which releases the lock, pull out the driver tip and replace it with another which slides in and locks into place as it is pushed home. Literally a matter of seconds.

The handles themselves are the standard bright yellow and red VDE colours, with the yellow parts of the moulding having a slightly rubberized feel for easy grip.

The driver tips are arranged into four sections in two groups of four tips and one group of seven tips. It helps end users to keep the whole case as compact as possible if they replace the tips after use in the same order and orientation in which they arrive from Wera. In this way the more bulky hex ends are balanced by the less bulky shanks and they kind of fit into each other more compactly. This works for me only because I just get used to replacing a driver tip in the opposite orientation as the one it is next to.

The first section of four driver tips is the straight screwdriver. These go from a small 2.5mm wide tip right up to a more robust 5.5mm wide blade tip. Each one is 154mm long, and as we would expect, the 1000v rated insulation goes all the way down the shaft leaving only 15mm of the working end exposed.

The next section of four tips is the Torx section. Much more commonly used now, Torx screws are found in all sorts of appliances and junction boxes nowadays. In the past, whenever I occasionally took apart a power tool, a simple Phillips or Pozi would do it, but Torx and other patterns are common now. Perhaps to keep the unqualified and incompetent out? – like the ones who wouldn’t buy a full set of Wera VDE screwdrivers?

The Torx drivers are arranged in order as a 10, a 15, a 20 and a 25 – which again is a pretty comprehensive coverage of common Torx sizes. The insulation also goes all the way down the tips leaving only the last 15mm as the working tip.

The last seven tips kind of open out together and they are arranged alternately as Phillips and Pozi drivers and a standard straight driver. There are four Pozi drivers in all – PZ2, PZ1, PZ1/S and PZ2/S and Phillips PH2 and PH1. The straight driver is a 6.5mm width for those bigger screws in casings.

And of course, there is the extra handle at the end to bring the set to completion.

I liked the fact that the driver bits are all held in place by an elastic strip that is stretchy enough to hold the bits firmly, but also flexible enough to make them easy to pull out or replace. This arrangement means that the user can see all the tips easily and can select visually. But in usual thorough Wera fashion, all the bits have the sizes and types of bit printed in black on the hex shanks. I doubt whether end users will take the trouble to arrange the bits print side up like the way in which the set arrived out of the packaging, but it is very easy to twist them around to see the printed sizes if needed. 

Confirmed Wera fans will know that damaged bits in a set can be replaced individually and that different sizes and types of bits can be bought to substitute others in the set. However, I think that this set is pretty well comprehensive so I guess there won’t be too much of that going on.

The plus points of such a comprehensive set are really a big bonus for busy electricians – you get easy changing of a wide range of bits as well as a pair of handles for those jobs where more than one fixing is used, plus all the advantages of quick-change handles and the peace of mind of a well tested VDE range.

To read further about Wera Hand Tools such as the Tehnicans kit, which includes the Kraftform Kompakt SH1 Plumbkit and the Wera W1 Maintenance Kit, and other products, click here.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Wera Joker – A Combination Ratchet Spanner – But Not as we Know it!

Aimed squarely at professionals, but keen amateurs will love them too. innovative and possible the end of skinned knuckles.

For the Wera uninitiated, the launch of a new range of spanners, or in Wera –speak – of Joker Professional Ratcheting Combination Wrenches, might not signify on their product radar. But more fool them I say, because they might have missed a product that despite being “only a spanner” could be very useful to them, in solving some of their working dilemmas.

I am not a mechanic by inclination, but even with a limited experience of doing simple jobs on my car, I could see where these Wera wrenches could be a major time and knuckle saver. For professionals, they would be a very useful and long – term investment in timesaving and high quality kit.

The new Joker Combination Wrenches cannot be faulted in terms of quality. They are made from high performance chrome molybdenum steel that is then plated with a nickel-chrome coating for high corrosion protection.

The steel combination means that even very high-torque applications can be confidently undertaken. Just the feel of the wrenches in your hand will confirm that –they are slimly sleek for comfortable grip and easy access to small spaces, but are clearly very strong.

Cleverly, Wera designers have incorporated the Wera Kraftform trademark into the wrench handles, right in the middle where extra strength is needed. The indentations of the design also serve as useful thumb and finger grips for greasy hands. As usual, the finish on the wrenches is super high quality – there are simply no traces of forging marks – just smooth matte metal.

But with four other useful functions to explore, it is time to move on.

The first of these is the practical holding function. What? a spanner that holds nut or bolt heads tight so that they can be located into position easily and then tightened. A closer look shows that the Joker wrenches have metal stop plates inset into the open ended jaws. With stop plate facing downwards, the nut or bolt head can be inserted into double-hex geometry of the jaws above. The stop plate has “ledges” on the inside of the jaws that prevent the nut or bolt from falling out. The double-hex geometry ensures that the nut is placed for best advantage.  All the user then has to do, at worst, is put a thumb or finger over the nut and start tightening it.

With the wrench the other way up, the holding function becomes an integrated limit stop. With the stop plate on the upper face of jaws, it acts to stop the fastener from slipping through the jaws. This means that the user does not have to steady the fastener with a thumb or forefinger before tightening it. It also ensures that the full area of the wrench jaws is located firmly onto the flat driving faces of the fastener. This minimizes any risk of slipping on the fastener, and also the nasty knuckle-crash risk associated with slipping fasteners.

But the stop plate has one more trick up its sleeve, so to speak. A close examination of it reveals that there are a couple of rows of tiny teeth on the parallel jaw sides of the wrench.  When the gripping plate is facing downwards on the fixing, these teeth, when under pressure, generate a form-fit connection to the fixing. The extra-hard teeth bite into the fixing and help prevent slippage under high torque loads. Once again, a bit of thoughtful design has reduced the danger of skinned (or worse) knuckles.

It is clear from the above, that the innovative addition of a stop plate to the to the Wera Joker Wrenches range has enabled users not only to greater levels of safety, but also to extra speed and convenience too. If they are not some of the goals of innovation in design, then you are welcome to your box of old-fashioned spanners, no doubt with built-in bumps, bends and oil stains!

The double-hex geometry combined with the straight head of the wrench mean that finding purchase on a fixing is a simple matter of moving the handle only 30 degrees to reposition the wrench onto it. Gone are the days of “tighten a bit, remove wrench, turn it over, reposition on fixing, tighten a bit, remove wrench….. etc.

The next bits to explore are the “ratcheting” and “combination” part of the Joker Wrenches. Looking at the other end of the wrenches, users can see an enclosed ratchet ring. This works as slickly as an oiled turnstile. The direction of travel of each ratchet is clearly marked with an etched arrow that won’t rub off with use. Selecting clockwise or anti-clockwise rotation is as easy as turning the wrench over.

The thickness of the wrench head is a shade over 10mm, so it is designed to fit into very small spaces. But perhaps more important to most users will be the fact that the ratchet has an 80 – tooth mechanism that enables a pivot angle of under 5 degrees. In practice it means that the very end of the handle travels less than 25mm to the next stop. Tightening or loosening nuts in a confined area is probably never going to be made easier than this. Also, it eliminates the need to remove the wrench from the fixing to find the next angle of purchase needed to carry on.

For a real life lesson, I used the Joker wrenches to help me replace a headlight on my Ford Focus. Easy you might think – but not on the nearside light. It involves removing the battery and battery holder in order to reveal the back of the light holders. The space is very confined and I was able to make full use of the versatility of the Joker wrenches’ ability to remove fixings in confined spaces. Having done this job a year or so with “conventional’ wrenches and sockets I was able to appreciate just how much easier the Joker made the job. Multiply this time saving many times for a professional mechanic or enthusiast to find out just how useful the Joker range could be. The Joker set used in this review was a six-piece set with popular sizes from 10mm to 19mm in it. Packed for dispatch and display in a sturdy card box, the wrenches are contained in a strong nylon case with a hook and loop closure. The wrenches have individual spaces in the case and there is a hanging loop on the case too. 

 

Read more Wera Reviews, such as the Kraftform Kompact VDE and the Tehnicans kit, which includes the Kraftform Kompakt SH1 Plumbkit and the Wera W1 Maintenance Kit.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

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