Innovation from Spectre Screws

WHEN it comes to woodscrews – or even fastenings in general – we have a bewildering choice nowadays.

The cordless drill driver and modern woodscrews have made what was a chore into a simple job with, usually, much better results than we could have expected 20 years ago, writes PETER BRETT.

Who drills pilot holes these days? Or who greases screws before twisting them in with a big screwdriver like we used to?

The Spectre USPs

The new Spectre screws are labelled as Advanced Multi-Purpose Woodscrews, so are aimed at jobbing builders, joiners, carpenters and others. They need a good product at a good price, when a premium screw is not required.

FORGEFIX carefully chose the features most needed for general users and, based on my experience of using woodscrews in a variety of applications, the design is pretty well spot on.

Starting with the quick-start type 17 slash point, it is very sharp so getting a good start is almost as easy as just pushing it into the wood where you need the screw to be.

In addition to the cut out to clear the starting hole quickly, the first few mm of the thread has a small sawtooth that literally cuts its way through the wood and helps prevent splitting.

I tried the screws close to the edges of both hard and softwood, and it is not an idle claim.

Brian Trevaskiss, Marketing Manager at FORGEFIX, said: "Users don’t have to open the box, they just need to offer up their sample screw to the scale to compare.

" This is simple stuff – but no-one else has thought of this before. I am sure retailers will love it.

"There is also the option to purchase larger quantity boxes of the most popular sizes that represent a 10% saving on the equivalent normal size boxes.

"As for the screws – yes, they work well. They are anti-corrosion coated, and come in 48 sizes with, as mentioned above, options for bulk trade boxes.

"Dealers who decide to stock bigger numbers qualify for a free one-metre display stand."

Point of sale display

FORGEFIX is to be commended for coming up with a few excellent ideas to help end users (and even shop counter staff) to choose the right size screws.

This will also help with the annoying problem of finding clumsily opened boxes half full of screws on a display - usually the result of a customer trying to find exactly the length and gauge of the screw they want.

The new bright yellow and black boxes have the size and gauge of the screws written in big letters (even without my glasses I can read them) on one side of the box.

On the other side is an actual size representation of the head, so the user will know what size and type of driver to use. Below it is a centimetre scale with the screw imposed on it.


www.forgefix.co.uk

Wera and the era of the ‘torqueys’

A FLICK through the latest Wera product catalogue will confirm the company is no stranger to the ‘torqueys’ – tools that control the level of torque for tightening various bolts and screws, writes PETER BRETT.

As machines and components have become more advanced, the need to control the levels of torque of various fixings has become very important.

'As tight as you can get it' is not an acceptable procedure when working on a carbon-fibre structure, or on an electronic device that needs a correct torque to maintain electrical contacts.

The Wera torque tool range provides ultra-precise micro screwdrivers to standard and VDE formats, right the way to a monster torque wrench capable of delivering torque tightening from 200Nm to 1000Nm.

Clearly the latter have more sophisticated ‘innards’ to ensure accurate and consistent torque delivery for a wider range of tasks.

Eisenwarenmesse 2018 (Cologne Tool Fair) was the setting for the launch of Wera’s Click-Torque range of wrenches – and an array it was too.

To ensure all bases were covered the range stretches from the A5 & A6 ¼” drive 2.5 – 25Nm right through to the E, which is a ¾” drive.

C1 – C5 Range

The C1 reversible ratchet wrench comes with a 10 to 50Nm capability up to the C5 with an 80-400Nm available. Add in the Click Torque E and the Click Torque X series for use with insert tools and it is clear Wera takes torque tools extremely seriously.

Click Torque C3

I was sent a Click Torque C3 to review, which is in the middle of the C range (1/2”) of wrenches and is a typical example of the ergonomics and operation of the Wera torque wrenches – so readers can generalise a bit about how the rest work.

The Click Torque C3 announces its capability with green lettering by the ratchet head reading 40-200Nm, meaning it would be a good choice for mechanics, AA Patrol Staff and such like.

This precision tool is just over 51cm long and arrived packaged in a snug square plastic box, which is great for storage and would suit any retail display.

Also in the case was the all-important calibration certificate and Certificate of Conformity, which should be kept safe.

Torque wrenches need regular calibration after a fixed number of work cycles to ensure continuing accuracy. I was pleased to note my sample, according to the certificate, was well within the 3% tolerance allowed by the standards testing authorities.

Some features

As we would expect from a Wera tool, the ratchet head is made from finely finished alloy with a ½ inch square drive. This drive has a ball-bearing socket retainer and a socket release button.

I hate wrestling with sockets that rely on friction and a tight fit to keep them in place.

Inevitably I end up struggling to change sockets, particularly in cold weather, so I welcomed these features.

The 45-tooth ratchet is reversible, so the wrench can be used to loosen bolts. The 45-tooth ratchet also means the tool has a relatively small ‘throw’, making it easier to use in cramped spaces.

A solid oval tube painted in Wera Black conceals the inner workings of the ‘click’ part of the Click Torque mechanism – of which more below.

Then comes the user interface: the setting scales. These are marked in Nm on the right side of the line and in lbs/feet on the left. The scales are in black lettering on a white background so are clear to see.

Although the lbs/feet scale is a bit smaller and I needed my glasses. The Nm scales are marked in 10Nm graduations and each in-between increment is clearly visible in a separate window.

To adjust the torque settings you have to head past the large Wera Kraftform handle to the button on the far end of the wrench.

The button has to be pulled out and this enables the handle to be turned. The design of the handle is excellent because the grippy patches not only help when applying torque, they also make it easy to twist it to set the scales.

The window below the scales provide individually click-stopped numbers from 0 to 9.

A full turn of the handle moves the scales exactly 10Nm and the 0 marks the exact spot for a 1Nm measurement.

An audible and tactile ‘click’ allows each incremental change to be clear to the user.

It is easy to work out if you wanted to set 45Nm, you set the scale to 40Nm and then turn the handle five clockwise click-stops.

In my opinion, the click-stop system is very accurate, and is easily repeatable should you need to change settings often. To lock the wrench settings so they will not move in use, the button on the end of the handle is simply pushed down.

Click – Torque is a brilliant feature of this series of wrenches.

On many older-styled torque wrenches, the torque’s indication target was reached when the head would give an audible click as the mechanism slipped.

However, if the user continued applying torque the likely result was a higher torque to that set on the wrench.

With the Click – Torque there is not only the audible signal to notify the user the target torque has been reached, but there is also a cam mechanism inside the handle to give a tactile click, which can be felt in the hand as it escapes the spring. This double signal means the user can immediately realise target torque is reached and can release pressure on the handle.

Not all torque settings are in traditional ‘righty-tighty’ screw threads, and Wera has therefore ensured the C-Series provides controlled tightening to the left and right.

So, will the C-Series catch on?

One of my usually infallible tests for finding out whether a tool will be a success or not is to lend it to the appropriate trade and then wait to see how long till you get it back.

In this case, deadlines being quite tight, I had to prise this wrench away long before the young motor technician to whom I lent it wanted to part with it.

He most liked the easy setting and overall quality of it, especially since he was having to reset torque readings several times a day. To my mind a slick summary of this wrench’s best points.


www-de.wera.de/en

HiKOKI high performance power tools: a new name - still fantastic products

IT MIGHT seem an unusual way to start a review, but - the three HiKOKI tools I reviewed this month - I can't recommend them enough, writes PETER BRETT.

I was fitting a kitchen for a client when I was offered the choice of some tools to review. I chose the new HiKOKI C3606DA brushless circular saw, the DV36DAX combi drill and the WH36DB impact driver, because they were basic tools most fitting trades would use.

They were all given a thorough workout for several weeks and they did not disappoint on any of the tasks they were given.

A general workhorse – the 36V Combi Drill

I would say no toolbox should be without a cordless drill or combi of some description, because there is always a need to drill holes or drive screws - or maybe even something slightly different like using a sanding drum in the chuck to sand edges.

Looking at this combi it follows a similar pattern to every other cordless driver. But picking it up and feeling the weight and power of it proves this tool is in the big leagues when it comes to power and performance.

With the 36V battery pack mounted, it tips the scales at 2.7Kg. With a max torque of 138Nm available, the extra-long auxiliary handle is necessary when using that extra big holesaw.

To help the handling, the combi has excellent ergonomics via a handle that balances the weight of the motor on the top and the battery pack on the bottom.

There is enough grippy rubber for a comfortable and strong handgrip, and the strategically-placed ‘bumpers’ on the casing protect from the inevitable knocks and falls that will occur on site.

The powerful brushless motor has two ranges of speeds via the sliding switch on top of the casing (low: 0 to 500 rpm, high: 0 to 2,100 rpm), and the trigger is not only well placed for ease of use, but is also quite sensitive to the feel of the drill when it performs.

My workmate noted that he could feel when he was getting near to the end of drilling a 50mm hole in an oak worktop and was able to 'ease up' on the speed to avoid breakout.

Drilling specs are impressive too. In brick, this combi will drill up to a 20mm diameter, in mild steel up to 16mm, and up to 102mm in softwood.

It is also capable of driving 12 gauge woodscrews 10cm long.

I did try some of these extremes and these specs are genuine, but more to the point, whatever drilling job we used this combi for – 50mm holes in oak worktops, holes for drainage pipes or driving 75mm long fixing screws – we were left with the feeling this machine has such capacity that it became our favourite ‘go to’ tool.

This is a genuine, hardworking, powerful, well-designed combi drill that would suit the heavy demands that trades would make on it.

Making an impact

By contrast the WH36DB impact driver is designed to be as compact as possible, but it certainly surprised me with its capability and power. It weighs in at 1.6Kg and stands 24cm high with battery pack. It is only 13cm long from the chuck to cooling slots - no doubt made possible by the brushless motor.

Again, it handles well courtesy of the ergonomic handle and grippy rubber overmouldings.

Selecting a soft, normal or power mode via the switch at the base of the handle can control the impressive tightening torque of 210Nm.

For many jobs where impact drivers are routinely used, normal or soft modes are really what you need to avoid simply breaking the heads off screws in power mode.

The most difficult job I used this driver for was drilling holes in masonry for concrete screws when hanging cabinets and fixing battens to walls. It performed extremely well, and I really appreciated the short length, easy handling and LED light when working under and inside cabinets.

Like the combi drill, it comes with a reversible belt hook and wrist strap and the new HiKOKI battery level checker is now on the battery pack itself rather than on the machine. Much better!

Circular saw – more than cutting edge

Most of the time I work with wood and boards. So, I use a lot of circular saws and I have found the more powerful and accurate they are - the better I like them.

The 36V battery pack on the C3606DA easily manages the claimed spec of 66mm cutting depth. With the aid of a straight edge as a guide, I made accurate cuts in 50mm thick oak worktops that left a whistle clean finish on the endgrain.

It was also good at long grain cuts that needed a bit more care to avoid burning, but it performed better than my cordless plunge saw on this test. So I am starting to wonder when HiKOKI is launching a plunge saw and rail combination.

The saw has a couple of clever modes – Power and Silent. In Power mode, you get full speed from the first press of the trigger, but in Silent mode the blade spins more quietly and more slowly until you apply load by starting a cut.

Then the electronics takes over to provide full power. The very efficient motor brake stops the blade in a fraction of a second – a safety feature I like very much.

Like other previous Hitachi circular saws I have tested, the new HiKOK retains a solid and rigid alloy base with tool-less adjustments for bevel cuts and depth of cut.

There is a simple lever operated spindle lock for blade changes, and the hex key for it is safely hidden away next to the motor until needed. My failing eyesight does not see the provision of a bright LED light focused on the cut line as a gimmick. If you do not need it, you can turn it off. A simple fence is provided for basic guided cuts.

My overriding impression of this little saw (only 165mm blade diameter) is that it has 'oodles of power' and is robust enough to take the knocks of a working life.

HiKOKI – the future

In my view the choice of these three basic tools from the new HiKOKI branded 36V range is a powerful statement of intent.

There is no doubt these products (and others to come) are intended to be tough, capable professional tools that can be bought with confidence. I always rated Hitachi tools, but on the above evidence, I think I am going to like HiKOKI tools even more.


www.hikoki-powertools.co.uk

STAHLWILLE's technical expertise means they will always be 'torque' of the town

STAHLWILLE is a traditional German company of the ‘mittelstand’ – the UK equivalent of a medium-sized business.

It is a family business since its establishment by Eduard Wille in 1862 in Wuppertal. Today the management of the company is independent, but the advisory committee represents the Wille family, writes Peter Brett.

Originally, the company was largely focused on making practical things in steel for domestic use - like fire tongs and pokers. However, after 1900, when the motor car was in fairly rapid expansion and development, the company turned to making the spanners, wrenches and pliers needed to maintain the new technology.

In ‘The Kontor’, the recently renovated visitor and training centre (which used to be the main office in Eduard Wille’s time), it is fascinating to see the display of the first rather heavy duty spanners made.

This was one of the most modern forges in Europe, and it was interesting to compare them with the slimmer and slicker ones made a hundred years later, where the demands of mechanics on their tools are so much greater. 

Eduard Wille established the maxim that the company was committed to producing the best possible tools with the customer in mind.

The Wille family and company remain true to this maxim today – and in my view it is a much better long and medium-term business model than the exploitative venture capital approach. 

STAHLWILLE has an excellent record of exporting products throughout the world. It has expertise in aerospace, automotive, renewable energies and industrial tools that puts it in a very strong position to compete with the biggest and best. 

The places and the people

The Cronenberg-Wuppertal site I visited was part of the original factory and forge started by Eduard Wille, and the large redbrick building that dominates the entrance has recently been renovated and redeveloped into a light and modern training and showroom space.

What is missing is the small railway that used to run down the side of the building into the factory area behind.

As the factory is in the midst of what is now quite a developed urban area, the heavy-duty hammer forges have been moved to a more suitable site in former East Germany, and a more recent extension, built in the local vernacular of slate tiles, houses the administration.

Eduard Wille was passionate in his belief that people were the most important aspect of a progressive company, since it was they who had the ideas to develop and then make into desirable finished products.

Today the company employs more than 600 people and still manufactures in Germany. It exports to over 90 countries worldwide through a dedicated sales network that focuses on understanding the needs of the customers, and then supplying the correct and most efficient solutions.

The innovations

Chris Rose, UK Sales Manager at STAHLWILLE UK, which is based in Surrey, was a great guide, and showed me not only how the company identifies issues and challenges that customers face, but also how the expert product development teams then try to develop solutions.

The obvious area to start is in the development of new ranges of torque wrenches for which STAHLWILLE is very well respected.

For me a torque wrench is a torque wrench, but it soon became clear there is much more to developing an accurate tool, with a reliable and dependable mechanism that would withstand some rough handling.

Also, as torque wrenches are becoming increasingly important in aerospace and vehicle technology - where composite materials are very sensitive to pressure on the fixings - it is vital to have a reliable tool that will ensure these materials can be used safely.

I was introduced to simple mechanical torque wrenches that seemed to do the job well, and then to electro-mechanical wrenches that took accuracy and accountability to an advanced level.

Open protocol wrenches not only did the job well, but recorded in detail and then sent the data on to a central system for ultimate accountability.

DAPTIQ

Alexander Grosser, Project Manager Industry 4.0, did a few demonstrations to show me just how advanced this system could become.

Using an augmented reality headset, a user in a production line for example could be guided towards bolts which need tightening in the correct order.

As this is done, a computer is recording the torques as they are applied and noting that they are correctly applied. 

If for any reason the torque is not correct, the system notes and then stops the user so the situation can be rectified. 

By basing the system on an open source platform, STAHLWILLE is hoping to encourage users to develop their own ways of managing and using the system to their own advantage. 

Reading Station DAPTIQ is another system in development by STAHLWILLE that is constantly evolving, because users and R & D keep on finding out how much more potential there is in the idea.

It looks like a simple secure storage unit for tools. But the unit not only keeps the tools secure, it counts them to ensure that all the tools are present.

In modern manufacture and aerospace for example, it is too late to discover that a wrench has been left in an engine when you are about to take off. Once again, the software allows both STAHLWILLE and clients to customise the system to suit various needs.

More expertise

It behoves a manufacturer of torque wrenches to have very accurate systems of recording exactly how well and accurately the wrenches are performing. 

STAHLWILLE has developed a range of motorised calibration systems. The motorised bench automates the loading process, and the transducers use strain gauges to take the dozens of measurements which need to be taken into account when calibrating a torque wrench to the new ISO 6789-2:2017 standard.

TORKMASTER software records the measurements, and calculates the deviations and measurement uncertainty. 

I did not realise quite how many variations there are when measuring performance.

Apparently, even the four sides of an adaptor can give different readings on the same wrench set to the same torque.

This can be tricky when you consider there must be no more than a 1% deviation for the calibration of STAHLWILLE’s most accurate torque wrench, the SENSOTORK 713 to be passed.

... And the rough stuff

Away from the refined electronic quiet of the demo centre, Chris showed me the actual manufacturing, assembly and finishing of the huge range of STAHLWILLE tools. 

STAHLWILLE is not only torque wrenches; it is spanners, pliers, cutters, screwdrivers, sockets & ratchets, etc etc.

I enjoy watching ‘real’ manufacture, and STAHLWILLE has a range of heavy processes needed to make and finish a socket, as well as the capacity to assemble the delicate electronics in an electro-mechanical torque wrench and then test it. 

Despite the noise of machines, the humans keep control of the factory floor, ensuring the continued production of thousands of items.

STAHLWILLE and the future

It is clear that STAHLWILLE not only has a productive and innovative past, it is looking to the future too.

I have mentioned only a few key innovations, but the company is clear that precision manufacturing in the industrial sector will only become more important.

Key areas like aerospace, automotive and renewable energy already have niche demands for tools, but again, these needs will become even more complicated and demanding - a challenge STAHLWILLE is tackling head on.


www.stahlwille.co.uk

Draper 20V Storm Force - one battery system and three tools

SOME readers might already be familiar with the Draper 10.8v Storm Force Range reviewed in these pages a while back, writes PETER BRETT.

The launch of three 20v tools to add to these will be welcomed by those users who need a bit more power and capability – think enthusiastic amateurs and light trades.

There are lots of features to note in the range, but dealers and end users alike will appreciate the keen pricing and multiple battery options that are flexible enough to satisfy most users, and also allow options to upgrade and change as conditions change.

The tools reviewed below are a combi drill, an impact driver, and an SDS drill/hammer. Other tools available in the range are a palm sander, angle grinder, oscillating multi tool, jigsaw, circular saw and reciprocating saw.

All have the now familiar and unmistakeable Dark Blue and Black Draper livery with the up-to-date features that most users need these days. Time to look at these tools in more detail.

Combi Drill

This is the only tool in the range that comes in a custom-fitted plastic case, and it comes with everything you need to get started – drill, two 2Ah battery packs, a charger, auxiliary handle, belt hook and driver bit.

The tool is well made and has an abundance of grippy rubber around the handle and trigger area to allow for easy handling, as well as rubber protection ‘bumpers’ on the back of the casing and behind the chuck.

The 20 torque settings, along with hammer and drilling modes are selected via the usual collar behind the 13mm capacity keyless chuck. These are easy to select with a positive click stop on each.

The auxiliary handle screws are under the chuck collar in either left or righthanded positions, and the handle itself has grippy rubber too. A steel belt hook can also be mounted on left or right to suit user preferences, and the LED light on the handle base is aimed straight at the work area.

The 2Ah Li-Ion batteries take an hour each to charge. Drills don’t usually use a lot of power in drilling and screwdriving modes, so a couple of 2Ah batteries will be enough for most users - there is always the option to purchase a 4Ah battery if needed (one of the advantages of the Storm Force 20v system).

In use, the drill performs well on a range of basic drilling tasks. It has 50Nm of torque available and has a drilling capacity of 35mm diameter in wood, and 13mm in masonry or steel – enough to cover a range big enough for most users.

With two speeds selected via a sliding switch on top of the body, and a speed sensitive trigger, it is possible to control drilling speeds very accurately.

With a price point of £89.99 inc VAT, it is clear the Storm Force 20v combi is very well priced and designed to appeal – and it does.

Storm Force 20v SDS+ Rotary Hammer Drill

I rarely use hammer mode on any combi drills these days – not since SDS technology has become cheap enough to be widely available. SDS is just so much quicker and easier, that we are into no-brainer territory.

The Storm Force SDS+ rotary hammer drill is available as a kit with the combi drill and a capacious Draper Storage bag for £215.94, or as a bare tool for £59.95. In my view this represents very good value, as well as increasing the versatility of the Storm Force Kit.

The SDS+ drill follows a similar pattern to the combi above. It is light and easy to manage, as well as being comfortable to handle.

There is also ample grippy rubber to help handling and fend off the inevitable knocks that such a tool may sustain. Mounting a drill bit is as easy as sliding back the chuck collar and inserting the bit, and then seating it with a slight twist.

There is a forward/reverse switch above the trigger and a rotary switch to select hammer or drill mode. An LED light directed at the work really helps to illuminate the piece.

I used the SDS drill/hammer mostly on hard face bricks to mount window and door frames, and it performed well. It has a drilling capacity of 10mm, which is enough for most common household and light trade tasks.

Since drilling masonry is much more demanding than drilling wood, I would recommend that users get the 4Ah battery pack if possible.

Storm Force 20v Impact Driver

Like the SDS+ rotary hammer above, the impact driver is available as a bare tool for £46.14, or as part of a kit with the Impact Wrench (not reviewed) and storage case for £209.94. But for the best of all worlds the 3 Machine Fixing Kit (Combi drill, SDS+ and impact driver) is great value at £263.94

In my view, this is indeed the kit that an ambitious homebuilder or home improver would plump for, as it has the range of tools needed, as well as the possibility of adding battery packs for extra capacity.

The impact driver is no slouch – I had no trouble driving 120mm long concrete screws into hard face bricks through wooden frames. Compared to some impact drivers I have used, it is a lot quieter along with its 180Nm of torque.

It is as well-built as the other tools in the range, with a good ergonomic handle and ample rubberised protection on handle and body. An LED worklight on the base is helpful in darker areas and the 6mm chuck has a sprung, milled collar on it, making inserting and removing bits very easy.

Batteries and chargers

As with the tools there is some choice for users regarding batteries and chargers. For more demanding applications, like rotary hammer use, it makes sense to choose the 4Ah battery packs at £53.94 each rather than the cheaper 2Ah ones at £32.94.

For many users, an hour’s charging time is perfectly adequate, but more demanding work, you might want to choose the fast charger at £31.74 – not exactly bank breaking!

By the way, I particularly liked the battery status lights on the base of the battery packs – three striplights in red, orange and green give you all the info needed.

I think the Draper team have done a good job with this collection of tools.

Individually, they are sound basic tools and users will be able to put together many combinations and kits – all at very reasonable prices.

Storm Force is a really good way of getting exactly what you need, without a large price tag or unwanted tools.

Other tools available are palm sander, angle grinder, oscillating multi tool, jigsaw, circular saw reciprocating saw.

www.drapertools.com

The Torque solution?

THE packaging of the Wiha speedE sends out a powerful message that the tool inside is valuable, high tech and modern. It is not just another electricians’ screwdriver, writes PETER BRETT.

In the world where electricians need efficiency and precision even on standard domestic electrical installations, the speedE aims to provide a solution.

The problem

Increasingly, manufacturers have been specifying that electrical installations need to be fixed at certain torques to ensure electrical contact is optimised and safe.

When electricians can be working on anything from a complex RCD installation - where overtorqueing can be an issue on some materials - or simply unscrewing the patress screws on a light switch, the balance between high tech and mundane practical is crucial.

Of course, the big question for potential users is ‘Did Wiha get the balance right when designing the speedE?’ This is what I examined in depth.

As mentioned before, the presentation box is designed to press home the point that the speedE is a modern precision instrument. Inside the box the impression is reinforced.

Presentation

On opening the box, the first layer contains a product information booklet and the user manual – rather like opening up the box of your new phone.

Underneath that is the speedE itself – held in its custom-fitted space. A further layer is lifted to reveal a small L-Boxx that contains the batteries, charger, torque adaptor and eight driver bits in a slim plastic container.

All these are individually packed in their foam slots. Apart from the sheer practicality of having your speedE all in one place ready to pick up and go, the message is reinforced that this valuable kit should not simply be flung into a toolcase or toolbox with all the other tools.

With some tradespeople I know, this will still happen anyway and the speedE has been developed to be used like a normal screwdriver. Wiha has done their best to encourage tidiness and efficiency.

Getting going

The compact charger has a USB fitting that means it is possible to charge the speedE in a modern USB mains socket, or in a van. There is also the option to use the mains plug adaptor supplied.

Charging the Li-Ion cells takes around 75 minutes, and the two cells in my experience provide enough 'oomph' for even a demanding day’s work.

The battery is loaded into the speedE by simply unscrewing the cap on the top of the handle. Polarity is important here – the positive (+) needs to be at the bottom of the battery holder in the handle.

Once the screwcap is replaced it looks and feels exactly like the well-established Wiha VDE handle that users have become accustomed to.

Next, the optional easyTorque adaptor can be slotted into the hex socket on the handle. This adaptor is fully compliant to ensure electrical safety insulation standards. Using it extends the length of the screwdriver by about 40mm.

This is very useful when reaching into wiring boxes for example, but bits can also be inserted straight into the handle for a shorter and more controllable feel.

The little case of eight screwdriver bits has a range of tips from PZ, Phillips and SL and SL/PZ included. These are all identified by looking at the white writing in the insulation above the tips.

The writing is quite small, and I needed my glasses – but then I should be wearing them for doing detailed work anyway.

The screwdriver bits all have a hex shank and fit quite snugly onto the torque adaptor or directly into the handle with no play at all, and with no danger that the bits are going to slide out under working loads.

Using the speedE

It pays to experiment with the speedE before using it on a real job, as there are a few things to get used to. For example, there is a very tiny, but very handy LED light in the handle which is directed straight onto the workpoint.

I am very much in favour of worklights now with my ageing eyes, and this is particularly good because often electrical boxes and fittings can be hidden in dark corners and cupboards.

To activate the light, simply give the ring switch a quick turn to left or right and it will come on and stay on during any powered screwdriving activity. Once the driving stops, the light turns itself off after a few seconds.

The light also has the job of indicating when the battery needs replacing. When the battery drops below 20%, the light will be flashing/blinking.

Power screwdriving is still possible with a low battery, but when only the light works the battery has no power left but can still be used as a normal screwdriver.

The ring switch is very easy to use as Wiha have got the ergonomics just right.

Operated between thumb and forefinger, you just have to choose to tighten or loosen the screw by turning the switch to the right or left respectively.

The speedE tightens screws to a maximum of 0.4Nm, which is enough torque to ensure that plastic electrical fittings like plug boxes and junctions don’t crack. The user can then use a sensitive human hand to tighten up screws where necessary.

This is really where the ‘speed’ part of the speedE comes into play. I still come across the need to tighten long patress screws into light switches, and the speedE makes this a painless and mercifully shorter task.

However slick the operator is, he or she cannot remove or tighten screws faster than a speedE. I know, as I did some experiments with an electrician colleague - armed with the speedE, I beat him every time.

There is no doubt that this is a quality piece of kit that needs to be used to its full potential to get full value from it.

It is, at once, a standard interchangeable bit VDE screwdriver as well as a powered VDE driver - which will save time and effort when doing some of the boring jobs such as unscrewing the long screws which are a feature of some electrical components.

www.wiha.com

JCB's cotton based workwear perfect for hot and cold weather

Since the almost universal adoption of workwear by the trades, there have been a number of developments. Nowadays it is not all about practicality, writes PETER BRETT.

Some trades always had favourite kit styles, while there are now also favoured workwear styles - with oneupmanship on who has got the trendiest, coolest, most expensive workwear on site. 

Workwear has also become cheaper and much more widely available via the ‘sheds’ and tool outlets, so it is not uncommon to see practical folk of all kinds dressing the part for gardening, working in the shed or doing domestic tasks in general. 

The net result is workwear brands have had to join the endless cycle of launching a new range of clothes every season. So when the parcel of JCB workwear dropped onto my front doorstep. I was keen to see what was in it.

T-Shirt Time

As I write, the weather here in the South East corner of England is doing its best to break sunshine records, so it is definitely T-shirt weather. 

The 100% cotton JCB TRADE T-shirt in black and grey is a perfect solution here. I prefer natural materials for shirts as I find them more comfortable in hot weather, and they also serve as a nice underlayer in colder weather. 

This shirt is well cut for ease of movement, with grey panels under the arms that allow easy movement when lifting or bending. It washes very easily too – because as a basic layer, most users would want to wash it regularly. 

I ran it through several wash cycles and it came up fresh every time. Very comfy to wear and very practical, getting my thumbs up.

The JCB Essential Polo Shirt is smarter and appealed to me because it seemed better dress for working inside a client’s property, when a T-shirt might be a bit informal. 

It is made with 65% polyester and 35% cotton, so will be wearable and crease-free straight out of the wash. The grey colour is very reminiscent of the grey doors, window frames and woodwork that are currently on trend so it should catch the zeitgeist. 

Again, I found the generously cut shirt very comfortable to wear and quite lightweight in warm weather. I also liked the collar and short sleeves that provided some protection from the sun for my very sun sensitive skin when I worked outside. 

Again, I ran it through several wash cycles and it came up smiling every time.

Sticking to Tops

Of course, we all know that a British Summer includes all the ups and downs of wind, rain, sun and possibly thunderstorms, hence it is as well to go out with layers of clothing so we can add and subtract to suit the conditions. 

The outer layer of the selection I was sent has a long title – the JCB Trade Grey Marl Essington II Full Zip Jumper. 

Made of 100% knitted polyester it immediately feels warm and cosy when you put it on, and has a pleasant weight to it that denotes the quality of the fabric from which it is made. 

It is packed with little features that add up to a practical, and dare I say it, stylish garment that is very handy to have in the van for emergency warmth back up. 

The jumper is largely made of a mottled grey knitted fabric with some stretch for comfort, with black nylon stretch panels under the arms and across the shoulders. There are reflective panels and a JCB logo across the shoulders and on the chest plus zipped pocket liners. 

There are three zipped pockets, two on each hip and one on the chest. The two hip pockets are deep enough for a tape measure and pencils, as well as for keeping hands warm. The chest pocket is big enough for keeping a phone handy. 

A full zip makes it easy to put on and to help regulate the temperature, while the waist has an elasticated draw cord. 

A cosy bit of black fleece lines the funnel neck collar, and this helps to keep warmth in and rain out. The cuffs are also elasticated for a snug, draught-free fit, but they are loose enough to be comfortable and easy to put on. 

Because of the warm weather I wore this jumper only a few times in the evenings. It is definitely smart and stylish, and the hi-vis flashes drew some comment about just how visible they are – these must be a safety plus then!

Nitty Gritty Shorts and Trousers

Unfortunately, my legs are now old enough to not be allowed out unaccompanied and I don’t generally like wearing shorts on site, because I prefer the extra protection offered by trousers. 

My willing volunteer was 40 or so years younger than me and has no such qualms. After a couple of days, he reported back to me his findings on the JCB Trade Plus Shorts in Black/Grey. 

The cotton/polyester (35%/65%) fabric proved to be comfortable and easy to wear – the shorts did not feel ‘sweaty’ as some 100% manmade fabrics can feel. 

There are two hip pockets fronted by two bellowed holster pockets that are a must in any work trousers I use. 

There is also a cargo pocket on the left leg for pencils or a phone with a Velcro fastener. On the back, there are two more pockets, one with a Velcro fastening and the other without. 

With seven 20mm wide belt loops, a belt is easily and comfortably supported. My volunteer had enough pockets and a comfortable fit and cut to the shorts so he was keen to keep them…..

In my discussions with trades I have found work trousers can be an issue. They need to be comfortable and practical - but for some, also a bit fashionable. Pockets are another area of controversy – holster pockets or not? A big debate. 

The JCB Trade Grey/black Cordura work trousers follow the current trend of being quite smartly cut as well as having enough space to be able to bend and move easily. 

The Cordura material is used because it is breathable and comfortable as well as being hardwearing and rip stop. 

On the front of the trousers alone there are two hip pockets, two multi-pocketed holster pockets, a Cargo pocket with Velcro closure, and a couple of leg pockets on the right leg. 

Behind there are two more pockets, one with a Velcro closure – in short, wearers are spoilt for choice and if they filled all these pockets, the trousers would bulge like an overstuffed hamster – but with triple stitched seams there is no danger of splitting them.   

I wore them for several days on site and in the workshop, and they proved to be comfortable and easy to wear. 

The pockets are useful and since I tend to confine myself to carrying a tape measure, several pencils, a phone and maybe the odd pocketful of screws, I didn’t strain my belt on the seven belt loops. 

With only one wash so far, they dried quickly on the rack, and were ready to use the following day. 

Aimed at: Pros and amateurs looking for practical, stylish and reasonably priced workwear.

Pros: Easy to wear and care for, and will make a practical coordinated range to cover all weathers.

Why buy?

• Comfortable
• Good fabrics
• Well made
• Will suit a range of trades and conditions
• Stylish with good colours
• Some hi vis safety in some garments
• Pockets aplenty!

Hitachi C7UR - Retro Power

Hitachi corded circular saws have had a reputation for robust construction, power, and reliability that stretches back for decades. I still see 20-year-old examples of these tucked into the back of builders’ vans now.

Perhaps they aren’t used as often due to the cordless revolution, but they will be called upon as a back up, when a seriously demanding job is in the offing, writes PETER BRETT.

What are the USPs of the C7UR?

The USPs are few and quite simple, and perhaps betray a little of what I mentioned above. There are still times when mains power is needed, not only for a more powerful mains motor, but also for the extra speed of cutting.

Cordless is perfect for boards and such like, but sometimes the slow feed rate of a cordless motor cutting roof timbers, for example, simply will not do, as it holds up the job.

Power and Speed – the Main Features

The brushed motor on the C7UR features 1800W of power and a high RPM of 6,800 – so it is not only powerful, but fast. Compared to smaller and brushless motors we are becoming used to, it feels like a brute.

There is a definite torque kick when you press the trigger, and the noise level feels old fashioned as it runs. However, there is no doubt that the speed and power make for very efficient cutting.

One of my tests was cutting slices off a piece of 50mm thick brown oak. The motor didn’t slow at all – it simply sliced on through. It was even easier on some treated 50 mm thick softwood rafters.

However, I do miss some features I have got used to – I would like a motor or blade brake to stop the blade quickly after releasing the switch. This is perhaps where the role of the lower blade guard comes into the equation – see below.

The trigger switch arrangement is unusual too. There is a well-textured loop handle, with a space for a forefinger only.

The rest of the fingers fit into a separate aperture behind it, while the thumb goes over to meet the forefinger. The switch is a simple click for ‘on,’ and then release for ‘off’.

There is no safety release button or lever that is commonly found on circular saws - mains or cordless - these days. I pondered this a while, because the arrangement feels a bit retro.

The fact the forefinger has to find its own specific place to find the ‘on’ switch, helps to keep all intentions with the saw deliberate. It also helps there is a large and well-placed auxiliary handle in front of the main one.

For good guidance of the cut it is used a lot, and that helps keep both hands well clear of the blade.

As standard, the saw comes with an 18-tooth TCT 185 mm diameter blade. The blade has large gullets for clearing waste quickly and is also only about 2mm thick, so the resulting thin kerf also aids speedy cutting.

There is also the very nice feature of a powerful dust blower right over the cutting line, that helps keep it clear and visible.

Back to Base

Like many of its other saws, Hitachi has decided to use a solid alloy baseplate. At about 4mm thick it is rigid and squarely accurate, and there are eight countersunk screws to attach the saw and its adjustments, so that they don’t move.

They are therefore also easy to service. On the front and right hand side of the base measurements are marked in inches, betraying the fact the larger market is the US.

My guess is they will rarely be used by British and continental workers, except as a rough guide. A simple steel fence is included, with the kit for basic guided cuts.

Guarding the Blade

Another important feature is the cast alloy lower blade guard. This is robust, and the strong coil spring ensures that it quickly springs back to cover the blade at the end of a cut, thus partly answering the query I had above, about the need for a blade brake.

There are a couple of options here that need to be decided. Out of the box, a longer lever is fitted as standard for raising the lower blade guard.

It reaches fully to the top of the fixed upper blade guard, and therefore is easy to reach. It also keeps your fingers well away from the blade. Safety First indeed.

The downside to this is that the dust port on the upper guard, carefully designed to deposit a long, neat pile of dust alongside the base while cutting, can also be very messy, especially if it is a little windy on site.

For users who need good dust collection, they have the option of attaching the robust dust spout, (one screw only needed) that does indeed up the dust collection game quite considerably. When attached to an M-class extractor, there is not much cleaning up required at the end of a working day.

But in order to attach the dust spout, the longer guard-raising lever needs to be removed and replaced with a smaller one.

The downside is that when you need to lift the guard to start a cut, your fingers are closer to the blade – not dangerously close, but needing-to-be-careful close.

Adjustments

When it comes to adjustments the C7UR is spot on. Depth of cut and blade mitre angles are all achieved with cammed levers that are large enough to work easily and lock positively.

A nifty arrangement on the angle setting allows users to select 45 degree cuts, but if you need to select angles of 45 to 55 degrees, simply click the stopper out of the way and select the angle on the well-marked quadrant.

Blade changing is quick and easy via the hex key kept on the body and the spindle lock on the front of the motor, and I did appreciate the handy cable holder at the base of the main handle.

This helps to control the cord and prevent it accidentally going near the blade while cutting.

Why Choose the C7UR?

I suspect this saw will appeal to trades for the same reasons that older Hitachi models did. It is robustly built, powerful and simple to operate, as well as having the virtue of having a long service life – for example the brushes are located for easy replacement.

But is it also faster cutting and more powerful than its predecessors, and therefore it fits the current preoccupation with productivity and efficiency.

Aimed at: Pros and demanding amateurs, because it is well priced and tough

Pros: Fast cutting and powerful, strong and reliable

Why buy?

  • Tough
  • Reliable
  • Well priced
  • Quicker cuts
  • Easy adjustments
  • Cable holder for safer use
  • Big stable base

www.hitachi.eu

Triton portable oscillating Sander is unique and useful

ON the face of it, a portable oscillating spindle sander sounds VERY niche, and therefore not likely to be utilised in very great numbers.

I put this very point to the Triton team, who gave me an interesting response which went something like this: “As a brand, the customer is at the heart of everything we do and every product we create, writes PETER BRETT

“We have hand-held palm sanders, bench sanders and larger work bench, belt and spindle sanders, but we recognised we needed a spindle sander that was more portable, lighter and easy to use but could also be easily fi xed to the bench.”

“As our customer base grows, we need to ensure we can cater to all customers, and this appeared to be a key product that we were missing from the range.”

Triton Prepared to Step Out on a Limb?

On reflection, this response cheered me immensely because it shows a desire by Triton to develop original and interesting tools that carry a little risk in the market.

But then a look at the unique and, at the time, ‘out there’ designs of Triton routers and the Triton Superjaws, shows this approach can be very successful.

The Triton Portable Oscillating Sander is packed in a robust cardboard box and consists of the of the Sander body, with a healthy three metres of rubber cord, four spindles from 15mm to 40mm in diameter, two clamps, a dust extractor adaptor, a grippy rubber mat, and a small fence with screws to hold it in place.

The body containing the motor and gears is made of Triton yellow plastic, and is robustly put together. Handling is aided by some grippy black patches of rubber overmould, but the body is still quite square and you have to fi nd the best way of gripping it when using it freehand.

There is a simple rocker switch for on/off selection on the front turret, as well as a six-position milled wheel for selecting speeds.

This is very important for sanding diff erent materials, as well as taking into account the diff erent sizes of spindle which can be used.

The fastest speed is enough for rapid stock removal, but requires care and confidence on the part of the user, while the slower speeds are perfect for controlled shaping of components.

At slower speeds, for example, you can shape plastic or Perspex without melting them.

This tool is eminently portable, so fi rst of all I tried it in an inverted position. To emphasise the portability and versatility, I chose to attach it to a Workmate®.

This was easily done via the screw clamps which fitted neatly into holes in the body. Because these holes go all the way through the body, users have choices over the orientation of the sander.

It really helps if the rubber mat is placed underneath the machine to provide a bit more grip when the screw clamps are tightened, but it is not an absolute necessity as the contact points are quite flat.

Attaching the spindles is very easy – slide the rubber spindle core - with sanding sleeve - over the spindle, and a plasticheaded butterfl y nut is then screwed tightly on to secure it.

The rubber sleeve needs to expand a bit against the sanding sleeve to ensure it doesn’t move when sanding.

The equivalent of the sanding table on the base of the sander is quite small at about 8.5cm wide and 20cm long, and at first I thought this wouldn’t be big enough to handle the table legs I was shaping.

I was proved wrong. Because the speed of the spindle can be controlled, the control of the workpiece is easy. The clamps do a good job of keeping the body firmly on the workbench too.

Right Way Up Sanding

It takes a steady hand and a bit of confidence to use the sanderthe right-way-up with the base firmly pressed on the workpiece, with the spindle sanding the edges of the workpiece.

Unless the user takes a lot of care it can result in a series of small spindle-shaped ‘dents’ in these edges. To eliminate the problem Triton have included the aforementioned plastic fence.

This is attached via two butterfly nuts to the base, and needs to be placed with care to ensure the spindle just kisses the edge that needs to be sanded.

This arrangement resulted in a smooth sanded surface on  straight or curved edges.

I found I was able to use the sander freehand on edges to enable close fitting edges – just as long as I was careful to keep the base firmly flat on the surface of the workpiece.

The dust collection spout is standard 30mm diameter, and is easily connected to a vac with an adaptor.

Dust extraction is good enough to minimise cleaning, but it would probably be safer to wear a dust mask as well.

Suggestions I have a couple of niggles – by the time I had used the sander a couple of times on site the box had started to unravel, and I started to wish for a nice plastic custom case to safely store the sander and all the accessories that are important in making it work efficiently.

There is already a plastic tray in the box – so one step more please?

I would also like the clamps to be quick-release to save time on fixing to the bench, plank, or whatever. Those wing nuts take a bit of winding!

As an addition to the Triton range of sanders, this oscillating sander is very useful, because it strikes a good balance between portability, and being able to be used as a fixed machine.

It is clearly designed for dealing with smaller components and edges and is very good at those jobs. Bigger workpieces will need a benchtop machine.

Triton clearly has confidence is this sander because it comes with the Three-Year Triton Guarantee.

Aimed at: Shed woodworker and light pro users who need some specialist sanding.

Pros: Easy to use and also to set up. Uniquely solves a few sanding issues.

www.tritontools.com

Accurate insulation needed? Try the Festool

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

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

Two Blades for Different Insulation Types

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

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

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

Longer blades are available - I am told.

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

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

And the extras…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cordless convenience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.festool.co.uk

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