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Safe, effective and modern welding with Morris Site Machinery

IT WAS BY kind invitation of Richard Denholm, Sales Director at Morris Site Machinery, that ToolBusiness + Hire came to Four Ashes near Wolverhampton to find out a lot more about the market, machines and expertise that are required in the world of welding –particularly hire welding.

Richard is what is called an ‘acknowledged expert’ in welding, having many years’ experience in the art - as well as working in executive positions in the industry, WRITES PETER BRETT.

It All Started Many Years Ago…

The art of fusing or welding metals was first known about in the Bronze Age as far as we can tell, and even today modern blacksmiths use a very high temperature to hammer fuse steel. 

The makers of Samurai swords and damascus steel used the skill of fusing metals to make high quality blades. But it was only in the 1890s that thermite welding became common. 

The oxy-acetylene process was discovered by Edmund Davey in 1836, but only became a viable welding method with the invention of a suitable torch in 1900.  

Since then several further methods of welding, including electric arc welding, have been developed. During World War II, for example, it was a quick and effective way of fabricating steel products without having to rivet steel plates together, as in the old days of shipbuilding. 

And it was a skill women seemed to be particularly good at, which helped save our bacon during those stressful times.

Further developments in electric arc welding took us into the realms of gas shielded welding and ultimately to the stick, MIG and TIG welders we most often use these days. 

As usual, it took some years before Health and Safety caught up with welding practices on the ground. Apparently, it was not uncommon for welders to be electrocuted by badly insulated welding machines. 

It was also not uncommon for welders to drink a pint of milk a day, in the belief that it would neutralise the toxins they were ingesting while welding. A faint hope, I think. 

Today, simple welding is accomplished using stick welding or MMA (Manual Metal Arc) welding. This is safe and simple welding within the skill level of DIYers, and is now increasingly catered for by machines costing as little as £100.

More advanced skills are needed for both MIG and TIG welding – both of these use a gas shielding of the welding arc, to create the strong and sealed welds needed for anything from food containers to battleships and submarines.

Modern welding machines have been made smaller and lighter due to the invention of inverter technology. 

Instead of using very heavy transformers to convert to the high currents needed to melt metals, inverters can be lighter and use advanced electronics to help manage welds by monitoring the electrical input and skills of the welder – thus making better welders and welds.

Modern welders are also blessed with a wide and effective range of safety gear including smart helmets, gauntlets and breathing masks needed for some processes.

MSM has linked with Jefferson to market its range of tools and safety gear for welding. Keenly priced, it is of serviceable quality, and appeals to casual hiring welders as well as professionals.

The Morris Site Machinery View

With all of the above knowledge and experience, Richard told me that MSM has had a 35-year long connection with ArcGen welders. 

These are made in Japan and although they are not the cheapest, many are still being used regularly after twenty years. Indeed, we saw some of these machines in the workshop being refurbished into ‘as new’ condition. 

The ArcGen machines have proved to be tough enough to withstand the rigours of the hire market where they are not only exposed to the British climate, but also the tender ministrations of their hirers. 

They are combined with the compatible power units that are used on site, shipbuilding and petro-chemical industries. 

The ArcGen Cobra 5000i Multi Process Inverter, which was recently included in MSM’s range of welders, is a multi-process inverter that will tackle TIG and MIG welding. 

As well as being available in multiples, the welder is suitable for heavy construction as well as hire. And when you have a Cobra, you also need the Adder – a portable wire feeder unit built into a strong plastic case designed to withstand damp conditions.  

To partner the ArcGen welders are the ArcGen Weldmaker Generators. Mounted on trailers and fully featured including auto engine shutdown and quiet operation, they are perfectly matched to ArcGen welders for peak efficiency. 

Service, Hire and Sales in a comprehensive package 

While at Four Ashes, Richard took us on a lightning tour of the premises, so we could get more of a flavour of the services and equipment that enable MSM to provide a comprehensive service to its hirers and equipment purchasers.  

There are sections devoted to repairs and servicing of everything from welders to pumps, and generators and pressure washers. Since much of the hire market is seasonally driven, there are peaks and troughs of machines and equipment that are in high or low demand.  

There are also production lines making up machines to meet orders placed. A small caravan of trailer generators was being assembled in one of the workshop areas, and would be ready for shipping in only a few days.  

Outside in the yard were hundreds of lighting towers – now not much in demand for hire in the lighter and longer days of spring and summer. But come October and the clocks going back, most will be hired out, lighting worksites again.  

Morris Site Machinery prides itself on listening to customers and being relentlessly customer focused. 

I think it is very interesting that the company has not chosen the ‘cheap and cheerful’ solution to hiring and selling machines of all kinds, but instead have chosen to focus on quality, value and efficiency rather than on ‘bottom line’ pricing. 

In the longer run MSM believes that this formula is more sustainable, and better value for money because higher quality machines perform better, last longer and are therefore ‘greener’ than so called cheaper solutions. 

The old adage that you get what you pay for, clearly applies here too.

 

www.morrismachinery.co.uk

 

Paslode IM360Ci –Don’t Give Up the Gas!

I ALWAYS think that cordless nailers are a bit like wrestlers – beefy, but they also pack a big punch, WRITES PETER BRETT.

Paslode nailers are legendary in the building industry, not only for packing the punch, but also for being a leading brand.  

In fact, I have often heard builders refer to any nailer as a Paslode, because it has become a generic term – like people referring to hoovers, rather than vacuum cleaners.

The new-ish Paslode IM360Ci was designed to be different and address a few of the problems that plague gas nailers.

These include low temperature performance, battery and fuel life, and general ease of use involving loading nails to clearing stoppages.

Problem solved? 

Builders have often told me they have had to start a winter working day by having to cuddle a few batteries in their jacket pockets - so they are ready to load into a nailer. 

Well, this problem has definitely been solved. During this tool’s development phase Paslode used it in working temperatures of -25C in Northern Europe/Scandinavia, without having to do any warming of batteries or fuel cells.  

I tried my best to replicate this by placing the nailer in the freezer overnight at a temperature of –15C - only to succeed in getting a layer of frost over the battery terminals. 

But with the frost removed, the tool worked to full capacity within a very short time. So, a large tick in that particular box. 

Battery life? Well again, this is a problem that Paslode seem to have solved – and with knobs on!  

In the spec it said the battery would power up to 13,000 shots on one charge. For any user that is a lot of nails.  

I had a team of users on a building site who tested out the tool for four days without recharging the battery.  

I felt there was a danger they would run out of power, simply because there was such a large amount of time between charges that they might forget to recharge - despite warning light indicators of gas and charge.  

They made the weak excuse that the indicator light needed to be brighter and more obvious! 

What users also liked a lot in the new design of nailer was the removable nail magazine cover. You simply unscrewed it via a black knob on the rear of the nail magazine.  

Flip up the cover, and the inner workings of the nail magazine are revealed all the way to the nose (it goes without saying the nailer is effectively stopped by moving the battery to the off’ position in its slot). 

From here, it is very easy to remove any nails that might be causing a blockage.  

The safety gains are excellent here, because it means you don’t have to start fiddling into the nose with a spare nail to access anything stuck in there.  

A Few Things…   

Although Paslode have solved a lot of the usability issues with batteries and stoppages, my team of testers managed to find a few things that bugged them.  

Firstly, the reversible rafter hook worked well in one position, but not on the opposite side because the gap on it became too small to hang it on a rafter.  

One team member commented he would simply bend the hook into compliance – not an option on a test tool, I think.  

The other gripe was an esoteric one from a well-seasoned Paslode user of 20 years standing.  

He didn’t like the new position of the battery and gas cell, because it made it bulkier on the right of the tool and prevented it from going as close to the work as on the left-hand side.  

Others said it made no real difference to the way in which they handled the tool, and it certainly had a positive effect on the tool's centre of gravity.  

However, when it came to weight, the team was impressed that the power to weight ratio (so to speak) was excellent. The way the nailer drove all types of nails was emphatic and no nonsense – doing just what a nailer should do.  

The weight of nailers is definitely an issue for some users – especially those that work overhead a lot, and it is this area that gas nailers still have a significant advantage over battery only nailers.  

Another definite ‘Yes’ point was the five-pointed nose probe, that gave very positive grip into the timber surface at whatever angle the nailer was presented. This was considered a very good safety feature.  

Setting the depth of the nails was another plus which was picked out by users. They all commented on how easy it was to do, and it stayed set. If you need to regularly change nail sizes then life is definitely easier.

When it comes to speed, the nailer could be fired as fast as the trigger could be pulled, and the nose placed where the next nail was needed - so no complaints there! 

The seasoned Paslode user complained about the price of the roundheaded nails that had to be used in it, and that might be an issue which could prevent user uptake.  

However, as I recently discovered, the IM360Ci can be used to fire Nailscrews – a good idea from Paslode, aimed mostly at cladding specialists.  

The round-headed screws fire like nails for a good fixing, but can be removed by simply unscrewing them via the Torx head on the Nailscrew. Unfortunately, the idea of Nailscrews doesn’t fit well with clipped head nails, so it becomes a matter of choice of solutions for the end user. 

Conclusions 

There is no doubt the Paslode IM360Ci is a well-designed tool, that does what it should do without fuss and also solves a lot of issues like low temperature performance, and clearing stoppages easily.  

It will not only be bought by ‘Paslodeers,’ but may also convert others to the gas-power faith as gas technology gives greater power and drivability.  

However I haven’t been living in a box, so I am aware there is some new technology out there for nailers – like nailers which use standard battery power only and with no gas involved.  

At this moment in time, I think it is too early to plump for one or the other as neither technology has all the answers.  

But I do think there is no immediate danger of gas power being replaced – as this sophisticated nailer proves.

www.itwcp.co.uk 

Four decades of Triton excellence continues

INDEPENDENT TOOL REVIEW BY PETER BRETT

IT MAY have crept up on some people – it certainly did on me – that Triton are celebrating 40 years of woodworking and woodworking tools. 
And in the spirit of the original Australian brand, the new ranges of tools are no-nonsense, practical and usable - thus bringing woodworking to the range of users who want to get on with making things, but don’t necessarily have the time, place or inclination to learn esoteric techniques. 

Pocket Hole Jigs  
Jointing materials is at the heart of the skill of making things. Even at school I was told there were ‘good’ joints like mortise and tenons, or dovetails that were ‘better’ than simple lap joints.  

But things have changed dramatically. Screw technology and cordless drill drivers have made simple screw joints strong, and practical solutions for jointing. 

New and widely available materials like MDF and OSB are cheaper and more suitable to modern application, and can be easily cut and shaped with hand tools, or an increasingly available range of cordless tools. 

So, enter the Triton range of pocket hole jigs – a range of jigs to suit every budget from the single user to the professional. 

How Pocket Hole Jigs Work  
Carpenters use skew nailing all the time – hammering a nail in at an angle in one piece of timber to join with another. Pocket holing is like skew nailing, but with the built-in strength and accuracy of using jigs to ensure accurate and strong results every time - something that skew nailing doesn’t always do, even for skilled carpenters.  

At a cost of just £14.99, the Triton Single Mini Pocket-Hole Jig comes with the all-important drill bit, driver bit a depth stop, 20 large head screws, and 10 plug dowels. 

The instruction booklet includes a few simple sketches to help users set up the jig correctly to take account of the thickness of the materials being joined, and the necessity of setting the depth collar on the drill bit to get the screws to be firmly driven into the receiving material.  

What is noticeable is the jig is solidly made in a glassfibre/nylon material which is rigid and strong, and will clearly take a bit of punishment. The driver bit hole for drilling the pocket is lined with a steel insert to ensure accurate drilling for the life of the jig. 

Making a series of single pocket holes in boards may take a bit of time setting each one up, but it is still a cost-effective way of making strong joints. 
 

More Complicated 
For those users who might want to join stretchers on tables and stools for example, the Double Mini Pocket-Hole Jig will be worth the cost of £24.99, because it will save a lot of extra setting out – you get two screw joints for each set-up. 

But if you only need a single pocket then that is possible too. The same number of screws etc, as the single jig, are included here too.  

I was more at home with this jig. I found it easier to clamp than the single jig, as it had more clamping area. 

 
For the 'More Expert' 
The more experienced user might want to consider spending £29.99 on an adjustable Pocket-Hole Jig. This offers users the possibility of adjusting the distance between pocket holes, to take account of different widths of timber. 

This can be very useful in avoiding imperfections in timber, as well as allowing the user to space screw joints where they would be more efficient in the construction. 

Reflecting its ‘higher status,’ the jig is made in cast alloy for strength and durability. The space settings are tightened with an included hex key and can be set in metric or imperial measurements. 

Screws, cover dowels, drill bit, depth collar and driver bit are all included. 

Professional Stuff… 
Professionals using pocket hole jointing techniques need the convenience of a speedy set up, and robust and reliable jigs that will take a bit of a hammering when flung into a toolbox or the back of a van. 

Here the choice is between two kits – the 7-Piece at £59.99 and the 8-Piece at £69.99. The sets are the same, but the bigger set includes a very handy wide-mouthed clamp that is excellent for clamping the workpiece securely.  

At the launch of these jigs the Triton Team cleverly engineered a situation where we  press reviewers were encouraged to make a simple frame using pocket holes. 

A brilliant idea, because the process of getting ‘hands-on’ is a key to understanding how the jigs work. 

With a few minutes of explanation we were given some ply, some tools, and some jigs then guided through the process. I have to admit that using the professional jig with a built-in workpiece clamp, makes life a lot easier - because it is simple to adjust and simple to operate. 

This makes for a minimal setting up time and is something professionals need. What also became clear to me is that the jigs are strong and well-made, and will last for years even in a professional trade environment.  

It is also handy the jigs can be screwed to a sub-base that could be held on a portable worktable, or workbench. The jig is much easier to use when the pieces to be jointed are not moving the jig.  

What I learned from the exercise is jigs make the process of pocket hole jointing quite easy, but following instructions and accurate lining up of materials is crucial to getting the perfect joint. But even the non-perfect joints were still strong enough to be serviceable.  

It is good to see Triton has full confidence in the pocket-hole range of jigs, because they all come with a three-year guarantee.

Of course, product users will also need to top up on screws and plug dowels, and they are freely available online and in regular Triton stockists.

www.tritontools.com

Honda EU22i The Case for Portable Power

I like the idea of portable power, hence my fascination with battery technologies. But, battery power has its limits and there is still a strong case for having the extra oomph of a generator nearby that can provide a power plug in. This has been reinforced for me recently with a series of power cuts in the village in Sussex where I live. During the longest power cut I was right in the middle of converting some rough oak planks into more manageable square edged pieces ready for thicknessing, when the power went off. Luckily, I had the power of the Honda EU22i to turn to. It was literally only a matter of minutes before I was able to get going again - with my guide rail saw plugged into the generator I was able to finish the job. Unfortunately, the power stayed off long enough to prevent me cooking a healthy meal so I was forced to go out for fish and chips!!

It was great to have a real situation in which to try out the Honda and experience the genuine relief and convenience of having an alternative source of energy. My family in South Africa all have a generator on hand in the garage, or wherever, to take the strain during power cuts. In Europe, we are probably less reliant on emergency power sources, but judging from the number of small generators I see at food and music festivals etc, we aren’t slow to recognise their usefulness.

Appearances Do Matter

The Honda EU22i is very handsomely and neatly enclosed in its bright red and grey plastic casing with a huge carrying handle on top. This neatness emphasizes how compact and simple the machine is to operate, but also how portable and convenient it is.

There are a couple of ‘doors’ into the casing – on one side undoing a screw will release the large panel that conceals the all-important oil filler/level checker and air filter box. All the wires and connections are neat and well protected so it seems as though a little bit of damp won’t affect them.

On the other side, a smaller ‘door’ reveals the spark plug and connector. This makes changing and checking spark plugs pretty straightforward.

Controls and Operation

The business end is the most important part since it contains all the controls, warning lights and outlet plugs. It is neatly and logically laid out with the two three-pin 230v outlets dominating. They have covers over them to help with weather protection – as it is clear that this generator will be used outdoors in one of our famously wet summers.

There is an array of warning lights for oil, overload and output so the motor is easy to monitor.

There is also an AC circuit protector and a couple of parallel operation outlets and the eco throttle switch that can be used to slow the motor when the power being taken is not at full requirements.

What is clear is that the switchgear is simple and clear and easy to operate. Even someone not familiar with the generator could quickly learn the basic controls to be able to use it safely and efficiently.

On the opposite side of the casing is a grille panel that conceals the exhaust outlet. This grille protects users from the inevitable heat produced by the motor and reduces the possibility of accidental burns.

To make it as easy as possible to start the motor - and I do hate struggling to start motors – the motor pull cord, motor control switch and choke lever are all on one side of the generator.

Of course, you do need to check the oil and petrol levels before you begin – this takes a couple of minutes. I have already mentioned the oil filler, which simply needs unscrewing to check the oil level. The petrol tank cap is placed on top of the machine right next to the main handle. It uses a robust cap which is unscrewed to reveal a filter that fits closely into the neck of the tank. The filler cap has a lever on top that vents the tank. When not in use, the vent has to be sealed to help prevent fuel leakage. To start the motor, the fuel tank vent has to be opened, the motor switch set to ‘On’ and, depending on conditions, the choke lever may have to be set to ‘closed’. I found it easy to start the motor by grabbing hold of the main handle and pulling on the starter cord. Modern engines like the Honda do not have that fierce compression kickback that old motors had, and it only took half a dozen pulls on the cord to get the motor going.

Practical ‘In Use’ Experience

Although at just over 19Kgs, the Honda fits into EU weight and manual handling rules, I am happy that I didn’t have to carry it very far. The huge grab handle certainly helps to manage the carrying, and I am sure a burly builder would have no problems bringing it onto site up a few flights of stairs. The truth is that the generator is going to spend most of its life placed on a flat surface producing power, so carrying it is not its most important feature. However, in pretty well every other respect, the Honda is an ideal small generator. Its fully enclosed case provides bump and weather protection, as well as making it a neat and unobtrusive package wherever it sits.

I was really impressed with the low noise levels emanating from the motor. You do not have to raise your voice to be heard, even close up to it.

Power output was enough for me to run a couple of power tools from it simultaneously and keep up a conversation with my workmate as we both worked.

In short, the Honda EU22i is a compact and powerful bit of kit that is genuinely portable and very easy to use. It won’t annoy bystanders with excess noise and has the reputable and reliable Honda engine that starts easily and is easy to maintain. 

Lots to Like!

 

Aimed at: leisure and professional users, camping, festivals etc etc

Pros: Portable, efficient and quiet

Triton Sanders Mobile and Stationary Options for a Good Job Easily Done

Sanding has never been my favourite task, but became tolerable with the invention of longer-lasting abrasives and much better sanding machines. The picture has now been complicated by the research into the dangers of dust inhalation. The knowledge has led to legislation, so even ‘one-man-bands’ now have to use M level dust collection on site. But dust collection in home workshops shouldn’t be ignored either. Time to invest in masks and vac extraction?

The two Triton sanders that were sent for review solidly reflect the innovations in sanding that have taken place, and they also feature good dust extraction and other safety features that make modern sanding much less of a chore.

Oscillating Versatility

The Triton 350W Oscillating and Tilting Table Spindle Sander would find a very valuable place in many small workshops. It comes under the heading of a Very Useful Machine. Making, shaping and sanding small curved components can be very challenging and slow if the only tools you have are small drum sanders in a drill, or a bit of abrasive wrapped around a curved shape or dowel.

Preparation

It took just over 25 minutes from opening the box and reading the instructions to getting a sample bit of timber sanded. This shows that the machine is simple to use and adjust and users will be able to swap sanding spindles and adjust the table etc without tools.

5 sizes of sanding sleeve are provided and the compression washers for each of these. There are also three round table inserts and three inserts with elongated holes for when the spindle is used tilted.

To ensure that all of these small components are readily available when needed, two storage units are attached to each side of the sander to contain them.

Changing the spindles is very easy by simply undoing the wingnut (left hand thread) and lifting out the spindle. Ensuring that the hole in the table insert matches the size of the spindle makes sure that the work is well supported and the maximum amount of dust is extracted. The elongated ‘circles’ are used when the table is set at an angle so that angled edges can be sanded. Adjusting the table is also simple – just loosen the two knobs under the cast alloy table and set the angle on the protractor.

Dust Extraction

Dust collection is via the extraction port under the table. When connected to a vac extractor most of the dust is collected but it is still wise to wear a dust mask to avoid the inevitable airborne particles.

In the Workshop

Because it stands up quite straight and has a small footprint, this sander can fit into a corner of a workshop quite well. Ideally, I would mount it on a small, wheeled base (holes are provided in the base for secure attachment) so that it could be moved around. Occasionally you might need to sand some bigger workpieces so it is handy to be able to move it.

I used the sander for quite a lot of shaping tasks from table legs to trays and I found that it performed well. It feels straightforward and safe to use with the NVR switch right on the front of the machine for easy access. The oscillating motion is steady and helps to clear dust quickly from the work as well as avoiding burns and scratches on the timber.

Because it is easy to use and adjust there is no excuse for not changing the spindles to the correct sizes needed for each job.

Triton 650W Portable Oscillating Spindle Sander

This tool looks like no other sander I have used so I needed to have a thorough read-through of the instructions with a step-by-step look at switches, controls etc. It occurred to me that Triton have gone out on a limb with this machine because it is innovative and yet niche.

It consists of a plastic body that contains the motor and oscillating gear in a sort of bulky H-shape with a spindle emerging from one of the legs of the H.  My first thought was that it offered no obvious place to grip it easily for portable sanding jobs – but after using it a bit more I learned its logic and all became clear.

Used in stationery mode – very useful on site or where space might be tight – the machine can be clamped to a workbench, a workmate or even a bit of sheet material on a couple of trestles. In this inverted mode, the oscillating spindle is upright and is surrounded by a small area that serves as a support ‘table’ for the workpiece. This is good for edge sanding of small workpieces. To help the machine to grip onto the substrate when clamped, a shaped rubber mat is supplied and this really helps to prevent movement in use.

Versatile and Easy

But there is more versatility to be had. Used with the sanding spindle facing downwards, the machine can be moved across edges rather than the edges being moved along the spindle. This is a very useful when sanding edges of worktops in situ for example. With the edge guide that screws into the base it is possible to get a very controlled sanded edge with no ‘dig-ins’ along it. Something that I used to great effect with an oak bench top I was preparing for a client.

The motor is quite buzzy but powerful, and has 6 adjustable speeds that would be necessary for controlled and speedy sanding. On/off is a simple rocker switch above the speed selection dial.  With a selection of three spindles and sanding sleeves supplied, users can select the right one for the job.

Dust extraction is pretty simple in benchtop mode – an extraction nozzle is clipped into the end of the machine and the vac is plugged into that. In mobile mode, I found that dust extraction was best served by using a lightweight hose that moved easily as I moved the machine along the edges I was sanding.  A niche machine it may be, but getting used to it proved to me that it has some unique solutions to some difficult sanding conundrums.

 

Aimed at: Small Pro and amateur workers who need to shape edges safely

Pros: Efficient, safe and effective edge sanding with no burns or marks – if you follow the instructions.

Flex CS 62 Portable Circular Saw Brushless Power with Cordless Convenience

I became a fan of this saw within about ten minutes of using it. I happened to be cutting up some 75mm thick, hard American Maple when it arrived. I thought that there was no time like the present, slotted a battery pack into it and started cutting. The brand-new blade was sharp as a razor, the power delivery was spot on and although the depth of cut, at 62mm, wasn’t quite enough to cut through the 75mm thickness of the maple, there was not even a change of note from the motor as it sliced through the timber. Now that is a good first impression. And subsequent use just proved that my first impression was the correct one. This must be a first – a recommendation for a product by the end of the first paragraph of a review.

The Details

It is clear on close examination that Flex has done its homework on what is needed for a cordless circular saw. These saws are often used for smallish cutting and trimming jobs, often working at height or in awkward situations. They do need to be accurate, powerful enough, light and easy to handle, and with enough adjustment to be versatile on the worksite. Used with a straightedge, they should also be able to cut boards of all kinds like ply, OSB and MDF.  With a depth of cut of 62mm one can appreciate that smallish is not always that small.

Construction of the saw base, blade guard and adjustments is of a well finished cast alloy. And I do mean well finished – there are no bumps and glitches to spoil it and the actual base of the saw is flat and square. Another nice touch is the slight rounding over of the front of the base so that feeding it into a cut is eased.

All of the adjustments on the saw body and base are toolless via small plastic-handled cam clamps. They are very positive and easy to use and clamp tightly when set. One of my pet hates is too much free play in the depth of cut settings on portable circular saws, but there is no problem with the Flex. And the depth setting is accurate too. When it comes to blade angle settings there are a couple of nice touches too. The protractor blade settings have a clear white on black scale for easy reading. There are also three fixed settings at 50, 45 and 22.5 degrees that are selected via a small control knob so these angles can be set accurately for repeat cuts.

Features and Benefits

The body and motor housing are made of Flex Red plastic – strong and well put together and certainly able to withstand a few knocks. There is a compact EC (brushless) motor that is very quiet and torquey. It sits directly underneath the main handle so that your hands feel as though they are operating on the centre of gravity, although the handle does appear to be set higher than other equivalent saws from other makers.

Somehow Flex has managed to include a bright LED light underneath the handle where it is not quite as visible as it might be, but the overspill of light is still generally useful. Right next to the light is the spindle lock needed for changing the blade with a hex key attached nearby.

Some users might think that the handle position is a bit high but the position of the auxiliary handle allows the saw to be guided easily, and in fact keeps your view of the blade and cut line clear. The handles have a good coating of black rubberised overmould for grip. In order to start the saw, the safety button has to be depressed before the trigger can be pulled. This is suited to both left and right handers.

Another feature I liked was that the brushless motor has a brake that stops the blade within a couple of seconds after the trigger is released.

There are also a couple of options when it comes to collecting dust. On a cordless saw where users might not yet have sorted out the option of dust collection via a cordless vacuum, the small dust bag does a remarkably good job of collecting the fairly large amounts of dust thrown out by the blade. The bag is robustly made with a nylon mesh outer and clips into place, so it does not simply fall off as a push fit bag might. It is fair to say that it keeps clients happy when working indoors as the dust that escapes is minimal, but you will need to keep an eye on when the bag needs emptying. A task that is easy to do because the bag simply unclips. The dust does not need to be emptied through a small nozzle.

Another option is to fit the dust spout. This too is clipped into place and is a standard 35mm fitting for most small dust extractor vac nozzles.

Finally, there is a small pressed steel fence that can be attached in slots either in front of or behind the blade. I rarely use them, preferring to rely on a straightedge instead. But still no searching in the box for the fixing screws for it – they are a simple cam clamp fixing.

Presentation

The Flex CS 62 comes in a handsome fitted L-Boxx with two batteries and a charger. Although nominally rated at 5 Ah I find that the battery packs perform well and charge efficiently. I especially like the fact that Flex chargers have a minutes countdown on them so you know exactly how long you have to wait for your battery to be fully charged.

There is a lot of value and performance built into this saw and current Flex users should find it a no-brainer to acquire should they need a circular saw. Its features should also appeal to others looking for a good quality, well specified cordless circular saw. I like it very much.

 

Aimed at: Pro and demanding amateurs who need a quality tool

Pros: Efficient, easy to use and adjust, robustly made with a good depth of cut.

 

Draper 12v Capacitor Jump Starter Safe Starting

I, like many others, am slowly learning that I can’t do without the smart electronics in my car. It enables the phone and music connections, satnav etc etc that I rely on increasingly. But these same complicated electronics are so sensitive that merely disconnecting the battery to replace a light bulb can entail an hour’s worth of work resetting all the electronics - from the clock to the automatic headlight dipping.

In simpler times, jump starting an ‘analogue’ car involved just connecting some jump leads from another car battery, making sure the polarity matched up and then hitting the ignition key. 12v was 12v and that was all that mattered.

Smart Electronics

But modern cars are all different and have different balances and systems for their electronics. Hence the need for ‘smart’ or diagnostic jump starters that ‘read’ the systems and inform the users once they are connected. The Draper 12v Capacitor Jump Starter (part number 82957) is just such a device. It is part of a bigger range of Draper Jump Starters and is aimed at emergency starting for petrol engines up to 6 litres and diesel engines up to 3 litres.

It is compact and light – weighing only 1.294 Kgs and measuring 25 cm long, 12cm wide and 5cm deep. The Draper Blue box that houses the innovative electronics is completely surrounded by protective ‘bumpers’ on all the edges and the back has a very handy summary of specs, operating instructions and an all-important warning panel.

The Differences between Capacitors and Batteries

Capacitors and batteries are similar in that they are both ways of storing electricity. Batteries use chemicals to store electricity and because of the ‘delays’ that chemistry has in taking up a charge they are slower to charge and discharge. Capacitors on the other hand, store electricity in a ‘force field’ between plates and, when called upon, can deliver a burst of power very quickly and at full voltage. Capacitors are usually smaller and lighter than their equivalent battery counterparts because they do not have to accommodate chemical cells and heavy metals.

This Draper Jump Starter works on a capacitor system that makes it compact and light – in fact small enough to store in a glove box ready for a starting emergency. It is certainly less of a hassle to have in the boot than a pair of 2 metre long jump leads I have used in the past.

Some Details

The Jump Starter comes in a cardboard box that, if it were kept in good condition, is perfect for storing the device, because it protects it from bumps and knocks as well as providing some protection against splashes and liquids.

The Starter has three switches – an off/on switch, a switch for the built-in torch and a switch for the Li Ion back-up battery. The torch has several modes that are selected by cycling through on the button. The first mode is a bright LED light that is useful on dark nights under car bonnets. The second is a quickly flashing light, and the third mode is a Morse code SOS signal. These last two modes provide some light for working by, but are also useful as warning beacons if you are stuck by the side of a road.

The clamp leads are quite short with only about 28 cm of reach. This means that, in use, the Starter has to be perched on top of the engine or side wing closest to the battery location. Unlike some jump starter cables, the clamp cables on the Draper are quite light and flexible so they are easy to handle. The copper contact parts of the clamps are largely covered by a plastic sheathing that will minimise accidental contact between them. While they are stiff enough to ensure good contacts on the poles of the battery, the clamp springs are not so tight that they are difficult to handle. They also open wide enough for easy clipping to the battery poles.

Two methods of charging the capacitor are supplied in the box. The first is a standard 12v lead for sliding into the power socket in the car, the second is a 5v USB cable that will also fit most modern cars that can accommodate an MP3 player.

Using the Jump Starter

For the first use of the device it must be charged for 24 hours, though it has been precharged during production. This ensures that the Li Ion cells are fully charged ready for the emergency. To maintain a ‘top-up’ charge after the initial charging, the USB charger will take about four hours to top up the battery, while the 12v DC lead will charge the device in around 50 minutes.

Using the Jump Starter is simplicity itself. Connect the two cable clamps to the correct battery terminals and press the power on button the LED display will indicate the voltage and internal resistance of the battery. If your car battery had enough remaining energy to charge the capacitors then you will see the display indicating that the machine is taking on charge, if not then then press the back up battery boost button to charge the capacitors from the in-built lithium 10v batteries

After a couple of minute’s charging, the capacitor is ready to start the car as indicated by the LED “display jumpstart ready”. If all does not go to plan after ten seconds of turning the car engine over, then the device will have to be rested for about 30 seconds before trying again.

Connecting the clamps to the battery terminal can also tell you via the LED display whether the battery is chargeable or whether it needs replacing.

The recent below freezing weather has seen the Draper Jump Starter doing some sterling service for the cars in my close, with one neighbour who is too mean to buy a new car battery, having to use it every morning for a week. There is no doubt that its compact size and ease of use make it a very useful device. There is no doubt that garages and roadside emergency services would find this useful – as they could have it charged and ready in their vehicles.

 

Aimed at: Car owners, mechanics and break down professionals

Pros: Compact, well priced, easy to use and effective.

How the Rise of the Inverter Changed Welding -And What It Means for End Users

‘No 1 Welding provider to toolshop sector across Europe and how to recapture your customers welding business’

‘Old’ welding technology meant that welding was perceived as an esoteric skill that required lots of training and then lots of practice to perfect. It also had a frisson of danger attached – with high voltages and lots of sparks that burned tiny holes in your clothing if you did it wrong, they were enough to discourage people from having a go.

With the rise of inverter technology, the heavy, old-fashioned transformer welders are now obsolete. Using advanced electronics, GYS has designed systems that monitor welds in real time and adjust the arc and power before the operator even has time to notice. This is the reason why even I have been able to produce strong and practical welds.

Over the last couple of years, for example, I have ended several gates and a pair of volleyball posts, as well as making small lifting lugs and a couple of decorative brackets using my tiny GYS stick welder.  The GYSMI 80P that I use is a shoebox-sized stick welder that costs around £100 and is ‘ready to go’ out of the box, (welding rods and welding helmet required) and it has taken the fear factor away, so that I now have the confidence to try welding jobs even if my first efforts were workmanlike at best. It is amazing how quickly you improve with a bit of practice.

GYS Electronics and Research Are the Key

GYS is the largest manufacturer of inverter welding machines in Europe and over the last fifteen years or so, this family-owned French company has done a great deal to convince the market that welding can be a lot easier, safer and cheaper than many people think, and is therefore accessible to a much wider market that should include farmers, trades, artists, craftspeople, DIYers and homebuilders.

We all use Smart electronics every day, but the addition of Smart technology to welding has revolutionised it. With electronic monitoring of the weld, the welder is effectively assisted to get the right results.

While stick or MMA welding is largely good enough for my needs, GYS has managed to bring the cost of sophisticated MIG welding within the reach of even part time users.

On the Continent…..

On the wider Continent, and especially into Eastern Europe where it seems that having a practical bent is almost a requirement for householders to deal with repairs etc., welders are widely available in a number of outlets.

In Germany and France welders are routinely sold in massive volumes in the equivalents of B and Q. and independent tool retailers. These outlets seem to have solved the issues of welding mystique and what machines to stock, by engaging with the manufacturers and wholeheartedly taking on the opportunity to increase sales of welding kit – along with all of the consumables that are a necessity in welding.

The key is to have the support of a specialist that has the necessary market knowledge, can advise the retailer on what to stock, provide a comprehensive merchandised solution, which in fact can be a small range of machines, but also the solution to regular repeat purchases of consumables and accessories.   Now in the UK, GYS are that specialist, not only do they manufacture the product but have a full service UK distribution centre with a national sales force of 12 to provide support to the retailer.

But in the UK…..

On the other hand, in the UK we seem to be caught in a bind. Most independent tool shops and ‘The Sheds’ don’t stock welding equipment on the basis that customers don’t do welding. But if you don’t serve the market how can you tell what they want?

There still seems to be a feeling that even general welding is a ‘specialist’ skill and therefore only specialist outlets should sell welders. GYS UK is determined to break this cycle and its enlarged sales team is on the case. Guidance and training is available for retailers’ staff so that they have the confidence to sell GYS welders.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

None of the above has any credibility unless I could back it up with practical experience so GYS very kindly loaned me their testing and training facility for a while so I could use the EASYMIG 150A. With a price of around £450 this welder is a three-in-one and so is very versatile. It will do stick (MMA) welding as well as MIG with gas or without gas welding. Since I professed some competence in stick welding I was able to try the MIG options.

The EASYMIG is incredibly easy to set up with room in the side panel for either a 1kg or 5Kg wire reel and the wire feed is simple to operate through to the torch end. In the workshop a heavy gas bottle was connected, but for site or outdoor use, GYS sells small argon gas containers that are not costly, nor too heavy to carry far.

Having never done any MIG gas welding before, I was given a few tips by Neil, one of the expert sales team before being let loose on some steel. Even my first effort was passable despite failing to keep a consistent distance between torch tip and steel – the welder’s electronics simply compensated. After about ten minute’s practice I managed a reasonably straight weld joining two metal strips with the required tiny herringbone pattern on the weld.

If ever proof was needed that a good welding machine can make an amateur welder a competent, if workmanlike, welder, then this was it. Welding is a skill that improves with practice and I am pretty sure that I would become a good welder if I did it more regularly. And it’s all down to the GYS electronics that gives users the confidence to try welding in the first place.

Flex IW 18.0 EC Making an Impact

Impacts are Everywhere

Just about every trade I speak to has some use for an impact wrench and they are very frequently used – just listen for the characteristic ‘clacker-clack’ sound next time you pass a worksite. Some tradespeople even have a 12v tool for smaller tasks and an 18v for heavy duty stuff. In impact wrenches and drivers, as in other cordless tools, the adoption of Li Ion battery packs and EC or brushless motors has made these tools even more useful because they extend battery life, increase power and enhance reliability.

The launch of the new Flex Brushless IW EC 18v impact wrench puts it right into the mix of competing products in a very competitive market. So how does it stand up?

The Kit

The kit I was sent came in a stackable Flex L-Boxx with custom inserts to hold the tool, two battery packs and the Flex smart charger. Also included are a magnetic bit holder and a belt clip that can be attached (or left off) to suit the user. There is quite a bit of space left in the box for a decent selection of sockets, and other driving options that I find tend to accumulate the more you use the tool.

I like the Flex L-Boxx option because the tool and batteries are easy to store, and you don’t have to fiddle with the lid to clip it closed while doing a small wrestle with the charger cord and other bits. Definitely something I can do without at the end of a working day, with the dark closing in and the cold starting to ramp up too.

One of the first things I noticed about the tool is that it follows the current demand for ultra-compact and powerful drills and impact wrenches and drivers. Without a socket slipped onto the half inch square drive on the nose, the tool measures just over 140mm in length and it stands just under 250mm high with a 5 Ah battery pack and about 220 mm with the optional 2.5 Ah pack - well within the parameters of the competition.

Flex has always been good at designing ergonomic and grippy bodies for its power tools and this is no exception. The main handle is perfect for my smallish hands, with slightly textured rubber in strategic places. There are also rubber ‘bumpers’ on the back, base and bottom to provide protection on the worksite.

Other things I like, and they can’t always be taken for granted, even on well- established brands, are that the battery packs have a battery charge indicator, they slide off and onto the tool easily on the robust slides and lock positively.

Also, the battery charger has a countdown timer on it that will tell you exactly how long you have to wait for a fully charged battery. My experience of Flex battery packs has also been that they are reliable and tough enough for trade use.

Forward/lock/reverse modes use the familiar push-through switch above the trigger and the trigger itself is speed sensitive and quite easily controllable. Every push of the trigger also switches on the bright LED light under the drive nose and it turns off automatically after 10 seconds. Releasing the trigger immediately engages the spindle brake to stop the rotation in an instant.

I could easily integrate this impact wrench into my tool kit as a powerful 18v impact wrench by simply getting a ¼ inch adaptor to fit over the ½ square drive. In this way, I could drive Pozi, hex and other screwdriving bits with all the oomph I could possibly need.

But that would be to miss the point of this tool. Scaffolders are increasingly using impact wrenches to speed up the process of tightening the large numbers of bolts they encounter every day. And when I showed the Flex to a couple of mechanics they were definitely interested, because they too have already adapted to using cordless impact wrenches in some situations where air-powered impact wrenches are too much of a hassle, a bit too big to fit or they are working where mains power is unavailable.

Other Features

To make best use of its undoubted talents, the Flex IW has some refinements for more demanding users. On the base, just above the battery slides, is a small LED display with three settings. With the drill set in forwards mode the user can press the small white button to select High (250Nm/2500rpm) Medium (180Nm/2000 rpm) or Low 150Nm/1500 rpm) modes. I don’t think anyone could argue that having 250Nm available at the squeeze of the trigger is inconsiderable, even if undoing tight wheelnuts on your car. But to have the option of other settings for less demanding applications increases its Flexibility.  (pun intended)

In reverse mode the tool has only one speed so there is no need to set it.

In Use

I tested this impact wrench in a number of situations driving shortish (50mm) screws into hardwood as well as some much longer 250mm long bolts and screws. It never ran out of steam and power but remained controllable in whatever mode I tried it in. It is compact enough to use as a small impact wrench in a regular trade toolkit, but will not be as compact as a ‘standard’ impact wrench because of the need for an adaptor which increases the hassle factor. An opening for Flex to design a smarter adaptor maybe?

I watched as a mechanic I knew tried it out removing wheelnuts from his car and his verdict was very positive. I guess this wrench will be on his ‘borrow’ list from me from now on. I also tried tightening and removing nuts of all sizes by changing the sockets. With either the belt hook in place or using a belt holster, a scaffolder could easily carry this tool aloft and it would make his job quicker and more efficient. I managed a whole day of off-and-on screwdriving on site using only ¾ of the 5Ah battery power available, so my guess is that two batteries would be easily enough to last a hardworking day.

 

So, if you want a hardworking and powerful impact wrench – the Flex IW should definitely be on your shortlist.

Aimed at: Pros and ambitious amateurs

Pros: Compact, brushless and powerful. Well made too. Lots to like.

Cold Weather Needs Better Workwear. Some Solutions from JCB Progressive Safety Clothing

I guess it’s not that much of an accident that the arrival of the cold weather coincided with the arrival of a couple of parcels stuffed with winter workwear. I was keen to unpack them because my winter kit is looking, literally, a bit thin.

Fashion and Practicality?

It can’t be just me that has noticed that the current look for cold weather coats is quilted – not the bulky quilting of previous times, but the slimmer, flatter type of padding that is not only warm, but is also far less bulky and easier to move around in. Several of the items featured this quilting, so I was intrigued to see if they were warm and practical on site.

Hat, Socks and Boots.

I shall start with top and bottom before I get to the body warm clothing – the lined beanie hat with discreet JCB logo really does make a difference to keeping warm outside. I don’t look good in any type of hat but I always wear one outside in the cold and wet, and this one was better than the majority I have used. Comfy too! As for the bottom bits – a two-pack of work socks was a great pairing with the black JCB work boots. The socks are bulky enough for you to feel the extra insulation value, but not so thick that they will make your boots feel tight. The socks have reinforced heels and toes, and a comfortable rib around your legs that keeps them up and you warm. Yes, you do really feel the difference between summer socks and these winter socks!

The 4CX/B boots were made of black Nubuck leather with high standard protections against sole piercing, static electric shock and slipping as well as protected toecaps built in. I was glad to see that they came up a bit higher past my ankles than my summer shoes, and the last four fixings on the ankles are hooks – making it easy to put them on – but more importantly easier to take them off at the end of the day. Padded ankles and inners help keep you warm and comfortable, so it didn’t take long for these to become my winter site boots for the foreseeable.

Keeping the Body Warm

We are always advised to keep ourselves warm by using different layers of clothing that can be added or subtracted according to conditions. Great advice if you have the right gear – and now I have.

Over a base layer of a simple T-shirt, the obvious thing for the weather hovering around 3 to 4 degrees Celsius is the JCB Essential black sweatshirt. Made of 80% cotton and 20% polyester with ribbed hem and cuffs to keep cold air out, it provides basic warmth, but will also absorb moisture if things get a bit hotter after moving some bricks. It is a comfy fit and long enough to partially cover your bottom too. Really practical.

Then you have to make some the choices according to work in hand and the cold. Will it be the 1945 Padded Gilet with Thinsulate lining? With three zipped external pockets (two of them for warming hands!) and an internal pocket it is lightweight enough for medium warmth, but with the freedom of not having sleeves. Ripstop nylon offers practicality since it will inevitably come into contact with building materials.

Or you could choose the Essentials Full Zip Fleece. This is made of micro fleece with a funnel collar that fights fairly tightly around the neck for extra warmth. The fleece is a skinnier fit so that you can add another layer on top without looking like the Michelin Man. It too has two side pockets for warming hands.

I found myself not being able to choose between the two in terms of warmth – so the fleece became sort of indoors and the Gilet sort of outdoors because it is water resistant.

Easily fitting on top of the fleece if you do your sizing correctly - outer garments need to be bigger to accommodate layers underneath - is the 1945 Ecomax Jacket. This has a padded Thinsulate body in ripstop nylon with softshell sleeves. The funnel neck stops draughts down your neck especially if you pull the full length zip all the way up under your chin. There are zipped pockets on each side to accommodate hands for warming and another pocket on the right-hand side that will hold a phone securely. Inside low in the lining near the waist is another hook and loop closure pocket. I liked the fact that the jacket is long enough to come past the waist for extra warmth, and the sleeves have a nifty lift-and-close elasticated cuff that keeps draughts out and will deter rain too. So far I have only been out in light rain in this coat, but I was cosy and warm inside it. And with the reflective but discreet JCB logos front and back it helps to be seen.

Finally, is the Trade lightweight padded jacket. Stylish enough, in my world, to be worn around town or visiting clients to give a quote, it is lightly padded and made of ripstop fabric. The nylon material is showerproof with an elasticated, padded hood and elasticated cuffs to keep out wet and wind – which it does quite effectively. There are the two of my favourite zipped pockets for handwarming as well as another pocket on the chest near the zip for phones, pens etc. There are also reflective JCB logos front and back and the politely termed ‘contoured back’ that keep your bottom warm as well as allowing rain to drip off into space rather than onto the back of your trousers.

Design, Design, Design and a bit more thought.

With a bit of careful thought and some trying on, potential users of this range of clothing will get the benefits of the Progressive Safety design team’s efforts. It really does work as a whole and end users can pick and choose what will suit their needs on a cold/wet/damp/windy day or all of the above on the worksite. It also helps that the look is stylish and modern as well as being practical.  

Aimed at: Pros and maybe amateur who need tough, warm clothing

Pros: Flexible, tough, stylish and practical.

 

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