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

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

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