Festool CTM 36 E AC HD Vacuum Extractor All You Need for Dust Safety On Site and Workshop?

Systems, Systems

One of the best aspects of buying Festool is that you are buying into a system that links together wherever possible. So, saws and sanders and benches and vacuums etc, can all be coordinated to create a team of tools that will hopefully enable the highest quality work. This does mean that the user has to be up to the job too, but the Festool System provides a great starting point.

The other thing about the Festool system is that you can be confident that an Research and Development team, better qualified than you or I, has done all of the thinking during the development of the product, so all the user has to do is take advantage of the opportunities provided. This is definitely the feeling I was left with having used the CTM 36 E AC HD vacuum extractor for two weeks on site. I shall endeavour to explain how I came to this conclusion and why it is a comforting one.

The Dust Regulations

As most trades should know by now, the minimum requirement for a dust collector/extractor on sites is at least an M-Class machine capable of filtering out 99.9% of 10 micron size respirable dust from a number of sources.  Most L-Class machines collected heavier dust quite well, but passed the highly dangerous respirable dust through the filter into the atmosphere where the dust particles are so tiny that they can float in the air for up to eight hours.

Confidence and Ease of Use

The first thing that buyers of this Festool vac will know is that it comes with the required HEPA filter and Airflow necessary to extract dangerous dusts up to M-Class requirements.  Along with this is a built-in electronic monitoring system for filters and airflow. If the airflow ever falls below 20m/s a warning beep will sound to alert the user. All the control switches are grouped together and all are marked in green - Festool’s long-established way of marking parts that users need to know are controls.

Up to 5 diameters of extraction hose can be selected, from 16mm to 50mm, and the electronics will take care of power required from the motor to ensure the best possible extraction rate. The guesswork is taken out for the user – simply choose from the options and you can be confident of the correct performance.

Other controls are equally simple. Auto Clean is selected with a switch and this acates an electronic control that forces air under pressure through the filter and it is this that removes the dust from the filter and provides an opportunity for the extractor to take a breath every 10 seconds. To see this in action go to this link: -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeh5QWMGf6M

By simply plugging a corded power tool into the auxiliary socket and connecting it to the extraction hose, and selecting ‘automatic’ on the switch, the vacuum will come on when the tool is started and turn off when the tool is switched off. I was able to work at sanding a series of six rather woodworm eaten doors outside with no visible dust, and the noise levels from the vac were less than the sander’s. Selecting the suction needed to ensure good extraction as well as efficient sanding is again very easy – just move the relevant switch.

Other Reassuring Things

For those tired of squashed and easily tangled extraction hoses, the 4 metre-long green and black Festool hose resists kinking and is antistatic. No clingy dust when you clear it up at the end of the day. The machine end of the hose has a rubber adaptor that fits tightly into the front of the machine, as well as into the closing slide that comes with this vacuum. Using the closing slide ensures that the user can close off the hose aperture when the hose is removed, making dust leaks impossible. Or you can use the sealing plug provided. The other end of the hose has a standard rubber adaptor that can be teamed with a Festool stepped adaptor to fit the tool in hand. Storing the hose in transit is done via the foldable hose holder on top of the casing.

To allow for a generous working radius the Festool has 7.5 metres of rubberised mains cord and typically, Festool has thought about where to store it by providing a tool and cable storage holder that is attached to the back by two screws.

By attaching an optional Systainer retainer, other tools in boxes may be attached for easy transport.

Filter and Bag Maintenance

There is little point in providing M-Class extraction only to expose users to concentrated dusts when the dust bag needs emptying or the filter needs changing. Of course, the right grade of face mask is needed, but both of these tasks can be done quickly and easily by the user. Replacements are simply slotted into place with a minimum of exposure time to dust.

The vac can also be used to collect water spills but precautions need to be taken and then it needs to be allowed to dry out thoroughly before reinstalling a dust bag.

In Daily Use

I used this vacuum intensively for two weeks on a barn restoration, where it was used connected to circular saws and sanders, as well as collecting cement and sand dust and clearing up at the end of the day. It has a big 36 litre capacity and took up a large space in my boot. Weighing 14.5 Kgs it is not that easy to lift into my hatchback, but the big wheels make moving it, even on roughish surfaces, quite easy. The truth is, regular site users need a machine with some capacity because of the workloads. By the end of the two weeks I had grown so used to the Festool that it was part of my work routine. Efficient, easy to use and reliable.

Some will always bring up the common complaint about the price – this vac costs over £600. But we need to take into account Festool’s extended warranty, service and insurance offer and 10 year parts guarantee in our calculations. I rather like the ease and confidence that such a machine provides and I am also worried enough about my lung health to think that users need to look at the bigger picture.

Festool Fans, on the other hand, will have none of these concerns – they have already established that being part of the Festool system has lots of advantages.  


Flex DD 2G 10.8-LD Drill Driver Big in its Own Way

Size Isn’t……

Most, if not all, trades have already worked out that 18 or 24volt drill/drivers are not always needed on every job. When it comes to the need for sheer power - then 18v or more, is the answer. But what I have found out from experience, is that there is quite a range of lighter duty jobs that are more than adequately catered for with a 10.8 or 12v tool.

With the smaller and lighter drill/drivers, I find they can be slipped into the front flap pocket of work trousers, or even into a side pocket. So, finding somewhere to put them while working on a ladder is solved. Their significantly smaller size also means that they can be used inside cabinets and in tighter spaces where bigger tools simply can’t fit.

Because of the type of usage they are put to, even the smaller Ah (say 2.5 or 4Ah) battery packs often last a day or more, even for a busy kitchen or shop fitter. The new Flex DD 2G 10.8-LD fits nicely into the above category – it is light and compact and fulfils all my criteria for a smaller and lighter drill/driver without compromise. It looks like a smaller version of an 18v drill driver, but it has the advantage of feeling lighter without lacking all the ergonomic rubber grippy stuff of bigger drills. In other words, this is no poor relation to a more powerful 18v model.

On top of that it is very well priced – roughly £110 ex VAT. Good enough to tempt non-professionals into buying a professional quality tool.


With a top torque of 34Nm I had no trouble driving 50 or 60mm long screws into softwood or some less dense hardwoods. Certainly, the most commonly used materials like chipboard and MDF are not really a challenge for the screwdriving ability of this drill driver.

The drill driver benefits from having a 10mm keyless chuck that clicks tightly onto drill shanks with the twist of a wrist, and stays put under working pressure. The machine can drill up to 25mm diameter in wood and up to 10mm in steel, and has two speeds – 0 to 350 rpm in slow gear and 0 to 1300 rpm in fast. The speeds are selected via a slider switch on top of the drill body.

With a 2.5Ah battery pack on board, the drill weighs just over the one kilo and the same pack will take approximately 40 minutes for a full charge via the diagnostic charger supplied. Battery packs have a charge indicator so you can see how much juice you have left.

Supplied as standard are a belt clip and a bit holder. These can be screwed onto the base of the handle with the hex screws provided and can fit either on the left or right hand side of the handle to suit the user. The belt clip is one that you will use because it is strong and rigid, so it does actually catch on your belt when you want it to. A trouser pocket may not be the only holding solution for ladder related work.

A few years ago I would have dismissed the idea of a light on a drill, but nowadays I find them very useful indeed, and the big bright LED just above the front of the trigger is placed well to illuminate the work area in front of you.

There are 17 torque settings and a driver setting selected via the usual collar behind the chuck. The settings are easy to select and most users will probably not use them very often, but for delicate work - inside kitchen cabinets for example, attaching drawer slides – it is actually very important not to overtighten screws into chipboard carcases. When I tested them, all it took was a minute or two of trial and error with the screws concerned to decide on the correct torque setting.

The trigger and forward/reverse arrangement is one commonly used on most drill drivers. The trigger is easily big enough for a forefinger, and the forward reverse switch above it is easily selectable without having to move your hand from the handle.

And then there is the Build Quality

To me this drill feels like a pro product in the hand, and I could find no signs of shoddy manufacturing on it. The body mouldings are precise and fit together well, and do not flex under drilling loads. Rubber overmoulding is carefully placed for a comfortable grip on the main handle. The rear of the motor casing has a rubberised cap for protection and there are rubber ‘bumpers’ on the sides of the body and handle above the battery pack, so that the casing will be protected when it is laid down on its side. You can’t always find a flat spot to stand the drill upright on its battery pack in some workplaces.

The battery packs are rigid and solidly encased and the slides are precise too, making loading and releasing a battery pack very easy via the single press lock on the front of it.

The Bottom Line

I have been using this drill on a range of lighter jobs like removing fittings prior to decorating, some woodwork involving drilling and screwing, and some cabinet fitting. It is a simple and straightforward tool that does what is asked of it. I was constantly surprised at how long the battery lasted – my record was a day and a half.

It is compact and comfortable to use, and was particularly useful when putting up guttering where it was small enough to put in pocket, and light enough to clip to my belt without making my trousers lopsided.

It is packed into a spacious rigid nylon case with the charger and two batteries. There is enough room in the case for a few spare bit boxes, drill bits etc. Frankly, with this drill I prefer having the nylon case rather than a larger rigid plastic one, because it is easier to find a spot for it in my crowded boot. Sometimes small is just as good as big, when it comes to drills anyway.


Trend T5E V2 – The Latest Version of a Classic

The Importance of the Original Design

Thirty years ago, I bought an early version of the Trend T5.  My original T5 was pretty bombproof and lasted for years, but the basic design was good enough to be able to support a fairly steady list of refinements over the years. After some ownership and name changes the T5 is still around and is a ‘go to’ router for amateurs and professionals alike. The developments have provided us with a quieter, more refined and user-friendly machine that retains its reliability and accuracy, but it still deserves the ‘work horse’ label.

Noise and Vibration

First of all, noise. Because of their high-speed motors, routers have usually been associated with a high-pitched scream, especially when cutting at high speed with a large cutter. At idle speeds, even with a cutter attached, the 1000W T5E is so quiet that you can barely hear it. Lay your hands on the plunge handles and you can barely feel any vibration either. Clearly some work has been put in on noise and vibration control - and it works. Even when fitted with a cutter (max 40mm diameter) this router feels civilised, controllable and relatively noise and vibration free. Great news for those who use these tools regularly. Of course, it’s a no-brainer that you should wear ear and eye protection anyway, but somehow the T5E just feels more controllable and better to use because of the reduced vibration and noise.

Controls – I need Simple and Safe

Secondly, routers can be fiddly to use when the controls are not well thought out and easy to manage. The plunge action on the T5E is firm and positive. With 50mm depth of plunge, there is enough to tackle large range cutters and most jobs. A good test of accuracy is whether there is any play between base and router body – the T5 I tested showed no play at all. There is a three stop adjustable turret to set depths of cut and a depth setting stop that is robust and easy to set. It is nice to have a fine height adjuster, and some trades and craftspeople (guitar makers for example) can buy one as an accessory but I manage without one, as this router is perfectly accurate enough for my needs.

Changing cutters can be another area of potential fiddliness – but the T5E scores here too. The big red spindle lock button is easy to access and keeps your fingers well out of the way of the collet spanner, so changing cutters is as easy as it can be.

In the UK, users still seem to prefer having a positive on/off switch rather than the ‘dead man’s handle’ switch that you have to hold down during use. At first I thought that having to push the switch upwards to start the motor seemed odd, but actually it is simpler to simply push the switch down to stop, which makes a lot of sense. It is in these sorts of well thought out details that users get to like one tool rather than another, and it shows that Trend has really thought about what is important in its continuing development of this tool over the years.

Fences, Dust Extraction and More

I hate pressed steel router fences. They do not inspire confidence in their rigidity and therefore accuracy, in use. The Trend T5E has a lovely cast alloy fence that is completely rigid with suitably strong trammel bars on which it slides. The fence is fitted with a micro adjuster that can easily be set in 0.5mm increments. The ease of set is what makes me want to use this adjuster, because some router fences I have used can be so fiddly and stiff that you end up setting up by eye anyway.

Included is a pair of rigid plastic fence cheeks that slide onto the straight edge of the fence. Held on by pan head screws, these cheeks are fully adjustable for smaller or larger cutters – and yes, since they are so easy to adjust, you will end up using them because it is stupid not to.

Other nice touches are that all the screw bolts for trammel bars and fence have springs fitted so that they don’t work loose and fall off. This means that you always have the required screws when you need them, and don’t need to find the elusive accessories box when you want to use the router fence.

A simple dust extraction spout is easy to attach to the base of the router because it clicks into place with three lugs into three matching slots. Extraction is pretty good and visibility of the cutter and cut inspires the confidence that you can work accurately. It helps to use a lightweight extraction hose that does not pull on the router base.

Also included are a template guide bush that uses two screws to attach it to the base and a beam trammel attachment that fits onto a fence rod so that users can rout circles and curves.

For the users who want to go beyond general routing, the T5E can be used with an 8mm collet, available as an accessory. It can also be mounted on a router table or used with other accessories via the two tapped holes in the router base. Trend really are expert in routing so a close look at the catalogue, (online or in print), or a call to the technical helpline will result in a solution for the end user.

And So….

After only a couple of hours of sustained use this router became a real favourite of mine to use for general routing and hinge and lock fitting. I absolutely loved the new feeling of control engendered by the lack of vibration and noise, and it just seems so much less fiddly to adjust and change cutters etc than previous versions.  Clients really like the lack of noise and easy dust collection when you have to work indoors, and, combined with some of the Trend jigs I have acquired over the years, some jobs become so quick and easy that you wonder how you managed to do these jobs without them. A definite thumbs up from me – and more to the point, there are some cracking deals available at the moment that make getting a Trend T5E an even better prospect.





National Abrasives - Mini Fill - Review

I do enough decorating jobs to know that filling and making good is the most important part of getting a good final result. Clients will often be surprised at how long careful preparation can take, especially if they think that it is simply a case of rolling on some emulsion once the wallpaper has been stripped….. 

Good preparation usually involves a lot of filling and sanding which is tedious and dusty work. Any way of making these jobs easier warrants a closer look in my view.

I also know that there is a huge range of plaster-based fillers out there, and I have used many of them. Choosing the right one for the job can be important for speed, efficiency, and getting the right sanded finish. So, when I saw the Mini Fill I was keen to find out if this all-in-one hole and crack filler would be effective and, more to the point, save me time and hassle.

Think of Sausages

The Mini Fill looks like a small wrapped salami sausage. Roughly 23cm long and 3cm in diameter, it has a sealing cap on one end with a built-in stopper and filler/spreader tool.  For the necessary long shelf-life the Mini Fill has a seal on the business end of the sausage that needs to be broken before use. This is done by simply pulling off the plastic strip and screwing in the cap to pierce the ‘sausage’.  Then just pull off the sealing cap and a gentle squeeze on the tube will get the filler flowing.

Texture and Look

Because it is gypsum based, the filler inside the Mini Fill is a greyish white when it is unset, drying to a plaster white when set. The texture is pretty well spot-on for most filling jobs – wet enough to spread easily, but with enough body not to slump when it is used to fill slightly bigger holes – say those about 15 to 20 mm wide.

It also feels as though it has had a plasticiser added because it feels a bit sticky and is easy to finish smoothly. It certainly feels a bit more like applying a well-mixed skim plaster rather than a hand mixed proprietary filler. The standard gypsum based fillers for the usual DIY or professional use can feel a bit lumpy and dry in comparison, depending on the expertise of the mixer. Either way, I found that the texture of the Mini Fill was a definite plus point and added to its ability to get a smooth finish with minimal sanding. 

The end of the sausage includes a white plastic spreader onto which the filler is ejected when the tube is squeezed. When filling small cracks and holes left by plastic plugs this spreader is perfectly adequate and indeed leaves a smooth surface that is easy to sand flush when the filler has set. I tried to stretch the parameters a bit by using the Mini Fill to fill in 6 to 10mm wide cracks left when replacing a window frame. Although application straight from the tube using the spreader was easy enough, I think the idea of a corner applicator that National are introducing in the coming months will make this job a breeze.

Usable working time was very respectable too, because it is often easier to fill bigger holes and cracks by applying the filler, and then waiting ten minutes for the filler to set a little before spreading it further and then applying the final filler coat.

Setting time can vary according to warmth and humidity, but I found that by the time I got around the room I was preparing, and back to the start point (a couple of hours) the filler was ready to sand. Sanding is easy enough, and you shouldn’t have to use anything rougher than 120 grit abrasive paper to get a smooth finish.

Cleaning up the Mini Fill is simply a matter of re-inserting the stopper to seal the tube and washing the spreader under the cold tap. I kept a half-used tube for a week to test the seal before I finished it off and the contents were still usable, so the seal is good.

Looking at the Economics

With 80ml of filler per tube, the Mini Fill, as the name indicates, is best used where the filling needs are not too drastic. The cost of the Mini Fill retailing at up to £2.98 inc Vat would be easily balanced by the ease of use, and hassle free application and preparation of the finished surface. It would also solve the problem of half a box of filler powder, slowly getting hard in the cupboard under the stairs waiting for the next decorating job to come up. The same can be said of ready mixed fillers in tubes and tubs, which generally go hard. The Mini Fill has a 5-year plus shelf life.

Like other fillers, Mini Fill can be painted, sealed, sanded, drilled and plugged, so it is a genuine replacement for the usual market offers – but I still point out that its biggest selling points are its ease of use and the good clean finish with minimal effort, the brilliant built in scraper and long shelf life.

For Retailers

The Mini Fill comes in a handy counter display box for easy display and explanation. I think customers will like that fact that they only need to buy the Mini Fill to do the job – no need for unexpected extra bits and pieces like scrapers - and then the tubes are easy to dispose of too when they are used up. It all translates into time and convenience that are on the side of Mini Fill. 



Review New 18v Cordless Grinder from Flex - Its Workhorse Good

It’s a Hard Grind

Angle grinders are tools that get used hard – sometimes they have lifespan of only a few weeks in the most demanding applications. They are also tools that many trades use because they do the jobs that only angle grinders do. So, it is actually quite important for many users that they find exactly the right one.

Choosing a grinder is not made easier by the fact that the range of prices for angle grinders is bewildering too – a mains powered 125mm grinder can be had for as little as £20, while a top quality model will cost over £100.

It is even more difficult with the advent of cordless angle grinders – do you stick with your battery platform or not, when it becomes clear that the cordless grinder in the range does not have the runtime/oomph/special features of some of the competition?


Why Choose the Flex?

The new Flex L125 18.0-EC, in my opinion, helps reduce these dilemmas by simply being a very good tool. In the last week, I have been using it intensively on a variety of onsite jobs, from window fitting to cutting concrete, bricks and small paving slabs. For test purposes, I was urged to try it out on marble and granite because these are very demanding materials and a real test of quality.

When I used the Flex on the window fitting jobs they were not that demanding, but they were varied. Sometimes I needed to cut hardened steel nails or screws, and at other times I needed to trim off bits of masonry and tiles. At this point you realise that you are going to change cutting discs quite frequently, so quick and easy disc changing is important. I didn’t exactly time my changes, but with the included spanner and using the easy access spindle lock button, I could do it in about 45 seconds, despite the fact that it was a tool that I had only just started using – not an old familiar. Quick change of discs is largely down to the design of the nose of the grinder – it sticks out prominently and is nearly as slim as practically possible for a small grinder. If I held the machine in my left hand with my thumb depressing the spindle lock button, I could use the spanner in my right hand to pull down on the spindle nut to loosen it and then simply spin off the nut and replace the disc.

It is now also mercifully the case that blade guards have become much more easily adjustable, and the Flex design is amongst the most simple and effective. The guard can be rotated 360 degrees, in a series of click-stopped positions for the most effective disclosure of the disc to the cut, and also for the best position to deflect dust and debris away from the user.

The whole gearhead is made of cast alloy and has screw holes for the addition of an auxiliary handle. Also interesting to note is that the ventilation slots above the spindle lock button direct the cooling air from the motor out of, rather than into, the tool so dust is blown away from the delicate bearings etc. It also helps that this has a brushless motor whose working bits are sealed more effectively than brushed motors.


Designed for Good Grip

I also rather like the design of the body of this Flex grinder. This is largely because I have small hands, but even a couple of my work colleagues with bigger hands commented that the design suited them too. The Flex-red body has a black grippy overmould where the hand grips and this is smaller than the main body behind the gearcasing. From there it is easy to move a thumb up to the slide and lock on/off switch that actually works. I have come across so many of this type of switch that you need two hands to operate (especially when the dust gets in), that it is a pleasant surprise to find one that works so smoothly.


A comfortable grip on the handle is made more effective by having the battery pack on the back of the body, with its main weight pointing upwards to counterbalance the weight of the nose pointing downwards. Those familiar with Flex machines will recognise the familiar 5Ah battery pack with its four-light test button on the back. Flex has cracked the design for loading and unloading battery packs onto machines so that system works well with a simple big red press and release button on the battery. This machine is compatible with all 18v Flex batteries, so if you have a couple of lighter 2.5Ah packs they would help reduce working weight.


Just a quick note on charging – the Flex diagnostic charger is unique, I think, in having an LED countdown display so you know exactly how long to a full charge.

Despite being ‘only 5Ah’ in the days of up to 9 Ah, I had no issues with runtimes. Even with regular usage, I still had half capacity left at the end of a working day. And still a spare battery in the box as a backup.


A Case of Quality

The whole kit came in a sturdy, stackable custom case with top and front handles. I liked the fact that the case could easily hold all the extraneous bits like extra discs etc. My only niggle was that the battery pack had to be removed to store the grinder in its position.

Overall, I really liked this grinder. It has clearly been made to a quality threshold with elements of careful design. It cuts effectively in a wide range of materials, and it goes without saying that users will need to adopt all the correct safety gear with it, because the dust and debris produced is evidence that it is working well. For really effective cutting, choose quality discs with thin kerfs that will reduce friction and give longer runtimes. The acid test is that I would be very happy to add it to my toolkit because it has proved to be a valuable site companion. 




Head Torches from Ledlenser Review– Which is the One for You?

Peak buying season for torches is not-so-slowly creeping up on us, so while the rest of us enjoy our summer breaks, the torch suppliers are beavering away ensuring that dealers have enough stock to meet demand when the clocks go back in October.

I have become a fan of head torches after initially being quite sceptical. What converted me was having to work under a car bonnet one wet, dark and wintry evening, trying the find the catch to release the headlight housing so I could replace the bulb. I needed a beam adjustable from spot to flood, and a beam housing that could be moved downwards, so that I could hold my head at the correct angle to see what I needed to see. But end users have a variety of other needs too, so LEDCO UK sent me a couple from their new i-Series range to try out.

Top of the Range - Ledlenser iXEO 19R

Packed into its own padded black nylon case surrounded by an informative sleeve, it is clear that this 5-in-1 2000 lumen max super light (handheld torch, headlamp, helmet light, area light, emergency light) is aimed at demanding users, such as professionals in heavy industries such as tunnelling, construction and utilities as well as mountain rescue and the emergency services. Accordingly, it is IPX6 rated in terms of water protection – i.e. protected against strong water jets.

The kit itself is comprehensive, as it comes as standard with a self-adhesive helmet connecting kit, belt clip and extension cord, to give the option to hang the Li-ion rechargeable PowerBox on a belt or bag. A neoprene battery bag has a belt loop, and can be used instead of the belt clip if the battery pack needs more water protection. There is also a mains charger, and a USB lead so that the battery pack can be used to charge a mobile if needed. A nice touch is the soft cloth and brush to clean up the lenses occasionally.

It is worth a look at the battery pack to explore some of the ways it can be used. The plastic casing has a slightly matte black rubberised feel to it and has various catches and sockets. On one end, there is the inlet socket for the charger/connection lead and the USB socket. This has a rubbery cover that no doubt helps to achieve the IPX6 rating. A small lever is used to lock the battery connection lead into place so it is secure and waterproof. There is also a blue light battery charge indicator on this end.

On the opposite end is a plastic catch onto which the head of the torch can be attached making the whole thing into a handheld device. If this seems like a bit of a fiddly arrangement – it is, but after you have done it a few times it works better – it’s just a matter of getting used to the way in which the clips work. To make it easier, a short connection cable is also included so there is no need to remove the coiled cable from the elasticated headband. All the cables, apart from the short one, have lockable connections so that they are secure against movement and water ingress.

The iXEO 19R Torch Head

This torch head in sharp black, with bright yellow lens mounts and adjusting levers, looks a bit like a two-eyed monster when viewed full frontal, and the arrangement promises complexity. However, it really is quite simple to use. There is a single rubberised switch on top of the head. Press once on the top for dual half beam, press twice for dual full beam, and a third time for selecting the Optisense option that automatically controls the amount of light for the user. So on Optisense, a night worker would have near full beam when looking far ahead, but when looking at a map close up, the light would automatically dim so as not to dazzle.  A fourth press activates the dual strobe lights. However, press on the right side of the switch and the right-side light will come on in the same sequence as above. The same is true if you push the left-hand side of the switch except that the left-hand light will illuminate. An addition press in any mode of the front switch activates the maximum 2000 lumens, which literally turns night into day. More than enough light for even the darkest of environments.

The two yellow levers on each side of the switch work independently and move the focus of each light from spot to flood – thus making it possible to have full flood or spot in either lights, or a mixture of one flood and one spot in whichever side you need. The levers work smoothly, as does the switch – you won’t find the torch moving on your head if the headband is adjusted properly and the helmet mount is very secure. It is possible to click stop the head of the torch from horizontal to nearly 45 degrees for close up viewing, and behind the lights themselves is a ventilation system that cools the LEDs, apparently making them brighter. A new bit of information to me.

Finally, by pressing the switch and holding for 5 seconds, the battery is locked so that it cannot be accidentally activated when it is packed in a rucksack, for instance - a useful feature.

This is obviously a choice bit of kit that is designed and made to the high standards of Ledlenser, and has the price tag to match. I don’t think it will disappoint the target users because it is genuinely powerful and capable – but take a good look at the instructions to get the best out of it, because it is sophisticated.


In the mid-range of i-Series head torches, the iSEO 5R is a lot more compact and cheaper than the above. Nevertheless, it is still part of the industrial series of head torches because of its IPX6 weatherproofiing and glare free red LED light option. It sports a180 lumen light output with a range of 120m at full spot. At full beam a completely recharged battery will last 10 hours, but with low power beam selected, this goes up potentially to a very useful 50 hours. Or, if you want, you can use three AAA batteries instead.

Charging is done via a short USB lead that can be plugged into a computer/laptop, or one of those new USB enabled mains sockets.

The switch is a simple button switch on top of the battery housing. One press selects full beam, another press selects low power, a third starts the strobe light, and a fourth switches the beam off. To select the red light just hold down the main switch for a few seconds longer, and another press will engage the red strobe light.

There is also the battery lock option to prevent accidentally switching the torch on – simply hold the switch down for 5 seconds.

Beam focusing is simply done by a twist of the outer lens bezel, and the light can be angled by a full 60 degrees by a stopped ratchet.

Although this torch is very light, weighing just 105g, it is supplied with the option of a self-adhesive hardhat mount with extra helmet clips for industrial users.

Ledlenser is proud of its quality control and manufacturing and this small torch does not escape the process. Such a light, compact and effective torch will surely gain fans. 

Stahlwille Quality Torque Wrenches Review - Torqueing it Easy!

The Background Bit…

I confess that I only knew of Stahlwille products peripherally because I rarely go into the world of spanners. More recently however, spanners and socketry have become more prominent in my work – it all depends on what jobs come your way I guess.

I had admired the huge Stahlwille presence at the Cologne Hardware Show last year, and was interested to hear about the products they were developing, but I don’t think I was fully aware of just what the company’s values and traditions are. But a chance to test one of its torque wrenches gave me the opportunity to look a bit more closely.

The company was founded in1862 by Eduard Wille and remains a family based concern. At the outset, the company focused on quality, but was also forward thinking enough to realise that quality has several components, including innovative ideas, a team of good workers and investment. It has tried to maintain this outlook and has survived and prospered for over 150 years, so it must have done something right.

The company has also insisted on maintaining production in Germany and has three production plants there. It was one of the first manufacturers to be certified with DIN EN ISO 9002 and later DIN EN ISO 9001 – fine indicators of quality.

But one final statistic might set you thinking – of all the 3.5 billion airline passengers who flew on aeroplanes worldwide in 2015, the airlines that carried them all relied on Stahlwille tools for daily and other maintenance.

Torqueing the Talk

The first torque wrench I ever used belonged to my uncle and it was a complicated beast whose setting alone was a trial. It needed to be checked and recalibrated quite quickly, and required quite a knack to get accurate results.

Roll on a few years, and the problem is that many applications now are torque sensitive – from electrical installations to automotive and onwards. So, what is needed are reliable torque instruments that are easy to use, recalibrate and are reliable – and in some cases even recordable so they can be checked on for warranty purposes. The Stahlwille Manoskop 730 Quick range consists of ten torque tools that vary in size and capacity. For example, the smallest in the range will deliver on ranges between 6 to 50 Nm while the largest and longest can deliver a range of 130 to 650 Nm. What they all have in common is that they are easy to use, easy to set and reset, and do not require a manual reset to zero.

Start with the Setting…

Perhaps the most crucial part of this tool, the setting, is indeed easy. It took me all of a few seconds to grasp, and therefore a trained mechanic could very easily use several settings on a single job without taking very much time. It certainly saves on the scenarios I have seen, where several torque wrenches have been used to apply different torque settings to a variety of bolts on the same job.

On the long length of the side of the wrench is a plastic-outlined window with a green sliding button and a plastic magnifying lens. Clearly marked are two scales in Nm and lb./ft. The torque indicator mark has a definite V-shaped mark in it that will line up with one of the clear vertical lines indicating the torque settings. I managed to read the scales very well with my glasses on – and the silver background and black scale marks are very visible.

To set the torque simply put your thumb into the handle end of the wrench shaft and you will find a small flat lever. Push this all the way down (if you don’t push it far enough the scale will not move freely) and use the green milled adjuster button to the setting you want. Release the thumb lever and the setting is set – it won’t move. 

Although the lever is on the open end of the wrench shaft, it is recessed enough so that it can’t be accidentally pressed or too easily become a victim of the ever-present greasy muck associated with workshops.

There is a rubbery plastic handle sited right on the end of the shaft for easy grip and maximum leverage. I wondered if some users might find it a bit small since my small hands had no trouble covering it.

The Working End

It would be pointless to have a quick setting torque wrench and not have a similar level of convenience when it comes to changing sockets etc. The Manoskop 730 Quick has a simple oblong socket into which spanner heads and square drives can be slotted. They are easy to release by simply pushing the green plastic button on the end of the shaft. I did have a small query about this arrangement because if the square drive is inserted ‘upside down’ the button release doesn’t work. Fortunately Stahlwille has provided a little hole where you can insert a pen/file/whatever to push down the release button.  I admit that this might not happen often because the orientation of the wrench is almost always the ‘correct’ way, but mistakes happen. 

What you can be sure of though, is that the QuickRelease Safety lock, while it is quick, will not release until you do it – it is safely held while working.


There are several accessories that will fit either to the square drives, or straight into the end of the wrench. I tried the wheelnut socket and the spark plug socket on my car. A mechanic friend who gave the wrench a once over could really see the benefits of the ‘Quick’ aspects of the system, in terms of saving time and hassle for a busy mechanic working to deadlines.

He also liked the fact that there was no need for a manual reset to zero on this wrench made possible by STAHLWILLE’s unique triggering cam mechanism. This means the mechanism is not under any load unless a force is applied, even when it is left set, therefore you do not need to release the tension from the spring, as with conventional torque wrenches.

Once it has clicked as the torque is reached, the job is done and the wrench can be moved straight on to the next bolt.

Compared to the other old style torque wrenches I have used, the Stahlwille Manoskop 730 Quick is a more sophisticated wrench, that did the torque to the required spec with no hassle at all. 

New Range of Socketry from Draper

Socketry? Me?

If anyone asked me a few weeks ago whether I regularly used socketry I would have probably replied with a resounding ‘No’. But just to prove me wrong I have used socketry of various kinds on the last three jobs I have done – so it was really quite handy to have several samples of the latest Draper Socketry range to try out.

But a bit of background first.

Draper has been a supplier of good quality socketry for as long as I can remember – in fact I have an old imperial set in a metal case tucked away in the loft ‘just in case’ I ever have the urge to get myself a vintage car to restore. But things move on, and as Draper has become more involved with supplying larger items like workshop lifts and tyre changing kit for the automotive trades, it seems appropriate that a new range of socketry would fit nicely into the range and continue to be one of the cornerstones of Draper’s business.

Time to Try

Draper generously allowed me to choose a few sets to use at my leisure for a couple of weeks. I was more interested in smaller sets that would be used as part of my larger toolkit, and needed for maintenance and disassembly.

The first set I used on site was a Draper Expert 75-piece socket set that I chose because of its versatility – you can always guarantee that the worksite will throw up some little problem that is easy to deal with if you have the right tools, but is a right pain if you haven’t.

I was drawn to this set because of the choice of sockets – it has sixteen long ‘Go Through’ sockets in metric and Imperial and a further twenty-one shorter sockets – also in metric and Imperial

The sockets are all of the 6 point HI-TORQ type.

Alongside the sockets there is a collection of twenty-seven screwdriving bits in various formats like Hex, Torx, Phillips and Pozi. Using the adaptor, these bits can be driven using the screwdriver handle, the quick release ratchet, the flexible handle or the sliding T-bar. Sometimes, there is more chance of solving problems if you have a greater choice of weapons at your disposal.

Also included are three socket extensions with built-in ‘wobble’ for extra flexibility, a universal joint and a flexible extension bar.

The plastic case opens out flat revealing all of the tools at once. Only the long sockets in the lid are held so that they don’t fall out. Mercifully, all the other sockets fit loosely into place and don’t require a case-upsetting pull to get them out. Metal latches are indeed robust and the carry handle is comfortable with a rubberised overmould.

This set managed to solve me a problem the first time I used it – when I had to remove, recondition and replace the cables on an ‘up and over’ garage door. Specifically the long, slim Go Through sockets enabled the easy removal and replacement of the rails and the ‘wobbly’ extension bar provided enough offset that was needed in a tight corner.

What was also noticeable was that the quality of the kit was excellent. All the components felt well-made and professional with a modern design that felt good in the hand.

Kit No 2

This kit was chosen as a small ‘emergency kit’ – easy to carry, but with enough capability to be able to diagnose the problem – and possibly even fix it. It consists of 47 pieces of which 21 are metric sockets covering a range of 4mm to 14mm. There are 8 long slim Go Through sockets that are sometimes a problem solver.

There is also the range of 19 driver bits and an adaptor to fit the screwdriver handle and the quick release ratchet. Packed into a compact case that is just 25 cm long,18cm wide and 5cm deep, it can be tucked into a carry case or under an arm. For a few weeks I carried it around packed into a tool case where it was consulted a few times on various small jobs. A very useful addition to a general toolkit, and one that is small and lightweight, but very versatile.

And the VDE…

I work with an electrician sometimes so I chose this 18 Piece Draper Expert VDE kit for him to use and evaluate. His initial comments were that that, “quality looked great” and I think that even though I rarely use VDE stuff, just playing with the set and trying out the fit between the various components, I could appreciate that it is well made.

The kit comes in a bright VDE Red plastic case with plastic latches, and consists of 13 sockets ranging from 4mm to 14mm. Each socket is completely encased in insulating plastic, with the only metal bit to see being the socket end. A long sleeve that fits right into the ratchet handle means that there is no gap between socket and ratchet, and it safely covers the ¼ inch square drive on the ratchet.  On the end of the150mm long ratchet handle is a corrugated black button, used to lock and release the sockets by simply pressing down on it. Turning it left or right will change the direction of drive, and there is clearly no way that a user’s hand might touch an exposed bit of metal on the tool itself.

Also included are 4 extension bars – a 6 inch, a 4 inch, a 3 inch and a 2 inch.

All components are safely held in the case by a custom fitted layer of closed cell foam that protects them in transit, as well as helping ensure that the user will quickly see if any part of the kit is missing. My electrician friend endorsed his first impression of the quality of the kit after using it for a few days, and he also liked the compact case a lot because it kept all the kit together and well organised, as well as being light and easy to carry.

And So…

It is clear that Draper has put together a range of socketry that will fit the need of any number of end users. Not only is the quality excellent, but the choice of kits and the way they are encased provides a huge choice for them. Add to that Draper’s Lifetime Guarantee and a choice of finishes and they are definitely in the mix for users looking for high quality and versatile tools. It looks like Draper’s ‘Strength in Quality’ strapline points the way.

DART PCD Blades – Tough & Long Lasting!

Why PCD?

PCD is a polycrystalline diamond, manufactured by sintering together carefully selected diamond particles at a very high temperature and pressure in the presence of a solvent/catalyst metal. The result is an extremely tough inter grown mass of randomly orientated diamond crystals bonded to a tungsten carbide substrate. PCD, therefore can be regarded as a composite material which combines the hardness, abrasion resistance and high thermal conductivity of diamond with the toughness of tungsten carbide.

Polycrystalline is ultimately an extremely hard material – harder than tungsten and carbide, so will outperform a TCT blade by up to 50 times life wise.

Another advantage of the DART PCD blade is that it creates very little dust unlike the abrasive discs often used, as it produces a shaving rather than a powdery dust, even in cement board.


When is PCD used?

Correctly applied, PCD tooling replaces existing tool materials such as HSS or tungsten carbide. With the rise in use of wood substitutes (such as wood composites and plastic woods) for future house building in the construction industry – the traditional TCT Blade struggles to cut many of these new materials – leaving an untidy, unattractive cut and the need to replace the blade frequently. This is where the PCD Blade can be seen as a must in any building or timber merchants, as it offers the user an effortless, clean cut in a huge variety of ultra-hard materials. Just to name a few - it will cut through cement fibre board products, such as Marley Eternit, HardiePlank, ‘No More Ply’,  MDF and Corian, as well as laminated and melamine surfaces, GRP, softwoods and hardwoods, plywood and chipboard.

How do they compare cost-wise?

The cost of a PCD Blade can be up to 10 times more expensive than a TCT Blade – but there are extra considerations to take into account. When cutting through certain materials, the user often needs to change a carbide blade daily, while the polycrystalline can last up to 50 times longer – so there is little doubt that the initial cost factor is far outweighed by the extended tool life. In addition, this doesn’t take into consideration the cost of having machine downtime and the time-savings associated with using a PCD blade.

DART Tool Group is a trusted and reliable supplier of PCD blades. With a range of sizes starting at 160 mm and going up to 300mm, with 4 to 8 teeth and an extra-large gullet design, which minimises dust and improves removal of material – you can be guaranteed a smoother, cleaner and more accurate cutting– if you haven’t considered PCD yet, then now is the time!

DART…The Serious Alternative.

Visit https://www.darttoolgroup.com/circular-saw-blades/diamond-pcd-blades for more information.

Peter Brett’s view

I tried the DART PCD 250mm diameter saw blade on12mm thick cement board. The resulting cuts were very accurate and clean – almost planed clean, making the job of joining them accurately easier. My experience of it is that it cuts the board like a knife through butter with very little effort or noise.

The blade sent for the test had just six teeth, spaced about 130mm apart on the periphery of the blade. Each of the teeth has a peppering of PCD particles on it that you can see through a magnifier but not really with the naked eye. There is a large depth-limiting chunk of blade directly in front of each tooth followed by a series of three smaller rounded bumps that serve to clear out the dust as quickly as possible. In comparison to a normal TCT blade, the dust and swarf is incredibly little – due to the lower number of teeth.

There are also six noise reducing slots cut into the blade that dispel heat and therefore reduce or eliminate heat distortion. The blade is a mere 2mm thick and does not cut a thick kerf – reducing drag and friction. I guess some of the smaller diameter blades in this same DART series would be usable in cordless saws as a result. 

Diaquip 350mm Electric Disc Cutter - The Competition Gets Tougher

Petrol vs Electric Power

While it is great to have the independence of a petrol-powered disc cutter in some places, there is no doubt that the use of electrically powered machines has grown because they are quieter and just as efficient. Noise is definitely an issue when these petrol cutters are being used in public places and it may be a limiting factor when used near hospitals and schools for example. I also find them easier to work with too – but that is probably a personal experience – noise can add to the ‘scariness factor’ sometimes.

The other technical challenge that has been overcome is the use of water-based dust suppression on electric machines. We have always been warned that electricity and water don’t mix, but apparently with a bit of care and the right parameters, they can safely be kept apart.

All new disc cutters have to have ways of suppressing dust because of current health and safety legislation, and probably not before time, because they are often used on hard building materials like concrete. Cutting concrete produces a lot of the very fine silica dust that is one of the worst dusts for our lungs.


Diaquip’s Concrete Saw

The Diaquip machine is instantly recognisable as professionally rated – just looking at it you realise that it is solidly built, straightforward and no-nonsense. The U-shaped side handle, for instance, is a solid steel-plated tube, bolted into place and covered with an insulating and grippy ribbed-rubber compound. This handle is strong and rigid and shaped so that the user can grip from the top as well as the side when the cutter is used in different orientations.

An elongated main handle is placed directly behind the blade, and it gives users a good view of the cut, as well as allowing them to have enough leverage on the blade to be able to guide it accurately. The oval-shaped aperture of the handle also allows users some movement options for the trigger hand. The trigger is big enough for easy use by gloved hands, and it comes with a lockout button, of course.  Right on the top of the trigger handle is the load-warning lamp so that it is very easy to see if an overload occurs.

Easy to Set up?

All the adjustments that should be on a machine like this are there - they are simple to operate and are strongly made. For example, the lever that locks the blade guard into various positions is a simple L-shaped steel piece that locks into a series of holes on the guard. It doesn’t need any more complication, but it does need to work easily when the machine is covered in sludge after a hard day on site.

There is also a simple arbor lock for easy blade changing.


Other Options

The big and strong cast alloy blade guard incorporates two methods of dust suppression. The most obvious of these is the water-based version, since it involves a tube for the water feed attached to the heavy-duty main power cable that leads down to front of the guard. There are two nozzles – one on each side of the blade - that spray water onto it. With the right amount of water at the right pressure, there should be precious little dust escaping into the environment. For ease of use there is a water feed valve at the entrance of the water tube, and a standard hose lock water coupling is provided for instant snap on/off hose connection.

Right at the bottom of the guard is a standard sized dust port that will connect to a vacuum dust extractor should the user choose. The amount of dust produced at full speed is quite considerable, so a small L-Class vac is probably not going to do a good enough of job of protecting the user, and those nearby, from the inevitable dust that does escape. A really powerful H-Class extractor will do a much better job – but users will still need appropriately rated facemasks and other PPE. It is also good to note that the dust port has a little cover on it so that when vac extraction is not being used, the sludge doesn’t come straight back at the operator.

Or if you prefer you can use the dust ski. Held in place by a simple pin this fits underneath the blade so that the weight of the machine rests on the stainless steel base of the ski. With the support this gives, again accuracy of cut is improved, but more to the point, the ski provides a shroud to the blade that concentrates dangerous dusts right to the back of the ski where it is collected much more efficiently by the (correct) class of vacuum extractor. Since the ski adds so much to the overall dust safety of the cutter it is indeed a very useful addition to the whole saw kit, eradicating all dust when cutting.  Regs still say that good PPE (masks, goggles, gloves, hearing protection) is needed in the battle against dust intake that leads to silicosis – so be wise and comply.


Other Bits I Liked

Having used them on a few cuts when I was slicing through some delicate 40mm thick marble, I am a great fan of the guide rollers assembly that comes with this machine. They are simply fitted using a butterfly bolt right under the balance point of the main motor housing. They allow the user to rest the weight of the machine onto a hard surface and use this extra stability to guide the cutter for greater accuracy.

Although it is only a simple addition, the splash guard that can be fitted at the back end of the blade guard is another nice touch. Simple to fit, it also provides some protection for the user from water and sludge splash.


I first saw the Diaquip being put through its paces at a rain soaked and windswept Plantworx Show. I thought at the time that these conditions might be a more typical usage framework than some of the sunnier weather we have had recently. During the demonstration, I was impressed by its obvious power and cutting ability in a variety of materials such as reinforced concrete and paving materials. Water dust suppression was being used, just to add to the already damp atmosphere, and it clearly worked well.

Back home in my workspace, the weather was drier but I still ended up thinking that this was a Very Useful and Capable Machine. It is clearly quieter using an electric motor, but didn’t seem less powerful or less capable. I found myself using the water dust suppression system nearly all the time, because it works very well and is simple to attach and set up from either a garden hose or a pressurised container. Accurate cuts are easy to achieve as you become more expert in the use of the machine – much helped by the judicious use of the guide rollers of course.

It would definitely be a machine I would look at if I were a construction worker – powerful, easy to use with good dust suppression – lots to like.


Aimed at: Construction workers, heavy-duty users

Pros: Powerful, easy to use and excellent dust suppression 


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