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CAMPINGAZ Garden Torches –Fiery Weed Control!

To say that I suffer weeds badly is an understatement. I hate the wretched things, but here in the rural south-east they make a permanent onslaught on my garden, even in winter. It doesn’t help that I am the world’s worst gardener, and what I always look for is a quick and easy solution to problems, since I don’t have the patience to undertake a long-term weed killing strategy.

Having tried chemical weed killers that offer what seems to me a thorough solution to regrowth, I think my weeds are much tougher or I am not doing it right – because they always grow back.

So, when I received the CAMPINGAZ garden torches I was encouraged that at last I had a solution to my weeds. One that wouldn’t poison the local cats (although I still have a vendetta with the nasty black one that kills birds and messes in my garden) and one that would also be quick and easy to do, even if it needs repeating during growing season.

I was sent two gas-powered garden torches – the CAMPINGAZ GT 3000 PZ and the CAMPINGAZ GT 2000 PZ. For easy display in shops the torches are blister packed so that purchasers can examine the business end where the burner is but the gas cartridges are safely inside the packaging. Both torches use the CG3500 GA gas cartridge which is clearly labelled as Garden Gas and is a butane/propane gas mixture.

As tools they are both very simple. They are V-shaped with the burner end of the V, elongated enough for the burner to reach comfortably to the ground while held by an average height user. In the middle of the V there is a plastic handle that provides grip and comfort as well as protection from any heat. On the other end of the handle is the gas valve onto which the gas cartridge is screwed. This valve has a built-in O-ring that provides a safe seal when the cartridge is in place and the cartridge itself has a valve so that it can be safely removed for separate storage when not in use.

Also on the long end of the V is a small piezo button that, when pushed, provides a spark to ignite the gas. This worked pretty well first time, every time I used the torches, even after a long interval between “burns”.

The V shape also allows the user to balance the tools in the hand so that they can swing easily forward and back and from side to side to provide maximum coverage when killing weeds.

It is important to read the instructions contained in the pack, not only for safe use of the burners, but also to understand how to use them most efficiently.

These gas burners work by scorching the leaves of the plants. This causes them to die back and become unable to absorb the light and nutrients necessary to survive. It should not be necessary to reduce the plants to ashes – merely to scorch them. In fact, if the burning is too intense, there is a danger of fire that could spread to plants and other things nearby. Care is definitely needed to target the unwanted plants and avoid peripheral damage.

I mostly used the GT 2000 PZ gas burner because I was tackling the weeds growing up between the slabs in my patio and on my front path. This burner is about 100mm long and 15mm wide and hidden underneath is a series of small holes that cause the flames to jet out of the burner quite intensely. This helps the flames to wilt bigger leaves quickly and also enables you to get close to edges and borders. Don’t try using these garden torches in wet weather because the wet leaves wont wilt away as easily.

The GT3000 PZ with its 50mm diameter burner claims that it is up to four times faster at killing weeds than the standard 22mm diameter burner nozzle. I used it on some stubborn grass growing on my path and patio. The flames are fierce, as evidenced by the pressurised gas “bubbling” noise that you get from the burner. And they are also efficient. The burner also contains the flames from going too far so that you can direct them pretty accurately to where you want them. Definitely good for the stubborn individual dandelions growing on the grass.

I was able to use these garden torches over a period of several weeks and I found them easy to use. Getting them out of the shed and attaching the gas cartridge (stored separately for safety) takes only a matter of minutes. Covering areas and individual weeds is effortless and can be done without bending down. Accuracy is good too – it is fairly easy to avoid burning plants that you don’t want to target.

In my experience of using these garden torches, they are a very useful way of controlling weeds since they provide one more weapon in the armoury. There are still certain places (like near the oil line leading from my oil tank to the boiler) where clearly it would not be advised to use the torches. Also, chemical weed killers may be needed for some other situations where the flames may not be the right solution. I found that I had to “reburn” every couple of weeks or so to keep the weeds permanently down, simply because some weeds are very tough and need repeat treatment.  Also, new weeds germinate and grow in between treatments and can get quite big surprisingly quickly.

I don’t think that the CAMPINGAZ torches turned me into a better gardener, but they certainly made weed control a quicker and more efficient process and one that can be used when the weather is dry. Chemical weed killers have a lot more stipulations as to how and when they can be used as well as being less environmentally friendly.

Sanding Innovations from National Abrasives

Walls, Floors, Ceilings and Corners Get the Treatment

Most of the time I hate sanding – especially when faced with a large wall (or sometimes more than one) that needs to be pristinely smooth before rolling on the paint. It is the dust, the effort, the reaching up and the odd angles your arms have to get into that makes sanding a chore.

On the other hand, sanding pieces of furniture I have made, usually involves a random orbit sander and vacuum extractor. This is quicker, less dusty and it makes for a much more pleasant experience. So, anything that helps to minimise effort, time and mess when sanding big areas is worth a look as far as I am concerned, and the box of goodies that I got from National Abrasives looked very interesting in that regard.

The first set I looked at was the Multi-Purpose Sander Quick Change System. It consists of a pole, a large 220mm diameter sanding disc, a handle and a pole adaptor. Each of the pieces is able to be used in a variety of combinations according to need and circumstance. I started by attaching the pole via the strong acme screw thread to the pole adaptor. This in turn is clicked onto the back of the circular disc and with a 220mm diameter sanding sheet attached it will tackle quite large areas. It is actually amazing how quickly the disc will sand down quite large areas of rough paintwork or plaster. If you need a softer backing for more sensitive areas of plaster, and a must for Drywall, a 15mm thick foam disc can be hook and looped to the backing disc and the abrasive attached on top of that.

A quick word about the pole – it is made of a quality glassfibre and is very strong and rigid. Apparently, the aluminium pole on the prototype split because of the amount of effort that could be applied to the target sanding area! The pole means that even a short mortal like myself can reach up to a standard height ceiling without strain. Because of its flexible universal joint, the adaptor allows the user to sand in every direction and follow junctions like skirtings and covings with ease.

Should you then need to reach other areas maybe lower down, simply remove the pole adaptor and attach the handle – complete with comfy rubber overmould – to have a big area of sanding literally at your fingertips.

Of course, the job is not done until all the dust is wiped off the prepared surfaces, and users have the option to attach wipe down sponges or microfibre cloths to the disc (with pole or handle) for the final step.

But it doesn’t end there, by using either the gold aluminium oxide optional disc, you can sand fillers, wood, paint and metal quite aggressively. I tried it on a wood floor around an edge where the big belt sander doesn’t reach and it worked amazingly well because the disc allows you to get right up against the skirting.

By attaching the tungsten carbide disc, concrete and masonry can be smoothed – not a job I fancy – but the small trial piece I did worked well. I think doing a large masonry area by hand might be very tiring!

All of the pieces of the kit can be replaced, including interface pads, thus making for a kit that can be added to as well as renewed as necessary.

The Multi Use Corner Sander is a similar concept and development of the disc sander and they complement each other very well.

The main part of the kit is the right-angled ABS plastic corner sander. Sanding sheets can be attached to either or both of the arms of the right-angled legs so you can have the choice of what bits you need to sand. When sanding right up to the edge of a floor for example, you can leave the abrasive off the angle facing the skirting so that it is not sanded.

For a softer touch on the sanding, again a must for Drywall, there are additional foam pads with hook and loop surfaces that can be easily stuck on.

Of course, there is also the ingenious option to attach either the handle or the pole adaptor. Using the handle I found it really easy to sand right up to doorframes for example since the abrasive reaches right up to the corner and maintains its right- angled shape. Using the pole allows easy reaching into coving, corners or ceiling/wall junctions. Again, I was surprised by how much sanding action I was able to apply where I needed it and how quickly the sanding proceeded.

Just like the sanding disc set, there are some excellent accessories that are worth considering. A set of wipe down sponges makes it easy to get the dust out of corners and attaching a made-to-measure microfibre cloth gives a good final wipedown in preparation for painting etc. Obviously, these will wear out with use, but these too are available as “spares” to keep the system in good-as-new nick.

Having used powered wall sanders with built-in dust collection I was fully prepared to find that these two sanding kits would be a lot like hard work, but I found them a lot easier to use than I thought. The pole sanding options were actually much more efficient and easier to control than I thought because the backing discs are rigid and the hook and loop fixings are secure. The universal joint on the adaptor allows really flexible movement of the pad and discs, without losing control or accuracy.

Also, it really helps to have several thicknesses of disc backing to enable you to get the right finish on various materials. Highly innovative and great multi purpose tools.

If I was a professional plasterer/decorator I could easily find a place for these two kits in my tool collection – in addition to a powered wall sander. The powered sander would still be needed for very large jobs, but it could actually be quicker, simpler and cheaper to sand and prepare smaller areas by hand using the National Abrasives disc and corner sanders. Keen DIYers would also be able to get full value from them as well as improving the quality of the job. A Good Idea indeed!

Draper 160L 230V Cement Mixer

For a long while I think it was assumed that a certain orange-coloured cement mixer had cornered the market. But as you know, I am very much in favour of competition, since it most often leads to lower consumer prices and better tools.

This new mixer from Draper was the result of many requests from Draper dealers about adding a Draper-branded product to the competition. As experts on sourcing, Draper went about finding a suitable machine, and the 160-litre mixer is the result – also an orange colour, I might add.

There is a special logic to this mixer that sets it apart from others – the 160 litre capacity means that it can use one 25kg bag of cement per mix – making it much easier for users to get a consistent mix, as there is no need to split a bag of cement and then have to estimate how much has been used for the next mix. A full load of sand/aggregate mixture, cement and water is roughly 90 litres, so with an actual mixing capacity of 110 litres, there is more than enough space in the drum for adequate mixing without spilling out or overloading it. By being able to use a full bag this saves time in mixing, whereas many of the similar sized competitors' machines are unable to take the full bag.  

I must admit when I saw the cardboard box that it arrived in I thought that there was no way that a whole cement mixer was inside. However, I was wrong – it contained all the bits for a very satisfyingly well-built machine – all I needed was to put them all together. Self-assembly is the price we pay for value for money items, whether in IKEA or in a tool shop.

I know that some people just ignore instruction booklets, and I have been guilty of this myself, but in this case it would be very good advice to familiarise yourself with the parts and the sequence of assembly – ten minutes on that will save a lot of pointless mistakes later on. Not least because there are certain lengths of bolts that can only be used in certain places.

The other thing is, that although single-handed building of the mixer is possible, it really helps to have a second person to lift the heavy bits and occasionally hold a spanner in some of the awkward places.

 The drum – a key part of the mixer, is strongly made from pressed steel and comes in two parts that have to be bolted together. This is actually easier than it first looks because the rubber gasket has small rubber “pins” on it to help locate it on the drum. These are then sacrificed when the bolts are pushed through and tightened up.

Assembling the tubular steel tall stand is also a case of putting the right bolts in the right place, but it results in a sturdy stand that has no trouble in supporting a fully loaded machine.

The frame that supports the motor and drum assembly is also made from sturdy steel tubing and it has wheels that are big enough to cope with rough ground on sites. Finally, the tilt bracket is a solidly welded construction that is used to tilt the whole machine when used on the tall stand. On my machine it took a tiny bit of customising with a hammer to fit the slots, but the pin hinges and safety pin fitted perfectly.

I liked the idea of keeping the motor completely enshrouded in its own plastic and, I guess, largely waterproof, housing. It is simply lined up with the drive shaft and bolted into place onto the frame with no electrics to connect other than a standard UK plug. When running, the motor is amazingly quiet and there wasn’t much noise from the drive gear on the drum either. I guess that might change when the inevitable dust gets onto it, but there is a protective shield over it and it can be cleaned easily.

As I have mentioned before, the wheels are a full 230mm in diameter and 50mm wide, and make the mixer easy to move. With solid rubber tyres there is no danger of a puncture.

Getting the mixer onto the tall stand can be done by one person if it is empty and also if the ground surface is not too slippery. The instructions provide an illustration of how to do it safely and the height off the ground is good even for loading some of the bigger barrows we see on sites nowadays.

The freezing weather has not been conducive to mixing and laying concrete so I had to choose my time carefully. I am in what seems to be an interminable process of building myself a shed, so I decided to dig and fill a few of the inevitable foundation piles I am going to need for it. When the warmer weather comes, I will finish the rest, since my clay soil is either sodden or frozen at the moment. However, whatever I learn from doing these few piles can be applied at a later date.

The instructions say that you should put half the required water into the drum first, followed by the aggregate, the cement, the remaining water and then the sand. Since I only needed small quantities, I bought bags of ready mixed concrete and added these to the drum that had some water in it. This was then followed by the rest of the water, and after a few minutes I had a perfectly smooth mixture of concrete ready to pour. This I did by simply using the wheels to manoeuvre the mixer to the hole and then tipping the required amount into it. Really, not difficult as the fulcrum seems to have been well calculated for relatively easy tipping.

My biggest bugbear with mixers is cleaning them afterwards. Try as you might, there always seems to be a small amount of cement mixture trapped behind the paddles that gets bigger after each use - hence the rather battered drums that you see on some mixing machines – the lump hammer solution to drum cleaning. Therefore I prefer plastic drums – they stick less and don’t respond so badly to lump hammer-cleaning methods.

However, the Draper with its relatively new paintwork and smooth drum interior was fairly easy to clean with a jet nozzle on an ordinary hose – but it does use a lot of water to do a thorough clean, as any jobbing builder will confirm, whatever machine you use.

I am hoping that I can hold onto this mixer until early spring because it made the job of mixing concrete VERY easy. I found that it handled well and was very quiet in use. The drum is big enough to do a solid lot of concrete so that even a concrete base for a decent-sized shed could be done in a day. Certainly a useful addition to the Draper catalogue. 

 

JCB Cagelow Safety Trainers

The Comfort of Trainers with safety Built-in

“Fussy about footwear” describes me perfectly and I have a cupboard full of failed purchases to prove it. My feet have to feel comfortable very quickly in a new pair of shoes or boots because they get very sore if they don’t.

No problem with the JCB Cagelow B safety trainers from Progressive Safety because I felt completely at home in them after about half an hour, and by the end of the day I wouldn’t have been able to tell that they were new shoes. This is largely because the fit is wide and the toes rounded – but without looking like clumsy clown shoes. I found myself adopting them for everyday use even when I wasn’t in the workshop or on site, because they looked fine with their black uppers and flexible grey mesh covering that provides comfort and ventilation. Perhaps it also had something to do with the dual density heels and soles that cushion the feet and helped them to feel as good at the end of the day as at the beginning.

The strong nylon laces fit through large eyelets, thus making the trainers easy to put on and take off, and the padded tongue and ankle pieces ensure that feet feel comfortable and secure. A loop on the heel can be used to pull the trainers on to avoid muddy hands in the case of dirty shoes.

Big-cleated soles are great in muddy conditions, but since my work is mainly indoors or in my workshop I prefer the flat soles whose ridged patterns don’t collect as much mud as cleats and are easier to wipe off on a mat. There is certainly a grippy pattern of ridges and bumps on the bottom of these trainers, so they do provide a secure feeling when walking, but you won’t leave a trail of gunk behind you.

The soles of work shoes are also important for other safety reasons – these ones are antistatic rated for reducing, removing or preventing static build up, which is important for shoes worn in environments where there is a danger from combustive materials. They are also tested to the highest levels of slip resistance, namely EN ISO13287 (2011) so should give you a firm footing. But another thing that I liked on these trainers was that the soles were so flexible that when I was kneeling down and my feet were bent, the soles were able to accommodate the movement and not squeeze my toes. 

Another key element of safety footwear is resistance to penetration through the sole – and the Cagelow Trainer’s non-metallic sole offers protection from penetration from a force up to 1100 Newtons. Without giving you a 'lumpy-toe' look, the toe protection will withstand up to 200 Joules, and the shoes have an energy absorbing heel, too.

Since safety shoes and other safety gear is a requirement on most worksites these days, it does mean that workers have to choose carefully when purchasing - it might be hard to return a mud encrusted pair of work shoes and demand your money back! I found that the comfort and protection offered by these JCB Cagelow Trainers suited me very well and I am happy to recommend them.

HYPERTORCHES from Campingaz

Admittedly from a kid’s perspective, I can still remember the fun (?) and excitement of getting the old-style paraffin blowtorches going. The smell of the paraffin and the inevitable mild swearing from my dad somehow gave the event the significance of a scientific experiment that might go wrong. If it worked, then the job would go ahead. If not, then there was a lot of clearing the jet with a fine wire and other disassembly and probably more bad language. Even if all went well, firing up the blowtorch was a job that took at least twenty minutes.

Step forward in time to the advent of gas in cartridges, and we now have concentrated heat quickly and safely delivered to where we want it - and with no reasons for swearing. The two gas torches I was sent to try out are from Campingaz’s HYPERTORCH range and both are eminently suitable for skilled DIY and trade use, as they use a mixture of butane and propane gas to deliver enough heat for soldering copper pipes, removing paint and lighting charcoal barbecues – and a whole lot of other jobs too. Campingaz claims that the mixture gives an extra 35% of heat energy compared to a single gas, so you get to work faster – not something that I can test directly without a laboratory, but I didn’t have any trouble doing some sample soldering of copper pipes.

Both of the torches come in a simple and PZ version. The PZ version is lit by simply flicking the piezo switch that provides the spark to light the gas, while the simple version will require a lighter or a match to get it going.

I started by looking closely at the pistol grip version – the HYPERTORCH A2000 PZ. From my work running focus groups with plumbers I know that they often use a pistol grip torch because they are smaller and are easier to put down safely due to their lower centre of gravity. The A2000PZ stands roughly 20cm high and is roughly 27cm long with a brass nozzle that stands out far enough to direct a flame onto the work area. The whole body of the tool is made from a solid plastic that is robust enough to withstand some serious site use. Areas of “manual use” are picked out in red – like the piezo switch and nozzle retainer.  The handle itself is large enough, and shaped to fit even a large, gloved hand. It has some grippy checkering and finger grips and the piezo switch is placed just above where it can be easily flicked by a thumb. Just behind the switch is the flame adjustment wheel marked with a clear + and – to indicate on and off for the gas stream. Users need to be able to reach this control quickly and easily because it is often safest to turn the gas off when the torch is put down.

Just a quick comment on the instructions and safety guidance provided with both torches – of course they come in many European languages but the English versions are clear and explicit on how to use the torches safely, how to mount the gas cartridge and how to deal with some of the safety issues that might occur. The simple line diagrams are clear and referred to in the text so users can ensure they are doing the right thing.

Using the torch does not need a degree in engineering – all it requires is that the gas cartridge is mounted correctly, the piezo works properly, and you can adjust the flame to the required heat by using the thumbwheel. All the above are easy to do, even by a first time user who has read the instructions carefully.

When I used the torch for the first time it took literally a matter of minutes to get it going.  The gas cartridge has a plastic base that is simply clicked onto the bottom of it and this is wide enough to provide a very stable base for the torch when not in use. And, of course, it can be removed when the gas cartridge needs to be replaced. After making sure that the wheel valve is in the closed position, the gas cartridge is simply screwed on slightly more than finger tight, making sure that the threads bite correctly and it is sealed against the O-ring on the valve assembly. Then open the valve wheel and flick the piezo switch until the flame is lit. Plumbers will be happy to know that this torch can be used in a full 360 degrees without losing power, after only 5 seconds' pre-heat time, allowing you to flip it upside down and quickly get to work on those hard-to-reach jobs.

The HYPERTORCH A3000 PZ has a layout that is more commonly used by plumbers because it has a longer (and therefore longer lasting) gas cartridge - and I guess the long slim shape helps reach into spots where the A2000PZ cannot. Fortunately, the plastic base provided for the gas cartridge means that it can be put down safely.

The torch head of the A3000PZ is again made of a solid plastic with working parts picked out in red and the piezo switch doubles as the gas valve – making one-handed use a possibility for those with strong fingers. Ergonomically shaped bulges and bumps allow the user to hold the nozzle accurately onto the work area while keeping fingers clear of the heat. There is also a strong metal loop that acts as a stand to hold the torch flat when needed. It could also be a storage hook for the back of a van so that the torch is not kept in the usual crush of a plumbers’ toolbag.

Again, it took only a few minutes to get this torch operational and with a flame adjusted for work. It too can work in 360 degrees so the user can get the best angle of the flame to present.

Campingaz offers these torches with a limited 2-year guarantee, and from my experience of them, I think they are professional quality tools with enough toughness to withstand professional use and the kinds of bumps they would get on a worksite. They follow classic designs that have proved popular with the trades, and are simple to use – there is just no excuse for bad language!

 

Fein ASCM12 Four Speeds = Greater Flexibility for Users

It may seem as though all that the trades want in a cordless drill is endless power and lots of batteries to keep that power constantly on tap. My own experience, and many of the tradespeople I chat to, tells me that there are many fitters of various kinds who don’t need the raw power of 18 or 24volt or whatever, because along with that power comes bulk – and bulk is not great when you are fitting hinges or drawer slides inside a kitchen cabinet, for example.

Also, battery Ah is not necessarily that important either. I have used a small 4Ah cordless combi for several days on a job without having to top up the charge.

What a smaller driver also ought to offer is precision control. Two speeds may be enough on an 18v drill where power is the name of the game, but control and accuracy are required on smaller fitting jobs and this is where a smaller 12v machine can be the answer.

Fein is just one of the manufacturers that has developed a compact 12v drill/driver to service the market. What I looked for when I tested this machine on various site jobs was flexibility, versatility, perfect control, ease of use and particularly quick changes between modes. One minute I may be driving screws, the next, drilling small holes and later, sinking a slot for a cabinet hinge. Later I might need to remove the chuck to drive a screw inside a 300mm wide cabinet.

The Fein ASCM12 is part of a range of three 12v drivers and is unique in the sense of having four selectable speeds via a sliding switch on the top of the machine.

One of the things I liked about the switch is that it can be moved so quickly between speed settings that you will use them. In fact the more I used the drill and became used to the speeds needed for different tasks, the easier it became to move the switch.

Although the trigger is speed sensitive and it is possible to hold a slow speed in whatever position has been selected for starting a screw, for example, the trigger very quickly accelerates to max speed once it is pressed a little harder. Accordingly, the maximum speeds are set as follows, 400, 700, 1,400 and 2,500 rpm, which should allow the user to choose the correct speeds for just about any task and thus retain control.

The Fein ASCM12 follows the usual layout of cordless drills these days – motor along the top casing, T handle and battery pack slid onto the bottom. The “Made in Germany” quality of the tool is evident wherever you look. The carefully placed rubber mouldings that protect the casing and provide the user with a good ergonomic grip, the smoothness of operation of all the controls, and finally the balanced “feel” of the tool in your hand makes it the kind of “go to” favourite tool that trades like in their toolkits.

I had occasion to thank the rubber “bumper” mouldings a couple of times for their protective qualities – while I was using it on site the Fein fell 2m from a conservatory roof onto a brick followed a bit later by a 1m fall off a ladder onto a wood floor. In both cases, apart from slight marks, the tool was unharmed and worked perfectly afterwards. I don’t usually treat my tools like this – but accidents happen!

In retrospect I should have been using the reversible belt hook supplied to attach it to me, but I don’t really like things dragging on my belt.

Users have the choice of 20-position torque setting collar for an even spread of torque control when driving screws. Very important on a machine where fine control is one of its USPs. The drill setting delivers full power to the bit where it is easily possible to drill a 40mm diameter hole in wood with the correct bit and speed setting. And the motor brake stops the chuck almost instantaneously when the trigger is released.

The torque collar is made from a composite plastic material and works really positively and is mercifully easy to adjust from setting to setting. Reverse/forward is selected via the push–through switch above the trigger.

The quality steel Rohm keyless chuck matches the quality of the drill. It works well and holds tight with 60Nm of pressure when clicked onto the shaft of a bit etc. To add to the tool’s versatility it has a quick release collar on the chuck. With the chuck removed there is a standard 6mm/1/4 inch hex fitting that will take driver bits etc. Removing the chuck reduces the length of the drill by about 70mm to a mere 150mm, so it becomes even more compact for working in cramped spaces.

One of the most important bits on any cordless tool has got to be the battery pack and the Fein ASCM12 does not stint. In the kit you get two 2.5Ah battery packs with a diagnostic charger to ensure their ongoing health and longer life. The battery charger is easily comprehensible – not the sometimes confusing run of lights and beeps that doesn’t tell you much. Charging is quick too – just over the half hour I found. The battery packs are well made and protected with a simple four LED light system to tell you the state of battery charge. The battery pack slide and button release system is positive, doesn’t stick in use and, as I found out, is forgiving even on very cold fingers. 

It took me a very short time to decide that I really liked the Fein ASCM. It is light compact, versatile and perfectly suited to the wide range of jobs that I do both in the workshop and on site. It certainly has enough oomph for drilling holes driving screws and general fixing. With four easily selectable speeds on hand the user can stay in control of the job. It also sits on the same battery platform as Fein’s outstanding 12v MultiTalent oscillating tool, which makes for a versatile, lightweight and durable combination.

 

Draper STORMFORCE INTERCHANGE 10.8v Choose What You Like

It seems like there is an inexhaustible appetite from tool users for more power tools.  And more to the point, there is a huge range on the market to choose from, to suit everyone from occasional users to heavy duty professionals.

One of the newest ranges to be launched is the Draper STORMFORCE range – a set of tools that is so flexible that it offers users lots of choice. There are five Interchange tools in the overall STORMFORCE range of 48 products– a Drill/driver, a Combi hammer drill, an impact driver, a reciprocating saw and a cordless ratchet.  

All the interchange tools I tested  are powered by a neat little 10.8v Lithium Ion battery pack and can be bought as a complete kit with charger and spare battery, or “bare” – just the tool itself. In this way users can acquire a decent range of tools without having to buy any “unwanted extras”.

I was sent an eclectic range of tools to try out, so here goes….. Starting with the cordless combi hammer.

This arrived as a complete kit packed neatly into a black plastic Draper case, custom fitted with a place for tool, spare battery and charger. The quality of the tool inside looked, felt and behaved like an able bit of kit. I looked it over closely for any signs of corner cutting, but I found none. It has a good quality 10mm keyless chuck, there are well designed rubberised protection “bumpers” on the body of the machine and a very comfortable handle that provides good rubber grips and a perfect position for the forefinger on the trigger. The 1.5Ah battery pack slots into the bottom of the handle easily and is also easy to remove with no sticking on the catches. It is full of nice little touches like the big LED light above the trigger that comes on automatically when the trigger is pulled and stays on for a few seconds when the motor stops.

Battery charge is indicated by a three light indicator on the top of the handle and there is also a reversible belt hook, two speeds, a twenty-one position torque setting collar with drill, drive and hammer position marked too. The collar works positively in click stops and is easy to turn to select positions.

To test this combi I took it on a job with me and I was pleased with the way it performed in drilling and driving modes. I managed to drive enough screws to require the use of the second battery and it was great not to have to carry a big 18v drill upstairs to the loft in which I was working.

I tried it in hammer mode in a standard face brick, and while it did drill well enough to put in a plastic plug, I have been so spoilt by using SDS drills that It was too slow for me. 

There is no doubt that Lithium Ion technology has made smart little tools like this one real performers. The charger from flat takes only an hour to charge a battery but can be charged at any time. The tool will drill 25mm diameter holes in timber, 10mm in masonry and 10mm in metal.

Having tried the full kit I turned my attention to the “bare” versions of the drill and impact driver. Packaged into compact boxes, they look very much the same as the combi above and share the features like LED worklight, battery charge indicator and reversible belt hook. Again, the quality and “feel” of the tools in the hand is very good – helped by the generous grippy rubber on the body and handles.

The drill has the same 10mm keyless chuck as the combi, but the collar for selecting torque for screwdriving has 20 steps and a drill setting. Two speeds at least are a must these days, and the sliding switch on top of the casing is easy to slip forward or back, and with a specified 25Nm of torque on tap, driving quite large screws is possible. It will also drill 25mm holes in wood and 10mm holes in metal – the same as the combi above.

Impact drivers are also ubiquitous nowadays and they are useful, especially for removing screws that have been driven in too far. I wouldn’t be without one. The Draper STORMFORCE impact driver has an aluminium nose to house the impact mechanism and again, it is well put together. It has a spring collar collet chuck and will deliver up to 80Nm of impact torque, so it is no slouch. 80mm screws into thick softwood was no trouble at all for this little machine.

I would not be surprised if purchasers chose to buy all three compact machines for their toolbox or workshop – they complement each other very well and switching between them is easy. I began to wonder if Draper would make a combination case for all three machines with three batteries and a charger………????

Next out of the box was the “bare” cordless ratchet. With its 3/8” square drive it will fit standard sockets. Forward/reverse functions are chosen by simply rotating the little lever on the ratchet head and a large lever on the underside of the body is used to operate the rotation of the ratchet. A small switch can be used to lock the operating trigger in case of manual usage. There is a handy LED light, battery charge indicator and a useful 45Nm of torque on tap. This is definitely a useful tool for working on small mechanical projects.

I am a complete convert to small recip saws because they have a great performance packed into a small body and they are much lighter than the bigger 18v ones. This STORMFORCE saw is well specced. It has a quick release blade fitting, a decent worklight, battery charge indicator and trigger lock function. I used it to remove the 60mm thick old wooden frame of a window that I was replacing, and it proved to be incredibly useful. With its 130mm long blades (standard fitting and other sizes are available) it has a lot of capacity packed into its compact body – it will cut 65mm in wood, 50mm in plastic and up to 8mm in metal.

Self indulgent users, I am sure, will find excuses to buy all the pieces of the kit and store them in the handy kit bag that Draper supplies. Remember too, that spare batteries which are very reasonably priced and chargers are also available separately should they be needed.  

To sum up, individually they are all very useful tools, but together they probably amount to more than the sum of their parts. Definitely worth a look. 

Delta Quick Steel Repair and Retain and All Trade Workshop Wipes

WhyBuys?  Quicksteel Repair and Retain

  • Versatile method of compensating for wear and tear
  • Used correctly it does the job
  • Easy and cheap to get hold of
  • Uses limited by your imagination?

WhyBuys?   All Trade workshop wipes

  • Not the cheapest wipes – but they are excellent
  • Well-designed tub
  • Wipes come out evenly
  • Makes hands feel smooth and protected
  • Works on foam – a big bonus for me

Delta Quick Steel Repair and Retain

A Paste Repair for Metal Parts

It does still seem strange to me that carbon fibre is used to make Formula 1 cars and wings for jet liners – somehow the materials just don’t fit. But clearly they do. Having examined a Formula 1 car close up and then seen how strong they are in televised crashes where the driver walks away from a 150 mile an hour pile-up, I have no grounds to be sceptical.

However, when presented with a plastic canister of Delta Quick Steel my scepticism was once again awakened – how could a silver-looking viscous liquid be used for retaining and repairing worn metal parts – even on working machines.

The Quick Steel is presented in a plastic container that has a hard outer body and a squeezy telescopic inner lining. The compound inside is delivered via a small plastic spout with a tip that is cut off to suit the size of the amount you want to squeeze out. This in turn is covered by a white cover that no doubt helps to keeps a bit of a seal on the contents for some kind of shelf life.

The liquid itself seems a lot like a thick but viscous steel – with what looks like particles of steel in it.

To quote the blurb – “Quick Steel Adhesive is an anaerobic adhesive which is designed to retain close fitting metal parts which have signs of wear.”  

In my mind this means that the adhesive has some body that is designed to harden fully when it is used to fill the small scores and lines that sometimes mean that bearings or keys can’t be retained in place. It is quite unlike the “normal” adhesives that we would use to join things, in that the Quick Steel needs to be in a closed anaerobic environment adjacent to the steel which it is meant to replace. So it is the case that the user might have to be very careful where the Quick Steel is put so that it repairs rather than clogs. Clearly there is also a limit to its usage in the sense that it would hardly be used to rebuild the end of a stub gear shaft, for example.

In terms of marketing niche, I think the users of this product will largely be the skilled and resourceful owners of vintage machines, cars, bikes etc and backyard mechanics who love old machines and need a way to compensate for the inevitable wear and tear that these old machines show. It may be the last throw of the dice before, eventually, the part has to be very expensively milled from scratch.

I had to scratch my head for a while to find a suitable test situation for the Quick Steel. I confess that any machines I use that break down, are usually repaired with replacement parts or recycled. However, I was keen to fix a slipping keyway on an electric motor I use to power a polishing mop. I applied the Quick steel, set the key and drive wheel, wiped off the excess and stood back to let the adhesive do its work. I did check a couple of times to find that the Quick Steel was going off quite slowly – no doubt due to the fact that it has been the coldest week of winter in Sussex so far. By moving it to a slightly warmer environment I speeded up the process (an accelerator is available)  The result that I got was very pleasing – the key firmly held in place and no rattling drive wheel when I switched the power on. Very useful stuff in my view. 

Delta All Trade Workshop Wipes

The Engineers’ Friend

Tubs of wipes of various kinds are now a feature of many worksites and I use them regularly myself. Even clients ask me where to get them, once they see how useful they can be in cleaning up stains, spills, marks and dirty hands at the end of a day. But wipes have now also been round long enough for us to realise that we have to choose between them carefully. Some of the cheaper ones are cheap for the reason that they don’t work that well, while some others are expensive for a reason, but that reason may not be the stuff we are trying to get off our hands after work.

So, it is time we got to grips with what various brands and types of wipes will do and then choose from the range that suits us best.

These Delta wipes are labelled All Trade Workshop Wipes and are “specially formulated for removing oil, grease, paint, expanding foam, sealants and adhesives from hands, tools and surfaces.”

This list covers a lot of trades from plumbers to decorators to mechanics. But it is interesting to note that the basic materials that the wipes will clean are all basically greasy or sticky and as such they should work well. In my experience, other surfaces may need a “biological” wipe, a textured surface wipe, or some other variation. Like kissing frogs to find a prince, you will just have to try lots before you find the solution that is best for you.

Not all wipe containers are created equal either. I have seen many tubs with the lids taped on because they have been broken off. A loose or broken lid will allow the wipes inside to slowly dry out and become useless. The Delta Wipes, fortunately, have a nice close fitting lid with an easy-to-use system for pulling the wipes through so that they arrive one-by-one and separate from each other easily. The lid sealer also fits tightly so that evaporation is minimised.

Perhaps the most important thing of all is the formulation of the cleaning solution that the wipes contain. Ultimately that, and the strength and texture of the wipe itself, will determine its effectiveness. To answer the above, the Delta wipes are made of polypropylene (don’t flush them – put them in the rubbish bag) immersed in a cleaning solution that also includes lanolin for protecting hands from drying out and anti-bacterial agents for killing the usual 99.9% of germs.

Armed with only these wipes I set out for a job that involved a replacing a window from a wooden framed one to a uPVC unit.  This, of course, meant using the dreaded expanding foam, and also some minor making-good redecoration with both gloss and emulsion paint. In my experience, only very few wipes will actually shift expanding foam, even if they say they do. The Delta wipes were pretty good at removing expanding foam and worked particularly well on hands. The odd spot or two on smooth surfaces was also swiftly dealt with, and any drops of paint were also easily cleaned up – even when they had dried a little.

The end of the day final wipe of hands showed that my hands were clean, sweet smelling, and not dried out from powerful solvents – in my book they tick all the boxes so I would definitely use these again. 

Wiha MagicRing L-Keys The Non-Magnetic Solution for Screwholding

Enter the L-Keys from Wiha. Designated the MagicRing and MagicSpring range they offer several features that will surely find favour with many end users – particularly those whose everyday jobs have very specific requirements.

Such is the pace of innovation in the fixings and fasteners arena that it is sometimes not enough to introduce one innovation at a time – they have to come in twos or threes. Enter the L-Keys from Wiha. Designated the MagicRing and MagicSpring range they offer several features that will surely find favour with many end users – particularly those whose everyday jobs have very specific requirements.

Retaining the fasteners to the driver is a feature that many users like. It is really handy to be able to start the process of screwing in a fastener by introducing it into the aperture mounted on the tool, and being able to get the thread started. In cramped spaces this is often a necessity. The usual method of retaining a screw fastening to the tool is to use a magnet – and this is usually very effective. However, what if the magnet is near to sensitive electronic components or what if the fastener is made of quality stainless steel and is therefore not magnetic? Clearly time for a bit of head scratching and a referral to the R and D team.

Wiha’s team has come up with several solutions that fit the bill – and they have already found favour in the market.

The first of these that I looked at was the ErgoStar MagicRing Hex key set. Retailers and end users will like the clear plastic bubble packaging that shows all that you need to know before purchase. A clear graphic shows all nine sizes of metric hex key in the pack and shows that only the biggest six sizes have the MagicRing feature – the smallest keys are simply too small to machine the retaining ring and spring onto them.

Made from 57-60 HRC Chrome Vanadium steel and meeting all the ISO and DIN standards for these types of tools, they are up to the demands of professional users who need quality every time they use the tools.

The MagicRing feature is very easy to see on the largest key on the set (10mm). On the long end of the L, a small groove is machined into which a round spring washer is inserted. When the hex end is pushed into the corresponding head of a screw, the spring washer slides into it, but still exerts some pressure onto the inside of the hex head, thus retaining it strongly enough for it to be held securely. This is enough to hold a screw in place while it is located and then screwed in.

Also only on the long end, Wiha’s designers have include a “ball end” – essentially the way that the hex shape has been relieved by cutting a big v-shaped slot into the end so that the key can be used at angles up to about twenty-five degrees off the right angle when loosening and tightening a fixing.

Clearly this makes it a lot easier to work in confined spaces and also to locate the screw in the first place. What I liked about the MagicSpring feature was that it did its job without affecting anything else that a hex key is supposed to do. It held the fastener securely, but not so securely that it interfered with tightening or moving it.

With the removal of metal required to create a ball-end, the hex keys, particularly the smaller sizes, are not as strong and could therefore be short in the applied torque department. However, Wiha has made the solution obvious by keeping the short end of the L-key a full hex shape, capable of exerting the torque you need. With the short end of the L-key, it is usually possible to fit into most spaces.

The above is all very well for hex keys, but Torx fixings are becoming much more popular these days, especially for more demanding applications. Wiha also makes a ball end Torx L-Key and its engineers have solved the problem of retaining a Torx bolt onto an L-Key. The clue of course lies in the name – the ErgoStar MagicSpring.

The MagicSpring Torx L-Keys are packed in a similar transparent plastic bubble pack so that buyers can see what is in the set.

There are 13 pieces in the pack and they are made with the same steel as the hex keys above, but with a black finish. The range is in several popular Torx sizes from T45 down to T5. I chose the T45 to examine because it is easiest to see how the spring retainer works – looking at it through a magnifier I could see a couple of springloaded hooks that grip into the side of the Torx aperture of the fixing. It is an impressive bit of micro-engineering since it needs precise placing on the end of the L-Key to ensure that it works correctly. And it does work. It was easy to set a fixing into and then place it into the right spot to start threading it into place. There is usually a little bit of angle flexibility on Torx fixings so there is some scope to use the L-key at a slight angle and still get good results.

But as I have said, multiple innovations seems to be the norm these days, and the presentation of the sets will win friends. The standard method of presenting a set of L-Keys is to slot them into a plastic block arranged in order. It is time consuming and fiddly to access the keys like this so Wiha has come up with a neat solution. Each laser marked key has its own slot in a plastic block, but simply pull one of the keys out to 90 degrees from the storage position and all the keys are revealed and ready to pull out without interfering with each other. The geared mechanism enclosed in the block works smoothly and the casing also has each size of each key marked in its position.

Included is a wall hanger for the entire set so that it can be attached to a rack or van interior.

Overall, there is no doubt that these Wiha L-Keys are professionally rated pieces of kit with a few handy innovations that will make jobs easier and more efficient. 

 

JCB 2CX /G Suede and mesh Boots from Progressive Safety Perfect for Winter?

WhyBuy? the JCB Grey Suede Workboots

  • Comfortable
  • Water resistant
  • Safety tested
  • Good sole
  • Leather
  • Insoles and padded lining for warmth
  • Well priced

Fortuitously these grey suede boots arrived at exactly the same time as the wet and wintry weather down here in Sussex. The timing couldn’t have been better. I hate having cold and/or wet feet while working.

The boots are modern looking and as stylish as work footwear can get without being impractical. Loosening them up and tightening again is made easier by not having lace holes but metal lace loops. The strong nylon woven laces can slide through these without catching, so getting in or out is quite easy. If I have one small thing I would change it would be to have the last few metal loops replaced with hooks like hiking boots have – thus making it even easier to get in or out.

My foot comfort in work boots relies heavily on having the boots lined with a sympathetic but insulating material – and in this case the box is more than adequately ticked because from heel to toe the lining is thick enough for warmth and good padding.

Secondly, despite my small stature, I have quite wide feet, so I need to have enough room around my toes. These boots took about half an hour to go from “new boots” to feeling like I had been wearing them for months. I had even taken the precaution of packing a second pair of boots in case I needed to change but that clearly wasn’t necessary.

Some site workers need a highly cleated sole to get grip on very muddy work sites. I mostly don’t have this problem and tend to prefer work boots to have a slightly smoother sole that doesn’t accumulate loads of mud. This is because I am often working inside and out in equal measure. Last week was a case in point. Having lifted an old, rotten floor, I had to lay a new one with a laminate topping. With not enough space to accommodate the mitre saw inside, I had to have it on the stand outside – on a muddy grass patch. The constant popping in and out on relatively smooth soles meant that I could keep the floor clean by simply wiping the boots on a waste piece of chipboard flooring before I laid the next piece of laminate.

When it comes to protections though, the boots are made to satisfy the relevant EN ISO 20345:3011 standards so you will be protected against slipping, penetration by sharp objects, electrical currents, water absorption and warmth, amongst others. 

When I question tradespeople about work wear they often tell me that they want to take all the safety stuff for granted because that is what they are paying for. But they do all tell me that they want a boot that is very comfortable, hardwearing, water resistant (nothing quite as nasty as cold, wet feet on a building site in late November!)  and reasonably stylish.

I am happy to report that I found these grey suede boots all of those and they will therefore be joining my small collection of work shoes that I definitely will use again and again – especially in winter. 

 

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