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. 

 

Dart Angle Driver – Popular and Award Winning too!

WhyBuy?

  • Handy
  • Well priced
  • easily adjustable
  • well made
  • could get you out of a spot

In many drill driver kits these days an angle driver head will be included. Belatedly, in some cases, we have woken up to the fact that not all screwdriving is a simple straight line function. Sometimes we have to work at very odd angles and around corners and in tight spaces, and the angle driver, in very many cases, allows us to do just that. In fact, I chose to purchase a particular brand of small combi drill on the basis that it was the only one, at that time, that came with a quick release angle driver and chuck. Frankly one of the best decisions I have made in tool purchases because I have used it more often than I thought I would.

So the market was crying out for a well made angle driver that could be simply mounted in a standard chuck. DART Tools, masters at sourcing tools, stepped in, and so popular has its angle driver been, that it won the Innovation Award at the Torque Expo Show in October 2016. It was chosen by the visitors – who represent a wide range of trades and businesses in the fasteners and fixings industry.  

What the voters could clearly see was that the angle driver is very well engineered and its angle gearing works smoothly – so it is a high quality 90° extension to the normal Driver Chuck.

Any close examination of the driver will reveal that it is satisfyingly heavy – so enough metal has gone into its construction for it to be robust enough to withstand trade use. The outer casing of cast alloy has been well finished and is smooth to the touch. To mount it up for work, all the user has to do is attach the hex end of the driver to a chuck (it could also be one of those chucks mounted on a flexible drive cable) and find the angle that they want to drive at before tightening it.

Again, the hex end is strong and capable of delivering the maximum 57Nm of torque that can be put through the gearing.

At the driver end is a small spring-collared and magnetic bit holder. Since this is a standard fitting there is no reason why the user couldn’t customise usage by mounting drill bits, etc, from one of the comprehensive hex bit sets available from many manufacturers.

An absolute necessity in my view is the small handle attached to the driver. This is adjustable into three positions, so that the user can maximise its potential. In my experience it was very handy to be able to use the handle to guide the screwdriver bit onto the screwhead, and then apply some pressure to keep it there while driving it home. A nice touch is that the top of the handle can be unscrewed revealing a compartment just big enough for a spare driver bit – how often have I needed one of those!

The angle driver can be used at speeds up to 2000 rpm even though screwdriving will be done at much slower speeds – but it does allow the option of using drills and even small cutters and burrs mounted on a hex shank.

A neat idea, neatly realised, and one that will be a very useful solution to many screwdriving dilemmas.

As one happy customer remarked, “This product is designed to enable me to screw or drill in that impossibly tight position where no other could - it has saved me from failure many times”

 

Christmas is Coming – What to Give to the Tool Rebel Who has Everything?

Aimed at: Tool rebels and aspiring tool rebels who want everything.

Pros: Keeps you guessing all the way to Christmas.

Wera’s “Tool Rebel” concept is a great idea, with the “rebels” identifying strongly with the brand at the same time as being able to feed back their ideas and solutions to the company. It is witty conceits like the “Tool Rebels” idea that make Wera a company that is close to its end users- and these same users become loyal brand ambassadors, many of whom feel that they can completely trust the brand, but also recommend it to others.

But many, if not most, Tool Rebels have a wish list, so what better present than a big Wera Advent Calendar from their nearest and dearest at Christmas? When you think about it, it is this wry sense of humour that makes for a great idea. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the marketing people first kicked about the idea of an advent calendar that contained 24 Wera tools aimed at adults rather than 24 chocolate shapes aimed at kids. 

The Wera Advent Calendar is big at 57cm long, 47cm wide and 5cm deep and is illustrated on the front with a typical Christmas scene with several Wera “clues” on it – for example Santa is using a Kraftform Kompakt screwdriver to mend the wheel on a toy car. If the donor doesn’t want to give all its the secrets away, then he/she should remove the outer transport packaging that has all of the items listed on it.

As we would expect from Wera, the contents have been thoughtfully designed to be revealed in a particular order to make a couple of small kits that would grace a toolbox and a workshop – with a couple of typically witty parts that would make a Tool Rebel smile – like the bottle opener with the Kraftform Handle. Typically these things come with cheap pressed steel openers – but not Wera with their fully hot forged version, fixed into the handle in the same way as their screwdrivers, for long service life.

In true Advent Calendar tradition, the doors are randomly dotted about the box in no particular date order – so it will be part of your Advent routine to find the door and open it to find the surprise. I couldn’t wait until the 1st December so I had a few sneak previews to help me write this review…..???

I got a bit of a clue as to what might follow when opening the double doors of no 1 when out popped a Special Edition Wera Bit-Check – clearly there were more parts to collect here and opening day no 2 confirmed my suspicions when a Phillips No 1 screwdriver bit was revealed and was quickly slotted into place in the first compartment of the Bit-Check. I am not going to reveal all in order to retain some element of surprise, but it was very tempting to continue to open a couple more doors just to see…

In order to retain some mystery, the parts of the kits are not revealed in any particular order so when the Screwdriver Board was released from its compartment it creates a little curiosity about what might follow.

An Advent Calendar needs to be hung up or stood on a mantelpiece for easy access day by day, and Wera has obliged by providing a couple of hooking spots to hang it up and a foldable stand so that it can be stood up on a flat surface like a workbench.

Retailed at around the £40 mark (typical internet price) it is clearly not just “a bit of fun” with throw away parts that will be easily lost and discarded. I am sure that many Wera Tool Rebels would love to have one given to them by a wife or partner because the whole adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. In fact, the calendar is very good value because all the pieces bought separately would easily add up to more than double the value of its retail price.

There may also be many retailers who would want to reward big account customers who have spent thousands with them all year and for whom the cost would not be more than say, the cost of a few bottles of wine or a decent bottle of malt whisky. If so, they had better get their orders in quickly because the calendars are selling out fast, if recent experience at tool shows is any guide.

But I couldn’t help myself from exploring a few more doors trying to second guess the contents. I did all the usual stuff like shaking the box near my ear to decide if I could discern the difference between various screwdrivers to stick into the Screwdriver Board. And this is another way in which the Wera guys will keep us guessing because although the size of the doors is somewhat of a guide to what is concealed underneath, it is not an infallible guide – sometimes the blades of the longer pieces have been deliberately slipped into voids left behind the calendar façade so all is not what you might think.

Most readers will not be surprised to learn that in the end I couldn’t contain my curiosity and I ended up opening all the doors and assembling the kits. Suffice to say that each of the two kits is very useful because they are made up of the very latest incarnations of the tools. Each of the bits, for example, has been marked with the latest Wera Take it Easy identification sleeves and is in impact-friendly BiTorsion format and the blades are diamond coated for longer life and better grip (anti cam-out).

The Bit-Check has gone straight into my newly bought 10.8v drill driver/ impact driver set and it complements it very well. The Screwdriver Board, with its contents, is now hanging in my indoor work room where it will be immediately available rather than having to search through my toolboxes. Apart from the bottle opener that is – straight into the kitchen drawer ready for its intended use over Christmas. Oh to be a Tool Rebel!

 

For more information please visit http://www.wera-tools.co.uk/

 

The Metabo WPB 36 LTX BL 230 - A 36v Cordless Disc Cutter to You and Me!

Aimed at: Pro users who need the capability of a 9 inch cutter but the freedom of a cordless

Pros: powerful, effective and cordless!

The vision of the future for many power tool manufacturers is the cordless worksite – and on many levels it makes sense. The freedom of movement provided by cordless tools is great and the tangle of trailing cables plugged into heavy transformers is something I wouldn’t miss. But we can’t say goodbye to mains power just yet – despite our best efforts, batteries still need charging and they still run out at inopportune moments.

But if you ever needed proof that a cordless tool can perform as well as a corded one then just have a try with the WPB 36. What is also very clear is that this cordless lacks none of the refinements and features of a corded version – so you are not getting a cordless poor relation version of the “real” thing.

On first reaching for it out of the box I had a thought that I might find the weight of the tool a bit much for daily work. It weighs a cool 6.1kgs but actually after a few attempts at putting it into a working position I came to realise that the design of the handles and the weight distribution makes for a comfortable balance. The 36v, LiHD 6.2Ah battery pack is used on one end of the handle to partly balance out the grinder head where all the action is taking place. Having a good amount of weight on the cutting end combined with the stabilising force of the whirling disc helps to keep the disc safely in the cut and less likely to kick back dangerously.

The main handle has a number of features that aid easy use. Firstly it is large enough to easily accommodate a gloved hand and there is ample grippy rubber on top of the handle for a good hold. As has been the practice for many years, items picked out in red on a Metabo tool are controls. So picked out on the long black trigger is the red safety lock button – to start the machine it is simply pushed forward with the side of the forefinger and the trigger can then be pressed to start the motor.

On the top of the handle set into the black overmould is a dual function red button. This can be depressed so that the back handle can be rotated 180 degrees in 90 degree steps to suit a users’ preference. This feature is common even on some of Metabo’s smaller grinders and I was not at first that impressed with the idea, as it seemed like an unnecessary complication and a way of tangling internal wiring by constant movement. However, there was nothing quite like working on a “real” job in a tight space at an awkward angle for me to realise that having a number of holding and tool presentation options is easier and usually safer because I could retain a firm grip on the tool for better control of the cut.

The red button also serves as an indicator that the machine is running and, as I came to find out quite quickly on the first job I did with this machine, it also indicates (when flashing) that the electronic battery and motor protection circuits have cut in and stopped the motor and will also indicate if the battery has been overheated or needs recharging. I quite like the idea of electronic idiot proofing on modern cordless tools – largely because heat build up in batteries and motors is their number one killer and the scientific consensus seems to be that the reasons why batteries explode or burst into flames is because they become too hot from too much power drain at once.

Also, batteries are now an expensive part of a cordless tool – it seems like good sense to look after them to ensure maximum battery life. Metabo takes this so seriously that you might notice the alloy plate mounted on the rear handle just above the battery housing – to protect the battery from the inevitable sparks created by the cutting discs.

Moving forward to the working head past the motor casing there is a sticker with four main features of the tool marked on it – namely brushless motor, electronic safety clutch, restart protection and the soft start feature, not to mention a fast brake also!

Perhaps more visible is the large auxiliary handle that has grippy red mouldings, flanges to prevent hand movement and a vibration-reducing collar between it and the tool. The handle can be screwed in, in three different places – left, right and centre, so that users can choose the best holding configuration for safe working. The cast alloy head is well finished and slopes downwards to reduce the bulk of it for easier access to the job. The important spindle lock button is handily placed for easy access for one hand while the other wields the pin spanner needed to remove and replace cutting or grinding discs.

The well-established and excellent Metabo system for moving and adjusting the cutter guard is another great feature here – simply lift the lever, move the guard and lock the lever again. It takes seconds and makes life so much easier when having to adjust the guard at different stages of a cut.

Metabo sent me some excellent quality cutting and grinding discs for the machine, but before they arrived I was so keen to try the machine out that I used some cheaper discs on a big job that had been pending for a while. What I learned was this - and it is only common sense -  that better quality discs make for an easier cut or grind and also make the battery last a great deal longer. I managed to use up a battery with the cheap discs in about twenty-five minutes – along with several warnings from the flashing red light that I was overloading the motor. With the Metabo disc mounted, the sparks were uninterrupted, I did more cuts and I still had more than a quarter of the battery left. This was true for both cutting with a diamond disc and grinding with a composite disc.

For those who want cordless freedom, the WPB 36 LTX BL 230, to give it it’s full title, is a very good solution. It is genuinely capable and excellent to use as well as having all the electronic protections built in. Go for it!

 

Coleman – 115 years of lighting experience

Aimed at: regular users who need a good torch for many purposes.

Pros: Battery lock prevents battery leakage, well made quality product.

Coleman is a long established brand in the camping and leisure market and is well known for providing clever solutions for campers since 1901 but their range of battery lights is perfectly suited to the DIY and Hardware retailer of today. With the UK torch market very well served for everything from the almost throwaway £2.99 special to the £200 (and more) specialist torch, it almost goes without saying that you have to bring something more to the market than just another range of torches.

In Coleman’s case it is something that I have actually wanted for a while – Coleman’s BatteryLock - a way of isolating the batteries from the torch that prevents the slow micro-seepage of power from the batteries, as well as ensuring that they do not start leaking. Battery leakage in torches that are not regularly used is a sure way of killing a torch – they will probably never work again once they are filled with the nasty goo from a leaking battery. I have tried cleaning the goo out in order to reclaim my torch, but it rarely works as a permanent solution.

I was sent three Coleman torches for this review – the Divide+ 700 LED, the Divide+ 200 LED and the CXS+ 250 LED Head Torch. All of these models have the new BatteryLock technology and in each case it is very easy to operate so it should just become a habit to do when the torch is switched off and stored for any length of time.

On the Divide+ 700 and 200 torches, the bulb head is marked on the barrel with padlock symbols for lock/unlock. To go into BatteryLock mode simply twist the torch head towards the “lock” symbol and it disengages it from the barrel that contains the batteries. It also reveals a red line on the torch head that is visual proof of the torch being in BatteryLock mode. Changing from one mode to the other takes less time than I can type this, so it is not a chore to do it in order to have peace of mind from battery leakage.

On the head torch, it takes a bit longer to go into BatteryLock mode because the case is smaller. I found that the easiest way was to grip the casing with my right hand finger and thumb holding each side and my left hand finger and thumb holding top and bottom and then simply pulling the casing apart. This again reveals a red line marked on the casing that tells you that you are in BatteryLock mode. 

The Divide+ 700 Torch has an RRP of £49.99 which makes it quite competitive in its market segment.  I like the simple rubber button switch at the torch end of the barrel that is pressed once to go to full beam, pressed twice for low beam and then again for off. The quality of the beam is very good – a bright white light with a circular focused spot in the middle surrounded by a distinct secondary beam that illuminates a much wider area.

At 700 lumens the full beam has a range of 330 m and after trying it out in the woods, I would agree with that. At low beam the LED delivers only a tenth of the light intensity at 70 lumens with arrange of about 110m – so for most general purposes the low beam is more than adequate and it won’t blind other dog walkers and campers. The payoff for using low beam is a much extended battery life – on full beam the six AA batteries will last about 7 hours – enough for a police manhunt I guess, but on low beam batteries will last an impressive 55 hours

There are a couple of other things to like about the Coleman Divide+ 700 – it is made of anodised aluminium and feels solid and well made. I “accidentally” dropped my sample on a wooden floor several times when I was using it and it didn’t seem to suffer at all. With its IPX 4 weatherproof rating it should also withstand the occasional wetting or even a short dunking without damage. The ideal torch for use in the garage, in the car and to help with those dark DIY jobs.

Coleman Divide+ 200

For more occasional users and those who want a torch for the pocket of a wax jacket the Divide+ 200 should be considered. It is compact at around 125mm long, and quite light too. Powered by three AA batteries housed in a neat cartridge within the anodised aluminium body, the 200 lumen LED has a range of about 200m on high beam and about 70m on low beam. Clearly a good general purpose, household/dog walking/ power cut torch that could be stuffed into a kitchen drawer as easily as it could be used on a campsite. With the three batteries using full beam will only last about 2 hours, but at low beam (20 lumens) this is extended to 35 hours. Again the aluminium body has an IPX 4 weather rating so will be strong enough to resist rainy walks in the rain and the occasional puddle, too.

For me the base criteria for a head torch are that it should be comfortable to wear, it should not flop about once it is put on and the switching system should be easy to manage since you can’t see the switch. The 25mm wide elasticated strap of the CXS+ 250, which has an RRP of £42.99, is comfortable and stays in place well and the slim pad behind the torch back cushions the pressure against your forehead. There is a large switch placed centrally on top of the head torch body so is easy to reach and operate. It is a cyclical switch so you have to cycle through all 5 modes to select the one you want, (the modes are red, low, medium, high and extra-bright). It also features Kinesix which allows you to change the lighting mode with a simple swipe of your hand.  

With its three AAA batteries it remains compact, but the payoff is that at extra-bright beam (250 lumens) the batteries will last only 2.5 hours. Switch to low (25 lumens) for a 40-hour life span, or for even more, use red mode – much favoured by anglers and hunters since it doesn’t frighten wildlife. The range is a very decent 40m on extra-bright beam down to 10m on low beam which is more than adequate for a head torch, since it is meant to be used close up. Its IPX 4 rating indicates good weatherproofing for outdoor use.

There are other torches in the Coleman range, and from what I could see from these samples they are well made and fit for purpose – I can imagine that they would be a popular purchase for multi-purpose, DIY, campers, anglers and anyone who need a reliable and usable torch.

 

For more information please visit www.coleman.eu/uk or email [email protected]

 

 

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