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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]

 

 

It’s Crunch Time from Leatherman. The Compact Multitool

Aimed at: Discerning users who need a small range of tools.

Pros: compact size, well designed few, but effective tools.

Some multi tools can get beyond themselves in terms of size and complication and I, for one, have got to the stage where sometimes I wish for something that is simpler and perhaps quicker to use. Enter the Leatherman Crunch. It is quite small – literally compact enough to fit comfortably into a smallish hand. While it feels solid and looks very well made in the Leatherman way, it is also not too heavy, and although it has a nice leather belt pouch, it wouldn’t be too bulky to carry in a trouser pocket. 

My guess is that the “crunch” part of the name refers to the spring loaded “vice grip” type jaws that are the main feature of this tool. The jaws are unusual in that only the top jaw is held in a permanent fulcrum – the bottom jaw has to be clicked into the fulcrum provided. I know it sounds strange, but fear not, once its in place it won’t slip out. The fulcrum arrangement is to allow for the whole tool to be folded up into a package just short of three cm wide and ten cm long. This fulcrum arrangement strikes me as quite a clever solution and it really only takes a few seconds to engage the bottom jaw – no longer, in fact, than folding the handles over in the “plier” version of other Leatherman tools.

The jaws themselves are forged and then very well finished with mixture of a mirror and matte finish. At the end of the handle that contains the top jaw there is small adjusting screw that is used to adjust the jaws so that they can be used as pliers or locked into place like the handy “vice-grip” tools.

If you look carefully you can also see that there are two sets of cutting edges on the back of the jaws right next to the fulcrum – one for solid wires and one for stripping stranded cables. A thin groove parallel to the milled jaws can be used to hold pins and wires for pulling or pushing and the middle part of the jaws can be used on small nuts and bolts. My guess is that the Crunch will be largely used with these functions in mind – and because they are so clearly capable, users will be happy to use these alone.

However, there is one remaining handle that has the capacity for some fold out blades to add some extra functionality.

These extra bits are again quite limited and not too fancy – but in my view are almost more useful because of that. Five blades can be pulled out –the largest of these is a perilously sharp serrated knife blade. There is also a double-sided file blade with a large slotted screwdriver head on the end and then a couple of other slotted screwdriver heads as well – one medium, one small. The small one has a bottle opener tucked on to the bottom of it. Right in the middle is a Phillips screwdriver function and a tiny round lanyard holder for those who want to attach the tool to something to avoid losing it. A strong spring-loaded catch holds the blades in place while in use but the spring is not so strong that it is a pain to use.

Made in the USA in solid stainless steel, I came to regard the Leatherman Crunch as a very handy pocket tool – it is a case of the more you use it the better you like its compact size and clever design. 

 

Work trousers from JCB Cotton Comfort from Progressive Safety

Aimed at: Regular users, pro or otherwise who need solid workwear in cotton for a change.

Pros: Comfy and practical with pockets galore.

Workwear of various kinds is now a requirement in my life and I am lucky enough to have had a good choice of various kinds to try out.

While I can see the practicality of synthetic materials for making work clothes because of ease of washing and drying and even a measure of light water resistance, I actually like the comfort of cotton – so I was pleased when the postman delivered a couple of pairs of cotton work trousers from the latest collection by JCB Workwear.

The first pair I opened was a standard camouflage colour and I sort of wondered - Why camouflage? The answer, in part, seems to be that often agricultural workers like to wear camouflage colours in the country, but I have seen it on work sites too.

What struck me the very first time I tried them on is that the cut is comfortable but possibly a bit unfashionably baggy for younger, slimmer figures. But I was able to bend and stretch easily and they were comfortable around the waist. No danger of builder’s b*m if you had a decent belt because there are six belt loops – the back one is about 50mm wide – so they hold up very well.

 

Whatever trousers I wear I always manage to end up with a pile of stuff in my pockets. With ten pockets altogether there was enough space for smaller stuff like pencils and my utility knife. The main pockets are like jeans pockets and are quite deep, so will not spill stuff out if you bend over. On the left leg just underneath the main pocket is a deep (20 cm) gusseted pocket that would easily hold all manner of items and with the buttoned flap, the items are quite secure too. Also on the front pocket is a smallish zipped pocket that is big enough for the inevitable smartphone.

In the right hand pocket is a riveted small change pocket and on the back of the right leg above the knee, is a collection of three pockets – one of which would hold a rule and the others, things like a screwdriver etc.  

Placed comfortably high up on the back are a pair of seventeen cm deep patch pockets with hook and loop flap closures. I always have a wallet with me (lunch money) so I like having the security of a flapped pocket but pliers and screwdrivers tend to end up in the left hand one because they don’t stab you in the leg when you bend down.

The kneepad pockets are top loading for ease, adjustable, and with a secure hook and loop fastening so that the kneepads – your favourite ones will fit – will not fall out.

Pretty well all the seams on these trousers are double stitched for strength and durability, so should last the course

Next in the parcel was a pair of 1945 Work Jeans. Jeans are the fashion statement of the moment, so I guess it is no surprise that there is a demand from work people for denim work trousers. These trousers are in fact not 100% cotton – they are made of 85% Cordura cotton with 15% nylon. The material is also four times more abrasion resistant than comparable cotton denim so is ideal for heavy use.

The pockets and other features of these 1945 Work Jeans are exactly the same as the camouflage ones mentioned above so will suit general site workers. If anything, I found these work jeans even more comfortable than the camouflage ones!

 

Two Diamond Cutting Discs from Klingspor Making the Cut

Aimed at: depending on the grade all the way up to demanding professionals

Pros: Made in Europe OSA approved for safety and ingenious design makes for good cutting performance.

To speak to some tradespeople it would seem that the most important thing about a diamond cutting disc is the price. Not the materials it was designed for cutting, not safety, not speed of cut nor the amount of noise it made. Now I am definitely keen on getting value for money, but I am also keenly aware of my safety and my time.

However, I do get a sense of satisfaction when I get a tradesperson come up and ask about a particular piece of kit and I am able to make the point that good kit, used well, can be safer and quicker, thus saving time and money, as well as making for happier clients.

Of course there is the sharp intake of breath when I tell them, for example, that my rail saw cost £500, but the message remains that sometimes, its not all about the price you pay – sometimes the bottom line needs a bit more sophistication when being calculated. It can be a case of penny wise but pound foolish.  

Diamond cutting discs are squarely in the area of you “get what you pay for”. There are literally dozens of makes of cheap diamond discs on the market. They all vary enough in appearance and packaging for you to be vaguely able to tell the difference so that you can find them again. But my argument is that a good quality diamond disc, chosen with the job in mind, is more likely to perform well, save you time and minimise wear and tear on your disc cutting machine.

Enter the two diamond discs sent by major abrasives company, Klingspor. Established in Germany in 1893 by Johan Friedrich Klingspor to make a variety of abrasives, the company was behind the development of abrasive cut-off wheels and grinding discs in the 1950s and 60s. With manufacturing facilities in Europe, the US and Mexico, the company is one of the four largest abrasives companies in the world and produces a huge range of abrasives of many types – hence it has a lot riding on getting its products right both in terms of price and performance.

Klingspor makes a point of providing discs at three price points (good, better, best) to meet the needs of customers’ varying needs and its in-house R and D facility in Germany offers continuous review, development and improvement of its products. ALL of Klingspor’s diamond discs are Organisation for the Safety of Abrasives (oSa) accredited – the highest level of safety accreditation available.

I was sent two mid-range discs for review, a DT600U and a DT612AB. The DT600U is so designated because it is a mid-priced universal blade meant to be used on pretty well all construction materials from natural stone, to reinforced concrete and all stations in between. This blade has proved to be very successful in the market – not only because of its pricing but also because of its design – a design that makes for rapid cutting as well as a long disc life. Now normally, these two features would work against each other. Long disc life usually means having a slightly thicker blade and deeper segmentation of the blade. On the other hand, a thinner blade usually means a quicker cut because there is not so much dust to remove from the thinner kerf, but the thinner blade then wears more quickly. You can also make a blade last longer by making deeper segments, but that brings other issues into play like the safety of the weld of the segments onto the disc.

What Klingspor has managed to do with this blade is to strike the correct compromise between thickness and wear and the secret of this is in the design of the segments. This 300mm diameter disc has 32 segments squeezed onto its rim. Each individual segment is 10mm deep and it has 25mm deep gullets that are wider at the bottom, that slim down a bit before ending in a precisely drilled hole for reducing noise. The wider slot at the bottom allows dust to be shifted quickly from the cut. A look through a magnifier reveals a fairly close, but random, distribution of diamonds on the segments, but if you think that more diamonds always equals faster cutting, then you are wrong. You may not get optimum cutting if too many diamonds produce too much dust to shift from the cut and then cause clogging.  But the key design feature is the number of segments on the rim – 32 segments with regular slots to disperse the waste quickly has proved to make a blade that not only cuts quickly, but lasts well too. By the end of my tests on steel, concrete, marble and bricks, I could barely see any sign of wear on the rim at all, promising a longer life – I still expect to be using this blade in a few month’s time.

The DT612AB disc is a more specialised design for use largely on concrete and asphalt and has been a hit with utilities, road repair contractors and general construction firms.

The one thing that is very obvious when looking at the segments of this blade is that the diamond distribution is much closer than the DT600U. The diamonds are also coated in titanium powder for maximum adhesion as asphalt and concrete are very aggressive and tend to tear away diamonds that are not tightly bonded. With eighteen larger segments and much larger open–ended gullets cut into the rim, it is clear that dust removal is one of the main aims of this design. Nothing for it but to mount it on the machine and try it out on some concrete and asphalt. Fortunately, I have a small asphalted area where I park my car, and I was struck by just how “clingy” asphalt can be when cutting, as the heat melts the tar and sort of gums it up. But the big gullets do their job and cutting is quite quick – if you are not careful you can go too deep quite quickly. Concrete is a doddle with this disc, no wonder road repair firms are buying it – it is perfect for cutting kerbstones.  I know I had a relatively short time of testing, but the wear on the disc at the end was very small, meaning that I can use the disc on other jobs….

In the end, quality always wins out for me – I have proved to myself again and again that you get what you pay for. These Klingspor diamond discs, tick lots of boxes and I will certainly keep an eye out for them when I have worn these ones out.   

 

Hitachi C9U3 – The Site Workhorse Reshod and Ready

Aimed at: demanding pro site carpenters who need a capable and hardworking saw.

Pros: big powerful, more sophisticated with a facility to collect more dust if needed.

 

Hitachi portable circular saws are renowned as the workhorses of the site. Tough, robustly made and expected to cut to the limits of spec when required - i.e. often. I have lost count of the numbers of battered Hitachi saws I have seen on various sites, but their owners always swear by them. The last one I observed was being used by roofers to cut fibre cement soffits and it was being worked very hard – but I was too polite to ask if they had fitted the correct blade!

The Hitachi C9U3 is a replacement for the C 9U2 and is definitely a sleeker and more modern take on the old one, and just a little bit heavier too. No doubt the extra weight is accounted for in a few extra features on the C9U3. So the changes are not just cosmetic – Hitachi has uprated the saw to make the genuine improvements needed for a newer model.

My first impression of the saw is that it is a bit of a monster – it weighs 7.2 Kgs all up. But it does handle well and with good balance, so the weight does not feel onerous. It is now common, thank goodness, to have a cast alloy base on saws like this and the Hitachi version is strong and rigid and with a big flat ground base that sits nicely on the work. It is finished in a dull grey alloy colour, like the upper and lower blade guards and it is genuinely smart looking and has the promise that it will be hardwearing too. A rigid base is easier to work with since it does not flex and makes cutting and saw adjustments more accurate.

Two other features of the base are the adjustable cutting line guides and the blade perpendicularity adjustment. The first of these is easy enough to use – it is just in the front of the base and is adjusted to the cutting line by unscrewing it and then resetting. At this point I should also mention that the side fence is attached to the front of the saw here. The side fence is made from pressed steel, but is more robust than some I have seen, so it will perform under pressure. It has milled slots on the back of the bar for extra grip as well as metric and imperial measurements on the top of the bar, so some accuracy must be expected from it.

More important on a site saw is that the blade should be perpendicular and that it should return to right angles when the users sets it back after an angled cut. Under the base, a grub screw can be adjusted to set the blade at right angles using an engineers’ square. Inaccuracies can creep in on site saws like this, so it is handy to be able to zero it occasionally.

The motor housing and handles are made in the familiar green Hitachi ABS plastic and both handles have generous black rubberised overmoulds to provide grip and some protection from vibration. Included in the kit, is an extra black plastic front handle that can be located underneath the main front handle with a single screw. This provides the user with a grip a little further away from the blade guards, but also lower in centre of gravity terms. This will help in difficult cuts where it is necessary to give a bit more push to the saw.

Both upper and lower blade guards are made from a well finished grey alloy and they are substantial and rigid to provide good protection from the 235mm diameter 20 tooth TCT blade. There is a substantial black riving knife to help prevent binding in the cut and the lower blade guard has a nicely gauged spring loading that is easy to use at the start of the cut as it is pushed into the work, but provides enough snap to get the blade covered asap after the cut is finished.

The upper blade guard also doubles as a dust collector and dust blower. A smallish vent at the back of it spews out a lot of dust when the saw is at full throttle. As we would now expect, there is a dust collection option. A strong black plastic spout can be attached (one screw) over the dust vent. This spout is ribbed so that a standard dust collection hose can be fitted over it. More importantly, with a decent vacuum dust collector attached, the amount of dust collected is very good – not much is left lying around. But you will still have to clean up later because there is no such thing as 100% dust collection on this type of portable saw.

If you do decide to use the dust collection spout you also have to change the little handle that lifts the lower blade guard. The original handle is large and keeps your fingers well away from the blade, but the dust spout handle is a lot smaller so you need to take a bit more care to keep fingers safe.

Just on the front of the upper guard a small plastic hump directs air from the motor fan directly over the cut line so that it remains dust free and easy to see – I do like this feature very much, perhaps I am getting spoilt?

Height and angle adjustments of the blade are really easy to do and the mechanisms for each adjustment are strong. I particularly liked the blade height adjustment arrangement because the substantial knob handle that sticks out under the main handle is easy to reach and grips strongly when tightened so that there is no danger that the saw will suddenly plunge down deeper into the cut. Another nice little touch is the cord holder function under the handle – this allows the user to loop a bit of the cord around the holder so that it can be kept out of the way when cutting.

But was the C9U3 a workhorse? Well I ran it repeatedly through some damp 100x75mm tanalised timber without it so much as a change in motor note. I moved on to some very dense beech and then some old and very twisty elm. Again no problems. In my view, this new version will build a reputation of its own as a robust and accurate site saw that will keep Hitachi aficionados happy and will also gain lots of new fans too. 

 

 

The Makinex Easy Lift 140 from Morris Site Machinery Lifting without the “Heavy”

Aimed at: Anyone who needs to move, load and lift stuff – single handed!

Pros: Simple to operate, capable and easily manoeuvrable. 

Only yesterday I had to call on a friend to help me rearrange my workshop with the arrival of my new mortising machine. The old mortiser had to be dismantled from its base, re - crated and the new one installed in its place. With both machines weighing over 100kgs each, we had our work cut out to manoeuvre them into place. It took a couple of hours to achieve this safely and without straining our backs. Ironically, I could have achieved the same result in a quarter of the time if I had waited until this morning with my review of the Makinex Easy Lift 140

Looking like a cross between half a scissor lift and a barrow, the Makinex is a brilliant answer to the huge number of lifting operations that must take place in workplaces throughout the UK. So it is worthwhile to explore it in a bit more detail to get an idea of just how it works.

The main component is a simple chassis made of two rigid alloy extrusions that converge into the wheel structures. The wheels are large enough to run easily over rough surfaces and are placed far enough apart so that the Makinex will fit through a standard doorway. At the other end of this chassis is a pair of handlebars with a control on each side – on the left hand side is the wheel brake and on the right a simple switch for moving the lifting beam up and down. The alloy extrusion lifting arm is pivoted just in front of the handlebars and a simple Swiss-made ram powered by a standard 18v Makita battery pack, is used to lift the lifting arm. The lifting capacity is 140Kg and is therefore capable enough for a vast majority of daily lifting operations in industry and manufacturing. A pair of foldable jockey wheels hold the chassis at roughly the height of a pair of hands so that you don’t have to bend down to operate the machine.

I was fortunate to have a slick demonstration and some training and tips from Chris Cartwright from Morris Site Machinery before I was let loose on the Easy Lift 140.

In less than a couple of minutes – I timed it – Chris lifted a 86Kg machine from the road, moved it to the rear of the van, loaded the machine and then gently dropped it onto the van bed. With some very simple instruction, I was able to unload the machine again, gently lower it onto the road, unhook it and then repeat the loading process. It took me only slightly longer than Chris, which proves that even novices can soon make the Makinex work for them. And it felt safe and manageable – and you also get that slight feeling of “superpowers” as you lift a heavy machine with the press of a thumb on a small switch.

I thought I might have some difficulty locating the lifting hook onto the lifting ring on the target machine, but I managed it first time as the whole framework is so balanced on the wheels that fine and precision controlled movements are easy to perform.

There are lots of other advantages of the Makinex Easy Lift, apart from its lifting capabilities. It is really easy to maintain since moving parts are few, the whole thing folds flat and will fit easily into a standard van, and since it weighs only 40Kgs itself it is easy to handle. Chris single-handedly packed it into the van by making use of the balance of the machine and the jockey wheels so that he never had to lift the weight of it – he simply slid it into its correct position. In fact the hardest part of using the Easy Lift 140 seems to be to remember to charge the battery pack when needed. 

The height of the lift has been carefully calculated so that it will easily reach the height needed for loading the average builder’s lorry. Loading up to tailgated vehicles is easy too because the scissor design allows the arm to reach past the tailgate onto the lorry bed – something not always possible when using a forklift to load up.

The target market for the Makinex Easy Lift 140 is potentially vast. I think it is a case that once potential clients have seen the Makinex in operation, the more thoughtful of them will see the advantages more or less immediately. They will see easy and controlled lifting, a lot more Health and Safety boxes ticked and efficiency savings. This machine can be used by everyone from a Scottish fisherman to unload his catch and load it onto the market van, to an automotive factory that needs temporary (or permanent) help with lifting components onto a production line. Chris tells me that once customers have bought the Makinex, they very quickly learn to apply its talents to a much wider range of lifting and moving tasks.

But maybe there is another aspect to using the Makinex that makes a lot more sense to employers. It costs British industry thousands, if not millions, to deal with the days off ill with bad backs and other lifting injuries that employees suffer with. Not to mention the injury claims that come to court, leading to an average of around a £5,600 payout to the injured party. Judicious and controlled use of lifting machinery can and should result in far fewer injuries and the Makinex is a cost effective, simple and reliable method of lifting heavy things.

If the Makinex makes sense for a self employed Scottish fisherman, it should make even more sense in factories, builders yards and building sites – and all for a price of less than £3,000 ish! 

Draper 15Kg Breaker – Value and Efficiency

Aimed at: Professionals and competent home builders.

Pros: Affordable and competent kit that comes ready to use.

Draper Tools has a huge and enviable range of products that is constantly being revised and uprated according to the needs of the market, so it was with no surprise at all that I took delivery of the 1600W 15Kg breaker (Stock no 83352) to review. I have tried out a few smaller breakers and hammers and have got on very well with them because I have always been able to use them on jobs where a bit of concrete needed breaking or a few bricks needed chopping out. More to the point – my back has not been strained by having to lift those much lighter tools. But the Draper 15Kg breaker took me to a new place – a really powerful tool meant for serious breaking of concrete and masonry – with a serious weight to it that is needed for doing such jobs. I had to ring round my friends to see if they had a job big enough to try it out on for a start.

Lots of small building firms need to use breakers, and I guess for many of them, the first call would be a hire shop to get an appropriate breaker for the job. However, with a typical internet price of around £150, this Draper 15Kg breaker is very affordable and stored in its plastic carry case, it won’t take up much space in the back of a van either. If my experience is anything to go by, the machine is capable of breaking concrete paving and floors as well as hard brick and stone up to a level that is more than enough for most small users. Workers on skyscrapers and major infrastructure products may need bigger breakers, but most builders would be happy with the performance of this one.

A quick check on the specs will show you what I mean. The breaker is a standard 230v machine with a weight of over 15Kg with a chisel fitted. The impact energy is a very decent 45 Joules at an impact rate of 2000r per minute. Chisel size is 29mm and with a sound power level of 105 dB(A) it is necessary to wear hearing protection during use. A breaker works by impacting on the concrete so workers should always be careful to protect hands from over exposure to vibration by limiting time spent using the machine.

I am a fan of plastic cases with enough room to accommodate all the odd bits and pieces associated with the tool inside. The plastic case with this tool has a big strong handle and latches and will easily hold the four-metre long heavy duty cord and the two extra chisels supplied (one pointed, one chisel end) as part of the kit. Nice touches are a plastic oil bottle and a spanner to do the simple maintenance required. A spare pair of carbon brushes is also included.

Construction of the body is mostly heavy duty metal that is needed for such a tool, and is well held together with no-nonsense hex screws.  Firmly attached to the main body is the main handle that is a large robust plastic construction that slightly isolates the users’ hand from vibration. The yellow trigger is large and can be locked into “on” position via a button for continuous use. There is some grippy rubber on this handle too to aid handling.

The auxiliary handle is a robustly made square loop with a big ribbed and softish plastic handle to grip. This handle definitely reduces vibration transmitted to hands and the whole thing can be adjusted a full 360 degrees to suit users’ preferences.

Underneath the main motor housing is the oil reservoir with its transparent cap so that oil levels are easy to check. Using the spanner and oil bottle supplied with the kit, it is easy to fill the oil when needed.

Inserting the chisels is very easy too. After a light greasing of the tool shaft the locking bolt is pulled out and turned 180 degrees. The shaft of the tool can then be inserted and the locking bolt returned to its original position. The chisel will be free to run up and down the shaft as the impact mechanism does its job.

One of my mates did come up with a suitable test bed – demolishing some concrete steps and adjoining brickwork so I hotfooted over to try the breaker out. The machine uses a standard moulded 230v plug so there was no need for a transformer – a simple plug into the extension cord was all that was required for the machine to be ready. Health and Safety says gloves, boots, eye protection and ear protection are needed as a minimum and once I had started the job I knew why. The Draper breaker does what it says on the tin – it breaks concrete etc very efficiently. It helped me that the weight of the tool does the job for you as well as helping to keep the chisel where it is needed. My job was largely to keep the chisel tip in the place where it could be most efficiently employed in breaking up the concrete. By focusing on breaking up the concrete from the edges and then also exploiting cracks that developed as I worked, it took about half an hour to break most of what we needed. The brickwork was much easier because they were just ordinary clay stock bricks and didn’t stand much of a chance against the chisel end.

I am still very glad that I don’t have to use breakers very often because my aging muscles don’t like it, but I am convinced that breakers fall into the category of Very Useful Tools because they do a unique job which is probably more commonly needed than I know. Because it comes as a whole kit in a case, ready to use, and because of the price point, the Draper 15Kg Breaker is a good bit of equipment for builders to include in their tool collection. 

 

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