April 6, 2010
When we first heard that Bosch was releasing another 12-volt driver, we sort of drifted off to sleep. We dreamed of a world where tool companies stopped releasing like-tool after like-tool with only minimal upgrades between versions. Then we actually saw the new tool and became convinced that this time the guys at Bosch had really gone around the bend to la-la land. There's no way around the fact that the tool looks pretty silly at first glance (it's the stubby nose that takes the cake). Thankfully though, Bosch sent us one to try out and boy did that put an end to our snooty little preconceived notions.
Our constant caveat with 12-volt drivers is that they're good, but we always want them to be more powerful. We've never understood how 14.4 drills feel closer in power to 18-volt drills than 12-volt drills feel to 14-volt drills. Still, they're handy, so we usually keep a 12-volt on us at all times, for those hard to reach areas or for light duty punch work tasks.
But back to the Bosch PS21. First off, the power out of this little tool is incredible. Not to mention that it's smaller than the competition. We were stunned when it had no problem sinking a 6" Timberlok screw into a 2x6. We tried out a few of the other 12-volt drivers we have around (including the older Bosch PS20) and the results were pathetic in comparison, they could hardly even sink the screw half way. We then used the PS21 as our primary tool building a workbench and it had no problem dealing with 3" screws. Sure, it's not as fast at a 14.4-volt, but it's getting there.
The reason for this is that Bosch has rebuilt the tool from the ground up and this new design gives you 265-in-lbs of torque, more than double that of the older PS20. The new tools also has an LED, a 2-speed drive train and a 21 position clutch. It sits very comfortably in the hand and it's only just over 5-1/2" in length.
The bottom line here is that this tool is a real triumph. Not only is it small but it reaches a level of power that we had given up on as far as 12-volt drivers are concerned. It's a giant step in the right direction for Bosch and their 12-volt line. But now, they need to follow it up and start expanding the available tools. The 12-volt drill we tend to carry around is the Milwaukee because in one bag (with one charger), we have our driver, a flashlight, a right angle drill, the Hackzall, the power port and a stereo. It's a tough sell to ask us to add another bag and battery charger to our already crammed truck box. We'll do it for this tool, because it's so impressive, but it would be nice to be able to throw a few other items in the Bosch bag.
The PS21 sells for anything from $130 (Ohio Power Tool) to $145 (Amazon).
At OPT and Amazon.com
April 5, 2010
Recently, Taunton Press sent us a few books to check out. One, Insulate and Weatherize, we reviewed here and now we've gotten to the second book, Measuring, Marking, & Layout: A Builder's Guide by John Carroll.
The book is sort of like having some old and experienced carpenter at your disposal (minus the coffee breath). It takes you through foundation work to floor, ceiling, and wall framing, to roofs and stairs, and then finally masonry. At each stop there is a thorough explanation of all of the layout considerations as well as extremely helpful drawings and diagrams. The book has a lot of math, particularly the roofing chapter, but in many cases, Carroll gives alternate (and more simple) methods on how to solve particular problems, which is nice if your math skills, like ours stopped developing sometime shortly after the third grade. All in all, it's a nice split between the principals of layout and the nitty-gritty hand's on stuff.
Luckily for the reader, Carroll gives "measuring, marking, and layout" a wide definition, so there is a lot of general building information included as well (things like how to straighten floor joists).
The book is successful and if you're a serious DIYer who wants to take it to the next level, this is a good place to start. For an established contractor, it's not only a good reference to have around, but there's so much information packed into the book, that there's bound to be something in here you haven't thought of.
March 23, 2010
A few months ago, Jay from CopTool sent us an issue of The Garage Slab, a magazine about...well....garages. Or more specifically, a magazine about and for the type of person who likes to chill out in their garage with the door open and a six-pack of beer. It's not a DiY magazine or one about cars, and it's not about workshops, and it's not about tools. It's about all of these things, but only as seen through the prism of the American garage.
It's a strange magazine and it took us a few passes through to really start getting the vibe of it. The articles seem pretty random at first, but it all makes sense once you stop trying to figure it out and just start enjoying it. The issue we read (Fall 09) had a couple recipes, an article on garage design, one on beer brewing, one on extension cords, and there's even a pin-up and an advice column.
It's a cool magazine too (if you're into garages) and it's one that screams for a cult following (if it doesn't already have one). Unfortunately there's not much of an online presence, so if you're interested, you'll just have to take the leap from the lion's head and drop the $13 for 4 issues (one year).
The website is here.
March 18, 2010
We've had an eye on the Craftsman Vibrafree Sander for a while. It's been out for a couple years and we've read a bunch of reviews of it and they all seem pretty positive. Way more positive than we would have guessed from our first skeptical glance at the tool. The whole thing just seems too good to be true: an orbital sander that doesn't vibrate? So we had some anticipation in the works when Craftsman offered to send one our way for testing.
If you don't know, the Vibrafree's special superpower comes from its sanding pad, or rather sanding pads. Craftsman has taken the standard design of a singular disc and replaced it with a circular inner disc and a separate outer ring. The two pads orbit in opposite directions and thus cancel one another out. It's a simple idea and a nice one, but no matter how much we read, we wanted to know for ourselves if it did indeed work, and if there were any big drawbacks to the system.
One thing we noticed immediately is that the Craftsman is heavier than the standard orbital. We suppose that this is from having to stuff two orbiting mechanisms in the tool. It's also slightly bulkier than most, but even with both of these characteristics, the size and the weight, it's easy to manage with one hand. It also has a nice long cord (10'), which we're always in favor of.
Now on to the whole 'no-vibration' thing.
We started it up and got going. And, well, yeah, it actually works. There's still the general movement and occasional stutter of an orbital sander, but that constant micro-shimmy, the one that wears your arm out and gives you pins and needles after about five minutes, is entirely absent. It's a strange feeling, using an orbital without that ever present jiggle. It's sort of like the first time we sat in a Hybrid and realized it was on, even though there was no motor noise: it's great, but there's something about it that's slightly unsettling. Using the Vibrafree on a few small projects, we discovered that the wear and tear on our arm was considerably less and we realized what a struggle on the wrist standard orbitals actually are.
A second interesting feature of this tool is the dust collection. Instead of a soft filter dust bag, the Craftsman comes with something they call a 'cyclonic dust box,' which seems to work fine, but gains awesome points because it's called a 'cyclonic dust box.' It even has this nice little flip-up door at the back end of it so you can empty the canister without having to take it off the tool. Unfortunately the connection point between the tool and the dust box is done with these two little clips that look like they're one workbench drop away from breaking off. If you're not into the whole cyclone thing, the Craftsman comes with an adapter for a vacuum.
The one real downside to the tool is the fact that it's a single speed. If you're not used to variable speed orbitals, it's probably no big deal, but we like having that kind of control over disc speed based on the situation and it's too bad it's not an option with this tool.
Another minor bone that we have to pick with this tool is the case that it comes in (we can actually hear some of you clicking away from the site). It's one of those cases where there is only one possible way for everything to fit in (which includes removing the dust canister from the tool), and there's really no room left for storage. in our experience, orbital cases end up being sandpaper clearing houses, and here, there's no way for that to happen.
Less vibration means more money because the Vibrafree sells for $100, which is a good $30+ higher than the average high-end name brand orbital. There's also the issue of discs. Because of the anti-vibration design, the sanding discs are unique and, thus, not easily available. They're on the Sears website (a 3 pack for $4), but items like this, you need to have available on the fly. It's likely that they're also at your local Sears. Also, it's worth noting that Rockwell has also released a Vibrafree sander that looks similar to the Craftsman. And when we say, 'similar,' what we really mean is, 'identical.' It's like someone photoshopped in some new colors and a new logo. The Rockwell even has the kickass "cyclonic dust box." The tools are so similar that there's got to be some sort of licensing agreement going on. But anyway, our point is that while the Craftsman may have limited availability with their discs, the Rockwell may be easier to find.
So our final say is that the orbital works great, even though we have some finicky little issues with it.
March 15, 2010
There are two main factions in the tool belt world; the leathers and the nylons. It's sort of like the carpenter version of the Sharks and the Jets. Us? We usually dodge the question by opting for the simple nail pouch with a separate hammer loop. Our quasi-supervisory role at work doesn't allow us to spend too many days fully tooled up. But on those days when we're forced to do it, we go for the old leather belt that we have. In our opinion, there's something about them that just feels more...well...authentic. But we don't have anything against the nylon belts, it's just that we've never really found one that we've been all that into. They seem a little too modern and futuristic for us.
But we're open-minded folks so we jumped at the chance to review the the nylon ToolRider GSR Suspension Rig when Rooster (also makers of McGuire-Nicholas rigs) offered to send one on.
Continue reading: "ToolRider GSR Suspension Rig - Review"
March 9, 2010
Now that most of the big players have their oscillating tools on the shelves, the first phase of the oscillating extravaganza of '09 is coming to an end. At the moment, it looks like we've just entered phase two: accessories. This era will likely be marked by companies releasing all manner of accessory, each more creative (and strange) than the last. We recently checked out Fein's orbital sander attachment and we were very impressed. Today, we just finished up our testing of Rockwell's new SoniShear. The function of this attachment is to turn your SoniCrafter into a pair of shears. When Rockwell said they'd send us one, we really didn't know what to expect.
When we first saw it on youtube, we thought that attaching it to the SoniCrafter was going to be a hassle, like we had to take apart the head of the tool or something. As it turns out, that's not the case at all; it fits on just like any other attachment.
Once it was on, we started a cuttin'. We began with the terrible blister pack that it came in and the SoniShear zipped right through it at an impressive speed. Then we went to corrugated cardboard and had the same results. After that was a thin strip of poplar. Here, not so much. The SoniShear couldn't handle the 1/8" bulky wood. It wasn't from lack of trying either, we actually loosened the whole attachment while we were jamming the thing into the wood (note: no where does Rockwell say that the SoniShear is able to cut wood, we just wanted to push the accessory). So you can't cut wood, but how about aluminum flashing? The SoniShear had no problem here, but the bulk of the tool made things a little awkward, so we'd probably stick with tin snips in the future. We didn't get around to cutting carpet, but from what we saw, the SoniShear would have no difficulty with that material.
There's no question that it's easier on the hands then regular snips or shears. It's also no problem cutting curves. But with the accessory offset from the tool body, there are going to be times when the tool isn't going to fit where you want it. It's a minimal concern and shouldn't stop anyone from taking a closer look at the SoniShear.
It's inexpensive enough at $25 that it sort of falls into the, "eh, why not?" category. Unless you're lined up to remove a carpet, there's probably no reason to go running out to get one, but if you see one at the store and you've got some cash in your pocket, why not have it on hand in your arsenal? It'll definitely come in handy at some point.
And because the SoniShear wraps around the body of the tool, it is incompatible with the other brands of oscillating tools.
We also just noticed that Rockwell has cleaned up their website a bit, check it out here.
It'll be available at Amazon.com and Rockwell Tools
March 2, 2010
It's funny, but each time Dremel releases a new rotary tool, we think to ourselves, "man, this is the best Dremel evah!" Then they release another one and we think, "Whoa, now this is the best Dremel the world has ever seen!" And on and on. Last year they released their new corded 4000 series tool and we loved it for it's strength and all around 'Dremely vibe.' Well, now they've released the cordless 8200 which seems to be a companion to the 4000. We were happy that they let us check out a pre-release sample. Oddly enough, we got it in our hands, played around with it for a bit and thought, "Hot damn! Now this might be the greatest Dremel we've ever used!"
The 8200 operates in a range of 5,000 to 30,000 rpm with the adjustment made with a slider on the back of the tool. Above the slider is a battery fuel gauge so you can keep an eye on how much juice you've got left. It's a feature that we think should be standard in li-Ion tools and it's nice to see Dremel getting on board with it.
Because we're carpenters and not hobbyists, we would have liked to see this tool come with two batteries instead of just one. Were that the case, the 8200 would be fully jobsite ready, but the extra battery would also tack on at least $50 to the price and it would be something that isn't used by a lot of the people who buy Dremels and use them sporadically in the garage workspace and won't mind the 1-hour charger.
(Update: We're dopes. Dremel does indeed offer an 8200 with two batteries. It's the 8200 2/28 and it will be retailing for $140. It also includes a cutting guide, a right angle attachment and 28 accessories. Sounds ideal to us. A thank you to Dremel for pointing out our error.)
In general, the cordless aspect of this tool is fantastic. It makes the use and set-up of it that much easier. And it's powerful too. According to Dremel, the 8200 has a speed of cut that is twice as fast as the leading cordless rotary tool. We didn't verify this, but we did use the tool to cut metal, plastic, and stone and thought it was right up there with the 4000.
The one thing we're not fond of with the tool is the case. Because the tool we got was an advance copy, the case we got may or may not be the one that is being sold with the tool. We have no reason to think that the production case will be different, but you never know. As our friends at Milwaukee are aware, we can get really hung up on tool cases. The blow-molded jobbies that some companies use drive us crazy, and while the Dremel case does have plenty of room for accessories, there is also this panel piece that creates an odd space for loose accessories to hide behind. And getting them out is like getting a pick out of a guitar. Dremel accessories are very tiny and some of them break down into even tinier pieces, so why make a case like this? No comprende.
But that's just our hangup and all of you who read that last paragraph with glazed over eyes can just walk away knowing that Dremel has made yet another great rotary tool.
it's also worth noting the we received a marketing sample, so the 100% finished "in the store" product may (or may not) have a look that is slightly more polished.
The 8200 isn't available until April, but when it is, it will sell for $100 to $140 depending on the accessory package that comes with it. It's not there now, but it will likely be at Amazon.com
February 17, 2010
Miter saws are one of those tools that dribble through the innovation process. Not a whole lot happens between generations other than a few more amps of power, or a couple more degrees of cut, at best, a laser sight is added. All in all it's a slow and rather boring progression. Festool released their mighty Kapex a couple years ago which added a good jolt to the process, but at a price of $1300, the most the average person could do was read the stats and say, "cool." But now here comes Craftsman with something called the MiterMate. When you first look at it, it's pretty strange. It's essentially a miter saw with two adjustable fences, as opposed to an adjustable blade. This feature, when used with their angle finder, allows for a single adjustment for two cuts which result in a perfect miter. Craftsman/Sears was nice enough to send us a sample to review and we found it to be an effective, but not perfect, tool.
Continue reading: "Craftsman 10" MiterMate - Review"
February 5, 2010
For most of us, a can of WD-40 is all we need. It acts as a lubricant, a penetrant, a cleaner, and, for some, a deodorant. It's sort of a 'one can fits all' product. But for those who are really into their lubes, sprays, and foams, or for those rare occasions when the WD just won't cut it, WD-40 (the company, not the product) has just released a line of eight specialized items geared toward the heavy-duty and the hardcore, and, thankfully for us, they sent us a few cans to check out.
The new products are:
- Industrial Grade Silicone
- Industrial Grade High-Performance PTFE Lubricant
- Industrial Grade Dry Lube PTFE Formula
- Industrial Grade Multi-Purpose Lubricant
- Industrial Grade White Lithium Grease
- Industrial Grade Contact Cleaner
- Industrial Grade Penetrant
- Industrial Grade Degreaser
Reviewing things like this isn't easy. It takes too long and is too tedious to rust a couple bolt/nut combos together just to test out the Blue Works Penetrant against the leading brand. So we just put the cans on the shelf and used them as needed. Of the products, we tested out the Penetrant, the De-Greaser, the White Lithium Grease, and the Silicone.
The one we ended up using the most was the silicone, which had no issues assisting us with a gummed up slider and a couple sticky windows, as well as a few stuck wrenches. The White Lithium Grease, we put right in the truck (our old boss once said, "every old truck needs a can of white lithium grease under the driver's seat), and the penetrant did actually help loosen a rusty nut.
We liked the products and the cans have a cool look about them. The Blue Works website has a boatload of information on each one, including the MSDS sheets and scientific-sounding test results that firmly establish their dominance against other brands. We take a lot of those types of manufacturer's tests with a grain of salt, but WD-40 has a great reputation, so even if their products aren't 50 times better than the competition, they're at least 5 times better.
So now when WD-40 isn't doing the job or you're looking for something a little more specialized, you now have a place to go.
There's a boatload more information (including the MSDS sheets) over at blueworksbrand.com
February 4, 2010
Our normal reviews go something like this: we find an interesting tool or get a press release on something new; then we query the manufacturer (or their PR company) and beg and plead that they send us a sample to test out; if they are kind enough to take pity on us and do so, it arrives at the shop and we spend a few weeks giving it the once over; we then sit down and write a Pulitzer-worthy review of said tool (making sure to comply with new FCC regulations and let you know that the tool came from the manufacturer). Well, this time it's different. We didn't just get our hands on our two Bosch Bulldogs, and we didn't get them from Bosch. We paid for them outright and to be honest, it's some of the best money that we've ever spent on any tools.
It's easy to review the precision or functionality of a tool, but when it comes to durability we usually combine 'general feel' with 'previous experience with that company's tools' and add in a few drop tests, and come to our conclusions. Here, that's not the case. We've had one of these tools for about five years and the other one (the dirty one) we had on an aggressively brutal jobsite for about 18 months. We can only say that these tools are phenomenal and that if you're thinking about getting one, just go ahead and do it. There were days when we treated these tools so poorly, you'd think that we hated them. They've been dropped, tossed, kicked, stepped on, and one of them was even lost in a snowbank for a short period of time. As far as tools go, they're like the paperboy from Better Off Dead; always there, ready to go, non-stop (minus the annoying voice).
In addition to the unreal durability, there's the power/size ratio which, in our eyes is perfect. If you're a carpenter, you really don't need some massive hammer drill, but you still want the ability to chip concrete and spend a day driving tap-cons. This tool does all that, and it doesn't take up that much room in the back of the van.
They cost around $200 and there are a couple different versions with different handles and features, but they've all got the same ass-kicking quotient.