August 6, 2010

Worx GT 24-Volt Trimmer - Review

worx_gt.jpg
If you read the site, you know that we've recently had some big problems with a variety of string trimmers. The end result is that we're now cutting a good part of the tall grass out in the field by hand (for the rest, we got our pal with a field mower to stop by). So that's all fine and dandy, but what about the little stuff that grows around the well head and the flower beds? Since it's assumed that Mrs. Tool Snob would not be thrilled to see a scythe slashing away at the grass around her heirloom roses, we need another option. Thankfully, Worx recently sent us one of their new 24-volt trimmers to try out. We were hoping that it would solve our problem. So for the past few months we've been spending some QT with the tool and we've come to our conclusions.

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Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (4) | social bookmarking

July 20, 2010

Senco Fusion F-15 Cordless Finish Nailer - Review

senco_fusion_hero.jpgThere's been a lot of buzz around the Senco Fusion. And if you're to believe what Senco has been saying about it, there should be. To give it all some context, you need to know that, to date, the technology behind cordless finish guns seems, well, incomplete. There are the gas powered guns, which take a battery and a removable gas cartridge, but they smell terrible and have the added expense of replacing the gas cartridge. Then there are the nailers powered by a flywheel motor, which have solved the dual fuel problem (as well as the odor), but are lacking in power, particularly when dealing with hardwoods. So there are options out there, but you're getting yourself into a tradeoff; sure I don't have a compressor or hoses, but I've got a smelly gas cartridge or I've got a gun that has some difficulty with mahogany. There isn't any ideal situation out there.

So the Senco Fusion seeks to fill this gap and combine the best of both arenas. Its goal is to fuse the manueverability of the cordless gun with the power of the traditional pneumatic nailer. And how does it attempt to do this, you ask?


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Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (2) | social bookmarking

July 13, 2010

Johnson Glo-View Magnetic Torpedo Level - Review

johnson_glo_level_side.jpgLast week we reviewed Swason's new Lightning Level which turned out to be a pretty nice tool. Just press a button and the vials light up. That one is available in 24" and 48" lengths, which in our opinion are two of the three essential level sizes. But what about the third, the torpedo level? They're too small to house batteries and a torpedo level with LEDs seems a bit like overkill. So do these little levels stay sadly unlit?

Not so says Johnson Level and Tool with the release of their new Glo-View Torpedo Level. This one doesn't have any LEDs to light up the vials, but rather it...wait for it...wait for it...wait for it...glows! Whoa.

johnson_glo_level_dark.jpgLike most torpedoes, the Glo-View has three vials; a level, a plumb, and a 45 degree. It has an aluminum housing and one of the long sides has a v-groove to make it easier to hold it against a pipe. The other side has three magnets on it so you can stick it to a metal stud or whatever. We're not going to get into our thoughts on magnetized levels again, but if you're interested, we spent a paragraph on it here.

The glow feature is nice and subtle. In fact, if someone just handed you the level during the day, it's likely you wouldn't even realize the level had any special ability. The glowing things works like any glow-in-the-dark toy you had when you were little; hold it by the light and let it charge up, and then you've got enough glow-mojo (glojo?) to last you a little while, at least long enough to worm your way into the crawlspace and solder a few pipes.

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The Glo-View Torpedo runs for just over $15, which puts it in right in the mid-range for torpedo levels, so it's not like you're paying an extra $30 for the glowing ability.

Johnson has incorporated their Glo-View into their line of box levels, so the feature is available 24", 48", 72", and 96" lengths as well. It's a good alternative to the Swanson LED levels if you're interested in having the vials lit, but you're still a little dodgy about having a level with a light switch on it.

At Grainger

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

July 9, 2010

Swanson Lightning Level - Review

swanson_lightning_level.jpgPrevious to them sending us their new Lightning Level to review, the only contact we had ever had from Swanson was the legal document that their lawyers dropped on us demanding that we stop using the term 'Speed Square' in a generic sense. As it turns out, the only acceptable way to refer to the tool is by saying in its entirety: "SPEEDĀ® Square, a registered trademark of Swanson Tool Co., Inc." so if you see anyone else out there who doesn't take the time to write out that entire ridiculous statement, please contact Swanson and let them know that there's some serious trademark violation going on. The whole episode was very irritating and entirely unnecessary...they could have just asked. We hope that those lawyers charged them a lot of money. Due to their heavy-handed approach to the matter, we decided we would rather drink wood glue than aid in the publicity of any of their tools. We created a blacklist and we put them on it. It was the least we could do. We're deeply Irish and capable of holding a mega-grudge.

swanson_lightning_logo.jpgBut, our policy is to review everything that shows up on the doorstep, so we suppressed the battle-axe wielding tribal Irish chieftain who lives in our head (he's in charge of long-term animosities), and carried on with the review of the Swanson's Lightning Level.

So what exactly is it? Well, it's a level with a little LED light at each vial. To operate it, just press the button that is at one end of the level and the lights go on. Press it again and they go off. If you forget to press it again, it goes off by itself in ten minutes.

The level has two plumb vials and one level vial, rubber bumpers at each end (and, at one end, the dual AAA battery compartment), and rubber grips. Both edges have v-grooves for things like pipes and on the model we tested, one side (the side uninterrupted by the level vial), is magnetized.

swanson_lightning_end_off.jpg swanson_lightning_end_on.jpg

Thankfully, Swanson has a non-magnetized version available. We sit the fence on the whole magnetic level thing. While there are circumstances when it comes in handy, most of the time we find it to be a nuisance. Once the magnets collect a few metal shavings, which is inevitable, they become VERY dangerous to finished surfaces. It seems to be a matter of personal preference, and ours is to usually pass on them.

swanson_lightning_on.jpgAnd what do we think about the lighted vials? We actually like them and Swanson did a nice execution with the tool. Thankfully, it's not a level with some additional contraption built off the side that lights the vials up, but rather it's a cleanly integrated system. It's not like you feel compelled to always use the lights, but they're there if you need them. It's a level that happens to have lights, not lights that happen to have a level.

And we found the feature to be useful in all the usual places; closets, basements, and job sites (especially when you're only relying on a string of junky temp lights). We also feel the need to note that the pictures we took don't accurately represent the lights. In reality, it's a nice soft glow that lights up the vial, not the Tron special effect that our camera is capable of showing.

So is it a necessary feature that should be included on all levels? We don't think so. Is it handy to have from time to time? Definitely.

The Lightning Level is available in both 24" and 48" lengths and goes for about $45 and $65 respectively (add about $10 for the magnetized version).

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (2) | social bookmarking

July 7, 2010

Made by Hand - Review

made_by_hand.jpgThere's a certain type of book that we really dislike. And we must be in the minority because we're constantly seeing examples of it on the new release shelf at the bookstore. It's those tedious books centered around someone's 'voyage of personal discovery.' They're all sort of the same: Some dude (or dudette) decides that their life is lame and lacking so they get involved in some new hobby/lifestyle/passion, etc, and 250 agonizing pages later, we find out that they're a better person because of it and, golly, look at all the quirky people they met along the way!

So anyway, a couple weeks ago Penguin Publishing sent us a copy of Mark Frauenfelder's book, Made by Hand. Frauenfelder is one of the founders of the mega-blog Boing Boing, as well as the Editor in Chief of Make Magazine (he also looks like he has a closet full of Weezer bootlegs). Anyway, once we got started on the book, we started to get that sinking, 'personal discovery' feeling, but we kept reading anyway...

In Made by Hand, Frauenfelder, recounts his journey over to the DIY side of life. Being an Editor of Make Magazine, it appears that he knew that the lifestyle was out there, he just hadn't fully embraced it. Frauenfelder uses the DIY idea in the macro sense, putting under its umbrella more than just house fix-it type stuff. He uses the term to include everything from food preparation to spoon making to chicken raising. With him it's more of a self-sufficiency thing than a 'I just fixed the squeaky hinge' thing.

Each chapter in the book is dedicated to one of his forays into this new found world of technology, carpentry, animal husbandry, food preparation, and just general homesteading, some successful and some not. Because he understands that failure is a pretty good teacher, he almost seems to relish in revealing his mistakes along the way, which gives the book a nice wide-open honesty.

Although the book is mostly an account of his actions and the people he meets, it does delve into ideas from time to time, but things never get all that deep, which is fine. The book stays nice, light, and humorous throughout, which is really its strongest point. The grand theory of the book, which is repeated about once a chapter, is that if you start making things by hand you'll gain satisfaction and knowledge and you'll have a finer appreciation of your surroundings. It's a simple idea, and one that's impossible to refute.

And the bottom line is that Made by Hand is a fun book to read. The style is engaging and the author doesn't really take himself all that seriously, which is good and places the reader right with him as he tries, tries, and tries again. It all makes for a 'voyage of personal discovery' that is not only tolerable, but enjoyable.

At Amazon.com

Subscribe to Make here or here (great magazine)

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

July 2, 2010

DeWalt DWS535 Worm Drive Circular Saw - Review

dewalt_wormdrive.jpg

So what's a worm drive?
If you're in the dark on the whole worm drive thing, here's the deal: When compared to a direct drive circular saw (the kind you think of when you hear the words 'circular saw'), a worm drive has a more significant 'gearing down' of the motor, giving it higher torque, but at a less speed. The speed part, you don't really notice, but the power part, you do. Because of the design of the worm drive gear, the blade runs parallel to the motor, as opposed to perpendicular to it, accounting for the generally cylindrical shape of the tool.

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Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (5) | social bookmarking

June 30, 2010

Bosch Vs. DeWalt

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There are a lot of ways to measure tool companies against one another; length of warranty, availability of parts, number of tools in their cordless lines, etc. But we think one of the more important ways is by the quality of pen that they give out at their annual press events. We recently acquired a DeWalt pen at such an event and put it head to head against our Bosch pen we got at an event in the summer of '09.

Ergonomics
The Bosch pen has these three rubberized nubs at the tip, presumably for the thumb and first two fingers. While writing with the pen, our fingers didn't always land comfortably on the nubs making for grip that felt slightly 'off.'. In contrast, DeWalt has encircled the entire lower half of the pen with a rubberized area (save these little yellow hash marks) and has smartly placed a divot on the top side where the first finger lands.
Advantage: DeWalt

bosch_vs_dewalt_bosch.jpg bosch_vs_dewalt_dewalt.jpg

Aesthetics
Bosch opted for more of a modern shape, giving their pen tapered ends. The body of the pen is metallic blue with a silver nose and a silver central ring. The pocket clip transitions once again to silver with a graceful angle and curved return back over the pen body. It's a sharp looking pen, one that smells of elegance. The DeWalt pen has less of a rear taper (hardly any at all actually) and the yellow DeWalt color is a tad loud. In addition, the pocket clip sits on the pen in an unremarkable and quite pedestrian fashion.
Advantage: Bosch

Usability
To reveal the tip of the Bosch pen, you have to give the body a quarter twist. It's a silent operation and very smooth. The DeWalt is more old-fashioned with the rear click button. It's a loud click, but it's a solid, satisfying sound.
Advantage: Bosch (if you're sneaking up on someone)
DeWalt (if you're trying to alert someone that you're choking)

bosch_vs_dewalt_both.jpg

Ink Quality
We traded off pens while completing pages 1390 to 1456 of our memoir and we discovered that the Bosch is a smoother ride. This is caused by the release of a consistent and very, very slightly excessive amount of ink. The downside of this is that we noticed some 'blobbing.' The DeWalt glide is a bit stiffer, but the ink lines, while a tad lighter, are more even. Both pens are black, which is good because blue ink would have led to immediate disqualification.
Advantage: DeWalt

Bottom Line
These are both fine pens, each with some good points and some not as good points. We are of the opinion that there's room in the world for both pens. The Bosch is the one that we would bring to the client meeting; it's sleek, professional looking, and the amount of ink dispensed lets us write faster and makes it easier to transcribe the wild demands of the client. The DeWalt, on the other hand, goes in the truck. It's what we fill out our construction log book with. It's bright yellow, so we won't lose it, and when we're stressed out because the stone stair treads were just delivered and they don't fit the metal pans, we can just sit and furiously click the pen while we figure out what to do.

Update: We just got word that Milwaukee is currently developing a 12-volt fountain pen for release in August of 2012.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (3) | social bookmarking

June 29, 2010

Bosch PS31-2A 3/8" 12-Volt Drill/Driver - Review

bosch_ps31.jpg

A little while back, we cobbled together a glowing review of the new Bosch pocket driver, the PS21-2A. It's a little monster of a tool and we found it could basically replace our 14.4 drill and could even handle some things reserved for the 18-volt (although not on a day in and day out basis). Well, soon after releasing that little fella, Bosch hit the stands with the PS31-2A, which is basically the same tool, but with a 3/8" three-jawed chuck. They dropped one in the mail for us, and for the last month or so, we've used it extensively, both on the job site and in the shop.

bosch_ps31_top.jpg bosch_ps31_bat_lights.jpg

And there's really not a whole lot to say other than that it has quickly achieved the spot of our primary drill/driver. Everything we liked about the PS21 is there but now we have the added functionality of the three-jawed chuck. Because of the chuck, the PS31 is a longer tool than its driver counterpart, but we'll take that extra bit of length any day in order to get the added versatility. Sure, we know that you can buy bits with the 1/4" hex end, but that's honestly a pain in the ass and we don't want to have to go out and get a special set of bits just for one tool. Not to mention, the three-jawed chuck lets us use countersinks, centering bits and all kinds of oddballs that we couldn't use with the PS21. To put it simply, this is a fully-functional drill.

Out of all the 12-volt drills and drill/drivers that we've seen and been able to really field test, this one is the best and it's all in the power. Sure the other features are there, the battery gauge (a very nice feature on li-ion tools), the LED, and the case with all the extra room for bits, but a drill needs to be powerful first and foremost, and this one certainly is. The PS31 had no problem passing the TimberLok test, sinking a 6" screw into a block o' PT. It was a strain on the tool, but not that much of a strain. In addition to this, the PS31-2A just performed well everyday. 1-5/8" screws, no problem, 3" screws, not a problem (but a whisker too slow for production work).

So if you're a handyman who does a lot of punch list work, or maybe someone who doesn't want to lug around a massive 18-volt drill all the time, or a homewoner who wants something small, reliable and powerful, it would be smart to seriously consider this tool.

bosch_ps31_in_case.jpg bosch_PS31_w_tlok.jpg

As far as price goes, the PS31-2A is about $150, making it one of the more (if not the most) expensive 12-volt drill/driver on the market and putting it $20 above the PS21-2a. For the added ability and raw power, we think it's worth the investment.

$150 at Amazon.com

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

June 22, 2010

Paslode PF150S-PP Positive Placement Metal Connector Nailer - Review

Paslode_PPN.jpgPaslode, a company that makes nail guns and only nail guns, has recently released a new Positive Placement Nailer (PPN). If you don't know what a PPN is, it looks like a miniature framing gun, but it has a way to pinpoint the location of the nail. On other brands, this is done with the tip of the nail sticking proud out of the nose, but Paslode does this with a little metal beak. So you just press the beak where you want the nail and pull the trigger. With this in mind PPNs are created specifically for nailing off metal straps, joist hangers, hurricane ties, and other pieces of perforated metal. Paslode was nice enough to send a sample of the new nailer our way, so we happily tested it out.

First, a bit about this gun. The most significant change that Paslode has made is to reduce the gun to a single nail size (1-1/2"). It's the most common size for metal hangers and meets most code requirements. Because there is only one nail size, Paslode could minimize the width of the nail magazine and thus make it longer without sacrificing any weight. The Paslode can accept two full strips of nails meaning less pauses in the workday.


paslode_PPN_nose.jpg Paslode_PPN_close.jpg

The feel of this tool is great and it looks like it can really take a beating, which is good, because we've seen how professional framers treat their tools. And even with the extended magazine, the gun is compact enough so there's no problem jamming it into joist bays and other tight spots (it's pictured below next to the Paslode framer).

We tested it in the shop with a ledgerboard mock-up and we also took it to work for some day to day action and the tool really performed well. If you've never used a PPN before, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to use and how fast it makes things go. And we're happy to note that the Paslode is powerful enough so that if you feel the hanger is light on nail holes, you can just blast additional nails right through the hanger.

Paslode_PPN_w_framer.jpg paslode_PPN_w_hanger.jpg

Obviously, this is not a tool for Jimmy, the neighborhood DIY guy who wants to build a deck. He'd be wasting his money. But if you're part of a construction company or if you're just getting started in the business and you're still in the 'I'll build a deck for anyone' phase, this tool will pay for itself in no time.

The PF150S goes for the somewhat large price of $369 and is available at your local Paslode dealer. You can call Paslode direct if you can't find one). It's a lot to pay, but it's a really nice tool.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

June 15, 2010

Derby and Ball Scythe - Review

scythe_1.jpgWith the field out by the apple tree starting to get a bit overgrown and with FOTS (Father of Tool Snob) informing us that we'd better get to doing something about it before it goes to seed (he's in the know on this sort of thing), we decided we'd fire up a string trimmer to deal with the tall grass.

The long, overgrown grass (complete with thick weeds) seemed to be a good match for the heavy duty 4-stroke LEHR string Trimmer (we have the Craftsman branded one, but it's the same tool). After about ten minutes of relentless starter-cord pulling, we had nothing. So we pulled some more, and then some more after that. This coming from a tool that touts: no winterization and an easy start-up every time. We began to see that unique shade of white rage that accompanies uncooperative lawn machinery. We tried the 2-stroke trimmer that we have and that one was no better. No starting, no nothing. We went back to the LEHR and got another ten minutes of anger.

We were actually in the process of putting the trimmer in the log splitter when we recalled that the house came with an old scythe tucked in the back of the shed. After a few satisfying kicks to the trimmer, we went and dug it up also locating our box of sharpening stones.

scythe_blade.jpgAfter a pass with the angle grinder and a fine tune with the stones, the scythe was pretty damn sharp (a slip with the sharpening stone almost took a finger off, giving us a nice way to test SallyeAnder's claim that their hand soap works on bloodstains). Never having used a scythe before, but having once gotten a lesson from FOTS, we headed out to the field.

A few things to note about the remainder of the morning...

1. The scythe worked great. It's nice rhythmic work that quickly puts you smack dab in your 'happy place.' With no annoying trimmer motor or uncomfortable earplugs, we were relaxed and somewhat hypnotized by the satisfying swishing noise made by the cutting. The neighbors were probably pleased as well to not hear the high-pitched, 10lb mosquito whining of the trimmer motor.

2. We lasted about an hour, but after that we were toast. It's exhausting work. It's sort of like using a post-hole digger in that it seems to rely on muscles that you didn't know you even had. Our technique was OK, but not that great. We're going to have to work on it next time.

scythe_lable.jpg3. And there will be a next time. The trimmer would have been much less effort with the only energy burned being done by moving the shaft around. But the scythe gave us the whole package; we not only got a workout, but were engaged with the process, tweaking a grip, shifting our weight, trying to figure out the best way to work the tool. Above everything, we simply enjoyed ourselves. With no motor, we were able to hear the birds and the wind and all those other little noises that you miss in the muted cone of semi-silence that earplugs provide. The scythe was also able to handle some weeds that the trimmers would have likely had some problems with.

Needless to say, there was no stopping to load another string on the trimmer, no re-gassing, and no engine troubles. The only engine was us (with a pathetically small gas tank, by the way).

4. We also got to thinking about the time when people would spend entire days, no weeks, doing this work. It was one of those, 'we're a nation of sissies' moment, and while we were gasping for air around minute 55, we were in awe of the men who cut hay by hand.

5. If you've got a similar situation going on and there's a part of your property that gets overgrown and you only want to hack it down once or twice a year, we recommend getting a scythe and giving it a go. At the very least, it will give you a deep appreciation of your rural grandfathers. And probably a sore muscle or two.

Here's one at Amazon.com (looks like you have to buy the handle and blade separately). We also some on ebay, but if you start trolling barn sales, you'll probably have a good chance of finding one.

And a video on proper technique:

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (4) | social bookmarking

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