April 21, 2010

Rockwell 12-Volt H3 Multi-Function Hammer Drill - Review

rockwell_h3_hero.jpgWell 12-volt mania is in full swing and if a 12-volt rotary hammer doesn't convince you of that fact, we don't know what will. There are tools that are no-brainers for the whole 12-volt thing, (flashlights, multi-meters, mini drill/drivers) and then there are tools that strike us as, well, totally incompatible with the little batteries. A rotary hammer...that one falls into the second category. We did quite a double take when we first heard that Rockwell was releasing just that tool and we were happy when they sent one our way so that we could take a look.

Actually, it first needs to be clarified that, regardless of what name they want to use, Rockwell's new H3 is not a hammer drill. It's a rotary hammer. There's a big difference and it's a little strange that Rockwell went with the misnomer. Inside the H3, the impact is created through the compression of a cylinder of air, not the metal on metal mechanism of a hammer drill. Hammer drills have a better name recognition, which must be what Rockwell is thinking, although we're of the opinion that they'd be better off calling it a rotary hammer and broadcasting the fact that they managed to down-size the rotary hammer to such an extent that the tools weighs about three pounds.

rockwell_h3_in_hand.jpg

But there's more to the tool than just the rotary hammer. The H3, by virtue of two different chucks, (both of which click into the SDS chuck of the tool), can also function as a drill and a driver. The tool's chuck acts just like any other SDS with the pull-back sleeve, so changing between functions is very easy. When drilling or driving, a switch on the side of the tool, toggles the motor out of rotary hammer mode and leaves you with a standard 12-volt drill.

We did some extensive testing of the H3 (a good portion of it recounted in our Popular Mechanics article on the tool) and we were surprised at how powerful the tool was. Testing it against a standard 18-volt hammer drill (again, over at the PM article), the tool was very comfortable to use and showed that it could keep up with the larger 18-volt tool in the area of power. The one drawback of the tool is how quickly the battery gets drained when it's in rotary hammer mode. On one battery, we were able to drill 9 1/2" holes on concrete, and on another battery, we drove 11 1-3/4" tapcons. These are impressive numbers for such a small tool, but when compared to the larger tool (with the larger battery), they're lacking.

rockwell_h3_controls.jpg rockwell_h3_chucks.jpg

As a 12-volt driver, the H3 is pretty standard and doesn't have anywhere near the power of the uber-strong Bosch PS21. It's not weak, but it just sits among the pack and not in the lead. It's also a lot heavier and bulkier than the other drivers on the market, obviously because of the added mojo for the rotary hammer. The weight is mostly up in the front of the tool, making it a bit awkward when compared to the other 12-volt drills, but that's the price you pay for having the ability to blast a hole in concrete.

The H3 costs about $180, which is a fair price for all the action that you can get out of it. We're not sure when the H3 is being released, but it should be available soon. There's no info at the Rockwell website just yet.

At Amazon.com


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

April 8, 2010

Liquid Wrench Lubes - Review

liquid_wrench.jpg

A while back, we reviewed the new Blue Works lubricating products from the guys who brought us WD-40. We casually used them around the shop and thought they were great. As it turns out Liquid Wrench has also just released a new set of lubes and they shipped a six-pack our way so that we could get a look. We treated them the same as the Blue Works...plopped them on a shelf and used them as needed.

The new products are; lubricating oil, penetrating oil, silicone spray. dry lubricant, chain lube, and white lithium grease. Pretty much anything that a guy could ask for.

Like we said in our review of the Blue Works products, we're not Tools of the Trade, so we don't have the time or resources to set up some elaborate test where we identically rust two sets of nuts and bolts and then saturate them in two different penetrants, and then have some way of measuring the torque needed to loosen each one. No, we try to base our reviews on what 'the guy in his garage' is looking for. And in this case, the question he wants answered is, 'do they work?" We found that after cleaning up the gears of our table saw, fixing a squeaky shed door hinge, and unsticking a bad drawer slide, the answer is yes. "Did we like them?" Yes. "If we saw them in a store, would we buy them?" Yes. And honestly, the same could be said for the Blue Works products. We have no idea what the chemical difference between these two brands is, and we really don't care. And we don't think that you really do either. If you're like us, you're going to be in a store looking for a few things and you're going to think to yourself, "oh yeah, I need some spray silicone for that window that keeps sticking." You just want something that works. And the Liquid Wrench products work.

Actually, one interesting thing about the Liquid Wrench products is the marketing. Where Blue Works takes a technical attitude and have loaded their website with stats and numbers, Liquid Wrench approaches things in a more user friendly way and concentrates on educating you about the practical uses of each lube. Their website is great and after a few minutes on it, we wanted to lube up everything we own. There's a nice page that lists about 100 around the house tasks and the lube that's best suited. There are also some seasonal uses here. This doesn't reflect on the actual performance of the lubes, but it's a smart approach for the company to take.

These lubes will be about $5 a can and should be at your local Ace and Lowes, but for a full retailer list, check out the Liquid Wrench website.

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

April 7, 2010

LEHR 4-Stroke Propane Powered 25cc Eco Blower/Vac - Review

lehr_blower_side1.jpgWe're sure you're sitting there thinking, "why the eff are these morons reviewing a leaf blower in spring?" There's an answer to that. First off, LEHR sent us this blower to review back in October (we think). At the time, we tested it out quite a bit, but it started snowing before we could get our review posted up, so we packed up the LEHR and there it sat, in the corner of the garage, for the past number of months. That is until last weekend when we decided to burn some brush.

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

April 6, 2010

Bosch PS21 Pocket Driver - Review

bosch_ps21.jpgWhen 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.

bosch_ps21_w_ps20.jpg bosch_ps21_w_others.jpg

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.

bosch_ps21_in_hand.jpg bosch_ps21_toggle.jpg

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

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

April 5, 2010

Measuring, Marking, & Layout: A Builder's Guide - Review

measuring_jpgRecently, 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.

At Amazon.com

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

March 23, 2010

The Garage Slab - Review

garage_slab.jpgA 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.

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

March 18, 2010

Craftsman 5" Vibrafree Random Orbit Sander - Review

craftsman_antivibe.jpgWe'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.

craftsman_antivibe_bottom.jpg craftsman_antivibe_back.jpg

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.

craftsman_antivibe_dust_connection.jpgA 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.

craftsman_antivibe_discs.jpgAnother 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.

At Craftsman

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (6) | social bookmarking

March 15, 2010

ToolRider GSR Suspension Rig - Review

toolrider.jpg

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.

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

March 9, 2010

Rockwell SoniShear - Review

sonishear.jpgNow 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.

sonishear_attached.jpgsonishear_attached2.jpg

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.

sonishear_mess.jpgThere'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

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

March 2, 2010

Dremel 8200 Cordless Rotary Tool - Review

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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!"

dremel_8200_battery.jpgThe 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.)

dremel_8200_w4000.jpg

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.

dremel_8200_case.jpgThe 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

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

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