May 14, 2010

Bosch GLL2-80 Dual Plane Line Laser- Review

bosch_level_hero.jpgWe break our lasers down into two groups; the big tri-pod style rotary lasers, descended from transits, and the little jobsite ones like the fantastic PLS2. Each of these styles has limitations though; the rotary lasers, while they can project a 360 line (meaning a line completely around the level), are large and awkward to use; and while the little guys are barely bigger than a juice box, they can only project a line out in front of them, so they constantly have to be shifted around the room in order to complete some tasks.

Bosch with their new GLL2-80 actually combines the good from both styles of lasers. Now, for the first time, you can get the 360 line, both vertical and horizontal, in a small package.

bosch_level_hero2.jpgThe technology here is actually very interesting. In a normal 360 level, the laser itself spins, and it's this additional mechanism that leads to their bulky bodies. What Bosch has done to get around this is to utilize something they call Cone Mirror Technology. What happens is that the laser shines against a little reflective cone which then projects it out 360 degrees. Our guess is that the little cone is about as finely machined of an item as you're going to find in any tool. With this set-up in action, Bosch has found a way to deliver the 360 laser in something that's barely larger than a pocket dictionary.

bosch_level_on_stand.jpgThe GLL2-80 has a number of smart features beyond the whole 'shoot the laser at the cone' thing. First off, it can be used in any one of three modes; horizontal line, vertical line, or both simultaneously. You also have the option of locking the leveling pendulum, so you're able to work in crooked, saggy houses like ours where level is less important than straight. The Bosch level shuts off automatically in 30 minutes, but you can override that if you want, and it also makes a little squawk when it's too far out of level, but you can override that as well. When it's off, the pendulum locks into place so there's no risk of damage during transport. There is also a mode that assists the laser in getting picked up by a remote receiver (not included in all packages).

There is also a little stand for the tool complete with an adjustment knob, so you can set it up and then tinker with the height of the level. The functionality of this stand is fantastic and we were able to really fine-tune the laser height to exactly where we wanted it.

bosch_level_top.jpgThe one minor detail that we wished was different is the on/off slide switch (the red one on the side). Unlike the PLSs, Bosch went with a hard switch (PLS's have soft-touch buttons), so it's difficult to switch the tool on and off and keep it stable at the same time. We've been on sites where we leave our laser set up in one spot for days on end and we practically build a razor wire enclosure around it so it doesn't get bumped. Keeping the level stable makes turning the laser on and off every day an operation like Indiana Jones fiddling with the statue in the first scene of Raiders. We're not saying this is impossible with the Bosch, it's just more difficult.

bosch_level_in_use.jpg bosch_level_in_use2.jpg

But that's a minor quibble when placed against the positives of this laser. Normally to get this kind of functionality you've got to use something the size of a watermelon. So what does this all mean to you in a functional sense? Well, it means a single laser set up for an entire roomful of wainscotting. It means no more setting up your laser in the corner to try to get the most coverage out of it's limited beam. It means one click and you can tell that your kitchen floor is two inches out of level fron the sides to the center (we're serious on this one), it means knowing exactly where the entire face of a new partition wall will land. it means a lot of things, all of which translate directly into more a more efficient work day.

Bosch_level_in_case.jpgThe bottom line is that Bosch has once again stuffed big tool functionality into a small tool body (remember their PS21?). And then there's the price. It's looking like the GLL2-80 is going to retail in the $300 range (which is just a bit more expensive than the 180 cross line PLS). To say that this is a very good price for this item is a bit of an understatment.

At Amazon.com

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

May 11, 2010

DeWalt Magnetic ToughCase - Review

dewalt_toughcase_1.jpgWhen DeWalt sent us a sample of their new ToughCase, we thought, "oh yeah Toughguy, we'll show you how tough you are." We started thinking of ways to condense a year's worth of abuse in about 45 minutes.

But first, about the item. The little case is well built and has the nice clasp that DeWalt uses on their tool boxes. The main features of the box are the magnets on the lid that allow you to open the box and stick it to something metal (a metal stud, a piece of duct work, etc.) and work out of it like a feeding trough (in fact, the ToughCase would make an excellent birdfeeder - if you had a metal tree to hang it off of). In a smart move, DeWalt added little o-rings around the magnets so the case won't slide once it's stuck to something, but also to prevent any magnet to metal marring if you need to shift the case around. It's a clever little idea and one that certainly comes in handy from time to time. There are also little hooks on the back of the case so if there's no metal around, you can hang it off something.

dewalt_toughcase_2.jpgWe tested the ToughCase's durability a number of ways. First, we just sort of threw it around the driveway, then we kicked it a few times, then finally during lunchbreak the other day, we challenged the painters to a game of ToughCase soccer. Although we lost 2-1 (the painters are Brazilian, soccer's in their blood), the case showed its resilience. It got some corner dings and scrapes, but the functionality was perfectly intact.

So it's a tough little case, but there's one little glitch in it. It's sort of unavoidable, but the magnets that work so well on the outside of the case also work on the inside of the case. This means that the case is opened up, there are always a few drill bits or driver bits stuck on the inside of the lid. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but knocking them off each time we accessed the case was a bit annoying. But following the 'make lemonade' theory of life, we utilized these magnets a few times in situations when we were constantly switching between two bits. Instead of dropping it back in the box to get lost among its friends, we just stuck it against the lid for the next time we needed it. It's a nice little unintended feature of the box and one that offsets having to constantly knock bits off the inside of the lid.

dewalt_toughcase_3.jpg dewalt_toughcase_4.jpg

It looks like you'll be able to get the ToughCase in three versions; just the case, with a set of driver bits, or with a set of impact-ready accessories. Just the case will be about $12, the driver bits $20, and the impact gear $35.

ToughCase with driver set at Lowes

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

May 7, 2010

Tanos Systainer - Review

systainer_1.jpgIf you know Festool, you probably know the Tanos Systainer. They're the funky gray boxes that the uber-expensive tools are stored in. The Systainer isn't easily available on its own, but now the guys at Tool Nut have become only the third distributor in the western hemisphere to offer these little boxes. We got in a conversation with them one day and they offered to send a sample on for us to review and we happily agreed. We then checked their very slick website (Systainerworld.com) and almost had a heart attack when we realized that a $75 tool box was about to show up on the doorstep.

In reality, we should be the last people on earth to review this product. We're beyond cheap when it comes to tool storage. We have a few 5-gallon buckets loaded with hand tools out in the shop and we even keep a few tools nicely stored in coffee cans (no joke, we're pathetic). So what do we think about a $75 tool case? We naturally think it's pretty insane. But once we wrapped our head around the Systainer system we realized that it's so insane that it just might make perfect sense...

systainer_4.jpgThe Systainers are a collection of different sized containers that are all compatible with one another. The smaller ones fit into the larger ones, the medium ones click onto the big ones, and so on. It's like Duplo for middle-aged men. They can easily stack and the latches give a hard connection from one box to the next. The whole thing is very smart. There are also a number of 'inserts' and foam pads available for the different boxes. Some specifically for certain tools and others that are more generic.

So we got our Systainer, which came with a Fein MultiMaster molded insert and we immediately filled it up with non-Fein junk and tossed it in the back of the truck where it bounced around for a few weeks. While its a nice box, it's really not made for what we put it through. The walls of the molded insert don't connect up with the underside of the lid, so when it's treated like a hacky-sack things can migrate from compartment to compartment, and because of it's rectangular shape and the handle being on the top, it takes up an unusual piece of back seat real estate, particularly when stacked next to other standard tool cases.

systainer_3.jpgBut we realized that we were making the mistake of treating it just like any other $5 Home Depot tool box. We were thinking too small, which is easy to do if you only have one of these things. If you have two or more, now you're starting to get somewhere and you can really start reaping the benefits of these boxes. The Systainer is all about modularity so having a single case is like having one mitten. We've actually seen this theory in action a few years ago when a flooring guy pulled a hand cart out of his van and rolled about 1/2 dozen Systainers into the job. The whole thing took like nine seconds an he had all of his tool ready to go.

We contacted Tool Nut and asked them who they thought could benefit from the Systainer systems and they sent back an enthusiastic email with the following:

It's used in Europe to transport organs (insulated accessory). Used in military for efficient and simple transportation. Used by Emergency response teams in Europe for quick and easy choice in an emergency situation by color coding the latches or Systainer themselves as well as linking together specific Systainers that might be color coded and include their rescue dive gear, etc. Used for packaging and transportation - they make 100% efficient use of a pallet in shipping. Imagine investing in Systainers for your packaging and transportation. In Europe they are not even palletized in most scenarios, just used as a shipping container and then RETURNED to the shipper. You buy your shipping material once. Imagine the return on investment and savings?

So there are definitely times, places, and situations where the Systainer is the tool box to go with. If you're just looking for a place to stash your RotoZip so it doesn't get dusty, stick with the el cheapo cases, but if you're motoring around in a Ford Transit, this system is going to save you a lot of hassle.

At Systainerworld. Like we said, the website is very nice, so even if you're only half interested, it's worth checking out.

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

April 29, 2010

Milwaukee 11-in-1 Multi-Tip Screwdriver - Review

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With the release of the 11-in-1 screwdriver, Milwaukee has put itself in direct competition with the fantastic Klein 10-in-1. We know what you're thinking, "the Milwaukee has to be better...it's one louder." Well, not exactly. As it turns out, the new tool is so specified towards electricians and HVAC guys that its eleven functions don't really apply to everyone.

milwaukee_screwdriver_2.jpgStarting with driver tips, the Milwaukee has a #1 Philips; a #2 Philips; a 1/4" slotted; a 3/16" slotted; a 1/4", 5/16", and 3/8" nut driver; a #1 ECX bit, and finally a #2 ECX bit. If you don't know what an ECX bit is (we didn't), it's a combination of a Philips and a slotted that comes off looking like a Robertson bit with a slotted bit stuck through it. It's a new design that Milwaukee has come up with that works in those strange 'Philips or slotted" screws that are commonly seen on electrical devices (outlets, breaker panels, etc).

Aside from the screwdriver tips, the Milwaukee has two other tricks, both centered around the electrical trade or specifically, wiring. First, there is a little wire stripper in the handle. It's really just a little groove with a blade tucked down in it. At first, we snorted at this, thinking that Milwaukee was trying a little too hard to get to the magic number of 11, but then we rolled a piece of 12 gauge wire in the groove and the sheath just came right off.


milwaukee_screwdriver_3.jpg milwaukee_screwdriver_4.jpg

The second non-tip feature of the screwdriver is a little hole in the stem that you can use to bend a wire. Now, these two features might not be too practical if you're wiring an entire house, but in a pinch, this screwdriver is certainly capable of replacing your pliers.

About three weeks ago, we started carrying this tool around and we really haven't let it out of our sight since. At first we thought the handle was too smooth and we missed the more knobbly Klein, but a few days later we were used to it and thought of it no more. Because we're carpenters, we have yet to use the ECX bits and really miss the torx bits that are on the Klein, which actually can double as Allen wrenches when working with little set screws (perfect for door hardware). If we were electricians though, we'd be fully enamored with the Milwaukee and probably a little bit misty-eyed that they finally made a screwdriver tailored so specifically to our needs that all the dumb carpenters in the world can't even use a bunch of its features.

$12 at ToolBarn

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

April 28, 2010

Ridgid 12-Volt Lithium-Ion JobMax Combo Kits - Review

ridgid_jobmax_1.jpg

By far the most interesting tool we've seen this year is the Ridgid JobMax. The principle here is pretty simple: create a universal power handle, stoked by a 12-volt drill, and then create any number of interchangeable heads that can click on to it. The end result is an entire JoBox worth of tools that's capable of fitting into a ShuBox. Ridgid has released two different JobMax kits, each with a different selections of heads and they were nice enough to send some samples our way so that we could check them out. We've had them for over a month now and we've used them at work and in the shop. We've used them for big things and little things, complicated things and easy things. And we've finally come to our verdict...

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Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (7) | social bookmarking

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.

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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

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