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.


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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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.

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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

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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

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