November 19, 2009

Gator Ultra Power Sandpaper with Black Zirconium - Review

gator_bz_w_sander.jpgAli Industries, makers of the Gator brand of sanding products (which we've covered here), recently sent us a few sample packs of their new Black Zirconium sanding discs so that we could check them out. The timing was fantastic, because just a day or two after they arrived, we were tasked with sanding what felt like 3-1/2 miles of shelving. Not only could we use the opportunity to review the product, but because we were testing out something, 8 hours of sanding made the leap from 'water-boarding bad" to barely tolerable.

gator_bz.jpgAt our disposal were three packs of discs (12 discs per pack, 50-grit, 80-grit, and 120-grit). We stuck to the 80, but dipped from time to time into the other two. We also used a few 80-grit discs from another manufacturer (Porter-Cable) to see how they compared.

Gator claims that the BZ discs last three times longer than regular discs. While we're not sure on the 3x number, they certainly to last much longer. It seemed that every eight or so shelves (they were big shelves, each one was about 7' long), we were replacing a Gator disc, while the PC discs only lasted maybe three shelves. Along with holding their grit, the Gator discs impressed us because they took much longer to fray at the edges.

gator_bz_box.jpgGator also talks about how good their pads are at not clogging up. Again, we got a chance to test this out on some Bond-O, the scourge of the sandpaper world. As they did with general sanding, the Gators lasted much longer than the other brand.

The Gator discs are available in a variety of grits (50, 80, 120, and 220) and are sold in packs of 4 (under $5), 12 (under $12), and 40 (under $20). Amazon sells Norton discs in packs of 10 for about $9, so the Gators are a little more expensive, but when you think about the amount of extra work you'll get out of each one, they make sense.

Available at Lowe's and participating Ace, True Value, Do-it Best, and other local hardware stores

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

November 4, 2009

Craftsman Blower Attachment for the String Trimmer - Review

craftsman_blower.jpgWe've got this great Toro electric leaf blower and before we bought it we did all the right research and truly agonized over the purchase. We finally decided on the make and model we wanted and went to the local HD to pick it up. At our last house, it was a charm. With the yard hugging the house so closely we could get most everything with a 50' extension cord and when necessary, break out the dreaded 100' (*shudder*). Now, at the new place, everything is different. Our front yard is practically an orchard and threading between the trees with the cord (attached to the lone exterior outlet on the wrong side of the house), while do-able, is impractical and tedious. Thankfully, the folks at Craftsman were nice enough to let us test out their blower attachments for the string trimmer. Could this little guy deliver adequate power to get the job done?

craftsman_blower_4.jpgSo how is it? Honestly, it's pretty nice. It blows at a peak speed of about 150 mph so it's not the full-throated blowing madness of our electric blower which operates at around 230 mph, but it does work and it's certainly better than raking (which occurs at about 2 mph). The length of the attachment places the blower unit at just the right height, making it easy to get the air under the leaves and the convenience of not having an entirely separate tool for the task is a real space saver in the garage. We should also note that there are gas and electric blowers that operate in the 150-200mph range, so don't think that the Craftsman is a step down from the other methods.

Removing the trimmer head and attaching the blower is a really easy process, just turn the tightening knob and press a little button and the trimmer is off. Installing the blower is as easy as sliding it on the shaft and clicking the button into place.

For speed's sake, the leaves we can reach with the electric, we'll probably still do that way, but the ones way out at the horizon line can be easily done with the trimmer attachment. So all said and done, we see this little guy benefiting both our situation as well as someone who has a pretty small yard with maybe only a couple trees and limited storage space. It's likely that you already have a string trimmer, but do you also have the space for a full-sized leaf blower?

The attachment fits any high quality trimmer. If you've never noticed before, string trimmers are essentially a hand-held PTO with the trimmer being just one of the attachments. In fact, Craftsman also has an Edger that we're reviewing as well. The blower attachment costs about $70 so it's definitely less than a regular blower, it also takes up a fraction of the space.

At Sears

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

October 28, 2009

DeWalt DW030P Distance Measurer - Review

dw030p.jpgLaser beams. First they came for our levels and now it's our tape measures. Like some invasion of little red dots, lasers are being incorporated more and more into today's job sites. And with anything that is 'being incorporated more and more into today's job sites," it's not surprising that DeWalt is right there. The big yellow company has just released a new laser measuring tool, the DW030P and they were nice enough to let us test one out.

The DW030P is about the size of a point and click camera and the most basic function of it is to measure distance. To do this, just point the laser at an object and press the distance button and you get a static reading of how far that object is from the back edge of the tool. There is also a 'unit' button so you can choose how you would like the measurement to be displayed (meters, feet and inches, or just inches). If you hold down the distance button for three seconds, the DW030P goes into tracking mode and now displays the laser measurement as it moves. If that alone were the capabilities of the DW030P it would be pretty interesting, but there's actually quite a bit more.

dw030P_on.jpgThe DW030P also has an area button and a volume button. To use these, just click the appropriate button and start recording distances. After two distances with the area button, you get the total area in whatever unit you have it set on, and likewise with the volume button after three measurements.

On top of all this, the DW030P can add and subtract distances from one another. Just click a distance, then hit the '+' or '-' button and click another distance. You can do this as much as you like and the DW030P keeps a running tally.

dw030p_front.jpgSo that's what it does, but the question is, "is what it does actually useful?" Well, yes and no, but mostly yes. At first, the DW030P frustrated us because we were trying to use it like a tape measure, which is really impractical. You're not going to use this tool casing out a window or laying out 16"oc studs on a plate. First, it's not really designed for that, and secondly, even though it measures to the accuracy of 1/16th of an inch, any good carpenter keeps a little over/under going in his head with each cut. The DW030P can't indicate if a perfect cut is actually 3'-2 3/8" shy, it'll just tell you, 3'-2 3/8". It does help with inside corners though, giving accurate measurements without trying to read a bent tape measure.

But, the daily grind of carpentry aside, this tool did turn out to be an incredible time saver in a number of other departments. Doing a quick take off on materials, for example. The area button gave us an exact measurement of a number of walls, allowing us to figure exactly how much blueboard was needed to cover them. It was also a dream for doing a quick as-built of some soon-to-be-buried conduit. What is normally a two man job with the 200' tape measure, turned into a five minute click, click, click. And really with any measurement that involved a length more than that of our standard 25' tape measure, we called on the DW030P (it has a range of about 100')

dw030_case.jpgThere were a few things about the tool that we didn't like. First, the distance is measured from the back of the tool, right? So we're not sure why the back end of the tool isn't at right angles to the sides, or why there isn't a mark showing the exact point of the center line (where the laser projects from) on the rear edge. For a tool that can measure to the 1/16th of an inch.....We would have liked to have been able to put the tool on its side and be confident that the laser line is parallel to the surface the tool is on.

Also, DeWalt gives a nice instruction manual with the Distance Measurer, but for some reason, they've made it the size of their other manuals, which is about five times the size of the carrying case for the tool. This kind of items deserves a quick reference guide. There's plenty of room in the case and we wished they would have enclosed one.

But these complaints aren't that big of a deal and so they shouldn't get in your way of considering this tool. Like we said, there were a number of job site situations where the DW030P was a real time saver. We also just bought a house and found it to be helpful in that process as well. Would the table fit in this room? click...click...nope. Is the real estate agent lying about the square footage of the finished basement? click...click...yup. Also this tool would be very useful to a niche market like realtors or interior designers. No more slinging a tape measure over someone's furniture in order to get the dimensions of a room.

So all in all, we grew to appreciate the DW030 and what it did for us. We just first had to get over the fact that it isn't trying to replace the tape measure.

$130 at ToolUp and FAO

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

October 26, 2009

Delta Premuim Saw Blades - Review

delta_blades.jpgWe're carpenters, not fine woodworkers, so we want our saw blades to simply work. From time to time, we need something special, like a thin kerf or a dado, but for the most part, we're ripping down plywood, trimming a quarter inch off a poplar 1x6 or putting an angle on a 2x4 for an oddly framed corner. Our needs aren't great, but we do want something that's going to give us a good cut and that's going to endure the drubbing that gets administered to the job site table saw. Delta was nice enough to send us a few of their new premium blades to test out for reviewing purposes. Of the three, one of them was immediately put on the abused communal saw and the other two we compared head to head.

delta_blades_saw.jpgBefore we get to the actual blades we want to mention that the catalog that Delta sent along with the blades is stuffed full of statistics and information on more available blade variations than you can possibly imagine, with differences between them being, at best, slight. Imagine a massive wine list but instead of Chardonnays and Merlots it's finish blades and cross-cut blades. For example the 35-7653 is identical to the 35-7657 except that the former has a hook angle of 10 degrees and the latter has a hook angle of 20 degrees. We've been working intimately with table saws for almost a decade now and we have no idea what a hook angle is, let alone how it alters our cut. But if you get excited about the difference between 'alternating top bevel' and 'high alternate top bevel' (and don't forget 'alternate top bevel with raker tooth') then the Delta website, with its blade selector, is a place where you want to spend some alone time. It's pure blade nerdery and although it's not really our bag, we can appreciate the nuances.

Along with the blade catalog, Delta provided us with some info describing how the blades are made. There's a lot to it, so instead of us rambling incoherently about something we know little about, we're going to direct you to this video, made by Delta, that explains the process. It's pretty interesting and if even if you're not into this sort of thing, you should watch it anyway and entertain yourself by pretending that they're making a Terminator instead of a saw blade.

The blades we tested out were the 35-1080HN5, the 35-1080T, and the 35-1050R. According to Delta the 35-1050R is best for rips so that's the one we plopped that in the table saw. The other two are better at cross cutting, so they each took turns in the miter saw making specific cuts.

delta_blades_edge.jpgThe 35-1050R (in the table saw) preformed great. Nice clean cuts with no problem going right through mahogany. So far it's spent about three weeks in the saw and there's no sign of it slowing down or doing anything other than what it's supposed to do. As for the other two blades, we took a photo to try to show the variation in the blades themselves (the image is mildly successful). The two blades, while they look quite different, each has 80 teeth and similar capabilities, so we sent each through a pine 1x and examined the cut. Situated right next to one another, the cuts were different, but had we seen each cut at random points during the same day, we probably wouldn't have thought too much about the difference. But again, we're just cutting pine 1x's not a laminated surface or some other specialty item. Both cuts were nice and clean, but one (35-1080HN5) was much smoother than the other.

delta_blades_cut.jpgIt strikes us that the bottom line here is that they're high quality blades and it's up to you how far you want to jump in the blade minutiae rabbit hole. Most people and even most carpenters will have no problem putting a general purpose blade in and abusing it until it dies or until some bozo comes to the job site and decides he's going to rip down a 1/4" piece of steel angle (we've seen it happen). But if you're a serious woodworker, or if your job puts you in constant contact with a specific material (a counter top installer, for example), then you have the option of getting the blade that is specific to your needs and it will make a difference too.

It looks like there is a wide variety of pricing for the wide variety of blades. The general purpose blades are at the lower end of the scale ($25-$40). Most of the other blades are somewhere in the $50-$80 range and the fine crosscuts are going to tiptoe up into the $100+ arena. There's also a great looking stacked dado set for about $150.

A good selection (but not all) of the blades is at Amazon.com. It looks like you should be able to find them at your local Lowe's as well.

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

October 21, 2009

Campbell Hausfeld WL6701 26-Gallon Compressor - Review

CH_compressor.jpgCampbell Hausfeld is in the process of releasing a full line of pneumatics for the DIYer. Among the items are a finish gun (our review here), a framing gun, and a brad gun. Since you need a compressor to operate all of these tools, it makes sense that they're going to be releasing some of those as well. Turns out that in their new line, they've got two 8-gallon models and a mondo 26-gallon model which comes complete with some extra goodies for the DIYer. It's this last one that we were lucky enough to test out, courtesy of the fine folks at CH.

First off, the usability is great. the knobs are all easy to use and are very well marked. The on switch is a bright red foot pedal, so even if you've been drinking heavily you won't be missing it. The compressor also comes with a handle and a cool three wheeled bottom which makes it very easy to move even over the uneven and cracked cement floor of our shop. The whole package sort of reminded us of the robot from Lost in Space.

CH_compressor_2.jpgCH_compressor_switch.jpg

Usually, compressor space is dead space for anything else, but CH has thought this through and flattened the top of the unit. It's specifically designed to hold other CH air tools, but obviously you can really put anything there.

The compressor also has two different ports for hoses. One, lower down by the foot-operated on-switch, comes hardwired to a coil hose. At the business end of the coil hose is an air gun, and to make things easy, CH has supplied a number of different inflator tools to attach to the gun. So whether it's a car tire, a soccer ball or a bike tire, you've already got what you need. The coil hose is great too. It stretched from the garage all the way around the truck with no problem. After the first stretch, we lost some of the coil tightness, but that's no biggie. The second air port is up by the controls and is the standard female coupling you'd see on a regular compressor.

CH_compressor_3.jpgThe most interesting aspect of the compressor is something called No Wait Inflation. What this means is that the coil hose fills with air first, so if you're just going to just top off the tires, you don't have to wait for the entire tank to fill (which takes a while). Because we're so busy lately, we've become pretty impatient, so this feature is a great addition in our eyes.

CH_compressor_1.jpgWe were floating around Amazon the other day and saw that someone had written a review of the compressor giving it only one star. They said it was loud and that it took forever to fill. Sounds to us like they just described every compressor we've ever used. It's no question though, the CH compressor doesn't fill up in record time, but it's 26-gallons of compressed air. What do you expect? And if you can't wait, there's the recoil hose. That's sort of why it's there in the first place. If you're going to use the tank for a pneumatic gun, just get the compressor started first and by the time you're set up, you're good to go. Or be like everyone else and never drain the thing.

The bottom line is that this would be a nice compressor for anyone who is looking to bring their home workshop to the next level. It costs about $350 so it's a bit of an investment, but it's less expensive than other compressors of similar size and it comes with a number of useful attachments so you can get right to using it. Also the No Wait Inflation is great in a pinch.

More information at CHCompressors.com

At Lowes ($339) and Amazon.com ($459)

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

October 15, 2009

Craftsman 12-Volt Nextec Multi-Tool - Review

craftsman_mt_hero.jpgAnd why shouldn't Craftsman make an oscillating tool? Everyone else is doing it; Dremel, Bosch, Chicago Electric, Proxxon, even the creepy guy down the street has one half made in his garage. But is there really anything that Craftsman can do to improve on the tool in this quickly saturated market? Well, they were nice enough to send on one of their new 12-volt Nextec Oscillating Tools so that we could take a look and find out for ourselves.

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

September 25, 2009

iRobot Roomba Pet Series - Review

irobot.jpg VS.Grover.jpg


If you read this site with any regularity, you might be familiar with our feline co-pilot, Marlowe. But what you probably didn't know is that there is another cat living at Tool Snob HQ named Grover. If they were humans in college, Marlowe would be the guy with the Jimmy Buffet tickets and Grover would be the kid who spends all of his time in his dorm room doing weird oil paintings and listening to The Cure. He's an odd little duck. But personalities aside, Grover also has the amazing ability to shed his gray and white fur at will. And it's apparently something he wills quite a bit. We bought one of those Furminator brushes and even after weekly sessions, each one harvesting enough hair to make a third cat, we still have problems with pieces of Grover all over the house.

It is with all this in mind that we were overjoyed when iRobot agreed to let us test out one of their pet series vacuums for a couple weeks. Could the spooky little frisbee have enough stamina to keep up with Grover?

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

September 18, 2009

Bosch 18-Volt Litheon Impactor - Review

bosch_impact.jpgBosch recently added an 18-volt impact gun to their Litheon line and we've had our hands on one for about three months now. We skipped any staged testing protocols (i.e. how many 3" lag screws can it drive) and just brought it to work. So for the last 14 weeks we have treated this tool in such a way that we now understand what red-headed step-children have to go through. Instead of carrying the gun down a ladder, we threw it. Instead of packing it up in its case, we lobbed it in the back of the truck, instead of putting it under a tarp, we left it out in the rain. If this thing is going to be a job site gun, it's got to survive basic training. So on to our thoughts...

bosch_impact_base.jpgFirst, the Bosch comes with a few practical features, but thankfully, nothing audacious or gimmicky. It's got an LED, a nice little bit holder at the base of the handle and a belt clip that can be placed on either side of the handle (with just the removal of one screw), depending on the task at hand, or whether you're a righty or a lefty. The belt clip is nice, but it's one of those things that will hop off your hip going down a ladder or crouching over. It's handy for a quick holster, but nowhere near as secure as a Prazi Monster Hook, so we would still recommend picking up one of those or something like it.

And as for day-to-day functionality, the Bosch Impactor is really a top-notch gun. It laughed at our rough treatment and easily and consistently drove 6" Timberlok screws into wet 4x6s. It's shorter and stubbier than our old Makita, and it feels better in the hands.

bosch_impact_nose.jpgOur one gripe with the tool is that the nose of the gun has a protective rubber sheath on it, which is great and prevents surface marring in tight spots, but the piece is removable and somewhat loosely fit. On more than one occasion, the piece would come slightly loose and snag on something (one time even causing the gun to hop off our hip and fall onto a finished floor). Why not just make the piece permanent? This might sound like nit-picking, but with Bosch so close to making a perfect impact driver, this loose flap of rubber really bothered us.

Bosch_impact_case.jpgAnd as always, Bosch provides a great case with the tool, capable of holding extra batteries and bits and with enough room left over for a few hand tools as well.

We also had the opportunity to check out the difference between the Bosch slim pack and fat pack Litheon batteries. Obviously, the fat pack are going to be stronger (they were) and last longer (they did), but it all comes at the cost of a heavier unit (and a more expensive one). Both batteries held charges for quite some time, but the fat pack were tremendous on this front. Sometimes we would go a few days on one battery. Keep in mind, we weren't doing production work, but still, under the same load, we would have had to hit up the Makita charger at least three or four times. The way we see it, there is really no way you'll ever find yourself in a situation where you're standing around holding a dead battery, waiting impatiently for the other one to charge.

bosch_impact_hand.jpgBosch_impact_w_makita.jpg

The bottom line here is that this is a fantastic tool. It's durable and powerful, and to be honest, this tool integrated itself so well into our life that we forgot we were reviewing it. If Bosch keeps the battery line alive, this is a tool that you could potentially have for a long, long time. But this kind of quality doesn't come cheap. The Bosch Impactor costs anywhere from $250 to $380 depending on the package you get. You can get the gun with either 2 fat pack batteries or two slim pack batteries. Our opinion on this is that if you're going to be working the gun pretty hard, the fat pack are worth it, but if you're an electrician or someone who won't be using it full time or for particularly strenuous tasks, the slim packs should do you fine.

Bosch Litheon Impactor with 2 Slim Pack Batteries at Amazon.com
Bosch Litheon Impactor with 2 Fat Pack Batteries at Amazon.com

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

September 16, 2009

Striker Carbide Utility Score - Review

striker_carbide.jpgStriker is a pretty new tool company and so far they've released a number of items that we've been impressed with (mini LED light, utility knife) and one that we were less impressed with (mechanical carpenter's pencil). Lately, we've been testing out their new carbide utility score, which, aside from basically two parts (the flip out blade and the blade holder) is exactly the same as the utility knife.

striker_carbide_w_knife.jpgstriker_carbide_tip.jpg

Because we were fans of the utility knife (it's going on six months as our go-to knife), it's no shocker that we liked the carbide score as well. The same large handle is there, as is the durability and easy flip action. So far we've diced up two bathrooms worth of cement board and it's been a great tool to have. Like the knife, it has a rasp on the side of the blade, so shaving off a whisker is not a problem. There's also a nice belt clip. The overall look of the thing is pretty cool and just about everyone on site who is under the age of 25 makes sure to tell us so.

It's a nice tool and way better than those el cheapos that are usually available at hardware stores. The Striker costs about $20, so if you're a pro, it's worth it to get a tool you'll be proud of.

At Amazon.com

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

August 24, 2009

Wagner Power Painter Plus and Wagner Project Sprayer - Review

wpp_w_ps_2.jpgWagner SprayTech has recently released a number of hand held paint sprayers and they were nice enough to send two of them our way for review purposes. That was months ago. Since that time, we've used every available excuse to not get around to reviewing the items...but they're going to be really messy....it's going to take a long time to figure out how to use them....there's going to be paint everywhere....it'll take three hours just to clean everything...and so on. About a week ago, we'd had enough procrastinating and carved out an afternoon to investigate the Power Painter Plus and the Project Sprayer. And at this point, we now feel we owe Wagner a huge apology for thinking that their little sprayers were going to be a hassle. They weren't. In fact they're pretty easy to deal with.

Both of the items have the same look and feel. Sort of like a screw gun with a big plastic udder hanging off it. The basics of operating them includes filling up the canister and, after plugging the sprayer in, pulling the trigger. That's really all there is to it. You can toggle between a vertical spray or a horizontal one by moving the nozzle to the appropriate position.

wpp_nozzle.jpgwpp_nozzle2.jpg

Using the sprayers takes a little getting used to, but not as much as we had thought. We're not used to sprayers, so if you're in the same boat, we suggest getting a sheet of 1/4" ply wood and painting it until you feel confident with the sprayer. After about 20 minutes of this, we got good at laying down a nice, even spray.

Of the two models, the Power Painter Plus is the more feature-laden and thus has more versatility. In addition to the plastic canister, the Power Painter Plus also comes with a hose, which allows you to siphon paint right out of a can. This is good for a few reasons. One, you don't have to worry about continually refilling the canister during larger jobs and two, you're now free to tilt the sprayer up at something. While using the canister, from time to time, we would tilt the gun to paint the underside of something which would cause the paint level to go below the siphon and thus leave the gun literally spitting out paint, which was not good for the paint job. To ensure that this doesn't happen using the hose method, Wagner has supplied a little clip that holds the hose in the paint can, so it stays in place. There is also a backpack assembly, sold separately, so ladder work is possible with a larger volume of paint.

wpp_in box.JPGwpp.jpg

It's worth noting that the Power Painter Plus also comes with a carrying case.

Setting up and using the guns is easy enough, but how about clean-up, the bane of any painting project? It's actually not too bad. The process involves pretty much taking the tool apart and making sure that every little piece gets 100% cleaned. The Power Painter Plus comes with a special canister cover that allows you to place all the small pieces in the canister and then connect a hose up to it in order to cycle water through. We tried it out, but discovered that two 5-gallon buckets were just as good for us. We tested the sprayers out with a latex paint, so clean-up was all done with soap and water. Oil paint, on the other hand, involves thinner which would likely complicate matters to the point where we would probably end up throwing everything away at the end of day one.

wpp_parts.jpgwpp_parts2.jpg

So, in the end, are they worth it? Well, it depends on what you're painting and how much patience you have to handle things like the spraying learning curve and the clean-up process. If you're going to be doing some interior walls, you're insane to consider using a sprayer (check out Wagner's TurboRoll instead - our review here). But if you need to deal with things like shutters, lawn furniture, or a picket fence, then definitely consider one of these sprayers.

The Project Sprayer runs for $60 while the Power Painter plus will set you back $85.

Project Sprayer at Amazon.com
Power Painter Plus at Amazon.com

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

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