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

August 17, 2009

Craftsman 25cc Propane Trimmer Powered by Lehr - Review

craftsman_trimmer2.jpgLooking at things mathematically, our lawn might be one of the hardest in the world to mow. There are curved flower beds everywhere, terraced lawns, railroad tie retaining walls, granite retaining walls, and moss beds a plenty. There are also some horseshoe pits and some homemade benches that we made with a chainsaw a while back. Pretty much every possible obstacle to the easy-to-mow grid is out there somewhere. Since nothing is on a straight line and there's stuff everywhere, once we put the mower away, we're only half way done. It's now string trimmer time, or as we like to call it, "fight with the 2-stroke engine" time.

Craftsman is looking to put an end to some of this agony with their 25CC Propane Trimmer (powered by Lehr). It's exactly what it sounds like, a string trimmer that runs on propane as opposed to gas.

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Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (10) | social bookmarking

August 7, 2009

Gator Drywall Sanding Head & Zip Sand Block - Review

gator_dwall.jpggator_dwall2.jpg
Over the years, we've learned that there are a few secrets to making nice drywall joints. The first is to not be shy with the joint compound; for a while we would try to use as little as possible which would leave us with a little ridge along the tape line which would easily telegraph through our usually rushed paint job. Since you want to blend in the joint with the wall, the more width on the compound joint, the better (duh). It also helps if you use a large knife when applying putty so your patch will be as even as possible. Along these lines is the second trick, which is to use a large sanding block. This way, the sanding is also even and smooth (again, duh).

Gator has just released a new Drywall Sanding Head that's great for this application. In addition to being a solid 4" by 10", the Gator sanding head is smaller than the paper that's made for it which softens the edge for sanding, which is nice and leads to a very smooth finish. The sanding head is also available with an adapter for a broom handle so you can hit the ceiling with no problem.

gator_sponge.jpggator_sponge2.jpg
Gator has also released a new sanding block that uses adhered sandpaper as opposed to putting the grit directly into the sponge. This leads to a longer lasting grit and less 'gumming up.' We were skeptical about rinsing out the new sponge, but we did it a number of times and it appeared to have no negative effect on the grit. It's also compatible with the Gator Sponge Holder (our review here). This is all good, but we found one major oversight in the design and that is the lack of a gritty surface on the sides of the sponge. We tend to use sponges to sand all kinds of uneven shapes and usually this includes utilizing the corners, faces, and sides, but here with only the two large sides of the item usable, this is quite a bit more difficult.

The sanding head is available on its own or as a part of a nice looking drywall sanding kit which is at Amazon.com

More information on both items at ZipSander.com

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

July 30, 2009

Campbell Hausfeld Angled Finish Nailer - Review

CH_nailer.jpgCampbell Hausfeld is out with a new line of pneumatics (www.chnailers.com/)that are specifically designed for the casual user. We recently got a chance to test out their new Angled Finish Nailer and check out all the interesting new features.

First off, we have to give CH some serious applause for including an instruction manual that's actually helpful. Like we said, this is a gun for the first time user and occasional DIYer and that's someone who is likely going to need a quick primer on compressors and guns. The instructions are nicely laid out, easily referenced, and very helpful to someone who's trying to understand how their first nail gun works. Thankfully, it has no resemblance to the generic 'manual' that comes with most other tools ('make sure to wear eye protection...etc")

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

July 27, 2009

Milwaukee M12 LED Worklight - Review

milwaukee_led_light.jpgMilwaukee recently entered the 12-volt fray with a work light and because it's an LED, according to Milwaukee, it's twice as bright as a regular incandescent bulb. The light has a good, solid, ready-for-the-job-site feel to it and it fits the hand just like a lightsaber would (our second Star Wars reference in a week!). It has a small magnet along the handle and the head pivots 90 degrees with seven hard stops along the way, making it very easy to direct the light. It also can stand up on the battery end, aiding the process as well.

And what a light it is. It's absolutely blinding and we're suspicious of the claim that it's twice as bright as a regular light. To us, it seems about ten times brighter. And not only is this thing bright, it's focused too. Even at 50' away the line between what is being lit and what isn't is very clearly defined. In fact, it reminds us of the spotlight from a 1960s prison movie or the cartoon intro to the Pink Panther movies. There's no gray area with this light, when it's on there's the area that looks like daylight and the area that is black.

milwaukee_led_controls.jpgmilwaukee_led_rightangle.jpg

We had it at work for a while and in that setting it's ideal. The magnet lets it hang nicely from a metal stud or a pipe and the pivoting head does the rest. We had to cut a hole in the ceiling of a little curtain pocket where there was no way to fit us, our Fein, our ladder, and any sort of regular sized work light. So we took the Milwaukee and used the magnet to attach it to a metal junction box and easily completed our task. Without the tool, it would have been a real struggle.

milwaukee_led_optics.jpgWe also took it along for a few night time walks in the woods and there, if you can believe it, it was too bright. There was a good moon out so for the most part we relied on that but from time to time, we'd need to click the light on to find the path. The Milwaukee light would do such a number on our night vision that we would end up walking into things. It's sort of an odd circumstance, and not really one that many people are going to run into, so it's not a complaint, just an example of how bright this little guy is.

Oh, and we forgot to mention that it's very durable. We dropped it a few times and it never seemed fazed and when we were at Milwaukee HQ a while back a few guys were practically treating it like a soccer ball and it always kept on shining.

At almost 50 bucks (battery and charger not included) we're sure a lot of you are thinking "I can get a quality light for half that price. And you probably can, but it likely won't be as bright and it definitely won't be compatible with your other 12-volt Milwaukee tools.

At Amazon.com

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

July 24, 2009

Bosch DareDevil Spade Bits - Review

bosch_daredevil_kit.jpgBosch is known primarily for their tools, but lately they've really been making a name for themselves in the accessories market. Anyone who has used tools for a while knows that blades and bits are just as important as the tool that they're seated in. Tools are sort of a 'weakest link' scenario; a great drill with a dull bit is only going to be as good as the dull bit. We've been testing out the Bosch DareDevil Spade Bits and can now say that if you put one of these in a great drill, what you have is a relentless wood eradication system.

The primary difference between the DareDevil Spade bits and your standard spades bits is this little threaded nub up at the centering point. Once these threads catch (which they can't not do), the bit is actually pulled into the wood. This happens with so much aggressiveness that we practically felt in danger of dislocating our shoulder while drilling holes. The body of the spade is also contoured so that the shaved wood doesn't clog up the hole and bog down the bit. The pointed spurs are additionally designed to minimize blow-out (which is better than most spade bits, but still considerable). There's a lot going on with these little bits.

The bottom line is that the Bosch DareDevils absolutely devastate lumber and if you're looking for some real fireworks, put one in an impact driver. After a couple of minutes it'll look like there's a pileated woodpecker living in your workshop. We spent about 30 seconds on a pressure-treated 2x6 drilling maybe a half dozen random holes and, as you can see from the image, the results are serious.

bosch_daredevil.jpgbosch_daredevil_aftermath.jpg

The only issue that we could find with these bits is that you can't just pull the drill out of a half-drilled hole, you actually have to put the drill in reverse. Once the centering threads catch and the connection to the wood is made, it's over. This is hardly a drawback, but just something we had to get used to.

If you're an electrician, carpenter, whatever really, we suggest checking out these bits. If you're a deck builder, just stop what you're doing and find some as fast as you can, and make sure to get the extension so putting holes in 4x6s won't be a problem.

Note that the DareDevil's are so badass they have their own website: http://boschdaredevil.com

At Amazon.com

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

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