August 10, 2010

Popular Mechanics Cordless Finish Gun Test

nail-guns.jpgMy latest article for Popular Mechanics was posted up yesterday. In this one, I compared the various fuel types available for cordless finish guns. In other words I pitted the DeWalt against the Paslode against the Senco Fusion. As a control, I also threw in the Bosch pneumatic. A few of the test results are pretty surprising, so if you're into finish guns or if you're even just part of the tech crowd, it might be worth a look see.

Read the article here.

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

July 29, 2010

ZipSnip Multi-Function Cutting Tool

ZipSnip.jpgThe Skil Power Cutter (our review here) is an interesting little tool. Released about two years ago, it seemed to fill a little void in the cutting world, but we never had the impression it really caught on. We use ours from time to time, but instincts or habit (whichever we feel like blaming at the time) usually have us reaching for regular old tin snips or construction scissors rather than the Cutter. That's not to say anything about the functionality of the tool, just our little monkey-brain and the obstacles that tool companies face when they create something that replaces a tried and true hand tool.

So there's now a new tool called the ZipSnip that is essentially the same thing (but a whisker less expensive) than the Skil Cutter. It doesn't seem to have any new features. In fact without the fuel light, it has less. This may account for the $10 difference in price. The ZipSnip has a slightly different handle configuration with a larger paddle switch and the safety switch on the top of the tool, rather than the side. Other than that, it has the same self-sharpening blade and plug-in charger.

Our guess is that it works just as well.

The Power Cutter is about $40 at Amazon.com and the ZipSnip is $30 (at zipsnipcutter.com)

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (3) | social bookmarking

July 26, 2010

Milwaukee 2010 Product Symposium

Milwaukee_wall_o_tools.jpg

The reason we were so light on posts last week is that we were lucky enough to be at Milwaukee's annual Product Symposium. While there, we ate some great food, hung out with a solid group of our tool-writer pals, enjoyed a lot of great conversations with the Milwaukee crowd, and most importantly had the opportunity to get a look at this year's line of new tools.

The nitty-gritty of the event has been covered by a few of our fellow compatriots here and here, so we're going to stick to just a few thoughts on some of the new items that we saw...

ArrowContinue reading: "Milwaukee 2010 Product Symposium"

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

July 20, 2010

Senco Fusion F-15 Cordless Finish Nailer - Review

senco_fusion_hero.jpgThere's been a lot of buzz around the Senco Fusion. And if you're to believe what Senco has been saying about it, there should be. To give it all some context, you need to know that, to date, the technology behind cordless finish guns seems, well, incomplete. There are the gas powered guns, which take a battery and a removable gas cartridge, but they smell terrible and have the added expense of replacing the gas cartridge. Then there are the nailers powered by a flywheel motor, which have solved the dual fuel problem (as well as the odor), but are lacking in power, particularly when dealing with hardwoods. So there are options out there, but you're getting yourself into a tradeoff; sure I don't have a compressor or hoses, but I've got a smelly gas cartridge or I've got a gun that has some difficulty with mahogany. There isn't any ideal situation out there.

So the Senco Fusion seeks to fill this gap and combine the best of both arenas. Its goal is to fuse the manueverability of the cordless gun with the power of the traditional pneumatic nailer. And how does it attempt to do this, you ask?


ArrowContinue reading: "Senco Fusion F-15 Cordless Finish Nailer - Review"

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

June 29, 2010

Bosch PS31-2A 3/8" 12-Volt Drill/Driver - Review

bosch_ps31.jpg

A little while back, we cobbled together a glowing review of the new Bosch pocket driver, the PS21-2A. It's a little monster of a tool and we found it could basically replace our 14.4 drill and could even handle some things reserved for the 18-volt (although not on a day in and day out basis). Well, soon after releasing that little fella, Bosch hit the stands with the PS31-2A, which is basically the same tool, but with a 3/8" three-jawed chuck. They dropped one in the mail for us, and for the last month or so, we've used it extensively, both on the job site and in the shop.

bosch_ps31_top.jpg bosch_ps31_bat_lights.jpg

And there's really not a whole lot to say other than that it has quickly achieved the spot of our primary drill/driver. Everything we liked about the PS21 is there but now we have the added functionality of the three-jawed chuck. Because of the chuck, the PS31 is a longer tool than its driver counterpart, but we'll take that extra bit of length any day in order to get the added versatility. Sure, we know that you can buy bits with the 1/4" hex end, but that's honestly a pain in the ass and we don't want to have to go out and get a special set of bits just for one tool. Not to mention, the three-jawed chuck lets us use countersinks, centering bits and all kinds of oddballs that we couldn't use with the PS21. To put it simply, this is a fully-functional drill.

Out of all the 12-volt drills and drill/drivers that we've seen and been able to really field test, this one is the best and it's all in the power. Sure the other features are there, the battery gauge (a very nice feature on li-ion tools), the LED, and the case with all the extra room for bits, but a drill needs to be powerful first and foremost, and this one certainly is. The PS31 had no problem passing the TimberLok test, sinking a 6" screw into a block o' PT. It was a strain on the tool, but not that much of a strain. In addition to this, the PS31-2A just performed well everyday. 1-5/8" screws, no problem, 3" screws, not a problem (but a whisker too slow for production work).

So if you're a handyman who does a lot of punch list work, or maybe someone who doesn't want to lug around a massive 18-volt drill all the time, or a homewoner who wants something small, reliable and powerful, it would be smart to seriously consider this tool.

bosch_ps31_in_case.jpg bosch_PS31_w_tlok.jpg

As far as price goes, the PS31-2A is about $150, making it one of the more (if not the most) expensive 12-volt drill/driver on the market and putting it $20 above the PS21-2a. For the added ability and raw power, we think it's worth the investment.

$150 at Amazon.com

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

June 28, 2010

DeWalt Releases 12-Volt Max Tools

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Last week, we were privileged to be invited to the Baltimore HQ of DeWalt for the launch of their new line of 12-volt tools. While there for the two-day event, we took in a Orioles game (from the Jim Palmer Party Suite...woot!) had a few brews at the hotel bar with some of our fellow tool writers, and the next morning, got to check out the tools.

There are seven tools in the release. They are:

1. DCF610S2 1/4" Screwdriver
2. DCD7102S 3/8" Drill/Driver
3. DCF815S2 Impact Driver
4. DCF813S2 Impact Wrench
5. DCT410S1 Inspection Camera
6. DCT414S1 IR Thermometer
7. DCL510 Work Light

dewalt_12v_flashlight.jpgThe most interesting thing that DeWalt did with these tools was to opt to use the traditional rectangular battery configuration as opposed to the cylindrical style that Bosch and Milwaukee use. This allows for the handle to be thinner (because the battery isn't in it) and for the weight of the tool to be distributed on both sides of the grip, making for a much nicer hold. The Hitachi tools released over a year ago did the same thing, but they left on the battery stem which DeWalt got rid of as well.

We've never had any complaints about the balance on the Milwaukee or the Bosch tools, but when you're holding one of them in one hand and a new DeWalt in the other, the difference is significant. There is no question that the DeWalt feels better and much lighter, due to the smaller handle and weight balance. In fact, we were almost veering towards the opinion that DeWalt might have made the handles too small. We've got some pretty massive paws and our little finger was snugged up right against the battery. With gloves on, the fit would be even tighter.

The tools all have some nice touches to them; the inspection camera has a removable screen; the drivers can handle a 1" bit and have a smart LED configuration that lights up the work area without shadows; and the tools have nice little belt hooks where appropriate. The drills and drivers were powerful when stacked up against the competition and the flashlight has a fantastic design.

dewalt_12v_drill.jpg dewalt_12v_w_milwaukee.jpg

But of the tools, there wasn't much that we hadn't seen before. But that's fine and, in a way, it's DeWalt in a nutshell. They're not a company that's going to throw the long ball and create a tool for every known micro-niche of the HVAC world like Milwaukee is prone to do. No, DeWalt has more of the everyman feel. They're about tough tools for the tradesman, and the tools that they make are the kind that can hop from a plumber to an electrician and then over to a carpenter. There wasn't much flair at the event, but there didn't need to be.

So as it stands now, the tradesman-ready 12-volt world is as such: Makita released a nice driver and a drill/driver and nothing else, which renders them a bit impotent for someone looking for a system to plug into. Hitachi came out of the gate strong with a variety of tools (a mini-recip and a nice right-angle impact driver), but has since been located napping behind the barn. Bosch started strong then seemed to lose their way but now appear to be gearing up again with the release of their incredible PS31-2A drill/driver. DeWalt is now fully into the fray with a solid line of tools and they're no doubt researching (and probably already testing) their next wave. And then there's Milwaukee who is apparently looking into releasing a 12-volt tool for every single action that has ever been taken on a job site. It's interesting to watch all of this develop and we're sure that another chapter in the 12-volt saga will be written in a month when we pack up and head out to Milwaukee for another one of these events.

Oh, and one last thing to all you people who live in Baltimore...get over yourselves and go out and root for your baseball team! Even if they completely blow, you'll still be out and experiencing a game. The one we were at had an attendance so low it didn't even look like there was enough revenue generated to pay the electric bill for the Jumbo-Tron. We live in the vicinity of the over-expensive and always-packed Fenway and don't understand why, if you have the ability to hit up a game, you wouldn't. Also, if you start going now, when they win the Series in fifteen years, you'll be able to say you stuck with them through the worst of it (and boy, oh boy, this sure is the worst of it).

There will be more info on the tools at DeWalt.com/12vmax

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

June 10, 2010

Multi-Function Power Tools

rigid_jobmax_popsci.jpgHere's an article we wrote a bit ago for Popular Science. I was in the June print edition and we just stumbled across it online. It's about three new multi-function power tools. If you're up on your Tool Snobbing, you'll already be familiar with them; the Ridgid JobMax, the Rockwell H3, and the new Skil Flooring Saw.

Read the article here.

Subscribe to Popular Science here or here.

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

May 26, 2010

Milwaukee M12 3/8" Right Angle Drill/Driver

milwaukee_rt_drill_hand.jpgThe manic depth that Milwaukee has achieved with their 12-volt platform is pretty well documented by this point. In addition to the standard tools like drills and saws, they seem more than happy to delve deep into the trades, coming up with things like electrical metering tools and PEX expansion tools. We've gotten our hands on a fair number of their M12 line and have hardly had any complaints at all. It's all very stellar.

Now, or rather, late last year, they added a right angle drill to the mix. They sent us one for something else we were working on (which is here, by the way), and we liked the tool so much, we though we'd mention it on this site as well.

Milwaukee_rt_drill_action.jpgBecause it's only constrained by the little 12-volt battery, Milwaukee was able to make the drill very small and the 3-3/4" head is capable of getting into some very tight spots (sorry about the blurry photo). It has a nice paddle switch, so it's easy to use no matter what contorted position you find yourself in, which is good because where right angle drills are concerned, contorted seems to be the norm.

There is also an LED, a 12-position clutch, and a fuel gauge. It's got great power and, if need be, can sink a 3" drywall screw.

The drill comes with a charger and a single battery, which is fine because, face it, if you're getting this, you've either bought into the Milwaukee 12-volt system and you're lousy with batteries, or you're getting it for those times when you absolutely need a right angle drill. If you're looking for your one and only drill, there are better options out there.

milwaukee_rt_drill_head.jpg milwaukee_rt_drill_case.jpg

The kit costs about $120, which isn't much at all when you start doing the, "what's my time worth?" equation.

At Amazon.com

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

May 25, 2010

Craftsman 4-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Pruner - Review

craftsman_pruner_hero.jpgIt's springtime here in the northeast and that means there is some pruning to be done. With this being the first year in the new place, we've come to notice how completely tangled the little fruit trees in the front yard are. They sort of look like big, green, messy muppet heads. Thankfully, for us, late last year, Craftsman sent us a sample of their new 4-volt Cordless Pruner, so last week, we charged the little thing up and spent some quality time with it.

The pruner is about the size of a tube of caulking and its got jaws that are about 1-1/2" long. Operation of the tool is pretty simple; pull back the safety lock with your last two fingers and press the trigger with your middle finger. The jaws, once in motion, have a slow and steady action.

craftsman_pruner_cutting.jpg craftsman_pruner_cut.jpg

We used the pruners for a number of operations in and around the house. It was far too bulky for our little bonsai, but it worked out fine for just about everything else. According to Craftsman, the pruner can cut branches up to 1/2". We found this to be true, but the 1/2" mark doesn't seem to come from lack of strength as much as it does the limitations created by the jaw size. The little tool had no problem with any and all 1/2" branches we threw at it and it seemed like it could cut larger branches, it just can't get its mouth around them. The cuts that it makes are nice and clean with no ragged edges.

Craftsman says that once the internal battery is fully juiced, it can make approximately 500 cuts. There was no way we were going to sit there and count cuts like some kind of forestry Rain Man, but we can say that during the time we used it, we never had to charge it up in the middle of a day, and we guess that the 500 mark is probably on target. Put it this way, unless you're really going at it, you'll get a day's worth of pruning in on a charge.

craftsman_pruner_in_hand.jpgWe were actually a little surprised that we liked this little tool so much. What we realized was that because you're not putting the effort into making the cut, you can increase your precision quite a bit. The size is a benefit as well. We were able to get into some spots that would have been difficult with traditional pruners (we no longer needed the room to open the handles).

We almost had a problem with the trigger (but didn't). Like we said before, you have to pull back a safety lock with two fingers and then pull the trigger with a third. While some sort of safety lock is absolutely necessary with this item (it wouldn't even pause going through a finger), we first thought this design was a bit awkward and that it might not be an easy set of motions for someone with aged, possibly arthritic hands (just the person we initially thought this tool would be perfect for), but once we spent a while with the tool, we came to see that the motion is, in fact, very subtle and easy to perform. We started out wondering why Craftsman didn't opt for some sort of thumb safety lock, and ended up very impressed with their engineering.

Overall, it's a nice item and if you're a gardener, particularly one who is losing some hand strength (or has none to begin with), you would probably appreciate the Craftsman Pruner.

The Pruner is $50 at Sears

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

May 6, 2010

Bosch Power Box 360

bosch_stereo.jpgWith their 3rd upgrade of the Power Box, it's very possible that Bosch has arrived the world's most complete job site radio (even if it does look like an 8-bit space monster from an Atari 2600 game).

Other than swapping out a CD player for an MP3 port, the major difference between this version and the fantastic 2nd version is that it has 360 degrees worth of speakers. Now there is absolutely no escaping the guy who insists on listening to sports radio all day long.

There are going to be two versions available, the PB360S and the PB360D. It sounds from the press release like the D is the souped up model with a back lit display, more power output and a connection for satellite radio. Both versions come with the cool ability to play songs directly off of a thumb drive, so you don't need to worry about bringing your iPod to work and having it stolen by the sketchy painter who refuses to make eye contact.

PB360S at Amazon.com. It looks like the PB360D isn't available yet.

Read the full press release for more details and functionality after the jump.

ArrowContinue reading: "Bosch Power Box 360"

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

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