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.


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 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

May 5, 2010

Ridgid JobMax Vs. the World


Yesterday, we noticed that our latest Popular Mechanics article has been posted up. In this one we put the Ridgid JobMax head to head to head to head to head to head against the all of the tools that it can transform into. We were pretty surprised with the results.

Check out the article here. Also check out the Tool Snob review of the JobMax here.

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

April 28, 2010

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


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...

ArrowContinue reading: "Ridgid 12-Volt Lithium-Ion JobMax Combo Kits - Review"

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.


But there's more to the tool than just the rotary hammer. The H3, by virtue of two different chucks, (both of which click into the SDS chuck of the tool), can also function as a drill and a driver. The tool's chuck acts just like any other SDS with the pull-back sleeve, so changing between functions is very easy. When drilling or driving, a switch on the side of the tool, toggles the motor out of rotary hammer mode and leaves you with a standard 12-volt drill.

We did some extensive testing of the H3 (a good portion of it recounted in our Popular Mechanics article on the tool) and we were surprised at how powerful the tool was. Testing it against a standard 18-volt hammer drill (again, over at the PM article), the tool was very comfortable to use and showed that it could keep up with the larger 18-volt tool in the area of power. The one drawback of the tool is how quickly the battery gets drained when it's in rotary hammer mode. On one battery, we were able to drill 9 1/2" holes on concrete, and on another battery, we drove 11 1-3/4" tapcons. These are impressive numbers for such a small tool, but when compared to the larger tool (with the larger battery), they're lacking.

rockwell_h3_controls.jpg rockwell_h3_chucks.jpg

As a 12-volt driver, the H3 is pretty standard and doesn't have anywhere near the power of the uber-strong Bosch PS21. It's not weak, but it just sits among the pack and not in the lead. It's also a lot heavier and bulkier than the other drivers on the market, obviously because of the added mojo for the rotary hammer. The weight is mostly up in the front of the tool, making it a bit awkward when compared to the other 12-volt drills, but that's the price you pay for having the ability to blast a hole in concrete.

The H3 costs about $180, which is a fair price for all the action that you can get out of it. We're not sure when the H3 is being released, but it should be available soon. There's no info at the Rockwell website just yet.


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

April 12, 2010

Makita 14.4-Volt Drill: 2006-2010 - R.I.P.

makita_rip.jpgThe Makita died this past weekend. Friday, it worked. Sunday, nada. It was a good drill but since we got it on the eve of the big lithium-ion explosion, it always seemed a little heavy and clunky to us. It was durable though...3-1/2 years in our hands is no treat for any tool (and in it's latter days, we were particularly rough with it). There's no doubt that while we had it, it earned its keep.

But now, we're not sure as to where to go from here. Where do you guys stand? What are some of your favorite drills? Drop a comment and let us know.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (13) | social bookmarking

April 9, 2010

Milwaukee M12 Cordless ProPEX Expansion Tool

milwaukee_pex.jpgWe like how Milwaukee seems intent on making a 12-volt tool for every single task that anyone has ever performed on a jobsite (we can't wait for the 12-volt Bobcat/Excavator combo kit!). Their latest, the ProPEX Expansion Tool is the most specialized yet.

What the tool does is expand the end of a piece of pex in order to utilize a particular fitting which is produced by a company called Uponor. A quick internet search turned up a manual expansion tool, a corded expansion tool, an air expansion tool, and a large clunky looking 18-volt expansion tool, all produced by Uponor. It's safe to say that none of these tools are as compact and nice looking as the Milwaukee.

For a little background, we found this at

The Uponor Wirsbo Expander system is perhaps the most widely used PEX system by professionals in the US. This system makes use of the ProPEX Expander Tool ProPEX Fittings, ProPEX Rings, and PEX-a tubing. If PEX-a tubing (AquaPEX) is not used the connections will fail. This system makes strong reliable connections that have never failed in the field. The only downsides to this system are the high up-front cost of the tool, the high price of fittings, and the fact that Wirsbo only wants professionals using the tools. Wirsbo has addressed the price of fittings by coming out with engineered plastic fittings that are more cost effective. Using the tool can be a little tricky at first, and Wirsbo prefers that only professional installers use their products.

There is no pricing information or release date available yet.

If you're curious what the process is like, here's a video of someone using a manual expansion tool. It's easy to assume that Milwaukee's tool will speed this process up quite a bit.

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

April 6, 2010

Bosch PS21 Pocket Driver - Review

bosch_ps21.jpgWhen we first heard that Bosch was releasing another 12-volt driver, we sort of drifted off to sleep. We dreamed of a world where tool companies stopped releasing like-tool after like-tool with only minimal upgrades between versions. Then we actually saw the new tool and became convinced that this time the guys at Bosch had really gone around the bend to la-la land. There's no way around the fact that the tool looks pretty silly at first glance (it's the stubby nose that takes the cake). Thankfully though, Bosch sent us one to try out and boy did that put an end to our snooty little preconceived notions.

Our constant caveat with 12-volt drivers is that they're good, but we always want them to be more powerful. We've never understood how 14.4 drills feel closer in power to 18-volt drills than 12-volt drills feel to 14-volt drills. Still, they're handy, so we usually keep a 12-volt on us at all times, for those hard to reach areas or for light duty punch work tasks.

bosch_ps21_w_ps20.jpg bosch_ps21_w_others.jpg

But back to the Bosch PS21. First off, the power out of this little tool is incredible. Not to mention that it's smaller than the competition. We were stunned when it had no problem sinking a 6" Timberlok screw into a 2x6. We tried out a few of the other 12-volt drivers we have around (including the older Bosch PS20) and the results were pathetic in comparison, they could hardly even sink the screw half way. We then used the PS21 as our primary tool building a workbench and it had no problem dealing with 3" screws. Sure, it's not as fast at a 14.4-volt, but it's getting there.

The reason for this is that Bosch has rebuilt the tool from the ground up and this new design gives you 265-in-lbs of torque, more than double that of the older PS20. The new tools also has an LED, a 2-speed drive train and a 21 position clutch. It sits very comfortably in the hand and it's only just over 5-1/2" in length.

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The bottom line here is that this tool is a real triumph. Not only is it small but it reaches a level of power that we had given up on as far as 12-volt drivers are concerned. It's a giant step in the right direction for Bosch and their 12-volt line. But now, they need to follow it up and start expanding the available tools. The 12-volt drill we tend to carry around is the Milwaukee because in one bag (with one charger), we have our driver, a flashlight, a right angle drill, the Hackzall, the power port and a stereo. It's a tough sell to ask us to add another bag and battery charger to our already crammed truck box. We'll do it for this tool, because it's so impressive, but it would be nice to be able to throw a few other items in the Bosch bag.

The PS21 sells for anything from $130 (Ohio Power Tool) to $145 (Amazon).

At OPT and

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

March 26, 2010

Ryobi Cordless Chainsaw

ryobi_chainsaw.jpgDo cordless chainsaws strike anyone else as a bad idea?

Chainsaws are right up there with table saws on the, "what's more dangerous than a coked-up rottweiler" scale. We actually like that 2-stroke engines can be such a pain in the ass. It's sort of like a built-in deterrent. First you need gas, then you need oil, then you need a handful of dixie cups in order to get the ratio right. The best part is that once you've devoted an entire shelf in your garage to your chainsaw and you've done everything the way it's supposed to be done, there's still about a 20% chance that the saw won't even start. All of this hassle means that chainsaws stay in the hands of those who are really willing to put the effort into tool and engine care. Additionally, the extended preparation time allows for a moment to think about the dangers of chainsaw kickback.

But these days, all you have to do is click your battery off your drill and into your Ryobi chainsaw and ta-da, you're all ready to go with the pull of a trigger

We're sure that the safety precautions are good and all, but it just seems waaaay too easy to get waaaay too dangerous. But hey, table saws only need an outlet and a flip of a switch.

At Home Depot

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (4) | social bookmarking

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