June 15, 2010

Derby and Ball Scythe - Review

scythe_1.jpgWith the field out by the apple tree starting to get a bit overgrown and with FOTS (Father of Tool Snob) informing us that we'd better get to doing something about it before it goes to seed (he's in the know on this sort of thing), we decided we'd fire up a string trimmer to deal with the tall grass.

The long, overgrown grass (complete with thick weeds) seemed to be a good match for the heavy duty 4-stroke LEHR string Trimmer (we have the Craftsman branded one, but it's the same tool). After about ten minutes of relentless starter-cord pulling, we had nothing. So we pulled some more, and then some more after that. This coming from a tool that touts: no winterization and an easy start-up every time. We began to see that unique shade of white rage that accompanies uncooperative lawn machinery. We tried the 2-stroke trimmer that we have and that one was no better. No starting, no nothing. We went back to the LEHR and got another ten minutes of anger.

We were actually in the process of putting the trimmer in the log splitter when we recalled that the house came with an old scythe tucked in the back of the shed. After a few satisfying kicks to the trimmer, we went and dug it up also locating our box of sharpening stones.

scythe_blade.jpgAfter a pass with the angle grinder and a fine tune with the stones, the scythe was pretty damn sharp (a slip with the sharpening stone almost took a finger off, giving us a nice way to test SallyeAnder's claim that their hand soap works on bloodstains). Never having used a scythe before, but having once gotten a lesson from FOTS, we headed out to the field.

A few things to note about the remainder of the morning...

1. The scythe worked great. It's nice rhythmic work that quickly puts you smack dab in your 'happy place.' With no annoying trimmer motor or uncomfortable earplugs, we were relaxed and somewhat hypnotized by the satisfying swishing noise made by the cutting. The neighbors were probably pleased as well to not hear the high-pitched, 10lb mosquito whining of the trimmer motor.

2. We lasted about an hour, but after that we were toast. It's exhausting work. It's sort of like using a post-hole digger in that it seems to rely on muscles that you didn't know you even had. Our technique was OK, but not that great. We're going to have to work on it next time.

scythe_lable.jpg3. And there will be a next time. The trimmer would have been much less effort with the only energy burned being done by moving the shaft around. But the scythe gave us the whole package; we not only got a workout, but were engaged with the process, tweaking a grip, shifting our weight, trying to figure out the best way to work the tool. Above everything, we simply enjoyed ourselves. With no motor, we were able to hear the birds and the wind and all those other little noises that you miss in the muted cone of semi-silence that earplugs provide. The scythe was also able to handle some weeds that the trimmers would have likely had some problems with.

Needless to say, there was no stopping to load another string on the trimmer, no re-gassing, and no engine troubles. The only engine was us (with a pathetically small gas tank, by the way).

4. We also got to thinking about the time when people would spend entire days, no weeks, doing this work. It was one of those, 'we're a nation of sissies' moment, and while we were gasping for air around minute 55, we were in awe of the men who cut hay by hand.

5. If you've got a similar situation going on and there's a part of your property that gets overgrown and you only want to hack it down once or twice a year, we recommend getting a scythe and giving it a go. At the very least, it will give you a deep appreciation of your rural grandfathers. And probably a sore muscle or two.

Here's one at Amazon.com (looks like you have to buy the handle and blade separately). We also some on ebay, but if you start trolling barn sales, you'll probably have a good chance of finding one.

And a video on proper technique:

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

June 11, 2010

Milwaukee Releases More Hand Tools

milwaukee_compact_hacksaw.jpgIt looks like Milwaukee is ready for round two of their new line of hand tools. We covered the initial release here and reviewed their 11-in-1 Screwdriver here.The new gaggle includes a screwdriver set, a folding jab saw (very cool), a PVC hand saw, and the one we like the best, a compact hack saw.

From the pictures we've seen, the tools all have the markings of well-made items; solid looks and nice grips. Where applicable (like on the hack saw) there are features like tool-free blade changes. As with all of Milwaukee's tools, these are all built for the tradesman and if our 11-in-1 Screwdriver is any indication (it's still glued to our hip), all of these new tools are going to be worthy purchases if you're looking for something that's going to be with you for a while.

Press release after the jump.

ArrowContinue reading: "Milwaukee Releases More Hand Tools"

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

May 25, 2010

10% Off Father's Day Gift Set at Channellock

VJ-1.gifIf you've been paying attention, last week we ran a contest giving away a nice set of Channellocks. We picked a winner (some dude named Jeff), so if you're one of the millions of people who didn't win, all is not lost! Channellock has been cool enough to pass on a coupon code for 10% off the prize gift set. The code is CP3Q1. Just enter that at check-out (at the Channellock Website), and you should be all set. More information on the set is here.

Again, the coupon code is CP3Q1 and it's valid at the Channellocks website until Father's Day.

A big thanks to Channellock for helping out with the giveaway and for supplying you, our readers, with the coupon.

Check out the gift set here.

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

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.

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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 20, 2010

Kreg KMA2600 Square-Cut

kreg_square_cut.jpgYesterday, we were all 'hoo-haa!" over Kreg's new Multi-Mark all purpose measuring tool, and to show that we're even handed, today we're going to dump on their other new product, something called the Square-Cut.

The Square-Cut plays the role of the rafter square when it's in saw guide mode. It has a lip which sits against the long end of a board, creating an edge to run the foot plate of your saw against, allowing for a perfect 90 degree cut. The one drawback to doing this with a rafter square is that the off-set from cutting line to edge of footplate needs to be known and figured into the equation, leading to some tedious measurements. Kreg solves this problem by having a little adjustable piece of plastic extend from the Square-Cut out the appropriate distance to the line. Now, all you have to do is align the little plastic thing to the cut line and the saw guide is automatically in the correct place.

Which sounds good in theory, but we wonder about practice. How can this little plastic arm survive a few passes with a saw. They're bound to make some contact and when that happens, see you later little plastic arm. There's also the issue of south-paw carpenters...sorry guys, there's nothing for you here. The Square-Cut is righties only.

We suggest just using a rafter square and visually lining up the blade and the cut line. Is that so hard? If you have halfway decent vision and passable hand-eye coordination, this should work (and work fast). It's always been fine for us and we even used this method last year to make some pretty fancy-pants shelves that turned out great. Another option is to make your own saw guides.

The Square-Cut costs about $16.

At Amazon.com

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

Kreg KMA2900 Multi-Mark Multi-Purpose Marking and Measuring Tool

kreg_multi_mark.jpgIt seems like the new thing for tool companies is to crush as much functionality as possible in as small a package as possible. If this is the new standard for what a good tool is, Kreg has a struck gold with the Multi-Mark Measuring and marking tool.

It's a bevel gauge...no it's a try square...no wait...it's a combo square...or maybe a torpedo level...or possibly a carpenter's ruler? Actually, it's a bit of all these things and it actually looks incredibly handy. It's also only $20, which seems like a steal.

When you boil it down to the basics, the Multi-Mark is a bevel gauge with a ruler for a blade. The try square ability comes when the blade sets into a groove which positions it 90 degrees to the handle.The long edges of the body also have a 3/16" rabbet, making it perfect for positioning door and window reveals.

All of this makes the Multi-Mark a one stop casing tool. Never having actually seen one or used one, we can't be 100% sure, but from afar, this one looks like a real winner.

And like we said $20 seems like a deal for this interesting little item.

At Amazon.com

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

May 13, 2010

Win a Channellock Gift Set from Tool Snob

VJ-1.gifSo yes, with the wonderful assistance of Channellock Tools, we're giving away a 2-plier gift set for Father's Day. The set includes a 9-1/2" V-Jawed Tongue and Groove Plier and a 6-1/2" V-Jawed Tongue and Groove Plier. We tested out the 6-1/2" model here. The gift set would be a nice gift for any dad.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post telling us why your dad, above all other dads, deserves these tools. Is it because he's restoring an old car? Is it because he lost his old ones? is it because you're getting to the age where you're starting to realize what a lousy kid you were and you feel compelled to give him things to make up for it?

We're going to pick the winner in a random drawing on Friday the 21st. Also, don't forget to enter to win a DeWalt ToughCase here.

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (11) | social bookmarking

May 12, 2010

Bostitich Hand Tools

bostitich_level.jpg

fatmax_level.jpg

Bostitich, makers of pneumatics and only pneumatics have recently developed a new line of hand tools...or have they? Maybe 'developed' is the wrong word.

When we went and checked out their website to get more information on this, we were a bit surprised at exactly how many hand tools they're releasing. Since there's no way they engineered this entire line for a single roll-out (17 new hammers, 4 new utility knives, 7 new pry bars, etc.), we headed over to their parent company's website. Sure enough, the Stanley FatMax line is virtually identical to the new Bostitich line. It seems like there are some aesthetic differences here and there, but they're minor at best. It's safe to say that the "Bostitich Hand Tools: Development and Testing" office is little more than a place to keep the foosball table.

But this isn't to say that these are lame tools. It's the opposite really. The FatMax line is great and their 25' tape is our standard. But you've got to admit that this is sort of funny.

Browse the selection of tools here. Play "find the comprable Stanley hand tool" here.

Bostitich hand tools at Amazon.com

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

May 4, 2010

Melco Direct My T Driver

melco.jpg

If you read our recent review of Milwaukee's 11-in-1 Screwdriver and thought, "more, more MORE! I NEED MORE MULTI-SCREWDRIVER ACTION!" Then, calm down, the My T Driver is here. According to Melco, the My T Driver does the work of 24 screwdrivers and delivers 5 times the torque of a standard screwdriver. The extra mojo comes from the stems that flip out of the handle and allow you to use the tool sort of like a basin wrench. We think it's a nice idea and hopefully, the screwdriver can hold up to the additional strain.

The My T Driver costs $19 and comes with a small case and a little flashlight. Oh, it also has a ratcheting setting.

At Melco Direct

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

April 29, 2010

Milwaukee 11-in-1 Multi-Tip Screwdriver - Review

milwaukee_screwdriver_1.jpg

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.


milwaukee_screwdriver_3.jpg milwaukee_screwdriver_4.jpg

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

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