June 29, 2010

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

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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.

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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

May 5, 2010

Ridgid JobMax Vs. the World

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

At Amazon.com


Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (0) | 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 PexSupply.com:

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

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