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

March 29, 2010

Shopsmith Mark V

shopsmith.gifThis last weekend we were wrapping up a visit with the Bro-In-Law and he said, "oh, wait, I've got to show you the Shopsmith!" We were then ushered into the garage and it was there that we saw the magnificent vision that is the Shopsmith. Advertised on their website as 'the five most needed tools - all in the space of a bicycle' the Shopsmith is a phenomenal item for the home woodshop.

The Shopsmith is a revelation of multi-unit engineering (if there even is such a thing). With more shifting parts than Optimus Prime, the tool can quickly assume the form of whichever tool you need next. It's: a table saw, a lathe, a disc sander, a horizontal drill, and a drill press. It's also cool as hell. The one we saw was an older model (it had a band saw too) and it had that great look of an industrial farm tool from the 1950s.

The unit turns on with a nice old-fashioned toggle switch and there's a dial that allows you to change the power to the motor. The dial is marked with the names of the tools, so you know where to set it depending on the use.

To buy the basic package off the shelves it's about $3000, but this is the kind of thing that you can probably scavenge for about half that.

Here's a video of a guy selling his on ebay:

More information at Shopsmith.com

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

March 18, 2010

Craftsman 5" Vibrafree Random Orbit Sander - Review

craftsman_antivibe.jpgWe've had an eye on the Craftsman Vibrafree Sander for a while. It's been out for a couple years and we've read a bunch of reviews of it and they all seem pretty positive. Way more positive than we would have guessed from our first skeptical glance at the tool. The whole thing just seems too good to be true: an orbital sander that doesn't vibrate? So we had some anticipation in the works when Craftsman offered to send one our way for testing.

If you don't know, the Vibrafree's special superpower comes from its sanding pad, or rather sanding pads. Craftsman has taken the standard design of a singular disc and replaced it with a circular inner disc and a separate outer ring. The two pads orbit in opposite directions and thus cancel one another out. It's a simple idea and a nice one, but no matter how much we read, we wanted to know for ourselves if it did indeed work, and if there were any big drawbacks to the system.

craftsman_antivibe_bottom.jpg craftsman_antivibe_back.jpg

One thing we noticed immediately is that the Craftsman is heavier than the standard orbital. We suppose that this is from having to stuff two orbiting mechanisms in the tool. It's also slightly bulkier than most, but even with both of these characteristics, the size and the weight, it's easy to manage with one hand. It also has a nice long cord (10'), which we're always in favor of.

Now on to the whole 'no-vibration' thing.

We started it up and got going. And, well, yeah, it actually works. There's still the general movement and occasional stutter of an orbital sander, but that constant micro-shimmy, the one that wears your arm out and gives you pins and needles after about five minutes, is entirely absent. It's a strange feeling, using an orbital without that ever present jiggle. It's sort of like the first time we sat in a Hybrid and realized it was on, even though there was no motor noise: it's great, but there's something about it that's slightly unsettling. Using the Vibrafree on a few small projects, we discovered that the wear and tear on our arm was considerably less and we realized what a struggle on the wrist standard orbitals actually are.

craftsman_antivibe_dust_connection.jpgA second interesting feature of this tool is the dust collection. Instead of a soft filter dust bag, the Craftsman comes with something they call a 'cyclonic dust box,' which seems to work fine, but gains awesome points because it's called a 'cyclonic dust box.' It even has this nice little flip-up door at the back end of it so you can empty the canister without having to take it off the tool. Unfortunately the connection point between the tool and the dust box is done with these two little clips that look like they're one workbench drop away from breaking off. If you're not into the whole cyclone thing, the Craftsman comes with an adapter for a vacuum.

The one real downside to the tool is the fact that it's a single speed. If you're not used to variable speed orbitals, it's probably no big deal, but we like having that kind of control over disc speed based on the situation and it's too bad it's not an option with this tool.

craftsman_antivibe_discs.jpgAnother minor bone that we have to pick with this tool is the case that it comes in (we can actually hear some of you clicking away from the site). It's one of those cases where there is only one possible way for everything to fit in (which includes removing the dust canister from the tool), and there's really no room left for storage. in our experience, orbital cases end up being sandpaper clearing houses, and here, there's no way for that to happen.

Less vibration means more money because the Vibrafree sells for $100, which is a good $30+ higher than the average high-end name brand orbital. There's also the issue of discs. Because of the anti-vibration design, the sanding discs are unique and, thus, not easily available. They're on the Sears website (a 3 pack for $4), but items like this, you need to have available on the fly. It's likely that they're also at your local Sears. Also, it's worth noting that Rockwell has also released a Vibrafree sander that looks similar to the Craftsman. And when we say, 'similar,' what we really mean is, 'identical.' It's like someone photoshopped in some new colors and a new logo. The Rockwell even has the kickass "cyclonic dust box." The tools are so similar that there's got to be some sort of licensing agreement going on. But anyway, our point is that while the Craftsman may have limited availability with their discs, the Rockwell may be easier to find.

So our final say is that the orbital works great, even though we have some finicky little issues with it.

At Craftsman

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (6) | social bookmarking

March 12, 2010

Skil 3600 Flooring Saw

skil-flooring-saw.jpg
Yesterday we were talking to our good buddy Hal from over at Extreme How-To and he asked if we had heard of the Skil Flooring Saw. We hadn't, so on his recommendation we came back to the shop and looked it up online and...well...this one looks pretty cool. Really cool, in fact.

What Skil has done here is analyzed what exactly is needed for cutting tools on a flooring project and done two things with the information; gotten rid of all the excess and combined the 'needs' into one tool. Skil's line of thought is, 'why bother with a 10" miter saw and a 10" table saw when all you're doing is cutting 3" wide boards?" They've got a point.

So their setup looks something like a tile saw. The blade is tiny and can either be run along the track for crosscuts or secured in place for rips. It looks like there's a also an adjustable miter fence and, in a wonderfully simple move, Skil made the base of the tool 1-1/2" high, so your outfeed can be taken care of with a 2x. From the looks of the video over at the Skil site, the tool is light too. The guy doesn't seem to have any problem hauling it around in one hand. While this may be good for mobility, we're curious how it affects rip cuts. Are there rubber gripping pads under the saw to prevent sliding, or do you have to screw the unit down to stabilize it? (UPDATE: We just got word from some people in the know that the saw does indeed have rubber feet as well as mounting holes for screw-mounting to a workbench).

Skil has a micro-site set up for the tool here.

The Skil Flooring Saw won't be available until May 1st, but it's already showing up on retailer sites for the $190 range.

At Amazon.com

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

March 2, 2010

Dremel 8200 Cordless Rotary Tool - Review

demel_8200_hand.jpg

It's funny, but each time Dremel releases a new rotary tool, we think to ourselves, "man, this is the best Dremel evah!" Then they release another one and we think, "Whoa, now this is the best Dremel the world has ever seen!" And on and on. Last year they released their new corded 4000 series tool and we loved it for it's strength and all around 'Dremely vibe.' Well, now they've released the cordless 8200 which seems to be a companion to the 4000. We were happy that they let us check out a pre-release sample. Oddly enough, we got it in our hands, played around with it for a bit and thought, "Hot damn! Now this might be the greatest Dremel we've ever used!"

dremel_8200_battery.jpgThe 8200 operates in a range of 5,000 to 30,000 rpm with the adjustment made with a slider on the back of the tool. Above the slider is a battery fuel gauge so you can keep an eye on how much juice you've got left. It's a feature that we think should be standard in li-Ion tools and it's nice to see Dremel getting on board with it.

Because we're carpenters and not hobbyists, we would have liked to see this tool come with two batteries instead of just one. Were that the case, the 8200 would be fully jobsite ready, but the extra battery would also tack on at least $50 to the price and it would be something that isn't used by a lot of the people who buy Dremels and use them sporadically in the garage workspace and won't mind the 1-hour charger.

(Update: We're dopes. Dremel does indeed offer an 8200 with two batteries. It's the 8200 2/28 and it will be retailing for $140. It also includes a cutting guide, a right angle attachment and 28 accessories. Sounds ideal to us. A thank you to Dremel for pointing out our error.)

dremel_8200_w4000.jpg

In general, the cordless aspect of this tool is fantastic. It makes the use and set-up of it that much easier. And it's powerful too. According to Dremel, the 8200 has a speed of cut that is twice as fast as the leading cordless rotary tool. We didn't verify this, but we did use the tool to cut metal, plastic, and stone and thought it was right up there with the 4000.

dremel_8200_case.jpgThe one thing we're not fond of with the tool is the case. Because the tool we got was an advance copy, the case we got may or may not be the one that is being sold with the tool. We have no reason to think that the production case will be different, but you never know. As our friends at Milwaukee are aware, we can get really hung up on tool cases. The blow-molded jobbies that some companies use drive us crazy, and while the Dremel case does have plenty of room for accessories, there is also this panel piece that creates an odd space for loose accessories to hide behind. And getting them out is like getting a pick out of a guitar. Dremel accessories are very tiny and some of them break down into even tinier pieces, so why make a case like this? No comprende.

But that's just our hangup and all of you who read that last paragraph with glazed over eyes can just walk away knowing that Dremel has made yet another great rotary tool.

it's also worth noting the we received a marketing sample, so the 100% finished "in the store" product may (or may not) have a look that is slightly more polished.

The 8200 isn't available until April, but when it is, it will sell for $100 to $140 depending on the accessory package that comes with it. It's not there now, but it will likely be at Amazon.com

Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (5) | social bookmarking

February 22, 2010

DeWalt DCS370 18-Volt Cordless Bandsaw

dewalt_cordless_bandsaw.jpg
DeWalt just hit the scene with a cordless bandsaw and when compared to other models out there, it's a lighter tool, but the trade-off is less cutting depth.

Milwaukee's new cordless band saw cuts at a depth of 3-1/4" and weighs 10.25 lbs and Makita's cuts at 4-3/4" and weighs 14.1 lbs. According the the DeWalt press release, their new tool cuts to a much smaller 2-1/2" and weighs 'less than 10 pounds,' which in press release talk usually means something in the range of 9.7 to 9.9 lbs. We're actually not too confident comparing these weights anyway. Makita's site calls out that their 14 lbs is with the tool and battery while the Milwaukee just lists their number as 'tool weight.' There's no indication how DeWalt is weighing theirs.

Regardless of all that, the DeWalt does have a smaller cut depth, and because of this, it's likely on the lighter side of things. If you're an electrician or HVAC guy and you want a compact cordless bandsaw to compliment the big corded one in the van, it would be worth it to go to Home Depot and take a look at this one.

There's no word on pricing yet, but the Milwaukee goes for about $400 and the Makita $450, so we'd like to think that the DeWalt will be in the $300-$400 range.

The press release is after the jump.

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

February 17, 2010

Craftsman 10" MiterMate - Review

mitermate_1.jpgMiter saws are one of those tools that dribble through the innovation process. Not a whole lot happens between generations other than a few more amps of power, or a couple more degrees of cut, at best, a laser sight is added. All in all it's a slow and rather boring progression. Festool released their mighty Kapex a couple years ago which added a good jolt to the process, but at a price of $1300, the most the average person could do was read the stats and say, "cool." But now here comes Craftsman with something called the MiterMate. When you first look at it, it's pretty strange. It's essentially a miter saw with two adjustable fences, as opposed to an adjustable blade. This feature, when used with their angle finder, allows for a single adjustment for two cuts which result in a perfect miter. Craftsman/Sears was nice enough to send us a sample to review and we found it to be an effective, but not perfect, tool.

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

February 15, 2010

Rockwell Versacut

rockwell_versacut_1.jpg
In addition to introducing the H3 Hammer Drill at this year's IBS, Rockwell also dropped the word on something called the Versacut. From what we know of it, the tool looks to be an all-in-one trim saw capable of cutting wood, tile, and certain metals (copper and aluminum).

For features, the little 3 lb. saw has a laser guide, plunge cut indicators, and a 4 amp motor. Rockwell is also releasing a number of interesting accessories along with the saw including a miter station and a guide rail track. The first is a small adjustable track for the saw to run on and the second apparently morphs the Versacut into a larger track saw.

rockwell_versacut_2.jpg

After our experience with the disappointing Croc Saw (our review here), we're pretty wary of this type of "I can do everything" saw. The Croc was overburdened with safety features and because it was nearly impossible to see the blade, operating the tool in a precise manner was difficult. From the photos, it looks like the Versacut also has a hidden blade, but without getting our hands on it, it's impossible to get a feel for how the tool operates.

The Versacut will run about $150, the miter station $80, and the rail track $50. They'll all be available in the spring at Rockwell and Amazon.

The press release is after the jump...

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

February 12, 2010

Rockwell 12-Volt H3 Multi-Function Hammer Drill

rockwell_h3_jpg

Rockwell seems to be maintaining its position as the company to watch with their new H3 Multi-Function Hammer Drill. According to the company, this 3lb tool is capable of drilling 1/4" holes in concrete. The fact that it's a mini SDS hammer drill is only part of the appeal though. Rockwell was smart enough to make it an all-in-one by including a 3-jaw chuck and a 1/4" bit holder.

With those adapters comes the ability to switch the tool from hammer mode to straight drilling mode. The tool is powered by a 12-volt li-ion battery that is part of Rockwell's 'Free Batteries for Life" program (no, really, it's true, free for life), and the charger comes with a USB port so it can also power up a cell phone or an iPod if you need it in a pinch.

We're constantly wishing we had an SDS/3-Jaw adapter for our rotary hammers because it would mean that in some circumstances we wouldn't even have to unpack the drill. But here, in the smaller package, it makes that much more sense. If this tool is as good as it looks on paper, it should join the JawHorse in Rockwell winner's circle.

The tool has a look similar to Metabo's BHE20 Rotary Hammer, which must be what Rockwell is getting at when they refer to the H3 as 'Euro-Styled.'

This looks like a great tool and it will be sold in the spring for around $180 at Rockwell and Amazon.com

The press release is after the jump if you're interested.

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

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