May 27, 2010

Poulan Wild Thing 18" Chainsaw - Review

poulan_hero.jpgNo one is ever going to mistake us for lumberjacks, but we're also not going to pass for city-dwellers either. Because of the wood stove and all the trees on the property, we need a half-way decent chainsaw. We happen to have gotten this Poulan a few years back as a gift from our old boss and we've been using it ever since despite the fact that it's purple and green and has the words 'Wild Thing' printed on the bar (which, thank the heavens, has finally rubbed off).

But aesthetics aside, it starts when we want it to and it cuts when we need it to. We neglect it most of the year and don't pay too much attention to properly winterizing it. From time to time, we have to fiddle with the idle, but that's not a bother. The only thing that's functionally wrong with it is that the pull cord got all tangled up once and in the process of fixing it, we lost a few revolutions of tension, so it hangs a bit loose. No big deal. It still starts.

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We don't think a whole lot about the saw (like we said, we sort of neglect it), but what spurred this review was last weekend's project of making a patio/planting bed border out of railroad ties (have you ever tried picking up a railroad tie? Oh man, are they heavy). The front of the patio has a curve in it to follow the driveway, so we had to make a number of relatively precise cuts with the saw. Like all the other times, the saw started right up and acted just like a chainsaw should. It handled the railroad ties without a problem and other than a fine creosote dust on everything and a chain the needs sharpening, all is good in the world.

Seriously, the only problem we have with the saw is the whole "Wild Thing" thing. Had this not been a gift, we would have never purchased it ourselves based on that alone. We think it's just kinda lame. Sort of like the tool equivalent to having neon lights on the under-carriage of your car.

The Wild Thing costs about $150 and as long as you can handle the look of the thing, it's a great choice for someone looking for a reliable homeowner saw without a big price tag.


Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (6) | 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.


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

May 19, 2010

Genesis GMT15A Multi-Purpose Oscillating Tool

genesis_oscillating.jpgThere was a bit there when we'd hear of a new oscillating tool release and our eyes would sort of gloss over. After the first big rush of releases, we got a little sick of the tools. But we just noticed this new one and it's price alone makes it worth a mention.

The Genesis GMT15A Oscillating Tool is a paltry $35 at Amazon. It actually has a pretty sharp look about it as well. Who knows what you're going to get at the price, but it might be worth skipping a night out with the fellas in order to find out.

It looks like it comes with the standard assortment of blades and that the chuck can accept Bosch accessories.

We did a little research and can't find any other mention of Genesis tools (other than the non-related rescue tool company - which, by the way, is totally badass and worth checking out here). So who knows what the deal is? We still recommend the Fein to anyone who is looking to really get into oscillating tools, but if you just want something to play around with and the spending purse isn't as heavy as it used to be, maybe give the Genesis a shot. Who knows, there's at least one comment at Amazon that seems at least somewhat satisfied?


Doug Mahoney at Permalink | Comments (6) | 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 15, 2010

Hammer Drill vs. Rotary Hammer: Tool Test


Our latest Popular Mechanics article is up. This time we tested out the new 12-volt Rockwell H3 Hammer Drill (it's actually a rotary hammer), against an 18-volt Hammer Drill and a corded rotary hammer. The results of the tests are actually pretty interesting, and the performance of the H3 is not what we were expecting at all. We'll leave it at that so you click through to the article.

And if you don't care to read the article, it's worth going to Popular Mechanics just to check out the new redesign. Things are looking pretty slick and it's a big improvement over what they used to have going on.

Watch for a more in-depth review of the H3 in the coming days.

Check out the Pop Mech article here.

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

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

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

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.


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

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