October 6, 2009
Dremel has once again advanced and improved their rotary tool, this time with a model referred to as the 4000. It must be quite an item to warrant the jump from the 400 series. From the hundreds to the thousands? Ten times the series? What exactly can this thing do?
First off, just the look of it is impressive. We've always thought that Dremel's rotary tools were some of the most ergonomically advanced tools in the world, but this one makes the older models look like cave tools. It's a sleek looking item and could be used as a prop in some glossy science fiction flick. It also has a new electronic feedback systems that maintains a constant speed under a tougher workload.
Also, the tool is compatible with all Dremel accessories, in addition to some new ones that the older models are unable to use. Two of these newer attachments are being released in conjunction with the 4000 and they are a pistol-grip handle and a sanding/grinding guide.
The changes made to the 4000 were done so based on user feedback, so they're likely all positive improvements. For the basic kit (30 attachments, 2 accessories), it looks like the 4000 is going to cost about $75. If you're buying a kit with more the attachments and accessories, the price is going to be higher, but will max out around the $150 range. It's a little higher than their older models, but not at all unreasonable for a new item with all the extra bling. For more information on what accessories come with which kit, check out the Dremel website here.
Dremel 4000 with two attachments and 30 attachments at Amazon.com ($75)
Dremel 4000 with 3 attachments and 34 accessories at Amazon.com ($85)
Dremel 4000 with 6 attachments and 50 accessories at Amazon.com ($140)
September 18, 2009
Bosch recently added an 18-volt impact gun to their Litheon line and we've had our hands on one for about three months now. We skipped any staged testing protocols (i.e. how many 3" lag screws can it drive) and just brought it to work. So for the last 14 weeks we have treated this tool in such a way that we now understand what red-headed step-children have to go through. Instead of carrying the gun down a ladder, we threw it. Instead of packing it up in its case, we lobbed it in the back of the truck, instead of putting it under a tarp, we left it out in the rain. If this thing is going to be a job site gun, it's got to survive basic training. So on to our thoughts...
First, the Bosch comes with a few practical features, but thankfully, nothing audacious or gimmicky. It's got an LED, a nice little bit holder at the base of the handle and a belt clip that can be placed on either side of the handle (with just the removal of one screw), depending on the task at hand, or whether you're a righty or a lefty. The belt clip is nice, but it's one of those things that will hop off your hip going down a ladder or crouching over. It's handy for a quick holster, but nowhere near as secure as a Prazi Monster Hook, so we would still recommend picking up one of those or something like it.
And as for day-to-day functionality, the Bosch Impactor is really a top-notch gun. It laughed at our rough treatment and easily and consistently drove 6" Timberlok screws into wet 4x6s. It's shorter and stubbier than our old Makita, and it feels better in the hands.
Our one gripe with the tool is that the nose of the gun has a protective rubber sheath on it, which is great and prevents surface marring in tight spots, but the piece is removable and somewhat loosely fit. On more than one occasion, the piece would come slightly loose and snag on something (one time even causing the gun to hop off our hip and fall onto a finished floor). Why not just make the piece permanent? This might sound like nit-picking, but with Bosch so close to making a perfect impact driver, this loose flap of rubber really bothered us.
And as always, Bosch provides a great case with the tool, capable of holding extra batteries and bits and with enough room left over for a few hand tools as well.
We also had the opportunity to check out the difference between the Bosch slim pack and fat pack Litheon batteries. Obviously, the fat pack are going to be stronger (they were) and last longer (they did), but it all comes at the cost of a heavier unit (and a more expensive one). Both batteries held charges for quite some time, but the fat pack were tremendous on this front. Sometimes we would go a few days on one battery. Keep in mind, we weren't doing production work, but still, under the same load, we would have had to hit up the Makita charger at least three or four times. The way we see it, there is really no way you'll ever find yourself in a situation where you're standing around holding a dead battery, waiting impatiently for the other one to charge.
The bottom line here is that this is a fantastic tool. It's durable and powerful, and to be honest, this tool integrated itself so well into our life that we forgot we were reviewing it. If Bosch keeps the battery line alive, this is a tool that you could potentially have for a long, long time. But this kind of quality doesn't come cheap. The Bosch Impactor costs anywhere from $250 to $380 depending on the package you get. You can get the gun with either 2 fat pack batteries or two slim pack batteries. Our opinion on this is that if you're going to be working the gun pretty hard, the fat pack are worth it, but if you're an electrician or someone who won't be using it full time or for particularly strenuous tasks, the slim packs should do you fine.
Bosch Litheon Impactor with 2 Slim Pack Batteries at Amazon.com
Bosch Litheon Impactor with 2 Fat Pack Batteries at Amazon.com
September 14, 2009
While flipping through the latest issue of Popular Mechanics, we saw an ad for Fein's new line of grinders with what looks like at least one never-before-seen feature.
From what we can tell the WS 14 series is a very high-quality line of grinders (good durability, power, etc.), but it's the WS 14 T's that really interest us. This is what the Fein website has to say about those,
The "switchless" FEIN Tip Start operating system with Auto Stop provides needed safety in case of an emergency. The disc slows down as soon as the touch pads are released. The service life of this angle grinder is extended even further by the innovative optical fiber switching system and the dust-proof placement of the four touch pads.
'Switchless Tip Start?" Any ideas? Do these touch pads operate as the on-switch? We searched around a bit to see if 'tip start' is a generic term and we found this at a Dodge Nitro forum:
Tip Start: A feature that allows the driver to crank and start the engine by turning the key to the start position and then releasing it. The vehicle electronics will then take over the cranking and starting process to ensure that proper engine speed is attained, to release the starter motor at the appropriate time, and to prevent double starts.
Not really sure how that would apply to a grinder...
It also looks like the new Fein grinders utilize the same chuck system as the more recent MultiMasters, with the flip-up lever at the rear of the head as opposed to the strange little spanner wrench that all other grinders require.
No word on pricing for this new line, but we will say that the older Fein grinders are in the range of $325 for a 5" model. Putting this in perspective, we've got a great Bosch grinder that we've had and abused for a few years now and it cost us less than $100. Our best guess is that these new grinders will be in the $500 range.
September 10, 2009
There are very few tools we keep in the truck at all times. The small space behind the seat is prized real estate and not to be wasted on redundant tools that are easy to come by on a job site. Instead, we reserve this spot for those special tools, the ones that can do things no other tool can. The ones that, when you need them, you need them. Over the past few months, we've narrowed down our repertoire to a select few. They are as follows:
Hitachi 12-Volt Right-Angle Impact Driver (our review here): This tool is worth it's weight in gold, which, oddly enough, isn't all that much because it's so light and compact. It has a clearance that is so small it can fit anywhere and while it's powerful enough to drop a 2" screw in a 2x4, where this tool shines is with the small fussy tasks, like working up in a shade pocket or behind a fan coil unit.
Fein MultiMaster (our review here): With the expiration of Fein's oscillating tool patent, the market has been flooded with other models by everyone from Craftsman to Bosch to Dremel to Rockwell. But the funny thing is that even though there are now a ton of oscillating tools on the market, the Fein still has no real competition. This isn't to belittle the others, we've tested out the majority of the new tools and they're fine, it's just that the MultiMaster is nearly a work of art. Once you hold one, you'll know what we're talking about.
Milwaukee Hackzall (our review here): Of the tools on the list, this is the one that has elicited the greatest response from the rest of the site. It has been affectionately dubbed, "the turkey carver" and it's constantly getting borrowed by carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and anyone else who needs to make a quick, no-hassle cut. The only downside to the tool is that it comes with the single worst case in tool history.
Milwaukee 12-volt Power Port and Flashlight (our reviews here and here): This is sort of the emergency kit and hangs out under the passenger seat next to the first-aid bag. It's always good to have a flashlight on hand and the Power Port is good for a quick cell phone charge here and there (the truck stops charging when the engine is off).
...and those are the ones we keep close at hand. Granted, we've been in the finish phase of the job, so these are all detail oriented tools, good for the small fussy stuff. It's likely they'll get cycled out during the framing of the next job, but for now they're there, constantly getting us out of trouble.
HItachi Right Angle Impact Driver at Tool Barn
Fein MultiMaster at Amazon.com
Milwaukee Hackzall at Amazon.com
Milwaukee Power Port at Amazon.com
Milwaukee Flashlight at Amazon.com
September 8, 2009
Earlier this year (much earlier...the spring, actually), Rockwell hopped into the lithium ion market with the release of a drill/driver and an impact gun. From what we can make out from the product description and price, these are in that mid range between the hard-core contractor tools and the more inexpensive, strickly-homeowner tools. In other words, there's some durability for an affordable price, sort of a Porter-Cable/Ryobi vibe.
For their lithium line, Rockwell seemed to have snagged Ryobi's colors, which is a bit strange. So if you prefer a darker color palette, they have a Ni-Cd line available called ComPak which looks like it's also worth checking out. Both lines fall under Rockwell's insane 'free replacement batteries for life' program.
Read the Lithium Tech press release after the jump..
Continue reading: "Rockwell LithiumTech 18-Volt Combo Kit"
August 19, 2009
We don't watch much TV, so we're not really up to date with the "As Seen on TV" crowd. In fact, until he died, we had no idea who Billy Mays even was. Well, it turns out that the man was capable of selling a refrigerator to an Eskimo and one of the items he was pushing was the Omni Dual Saw. Again, we had never heard of the tool until a few guys on the site started asking if anyone had any experience with that "little saw with the two blades?"
We looked into it and that's pretty much what it is; a little saw with two blades. It looks about the size of the Crocodile Saw, or an angle grinder, or that little trim circ saw that Porter-Cable has. The cool thing here is that the blades rotate in opposite direction which minimizes any kickback. This feature also allows the user to move the saw forward and backwards without any change in the saw's aggressiveness. Apparently, the saw can cut through brick, metal, wood, plastic and whatever else you throw at it.
We also just noticed that Craftsman has a similar item (that's been on the market for a few years) called the Twin Cutter. The Twin Cutter has a larger blade (6-1/8" vs 5") and a more powerful motor (7.8 amps vs 3.4 amps) than the Omni. Even with the extra HP and blade, the Twin Cutter costs less than the Omni, coming in at around $150
At Simply As Seen on TV
August 4, 2009
If you're like us, you saw this image and thought, "sweet, finally a circular saw that comes with its own roll of toilet paper!" But unfortunately, tool technology isn't that advanced yet. What you're looking at is the latest in Ryobi's 18-volt li-ion line, a wet/dry tile saw. The roll of toilet paper is a water bottle that you fill and *boom* wet saw capabilities.
The tool has a on/off toggle for the water but in all other respects it appears to function like the 18-volt circular saw that Ryobi has had on the market for a couple years.
This one looks really useful to us. Having that kind of portability with the built-in water dispenser just seems like a tile/stone guy's fantasy. Just think of what this thing could do with a blue stone walkway or a slate floor...
The saw costs about $200 and that's for the saw, one battery, the blade, and a charger.
At Home Depot
June 23, 2009
Bosch has been one of the leaders in the 12-volt li-ion market and it seems that now they're branching off into the even smaller 4-volt category. We have no idea if they're going to get into tools other than their Pocket Screwdriver, and for the purpose of this review, we don't really care. We're here to review the SPS10-2 and that's what we're going to do.
Continue reading: "Bosch SPS10-2 4-Volt Pocket Screwdriver - Review"
June 18, 2009
If you live in Columbus, Ohio, or even if you live within a thousand miles of Columbus, Ohio, you should go to the Power Tool Drag Races this weekend. They're being held at the Columbus Idea Foundry from 4 to 6. If you want to enter your own dragster, you still have time because registration ends this Friday. If you don't have the time, but want to enter next year, they're holding a workshop on how to make your own tools into drag racers. How cool is that?
This is the first annual Columbus race and we hope that all of you who are able to go make it out for the event. It looks like a lot of fun, and the more people who show, the better the chance of it becoming an institution. Just think, someday you can tell your grandkids, "I was at the very first Columbus Power Tool Drag Race..."
Prizes for the event are being supplied by the great Ohio Power Tool and other sponsors include C.H. Hanson and Skil. There is more information on the Drag Races at the official site (http://www.powertooldragracescolumbus.com/).
In the spirit of the races, we'll send a tool to the first person who correctly identifies the movie that the above image came from. Just leave it in the comments.
June 15, 2009
Last week we were lucky enough to go out to the Milwaukee Tools HQ to get a glimpse at some of the new releases they've got all geared up for this year. As one of our favorite tool companies, they didn't disappoint with the sheer variety and usefulness of their new tools and accessories.
A few of the highlights of what we saw were...
18-Volt Cordless Bandsaw - They're still putting the finishing touches on this one, but were nice enough to let us try it out and, honestly, it's the kind of tool that makes us wish we had taken up plumbing instead of carpentry. It's got a whole lot of power but it's light enough to easily work with both above your head and in tight spaces. Having an awareness of how people will be using it, Milwaukee has made the shoe retractable, so the tool is able to cut a pipe that's already attached to a wall. It's one of those tools that makes your chest swell a bit when you hold it. There will also be a corded version available and both will be hitting the market probably in October.
Shockwave Driver Bits - This is one of those ideas that, once you hear it, you wonder why it took so long for someone to think it up. Driver bits built specifically for impact drivers. Anyone who spends time on a job site these days (like we do), knows that impact drivers are taking over. That said, they really do a number on driver bits so Milwaukee has tailored this new line to withstand the abuse. In addition to other features, the new bits have a slight degree of flexibility in order to handle the added intensity of the impact driver.
Cordless Tubing Cutter - Much like their copper pipe cutter from last year, this one is a real niche tool. We tried it out and it had no problem slicing up pex and pvc. It has a great feel and possibly the power to do a little topiary sculpting as well.
Testing and Measurement Tools - This is a new area for Milwaukee, but judging from what we saw, they're going to quickly establish themselves in the market. Of the tools, the most interesting is the Sub-Scanner which is sort of like an amped up, battle-crazed stud finder. It can be used to find studs and pipes in walls and ceilings, as well as rebar in concrete. The cool thing about it is that it lets you know the exact depth of what it is you're finding, so if you only have one option for placing that pipe hanger, you'll know that only a 2" screw will work because of the rebar that's hidden in the wall.
Those are just some of the highlights and by no means a complete overview of what we saw. Milwaukee is also rolling out some nice 12-volt LED flashlights, a 12-volt power port, a very cool looking mini-radio, oh and about a thousand new grinders.
Follow the action over at Milwaukee Tools.
Milwaukee tools at Amazon.com