December 15, 2009
Now that the market is swamped with oscillating tools, there is a lot of talk about what brand's accessories are interchangeable with what brand's tools. Over the weekend, we went out to the shop and spent about an hour trying different accessories with different models and we came up with this chart (click to see it enlarged):
A few things about our notation:
1. Y: Yes, the accessory fits in the locking system of the tool.
2. N: No, the accessory does not fit on the tool in any functional way.
3. NL: The accessory fits on the tool, but it does not lock into that particular tool's locking system. On some brands (Dremel, Bosch), this locking system is a pattern of 'nubs' that the accessory fits around, and on others (Fein, Craftsman) the tool has a shape that the accessory conforms to. Because of the oscillating motion of these tools, we really don't recommend using any of the accessories that don't lock into the tool. Not only can they come loose easier, but it's likely you're placing a great deal of pressure against the face of the nubs or other locking system giving them additional wear.
4. WA: With adapter. The Bosch tool comes with an adapter that sits over the nubs and creates a bumpy surface for the accessory to rest against. Even with the adapter, the other accessories are still not locked into the tool, so the situation is functional, but not ideal.
5. The Proxxon, because it is built for such light duty, has no locking system and thus all but the Craftsman and Rockwell accessories, with their large holes, were deemed acceptable.
6. The Fein is the only one with a quick change chuck system and should NOT be used with any accessories other than those made by Fein, Rockwell, or Craftsman. The other accessories may fit on the spindle, but if they sit on the face of the locking system and can cause damage to the quick change system.
7. If anyone has any information on the Harbor Freight oscillating tool or any of the other brands not included, drop a comment and at some point, we'll update the chart accordingly.
Of the tools, the ones that cross-pollinated easiest were the Fein and the Craftsman who, for all intents and purposes, share a locking system. The Rockwell accessories also fit the pattern successfully.
We've reviewed all of the tools mentioned and you can check out our thoughts at the following pages:
Craftsman Nextec Oscillating Tool
Proxxon Delta Sander
November 27, 2009
"Man, this thing has some stones."
That's what our coworker said after borrowing the Dremel 4000 to fine tune a radius cut on a piece of 1/8" steel. The grinder bit was devastated after the five minute process, but the tool seemed like it was just getting warmed up.
The Dremel 4000 is simply the latest update to Dremel's omnipresent rotary tool. Over the years, we've tried a number of different rotary tools and we keep coming back to the fact that Dremel is where it's at in this category. In fact no one we know even uses the term 'rotary tool,' preferring to use 'Dremel' as the catch all, like 'Kleenex.' So with the release of this new installment in the ongoing Dremel saga, the company was nice enough to ship a unit our way for reviewing purposes. We immediately tossed it in the back of the truck and headed off to work to see what it was capable of.
So what's new with the Dremel 4000? Quite a bit actually. And as an added bonus, the changes are pretty significant when it comes to the functionality of the tool.
First, the 4000 is more powerful than its predecessors, ticking in at 1.6 amps, as opposed to the 1.15 amps of earlier models. We understand that 0.45 amps might not sound like much, but here it makes a large difference. Compared head to head with an older Dremel, the 4000 has reached a strength level that really increases the uses of the rotary tool. Until now, we saw Dremels as items that are useful in many situations, but their 'hobbyist' vibe (read: low strength) prevented us from embracing them as a job site item. Since we're coming at things from a carpenter's perspective, the added strength is right up our alley and, like we said, it opens a lot of new doors for the tool.
But there's also a 'double-edge sword' thing going on here though. Yes, the tool is more powerful, but because of this added strength, the Dremel has outgrown some of its accessories. We used the 4000 to tinker around with the pre-cut lock set openings on a metal door and while the tool showed no signs of stress, we went through the grinder accessories like they were made of origami paper. They might be fine for someone sitting in their basement carving ducks, but on a job site, a more aggressive grinder wheel is necessary. If we were Dremel, we'd start considering a 'Pro Line' of accessories. If they're going to make a tool with this strength, morons like us are going to push it well beyond its limits on a regular basis. (For all of you non-carpenters out there reading this, you can probably ignore this paragraph and take comfort in the fact that the Dremel 4000 is powerful enough to do what you ask.)
The added power is just one of the cool things about the 4000. There is also a new handle attachment called a 'detailer's grip,' that screws onto the chuck and allows a tremendous amount of control over the tool (not available in all kits). During use the handle would loosen some, but this was nothing more than a minor irritation compared to the level of added maneuverability. The kit we used also had a sanding guide and a multi-purpose cutting guide (not available in all kits).
To wrap things up, this is a fantastic tool and by far the best rotary tool in Dremel's already stellar line up. The ergonomics are off the charts and like our pal so eloquently said, it does indeed have 'stones.' Lots of 'em.
It looks like there are three kits available, the differences being in the number of included accessories and chuck attachments. We tested out the 3/34 (3 attachments, 34 accessories), and after looking at the other kits, that's probably the one we'd recommend. There is also a 2/30 kit and a mega 6/50. We suggest checking out each kit to see which one suits your needs best.
Dremel 4000 2/30 at Amazon.com ($80)
Dremel 4000 3/34 at Amazon.com ($87)
Dremel 4000 6/50 at Amazon.com ($150)
November 19, 2009
Ali Industries, makers of the Gator brand of sanding products (which we've covered here), recently sent us a few sample packs of their new Black Zirconium sanding discs so that we could check them out. The timing was fantastic, because just a day or two after they arrived, we were tasked with sanding what felt like 3-1/2 miles of shelving. Not only could we use the opportunity to review the product, but because we were testing out something, 8 hours of sanding made the leap from 'water-boarding bad" to barely tolerable.
At our disposal were three packs of discs (12 discs per pack, 50-grit, 80-grit, and 120-grit). We stuck to the 80, but dipped from time to time into the other two. We also used a few 80-grit discs from another manufacturer (Porter-Cable) to see how they compared.
Gator claims that the BZ discs last three times longer than regular discs. While we're not sure on the 3x number, they certainly to last much longer. It seemed that every eight or so shelves (they were big shelves, each one was about 7' long), we were replacing a Gator disc, while the PC discs only lasted maybe three shelves. Along with holding their grit, the Gator discs impressed us because they took much longer to fray at the edges.
Gator also talks about how good their pads are at not clogging up. Again, we got a chance to test this out on some Bond-O, the scourge of the sandpaper world. As they did with general sanding, the Gators lasted much longer than the other brand.
The Gator discs are available in a variety of grits (50, 80, 120, and 220) and are sold in packs of 4 (under $5), 12 (under $12), and 40 (under $20). Amazon sells Norton discs in packs of 10 for about $9, so the Gators are a little more expensive, but when you think about the amount of extra work you'll get out of each one, they make sense.
Available at Lowe's and participating Ace, True Value, Do-it Best, and other local hardware stores
August 7, 2009
Over the years, we've learned that there are a few secrets to making nice drywall joints. The first is to not be shy with the joint compound; for a while we would try to use as little as possible which would leave us with a little ridge along the tape line which would easily telegraph through our usually rushed paint job. Since you want to blend in the joint with the wall, the more width on the compound joint, the better (duh). It also helps if you use a large knife when applying putty so your patch will be as even as possible. Along these lines is the second trick, which is to use a large sanding block. This way, the sanding is also even and smooth (again, duh).
Gator has just released a new Drywall Sanding Head that's great for this application. In addition to being a solid 4" by 10", the Gator sanding head is smaller than the paper that's made for it which softens the edge for sanding, which is nice and leads to a very smooth finish. The sanding head is also available with an adapter for a broom handle so you can hit the ceiling with no problem.
Gator has also released a new sanding block that uses adhered sandpaper as opposed to putting the grit directly into the sponge. This leads to a longer lasting grit and less 'gumming up.' We were skeptical about rinsing out the new sponge, but we did it a number of times and it appeared to have no negative effect on the grit. It's also compatible with the Gator Sponge Holder (our review here
). This is all good, but we found one major oversight in the design and that is the lack of a gritty surface on the sides of the sponge. We tend to use sponges to sand all kinds of uneven shapes and usually this includes utilizing the corners, faces, and sides, but here with only the two large sides of the item usable, this is quite a bit more difficult.
The sanding head is available on its own or as a part of a nice looking drywall sanding kit which is at Amazon.com
More information on both items at ZipSander.com
July 7, 2009
Gator, a company intent on advancing every single aspect of the sanding world, has released yet another grit-tastic innovation (our reviews of the Zip Sander, Micro Zip Sander, and Sanding Sponge Holder). Their new Sand-Block seems to take the best characteristics of sandpaper and sanding sponges and combine them into one single mighty sanding warhorse. Sounds good to us, but from the picture it looks like the edges don't have any grit on them, which is too bad seeing as we use sponge edges to sand little molding profiles and things like that. But still the longevity of sandpaper compared to sanding sponges makes us likely to go out and pick up a few of these.
Click through to read ye old presse release:
Continue reading: "Gator Zip Sand-BLOCK"
April 14, 2009
Ali Industries is at it again with their little bath toy sanders. We've already reviewed the Zip Sander and the Sponge Holder and how it's the Micro Zip Sander's turn.
The Micro Zip is exactly what it sounds like: the Zip Sander's 'mini-me.' Where the Zip Sander sat in the palm, the Micro Zip is sort of a three-fingered operation. As with the other sanders, this one is made of foam and sits very comfortably in the hands.
The Micro Zip is a helpful little item when it comes to the fussy little inside corners, odd edges, or areas where there is very little clearance, such as the floor underneath our baseboard heaters. In this last case, the Micro Zip boldly went where no oscillating tool could go and successfully assisted with our current flooring project. There's no question that the Micro Zip was easier on our hands that the old-fashioned method of the block wrapped with sandpaper, but because of the way that the hand sits on the sander, it was also easier to apply pressure. We wouldn't say that the Micro Zip Sander is an absolutely necessary tool, but it is one that makes sanding a little easier.
There's really not a whole lot more we can say. It works well, it's sort of silly looking, and it doesn't cost all that much. There you go.
The Micro Zip project pack which comes with 30 sheets of color coded sandpaper costs about $10.
December 23, 2008
We thought that Gator's Zip Sander (which we reviewed here) was a great little sanding accessory. Once we got over the fact that it looked like a bath toy, we found it to be a great solution to the age-old problem of holding a piece of sandpaper. The company that produces the Zip Sander has just come out with the Sanding Sponge Holder, another sanding helper. This time it's not sandpaper that they're helping us hold, it's the common sanding sponge.
We did some joint compound work with the tool and, like the Zip Sander, we loved it. It's got a good grip to it, it's comfortable, it fits all standard 3x5 sanding pads, and you don't have to worry about the wear on the hands that can come from working a sanding sponge all day. It's really a wonderful little accessory. We use the Zip Sander all the time and our best guess is that as time goes on, the same will hold true for this item. And why not, it's not like it takes anything away from the process. In fact, with the price where it is, there are absolutely no drawbacks to owning this little tool. It just, plain and simple, makes sanding easier.
The Sponge Holder costs about $6.50 (with one pad) or $10 (with four pads), so it falls in that, "even if it sucks, I've only spent less than $10 on it" category. That said, we're sure that you'll like it and use it. To us, it proves that inventive products don't need to cost a ton of money.
Sponge Holder with one sponge at Amazon.com
Sponge Holder with four sponges at Amazon.com
December 8, 2008
Skil has just launched a micro-site for their new line of benchtop tools. We went down to N.C. earlier in the year for a sneak peek at the tools and can say that they're a solid selection set at a very attractive price point. We also liked that there was an added emphasis on safety, due to the fact that, because of the price, it's likely they would appeal to first-time users.
The website has tons of information on the tools (including videos) as well as a quick history of Skil, which is worth checking out.
Our thoughts on the benchtop tools in general are here, and we took a closer look at the belt sander here. This all reminds us that we haven't yet written anything about the other tools in the series (like we said we would).
Check out the website here.
The benchtop tools are available exclusively at Lowes
December 3, 2008
We've always thought that grinders don't get the respect they deserve. We see them as sort of an all-purpose material remover, and it doesn't matter if that material is metal, stone, or wood. For as useful as they are, it's a shame that they've stayed mostly in the hands of contractors. Maybe we're wrong, but as far as what we've witnessed with our own eyes, there aren't that many DIYers with grinders.
Along these lines, we just heard that The Australian company Arbortech, known for their fantastic AS160 brick and mortar saw has released two attachments for a the grinder which will hopefully make more people look twice at this great tool.
The first attachment is a Power Chisel and it's exactly what it sounds like. The following video shows it in action and its wood removing power is impressive.
The second attachment is a Mini-Grinder and this little guy looks like it can really do some damage. The video for this one shows it in very delicate and precise situations, but we'd wager that it could come in handy in all sorts of building situations.
According to Arbortech, the attachments fit on most 4" and 4-1/2" grinders and can be installed within minutes. The attachments can be purchased as stand-alones or with a grinder. Not surprisingly, there is about a $100 price difference.
We checked out the Amazon reviews and we ran across one guy who had some problems getting the mini grinder to fit on his DeWalt. We then checked the Arbortech site for details on this and found that this can be a bit tricky. If you're interested in these tools and want to buy them as attachments for an existing grinder, you should go here and see if you'll need any adapters and what kind.
Power Chisel (without tool) at Amazon.com
Power Chisel (with tool) at Amazon.com
Mini-Grinder (without tool) at Amazon.com
Mini-Grinder (with tool) at Amazon.com
October 16, 2008
The good folks over at Popular Mechanics recently tested three orbital sanders head to head. They judged on power & speed, quality of finish, and ergonomics. The three sanders are the Festool, the Bosch, and the Craftsman Vibrafree.
You're probably thinking, "Why should I even click on the link to read the results? The Festool crushed the competition, but the Bosch was a solid second, with both of them leaving the Craftsman in the dust, right?" Not exactly. What they discovered is likely to surprise you.
The test results, with video, are here.