How to Use Frame Fixings

August 27, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Frame fixings are a type of heavy duty fixing which fits between screws (with Rawl plugs) and Rawl bolts in terms of their fixing capacity. Typically they’re used for attaching wooden articles, such as timber window frames, posts for fencing, or bearers for pergolas and other structures to concrete, walls or other types of masonry.

This type of fixing can be mistaken for a very large screw with its own Rawl plug already attached. The principles behind the fixing are the same, in that the plastic sleeve (or plug) usually has ribbing that makes it very difficult to pull out of the hole once inserted, which is then made even harder once the screw is tightened and the sleeve forced against the sides of the hole. The key difference is that with frame fixings, the entire fixing including the plastic sleeve is inserted into BOTH the item to be attached, and the surface that it’s being attached to. By comparison, a Rawl plug would be inserted into the target hole, the item to be fixed placed over it, then the screw is finally pushed through the item and meets the Rawl plug in the target hole.

Tools

Frame fixings (these are available in varying sizes from 80mm to around 200mm)
Drill (Depending on the surface that you’re fixing to, an SDS drill may be appropriate here. You may also require a drill suitable for wood work, depending if your wooden article already has holes to accommodate the fixing itself)
Appropriate drill bits
Hammer
Tools to accurately mark drilling locations (e.g. chalk/pencil, tape measure, spirit level)
Variety of spacers for uneven surfaces

Instructions

  1. Assuming that the item to be fixed doesn’t already have holes drilled to accommodate the frame fixings, use an appropriate sized drill or auger bit to make holes for the fixings. The holes need to be of sufficient diameter to accommodate the diameter of the plastic sleeve snugly, as this will be pushed through the item, not removed like a screw and rawlplug.
  2. Use your spirit level to ensure that your item is upright when it is offered up in the correct place. When you are happy that the item is correctly located, you can push the drill through the holes in it to mark the location that you will drill in the surface that you’re fixing to.
  3. Remove the item to be fixed and drill holes to fully accommodate the frame fixings.
    TIPS: 
    • Calculate the depth that you need to drill to (consider the full length of the fixing, then subtract the depth of the item to be fixed), add a little, mark this on the drill bit and drill to the marked depth.
    • Make sure that the hole diameter fits the fixing snugly.
    • If you are drilling vertically down, make sure that you blow or brush the dust away from the hole before you remove the drill bit
  4. Without removing the plastic sleeve from the screw, push the entire frame fixing through the item to be fixed. You can use some gentle persuasion with the hammer, as it should be snug. However, if you’re really having to hit it, the hole is too snug and you’ll simply force the screw into the sleeve prematurely. STOP and adjust as appropriate.
    TIPS: 
    • Make certain that the plastic sleeve is as far into the item to be fixed as possible. This should be far enough that the lip on the plastic sleeve can be pushed no further.
  5. Once the fixing is secure in the item, locate it in place using the holes in the surface and push it fully home.
    TIPS: 
    • You can use solid spacers, such as plastic shims, slate, or wooden blocks to ensure that the item stays upright (or level) when tightened against an uneven surface. Whilst this might look ‘gappy’ in the photo below, bear in mind that the spacer in this example will not be seen as the gap will be finished and filled with mortar.
    • If you fill the gap with mortar, you can use tape on the wood to mask it and keep it looking crisp and neat.
  6. When you are 100% happy with the alignment of the item, or post in this example, fully tighten the screws and drive the fixings home. 
    TIPS: 
    • The nature of frame fixings means that you will not be able to drive these fixings home without a powered screwdriver. Our recommendation would be an impact driver if you have access to one.
    • Make CERTAIN that you are using the correct size PZ bit. The torque required to drive these fixings home means that they will round off easily, leaving you with a fixing which is half in/half out and is a nightmare to do anything further with!
  7. Finally check the alignment of the item, in case it has altered during the process of driving the fixings home. Make any adjustments before finishing with mortar or other sealants around the join between the surface and the item that you’ve fixed to it.

Related Products

Makita BTD146Z 18V Impact Driver Review

August 22, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Makita BTD146Z 18V Impact Driver

The Makita BTD146Z 18V Impact Driver is a lightweight, high performance driver, and is part of Makita’s excellent Li-Ion range of tools. With all the tools using the same battery system, this tool perfectly complements the 18v combi drills and when used in tandem, makes short work of hard, repetitive jobs such as fencing.

Purpose

The compact and ergonomic design of this impact driver belies its heavy duty power. Delivering 160Nm of torque, it’s ideally suited to a range of screwdriving applications, with the variable speed motor adding to the versatility of the tool.

Features

  • All metal gearbox
  • LED Worklight
  • Bolt capacity – M5-M14
  • 1.5kg
  • 1/4″ Hex Tool Holder
  • Variable single speed, and reverse
  • Soft Grip
  • Max torque 160Nm

Pros

What is immediately apparent on handling this impact driver is its light weight. It’s a comfortably designed tool and with the soft grip and improved balance, fits nicely in the palm. Comfort, light weight and improved balance combined make it perfect for extended use and when fitted with the 3Ah battery it does continue working for a long time, then only takes 22 minutes to charge the battery fully. If you have other Makita kit, you’ll have another battery on charge whilst you’re working to completely avoid worrying about charge times.

It’s a deceptively powerful driver, delivering 160Nm of torque (The DeWalt equivalent is 150Nm), so it feels like a beast when it’s working at full tilt. We regularly use it with 100mm Reisser screws driven into fencing timber and it barely skips a beat. At its most extreme, we would use this driver to fix hardwood oak sleepers using 200mm TimberLok Screws. Again, it doesn’t disappoint – just twists them in a bit slower, but always gets the screw fully home. All this power doesn’t deplete the battery too quickly though.

The LED worklight seems a little bit natty, but it’s actually surprisingly handy to shed a little bit of light on your work.

It’s also possible to use the 14.4v Makita batteries with this tool. Obviously it’s a bit less powerful as a result, but as the batteries are expensive, it just gives another option. Don’t try putting an 18v battery in 14.4v tool though!

Cons

The sheer power of this impact driver means that cheap screwdriver bits are a false economy. They’ll just shatter! It’s like putting cross-ply tyres on a racing car – they won’t last long, so it really is worth getting some decent bits.

The batteries are expensive too. If you’ve already got some Makita kit and spare batteries, that may be less of an issue though.

Summary

This impact driver won’t let you down, both in terms of its ability to take on whatever you throw at it and its reliability. It’s comfortable, powerful and much better suited to screwdriving than your combi drill. We haven’t talked about the reliability of the tool in this review yet, so it’s worth pointing out that it’s a rugged little machine, works hard but as yet hasn’t ever let us down (and we don’t anticipate that happening any time soon either!).

Batteries are expensive, but that does seem to be the case for all the Li-Ion tools on the market at the moment, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for special offers and taking advantage of them as they come up.

Is it worth having as well as a combi drill? Yes, definitely. A combi drill is a good all rounder, but if you’re working on repetitive, tough screwdriving jobs such as fencing or fixing plywood sheets, the value of this powerful and lightweight tool will rapidly become apparent.

Bosch GWS 22-230H 9″ Professional Angle Grinder Review

August 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Bosch GWS 22-230H 9" Professional Angle Grinder

The Bosch GWS 22-230H 9″ Professional Angle Grinder is an easy to handle, lightweight, professional style grinder. It’s part of the Bosch ‘blue’ range, which are Bosch tools targeted at trade users. The tools tend to be a bit more robust and often more powerful than the green versions, which are aimed at the serious DIY market.

Purpose

This grinder is designed to be rugged and powerful, with a 2100W Champion motor, but without being heavy and cumbersome as a result of all that power and resilience.

Features

  • Low cost, at £133.99 this is a lot of grinder for the price
  • Adjustable and removable blade guard
  • Champion motor for higher efficiency
  • Replaceable brushes
  • Aluminium Gearbox Housing
  • Sealed Bearings
  • Lock-on switch
  • Side Handle
  • 5.2kg

Pros

The little brother of this grinder is powerful and lightweight, so it’s reasonable to expect that this grinder might be too. Fortunately it doesn’t disappoint. At 5.2kg, it sounds like a heavy piece of kit, but compared to a lot of 9 inch grinders it’s actually pretty lightweight and is consequently nice and easy to handle. The side handle helps you be more precise and does soak up a lot of vibration, but virtually all grinders of this size would have a side handle.

At 2100W it is powerful on paper, but it genuinely is a powerful grinder in operation too and is virtually impossible to stall (in our experience anyway). Despite the fact that it’s lightweight, that doesn’t mean that Bosch have compromised on the toughness of this tool – we’ve had this one for over 2 years now, dragging it through concrete dust (sealed bearings help here), slurry, rust dust and much more, but it beats on without so much as flinching. Ours is primarily used for cutting slabs and brickwork.

The blade guard is removable so that you can fit other accessories such as polishing sponges and bonnets, or more commonly for our grinder, a wire brush cup, which is absolutely brutal for cleaning up steel. The ‘click-forward’ trigger is also nice and easy to use.

Cons

We really like the adjustable and removable blade guard, but in comparison to its little brother, it’s a bit fiddly. Not irritatingly so at all, but it requires a tool, whereas the nice thing about the 4 1/2″ grinder is that you can simply press a button to move the blade guard.

It is loud! But then it is a big grinder, so perhaps to be expected. If you’re wearing the correct PPE (ear defenders) though you won’t really notice it.

Summary

Tough, lightweight and uncompromisingly powerful sum up this grinder quite succinctly. If the point of Bosch’s blue range was to make trade users take the Bosch brand seriously, they’ve certainly succeeded with this grinder. Its relatively light weight is the key to its versatility, which is what makes it suitable for a wide range of jobs, from precision work such as decorative brickwork, through to jobs which require sheer power, such as cleaning up agricultural iron and steelwork. This is definitely a tool that we’d miss if it were lost or stolen!

Bosch GWS 7-115 4½” Professional Angle Grinder Review

August 21, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Bosch GWS 7-115 4½" Professional Angle Grinder

The Bosch Professional (blue) series of tools are designed for the trade which are expected to be a bit more robust, and in general a bit more powerful than their standard green counterparts; simply taking the already very good German build quality and improving upon it to make tools that trade users would take seriously.

Purpose

This grinder is intended for use in small spaces and one-hand operation, delivering high power where a 9 inch grinder would simply be too cumbersome, or too powerful.

Features

  • Adjustable blade guard
  • Aluminium gearbox housing
  • Champion motor for higher efficiency
  • Side handle
  • Spindle lock
  • Lock-on switch
  • Lightweight

Pros

This is a tough little tool. Ours is currently in its 4th year of frequent (and reasonably hard) use, grinding a variety of metals and lots of other things which probably shouldn’t have been… In that time we’ve only had to replace the flex, largely as a result of the metal retainer that grips the flex internally slowly cutting through it. This could clearly be improved!

The adjustable blade guard was not one of the reasons behind purchasing this grinder, in fact we thought it was a bit of a gimmick initially. However, it comes in surprisingly handy, as often working in tight spaces the ability to move the blade guard round to get a different angle of attack than a machine with a fixed guard can really help.

The tool itself is lightweight and the lock-on switch is invaluable for one-handed operation. It may not be strictly advisable to use the grinder with one hand, but it is inevitable on occasion. Again, working in tight spaces, it can sometimes be the only way to use it so these features are truly helpful.

Cons

We’ve genuinely struggled to think of it a con for this tool – it does very much what it says on the tin, and does it very well and very efficiently. It does suffer from chewing through its own flex, which is obviously a problem, but would we replace it if it were stolen? Yes, in a heartbeat.

Summary

This Bosch Grinder is tough, good value and, so far, hasn’t let us down in any situation. Its one weak spot is a bit of poor design which leads to the cable degrading over time, but overall the grinder’s good points outweigh the bad. Being lightweight and with a switch to lock the motor on, it’s easy to use one-handed if necessary, or two-handed with precision thanks to the side grip attachment. It’ll get into awkward corners too with the blade guard adjusted appropriately. Thoroughly recommended.

 

Laying a Floorplate or Wallplate Using Rawlbolts

August 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Securing a plate to a wall, or concrete floor using rawlbolts is a deceptively simple undertaking, but there are several pitfalls which can turn this job into a something much more difficult. Read on to discover how you can securely fasten plate using rawlbolts to walls or floor. This guide can easily be adapted to suit other items that would be secured using rawlbolts.

Estimated time to allow

Up to half an hour per plate, assuming that each plate requires 4 rawlbolts for fastening.

Tools

Drill (SDS is likely to be the most suitable depending on the surface that you’re fastening to)
Masonry bits (or equivalent for SDS)
Hammer
Pencil/Chalk
Brush and/or vacuum cleaner
Dust Mask
Appropriate PPE (gloves, eye protection)

Instructions

  1. Place the floorplate (or other item to be fixed) in the precise position that you require it to be fixed. If there is scope to adjust the position of the plate to avoid mortar, or other similar weaknesses in the surface to be drilled, check that the holes are in an appropriate position to avoid weaknesses.
  2. Using a pencil or chalk, mark the position of the holes on the surface to be drilled.
    TIPS:
    • Before you move the plate away, mark its position so that you know how to replace it. Unless your holes are absolutely symmetrical (which is unlikely in many situations, particularly an agricultural setting), they will not be aligned if you replace the plate in a different position.
  3. Check the rawlbolt itself, or its packaging to determine the correct size of drill bit to be used. It is usually stamped on the side of the bolt (e.g. 22mm). This is important as there is no ‘give’ in either the surface or rawlbolt to allow for a hole which is the wrong size.
  4. Drill the holes as marked.
    TIPS:
    • Use tape, or permanent marker to mark the depth of the rawlbolt on the drill bit so that you know when you’ve reached the correct depth.
    • When you have drilled the holes, do not immediately remove the drill from the hole. With the drill bit still in the hole, wipe away the dust. This prevents dust going back into the hole, which depending on the amount that inadvertently goes back into the hole, can cause problems when it comes to putting the rawlbolts in.
  5. Use a brush or vacuum cleaner to clear away any dust or debris from the site of the plate, to avoid it sitting on piles of dust. The dust will not compress, so it can cause problems if it is important that the plate sits level against the surface that you’re fixing to.
  6. Put all the rawlbolts through the plate (or item to be fixed). This will require you to completely remove the ‘sleeve’ from the bolt. Once you’ve located each bolt in the hole, reattach the sleeve, taking care not to tighten it beyond the point at which the sleeve begins to expand as this will prevent it from going into the hole.
  7. Locate the plate with the rawlbolts lining up in the holes.
    TIPS:
    • If for any reason the bolt doesn’t line up in the hole, or just needs some persuasion to fit into the hole, you can use a hammer to hit the bolt head as hard as you like. However, DO NOT hit the plate itself! Hitting the plate will expand the bolt(s) and you’ll never get it out again.
  8. Once all the bolts are securely located in the holes, tighten them up a little bit past hand tight, then hit every bolt head with a hammer to make sure that everything is as tight to the surface as possible.
  9. Now tighten every rawlbolt as tight as you can.
    TIPS:
    • Don’t be tempted to put the sleeve in the hole and attempt to line up the bolt. It rarely works, more often than not you succeed only in losing the sleeve in the hole and not being able to retrieve it.
    • If the rawlbolt is spinning in the hole as you try to tighten it, but you are confident the bolt and hole are the right size, pull up on the bolt as you turn it – this will expand the sleeve, catching the sides of the hole and allow you to tighten the rawlbolt fully.

Product Recommendation

They say that if you look after your tools, they’ll look after you. If that’s strictly the case then our Hitachi DH24PC3/J1 2kg SDS Plus Drill should have left us high and dry some time ago! We have given the 110V version of this drill some serious abuse over the last 5 years, but it never fails to chew through everything that we put in its path. It’s a very sturdy construction, feels solid in the hand and gives you some confidence that it will take on any job with ease. The drill has all-metal gearing which is probably the basis of its toughness and reliability. It comes with the usual extras, such as a side handle, depth gauge and carry case. To date, the only repair required has been a new power lead.

How to Erect Feather-edge (Close Board) Fencing

August 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Feather-edge fencing (also known as close board fencing) is a strong and versatile alternative to panel fencing. Constructed by attaching overlapping ‘feather-edged’ planks to a timber framework, a feather-edge fence can is much better suited to curves, undulating ground, or spans of varying sizes than panel fencing, as the timber framework can be made to fit the application perfectly, and the individual planks cut to fit the framework accordingly.

A good feather-edge fence is only as good as the framework on which it is built, so if you’re planning to take on a fencing job of this type, spend as much time as you can planning, then getting the framework right before you even start thinking about nailing the planks on.

This guide will show you how to make a strong framework, and get a professional finish to your plank work too.

Tools

Tape Measure
Pencil
String Line
Hammer (and Gas Nailer if available)
Saw (Chopsaw and/or circular saw if available)
Drill (and Impact Driver if available)
Spirit Level
Square
Hop-up Platform to work on
Spade/ground working tools may be appropriate

Materials

4 inch x 4 inch posts for uprights
4 inch x 2inch timber for chocks and bearers
6 inch x 1 inch timber for gravel boards
Feather edge planks (once overlapped, each 125mm plank will cover 100mm, so 10 planks per metre. Allow 3-5% extra for wastage)
Fence capping (to required length)
Fence post caps (to match the number of uprights)
Nails
– 90mm nails (to fit nail gun), x2 on each bearer/cam rail
– 51mm ring shank nails, to fit feather edge plankwork
Assorted Screws
– 6mm x 100mm screws, x4 on each bearer/cam rail
– 4mm x 40mm screws for capping
– 5mm x 60mm screws, x4 per gravelboard
Appropriate materials to erect upright posts (concrete, hole diggers etc)

Instructions

  1. Begin by planning your work, and considering your materials. It’s important to give some thought to the materials that you’ll be working with when you’re planning your fence. For example, the bearing timbers that you’ll fix to the upright posts are usually sold in lengths which are multiples of 1200mm, so you might typically be working with lengths of 2400mm or 3600mm. Plan the location of your posts to be spaced 100mm or so shorter than the length of your bearers to reduce wastage. Don’t attempt to work to the exact length of your bearers – you only need to be a little out (or for the timber to be out!) and you’ve caused a difficult problem to rectify.
  2. When you’ve decided on the location of the posts, you’ll need to work along the line of posts, concreting them in. We won’t cover that process in this post, but you can read more about how to concrete in a post here. Do take extra care to make sure your posts are upright, in line and correctly spaced. Any variations will be apparent in the end result. Allow at least 24 hours for the concrete to fully harden before you start to work on the upright posts.
  3. Securing the gravel board. The feather-edge planks will eventually sit on the gravel board, so it’s crucial to the finished look of the fence to get this step right. The gravel board can follow the contours of the ground, but it is preferable to have as few changes of direction as possible. Start by setting up a string line between your first post and the post that you’ll work to – depending on the shape of the ground, this might not be the last post in your span. Most gravel board is 6 inches wide (150mm) so set your line at this height above the ground.
  4. Using the chopsaw if you have one, cut ‘chocks’ from the bearer timber which are 6 inches (150mm) long. You’ll use these to attach to the base of each post, to which you’ll then attach the gravel board, as this will bring the gravel board out to the same depth as the planks will be when are attached to the bearer timbers. 
    TIPS: 
    • If your chocks are made from the same timber as you will use for the bearer timbers, there’s no need to measure anything – you can be sure that everything will be at the right depth, or distance away from the upright posts, so it will all line up neatly.
  5. Taking care to align the top of each chock with the string line, fix all the chocks in place at the foot of the upright posts.
  6. Once all the chocks are attached, you can screw the gravel board to the chocks, lining the top of the gravel board up with the top of each chock. You’ll need to offer each gravel board up to the gap, then mark the point at which it meets the center of the post and cut it to this length before securing with screws.
  7. Spacing and securing the bearers. To locate the bottom bearer, measure and mark 100mm above the gravel board. This is the height at which the bottom edge of your lowest bearer will sit. To locate the top bearer, you need to make sure that the top edge of it will sit 100mm lower than the height of your feather-edge planks. The middle bearer simply needs to be equidistant between the top and bottom bearers.
    TIPS: 
    • As alternative to measuring 100mm above the gravel board for your lowest bearer, simply use short sections of the bearer timber resting on the gravel board chocks, balance the lowest bearer on them and fix at this height.
    • To find the right height for your top bearer, measure a feather edge plank and subtract 100m from the measurement. Work along your upright posts and mark this height on all posts. You can then use an offcut of bearer timber as a template to mark the bottom and top edges of your top bearer, as its often easier to see the bottom mark than the top one!
    • Make sure that bearers are staggered, like brickwork, so that all bearers are not joined on the same upright.
  8. You’ll need another pair of hands to help you at this point – someone to hold the other end of each bearer as you screw them to the uprights.
    TIPS: 
    • As an alternative to another pair of hands, you can cut short pieces of wood to balance your bearers on as you screw them on.

  9. Securing the Feather-edge Planks. Each plank needs to be nailed (through the thick edge) to all three bearers, so it’s quickest and easiest to do this with a nail gun. However, if you don’t have one of these tools, a hammer and nails will suffice.
  10. Each plank will be overlapped by the next one and to get a great finish, the overlapping distance needs to be precisely the same for each plank. Fix the first plank in the series with a single nail into each bearer, through the thick edge of the plank only. Take the next plank and put it into place, overlapping by at least 25mm. 
    TIPS: 
    • To save yourself a huge amount of time, spend a few moments making an ‘L’ shaped spacer which is the right size to hook onto the fixed plank and pull the plank to be fixed tight to it, then simply nail in place and repeat.
    • Use a spirit level every few planks to check that your planks are upright. The spacer will help, but it’s always good practice to make sure that it’s doing a consistent job.

  11. Capping the Planks. To give the exposed ends of the fence some protection against the weather, and get a neat finish to your work, you should fit capping to the top of the plankwork.
  12. Fitting the capping is quite straightforward; simply measure the required length, place on top of the plankwork (locating the ends of the planks in the groove) and fix using screws.
    TIPS: 
    • Take care with placement of your screws when you fit the capping. Make sure they are evenly spaced along the length of the capping/fence, but adjust the location of the screw so that you always screw through the thickest part of the plank. Screwing through the thin part of the plank will almsot certainly split the plank
    • To further prevent against splitting the planks when fixing the capping, make sure that you drill a pilot hole to accommodate the screw(s).
  13. All posts should be capped too, using a wooden post cap, simply screwed on.
  14. Finish by levelling the ground around your gravel boards, if necessary.

Product Recommendation

Amongst the many that we use, there are three tools that are invaluable when putting up feather-edge fencing, especially long sections; Paslode Gas Nailer, Makita BTD146Z 18V Impact Driver and the Makita BSS610RFE 165mm 18V 3Ah Li-Ion Cordless Circular Saw.

The Paslode Nailer isn’t just a lazy man’s alternative to hammer and nails, it’s also a good way to work quickly and efficiently to fix bearers and plankwork without disturbing the uprights that you’ve only just set in concrete. The single action of a nail fired into wood is much less stressful on your fencing framework than repeated hammering will ever be. This nailer is powerful and quick to charge – an essential tool.

Until you use and impact driver such as this excellent Makita, you’ll probably think that your combi drill does a great job. This tool is lightweight and gets a long run time out of a single charge. Its hammer action and impressive torque make it a much more efficient tool to use when screwing in lots of screws, such as in a fencing job like this.

Lastly, we’ve come to rely on a chopsaw to deliver quick, accurate cuts in wood which can save hours on a job. However, when there’s no 240V supply near where you’re working, the Makita BSS610RFE comes into its own. We haven’t yet found timber that this little saw struggles to chomp through and regularly use it to cut bearers to size, or trim uprights down at the end of a job. Our batteries on this saw are starting to show some signs of fatigue, but if anything that’s a testament to how frequently (and hard) we use this tool.

Related Products

Evolution RAGE3B2102 210mm Compound Mitre Saw Review

August 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Evolution RAGE3B2102 210mm Compound Mitre Saw

Evolution is a brand that you’ll see  most commonly in B&Q or Screwfix and which is associated with mid-level tools. On the whole they’re not quite an everyday tradesman’s tool, but they’re quality enough to suit the serious DIYer, or for occasional trade use. This compound mitre saw is no exception to that, but it’s impressed us overall thanks to its ability to cut through wood and metal, including wood riddled with nails. We didn’t quite believe the claims before we got one, but it does make short work of materials that would break other saws and blades.

Purpose

This is a general purpose compound mitre saw, designed to cut a variety of different materials at almost any angle.

Features

  • Rage multi-purpose blade, suitable for cutting aluminium, steel, wood and nail-embedded wood
  • Will cut up to 120mm x 50mm
  • Aluminium base, can be secured to a bench or workmate
  • Work clamp
  • 1100w
  • Dust extraction facility
  • 8.4kg
  • 4000rpm (with no load)

Pros

As we’ve already alluded to, this is a great tool for occasional use and at just £99, it’s great value too. It’s the kind of thing that we keep in the back of the van simply for those unexpected jobs where it earns its money every time. For the serious DIYer it’s very good value too, and incredibly versatile in comparison to some significantly more expensive brands.

The facility to cut a variety of different materials, including steel, means that we use it for light metalwork. When putting a perfect 45 onto a piece of box section, it really can make a difference to the look of the end result. The suitability of the blade to cut all materials gives piece of mind when cutting old wood – you know that a rogue nail isn’t going to break the saw or the blade. Considering the blade isn’t lubricated, it cuts very quickly and can be changed very quickly and easily if it needs to be replaced.

There is an inbuilt laser line to guide your cutting, which is very helpful.

Cons

The blade is, overall, excellent and a standout feature of the saw for us. Having ruined a perfectly good saw (it’s a long story, but a cherished Makita gearbox ate the dust after finding a buried 6 inch nail in a supposedly new bit of a timber!) on embedded nails, the peace of mind offered by a multi-purpose blade is great, but the downside is that the blade won’t last long if you are cutting a lot of metal with it.

It’s not a precision tool. If you’re a joiner working with it, you’ll be disappointed. But for everyone else, it’s perfectly adequate – the cuts are tidy and consistent, just not at the same sort of tolerances that a joiner would need. But for £99, you can live with that in our opinion.

The laser line is really useful, but if you do cut a lot of metal with it, the flecks will eventually degrade the plastic cover until it becomes useless. They’ll do the same to your eyes if you’re not wearing goggles too…

Summary

For just £99, it’s difficult to criticise much about this saw. After all, its clever blade chews through materials that would cause a problem for much more expensive machines. It’s true to say that it’s not a precision tool, but for all round reasonable use, it’s certainly accurate enough. It might not be the first pick tool for a tradesman, but it’s a robust enough back up to keep in the van and would easily get you to the end of a job if the main tool ever failed. For the serious DIYer, it’s a good buy as it gives you not only a good compound mitre saw for virtually all wood applications, but a precise metal cutting option for no extra – saving a significant amount on two different tools.

Good in its own right, and at the money, excellent.

Titan TTB280DRH 15.5kg Breaker Review

August 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Titan TTB280DRH 15.5kg Breaker

The Titan TTB280DRH 15.5kg Breaker has earnt itself a fantastic reputation as a low cost, low maintenance, but highly effective tool. As one of Screwfix’s own brand products, we were expecting it to be reasonably robust, but still miles behind the usually superior DeWalt or Makita products. It is – but only on the price!

Purpose

The purpose of this breaker is simple – break concrete, tarmac or anything else hard enough to require some ‘persuading’ out of the path of your spade or hole digger.

Features

  • Low cost, at only £169.99
  • All metal gearbox
  • Carry case
  • Flat and pointed chisels
  • 15.5kg weight
  • Lock-on switch
  • Impact rate 1300 bpm

Pros

We’ve been blown away by the value of this breaker. At £170 it is one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) full size breakers on the market. However, to focus solely on the amazing price is actually doing the product a bit of a disservice, as it is a very good product in its own right.

At 15.5kg, it’s a good weight to pack a hefty punch. It doesn’t feel lightweight or flimsy, nor is it, which helps it rattle through the vast majority of jobs. There are only two chisels supplied with the machine, but so far we haven’t found anything that one or a combination of both won’t make short work of.

The breaker is capable of working all day without overheating or breaking down, in fact you’re more likely to need to change the operator than the machine in terms of sheer reliability. It comes with a 2 year warranty too, so in the unlikely event that you do kill this machine, it’ll be changed straight away. Ours is now out of warranty, but if somehow it did eventually pack up, we’d have another instantly.

Cons

The product has served us well over the last 3 years with no maintenance, and if we’re honest, not much care at all. Used in all weathers too, it has rarely complained, but the bits have probably worn a fraction quicker than the more expensive machines. I’d stress probably though, as we haven’t been using a different machine alongside it to compare. It’s a little on the loud side at 105db, but as you should be wearing eye protection and ear defenders when using the breaker, that shouldn’t really be an issue for the operator.

It can be a bit fiddly to put away, as the movable handle has to be removed to get it in the case, but unless you’re using it every day that is unlikely to detract from the overall value of the product.

Summary

At the risk of repetition, you won’t find anything better at the price. You can destroy (well, you can try to…) three of these before you’ve covered the cost of the competition models. Even if you’re planning to hire a breaker, you only need to use this 3-4 times before it’s covered the cost of purchase. But even ignoring the ludicrous price, it’s a great tool – powerful and efficient. If it were stolen, broken or wrested from our grasp for any other reason at all, it would be replaced instantly.

Repairing High Tensile Fencing

August 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm

High tensile steel fencing is a popular method of fencing, as it’s easier to construct, can be strained much tighter than mild steel and won’t sag even after it has been leant on by stock. It’s much stronger than 2 strand barbed wire and without barbs is safer for both humans and animals too. With the correct equipment, this type of fence can be electrified too.

Without the barbs on the wire, it will move easily (depending on how hard you drive the staples in) through the staples, so it’s easy to keep the fence tight especially if you install it with a permanent wire tightener such as a Gripple.

In this post we’re looking at how to effectively repair a section of high tensile fencing, using Gripple joiners to make a neat, strong and permanent join that can be tightened periodically if it is required.

Tools

Tape Measure
Line marking spray
String line
Post rammer and/or mell (not a sledgehammer if you can help it)
Fencing pliers
Hammer and staples
Saw
Gripples and Gripple pliers/tighteners
Iron bar or heavy spike

Instructions

  1. Planning the line and spacing of your posts is important in any kind of fencing, but is crucial when erecting or repairing high tensile fencing, due to the level of tension that you’ll place on the wire and each post as a consequence. Each post which is placed slightly off the straight line will constantly be under the pressure of the wire to move, potentially causing it to move eventually.
  2. Ping a string line across the section that you’re repairing to give you a precise line for the posts to follow. Next, if appropriate to do so, measure the existing gap between the posts. Working along the string line, use the measurement to determine the position of your replacement posts. Use the line marking spray to clearly mark the position of your posts.
    TIPS: 
    • To get a really good finish to your work, it’s important to match the spacing of the existing posts. However, you may be replacing posts which have previously been concreted in. If you’re planning to drive posts in instead, you’ll want to avoid remnants of old concrete so you may need to adjust, depending on what you find.
    • Line marking spray is the best way to mark the position of your posts, but you can use anything suitable if you don’t have this spray available.
  3. Once you have marked the position of the posts, it’s a good idea to get all of your posts laid out in position and step back to check by eye. It’s not only easier to get a routine going when you’re driving in if the posts are already laid out, but you can take a step back and check the positioning by eye. This probably won’t highlight small positioning errors, but should highlight significant errors before you begin to drive or concrete in the posts.
  4. If you’re driving posts in, use the heavy iron bar or spike to ‘pilot’ the hole before you start. It’s possible to develop a deep hole simply by thrusting the bar into the ground and working it around, using an action similar to a giant wooden spoon in a mixing bowl.
    TIPS: 
    • Don’t get carried away and make the pilot hole too big – it should be snug enough that your post is driven in tight, but big enough to guide the post in nice and straight.
  5. You’ll find it easiest with someone to help by holding the post, but if you’ve made an effective pilot hole this can be achieved without help. Stand the post in the pilot hole and start it off by tapping in with the mell. Once it’s reasonably secure in the hole, use the post rammer to drive it in to the required depth.
    TIPS: 
    • Before you commit to banging the post in too far, check that it is upright in all directions using a spirit level.
    • If you’re banging the posts in to the correct depth (as opposed to driving them in and levelling off with a saw afterwards), then you can measure the required depth on the side of the post and keep driving the post in until the mark is level with the ground. This method is only suitable if you have a consistent ground height, such as adjacent to kerb edging.
    • Check the post is upright and approaching depth frequently, as it’s easier to correct small movements than to try and straighten a post which is wonky and fully driven in.
  6. Take a moment to check that all of your posts are upright and straight when checked against the line. This is the time to correct or reposition any posts which are out of true.
  7. When you’re happy that your posts are secure and perfectly positioned, you can begin to attach the high tensile wire itself. Before you start tapping in staples though, it’s important to mark the positioning of your staples so that the fence not only looks even, but the wires are spaced as intended (this may not always be equidistant – you may have closer spacing near the bottom of the fence) and are in line so that the wire is kept straight. 
    TIPS: 
    • You can measure the spacing from existing posts, then mark these spacings on your new posts if you are confident that the ground level is consistent to work from, such as alongside a kerb-edge.
    • Alternatively, string a line between the existing posts at the height of the existing wire. Make sure that the line is tight, then work along it, marking the position of the line against the posts. Repeat for each strand of wire that you’re replacing.
  8. Spend a moment planning how you’re going to work with the wire. High tensile steel wire is usually provided in a coil, which is heavy and is best used on a spindle which you can move along as you work. Secure one end, then it will unroll the wire in a neat, tidy and controlled way which you can offer up to your marked posts and staple in as you go. If you have access to a spindle like this, that’s often the easiest way. Alternatively, you can secure the wire to an existing strand then unroll the coil carefully by hand, making sure that it doesn’t rapidly uncoil itself, stapling as you go. If you’re repairing a short gap, it may be more efficient to uncoil all your lengths of wire, secure one end and work along, stapling them all in, a post at a time. Remember to tap your staples in at 45 degrees, and don’t hammer them all the way home yet!
    JOINING WIRE USING A GRIPPLE: 
    • A Gripple is a type of permanent wire joiner which can be tightened at any time to keep fences that might sag over time quickly and easily maintained. It operates by passing the wire through a one way ratchet, allowing the wire to be tightened, but not undone. It’s kinder to livestock, stronger and a more professional way to join wire than twisting and tying.
    • You’ll see the Gripple has holes to insert two strands of wire – choose a suitable approximate location to simply push the ends of the two pieces of wire to be joined into the holes. They’ll push in easily in one direction, but will not in the other, so you can’t install these things backwards.
    • When the wire is joined, push any excess through by hand, then use the Gripple tool to tighten the wire to the correct tension.
    • Neatly cut the excess wire off and use a Gripple twist to prevent sharp wire edges causing injury to humans or livestock.
  9. When your wire is tightened to your preferred tension, you can work along the line driving the staples home. If you anticipate tightening the wire at a later date, it’s useful to make the staple secure, but not so secure that the wire couldn’t be pulled through it by a tensioning tool in the future.
  10. If you’ve had to drive in posts at uneven heights, you can now work along the line bringing them down to the same height.

Product Recommendation

It’s very difficult to work with any kind of wire fencing without a good set of fencing pliers. They’re the easy way to remove old or incorrectly placed staples from posts and will help grasp wire for any reason, so that you can manipulate it more easily. There are some very expensive pliers on the market such as the £30 Faithfull 137/265 Fencing Pliers from Tooled Up, but if you’re only fencing occasionally, Screwfix’s Forge Steel Fencing Tool is perfectly adequate for less than £10.

Using a mell (also known as a maul, mall or biddle) is preferable to using a sledgehammer to drive posts into the ground as the large, flat striking face distributes the force more evenly across the head of the post, preventing it from splitting and other damage. The fibreglass shaft versions are the most comfortable to use and a 14lb Faithfull Fibre Glass Shaft Mell is available from Tooled Up.

Related Products

Payleven Chip and Pin Card Reader Review

July 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Payleven Chip & PIN Card Reader

As it’s literally just been launched at Screwfix today, and we haven’t been able to get our hands on one of these neat little devices, it’s tricky to call this a review in the strictest sense. However, it’s such a good idea that we felt compelled to write a post about it.

Purpose

The purpose of this device is to allow a tradesman to accept credit or debit card payments from their customers in exactly the same way as you might pay in a pub or restaurant with a mobile card reader. The device has the same stringent security standards as a traditional card terminal, but connects with the user’s phone or tablet via bluetooth so that it can use that device’s wifi or 3G signal to connect to the card network and process the payment.

Features

  • Low initial cost, at only £99.99
  • Flat transaction fee of 2.7%
  • CE Approved
  • Connects to Apple iOS or Android phones and tablets
  • Pay as You Go, no contract or monthly fees (unlike some competitors)
  • Accepts Mastercard, Visa (Debit and Credit), Maestro
  • Easy to set up and install using a dedicated app
  • No accounts or paperwork required, with weekly payments direct into your bank account

Pros

This device means that payments can be accepted before leaving the customer’s premises, so saving time and money as late payments can be all but eliminated. The worry of a cheque bouncing or holding large amounts of cash is avoided as payment is taken quickly and securely in a way that’s attractive to the customer, especially as many credit cards award points/cashback for transactions, so customers might find the opportunity to earn rewards on a (potentially) large purchase an incentive to pay promptly.

There isn’t an ongoing cost, unlike some similar devices. The £99.99 fee is all you pay, apart from the 2.7% fixed rate transaction fee, which still stacks up favourably against some other payment types.

Cons

This is a great idea, but is going to take some time before customers get used to the idea of tradesmen with little black boxes to take card payments. Our worry is that the device could be undermined by a lack of trust that the device is genuine and not a scam to pinch the customer’s card details. Of course it works just like any other mobile card reader, but customers are usually exposed to them in an environment that they trust, so the device is trusted by default – it might be a little different when out and about, at least until these devices are widely recognised and trusted.

Summary

This is a genuinely good idea and could well be set to be the next big thing, to the point that payment by card is an anticipated method of paying a tradesman at the end of a job. We think it’s going to require some investment from companies like Payleven to educate the wider audience before that’s the case though.

Click to find out more about the Payleven Chip and Pin Card Reader

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