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.

 

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.

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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