Flex DD 2G 10.8-LD Drill Driver Big in its Own Way

Size Isn’t……

Most, if not all, trades have already worked out that 18 or 24volt drill/drivers are not always needed on every job. When it comes to the need for sheer power - then 18v or more, is the answer. But what I have found out from experience, is that there is quite a range of lighter duty jobs that are more than adequately catered for with a 10.8 or 12v tool.

With the smaller and lighter drill/drivers, I find they can be slipped into the front flap pocket of work trousers, or even into a side pocket. So, finding somewhere to put them while working on a ladder is solved. Their significantly smaller size also means that they can be used inside cabinets and in tighter spaces where bigger tools simply can’t fit.

Because of the type of usage they are put to, even the smaller Ah (say 2.5 or 4Ah) battery packs often last a day or more, even for a busy kitchen or shop fitter. The new Flex DD 2G 10.8-LD fits nicely into the above category – it is light and compact and fulfils all my criteria for a smaller and lighter drill/driver without compromise. It looks like a smaller version of an 18v drill driver, but it has the advantage of feeling lighter without lacking all the ergonomic rubber grippy stuff of bigger drills. In other words, this is no poor relation to a more powerful 18v model.

On top of that it is very well priced – roughly £110 ex VAT. Good enough to tempt non-professionals into buying a professional quality tool.

Specs……

With a top torque of 34Nm I had no trouble driving 50 or 60mm long screws into softwood or some less dense hardwoods. Certainly, the most commonly used materials like chipboard and MDF are not really a challenge for the screwdriving ability of this drill driver.

The drill driver benefits from having a 10mm keyless chuck that clicks tightly onto drill shanks with the twist of a wrist, and stays put under working pressure. The machine can drill up to 25mm diameter in wood and up to 10mm in steel, and has two speeds – 0 to 350 rpm in slow gear and 0 to 1300 rpm in fast. The speeds are selected via a slider switch on top of the drill body.

With a 2.5Ah battery pack on board, the drill weighs just over the one kilo and the same pack will take approximately 40 minutes for a full charge via the diagnostic charger supplied. Battery packs have a charge indicator so you can see how much juice you have left.

Supplied as standard are a belt clip and a bit holder. These can be screwed onto the base of the handle with the hex screws provided and can fit either on the left or right hand side of the handle to suit the user. The belt clip is one that you will use because it is strong and rigid, so it does actually catch on your belt when you want it to. A trouser pocket may not be the only holding solution for ladder related work.

A few years ago I would have dismissed the idea of a light on a drill, but nowadays I find them very useful indeed, and the big bright LED just above the front of the trigger is placed well to illuminate the work area in front of you.

There are 17 torque settings and a driver setting selected via the usual collar behind the chuck. The settings are easy to select and most users will probably not use them very often, but for delicate work - inside kitchen cabinets for example, attaching drawer slides – it is actually very important not to overtighten screws into chipboard carcases. When I tested them, all it took was a minute or two of trial and error with the screws concerned to decide on the correct torque setting.

The trigger and forward/reverse arrangement is one commonly used on most drill drivers. The trigger is easily big enough for a forefinger, and the forward reverse switch above it is easily selectable without having to move your hand from the handle.

And then there is the Build Quality

To me this drill feels like a pro product in the hand, and I could find no signs of shoddy manufacturing on it. The body mouldings are precise and fit together well, and do not flex under drilling loads. Rubber overmoulding is carefully placed for a comfortable grip on the main handle. The rear of the motor casing has a rubberised cap for protection and there are rubber ‘bumpers’ on the sides of the body and handle above the battery pack, so that the casing will be protected when it is laid down on its side. You can’t always find a flat spot to stand the drill upright on its battery pack in some workplaces.

The battery packs are rigid and solidly encased and the slides are precise too, making loading and releasing a battery pack very easy via the single press lock on the front of it.

The Bottom Line

I have been using this drill on a range of lighter jobs like removing fittings prior to decorating, some woodwork involving drilling and screwing, and some cabinet fitting. It is a simple and straightforward tool that does what is asked of it. I was constantly surprised at how long the battery lasted – my record was a day and a half.

It is compact and comfortable to use, and was particularly useful when putting up guttering where it was small enough to put in pocket, and light enough to clip to my belt without making my trousers lopsided.

It is packed into a spacious rigid nylon case with the charger and two batteries. There is enough room in the case for a few spare bit boxes, drill bits etc. Frankly, with this drill I prefer having the nylon case rather than a larger rigid plastic one, because it is easier to find a spot for it in my crowded boot. Sometimes small is just as good as big, when it comes to drills anyway.

 

Review New 18v Cordless Grinder from Flex - Its Workhorse Good

It’s a Hard Grind

Angle grinders are tools that get used hard – sometimes they have lifespan of only a few weeks in the most demanding applications. They are also tools that many trades use because they do the jobs that only angle grinders do. So, it is actually quite important for many users that they find exactly the right one.

Choosing a grinder is not made easier by the fact that the range of prices for angle grinders is bewildering too – a mains powered 125mm grinder can be had for as little as £20, while a top quality model will cost over £100.

It is even more difficult with the advent of cordless angle grinders – do you stick with your battery platform or not, when it becomes clear that the cordless grinder in the range does not have the runtime/oomph/special features of some of the competition?

 

Why Choose the Flex?

The new Flex L125 18.0-EC, in my opinion, helps reduce these dilemmas by simply being a very good tool. In the last week, I have been using it intensively on a variety of onsite jobs, from window fitting to cutting concrete, bricks and small paving slabs. For test purposes, I was urged to try it out on marble and granite because these are very demanding materials and a real test of quality.

When I used the Flex on the window fitting jobs they were not that demanding, but they were varied. Sometimes I needed to cut hardened steel nails or screws, and at other times I needed to trim off bits of masonry and tiles. At this point you realise that you are going to change cutting discs quite frequently, so quick and easy disc changing is important. I didn’t exactly time my changes, but with the included spanner and using the easy access spindle lock button, I could do it in about 45 seconds, despite the fact that it was a tool that I had only just started using – not an old familiar. Quick change of discs is largely down to the design of the nose of the grinder – it sticks out prominently and is nearly as slim as practically possible for a small grinder. If I held the machine in my left hand with my thumb depressing the spindle lock button, I could use the spanner in my right hand to pull down on the spindle nut to loosen it and then simply spin off the nut and replace the disc.

It is now also mercifully the case that blade guards have become much more easily adjustable, and the Flex design is amongst the most simple and effective. The guard can be rotated 360 degrees, in a series of click-stopped positions for the most effective disclosure of the disc to the cut, and also for the best position to deflect dust and debris away from the user.

The whole gearhead is made of cast alloy and has screw holes for the addition of an auxiliary handle. Also interesting to note is that the ventilation slots above the spindle lock button direct the cooling air from the motor out of, rather than into, the tool so dust is blown away from the delicate bearings etc. It also helps that this has a brushless motor whose working bits are sealed more effectively than brushed motors.

 

Designed for Good Grip

I also rather like the design of the body of this Flex grinder. This is largely because I have small hands, but even a couple of my work colleagues with bigger hands commented that the design suited them too. The Flex-red body has a black grippy overmould where the hand grips and this is smaller than the main body behind the gearcasing. From there it is easy to move a thumb up to the slide and lock on/off switch that actually works. I have come across so many of this type of switch that you need two hands to operate (especially when the dust gets in), that it is a pleasant surprise to find one that works so smoothly.

 

A comfortable grip on the handle is made more effective by having the battery pack on the back of the body, with its main weight pointing upwards to counterbalance the weight of the nose pointing downwards. Those familiar with Flex machines will recognise the familiar 5Ah battery pack with its four-light test button on the back. Flex has cracked the design for loading and unloading battery packs onto machines so that system works well with a simple big red press and release button on the battery. This machine is compatible with all 18v Flex batteries, so if you have a couple of lighter 2.5Ah packs they would help reduce working weight.

 

Just a quick note on charging – the Flex diagnostic charger is unique, I think, in having an LED countdown display so you know exactly how long to a full charge.

Despite being ‘only 5Ah’ in the days of up to 9 Ah, I had no issues with runtimes. Even with regular usage, I still had half capacity left at the end of a working day. And still a spare battery in the box as a backup.

 

A Case of Quality

The whole kit came in a sturdy, stackable custom case with top and front handles. I liked the fact that the case could easily hold all the extraneous bits like extra discs etc. My only niggle was that the battery pack had to be removed to store the grinder in its position.

Overall, I really liked this grinder. It has clearly been made to a quality threshold with elements of careful design. It cuts effectively in a wide range of materials, and it goes without saying that users will need to adopt all the correct safety gear with it, because the dust and debris produced is evidence that it is working well. For really effective cutting, choose quality discs with thin kerfs that will reduce friction and give longer runtimes. The acid test is that I would be very happy to add it to my toolkit because it has proved to be a valuable site companion. 

 

 

 

Flex Tools: Try One - Surprises in Your Pocket and in Performance

Aimed at: Professional users, with a bit of an eye on the budget without giving up on performance.

Pros: Impact driver has 180Nm of torque and the combi drill is compact, able and comes with an excellent metal chuck.

In a crowded power tool market it is great to have a niche in which you can dominate. Flex has done this with their famous range of Giraffe wall sanders, chasers, grinders and polishers. So, it is only natural that the company would want to join the competition in the cut throat cordless market too.

This it has done by developing its own lithium ion battery system, complete with sophisticated chargers, heat monitoring and electronic control for tools and chargers. Users would say that these are a minimum for professional quality tools these days, and they would be right. But as I have discovered, the Flex tools I have used match up to current standards and are not a poor relation.

However, in a very brand driven market it is sometimes hard to get the message across, and it is also quite difficult to get end users to think more carefully about their tool choices. On site, I rarely need to top up a battery if I have remembered to charge it up overnight, since my power needs are mostly confined to impact driving and drilling. My observations are that many other trades are in the same boat. But still the view persists that bigger is better. Whereas in fact, I often end up using optional 2.5 Ah battery packs because they are smaller and lighter than 5Ah ones. Surely here is a chance for end users to find ways to get the job done without necessarily paying top prices that premium brands can charge?

The two Flex drivers I was sent for review came well presented in stackable Sortimo L-Boxxes with custom fitted inserts to hold tool, spare battery, chargers and accessories tightly in transit. I like these boxes because they have top and front handles, are very easy to stack and lock together and are as compact as they need to be to contain the tools, so they don’t take up lots of extra space.

First up for review was the PD2G 18.0 Drill driver and hammer. Early impressions are very favourable because the build quality is up there with the best. Clearly this is no budget model and it feels solid and weighty in the hand. The ergonomics of the handling has clearly been thought through with a good rubberised grip on the well-proportioned main handle and a good balance in the hand. There are other strategically placed rubber bumpers on the rear and bottom of the handle so the tool can be stood up or lain down on surfaces without damaging it.

There is a quality, solid metal keyless 12mm chuck which works very well without slipping and is also easy to loosen and tighten. Behind the chuck are two plastic collars, the first to choose the 24 torque positions and the second to select drilling, screwdriving or hammer modes. Both of the collars are robust, move easily without sticking and have sensible grips on them to make adjusting them easy. On top of the drill is a slider switch for selecting high or low gear making speeds from 0- 1650 and 0-380rpm possible. In low speed torque is a very reasonable 70Nm which is enough for most purposes. Trigger arrangement follows the common layout of a push through switch for selecting forward/reverse and a speed sensitive trigger. All works smoothly and the spindle brake works very well too.

The PD 2G has a very good auxiliary handle that is firmly screwed, via tightening clips, onto the front of the alloy gear housing. This can suit left or right handers, but is not adjustable around a collar like some other drills. I also liked the belt hook – as I now sometimes have to use it to hold a tool when I am up on a ladder for example. There is also a handy bit holder that is screwed in opposite the belt hook. Again it can be useful - making it easier to find a driver bit rather than the usual scrabble in a pocket crammed with a whole lot of other bits and pieces.

I liked the smaller 2.5Ah battery at height and in confined spaces, and I found that charging was quick and easy using the diagnostic charger – usually taking about 45 minutes.

While the above drill/driver is good, I wasn’t prepared for the performance of the ID ¼ inch 18.0. It is simply amazing and I worked out why when I looked at the specs – it has an astonishing 180Nm of torque. I have never had it so easy driving concrete screws into dense concrete. It was the Torx driver bits that felt the pressure!

Similarly into wood, even the longest screws I used (150mm) were driven without effort or drama. It really is very good and I liked using it very much.

Like the drill/driver above, the Flex impact driver is very well made, and surprisingly compact in the way that modern impact drivers are. It has a similar pattern of rubberised grip on the handles, motor end and bottom of the handle. So handling and bump protection taken care of. The other controls follow a familiar layout and are thus easy to work with – ergonomics is a strong point on both of these tools.

I used the tools for several weeks on site and I also lent them to a couple of others to garner their opinions. One of the users is a welder who rarely uses cordless tools in his day job, but he was full of praise for their easy handling and they had enough power for him to drill and drive very happily (he used 60mm screws maximum)

The other user had a more demanding project and needed a pair of drivers to get him over a hump because his impact drill had broken and was in the repair shop. He was full of praise for the Flex tools, especially liking the handling and balance and their ability to drive 120mm woodscrews with ease. To say that he was impressed with the impact driver is understating it – I nearly had to wrestle it back off him and I think it is safe to say that he thought it was much better than the (branded) one that was returned from the repair shop.

So, definitely worth a look – my guess is that you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Flex 18v Recip Saw – A Welcome Addition to the Flex Cordless Range

Aimed at: Pro users who need cordless flexibility to demolish and cut. 

Pros: A powerful and flexible cutting friend- just chose the right blades for success. 

Too many years ago than I care to remember, I reviewed a recip saw newly arrived from the US. After using it a bit I showed it to some tradesmen, who almost universally dismissed it. They told me it was too heavy and clumsy (no 18v Li ion cordless then!) but look around now on sites and recip saws have been wholeheartedly adopted – especially by window fitters and first and second fix carpenters. This is just because they are VERY useful tools – doing things that others can’t. And now with a variety of blades that will cut timber, steel etc etc they are assured a place in the van.

Many things have changed in the intervening years, like SDS blade fitting, lighter weight and compact versions for use in tight corners. But the real revolution in the last few years are the cordless recip saws with enough punch to do the job. Enter the Flex RS 29 18.0!

This tool is part of the new 18v range from Flex of Germany. It too, takes advantage of the advanced 18v battery system that Flex has launched a few months ago. The system is designed to prevent battery packs from overheating during use and safe from deep discharge, thus ensuring longer battery life and reliability. The diagnostic charger is unique too – the only one I have seen that uses an LED screen to count down the minutes to “fully charged” so that workers can keep track of the battery power available.

 

Flex tools are aimed at professionals and are generally sold through trade outlets, and it seems that, these days, professional power tools need to be presented in stackable boxes. Accordingly, the saw arrived in a smart black L-Boxx with discreet Flex logo. A custom insert held the tool securely in transit and included in the box were two battery packs, a smart charger and a pack of blades.

I had lined up several jobs to do with the Flex RS 29 – namely cutting up some old uPVC window frames, removing another frame and then a bit of not-so-gentle pruning of a quince tree that is slowly taking over a corner of the garden and annoying the neighbours. These jobs are perfect for a recip saw, especially a cordless one, because they demonstrate how the saw can jump from one job to another by simply changing to a suitable blade.

For some reason recip saws are always heavy. Maybe something to do with the recip mechanism hidden in the nose of the saw, and at around 3.6 Kgs with battery pack, the Flex feels quite chunky. However, because of the nature of recip cutting, you don’t really want something too light because you need the weight to keep the saw stable and in the cut.

The rear part of the saw is in familiar Flex red with a black and red battery pack (2.5 or 5Ah) slotted onto the end of the main handle. A comfortable and well-designed rear handle has enough grippy rubber to be comfortable, and the trigger and interlock are well placed for average hands. Speed is controlled via the trigger and is especially controllable at low and high speeds. (0-3100 rpm)  Of course, there is some vibration, as you would expect from a recip saw because of its cutting action. In my view, this vibration is about the same as I have experienced on other recip saws I have used. But it is not the kind of tool that I would use all day so you probably need not worry too much about vibration levels.

 At the “business end” we have very robust housing covered with a slightly rubberised black plastic coating. Some tradespeople who tried it liked the bulkiness as it gave them something to hang on to. In truth, I found it pretty much the same as any other recip saw I have used and the design allowed my left hand to guide and aim the saw accurately where I wanted it to cut.  Also on the “nose” of the saw, are the tool holder lever, the front shoe adjuster and the orbital stroke switch. I also liked the inclusion of a bright LED light right on the front end where it does a good job of illuminating the workpiece should you need it.

A good blade is worth the money on a recip saw and I started with a fairly fine-toothed metal cutting blade to cut up the couple of old uPVC window frames that needed dumping. I had set aside about twenty minutes for the job because they were large frames and I have a small car. The Flex was so efficient that I finished in fifteen minutes. Both plastic outer frames and internal steel strengtheners of the windows were cleanly cut without drama.

On another day with a bigger toothed and longer blade I tackled the quince tree – again I was very happy with the rate of progress. In the end, most of the tree was taken down to ground level simple because it was easier and I had a few encouragements from my neighbour to get rid of it completely.

I also ended up using the Flex on site to cut through the rusted screws holding the ply roof of a brick built shed and then cutting up the ply into sizes small enough to fit in my car. Demolition is truly the forte of recip saws and this tool has no reason to feel ashamed of its performance.

Some specs might help put all of the above into a real context. The retail price is around £110, so it is very competitive for a “real” trade rated tool. The RS 29 will cut 18mm thick metal, 100mm metal pipes, 200mm plastic pipes and 180mm thickness of wood – basically pretty well the sort of things that the average worksite will throw up.

In my view, the Flex RS 29 18 covers all the bases and the Flex 18v cordless system is as well thought out as most of the competition – so for a competitive price you will get a capable tool with a future. 

 

Flex CHE 18 EC SDS Hammer-Prepare to be Surprised

Aimed at: Small trades and those who need a compact and capable machine. 

Pros: Very good, even in very hard materials, and the battery lasts well too. 

Why Join the Cordless Party?

With so much competition in the cordless power tool market, it would seem that anyone wanting to join the party is either foolhardy or determined to prove that they can offer a really good alternative to other brands. Flex falls into the latter category, although the company has a long history of power tool manufacturing in Germany and, indeed, bringing many innovations to market. Its world-leading “Giraffe” wall sanders are a classic example.

Cordless tools also bring another big factor into play since the choice of battery platform is the biggest decider in what tools may be bought in the future. So, anyone wanting to join the cordless competition has to be sure that they have something different or extra to add to their tools in order to persuade buyers to make the initial purchase of a brand.

Flex has done a lot of homework and research, and in my view, has come up with a genuinely unique system for its cordless battery cells that will not only help the tools to perform better, but will add significantly to the range of cordless battery technologies out there.

The enemies of Li Ion

In an article I read recently, it was pointed out that the real enemies of cordless batteries are deep discharge and heat build up during operation. An overheated battery pack will deliver much less than its stated capacity and forced “overheating” breaks can cost tradespeople valuable time. The answer to these issues is to build in electronic controls to tools, battery packs and chargers so that they all work together to prevent them. How manufacturers program these into their tools will always vary and of course how end users treat the tools is always an unknowable…?

Solutions

Flex has joined the cordless competition with solutions on all three fronts. Firstly, a patented system of “Keep Cool” technology that helps to keep batteries cooler in order to deliver maximum power for longer. Secondly, a unique diagnostic charging system uses an LED display to inform users exactly how long the battery charge will take amongst other things. Thirdly, the smallish, but growing, range of German-designed and developed cordless power tools have electronic controls built-in. These controls are unique to each type of tool to take account of the way in which each tool uses power. For example a cordless drill/driver does not have the same power usage profile as a reciprocating saw and therefore the electronic controls will respond to maximize power delivery and battery life.   

The above may be a long introduction for a power tool review – but the question in my mind when I tested the 18V CHE SDS Hammer was whether the new Flex cordless technology would make a difference.

I will immediately confess that my answer is yes – this little Flex tool is a great tool to use and it seemed to have much longer legs than some other cordless SDS hammers that I have used – but that is just the bare bones of the story.

And Now to Work ..

First impressions of the 18EC SDS are very favourable. Mine came in a stackable custom-fitted Sortimo box with charger and battery pack. On first charge, the charger told me that I needed to top up the battery for 25 minutes, and so it proved. The LED display on the neatly designed charger tells you what you want to know without the usual confusion of a series of flashing lights. By pushing a small button on the front of the battery pack users can get an up to date display of the state of battery charge – four bars is full, one bar is 25% or less.

A bright LED light on the handle base aimed at the chuck end is also a very useful addition for me – I need light when I work nowadays!

Handling – It Feels Good

When I first lifted up the hammer I immediately felt at home with it because the balance is spot-on. The handle is well covered with grippy, vibration absorbing rubber overmould and it slims down towards the bottom for a real ergonomic feel. Forward/reverse is chosen by the trusted method of the push through switch.

Since this tool is going to be driven into hard concrete amongst other things, there is a substantial thumb and forefinger groove right behind the axis of the drill point in order to apply maximum control and performance. There is also a big removable auxiliary handle attached to the front collar. This is covered with grippy rubber too and can be moved to any suitable position by unscrewing the handle a bit. An adjustable bar-type depth control is also part of the handle.

A rotatable switch on the left side of the hammer is used to choose either drilling, hammer drilling, neutral or chiseling mode. This system is easy to use and very positive as each position has a click stop to show that it is engaged.

The battery pack is attached via a substantial slide and is easy to attach and detach. The whole tool can be stood on the battery base because it is flat and right in the middle so it provides a stable position.

Brushless is the Way to Go

Flex’s new range of tools all use brushless motors, and this machine uses all their advantages to do a great job. With a 10mm SDS bit and a hard concrete paving stone I drilled hole after hole without a lot of effort on my part. I would go so far as to say that I was quite astonished by how easy it was to use and how willing the tool felt as I used it – it really seemed to want to get on with the job. Other people I showed it to had a similar reaction – surprised that a drill so compact could feel so capable.

With a maximum capacity of 18mm diameter in concrete, this SDS drill will, I am sure find a number of happy users amongst building and plumbing trades etc. At the moment, it shares a battery platform with a few more commonly used Flex tools like drill drivers, impact driver and a recip saw, but Flex, as we speak, is developing and launching further tools into the range, some of which will be reviewed in these pages.

I am always happy when there is competition in a market, and in my view I think this SDS drill/hammer in particular, and the new Flex range of cordless tools in general, certainly add to the choices we can make. My experiences with Flex tools so far have been very positive and make them definitely worth a closer look. 

To see further FLEX Reviews, click here.

For more information FLEX, please visit www.flex-tools.com

 

 

 

 

 

Flex Random Orbit Sander -You’ll Wonder Where the Vibration Went!

Aimed at:- Pros in a number of trades– woodworkers, decorators, shopfitters, carpenters etc.

Pros:- Quiet with less vibration and very good dust collection system. An up to the minute product.

I am a great fan of random orbit sanders because they save me a lot of time. I do a lot of furniture making, general woodwork and decorating and the random orbit sander will cope with all of these various working conditions with the right speed settings and the right abrasive papers. Inevitably I have a few favourite sanders that I use constantly, and I have even been through a couple of them over the years. So, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed or surprised when the Flex ORE 150-5 landed on my doorstep – I thought it might be “just another random orbit sander.”

The Flex arrived in what now seems to be customary stackable Lboxx – not a criticism at all. I think the judicious use of quality kit boxes can help tradespeople be more organized and more secure, and as it happens, this particular Lboxx is one of the best. It has a custom space for the tool and accessories as well as for the long cord and all the inevitable bits and pieces, like sanding discs that collect with a tool.

Some might say I am being fussy, but another small point that I liked with this and most other Flex power tools is that the instruction books have dedicated pages to each language with all the good quality pictures and diagrams clearly marked with the language section. No need for that frustrating flip backwards and forwards between the diagrams and the instructions.

The tool itself follows the standard layout of a random orbit sander. The motor is placed vertically above the sanding platen with a nicely placed bit of black rubberized overmould where the sander can be guided right above its centre of gravity. A longer handle containing the switch trigger is at right angles and it also has a grippy bit on top. I am pleased to say that the trigger switch and lock-on button are very simple to operate because that is what is needed on a sander that is used continuously and switched on and off regularly.  

While the main body and motor housing is made of Flex Red plastic, the orbit housing is a solid alloy casting followed by a robust plastic skirt that holds the fan and dust extraction mechanism and port. The machine looks slimline and sleek and weighs about 1.8 Kgs – just enough to make it comfortable to use on walls and ceilings without too much hassle, but heavy enough so that you don’t have to push down on any horizontal surface being sanded.

Finally, the hook and loop covered sanding plate is of as good quality as I have seen anywhere, but has the added advantage of having a number of perforation patterns all over the base. This means that the Flex can be used with just about any brand of sanding disc as well as the multi-holed and mesh based discs on the market. A time and money saver for me – I like the flexibility of having a wide range of discs to choose from because I sand a wide range of surfaces.

Flex make two different versions of this sander – the 150-3 has a 3mm orbit and the 150-5 has a 5mm orbit and you can spot the difference because on the top of the handle there is a 3 or a 5 included in the overmould. The bigger orbit version will speed up sanding and I find that I don’t really need the 3mm orbit version for what I do – I simply adjust via the speed wheel and the grit of the sanding discs I use.

The milled wheel switch at the back of the top handle controls the orbit speed – a very useful range of 11,600 to 20,000 no load oscillations per minute, so you can be sure that work proceeds quickly.

Compared to yesteryear, dust collection on sanders is so much better now. Obviously, manufacturers have worked on this because we have discovered just how dangerous dust inhalation is. Flex’s solution is to use a clear plastic box holding a pleated microfilter that fits onto the nicely ribbed dust port underneath the main handle. This is as at least as efficient as any other good random orbit sander I have used, and is better than many. For most jobs this system will be good enough so that only the minimum of dust escapes. Of course users should always use a good dust mask when sanding, whether indoors or out.

However, connect the sander dust port to a vacuum extractor and the results for escaping dust are really excellent. Just remember to set the extractor so that the vacuum created doesn’t pull the platen too hard down onto the sanded surface.

Efficient sanding, good dust collection and easy handling are two boxes I would expect to check on any good quality sander I might use, but what makes a sander go from being one of the crowd to one that sort of becomes the one you choose to use every day – a sort of “go-to” tool?

We are now in the area of personal preference, but the one thing that stood out for me is that the Flex 150-5 is very well mannered. The motor noise is well controlled. I could easily use it in my back garden without annoying my neighbours over the hedge, about 20m away.

Secondly, the vibration transmitted to the hand is minimal so that I found that I could comfortably use it for longer. Now, there has to be some vibration because it is a random orbit sander – but lower noise and vibration levels make for a machine that feels modern and efficient – becoming a “go-to” tool?

Overall, there is a great deal to like about the Flex 150-5. It is unashamedly a professionally rated machine with a price tag that reflects this. There are no cut corners – it feels like a pro machine when you use it. From the 4m long power cord to the efficient dust collection options, it feels like a machine that will stand hard work every day. In my view a very welcome addition to the echelons of high quality random orbit sanding machines.

Aimed at:- Pros in a number of trades– woodworkers, decorators, shopfitters, carpenters etc.

Pros:- Quiet with less vibration and very good dust collection system. An up to the minute product.

For more information, please visit https://www.flex-tools.com

Flex Laser Tools - Getting the measure

Aimed at:- Pros who need the speed and accuracy of laser marking out and measuring.

Pros: Keenly priced, up to date and very accurate.
No reason not to have one.

Flex tools aren’t available outside specialist tool dealers for the very good reason that only specialist dealers are in a position to give professional advice on the best use and purposes of Flex tools. Of course, this limits the scope of the market, but loyalty to the trades has been a Flex motto in the market.

Flex is probably most well known for their Giraffe wall sanders so it was with some surprise that I took delivery of a range of Flex laser products a while ago. Initial impressions were favourable – they seemed to have all the build quality and capability associated with other Flex products, and there is nothing like a bit of competition in the market to raise everyone’s game.

I started with the ADM60-T Touchscreen laser range finder. I am a great fan of this type of tool – how did we ever manage without them, dragging tape measures around site and having to climb ladders to measure roof heights for example. All done in seconds now with a laser measure, with all the extra calculations too. The ADM 60-T has a Flex Red casing with black rubber “bumpers” on most of the edges. Powered by 4 AAA batteries it comes in a nylon case and a standard tripod screw fixing in the bottom for static (and more accurate) use.

Weighing only 180g and with a length of 115mm the measure will easily fit into a trouser pocket. What makes this measure different from many is the touch screen. The on/off switch is on the right hand side and once this is pushed the blue-based display is easy to read even in daylight. Energy saving kicks in quite quickly to reduce the display and then turns off the device automatically after a minute or two.

There are only seven icons on the screen and they all follow “computer logic”. For example it is simple to scroll through the units needed – from metres to miilimetres, feet and inches, inches only or feet only. The device will also automatically calculate cubic volume, area and triangulated heights by simply selecting the appropriate icon on the screen.

I am still slightly in awe of how quickly simple surveying, estimating and measuring can be done with laser devices like this, and the Flex ADM60-T is so easy to understand and use that it is a no-brainer for even independent tradespeople to have one for doing quotes. It will pay for itself in time saved incredibly quickly.

Next on the list was the ALC 2/1 Basic Self-levelling Crossline Laser in its custom carrying case. The description pretty well tells you all that it does, but what it can’t convey is that the quality of this device is excellent. Although there is an interior red plastic casing to hold the laser projector and lenses, most of the exterior is covered with a rubberized material that offers excellent shock and dust protection.

The device can stand on a flattish surface or can be held on a tripod or one of the other bases that Flex supplies as accessories. If the placement surface is not flat enough to sustain a level reading, the laser will turn off and on intermittently and a warning light will show red on the top display. The display is simple to use and understand. There is a choice of interior and exterior use. The latter simply makes the laser crosslines slightly brighter so they are easier to see. There are three modes selected by an advance button – single vertical line, single horizontal line and combined vertical and horizontal lines. Ideal for brickwork, tiling, laying out kitchens and even hanging pictures. I have used similar devices for real and when I tried this Flex ALC 2/1 it is better than many and up there with the best. With a working range of 20m (probably a bit more indoors) it is another one of those time saving devices that you wonder how you managed without.

The Flex ALC 3/1 Basic Self-levelling Crossline Laser is bigger than the device above and comes in its own carrying case with the addition of a special magnetic wall holder so that it can be stuck to ferrous metal surfaces as well as being able to be used from a standard tripod mount.

It follows a similar pattern to its smaller sibling with generous rubberized shock and dirt proofing but it has the addition of a side laser beam used for plumb measurements. Switching on the switch on the side frees the floating laser projectors and it will self-level in a few seconds. Again, simply scrolling through the menus will allow the user to select the correct mode, i.e. horizontal, vertical, combined vertical and horizontal and then plumb mode with an additional vertical line that projects onto a surface at angles to the first two lines. There is again an interior and exterior mode and the range is given in the specs as 20m and 5m in plumb mode. Measurements are specced to be within 0.3mm/m, which is certainly good enough for most purposes. No doubt it costs a bit more than the Basic ALC 2/1, but if there is a chance you would use the plumb function a lot it would make sense to buy the bigger one – it too will soon repay its investment costs.

Some people might query why you might need a digital spirit level – after all many trades use ordinary spirit levels every day with no problems. But the truth is the addition of the laser bits improves the flexibility and functionality of a basic spirit level so that it becomes something a lot more. I was sent two examples of the spirit levels – namely the ADL30 and the ADL 60. They both function in a similar way with identical displays, and they both have magnets inset into the bases making them ideal for use by scaffolders and HVAC engineers. The ADL 30’s top surface is not milled so it has only one registered flat surface, whereas the ADL 60 at 60cm long has two registered surfaces, top and bottom, so can be used accurately from either. Both levels include a standard tripod mount and a vertical and horizontal spirit bubble. They can therefore both be used as ordinary spirit levels.

But the magic really begins when the central display is switched on. Immediately the bright green display shows a measurement in degrees above and below vertical or horizontal. If you want different units e.g. inches per foot or percentage, just change it using the “unit” button. A “beep” can be selected as an audio signal to indicate horizontal or vertical.

Finally, by pushing a switch on the right hand end of the levels, a pinpoint laser is projected from the end that can be used as a marker for lining up the level selected.

Like “ordinary” spirit levels they have protective rubber cap ends and the ADL 60 has two rubber-lined handles for easier handling.

No doubt these levels have a specialist clientele in mind rather than simply bricklayer duties, but the quality is not in doubt and they are very easy to use and understand. Years ago I never thought I would be so enthusiastic about things digital and laser, but I have changed my mind because the benefits of these new devices in making measuring, marking and laying out are so obvious. Never mind the cost – feel the ease of use and the accuracy.

There is further information on products from Flex, including the Flex Random Orbit Sander and The Flex Giraffe II

 

The New Flex Giraffe II-Improving on an Old Favourite

Aimed at: Drywalling and Plaster Pros who need quick and efficient sanding of big areas.

Pros: Built in dust extraction method makes for safe use, good finish is quick to achieve.

Builders and dryliners have been using hand and powered sanders on plaster walls for years, but the stakes were raised considerably with the launch of the Flex Giraffe a few years ago. The Giraffe, it is fair to say, revolutionized wall sanding – making it easier and faster. With the addition of a custom-fit dust extractor required by EC regulations, wall sanding became a lot safer too.

What Flex brought to wall sanding was a comprehensive, flexible and efficient kit that really did the job and inevitably, the result was commercial success.

However, things never stand still. Research and Development at Flex HQ in Germany, plus customer feedback, meant that a newer version of the Giraffe became inevitable. Flex gave an R and D team a budget and a space and told them to crack on. The hands on team weren’t averse to experimentation – the story goes that when it was thought that the main tube handle needed a bend in it for easier handling, it was placed between two bricks and bent by the subtle (?) addition of human power!

Since the launch of the new Giraffe late last year I have been waiting for an opportunity to give it a thorough going over, and now my chance has come.

The sample arrived in a tall carton inside of which was the incredibly organized nylon case into which the Giraffe 3 is packed. The case is semi-hard with polystyrene supports at each end to hold the handle and disc end, so that the whole machine is supported rigidly. But there is also a layer of padding on the outer walls and bottom of the case that will protect the Giraffe both on site and in the back of a van. The two loop handles in the middle of the case allow for easy transportation and it also has room for a large number of spare sanding discs and the inevitable other extraneous stuff that tradespeople gather. With a weight of only 3.9 Kgs the new Giraffe won’t be too heavy to carry onto site, nor too heavy to use for extended periods either.

There is much evidence of thoughtful and intelligent design on this Giraffe. The sanding head itself is a bit of genius. The cast alloy “gimbal” design on the head allows it to swivel freely at what seems like all angles. With a subtle change of pressure and direction on the handle you can move the sanding head up and down, side to side and even vertically to sand ceilings. This instinctive method of work means that users become proficient with the Giraffe very quickly – adding up to efficiency savings that will help to pay for the investment in a Giraffe in a relatively short time.

The 225mm diameter perforated sanding discs are available in a range of grits and are held in place with a very efficient hook and loop system. Underneath the hook and loop is a layer of plastic foam that acts as a sort of shock absorber and allows the Giraffe to float over some of the unevenness found on walls and ceilings, and yet it is firm enough to allow a fine, flat finish too.

Round the rim of the sanding disc is a row of stiff black bristle that contains dust, but allows a strong airflow through so that a very large proportion of the dust is sucked out through the sanding head, through a flexible hose, down the handle to the vac extractor. Along one side of the disc is a straight edge with plastic “bumpers” at each end. This edge makes it possible to guide the sanding disc all the way up to the edge of ceiling and wall junctions so that sanding is complete. Again, it is very easy to engage a straight edge on the sander without doing double somersaults on the handle end.

The handle end is very simple – rather like a traditional T-Handle spade – but it is comfortable to use and easy to prop into an elbow crook or the top of the thigh when your arms need a quick rest or need a change of position.

The Giraffe GE5 R also has a rotary switch near the rear handle that controls the speed of the sanding disc – from 1100 to 1650 /min so that users can keep control when sanding more delicate surfaces.

Also aiding handling is a 5m long cord so that users can move freely around the worksite. Combine this with a similar length of cord on the dedicated vac extractor and the usable radius of work is easily enough for most applications.

Although it can’t be seen, I know that the Flex R and D team worked hard to “beef up” the flexible drive that goes through the handle to the disc so that it would be easier to service, as well as being better able to cope with the abrasive plaster dust that is always present in a wall sander.

To me it would be a no-brainer not to use one of the range of Flex dedicated vac extractors with a new Giraffe. I was sent the VCE35 LAC as a partner for the wall sander. The VCE 35 is not the top of the range, but with a flow rate of 3660 litres per minute and 1380w of power it was a formidable sucker that could easily cope with wall sanding as well as providing general power tool extraction duties and cleaning up the site at the end of the working day. It uses the flat filter technology that is very efficient as well as not taking up valuable space in the dust collector.

Some tradesmen have commented to me that wall sanders can be expensive to buy. They may have a point in some cases: – for example general builders who don’t need them often. However, for professional dryliners and some plasterers, the amount of time and effort saved would be so great that I doubt that they could be competitive without using one. The new Giraffe Range is not only improved, but has a number of niches to suit different users. Purchasers can also have confidence in the nationwide service and repair network that Flex UK has put in place. Try a Giraffe, you might find you can’t do without one.

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