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Draper's sleek Storm Force tools make able cordless companions

DRAPER’S blue and black Storm Force range of cordless tools is now well established on the market and provides end users with a comprehensive choice of 10.8v and 20v cordless tools at very competitive prices, writes PETER BRETT.

My experience of these tools is that they are competent and well made with most, if not all, of the bells and whistles required by end users these days.

A couple of months ago I reviewed the 20v combi, SDS and hammer drills and now it is the turn of the 20v angle grinder and reciprocating saw to go under the magnifying glass.

The angles on the grinder

For me, an angle grinder is one of those indispensable tools that I use infrequently but when you need one, no other tool will do.

The top three features that I look for in an angle grinder are balanced handling, a safe and easy to operate switch and a cutter guard that is easy to adjust, preferably without tools. In my view, this Draper Storm Force delivers on these so we are off to a good start.

Balance, in a cordless tool, is a lot about where the battery pack is placed and the Storm Force follows a lot of other designs by having the gearbox head and the battery pack at each end of the body to counterbalance each other.

Combined with the three-position auxiliary handle, most users will be able to find a position where the cutting disc can be safely applied to the work and held securely for maximum efficiency.

This is helped by the fact that the body of the grinder tapers gently down from the switch to the battery pack and so can be easily gripped by even small hands like mine.

It is also helped by generous and grippy rubber moulding strategically placed at the top and bottom of the body.

The slider switch is easy to operate with your thumb by left or right handed users but, as we all know, the real test will come after many hours of work when the combination of brick dust and metal filings created by the cutting discs start to clog the switch sliders.

Ideally, we should all take better care of our tools but experience tells us that isn’t always possible. The good news is that the Draper’s switch stayed easy to lock off and on during my trials of it.

Getting the right angle on the cutter guard is very important to protect the user from the spray of sparks or dust coming from the cutting disc when in use.

Sometimes the guard has to be adjusted several times in the same cut depending on the circumstances so it is important that it is easy to adjust.

The Draper uses a clip system that is simply sprung open to move the angle of the guard and then sprung closed again to secure it.

The clip has a small adjustment screw on it to take into account wear and use, and the collar on which the clip is mounted is wide enough to achieve easy movement.

The collar also has a groove cut into it to secure the spring clip when it is loose, so it will not simply fall off during readjustment.

Details like these are tiny, but are actually very important for making a tool hassle free to use.

A black-coated alloy gearbox head incorporates the spindle lock. It engages positively and then the removal or replacement of the cutting disc with the two-pronged pin spanner supplied is easy.

Just a quick mention of the auxiliary handle: it too has generous grippy rubber and a substantial collar around the end to prevent fingers being exposed to the cutting disc.

In use, the things I really liked about this angle grinder proved to be the easy handling and adjustments made possible by the slim body and balance of the tool.

Using the cutting discs supplied for the test I was able to cut stainless steel rods, mild steel sheet 6mm thick and some hard face bricks.

I chose to use the grinder with the bigger 4Ah battery packs which lasted well, but it is possible to use the smaller (and lighter) 2Ah packs that are an option in this ‘bare’ tool.

Recipe for recip?

One of the things I like about the angle grinder above is the slim and easy to grip body, so I was pleased to note that the theme continued on the Storm Force 20v reciprocating saw.

It is actually very light and compact, and while it might be said that it lacks the bulk of some of the competition, I think that its compact size could be an advantage – particularly getting into smaller spaces where size and weight can make for di‑ culties both in access and in deft handling.

That is not to say that this recip saw lacks features. Fitting the blade is done in an instant by simply twisting the knurled knob on the recip arm and inserting it.

Blades can be used with teeth facing up or down for greater versatility.

The shoe is moved by unlocking the grey lever which allows users to regulate how much of the blade can be used in the cut and also solves the problem of getting the most use out of the teeth.

On the left of the body is another small grey lever that selects either simple straight cuts or an orbital cutting action that is much faster when cutting softer materials like timber and MDF.

Safety-wise, the on/off trigger is locked as the default position – the user has to use their thumb or forefinger to push the sliding switch to one side for the trigger to be depressed to the start position. An excellent feature in my view.

Handling is good courtesy of the black rubber overmould on the D-handle and on the slim body profile.

Balance is good because the battery pack serves as a counterweight to the motor and gearbox. Recip saws can be very power hungry when used hard but the battery packs (either 2 or 4Ah) have a red/amber/green system for telling users the state of charge.

With all recip-type saws the choice of blades is key to getting a good cutting performance. The wrong blade will result in over-fast or slow cutting and a very quick drain on the battery. I was sent a choice of GP wood and metal cutting blades that performed well.

I really liked the fact that this saw is light – only 1.7kg without a battery pack – and yet has the capacity to cut wood up to 115mm thick or alloys up to 10mm thick.

This is enough capacity for most general jobs at home or on a small renovation site. Although it is usual these days to have plastic cases for all tools, I liked the big nylon wide-mouthed carry bag that Draper sent with the tools.

This was easily big enough to hold the grinder and the saw, several battery packs and the charger. With its hard base, it protected the tools from knocks and water and was easy to carry.

It also carried a lot of spare blades, cutting discs and all of the other extraneous stuff that gathers.

‘Big, powerful and a three-year guarantee’: Triton TRA001 Router

THE distinctive shape, colour and operation of Triton routers has always made them look and feel different from the competition, write PETER BRETT.

There are many thousands of happy Triton router users who would be very happy to note the TRA001 heavy duty, 2400 W Dual Mode Router carries on the old Triton traditions.

Unpacking it from the carefully designed box, anyone vaguely familiar with routers would realize it is indeed a beast designed to do heavy-duty cutting. A tool that would easily find its way into a professional tool kit not only for its sheer grunt, but also because of its 68mm plunge depth and maximum cutter radius of 55mm.

The TRA001 is packed with features for accuracy and clean cutting. Some new versions are different from the conventional design of bygone routers.

However, once you do get used to them the Triton system looks and feels perfectly logical. In my opinion, the ‘designed-in’ safety features put it steps ahead of the competition. There is something inherently dangerous about a sharp cutter whirling around at 21,000rpm and the Triton keeps exposure to an absolute minimum as well as making ‘accidental starting’ almost impossible.

Safety is key

These systems make perfect sense when you examine some of the other features of the router. One of the main ways the Triton designers keep our fingers away from whirling cutters is to put strong, transparent plastic guards around the baseplate. There is a standard vacuum outlet included so dust and chippings can be safely removed, thereby protecting eyes and lungs.

However, this means changing cutters has to be done with the router collet moved all the way down to be in line with the baseplate where the supplied spanner can be fitted to the flats of the collet for cutter removal. The geared system plunge is best used for this as it works very positively and engages the automatic spindle lock for one-handed cutter changes.

Triton is designed to be stood on its head so it is easy to achieve safe and highly visible cutter changes. This arrangement is even more logical when the router is used in ‘router table’ mode, where cutter changes take place with the cutter above the level of the table for maximum ease.

Another major safety feature is the on/ off switch design. This has a sliding door on it that has to be pushed in and the router switched to the ‘on’ position for the motor to operate. Once the rocker switch is turned ‘off’ the sliding door snaps shut preventing the switch from being operated. You have to deliberately choose the ‘on’ option so there’s no chance of accidentally activating the motor with a careless movement.

When changing cutters, the switch has to be in ‘off ’position and the sliding door closed, for the spindle lock to engage.

Basically, it means no cutter changing without accidental starting being triggered. No other router I use can make that claim.

Turrets, depths and adjustments

One of the easiest adjustments to spot is the milled wheel on top of the motor housing that controls the motor speed.

It has five positions, but the speed increase is from 8,000 to 21,000rpm.

Bigger cutters need to go slower because of their higher peripheral speed, while smaller cutters can go faster. Just watch out for burning if the feed rate is too slow or the cutter is blunt.

There is a small rotatable three-stop turret on the base of the router. By using the spring-loaded depth stop (with locking screw) depths of cut are easy to set.

However, for users who wish to use this router with the optional router table – a great accessory in my view as it increases the versatility and accuracy of the tool many times over – then there is the option to use the winder handle. This is used to wind the cutter to the selected depth.

Although, it is important to follow the instructions when fitting the router to the router table, it is not difficult to do. Also, attaching the router to the table improves safety and increases speed. The rack and pinion cutter depth-set system makes it easy to change cutters without removing the router from the table. As a result, there is no need for the more common practice of dealing with a sharp cutter and a spanner underneath the table.

This way that way, another way

As well as being able to choose to use the TRA001 on the router table, users can also have the choice of collets as both a 12mm and a ½ inch collet are supplied. It is fairly easy to spot the difference because the ½ inch collet is bigger than the 12mm one.

In the UK, most router cutter stockists offer ½ inch cutter shanks as standard, and it is definitely not a good idea to fit a 12mm shank cutter to a ½ inch collet or vice versa.

Other features include a solid pressed steel baseplate and fence assembly for accurate edging cuts and circle routing.

Since the base plate is in one piece and the securing nuts and bolts are all captive it does save that awful moment when you realise you have lost the screws, as sometimes happens to me with other routers.

The motor has a soft start and has a constant under-load speed and is remarkably restrained in terms of noise and vibration, even with a big cutter on board.

Above all, my overriding impression is still of a big and powerful router with all the capability one needs for demanding jobs.

JCB's cotton based workwear perfect for hot and cold weather

Since the almost universal adoption of workwear by the trades, there have been a number of developments. Nowadays it is not all about practicality, writes PETER BRETT.

Some trades always had favourite kit styles, while there are now also favoured workwear styles - with oneupmanship on who has got the trendiest, coolest, most expensive workwear on site. 

Workwear has also become cheaper and much more widely available via the ‘sheds’ and tool outlets, so it is not uncommon to see practical folk of all kinds dressing the part for gardening, working in the shed or doing domestic tasks in general. 

The net result is workwear brands have had to join the endless cycle of launching a new range of clothes every season. So when the parcel of JCB workwear dropped onto my front doorstep. I was keen to see what was in it.

T-Shirt Time

As I write, the weather here in the South East corner of England is doing its best to break sunshine records, so it is definitely T-shirt weather. 

The 100% cotton JCB TRADE T-shirt in black and grey is a perfect solution here. I prefer natural materials for shirts as I find them more comfortable in hot weather, and they also serve as a nice underlayer in colder weather. 

This shirt is well cut for ease of movement, with grey panels under the arms that allow easy movement when lifting or bending. It washes very easily too – because as a basic layer, most users would want to wash it regularly. 

I ran it through several wash cycles and it came up fresh every time. Very comfy to wear and very practical, getting my thumbs up.

The JCB Essential Polo Shirt is smarter and appealed to me because it seemed better dress for working inside a client’s property, when a T-shirt might be a bit informal. 

It is made with 65% polyester and 35% cotton, so will be wearable and crease-free straight out of the wash. The grey colour is very reminiscent of the grey doors, window frames and woodwork that are currently on trend so it should catch the zeitgeist. 

Again, I found the generously cut shirt very comfortable to wear and quite lightweight in warm weather. I also liked the collar and short sleeves that provided some protection from the sun for my very sun sensitive skin when I worked outside. 

Again, I ran it through several wash cycles and it came up smiling every time.

Sticking to Tops

Of course, we all know that a British Summer includes all the ups and downs of wind, rain, sun and possibly thunderstorms, hence it is as well to go out with layers of clothing so we can add and subtract to suit the conditions. 

The outer layer of the selection I was sent has a long title – the JCB Trade Grey Marl Essington II Full Zip Jumper. 

Made of 100% knitted polyester it immediately feels warm and cosy when you put it on, and has a pleasant weight to it that denotes the quality of the fabric from which it is made. 

It is packed with little features that add up to a practical, and dare I say it, stylish garment that is very handy to have in the van for emergency warmth back up. 

The jumper is largely made of a mottled grey knitted fabric with some stretch for comfort, with black nylon stretch panels under the arms and across the shoulders. There are reflective panels and a JCB logo across the shoulders and on the chest plus zipped pocket liners. 

There are three zipped pockets, two on each hip and one on the chest. The two hip pockets are deep enough for a tape measure and pencils, as well as for keeping hands warm. The chest pocket is big enough for keeping a phone handy. 

A full zip makes it easy to put on and to help regulate the temperature, while the waist has an elasticated draw cord. 

A cosy bit of black fleece lines the funnel neck collar, and this helps to keep warmth in and rain out. The cuffs are also elasticated for a snug, draught-free fit, but they are loose enough to be comfortable and easy to put on. 

Because of the warm weather I wore this jumper only a few times in the evenings. It is definitely smart and stylish, and the hi-vis flashes drew some comment about just how visible they are – these must be a safety plus then!

Nitty Gritty Shorts and Trousers

Unfortunately, my legs are now old enough to not be allowed out unaccompanied and I don’t generally like wearing shorts on site, because I prefer the extra protection offered by trousers. 

My willing volunteer was 40 or so years younger than me and has no such qualms. After a couple of days, he reported back to me his findings on the JCB Trade Plus Shorts in Black/Grey. 

The cotton/polyester (35%/65%) fabric proved to be comfortable and easy to wear – the shorts did not feel ‘sweaty’ as some 100% manmade fabrics can feel. 

There are two hip pockets fronted by two bellowed holster pockets that are a must in any work trousers I use. 

There is also a cargo pocket on the left leg for pencils or a phone with a Velcro fastener. On the back, there are two more pockets, one with a Velcro fastening and the other without. 

With seven 20mm wide belt loops, a belt is easily and comfortably supported. My volunteer had enough pockets and a comfortable fit and cut to the shorts so he was keen to keep them…..

In my discussions with trades I have found work trousers can be an issue. They need to be comfortable and practical - but for some, also a bit fashionable. Pockets are another area of controversy – holster pockets or not? A big debate. 

The JCB Trade Grey/black Cordura work trousers follow the current trend of being quite smartly cut as well as having enough space to be able to bend and move easily. 

The Cordura material is used because it is breathable and comfortable as well as being hardwearing and rip stop. 

On the front of the trousers alone there are two hip pockets, two multi-pocketed holster pockets, a Cargo pocket with Velcro closure, and a couple of leg pockets on the right leg. 

Behind there are two more pockets, one with a Velcro closure – in short, wearers are spoilt for choice and if they filled all these pockets, the trousers would bulge like an overstuffed hamster – but with triple stitched seams there is no danger of splitting them.   

I wore them for several days on site and in the workshop, and they proved to be comfortable and easy to wear. 

The pockets are useful and since I tend to confine myself to carrying a tape measure, several pencils, a phone and maybe the odd pocketful of screws, I didn’t strain my belt on the seven belt loops. 

With only one wash so far, they dried quickly on the rack, and were ready to use the following day. 

Aimed at: Pros and amateurs looking for practical, stylish and reasonably priced workwear.

Pros: Easy to wear and care for, and will make a practical coordinated range to cover all weathers.

Why buy?

• Comfortable
• Good fabrics
• Well made
• Will suit a range of trades and conditions
• Stylish with good colours
• Some hi vis safety in some garments
• Pockets aplenty!

Multi-Purpose Rectangular Sanding Plates from National Abrasives

Take Your Pick for a Job Well Done!

Piece by piece in the last few months, we at ToolBUSINESS+HIRE Magazine have been revealing the sanding system developed in partnership with and marketed by National Abrasives. Starting with the round and rectangular pole sanders, each new component has added to the versatility of the system. So, this month we have the rectangular sanders to look at.

I was sent four samples and a variety of sanding sheets so that I could explore just how versatile the extra components added to the system are. 

As I have come to expect, the quality of the sanding plates is very high. Made from yellow nylon plastic they are rigid and will not distort even under the pressure of pole sanding. As is common with the round and corner sanders we looked at earlier, the handles are interchangeable. It takes just a few seconds to swap from the nicely grippy D handle to a universal joint into which the professional (and excellently rigid) glass fibre pole can be screwed.

There is also currently a choice between methods of holding the abrasive to the plates – hook-and-loop or clips. I am not such a fan of clips, and hook-and-loop has come on so well that it seems like a no-brainer to me. However, when I was working with some decorators last week they said they preferred clips. I guess choice is the name of the game.

On the clip versions of the sanding plates there is a thin sheet of padded, hard foam rubber on the base of the plate, to provide a bit of ‘give’ needed in some sanding situations where the sanded surface is a bit more sensitive. The clips are also a much better design than the tedious spring clips I am used to on some sanders. The plate has a series of six small spikes that pierce the sanding sheet as it is pulled over – and then, before your fingers get spiked, the clip is brought down until it engages. My experience was that these clips didn’t fail and the sanding sheet stayed firmly in place however hard you pressed them to the sanding surface.

The other option on the sole plate was a simple sheet of hook-and-loop straight onto the rigid base of the sander. Again, the handle/universal joints were interchangeable in seconds, but this rigid base is good for sanding stubborn lumps of filler into submission when trying to get a flat surface to the wall. Or indeed, it is equally at home sanding a flat sheet of timber/ply or whatever.

Having used some of the other accessories on the round wall sander, I am pleased to see that the washable sponge and cloths have been catered for with these sanding plates. I am converted to the use of the hook-and-loop-backed sponge for wiping down after initial sanding, and the microfibre cloth is a must for every serious decorator and builder. The sponge is also used for tiling and grout removal, making this a great multi-purpose tool.

These rectangular plates all add up to valuable additions to the Multi-Purpose Sander System. The good thing is it won’t cost a fortune to add these to a set – and all the bits are compatible!

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