Mirka DEROS and Abranet Abrasives - Perfect Partners?

Sanding is not nearly as much of a chore since the invention of random orbital sanders and longer lasting abrasives. Chuck in a few dust control and collection regulations and some new materials to be sanded, and what the various manufacturers' R&D teams come up with can be truly amazing. I was impressed with the Mirka CEROS sander I tested a few years ago, so I looked forward to trying out the Mirka DEROS to see how far things had come.

DEROS – Direct Electric Random Orbital Sander

The Mirka DEROS 5650CV 125/150 Orbit 5.0 Case UK – its full title – arrived in a bright yellow, custom-fitted sustainer case. It all felt a bit lightweight for an industrially rated sander – but fear not, the lightness is very much a virtue, and by no means a reflection of the performance of the tool. It was also accompanied by a variety of net sanding discs so that I could compare the performance of the machine and discs in various sanding applications.

The DEROS is a well specified and thoroughly modern sander – and its price reflects this. But it is also very well made, versatile enough to fit into a large number of work scenarios, both on site and in the workshop, and it reflects most of the current developments in sanding technology. So once again it is a case that you get what you pay for.

A Brief Run Down of Specs

  • Integrated vibration sensor
  • 5mm oscillation
  • Powerful brushless motor
  • Constant speed electronics
  • Built-in motor brake
  • Soft start
  • Motor speed control lever
  • Improved dust collection backing
  • Left- or right-handed use – or two-handed use
  • Lightest machine on the market
  • General or specialised sanding
  • 125mm or 150mm sanding pad options
  • Performance comparable to a standard 500w electric ROS

Anyone who appreciates sanders will look at the above list and immediately get the point that the DEROS is a cut above. But there are a couple of features that caught my eye as significantly important to follow up on. 

For instance, the DEROS has an integrated vibration sensor that can be connected via Bluetooth and the myMirka App (downloadable via Google Play and the Apple app store) that monitors the exposure to vibration of its user. Sanding machines rely on a vibratory movement in order to work, so it is clear that users will be subject to some hand/arm vibration. Most users stop sanding when their fingers tingle – but this is not a safe indicator – so a vibration monitor that gives accurate timings is going to be a good deal safer.

The other thing that is obvious is that the DEROS is actually so compact and light that it is simply easier to handle and manipulate when sanding. The on/off switch is inset into the body and the operator simply pushes down the lever on top of the body to start sanding. This lever invites left- or right-handed use, and when it is released the sander stops very quickly due to the motor brake. It is very easy to get used to the ease and sophistication of this sander and it will make you think about how other random orbital sanders work.

The Abrasives?

Mirka is well known for its development of net-based abrasives. These have the advantage of not having to have holes pierced into the sanding discs in order to allow the collection of dust. The hook-and-loop backing is efficient enough to give a good grip on the sanding pad, as well as allowing dust to be vacuumed clear.

I was given three types of abrasives to compare – Abranet, Abranet Ace and Abranet Ace HD – but users have an excellent choice depending on what they are sanding. I have used simple Abranet discs a lot, even on my other random orbital sanders, and I have always managed to get an excellent and, more to the point, quick finish on my work. An easy task it would seem, since I mostly sand wood and manmade boards. If I have a small criticism of the discs it would be that I mess up the rims of the discs because I sand too close to edges.

Abranet Ace abrasives were developed for more demanding sanding applications. By using ceramic abrasive grains, tougher hardwoods, like oak, are easily and quickly sanded. But it can also be used fruitfully on various industrial finishes and primers. I tried it on beech, elm and oak and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I could get a decent result. If I could put a figure on it, I reckoned I could get a comparable result about 20 to 25% quicker than using my ‘standard’ abrasive discs on my ‘standard’ ROS. 

The Abranet Ace HD discs I was sent even looked slightly different from the above mentioned ones. The ceramic grains seemed to be a bit more prominent and attached to the disc so that the abrasive surface was more noticeable. On the back the net also looked woollier and deeper with very pronounced gaps in the net structure that would clearly allow the sanding dust to be quickly cleared through it. I tried some 40 and 60 grit discs to sand down a large area of wall that had to be prepared for painting. I have to say that the results were very impressive – to the point where I actually went up a few grades so that the sanding wouldn’t be too aggressive and destroy the plaster surface.

I tried something similar on painted wood and the job literally took a few minutes to clear the frame of a door back to the wood through several layers of old paint. Impressive – and time saving.

Perfect Partners?

The answer is of course, a definite yes. Having a lightweight and very efficient sander combined with some hard working and effective sanding discs is a winning combination. In truth, I am going to miss the DEROS a great deal when it goes back because I can genuinely say that it has saved me time and effort on the jobs I did with it. Hopefully I can hang onto it a few weeks longer...

Wera 2go Helps Us To Get Organised

Systems, Systems….

Regular users of Wera tools will know that the brand is well known for its systemisation. The tools are cunningly designed to work together to help users solve fixing and driving conundrums, as well as helping users like me maintain some semblance of organisation. Wera does this with careful tool presentation in wallets etc, and by making tool identification as easy as possible.

But most trades will identify with the following problem – even though all your tools may be organised into neat rolls and wallets in a toolbox, we don’t want to carry the whole box to the work point. So we do the next best thing – take a couple of handfuls of wallets and tool rolls and hope that there aren’t any unforeseen tool needs that come up. But wouldn’t it be good to have a quick method of carrying the tools – perhaps gathered from the workshop as well as the van – in a way that keeps them all organised, together and in an easy-to-carry (including up a ladder) format?

As ever, Wera designers have got there before us with the launch of the new 2go System, and regular Wera users will recognise on the 2go the wide use of hook and loop fixings and strong black nylon cases. I was sent several items of 2go, and even just unpacking the boxes and trying out various permutations I could start to appreciate just how clever 2go is.

Good news for retailers is that Wera has continued to develop the use of its high-quality, distinctive packaging. This sends all the right messages of quality and desirability that make for better sales and pride of ownership.

Wera 2go modular tool bags

All the pieces I was sent had the distinctive matt black packaging with slick modern logos, clear illustrations of the contents and an animation of how it could be used, so potential customers could be clear on what to buy and how to use its features to their optimum capacity.

I will start with what I think is the basic piece, the 2go 1. This looks like a little black evening bag at first glance, but it is in fact a semi-rigid piece of strong black nylon fabric folded in the middle with four faces. Inside and out it is covered with big patches of hook and loop material. Over the fold there is a loop handle sewn in, but to this can be attached an adjustable shoulder strap. The strap has a padded middle section (with the distinctive Wera logo on it) for easy carrying. In this form the 2go 1 is a blank canvas onto which many other things can be easily attached and then carried to the worksite in a convenient and organised way. Users who already have other Wera tools, like the rigid-walleted Zyklop and socket sets, will be able to attach these to the 2go 1 (on both sides) since they have the necessary hook and loop strips on them. I did try to attach as many of these wallets as I could – and it will carry a surprising amount of stuff – but the advice is don’t exceed 15kgs. Frankly, more than enough tools for one shoulder.

The most distinctive part of the 2go set in my view is the 2go 2. It consists of three pieces – the shoulder strap, the tool caddy pouch and the big rigid box - like a tool case. This case is 35cm wide, 34cm tall and 11cm deep, so is spacious enough to hold a good deal. But after a close examination I came to appreciate how versatility has been designed in. For example, in order to allow as much flexibility to attach smaller wallets, the outside – the front, back and sides – has hook and loop material attached to it. The front panel can also be folded down for easy access to the tools inside – and then the folded panel also has hook and loop attached. This increases the user’s ability to attach the wallets needed, as well as being able to work from the open case.

A similar arrangement on the lid, which can be folded right back flat, means that wallets can be attached here too.

The fact that the case has a big, flat base to enable it to stand upright on an even surface is also really helpful.

It wouldn’t be out of place to carry a small cordless drill driver and spare battery in the spacious main body of the case, but the third part of the 2go 2 comes into its own here. This is a tool caddy with adjustable compartments and its own nylon handle that is perfect for carrying the myriad of different screwdrivers we need to have with us these days. Since the screwdrivers can be arranged handle-up, we can take advantage of the fact that Wera drivers can be identified easily by the engraved marks on the top of the handles and their new Tool Finder colour code system, thus saving time and hassle.

The big, padded, adjustable shoulder strap has strong nylon lock-on clips that attach it to the tool case so that it can be carried easily, or even taken up a ladder to the work point.

The last piece of the set is the 2go 3. This is simply a large rigid wallet about 32cm long, 14cm high and 8cm deep with its own small carry handle sewn in. It is a great ‘hold all’ for spanners, pliers, cutters and even a small hammer. We all need a case like this for ‘unclassified’ or loose tools that are needed but don’t have to be organised into a set. A wide strip of hook and loop on the back of the case means that it is equally at home attached to the 2go 2 or the 2go 1, or attached to a space in the van or workshop.

There will surely be the naysayers who defy organisation and the 2go concept, but increasingly I see people onsite who have embraced organisation because they see that it saves time and bother. Time spent looking for tools is wasted time and clients don’t like it. The sheer flexibility of the 2go sets will allow users to customise their tools for particular jobs as well as minimising the need to lug a huge toolbox to the work point. Wera Tool Rebels won’t need convincing – they probably helped suggest the idea in the first place!

Fein Dustex 35 MX AC Extractor

Portable M Class Extraction for Improved Dust Safety

Cleaning up on many worksites and workshops still consists of a sweep round with a broom, thus actually raising the dust levels considerably. More recently, trades have been adopting vacuum extraction for power tools and then for the final clear up of the client’s floor. Vacs are a great improvement, especially for the lungs of the end users, but even more recently, the rules and our knowledge have changed. Vacs that were considered good enough (L class machines) are now thought to be failing.

What we need are M or H class vacuum extractors if we really want to do a good job of cleaning up dust from source. According to the EC regs, an M Class machine should filter out 99.9% of all non-carcinogenic dust, while H class vacs should filter out 99.995% of health-endangering dust, including dust with germs and bacteria, and asbestos.

But the cost of the extra dust protection is high. A simple L class vacuum cleaner can cost less than £70. A typical good M class machine is more likely to be in the £4-500 price bracket, while H class machines can be over £1000 depending on capacity and function. Healthy breathing is as essential to life as eating – we have a responsibility to ourselves and others to control, capture and minimise dust wherever possible, especially the silica and wood dusts most associated with building sites.

Being mainly a woodworker I try to capture wood dust straight from the power tool concerned – some are easier than others. But it really helps if you have a vacuum extractor that is flexible enough to use in a workshop or on site, with all the fittings needed for cleaning a floor as well as extracting from a variety of machines. Enter the Fein Dustex 35MX AC – a machine that I will be loath to say goodbye to at the end of my tests. There are many things to like about it, so let’s start with a few features.

For ease of handling the Fein is up there because it has 5 metres of ‘proper’ tough 35mm diameter corrugated hose. It also has about 7 metres of heavy-duty rubberised electric cable, making the ‘working circle’ about 12 metres – enough for much site work. These also make it easy to position the vac out of the way for avoiding trip hazards.

Movement of the machine is pretty easy on its four wheels (front wheels are braked) and the 18cm diameter back wheels are big enough to run over rough stuff and be easier when going upstairs.

​Aimed at: Discerning users who want efficient dust collection from tools and floors etc  Pros: Powerful vacuum, adjustable, easy to use, power tool friendly.

Controls on the 35 MX are easy to understand and operate. The auxiliary power take off takes a standard plug and when a power tool is plugged in there is a decent run-on time after switching off the tool to collect any dust remaining in the hose. There is also a dial for adjusting the hose diameter if needed - up to 50mm diameter down to 15mm for use on small hoses needed for smaller power tools. The suction rate can be adjusted too – some things don’t need full power to extract properly.

There is also a switch for auto cleaning. Once engaged this allows the machine to unclog the filters while in use and this is when you will hear a sort of ‘boomp boomp’ sound as it clears.

I really liked the short tubular metal push handle that makes moving the Dustex easy. If you don’t need it, it can be unscrewed via two knobs on the base.

Much provision is made for storing the various accessories that come with the machine. The cable can be wound around the handle and the hose around the body so that it is fairly compact to move. Rubber bungees are provided to help hold things in place in transit.

Another little touch is that the top of the filter housing is shaped flat to hold a typical Fein toolcase so that tools and extraction can travel together.

Inside the large, 35l body the pleated box filter is tucked away so as not to interfere with space for collecting dust. This is easy to replace, provided you protect yourself from the inevitable dust on the filter. Simply lift the back part of the top of the casing and the filter is pulled out with two fingers.

Accessories are generous and suitable for workshop or site use. The two-part tubular pole can have a floor cleaner, nozzle or brush fitting on it and all the press fits are safe and secure, and dust free. The base can be lined with a plastic bag or paper dust bag for safer emptying and disposal of waste, and of course you can collect water with it straight into the base.

What impressed me with the Fein Dustex was the power of its suction. It really is an efficient machine with lots of airflow to keep the work area clean – whether it is from a circular saw or a static machine like a router table. It is also remarkably well behaved and easy to use because it has been well designed and thought out in the first place. It is the sort of machine that will be used because it is not a hassle to get it connected, or change from one function to another.

I used it both on site and in my workshop. In the workshop it kept the router table surface clean and dust free despite having to be connected via an adaptor. The noise levels are not bad and cleaning floors at the end of the day was a doddle. On site the client asked to have a go with it because her domestic cleaner was making no impression on the dust left by the decorators and their rather pathetic vacuum cleaner. Even the decorators asked about it once they noticed how efficient the clean-up was and it gave me an opportunity to tell them a bit more about adequate dust protection. A paper mask won’t always cut it!

There are lots of things to like about this machine and in my view it should definitely be on a shortlist of M class vacuums - now that we should all be doing something about workplace dust.

The DC Tromb 400 - Feel the Power of Dustcontrol!

Controlling dust is a circumstantial business – there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. The dust extractor used by a one-man trade operation is bound to be different from that used by an industrial user. Step forward the DC Tromb 400 from Dustcontrol UK. Compared to the normal portable vacuums I use on site, it is a monster, weighing in at about 50Kgs all up. It stands over 1.5 m tall on its huge back puncture-proof wheels, and the rear handle is definitely needed to trundle it around. That being said, it is quite a controllable monster. I made a point of wheeling it about to photograph it, and when I was using it to clean up some ready-prepared detritus. One person can move it and control it easily, and the braked front wheels allow it to be held stationary when needed. Even moving up and down stairs, the DC Tromb 400 is easily a one-person job, and it will fit comfortably through a standard-sized doorframe.

The DC Tromb 400 - Feel the Power of Dustcontrol

The intended end users for this machine are definitely at the more dangerous silica-dust-based top-end of the market – think floor grinders and concrete grinders – where near perfect dust extraction is not only desirable, but necessary. The DC Tromb 400 will cope with the dust from a floor grinder, with a working width of 500mm or a large electric cut-off saw.

To cope with these dangerous dusts the machine has to be enormously powerful, with suction enough to whip away the dust particles, as well as having the ancillary features to protect users from leakage etc. The joints in hoses, dust gates and so on need to be perfect. The 115-volt DC Tromb 400 I was loaned has a 2680W motor that is remarkably quiet in operation – a mere 70dB(A) – quieter than some small portable machines I have used.

The flow rate of air through the 75mm diameter inlet is 330m3/hr - that's enough to give you a bit of pause for thought if you hold your hand over the end! How to explain a big love bite on your hand?

The next big item to consider is the corrugated anti-static hose that is sometimes overlooked in terms of importance, but is, in fact, key to the overall performance of the machine. With an outside diameter of 60mm it is wide enough to pull in the quite large pieces of debris that might be generated when cleaning up around concrete cutting or grinding sites, or most likely when cleaning up on a general building site. The machine end of the hose has a generous rubber fitting that can be pushed far onto the inlet spout so that the dust and air seal is perfect. At the other end is a ribbed spout that will not only fit the cleaning head supplied, but a range of other accessories too. The hose is quite heavy because it is heavy duty and resists kinking and even the odd clumsy foot that stands on it. But it is very flexible and stretchy to reach into quite small gaps.

DC Tromb 400

We are quite used to the common use of plastic to make the body of many small dust extraction machines, but the DC Tromb 400 is solidly made from welded sheet steel with a tubular steel frame to support it. It looks as though the whole machine would be able to take a few knocks and still be able to function, and since this could be a hire machine, it needs to be solidly built to be ‘hire-proof’.

Ease of use is a big factor in making effective use of dust extraction. It is no use collecting all the dust and then raising even more dust as you attempt to empty the machine. The variant of the Tromb 400 I used has a simple and effective system of emptying the dust bag. Debris and dust is collected into what looks like a clear plastic shopping bag with handles. To remove the bag, a tight strap around the base of the machine needs to be loosened and the bag released and tied-off for safety. The new bag can be eased on and the handles hung over the small hooks on each side of the base. The strap is then pulled tight against a rubber sealing ring on the body to ensure a dust-free seal.

Dustcontrol Tromb 400 Vacuum

For collecting wood dust and shavings and concrete dust, Dustcontrol recommends a pre-separator that not only allows much larger amounts of dust and chippings to be collected, but also protects the filters from clogging with fine dust, thus extending their service life.

There are other variants that can be used to optimise the dust collection and ease of use of the Dustcontrol range of machines, so potential clients need to ask which ones are available.

Accessing the filters is easy - simply unclip the top of the main body and the round hepa filter can be removed, revealing the conical main filter underneath. Such is the quality of filter protection on the Tromb, the hepa filter looked clean despite being a well-used demo machine. One of the factors in maintaining a dust extractor is how often the expensive filters need to be replaced, and it is a fact that Dustcontrol can save you money – for example, the average life of one of its hepa filters is around 12 months. Filter cleaning is also helped by the semi-automatic cleaning system provided – simple to use and very quick – and it means that there is no messy and potentially unsafe filter cleaning required onsite.

The thing that most first time users will notice is that the DC Tromb 400 has amazing suction power. I am willing to bet that if you attached the heavy-duty floor cleaning attachment and ran it down the average garden path you would collect a lot more than you bargained for – even down to pebbles and stones upwards of 25mm in size. I managed to create a dust-free concrete floor in my workshop with a couple of passes of the rugged cast alloy head cleaning tool, and it would be the same when cleaning up the floor on a building site. The cyclone-based suction and filtration provided by its class H extraction rating puts it into the top range of safe dust collection, and end users should consider this when purchasing – better to go to the top than to end up having to repurchase as needs change. The cyclone system also means that suction power remains consistent for longer. All portable Dustcontrol UK machines are H class rated – it might make choice easier?

So, I still think that the DC Tromb 400 is a monster compared to some of the machines I have used, but it is a well-mannered monster that is easy to move around, has phenomenal suction performance, and, with its H class rating, will remove dangerous silica dust from the worksite. For your own lung safety it should be on your shortlist.

Aimed at: Professionals who need excellent dust control and collection.

Pros: H Class as standard, and robust construction for a long working life.


Bosch Builds-in Connectivity

The Future for Tools Too?

It seems as though we need ‘Smart’ everything nowadays. Smartphones, Smartmeters and Smart apps are needed to control everything, from our diaries to our heating systems, so it is only a small step to investigate how connectivity can improve our tools and the way we use them. In this regard, Bosch has taken the lead by introducing a small range of six connected tools for what Bosch has amusingly called the ‘Millennitool Generation.’ Bosch has started simply with the small range of ‘connected’ tools but has cleverly future-proofed the designs by allowing the tools to be upgraded via the changeable tool modules and the free downloadable App that accompanies the packages.

Bosch is definitely on to something, because I will bet that there isn’t a building or worksite in the land that does not have its workers constantly consulting their smartphones for everything, from finding lunch locally to online ordering of some new tool or fixture needed.

The basis of the tool connectivity is the well-established Bluetooth model for sending or receiving data. While Bluetooth doesn’t have a long range (about 30m with no obstacles in the way) it is nevertheless a very handy way of connecting.

There is no better way of finding out the wrinkles than trying it yourself, and fortunately Bosch had sent me a sample of the GSB 18V-60 C Professional brushless cordless combi on which to try it out. On the main handle of the drill, just below the trigger, is a small screw cap that conceals the battery and connectivity module. To activate it simply remove the cap and the insulating strip from the battery top and retighten the cap.

Loading the Bosch Toolbox App is as simple as finding it in the Appstore and clicking to download it. This took only a few minutes and I found the app commendably simple to use, even without my glasses, and on a small smartphone screen! By simply pressing the drill’s trigger, thereby alerting Bluetooth that the tool was in the vicinity, I was very soon informed of the exact model of drill on my screen and that the battery needed charging! So, I did what I was told and recharged the battery and had another try. By clicking on the image of the drill I was informed of its factory status in terms of the LED light and the kickback settings, the battery charge and the precision clutch. A whole lot more information from run times to kickback activations is available on the menu so that you can get a really detailed picture of how the drill has been used. The perfect way to check up on the people who borrow your tools or indeed, valuable info for a service department.

In Europe, apparently, it is common for companies to provide their workers with tools, and this connectivity system is an ideal way for these companies to identify, find, service and maintain their tools. In the UK it is much more common for trades to have responsibility for their own tools, so on the face of it, it would seem that the connectivity is not needed as much. Since the connectivity module is an option, users can choose to buy into it or not. However, I offer this observation: having had the opportunity to observe at an electronic level the performance and capability of the drill after a couple of weeks, I became fascinated with the ability to change and control it, look at usage patterns and generally keep an eye on it. So, almost in spite of myself, I started to buy into the system. I am also keen to find out how the system might be developed in the future, since both the app and the module can be easily updated at very little cost. Increasingly, this might become the way in which service intervals and safety concerns can be highlighted. Should Bluetooth change or another tracking system be developed, theft could be combatted or longer range remote location could be developed.  My guess is that once the system has bedded in, users will start making suggestions for uses and developments, and like a lot of things these days, the system will only be limited by the imagination and ingenuity of Bosch and its end users. Not to mention that both Bosch and end users will benefit from accurate information about uses, service information, purchase dates and guarantees.

It is clear that Bosch has put some thought into choosing the other tools that are part of the ‘connected’ range. Recently I have been using laser cross-levels quite a lot for everything from tiling to locating and levelling handrails on stairs. The new range of GCL 2-50 C and CG Professional Line lasers, available since the beginning of April, have a few features that would make my life easier. For example, with the laser in locked position and fixed to a firm base, it would be possible to move the laser beam by using a smartphone as a control – even if you are perched on a ladder on the other side of the room tracking the laser beam’s position. A lot easier than trying to ease it into place guided by a couple of tiny pencil marks on a wall and your mate’s instructions. I definitely want to try one of those!

Bosch Builds-in Connectivity

Some of the other ‘connected tools’ are the GSB 18V-85 Professional Combi drill and drill drivers, and the GWS 18V-125 Professional angle grinder. These have state-of-the-art EC brushless motors and electronic control systems to prevent kickback and overheating. Some other tools, like inspection cameras and damp and humidity meters, are ideal candidates for the modular treatment, since they can be remotely connected to report back to clients on the findings of the instruments.

Bosch clearly wants its users to embrace the ‘Millennitools’ and their connectivity and avoid being stuck in ‘Neandertool’ times. I like innovation, not always for its own sake, and I can see that Bosch’s connectivity system, because it is so flexible and future-proofed, will be widely adopted.

 Bosch Builds-in Connectivity

ZIPP Mini Air Sander from Master Abrasives

Dinky Sanding With Fine Control

Most of us will use an abrasive at some point in our lives and most will not give a second thought about where the abrasive came from or what brand it was.  But we would notice if it was ineffective in use – and maybe even complain about it!

However, there is also a large group of professionals who depend on using abrasives every working day, and they generally do care - passionately - about the quality and cost of the abrasives they use, because they need speed, accuracy, consistency and efficiency in their abrasives to do a good job.

Master Abrasives, based in Daventry, Northamptonshire, has been supplying abrasives in the UK for nearly fifty years, and over that time has built a reputation for providing high quality products and professional service under the MASTER brand.

With four distinctive business units - MASTER Precision Abrasives, MASTER Surface Finishing, MASTER Tool Services and MASTER Grinding Machines, the company aims to cover the specialist needs in UK industries for abrasives, machinery and grinding. Working to ISO standard 9001, the company has set a benchmark for others in the UK to follow.

I was sent an intriguing little set to try out – a new product – the ZIPP Mini Air Sander. It comes in a self-contained custom case with all the discs and pads needed to prepare a panel for finishing and painting, for example. This is what you get in the case: -

  • 3" Mini Sander (ZP386A) 1pc
  • Medium Density Holder Pad 1pc
  • 60 Grit MASTER Zirconium Quick Change Sanding Disc 10 pcs
  • 80 Grit MASTER Zirconium Quick Change Sanding Disc 10 pcs
  • 120 Grit MASTER Zirconium Quick Change Sanding Disc 10 pcs
  • Coarse Surface Conditioning Quick Change Disc 1pc
  • Medium Surface Conditioning Quick Change Disc 1pc
  • Fine Surface Conditioning Quick Change Disc 1pc

It was of course the little  ZIPP Mini Sander that really caught my eye – it is indeed mini – just big enough to fit into one hand. It feels heavy and robust – but air tools need to be constructed to withstand a bit of air pressure so that is to be expected. The ZIPP Mini sander has a good quality rubberised grip, a black trigger just big enough for one finger, and a speed control button on the back above the handle. Turn the button to the left for a slower speed and to the right for high speed. In high speed mode, you can hear the revs going by the hint of the air tool whine. Exhaust air is ejected downwards from the bottom of the handle, above the inlet adaptor, where it shouldn’t cause any problems with the dust caused by the sanding.

In operation, the ZIPP Mini sander has such good bearings that there is no vibration and very little noise apart from the air escaping. I also found that it was easy to control and move to reach patches where you needed to work. The choice of speeds also adds to the controllability, because at high speeds the amount of material that can be removed is considerable considering that the discs are only 75mm in diameter.

Attaching the various discs and surface conditioning disc is very easy. On the back of each disc is a metal nipple with a simple single thread on it. The nipple is fitted to the recess on the Mini sander rubber platen and turned clockwise to lock it into place. I was worried that the discs might not sit flat on the platen or might come loose. However, in use, I found that this system was perfectly secure as the action of the sander tends to tighten the disc onto the tool. Because the rubber platen is slightly flexible it is possible to shape it to curves and bumps on the workpiece, within reason, without the edges of the abrasive cutting in. Experience with the tool will improve your skills in this area!

I did try a sample of every grade of the abrasive discs as well as the three surface conditioning discs.

The abrasive used on the discs is Zirconium, which is a high quality, long lasting and efficient abrasive often used on metals. The discs themselves are cloth backed and slightly flexible, and the nipple appears to be glued on with a strong enough glue to resist the inevitable heat and pressure of sanding. For a really quick removal of rust, coatings, paint etc the 60 grit discs make short work of the job. There is quite a force on the tool so you need to be careful to position it correctly to ensure that you get a good job without the tool twisting. But with the small discs you can reach into smaller crevices and joints that might not be possible with a bigger machine.

I largely used the ZIPP Mini sander to help me clean up some light steel shelves and components before repainting them and putting them back into use. With my trusty small 8 BAR compressor (all air tools should run at 7 bar maximum, otherwise will shorten the life of the tool), I found that I had easily enough air pressure for continuous work, even at the higher speed.

As I have mentioned before, preparation of the tool for working is simple and quick, as is selecting the appropriate discs - I found that the 60 grit was just too rough on the paint removal job, so I stuck to the 80 and 120 grits. I did find myself leaving a few semi-circular score marks, but that is due to my lack of practice rather than the tool. Once the paint was cleaned, I applied the medium and fine surface conditioning discs and ended up with a surface that was nearly mirror-like. More than I needed for a simple paint job on top, but it was worth a try to see how perfect it could be.

I can see that this tool set would have many uses for several reasons. The kit of discs and air tool come in a small case so are easy to store and carry. The simple addition of a small compressor makes it ready to use, so trades working out of the back of vans doing small repainting jobs and repairs would find it useful – as long as they remembered to replenish the discs when they were worn!



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!

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

It may come as a surprise to end-users that there are relatively few manufacturers of abrasives in the world. What they generally produce for mass consumer markets are so-called ‘jumbo rolls’ some of which are sold to other companies who in turn convert the jumbo rolls into various forms of abrasive that can be used by consumers. So, that 5 metre roll of abrasive for decorators, flat sheets, delta shapes or various round discs with fancy hole patterns to aid dust extraction, are all made from huge rolls of abrasive that are as tall as a person and weigh much more.

National Abrasives, based in Reigate in Surrey, is a major player in the UK in converting Jumbo rolls into ‘end-usable’ formats of ‘sandpaper’ for consumers. National Abrasives has recently launched its range of mesh-backed abrasive sheets that covers pretty well all the available formats of hook-and-loop based sanding machines. Until recently, there has been little competition in the mesh-backed abrasives market for general users, but the decision of National Abrasives to source mesh-backed abrasives from one of the most famous names in ‘sandpaper’, Sia, has immediately added another dimension to the competition.

Sia Abrasives is a Swiss company with a long history. Founded in 1867 it has been making abrasives and innovating for over a hundred years and is renowned for the quality of its abrasives. The abrasive grits used on the sianet mesh-backed abrasives is blue-fired aluminium oxide that is extremely hard, and therefore long lasting, with a high resistant fabric backing.

The abrasive grains are applied using a special coating method that coats the mesh parts of the backing, but also leaves the gaps between the mesh open for easy transition of the sanding dust through it.

The sianet mesh uses a hook-and-loop fixing that, in my view, is the best way of attaching an abrasive to a sanding machine because it keeps the abrasive sheets flat and firmly fixed. The old-fashioned method of using spring-loaded clips is clumsy and very often ineffective, to say the least. Sianet’s method of attaching the abrasive grains to the mesh keeps them free of the fastening loops and this makes for a secure and long-lasting fixing to the sander platen.

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

I was sent a huge variety of National Abrasive’s range of mesh-backed abrasive sheets to try out. These included half, quarter and third sheet formats for platen sanders, large and small delta formats, including the delta shapes that look more like the base of an ordinary steam iron. There was also a selection of discs to fit my favourite 125mm and 150mm diameter random orbit sanders. I use these regularly and they are the mainstay of my sanding operations, be it on painted walls or fine furniture.

If I am not mistaken, there will soon be mesh-backed belt sander belts available from National Abrasives as well.

There is a good range of grits available in the above formats too - typically from P80 to P400 – so there should be enough to cover everything from first coat sanding and paintwork to the fine finishing required for an oil or polished finish.

What is very noticeable when handling the abrasives is that the abrasive surfaces are so sharp that they tend to cling to your fingers – surely an indication of how the abrasive grains will perform when they finally get to work – and of course a good thing that they are!

However, there was a little surprise in each pack of abrasives – the blue Dust Director Pad. This is a millimetre thin pad that has a multitude of holes in the surface. They are not random – they are designed to fit the various dust collection holes in the myriad of makes of sanders on the market. The pad has a set of hooks on one surface and a set of loops on the other and is attached to the sandpaper by the hooks and to the sander by the loops. The Dust Director Pad is therefore an interface between the disc and the sander platen and the object of it is to create a small gap through which dust particles can travel more quickly when the sander is connected to a vacuum extractor.

National Abrasives Introduce Sianet

To be honest, all of my regularly used sanders have been chosen because of their sanding performance and their ability to collect dust well, using either a dust bag or extractor. It keeps customers happy and my lungs healthy.

I tried using the mesh-backed sianet pads on my sanders and it was clear that more dust was being extracted to the vacuum machine. The usual puff of dust occurred as you sand over an edge for example, but that seems to be unavoidable using traditional sanders. So, when I attached the Dust Director Pads I was interested to see whether they made a difference as to how much dust was collected. It is clear that the pads create just enough of a gap to increase the effective ‘pull’ from the vacuum extractor and clear the path to the various dust extraction holes for more efficient extraction. Even sanding up to the edges seemed to be an improvement, with the puff of dust as the telltale sign virtually eliminated. The result is the multi-hole Dust Director pad with the sianet without doubt collects more dust than any other product seen on the market.

Whatever format of sanding machine you use, they will give quick results and a smooth finish. In fact the sianet abrasive has out performed any other mesh abrasive I have used, with the edges of the sheets performing very well and the harder grit making for a much longer lasting product. 
With the extra dust extraction provided by the Dust Director Pads, users can feel that they are maximising the possibilities of collecting most dust safely. The dangers of exposure to dust are now becoming fully understood and it makes no sense for anyone exposed to dust to ignore the possible effects. The National Abrasive sianet abrasives, linked with the Dust Director Pads and a quality M or H class vacuum extractor should provide some confidence to users that the dangers of dust exposure are being minimised.

Aimed at: Pros and discerning amateurs who want effective and almost completely free sanding with machines.

Pros: Long lasting Sianet abrasive, dust director pads give excellent dust collection and all the formats you need for all machines.

Hitachi NT1865DBSL Brushless Straight Finish Nailer

Hitachi NT1865DBSL Brushless Straight Finish Nailer

There have been quite a few projects I have worked on where the use of a good finish nailer would have been great – especially one not limited by a cord or a compressor.

Many of the finish nailers I have tried, either cordless or corded have worked well enough, but I have always had the feeling that if they drive a nail well, then the ‘wind-up’ before the nail hammer struck was too long. Or if the reaction to the trigger was quick, then the nail driving was unconvincing. It is therefore so good to use a cordless machine that drives the nail instantly, as soon as the trigger is pressed, with the ‘clunk’ of authority that tells you that the nail is well and truly driven home. This Hitachi will convince its users that it is completely up to the job, and I am sure that it will gain many satisfied users. Certainly, if reaction to this tool in the US so far is reflected in the UK, then Hitachi UK will have to work hard to keep up with demand.

Some of the effectiveness of this nailer must be due to the fact that it uses one of the latest Hitachi brushless motors. Generally more efficient, quieter, more powerful and maintenance-free due to being sealed units, brushless motors have been the other side of the Lithium Ion revolution by allowing Li-Ion battery packs to deliver more runtime, etc, because of their relative efficiency.  So look forward to up to 1500 nails per charge on the compact 3Ah battery packs supplied with the machine, as well as smooth operation and less maintenance.

Hitachi NT1865DBSL Brushless Straight Finish Nailer

Picking it up straight out of the box the Hitachi follows the design pattern of other nailers with its big top cover and driving head with a handle and nail magazine attached. With a 3 Ah battery it weighs in at 3.3 Kgs so is neither too light nor too heavy. It needs a bit of weight to minimise recoil, but also needs to be light enough to use all day without you becoming fatigued. However, even after a few minutes of handling it is clear that Hitachi has done quite a lot of homework on this design. The operating handle is well designed with good rubber gripping liberally, but sensibly, placed. The handle is small enough to get a good hold on it for either left or right handers, and there are other strategic bumpers of rubber placed over the body so that the tool can be put down safely or even sustain a few bumps without damage.

The nail magazine is largely made of rugged plastic that is both light and strong. Loading it with nails (it will take 16 Gauge straight nails from 25mm to 65mm long) is very simple – simply pull back the spring-loaded nail feeder, push down the lever to allow the nails to slip by and then release the nail feeder where it applies a delicate pressure to the nail strip to ensure a gentle feed. The nail strips have fifty nails per strip and this nailer will hold a couple of strips – easily enough to be getting on with work without too many interruptions.

Hitachi NT1865DBSL Brushless Straight Finish Nailer

The business end of the nailer – the all-important hammer pin and nose mechanism - are strongly made in cast metal and plastic. I particularly liked the optional round plastic nose on the end of the firing head. It is mounted on two sprung metal columns that have to be pushed at least 12 to 15mm down onto the work for the trigger to fire – this makes it hard to accidentally fire the nailer. Secondly, the plastic nose gives you a sort of target to aim at where the nail should go, so it was easy to be more accurate in placing your nails, and it also protected the workpiece from damage. If I used this machine regularly I would be tempted to keep this cap on permanently.  

I actually never needed to remove the nose cover for real to unblock a nail stoppage, despite using all of the nails that were sent with the test machine (firing nails effortlessly into a fencepost can be quite therapeutic as well as being called research) but when I did it, just to check how to do it, the process is simple and involves pushing the lock lever forward which unhooks the nose assembly, revealing the stuck nail.

Setting the depth for nail driving is done via a knurled wheel on the nose – it takes a bit of trial and error depending on timber hardness and nail size but is not difficult to do.

Safety with nailers is very important and the instruction booklet is comprehensive as well as very careful to point out the safety requirements when loading nails or unblocking a nail stoppage for example. You really can’t say you didn’t know.

On the back inside of the operating handle is a little display panel that informs the user of several things. First of all, in the middle is the power switch. Once a battery is installed, this is where the tool is turned on or off. Next to this is a battery indicator switch that shows via a couple of LEDs what the state of the battery is – if it blinks at you then it is time to recharge the battery.

Finally, there is a mode switch to select single or continuous firing modes. Continuous mode is great – just push the machine into the workpiece and it fires – it makes for very fast work.

An extra layer of safety is added by the addition of another on/off switch on the handle. This is deeply recessed to avoid being switched accidentally and it does mean that careful users will always show that they are ready to use the machine intentionally and it helps keep little fingers from fiddling and unintentionally firing the nail gun.

Another feature on the body is a reversible hook for hanging the machine on a handy rafter or whatever. The hook itself can be folded away so that it does not catch.

Packed with features as it is, the Hitachi NT1865DBSL cordless nailer will, in my view, be purchased for one thing only – its sheer performance. With an instant response to the trigger and proper nail-driving power it’s a gutsy tool that will deliver again and again.

Aimed at: Professional second fix carpenters, shopfitters, etc

Pros: No trigger lag, powerful enough to drive a 65mm nail, light and very effective. Try one – amazing!

STIXALL Double Sided Tape

STIXALL Double Sided Tape

This is a Stick Up!

‘Normal’ double-sided tape does a job, but it does have a few problems in use. It is usually made as thin as a standard sticky tape, and that can create some problems in handling. Sticking the first bit down is easy because it comes off the roll sticky-side ready – but then getting the backing off to reveal the second sticky side is where having long fingernails and a knack with double-sided tape is very handy. Also, once stuck, the ‘stick’ on some double-sided tapes is not particularly strong, so to be safe, standard double-sided tapes should not be used for hanging objects more than a couple of hundred grams in weight.

This leaves the market open for a double-sided tape with real bonding strength that is also invisible and will stick on most smooth-ish substrates. It is not fashionable to reveal fixing points these days so it is great to have a solution like STIXALL double-sided tape.

STIXALL Tape comes in a 19mm wide by 2.5m long roll and the blurb says it will bond on virtually all substrates and it will be “durable and long lasting.”

I think the first time you realise that you are dealing with a very strong adhesive is when you try to pull the clear protective display film from the roll – it doesn’t come off too easily. The lesson is perhaps that if you don’t use all of the roll, store it in a plastic bag so it doesn’t pick up dust and debris from your tool box.

The tape itself feels and looks like a 2mm-thick layer of silicone. It feels sticky, but is not so sticky that it can’t be handled easily – for example it won’t stick to your skin and it is easier to manage because of its thickness. That common problem of tapes that stick to themselves and then can’t be separated is minimised on the STIXALL tape. Without the backing in place the tape is stretchy – but should not be stretched when being applied to a substrate. 

Applying the tape is simplicity itself – simply lay it down where you want it and press gently on the backing tape to get the initial tack. It is possible to lift the tape again gently if you go wrong – something not really possible on standard double-sided tape. Once you are satisfied with the position of the ‘first fix’ simply pull the blue backing off – you won’t need to twist it or use a fingernail or blade to do this – it comes off really easily.

STIXALL Double Sided Tape

Then the next bit is critical – clearly you need to ensure that the other substrate is clean and correctly positioned before it is pushed up against the sticky tape and then it needs to have some pressure applied to it for a few minutes to ensure a good bond.

I tried the STIXALL on ceramic tiles, Perspex and on smooth birch plywood. On really smooth surfaces like Perspex, once stuck, it is almost impossible to remove it without using force – usually enough to crack the plastic rather than break the tape.

Even on the plywood the bond was very good and showed that you could use the STIXALL to hang small pictures etc quite safely.

Aimed at: Discerning users who need STRONG double sided tape.

Pros: So good you can make it stick on almost anything and the bond is strong too – try it to hang pictures, even!


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