Wera: Tool Rebels or Conformists? TBH investigates!

While at Cologne ToolBUSINESS+HIRE  got the chance to speak to Martin Strauch, President and CEO of Wera and Ian Walford, MD of Wera UK. 

The perennially crowded, noisy and Gemutlich atmosphere of the Wera stand at the Cologne Tool Fair is a difficult place to have a serious chat with two important people in Wera about what makes the company tick. The two people concerned were Martin Strauch, President and CEO of Wera and Ian Walford, MD of Wera UK. Perhaps the reason why the interview worked at all was the interviewees showed enormous patience, incredible good humour and a sheer sense of mischief that helped us gain at least one key insight into Wera - namely that it is a serious company making seriously good products, yet one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. A paradox indeed, that may make more sense as we move on.

It all started as a chat with Ian Walford from the UK, who had promised us a cameo on life at Wera. He was in full flow, having ordered us food and drinks from the ever-busy Wera kitchen on the stand, when he spotted Martin, the CEO across the stand. Saying something like “You don’t need to hear it from me, hear it from the top man himself.” Martin was persuaded to join us and it was clear from the start that he was no stiff and starchy figurehead standing on his dignity, and very soon we were engulfed in a wide-ranging chat about many things – tools, Wera, invention, life and everything.

Martin’s starting point was Wera’s belief and aim that their tools “make life simpler, safer and full of joy for their users.” These are a set of company aims that underline the paradox of Wera in my view. Conventional companies might go for the “simpler and safer” bit but many would shy away from the “full of joy”, simply because its not corporate enough, or because they think that they can’t be responsible for its customers’ joy in using tools. The paradox was further underlined by the obvious expression of mischief in Martin’s face as he delivered the lines, and yet he took the work seriously too.

Some of this down to earth attitude might come from the fact that Martin is not a “business” person complete with MBA and accounting qualifications. He is in fact, a time served, qualified engineer with a profound understanding of the trades that are Wera’s customers, who understands that there can be as much creativity in solving an engineering issue as painting a portrait.

It is this creative approach that Martin says will make customers happier and “full of joy.” Wera’s approach to creativity is to be wide open to all and sundry ideas no matter where they come from.

It is fashionable in the tool trade to send out “field teams” to interrogate tradespeople about what they want and then translate these into new products. Again, with tongue firmly in cheek, Martin says that if Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted they would have replied that they needed “faster horses.” The point is that creative solutions often surprise a market, with consumers soon adopting the solutions on offer.

Wera’s creative approach has echoes of Steve Jobs’ mantra of “selling dreams, not products.” The new style of jet black packaging also echoes the distinctive, high quality ethos of Wera that makes the customers feel valued and proud to choose a superior product.

Martin also emphasized that Wera’s focus is relentlessly simple – “We focus on the screw,” so there is no fiddling on the periphery trying out ideas that are marginal to the Wera product offer. With a smallish team of engineers working full time on R&D, new ideas do not come only from them. All members of the Wera team are welcome to contribute their ideas for consideration. Ian pointed out that it was his idea to store the release pin of the new extension ratchet handle in the end of the handle itself and this is now in production (review in this edition)

The product design team also does a lot of work demonstrating their products at shows, thus completing the loop. They not only get to meet the customers who are hopefully “full of joy,” but may also pick up ideas that could lead to further developments.

Martin also had an interesting take on manufacturing. He argues that if Wera had a forging plant for instance, it would feel obliged to use the plant for production. But this might limit the possibility of exploring other manufacturing methods that may be needed to realize a range of new products. For this reason he told us that Wera is never constrained by production methods. As long as quality can be guaranteed, Wera is happy to outsource production, even outside Germany, in its search for tools that “fill us with joy.” This approach can have its downsides too, as sometimes the search for an appropriate manufacturing partner can take a long time, thus slowing the launch of a new product.

It was very clear from the reception and attitude of all Wera staff that not only do their tools try to “fill us with joy”, but they also enjoy working there. Martin confirmed that staff turnover is minimal and all are on board with the prevailing ethos.

Customers too, have their own joyous outlet for ideas and expression. Wera users are encouraged to join the Wera “Tool Rebels” website where they can share their own sensible, inventive, odd or eccentric ideas for using their tools as well as expressing their passion for the Wera philosophy.  Again, this creates a great feedback loop for R&D, and becomes a forum for problem solving and idea sharing. The kind of feedback that companies pay valuable money for, and it sure beats focus groups.

So, next time you buy a Wera product, you might have a bit more of an insight into what goes into it – another loop completed, and yet still the same Wera paradox applies: - a fun company with serious products? Or a serious company with fun products? Or do they both exist?  

To read Peter's Wera Reviews, click here.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk.

Three Driver Sets from Wera - Spoilt for Choice-Again!

Aimed at:Pro users who need just that something different to solve some screw driving dilemnas.

Pros: Professional quality kit that is always well designed to be part of a comprehensive Wera System. It helps solve problems everyday.

Just when you think that there is nothing more to be developed (after all, a screwdriver is a screwdriver, is it not?)  along comes Wera with tools that just seem to go that little bit further along the road and solve a few more fixing puzzles.  For some, these tools themselves might seem to be unnecessary, but as I have found, they can often be the solution for a difficult fixing dilemma or a get-out-of-trouble-tool that leaves you wondering why no-one except Wera seems to have thought of the idea before now.

The Wera KK Pistol RA is a classic example of this. There have been pistol shaped drivers on the market before now, but I suspect (know?) that none has been as good as this one. To start at the beginning…

For classy presentation it is hard to beat the black Wera presentation boxes that simply ooze quality – great for both retailers and purchasers. The KK Pistol RA box can be stood on a counter or hung on a toolbar. On the back of the box are clear illustrations to show the basics of operation, as well as a list of contents. Open the box and there is the pistol held in a neat black nylon holster complete with belt hook - ready to be added to a technician’s on-the-go toolkit straightaway. And my guess is that this is largely how it will be used – namely as a first call tool, ready in an instant without the need for the bulky toolbox with all the other tools that might be needed later.

My first instinct on getting hold of the pistol was to find the best grip on it for maximum twisting power. The handle is cleverly designed using the Wera Kraftorm handle design so that users can choose their own grip according to taste or circumstances. But the one that I liked best was using my last three fingers on the handle and allowing my forefinger to point along the axis of the driver bit. Then, when I wished to change the direction of the ratchet I could simply do it by gripping the ratchet collar between thumb and forefinger and giving it a twist. Three ratchet positions, left, right and lock, can be selected and the resulting handling is so quick and simple that you may even start to think that Wera engineers had designed it that way…

The driver bits are hidden, but a quick push on the green button on the end of the pistol handle causes it to spring open to reveal a cartridge of six driver bits – two Torx, two Pozi and two Philips – the most commonly used bits for most users. The bits are fitted to a Rapidaptor-type mini-chuck by simply pushing them in to fix and pulling on the revolving collar to release. It will be second nature to regular users of Wera drivers, ewcomers will take thirty seconds to learn just how easy it is.

I found the pistol helped me out of a particular jam when I had to remove some woodwork done by someone else who thought that an impact driver was meant to drive the screwhead 20mm deep into the wood. The result was that the thread on the screw had chewed up the wood and could not be removed with a cordless driver. With the pistol I was able to reach the head, and put a bit of an angle on the screw to get enough bite on the thread to slowly twist the screw out. Result. In my view, the pistol is another simple but great tool to add to the well thought out Wera System.

Perhaps not as conceptually sophisticated concept is the 60RA, another Kraftform Kompakt set. It too has a black nylon wallet with a belt loop. The wallet contains the Kraftform Kompakt handle and sixteen 89mm long driver bits. – five hex bits (6mm to 3mm) five Torx bits, three Pozi bits, three Philips bits and a slot screw bit. Again, all commonly used bits that are easy to replace or customize as required, and also all following the very useful Wera tradition that all Wera bits are laser marked for easy identification.

The Kraftform Kompakt handle has a Rapidaptor style hex chuck for easy placement and removal of the bits and the rotating collar is a great help for smooth and accurate work.

The ratchet on the handle has a fine toothed ratchet so screws can be tightened or loosened with precision even in very tight spacesand the neutral lock position means that fine adjustments can be carried out quickly. However don’t let all this precision stuff fool you – the 60 RA can exert torque of up to 50Nm if needed!

In my toolbox I like having the 60 RA as a screwdriver set. I like the robust, non-roll handle design as well as the fact that I can simply swap driver bits to fit the screwheads I come up against. I also save a lot of space by not having the usual half dozen or so screwdrivers to accommodate.

The “traditional looking” KK 27 RA screwdriver completes the trio. This looks like a meaty, old-fashioned screwdriver with a hex bit holder on the end. But it has some of the sophistication of the tools above in the sense that its handle conceals a cartridge of six driver bits (2 Pozi, 2 Philips and 2 slottted) and it also has the excellent ratchet system of the other two tools above. Again, with left, right and lock positions the ratchet can be used with precision, but also has a lot of torque strength to drive big screws if necessary.

The hex socket end has a powerful magnet so there is no danger of losing any driver bit slipped into it. With a 100mm long hex shank it is clear that this tool could be a bit of a ruffian if required to be. And, it is another space saver for the toolbox that is always welcome.

For me, Wera drivers of whatever type and design always have two common themes. Firstly they are very well thought out and designed as part of the greater Wera system, and they are a great way to solve screwdriving dilemmas. These three tools have once again proved this point. 

For more Wera reviews, visit our Wera Section, and more general information, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Wera Kraftform Kompakt Kits-Giving Trades the Tools They Want +Wera Kraftform Competition!

Aimed at: Pros who value convience and space saving, but also a comprehensive range of combinations of tools.

Pros: Neatly packed, high quality kits with all the Wera Virtues.

Wera are in continuous dialogue with UK tradespeople, and have found many create their own customised kits from the wide Wera range. To begin with they would buy the nearest Kompakt kit to the one required - meaning they sometimes had items they didn’t need, but also couldn’t fit other products that they did need into the pouch. 

So Wera took on the challenge of creating kits specifically tailored to end-users. The PlumbKit, was first, and was soon followed by kits designed for those working with metal and wood, and those are the two I am reviewing today.

Both of the kits in this review are presented in the new style of black card boxes that ooze quality and style to end-users. The usual Wera attention to detail is noted by the fact that the boxes have a pull out plastic tab so that they can be hung on a standard display stand.

The new style nylon wallets have rigid sides and each tool has a place. Users can therefore easily keep track of their tools and ensure that they don’t get left behind or lost. The wallets fold flat and are kept tightly closed with a hook and loop strip, so are handy to carry onto site and lay out flat when in use.

Time to examine the Kompakt Woodwork and Metalworking kits in detail, in order to fully appreciate their features.

The Metalworking kit has a smart little logo of an RSJ on the front to identify it and consists of 40 individual pieces that are logically grouped for easy location.

Right on the edge of the kit by the hook and loop strip is the useful voltage tester screwdriver. This has its own set of instruction attached to the removable pocket clip and is a useful safety item for metal workers working on electrical installations.

In my view the key piece of the kit is the now famous Zyklop Speed ratchet. It is so versatile and I can remember how many times it has got me out of trouble. It has a tiny 5-degree ratchet so it is possible to tighten up nuts in tiny spaces, the head can be angled and also used at 90 degrees like a screwdriver, AND it even has a rotating plastic screwsleeve on the shaft. I appreciate its virtues almost every time I use it.

To complement the Zyklop there are a long (150mm) and short (55mm) extensions and eight sockets ranging from 5.5mm to 13mm that cover the range of most commonly used sizes. A Rapidaptor bit holder accessory with a hex end can be fitted to the Zyklop so that screwdriving bits can be used.

On the other side of the wallet is a range of thirteen 90mm long screwdriving bits. There are 5 Torx bits, 3 Phillips bits, 4 hex bits and a slot screwdriver. Useful too, and I use mine often, is the screwholder. This slides over the shaft of a driver and the two flexible wings are used to hold screws in place as you manoeuvre them into position in tight spaces using only one hand. To drive the bits, the classic Kraftform screwdriver handle is supplied. This has a quick release Rapidaptor chuck that Wera users are familiar with.

However, to really underline that this is a metalworker’s kit the last pieces of this kit are 6 drill bits and 6 screw taps designed to complement each other in sizes. They are quite short and are clearly meant for use in thinnish sheet material. They can also be used to clear and redefine worn screw threads in rather overworn installations and can be driven with a cordless drill, the Zyklop or the Kraftform handle.  

I really like the way that each bit or socket has been etched with its size and designation and diameter where needed. It really helps keep track of the pieces as well as allowing you to keep order in the kit.

The Woodworking kit is identified by a logo of a plank of wood on the front and it consists of 41 pieces. Inevitably there is the electrical current tester that seems to be a reminder to woodworkers that they too need to be aware of electrical current where they might be working. The screwholder is a useful addition too.  

The kit concentrates largely on screwdriving and drilling, as we would expect. So there is a choice of sixteen 90mm long driver bits. There are 5 Torx bits – now very commonly used as a way of driving woodscrews and a necessary inclusion in my view. Four hex bits are also needed because they are often used in window installations. Of course you will also use the three Pozi bits (1,2 and 3) and the three Phillips bits (1,2 and 3) as well as a slotted driver bit almost every day.

 A set of 5 brad pointed drill bits has hex shanks that will fit a Rapidaptor or a drill chuck. They are genuinely sharp and cut nicely defined holes in wood very quickly.

On the other flap of the kit is a large Kraftform handle with a difference – it has a ratchet on the bottom of the handle as well as the customary Rapidaptor chuck. I like this handle because it is big enough to provide a solid grip for a maximum torque drive and the ratchet is easy to operate between thumb and forefinger.

Further driving flexibility is provided by a set of six smaller 25mm long drivers, and an extension holder. 

A set of seven sockets is placed along the spine of the wallet and these can be driven either by the Zyklop Mini bit ratchet and its 75mm long extension or the small 25mm long extension that will fit into the Kraftform handle. I never cease to be amazed at just how flexibly all these components can be made to work together and they will surely add versatility to the kit of any tradesperson.

I’ve always liked Wera Kompakt sets, both for use in the workshop and on site. They save on toolbox space, are easy to carry to the job and I can personally vouch for how many times the kit combinations have got me out of trouble. So taking these to the next level, with these tailored Trade Kits including a wider range of Wera products, is a welcome development.

For a chance to win any one of the four Wera kits reviewed in December/ January and February editions of ToolBusiness and Hire, send us an email  saying which kit you would like and why. The editor’s choice is final and your reasons may be published! 

To find out more about Wera Products, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Wera Technicians’ Kits – All the Necessary?

Aimed at: Pro specialist technicians,  electricians and fitters.

Pros: Well- chosen key tools in a handy to use kit. Easy to take on site for diagnostics and repairs. 

I recently overheard a comment at a tool show by someone who was clearly a tradesman, to his mate about his Wera tools. The comment was along the lines of how “joined up” all his Wera tools were, because they were “designed that way”.

Clearly an appreciative and perceptive end-user, and I am sure that Wera should collectively pat itself on the back. As an end user it is comforting to think that a system that you might have bought into years ago is still expanding (sensibly and quite rightly driven by design, innovation and end user requirements) and is therefore still useful, compatible and up to date.

The two kits Wera have sent for review illustrate the above very nicely. Aimed at plumbing and heating engineers and maintenance technicians respectively, they are a kind of “first call” toolkit that is easy to carry to site and, in many cases, will be all the tools that are needed to fix a problem.

The first kit I opened was the Kraftform Kompakt SH1 PlumbKit. Handsomely presented in a black nylon folding wallet, the set consists of 25 assorted tools, essentially divided into two parts on each side of the wallet. All the pieces are familiar as they are part of the wider Wera range, but as a combination they are pretty comprehensive.

Firstly there are two VDE screwdrivers and a voltage tester for the electrical element of a plumbers’ job. The small screwdriver is a Kraftform Plus VDE Extra Slim with integrated insulation, which is useful for sunken and spring elements, while the bigger one is the Kraftform Plus VDE Lasertip. The tip of this screwdriver is roughly laser engraved with lines that bite into screwheads, preventing slips.

Next in line is one of the most useful tools that Wera produces in my view – the Kraftform Plus Chiseldriver. With its hex section blade it can of course simply tackle large slotted screws, but can also be hammered directly onto, thanks to the integrated impact cap on top of the handle and twisted with a 10mm spanner via the hex holster under the handle  - ideal for those really tight screws!!! It is also great for chasing out in plaster walls, and stays useable as a screwdriver after even long chisel use.

Two large handled Kraftform Plus HQ Nutdrivers in 10mm and 13mm complete that side of the wallet. These two socket sizes are the most commonly used in electrical and plumbing apparatus.

The other side holds a more mixed selection. The 10mm and 13mm Joker combination ratchet wrenches are some of the best I have ever used, simply because they solve a whole lot of problems in one tool. The reversible fine ratchet is strong and has a tiny 30 degree throw for confined spaces, while the open-ended spanner not only grips the nuts well, it will hold a bolt head or nut so that it can be brought to the corresponding part without the user having to hold it in place. They can be used in confined spaces and are also VERY strong when it comes to applying torque to them.

In my view the key piece on this side of the wallet is the small Zyklop Speed ratchet. This is incredibly easy to use, the angle of the head can be changed, sockets ejected etc etc. It is a great piece of engineering and I have heard so many positive comments from end users about it that it has truly become a classic. The Zyklop can be used as a screwdriver by attaching the Rapidaptor bit holder adaptor and using one of the twelve driving bits in the kit. A bronze-coloured set of 6 Torx driver bits (TX sizes 10 to 40) have a “holding function” that hold Torx screws tightly so that they can be presented to their positions before they are tightened.

The set of three sockets (7mm, 10mm and 13mm) fit the Zyklop and the last set of longer shank driver bits are a mixture of four hex and two Pozi bits.

All the pieces are laser marked with sizes and designations so that they are easy to identify and of course, for users who need to customize their kits, all the components are available from the Wera range individually.

The Wera W1 Maintenance Kit comes in the new style of textile box with rigid sections. These sections make for a container that is very robust and durable, and can even be stood up on its end for easy shelf storage. It also means that if any individual pieces somehow come loose, they would find it very hard to escape once the large hook and loop closure is pressed shut.

This 35-piece set has quite a VDE presence with twelve interchangeable Kompakt VDE screwdriver blades in Pozi, Phillips and Torx configurations and a detachable Kraftform Kompakt VDE handle. Despite this handy detachable blade format this, like all Wera VDE kit, is guaranteed for safe working up to 1,000V (as per EN60900:2012).

Another nice touch is the red plastic Screwgripper that is used on the end of a screwdriver blade to hold screws firmly when needed. Think of having to place a tiny screw at the back of a casing that would be a pain to find if you dropped it while trying to screw it in.

There is also a small voltage tester screwdriver – still one of those safety essentials for maintenance operators.

Gathered round the essential Zyklop Speed ratchet is a set of eight sockets. These range in size from 5.5mm to 13mm – an essential range for maintenance. To make life easier there is also a small extension bar (also with a plastic rotating collar for speedy work – the attention to detail is amazing, and totally Wera) and a Rapidaptor adaptor to hold the selection of seven driver bits. These cover four sizes of hex, one Torx and two sizes of Pozi. There is also a slimline standard hex magnetic bit holder that would fit an appropriate Kraftform handle or cordless driver.

Finally there is a double-open jaw Joker wrench with popular 10mm and 13mm ends. This has the holding function and limit stop so that the user can’t push the bolt or nut past the spanner jaws. With its smart jaw design the Joker has a small return angle – ideal for use in confined spaces.

I expected the trades to which I showed the kits to be either sceptical or to tell me that the kits were too similar. In fact, I got neither of these reactions. The favourite seemed to be the maintenance kit, but that was maybe due to the preponderance of electricians in my sample audience!! For these end users, quality and design is now so firmly established as a Wera selling point that it becomes purely a question of how much it costs and whether they need it now or next month.

Read more Wera Reviews, such as the Kraftform Kompact VDE and the Wera Joker

For more information on Wera Products, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Wera Kraftform Kompakt VDE- All the Drivers Needed?

Aimed at:-Fitters, maintenance/electronics engineers and anoyne who needs an easily portable set of general fixing tools. 

Pros:-Brilliant small kit in a new nylon case. The kit is amazingly verstatile and very well made.

Sometimes the right tools are just the ones needed for the job in hand – the fewer the better. And sometimes the right tools are the ones that you thought you might not need, but thankfully you have them there anyway. The Wera Kraftform Kompakt VDE sent up for review belongs to the latter category. With seventeen pieces in all it is probably everything an electrician would need in the way of screwdrivers for most, if not all jobs.

I should note first of all the black nylon wallet into which the kit is all carefully arranged. It is as compact as it can be as well as being compatible with ensuring easy use on site.

When folded up via the strong hook and loop closures, it could easily fit onto a waist belt. Indeed, there is a strong belt loop provided on the back of the case.

If used this way, all the tools are made to hang down so that they can be easily accessed from above.

I am not one for carrying stuff on a belt, so I found it equally easy to simple lay the opened case out flat on the floor or a flattish surface. In this position, there are two Wera Kraftform Kompakt handles at each end of the wallet. Wera has listened to some end users who said that sometimes they use more than one driver tip on a job so needed another handle for speed and convenience.

These Kraftform handles are famous for having been tested under very arduous conditions – under crushing loads and right down to -40 degrees Celsius where some plastics can become brittle and hence non-insulating. I guess that electricians working in London boroughs might be well reassured!

But the thing I most like about them is the ease with which it is possible to change driver tips. Simply push back the locking collar between forefinger and thumb, which releases the lock, pull out the driver tip and replace it with another which slides in and locks into place as it is pushed home. Literally a matter of seconds.

The handles themselves are the standard bright yellow and red VDE colours, with the yellow parts of the moulding having a slightly rubberized feel for easy grip.

The driver tips are arranged into four sections in two groups of four tips and one group of seven tips. It helps end users to keep the whole case as compact as possible if they replace the tips after use in the same order and orientation in which they arrive from Wera. In this way the more bulky hex ends are balanced by the less bulky shanks and they kind of fit into each other more compactly. This works for me only because I just get used to replacing a driver tip in the opposite orientation as the one it is next to.

The first section of four driver tips is the straight screwdriver. These go from a small 2.5mm wide tip right up to a more robust 5.5mm wide blade tip. Each one is 154mm long, and as we would expect, the 1000v rated insulation goes all the way down the shaft leaving only 15mm of the working end exposed.

The next section of four tips is the Torx section. Much more commonly used now, Torx screws are found in all sorts of appliances and junction boxes nowadays. In the past, whenever I occasionally took apart a power tool, a simple Phillips or Pozi would do it, but Torx and other patterns are common now. Perhaps to keep the unqualified and incompetent out? – like the ones who wouldn’t buy a full set of Wera VDE screwdrivers?

The Torx drivers are arranged in order as a 10, a 15, a 20 and a 25 – which again is a pretty comprehensive coverage of common Torx sizes. The insulation also goes all the way down the tips leaving only the last 15mm as the working tip.

The last seven tips kind of open out together and they are arranged alternately as Phillips and Pozi drivers and a standard straight driver. There are four Pozi drivers in all – PZ2, PZ1, PZ1/S and PZ2/S and Phillips PH2 and PH1. The straight driver is a 6.5mm width for those bigger screws in casings.

And of course, there is the extra handle at the end to bring the set to completion.

I liked the fact that the driver bits are all held in place by an elastic strip that is stretchy enough to hold the bits firmly, but also flexible enough to make them easy to pull out or replace. This arrangement means that the user can see all the tips easily and can select visually. But in usual thorough Wera fashion, all the bits have the sizes and types of bit printed in black on the hex shanks. I doubt whether end users will take the trouble to arrange the bits print side up like the way in which the set arrived out of the packaging, but it is very easy to twist them around to see the printed sizes if needed. 

Confirmed Wera fans will know that damaged bits in a set can be replaced individually and that different sizes and types of bits can be bought to substitute others in the set. However, I think that this set is pretty well comprehensive so I guess there won’t be too much of that going on.

The plus points of such a comprehensive set are really a big bonus for busy electricians – you get easy changing of a wide range of bits as well as a pair of handles for those jobs where more than one fixing is used, plus all the advantages of quick-change handles and the peace of mind of a well tested VDE range.

To read further about Wera Hand Tools such as the Tehnicans kit, which includes the Kraftform Kompakt SH1 Plumbkit and the Wera W1 Maintenance Kit, and other products, click here.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Wera Joker – A Combination Ratchet Spanner – But Not as we Know it!

Aimed squarely at professionals, but keen amateurs will love them too. innovative and possible the end of skinned knuckles.

For the Wera uninitiated, the launch of a new range of spanners, or in Wera –speak – of Joker Professional Ratcheting Combination Wrenches, might not signify on their product radar. But more fool them I say, because they might have missed a product that despite being “only a spanner” could be very useful to them, in solving some of their working dilemmas.

I am not a mechanic by inclination, but even with a limited experience of doing simple jobs on my car, I could see where these Wera wrenches could be a major time and knuckle saver. For professionals, they would be a very useful and long – term investment in timesaving and high quality kit.

The new Joker Combination Wrenches cannot be faulted in terms of quality. They are made from high performance chrome molybdenum steel that is then plated with a nickel-chrome coating for high corrosion protection.

The steel combination means that even very high-torque applications can be confidently undertaken. Just the feel of the wrenches in your hand will confirm that –they are slimly sleek for comfortable grip and easy access to small spaces, but are clearly very strong.

Cleverly, Wera designers have incorporated the Wera Kraftform trademark into the wrench handles, right in the middle where extra strength is needed. The indentations of the design also serve as useful thumb and finger grips for greasy hands. As usual, the finish on the wrenches is super high quality – there are simply no traces of forging marks – just smooth matte metal.

But with four other useful functions to explore, it is time to move on.

The first of these is the practical holding function. What? a spanner that holds nut or bolt heads tight so that they can be located into position easily and then tightened. A closer look shows that the Joker wrenches have metal stop plates inset into the open ended jaws. With stop plate facing downwards, the nut or bolt head can be inserted into double-hex geometry of the jaws above. The stop plate has “ledges” on the inside of the jaws that prevent the nut or bolt from falling out. The double-hex geometry ensures that the nut is placed for best advantage.  All the user then has to do, at worst, is put a thumb or finger over the nut and start tightening it.

With the wrench the other way up, the holding function becomes an integrated limit stop. With the stop plate on the upper face of jaws, it acts to stop the fastener from slipping through the jaws. This means that the user does not have to steady the fastener with a thumb or forefinger before tightening it. It also ensures that the full area of the wrench jaws is located firmly onto the flat driving faces of the fastener. This minimizes any risk of slipping on the fastener, and also the nasty knuckle-crash risk associated with slipping fasteners.

But the stop plate has one more trick up its sleeve, so to speak. A close examination of it reveals that there are a couple of rows of tiny teeth on the parallel jaw sides of the wrench.  When the gripping plate is facing downwards on the fixing, these teeth, when under pressure, generate a form-fit connection to the fixing. The extra-hard teeth bite into the fixing and help prevent slippage under high torque loads. Once again, a bit of thoughtful design has reduced the danger of skinned (or worse) knuckles.

It is clear from the above, that the innovative addition of a stop plate to the to the Wera Joker Wrenches range has enabled users not only to greater levels of safety, but also to extra speed and convenience too. If they are not some of the goals of innovation in design, then you are welcome to your box of old-fashioned spanners, no doubt with built-in bumps, bends and oil stains!

The double-hex geometry combined with the straight head of the wrench mean that finding purchase on a fixing is a simple matter of moving the handle only 30 degrees to reposition the wrench onto it. Gone are the days of “tighten a bit, remove wrench, turn it over, reposition on fixing, tighten a bit, remove wrench….. etc.

The next bits to explore are the “ratcheting” and “combination” part of the Joker Wrenches. Looking at the other end of the wrenches, users can see an enclosed ratchet ring. This works as slickly as an oiled turnstile. The direction of travel of each ratchet is clearly marked with an etched arrow that won’t rub off with use. Selecting clockwise or anti-clockwise rotation is as easy as turning the wrench over.

The thickness of the wrench head is a shade over 10mm, so it is designed to fit into very small spaces. But perhaps more important to most users will be the fact that the ratchet has an 80 – tooth mechanism that enables a pivot angle of under 5 degrees. In practice it means that the very end of the handle travels less than 25mm to the next stop. Tightening or loosening nuts in a confined area is probably never going to be made easier than this. Also, it eliminates the need to remove the wrench from the fixing to find the next angle of purchase needed to carry on.

For a real life lesson, I used the Joker wrenches to help me replace a headlight on my Ford Focus. Easy you might think – but not on the nearside light. It involves removing the battery and battery holder in order to reveal the back of the light holders. The space is very confined and I was able to make full use of the versatility of the Joker wrenches’ ability to remove fixings in confined spaces. Having done this job a year or so with “conventional’ wrenches and sockets I was able to appreciate just how much easier the Joker made the job. Multiply this time saving many times for a professional mechanic or enthusiast to find out just how useful the Joker range could be. The Joker set used in this review was a six-piece set with popular sizes from 10mm to 19mm in it. Packed for dispatch and display in a sturdy card box, the wrenches are contained in a strong nylon case with a hook and loop closure. The wrenches have individual spaces in the case and there is a hanging loop on the case too. 


Read more Wera Reviews, such as the Kraftform Kompact VDE and the Tehnicans kit, which includes the Kraftform Kompakt SH1 Plumbkit and the Wera W1 Maintenance Kit.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Wera Tool-Check PLUS – Now Even Better

Aimed at:- Professionals who need a high quality and versatile kit with pretty well all the combinations you need to solve fitting dilemmas.

I am sitting at my desk looking at one of the classic black cotton Wera carry bags given out at toolshows. On it are the words “Werkzaug aus Ideen”. As far as I can translate it means, “tools developed from ideas”. In my view it reflects exactly the Wera way, with innovation and new products in a regular stream, and many happy customers willing to integrate the resulting products into their work practices.

This month I was sent the new Tool-Check PLUS kit to look at. I am already converted to the Tool-Check concept and to be honest it is a staple of my toolkit both in the workshop and out.

The Tool-Check PLUS has just one main addition that has been cleverly attached to the side of the Tool-Check case. The holder is made of a flexible rubberized plastic that holds a miniature version of the trademark Wera Kraftform handle - at a stroke adding a whole new range of potential uses to the Tool-Check concept.

On the business end of the handle is a standard hexagon-shaped socket that will accept hex-socketed accessories. The accessories are held in place by a powerful magnet in the handle, so they will be secure while in use.

But to go back a step – the Tool-Check PLUS now shares the high quality black box packaging of all of the new Wera products. In time, all products will be similarly boxed. As a potential user (dealers take note here) the image that the packaging creates is of a super high quality, modern product. Seriously, the packaging would not be out of place on a brand new, top of the range, mobile phone. Users have the message reinforced that if the packaging is this slick then the goods inside must be very good indeed.

The graphics on the box are subtle - to reinforce the message - with a picture of the product on the top of the box picked out in shiny ink against the matte finish of the box. Along the bottom of the lid a few symbols in white ink with brief descriptions, tell the user the highlights of the product in the box.

The Tool-Check PLUS is a good handful that feels weighty, but not too heavy to slip into a work trouser pocket or toolbag. Users familiar with the Tool-Check concept will know that the tools contained in it are held securely while the case is closed, but are revealed when a sliding catch is pushed. Each piece has its place – hence you are able to “check” if you have everything at the start and end of a job.

In the middle of the Tool-Check PLUS, once opened, are two rows of bits. The back row is hinged to open up so that they can be easily accessed with thumb and forefinger. There are 28 bits and a socket adaptor held in the two rows and they provide a huge flexibility for the intended users. Think maintenance engineers, fitters and computer hardware engineers.

Apart from the usual range of Philips and Pozi drivers, there are 6 Torx bits and 5 Hex-Plus bits that are commonly used in more high-tech applications and appliances these days. These bits drive from the flats not on the points, so wear more slowly on bit and screwhead.

Some people might be a bit sarky about the range of bits saying that the Torx and Hex-Plus bits are there just to bulk up the set and the price. The answer is simpler than that – the Tool-Check PLUS set is designed to offer a bit and driver selection for all of the most common applications, hence the wide range of profiles in the set. Most users will have a solution, literally, at their fingertips should they invest in a Tool-Check PLUS.

To help users, all the bits have the size and configuration of the bit laser etched onto the hex shank – a great help for me, especially if I remember my glasses.

Along the bottom of the Tool-Check PLUS is a row of seven sockets. Handily, each one has its size imprinted on the case above for easy selection. The sockets are held securely and it would take quite a knock to dislodge them. The sockets themselves are the usual high quality Wera sockets with a ball bearing retention lock and sizes etched onto the barrel. These were the first production quality sockets to be certified for hand and power tool use. With a size range from 5.5mm to 13mm the sockets cover most common applications, in my experience.

In my view, the real genius of the Bit-Check PLUS lies along the top of the case. Held securely by a sliding sleeve is the Zyklop Mini bit Ratchet and Rapidaptor.

The Zyklop Mini-bit Ratchet is small, just short of 90mm long, but is perfect in every detail –even down to the Kraftform shape of the handle. With its slim head and 6-degree pawl, the Bit Ratchet is capable of working in very confined spaces, such as you might find in a computer installations. Being of all steel construction, the Bit Ratchet is very strong and would be able to withstand a lot of torque pressure – a lot more than will ever be needed in its usual applications.

Changing from clockwise to anti-clockwise movement is achieved via the tiny switch on the head of the ratchet. Despite its size it is easy to use and positive in operation – aiding speed in use as well as being ergonomically comfortable. A black milled steel ring on top of the ratchet can be held between thumb and forefinger and moved quickly to speed up loosening and tightening to fingertight

The Rapidaptor is familiar to Wera users and remains a very useful piece of kit. Attached to the Kraftform handle it provides a bit of welcome extension as well as a quick-change facility for bits and sockets. It also aids the speed at which fixings can be tightened and loosened.

The thing that I most like about this Wera Tool-Check PLUS kit is its versatility. Wera designers have managed to make every piece complement the others so that the configurations achievable are so flexible that it is possible to find a solution for pretty well most small fixing dilemmas. I am told that the total number of combinations possible with drivers and bits is a staggering 162, so users should never be without options. And it will do this speedily and efficiently too – aiding productivity and ease. There is nothing not to like about this set – and it fits into a pocket too. 

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

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