Reviews at a glance

V-Tuf M – M Class Dust Collection But with the Budget in Mind

Why Buy?

  • Well priced so no excuse not to upgrade to M-Class
  • Compact size
  • You get all the tools etc needed
  • Instruction booklet is definitely worth a read

Why M-Class?

The HSE recently introduced the M-Class rating as a minimum legal requirement for construction vacs. M-Class vacs should have filters and airflow systems that allow them to reliably collect respirable dust up to 10 microns in size. This respirable dust is the most dangerous because it is so small that it can be breathed in directly to contact with the lungs, and can also float for up to 8 hours in the atmosphere. Trades of all kinds create dust, some of it less dangerous than others – but if you are cutting, sanding, drilling or even sweeping regularly as part of your trade then you need to have, as a minimum, an M-Class vacuum to accompany you on site.

However, if you take a look at the range of vacs on the market, they are not cheap – £600 - £700 is not uncommon. So, the cost of compliance can be high – and this is where the V-Tuf M can be a lifesaver. This little machine is lightweight and compact and costs around £160 inc VAT.

Although it is compact and therefore, by definition, cannot collect as much dust as the more expensive and bigger ones, the V-Tuf M is a fully certified M-Class machine that has been developed in conjunction with HSE managers, the HSE, Occupational Hygiene specialists, and trades.

I had several tradespeople looking at it quizzically, but some were left contemplating after I told them the price and also about their responsibilities for dust collection.

But it is time for a closer look at the machine so that we can begin to appreciate its abilities. Although it stands around 42cm high on its four wheels, (two rear fixed and two castoring front wheels), it comes with 3 metres of 32mm diameter bright yellow flexible dust collection hose and 5 metres of equally yellow cord, so it has enough reach for most trade users.

There is a big carry handle on top of the motor housing around which to wind the cord in transit, and I found that I tended to wind the flexible hose around the vac body and stick the nozzle into one of the accessory slots for easy fitting into my boot.

Both domestic and trade users will be happy to note that you get a floor cleaning set with carpet and floor heads, and there is also a crevice and brush tool and a stepped nozzle adaptor for connection to power tools.

What Goes on Under the Bonnet?

Looking inside the collection body of the vac by releasing the three spring clips, there is the all-important HEPA 13 filter attached to the motor housing.

This filter is attached with a wingnut making it easy to remove for replacement or cleaning. This is clearly a very important stage in the M-Class rating of the V-Tuf M, as is the fine paper collection bag attached to the vacuum inlet nozzle.

Other requirements for fine dust collection are the monitoring systems that allow the user to ensure that he/she is complying with the M-Class ratings. These include an extraction velocity monitor on top of the motor that shows red if the extraction velocity drops below the M-Class standard of above 20 litres per second. Then it is time to clean the filter by using the filter shaker switch. Or it may be time to remove and wash the filter to extend its filtering life.

In Use

Being quite low and squat in shape and with its four wheels the V-Tuf M is easy to move about and with a weight of around 7Kg (empty) it is easy to lift into a van or boot. I was also impressed by how quiet it is even compared with my well-known brand domestic vacuum cleaner. It does not have that little scream that some electric motors have that put your teeth on edge. I used the machine for cleaning up cement and sand dust on my worksite as well as for extraction on my cordless circular saws.

I have to say that using it with power tools was a revelation – it collected a lot more dust than I am used to with my old L-Class vac and virtually eliminated clearing up around them at the end of the day.

I suppose that part of the penalty paid for a very competitive M-Class price is that there is no auxiliary plug for connecting corded power tools like sanders – but there is light on the horizon. During November the V-TUF ‘flick’ we will be launched. This is like an extension cable with the automatic switching brains in the socket head. This intelligent controller will switch your V-TUF M on and off automatically - as you use your power tool. It will retail for less than £100 including vat and will enable you to introduce automatic switching to any of your tools, not just the V-TUF.

In the very comprehensive instruction and dust control booklet included with the machine is a helpline number. From this initial contact V-Tuf is happy to take on customers’ challenges and ideas and work with them to develop solutions.

Why have one?

The V-Tuf M managed to find a place in my boot for some of the site work I have been doing recently for several reasons: - It is compact and light, it collects well and is easy to handle as well as providing the reassurance of M-Class particulate collection. And the price for using one won’t make the credit card creak.

WERA BiTorsion and BitBoxes - Long Live the Evolution at Wera

 

WHY BUY?

  • Top quality
  • Made for different driving jobs – you choose
  • New bitboxes
  • Impact proof is a safety feature.
  • Better screwdriving performance

I am sure that many users, including myself, have used ‘standard’ Pozi and Torx drive bits available in bulk boxes at your local trade outlet, for many common tasks. We use them, they last as long as they last, and then you replace them and that is probably as much thought that most give to the problem.

However, I have long been aware that some driver bits are better than others – ever since I lent a set of Wera bits to two tradesmen I shall call ‘Bodgit and Leggit’, who had a reputation for breaking almost any tool they ever used. Not only did I get the bit set back, but they had only used one bit each. The secret lay in the special diamond coating on the bit flanges that not even they managed to break.  Some of the new bits I was sent for review use the same idea – so time for a close examination.

The Products

The box of ‘standard’ Pozi 2 bits are the ones that most trades would use in non-demanding screwdriving tasks and this is reflected in the price. However, the genuine Pozidriv profile and manufacturing techniques ensure much better than usual bit life.

Within the selection and going up a grade or two in the Pozi series are the Pozi 2 gold extra hard bits (BTH). The Bitbox notes the size clearly but also adds that these bits are extra hard (through hardened) and use the Take it Easy tool finder system for easy identification (black/Pozi; red/Phillips; green/Torx, yellow/slotted and blue/hex). Accordingly, each Pozi bit has a black band around the shank with a couple of white ‘2s’ on, so even without my glasses I could identify them easily. But the story doesn’t end here. Each bit has the Bitorsion feature on it. This means that the bits will respond to sharp inputs of torque by slightly flexing in the middle, and thus help to reduce breaking strains on the flanges. Since the bit is made to a harder Rockwell measure it is also better suited to the stresses put on it through typical timber applications using drill/drivers providing longer life.

It is a similar story on some of the other bits I looked at. For example, the box of size 25 Torx bits are marked with a green band bearing 25 around the shank. The box also tells me that they use the diamond gripping solution I mentioned before. If you run a fingernail through one of the Torx slots, you will feel the slight abrasion provided by the diamond coating that ensures long lasting grip on the fixing by eliminating cam-out. The bits are also labelled ‘impact proof’ – so users know exactly what they are to be used for.

The Bitholders are Important too

Included in the samples were four bit holders designed to work with the range of Wera bits for maximum performance, safety and longevity.

The first is a basic Rapidaptor bitholder. About 50mm long, that is perfectly suited to less demanding driving tasks. Its USP is its complete ease of use – simply push a standard hex bit into the chuck and it clamps it tight. With a single push upwards of the rotatable collar it ejects them just as easily. In my experience, a much better solution than straight bit holders.

More sophisticated is the longer Rapidaptor bitholder, with the Bitorsion feature built into the holder underneath the outer sleeve of the holder. Once again, this absorbs the extra torsion shocks of some of the powerful drill/drivers used nowadays. Some drivers boast torque ratings of over 135Nm – so you can understand the need for Bitorsion technology. Used with a Bitorsion bit there are a couple of extra layers of torsion safety.

The Ultimates

What every regular user of impact drivers should consider are either the Wera Impaktor, or Impaktor with Ringmagnet bitholders. These are labelled as impact proof and just looking at the build quality might convince you of that. They both use Bitorsion technology and have magnets to hold the bits into place. The Ringmagnet version has a magnetic collar as well and is a great way to hold screws ready for driving, as the magnet is genuinely powerful enough to hold a 75mm screw securely as you lift it to the workpiece.

Aimed at: Pros and amateurs who appreciate high quality

Pros: High quality bits and adaptors made to withstand the torques and impacts of modern screwdriving. Make sure you choose the one best for the job.

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

 

WHY BUY?

  • Compact size
  • But torquey with it
  • Complete kit in a custom case
  • Easy handling
  • Good spec

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

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

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

Specs……

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

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

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

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

The big bright LED just above the front of the trigger is placed well to illuminate the work area in front of you.

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

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

And then there is the Build Quality

To me this drill feels like a pro product in the hand, and I could find no signs of shoddy manufacturing on it. The body mouldings are precise and fit together well, and do not flex under drilling loads. Rubber over moulding is carefully placed for a comfortable grip on the main handle.

The rear of the motor casing has a rubberised cap for protection and there are rubber ‘bumpers’ on the sides of the body and handle above the battery pack, so that the casing will be protected when it is laid down on its side. You can’t always find a flat spot to stand the drill upright on its battery pack in some workplaces.

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

The Bottom Line

I was constantly surprised at how long the battery lasted – my record was a day and a half.

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

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

Aimed at: Professional fitters who need a compact drill driver. But well priced enough for discerning amateurs to consider.

Pros: Torquey enough for 70mm screws into softwood in my experience and well specified for a ‘little un’. 

Festool CTM 36 E AC HD Vacuum Extractor All You Need for Dust Safety On Site and Workshop?

 

WHY BUY?

  • Super quality
  • Part of Festool system, so kit all works together
  • Operation is simple ensuring safe dust collection
  • User chooses best solution via excellent controls

Substantial capacity, but easy to move on big wheels.

Systems, Systems

One of the best aspects of buying Festool is that you are buying into a system that links together wherever possible. So, saws and sanders and benches and vacuums etc, can all be coordinated to create a team of tools that will hopefully enable the highest quality work.

Confidence and Ease of Use

The first thing that buyers of this Festool vac will know is that it comes with the required HEPA filter and Airflow necessary to extract dangerous dusts up to M-Class requirements.  Along with this is a built-in electronic monitoring system for filters and airflow. If the airflow ever falls below 20m/s a warning beep will sound to alert the user. All the control switches are grouped together and all are marked in green - Festool’s long-established way of marking parts that users need to know are controls.

Up to 5 diameters of extraction hose can be selected, from 16mm to 50mm, and the electronics will take care of power required from the motor to ensure the best possible extraction rate. The guesswork is taken out for the user – simply choose from the options and you can be confident of the correct performance.

Other controls are equally simple. Auto Clean is selected with a switch and this activates an electronic control that forces air under pressure through the filter and it is this that removes the dust from the filter and provides an opportunity for the extractor to take a breath every 10 seconds. To see this in action go to this link: -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeh5QWMGf6M

By simply plugging a corded power tool into the auxiliary socket and connecting it to the extraction hose, and selecting ‘automatic’ on the switch, the vacuum will come on when the tool is started and turn off when the tool is switched off. I was able to work at sanding a series of six rather woodworm eaten doors outside with no visible dust, and the noise levels from the vac were less than the sander’s. Selecting the suction needed to ensure good extraction as well as efficient sanding is again very easy – just move the relevant switch.

Other Reassuring Things

For those tired of squashed and easily tangled extraction hoses, the 4 metre-long green and black Festool hose resists kinking and is antistatic. No clingy dust when you clear it up at the end of the day. The machine end of the hose has a rubber adaptor that fits tightly into the front of the machine, as well as into the closing slide that comes with this vacuum. Using the closing slide ensures that the user can close off the hose aperture when the hose is removed, making dust leaks impossible. Or you can use the sealing plug provided. The other end of the hose has a standard rubber adaptor that can be teamed with a Festool stepped adaptor to fit the tool in hand. Storing the hose in transit is done via the foldable hose holder on top of the casing.

To allow for a generous working radius the Festool has 7.5 metres of rubberised mains cord and typically, Festool has thought about where to store it by providing a tool and cable storage holder that is attached to the back by two screws.

By attaching an optional Systainer retainer, other tools in boxes may be attached for easy transport.

Filter and Bag Maintenance

There is little point in providing M-Class extraction only to expose users to concentrated dusts when the dust bag needs emptying or the filter needs changing. Of course, the right grade of face mask is needed, but both of these tasks can be done quickly and easily by the user. Replacements are simply slotted into place with a minimum of exposure time to dust.

The vac can also be used to collect water spills but precautions need to be taken and then it needs to be allowed to dry out thoroughly before reinstalling a dust bag.

In Daily Use

I used this vacuum intensively for two weeks on a barn restoration, where it was used connected to circular saws and sanders, as well as collecting cement and sand dust and clearing up at the end of the day. It has a big 36 litre capacity and took up a large space in my boot. Weighing 14.5 Kgs it is not that easy to lift into my hatchback, but the big wheels make moving it, even on roughish surfaces, quite easy. The truth is, regular site users need a machine with some capacity because of the workloads. By the end of the two weeks I had grown so used to the Festool that it was part of my work routine. Efficient, easy to use and reliable.

Some will always bring up the common complaint about the price – this vac costs over £600. But we need to take into account Festool’s extended warranty, service and insurance offer and 10 year parts guarantee in our calculations.

Aimed at: Festool fans and professionals who need M-Class extraction.

Pros: Part of the huge Festool system, with extended guarantees, insurance etc that help explain the price. But it doesn’t half work well!

New 18v Cordless Grinder from Flex Its Workhorse Good

It’s a Hard Grind

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

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

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

Why Choose the Flex?

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

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

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

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

Designed for Good Grip

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

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

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

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

A Case of Quality

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

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

The Mini Fill from National Abrasives Forget Mixing and Just Fill

I do enough decorating jobs to know that filling and making good is the most important part of getting a good final result. Clients will often be surprised at how long careful preparation can take, especially if they think that it is simply a case of rolling on some emulsion once the wallpaper has been stripped….. 

Good preparation usually involves a lot of filling and sanding which is tedious and dusty work. Any way of making these jobs easier warrants a closer look in my view.

I also know that there is a huge range of plaster-based fillers out there, and I have used many of them. Choosing the right one for the job can be important for speed, efficiency, and getting the right sanded finish. So, when I saw the Mini Fill I was keen to find out if this all-in-one hole and crack filler would be effective and, more to the point, save me time and hassle.

Think of Sausages

The Mini Fill looks like a small wrapped salami sausage. Roughly 23cm long and 3cm in diameter, it has a sealing cap on one end with a built-in stopper and filler/spreader tool.  For the necessary long shelf-life the Mini Fill has a seal on the business end of the sausage that needs to be broken before use. This is done by simply pulling off the plastic strip and screwing in the cap to pierce the ‘sausage’.  Then just pull off the sealing cap and a gentle squeeze on the tube will get the filler flowing.

Texture and Look

Because it is gypsum based, the filler inside the Mini Fill is a greyish white when it is unset, drying to a plaster white when set. The texture is pretty well spot-on for most filling jobs – wet enough to spread easily, but with enough body not to slump when it is used to fill slightly bigger holes – say those about 15 to 20 mm wide.

It also feels as though it has had a plasticiser added because it feels a bit sticky and is easy to finish smoothly. It certainly feels a bit more like applying a well-mixed skim plaster rather than a hand mixed proprietary filler. The standard gypsum based fillers for the usual DIY or professional use can feel a bit lumpy and dry in comparison, depending on the expertise of the mixer. Either way, I found that the texture of the Mini Fill was a definite plus point and added to its ability to get a smooth finish with minimal sanding. 

The end of the sausage includes a white plastic spreader onto which the filler is ejected when the tube is squeezed. When filling small cracks and holes left by plastic plugs this spreader is perfectly adequate and indeed leaves a smooth surface that is easy to sand flush when the filler has set. I tried to stretch the parameters a bit by using the Mini Fill to fill in 6 to 10mm wide cracks left when replacing a window frame. Although application straight from the tube using the spreader was easy enough, I think the idea of a corner applicator that National are introducing in the coming months will make this job a breeze.

 

Usable working time was very respectable too, because it is often easier to fill bigger holes and cracks by applying the filler, and then waiting ten minutes for the filler to set a little before spreading it further and then applying the final filler coat.

Setting time can vary according to warmth and humidity, but I found that by the time I got around the room I was preparing, and back to the start point (a couple of hours) the filler was ready to sand. Sanding is easy enough, and you shouldn’t have to use anything rougher than 120 grit abrasive paper to get a smooth finish.

Cleaning up the Mini Fill is simply a matter of re-inserting the stopper to seal the tube and washing the spreader under the cold tap. I kept a half-used tube for a week to test the seal before I finished it off and the contents were still usable, so the seal is good.

Looking at the Economics

With 80ml of filler per tube, the Mini Fill, as the name indicates, is best used where the filling needs are not too drastic. The cost of the Mini Fill retailing at up to £2.98 inc Vat would be easily balanced by the ease of use, and hassle free application and preparation of the finished surface. It would also solve the problem of half a box of filler powder, slowly getting hard in the cupboard under the stairs waiting for the next decorating job to come up. The same can be said of ready mixed fillers in tubes and tubs, which generally go hard. The Mini Fill has a 5-year plus shelf life.

Like other fillers, Mini Fill can be painted, sealed, sanded, drilled and plugged, so it is a genuine replacement for the usual market offers – but I still point out that its biggest selling points are its ease of use and the good clean finish with minimal effort, the brilliant built in scraper and long shelf life.

For Retailers

The Mini Fill comes in a handy counter display box for easy display and explanation. I think customers will like that fact that they only need to buy the Mini Fill to do the job – no need for unexpected extra bits and pieces like scrapers - and then the tubes are easy to dispose of too when they are used up. It all translates into time and convenience that are on the side of Mini Fill. 

Trend T5E V2 – The Latest Version of a Classic

The Importance of the Original Design

My original T5 was bombproof and lasted for years, but the basic design was good enough to be able to support a steady list of refinements over the years. After some ownership and name changes the T5 is still around and is a ‘go to’ router for amateurs and professionals alike. The developments have provided us with a quieter, more refined and user-friendly machine.

Noise and Vibration

At idle speeds, even with a cutter attached, the 1000W T5E is so quiet that you can barely hear it. Lay your hands on the plunge handles and you can barely feel any vibration either. Clearly some work has been put in on noise and vibration control - and it works. Even when fitted with a cutter (max 40mm diameter) this router feels civilised, controllable and relatively noise and vibration free. Great news for those who use these tools regularly.

Controls – I need Simple and Safe

The plunge action on the T5E is firm and positive. With 50mm depth of plunge, there is enough to tackle large range cutters and most jobs. A good test of accuracy is whether there is any play between base and router body – the T5 I tested showed no play at all. There is a three stop adjustable turret to set depths of cut and a depth setting stop that is robust and easy to set.

The big red spindle lock button is easy to access and keeps your fingers well out of the way of the collet spanner.

At first I thought that having to push the switch upwards to start the motor seemed odd, but it is simpler to simply push the switch down to stop, which makes a lot of sense. It shows that Trend has thought about what is important in its continuing development of this tool over the years.

Fences, Dust Extraction and More

I hate pressed steel router fences. They do not inspire confidence in their rigidity and therefore accuracy, in use. The Trend T5E has a lovely cast alloy fence that is completely rigid with suitably strong trammel bars on which it slides. The fence is fitted with a micro adjuster that can easily be set in 0.5mm increments. The ease of set is what makes me want to use this adjuster, because some router fences I have used can be so fiddly and stiff that you end up setting up by eye anyway.

Included is a pair of rigid plastic fence cheeks that slide onto the straight edge of the fence. Held on by pan head screws, these cheeks are fully adjustable for smaller or larger cutters – and yes, since they are so easy to adjust, you will end up using them because it is stupid not to.

The screw bolts for trammel bars and fence have springs fitted so that they don’t work loose and fall off, this means that you always have the required screws when you need them.

A simple dust extraction spout is easy to attach to the base of the router because it clicks into place with three lugs into three matching slots. Extraction is good and visibility of the cutter and cut inspires the confidence that you can work accurately. It helps to use a lightweight extraction hose that does not pull on the router base.

Also included are a template guide bush that uses two screws to attach it to the base and a beam trammel attachment that fits onto a fence rod so that users can rout circles and curves.

For the users who want to go beyond general routing, the T5E can be used with an 8mm collet, available as an accessory. It can also be mounted on a router table or used with other accessories via the two tapped holes in the router base.

And So….

I absolutely loved the new feeling of control engendered by the lack of vibration and noise. 

New Range of Socketry from Draper

Why Buy?
 

  • Excellent Quality
  • Neatly Encased
  • Versatile
  • Well Organised

Draper Expert 75-piece socket set

I was drawn to this set because of the choice of sockets – it has sixteen long ‘Go Through’ sockets in metric and Imperial and a further twenty-one shorter sockets – also in metric and Imperial.

This set managed to solve me a problem the first time I used it – when I had to remove, recondition and replace the cables on an ‘up and over’ garage door. Specifically the long, slim Go Through sockets enabled the easy removal and replacement of the rails and the ‘wobbly’ extension bar provided enough offset that was needed in a tight corner.

What was also noticeable was that the quality of the kit was excellent. All the components felt well-made and professional with a modern design that felt good in the hand.
 

Kit No 2
 

This kit was chosen as a small ‘emergency kit’ – easy to carry, but with enough capability to be able to diagnose the problem – and possibly even fix it. It consists of 47 pieces of which 21 are metric sockets covering a range of 4mm to 14mm. There are 8 long slim Go Through sockets that are sometimes a problem solver.

There is also the range of 19 driver bits and an adaptor to fit the screwdriver handle and the quick release ratchet. Packed into a compact case that is just 25 cm long,18cm wide and 5cm deep, it can be tucked into a carry case or under an arm. For a few weeks I carried it around packed into a tool case where it was consulted a few times on various small jobs. A very useful addition to a general toolkit, and one that is small and lightweight, but very versatile.

And the VDE…
I work with an electrician sometimes so I chose this 18 Piece Draper Expert VDE kit for him to use and evaluate. His initial comments were that that, “quality looked great” and I think that even though I rarely use VDE stuff, just playing with the set and trying out the fit between the various components, I could appreciate that it is well made.

The kit comes in a bright VDE Red plastic case with plastic latches, and consists of 13 sockets ranging from 4mm to 14mm. Each socket is completely encased in insulating plastic, with the only metal bit to see being the socket end. A long sleeve that fits right into the ratchet handle means that there is no gap between socket and ratchet, and it safely covers the ¼ inch square drive on the ratchet.  On the end of the150mm long ratchet handle is a corrugated black button, used to lock and release the sockets by simply pressing down on it. Turning it left or right will change the direction of drive, and there is clearly no way that a user’s hand might touch an exposed bit of metal on the tool itself.

Also included are 4 extension bars – a 6 inch, a 4 inch, a 3 inch and a 2 inch.

All components are safely held in the case by a custom fitted layer of closed cell foam that protects them in transit, as well as helping ensure that the user will quickly see if any part of the kit is missing. My electrician friend endorsed his first impression of the quality of the kit after using it for a few days, and he also liked the compact case a lot because it kept all the kit together and well organised, as well as being light and easy to carry.

And So…

It is clear that Draper has put together a range of socketry that will fit the need of any number of end users. Not only is the quality excellent, but the choice of kits and the way they are encased provides a huge choice for them. Add to that Draper’s Lifetime Guarantee and a choice of finishes and they are definitely in the mix for users looking for high quality and versatile tools. It looks like Draper’s ‘Strength in Quality’ strapline points the way.

Stahlwille Quality Torque Wrenches

Why Buy?

  • Easy to Use
  • Efficient
  • Cost Effective
  • Flexibility

Start with the Setting…

Perhaps the most crucial part of this tool, the setting, is indeed easy. It took me all of a few seconds to grasp, and therefore a trained mechanic could very easily use several settings on a single job without taking very much time. It certainly saves on the scenarios I have seen, where several torque wrenches have been used to apply different torque settings to a variety of bolts on the same job.

On the long length of the side of the wrench is a plastic-outlined window with a green sliding button and a plastic magnifying lens. Clearly marked are two scales in Nm and lb./ft. The torque indicator mark has a definite V-shaped mark in it that will line up with one of the clear vertical lines indicating the torque settings. I managed to read the scales very well with my glasses on – and the silver background and black scale marks are very visible.

To set the torque simply put your thumb into the handle end of the wrench shaft and you will find a small flat lever. Push this all the way down (if you don’t push it far enough the scale will not move freely) and use the green milled adjuster button to the setting you want. Release the thumb lever and the setting is set – it won’t move. 

Although the lever is on the open end of the wrench shaft, it is recessed enough so that it can’t be accidentally pressed or too easily become a victim of the ever-present greasy muck associated with workshops.

There is a rubbery plastic handle sited right on the end of the shaft for easy grip and maximum leverage. I wondered if some users might find it a bit small since my small hands had no trouble covering it.


The Working End

It would be pointless to have a quick setting torque wrench and not have a similar level of convenience when it comes to changing sockets etc. The Manoskop 730 Quick has a simple oblong socket into which spanner heads and square drives can be slotted. They are easy to release by simply pushing the green plastic button on the end of the shaft. I did have a small query about this arrangement because if the square drive is inserted ‘upside down’ the button release doesn’t work. Fortunately Stahlwille has provided a little hole where you can insert a pen/file/whatever to push down the release button.  I admit that this might not happen often because the orientation of the wrench is almost always the ‘correct’ way, but mistakes happen. 

What you can be sure of though, is that the QuickRelease Safety lock, while it is quick, will not release until you do it – it is safely held while working.

Accessories

There are several accessories that will fit either to the square drives, or straight into the end of the wrench. I tried the wheelnut socket and the spark plug socket on my car. A mechanic friend who gave the wrench a once over could really see the benefits of the ‘Quick’ aspects of the system, in terms of saving time and hassle for a busy mechanic working to deadlines.

He also liked the fact that there was no need for a manual reset to zero on this wrench made possible by STAHLWILLE’s unique triggering cam mechanism. This means the mechanism is not under any load unless a force is applied, even when it is left set, therefore you do not need to release the tension from the spring, as with conventional torque wrenches.

Once it has clicked as the torque is reached, the job is done and the wrench can be moved straight on to the next bolt.

Compared to the other old style torque wrenches I have used, the Stahlwille Manoskop 730 Quick is a more sophisticated wrench, that did the torque to the required spec with no hassle at all.

 

 

 

Diaquip 350mm Electric Disc Cutter

 

Why Buy?

  • Robustly made
  • Big capacity
  • Dust extraction ski
  • Water dust suppression built in
  • Wheel set for accurate cutting

 

The Diaquip machine is instantly recognisable as professionally rated – just looking at it you realise that it is solidly built, straightforward and no-nonsense. The U-shaped side handle, for instance, is a solid steel-plated tube, bolted into place and covered with an insulating and grippy ribbed-rubber compound. This handle is strong and rigid and shaped so that the user can grip from the top as well as the side when the cutter is used in different orientations.

An elongated main handle is placed directly behind the blade, and it gives users a good view of the cut, as well as allowing them to have enough leverage on the blade to be able to guide it accurately.

All the adjustments that should be on a machine like this are there - they are simple to operate and are strongly made. There is also a simple arbor lock for easy blade changing.

The big and strong cast alloy blade guard incorporates two methods of dust suppression. The most obvious of these is the water-based version, since it involves a tube for the water feed attached to the heavy-duty main power cable that leads down to front of the guard. For ease of use there is a water feed valve at the entrance of the water tube, and a standard hose lock water coupling is provided for instant snap on/off hose connection.

Right at the bottom of the guard is a standard sized dust port that will connect to a vacuum dust extractor should the user choose. It is also good to note that the dust port has a little cover on it so that when vac extraction is not being used, the sludge doesn’t come straight back at the operator.

Or if you prefer you can use the dust ski. Held in place by a simple pin this fits underneath the blade so that the weight of the machine rests on the stainless steel base of the ski. With the support this gives, again accuracy of cut is improved, but more to the point, the ski provides a shroud to the blade that concentrates dangerous dusts right to the back of the ski where it is collected much more efficiently by the (correct) class of vacuum extractor. Since the ski adds so much to the overall dust safety of the cutter it is indeed a very useful addition to the whole saw kit, eradicating all dust when cutting. 

Having used them on a few cuts when I was slicing through some delicate 40mm thick marble, I am a great fan of the guide rollers assembly that comes with this machine. They are simply fitted using a butterfly bolt right under the balance point of the main motor housing. They allow the user to rest the weight of the machine onto a hard surface and use this extra stability to guide the cutter for greater accuracy.

Although it is only a simple addition, the splash guard that can be fitted at the back end of the blade guard is another nice touch. Simple to fit, it also provides some protection for the user from water and sludge splash.

The machine boasts obvious power and cutting ability in a variety of materials, such as reinforced concrete and paving materials.

Back home in my workspace, I found it was a Very Useful and Capable Machine. It is clearly quieter using an electric motor, but didn’t seem less powerful or less capable. I found myself using the water dust suppression system nearly all the time, because it works very well and is simple to attach and set up from either a garden hose or a pressurised container. Accurate cuts are easy to achieve as you become more expert in the use of the machine – much helped by the judicious use of the guide rollers of course.

It would definitely be a machine I would look at if I were a construction worker – powerful, easy to use with good dust suppression – lots to like.

 

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