SENCO GT 40FS Cordless Fencing Stapler: Big, Bold and Brash – and Very Effective

Aimed at: Fencing Professionals and Heavy Duty agricultural users.

Pros: Gas gives freedom from cords and enough power for heavy work. 

Up to now my experience of corded and cordless fencing nailers has been limited to ones with enough capacity to hold smallish mesh on big chicken runs and odd stretches of fencing. So the arrival of the SENCO GT 40FS, which is essentially a contract fencers’ version of a gas powered nailer, was a bit of a surprise. This clearly is a machine aimed at users who have to erect BIG fences and screens, where stapling is currently done using loose staples and a hammer. Think large-scale agricultural stock fencing and so on, often in low temperatures and in challenging conditions where this SENCO is quite at home.

Like builders’ gas nailers, it is a bulky machine because it is necessary to accommodate the piston and firing mechanisms as well as providing some weight to counteract the inevitable recoil when it shoots the heavy duty galvanised staples into wooden posts and rails. However, intended users will not have mains electricity or air powerso the portability and convenience of gas power is the only way to go.

The whole machine is in the familiar black livery with the big red and silver SENCO logo on each side of the body. Despite the necessary bulk of the head, the handle underneath is well-designed for easy grip with a rubberised and ridged overmould. A compact, 1.6Ah Nimh foursquare battery pack slots onto the base of the handle where it is protected from accidental knocks by the reversible belt hook. Any user who needs to hang this tool on a belt will need the American style rig with over the shoulder braces to support the bulk and and its 3.7 Kg weight. And bearing in mind that this tool will be used outdoors in rough conditions, putting it down on muddy and unstable ground might not only be unsafe, it would also be inconvenient to have to bend over and pick it up after every use. The weight doesn’t prevent this tool from being a one-handed operation, something loose stapling on fencing certainly isn’t.

The staple magazine and feeder mechanisms work in a familiar way so regular users of nailers will do it as second nature. The stapler rail is a light alloy that is firmly fixed both front and back, no doubt to withstand the odd knocks it is likely to receive in jobsite use. Behind it is a moulded plastic cover that covers the back side of the staple strips. To load the staple strips, the release button is pushed so that the spring loaded feeder shoe can be pulled back and locked into “open” position, ready to load a couple of strips. Once these are inserted over the rail, the feeder shoe is released so that the staples are firmly held and can be spring fed into the machine as the staples are fired.

I have used numbers of galvanised wire staples in smaller machines but one of the things that made me realise that GT 40FS is a heavy-duty tool was the size of the staples it will fire. With a capacity for 12.2mm crowned hot-dip galvanised staples between 25 and 40mm long it needs all its power and size to fire them. The staples come in weatherproof plastic containers containing either 2,100 40mm staples or 2,700 33mm staples, and have divergent points which mean the staple legs splay out on driving so giving extra hold in the timber. The other great advantage of collated staples over loose is that you’re guaranteed to use every fastener you buy – no more dropped and lost staples.

Preparing the tool for use is a simple process. A fully charged battery takes about two hours on the simple charger supplied, but there is no danger of downtime since the battery power is used very slowly and will easily last a long time –SENCO estimates around 5200 staples per charge. Plus there are two batteries supplied in the kit – enough power even for demanding users.

The 40g gas fuel cell needed to fire the piston mechanism is expected to last around 1200 shots, so again users can expect to have a relatively uninterrupted working day.

Preparing the gas fuel cell is easy too. For safety during transit the valve is separated from the canister, so the user has to press the front and then the back of the valve into the rim of the canister so that the seal is pierced and the gas can flow. The prepared fuel cell is then inserted into position by lifting the lid of the cell housing and inserting it so that the valve mechanism is aligned with the small gas feeder hole leading to the piston mechanism. Simply close the lid to seal the fuel cell off.

Once you are satisfied that the machine is ready to use, the staples have been inserted, and the requisite safety gear has been donned it is time to get to work.

There are a lot of skills associated with using gas staplers safely – and a key one of these is to ensure that you locate the position of the staple safely into the workpiece. Fortunately the GT40FS has a locating groove on the nosepiece to ensure easy location on every drive. Avoid stapling at an angle, never staple near an edge where it could split the material and go right through and avoid areas where there might be embedded metal etc, that could cause a staple to ricochet.

To begin work simply press the safety nose into the work and you will feel it give a little. This prepares the gas and piston, and then a pull on the trigger will fire the piston, which in turn will fire the staple. There is a pop, the fan disperses the exhaust fumes from the top of the tool, and within a few seconds you are ready to fire the next staple. It really is a case that the machine can work as fast as you can or need to. I calculated that around 30 staples a minute is the capacity of this machine, but I doubt that many or indeed any, users would be able to work accurately and safely at this rate.

It may take a bit of trial and error to ensure that staples are not over or under driven – but the depth is easy to adjust using the milled thumbwheel on the front of the tool, and depth of drive is particularly important for stapling wire on fence post which subsequently needs to be strained tight.

I always have a few seconds of trepidation when using gas powered tools – it reminds me of using a gun and I guess the comparison is apt. But when the staple is driven safely home with minimum effort from you, and the tool is quickly ready to drive another one, the trepidation turns to power and the realisation that you can work quickly and cost-effectively to get the job done.

Just as a quick aside – using the machine, I never needed to clear a staple jam because it worked faultlessly for me in the clean and undemanding conditions of an English summer. But it is incredibly quick to unjam staples with the hex key supplied. 

 

SMAARTWIPES - Get the Ones You Need

Aimed At: Professional and home users who need efficient wiping power.

Pros: They do what they say they will do, saving time and looking after hands too.

Confession time. I never thought that I would become a fan of wipes, that is until I was given a tub to try out some years ago. I was surprised to find out how good they were for wiping hands and surfaces and not daunted by oils, paints, adhesives or even expanding foam. So I was hooked, and what’s more, whenever I take them on site I find that I am particularly popular at the end of the day at cleaning up time. I have gained quite a few converts to wipes this way and sometimes even the clients ask where they can get them – having seen how effective they are in cleaning up.

While the original tub of wipes that I used were quite generalist, it has only taken a couple of years for manufacturers to launch more specialist ranges aimed at different trades like technicians, decorators and builders.

We really can say goodbye to the skin-damaging rinse of the hands with white spirit or meths and then the inevitable struggle with whatever soap or washing-up liquid we can find.

The range of SMAARTWIPES is comprehensive and I was sent four different kinds to test in various scenarios.

The Universal Tough Wipes come in a flat plastic waterproof pack similar to the kind in which baby wipes are packaged. The pack of 30 wipes is accessed by simply lifting up the resealing strip and pulling up the wipe underneath.

These wipes really are for general trade or household use, and would not be out of place in a garden shed or home workshop. I tried them on a range of paints and adhesives, oil, silicone and grease and found that they cleaned up very well.

The wipes themselves are large enough to do a “two-handed” clean up of hands and the pleasantly scented lemon solvent cleaner lasted all the way to the last wipe. The perforations in the wipe surface give a texture to them that helps to shift ingrained dirt and makes them very effective especially on grease and oil.

I found that they were a great to leave on the shelf in my workshop or as a last minute addition to one of my toolboxes before loading the car because the flat pack is easy to stow and doesn’t require much space.

The next test was not one that I scheduled. While inspecting the crop on my plum tree in my front garden I stepped on a rather unpleasant “gift” from one of my neighbour’s cats and I didn’t realise it until I got to my front door and porch.

For this unpleasant job I used the tub of SMAARTWIPES designated for Carpets and Upholstery. There are 40 wipes in the tub and the label indicates that tea and coffee stains, pet stains, footprints and hand marks are all within the remit for removal using them.

Fortunately, the floors near my front door consist of coir mat and oak, so the contamination was able to be quickly dealt with by the judicious use of half a dozen or so wipes. The lemon scent helped to disguise the whiff of the mess and the strength of the 18x20 cm textured wipes was such that I felt confident that I didn’t have to touch the dirt.

I did also try the wipes on a couple of existing marks on the carpet that were a bit more “innocent,” like tea and coffee stains. These stains required a couple of minute’s effort and application to remove, but I found that they did indeed lift out and the evidence was clear to see on the wipe as well as a much cleaner carpet. My leather sofa also benefited from a clean over on some of the more obvious marks too.

These particular wipes are presented in a 23cm tall tub with a foil seal that has to be removed before the wipes can be accessed. As usual, it is very tempting to simply pull the wipes from the top quite quickly, so it is easy to get more than you need at one go, nevertheless, in my view, they are a very good addition to the dirt-fighting armoury of a well run household.

Also having a rather specialist use was the tub of 40 Stainless Steel Tough Polishing Wipes. At first I thought that they might be too specific for my purposes, but the recommended uses include removing smears, residue stains and oil and grease, so I had the ideal task to try them on – my cooker hood. Now, even the famous Muscular brand of cleaner has difficulty removing the grease from the top of my cooker hood so I was worried that the wipes would be ineffective. But a couple of the textured wipes wrapped together and the application of a bit of elbow grease removed coated grease and oil very effectively and left a clean surface with no feeling of slight oiliness that I get with some cleaners. The wipes gathered grease so quickly that I ended up using about 8 of them to end up with a shiny, grease free cooker hood. Again, the evidence was on the wipes to show how effective they had been and since the wipes are completely non-abrasive, they do not scratch or damage the stainless steel surface.

Lastly, I was given a big tub of 100 Trade Cleaning Wipes – of the type that I normally buy when I work on site. They are very generalist in application – removing everything from paint to oil, silicone and expanding foam. They are indeed as billed on the tub – Simple but Effective.

The non-woven wipes have a very effective cleaning formula that effectively lifts dirt off surfaces and my tests using my usual range of dirt –oil, grease glues, paint and expanding foam - proved that the wipes really do work. The addition of Aloe Vera also helps to protect skin from the damage and drying out usually associated with using solvents to clean up. They are now a regular part of my kit both in the workshop and on site.

For me, wipes are now a necessity, and the range of SMAARTWIPES is a welcome addition to the competition because they work very well and are very competitively priced. Smaartwipes are exclusively available from Toolstream.

Tite-Fix Ltd – Award Winning Fixings and Expert Knowledge

Aimed at: All discerning screw users, especially professionals.

Pros: Choose the exact screw you need from the huge TiteFix range to do the perfect job.

One of the reasons why I started to explore the different kinds of screws on the market was because of an interesting tool show discussion I had a couple of years back with Michael Wilkinson, MD of Tite-Fix Ltd. It soon became clear to me that not only did he have excellent practical and theoretical knowledge of how screws work, he could also demonstrate the various screw-based problems and then give you a solution by choosing a product from Tite-Fix’s huge range.

Tite-Fix was generous enough to send me a box of screws that encompassed 24 different types of screws in various sizes, finishes and drive combinations. The range convinced me that choosing the correct screws can be a simple job as long as you have a few facts at your command. Take these bits of pithy advice from Michael himself, and I am sure you will agree that they make absolute sense: -

“As for the types of drive, Pozi is good as long as the bits fit the recess correctly. We use the drive that suits the screw. Tongue-Tite® has a lost countersunk head and a Torx works best here”.

“Deck-Tite® Plus is A4 stainless steel and is often driven in with an impact driver so we use a No.2 Square drive”.

“Timber-Tite® is a heavy duty screw where Torx suits”.

“On our premium brand multi-purpose Screw-Tite® we use Pozi because in our experience the end-user prefers this, and it is still by far the most widely used recess”.

“I prefer a good Pozi drive. Torx is poor on start-up but works well once the screw has started”.

Tite-Fix has based its range of screws on the “Tri-Lock” threadform and judging by the number of national and international awards the company has won, it has been a great success.

I had a particular problem to solve recently when replacing a series of internal doors so I chose some Hinge-Tite screws. The plain coated brass countersunk screws were easy to centre and start, and were driven into the hinge countersinks, leaving a flush surface between screw and hinge.  I hate the fact that so many standard screws do not seat well because of the self countersinking ribs underneath the head. Another issue is that the heads are often too big to fit the hinges – often caused by the fact that the heads have been designed for power driving and are therefore a bit meatier.

For a more sophisticated finish on window fittings and high quality hardware, the chromed, slightly domed Hinge-Tite screws are perfect. Again, the choice is yours to make the job easy and the clients happy.  

From specialist to generalist now. The award winning Screw-Tite screws are excellent all-rounders available from 12 to 150mm long in various gauges. The Tri-Lock shank means that it is easy to start with less damage to the timber surface.  There is also less likelihood of splitting the edge if you start close to it with these screws.

For flooring – whether it be decking, tongue and groove, chipboard or composites – there is a fantastic choice from the Tite-Fix range. The Tongue –Tite for example has a tiny head that is easily lost into the tongue of a floorboard for a concealed fixing into which the groove can be slotted. Outside? – simple. Just choose the stainless steel variant and you get a free driver bit in the box too.

The above examples are a fraction of Tite-Fix range. While I didn’t get to use all of my Tite-Fix samples, you can bet that I will, eventually, in the course of various jobs. It is simply very satisfying to have the work go well because you chose the best screw for the job – whether it be finish, head size or driving head.  

So, I come back to my point that not all screws are equal -  a shrewd choice of screws for your fixing jobs will not only be more effective, it will also save you time, money and hassle as well.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SMART Tools and Purple Series Blades - A Cutting Combination?

Aimed at: Anyone, amateur or pro who needs a well priced and oscillating Tool.

Pros: Combined with purple series blades it is a great performer on all materials. 

The market in oscillating multi tools is crammed with many good and excellent products from a majority of leading power tool brands. The result is a range of tools from good to excellent at various price points and the weak need not apply – because the market will be quickly find out the vulnerable.

SMART is not really a brand associated with power tools, and yet the oscillating tool I was sent for review showed all the signs of being a very good product – and to underline the confidence that SMART has in it, it comes with a Ten Year Warranty.

Well presented in a robust French Blue custom fitted plastic case with enough space for the tool and 3m of cord and a load of spare blades, it makes a good first impression. The presentation is neat and professional and with a SSP of £139+VAT it is very competitively priced too. For the tool and 60-piece accessory kit the price is only £30 more. A Fair price to pay for delta sander, scraper etc that put the “multi” into multitool. 

The body of the tool is, well, - sleek and very neat and it looks well made. There are no odd moulding “nibs” or other giveaway signs of a cheaply made product.  It is slim enough to get a really good one-handed grip and the panels of grippy rubber do indeed help to minimise the inevitable vibration generated by this type of tool.

A simple slider switch on the top of the body selects on/off and a six position dial at the cord end selects the speed. An alloy casing on the front contains the oscillating mechanism, metal gearbox and a bright LED worklight. On top of the casing is the blade release lever for toolless change of blades. This operates very smoothly with no “snap” for unwary fingers and the flange fitting is designed to accommodate pretty well all of the range of blades available on the market.  

The motor has the inevitable whine associated with oscillating tools and it is always better to wear ear protection when using them, but the SMART does not suffer from louder noise levels than most of the competition.

To complement the SMART 300W Multi-Tool, the company has focused on the development of its Purple Series of blades that is intended to create a simple solution for the end user - a pack of four blades with the same tooth design and capabilities but in different sizes according to the selected task. Generally speaking this translates into wider blades for bigger and softer materials and smaller blades for more concentrated tasks and harder materials. These bi-metal blades are coated in Titanium alloy to help keep the blade cool and this in turn helps that blades to cut quicker and last longer.

As oscillating tools are often used where there is a danger of hidden nails and screws, the Purple Series bi-metal blades are also designed to cut through through small metal obstructions that could be encountered.

They also have a universal fitting that is compatible with most leading brands of multi tools as well as those with the “quick release” design that simply slides out when the flange is released.

I use multi-tools a lot for my general woodwork as well as on site where they a brilliant “get out of trouble” tool that will do a job where others can’t. On a couple of small jobs where I took the SMART tool with me I found that it was very good at doing the cutting, slicing and getting into small spaces that multi-tools are made for. The range of Purple Series blades proved to be very versatile and I particularly liked the wide (70mm) blade that allowed me to trim off a rafter end flush with the brickwork. And it didn’t seem particularly bothered by the occasional brush with the brickwork either – it just carried on cutting. The semi-circular blade was also very useful cutting out odd pieces of plasterboard needed to fit around a ceiling repair.

 

Cutting through steel and galvanised nails was also quite easily achieved with these blades. In my experiments I hammered a couple of rows of nails into a strip of MDF and sliced them off level with the surface with no trouble at all. There appeared to a bit of wear on the teeth of the blades, but they continued cutting well.

Cutting the same nails that were deeply embedded in a piece of wood created a physical problem, namely that the friction of the cut creates heat, and this heat has nowhere to escape, so there is a danger of some smoke. Then the user has to take care to use the whole blade, a slightly lower speed and generally adopt a safety first approach. I must stress that this happens whatever make of blades you use, the Purple Series shortened the agony by cutting as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A much tougher challenge is cutting through modern case-hardened screws commonly used nowadays. They are designed to be very hard and cut their own path even into hardwood because they are driven effortlessly by powerful torquey drill drivers. Gone are the days of guide holes and hand screwdriving! And much softer steel screws!

I found that I could cut these screws by slowing the speed slightly and using the whole of the blade.  Again, the amount of heat produced shows just how hard the blade teeth are having to work to cut the steel. I did something I don’t normally do, and I used another brand of aftermarket cutter on the SMART tool just for a comparison of cutting speeds, and the SMART Purple Series blades edge proved to be far superior. It cut more quickly and lasted measurably longer. Certainly the teeth on both blades showed signs of wear and blunting, but the Purple Series blade would still cut wood and softer metals quite happily.

Cutting, scraping and sanding are also done very easily with a multi-tool and potential purchasers of the SMART 300W multi-Tool would be pleased to know that it performs just as well on these as we would expect. Certainly, the SMART plastic case is well-designed enough to hold a range of common accessories that might be used on a decorating job for example.

So, if you want a competent, well-priced multi-tool the SMART might be your answer. Combine it with the Purple Series blades and save yourself a lot of time and hassle too. 

 

Security from ABUS – Advanced Locks that Work

Aimed at: Anyone who needs a high quality padlock that both looks the part is very secure. 

Pros: Use of ne Titalium makes for both lightness and strength. 

 

It is a truism that security is only as good as the weakest point – and in my observations, the badly fitted hasp and staple or sliding bolt held on with nails are quite common on sheds and gates up and down the country. For these situations it would be pointless fitting one of the ABUS TITALIUM padlocks I was sent for review. With an ABUS security rating of 8/10 they are definitely not the weak point.

Handling the locks and working the keys makes one aware of just how up to date these padlocks are compared with some we commonly see on the market.

Firstly, the bodies are made from TITALIUM, an alloy developed by ABUS that consists largely of aluminium and titanium (hence the name) that is not only light but also extremely tough. The body exteriors of the locks are specially plated against corrosion, as well as being ground smooth, so that attacks with hammers and bars are more likely to bounce off than break the lock.

Just looking at the engineering of the bodies, it is clear that each has been milled from a single solid block of TITALIUM, so there are no seams or joints for a potential thief to exploit.

Secondly, as far as I could tell, the lock mechanisms are inserted tightly, right into the body of the locks – again obviating any exploitable gaps or weak points. The complex double-sided key is slid into the mechanisms and can be inserted any way up, thus saving time and hassle. A complex key and matching lock mechanism also makes picking the lock quickly highly unlikely. 

The all important shackles are another potential weak point, and no padlock I have used so far in my career has been proof against a cordless angle grinder, thin cutting disc and enough time. Thieves might not always have the time to use this noisy option, so it is a limited threat, but I have actually given up on the bolt cutter option when it became clear that I was more in danger of pulling a muscle than cutting the shackle. Those locks you see on the movies being cut with a flick of the bolt cutters must be specially made….

So just for devilment, I got out my bolt cutters to try to cut either of the two shackles. The Extra Classe 96 has a NANOPROTECT shackle that is designed to minimise access to it, so it is hard to get a bolt cutter near enough to engage the jaws. I did try very hard and managed to dent the shackle a bit, but there was no way I was going to be able to cut it.

On the Monobloc TI 98 the special alloy shackle is again difficult to access, and again I only made a dent on it with the bolt cutters.

One of the other security confidence builders is looking the part – and these two locks certainly do. With solid bodies and smooth exteriors they provide a deterrence factor by simply looking strong enough to repel all attacks.

These locks from ABUS may be an “old” security solution, but it is clear that the application of modern materials and design has made them still applicable in the 21st Century. 

Leatherman Surge – A Thoroughly Modern Multi-Tool

Aimed at: Those who need a high quality multi-tool for work or play.

Pros: Usable pliers and it doesn't bust your nails trying to get the blades out.

While some people rabbit on about Health and Safety as though they are bad – I take a different view. Changing rules on Health and Safety often allow us to take a fresh look, and the consequent redesign is usually much better – especially in the area of tools.

The first multi tool I coveted, years ago, was a crude device compared to the slick stainless steel Leatherman Surge that arrived on my desk a few days ago.

In its folded form, the Leatherman Surge is a weighty bit of kit that fits neatly into the palm of the hand. Made almost entirely from different grades of stainless steel, it is very well screwed together and there are no sharp bits sticking out. It feels like it will do the job!

The more I explored the features of the Surge, the more I came to appreciate just how much safer and more useful it is compared to my first multi tool.

Safety-wise it is simply great. All the blades are lockable so will not suddenly release to trap or cut an unwary finger. The big sharp knife blades will not open unless the handles are in the closed position – so basically they are available only when you need them.

Opening up all the tools is now not a job for steel fingernails – they are mostly released via a spring catch and a generous finger niche is provided to help them open out. On the other hand, both the serrated and standard knife blades can be opened with the flick of a thumb – something that I have come to appreciate when I have been been working on site.

There is also a bit of future proofing built in because key things that get blunt, like the wire cutters and reversible screwdriver bit, can be replaced very easily.

What set the original Leatherman apart from others was the inclusion of a pair of pliers that actually worked. The Surge carries on this tradition, but with bells on. The narrownose pliers are revealed by simply opening out the handles. Milled jaws provide a good grip on wire as well as small nuts and bolts and the wire cutters are VERY effective on both electrical wires and small gauge steel wire. Behind the fulcrum are an electrical wire cutter and crimper that work very well too.

Some multi tools claim to have legions of blades, but in my experience, they often don’t all work. This is not true of the Surge – all twenty blades are completely functional and some are ingenious. The scissors, for example, have a brilliant spring mechanism that means they actually work properly - I cut paper, card and hard plastic quite easily.

I was also pleased to see that this Surge came in a leather belt pouch with elasticated nylon sides that not only held the knife securely, but also had some space to accommodate a couple of spares like the diamond and metal file blades.

So, the Leatherman Surge is a really practical, modern and safe multi that would be perfect for campers, travellers and emergency trade use. I like it!

GYSMi 80P Welder - As Compact as You Dare?

Aimed at: General users who occasionally Weld.

Pros: A portable and capable little welder that can be brought anywhere. 

Remember when welders were so bulky you had to use them in a workshop or not at all? Sometimes they even had wheels to help you out a tiny bit. It wasn’t that long ago. But, in what seems like an almost single-handed quest to help welding reach the masses, the GYS Company in France has been using modern electronics to reduce the size and increase the capability and controllability of welders to the point where I have been reviewing and using a tiny welder that would literally fit into a child’s shoebox.

 

Measuring just 215mm long, 99mm wide and 143mm high and weighing in at around 2.5Kgs the GYSMi 80P has enough capability in its tiny casing to weld ferrous metals up to 5mm thick using welding rods from 1.6 to 2.5mm. With the right rods, steel, stainless steel and and cast iron can be welded. With its perfect portability it makes sense that this is a “go anywhere” welder for small tasks such as mending farm gates and steel frame buildings, so it is also great to know that it can be used in conjunction with a portable generator as low as 3kW capacity.

The GYSMi 80P is the smallest of a small series of welders that increase in size and capability in steps up to a very capable 200 amps and 5mm welding rods, so users can choose the machine to suit the tasks envisaged. They all have some very advanced technology built in, clearly the bigger they are, the more the technology that can be included.

However, the GYSMi 80P is no slouch. Electronic technologies have a great part to play in welding because they can be used to monitor the human input as well as the heat, current etc taking place at the welding point. Using all this data, the welder can optimise the weld so that even inexperienced welders can end up with an acceptable result. And with overheating etc overrides built in the user has the reassurance that he will not damage the machine by using it inexpertly.

This outcome is something that our Continental friends have been able to access for many years because welding is very much part of their DIY and light trade culture. I can only guess that in the past in the UK we have either been too scared of welding as it is seen as “dangerous” or “too specialised” or even too expensive to invest in for occasional use.

To give some examples of how the GYSMi 80P helps make better welders of its users, the electronics helps with some of the following: - The so called Hot Start increases the current at the start of the weld so that the user can get the weld going. This avoids the stop/start of the welding rod that many new to welding experience that usually results in a series of blobs on the welding line. In my short experience of using the machine the Hot Start feature was the feature that helped me get a weld going smoothly so that I could judge the feed rate of the welding rod.

The next feature is Arc Force – this increases the current when the electrode enters into melted metal created by the weld and then tends to stick. Again, this allows the user to remove the electrode and move on as smoothly as possible into the weld.

The Anti Sticking feature is the one that also helped me in my experience of welding. I tend to get a lot of “sticks” because I don’t feed the electrode smoothly and evenly enough to get that desired “ribbed” look of a successful weld.

Since becoming known as having a welder in my workshop I have had a number of requests to weld a few things. One of these was a set of weighted volleyball net holders whose legs had broken off from being bent over too far. In the end, it was a simple matter of realigning and then reattaching the legs by a couple of straight (ish?) welds. They are still in daily use weeks later, so my weld must have been good enough.

Other uses have been a couple of short welds for a friend who fancies himself as a sculptor. He is already talking about borrowing my GYSMi, but with a price of around the £100 for a ready to go kit, I am sure he could afford his own.

From the dealer point of view, welders like the GYSMi 80P are now not really any more specialised than some woodworking machines or power tools that they might stock. There could be many advantages in taking on a new line. Some dealers I have spoken to in rural areas have seen increases in business by stocking welding gear.

Like many other products, the welding machines are very competitively priced, but welding accessories are an absolute requirement for continued use, and these can help dealers develop healthy sales in electrodes, gloves, masks and other small tools.

It only takes one member of a sales force to have a bit of training and experience in welding for him/her to become a bit of an expert. At its HQ in Rugby, GYS UK is able to give the necessary training and product knowledge required to successfully stock and sell welders.

There is lots to like about the GYSMi 80P – not least of which is the fact that it is ready to go – all you really need to add are some suitable electrodes and basic safety kit like mask and gloves etc. And I have to say there is something very satisfying about being able to make a simple and quick, and hopefully long lasting repair, to something using a suitable weld. I have done the vain attempts to bind a pair of metal pieces together with wire, only to see the repair fail as the whole thing moves or falls apart because the strength of the repair is simply not good enough. And with a machine that helps you to be a better welder via its electronics – I will take that any day. 

Snickers All Round Work Trousers-Comfortable, Hardwearing and Above All, Stylish

The days of workmen and women turning out in jeans and a scrappy T-shirt are pretty well over.

We have all been blessed with a highly competitive market in work wear that ensures that pretty well 100% of work people have access to practical and hard wearing work wear.

But not all work wear is equal, as I have found to my cost, especially when I have impulse-bought cheaper trousers. My most common complaint is with the depth and placement of the pockets and of course the all important bending and kneeling test that can reveal just how much material has been saved in certain areas???

On the other hand, the Snickers All Round Work Trousers I have been wearing on site for the last week and a half have been incredibly comfortable and I am already considering the need for a second pair, despite the fact that they are not the cheapest trousers on the market.

It is only with extended wear that I have become aware of just how thoughtfully they have been designed and almost each day I have been surprised by one or other feature.

So, some facts: - they are made in Grey Cordura Nylon which is hardwearing, easy to wash and dries quite quickly too – especially over a radiator – so next day wear is on the cards if a spare pair is not available. Sizing couldn’t have been easier – although it was a bit of a shock to discover my growing waistline, the tape measure reading was spot on. To help you remember your size for easy next purchase, an orange tab on the leg reminds you and everyone else what your size is.

Belt loops are strong and frequent, including a double length loop at the back, so there is no gapping.

My first thought on all the pockets (I counted 15 of them) was that I surely wouldn’t need as many, but in the course of wearing the trousers I used them all, including the zipped holster pocket which held my phone and protected it from dust etc. The front holster pockets are simply great for holding screws, small tools etc and there are enough of them to allow me separate different sizes of screws, nails and bits. The standard front pockets are deep enough to hold car keys and change without any danger of them falling out if you have to kneel or bend. On the rear of the hips are a couple of tool loops as well as a screwdriver/plier loop on the right leg. One of the spacious rear pockets has a flap for safe holding of a wallet or even documents, while the other is a great place for a handful of sizeable nails or screws.

Custom kneepads are slotted into pockets on the knees – again so convenient to use and they didn’t end up halfway down my shins.

Two of the best aids to comfort is the stretch material used in the crotch and the ventilated knee sections.

Perhaps the best thing was that my clients both commented on how stylish and smart the trousers looked when I wore them. A small thing perhaps, but looks do count, and I can’t find any fault with the design either. These trousers definitely fall into my “Highly Recommended” category and I will continue proudly to wear them.

I also had the good fortune to try out the Solid Gear work shoes. These are in a “Tough Trainer” style with a Vibram sole and padded, moisture wicking inside. Key for me was the Boa Closure System on the shoes that allow almost instant tightening and releasing of the “laces”. On the particular job I was working on it was a great hit with me and the clients as I could quickly change shoes every time I went from indoors to outdoors without having to trail mud on the carpets and floors. I can foresee a time when all work shoes will be made like this…. 

For more information on Snickers Workwear and the Hultafors Brand, please visit www.hultaforsgroup.co.uk

Pages

Scroll to Top