Workwear: JCB branded from Progressive Safety Footwear

DESPITE the sunshine here in the south of England, the weather has turned very cold. So, it really is time to dig out the winter work gear, write PETER BRETT.

The prospect of muddy jobsites and cold feet and hands is not one I relish. From November to March I usually prefer the comfort and convenience of working indoors, but we cannot always choose where we work.

Boots made for walking

So it was handy to have a nice parcel of JCB branded winter clothing from Progressive Safety Footwear. In the parcel were two pairs of boots for different work sectors.

First up, JCB 5CX boots

The first pair are butch and tough-looking, entitled the 5CX, which provide the following specifications:

• The uppers are made of tough black leather, a feature I like because my feet prefer the comfort that leather promotes.

• The seams are double or quadruple stitched and the protective toecap is covered with a TPU ‘scuff cap’ to remind users these are indeed tough work boots.

• The boots are S1-rated, which is a level above Safety Basic; so safety protection includes anti-static safety, sole-piercing protection, and protection from flames and heat, outside grip, and resistance to some chemicals.

• The sole has a strong ‘blocked’ grip pattern that will help to grip in muddy and wet conditions outdoors – but the downside for indoors, is that they can drop off lumps of mud on interior floor coverings.

The 5cx’s message is clear: they are intended for tough outdoor use, but there’s a particular twist with these boots – although they lace up all the way past ankle level, on the inside ankles, there is a strong YKK zip that can be slid down. This means the boots simply slip straight off.

A leather hook and loop strap helps prevent the zip from sliding down by itself, and the choices offered by the various lacing loops means users can personalise the fit around the ankle for a combination of support and ease of taking on/off.

The boots stay dry, cool and warm through a padded and part-lined material.

My experience of wearing these boots for a few days was they were almost instantly comfortable, and with a chance to adjust the laces and zip over a couple of days, I was soon able to get them to feel like a very tough and protective second skin.

I found they came up a bit smaller than other pairs of JCB boots, so it will pay to try them on if you can, while remembering to take into account a pair of cosy JCB winter work socks.

Secondly, a pair of HYDRADIG/B boots for lighter duty

Next up was a pair of HYDRADIG/B black mesh mid cut boots. With a lightweight sole and mesh fabric construction they are aimed at trades whose work is largely indoors.

The sole reflects this too – it has a lightly-hatched pattern to provide good grip on ‘smooth-ish’ surfaces, which will help remove mud and dirt easily by simply wiping your feet on a doormat.

• These mid-cut boots have a full mesh lining designed for comfort;

• Much like the 5CX, the HYDRADIG/B provide S1-rated levels of protection for toes and sole penetration as well as anti-static insulation and grip, but unlike the leather boots above, they do not resist heat or fire.

Having worn a pair of JCB safety trainers this summer I found that moving up to the mid-cut pattern was seamless. They feel similarly comfortable and the lacing is easy to customise for a compromise between a secure fit and getting them off easily.

Again, on a cold winter’s day it is easy to slip on a pair of slightly thicker JCB work socks to ensure cosy feet.

Some more treats

A warm and rugged sweatshirt is good to have on a cold jobsite. To be part of a more exclusive crowd, the Limited Edition J C Bamford 1945 logo sweatshirt is distinctive – and practical.

Made from polyester and cotton, it is ‘roomy’ and fits comfortably – which is complemented through a thumb loop on the end of the sleeves, which keeps them from riding up and exposing arms to the cold.

The lightly fleecy inner certainly helped to keep me warm and the crew neck kept draughts to a minimum. Of course, it is the first item of clothing to get paint or plaster splattered, but it washes and dries quite easily because of its polyester content.

Underneath the sweatshirt, a subtly branded JCB polo shirt is a great choice.

Made of 100% polyester it is breathable, antibacterial, pill-resistant, colour fast and anti-stretch. In summer, it will also protect its wearer from UV light.

The sleeves and underarms of the shirt are made with a breathable mesh fabric (as seen on football strips) and these help to keep the wearer fragrant.

I have already mentioned the warm JCB socks – I have a couple of pairs now – but the additional pair will help solve the one pair on, one pair washed and last pair in the laundry basket dilemma.

Not-so baggy trousers

Finally, the JCB Trade Plus Rip Stop Work Trousers (in grey and black), are styled in a classic and comfortable way.

I find these trousers suit me very well for most jobs because they are not only tough and practical but comfortable too.

With seven substantial belt loops (an extra wide one at the back to avoid builder’s bottom) they stay up. I like the holster pockets on the front of each thigh, but of course they are very easy to overload with tape measure, knife, pencils etc etc. Not the trousers’ fault though!

With nine other pockets for everything from a screwdriver to the ever-present mobile phone, these trousers are a useful standard layout that has many applications in a variety of trades.

I almost always manage to test the rip-stop qualities of the material via a nail or bit of scaffolding – but it is what it says – Rip Stop.

In my experience, the JCB clothing above has scored well for practicality, comfort and washing. There is an advantage to a coordinated work wardrobe – it adds to comfort and even safety, and the JCB ranges come without a premium price tag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety is key

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turrets, depths and adjustments

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

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

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

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

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

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

This way that way, another way

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snickers Stretch workwear mirrors high street fashion

WHEN I changed from a comfortable pair of well worn-in jeans and donned the new Snickers Workwear AllroundWork Stretch Trousers with holster pockets, they immediately felt like they had always been part of me, write PETER BRETT.

Despite appearing to be a tighter fit on legs and waist, which Snickers call a street-smart style, they had space enough to accommodate easy bending and stretching without constricting anything.

There’s lots to like and they will be my first on-site choice of wear for the foreseeable. They will be perfect for those pesky bend and stretch jobs, where the stretch really does make a difference in comfort levels.

Design is the answer

Comfort and durability are designed into Snickers trousers and it does mean the products are considered premium.

However, Snickers wearers I’ve spoken to justify the expense with the fact the trousers last a long time, wash very well, and do a good job of being practical work trousers.

It is also increasingly true high street trends are affecting the work wear ranges of many manufacturers.

It seems tradespeople want to keep up with fashion too, but I doubt whether the average pair of fashionable trousers from a high-street chain would be made using 64 pattern pieces, 592 metres of thread and come in 70 sizes.

Clearly there is more to the design of these trousers than meet the eye. Using a combination of two-way and four-way stretch fabrics is only one way the designers have ensured the comfort and durability of these trousers.

Other practicalities include the knee areas and seat being made of elasticated Cordura, which adds to the comfort. The hardwearing Cordura fabric is indeed tough and washes well.

Proof of the pudding

Initially, I wore the trousers around the house while doing my usual weekend jobs that require bending and stretching, and the feeling was confirmed they just feel comfortable, and there was a lot less pulling up at the waistband after bending down. They simply stayed in place better.

When I ventured to the workshop, I started using the array of pockets to collect my usual array of tape measure, screw bits, pencils and markers.

The two side and back pockets are large and secure for a wallet and car keys, but I am a convert to holster pockets on the front of my work trousers.

Each holster pocket from the Snickers workwear have three pouches so it is easy to separate a small screwdriver to a pencil for easy finding. On the left thigh there is a capacious pocket, which is useful for larger items.

On both side-thighs there are long pockets that will hold bigger screwdrivers. On site, these pockets along with the comfy stretch made for a really comfortable pair of trousers that felt almost like a second, extremely protective skin.

Kneeling pains?
Thing of the past!

Snickers Workwear is one of the few manufacturers that can boast the knee pockets and knee pads on its trousers match the position of the wearer’s knees when they kneel. This is such a valuable feature for me that it’s a deal breaker when buying new trousers. Add to it that wearers have the choice of four kneepad styles and a Knee-Guard System that allows the user to position the kneepads in their pockets at the correct level.

On reflection and lots of wearing, all I can say is if these Snickers Workwear AllroundWork trousers are fashionable then I am happy to be part of the ‘fashionista’ trend. Now that’s something I never thought I would say!

Innovation from Spectre Screws

WHEN it comes to woodscrews – or even fastenings in general – we have a bewildering choice nowadays.

The cordless drill driver and modern woodscrews have made what was a chore into a simple job with, usually, much better results than we could have expected 20 years ago, writes PETER BRETT.

Who drills pilot holes these days? Or who greases screws before twisting them in with a big screwdriver like we used to?

The Spectre USPs

The new Spectre screws are labelled as Advanced Multi-Purpose Woodscrews, so are aimed at jobbing builders, joiners, carpenters and others. They need a good product at a good price, when a premium screw is not required.

FORGEFIX carefully chose the features most needed for general users and, based on my experience of using woodscrews in a variety of applications, the design is pretty well spot on.

Starting with the quick-start type 17 slash point, it is very sharp so getting a good start is almost as easy as just pushing it into the wood where you need the screw to be.

In addition to the cut out to clear the starting hole quickly, the first few mm of the thread has a small sawtooth that literally cuts its way through the wood and helps prevent splitting.

I tried the screws close to the edges of both hard and softwood, and it is not an idle claim.

Brian Trevaskiss, Marketing Manager at FORGEFIX, said: "Users don’t have to open the box, they just need to offer up their sample screw to the scale to compare.

" This is simple stuff – but no-one else has thought of this before. I am sure retailers will love it.

"There is also the option to purchase larger quantity boxes of the most popular sizes that represent a 10% saving on the equivalent normal size boxes.

"As for the screws – yes, they work well. They are anti-corrosion coated, and come in 48 sizes with, as mentioned above, options for bulk trade boxes.

"Dealers who decide to stock bigger numbers qualify for a free one-metre display stand."

Point of sale display

FORGEFIX is to be commended for coming up with a few excellent ideas to help end users (and even shop counter staff) to choose the right size screws.

This will also help with the annoying problem of finding clumsily opened boxes half full of screws on a display - usually the result of a customer trying to find exactly the length and gauge of the screw they want.

The new bright yellow and black boxes have the size and gauge of the screws written in big letters (even without my glasses I can read them) on one side of the box.

On the other side is an actual size representation of the head, so the user will know what size and type of driver to use. Below it is a centimetre scale with the screw imposed on it.

Wera and the era of the ‘torqueys’

A FLICK through the latest Wera product catalogue will confirm the company is no stranger to the ‘torqueys’ – tools that control the level of torque for tightening various bolts and screws, writes PETER BRETT.

As machines and components have become more advanced, the need to control the levels of torque of various fixings has become very important.

'As tight as you can get it' is not an acceptable procedure when working on a carbon-fibre structure, or on an electronic device that needs a correct torque to maintain electrical contacts.

The Wera torque tool range provides ultra-precise micro screwdrivers to standard and VDE formats, right the way to a monster torque wrench capable of delivering torque tightening from 200Nm to 1000Nm.

Clearly the latter have more sophisticated ‘innards’ to ensure accurate and consistent torque delivery for a wider range of tasks.

Eisenwarenmesse 2018 (Cologne Tool Fair) was the setting for the launch of Wera’s Click-Torque range of wrenches – and an array it was too.

To ensure all bases were covered the range stretches from the A5 & A6 ¼” drive 2.5 – 25Nm right through to the E, which is a ¾” drive.

C1 – C5 Range

The C1 reversible ratchet wrench comes with a 10 to 50Nm capability up to the C5 with an 80-400Nm available. Add in the Click Torque E and the Click Torque X series for use with insert tools and it is clear Wera takes torque tools extremely seriously.

Click Torque C3

I was sent a Click Torque C3 to review, which is in the middle of the C range (1/2”) of wrenches and is a typical example of the ergonomics and operation of the Wera torque wrenches – so readers can generalise a bit about how the rest work.

The Click Torque C3 announces its capability with green lettering by the ratchet head reading 40-200Nm, meaning it would be a good choice for mechanics, AA Patrol Staff and such like.

This precision tool is just over 51cm long and arrived packaged in a snug square plastic box, which is great for storage and would suit any retail display.

Also in the case was the all-important calibration certificate and Certificate of Conformity, which should be kept safe.

Torque wrenches need regular calibration after a fixed number of work cycles to ensure continuing accuracy. I was pleased to note my sample, according to the certificate, was well within the 3% tolerance allowed by the standards testing authorities.

Some features

As we would expect from a Wera tool, the ratchet head is made from finely finished alloy with a ½ inch square drive. This drive has a ball-bearing socket retainer and a socket release button.

I hate wrestling with sockets that rely on friction and a tight fit to keep them in place.

Inevitably I end up struggling to change sockets, particularly in cold weather, so I welcomed these features.

The 45-tooth ratchet is reversible, so the wrench can be used to loosen bolts. The 45-tooth ratchet also means the tool has a relatively small ‘throw’, making it easier to use in cramped spaces.

A solid oval tube painted in Wera Black conceals the inner workings of the ‘click’ part of the Click Torque mechanism – of which more below.

Then comes the user interface: the setting scales. These are marked in Nm on the right side of the line and in lbs/feet on the left. The scales are in black lettering on a white background so are clear to see.

Although the lbs/feet scale is a bit smaller and I needed my glasses. The Nm scales are marked in 10Nm graduations and each in-between increment is clearly visible in a separate window.

To adjust the torque settings you have to head past the large Wera Kraftform handle to the button on the far end of the wrench.

The button has to be pulled out and this enables the handle to be turned. The design of the handle is excellent because the grippy patches not only help when applying torque, they also make it easy to twist it to set the scales.

The window below the scales provide individually click-stopped numbers from 0 to 9.

A full turn of the handle moves the scales exactly 10Nm and the 0 marks the exact spot for a 1Nm measurement.

An audible and tactile ‘click’ allows each incremental change to be clear to the user.

It is easy to work out if you wanted to set 45Nm, you set the scale to 40Nm and then turn the handle five clockwise click-stops.

In my opinion, the click-stop system is very accurate, and is easily repeatable should you need to change settings often. To lock the wrench settings so they will not move in use, the button on the end of the handle is simply pushed down.

Click – Torque is a brilliant feature of this series of wrenches.

On many older-styled torque wrenches, the torque’s indication target was reached when the head would give an audible click as the mechanism slipped.

However, if the user continued applying torque the likely result was a higher torque to that set on the wrench.

With the Click – Torque there is not only the audible signal to notify the user the target torque has been reached, but there is also a cam mechanism inside the handle to give a tactile click, which can be felt in the hand as it escapes the spring. This double signal means the user can immediately realise target torque is reached and can release pressure on the handle.

Not all torque settings are in traditional ‘righty-tighty’ screw threads, and Wera has therefore ensured the C-Series provides controlled tightening to the left and right.

So, will the C-Series catch on?

One of my usually infallible tests for finding out whether a tool will be a success or not is to lend it to the appropriate trade and then wait to see how long till you get it back.

In this case, deadlines being quite tight, I had to prise this wrench away long before the young motor technician to whom I lent it wanted to part with it.

He most liked the easy setting and overall quality of it, especially since he was having to reset torque readings several times a day. To my mind a slick summary of this wrench’s best points.

HiKOKI high performance power tools: a new name - still fantastic products

IT MIGHT seem an unusual way to start a review, but - the three HiKOKI tools I reviewed this month - I can't recommend them enough, writes PETER BRETT.

I was fitting a kitchen for a client when I was offered the choice of some tools to review. I chose the new HiKOKI C3606DA brushless circular saw, the DV36DAX combi drill and the WH36DB impact driver, because they were basic tools most fitting trades would use.

They were all given a thorough workout for several weeks and they did not disappoint on any of the tasks they were given.

A general workhorse – the 36V Combi Drill

I would say no toolbox should be without a cordless drill or combi of some description, because there is always a need to drill holes or drive screws - or maybe even something slightly different like using a sanding drum in the chuck to sand edges.

Looking at this combi it follows a similar pattern to every other cordless driver. But picking it up and feeling the weight and power of it proves this tool is in the big leagues when it comes to power and performance.

With the 36V battery pack mounted, it tips the scales at 2.7Kg. With a max torque of 138Nm available, the extra-long auxiliary handle is necessary when using that extra big holesaw.

To help the handling, the combi has excellent ergonomics via a handle that balances the weight of the motor on the top and the battery pack on the bottom.

There is enough grippy rubber for a comfortable and strong handgrip, and the strategically-placed ‘bumpers’ on the casing protect from the inevitable knocks and falls that will occur on site.

The powerful brushless motor has two ranges of speeds via the sliding switch on top of the casing (low: 0 to 500 rpm, high: 0 to 2,100 rpm), and the trigger is not only well placed for ease of use, but is also quite sensitive to the feel of the drill when it performs.

My workmate noted that he could feel when he was getting near to the end of drilling a 50mm hole in an oak worktop and was able to 'ease up' on the speed to avoid breakout.

Drilling specs are impressive too. In brick, this combi will drill up to a 20mm diameter, in mild steel up to 16mm, and up to 102mm in softwood.

It is also capable of driving 12 gauge woodscrews 10cm long.

I did try some of these extremes and these specs are genuine, but more to the point, whatever drilling job we used this combi for – 50mm holes in oak worktops, holes for drainage pipes or driving 75mm long fixing screws – we were left with the feeling this machine has such capacity that it became our favourite ‘go to’ tool.

This is a genuine, hardworking, powerful, well-designed combi drill that would suit the heavy demands that trades would make on it.

Making an impact

By contrast the WH36DB impact driver is designed to be as compact as possible, but it certainly surprised me with its capability and power. It weighs in at 1.6Kg and stands 24cm high with battery pack. It is only 13cm long from the chuck to cooling slots - no doubt made possible by the brushless motor.

Again, it handles well courtesy of the ergonomic handle and grippy rubber overmouldings.

Selecting a soft, normal or power mode via the switch at the base of the handle can control the impressive tightening torque of 210Nm.

For many jobs where impact drivers are routinely used, normal or soft modes are really what you need to avoid simply breaking the heads off screws in power mode.

The most difficult job I used this driver for was drilling holes in masonry for concrete screws when hanging cabinets and fixing battens to walls. It performed extremely well, and I really appreciated the short length, easy handling and LED light when working under and inside cabinets.

Like the combi drill, it comes with a reversible belt hook and wrist strap and the new HiKOKI battery level checker is now on the battery pack itself rather than on the machine. Much better!

Circular saw – more than cutting edge

Most of the time I work with wood and boards. So, I use a lot of circular saws and I have found the more powerful and accurate they are - the better I like them.

The 36V battery pack on the C3606DA easily manages the claimed spec of 66mm cutting depth. With the aid of a straight edge as a guide, I made accurate cuts in 50mm thick oak worktops that left a whistle clean finish on the endgrain.

It was also good at long grain cuts that needed a bit more care to avoid burning, but it performed better than my cordless plunge saw on this test. So I am starting to wonder when HiKOKI is launching a plunge saw and rail combination.

The saw has a couple of clever modes – Power and Silent. In Power mode, you get full speed from the first press of the trigger, but in Silent mode the blade spins more quietly and more slowly until you apply load by starting a cut.

Then the electronics takes over to provide full power. The very efficient motor brake stops the blade in a fraction of a second – a safety feature I like very much.

Like other previous Hitachi circular saws I have tested, the new HiKOK retains a solid and rigid alloy base with tool-less adjustments for bevel cuts and depth of cut.

There is a simple lever operated spindle lock for blade changes, and the hex key for it is safely hidden away next to the motor until needed. My failing eyesight does not see the provision of a bright LED light focused on the cut line as a gimmick. If you do not need it, you can turn it off. A simple fence is provided for basic guided cuts.

My overriding impression of this little saw (only 165mm blade diameter) is that it has 'oodles of power' and is robust enough to take the knocks of a working life.

HiKOKI – the future

In my view the choice of these three basic tools from the new HiKOKI branded 36V range is a powerful statement of intent.

There is no doubt these products (and others to come) are intended to be tough, capable professional tools that can be bought with confidence. I always rated Hitachi tools, but on the above evidence, I think I am going to like HiKOKI tools even more.

STAHLWILLE's technical expertise means they will always be 'torque' of the town

STAHLWILLE is a traditional German company of the ‘mittelstand’ – the UK equivalent of a medium-sized business.

It is a family business since its establishment by Eduard Wille in 1862 in Wuppertal. Today the management of the company is independent, but the advisory committee represents the Wille family, writes Peter Brett.

Originally, the company was largely focused on making practical things in steel for domestic use - like fire tongs and pokers. However, after 1900, when the motor car was in fairly rapid expansion and development, the company turned to making the spanners, wrenches and pliers needed to maintain the new technology.

In ‘The Kontor’, the recently renovated visitor and training centre (which used to be the main office in Eduard Wille’s time), it is fascinating to see the display of the first rather heavy duty spanners made.

This was one of the most modern forges in Europe, and it was interesting to compare them with the slimmer and slicker ones made a hundred years later, where the demands of mechanics on their tools are so much greater. 

Eduard Wille established the maxim that the company was committed to producing the best possible tools with the customer in mind.

The Wille family and company remain true to this maxim today – and in my view it is a much better long and medium-term business model than the exploitative venture capital approach. 

STAHLWILLE has an excellent record of exporting products throughout the world. It has expertise in aerospace, automotive, renewable energies and industrial tools that puts it in a very strong position to compete with the biggest and best. 

The places and the people

The Cronenberg-Wuppertal site I visited was part of the original factory and forge started by Eduard Wille, and the large redbrick building that dominates the entrance has recently been renovated and redeveloped into a light and modern training and showroom space.

What is missing is the small railway that used to run down the side of the building into the factory area behind.

As the factory is in the midst of what is now quite a developed urban area, the heavy-duty hammer forges have been moved to a more suitable site in former East Germany, and a more recent extension, built in the local vernacular of slate tiles, houses the administration.

Eduard Wille was passionate in his belief that people were the most important aspect of a progressive company, since it was they who had the ideas to develop and then make into desirable finished products.

Today the company employs more than 600 people and still manufactures in Germany. It exports to over 90 countries worldwide through a dedicated sales network that focuses on understanding the needs of the customers, and then supplying the correct and most efficient solutions.

The innovations

Chris Rose, UK Sales Manager at STAHLWILLE UK, which is based in Surrey, was a great guide, and showed me not only how the company identifies issues and challenges that customers face, but also how the expert product development teams then try to develop solutions.

The obvious area to start is in the development of new ranges of torque wrenches for which STAHLWILLE is very well respected.

For me a torque wrench is a torque wrench, but it soon became clear there is much more to developing an accurate tool, with a reliable and dependable mechanism that would withstand some rough handling.

Also, as torque wrenches are becoming increasingly important in aerospace and vehicle technology - where composite materials are very sensitive to pressure on the fixings - it is vital to have a reliable tool that will ensure these materials can be used safely.

I was introduced to simple mechanical torque wrenches that seemed to do the job well, and then to electro-mechanical wrenches that took accuracy and accountability to an advanced level.

Open protocol wrenches not only did the job well, but recorded in detail and then sent the data on to a central system for ultimate accountability.


Alexander Grosser, Project Manager Industry 4.0, did a few demonstrations to show me just how advanced this system could become.

Using an augmented reality headset, a user in a production line for example could be guided towards bolts which need tightening in the correct order.

As this is done, a computer is recording the torques as they are applied and noting that they are correctly applied. 

If for any reason the torque is not correct, the system notes and then stops the user so the situation can be rectified. 

By basing the system on an open source platform, STAHLWILLE is hoping to encourage users to develop their own ways of managing and using the system to their own advantage. 

Reading Station DAPTIQ is another system in development by STAHLWILLE that is constantly evolving, because users and R & D keep on finding out how much more potential there is in the idea.

It looks like a simple secure storage unit for tools. But the unit not only keeps the tools secure, it counts them to ensure that all the tools are present.

In modern manufacture and aerospace for example, it is too late to discover that a wrench has been left in an engine when you are about to take off. Once again, the software allows both STAHLWILLE and clients to customise the system to suit various needs.

More expertise

It behoves a manufacturer of torque wrenches to have very accurate systems of recording exactly how well and accurately the wrenches are performing. 

STAHLWILLE has developed a range of motorised calibration systems. The motorised bench automates the loading process, and the transducers use strain gauges to take the dozens of measurements which need to be taken into account when calibrating a torque wrench to the new ISO 6789-2:2017 standard.

TORKMASTER software records the measurements, and calculates the deviations and measurement uncertainty. 

I did not realise quite how many variations there are when measuring performance.

Apparently, even the four sides of an adaptor can give different readings on the same wrench set to the same torque.

This can be tricky when you consider there must be no more than a 1% deviation for the calibration of STAHLWILLE’s most accurate torque wrench, the SENSOTORK 713 to be passed.

... And the rough stuff

Away from the refined electronic quiet of the demo centre, Chris showed me the actual manufacturing, assembly and finishing of the huge range of STAHLWILLE tools. 

STAHLWILLE is not only torque wrenches; it is spanners, pliers, cutters, screwdrivers, sockets & ratchets, etc etc.

I enjoy watching ‘real’ manufacture, and STAHLWILLE has a range of heavy processes needed to make and finish a socket, as well as the capacity to assemble the delicate electronics in an electro-mechanical torque wrench and then test it. 

Despite the noise of machines, the humans keep control of the factory floor, ensuring the continued production of thousands of items.

STAHLWILLE and the future

It is clear that STAHLWILLE not only has a productive and innovative past, it is looking to the future too.

I have mentioned only a few key innovations, but the company is clear that precision manufacturing in the industrial sector will only become more important.

Key areas like aerospace, automotive and renewable energy already have niche demands for tools, but again, these needs will become even more complicated and demanding - a challenge STAHLWILLE is tackling head on.

Draper 20V Storm Force - one battery system and three tools

SOME readers might already be familiar with the Draper 10.8v Storm Force Range reviewed in these pages a while back, writes PETER BRETT.

The launch of three 20v tools to add to these will be welcomed by those users who need a bit more power and capability – think enthusiastic amateurs and light trades.

There are lots of features to note in the range, but dealers and end users alike will appreciate the keen pricing and multiple battery options that are flexible enough to satisfy most users, and also allow options to upgrade and change as conditions change.

The tools reviewed below are a combi drill, an impact driver, and an SDS drill/hammer. Other tools available in the range are a palm sander, angle grinder, oscillating multi tool, jigsaw, circular saw and reciprocating saw.

All have the now familiar and unmistakeable Dark Blue and Black Draper livery with the up-to-date features that most users need these days. Time to look at these tools in more detail.

Combi Drill

This is the only tool in the range that comes in a custom-fitted plastic case, and it comes with everything you need to get started – drill, two 2Ah battery packs, a charger, auxiliary handle, belt hook and driver bit.

The tool is well made and has an abundance of grippy rubber around the handle and trigger area to allow for easy handling, as well as rubber protection ‘bumpers’ on the back of the casing and behind the chuck.

The 20 torque settings, along with hammer and drilling modes are selected via the usual collar behind the 13mm capacity keyless chuck. These are easy to select with a positive click stop on each.

The auxiliary handle screws are under the chuck collar in either left or righthanded positions, and the handle itself has grippy rubber too. A steel belt hook can also be mounted on left or right to suit user preferences, and the LED light on the handle base is aimed straight at the work area.

The 2Ah Li-Ion batteries take an hour each to charge. Drills don’t usually use a lot of power in drilling and screwdriving modes, so a couple of 2Ah batteries will be enough for most users - there is always the option to purchase a 4Ah battery if needed (one of the advantages of the Storm Force 20v system).

In use, the drill performs well on a range of basic drilling tasks. It has 50Nm of torque available and has a drilling capacity of 35mm diameter in wood, and 13mm in masonry or steel – enough to cover a range big enough for most users.

With two speeds selected via a sliding switch on top of the body, and a speed sensitive trigger, it is possible to control drilling speeds very accurately.

With a price point of £89.99 inc VAT, it is clear the Storm Force 20v combi is very well priced and designed to appeal – and it does.

Storm Force 20v SDS+ Rotary Hammer Drill

I rarely use hammer mode on any combi drills these days – not since SDS technology has become cheap enough to be widely available. SDS is just so much quicker and easier, that we are into no-brainer territory.

The Storm Force SDS+ rotary hammer drill is available as a kit with the combi drill and a capacious Draper Storage bag for £215.94, or as a bare tool for £59.95. In my view this represents very good value, as well as increasing the versatility of the Storm Force Kit.

The SDS+ drill follows a similar pattern to the combi above. It is light and easy to manage, as well as being comfortable to handle.

There is also ample grippy rubber to help handling and fend off the inevitable knocks that such a tool may sustain. Mounting a drill bit is as easy as sliding back the chuck collar and inserting the bit, and then seating it with a slight twist.

There is a forward/reverse switch above the trigger and a rotary switch to select hammer or drill mode. An LED light directed at the work really helps to illuminate the piece.

I used the SDS drill/hammer mostly on hard face bricks to mount window and door frames, and it performed well. It has a drilling capacity of 10mm, which is enough for most common household and light trade tasks.

Since drilling masonry is much more demanding than drilling wood, I would recommend that users get the 4Ah battery pack if possible.

Storm Force 20v Impact Driver

Like the SDS+ rotary hammer above, the impact driver is available as a bare tool for £46.14, or as part of a kit with the Impact Wrench (not reviewed) and storage case for £209.94. But for the best of all worlds the 3 Machine Fixing Kit (Combi drill, SDS+ and impact driver) is great value at £263.94

In my view, this is indeed the kit that an ambitious homebuilder or home improver would plump for, as it has the range of tools needed, as well as the possibility of adding battery packs for extra capacity.

The impact driver is no slouch – I had no trouble driving 120mm long concrete screws into hard face bricks through wooden frames. Compared to some impact drivers I have used, it is a lot quieter along with its 180Nm of torque.

It is as well-built as the other tools in the range, with a good ergonomic handle and ample rubberised protection on handle and body. An LED worklight on the base is helpful in darker areas and the 6mm chuck has a sprung, milled collar on it, making inserting and removing bits very easy.

Batteries and chargers

As with the tools there is some choice for users regarding batteries and chargers. For more demanding applications, like rotary hammer use, it makes sense to choose the 4Ah battery packs at £53.94 each rather than the cheaper 2Ah ones at £32.94.

For many users, an hour’s charging time is perfectly adequate, but more demanding work, you might want to choose the fast charger at £31.74 – not exactly bank breaking!

By the way, I particularly liked the battery status lights on the base of the battery packs – three striplights in red, orange and green give you all the info needed.

I think the Draper team have done a good job with this collection of tools.

Individually, they are sound basic tools and users will be able to put together many combinations and kits – all at very reasonable prices.

Storm Force is a really good way of getting exactly what you need, without a large price tag or unwanted tools.

Other tools available are palm sander, angle grinder, oscillating multi tool, jigsaw, circular saw reciprocating saw.

The Torque solution?

THE packaging of the Wiha speedE sends out a powerful message that the tool inside is valuable, high tech and modern. It is not just another electricians’ screwdriver, writes PETER BRETT.

In the world where electricians need efficiency and precision even on standard domestic electrical installations, the speedE aims to provide a solution.

The problem

Increasingly, manufacturers have been specifying that electrical installations need to be fixed at certain torques to ensure electrical contact is optimised and safe.

When electricians can be working on anything from a complex RCD installation - where overtorqueing can be an issue on some materials - or simply unscrewing the patress screws on a light switch, the balance between high tech and mundane practical is crucial.

Of course, the big question for potential users is ‘Did Wiha get the balance right when designing the speedE?’ This is what I examined in depth.

As mentioned before, the presentation box is designed to press home the point that the speedE is a modern precision instrument. Inside the box the impression is reinforced.


On opening the box, the first layer contains a product information booklet and the user manual – rather like opening up the box of your new phone.

Underneath that is the speedE itself – held in its custom-fitted space. A further layer is lifted to reveal a small L-Boxx that contains the batteries, charger, torque adaptor and eight driver bits in a slim plastic container.

All these are individually packed in their foam slots. Apart from the sheer practicality of having your speedE all in one place ready to pick up and go, the message is reinforced that this valuable kit should not simply be flung into a toolcase or toolbox with all the other tools.

With some tradespeople I know, this will still happen anyway and the speedE has been developed to be used like a normal screwdriver. Wiha has done their best to encourage tidiness and efficiency.

Getting going

The compact charger has a USB fitting that means it is possible to charge the speedE in a modern USB mains socket, or in a van. There is also the option to use the mains plug adaptor supplied.

Charging the Li-Ion cells takes around 75 minutes, and the two cells in my experience provide enough 'oomph' for even a demanding day’s work.

The battery is loaded into the speedE by simply unscrewing the cap on the top of the handle. Polarity is important here – the positive (+) needs to be at the bottom of the battery holder in the handle.

Once the screwcap is replaced it looks and feels exactly like the well-established Wiha VDE handle that users have become accustomed to.

Next, the optional easyTorque adaptor can be slotted into the hex socket on the handle. This adaptor is fully compliant to ensure electrical safety insulation standards. Using it extends the length of the screwdriver by about 40mm.

This is very useful when reaching into wiring boxes for example, but bits can also be inserted straight into the handle for a shorter and more controllable feel.

The little case of eight screwdriver bits has a range of tips from PZ, Phillips and SL and SL/PZ included. These are all identified by looking at the white writing in the insulation above the tips.

The writing is quite small, and I needed my glasses – but then I should be wearing them for doing detailed work anyway.

The screwdriver bits all have a hex shank and fit quite snugly onto the torque adaptor or directly into the handle with no play at all, and with no danger that the bits are going to slide out under working loads.

Using the speedE

It pays to experiment with the speedE before using it on a real job, as there are a few things to get used to. For example, there is a very tiny, but very handy LED light in the handle which is directed straight onto the workpoint.

I am very much in favour of worklights now with my ageing eyes, and this is particularly good because often electrical boxes and fittings can be hidden in dark corners and cupboards.

To activate the light, simply give the ring switch a quick turn to left or right and it will come on and stay on during any powered screwdriving activity. Once the driving stops, the light turns itself off after a few seconds.

The light also has the job of indicating when the battery needs replacing. When the battery drops below 20%, the light will be flashing/blinking.

Power screwdriving is still possible with a low battery, but when only the light works the battery has no power left but can still be used as a normal screwdriver.

The ring switch is very easy to use as Wiha have got the ergonomics just right.

Operated between thumb and forefinger, you just have to choose to tighten or loosen the screw by turning the switch to the right or left respectively.

The speedE tightens screws to a maximum of 0.4Nm, which is enough torque to ensure that plastic electrical fittings like plug boxes and junctions don’t crack. The user can then use a sensitive human hand to tighten up screws where necessary.

This is really where the ‘speed’ part of the speedE comes into play. I still come across the need to tighten long patress screws into light switches, and the speedE makes this a painless and mercifully shorter task.

However slick the operator is, he or she cannot remove or tighten screws faster than a speedE. I know, as I did some experiments with an electrician colleague - armed with the speedE, I beat him every time.

There is no doubt that this is a quality piece of kit that needs to be used to its full potential to get full value from it.

It is, at once, a standard interchangeable bit VDE screwdriver as well as a powered VDE driver - which will save time and effort when doing some of the boring jobs such as unscrewing the long screws which are a feature of some electrical components.

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

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

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

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

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

T-Shirt Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sticking to Tops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nitty Gritty Shorts and Trousers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why buy?

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


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