The Anne of All Trades Blog

New From Milwaukee!

_DSC7986.JPG
_DSC7979.JPG
_DSC8026.JPG

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

So let’s talk about what’s new from Milwaukee this quarter!

First off, the Milwaukee 25’ STUD Tape Measure:

_DSC8023.JPG

This tape measure looks tough because it is tough. It’s built well, and brags the longest lasting blade in it’s class. The blade is rip and wear resistant, the tool can survive an 80 foot drop, and it’s covered by a limited lifetime warranty, so if you somehow DO manage to destroy this beast, Milwaukee’s got your back. At $25, this tape is a good value for a jobsite where it’s going to get really abused. It’s durable, accurate, has quick springback, and the blade isn’t as sharp as some of Milwaukee’s competitors’. In my experience, there are two types of carpenters, those who “break” their tape right out of the box to make the blade supple and malleable, and those who want a super rigid tape, and will go to great lengths to keep their tapes that way. Milwaukee tapes don’t need to be “broken,” the blades are flexible right out of the box. So if you are “that” kind of builder, you won’t find a better tape. I personally prefer an extremely rigid tape, and for that reason, this wouldn’t be the first tape I’d reach for out of my tool bag, but I debated my bestie April long and hard about flexible tapes while we were building the Tiny House, and she remains a huge fan of flexible tapes, and it truly is a matter of personal preference.

Now let’s talk about the 142 Pice Milwaukee Shockwave Impact Duty Driver Set

_DSC8053.JPG

This seems like a pretty ridiculous thing to be excited about, especially considering the awesome variety of stuff that comes inside them, but in all honesty, this bit set is worth the $30 price tag even just for the cases. These are by far my favorite bit cases on the market, and I even put my other branded bits in the Milwaukee cases just because they are so durable, so functional, they keep the bits organized and well protected.

The other things that stuck out to me with this set are the hexagonal shank drill bits, which perform really well. Not only is it great that they can be mounted in impact drivers, they also have a long life on the jobsite, they run cool, come sharp, and last well. My biggest frustration with this set is the way the bits come organized, which is an easy fix out of the box, but frustrating nonetheless- the way these come, you have a lot of variety within each bit type, but very little bit type variation within each box, necessitating bringing the entire set wherever different bits are needed, which takes up valuable space in the toolbag unnecessarily. Milwaukee sells a lot of smaller kits which have a good variety in each box, and I prefer those to this wider variety in multiple boxes simply for the ease of just grabbing one box and going right to work. That said, there is a huge variety within this set, and especially seeing as the former owner of our house loved to be extremely creative with his fastener choices, having the right tool for the job is really important.

And Finally, the M18 FUEL Super Sawzall Recip Saw Kit:

_DSC8027.JPG

This tool delivers the same power of a 15 amp corded reciprocating saw. It includes a 12 AH M18 battery pack, rapid charger, blade and contractor bag.

This is a monster tool, and, with the 12 AH battery, is fairly heavy, but what you get with a tool this size is a nice long stroke length, making it great for demo and construction, and heavy duty work around the farm like pruning and other quick cuts. The first “improvement” I made to the tool, however, was switching out the 12 AH battery for a 5 AH battery. Because I’ve got so many Milwaukee tools on the M18 platform, the 12 AH battery was actually a fantastic “plus” in this kit, because I put it right in my lantern and doubled my battery life there, and the 5 AH battery in the Sawzall lightened it up and made it significantly more mobile and thus more versatile. I’ve used it a TON to cut our 16” firewood down to 12” lengths I can use in my Tiny Stove in the shop. This tool offers the power and durability to make tasks like that a total breeze. With a long stroke though, it’s not going to be great for metal work, fine cuts, or cutting plastic tubing because it will shake, shatter, and chatter like nothing else on those finer materials because its cut is simply too aggressive.

If you need an “all around saw, I’d definitely look at something smaller, more mobile, less expensive,, easier to use above your head for long periods of time, and with a shorter stroke length. For demo or pruning though, you really cannot go wrong with this saw. I’m toting it around and using it in place of a chainsaw quite often around the farm, it’s done 90% of the demo in the blacksmithing building I’m renovating right now, it’s powerful, ruggedly built, and able to withstand the Seattle rain quite well (it’s already gotten soaked multiple times and hasn’t missed a beat), and with the extras that come with it in the kit, is still a great value, and one worth investing in if you, like me, are already on the M18 battery platform.

Posted on January 29, 2019 .

Makita 36V Brushless Cordless Circular Saw Kit

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

So Let’s talk about the Makita 18V X2 LXT LI (36 Volt) Brushless Cordless 7/14” Circular Saw Kit

IMG_2030.JPG

If a tracksaw isn’t an option, this is hands down the best saw I’ve ever used in terms of accuracy. The bevel detent plate is an improvement even from the Festool tracksaw. This saw is very ergonomic, easy and comfortable to use, and well balanced- especially considering the fact that it runs off two 5.0 Ah batteries. And speaking of those batteries, they have a fantastic life, I used this saw for three days on the jobsite on a single charge. When the batteries do die, the double slot quick charger does the trick in a hurry. The base is plenty long to make cuts feel stable and accurate, and the wide base makes it really easy to use with a clamping system and a straightedge. The two-handed grip is really great if you’re cutting heavy stuff or are worried about kickback, you have plenty of control over the tool. This saw is a massive improvement in so many ways of former Makita circular saw models, and blasts their competition out of the water. Circular saws being such a crucial element in any tool lineup, especially for contractors and heavy-use hobbiests, the addition of this saw to the Makita lineup is a strong argument to consider Makita as a primary platform. Now, I did specify contractors and heavy-use hobbiests for a reason, because Makita really designs their tools for professional users and the price tag reflects that, but these tools are a solid longterm investment they are well made, ergonomic, built to last.

IMG_2058.JPG

 The one drawback of this saw is that if you’re cutting 2x material with a full depth cut, the blade guard totally gets stuck. For me, safety is a huge priority, so this was a massively disappointing thing to discover on a tool I love so much.

The only other battery powered saw in a similar class I’ve used as extensively as this Makita saw is the Dewalt FlexVolt circular saw I used to build my tiny house. The Makita delivers a very similar amount of power with a very different ergonomic feel and less weight. They are both brushless, which is fantastic because the blade starts quick and stops quick, offering solid power and the added peace of mind that the blade isn’t still spinning for very long at all after it’s exited the cut. One other thing that is awesome about this Makita saw, and that sets it apart from it’s competition, is that the blade is perfectly square to the shoe, which is really important for finish cuts and using the saw in conjunction with a straight edge, because it’s super accurate and it doesn’t bind.

 The dust collection on this saw is also a really great feature. It’s certainly not a “dustless” tool, but when used in conjunction with a vacuum, having the ability to get some of that airborne dust out of the air and the big chips out off the floor, especially when working inside is important.

 On higher price-point tools like this one (it retails for $349), I always like to include a “would I actually buy this tool” disclaimer, and in this case, I absolutely would. Because I’ve already got lots of other tools on the Makita platform the two 5.0 AH batteries and the quick charger are a fantastic value-add that helps make it much easier to justify the price of a tool I really like, and will continue to use on a regular basis within my own projects.



Posted on January 28, 2019 .

The Perfect Vacuum for the Shop?

IMG_5315.jpg

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

Let’s talk about the Ridgid 16 GAL 6.5 Peak HP NXT Vacuum/Blower

_DSC8086.JPG

 I’ll be honest, when I first unboxed this tool, I was a little skeptical about the usefulness of a detachable blower (or any blower, for that matter, that came with a cord). That, of course, is because I only had the farm on my brain. For most tools I’m using around the homestead, I need gas or battery power or I’d be stringing 20 extension cords together just to turn them on. But then, I started power carving in my woodshop, and suddenly this vacuum (and the detachable blower) earned a very special place in my heart and shop. I can’t use a gas powered blower indoors, and the enormous accumulation of fine dust that covered everything I owned with three back-to-back power carving projects (the alpaca sculpture, the sculpted table for the tiny house and the sculpted Bed-tray) simply had to go.

The vacuum bags for this vacuum are easy to find and affordably priced, at $9 each The filters are also easy to replace, and are thick enough that you can wash them out and reuse them a few times before needing to replace them.  

For a vacuum this size, this tool offers more power than you’d ever need. The tool storage being on the vacuum is an awesome feature, because accessories don’t go missing easily. The wheels need a few blows with a plastic mallet to fully seat during the first installation, but once they’re on there, the vacuum rolls around really nicely. And speaking of rolling, I’m notorious for pulling vacuums around by their hoses, so the new locking feature on the hose clips has been a really satisfying improvement for me. The only time they get a little annoying is when I’m trying to change accessories in a hurry, sometimes the plastic lock gets a tad cumbersome and is in the way when you forget which end of the hose goes to the vacuum and which goes with the accessory, but the lessened frustration of leaving the vacuum behind when I pull on the hose is totally worth that inconvenience.

_DSC8089.JPG
_DSC8095.JPG
_DSC8091.JPG

The blower is great for indoor sawdust, drywall, or hardwood floor cleanup. It’s super easy to detach and reattach and is lightweight for comfortable use. The wet/dry feature of the vacuum has also come in really handy since we’ve had some flooding issues, and the bag and filter can get removed, the water sucked up and dumped into a 5 gallon bucket over and over, and then the filter and bag can be put back in and used dry and the tool is no worse for the wear. At $119, I think this is a fantastic all around vacuum for any small-medium sized garage or workshop, and I’d happily buy it again should the need arise.

Posted on January 24, 2019 .

Milwaukee 12V LED Tower Light

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

So Let’s Talk about the Milwaukee M12 Rocket LED Stand Work Light:

Earlier this year I sung the praises of the Milwaukee 18V Site Light which has been a regular staple around the farm. The M12 has proved to be even more useful. While I appreciate that Milwaukee has kept the price point of this light under $150, if they could figure out how to include a charging feature when the tool was plugged in and keep the price point low, my one complaint with this tool would disappear.

IMG_8893.JPG

Here’s my honest truth about this light: if you are already on the M12 battery platform, this is an awesome light, and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m impressed in every way by this tool. That said, all my other Milwaukee tools are on the M18 battery system, so if I were purchasing this light for my own personal use, I’d spend the extra $50 and buy the M18 Tower light.

While I was initially concerned about the bulkiness of the folded light, I quickly realized in use that the heft of the base is necessary for stability on the jobsite- even as it is, I’d advise against using this light fully extended in windy conditions, as it’s liable to tip over. There are three detents in the stand, allowing the light to “click” into three different heights. From there, the directional head can be pointed right where it needs to go.

This light is shockingly bright considering the size. Working in a 10’x10’ space around the light, a single light amply illuminates the area for safe work in the dark. For less precise work, it can illuminate a much bigger space, for example, our entire lower pasture, which has come in quite handy multiple times moving big equipment and loading tractors on the trailer after dark (which, in Seattle winter, happens around 4pm). Milwaukee sent the M12 Compact 2.0 AH Battery and Charger kit(retail $69.99) with the light, which will give you about a 30 minute runtime for the light. I prefer to run a 4.0 AH battery in it for a longer run-time.

IMG_8885.JPG
Posted on January 22, 2019 .

Dewalt 20 V Max Cordless Jigsaw

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

So let’s talk about the Dewalt 20 V Max Cordless Jigsaw:

Starting at the bottom, the plastic shoe cover on this tool is really nice because you can take it off for rough materials and put it back on for finer materials like pre-finished or painted materials so you don’t scuff them up. At first I was a little worried about the durability of that shoe being plastic, but it’s been bouncing around in the bottom of my tool bag for three months now and doesn’t have a scratch.  

_DSC7989.JPG

The detent lock on the base is really helpful for quick changes to the cutting angle at 45 degrees and 90. Instead of an allen screw, like most of Dewalt’s competitors, it’s a quick release lever. Anytime a manufacturer incorporates tool functions into the tool itself and outside tools are not needed for basic functions the tool performs is a huge plus for me.  

_DSC8008.JPG

The adjustable orbit on this saw is a great feature, settings 1-4 allow you to have a larger or smaller orbit, which will affect how aggressively the blade removes material. The longer orbit cuts quicker, the shorter orbit cuts slower and cleaner.  The variable speed trigger, instead of a speed dial on many other jigsaws is great because you can adjust your speeds seamlessly depending on where you are in your cut and what you’re doing, ie starting the cut slowly and precisely, and speeding up once you get going.

The fact that this tool is brushless means that it’s quieter, runs cooler, and batteries last forever. Ergonomically speaking, heat is less of an issue on this tool than others, since the motor is so far away from your hand, but in my book, less heat is usually good regardless of motor placement. This is another super versatile, lightweight tool with a small, sleek design. I personally prefer the barrel grip design of this tool, but that is a personal preference, and this tool will see lots of use in my shop and around the farm regardless. At $179 for the bare tool, I’d add a 2.0 AH or 4.0 AH battery and be off to the races.

Posted on January 21, 2019 .

Dewalt 20v Max Cordless Sander

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

Let’s Talk about the 20v Max Cordless Sander

Starting with the sanding pads, I really like that Dewalt adapted the 5” 8 hole pattern, because sandpaper replacements can be found pretty much anywhere. The dust bag and vacuum port is great, it works with all of Dewalt’s vacuums that lock onto the outside and it works with the standard 27mm hose size that Festool and every other vacuum manufacturer uses.

IMG_4934.JPG

Ergonomics wise, the trigger is really nice, the palm grip seems to fit most hand sizes well and the sander doesn’t vibrate much during use. Battery placement on this tool is as good as it can be, but if I were sanding for long hours I’d probably opt for a cord and a lighter, smaller tool. The brushless motor keeps the tool running really cool, so you’re not gripping a hot motor, which is nice. And speaking of the brushless motor, it’s great for startup, because the tool starts on a dime, but it also stops on a dime, so it’s really important to always be sure to lift the sander off the workpiece before turning the tool off, or it will really scuff up the board. 

As a bare tool, this sander retails for $119. I wouldn’t run it with anything less than a 4.0 AH battery, which, thanks to the brushless motor extending battery life, will give it about an hour of continuous runtime.

 The one drawback of this tool is the orbit speed. As a battery powered sander, most applications are going to be aggressive sanding, and as such, I’d really like to see a faster orbit that would mirror that need and remove material faster.

Posted on January 19, 2019 .

A battery operated oscillating tool? Yes PLEASE

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

So let’s talk about the Dewalt 20 V Max LiON Cordless Oscillating Kit

While I actually really like this oscillating tool, my biggest complaint right out the door with this tool is that the included battery is way too small for a useful amount of runtime with this tool and, with that said, the quick charger isn’t included in this set either. That aside, this is a great tool and a good value. If you’re already on the Dewalt battery system, I’d take this as an opportunity to switch the smaller battery on this tool with one of your larger batteries on a tool that requires less juice to run and call it a day.

My favorite feature of this saw is the blade latch, the best one I’ve seen on any oscillating tool yet. It’s a quick release, with seamless blade changes and no extra tools needed. And, the blades are self-ejecting, so finger burns removing hot blades are now a thing of the past. The saw also comes with an adapter for the old style of oscillating saw blades.

This tool saw a ton of use while I was trimming out my new woodshop, and I loved it!

This tool saw a ton of use while I was trimming out my new woodshop, and I loved it!

The trigger lock on this saw is great, especially because I find myself getting a lot of hand fatigue holding triggers for continuous run-times. The variable speed rocker trigger really allows you to dial in your speeds for various cuts and allows for safer cut entrances and exits.  

Going into tool ergonomics, the length of the tool and the handle is well balanced and you don’t have the hot motor right next to your hand, a huge plus.

Retailing at $129, if I was already on the Dewalt platform and had a larger battery to pair with this tool, this is totally a tool I’d buy for my own use.

Posted on January 18, 2019 .

A Winning Combination

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

Dewalt 20v Max Litium-ION Cordless Combo Kit

This killer combo kit includes the 20V Max LI Circular Saw and the 20V Max LI Reciprocating saw packed in one of Dewalt’s Tough System boxes. At $199, this set is a fantastic value for most diy/home improvement cutting needs.

Let’s start with the Tough System Box:

I personally love these boxes. Using tools outside around the farm, the fact that these are waterproof is a huge plus. I can toss them in the back of my truck without worrying about water damage, and the name doesn’t lie, these boxes are TOUGH. Not only are these boxes waterproof, the hinges, clasps and hardware is all metal, as opposed to the flimsy plastic on other systems. The only thing I wish Dewalt would change on this system is the plastic latches that latch multiple boxes together. It seems a tad silly for the rest of the hardware to be metal, and then to use plastic there. The handle on top of the box, however, has a comfortable grip and is built to last.

Now let’s talk about the circular saw:

_DSC8045.JPG

The guard on this saw works really well, it slides out of the way easily with the cut, which is a big bonus because it reduces the temptation to pin it back and out of the way. I am a big fan of safety features like this one that work the way they should and don’t encumber use. The width of the shoe is great for a saw this size, and the bevel detents on the bevel scale make it really easy to set the shoe to the bevel you need. This saw is also a really nice weight, especially being a battery operated saw. It’s compact and lightweight, easy to use above your head on a ladder and to tote around the jobsite all day.

And onto the reciprocating saw:

_DSC7963.JPG

This is a great saw for plumbers and electricians, but not great for demolition. It has a really short stroke length, meaning it’s not aggressive, which is really nice when you’re cutting metal and plastic pipes because it doesn’t tear things apart. But, because of that short stroke length, it’s not going to be a great saw for pruning blades or demo blades that really thrive on an aggressive cut. A longer stroke simply isn’t really attainable on a tool this size, but there are benefits to it’s stubbiness- it is lightweight, easy to use for long lengths of time, and it fits in small spaces much easier than some of it’s far larger counterparts. There’s very little vibration, which is another huge plus. As is the case with all the 20v Max tools I’ve tested, it’s obvious Dewalt spent a lot of time creating ergonomic, safe, comfortable to use tools for this line. My final favorite feature on this reciprocating saw is the blade lock. It’s a quick release, with seamless blade changes and no extra tools needed.

Battery life on both of these tools with the 2.0 A/H slim packs is pretty remarkable. It did strike me as a little odd that a two-tool set would only come with one battery, and, that said, I do wish Dewalt had included the fast charger with the battery pack, but I do appreciate the fact that they did well to keep this set under the $200 price tag. All in all, this is a fantastic set for the money, but as with everything, I’d want to know what kind of use I hoped to get out of the tools before purchasing. As light duty tools which will be real workhorses around the house and the jobsite, this is a perfect set. If you’re looking to do a ton of demo or pruning however, I might look at a recip saw with a longer stroke, and purchase the circular saw separately.

What about blades?

Diablo 6 ½” 24 tooth demo demon saw blade: $16.97

IMG_8849.JPG

This blade has a low rake angle, so when you cut through nails, screws, or electrical, it doesn’t catch or bind badly, and the occasional contact with metal in wood doesn’t tear the carbide off. I really appreciate whatever magical methods Diablo uses to secure their carbides onto their blades because they seem to “stick” a lot longer than their competitors’. I’ve had several Diablo tablesaw blades get stopped in the sawstop cartridges at the community woodshop I used to manage and the blades were easily salvaged almost every time. This blade can get sharpened several times before it needs to get replaced, and at $16.97, that’s a fantastic value in my book. As far as length of wear, this blade will keep cutting until you’ve run it through a good number of nails or hit a piece of metal that’s too big to get through it. On the jobsite, that is often a full day of continuous use for demo, on my farm, that’s a few weeks (or months depending on what I’m doing). This blade is marketed as a demolition blade and it is just that. It cuts quickly and stays sharp for a long time, but you don’t want to use it for finish work. The red coating Diablo uses on their blades keeps them cool in use and greatly reduces friction when cutting.

IMG_8867.JPG

 As a quick aside here, to get the most out of your blades, you need to pair your blades with the right tool. For review purposes, I was asked to use this blade in the Dewalt 20v Max circular saw. Of course the blade works fine in that saw, but that saw doesn’t have the power needed to do the demo work this blade was built for and get the most out of this blade. On the jobsite, I’d want to put this blade into a worm-drive or 60v tool.


Diablo 6 ½” 60 tooth Finish blade: $21.97

 This is a fantastic blade, and very well suited to the 20 V  Max circular saw. It has a 60 tooth profile with a very low rake so you get a really clean cut on prefinished materials like prefinished plywood, painted materials, etc. As is the case with most of Diablo’s blades, blade life is excellent. The carbides are well attached, the red coating keeps the blade cool in the cut, they can be sharpened multiple times, hands down, Diablo blades are great for the money.

IMG_8864.JPG



Posted on January 17, 2019 .

It's Hammer (drill) Time!

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars. Now, let’s talk about some tools!

Ridgid Octane Brushless 18v Hammer Drill/Driver

As is the case with so many Ridgid tools, the first thing I’m drawn to is the price point and the warranty Ridgid offers. It’s ruggedly built, another added bonus around my shop and farm because I’ve got a lot of inexperienced people coming in and out who are really tough on tools. At $149, this is a great value, but I will definitely say that the power this drill offers (1,300 in lbs of torque) begs for a bigger battery, something that would up the cost significantly. If you’re already on the Ridgid Octane platform, you’ve likely already got some bigger batteries, but if you’re not, you’ll want one, and the added cost of purchasing said larger battery might affect your decision making.

ridgid.jpg

The half-inch collet is a pretty standard feature on hammer drills these days, and rightfully so, the amount of power, the quick start and stop of the brushless motor, and the cool run cycles on this tool allow you to run some pretty big bits in this drill. This tool also offers a lot of customizability in your drilling and driving functions, with over 100 settings to really help you dial in the perfect setup for the task at hand.

One really interesting and unique feature on this drill is the LED light around the collet with an individual trigger just for it. That said, I’ll be interested to see how durable the light is in that position, because I can see it easily getting damaged with a careless drop or slipping off a screw and ramming the head of the driver accidentally into a stud.

I also really like the side handle for this tool as well as the way it clamps onto the tool, making the switch from right to lefthanded applications and position changes for tight space considerations quick and painless.

The battery level indicator on the battery itself is also awesome, and a feature I really appreciate that Ridgid is including in all their new Octane batteries- no more loading up a toolbag with dead batteries and showing up to the jobsite with no power.

My main hesitation with this tool is the ergonomics of the drill. With my small frame, size and heft really become an issue for me hefting a tool for 8 hours. This is a big tool. Yes, it offers lots of power, but with the 2.0 AH battery it comes with, it’s a little unbalanced. With a 4.0 AH battery I stole off one of my other tools, it’s a beast, and for most applications I’m facing, I’d rather have a more compact tool and sacrifice a little power. That said, on the occasion I’ve got light concrete drilling to do where there’s no power source, this would be my go-to option- drilling cinderblocks for joist hangers, hanging expansion bits or anchors in the concrete barn wall, etc.

And speaking of drilling, let’s take a minute to talk about the new Bosch Daredevil Spade Bits:

19 Piece Bosch Daredevil Spade Bit Set

_DSC7999.JPG

If you’re doing framing, rough construction, or demo, these are the best spade bits for your money. At just under $20, you can expect a lot for your money. The screw style tip pulls the bit right into the wood and it cuts extremely fast. The coating on the bits (the blue stuff) keeps the bit cool while cutting and extends the life of the bit significantly. The curved design of the paddle ejects chips super fast, again, adding speed and keeping the cut cooler. The bits last and last and last, through multiple accidental brushes with screws, nails and staples in framing lumber, but, as I’d expect, they are toast when you hit a big piece of metal.

The spiral tip and speed it offers pulls the bits in so fast that it’s tough to have a clean exit hole- something that’s not important in framing, but these definitely aren’t bits for carpentry. That said, it’s advisable to have two sets of bits regardless one for framing and demo, and one for finish work,, because a normal bit is too slow for framing, and the clean cut they offer isn’t really needed for that application anyway.

_DSC8058.JPG

Their hex shank makes them easy to use with an impact, and that’s just another awesome feature.

The one thing I will warn with sets like this is that I find myself using one or two sizes of bits for every single application, and then there’s a whole lot of random sized brand new bits floating around in my toolbag. If it were me, I’d be much more inclined to buy a smaller set or multiple individual bits of the size I most commonly use.

Posted on January 15, 2019 .

Minimizing Dust and Maximizing Filter Life

IMG_1647.JPG

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not an expert… anything really. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

I have had an older model of this same Ridgid vacuum in my shop since the beginning. They were hardy, affordable, and had a lifetime guarantee. For a broke wanna be woodworker trying to build up my shop, that’s all I could ask for in a tool. I’ve still got that vacuum and it’s kept my shop clean and played dust collector like a champion for 7 years, and I couldn’t ask any more of a tool.

IMG_1667.JPG

So when it came time to test the Ridgid 16 Gallon 6.5 HP vacuum for this review, I was pretty well versed with what I’d be getting, a great tool for a great value. This thing boasts the best CFM in it’s class. The new nozzle clips keep the hose and attachments from detaching unexpectedly, which is a brilliant answer to one of my biggest frustrations when cleaning the shop. At 16 gallons, this is still technically a “portable” tool, but if I was regularly moving it around the jobsite, and not just pulling it around my smooth concrete shop floor, I might be inclined to get a smaller model.

As is the case with most shop vacuums, this model has a blower, but I never use the blower (on purpose at least, there was one unfortunate incident where I had the hoses hooked up wrong and accidentally blew dust all over the shop I’d just spent two hours meticulously cleaning… we will just attribute that incident to an extreme lack of sleep).

IMG_1640.JPG

The one thing I don’t love about this tool is it’s cloth storage pouch. It does hold all the attachments, but I think it looks kind of sloppy and, it being cloth, it collects dirt and dust just like you might expect a cloth bag on top of a dust and trash receptacle would. Another feature I would really, really like on a shop vacuum would be an automatic cord reel. The wrap provided works, but isn’t my favorite design. Another thing I would really love to see less of on this tool is plastic. That said, I also understand the manufacturing process, and alternative construction materials would increase the cost of the unit significantly. 

This vacuum retails for $159. Would I buy it?

Absolutely, I have been using a similar Ridgid vac in my shop for 7 years.

IMG_1655.JPG

What about the Dustopper attachment?

IMG_1654.JPG

Retailing for $40, the Dustopper is Home Depot’s answer to the Dust Deputy, which retails for $50. I have both, and both are good products. I wouldn’t use either on my every day vacuum that I drag around the shop while I clean because they are cumbersome and the Dustopper bucket tends to tip over a lot, but on a stationary tool hooked up to the vacuum, they are MAJOR filter savers. When the Dustopper is attached, the majority of the dust and debris  falls directly into the 5 gallon bucket beneath it, and very little material goes into the vacuum. I use it most on my chopsaw and oscillating spindle sander because those fine particulates are enemy No. 1 of my vacuum filters. Without an auxillary product, all that fine dust clogs the filter and the vacuum loses CFM really quickly. The thing I like most about the dustopper is it’s low profile. It fits under my chop saw like a glove. I actually bought the dust deputy to live under that cabinet, but it didn’t fit, so I was really glad to find another option that worked.

Posted on October 26, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Reviewing the Bosch BLAZE 165' Laser Tape

IMG_0958.JPG

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not an expert… anything really. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

I am a huge fan of this tool’s little brother, the GLM 42 135 ft Laser Measure, and I reviewed it in July (click here to read it).  This model, the GLM 50, costs an extra $20, retailing for $119. It offers an additional 30’ of accurate measurements (165’ digital tape) and Bluetooth capability so you can use the tool in conjunction with your cell phone on the Bosch Measure app, giving you greater storage capacity and versatility using this tool. Those are the only two differences between this tool and the GLM 42, so this review will be pretty short, as I’ve sung the GLM 42’s praises quite loudly here before.

Probably the coolest feature that comes with the Bluetooth capabilities of this tool is the ability to overlay your digital measurements onto photos.  For a visual person like myself, that is a really awesome concept. That said though, I’m not super tech savvy and the app is a tad cumbersome to use. I really like the GLM 42, and if it were up to me I’d just buy a GLM 42 and save my extra $20.

If you’re keen on gadgets and cool features though, and are patient enough to learn and work with the app, the cool factor on this tool is extremely high. The GLM app allows you to create floor plans from within the app. You can do real-time measurements, tack those to photos of the space, and you get an increased storage capacity by integrating with the app. The tool will calculate length, area, volume, and can measure/calculate angles and perform addition and subtraction calculations.

Posted on October 25, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Finally, a Fantastic Battery Powered Router!

IMG_0956.JPG

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not an expert… anything really. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

Ever since I first used this tool in a Makita booth at a show last year, I knew I had to have it. I actually really don’t use routers very often in my woodshop, something that I didn’t think was weird until I started hanging out with other woodworkers who do. I’ve always been annoyed by their high pitched squeal and the huge mess they make. But the release of a battery powered tool I can use outside? Game changer. First of all, I’ve had the majority of my tools on the Makita platform for most of the past seven years. While I have recently been wooed by some of the new releases from Milwaukee, Makita has been making tools that are a solid investment for far longer than I’ve been using tools.

This cordless router is no exception. It is compact and lightweight. The blade housing/fence mechanism is easy to adjust and remove for quick blade changes. It’s not going to have the same battery life as, say, a drill, even the 4ah batteries, but that is not really a surprise, especially considering what kind of power it takes to actually cut wood. The saving grace is the fact that this tool runs on brushless motor, which is electrically controlled from within to meet changing demands with regard to torque and speed. Run time will depend on the type of wood, the type of bit, and the depth of cut. Makita’s new batteries also have juice gauges on the actual battery, so you can monitor your battery useage easily. A quick aside on the batteries- that life-indicator is amazing. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve carried a handful of batteries out to the jobsite only to stick them in my tool and realize they were dead. It’s a long, frustrating walk back from the forest or the pasture when I do that, so I really, really dig the new indicator feature.

_DSC7609.JPG

There are only a couple buttons on this tool. There’s a dial to control the speed and a lock/unlock safety switch to turn it on. It has been a little tricky getting used to the button placement, especially since they are so small, but I’m sure that will come in time.

If there was one design feature I would love, it would be to have a spot on the tool that the wrenches could tuck into. On my corded routers, I always attach the wrenches to the end of the cord and then I never lose them. On a cordless router, no such luck.

_DSC7600.JPG

This tool retails for $130. Would I buy it?

Though a few other companies have made cordless routers, Makita was the first company making tools for the professional to come out with a true knockout tool. At $130, I’d say it’s a reasonably priced router, and I would definitely buy it. That said, if you were new to the Makita platform, the addition of the battery and charger at $149 would make this a much tougher pill to swallow- I might actually think twice about dragging out the extension cords and waiting for a brushless, cordless tool on your battery platform.

Batteries always seem to be the major killer when it comes to tool pricing, which is the main argument for picking one tool company and sticking with it. Not to mention, it’s a pain juggling 10 different chargers and their cords. I don’t take it lightly that this tool testing gig affords me the opportunity to use so many different tools and brand platforms, because it’s taught me so much about how tools actually work and it’s taught me to become a far more discerning customer. It also allows me to really use and abuse the tools and pick my favorites. I can only hope that that translates well into honest, helpful reviews for readers. This Makita router is definitely one of my favorite tools I’ve used this year. The fact that Makita has such a diverse product line is also a big argument to love the company- their battery operated chainsaw and lightweight circular saw get used on the daily around the farm.

 

Posted on October 25, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Testing the Dremel Multi-Max

_DSC7582.JPG

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not an expert… anything really. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

IMG_0111.jpg

Ok, let’s talk about this oscillating tool and it’s attachments. I tested the Multi-Max itself, $129, the Universal Oscillating Tool Accessory kit for Wood, Metal and Drywall, $29.97 and the Cutting and Variety Accessory kit for Wood, Metal and Drywall, $29.97.

Dremel really knocked this one out of the park- the only thing that could have made this tool better (for me at least) would be adding battery power. Having used the corded Milwaukee, Dewalt, and Fein iterations of this tool extensively, the Dremel really takes the cake. Here are my favorite points:

 -There is significantly less vibration of the tool when in use.

-Lighting fast blade changes with no extra tools.

-The locking mechanism on the head of the tool is easy to use and doesn’t accidentally come loose, a huge plus with the safety conscious.

-The kit comes with pretty much everything you’d  need for the first few projects you’d tackle with the tool.

-The fact that you can reposition the blade at an angle to get into tight spots is also a major bonus.

-The tool is lightweight, comfortable to hold and to use, the ergonomics are solid.

-The blades cut quickly and really seem to last well

-Competitively Priced

IMG_0117.JPG
IMG_0119.JPG

While this tool is a breeze to use, there are a few things only longterm use will prove- I wonder how the blade locking mechanism I like so much will handle getting gunked up from prolonged use around the jobsite (read, what happens when the donkeys kick a whole pile of woodchips and manure on it while they casually walk by?) My other main concern is with the accessories for the tool. While the tool itself is fairly affordable, the Dremel branded attachments are somewhat less budget friendly, but they are also performing better than some of the competitors’ attachments, so it may all be a wash. As it is, I just so happened to be doing a ton of renovation and construction projects this quarter, so this tool saw some heavy use in my metal shop project as well as the chicken coop project. It got dirty it got slightly abused, and it’s performed incredibly well despite it all. It’s quieter, vibrates less than the two other tools I’ve been using the last few years and blade changes are a breeze- this tool is a real win for Dremel.

Posted on October 23, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Fancy Fencing with Ryobi

Reviewing the Ryobi One 18V Shears

IMG_0092.jpg

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not an expert… anything really. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

_DSC7569.JPG

 I’ve been singing Makita’s praises for providing so many helpful farm implements on their battery powered platforms for years. Ryobi has provided me with two GAME CHANGER tools on their battery platform this year- first, with the 40v Weed Whacker (don’t even get me STARTED on the frustrations of dealing with small engines around the farm in the Seattle rain), now with these shears.  When stringing fence, these things were the handiest tool I’ve come across in a WHILE. We use 2”x4” galvanized  livestock wire all over the farm. These Ryobi shears whiz right through the stuff. I used to snip every single wire individually, which is extremely time consuming and makes for a major hand-ache. This tool has single-handedly cut fencing time and frustration in half.

IMG_0086.jpg

These shears are also geared well toward cutting sheet metal, but I’ll be honest, figuring out the proper jaw angle and width for the tool to work properly is a bit tough. If cutting sheet metal was my main goal, I’d be inclined to look at other options.

This tool retails for $79. Would I buy it?

This tool is yet another instance of the battery costing more than the tool itself, but, especially for those caring for any amount of property, between the weed whacker and these shears, these tools have more than proved their value around the farm and I’d recommend both highly.

The 18V 6 AH Battery on the Ryobi platform really packs a punch. I use it in my weedwhacker and get an amazing life out of it. The power indicator on the front of the battery is great because I can always check and make sure I’ve got juice before carrying it out to the jobsite. As is the case with every battery platform though, it’s pricey, so make sure you’ve got enough tools you’re running on it to make sure you get your money’s worth.

To see this tool in action, check out my YouTube video on building the Chicken coop:

Posted on October 22, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Getting Organized with DeWalt

IMG_0429.JPG

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not an expert… anything really. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

This won’t likely come as a surprise to many in my audience, but I’m a bit of a hoarder. I’m sure I’ve always had it in me, but something about living on the farm has really brought it out. The longer I spend living on a farm, the better I’ve gotten at thinking quickly on my feet and solving problems on the fly. When so many things can be fixed with haybale twine, scrap wood and pipes I just find laying around, it’s no surprise it’s getting increasingly difficult to part with anything that is more obviously useful like boxes of nails and screws, of which I’ve amassed quite the collection.

IMG_0424.JPG

These Dewalt small parts organizers came at just the right time. Doing so many construction projects around the farm this summer; working on the tiny house, the chicken coop, and the metal shop, I was always running back to the house for this or that. I was able to dump a huge collection of assorted boxes of stuff which were formerly clogging the entire surface of my workbench into the organizers in a very (you guessed it) organized fashion. I created an “outdoor construction” box with deck screws, metal roofing screws, fence staples, and other assorted items which I can easily pack to the worksite all together and save myself a few extra trips back to the shop.

 In the large organizer, the cups come out individually, so you can grab whatever you need and shut the box to prevent accidental spills and moisture. The small parts organizer has moveable partitions which allow the user to create custom sized compartments.

IMG_0433.JPG

When all is said and done, the organizers can be clipped together and tossed out of the way. The clear tops make for easy location of different parts. These also incorporate seamlessly with Dewalt’s pack-out system, but these are pretty useful to me as an independent unit.

 These organizers retail for $30: Would I buy them?

 Absolutely. I love that they are stackable, giving endless opportunity for more organization. At this pricepoint, they are sturdy, versatile, and they got a load of crud off my workbench.

IMG_0431.JPG
Posted on October 21, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Husky LED Lights Review

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

_DSC7624.JPG

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not an expert… anything really. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

Ok let’s talk lights: The Husky 200 Lumen LED Magnetic Clip Light $9.97, The 200 Lumen LED Magnetic Hook Light $9.97 (I like to call it a puck light), and the Husky 300 Lumen LED Dual Beam Aluminum Headlight $14.97.

I’ll be honest, at first glance, I made a snap judgment that these lights were just going to be another thing knocking around in the bottom of a drawer somewhere, but I tossed them in my work bag to put them to the test and was shocked at just how often they’ve come in handy. As I’ve mentioned many times, I spend a lot of time working around the farm where there are no power cords. I also have a bad habit of working really late at night, so extra light is usually a huge plus. I have and love the 18v Milwaukee work light, but it doesn’t fit in my work bag and can’t sneak into tight spots for directional lighting.

_DSC7647.JPG

It’s important to remember that, especially with tools, you get what you pay for, and Husky definitely does appeal far more to the homeowner and the contractor looking for a good deal than to those making lifetime tool investments, but I really appreciate that Husky backs up their brand with solid warranty and replacement plans. While Husky tools had a noticeable dip in quality several years ago, the brand has made a lot of strides over the past two years to really kick up their product lines and production standards, so if you haven’t used any of their recent tools, I think they are definitely worth a second look.

IMG_0938.JPG

These little Husky lights are compact, bright, and have a decent battery life considering the amount of light they are putting out. The magnetic puck clicks onto car hoods, hangs on nails, and provides great directional lighting in tight spaces. The magnetic clip light has a little pull-out stand, and can be set on the floor and angled directly at the area you need to light up. Though I hate wearing headlamps, it’s often the only option when climbing around in rafters, something I’ve been spending quite a bit of time doing lately. The headlamp is comfortable, has four modes- spot, flood, both, and a flashing red light. The incorporation of the reflective backing on the battery pack expands the useability of this light outside the jobsite to biking, hiking, or camping. The lights all have rubber casing, with the intention of giving added protection for drops. The clip lights have Phillips head screws on the battery pack, and while I hate having to grab another tool to change batteries, it is nice that when the lights do get dropped or knocked over, the batteries don’t go flying in ten different directions.

Since I’m planning on keeping these little lights in my work bag, always at the ready, I went ahead and invested in some rechargeable batteries. The lights come with batteries to get you started, but they only had about a three hour run-time on those batteries. I just feel better knowing I’m not running through and disposing of a whole lot of batteries over the life of these tools.

Would I buy these tools?

These three lights have earned a long-term spot in my tool bag, because they shed much needed light in tight spaces and have a small footprint in my toolbag. For under $35, it’s a small investment with big rewards.

That magnetic puck light especially, for $10 is pure awesome. I’ve used it all over the farm, working on my old farm truck, and it now lives on the fridge in my metal shop, ready to grab whenever needed.

_DSC7643.JPG

 

Posted on October 8, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Husky 9 Drawer Workbench Review

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

_DSC7504.JPG

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional mechanic. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to working on cars, construction, framing, electrical and home renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

So let’s talk about this Husky 9 Drawer Workbench:

_DSC7540.JPG

Organization has always been a huge struggle for me. Part of my creative process involves a major explosion of all the tools and supplies I own. Logically speaking, I know that cleanliness and organization are the keys to productivity and efficiency, but somehow, despite my best intentions, I’m a tornado in my own space. One way to stave of the hurricane, however, is to make sure everything has it’s place.

_DSC7489.JPG

This bench is a real winner. It looks sleek, it’s got a solid base, and it provides an enormous amount of storage, which, for me at least, was a huge step in the right direction.

_DSC7543.JPG

Awesome features:

·      Strong drawers

·      Drawers extend fully, and offer full support even when fully extended

·      Bottom drawers offer tons of storage

·      The built in power strip is awesome

·      The handle on the side makes for easy relocation even when fully loaded

·      Comes with grip mats which protect tools and keep them from slipping around

·      The paint holds up well and the welds and fasteners are all solid

Things I wish were better/different:

·      I wish the wheels were made of rubber rather, would be more durable and have better non-slip capabilities

·      The benchtop doesn’t seem super durable. It’s replaceable, but I don’t want to have to replace it. It’s easily damaged by solvents and dents/scratches easily

This bench retails for $309. Would I buy it?

If you’ve got stacks of tools and supplies clogging up your workspace, you owe it to yourself to get organized. If adding more drawer space and another work surface can help you get there, you’d be hard pressed to find a better bench at this price point.

Posted on October 4, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Milwaukee 18V Brushless Drill/Driver Set

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

IMG_0891.JPG

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

So let’s talk about this month’s MAJOR TOOL CRUSH, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Hammer Drill & Impact Driver Combo Kit (2-Tool) w/(2) 5Ah Batteries.

_DSC7621.JPG

This kit, though a big initial investment is a fantastic value. I paid a little less for my (other brand) 18V drill/driver kit a few years ago and they served me well, but now having used several of Milwaukee’s tools on their 12v and 18v battery platforms, I’m making the switch to Milwaukee everywhere it makes sense. Their battery-powered grinders are nice, the flood/spot light comes in extremely handy, and the random orbital sander has earned its spot in my traveling farm tools bag. I’ve been slinging these tools around the farm, in the shop, and around the tiny house build for the past six months and I love them.

“There is a $179 version of this kit on sale this weekend at Home Depot. What makes these different? As a weekend warrior, do I need the more expensive kit?”

The biggest difference is that the drill motors in these cheaper options are not brushless. As I was trying to find the right words on how to explain the difference between brushless and standard drill motors, I found this awesome article in Popular Mechanics that explains it way better than I could. Will the weekend warrior ever be able to tell the difference between a brushless and non brushless motor? That is debatable, but the real difference between the two kits, at least for me, is the 5ah batteries that come in the more expensive kit. I was a little worried that the 5ah batteries would make the tools a tad too heavy, but that hasn’t been the case. The battery life is great and the weight is surprisingly low considering the power and amp hours available.

IMG_5306.JPG

 As I tend to do, I’ve used the drill and driver for a few unconventional applications, and they performed exceedingly well. I got a lot of flack for using the ½” driver with a paddle to mix my drywall mud for the tiny house, but it worked like a charm, and since I didn’t have power cords at the build site this time around, it genuinely was the only option available. The hammer drill has loosened quite a few rusty nuts around the farm (I’m still curious as to why the previous farm owner used assorted sized nuts and bolts SO frequently in the place of regular screws and nails). It’s drilled quite a few holes because it was the handiest option and I happened to have square drive drill bits.

 I used the drill and driver quite a bit in my shavehorse build, installing the subfloor, drywall, steel roofing and concrete board in the tiny house, as I was shoring up the roof of the metal shop, and on the chicken coop build, and I’ve found zero complaints thus far.

Awesome Features on the Hammer Drill:

·      Light and compact- allows for access to tight spaces while still delivering surprising power

·      ½” chuck expands the applications of the tool significantly

·      Variable speed trigger

·      2 speed gearbox, 1200 lbs of torque

Awesome Features on the Impact Driver:

·      Single handed bit insert on the ¼” hex chuck

·      Self-tapping screw function for metal roofing screws

These tools retail for $379. Would I buy them?

Absolutely. It is definitely an investment, but a valid one, especially if you’re already on the Milwaukee battery platform. If you’re not, I’d strongly encourage you to look at the brushless options within your current battery platform before making the investment. The Ridgid and Makita brushless drill/driver kits are also really great options.

 





Posted on October 2, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Review Roundup: Ridgid MEGAMax, Bosch Paddle Bits, Diablo Recip Blades

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot.

IMG_0130.JPG

My first order of business with this and every product review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction, framing, electrical and renovation, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

IMG_0926.JPG

First- let’s chat about Bosch Spade/Paddle bits:

On products like these, I like to run an initial test, and then report back after months or even years of hard use on how they hold up. I put these to the test drilling holes in a walnut scrap board to create lathe chisel organization, interested to see how quickly they cut and how bad the blowout would be on a semi hard wood like walnut without a backer board. The brand new bits cut cleanly and quickly and there was minimal blowout.

I tried again making a hanger hole on a walnut cutting board with similarly acceptable results. Obviously, without a backer board, a little blowout is inevitable, but it was pretty minimal, certainly better than other paddle bits I’ve used, and easily fixed with a router and roundover bit, a step I was intending to do regardless.

IMG_0903.JPG

The real test though was the hundred++ holes drilled in the studs of the tiny house as we ran electrical wire. The bits held up great even as they heated up from use.

Any time you’re using threaded paddle bits, you’ve got to be careful because the bits have a major tendency to want to grab in the wood and take your arm for a ride, and those can be real (literal) wrist breakers. The safest way to use the bits in a hand held driver is to cradle the driver against your torso while drilling so if it does grab, there’s a stop. Better to get the wind knocked out of you a bit than to snap your arm.

The manufacturer claims the full thread tip, the contoured paddle design and spur and reamer tips allow the bit to cut 10x faster than a conventional paddle bit. While my tests aren’t nearly scientific enough to assign a number to the increased cutting speed, it is definitely noticeable.

These bits retail for $19.99. Would I buy them? Absolutely. They are a great value for the dollar. They cut fast and clean and should have a significantly longer lifespan than their similarly priced “competitors” which aren’t worth the steel they are produced with.

IMG_0049.jpg

The coolest feature of the Ridgid MEGAMax is that you can switch from drilling function to cutting function by switching out the heads. After the holes were drilled for electrical in the tiny house, we switched to the reciprocating saw head and in went the Diablo blades.

 I’ll be honest, testing these Diablo recip-saw blades couldn’t have come at a better time…

because between doing demo work in my metal shop, working on the Tiny House, and building a chicken coop, I had more use for a reciprocating saw these past three months than ever before in my life. These blades have actually held up shockingly well, though having used and abused Diablo blades in most of my tools since I started building seven years ago, I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve said before and will say again that Diablo blades are my go-to blades because of price point and durability. I don’t have much more to say about them aside from the fact that I made it through all three builds with just three blades- no small feat. Most of the recip saw work I was doing wasn’t in clean, fresh wood, it was in heavily nail and bolt infused boards. The only time I actually had to replace blades was when I kinked them from trying to cut too close into a corner (which happened twice and I have the busted knuckles to prove it).

IMG_0011.jpg
IMG_0958.JPG

So now let’s talk about the Ridgid MEGAMax, the Reciprocating Saw Attachment, the Rotary Hammer Attachment, the Right Angle Drill Attachment, and the Ridgid 18v 6AH Octane Battery System.

  • My favorite features at a glance:

  • Trigger lock for continuous use

  • Customizeable head placement

  • Cordless Rotary Hammer Drill attachment

  • Variable speed trigger

  • Safety lock

  • Easy blade change twist lock on the recip saw attachment

  • LED light illuminates dark working conditions

Ridgid toes the line between providing tools for personal and professional use really well. This tool is a perfect example of that. You’re getting WAY more power out of a tool like this than, say, an 18v drill motor, but I’d also argue that this is one of those tools that is far better suited for a professional user. It’s powerful, but that power from a battery operated unit comes at a pretty big price- the weight of the tool. There are a lot of places on the farm I need tons of power but I can’t get electricity, so this tool has come in extremely handy when I needed to drill bracket holes in pier blocks, secure locking bolts in concrete while building barn stalls, etc. Using a rotohammer to drill concrete without a cord is a pretty incredible thing. The right angle drilling attachment is a nice feature, but again, one probably far better suited to the professional user rather than a weekend warrior or DIYer. I don’t really love the reciprocating saw attachment. Not because it’s not quality, but simply because most of the reciprocating saw use for my projects is done on ladders at awkward angles, and often above my head. I’m pretty strong for my size, but even for me, that weight is pretty tough to wield away from my body or above my head for any length of time at all.

 

Plus, with the incredible power you’re getting from the newer, smaller 18v single purpose tools in the Ridgid toolkit, (like my favorite battery powered recip saw) there are few operations I can think of the average homeowner facing that this tool would be better suited to accomplish. All that said though, if you are already on Ridgid’s battery system and you want to invest in a multi-tool with monster power, I think this is a solid investment. One of the things that really sets this multi-tool apart from its competitors is the inclusion of the new Ridgid Octane battery technology. The tool is able to communicate with the battery depending on which head you are using so the battery can deliver the proper amount of power for that particular head. Pretty mind blowing stuff. Along with the ability to replace the heads of the MEGAMax depending on which operations you’d like to complete, you can also change the orientation of each of the heads for maximum comfort and convenience in use. That comes in handy when trying to get into tough spots and when working at weird angles.

SO. With all that in mind, the bare tool with three heads retails for $287.00 Add a 6ah Battery ($129) and Charger ($79) and you’re looking at $495. Would I buy it?

If I was already on the Ridgid battery system and I had need for battery powered rotary hammer, (which I was and I did), I’d buy the bare tool and rotary hammer attachment at a much easier to swallow $218 price point. If I were looking at starting fresh with the Ridgid system just for this one tool, and didn’t have a specific project in mind for it’s use, I’d definitely say the average weekend warrior would be much happier investing in a brushless drill/driver combo kit (I like this one on the Ridgid battery System, and this one on the Milwaukee battery system) and smaller, dedicated reciprocating saw (read my review on the Ridgid here).

 

 

Posted on September 30, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.

Extreme Accuracy with Bosch

_DSC6672.JPG

This review was created as part of a paid affiliate program with the Home Depot. 

My first order of business with this and every power tool review is a disclaimer: I am not a professional contractor. I am a farmer and a fine furniture maker. When it comes to construction and renovation projects, I’m a DIYer and weekend warrior. That said, I doubt many professional contractors will be reading my tool reviews. My goal in reviewing tools and products is to provide honest feedback based on my own use and experience with these tools to other regular folks like me- wanting to get their hands dirty, try new things, and get the best value for their hard earned dollars.

This laser tape is the bees knees, and I think it should be another staple in every homeowner’s toolkit. There are a lot of bells and whistles to this tool that have made it especially useful for me. I’ve talked a lot about the frustrations I’ve faced with my dyslexia and apparent inability to use a measuring tape efficiently. The numbers get jumbled in my head and I always seem to forget I’ve burned an inch, then my boards end up too short.

The first project this tool came in handy on was measuring for trim on my shop build. Nothing in that whole place is square, and there’s not even one place in the whole shop where I’ll be able to put in a solid run of trim, but the digital bubble level assured me I was taking precise measurements and nothing was getting longer or shorter because of a bowed tape. I saved each measurement and it CALCULATED THE LINEAR FEET of trim I needed for the whole project automatically. That right there sealed my love affair with this tool.

IMG_3499.JPG

It can also calculate square footage for flooring, wall material, and paint. It can calculate volume (hello well maintenance on the farm!!), calculate pathagrean theorem (a2+b2=c2) to get the length of roofing material needed on a pitched roof, and for that matter, can also calculate pitch, slope, and angles, and might just be the ticket I desperately needed to stop making gross miscalculations on the jobsite.

I was also able to use it for site prep on the tiny house, measure trees and branch heights when choosing the exact location for the tiny house, as well as planning my means of attack when demolishing the old shed at the tiny house build site.

_DSC6668.JPG

The only limitation of this tool is that it requires a stop point to be able to measure distances accurately, so in instances where you’d hook the tape to measure something, you’re still tied to using a tape- at least for now. There are, of course, workarounds, you could tack up a stop block for the laser to register against, but sometimes it takes more work to be lazy than to just do things the old fashioned way. 

Awesome Features:

·      Takes precise measurements in tough to reach spots

·      Calculates angles, run, distance, pitch, square footage, volume and more

·      Built-in memory storage

·      Calculates linear feet needed for specific operations

·      Also functions as a level

·      Has 1/4/20 thread so it can be mounted on standard clamps and tripods

Things I wish were better/different:

·      It’s weird to me that you can’t set it to read 16th’s of an inch, only 32nd’s. In instances where I’d be using this level, it seems like 16th’s are more than adequate.

This retails for $99.97 Would I buy it?

Absolutely. The money/time/headaches I’ll save doing the trim and flooring in the shop and tiny house would pay for it three times over.

*I acknowledge that the Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in the Prospective 2018 Campaign. As part of the program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products and services, for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

 

Posted on July 27, 2018 and filed under Tool Reviews.