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It’s funny when you witness yourself becoming a supporter of the horse and buggy when you see an automobile go zipping by. When Makita sent us their LXOB01 18v cordless sander, I let it sit for a while because I “knew” it would be a dud. This was not the case.

The cordless sander does have limitations that a corded one doesn’t: it’s heavier, and the battery eventually runs down. What Makita rightly pointed out is that the drill also went through this process as well and seems to have come through stronger. In fact, more cordless drills are sold today than corded, and the palm sander has the advantage of better battery technology in third-gen Li-Ion packs. The press material claims anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes of sanding per battery charge, which we confirmed in our testing. It’s easy to quote figures, but in real project time, what does that 20 -40 mins mean? 

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At no point in my life have I ever looked upon yard work with the same soft-focused, warm fuzzies that seem to inhabit many of my neighbors. They talk of string trimmers the same way I might describe a muscle car. For my part, I just want the least amount of hassle with the easiest care possible. Black & Decker sent me something that actually fits that bill in the 36v string trimmer. It cuts with the same grunt as a gas trimmer but without all the pulls, fuel mixing, and sore shoulders.

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With the first project effort behind me, I went looking for a second small craft item to turn on the Delta lathe. There are about a thousand great projects to do, but I was looking for something with a little flair. Luckily, a trip to the local Rockler store never fails to provide. There, my dad and I found a pizza-cutter kit on sale for $15 and a bit of olive wood — just the thing we needed.

Stopping by Rockler in my family is a little like sending grown men into a money hole. We normally go in pairs to keep the other one from spending the grocery money on rare woods and tools. On this occasion, it was even worse, as the local shop in nearby Richardson was holding CNC routing and turning demonstrations. After drooling over the displays and checking out a few demos, the paternal unit and I stumbled across Rockler’s excellent pizza-cutting kit that features a large steel-cutting roller and mounting hardware. All you need to do is supply a handle.

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I love my son. Why he chose the single most expensive position in sports on the planet to specialize in, I will never know. If you asked him why he chose to be a hockey goalie he’d probably spout some drivel about the adrenaline rush he gets when facing a hard rubber puck coming at him at 120 mph. Personally I think anyone who wants to play hockey goalie is nuts.

In case you’ve never felt a hockey puck before, it’s not a sponge — 120-mph moving puck can do real damage if it hits you. That’s why having good functional equipment is paramount. Playing hockey in its own right is an expensive sport, but playing hockey goalie can bankrupt you if you let it. So when my son’s leg pad recently needed a repair I decided rather than dropping $1200 for new pads, I’d suck it up and do some sewing.

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After reading a ton of stories about lathe accidents, horror stories of amateur woodtuners’ disfigurement, and the “reassurance” from friends and family, it’s easy to think of lathe work as the devil’s own. After working my first project on one I can say it’s not that way at all. Turning is both pretty easy to get started with and simple to understand once a few basics are clear.

Since all the pen-making paraphernalia hadn’t arrived yet, I was determined to do something on the lathe. All the books and how-to articles recommended I start with a cylinder; this seemed pretty boring but I thought I’d try it out. The cylinder plan didn’t last very long. Turning fever sunk in quickly and then things started to get interesting.

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Our compressor test has finally come to a close, and here are the results. We looked at all manner of compressor tools and tests and found what we consider to be some truths and untruths about what’s handy and what is scrap. To be honest, we didn’t find any flaming bags of poo in our test, just some compressors built for different kinds of jobs and a few we didn’t really get along with for one reason or another.

Performance

As you might expect, performance testing was largely a matter of looking at the numbers. The more CFM the tool required, the more challenging it was to keep up using low CFM compressors. So an 18-gauge brad nailer might go 50 brads before it needs to cut in on a 4.2 CFM compressor, where something like the CH got somewhere around 12 brads. Did both do the job? In a word, yes.

However, there was a large difference in how fast the tank refilled and how quiet it was while doing so. Compressors like the Bosch and Makita would only kick in for a few seconds — the DeWalt and Hitachi for around 20 seconds and something like the CH would go chugging on for a full minute or so.

There was also the matter of what you were going to be doing with the compressor. For instance, intermittent or continuous tools will make a large difference in what compressor you use and how well it works. Intermittent tools like 18 gauge nailers running at 90 psi (or even framing guns) might be fine for lower CFM rigs or compressors that have a cut out of 130 or 165. This is because you aren’t using it all at once and the motor can catch up to your use by replacing pressure when you’re lining up the next shots.

But when we hooked up an air-powered drill (continuous) with a CFM rating of around 6.5, the results were, well, not good. A few seconds of pulling the trigger and every one of the tested machines was pedaling at top speed to keep up. Eventually they all spun down into gasping out whatever the pump would push. The lesson: Don’t use continuous tools higher than the CFM rating of the compressor, or they won’t perform like they should.

So to better understand where machines that seem similar on the outside really start to differ, we put up a few baseline numbers.

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About a week and change after posting our first article on the beginnings of our compressor test, we found two things. We’d missed a few brands that needed to go along with that test, and we’d have to wait a little to get them and put them through the same ringer the rest of the field endured. In that spirit, a Bostitch, a DeWalt, and a Porter Cable compressor joined the cast of competitors.

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Shop air compressors are very much like the heater in your home: If it’s working, you really don’t pay it much attention. Only recently when we had a hiccup with our five-gallon Ridgid twin-stack did the thought even come up that this was a 5-year old unit that had put in hundreds of hours of tireless service. We decided to see how our favorite old compressor does against a field of modern competitors.

We shopped around until we found a good representative product from several manufacturers. The rules were pretty simple: Each unit had to be available at a home center or gear equivalent, needed to be in the 2-to-5 gallon range, and finally had to be able to power the shop tools we put into circulation on a regular basis such as trim guns, air blowers, and so forth. Four challengers to the Ridgid arrived in the shop for test. They are, in manufacturer’s alphabetical order: Bosch CET4-20, Campbell Hausfeld FP2602, Hitachi EC 89, and Makita MAC2400.

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A couple of years ago I wrote a post about AO Safety’s WorkTunes, and ever since then I’ve thought about buying a similar pair. Finally after getting sick of swapping ear buds for hearing protection every time I needed to do something noisy, I grabbed a pair of Stanley AM/FM/MP3 Earmuffs from Menards. Here’s the rundown on my experience with them:

Fit

You adjust the size of the headband from both sides of the earmuffs. Each side can travel from the 1 line to one more notch past where it is in the photo, or about 2″. This gives you 4″ of total adjustment. I don’t have a huge head — I wear a size 7-1/4 baseball cap, and I have the earmuffs adjusted to almost full size. If your head is much larger, I’d start to worry about these earmuffs being too small.

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Last month I wrote about a tool called the Size Catcher I found while browsing one of my local hardware stores. Since then I’ve picked one up for $5 at Menards and have played with it for a few weeks. Here are my impressions of the tool:

Construction

I find the snap ring annoying since I hate having tools on my key ring — just what you need, keys dangling from the tool you’re trying to use — eventually I’ll get around to removing it. I have been carrying the tool in my pocket for the last few weeks and have forgotten it was there several times. I’ll take it out of my pocket every time I see a nut or bolt and play the see-if-I-can-guess-what-size-it-is game before I measure it.

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