As a finish carpenter and remodeler, I often find mega-power
cordless tools too heavy for my needs. Instead, I look for
cordless tools that are lightweight and ergonomic and fit in
tight spaces. So when I first saw Makita's new compact 18-volt
lithium-ion drill (BDF452HW) and impact driver (BTD142HW), I
couldn't wait to try them. Easily identifiable by their white
housings, the compact models are essentially smaller, lighter,
less-expensive versions of Makita's blue-green lithium-ion
Sold with a soft-sided case, Makita's compact impact driver
performs much like the company's larger, more expensive BTD140.
However, it weighs a half-pound less, largely because it comes
with smaller, 1.5-amp-hour batteries.
To keep size and weight down, Makita opted for 1.5-amp-hour
batteries rather than the 3-amp-hour packs used on the larger
tools. (The compact tools do accept the 3-amp-hour batteries
— but the smaller batteries won't fit in the larger
Somehow, Makita has produced an 18-volt drill that feels as if
it's tailored to my hand. At about 3 1/2 pounds, it's roughly
the same size and weight as my much-less-powerful 12-volt
drill. It has no problem powering screws into dense material or
running large spade bits, thanks to its 450 inch-pounds of
torque. The two speed ranges (0 to 450 rpm and 0 to 1,500 rpm)
work fine, but I'd like to see a third, higher setting for
drilling metal and pocket holes. The 16-position clutch offers
enough sensitivity to drive small screws.
The variable-speed trigger provides excellent control even at
very slow speeds, and the 1/2-inch Jacobs chuck works
flawlessly and holds securely. A headlight directly above the
drill's trigger casts a bright light; unfortunately, it's
partially obscured by the chuck.
The 15-minute charger has an internal processor and a somewhat
noisy fan, both of which make battery packs last longer,
according to Makita. My one real gripe with the tool is that
the manufacturer didn't include a belt hook; it's available
only as an accessory. Tracking one down is a pain.
With two batteries, a charger, and a case, the drill sells for
about $200 on the Internet.
In performance and features, this tool appears to be a virtual
clone of Makita's heavier, more-expensive BTD140 model. Aside
from their different batteries and weights (2.8 pounds and 3.3
pounds), the two tools have nearly identical specs: 0 to 2,300
rpm, 0 to 3,200 impacts per minute, 1,280 inch-pounds of
Unlike the BTD140, the compact impact driver lacks a belt hook
and bit holder, but it does have the same above-the-trigger LED
light. It comes in a roomy, soft-sided bag that tends to
swallow up loose bits and related accessories; they should be
kept in a separate case.
Makita's 18-volt drill (on the left) weighs a mere 3 1/2
pounds; the author's other 18-volt drill weighs 6 pounds and
takes up significantly more space.
As part of my testing, I used both impact drivers for the same
tasks. Other than battery life, I found no discernable
difference in performance. The weight discrepancy — a
mere half-pound —wasn't significant enough to make the
lighter tool a clear favorite. But at about $210, the new tool
costs 25 percent less than the larger model; it's a good
The impact-driver kit includes two 1.5 amp-hour batteries and a
45-minute charger; too bad it's not the 15-minute charger
shipped with the compact drill.
Overall, I'm very pleased with both compact models. Clearly
Makita has put a lot of thought into developing well-balanced
and powerful — yet surprisingly lightweight —
Greg Burnet owns Manor Services in
Kevlar Work Jeansby Tim Uhler
About a year and a half ago, Duluth Trading Co. introduced a
new work jean with a five-year warranty. Whoever heard of
clothes that carry a warranty? Intrigued, I decided to find out
if these pants were any good. I ordered two pairs, one for me
and one for another carpenter.
Durability. The MN denim work jeans
are made from a Kevlar-reinforced cotton-polyester fabric that
the maker claims has four times the tensile strength and
abrasion resistance of ordinary denim. I've been wearing mine
to work almost every day, except when it's hot.
They're reinforced at cuffs, pockets, and waist with the
company's "Fire Hose" fabric. The stuff seems to be working: My
pockets are hole-free and the trouser bottoms aren't frayed. In
fact, unlike most jeans, which look pretty bad after a year,
this pair shows no wear at all. The other carpenter's are as
good as new, too.
Features. The first thing people want
to know about these Kevlar pants is whether they're
bulletproof. The answer is no. They won't stop nails, either
They have oversize back pockets and triple stitching, plus a
hammer loop on each side, a ruler pocket on the right leg, and
a dual-compartment cargo pocket on the left.
Comfort. Durability is great, but
pants also need to be comfortable. I normally buy my work pants
too big, for comfort, but this isn't necessary with the Kevlar
jeans because they have a hidden crotch gusset and are cut to
provide extra room in the legs.
Cost. The MN jeans sell for $69.50 on
Duluth Trading Co.'s Web site
(www.duluthtrading.com). That's a lot to
spend for a pair of work pants — but in this case they're
worth it. The only thing I don't like about them is that in
warm weather they feel hotter than regular denim.
Tim Uhler is a lead framer for Pioneer
Builders in Port Orchard, Wash., and a JLC contributing
Heatingby Patrick McCombe
Cheap Insurance. Imagine you've just installed
a new tile floor over an electric radiant mat. You crank up the
thermostat — and nothing happens. Watts Radiant's
LoudMouth Monitor is designed to prevent such scenarios: Its
battery-powered alarm and red LED alert installers if one of
the heating elements is damaged. A green LED and a test button
indicate whether it's connected and everything is working
properly. The device costs about $30. Watts
Hold On Tight. Next time you have to install
PEX tubing in a concrete slab, check out this cool new tool
from Malco. With the FBSN Foamboard Stapler, you can fasten
3/8-, 1/2-, and 5/8-inch tubing onto polystyrene insulation
from a standing position. The tool has an aluminum magazine and
an ergonomic D-shaped handle and sells for $260 online. Malco,
Super Wrench. Swapping out faucets and sinks
is a mainstay of kitchen and bath remodeling. Ridgid's Faucet
and Sink Installer can help with this job, in several ways. The
ergonomically shaped wrench turns 1- and 7/8-inch faucet and
supply-line nuts, frees frozen shut-offs, and secures strainer
baskets for installation and removal. It costs about $25.
Most tile saws use a sliding
table or a rail-mounted motor, both of which limit the size of
tile that can be cut. Raimondi's 55-pound GS86 avoids such
limitations because it's set up like a table saw. It has a
built-in grinding wheel and a channel on the side for putting
45-degree bevels on tile edges. The whole rig comes in a sturdy
plastic case not much bigger than a breadbox and costs about
$1,500. Raimondi Tools USA
Shine On. Speed up tile layout with a
specialty laser designed just for that purpose. DeWalt's DW060K
floor-tile layout laser projects perpendicular laser lines of
up to 100 feet long. The cast aluminum base has reference marks
for 221/2-, 45-, and 90-degree layouts. The maker claims the
device operates for 70 hours on two C batteries. The kit
— case included — costs about $250. DeWalt,
Soft Landing. Want to give your knees a break?
Use ProKnee's Model 07 kneepads when you're setting floor tile.
Custom-fitted and with extra cushioning and surface area,
they're the most comfortable kneepads available, says the
maker. They cost $209. ProKnee, 877/776-5633,