Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tool good. Ugh.

(Cue Tim Allen grunt).

I spent most of the day looking at battery-powered drills. I need one because getting a power cord out to my Jeep while I drill holes in it to mount things like a CB radio, a better license plate holder, etc. has proven to be quite impractical due to the fact that my iceberg is currently docked at an apartment complex. Now, I have a general philosophy. Cheap tools are worse than no tools. I've been let down by cheap tools far, far too many times. Nowdays when it comes to power tools, I only go for the big guys -- Makita, Milwaukee, DeWalt.

I'm partial to Makita because those Japs are fanatics when it comes to craftsmanship of their power tools, and Makita is the #1 tool folks in Japan. I have a Makita circular saw that, every time I pull it out of its case, I am literally in awe of just how perfect it is as a circular saw. It is powerful, lightweight, well balanced, has a beautiful setup for the rip guide and other guides, and is otherwise worth every penny I paid for it, which was probably three times as much as a cheap Black & Decker but this thing will be passed down for generations. So I must admit I had a bias towards Makita in the first place. But when I encountered this drill -- which weighs the same as a 12 volt drill, but has the power of an 18 volt drill -- I knew I had found it.

Tool good. Ugh!

Tomorrow I get to use it. I have some self-tapping screws to use for the new license plate holder, after I drill the proper holes in the front bumper. Then I am moving the CB radio junction box from the passenger side to the driver's side, and drilling a hole in the kick panel next to the transmission tunnel to mount the microphone jack and running the power through the plenum to under the hood and to the battery instead of piggy-backed off of another fuse the way it is now (piggy-backing is bad because it gives more opportunity for noise). I have no doubt that this drill will perform admirably at both tasks. I've played with it a little now that I got it home, and like its circular saw brother, this thing is what a highly portable drill used for installing stuff like this is supposed to be. Those Japs done created yet another perfect tool. Sorry, Milwaukee. Sorry, Porter. You snooze, you lose!

-- Badtux the Tool Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 1/27/2007 08:47:00 PM  


Weighs the same as a 12V but has the power of an 18V?

# posted by andrew618 : 28/1/07 3:02 AM  

I've had good luck with Sears drills. They hold up well and are priced right. I do make sure I buy them on sale and that the kit has two batteries.

Replacement batteries are expensive so when they go bad I just buy a whole new drill kit.

Any drill under 18 volts is still useful after the batteries are shot though.

I made an adapter that allows me to run them off of a motorcycle battery (easy to pack around) or off of the car battery.
# posted by BBC : 28/1/07 6:55 AM  

BBC, Sears doesn't make drills. The quality of a "Sears" drill depends upon who made it. All the cheapies are Black&Decker consumer crap, which is reasonable quality for occasional use but heavy, underpowered, and not as durable as the good stuff (not that durability matters if you use it only once or twice a year, but ...). The remainder are mostly made by Bosch(Skil), which is a mid-tier vendor but everything but their new 36v "Brute" line is still powered by old-skool ni-cad technology while all the high-end stuff moved to NiMH long ago due to NiMH's better memory resistence and power density (and is now moving to lithium cells because they're even better there).

As far as battery technology goes, the new lithium-ion battery technology used on this new Makita drill is as different from the ni-cad cells used on the re-labeled Black & Decker and Bosch drills at Sears as a M-16 is from a stone-tipped spear. We're talking third generation vs. first generation. An Apple Macbook vs. a Apple II. The new battery holds MUCH more juice, is lighter, will hold a charge for months, has no "memory", and will last roughly five times longer than a cheap ni-cad cell. I have no doubt that five years from now, I'll still be using the same cells. The ni-cads I have for my little Black&Decker electric screwdriver tend to go bad after a couple of years.

Finally, regarding running a 14.4v or 12v tool off of a motorcycle battery, an el-cheapo Wal-Mart battery will set you back around $30 but will only last two years before sulfation kills it, while Makita is currently selling a pair of the 18.8v lithium ion batteries (which will last five years) for around $99. That said, there's another option there, which is to attach a higher-quality deep-cycle lead-acid battery to an inverter. They'll last around five years, and are readily available in the stores (they are called "uninterruptible power supplies"). But one that'll provide enough juice to power 110v power tools is big, bulky, heavy, and expensive (around $300-$400).

Anyhow, that's all the end result of the research I did. I also went to various tool stores and actually held the various options in my hand, which is where I found out that the Bosch 12v weighed about the same as this new Makita 18v. The deal is that if I ever buy other Makita 18v tools (I'm lusting after the angle grinder/cutoff tool), the cells will interchange. Whereas if I bought the Bosch 12v drill, not only is it not as powerful as the 18v Makita, but the big Bosch Brute tools' cells won't fit it either. I think Makita hit a home run with this new 18v line, and it'll be interesting to see how that plays out in the long run...

- Badtux the Tool Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 28/1/07 10:15 AM  

Yeah, yeah, I have a few Makita drills and they are not that great. Whatever your research shows about Sears drills, I've used them everyday for years now and they have worked their butts off for me.

Get back to me in a couple of years after you have used it for a while. My Sears 15.6 volt drill is every bit as powerful as my 110 volt drill and is more controllable.

Batteries only last so long, if you don't use your drill a lot the batteries will still be crap in a year or so. You will just have a very nice drill that needs new expensive batteries.

I'll just stick with a cheaper drill because they have done a very good job for me while making a living with them.

You folks with the money to spend can buy the expensive ones. That's what people with money have, more money than brains. :-)

I know a contractor that buys those drills and guess what? He still has to replace them after the same amount of drilling or screws driven as I get from my Sears drills.

I've never had a Sears drill break on me, only the batteries go bad, but so will your's. The only difference is the expense. Go figure. Meaning my research was done on the job. Enjoy it though, you can still admire it long after the batteries are crap. Hugs and all that shit. :-)
# posted by BBC : 28/1/07 8:34 PM  

You think I'm a fucking idiot don't you? Of course Sears doesn't make drills, they don't make anything !!

They sell shit, made to their specifications. I don't give a fuck who makes their drills, as long as they work for me, and they do.

I'm not fond of Black and Decker because a lot of their stuff is crap, but a Sears drill made by them is still made to Sears specifications and will be a better drill most of the time.

Black and Decker engineers in the number of holes a drill will drill depending on the price you are willing to pay for it. But even a lot of their expensive drills are sitting on work benches not working.

You don't buy a drill because you want a drill, you buy a drill because you want a hole, or screws driven, and Sears gives me that at a reasonable price. Just saying. :-)
# posted by BBC : 28/1/07 8:47 PM  

BBC, lithium ion technology is much different from ni-cad technology that the old skool battery-powered tools use. I have some first-hand experience with lithium ion technology (in a previous life at a hardware manufacturer I did charge-discharge testing on lithium-ion batteries in order to create models of battery charge vs. voltage vs. current then do adjustments for temperature and cell age, the resulting multi-dimensional data sets were boiled down to a spline curve with a couple of adjustment factors). Anyhow, lithium ion batteries have some interesting characteristics that are of use here:

1. A lithium ion battery ages gracefully. At 5 years it'll have more than 50% of original capacity. The li-ion battery in my laptop is close to 3 years old, and is at around 75% of its original capacity (i.e. I can only run my laptop for 3 hours rather than 4 hours).

2. Original capacity is much higher than with ni-cad, so even at 50% of original capacity it's still usable.

3. No memory effect. In fact, for best life you want to pop a lithium ion battery onto the charger as soon as you're finished with it, unlike a ni-cad where that'll cause the battery to lose capacity, it's leaving a li-ion discharged that ccauses a li-ion to lose capacity.

As for your experience with earlier Makita drills, I don't know what to say. I know that when I go out to a job site, I see Makita blue and Milwaukee red all over the place, a little Dewalt (B&D) yellow but it's by far the minority. I suppose these guys might just be buying Makita and Milwaukee because it's trendy or something (shrug)... I dunno.
# posted by BadTux : 28/1/07 9:41 PM  

Oh, BTW, your Sears 15.6V is a Panasonic. They make good drills, and it's not surprising that you're getting good use from it.

- Badtux the Tool Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 28/1/07 9:45 PM  

I have a Makita 14.4v I've used the crap out of for the last... three years. Maybe I'll track down one of these suckers when my batteries finally give up.
# posted by NewsBlog 5000 : 29/1/07 1:32 PM  

You took what I said very well, thank you. Hugs.
# posted by BBC : 30/1/07 7:04 PM  

Yes, you see a lot of those drills on job sites, no question about it.

They watch TV, and ads in trades mags, sales pitches are everything.

Thanks, but I will just stick with an 80 Sears drill kit with two batteries and toss it in a few years when the batteries are shot.

Do keep this in mind, the more you use it the more it will do for you. An idle drill stored will die early. Well, the batteries will anyway.
# posted by BBC : 30/1/07 7:10 PM  

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