Friday, April 28, 2017

A big "Thumbs Up" for a useful range of tools

I don't often recommend particular manufacturers, or brands, or models of tools, equipment, etc.  When I do, it's never because I've been asked to do so, but because I've tried them myself, and found them worth having.  I do so because I reckon my friends and readers would like to know about something that can be honestly recommended, without bias or ulterior motive.

In that light, I think it's time to give a big shout-out to Black & Decker's 20V range of handyman's tools and hand-held appliances.  I've been undertaking a fair amount of work in our Texas home, into which we moved just over a year ago, and my older nickel-cadmium battery-powered tools simply weren't up to it any longer.  The batteries would no longer hold a charge for very long, and some of the tools were big and clunky by modern standards - not surprising, really, since they were more than a decade old, and there's been a lot of progress since then.

I shopped around online and in local hardware and home improvement stores, but I wasn't impressed by the prices demanded for 'big-name' brands such as DeWalt, Makita, etc.  Miss D. and I aren't poor, but we're not rich either.  We live relatively frugally, and try to spend our money wisely.  I really couldn't see spending close to $1,000 on the tools I needed.

In thinking about alternatives, I noticed that Joel has had good things to say about his Black & Decker 20V drill/driver, and has added to his arsenal a reciprocating saw and a chainsaw using the same batteries.  He found that the reciprocating saw went through batteries at a brisk rate, but that's not surprising - those things chew power - and it's not necessarily a disadvantage if one has spare batteries.  Comparing the prices of the B&D range of tools to their major competitors, they were usually significantly cheaper, and I know Joel gives his tools a good workout:  so I took the plunge.

I bought this drill/driver and this sweeper/leaf blower to start with, planning to get more tools as I went along.  They proved very useful, particularly the drill/driver, which is lightweight, yet powerful enough to get some pretty big jobs out of the way.  (For example, I was able to drive 6" screws through 4x4 uprights into plugs in brickwork without trouble, something that had been hard work for my old drill/driver unit.)

The standard batteries had a charge life adequate for my needs, but in case I need to use them for extended periods, I've bought a 2-pack of replacement batteries and a high-speed charger.  I've since added a small chainsaw to my Black & Decker arsenal.

In general, I've been very impressed by all these tools.  They appear to be more than adequate for home handyman use, and get the job done to my satisfaction.  Over the course of the next few months, as funds allow, I'm going to add a garden cultivator/tiller, a reciprocating saw and a string trimmer/edger to our collection, all using the same batteries we already have.  Given that both Miss D. and myself have physical limitations, their light weight and good ergonomics should prove very useful to both of us.

In short, a highly satisfied "Thumbs Up" to the Black & Decker 20V range.  For domestic and handyman use, it seems to offer very good value for money.  Recommended.

(No, I haven't been offered anything, in cash or in kind, to recommend B&D.  I bought and paid for all the tools I've mentioned with my own money.  I just like to share a good thing, when I find one, with my readers and friends.)



B said...

I have the string trimmer. I can trim over a half mile of relatively tough grass on a single battery.

When my DeWalt tools die, I will likely replace 'em with the Black and Decker tools.

digitalsawdust said...

I wouldn't take a B&D tool on a bet. They're designed to be cheap and not last long. I'm and engineer. I've torn down B&D tools that have failed me and found really crappy design inside. A gear ground on the end of the motor shaft, which wasn't hard and wore out quickly, was what killed a sander. Really crappy design. Every tool manufacturer they've bought have had their brands degraded by cheap design and manufacturing. Stanley is a good example of a manufacturer who used to produce quality tools and no longer does.

I prefer tools that will last me. For battery tools, I decide on the battery platform first, so I can get a range of tools that use the same batteries/chargers. For me, the most useful battery tool system has been Makita. I've never had one fail. For gas powered, it's Stihl - expensive, but damn good. For generators, it's Honda. There is no substitute. This winter I took out a Honda I hadn't run in over 20 years (yeah, I know - bad practice), gassed it up, and it started right up. Get good tools, not cheap ones. In the long run, you're ahead.

hightecrebel said...

I have a B&D 20v weed wacker and one of their integrated-battery lawn mowers (wife bought it while I was deployed). Honestly, they've been really good to me. Haven't had any issues, battery life is really good, and while they may not last as long as a contractor-grade tool, I also don't beat it up like a contractor does. If I need to beat something into the ground, I'll go rent it, or pick up a Harbor Freight that I won't mind destroying.

Anonymous said...

Stanley Black & Decker is the name of the company that owns B&D, porter cable and dewalt names. B&D fills the bottom end niche. Porter cable is supposed to be a step up. Dewalt I'd the professional line. Personaly, I think the B&D stuff is a good buy but on the cheap end ryobi is a bit better quality, equal to the current crop of porter cable tools but with more options. I've seen the ryobi tools take a lot of abuse. I use dewalt myself, but I use mine professionaly and am pretty demanding. The battery powered impact wrenches in particular have come a long way.

Leonard Jones said...

I am a lifelong industrial mechanic. Air compressor mechanic, Millwright
(Air and gas compressors, turbines, pumps, gearboxes, air movers, etc,)
and maintenance electrician.

For home use, I like my little B&D 20v 3/8" drill. But for industrial
use, I prefer deWalt tools in 12 to 24 volts. I have the following:


(2) 1/2" 18v drill-drivers
(1) 1/2" 18v drill-hammer drill
(1) 18v 4-1/2" angle grinder
(1) 18v gooseneck work light
(1) 18v 5-3/8" circular saw
(1) 18v recip. saw
(1) 18v 300Ft/Lb 1/2" impact wrench
(1) jobsite radio/battery charger

I lost count of the number of 18v chargers

(1) 24v SDS hammer drill
(1) 12vMax worklight
(1) 12vMax IR heat gun
(1) 12vMax flexible bore scope w/ stock 17mm and optional 9mm camera heads.

(1) IR 1/2" cordless ratchet
(1) IR die grinder
(1) IR charger
(1) IR battery

These last 4 cost a C-note each.

I have beaten the hell out of my cordless tools and they are like Timex
watches, they just keep on ticking. I put a stepped down 1-5/32" bit
on one of my cordless drills to drill out a seized 1" pipe plug on a
MASSIVE double acting gas compressor in an oil refinery because my
foreman's 110 v Milwaukee Hole Shooter started to smoke the windings.

Cordless tools can be stalled out all day long without damaging the
windings. For hard core industrial use, I would go with Milwaukee,
Rigid, deWalt, or IR.

RHT447 said...

Moved to Texas November a year ago and working our house as well. As a long time home owner, my vote goes to B&D for weed whackers and leaf blowers--good value for the price. I also have a corded B&D drill that is still going strong after a couple of decades. I recently snagged up this set---

---and have found them to be a perfect combination of light weight and power.

Ruth said...

I've owned quite a bit of B&D. Like them quite a bit. But they aren't especially heavy duty either. That said, I still own and use several pieces of theirs, and at work I have no qualms selling them to customers....after I've done some careful questioning about how they plan to use them.

When we started needing pieces with more power/ability to hold up to abuse, we were given an 18v Dewalt piece, and liked it enough that we picked up a matching battery powered recip saw (and yes, it still eats batteries like nothing else). However recently Dewalt has started switching their newer tools over to 20v. This pissed me off enough that I stopped buying their stuff, leaving me with a choice of buying used only or switching battery types was not cool.

We needed a 2nd, more powerful than my little B&D, drill-driver when we redid the front steps, and after doing some digging and looking around and trying of tools we bought an 18V Makita hammer drill-driver. Its just slightly smaller and lighter than my 18v Dewalt, which makes it easier for me to use it since I have tiny little hands with strength issues, but its capable of driving screws that the Dewalt struggles with.

Rob said...

The lithium battery technology is great, two steps up ladder! The batteries weigh less and they work right up until they don't, I've nothing bad to say about the lithium battery tools.

B&D not so much, my last battery tool set up was B&D (it was not lithium).
Ryobi this time & no complaints.

Douglas2 said...

I've had my best 18V B&D hammer-drill/driver at work. Yesterday when a young colleague to whom I had loaned it brought it back to me it occurred to me that (as that particular tool was a wedding-gift from my brother-in-law), it is now in its 18th year, and nearly as old as the fellow who was using it.

I've found that the "slow" chargers that come with the tools are very poor for battery longevity, so the tool is much more practical when you purchase the fast-charger and a spare battery.

And sometime in the past two decades I worked out that a power-tool NiCd lasts me just over two years, so I started marking them with the date at time of purchase. If I've got a project coming up and the batteries are toddler-aged, I'll order newly manufactured batteries.

For the ancient B&D tools in my possession, the most of the repair-part numbers for the internal gears, motors, and switches are identical between the B&D and the equivalent Dewalt. The ones with the "stem" nicads I charge in Dewalt chargers. I've no idea if the shared parts continue to current models.

I've no complaints with the changes in battery voltage and chemistry -- the new-technology batteries really are that much better, and far lighter, and will last far longer before requiring replacement.

Eric Wilner said...

The old nickel-cadmium batteries had very poor longevity; they'd seriously lose capacity within a year, regardless us use, and be basically useless after two years. Nickel-metal hydride batteries were better, but not by much.
(This is largely a function of battery management, and trying to use their full capacity. I currently have a 15-year-old NiMH pack in regular use, with no problems - but that's because the Prius maintains a narrow range of state-of-charge, right around 50%, rather than charging the pack up to anywhere near rated capacity.)
Both batteries for my old 12V DeWalt drill lasted less than two years, as one might expect. About the time I was looking for replacements, somebody (Woot?) had a Deal on a refurbished Ridgid drill, with a pair of 18V lithium batteries, for about the price of a pair of aftermarket batteries (of uncertain provenance) for the DeWalt. That must have been about five years ago, and the drill (lightly used) and batteries are still going strong.
So, yes: the new battery technology is vastly better than the old. It's even possible you might wear out the tools before the batteries die!

Eric Wilner said...

...regardless *of* use....
Brain/finger coordination: how does it work?

Knucklehead said...

I haven't read the comments and I am NOT recommending anything to anyone. That said, about 5 years ago I got VERY tired of my breaking down mishmash of garden and home tools. I looked into battery operated stuff and found the Sears Craftsmen C3 line. I have the drill/driver, the sawasall, the little circular saw, the blower, the hedge trimmer, small shops vac, and the weed whacker. I purchased stupidly and wound up with Ni-cad batteries that are useless and spent far more than I needed to.

But now I have the Lio batteries, one half-size, one full-size. I LOVE having these tools. Just today I took the small battery, which I'd used a couple times in the blower since last charging, and took the hedge trimmer and trimmed my 60 foot hedgerow, a forsythia (BTW, this was thin initial trimming of the spring), and several other bushes. Put the battery into the sawsall and took down a couple 1- 1.5 inch branches from the Norway Spruce.

With the larger battery I can do all my we weed-whacking and hedge trimming, and it isn't a little bit, with these tools.

I use the sawsall with a pruning blade to cut a Christmas tree every year.

The single BEST tool, IMHO, is the little shopvac. I use it for everyfreakingthing. I love it.

I have no doubt there are better examples of what I have but the modern. battery operated tool kits are fabulous. Do your research and purchase what is best for your needs.

(OH, the blower won't clear your yard of tons of oak leaves - which I have - but it will keep you door areas and patios and decks free of stuff that would otherwise migrate into your house.

Knucklehead said...

I neglected to mention that I have been "donated" , several times, scrap lumber to burn in my patio chimenea. I have made 70+ cuts of 2Xwhaterver with that little saw using only the smaller Lio battery.

Also, I've had good experience with the GreenWorx blower and weed-whacker.

I think these new kits of battery tools are fantastic. just pick which have the things you need.

Ray said...

18V and 20V are the same. It's just marketing. In Europe, it's 18V due to truth in marketing regulations.

I have a pair of 12V Makitas Drill and Impact Driver. They go on sale from time to time, and Home Depot will price match Amazon! It was around Black Friday when I go them for around $100. Lithium Ion, and they have been amazing. Great ergonomics and very rugged. 20V is great if your doing serious construction, but you pay with weight. Even my Mother in law loves these, because of the weight. And the size makes them great for small spaces, such as if your working in a cabinet installing a sink.

I use the reviews on Amazon a lot to figure out what to buy. Do to returns worries, for tools I will often buy at Home Depot.

Pinakeli said...

I have both the drill and the string trimmer.

The drill has proper balance. It is the ONLY one I have found that points level when the battery is inserted and held loosely.

I will say the same thing about the trimmer. It is the ONLY one that the trimmer head was level when held by the handle. Most are bottom heavy, so you pull up with one hand and push down with the other. This causes you to expend much more energy just to move it around. Also, by turning the head and shaft 90 degrees it becomes the best edger that I have ever used.