Whilst browsing through my local Homebase store I noticed an 'offer' shelf containing several 'power' tools made by Black & Decker. I do not enjoy DIY and I don't think I ever will, since it's just not me. Despite my dislike for it DIY is something that has to be done so any tools available that make my life easier are all good in my book.
Browsing through the shelf I noticed the KC360NM, which is a cordless electric screwdriver made by Black & Decker. At that time I had a load of pictures to hang and since we were basically refurbishing our new property there was loads of flat packed items that needed to be put together and plenty more that would need to be put together in the future. I suddenly found myself thinking I needed a power screwdriver so put one on the trolley.
****What you get****
The box contains;
i) A heavy-duty plastic storage box
ii) The power screwdriver (the "tool")
iii) 3 screwdriver head adaptors
iv) A mains charger
v) A user guide and instruction manual
I was expecting some screwdriver heads but, much to my disappointment and annoyance (since I didn't have any), there are none included. If you are thinking of buying one of these then please bear this in mind and make sure you budget for a set of screwdriver heads in addition to buying the tool.
The heavy-duty protective case that will ensure the tool remains in a serviceable condition. Inside the box there are specifically shaped moulded compartment for the tool to keep it firmly in place and stop it rattling around in the case, hence adding to the protection. I can vouch for the strength, durability and protective nature of the box as mine has been kicked around the garage and suffered a bit of (minor and unintentional) mistreatment on numerous occasions, and the tool is still working fine. The hinges and clasps of the box are made of plastic but are of good quality so there shouldn't be any issues with them snapping, provided the users are not too heavy handed.
Whilst some may see the plastic hinges and clasps as a disadvantage the material doesn't really bother me and I have had no problems. My main criticism of the case is the fact that there is only a moulded compartment for the tool itself. The charger and screw head adaptor is left loose and they will rattle around. If you put the charger tight against the tool then the movement can be minimised but this will not work for the screw head adaptors.
The screwdriver is large and made out of orange plastic. Despite its large size it is lightweight and comfortable to use with a moulded grip that is ergonomically designed.
The screwdriver head adaptor is held securely in place by pulling back a collar, inserting the adaptor and then letting the collar go, and locking the adaptor in place. I was a bit sceptical about this quick release system as it seemed too fragile my concerns soon disappeared after a couple of hard tugs and the adaptor remained in place. The adaptor will accept both cross head (I understand most people refer to these as 'Philips') and flat head screwdriver heads, so all bases are covered.
The screwdriver head is then pushed in to the adaptor. The fit is tight, as you'd expect, since this ensures the screwdriver head remains in the adaptor and doesn't slip or move around, but it is not so tight that you risk damaging either the adaptor or the screwdriver heads.
The tool is hinged in the middle which allows it to be horizontal or there to be a 45 degree angle. This is great since it allows the tool to be used in tight places. However, these are the only two positions that are available, which is a shame since it would be far more useful if there were multiple positions available.
On the bottom of the tool there is a small light to make the tool easier to use in low light conditions. Whilst it is a neat idea it doesn't really work in practice. The light is not bright enough to make a difference during daylight therefore it is only useful in the dark, and who will be doing DIY in the dark? A pretty pointless feature if you ask me.
In addition there is a retractable tape measure in the bottom of the handle. At first glance this seems like a useful feature, but in practice it is not. The tape is just over 45cm long (too short to be of any real use) and its location is such that it is awkward to use whilst holding the tool. Another pretty pointless feature if you ask me.
The tool has various torque settings depending on the hardness of the material you are screwing in to. The manual states that the tool will put screws in any type of material from metal to bricks to wood. In practice I have found that this is not strictly true. It is possible to get screws in all the materials but pilot drill holes are required in everything, even wood, to get the screws in. If there are no pilot holes then forget it since the tool is just not man enough.
As well as being a screwdriver this tool can also act as a drill since it will accept drill bits. Due to the limited power of the tool it is not good for drilling in to hard materials although it is fine for wood, providing the wood is one of the soft types.
This tool is idiot proof and a doddle to use and two main buttons is all that is required. The bottom or 'trigger' button turns the screwdriver head clockwise (i.e. tightens the screw) and the top button turns the screwdriver head anti-clockwise (i.e. loosens the screw). So it is simply a case of putting the adaptor in the tool, inserting the correct screwdriver head, setting the torque setting (although there really is no need to worry too much about this since the differences are so small you won't even notice and it does nothing in reality), stick the screwdriver head in the screw and press the button. Simples.
It is important to ensure that you use the exact size screwdriver head for the screw. Using a manual screw you can get away with using one that is slightly too small since you can manually apply pressure when tightening the screw. This is not possible using this tool and if you do use a head that is too small then you will end up rounding off the screw, rendering it useless. This may not seem like to much of a bother but the rounding off usually happens when the screw is halfway in (and it starts to get too tight to twist out by hand but it is not quite home) which is a real pain to rectify.
It is also important to ensure that you screw in straight or square. Any slight angle will cause the screw to go in on the skew and we all know that in these circumstances it is usually impossible to get the screw home properly. When using a manual screwdriver it is possible to square the screw as you tighten it up thus ensuring it goes in straight. It is not possible to do this using the tool and if it starts off on the skew it will finish on the skew.
This tool is not overly powerful which is a good thing. Whilst it is not good for getting in to hard materials, it is good for soft wood since it ensures you can't over tighten the screw and split the wood. Ideal for those who are, like me, a little heavy handed.
****The screwdriver head adaptors****
The screw-adaptors are required to get the different heads in to the tool. I have looked around for spare adaptors (I like to have a few just in case I lose one) but I have been unsuccessful in my search. Without the adaptors the screwdriver heads will not fit in the tool so lose them at your peril.
****The mains charger****
The tool has an internal battery, i.e. one that cannot be changed. Whilst I can see the advantages of an internal battery I am not a great fan of them. With internal batteries the consumers lose the ability to choose between preferred battery manufacturers. We all know that some brands are 'better' (i.e. can be charged more times, last longer etc) than others and we all have our own favourites but with the internal battery this choice is taken away.
Internal batteries require mains chargers, and most of these will differ from product to product. This leads to loads of chargers laying around which not only clutters up the garage but also makes the charging process a chore. In addition, if you lose the charger or it packs up the cost of replacements (that is on the assumption they can be bought separately) is usually quite high and it is often more cost effective to throw the tool away and buy a replacement.
****User guide and instructions****
The user guide is very straight forward, written in easy to understand language with no technical jargon and well laid out. There is also good use of pictures and diagrams to make things even clearer. Personally I think this tool is idiot proof and a user guide is not really necessary however I should point out that most of the user guide is about health and safety when operating the tool, how to look after it, the maintenance aspect etc. etc., all of which is mostly common sense.
This tool is constructed out of thin plastic but given the bargain price this is to be expected. You don't get heavyduty power tools for silly money and the manufacturers have to use 'inferior' materials and cut their cloth accordingly. Whilst the plastic is thin and will bend and contort, provided you are not too heavy handed and treat it with a bit of respect then I don't think it will fail. I have been using mine for the last 12 months or so and have had no problems whatsoever. You just have to remember that it is designed for domestic use and not heavy industrial use.
****Battery life and charging****
The battery life is limited and I usually find that it will last around 30 minutes in between charges. This working time is more than adequate for the simple DIY tasks, such as hanging pictures and putting flat packed furniture items together but when dealing with larger jobs the short battery life can be a bit more of an issue. If you are working indoors or where there is a mains power supply the problems are minimised since the tool can be charged between uses.
However, if you are working where there is no main power supply, such as outside, then this can be more problematic. As previously stated the tool uses an internal battery to function. It is not possible to remove this battery or exchange it, therefore it is not possible to keep spare or multiple batteries that can be swapped over as the previous one runs out of juice. This means the tool requires constant re-charging if it is to be used over long periods of time, which is not possible where there is no power supply.
In the building trade the mains supply problem is dealt with via 110 volt power tools that are run off generators or significant power packs. This tool cannot be charged, or used with a 110 volt power supply, so the only way of overcoming this problem is to have a few of these tools, although this.
This tool is day glow orange in colour, which is not really to my liking. The colour is a bit too much 'in your face' and whilst some consumers may like this, I prefer things that are a bit more subtle and understated. The luminous orange colour makes the tool look cheap and nasty in my opinion.
It was only when I used the tool outside, I realised what Black & Decker were trying to achieve with the orange colour scheme. Whilst erecting the wooden summerhouse (or glorified shed) I never once lost this tool, unlike other manual screwdrivers. The bright orange colour was easily identifiable against the grass and in the 'pick up and put down, pick up and put down' way of putting the summerhouse together I was actually thankful for this since I didn't have to scrabble around looking for the tool. A quick glance and it was located and used, hence saving me time. Despite this I still think the tool looks cheap and nasty, but I guess you have to make many compromises with products, besides functionality should prevail over looks/image etc. but in reality is this ever the case?
****Price and availability****
This tool is widely available from many retailers, including the major DIY and home improvement stores (Homebase, B&G, Godfreys etc) and other similar shops. In addition it can be bought off the internet from many retailers so if you want one of these getting one will not be a problem.
I paid £19.99 for mine although there was a sale on at the time. At the time of writing this tool can be bought for £29.36 (excluding postage and Packing) from Shop.com
This tool is not the cheapest option, but then it is not the most expensive either, however, I think it represents good value for money and I have no regrets in buying it.
****Summary and conclusion****
i) The heavy-duty plastic box (supplied) helps protect the tool when not in use
ii) Using this makes tasks much easier than using non-powered screwdrivers
iii) Using a powered tool helps to avoid repetitive strains during those more complex and time consuming DIY tasks
iv) It is ideal for smaller domestic tasks
v) The lack of power will ensure that screws are not over tightened, hence avoiding wood splits
vi) No matter what anyone says, power tools are 'cool'
i) The tool is not 'man' enough to deal with large tasks or industrial use
ii) It is heavier than non-powered screwdrivers (although it is not over heavy)
iii) The battery life is limited
iv) It is not possible to upgrade or change the internal battery
v) The light seems like a good idea but is pretty much useless
vi) The tape measure seems like a good idea but is pretty much useless
vii) If the screw doesn't start going in square or straight and you carry on, it is going to be on the skew
viii) You still need to drill pilot holes in all but the softest materials
i) The thin plastic and ghastly orange colour makes it look cheap and nasty.
Overall the Black & Decker is ideal for domestic use. Whilst it is not overly cheap, it is cheerful and takes the hard work of performing the 'easy' and mundane DIY tasks of hanging pictures, putting together flat pack furniture etc. etc. The battery life is pretty poor, but it should be more than adequate to complete the small household jobs. When completing larger tasks, or tasks where there is not a power supply (so you can keep the battery topped up between inserting screws) you may encounter a few more problems.
The colour is awful and the overall finish is not excellent but then given the cost what more can you expect, and providing you look after the tool and aren't too heavy handed with it then it should last a few years.
Voltage: 3.6V. Forward/reverse rocker switch for easy screwdriving and screw removal. NiCad battery with a charge time of 12 hours. With three-position handle mechanism for full versatility and accessibility.