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gryphon

gryphon
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Member since: 26.03.2001

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      03.07.2001 02:36
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      Tripping was a way of life for our family. Every time we had a bad trip, though, we’d always blame each other for bringing each other down, rather than doing anything constructive about it, until this spring when I used my birthday gardening vouchers and bought- A Wall Mounted Through Flow Hose Reel ! Now we can easily roll the hose away after use, and avoid all those trips, frayed tempers and wrecked hose [at least, that is the theory] The Hozelock 60m thru flow reel comes packed in pieces in a big cardboard box. DO NOT THROW THE BOX AWAY until you have got it all up and running, because the assembly instructions are all in pictorial form on the flaps under the lid. It’s reasonably easy to put together- it doesn’t fit properly if you get it wrong, so one cup of coffee should be enough to see you through to getting ready to mount it on the wall. Hozelock also supply a hose guide to attach to the corner or side of your property so that the hose doesn’t scrape when you pull it out. Once you have fitted the supplied bracket [with four screws] to the wall, the hosereel just slips into place, and you can attach your dedicated piece of feed hose from the reel to your tap. This is how the ‘thru flow’ works- your dedicated short length supplies water through the centre of the reel to the end of your main hose. [You could always fit a two or four way adaptor to your tap, so’s you can leave the reel permanently attached.] The reel has a side handle to wind the hose back up with- I’d recommend not putting more than 50m of half inch hose on, even though it is rated for 60m by the manufacturer, otherwise you have to be obsessively neat about how it is arranged to get it all on. So far, the kids still think that it is a good game to wind the hose back up, and they find it quite easy, but I have had to upgrade the screws holding the mounting bracket to the wall,
      as 50m of hose weighs a lot when full of water, and exerts plenty of leverage. It’s really good to be able to unroll just as much as needed, and have the water already plumbed in: the tidying away is immeasurably easier than coiling by hand, and like most hozelock stuff, appears to be pretty well made and designed apart from the fixing screws not being meaty enough.. There are also two ‘clikfix’ mountings on the edge of the reel for you to store any spare nozzles etc that you may have, rather than leaving them sculling around on the floor- not much help for the big spray lance, but still useful. All in all, I can only say “Water good idea”.

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      • Mother-ease Air-Rika / Baby Care / 1 Reading / 11 Ratings
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        23.06.2001 14:31
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        Why write about a nappy wrap? What is a nappy wrap? Starting at the bottom [as is usual with nappies], a nappy wrap is the last line of defence between your baby’s foul exudates in their terry nappy, and their clothing [or in the summer, you and your clothes]. At its most basic a wrap could be an emergency plastic carrier bag: corners cut off for the legs, and knotted round the waist [this has been known to happen when out, and our offspring has overwhelmed all our carefully prepared reserves!]. The wraps range from pull over plastic pants, to shaped plastics with tie sides, to poppered nylon covers, velcro fastening wraps, and finally the Air -Rika, all of which go over your little darling’s terry nappy. Wraps beat pull over pants every time when it comes to changing- lay baby down, undo wrap, undo nappy, nappy stays on wrap. Baby [held by ankles with left hand]is lifted clear and cleaned, wrap contains nappy and contents, used wipe etc, ready for dealing with. Baby, suitably clean, dry and creamed is now ready for fresh nappy. Normally this means that a change mat rarely gets dirty, unlike with over pants- they have to slide down legs, [leaving a trail if full] and the nappy then rests directly on the change mat. The Air-Rika is a wrap par [ and ma ] excellence, well thought out, practical, and presentable. It is made by the canadian company Motherease, and comes in three sizes, each with an adjustable fit, so as to cover your little darling as they grow. The base white fabric is printed in three different colourways- blue and green whales, green and pink pastel paw prints, or yellow and purple paw prints. These are all quite presentable, and combined with the lovely soft feel of the wrap, help you to just say ‘no’ when tempted to put a pair of frilly knickers over your poor defenceless baby’s behind to hide shiny plastic wraps. The polyester material has a soft touch,
        with a waterproof polyurethane layer permanently bonded inside, and can be repeatedly washed at 60 degrees without degradation- the print may fade slightly over time, but the wrap will come back smiling for more. They can be tumble dried on low, but there isn’t really any need as they dry very quickly- in extremis, a vigourous rub with a dry towel/spare nappy, and they’re ready for action almost immediately. I prefer the popper fastening variant, as velcro, although marginally quicker, has the habit of catching other stuff in the wash and clogging. The air-rika has elasticated cuffs and waist, and three rows of fasteners, so there is no problem getting a snug, eruption proof fit. The poppers also win because even the most determined little escapologist [apparently we're meant to call them 'auto undressers'] can’t undo them. The design and material means that they ‘breathe’, which is a lot better for baby’s behind, yet don’t leak- we’ve had very little sore bot trouble except during teething, when they can get a little red, but the sudocreme soon sorts that out, along with a little fresh air therapy. Out of all the wraps we’ve tried with three kids over the years, these are definitely the top of the pile [don’t ask ‘pile of what?’], as they are easy to use, durable, attractive and effective. I wish we’d found them for child one ten years ago- The air-rika out performs all the other options comfortably, and answers all these problems: plastic pants are not user friendly, plastic/nylon wraps tear over time, plastic feels nasty and sweaty velcro fastening wraps can snag and are self removable They may seem a little pricey, but they last and last and last- there is a thriving market in second hand wraps, especially air-rikas on some chat boards, so you can recoup some of your investment, if you're not planning on any m
        ore kids. [just like us until 10 months ago :-} ]. it’s a wrap

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        • Thornless Blackberry Bush / Plant / 2 Readings / 19 Ratings
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          14.05.2001 23:58
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          Blackberrying has always been an emotive experience for me, recalling those never-ending sunny, childhood afternoons in country lanes with my family. The trying-to-grow-just-one-more-inch, as I worked my way ever deeper into the hedgerow clutching a bucket, then wishing I had long trousers as I slowly extricated myself from among the briars. The sweet taste of sun warmed plump fruit, and the later glory of blackberry jelly, [and even wine in one particularly abundant year- an exceptionally full bodied and strong example that was like a countryside communion]. Anyway: life got busier, the roads got more perilous, and my dad bought himself a thornless blackberry to grow at home, next to the loganberries and raspberries. This plant took very happily to growing by the fence at the end of the garden, and established itself mightily over the years, produces pounds and pounds of fruit every season. Because of its proximity, we could pick the berries regularly for blackberry and apple crumble or pie, as well as making blackberry jelly [the juice from the cooked fruit is strained through a jelly bag, or doubled muslin, before boiling with sugar to produce a clear, seedless jam]. The plant enjoys well-fed and watered soil, but is very tolerant of drought and neglect once established, and is easy to train along a fence or wall. The new growth it puts out this year will bear next years fruit; as with all plants like this, it’s best to prune out the old, diseased or dead wood each year- I’ve done it both in the autumn after fruiting has finished, or in the spring when belatedly tidying some of the wilder bits of the garden. If you do prune in the spring, be careful not to damage the new growing tips of the runners. To propagate this plant, just let the end of a runner touch down onto the ground, and it will root, and start another plant, enabling you to quickly grow a blackberry hedge along a fence. If you prefer, y
          ou can let it root into a pot of soil/compost, ready for transplanting/ giving away. This is how I got mine; as a transplant from my dad, and over the 6 years I have had it, it has established itself in half a dozen places along the boundary with our neighbours, forming a fruitful green covering for the fence. Even better, despite its vigourous habit, it causes no arguments, because it has no defensive prickles, and bountiful fruit with a good flavour, which we encourage them to enjoy. This also lets us release toddlers to enjoy a snack- the only drawback is the stains when they wipe their hands on their clothes! I would wholeheartedly recommend this plant to anyone who fancies fresh fruit from their garden, even if you have to buy it, rather than getting a plant from a friend: The blossom and foliage are attractive in their own right; The fruit is a good size, has a lovely flavour, and is plentiful; The plant is not disease prone, and is vigourous. [ A final word: after he gave us the plant, my dad moved, and I have supplied him with offspring from the plant that he originally gave me: it‘s thriving in his new garden.]

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          • BT Internet / Archive Internet / 0 Readings / 14 Ratings
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            24.04.2001 05:07
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            I don't care about the product, I don't care about the graphics, I don't care about the price. I'd go out of my way to avoid this particular nasty- can you believe that they have put in pop-up boxes! These are terrible- They use bandwidth and slow it down for all of us. They reload every single time you access a page. They force my browser to resize all other windows to accomodate them. If a banner doesn't get the response they want, BT should either not bother, or get better banners. The pop-up box is the equivalent of always writing in capitals- shouting all the time, and very bad manners. If I want 'push' technology, I'll ask for it, otherwise just back off and let me choose what I want to click through on. The final result for me is to leave a nasty taste, and to negatively reinforce the view of an overbearing, arrogant and monolithic company that doesn't really care what we think. Most of my spleen was vented against an annoying pop-up: banners I can live with, and use as I choose. As for the content- I think the ad agency has sold BT a flawed concept, that belittles people, rather than empowers them. The ads may have been vaguely humourous at the first viewing, but have almost instantly become an annoyance. I have no axe to grind with BTi as a company, as I don't use their product, or know anyone who does. This op was written at a visceral level in response to the banner/pop-up combo. One piece of useful advice from the comments on this op- if you get waylaid by a popup box, just minimize it, and carry on. [You're even allowed to feel a little smug about all that ignoring that you're doing- don't you just wish that the amount of negative feedback was communicated to the perpetrator- maybe one extra popup on their screen for every time someone minimises the offensive article?]

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              21.04.2001 03:49
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              Take two Hoovers into the front room? Not me. Keep two Hoovers under the stairs? No way. I just wash ‘n’ go The Hoover Aquamaster is a normal motor-on-top-of-a-wheeled-canister sort of vacuum cleaner, with the important addition of being able to be fitted with a tank of cleaning solution and dispensing/pickup tools so you can wash the carpet to remove those stains that even a Dyson won’t touch. It’s Hoover’s answer to the aquavac, and I have found it extremely reliable and useful over the years- the pickup container is plastic, so won’t rust, and is resilient to life’s little knocks: ours has taken inadvertent trips downstairs, but still come back for more. It looks a little like R2D2 with a carry handle on the top- like R2D2, it has problems with stairs: although the hose will reach most of the way, I find it best to carry it with me to clean the last few treads, rather than reach down from the top- the Hoover can [and does] decide to come and visit you rather suddenly. It’s been used on a regular basis for normal vacuum cleaning, and has a standard set of tools to use as you tow it around by the hose. It rolls easily on its 5 castors underneath. Over the years, because it has a large capacity to take fluids, it can weigh quite a lot when not emptied, and the strain finally killed the hose: I had to buy a replacement for around £13. The filter is a stiff cloth bag that covers the outlet leading to the motor, and like all filters, loses efficiency as it clogs, but is as right as ninepence after a quick wash, so we’ve never needed to replace it. When using for wet pickup or cleaning, you have to empty the cleaner first, to avoid making a rather unpleasant variant of mud, and remove the filter. The reservoir for cleaning fluid sits over the top of the hoover, and a thin tube leading from this clips to the pickup hose an
              d attaches to a cleaning head. It’s a simple matter to treat the area to be cleaned, switch off the fluid feed with a little button under your thumb, then hoover up all the grotty gunge and liquid into the pickup container. The carpet is left remarkably dry very quickly- although they recommend leaving for a couple of hours, in practice it can be walked on almost immediately after cleaning, especially if its a warm breezy day, and you’ve got the windows and doors open. Either empty the pickup tank onto a compost heap, or straight down the loo, [unless you really enjoy fishing muddy fluff out of the plughole]: because there is no filter in the way when doing wet pick up, it is very efficient. We tend to use ‘Vax’ carpet cleaner, because it’s cheaper than Hoover own brand, but any low foam formulation will do the trick. The hoover stops picking up when the tank is full, because the liquid/slurry floats a ball up to block the hole the motor sucks through. I find that I only need to empty twice when cleaning a 5m x 5m lounge and large carpeted hallway, and it takes me around 90 minutes. The end result is well worth the effort, and almost makes me believe in spring cleaning, when I see the autumn and winter’s worth of dirt that the kids have tracked in disappearing, to leave a bright carpet once again: . . . . . ready for the kids to track in a spring and summer’s worth of completely new dirt. Practical considerations when shampooing the carpet: Spend longer hoovering up than you think necessary, and it’ll be a lot dryer a lot quicker. Always finish off your hoovering of an area so that you ‘go against the grain’ thereby fluffing the carpet up. This not only allows it to dry better, but also restores some of the volume and bounce to the pile. Don’t try to scrub too hard or too long at one spot- carry on elsewhere, then return for a quick se
              cond go once the shampoo has had a chance to work on the stubborn stains. This’ll stop your carpet getting overly damp, and cut down the work you have to do. Alternatively, pre-treat any problem spots first, then go over the whole carpet, including the problems. This should help minimise any super-clean/lighter spots shouting out ‘I used to be a stain’. When dirty carpet gets you down Don’t you worry, don’t you frown Just reach under the stair, And use the Hoover you find there When facing piles of mud, Or an occasional spot of blood, Don’t say something obscener Just use your Aquamaster cleaner and. . . . Always look on the bright side of life [whistle] etc [apologies to Eric Idle]

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                12.04.2001 03:30
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                Water, water everywhere That’s all we gardeners seem to have to do whenever [ifever?] it gets sunny, and there is only so much that can be done with water butts and cans. If you use an automatic watering system hooked up to an outside tap, as I do, you’ll know how aggravating it is to have to turn the water off, disconnect / reconnect, turn the water on again, just to use a hose, then do it all over again to leave the automatic system connected afterwards. The expensive answer is to plumb in an extra tap or two, the easiest answer is to install a Hozelock 2150: a four-way, individually controllable water supply. As with all hozelock stuff, it comes in a yellow grey plastic combo, that appears robust, nicely finished and well thought out. Water goes into the manifold via a port at either left or right through a short length of dedicated hose which remains permanently connected to your outside tap: the connectors for this are supplied with the manifold; you have to supply the hose- I used a short piece from an hose which was ruined further along its length where it had got frosted. The manifold push fits onto a bracket which screws onto the wall- the packaging card has a template to ensure you drill them in the right place. That’s it Once the manifold is on the wall, the supply hose connected, and the water turned on, you’re ready to go. Up to two automatic timers can be left permanently connected, as well as a hose or two for washing cars, lawn sprinkling etc. Each outlet has its own control tap, which can be opened part way if you don’t want so much water delivered. The control taps seal with a rubber O ring which should be good for some years. All in all, I consider this well thought out, and very useful if you use an automatic watering system- the ease of access that we take for granted in our houses with electricity, is now becoming available
                in the garden with water. The only obvious downside is that you might use more water, though I would say that the precise delivery given by an automatic system actually cuts the amount needed, especially when combined with mulches to reduce water loss. UPDATE June 2001 I've now connected a second auto irrigation system for the back garden and greenhouse, and a wall mounted hosereel. Everything is a lot tidier, and much easier to use. I now have just the one tap not spoken for. . . .

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                  06.04.2001 19:35
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                  When you come to the end of your tether, [or rather your cable], it’s time to reach for the cordless, and carry on. A fine sentiment, if only the drill will actually do the job, and not cost the earth. Until recently, to buy a halfway decent cordless hammer drill [essential if going into bricks or concrete], you’d have to budget the thick end of two hundred pounds, so it has remained on my wish list until now as I didn’t want to waste money on a cheap tool that wouldn’t do the job. I’ve just found an 18 volt hammer drill: nutool NPT181 for only £29.99 + vat = £35.24 from makro At that price, I am not going to worry overmuch about durability, as it will pay for itself inside two or three jobs through the time it saves driving screws and sorting out cables, after which, it’s a bonus. The manufacturers give a two year guarantee, so I have hope. The drill itself comes in a blow moulded case with a selection of metric twist drills, screwdriver bits, and quarter inch drive sockets for nut spinning. It has a 10mm capacity keyless chuck, that’s really quick to change bits in, and an adjustable collar to vary the torque setting [how hard the drill tightens/turns before a clutch slips. This helps stop you stripping screws, or driving them too far in]. The Hammer on/off selector is just behind the chuck; nutool rate the drill as capable of drilling up to 8mm in masonry- I’ve already found a couple of jobs to do, [purely from a research point of view, you understand, not playing] and concur with them. This is great for inserting wallplugs for screws up to size 12 which is plenty for most fixings on the outside of buildings. The tool has an onboard clip to hold a double ended screwdriver bit, and is well balanced with a soft grip handle. The trigger is progressive, so you can easily regulate your speed, and there is a simple push switch for forward, reverse,
                  or lock. If you have small hands you may find it a little cumbersome, but still eminently usable. The battery has a test button and a string of indicator lights to give you an idea of how much power you have left: the supplied charger only takes one hour from exhausted [rather like me at lunch]. I’m very happy to find this, as I have a couple of jobs up ladders to do, and it’s much easier with no trailing cable, it has worked very well on the bits I’ve done so far- I’ll update when I’ve had a chance to use it further. 21st April: I have now been using the drill on and off for quite a few jobs, including fitting some gutter and downpipe, and haven't had any cause for complaint- there has been plenty of power, and the battery life is good: I find the indicator lights on the battery useful to reassure me that I won't get stuck with a half done job. I've also found that by setting the torque to just shy of fully on for drilling, the clutch slip makes the drill act like an air hammer to tighten/release stubborn nuts and screws- just remember to keep plenty of pressure on the rear of it. Again, I'll try and remember to update in 3 months or so to report on the longevity of the drill 6th July: It's even cheaper now!! [spit spit] MAKRO have it on special at the moment for £6 less than before. [mustn't complain- it's already earned back it's cost three or four times in the short while I've had it] So far the longevity looks fine- I've drilled bunches of holes in masonry with no trouble- although it's relatively slow, this is an advantage when drilling through tiles [you did remember to turn the hammer action off first, didn't you?]. I've also assembled large wooden structures - glued and screwed for longevity, the battery only complained and needed recharging when asked to drive a series of 4 inch twelves-
                  I suspect my wrists would have complained as well :-} So the verdict remains- plenty of power for most things: I just need to watch how long before the battery won't hold a charge and needs replacing, then I'll report back.

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                  • Bosch PST 700 PAE / Power Saw / 4 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                    06.04.2001 16:47
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                    Ooooh! It oscillates If your arm gets tired from making all those repetitive up and down movements, while trying to cut through the slings and arrows of outrageous DIY, then you probably need a jigsaw. [NO, not a 500 piece picture of a thatched cottage with too much sky and one piece missing, but a powered cutting device with interchangeable blades.] I have worn out a couple of these wonderful tools, but the present incarnation [and best so far] in my shed is: BOSCH PST 700 PAE This is a 550watt jigsaw with a great appetite for work [I’m glad one of us has], and a large range of blades for cutting all sorts of materials. Besides the normal wood, metal, plastic, extra fine cut, scroll cutting and long reach blades, three useful specialist ones are: - Worktop: This has reversed teeth so that it cuts on the downstroke, enabling you to make cutouts on worktops from the right side without chipping great lumps out of the laminate surface. - Tile: This has a tungsten carbide encrusted edge so you can cut awkward tiles [and nice ones] to fit round pies etc. It leaves a nice smooth finish, unlike nibbling away with pincers, and is a LOT less effort than using a rod saw mounted in a hacksaw frame. - Double sided: this has teeth front and rear so that you can cut in both directions. This makes cutting into right angled corners a lot easier, as you don’t have to turn the saw round and approach from the other direction. The blades are held using Bosch’s ‘SDS’ system: a couple of turns of the plastic lever, and release/tightening is done. This is a vast improvement over older methods- no more fiddly allen key of extra long screwdriver to lose. A similar method is also used to adjust the baseplate which tilts up to 45 degrees for bevel cuts, and can be pulled back so that you can cut within 1cm of a wall- even I don’t mind getting a handsaw out f
                    or the last little bit. The cutting action is really fast because this tool has ‘pendulum’ [no, I’m not swinging the lead] action: before the upstroke, the blade swings forward. This lessens the work you have to do, and prolongs the blade life- it can lead to excessive splintering in wood, and jamming in thin sheet metal, but there is a lever to step the pendulum action down to zero if needed. The jigsaw comes with a fitted, clear plastic slide-down guard at the front, which is part of the dust collection system- Bosch supply a vacuum cleaner adaptor to plug in the rear, near the cable entry. Together, these make a reasonable job of keeping your work clean. It’s satisfying to find a 4 metre cable as standard [I must be easily satisfied?], as it makes those long cuts so much easier. The tool is well balanced, and the body is sculpted to fit your hand well, so you have good control when the going gets tough. The extra large trigger is an electronic speed control, up to 3000 strokes per minute, with the option to lock on via a button on the side, and preset the maximum speed with a knurled knob in the trigger itself. The only oddity is a cavity in the body of the tool for storing two or three blades, with little cover that clips over. I have found that it doesn’t stay closed, so providing an entertaining game of ‘hunt the blade’ amongst all the shavings and sawdust. That one quibble apart, over the three years, I have found this a well thought out and reliable machine, versatile and comfortable to use. It may be labelled DIY, but gives performance acceptable for trade use.

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                    • Bosch CSB 550RE / Power Drill / 0 Readings / 6 Ratings
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                      06.04.2001 01:24
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                      With an amazing thoroughness, the makers of this drill have told us all they think we need to know in its name: BOSCH CSB 550 RE The only trouble is that I can't remember what all the letters mean, so I'll have to make it up as I go along. My old drills had been from Black & Decker, and expired with distressing regularity, as I could only ever afford to buy their DIY range, which appeared to be built to a price. But hope appeared in the shape of my dad who had a hardware shop, and could source Bosch tools at a reasonable price- at last I could buy a drill with a chance of surviving the daily abuse I was likely to give it. My first need was for a drill with enough power not to complain when asked to go through walls: at 550 watts, this drill has given me no trouble in this department, and as a bonus, there was an auxiliary demountable handle, to help with control of the drill, and a depth stop for those times when I didn't want to go right through the wall. I needed to be able to cope with drill bits up to half inch [12.5 mm, now that I've almost gone metric], and this drill has a 13mm key operated chuck [made in germany] that has performed well- the chuck key has a long bar so that you can get plenty of leverage without hurting your hand. The chuck key stores in a push through holder on the cable saver, so it's always to hand, and harder to lose [one less customer for a replacement key from my dad!]. The good quality cable has a moulded plug, and is long enough to nearly reach the ceiling of most rooms with the socket/extension lead still on the ground. This makes life a lot easier and safer when you are doing jobs round the house. The idea of putting screws in and out with a drill, rather than by hand, appealed to my energy saving [lazy] nature, so it was good that this drill has electronic speed control- anywhere from 0 to 3000 rpm just by varying finger press
                      ure on the trigger. It is also possible to preset a maximum speed on the drill by using a little rotating dial on the trigger. A convenient switch lets you choose reverse at will. I have to say that I haven't used the drill for as much screw driving as I expected- I found it easier not to constantly change bits, but to use a dedicated screwdriver, while my Bosch got on with the holes for the screws . The drill has a standard [32mm, I think] collar just behind the chuck, so that it can be mounted in; A drill press- I do this mostly when cutting wooden plugs for hiding screw heads, but also for precise vertical holes in other materials [eg peg holes in a crib board] A drill stand- for attaching a pigtail with a polishing wheel on for polishing metals with a suitable compound [eg a presentation fireman's axe], or for attaching an arbor for a grinding wheel to sharpen tools, scissors, chisels etc. When doing any operations in the drill stand, the drill can be locked in the 'on' position using a little button on the side of the handle. The case is thoughtfully shaped so as to be comfortable to use; I particularly like the shaping at the rear above the handle, where you can push as hard as you like with your spare hand, without getting dug into or slipping off. Sometimes, even the hammer action doesn't work as well as you'd like, especially if your bit is a little blunt, but that's my fault for not sharpening the bit or replacing it. Although a little more expensive to start with, the drill has served well for well over two years now, and has coped with everything that I've asked it to do- not bad for a tool in the company's 'DIY' range. Well, I still can't remember what 'CSB' stands for but: CSB 550 = Wattage R = Reversing E = Electronic speed control As I said, 'The name says
                      it all'

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                      • More +
                        04.04.2001 23:48
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                        I don't know about you, but I'm never tall enough when it comes to pruning shrubs and trees, even though I'm over 6ft tall. This either means wobbling on a chair [not recommended] or getting a ladder out [can be awkward] unless you are the proud owner of a. . . Wilkinson Sword telescopic pruner and lopper. This is a modern take on an old solution to high level pruning- you used to have a long pole with a cutting head operated by a metal connecting rod and lever near the base. This was ok, but restricted. Wilkinson Sword have made their pruner out of two fibreglass tubes that slide neatly one inside the other; locked to whatever length you decide with a clamp and handscrew. This enables you to adjust the reach from 2m to nearly 4m, plus, of course, your height, so you should be able to prune over 5m high, which is plenty for most modern fruit trees. The business end is a j shaped hook that you can put over the branch to be sliced,then by pulling on an adjustable T-handle on a nylon cord which passes over a pulley,a sharp blade cuts through, passing on into a slot to ensure a complete and clean cut. The j-hook is also useful for dragging down any bits that get hung up on other branches. If you need to cut thicker than the 35mm limit of the blade and hook arrangement, the tool is supplied with a pruning saw blade which is easily attached onto a moulded lug by using a wing nut. This saw has hardened teeth and cuts on the pull stroke; I have successfully trimmed branches in excess of 100mm with the pruning saw- the only difficulty comes in making a relief cut on the underside of the branch, so that the bark doesn't tear down, leaving the tree open to infection and rot. The use of fibreglass for the poles, and a moulded plastics head makes the tool light and manageable, and also is warm to the touch [important in british autumn/spring when we do most of our pruning]. There are
                        thoughtful design touches: an end cap on the pole, so it doesn't fill with mud when stood on the ground, a plated mechanism return spring and coated blade to avoid corrosion problems when stored. The mechanism is easily stripped down for sharpening or to replace parts. I have also used it aloft in a tree when I wanted to trim the lighter branches that wouldn't have taken my weight [no rude comments!]: I could have cut back further, with a bow or chain saw, but this enabled me to leave the tree a pleasing shape. I have used this for a few seasons now, and it works as well as ever, despite sketchy maintenance: it just gets stored hanging from the underside of the roof in my shed.

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                      • Ceka Shears / Garden Tool / 2 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                        04.04.2001 19:40
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                        No matter how many power tools your shed is crammed with, there is still a place for traditional shears for many jobs. I've used many different sorts- mine and other peoples- over the years, my present set, that I've had for some years now, are made by Ceka. Although I have had several shears, and used a lot of different types, it was still a good excuse to trundle off to the garden centre to play with the various models before buying I found the handles on this pair [varnished wood] to be comfortable: unlike some that were labelled 'ergonomic'- definitely a personal choice thing, but you have to live with the choice, so I forewent the pretty colour, and stuck to usability. They have a 'cushion' - a little shock absorber between the handles that stops them shutting with a bang and jarring your forearms; this helps stop strain injuries to my wrist and forearm which I have broken twice in the past, so is a little weak. Near the handles is a 'pruning notch' - this enables you to cut reasonably thick materials cleanly: better than an electric trimmer in this respect, and saves getting out the loppers. The blades are reasonably heavyweight, so as to be durable, and not get bent out of line too easily if they get walked on, or deflected by trying to cut slightly thicker twigs etc. Ceka did a more expensive set with wavy blades, but the jury is out on whether wavy edged blades really do work better, or are a marketing gimmick. The blades aren't coated, but as long as I remember to clean them and put away dry, that shouldn't cause a problem. They have a hand adjustable nut to tighten/loosen the blades- I personally think that this is a bit of a gimmick, as properly adjusted and maintained shears shouldn't need touching during a days work, but it can make it easier to take apart for sharpening. They aren't worried by enormously long grass, when
                        I've had to tame a jungle, they have been the only way in [apart from a grass hook.], by cutting and clearing, they don't get clogged up like a lawnmower, and don't care if you come across thistle and brambles [pruning notch again] I also use them for lawn edging, and trimming and tidying shrubs and perennials, [not forgetting hedges]. I find them light enough for a days gardening, and am happy that I'm not tied to a power cable or using noisy petrol engines. [This makes the neighbours happy as well] I can go and do a job with them with little preparation, and not a lot of kit to take- it's also easier to back away from the hedge etc to check that it's all looking right.

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                          04.04.2001 19:17
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                          If you are at all into gardening, and ever have to dig or plant when the ground is a little 'damp', or you are lucky enough to have clay <g>, then I would urge you to seriously consider investing in stainless steel tools, especially your main digging spade. Having suffered over an inherited spade for some years, I was relieved when it finally went to the great potting shed in the sky, and I was able to indulge in some retail therapy at the garden centre. I ended up buying a Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Garden Spade, having played with everything the centre offered, I found it to be well balanced, and properly finished with no rough edges to raise blisters. I thought it worth paying that little bit more to purchase something strong that will probably outlast me. The joy of using it has been a revelation: being stainless, it stays clean better with little help from me, so I don't end up moving a 20kg mud lump on the end of the handle. Another advantage is the low maintenace aspect of stainless: although it is good practice to clean any mud off, it will not rust when put away damp, so it doesn't end up with a a pitted surface, even more prone to collecting mud! I've also found that I don't need to worry about keeping the edge sharp[ish] as it holds its shape very well, despite being abused and swung like an axe into tree roots because I was too lazy to walk to the shed for the real thing. This exercise also proved how well the handle is socketed into the blade! I would recommend a this spade to anyone, unless they have a problem back, or are not as tall as me, when I'd recommend the smaller 'border' or 'ladies' size. [Wilkinson do a full range of stainless tools- just add them to your christmas present wish list!]

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                          • ELU Palm Sander / Grinder / Sander / 0 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                            04.04.2001 06:26
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                            When doing a lot of work with one tool, it's important that it is suitable for the job, and you can use it without undue effort for however long it takes. This means you need a quality product that is well engineered and thought out- the ELU 135watt palm sander fulfils all these criteria and then some. At 135 watt, there is more than enough power for the size of base plate, which means that the motor is never stressed, and has a longer life. A palm sander should fit snugly into the palm of your hand [!]: The Elu is admirable in this respect; it has a rounded top, side grip ribs, and the on/off locates just under your index finger at the front. To the rear is the exit for around 3 metres of decent cable, and a port for attaching a dust bag if required. The sanding sheets measure 80 x 140 mm, and are prepunched for dust extraction, attaching to the baseplate with velcro. It is possible to use non velcro sandpaper, by attaching it under clamps at either end of the baseplate- should you want to do this, ELU supply a steel template and cutting punch to make the dust extraction holes in your homemade sheets. I recommend making the holes, as it greatly helps stopping the sandpaper clogging up, thus extending its usability- if you go down this route, its best to buy your sandpaper on a roll/ by the metre, either 80mm or 140mm wide, so that you only have to make one cut for each piece you need [cut from the back of the paper with a sharp stanley knife or similar- no need to go right through the grit, and blunt your blade, but just score the backing, then tear]. Unlike many delta sanders, and some third sheet orbital sanders, this sander purrs, as it vibrates away in your hand, and even this vibration is minimal. The sander is made in West Germany, and is obviously well balanced, and on my experience built to last. When rubbing down a wall that has been polyfilled after paper removal, this is my sander
                            of choice, above a belt sander [too agressive], above a third sheet sander [too heavy, awkward and noisy] or a delta sander [too noisy, and not large enough]. The way it fits into your palm gives you a good feel for what you are doing, and means that you exert an even pressure without having to think about it. Because it is single hand operation, the other hand can follow after to check all is smooth- it is so easy that it almost feels like polishing the wall. I find that despite the smaller footprint, I actually work faster sanding with this tool because everything is just right and usage is intuitive. Obviously, it works fine with all sorts of other sanding operations, with a wide range of different grits available on the sanding sheets. The only niggle is the dust collection bag that tends not to seal off properly, so just gets in the way a little, while the dust goes through it. Overall, this is my sander of choice for most jobs, [unless a lot of material needs removing, when I'll use a belt sander.] It is light, convenient, not very noisy, and easy to use. Update ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I recklessly lent my pride and joy to a diy tyro [albeit with a little trepidation], and when I finally retrieved it from his grasp, as I needed it for another job, he was honest enough to testify to the durability of the sander. He had managed to 'bounce' the sander from up a ladder [more than once], and was prone to pulling his extension cable reel along by tugging at the sander [I saw this and winced]. Despite the poor treatment, the sander still works perfectly, and looks no worse for wear, so I have to add that it is very durable. [I may have to think twice before lending my friend more tools, though :-} ]

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                              03.04.2001 04:13
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                              Tired of random circlar vibrations? Bored with the tiny triangle wobbling away? Even 1/3 sheet isn't enough for you? You need a belt sander The machine I have is a Bosch PBS 75: A 650 watt machine which drives a 533x75mm sanding belt over a 130x75mm sanding area at a speed of 330m per minute [translated from the side info plate] This machine is the larger of the Bosch 'domestic' machines, and is suitable for loads of jobs, up to and including [in my opinion] light trade use. As its' name implies, a belt sander drives a continuous belt of sandpaper around two rollers over a plate where the actual business gets done. The sander has a handle fore and aft, and a port for dust collection; either into a bag [supplied] or via an adaptor [supplied] into a vacuum cleaner. Mine also came with a selection of various grit belts included. Warning: Anorak insert ahead! [grit no. is a measure of how rough the sandpaper is: a low number is coarse and will remove lots of material, but leave an uneven finish; high numbers work more slowly, but give a better finish: it's actually a count of the number of grains of abrasive particle per unit area. I have come across grit numbers as low as fourteen- you could individually count the bits of garnet on the paper {if you really wanted to, that is!}] A belt sander is a tool for getting through a lot of work; it'll trim down doors, smooth walls, take layers and layers of old finish off, reshape castings, even out seams; prepare floorboards, old sleepers, joists and rafters, clean up boat decks, fit shelves and worktops. Because of its power, it pays to be a little circumspect until used to the tool- you can easily remove too much material, and also when used with coarse grit paper, may leave score marks that need further finishing. When working on wood, always point the sander along the grain to avoid deep
                              score marks, and remember to keep moving- otherwise you may end up with an interesting trough in your work. Belt changing is simple on the PBS 75- release a lever, and it slips off ready for the next one- the belt needs occasional centreing so that it does not wander off the edge of the rollers- this is achieved using a thumbscrew on the front roller which alters its angle, but this should only rarely need changing. I have used the sander for all sorts of tasks; many of them involve taking a piece of wood back to a pencil line. Historically, you would have used a plane, but now, just get a line along where you want the finished edge to be, switch on the sander, and work back to the line. This is great for trimming doors, and fitting shelvers, worktops and cupboards exactly to the wall. It is also great for cleaning up a rough plaster fill job where there are stray gobs and dobs all over the place- maybe after channelling in a wire or conduit. Be sure not to tilt the sander on edge or you will end up with a deep groove by mistake. The sander also has a notch enabling it to be clamped upside down onto a bench/workmate etc. This lets you use it hands free as a sanding station, to shape, size and finish all those bits that you couldn't clamp- I recently surfaced 54 blocks of wood [9"x3"x1.5"], and rounded the edges to make an oversize Jenga set for a youthgroup. This feature also makes it very handy when fitting or making fiddly little custom bits and bobs. Safety: It is a noisy tool- ear defenders a must A dust mask is recommended Eye protection is always advised, whatever powertool you use Remember not to have loose hair or floppy clothing- I once shredded the forearm of a favourite rugby shirt by getting it caught up by the belt. The sander comes with a quality, generous lead [over 3 metres], and moulded plug Warning: Anorak entertainment follows:
                              Remember how fast the belt moves? [330m/minute] Have you a friend [sorry- do you know someone] who also owns a belt sander? I'm sure you possess extension leads. . . . . and have a hall to sand the floorboards in. . . You can now take part in the exciting sport of Sander Racing! Choose your start and finish lines Lock those sanders on [glory in the noise and power] Let go together, and see whose sander gets to the finish first Checquered flags are a little O.T.T. [as is strapping a hamster on as the driver] [[Power Devil is red, rather like Ferrari]] Have Fun! Seriously, if you use a belt sander, be careful, and marvel at how much work it can do for you. This Bosch tool is my first choice for sanding flat and large surfaces, andhas got through an incredible amount of work- the one breakdown was soon sorted by a service agent, and it has been going strong ever since.

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                                01.04.2001 20:37
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                                Standard angle grinders, are lightweight and useful, but oh dear: aren't they small. I am the proud owner of a DeWalt D490: This is a 2000 watt, 9 inch angle grinder, built to take hard usage. De Walt is the professional arm of Black and Decker, and their tools have a funky yellow body, which helps you not to lose them on site. [allegedly] There is a generous length of quality cable attached,, the front handle can be place in any one of three positions, and the guard over the blade is also adjustable. This powerful beast will take the standard range of blades: metal cut, metal grind, stone cut, and now that they have come down in price, dry cut diamond blades- my next purchase when I have a patio to lay! Beacause of the larger blade size, you can cut right through slabs along their length, instead of scoring with a smaller grinder, and praying, when you give it a tap, that it'll break where you want. kerbs are not much more of a problem either, though you'll have to come in from both sides. Cutting all the way leaves a nice clean edge which can be left on show without looking out of place- an advantage if cutting coping stones for a wall, etc It's great for cutting slabs and kerbs for patios and garden edging, cutting a groove for flashing a roof, trimming angle iron, cutting up old water tanks, and steel pipes, cutting channels for wiring, openings for new windows/doors/lintels plus anything else you can dream up. With these more powerful tools, you MUST be safety-concious: Always wear goggles/safety glasses Hearing protection is a definite yes A breathing mask is desirable as well Remember that it's better to look a bit strange for a while, rather than to permanently damage your faculties Before switching on, make sure that you have firm footing,a good grip of the tool, and prepared for the 'kick' as it starts up- it's the reaction to a powerf
                                ul motor and blade spinning into life. Once it is spinning, remember that it won't move the same way as you might expect because of the gyroscopic action, and also don't try to overstretch- stop, move position and start again. [even 'no more nails' isn't much use with severed feet] To sum up: it's big, it's capable, it won't let you down, You need to supply the brains for safe usage

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