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Anyone that enjoys a bit of painting and decorating, apart from being a little mad, knows how important it is to have the most appropriate equipment for certain jobs.
What I mean by that is that you can't drive home a screw with a paint brush, nor can you sand down a piece of wood with a plumb bob. So, depending on what job you're having to face, you want to put your hands on the tool that will make everything go as smooth as silk.
And when it comes to painting onto already painted wood then it's sometimes better to strip the old paint off the wood in order to get it down to the bare bones, just so that you can paint a fresh coat and make the work look more professional instead of going about it quickly and leaving lumps and bumps everywhere.
So, what is best for stripping the old paint off the work then..?
Here is where you get a choice. Which is a rarity these days.
You can either use a lot of sand paper, together with good old fashioned elbow grease, and sand away until all the old paint has gone. This is possibly the longest method and is defiantly the messiest method indeed.
You can also opt for buying some paint stripper from the shop which, with the instructions followed to the letter, will bubble the paint off the work so you can then use a scraper to scrape the bubbly paint off. Then you will have to do a bit of sanding to finish the work off.
The other way, which, if you have a lot of paint to shift, or actually do a lot of stripping over time, (not clothing as that's a different story), then you may be best of investing in something called a heat gun, and don't worry, even with the name 'Gun' in it it doesn't mean it requires a license of some kind, nor will you have the armed response team jumping out at you from behind the bushes when you're using this in your garden... unless you have a very short sighted neighbour that is.
That is what I did, (No, not the armed response and short sighted neighbour scenario, although that would have been interesting to say the least). I bought myself a heat gun. But not just any old heat gun, this heat gun is something quite special, and unlike most other heat guns that I have owned or used.
This heat gun that I invested in is called the GHG 660 and comes from the well known DIY tool shop, and professional too, company called Bosch.
So what does it look like then..?
It looks a bit like a gun, hence the name, heat gun, although it's more a star trek gun that one you'd expect to see Clint Eastwood brandishing in one of his trashy movies.
It is about 255mm long and about 255 high and weighs in about a kilo.
Right at the front there is the heated area, which is what does the job that you want it to do. This is protected by a ring of metal, or more known as the nozzle, which does get hot and should not be touched under any circumstances when this gun is on.
It is this nozzle area that the attachments connect to so that this becomes more than just a paint stripper.
Then behind this nozzle, there is a heat protection area which is basically a thicker piece of plastic that is slightly raised from the heat nozzle area and, in theory, separate the users hands from the metal of the heat nozzle itself.
Then, as we go back down the gun itself, or more the plastic housing that encases the workings which provide the power to the heat section.
There is a well designed and very comfortable handle which has a rubber feel to it, and there's a finger guard in front of this handle grip so that it is safer to hold when the plastic you're working on gets a little hot.
Behind the handle there is the on/off switch, which can be reached with the thumb, flicking it up and down when needed.
And finally, above the on/off switch, right at the rear of the gun itself, there is a small, yet easily understandable LCD screen to let you see what the gun is set to do.
Below the LCD screen are a couple of buttons, the air flow settings and the temperature settings. These can both be set by pressing the + and - buttons depending on what job you have in mind.
When you have found a setting that you feel works best for a particular job you can store that setting into the memory by pressing the 'store' button which is just to the left of the screen.
Then, to the right of the screen there is the 'program' button which, as you can guess, takes you into the program settings of the gun.
Normally, apart from the heat gun you do get a couple of attachments as standard, these are the 50mm wide nozzle which is used for paint stripping, and the 75mm wide glass protection nozzle for when you're stripping around windows and such glass things, although for both you will need a scraper to actually scrape the bubbling paint away from the surface.
A few other specs for the boffins...
It gives 1400 watts of power
It offers an airflow rate of 250 - 500 litres per minute, with cold air setting of 50° C +
The heat settings range from 50°C - 660° C.
And that's what this looks like...together with the nozzles that come as standard. Which, you may think, makes this heat gun just, well, a heat gun, nothing more, nothing less. And I agree.
But it is the added extras, which unfortunately you may have to pay a little extra for, but, if you do a lot of stripping, PVC pipe work, plastic moulding or anything to do with working with plastics or paints, then the added extra may well be worth the added price.
Luckily, I managed to get a bundle offer when I bought this heat gun, but I did have to do a bit of haggling when it came down to it. So if I can do it then I'm sure you can.
Anyway, the extras that I managed to get in the bundle, but are sold as extras for this particular device, are...
* A reflector nozzle
* Heat shrinkable tubing nozzle
* Reduction nozzle
* Welding shoe
* Welding rods
So how do I use it then..?
The first thing I will say is that you do have to be careful as this gets hotter than a nympho in an Amsterdam back street. Believe me, you will burn your fingers and hands if you don't show this some respect.
But saying that, using it is as easy as using a hair dryer, (not that I use a hair dryer that much these days). You simply attach the required nozzle that you need for the job at hand, then slide the on/off switch to the on position, check the air and heat settings and your ready to go. The gun should begin to heat up, reaching the set temperature in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Then, once the temperature is reached, you're ready to begin doing what you have to do.
There are four settings in total, one setting for each purpose, shaping, welding, soldering and stripping, with the air flow and heat flow both regulated by simply pressing the + or - button on the rear of the gun. This can be done slowly, one step at a time, with ten steps in total which gives better precision, or simply press and hold the buttons for a quick change of air flow.
No matter which option you choose the airflow and heat flow settings will appear on the little LCD display in the form of an arc of dots going over a three pronged image. The more dots that you can see the hotter the gun is.
Simple as that really.
A little useful feature is the fact that you can store up to four settings in its memory so that the most common ones you may use are always there at the press of a single button.
A safety feature on this gun is that if it overheats it will automatically switch itself off. So if you leave it somewhere it won't continue heating up for too long.
The bonus to this gun is that it has a remarkable air setting which not only allows a good blow of hot air to the project at hand, it also allows a jet of cold air to the said project so that it cools it down quicker, thus firming or drying the work you've just done. Plus, as the cold air blows through the nozzle, it cools the gun down at the same time so that it becomes safer to place down once finished.
In theory this means that the head cools down in a matter of minutes, but I do not recommend touching the end of the gun for a good five minutes so that you're sure that it won't take the top four layers of skin from your fingers. (I mean, have you ever tried wiping your bum with burnt fingers? NO, you usually use toilet roll don't you!!! Te-he... but you get what I mean. burnt fingers aren't pretty, so be careful).
Again, I can't stress how hot the end of this gun will get when being used, especially in the welding settings, so do be careful when using it and for the love of god don't let your kids use it as a toy gun...
When you look at it you wouldn't be mistaken for thinking that it's some form of speed gun, with the little screen on the back above the handle showing the heat settings. Where as on a speed gun it shows the speed you cars going at and leads to a hefty fine dropping through the post.
As I said this is not just a paint stripper, this is an all round heat gun and can do more than bubble the old paint off your skirting boards.
It can also melt plastic so that you can mould such things as conduits in order to make a neater finish for cables to go through. It can also act as a welder for small plastic connection jobs. Plus, for those that like to dabble with electrics, this acts as a soldering iron too.
All these options are reached using the easy to understand settings which are at the push of a button or two, together with the additional tools that can be bought as an added extra, (which are well worth thinking about getting if you intend to do such jobs on a regular basis).
There are knacks to all these types of jobs and the more you do it the easier it all becomes.
The stripping tool does exactly what it is supposed to do, strip away such things as paint from such places as wooden windows and skirting boards. Although do be careful around the glass if you're stripping the paint around wooden window frames, the glass may get hot and could shatter. Also, when you are doing windows you will need a 'normal' hand scraper so that you can scrape the hot paint from the wood as the gun heats it up.
But it's the other tools that make this tool as good as it is as I have found all the additional tools a bonus, especially the pipe bending feature which looks like a broken, no, a bent and broken scraper but is actually a very useful little tool that you simply push a piece of conduit into, up to 40mm in diameter, then let the heat get to temperature and slowing bend the conduit to what ever angle you need it to be. The conduit manages to stay in that perfect inner circumference so that the wire, or what ever I need to push through it, doesn't snag on anything.
Plus, the main bonus of using this to get the bends in the conduit instead of adding an elbow, is that there is no danger of any fluids getting into the piping as there are no gaps or cracks.
The welder feature is another good little tool to use, as long you remember that it only joins plastic to plastic, not metal to metal. This welding is done using an additional rod of plastic that is pushed down a purpose made hole in the attachment that slots onto the end of the heat gun. The gun then melt the rod as it gently heats the two sides of plastic that you want to join together, thus placing the melted rod of plastic into the gap between the plastic you are joining together.
This works on most plastics quite well, with it doing a fine job on conduit, but you do have to be a little careful in case the tubing collapses in on itself.
The welding rods that you can use on this come on a roll, a little like rolls of cables that professional 'sparkies' use. The 'rods' then unravel off the roll a little like mig welding in a way, with the wire, or in this case, the plastic rod, works its way out as and when you need it.
You can also use the welding method without that attachment as there is another attachment that resembles a stack of cylinder discs stacked up onto each other. This thins out at the end and aims a jet of heat in one smaller area.
But regardless of which attachment you use, or what you are doing, you will need to have the plastic rods in order to join plastic together, or even seal off any plastic joins that you want to make air tight or water tight.
Which ever attachment you use, what ever job you have to do, this is a nice bit of equipment to use. It feels comfortable in my hand and is weighted in such a way so that it doesn't feel front or back heavy, having a good balance and a nice light weight.
The grip on the handle itself feels soft, yet firm, if you know what I mean, making it feel as though it's not going to fall apart if you squeeze it a little too much.
The only downside for me is that the on/off switch could have been placed on the handle itself, instead of being behind where it is. Although where it is is not that bad and can be reached easy enough. But a quick squeeze on a trigger would have been a little easier in my opinion.
So what about the price of this heat gun then...? Am I going to have to pay through the nose..?
It's not cheap, selling about £100 or so just for the gun and a couple of attachments. Then, add on the other bits and bobs, which range in price from a tenner to twenty quid, you talking about £150 at least. Although offers can be found if you're willing to barter, (but not shoplift).
Would I recommend this heat gun..?
Yes I certainly would, but only if you are going to use it more than once, unlike some people who buy something, use it as soon as they unwrap it, then throw it in the back of a cupboard. I mean, for £150, that's a pretty expensive cupboard filler.
But if you're a decorator, painter, PVC pipe fitter or just like to have handy tools that you will use one day, then this is a must for you.
I love mine, (not that way), and have used every attachment on it many many times, especially the pipe bending one as I have fitted several pipes and like the fact that I can seal them all off without using elbows or couplings, although I do fit the odd inspection elbow in some places.
"The Bosch GHG 660 LCD Pistol Grip Heat Gun has the following features / The heat gun with the greatest ease of use / 4 main applications can be stored permanently, so that airflow and temperature are at the correct setting instantly / Airflow and temperature control in steps of ten for precise working; data is shown on an LCD display / Heating automatically switches off and cools when overheating, for long lifetime / Cold setting: heating element cools down within approx / 1 minute / Rem"