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LET'S SEE HOW LONG THIS ONE LASTS!
I've grown tired of buying one shredder after another. I've tried fairly expensive ones from reputable 'office machinery' companies like Rexel, I've tried cheap ones from Tesco, and frankly, none of them lasts like you'd expect them to, especially since they are, to use that phrase, hardly rocket science.
I'd long ago concluded that a cross-cut shredder was what was needed, ever since I saw a demonstration of someone sticking back the strips of A4 sheet from a linear shredder making it into a legible document again.
My latest 'cross-cutter', a Tesco job lasted about 18 months. During that time, I've lost count of how often I've had to knock out dents to its flimsy wire basket, and not just for cosmetic reasons. Dent it strategically near the top rim, and the safety cut out refuses to let you use it permanently, thanks to the peg welded to the frame failing to mate with the safety switch slot on the head unit.
It blotted its copy-book big style when, during a recent frenzy of shredding, it decided to jam up and burn out. The first sign was that nothing was dropping into the basket, preferring to cluster around the cutters. Finally it jammed, and no amount of reverse 'thrust' was going to shift the jam.
So up the dump it went.
As I was in the middle of a large shredding job at the time, it left me little alternative but to go shopping (yes, ACTUAL shopping) for one. Having paid £50 at PC World for a Fellowes P-48C, I was somewhat annoyed to find it £10 cheaper in Argos a few days later, but that's what you get when shopping 'with your back to the wall'. This also tarnishes the image of having bought something more prestigious and lasting under the old adage of 'you get what you pay for'. I find it difficult to believe that this product also has the audacity to have an RRP of over £100! Apparently, what's actually happened is that I've been overcharged (or undercharged, depending on your perspective) for something that, at Argos at least, is now only really £15 dearer than the previous piece of junk from Tesco!
Maybe I'm clutching at straws here, but at least the 'bucket' is a robust plastic affair, rather than flimsy wire mesh. You can still see how full the bin is through a transparent slot at the front near the top.
Its motor certainly sounds like it means business, and with an 8-sheet capacity, it doesn't even flinch at devouring 5 sheets at a time. There's an overheating warning light too, to prevent over-zealous continuous use and a reverse switch to help clear log-jams.
According to the sign language at the top, it can chop up old credit cards, and presumably CD-ROMS containing details of MI6's payroll. There's just one problem with this new-found omnivorous behaviour, and that is that it then mixes shredded plastic in with shredded paper, which may or may not give you recycling problems. I know I've implied that the Tesco machines are rubbish, but at least their 'up market' version routes plastic shredding into a smaller pouch preventing it contaminating the purely paper waste.
The only way to avoid this is to keep the two jobs separate, having emptied the bin first.
(Subtitled 'The World's Toughest Shredders', but before you get too excited, that's marked with a TM so I'd treat it with the same caution as 'Probably The Best Lager In The World' )
To be fair, the unit carries a two-year general maker's warranty, and a 3-year warranty on cutting blades, subject to provisos, like not trying to shred things you shouldn't.
The top of the unit is adorned with dire warning pictograms, some of which seem rather obvious, although the picture of what appears to be a child crossed through could be:-
a) Don't shred cuddly toys
b) Don't shred children or
c) Don't let children use this.
There's also a 'don't stick your fingers in it' sign, but mercifully, even a baby would have trouble getting their fingers into the slot designed to take a maximum of 8 sheets of paper as it's pretty narrow. They've also gone to the trouble of making it a two-handed affair to get it running initially, with a safety catch that prevents it being switched on. This does however stay put once deployed, but there's also a safety cut-out should it still be running when someone lifts the business end off its bin.
Coming round to the written instructions, these include useful tips like how often and where to lubricate the machine (i.e. down the slot, every time the bin is emptied) and with what (a non-aerosol, i.e. not WD40, and vegetable based oil - still not WD40!) I've got some 'green' bike oil that would appear to fit the bill.
As I said at the beginning, let's see how long this one lasts. At least the omens are good for getting at least 2-3 years out of it, and I've got the paperwork to prove it if it conks out in that period!
SHREDDING THE EVIDENCE
If the media is to be believed, we live in a society rampant with identity theft. If personal information is not disposed of properly, apparently gangs of villains will happily comb through your coffee grinds and potato peelings looking for valuable snippets of data, which they will callously use to drain your bank accounts, run up massive credit card bills and generally ruin your life. Although there is a grain of truth in this fear-mongering, I very much doubt that the reality is quite as dramatic. That said, even if the risks are somewhat overstated, it is still prudent to take some common sense measures to protect your identity and sensitive data.
Enter the humble shredder. Having invested in a fairly cheap and cheerful one a few years ago, I soon learned that not all shredders are created equal. Some only cut the paper into long thin strips, which, while better than just ripping it up and chucking it in the bin, is nowhere near as good as a cross-cut shredder, which turns the paper into unreadable confetti that would challenge the patience of even the most determined jigsaw aficionado. As such, when my previous model died a death a few months ago, I decided to replace it with a more robust model that could handle the rigours of a home office. A bit of research pointed me towards the Fellowes Powershred P-48C, which promised a good balance between price, design, features, reliability, and capacity.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
I ordered mine from Amazon for £39.99 (discounted from its £54.99 RRP) and it arrived in a sturdy cardboard box, securely packaged with environmentally sensitive materials. The unit comes in two parts - the shredder head, which also houses all of the controls, and the solid plastic bin, which has a transparent angled window at the top on the forward-facing side. Also included was a multilingual instruction manual, a three year warranty for the steel cutting blades, and a two year warranty on all of the other operating parts. The plug has a generous lead, and will be suitable for most home office set-ups. Set-up was easy - the head unit first neatly and securely onto the 18-litre capacity bin base. A rectangular aperture next to the cutting slot acts as a handle, and its position in the centre of the head unit makes it easy to take it on and off the base. The unit stands around 12 inches tall, 14 inches wide and 10 inches deep. The bin base provides a secure, stable and well balanced platform for the top heavy head unit, which can only be removed by lifting the whole assemble straight up (which ensures it can't be inadvertently knocked off).
Shredders can be dangerous in the wrong hands (and by that, I don't mean Enron executives). With two young kids in the house, I wanted to make sure the unit was safe and child-proof, and the P-48C excels in this regard. There are three separate switches you need to operate to make it work - a power switch at the back of the unit, a locking mechanism on the top (which you have to push down and slide to work), and once those two are engaged, a slider switch that operates the blades either forward, or in reverse (if you want to be ultra-safe, you can also turn the shredder off at the mains when not in use). There are also a red and green LED light at the top of the unit. The green indicates the unit is on and ready to receive paper, while the red comes on if the motor gets too hot, triggering an automatic 15 minute cool down period to prevent burn-out (the fate that befell my previous model). In addition, the head unit cannot be operated unless it is firmly in place on the top of the base bin, which prevents injury when the cutting blades are exposed.
Apart from the security of personal information, as a lawyer, my new job allows me to work from home once or twice a week, so the safe disposal of confidential and commercially sensitive documents was a major consideration. Although the P-48C is advertised as being suitable for occasional household use, it is perfectly suitable for a home office. It can handle up to eight sheets of paper at once and munches through credit cards and staples with ease. The actual size of the shredded paper is about 5mm by 50mm, which is a little larger than I expected, but small enough to do the job effectively. However, it is not suitable for laminated paper, plastic sheets, paper clips, transparencies, sticky labels (or envelopes with sticky flaps) or, oddly, newspaper. The instructions recommend that it should not be used in continuous operation for more than three to five minutes, which is ample time for ordinary every day needs.
As mentioned, the unit cuts out if you overdo it, which is only a problem if, like me, you stockpile your papers before you buy it and then embark on a major shredding exercise. The bin is a nice size and will handle a fair bit of paper before it needs to be emptied. The window at the front lets you see when it is getting full and is a useful feature. With its matte-black top and front, and slate grey sides it's not the most aesthetically pleasing design I have seen, but its not bad for an official essential. What it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in performance. Having used it on a consistent basis for two or three months now, it is proving as reliable and effective as I had hoped. The instructions recommended oiling the blades frequently with a "non-aerosol" vegetable oil dispensed in a long nozzled dropper. I have only done this once since owning it, using a little groundnut oil (which is relatively tasteless and odourless) when the motor started sounding a little rougher than usual.
AN ALMOST PERFECT SHREDDER
The P-48C is certainly living up to its references, but it does suffer from one or two minor niggles. The paper slot is only about a centimetre wide, and although it has slightly bevelled sides, getting the paper into the slot can be a little tricky, especially as it is only slightly wider than a sheet of A4 paper. On the up-side, this means you can't inadvertently feed it too much paper, or get anything (like a tie or necklace) caught in the shredder, but I think a slightly more generous slot would have made it more user friendly without sacrificing much in the way of safety. In addition, the eight sheet maximum is a little misleading, as the unit struggles a bit with this amount, so four to six sheets would be a more accurate and workable number. However, on the whole, this is a safe, cost-effective, reliable and dependable product that is suitable for most home offices, or for occasional household shredding.
© Hishyeness 2010