Machinery Chatter
Dan Miller Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Friday 10/12/12

A Great Tool For A Big Day

It was birthday time around the Miller household this week. I have survived another year, now accumulating 55 years in all. Some get ties, I usually get tools and was not disappointed in 2012.

A DeWalt DCF815S2 12-Volt Max 1/4-Inch Impact Driver with charger, two 12-volt lithium-ion batteries and carrying bag costs about $99. (Submitted photo by DeWalt)

I have long admired the lines of cordless impact tools sold by many tool manufacturers, but never broke down and bought one. Generally ranging from 12 to 36 volts, they are handy tools to have around. With the advent of lithium-ion power in recent years, these tools are lighter, more powerful and more compact than ever.

There are two types of cordless impact tools -- an impact driver and an impact wrench.

The driver produces strong, downward force without the wrist-turning torque of a regular power drill. By design, it impacts while it rotates, making it an excellent tool for driving screws. In similar operating fashion, the impact wrench is useful for breaking nuts loose or driving hex-headed bolts.

At the state barrel racing finals here in Alabama, when a neighboring horse kicked through its stall, a helpful rancher reached into his truck box and pulled out DeWalt driver and some 3-inch wood screws. We had the stall repaired in 20 minutes and hardly broke a sweat. (That is nearly a miracle for me in this state's heat and humidity.)

For my birthday, that exact model tool came into my possession -- a DeWalt DCF815S2 12-Volt Max 1/4-Inch Impact Driver (driver, charger, two 12-volt lithium-ion batteries and carrying bag). It costs about $99. It is useful for building and repairing fences, repairing siding on outbuildings and other uses around the farm and ranch.

At 6 1/4 inches long, hardly any bigger than a decent-sized handgun, the driver stores easily in your glove box. It fits easily into tight workspaces, too. Because it is powered by a lithium-ion battery, the tool doesn't gradually lose power, as do older technology NiCad batteries. The battery pack is very light and works with consistent power until the battery needs to be recharged (it recharges in less than an hour). Driver and battery weighs just 2.3 pounds.

The tools generate 3,400 impacts per minute. It also has three bright LED lights, mounted in a circle around the barrel of the driver.

A quick look around Amazon showed these tools are pretty competitively priced. Bosch, Makita and Hitachi all sell impact drivers and wrenches. Bosch tends to be at the high-end of the price scale. It's 12-volt lithium-ion driver sells for $120. Milwaukee sells a good 12-volt driver for $105.

A companion tool that did not show up at the house for the Big Day, is DeWalt's DCF813S2 12-Volt Max 3/8-Inch Impact Wrench. At just more than two pounds and of similar size to the driver, this lithium ion tool will break nuts loose and perform fastening chores requiring lag screws and bolts. This tool costs $20 more than its driver counterpart.

The 12-volt DeWalt impact wrench is useful at the lighter end of the work scale because of its limited power. But if your work means reaching up into tight space, it is a great tool for the job.

The larger cordless lithium-ion impact wrenches can be particularly useful around the farm. Coming in drive sizes up to 1/2 inch and 36 volts, this is a tool that will do work performed by air or corded impact wrenches in all but the largest applications. They are heavy, topping 7 pounds.

These tools are not something you'll want to lose in the field. At the high end of the power scale, they bring a hefty price. The 36-volt DeWalt lithium-ion 1/2-inch impact wrench sells for nearly $450. Milwaukee's V28, 28-volt lithium-ion, 1/2-inch impact wrench sells for a bit under $570.

A note: Remember to use drivers and sockets designed for impact tools.


Posted at 2:16PM CDT 10/12/12 by Dan Miller
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