Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 157, September 2018Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
The Down to Earth Woodworker
By Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This Month's Column:

• Crazy Battery Story
Murder By Circular Saw
Find A Lumber Yard --- You Probably Can (And Should)

Crazy Battery Story

Building a project in my shop while simultaneously making a video takes a long time. Setting up lights, cameras, audio equipment, etc. for a short video segment takes longer than whatever woodworking I am doing… much longer. Moving the entire set-up to film from another angle or to document another operation takes even more time. Bottom line, it is slow-going. A project that should be able to be completed in a couple of days can take a couple of weeks or longer when filming. I'm not complaining, of course… I'm just explaining.

All of the videos in my most recent series, Cedar Garden Potting Bench were completed a few weeks ago, even though they are released on a schedule. In fact, Part 4 is being released at the same time as this article, and you can watch it by clicking here.

As I wrapped up Part 5, the final installment of the series which will be released with the October issue of Wood News Online, I made a rather profound observation that I am almost hesitant to relay, partly because it sounds incredible, it sounds unbelievable, and it sounds like some kind of gushing praise for a tool. But, the truth is the truth, and as crazy as it sounds, here goes…

Figure 1 - Three drills, six weeks, hundreds of holes...never recharged,
not even once!
During the 5-video series of building two versions of the Cedar Garden Potting Bench, I drilled well over two-hundred pilot holes, made over two-hundred countersinks, and drove the same number of screws. All of this was done over a six-week period. I used a small drill bit in a Festool CXS Cordless Drill for the pilot holes, a Festool C18 Drill to turn the countersink bit, and another Festool CXS with a square drive bit to drive the screws. After six weeks of filming, I realized that throughout the entire time and all those holes, I had not once replaced or recharged the batteries in any of these three drills.

I know, it sounds unbelievable, but I checked carefully, and even though I do sometimes forget things, I made no mistake here… All three Festool drills lasted a month and a half and drilled hundreds of holes and drove hundreds of screws, all without being recharged. That is remarkable.

If you have read my articles in the past or watched any of my video reviews, you know I can be brutally honest when it comes to tools. If there is something I don't like or think should be improved, I will tell you. Likewise, when something works like it should, or does something in an innovative or better way, I will tell you that, too. The fact is, I have never experienced battery performance with any tool like that with Festool.

A few weeks ago I hung drywall in a neighbor's basement. I used a dedicated drywall screw gun that I have had for years. It works pretty well, but on occasion it will leave a screw slightly "proud" of the surface (could be "operator error" --- I'm no drywall expert!). I asked my neighbor to carefully screw those "proud" screws in the rest of the way. He grabbed his rechargeable ratcheting screwdriver, a big national brand with a solid reputation and at the high end of the big-box retailer's price scale. I showed him how to drive the screw ever-so-slowly, sinking it to just the right depth and dimpling the drywall. He practiced a couple of times and got it just right, so I told him to just run his hand over the drywall, and if he felt any screws that were "proud," to snug them in.

I would guess my screw gun had left a dozen or so screws proud by that time. As my neighbor went about snugging in the screws, I heard him stop and walk away. I asked "…Everything okay?" He hollered back, "Yep, just changing the battery." Okay, I suppose the battery in his driver might have been partly depleted, but then, later the same day, I grabbed his driver to put a couple of wood screws into a 2 X 4 that was loose. I got one screw driven and the battery died while driving in the second screw. Dutifully, my neighbor grabbed a freshly charged battery pack and changed it out. So far, two battery changes in less than 4 hours. Now curious, I began to keep track. Next day, an hour into our work, he changed the battery again.

This type of performance is not unusual, and amongst professionals, it appears to be expected. A friend of mine, a professional in the trades, has a charging board with six chargers bolted to it and a power strip they all plug into. He carries it into every job site, plugs it in, and loads in six batteries. Thus, while he is working, he can change batteries as needed without delay. He thinks this is normal, and doesn't seem bothered by it at all.

Well, it would bother me. Chalk up yet another reason why Festool tools may be, despite the initial sticker shock, the most cost-effective tools you can buy.

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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life). Steven can be reached directly via email at sjohnson@downtoearthwoodworking.com

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