Monday, May 18, 2009

Tool Review - Panasonic Cordless Drill/Driver

When Dana and I got married, our tool boxes got married as well. We suddenly had duplicates of several things I'd purchased for myself and then helped her pick out for her own house. So when the battery charger on one of our two Craftsman 18v drills burned out, it wasn't that big of a deal; we had another handy. And after two of the four batteries started holding a charge for less than a week and/or only 10 minutes worth of use, it was OK because we had two more to fall back on.

Late last fall, at just about the same time, the other two batteries started failing and the second charger died. It was time to re-assess our drill/driver situation.

Let's be honest - most of my drill/driver work involves hanging curtain rods, screwing in drywall, building jigs, and general home maintenance and repair. In retrospect, 18 volts is a whole lot of wasted power.It's also a whole lot of weight to lug around.

I did my research and read all of the reviews. I made an honest assessment of what we needed around the house and for use in a hobby woodworking shop. With everything taken into consideration, I finally decided upon the Panasonic 12-Volt NiMH 1/2" drill/driver.

I could not be happier with my choice!

When the drill arrived (from Amazon, for about $190 with free shipping), I immediately charged both batteries. I then put the charger and the spare battery back in the case and left the drill out on my workbench.

Over the next six months, I would pull it out for anything from hanging curtain rods to installing new hinges, from drilling 3/8" holes in wood to driving 100+ drywall screws. Just the other day, while working in the new workshop to tighten up the last of the drywall, I finally killed the first charge on my first battery. I wasn't so impressed with the amount of work the battery had performed as I was with the amount of time it held the charge! My last drill wouldn't hold a charge for five weeks, much less five months!

I pulled the dead battery out and popped the new one in and went right back to work with the second battery as fresh as the day it was charged.

I was also impressed with the weight of the drill. Most of the screws I was driving were in the ceiling, so I ended up holding it above my head for extended periods of time. That's when the 3.5 lb weight difference between the Panasonic and my old Craftsman really came into play. Even after an hour of work, I was far from fatigued.

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change my decision to go with the 12-volt model (vs. the 15.6- or the 18-volt models), either. It is more than enough power for the likes of what I do and the lighter weight is a nice change.

So if you find yourself in the market for a new drill in the near future, the Panasonic 12-volt NiMH 1/2" drill/driver comes highly recommended from this amateur woodworker and average DIY-enthusiast.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My New Shop, Episode 4: Purple Walls, Drywall, And Dry Skin

Last Saturday, my little brother, Noah, came up for about six or seven hours to help me get some drywall hung in the new workshop. We didn't exactly get it completely done, but we were able to get it to a point where I could finish up the rest with little assistance.

I'd talked to my older brother the night before and he recommended I run some speaker wire before we hang drywall. I do enjoy the swish of a hand plane playing harmony to Jerry's melodious vocals, so I stopped by a Radio Shack and picked up 100' of wire. It would have taken me two minutes but for the two salesmen and five sales pitches I had to fend off.

No, I hadn't thought about speakers yet; I don't even have drywall hung. Yes, I would consider coming back in to look at what they had when I was ready. No, I'm not interested in gold-plated extra-insulated 12-gauge Monster wire that really helps carry all of the sound, from the low base to the highest trebs, and provides me with the best quality music. I'm not an audio-phile; I just want to listen to some music when I'm in the shop for Pete's sake. No, I don't want to buy my male- and female-adaptors yet. Remember, I don't know what speakers I'm going to get. No, I'm not... You know what? Ask me one more question and I'm not even going to buy the damn speaker wire!


Anyway, we started by taking measurements and figuring out how many pieces of drywall we would need. To try and aid in sound reduction, I wanted to use 5/8" drywall on the ceiling. To make it so we didn't have to lug 20 sheets of 5/8" drywall into the basement, and because it matched the thickness of the drywall used on the other framed wall in the room, I went with 1/2" drywall for the new wall.

And thank goodness for that. After hauling 13 sheets of the heavy stuff down some difficult stairs (I don't have a walk-out basement), I was ready to call it quits for the day! But Noah smartly suggested we hold off on bringing down the last few pieces until we saw how much we really needed and leave the four sheets of 1/2" drywall up in the garage, as well. With a right arm that felt like Jello, I was in complete agreement.

While Noah started taking measurements on the first piece, to account for an outlet hole and to mark joist lines, I hung speaker wire in what I refer to as the bulk heads. You can see the blue painter's tape holding the wire in first and second photos.

Once I had the wire run, it seemed like things moved along pretty quickly. After a few hours, we had all of the flat part of the ceiling done. Another hour saw the I-beam and the duct work boxed in. Thank goodness we didn't bring those last few pieces of 5/8" drywall down because we ended up not needing them. What's more, the amount of drywall waste we had set aside at that point was pretty minimal - less than a full sheet, all laid out side by side, I'd say.

Then we began working on the inside wall. After we finished the right side, having used part of two full sheets of 1/2" drywall, I asked Noah if he was sure we'd picked up enough.

He said, "Yes."

I queried, "For both sides of the wall?"


So later on, after we'd finished the inside wall, we went back to Home Depot to return the remaining sheets of 5/8" and pick up another four sheets of 1/2". By that time, it was getting a little late and I knew his knees were starting to bother him, so we just unloaded the drywall into the garage and called it a day.

I finally got downstairs after church this morning to shoot a couple of pictures (now that the camera is back home). I generally avoid using the flash, because it always seems to cause glare, but it was either that or hang some lights I'd have to take back down before the room could be taped and mudded, so I thought I would give it a try. They turned out pretty good!

Before I start getting bids on the taping and mudding, I need to finish up a few things, as you can see. Some of the drywall already hanging doesn't have enough screws in it, so I have to go through and make sure each piece is secured well enough. Then I have to insulate the new wall and the wall shared by the other room before I close it up with the remaining drywall.

Once that's done, I'll be able to have someone come down and tape and mud my joints.

After that, it's priming and painting and no more purple walls!

Saturday night, after Noah had left and I'd cleaned up a bit in the basement, I sat down and took off my work goves to rub my sore fingers. After a bit, I looked down at my hands to see large bits of skin had come off with the slight friction I was making! Then I remembered I'd been working with drywall (i.e. gypsum) all day. I wonder if it was just a form of dermatitis resulting from the talc-like drywall dust... A good dose of hand cream seemed to bring them back to normal, so I'm not worried. I mean, it isn't like I'm shedding skin and starting to speak in Parseltongue, right?

My next two immediate goals are to finish hanging the drywall and find someone to mud and tape for me. In case the latter takes a bit of time to find, schedule, and complete, I have one or two little projects I'd put on hold during shop renovations. Maybe I'll dig them out and try to finish them up in the make-shift shop to pass the time. I also wanted to write a review on a tool I've been using the heck out of during shop construction.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Slight Shop Update Delay...

My younger brother and I did get most of the drywall hung on Saturday. In the process of doing so, however, we had to remove all light sources but the can lights. As a result, I was unable to take proper pictures of the room. So I need to hang some lights or figure out a lighting source before I can photograph the progress.

Yesterday afternoon, my wife flew to Colorado for work. She knew she was only going to be busy part of the time, so she took the camera with her in case they got to do some site seeing.

Now, even if I get the shop re-lit and swept up, I can't take pictures.

So there will be a slight hiccup of a few days to my shop update blog entry.

Not a bad thing, really, as it gives me time to finish hanging a small piece of drywall on the ceiling, add a few more drywall screws where necessary, insulate my new wall, hang drywall on the outside of it, sweep up the floor a little better, and then come up with a catchy blog title for the next entry!

On a side note, I noticed today that I've made the Woodworking Magazine Blog Roll!

As long as I have a purple shop, I might as well be giddy...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My New Shop, Episode 3: Now It's Purple And Fluffy...

With a box to make, projects around the house, work, bird watching, and a whole lot of other things to keep me busy, I haven't been able to get back to working on the new workshop until this evening.

When we last left the shop, it was framed in and the electrical had been run for power and lights. It was ready for insulation. Earlier this week, I started looking for some because I had to put it in before my little brother helps me with the drywall this weekend. Turns out it was more difficult to find than I thought it would be...

Earlier this year, we had additional insulation blown into our attic spaces to try and cut a little more off of our cooling and heating costs. My wife, who works in the environmental field, was concerned about VOC's off-gassing from the formaldehyde used as a binder in most fiberglass insulation. After a few months of searching, we finally found a company who uses formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation. Turns out their bid was very competitive, as well, so we went with them.

(Our budget billing has already dropped $10/month since then, by the way.)

After spending that much time and energy in putting a healthy insulation product into our attics, I thought it would be very silly to put regular fiberglass insulation in the basement (where the VOC's could rise through the rest of the house). So I started looking for any local companies who sold formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation batting. After several hours of searching on-line, I finally found a company who specializes in the product, but they weren't exactly "local".

The brand name of the product I'm using is Johns Manville. They actively make and market insulation products that are better for your home environment. Unfortunately, there are only three places within fifty miles of my house that carried their products. The first one I called said they hadn't carried JM products in two years. One of the other two places was over in Illinois - not someplace I'd be going soon. That left Washington Lumber Supply in my home town of Washington, MO.

Having grown up there, I knew the store hours. It left me in a bit of a quandary, because I knew there was no way I could make it from work to the store before closing time.

Then I remembered I had two brothers still living in Washington.


So I called my older brother and asked him if he could pick it up for me if I paid for it over the phone. He agreed. I called the store and placed my order.

The next day I drove down to my brother's house to pick up the insulation. In the process, I found out exactly how many bags of insulation I could fit in my Xterra and still see out the passenger-side window. (The answer is six, in case you are wondering; three bags of R19 and three bags of R13.)

It was a quiet ride home.

This evening, I went downstairs, sealed all of my duct work seams with HVAC foil tape, and installed the insulation.

It was hot and itchy and I had flashbacks of helping my brother finish his entire basement most of the time I was working on it. I was able to finish the ceiling in under two hours.

It had nothing to do with my calculations, but three bags of R-19 was just about the exact amount I needed. I was left with a total of four feet of ceiling still needing a little insulation by the time I'd finished.

Now my workshop is purple and fluffy. Not exactly the manly space I was looking for... I can't wait for this to be finished!

Well, I can't wait until I can paint those stupid walls, anyway.

I'm not going to insulate the newly-framed wall until we get drywall up on the inside, but I will insulate the areas around the steel I-beams and any other gaps in the ceiling before we close it up. I also picked up enough to insulate the only other interior wall (on the right in the first photo). I will do that from the other side before I hang some better quality peg board in the other room.

In the second picture, you can see the fluffy white insulation juxtaposed with the fluffy black Baby Teeters.

She spent a lot of time with me this evening. I don't know if she was more interested in what I was doing or in the Paul Simon CD I was playing. She gave us both a fair amount of attention. She is a wonderfully curious cat and managed to pick up one of the only bits of insulation I didn't sweep up. She doesn't photograph well from a distance in poor light, so you can barely see it on her chest...

This Saturday is the annual local plant sale sponsored by the Missouri Botanical Gardens via the Shaw Nature Reserve; Dana and I are going to go to that early in the morning. We will get back home before noon to meet up with my younger brother so we can hang some drywall.

Hopefully I'll have another shop update for you by Sunday!