Dremel US40 Ultra Saw first impressions

On July 19, 2017 I bought a Dremel US40 Ultra Saw kit from Home Depot for $99 (marked down from $129). It came with 4 blades, the handle, the Allen wrench for blade changes and a carrying bag.

I bought it mainly for trimming off hardwood flooring at the wall after installation. I don’t normally need to do this, but occasionally I’ll cut a board a tad too long. Since my sliding compound miter saw is in the garage, it can be a hassle to run back and forth from the second floor (where I’m installing flooring right now) just to trim 1/8″ off of a board. It ruins my mojo.

I’d love to own a Festool TS55 or TS75, but the reality is that it’s a lot of money for a tool I don’t desperately need at the moment. I own a table saw, a sliding compound miter saw, a circular saw, a Bosch handheld jigsaw, a reciprocating saw (which I’m misplaced!), an oscillating tool, a 5″ variable speed grinder, a tile wetsaw, a metal chop saw, etc. A TS55 or TS75 is the king of accurate breakdown of sheet goods, but all I needed today was a means of trimming off hardwood flooring post-installation.

The Dremel US40 works well for this task. The main drawback is that it creates a tremendous amount of dust due to the blade design. The dust port adapter is nearly impossible to find in a store or online, and the reviews are not favorable because it falls out too easily. And it looks like an afterthought to me; the dust port on the saw is tiny and on the opposite side of the saw body from the blade, at a 90 degree angle. And when using the flush-cut blade, I suspect it does nothing at all since the flush cut blade is outside of the blade guard.

The second drawback: the blades are pricey and I suspect they don’t last very long. This has been one of my complaints about Dremel for a long time. They’re like the Gillette of tool companies: the tools aren’t terribly expensive, but they gouge you for blades, grinding wheels, etc.

But the tool itself is not bad. I think it’s more versatile than the Rockwell Versacut and similar, mainly because it can make an almost flush cut. I can’t speak to the longevity yet, but for $99 I’m not expecting the worm drive to last forever. But for special uses, I think it’s a good tool. For heavy, rough work I have better, more robust tools.

One thing that would make it a better tool: variable speed control. 17,000 rpm is fine for cutting wood, but I can imagine wanting a slower speed when cutting metal. Not to mention using the surface prep wheel.

A foot attachment that allowed miter cuts would also be nice, though I realize it would be limited since the depth of cut at 90 is already shallow at 3/4″.

The bag is definitely not something to write home about. No padding, no pockets, etc. I’ll wind up putting everything in a Systainer 2 at some point.

Pictures of Festool Systainer T-Loc 4 and 5 on mobile bases

As promised, here are some pictures of my new Festool Systainer T-Loc containers on rolling bases.

The shorter stack is my day-to-day detailing stack. The Systainer 5 on the bottom holds sprays, the Systainer 5 on the top holds microfiber towels.

The taller stack is my oil change stack. One Systainer 4 holds 10W60 for the BMW. Another Systainer 4 holds 0W40 and 5W30 for the MINI. Both Systainer 4 containers have a bottle or two of Techron fuel injector cleaner. The one with the 10W60 also has Blackstone Labs oil sample kits. The top Systainer 5 holds new air and oil filters and my oil sampling pump.

Festool Systainer T-Loc storage review

I now have five Festool Systainer T-Loc containers, and plans to buy more.

A friend said, “It’s like a tool cabinet you can take apart and reconfigure!”. Personally, I beg to differ. To me, a tool cabinet has drawers for very easy in/out of a lot of tools. You can’t do that with Systainers; they’re boxes with hinged lids. You MUST take them apart to use them if they’ve got heavy items in them. Yes, you can spin the T-Loc to the position that allows hinging the lid open with other Systainers stacked on top, but if you’ve got 100 pounds of tools in Systainers above the one you want to open, good luck.

This is not to say I don’t love Systainers; I do. My point is that they’re best used differently than the manner in which a mechanic uses a tool cabinet. In fact a professional mechanic would find little use for a Systainer day-to-day, other than using them to store tools whose cases have been lost but which are best kept in cases (OBD tools, calipers, dial gauges, DMM, handheld oscilloscope, etc.).

Where Systainers excel… portability and efficiency of storage (if you choose sizes wisely). They’re great for replacing a variety of mistmatched and hard-to-manage blowmolded tool cases such as those that are included with the typical circular saws, drills, impact drivers, etc. from your local big-box store. There are some tools which will not fit into a Systainer, but when you can get 5 tools into Systainers that latch together, it’s a big win in my book.

When I buy Systainers, I try to buy the minimum size I need. It can easily be argued that for the price, it’s smarter to buy the larger units. However, doing so ignores the cost of wasted storage space. If I’m using a Systainer 5 to hold what would fit in a Systainer 1, I’m wasting a lot of storage space and presumably now have contents bouncing around inside the Systainer.

There are exceptions, of course. For me, the main exception is storage of consumables. It is often cheaper to buy consumables in bulk, and for some consumables, “too many” is a big number, more than what you’ll fit in a Systainer. My latest example would be using a Systainer 5 to hold my day-to-day microfiber detailing towels. Could I have used a Systainer 4? Yes, but there’s almost no such thing as “too many quality microfiber towels” if you like to keep your cars spiffy.

My latest Systainers comprise two stacks on mobile bases.

The first is comprised of a pair of Systainer 5 T-Locs on a mobile base for day-to-day detailing supplies. The lower Systainer 5 T-Loc holds all of my day-to-day chemicals (and then some), most of which are in 32 ounce spray bottles. The top container holds 4 stacks of microfiber towels: one stack for spray-on car wash, once stack for detailing spray, one stack for glass cleaning, and one stack for spritz sealant buffing. Since I only have towels in the upper container, I can easily move the T-Loc to the upward position and hinge the lower chemical container open without removing the upper towel container. Combined with my Luxor STC211 cart, this is great for day-to-day car cleaning.

The second mobile stack is for oil and filter changes on my cars. One Systainer 4 T-Loc holds 10W60 for the BMW, another Systainer 4 T-Loc holds 0W40 and 5W30 for the MINI, and a Systainer 5 holds oil and air filters for both cars. It’s probably worth noting that I probably wouldn’t have this stack if the 10W60 for the BMW was available at my local auto parts store. Unfortunately, the Castrol TWS 10W60 that it wants is only available at the BMW dealer, so I tend to keep at least one change (5.5 liters) on hand, plus some. I can fit 12 bottles of it in the Systainer 4 T-Loc, with a bottle or two of Techron fuel injector cleaner thrown in. The same is true of the Systainer 4 T-Loc for the MINI, the only difference is that it’s holding Mobil 1 instead of Castrol TWS, which is available locally. But even with local availability, it still turns out to be cheaper to buy oil by the case, and I change the oil in the MINI much more than the BMW since the MINI is my daily commuter (fuel efficient).

I really like the Systainer containers for these kinds of uses. They’re strong, they’re easy to label, and with the mobile base, they’re easy to move around many at a time even if they’ve got somewhat heavy contents. And of course I can separate them to load them into a vehicle or place them on shelves. For uses like storage of motor oil and filters which are used once every few months at most, I don’t really need a mobile base all of the time. I can keep the Systainers on shelves and a spare mobile base that can be used as needed.

Systainers are expensive. However, I have found them worth the price in several situations. I have plans for another stack for detailing tools and supplies, as well as some other items. I’ve had some of the original Systainers (before T-Loc) for many years, as well as some Sortainers. They all get a thumbs up from me. I’ll post some pictures of the new ones in the not-too-distant future.

Hoover F5853-900 motor replacement

The replacement motor for my old Hoover F5853-900 arrived today from an eBay seller.

By looks alone, the new motor won’t hold up as long as the old one did. However, looks can be deceiving. And I don’t expect to get another 15 years out of this carpet cleaner anyway, at least not as my primary cleaner.

I installed the new motor. An interesting side note… on the impeller end of the new motor, there was a guard. This part isn’t used in my SteamVac, and is easily removed without tools. However, I can envision why it’s there on newer units. One of the things that happened with my old motor: once the bearing had too much play, the impeller rubbed and melted some of the housing in the vacuum base. The guard that’s unused on my SteamVac would serve as a sacrificial part when the motor or impeller fails. It would also prevent large foreign objects from ever hitting the impeller.

After reassembly, I ran the cleaner on the rug in the kitchen. It’s running almost like new. No unpleasant motor noises, no leaks. Hooray for getting my carpet cleaner back in working order for $60!

If I wind up with a functioning carpet cleaner for a year, I’ll be a very happy camper. With the original motor having gone bad, this carpet cleaner was rescued from the landfill.

No pictures taken because I’m still under the weather and just wanted to get it done. The motor I bought was listed as “Genuine Hoover Steam Vac 7.9 Amp Motor 43576202” and came from seller glenmullet.

Carpet deep cleaner throes

For about 15 years, I’ve had a Hoover F5853-900 carpet cleaner. It has served me well up until recently when the motor started screeching and emitting a bad smell. I disassembled it, and found the main motor shaft bearing to be worn out. It looks like the bearing housing is pressed onto the shaft, then the housing flanges are riveted to the main mounting plate. Hoover doesn’t make any of the individual parts available; you have to buy the whole motor assembly. Lubricating the bearing provided only about 20 seconds of improvement. The bearing is worn out, there’s too much radial and axial play.

I ordered a replacement motor from eBay, since the new SteamVac models look like they’re less robust. However, my SteamVac should probably not be counted on for serious work going forward, even with a new motor. The gaskets have all seen better days, and I don’t know how many more uses I will get from the brush assembly before it will need replacement. I broke off one of the hose holders many year ago, which can make it a pain to transport. Everything has loosened over the years.

I have needed something beefier for a while. I’d prefer one that works well on the cars (various crevice accessories), requires fewer solution refills and waste water disposal each time I use it, and is built to last. From research, it looks like there’s really only one model worth my consideration: the Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine. It is a commercial-grade machine, with several hose accessories available.

The main part of the Big Green is significantly larger than a typical consumer carpet cleaner. It’s not much smaller than the Rug Doctor you’d rent at your local store. Size is a tradeoff… a larger unit is heavier and more difficult to maneuver, but is generally more powerful (greater suction, more vigorous brushing) and faster to do a full room because the solution and wastewater tanks are larger (requiring fewer stops to empty and refill tanks).

The handle folds down over the top of the base unit to allow easier storage. There is no provision for storage of the hose or any hose attachments. However, given its color scheme, it makes a lot of sense to me to use a Festool Systainer T-Loc V to hold the hose and some attachments. A second Systainer could hold more attachments and bottles of cleaner.

The street price… $450. That’s high for a home unit, but it comes with a 5 year warranty and it’s designed to take more abuse than the typical homeowner will dish out. For me, the higher capacity, the various attachments, the greater suction, and the quality of construction make it a good choice for someone who will use it fairly frequently, and often on larger jobs (full room). I don’t clean full rooms very often (I don’t have much carpet), but I do like to clean the carpet in the cars and the ragtop on the roadster fairly regularly and I haven’t been able to do that recently due to my SteamVac being out of commission. If I’m not taking the seats out of the car for the cleaning, I need really good crevice tools (I didn’t have one with my SteamVac). To clean my cars’ carpets today is more work because I’ve not had a carpet cleaner that lets me get all the water out of the tight spots; I have to drag out the small ShopVac with crevice tool. That’s a bummer when I’ve just used it to vacuum the car, since I use a bag. To use it for water, I have to take the bag out, which is a dirty job. And applying water with the SteamVac and removing it with a ShopVac is clumsy.

Finally, truth be told… I’d like to clean mom’s carpets for her.

Here’s a picture of the 204-6655 spraying crevice tool.

A picture of the 203-0116 spraying sliding brush crevice tool. This would be a huge boon when cleaning car interiors.

A picture of the 203-6654 4″ upholstery tool. This is the tool I’d use on ragtops and cloth seats, and of course home upholstery.

A picture of the 203-6654 6″ stair tool.

A picture of the 203-6652 TurboBrush tool.

Rolling tool trays

I made these back in September of 2011 but forgot to post about them. They now have handles on them which are not pictured. I’ll post in-use pictures in the future. The handles make the trays easy to hang on pegboard hooks and make it easier to the trays them around when they’re under the car with me.

These trays allow me to easily move tools and parts around with me when I’m on the floor. Whether I’m under a car or not, it’s nice to have a place to gather tools and parts on something that’s easy to reach and easy to move. If I’m at floor height, I want my tools at floor height. These also come in handy for keeping home flooring clean if you’re doing a repair near the floor, say replacing or installing an electrical outlet or doing some plumbing work inside a vanity.

I made two of these, exactly the same. A 12″x24″x1/2″ piece of birch plywood is trimmed with 1.5″x.75″ poplar, with reinforcing pieces of poplar underneath the entire outer edge of the birch plywood. Four small swivel casters are attached to the bottom (hidden in the pictures). The plywood and trim was sealed with polyurethane, the trim painted red, then raised-disc rubber flooring materlal was attached to the top of the plywood with carpet tape (and hence can be replaced with little work but will not move under normal use). I like the rubber flooring; it’s not easily affected by fluids, it can’t rust, it’s quiet, it’s not abusive to tools, and it’s easy to clean. It also matches my gray raised-disc BLT G-floor garage flooring, and the top of some of my carts where I’ve used the same rubber flooring material. As for the wood… inexpensive, readily available and transportable, and obviously easy to use.

Making my own swirl spotting light (like a 3M Sun Gun)

I’ve wanted a 3M Sun Gun since I first saw one. A great tool for paint work and detailing, alongside an LED flashlight (I’m using a Maglite XL200 at the moment). This type of light has a 4700K “daylight” bulb for true color rendering. However, I don’t care all that much about the color accuracy. My intended use is for swirl spotting when polishing a car, and the 3M Sun Gun is expensive. A simple 12V light kit using an off-the-shelf MR-16 bulb should not have a street price of $400, with an extra NiCad battery costing near $90 and a bulb that lists at $504 for a case of 6!

Thanks to several Internet forum posts in various places, particularly the post from Starscream88 on Bimmerfest, I created my own for a LOT less using a 12V cordless drill as the base. Ordering parts from Amazon, I spent $92. That includes the drill with battery and charger, an extra battery (for a total of 2), a charger, a tailed bulb socket, the correct bulb, a spare bulb and the soft case that was included with the cordless drill. I may add a 40mm 12V fan to help keep the bulb cool, especially since I intend to fiddle with a 50W bulb in place of the usual 35W bulb.

The drill I’m using as the base is a Skil 2240-01 from Amazon which was $40.97. To connect the bulb, I am using a Leviton 80054 miniature bi-pin base, which has wires pre-attached. It was $4.64 at Amazon. The bulb is an EiKO 35003 SoLux True Daylight Flood 35 Watt MR16 Halogen Lamp, 36 Degree Beam Angle. It was $7.95 at Amazon. No additional parts are needed, so you can put together this setup for a total of $40.97 + $4.64 + $7.95 = $53.56. That’s about 87% cheaper than the 3M Sun Gun. I added an extra battery ($32.97) and a spare bulb to bring my total to $92, which is still only 23% of the cost of a 3M Sun Gun kit which has one battery and no spare bulb.

The Skil 2240-01 drill kit, extra battery, Leviton 80054 bulb base and an EiKO 18003 SoLux True Daylight Flood 50W MR16 36 Degree Beam Angle bulb arrived today. The EiKO Solux 35W bulbs won’t arrive until next week.

I took the drill apart by removing the eight Torx T10 screws.

I then removed the chuck assembly (it slides off of the motor easily).

I then snipped the wires from the motor and removed it. Testing the bulb fitment, I wanted the bulb to be close to the front edge of the housing. There is a surrounding groove here formed by two ridges that is near perfect, except that the rearward ridge is too small in diameter. This means that the housing won’t go back together nicely as is, because the rear surrounding ridge hits the bulb housing right behind the lens before the drill housing halves are fully seated. The solution is to Dremel off enough of this surrounding ridge to let the bulb install snugly without preventing the housing from going back together. I removed about 5/32″ of it, by hand with a cutting wheel on the Dremel. This allowed a perfect fit of the bulb.

I twisted the bulb socket wires to the power leads, put a bit of solder on them to prevent strand breakage, then installed some small wire nuts. This will make it relatively easy to replace the bulb socket someday if necessary.

For the heck of it, I hooked up the 50W bulb and tried the light. It works fine, though the drill’s current control circuit emits a faint high-pitch squeal when the trigger is pulled less than halfway. I’m assuming it does the same with the drill motor under high load, you just can’t hear it over the drill motor. Given that I’ll only have the light on for a few seconds at a time, it appears that the 50W bulb does not get hot enough to cause problems. However, it’s crazy bright… I’d probably need sunglasses to use it. I’ll try the 35W bulbs when they arrive, which will be easier on my eyes and should be plenty sufficient given that it’s the same bulb that’s in the 3M Sun Gun.

In any event, it turned out nicely.

And it fits in the case with the charger, extra battery and spare bulb.

More pictures are available in the photo album.

March 10, 2012
The 35W Solux 4700K bulbs arrived this week. Today I replaced the 50W bulb with one of the 35W bulbs. I think this will work better than the 50W bulb; the reflection is less blinding. A 35W spare and the 50W both fit in the carrying case. Now I just need to order a Torx T10 driver to leave in the carrying case, probably a Wiha SoftFinish.

Shopping for 3″ pneumatic random orbital sanders

I’ve been looking for a 3″ random orbital sander for quite some time. For the most part, I want it for car detailing in the spots that are hard to get at with my larger random orbitals. I will occasionally use it for other purposes.

I want a pneumatic. There are several electric options, but I’ve never been a big fan of electric random orbitals for paint work. They’re big, heavy, and they have no love for water and dust. Sure, they are sometimes more convenient (don’t need an air compressor, cord is thinner than an air hose). But I’ve been using pneumatic random orbitals for more than a decade and I prefer them. They don’t get hot, they’re lightweight, and good ones run for a VERY long time with little to no maintenance.

Normally I would choose a Dynabrade and be done with it. The Dynabrade 21020 looks good, and can accept the Dynabrade 56087 pad. The Dynabrade 21020 is $210 to $300 online, and the Dynabrade 56087 pad is about $20 additional. At the moment it’s my top choice.

Another option is the 3M 20250, which comes with a Hook-It pad. I have no experience with 3M air tools, but I’m going to guess that this is a nice tool. And realistically, it’s not like I’m going to use it every day. It’s less costly than the Dynabrade, at about $150 online. It’s made in Taiwan, and I can’t seem to find reliable reviews of 3M pneumatic random orbitals.

Another option is the Ingersoll-Rand 3128K. It’s significantly cheaper at $108 online, but I have to admit that for detailing purposes, a pistol grip with trigger is crappy compared to the palm switch of the Dynabrade. Not to mention that my recent experiences with Ingersoll-Rand air tools haven’t made me as happy as Dynabrade. They’ve been offshoring many air tools and in some cases the quality has suffered. My 6″ Dynabrade pneumatic random orbital has been unbelievably reliable for 10 years. But then so has my Ingersoll-Rand right-angle die grinder.

I’ll make a decision soon. When I do, I’ll post pictures and impressions.

I’m also going to make a custom holder for the new sander and my 6″ random orbital. It will be similar to the VIM DAHLDR2-RED, but made to handle a 3″ sander and 6″ sander and leave lots of space for a buffing pad without touching anything on the pad. Then I can hang my sander on my detailing cart while I’m detailing without tainting the pad.

Bondhus 20499 ProHold ball-end hex key set

I’ve long been a fan of Bondhus hex keys. They’re stronger than any I’ve used, without being brittle. And their holders, while not as fancy as others like Wiha or even Wera, hold up very well long-term.

This week I received the Bondhus 20499 ProHold ball-end hex key set from Amazon. This is actually two sets: an inch set from .050″ to 3/8″ and a metric set from 1.5mm to 10mm.

The ProHold screw-holding mechanism on the ball end is a spring-loaded ball similar to that found on a ratchet. You can read more about it here. What I like about the ProHold versus Wiha’s MagicRing: it doesn’t scar the finish on the inside of the fastener head, and in my opinion it does not compromise the strength of the ball tip as much as the MagicRing. Of course I haven’t broken the tip of a ProHold or MagicRing hex driver, so this is speculation on my part.

As a bonus, the Bondhus ProHold are made here in the U.S.A., at least for now. I consider that a reasonable reason to buy them over the Wiha if you’re a U.S. resident.

How to replace Snap-On Dual80 soft grips

Just a note on how I replace the grips on Snap-On Dual80 soft-grip ratchets…

The key is boiling water. It will not harm the grips or the ratchet. I boil a large pot of water on the stove, and place the new grip in it. I hold the old grip (still on the ratchet) in the boiling water for about 90 seconds. It will expand from the heat. I then pull the old grip off, while wearing mechanic’s gloves for better grip and to avoid being scalded. I pluck the new handle out of the pot of boiling water with tongs, shake the water out of it, then push it onto the ratchet (again wearing mechanic’s gloves). I make sure it’s positioned properly, then allow the ratchet to cool. Voila, a brand new grip! The process takes about 60 seconds, not counting the time for the water to boil.