What could we have planned? Well it's a little impromptu that's for sure because we were planning on doing a hold review... but as Gui and Noodles brought themselves some new toys this week we're going head to head on two things; impactors, yes impactors!!
We're looking at two, the new Dewalt 20v and the Makita 12v:
What you get are completely different!, The Dewalt coming with two batteries and a charger, the Milwaukee coming with two batteries AND a drill... which is the best value? That's to see folks.
Why look at these tools?
Because spinning a wrench is a time consuming; whether you're stripping thousands of holds at a commercial gym or if you're at home on your wall. With proper use you can set with an impact driver, your staff and friends can use them without stripping t nuts. Yup, t nuts, as soon as people start thinking of impacters then Tim The Tool Man Taylor starts to ring a bell right? The noise of using them generally turns people off (especially gym owners when customers are in the gym) and a setter that doesn't know that a trigger isn't an on/off switch means that horrible climb to the back of the dusty wall to replace t nuts when they get stripped.
So lets go for the pros and cons of impactors straight off the top:
- Improper use will shank a bolt and can cause you to have to cut bolts to free a hold
- Improper use can cause you to have to replace t nuts
- You can break your holds
- They're kind of costly
- Stripping a wall is faster
- Setting is faster, which means a setter is doing what they should do.. set
When you look at tools you'll normally want to go with more power, when you're actually working in construction and you need to drill into concrete this is a correct assumption... but when you're setting then more power (i.e: torque) means more problems in some cases. Less is actually in the long run more, less torque means less broken holds and less t nut replacement if the tool is used correctly. Also power is a fun one when looking at tools, you can have 10v, 12v, 14v, 16v.... the list goes on and people think that this is the mark of power for that tool, it kind of is and it kind of isn't the case. Lost? Yeah so were we!!
It's the batteries that you really want to look at, you could have the most powerful tool on the planet but if the battery is crap then you'll be able to do less work. Batteries come in what's called Ampere Hours, here's a brief explanation:
An ampere-hour is not a unit of energy. In a battery system, for example, accurate calculation of the energy delivered requires integration of the power delivered (product of instantaneous voltage and instantaneous current) over the discharge interval. Generally, the battery voltage varies during discharge; an average value or nominal value may be used to approximate the integration of power
Got that? Let's go for the dumbed down version, a 3.0Ah battery will do more work on say a 12v tool that a 1.5Ah battery on the same tool, so you could buy the 12v Maikta and say strip a wall but as you're hammering down on the trigger to get the holds off quickly then you'll use up the battery faster; whereas if you took a little more time and weren't so heavy on the trigger then the battery would last longer... or if you like think of the batteries to be like a fuel tank of a car (if we discount the voltage difference between the tools) then its 1.5 liter fuel tank (1.5Ah) vs a 3 liter fuel tank (3.0Ah) of course the more fuel you have the longer the tool will work :)
In this case both the Makita and Dewalt are using 1.5Ah batteries the only difference being that one is 12v and the other is 20v, both being lithium ion batteries with a 30min fast charge.
But that's not all, when a tool says 12v it actually means that that is the maximum peak power that that tool will use. 12v is obviously less than a 20v in this case... but what's interesting is when you're stripping (If you discount the batteries for a moment and live in a hypothetical world) you're probably using the trigger harder to get the holds off of the wall and therefore going somewhere close to the maximum voltage that that tool can use.. therefore faster battery drainage!! Something that is more powerful with more torque will spin the bolt faster, easier than something that has less torque. If we look at the case in hand the DeWalt will take holds off without hitting maximum voltage so will probably work longer and will do more work where the Makita is using maximum voltage more of the time and will use up the battery faster
So what's the difference? Lets look at them both, first the DeWalt:
Weighing in at 2.2lbs (without the battery) it's not so heavy that you can't heft it for hours at a go; it's got power where you need it and finesse when you need it. The batteries last for a long long time and the charge is nice and quick. The problem is with 20v's that if you're not delicate on the trigger you will lock up bolts and nuts and you can easily break a hold... the lesson is don't be trigger happy (unless you're stripping the wall) This tool is built more for construction than for setting so you really have to keep that in mind or if you're building a house on your off time then you're kind of laughing.
- $238 (driver, charger, two batteries and carrying case)
- 3x LEDs
- 2x 1.5Ah batteries
- Compact size: 5.5 inches tall
- 2.8lbs assembled
- 1/4" hex (quick release)
Now the Makita:
It's lighter than the DeWalt by a good deal and its obvious that it doesn't pack anywhere near as much punch as it's competitor but it's probably more than enough if you have spare batteries on charge and the load you're putting onto it isn't crazy. Where it does set itself apart is when you're setting, as it's not crazy powerful you can put holds up a little faster because you're fairly sure that you won't hammer them to pieces... and then when it comes to putting in set screws well hell folks, why change the bit? Just grab the little drill that comes with the impact; it does speed things up a bunch (Gui likes to wear a tool belt John Wayne style whilst Noodles keeps his spare bits in his pockets so has to change them rather than just grab another tool!)
But you could just change the drill bit and not carry two tools all the time, it really comes down to what you're comfortable with. Makita is also the brand choice of most top setters in the industry, we have comments from Jody Miall (and Tonde Katiyo soon) who should know a good impact drill when they see one!
- $250 (driver, drill, charger, two batteries and carrying case)
- 1x LEDs
- 2x 1.5Ah batteries
- Compact size: 7.7 inches tall
- 2.0lbs assembeld
- 1/4" hex (quick release)
This is a tricky one, I love both of the tools and they really have pros and cons to them... what I feel overall is that we probably both got the right and wrong tools :) For a job like stripping the DeWalt just kicks ass because it just has power to spin all day, the Makita just seemed to need a battery a little too often for my liking, sure it's a little smaller and a little lighter but it seems to lack power when you're just ripping holds off of the wall
For setting the Makita has enough power to just slam holds up and when you look at the fact that it has a drill as well then that's pretty cool (although I'd rather change a bit than actually carry two tools), but if you're careful then the DeWalt will do the same job because of the procedural trigger
So why the wrong tools? Because 20v is a little too much and 12v is a little bit underpowered. When you can get the same Makita tool in a 14.4v or an 18v and they take a 3.0Ah and 1.5Ah battery and then you look at what Jody Miall and Tonde Katiyo use then you think about who they are then you realize that you made a boo boo. Both those guys are head setters at pretty big gyms, they have both set World Cups and so many comps over the years that you know that they know what they're talking about.
Am I unhappy with the DeWalt? Nope, not in the slightest because I don't hammer the trigger to make sure I don't have to go to that dusty hole to replace a t nut; would a more informed decision see me make the same purchase if I need a new impact drill? Of course, you live and you learn but I do intend to use my drill for other projects than setting so I feel I made a good choice... if I was just purely setting I'd go with what the pros use because it's been proven in their hands
Also why the hell use a 1.5Ah battery when you can get a 3.0Ah battery, sure your tool will be a little heavier but it will last so much longer? In a hypothetical World, I'd have the DeWalt for stripping and a 14.4v Makita for setting... or just the Makita because it's the best of both Worlds :P
GUI: Head Setter Shakti Rock Gym
So, my Makita. I used to work with a Milwaukee 18v impactor and after a few months my ears were bleeding from the noise. So I decided to start shopping and came up to the Makita 12v.
I fell in love right away. It's light, powerful but not too much that you really need to worry about crossing bolts up, it also has a sensitive trigger that does the job. The only down point is the lifespan of the battery. On 15 hour reset, I had to charge it twice. That in itself it's not a big deal, since there is 2 batteries that comes with the kit, but I guess it can be annoying for route setting of actual routes.
Since I only work in a bouldering gym I don't mind. I think that in a perfect world I would go for a 14v instead of the 12v... All in all, for me it's a good buy despite the batteries dying. I also have a small drill which means I don't have to change drill bits to put in set screws so I always have both tools on me when I'm setting...
JODY: Head Setter Coyote Rock
My impact is a Makita LXT, 18v lithium ion and has two options for batteries, 3Ah and 1.5Ah. Both are pretty light but you can strip well over 1000 holds on one charge with the 3Ah on and put up over 400 holds. So for big jobs like stripping and setting I prefer the bigger batteries; plus I'm a man and the weight of a drill is not a deciding factor for me unless it's ridiculous. That being said the Makitas are lighter than the 18v Millwaukees.
One of these impactors can be had for just over $200 with the two 3.0Ah batteries if you look around and you can find them for less that $200 if you want the smaller batteries... they both come with a charger
My favorite thing about the Makita is the grips, I love them and the smooth trigger control. There's no need to pre-thread the bolt when you're setting, this is something I've had troubles with when I used the 18v Milwaukee drills, they have way more torque (way too much for setting in my opinion) and they spin up too fast at the slightest touch of the trigger. The t nuts in my gym are the dried out pound in ones so a delicate touch is essential for me.
I like this the best because it has great grip angle so its easy to use all day. Tons of power with great trigger control, and the new brush less motors will last forever in dusty gyms.
I have also used the 12v Bosch drills but I found they lacked power (even for 12v) and I hated the fat grips on them. I also found they didn't have great trigger control.
I have used 18v Milwaukee impacts but they have terrible trigger control and so much torque that they could pull a t nut through the wall. No problem for me but in the hands of an inexperienced user it could cause problems. One thing I really like about Milwaukee is that there batteries have a power indicator on them so you always know where they are at. I wish every company did this.
I use 12v Makita impacts sometimes ( I three sets of the driver/ drill combo) and they are great for small sets, but they lack the battery life for all day setting. In the five years I've had them I find that the twelve volt Makitas and Bosch batteries just don't hold up as well as the 18v. I will take the extras weight of a bigger impactor for the the extra power and longer battery life any time. Keep in mind I have never felt that I fell on a route because my quick draws were too heavy, or my harness was too bulky. People who are of that mind should use twelve volts and do cardio on a regular basis to help keep the weight down.
MIKE BOCKINO: Head Setter at the Front Climbing Club
I have a Milwaukee 12v. it's very light, but the batteries started to die pretty quickly after I flew with my tools and forgot to bring my batteries as a carry on and they went into the hold instead; other than that I go through two batteries on an average setter day
The tool was $79 but now they're $129. I don't have to pre-thread the bolts when setting I just plug and pull the trigger... with some finesse of course.
I'd say its better than the rest because it's light and it fits in a holster perfectly and it has a nice balance between the weight in the head and the battery. I stopped using a 12v DeWalt as I felt like it was over tightening things.. so now it's the Milwaukee and if I need to tighten the hold more I use a ratchet
KALEB THOMAS: Head Setter at Crag X
I have a Bosch 12v, here are the pros and cons of the model I'm using:
- Super light
- Decent battery life but super fast charge
- Batteries are cheap
- The right amount if torque for our walls
- Reduces Repetitive Strain injuries
- Not so durable (but better then the majors like Milwaukee)
- Loud as all hell
- A little under powered for stripping