Gearhead Diary: Cutting the Cord

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANN Most of the tools anyone needs: Drill, impact driver, reciprocating saw, circular saw, flashlight, and a bag to carry it all around with. Not an outlet in sight.

Matt Bartmann

I once had a cordless drill.

Only once.

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I loved it. I used it quite a bit. Then the batteries died and I got out one of my many plug-in drills and untangled my extension cord. Although often tempted by low prices, I never got another cordless tool. “Needs battery” was the common theme with cheap used cordless power tools. Which also meant they couldn’t be tested to see if they worked.

I have, however, found myself guilty. Guilty of coveting other folks’ ability to quickly and easily drill holes, drive screws, turn bolts, cut stuff up… with no electrical outlet in sight. No need to untangle that 100’ extension cord. No need to lug a generator up the hill to make a few quick cuts or hassle with a hacksaw where there’s not enough room to use one.

Yep. I’ve coveted my neighbors’ cordless tools. And it’s not just drills anymore.

I’ve also been very battery conscious, having lived off-grid for so many years. With the whole house being battery powered, energy conservation is of utmost importance. Use only the power needed, and do so when the power is plentiful. When it’s sunny. Which also means you don’t need artificial lighting to work.

It’s always been about saving electricity.

My thinking was wrong, though. In truth, when it comes to tools, battery powered makes sense. Charge the batteries when the sun is shining, and be able to use them whenever I feel like it.

More importantly, perhaps, being able to use the tools wherever I feel like using them.

So I broke down and bought a set of cordless tools. Brand new, with a warranty. Individually, they are pretty expensive, but the quantity discounts are pretty big when you get a bunch of ‘em. And the convenience of them all using the same batteries is pretty darn nifty.

A drill/screwdriver, an impact driver, reciprocating saw, and a circular saw. A flashlight came with the bundle too, which I didn’t really care about, but it’s actually quite handy. Other sets offer different tools… blowers or grinders, for instance.

I’m not making brand recommendations, and online reviews are all over the map. I made my choice based on what I felt I’d need to do, reviews, and of course price, which is also all over the map.

Basically, what I got is a smattering of tools that can be used for almost any small project around the house, in the shop, or outside. Nothing heavy duty, of course. I won’t be changing tires on a Mack truck with these things, nor will I be using them to cut firewood. But there are plenty of smaller nuts and bolts in my life that need to be turned. And boards to cut and screw together or branches to trim.

No extension cord required to cut through a 2×6 board. Flashlight for support.

I’ll charge the batteries when the charging is good, and I’ll do the work whenever, and wherever, I feel like doing it. My plug-in drill and saw are on the shelf and ready. My hacksaw, screwdrivers, and ratchet drives, too.

And my extension cords are untangled and neatly wrapped, waiting for the batteries to die.