Gear and Tool Reviews

    "My mama told me, you better shop around..."
                 - Smokey Robinson and The Miracles    

     I've built stuff. 

     I've bought stuff.  

     I've built stuff i should have bought, and bought stuff I should have built.

     As a result, I have formed some opinions.

     Hell, I had opinions before I even started.

     Which is either part of the solution or part of the problem, depending upon your point of view.

     So, I figgered i'd compile the results of my empty wallet research here, for you to ridicule or utilize.

     First up, the story of Quack, our inflatable.


We had a dinghy issue. As fine a vessel as it is, our hard dinghy was unsuitable for it's current application. I gotta say, it's not very often I hear complaints about my hard dinghy, but, in any event , here we are, and a solution must be found. We had some pretty tight parameters- the boat had to weigh about the same as our hard dinghy (50 lbs.-ish) and not be wider than our beam (under 8 feet-ish) accommodate two and some cargo (ie: rum and beer) and accept a small motor. After hours of debate and research, SWMBO and I pulled the trigger and bought an inflatable dinghy. Last Friday, i picked up the phone and got in touch with Matt, the very laid back salesdude at Rubber Duck Inflatable Boats. and ordered an RDS-200D.
Our rationale for choosing Rubber Duck is as follows:
1. A Canadian retailer, based on Vancouver Island.
2. Price was significantly less than other similar size boats.
3. The right size, the right weight. Heir boat fit our boat. At 6'7" in length and an advertised 50 lbs weight, it sounded like it would fit our needs.
4. They offer a 5 year warranty, comparable to, if not better than, the warranties available for the big names.

The boat is lsted at $550 cdn. Brett offered us a free seat cushion/bag, and a hat, we also ordered a cover($30), and by the time shipping and tax was added, the grand total came to $789 cdn. to our door.

Brett assured me that our order would go out on Monday, and it would take 4-5 days to get to us. Monday evening, I received an email from Brett apologizing for not getting our boat out on Friday, and included a tracking number for the freight shipment. So far, so good.
I check the tracking number and the freight company's ETA is Monday. Oh well, no big deal, I mean, when does anything boat related ever happen on time?
Friday afternoon, I get a call on my cell phone from a truck driver- he tried to to drop off our package, and no one was home. I made arrangements to meet with him and pick up our new toy, and two hours later we got it all done. Kudos to Day & Ross Freight Lines and Rubber Duck for delivering EARLIER than expected.
So, this is what we got:

When I opened the box, this is what I saw:

Carrying bag, pump, oars, seat, owner's manual, seat bag, etc., all as promised.

Ten minutes later, this is what I had:

The included foot pump with locking nozzle did a great job of inflating the boat. The inflation valves are all high quality two-stage valves- when you disengage the pump nozzle, there is NO air leakage.

The fit and finish is PHENOMENAL. Period. The seams are beautiful, the transom is solid and well sealed, the gunwale rope is SPLICED, not knotted at each grommet, the seat and floor slats are decent quality and finish, there is a drain in the transom and a drain plug with a lanyard, the oars have a positive retention oarlock system and there is a proper rubrail, and appropriate towing rings for a painter and a bridle.

We installed our 24 lb. thrust Minn Kota trolling motor and our battery, and headed out for a shakedown cruise around the marina. First impressions were favourable- she was stable, even with the added weight of a group 27 battery at the transom. She rowed acceptably- no speed demon, but she tracked true and did not require a surfeit of effort to keep her moving- yeah, i got sweaty, but didn't feel like I was going to have a heart attack while rowing out of the slip and into the fairway.
Under power, the boat moved acceptably well with SWMBO and I aboard. She didn't plane, but she didn't give up either. We were able to cruise over to the showers, visit friends on other boats and just basically fiddlefart around comfortably, efficiently and safely.

I have been wholly impressed by my experience with Rubber Duck Inflatables. Not only would I buy another one, but I urge any of you thinking about a new inflatable to give these guys a try.

     As our second season with Quack comes to a close, I am still satisfied with the value of our dinghy.    I have had to repair one floor slat, and rework one  end of the gunwale rope, but even with a sharp-clawed compact sportsdog hopping in and out, the boat has never lost air, and never been an issue.

King Multi-Tool

For years, I have been pondering purchasing a Fein Multi-master saw. A very slick piece of equipment, it slices, dices, scrapes, sands and chops... and costs a lot. A couple of years ago, Fein's patent protection expired, and a number of other tool manufacturers brought their own versions to market, in the $80-$120 range. More affordable, but not quite cheap enough for me to pull the trigger without having a specific project in mind which requires an oscillating saw. Then, a few weeks back, I was in my friendly neighbourhood woodworking porn emporium, and saw a stack of these:

on sale for $59. I snatched one up, took it home, and promptly forgot I had it.

Then, while working on the lowbuck davits, I decided to crack open the case and give it a try.
Just, WOW.

I opened the case and was pleased with the overall fit and finish. No rough castings, no rough edges, and the6' long power cord was pliable and easy to coil. Nothing says "cheap, low quality tool" like a short stiff power cord. The attachments were all bagged, and a spare set of motor brushes were included. Maybe a thoughtful touch, or maybe an acknowledgement by the manufacturer that they burn out frequently. Time will tell.
First, it's quiet. Really quiet. Carry- on- a- conversation- in -a -normal -tone- of -voice quiet. Second, it is well balanced. you can grab it anywhere from end to end and control the tool. Third, it is variable speed, you can control the oscillation, for better control and accuracy. It also has a soft-start feature, meaning that when you turn it on, the machine doesn't instantly sool up, and torque-twist out of the user's hand. instead, it gradually spools up, allowing you to keep the tool properly aligned to the workface.

As a sander it works well for getting into small corners, and because the oscillation is a relatively small arc, you do not have dust flying all over. a vac attachment would be nice, but is not nearly as imperative as with a random orbit or palm sander. I wouldn't want to try to sand a whole hull with it, but it is great for picking up where your big sanders leave off.

This machine really impressed me as a scraper. My epoxywork is often sloppy, especially jig layups, which often means hours of messy, dusty, dirty, loud arm-numbing sanding. Using the included allen key, I swapped out the sander pad for the scraper blade included in the kit. It sliced through hardened thickened epoxy like it was butter. in less than 20 minutes I had the bulk of the waste material scraped off, ready for a final scuff sanding, with no dust, just long easy to clean up peels of epoxy.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. "Great, so it sands and scrapes, but it is a SAW for pete's sake, how does it do saw stuff?"

I was getting to that. Yeesh.
I made a mistake with the placement of one of the gussets on one of the davits, so i took the opportunity to swap out the scraper blade for a saw blade. Talk about slick! The blade is flexible, and was able to follow the inside curve of the davit perfectly, cutting along the fillet and allowing the gusset to be removed, with no damage to the gusset or to the arm of the davit. An electric jigsaw or even a handheld coping saw would not have been able to make the cuts as cleanly as this tool did, or as quickly. And, because it is an oscillating saw, it is very difficult to hurt yourself. With the blade running, you can lightly press it against your hand with no harm done. Try that with a jigsaw. On second thought, don't. It would be a bad thing.

Is it worth the money?

I figure on this one job, this one tool has saved me about three hours, about $5 worth of sand paper, and lowered my stress level. I can see at least 20 hours of manpower saved during boat projects this spring, just in time saved refinishing brightwork for example. I have some caprail rot to deal with on my new wooden boat, and i can see this tool being the only possiblity for dutchman work, without pulling the rail. Durability is an unknown right now, but I have been so impressed with the versatility, and the tool is so cheap, I am going to buy a second one as a back-up.

If you do any of your own refinishing work on your boat, you need to get one of these. Removing boot stripes, scraping bedding compound, cutting holes in fiberglass, scraping and sanding brightwork...

Overall 3.5 out of 4 stars, losing .5 stars for the unknown durability. If the tool lasts a year, I'll review my review and bump it to 4 out of 4.

A year and a half later, the King Multi-tool is still going strong, and is still one of the most-used tools in my workshop.  4 stars!