Tool Review - Arbortech Power Chisel

My Christmas present to me
Let me just say at the outset I love it. There are a couple of annoying things, but on the whole it is right up there with my fave tools.
What is it? Here you will find photographs and a video of it in action.
http://www.arbortech.com.au/view/power-chisel/power-chisel-main
I bought the complete unit, choosing not to attach it to an existing angle grinder. I called tech support before I confirmed an order and asked why I should buy the complete unit and not just the attachment and a cheap Chinese angle grinder. The main reason seems to be that although the unit will fit many grinders it will not fit all. The young lady also said that the bearings and gear were specially designed in the Arbortech model to resist entry of saw dust that will come from working with wood. All this sounded plausible until I read on their site that the chisel cuts without producing any dust.
The blades come heavily packed in a high density grease, I dipped mine in turps and wiped the grease off without any trouble. There is no assembly required. Fitting in the blade is as easy as it could possibly be: Slide the shaft in, press a single button and press the blade home with a satisfying click. The blades, although not close to scary sharp, are sharp enough to use out of the box.
It's operation is very easy, simply present the blade to the wood and start cutting. The depth of cut is controlled by how hard you press onto the wood and the speed is as fast as the hardness of the timber allows or as slow as you want to move your hands. Control is effortless and in soft woods extremely precise. The first real job I did with it was to cut the rebates into some hardwood stringers for a new set of stairs. (Photos in a.b.p.w. )
The timber is unknown but looked to me to be ironbark - one of the hardest Aussie hardwoods. (If there is a harder, denser one, I won't be working with it!)
I had started on the job using a hammer and chisel but the density of the timber made it very slow going indeed. I knew this tool was coming so I let the job wait until it arrived. I am very glad I did. As the rebates in stringers are necessarily cut at an angle to the grain and only 40mm or so wide, it was a challenge to get the cutting technique right, but by the eighth and last rebate I could do a reasonable job of it in about 15 min. About the same length of time I spent getting the first couple of mm cut with a hammer and chisel.
This must be the safest power tool on the market. While it is running you can touch the end of the blade (no pressure) without even breaking the skin, I think the only way to hurt yourself accidentally would be to drop it on your foot. Hearing protection is a must. As with other power tools extended gave my hands that tingly vibration feeling for a few minutes after I turned it off. The metal part of the grinder got very hot, and although there are screw holes for a handle on either side there was no handle supplied. This added a certain level of annoying 'gotchas' when I repositioned my grip to get the best angle of attack.
By far the most annoying thing was the switch on the grinder. It is a very delecate thumb slide common enough on many grinders. Unfortunately there is no lock position, so for the first ten minutes of operation I was constantly turning the chisel back on after it had tripped off. I tried adjusting my technique but with the metal case getting hotter, I found myself moving back to where the switch is located to avoid getting burnt and consquently switching the motor off. I fixed this with a wedge shaped sliver of wood pessed into the switch and loosely taped into position. Normally I wouldn't dream of jamming a power tool in the on position but since it would be near impossible to accidentally injure yourself with it (though I am sure if you really tried you could) it didn't seem to be much of a risk.
I can't imagine reccomending a tool that requires modification right out of the box, but this is one big exception. It does every cut well, neatly, powerfully, with absolute control and near perfect safety. I love it.
Mekon
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.. snip

Just out of curiosity, how loud is it?
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough +--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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wrote:
(snip)

Well... I can't actually measure it, but I had no chance of hearing the radio at any volume, and that set off the "I'd better wear ear protection " alarm , Not quite as loud as cross cutting a hardwood tread on the table saw, but as the sound was constant and that sort of hammer drill feel to it I felt protection was advisable. I didn't feel the need to put ear plugs in as well though, just enough to make me think twice about ignoring that particular safety item.
Mekon
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Mon, Dec 25, 2006, 12:39am (EST+5) snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Mekon) doth claimeth: My Christmas present to me Let me just say at the outset I love it. There are a couple of annoying things, but on the whole it is right up there with my fave tools. <snip>
I've thought of something along those lines, but if I decide I really want one, I've got one of these: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?ItemnumberG868 Then I'll just marry up some of these, or make some, maybe both. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber816
It's always more fun making something that works, rather than buying.
JOAT It's not hard, if you get your mind right. - Granny Weatherwax
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There is a version of this idea for flex shafts. A reciprocating handpiece for flex shafts have been around for a long time, at least 30 years. I've had one, by Foredom, for that long - used for texturing jewelry and for setting stones, mainly cabachons in bezels. A flexshaft handpiece designed for special carving tools is an alternative to the ArborTech - if you already have a flex shaft. Unlike the ArborTech, it doesn't require hearing protection and with a handpiece, control is quite a bit better because there's less to move around and your hand is much closer to where the edge is cutting. Like any reciprocating device, there is friction involved, with the associated generated heat.
That flexshaft and handpiece is more suited to bench use and finer work than ArborTech reciprocating attachment to a bench grinder.
Don't know what the ArborTech costs, but, if you already have a flex shaft, the handpieces, with four or five chisels are about $80, the Chinese versions being in the $50 range, though the chisels's steel doesn't hold an edge as well as the higher priced units.
charlie b
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