Power Tool Spy - Makita's 40th Birthday Bash
Posted by Neil Bruce - May 13, 2012
It was a Wednesday morning in early May 2012 and the weather was fair, not warm, just fair. Calum (Mr Toolstop) picked me up just after 8 o clock and we hotfooted down the M74, M6 to the biggest Makita trade event in years. We arrived at the Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth at 1 o clock and were given a nice welcome with a goodie bag with a pen, a Makita tie, a memory stick in the shape of a cordless grinder and a dish towel as well as a spec sheet of the 40 new tools Makita have released to coincide with their 40th anniversary in the UK.
One of the Makita representatives, Hugh, met us and quickly showed us some of the stand out new tools such as the cordless brushless rotary hammers, the new oscillating multitools and the new petrol tools.
But we were more interested in the amazing noise from outside the hotel. It came from a small 2 seat car, a Morgan Aero Coupe, 100 grand worth and completely hand assembled. Morgan use Makita tools in their manufacturing process and had lent the car for the day.
We went in for lunch and spoke to the UK head of power tools, Barry Smart, who exclaimed his excitement about having been able to drive the Morgan car that morning. He said he had to bring it back sooner than he had hoped because the thing was just so fast he feared for himself. We also had a quick chat with some of the Japanese guys around the lunch table. Makita always ensure they have a Japanese person at the helm and they normally stay in the job for a couple of years before the next one comes in. I think this helps Makita UK employees adopt a real Japanese way of working.
Then it was time to be shown round all the tools. First of all we went outside to the demo area where we could try some of the new tools for ourselves. The first one we tried was the new cordless brushless rotary hammers. We were impressed with the ergonomics, something first seen in Makitas 36 volt models released a couple of years back. But the great thing about these drills was the dust extractor attachments. We drilled a number of holes into kerbstone and could not believe how little dust was released into the atmosphere. Instead most of it was sucked up by the vacuum which comes on automatically when the drills trigger is depressed.
We moved on to the new 4-function combi drills. These are cordless machines which do the job of a drill driver, a hammer drill, an impact driver and a screwdriver. The unique thing about these are the electronic features replacing what would normally be a mechanical feature, for example the 3 speeds of the hammer drill are controlled by a button on the top of the battery compartment and the 9 stage clutch which controls the torque on the impact driver is controlled by the same button. The button will only become active when you're in the right mode and the mode is selected by a mechanical turn of collar next to the chuck. These machines are not for everyone, but if its versatility you're looking for in a tool then maybe you need one.
Then we saw the new oscillating multi tools. Makita has been slow to the market with these but have introduced a corded version as well as an 18 volt and 14.4 volt model. They use the OIS system which has been seen previously seen in the Bosch machines. Nothing amazing about these machines but the obvious selling point for Makita is that anyone who already has other LXT tools will benefit from these using the same battery system.
We then were intrigued to see the new cordless biscuit jointer. To our knowledge this is the first of its kind so hats off to Makita for again pioneering with new types of tool in the cordless market. The tool seems to use the same handle and motor as their cordless grinders do.
We bumped into Clive, famous for Clive's clearance corner where he tries to get rid of old tools Makita have long discontinued. There are bargains to be had but on this occasion there was nothing of interest to us which would sell on the Toolstop website.
We moved on to look at some of the new MM4 petrol tools. Makita had set up a demo rig which showed the difference in emmissions from these new tools to a traditional 2 stroke tool. The difference could be seen in the cleanliness of the output but we were also made aware of the cost implications and the saving that can be made in running one of these new machines, typically 40% per year saving on fuel costs. There is also the advantage of no mixing with oil, lower noise and improvements in performance. All in all, the new MM$ petrol tools Makita have introduced were extremely impressive.
Then, Hugh introduced us to the new range of cordless garden tools Makita had launched. There was a 36 volt lawnmower, a 36 volt cultivator and some 14.4 and 18 volt hedge trimmers, grass cutters, line trimmers. The great thing Makita do is they allow users to make use of their 18 volt batteries in their 36 volt tools by providing a couple of units which allow you to use two 18 volt batteries in place of a 36 volt battery.
After that, Hugh sat us down in the hotel bar and started talking to Calum about what he would like to order for sale on the Toolstop website. As always Calum was keen to get his hands on as many of these new tools as possible. Unfortunately Makita hadn't a huge amount of stock. We had a couple of beers while passing the time (there's a pattern beginning to emerge in my recent blog posts) and I made my way over to speak to Martin Dunn, another star of the Toolstop TV videos. Martin expressed his excitement at a recent video we'd uploaded to YouTube featuring his jigsaw skills and revelled at the great job we had made of the finished article.
Thyen it was time to check into the hotel. As we we checking in I realised that I had to go back to the car to get my iPad, and what a surprise to see Colin Woolmer, star of many of the Makita videos on the MrToolstop YouTube channel. As many of you will know, Colin retired about 2 years ago, but Makita had asked him to come back as Night Watchman to ensure the displays of tools were not tampered with by the revellers. It was great to see Colin who told me he was keeping busy with all sorts of work although not actively looking for any.
I checked in, went to my room and had just about enough time to get showered, dressed and head back to the hotel bar where we were congregating ahead of the festivities Makita had arranged for the evening.
At dinner, I was sitting next to Louise on one side and Calum on the other, Martin was across from me and John Stark, our local Makita rep was also at the table. Louise is the head buyer of a builders merchants in the north of England and she mentioned the only power tools they deal with are the Makita brand. She also told me she narrowly missed out on being selected for the apprentice TV programme the year before. I have to say that my impression was that she could have done an awful lot better than those who actually made the final 16.
I noticed Martin was keeping a close eye on the football scores as they came in. Knowing that my team, Dundee United, we're playing Rangers that night I asked him to keep me up to date with the Rangers score. He obviously though I was a Rangers fan and took great pleasure in relaying the goals to me as they went in. All 5 of them. I had to tell him in the end that he was really depressing me.
After our meal we were treated to some entertainment from comedian Bob Mills and cricketer Darren Gough. I am not a fan of cricket at all but Darren came up with some very nice anecdotes from his days as an England internationalist and also from his time on the TV programme Strictly Come Dancing. He is also a star of daytime radio on talksport and talked highly of his colleagues at the station. The guy comes across as very proud of his achievements, particularly in the sport but he also comes across as a genuine bloke, well done Darren.
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