Neil and I have travelled the globe visiting the bastions of power tool design and manufacturing with the sole purpose of bringing power tool lovers, via the magic of the interweb's tubes, the latest and best in blog posts and videos.
Well, when I say “travelled the globe” that's only true if you count Milton Keynes as another country.
Yes, we've been to Bosch in Denham, Makita in Milton Keynes, Draper in Southampton and now we've visited the seat of European parliamentary power, Brussels.
Brussels. Home of mussels, sprouts, beer, chocolate and eurocrats.
However, we didn't stay there too long. Once RIDGID's Mike was allowed through customs (which gave Neil and I enough time to sample a couple of Belgian exports – see right), we were off down the road to Leuven, European base to pipe-wrench purveyors Ridge Tool Company, better known to us as RIDGID.
Right away we felt completely at home, a feeling that was helped by the fact that everyone we met spoke better English than us. And that it was peeing down with rain. Home from home.
However, we checked into our hotel in the centre of Leuven, once Ridge Tool's John had manage to negotiate the narrow, cobbled streets that were choked with parked bicycles (he only went down one pedestrian precinct. Oh, and a one-way street the wrong way. Pesky roadworks…), and then embarked on a quick recce to find an eatery that would allow us to sample the finest in Leuven hospitality.
We settled on a rather grand affair situated on a wonky, cobbled thoroughfare of indeterminate age (it was at least 500 years old, but that's a rough guess) and were waited on by the quintessential European waiter. Open any dictionary to the word “waiter” and you'd see a photo of this guy. He was brilliant with his slightly haughty-yet-hang-dog laissez-faire, an attitude that said “Meh, here's your table. Here's your menu. And wipe your feet.”
In fact, it's hard to know what was most impressive about Leuven.
The beer, of which there was hundreds of choices (see left for one example), the food, of which all previous power tool manufacturer excursions have met their match, the scenery, of which you were spoiled for choice; the pretty European bicycle riding students or the grand, Gothic spires of the town hall, or the hand and power tools on display in Ridge Tool's Leuven base.
We've enjoyed the clinical beauty of Bosch's European training headquarters. We've felt at ease in the dusty technical workrooms of Makita's training facility. We've been overawed at the scale and scope of Sealey's product range and distribution warehouses.
But with RIDGID we had it all; clean, European, technical efficiency. And that was just John's new Volvo 4×4.
In truth, we are very impressed with Ridge Tool Company's operation in Leuven. First of all the training facilities were top-notch.
What we expect from a tool company's training operation is simple; we name a tool. You quickly get the tool. You show us how to work the tool. We get to use the tool.
And this all happens in a safe, well lit and ventilated space.
With RIDGID it was “check”, “check” and “check”.
Not only did they have what seemed like every single hand and power tool in the RIDGID catalogue to hand, they even had a team of guys available to us who knew everything there ever is to know about these tools and were able to show us, in a succinct fashion, how to use them and explain who'd benefit from owning them.
Seriously, you cannot ask for more when you're on one of these fact-finding trips.
First up we had Enver. He's a product manager. Traditionally, we expect product managers to be a bit prissy and overly protective about the products. You know, acting as if the product in question was actually birthed by them.
Not so with Enver. Yes, the guy was protective of the products he demonstrated for us, but not in a highly-strung maternal way. More in a proud uncle sort of way.
Right away he pointed out that the new range of measuring and metering tools from RIDGID are smaller, more compact, more efficient, more accurate and have had a new “lick of paint”, namely they're all now black with red detailing. And yes, they look pretty good.
Enver's favourite little nephew (if we're continuing the “proud uncle” analogy”) seemed to be the P-TEC 3240 pipe cutter. We'll bring you a video of it in action soon so that you can see it, and you'll hear him talk about it in part 2 of our RIDGID interviews.
In short, this is an ingenious idea. It cuts plastic pipe while at the same time preventing swarf . It even bevels the cut for you.
What does it do, though?
Again, this is where being in a top-notch training facility pays off.
Mike led us over to workbench. Lying beside it was the K-45, encased a signature red RIDGID box.
On top of the workbench were two pipe openings, the sort of pipes that lead into drains. These openings led down into a snaking procession of pipe work that simulated a lavatory 'S' bend or a drainage system.
Parts of the pipe were clear perspex, allowing us to see that the pipes were, in fact, severely blocked with toilet paper and hand towels.
Using the K-45's powered handle, Mike inserted the end of the cable into the pipe opening. Then by depressing on the arrowed levers, the cable was fed down into, and around, the pipe bends until it made contact with the blockage.
The end of the cable spins itself into the mess of paper, at which point Mike reversed the direction of the motor. This drew the cable, with blockage attached, back up the pipe work, quickly, cleanly and efficiently unblocking the drain.
We'll have a video of the K-45 in action soon, keep your eye on our YouTube channel.
All in all, day 1 of our visit to RIDGID's Leuven base was inspiring. And that was before they set Walter and the SeeSnakes onto us…
Stay subscribed to the Toolstop blog for part 2 of our report from RIDGID Tools!