I MAY have solved "the problem"!

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AES

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By "the problem", I mean the hand-held power tool cables problem.

(Mods - I wasn't sure if this post belongs in "Tool Reviews", "Home Made Tools & Jigs", or "General Wood Working", sorry. Please move if required).

From time to time I read here how annoying it can be coiling up and storing the individual power cables that come permanently fitted to just about all power tools - there have been several previous posts on that subject.

If items like domestic electric kettles can have a separate power cable, why not our power tools?

In fact Festool do exactly that, but AFAIK, they're the only tools brand that does so, AND their own system doesn't fit any other tools. Not only that, the Festool individual power cables cost about 16 quid apiece (though I must admit, that's for a cable complete with special quick release socket on one end - to match the tool - plus whatever plug is needed to connect to the user's wall socket - UK, German, US, whatever).

But amongst the many more "down to earth" tool ranges, most if not all seem to come with individual cables of varying length (I find often too short or too long!); AND they're often pretty horrible, rather stiff, plastic-sheathed cables too (both 2- and 3-core cables). I guess that's one of the ways the bean counters keep the costs down.

Those like me, who for space/storage/neatness reasons do try to use the blow-moulded plastic cases that most tools came with originally, find that with the very tight partitions, re-coiling those stiff cables can be more than a real PITA. Even the nylon carry bags that some tools come in don't make life that much easier either.

Obviously others have similar problems. A while back I saw some Youtube videos from various people (amongst others Marius Hornberger), who have attempted to fix this problem. But if you look at Marius' video (see link below), I think you'll agree with me that there are 2 problems with his approach:

First, he disassembles his tools to connect the quick release socket - surely unnecessary (and IMO, the way he does it is not entirely safe either); and second, the cost of the quick release plug & socket connectors he used seems rather high too (see below). But I do agree that his QR plugs and sockets are pretty slim & neat, and do seem safe. Here's the relevant info if you want to check for yourself:

Marius Hornberger video, "A quick connection system for power tools":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WquQYdwcr74&t=503s

Neutrik Power Con 1:
Current typical internet prices are about a fiver per QR plug and about 6 quid per QR socket. (That excludes cabling). And on the sites I looked at, those prices only drop by about a quid apiece for buys of Qty 50+!

So as above, I have MAYBE found a better solution.

Unlike the UK system, the standard Swiss electrical system (single and three phase) does not use fused plugs (apparently that's why we don't have the ring main wiring system here). But that does mean that standard Swiss plugs (and trailing line sockets) are inherently less bulky than their UK equivalents.

"So what?" Do I hear UK readers asking? Read on:

To supplement our standard range of plugs and line sockets I've recently come across a new idea in our local DIY Emporium. These plugs and sockets are fully compatible with all the other, older products, BUT, of great interest here, they've added a simple quick release system. See below, showing the Swiss standard (LH) with the QR version (RH):

Photo 1 - QR Plug & Line Socket v Standard Swiss:

Photo 1 QR Plug v Standard Swiss-C.jpg


My idea is to use one of these QR plugs on each of my portable power tools. It's obviously not necessary to convert the "fixed" tools such as lathe, pillar drill, disc sander, etc; nor seldom-used tools such as my hot air gun or even the charger/s for my battery drills. But adding in a couple of outside garden tools (hedge trimmer, etc) I still come up with a total of about 25 tools to convert (Yes, "ridiculous", isn't it?!). I'll do that over a period, but here's a couple already done. Note the very much shortened original cable (NO stripping the tool necessary, NO disturbing the existing cable strain relief sleeve, and MUCH easier packing into original case:

Photo 2 - QR Plug v Standard "Kettle":

Photo 2  QR Plug v Standard Kettle-C.jpg


Photo 3 - QR Internals:

Photo 3 QR Internals-C.jpg


I also reckon I'll need about 5 of the matching QR line sockets to make up 5 special power leads (2 long ones on existing reels for outside garden use, plus 3, one each of say 1 metre, 2 metre, and 5 metre lengths). This last is mainly for my wet & dry shop vac. For these inside leads I'll use decent, tough but flexible 3 core cable, so even when using tools which are "double insulated" (2 core cable) there'll be no need to pick and choose cables -they'll all just be hanging conveniently near to hand in she shop.

Later I think I may also make up a fourth power cable combined with a flexible vacuum hose for use with sanders (dust extraction, to match up with the shop vac and cyclone separator).

Here's two of the inside cables I've already made up, compared with a typical "kettle-type" power cable:

Photo 4 - New QR Cable:

Photo 4 New QR Cable-C.jpg


Photo 5 - New QR Cable (Long)

Photo 5 New Cable Long-C.jpg


OF COURSE, it's a QR PLUG that goes on the tool, and a QR SOCKET which goes on the lead, NOT vice-versa. (Being a devout coward I DO NOT fancy the idea of a cable with live plug prongs on each end)!!!

But whatever goes on the "wall socket" end of these QR cables is entirely up to me. In my case it will be standard Swiss plugs of course (and plugs with standard ELCB safety plugs on the outside cable reels). But it could just as well be German or other Euro plugs, or even for Forum members, UK plugs! See comment below.

Photo 6 - Converted Drills

Photo 6 Converted Drills-C.jpg


This seems to be an easy and quite a quick solution to me, AND it comes at a reasonable cost too. Although these new QR plugs and line sockets are over double the price of standard Swiss plugs and line sockets, they still come in at less than half the price of the Neutrik system mentioned above. I reckon that including "nice" new flexible cable for the inside cables, my total cost for converting roughly 25 tools will be less than 70 quid - well worth it for me to get all above benefits.

Any possible problems? First, although these QR plugs and sockets seem to be moulded from a pretty tough nylon/plastic material I doubt that they're generally as tough as the Neutrik products. For example, I'm not sure I'd want to trust these to typical on-site conditions, but for me anyway, on-site work doesn't apply.

Second, the strain relief system is "working" but not all that brilliant (see Photo 3 above). Myself I can see ways to improve that significantly with judicial use of heat shrink sleeve, etc.

Third, I just bought the plugs and sockets shown above as a simple one off customer wandering off the street into my local DIY branch. Apart seeing the label "Made in PRC" on them, I've no idea if they're currently available in UK (I doubt it). Nor if the DIY chain concerned would even be interested in trying to tie up some sort of deal for a quantity purchase.

But IF UK members are interested I'd certainly be willing to make some "official" enquiries - obviously NO promises though.

But PM me if interested, because IMO, this could be "the answer to the maiden's prayer" - perhaps even UK maidens!

AES
 

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Rorschach

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Looks good.

I plan to do some similar using the kettle plug type one day, I am waiting until I move into a new shop though.
 

MattRoberts

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Nice one. I did this a while ago following the video from Marius. I went with three pin kettle connectors with locking quick release - purchased on ebay from one of the multitude of Chinese sellers (as I wasn't fussed on wait times).

Really pleased I did it, so much easier to use, especially having a lead attached to the vac so I can have power and extraction together

bf3d3ecf53938f51ebdb3ff94c1ac969.jpg
 
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hmmm. Not sure what exactly you have 'solved' here? I have also converted most of my tools over using the Neutrik Power Con, but I did it in the same way you did it, leaving a few few inches of cable attached to the machine. Admittedly, the Neutrik connectors are bulkly, but the ones you show seem just as bulky if not bigger?
 

AES

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Yeah transatlantic, I think the Neutrik QR connectors may be a bit less bulky than the Swiss one I showed, you're probably quite right. BUT:

1. I now have easy to store portable tools,

2. At MUCH less cost than with the Neutrik system,

3. And for me anyway, by using components that I simply can buy over the counter just 10 minutes down the road.

At the time I wrote this I don't know that there is such a thing as the "locking" QR "kettle-type" connectors which the previous poster (Matt R) referred to BTW. I had looked (here) but didn't find any.

So although my headline of having "solved" may well appear a bit like typical "journalese", for me anyway, I have solved, if not perhaps a real BIG problem, then at least I've solved what is for me (and for a number of others it seems) a considerable inconvenience - AND while improving overall ease of tool use !

What's more, I even offered to see if it was possible to get a supply of these things for any UK-based members who may be interested.

So all in all I think a headline saying "I MAY have solved the problem" was not altogether unjustified.

AES
 

Racers

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What is wrong with iec line plugs and sockets? You can get latching ones to avoid accidental disconnection and they are smaller.

Pete
 

CHJ

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Was doing similar circa 1963/4 with my tools, some are still going strong but using something you may well recognise AES.
BDSander[1].jpg


Plessey Mk4/Mk7 couplings, was a time when all my tools were fitted thus.

A few of mine now use German equivalent of your bit AES as they interface with tools leads and tools aquired there.

The advent of Battery powered equipement has removed a lot of the need for these in my kit.
 

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AES

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@ Racers. Nothing wrong with the IEC system AFAIK, Pete, BUT here anyway, they run out at about 9 quid equivalent each! Those I showed come at about 2 quid equivalent.

@CHJ - Ahhhhhhhhhhh, Plessey Plugs Chas! NOW yer talking mate! I haven't seen any for yonks and their civil aviation equivalent (in today's airliners) cost an arm and a leg - even more than Plesseys, IF you can find any (I have none at all !

AES
 

MikeK

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Marius didn't quite get it right when he assembled the new connectors to the cables. Although he used the metal ferrules on the stranded cable, he didn't crimp them onto the cable before attaching the cable to the power connector. Apparently, he didn't realize the ferrules have to be crimped, or he is relying on the mechanical action of the screw to properly crimp the ferrule (it won't).
 

CHJ

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AES":3lzxr7e9 said:
[email protected] - Ahhhhhhhhhhh, Plessey Plugs Chas! NOW yer talking mate! I haven't seen any for yonks and their civil aviation equivalent (in today's airliners) cost an arm and a leg - even more than Plesseys, IF you can find any (I have none at all !

AES
Yes seemed a real step forward from the Breeze, the Plessey 4's then 7's had their day as soon as some fool decided that it was a good idea to put more than 25 wires in a single connector.
Not a cost effective item to use for home use though, mine came out of the scrap bin. :)

I remember some real nightmares such as the Amphenol® 348 Series with 155 connectors, any one of which slightly out of place when assembling and the whole thing failed because the pin collet plate hadn't locked one or more pins in place. £400 or even £700 a time can make a projects eyes water a bit if you mess one up.

I guess modern equivalents are just as, if not more expensive.
 

AES

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Yeah Chas, I remember for our final basic test we had a (sawn & filed) piece onto which was drilled and tapped a "lump" of phenol board, onto which was mounted a Plessey plug then short line & socket - would 24-way be a correct recollection? There was both an insulation resistance check and a continuity check for that part - as well as dimensions of the MS test piece, 45 deg chamfer, etc, etc, etc! Why am I thinking "Oh happy days"? It wasn't really, soldering up those Plesseys was a real PITA!

And yup, if you have to buy them in singles (which no one does of course) modern Cannon plugs (note the 2 x n's - no relation to the Japanese camera company, but a US firm I think) came in at list price of over USD 1000 each!

Those Swiss QR plugs I showed are (as I said) nearly 3 times the price of our standards, but cost retail CHF 3.25 each. You work it out, but typical current ERs are about CHF 1.3 to the UK£!

AES
 
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Although I have done this to all my tools, I must admit, I'm not sure if I would do it again. In my opinion, it needs to be done the festool way for it to woerk well, where the socket (plug) is attached to the tool casing itself. The way we have done it, you have this annoying chunky block of socket/plug coupling that hangs down and gets in the way. More so than if it was just the cable alone, which is much thinner. Which is especially annoying for tools most like sanders, saws or the router.

Not really a problem though, as the way things are going, everything will be cordless and comparable to mains operated, in the next 10 years.
 

AES

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You may well have a point (about everything going battery) transatlantic, but for myself, at just coming up to 73, I ain't got 10 years mate! :D

Not only that, I've only just done this conversion on t he 1st few tools. I THINK it's a definite improvement (so far), but as how it really pans out, especially with routers and sanders (which are my major concern too), I'll just have to suck it and see once I get them converted.

AES
 

Sideways

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Been doing this for years. There's a sealed, latching connector system available from farnell that is way smaller and (in my opinion) neater than the neutrik etc. They are rated 10 amp, can be used with or without earth and work well with smaller sized flex (0.75 or 1.0 mm2). I like to use the tough rubber cable myself. HO7 is the really good stuff, HO5 is pretty decent and much better than plastic.
The connectors are Hirschmann stak 200 series. About as wide as my finger.

Hirschmann stak 200.jpg


The only thing that is a real nuisance about doing this is that you have a connector close to the tool that tends to drag over the edge of your workpiece. You'll never get away from this with a retrofit solution rather than connector built into the tool. I've tried long and very short tails on the tool. It can be OK but even with the Hirschmann connectors it's always a bit of a nuisance. Neutriks would be a pain !

These days, I usually just bite the bullet, open the tool and rewire it with a rubber flex but i'm fussy about that sort of thing :)
 

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Rorschach

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Are you guys using this solution on all tools?

For me it seems most useful on tools that use dust extraction as then I can attach the hose to the tool. That's why I plan on waiting until I get my new shop as then I will have a permanent fix DE hose with power cable in the middle of the shop and my saws, sanders etc will all get the shortened cable.
At the moment I move around too much and go a lot of cutting outside so it doesn't make sense to go this route.
 

AES

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Thanks for that sideways. VERY interesting, looks good. But (being a lazy so-and-so) the idea of re-wiring about 25 tools (are those connectors OK for outside use in the garden - NOT raining, but maybe wet grass, hedges, etc?) really is a bit off-putting to me.

Also, how much are they please? We have a large German electronics distributor here (Conrad) and also there's Radio Spares, but I didn't find those you've pictured when I looked.

It's interesting how many people have replied in the positive to this principle though. I wonder why the tool manufacturers don't do this automatically (apart from Festool)? When they think about it, it would save them the cost of cable on each tool, AND save them their sometimes rather poor efforts at "Euro Universal" plugs.

As atlantic pointed out, with battery technology now improving so much, I guess mains-powered tools are slowly dying the death. I was looking in the DIY place the other day and couldn't see a single mains-powered drill (apart from specials like SDS,) but simply loads of battery types.

But as I say, what with the Neutrik, Matt R's "kettle-type QR" (post above), and now "your" QR system, at least members know there is a choice for this use. Thanks.

AES

Edit for P.S. Oh yes, I forgot, as well as the above, there's also the IEC connectors that Racers mentioned above too. "Spoilt for choice"?

But I was also very interested in the short or long tails point raised above (the connector often snagging on the edge of the job or the bench). I've only just done a few of mine so far, but I'll be interested to see if that's a problem for me. One "advantage" (MAYBE!) of the Swiss system I've used is that the shape of the connectors is more angled at the back, rather than the much squarer ends shown above. We'll see.

But I still think that (probably too late now) the tool manufacturers have all missed a trick here. I wonder if any of the product development people at the manufacturers are hobbyists and or members of such Forums themselves?

AES
 
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I've always wondered the same thing AES. It makes so much more sense to be able to unplug a cable directly at the tool end. It just makes life so much more easier. It must be down to cost?
 

Phil Pascoe

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I had my stuff wired up with flat three pin connectors about thirty years ago - the only thing I found was that it paid to have the connector either very close to the tool or more than four feet from it otherwise the connector inevitably snagged when working on sheet goods.
I remember years ago seeing a six foot six twenty stone uncle dancing around his lawn on the end of a lawnmower extension he'd wired with the pins live. :D
 

Sideways

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I bought most of my Hirschmann connectors from RS Components but I think they've stopped stocking them. They're fairly expensive. Much more than than IEC or ordinary mains connectors but the quality is far higher. Glass loaded resin bodies, the rubber gasket between plug and socket (unless you lose it) waterproof compression gland around the cable. They are definately good enough for outdoor use and as long as I had an RCD protector plug on the other end of my lead, I would (and have) used them in the rain and on my pressure washer.
I notice that Hirschmann's range of this type of power plug has expanded. This makes an anti theft opportunity. No one's going to borrow your tools if they can't plug them in :)

There's a convenience in having a couple of really good quality extension cables that you can quickly swap the tools on and off the end. Keep one strung above your workbench ...

Leaving a short tail on the end of say a hammer drill is great. The cord hangs free no problem. I imagine it would work well on oscillators, drywall screwdrivers, grinders.
On a router, I tried short tail, which is fairly usable (about 4" flex alows the connector to hang downwards but doesn't reach the surface. Sometimes I take the power cable straight up and chuck it over my shoulder.
Short tail on a jigsaw tended to foul on the edge of boards. It would be the same on sanders and a real nuisance on a tracksaw. Long tail worked well on the power plane.
The slimline plugs make it easier to pack your tools away in their original boxes or to get a few tools into one of those dewalt tough boxes.

A trick - make an extension cord with a slimline connector, put an RCD plug on it so you always have that extra protection, then wire an ordinary trailing mains socket onto a foot of cable and put a slimline plug on the end. You can instantly change your slim extension into a standard extension for any tools you don't want the convert. This lets you convert your tools one by one as you see a benefit.

The Stak 200 connectors won't take a very large diameter flex but you're good with 0.75 or 1.0mm2 cross sectional area rubber cable. Perfect for upto say 1500W which covers the majority of hand power tools.

Lastly - to Rorschach's question - I started doing this before Festool popularised dust extraction for power tools so it was about space saving and convenience. I totally agree that combining the extraction hose and power cable is the way to do it. I plan to try a combination where I put small holes in the wall of a 32mm hose at each end, thread a rubber flex inside the hose, and then fit the connectors on. Some big bore heatshrink around the points where the flex goes through the wall of the hose will seal and reinforce it. I think this will make a no snag solution for tools that make dust, but maybe not for a tracksaw where slivers of wood can be pulled into the hose and might be more prone to clogging if there's a rubber flex inside there.
 
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