Sunday, December 11, 2011

Black & Decker Workmate 425, Motion Sensor Light, Sawzall

I picked up a Workmate 425 on Craigslist Friday for 35 bucks. It's in good condition and they go for about 100 dollars new so I think that was a fair price. I thought they were kind of a joke when they were advertised on TV years ago - a gadget they were trying to sell as a gift - but not really useful for much. I was wrong - it's really a smart idea. Even if was just a portable sturdy table with a wood top it would be handy.

The Workmate folds up small, has horizontal, vertical and irregular shape clamping ability, will hold 550 pounds and is easy to pick up and move around. I spent many years finding places to cut wood - on a deck edge, pickup tailgate, on a chair or between two chairs, and sometimes sawhorses if I had enough work to do - to justify getting those out and putting them together.

I made a sacrificial top for my Workmate with some scrap 3/4 inch plywood and a 1X2. I'm going to varnish that top just to make cleanup easier since my idea is to use that top when I'm doing mechanical work, yard work type things, painting or other jobs that would get the top of the Workmate dirty or scratched. I cut the plywood a little bigger than the OEM top and screwed/glued the 1X2 on the bottom to give the Workmate clamp something to grab onto. Now I have a sturdy table I can use to hold tools etc when I'm working in the yard, on a car or a bike outside.

 I used my Workmate to hold the plywood while I cut it and two nice advantages were apparent -
1. I didn't have a bunch of sawdust to clean up because I could set the Workmate in the driveway and 2. Having the plywood firmly held in place made it a lot easier to make a clean/straight cut.

Workmate will be handy for drilling as well - the center piece of the top is removable so there's no worry about drilling into your workbench/chair/tailgate/deck.

Ron Hickman invented the Workmate in 1961 but it wasn't until 1972 that Black and Decker began to mass-market it. Ron Hickman also designed the Lotus Elan sports car.

This is a video of an British guy showing how to use a Workmate -


I installed a new motion sensor light in the alley behind the garage yesterday. Nothing special about it other than it works and was simple to install and adjust. The old one was about 20 years old and the sensor was getting so cloudy it couldn't see anymore. I took the sensor off of it, twisted some wires together, added a switch I had laying around and now I have a dual bulb spotlight mounted in the garage to give me more light when I'm tinkering in there.

The motion sensor I installed has a 150 Watt halogen bulb and cost a little over twenty bucks. If it lasts 20 years like the old one I think it's quite a bargain. It's the Heath Zenith SL-5511-BZ from Amazon.


I'm looking forward to getting a Milwaukee Sawzall I ordered from Amazon later this week. It's the Milwaukee 6519-31 which has a 1 1/8 inch stroke. The other model in that price range is the 6509-31 with a 3/4 inch stroke. I also bought a set of 5 Pruning Blades and a set of 9 general purpose Wood and Metal Cutting Blades.

My main goal for this saw is to cut down a Photinia shrub/tree in our backyard. You've probably seen those trees before - they are very common in landscaping around McDonalds, office complexes, malls and places like that. They have red leaves and grow pretty quick. Depending on how you prune them they can be more tree-like or bush-like. The one we have is more dead-like. It has some kind of rust/fungus/blackspot on it. I heard Ciscoe say that's pretty common for those and there's nothing you can do about it. So I'm going to dig around the bottom of it and see how close to the ground (or how far below ground) I can cut it.

Sounds fun.

Those Sawzall's are cool for demolition work too - they'll cut through nails and electrical wiring and stuff real quick. Make sure you want to demolish those things before getting too carried away.

I'm looking forward to using the Sawzall as a hacksaw for cutting pipes, bolts and other metal bits. Cutting with a hacksaw can be pretty slow - I figure I'll save about 10 minutes of sawing time every few years by having a quicker cutting method. More recliner time.

Milwaukee Electric Tool has been making the Sawzall since 1951. Some people might call the ones sold by Ryobi, Craftsman, Dewalt - a Sawzall - but they aren't the real deal. Calling a reciprocating saw a sawzall is like calling a circular saw a skil saw, plastic tape - scotch tape, adhesive strips - bandaids..etc..