Early in our tenure as the caretakers of Galapagos I needed basic power tools that would be kept exclusively on the boat. A variable speed drill is probably the most heavily used power tool on our boat and so, after the requisite perseveration, I bought A Ryobi kit which included a drill, a small circular saw, a halogen flashlight, charger and one battery.
Ryobi, like many tool manufacturers, makes their tools so that you can use one battery style with any of a number of tools. They offer a few 18 volt, lithium ion batteries of varying sizes which all work with any of the Ryobi tools. While they are pretty common now, it is important to know that you do want lithium ion batteries for these kind of tools; not only are they lighter, they deliver a great deal more power right up until they quit and need to be recharged. While it is always frustrating to have a battery die right before finishing a critical task, it is far more frustrating to have the tool slowly peter out on you over a few minutes time.
After using the drill and flashlight during our engine repower and various other projects, I felt that these tools would hold up reasonably well and could be trusted during our extended voyages. The drill is powerful and well balanced; The flashlight is bright, has a reticulating head and the bulb is easy to change. Both of these tool have dedicated mounts near the workbench and are used just about every time I venture into the shop. I should also mention that the Ryobi brand is not terribly expensive and they are carried by Home Depot. I happen to know that Home Depot has stores in Mexico, Canada, the Virgin Islands and Guam. This means that if I need a new battery or lose a tool overboard in the Baja, I can probably replace it with little fuss.
One day as I was perusing the tool aisle at Home Depot, I noticed a DC charging station for sale. With that purchase, I was able to eliminate the need for an inverter to charge my tools. The old AC charger went into the garage at home and I hard wired the new 12 volt charger into the breaker panel. You can see it in the photo above just to the right of the hardware bin.
With that purchase, I was well and truly committed. I began to look for the perfect Ryobi tools to complete my collection. I think the next purchase was the Spotlight. It is a 35 watt spotlight and is adequate for most uses but I am sure there a better spotlights available.
After that, I think I bought the little handheld vacuum pictured in the foreground. Mine is the older, style but I think they are pretty much the same. We really use this a lot even though it is loud as hell. I had really hoped to find a cordless wet/dry vacuum by Ryobi, but no such luck. Dewalt has one and I think Milwaukee makes a battery powered wet dry as well.
Remember the circular saw that came with the initial kit? I never used it for two years. Never, until I needed to build a set of steps by the boat for the the dog.The saw worked well with two inch lumber and I have used it on plywood. For most projects I just use a hand saw but it if I needed to make several cuts at a time or even make a series of kerfs in a piece of wood, this would be handy.
the Ryobi Multi-Tool has been incredibly useful. I think I bought it initially because I needed to make some flush cuts in a difficult to reach spot. this tool has a removable head so that you can pop a right angle drill, jig saw or a couple of other tools onto the body. for us, the flush cut blades and the sanding head have been really useful. Melissa has been sanding off the old cetol on our teak with this with great success.
Finally, as Melissa was cleaning up the exterior woodwork, we bought this little palm sander. This takes the standard 5 inch hook and loop sanding disks and has worked very well. I used it for about 90 minutes today and found it fairly comfortable to use. With a tool that you will use and control for long periods of time, the weight of the battery becomes more important. For these kinds of tools, I would recommend using the smaller batteries as a matter of comfort.
Speaking of batteries, we now have two of the compact lithium ion batteries and they have held up well. With the palm sander, I got abut 25 minutes of run time. I really couldn’t tell you how long they work with the more commonly used flashlight and drill since those tool are generally run for only a few seconds at a time. My plan is to use the current batteries as long as they hold up but to buy fresh batteries just before our departure.
Has anyone used another manufacturer of cordless tools that they would recommend? Is there a tool that you can’t live without? Leave a comment below.