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Old 13-10-2010, 13:03   #1
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Cordless or Corded Power Tools ?

Cordless or Corded? I'm about to invest in a new set of power tools for the boat. Some tools will be corded no matter what, ie router and finish sander. I live aboard, sail frequently, and cruising is the future. Self suffiency and efficiency are top priorities. This means reliable.

Cordless Pros:
Compact and neat (no cables running all over the cabin sole, dock, or deck)
Carry their own power supply (until it runs out)
Adequately powerful
Battery lifespan is quite good

Cordless Negs:
Must carry charger and batteries (Already have charger and huge batteries aboard)
Must eventually replace batteries. This is wasteful and somewhat expensive.
Generally must commit to one brand due to proprietary batteries (in this case Dewalt)

Is it better in terms of simplicity and reliability to just go with corded on a boat?
Is an 800w inverter and a couple of deep-cycle marine house batteries adequate to power them? On my 29' boat I'm never far from the inverter or an AC outlet.

Corded can be more powerful, but I've found that modern, high quality, 18v tools are more than adequately powerful for the small(ish) jobs we encounter on board. The prices are comparable as is the apparent durability.

I've loved the cordless tools I've used over the past several years. My sole cordless tool, a 5 year old 18v Ridgid drill is still going very strong despite heavy dock building work early in it's life (think thousands of pilot holes and long decking screws) and then sitting dormant for months at a time. Go batteries, go.

Boils down to this:
Anyone have any strong reasons to not opt for the cordless version of a power tool when available?

Many thanks. This forum is one of the best tools I've got.


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Old 13-10-2010, 13:08   #2
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I have both in various flavors, and ever-so-highly recommend the new Makita LXT series (Lithium). They constantly astound me, and are vastly superior to any NiMH cordless tools I've owned.

I do carry a corded angle grinder and a few other things, though I'm changing to pneumatic for a variety of reasons including size and safety. But I see no reason to replace any of the LXT stuff with corded equivalents.


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Old 13-10-2010, 13:24   #3
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If you are doing projects often enough you could go either way. One thing that comes to my mind is trying to keep up with battery charging when not used in order to keep them from going bad. Since you say that you're not far from AC outlet/inverter, corded tools could be good to plug in and get a job done quickly.
Daniel - Rhapsody Blog,
“A sailor’s joys are as simple as a child’s.” — Bernard Moitessier
"I don't need therapy, I just need my boat"
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Old 13-10-2010, 13:30   #4
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I've been amazed at the lack of self-discharge in the Lithium-ion Makita stuff... they're still strong after many months in storage. My not-so-old Hitachi Ni-MH kit dies in a few days.
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Old 13-10-2010, 13:35   #5
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We don't keep a lot of power tools on board:
Drill, mouse sander, orbital sander, Fein Multimaster, jigsaw, heat gun, and a Dremel.

The only cordless tool is the drill which does come in handy being cordless especially when I installed the mast steps and new tri-color light.

Being away from a dock, I often wondered if the cordless option would use more power to recharge a battery than it would have if it was corded.
Don & Diana
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Old 13-10-2010, 14:23   #6
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My own preference is for corded tools. It is a bit of a pain to drag around cords, extension cords & find outlets, but they never go dead in the middle of a job. I work for a large organization & see quite a few cordless power tools in my workshop. Most of the time the problem is a bad battery (chemical memory usually). My research has always shown it's just not cost effective to replace the battery at $70 when you can get a whole new drill for $80-85. That's for the nickel based batteries of course, Ni-Cad or Ni-MH. The lithium batteries tend to prefer being topped up.

Originally Posted by ReMetau View Post
Being away from a dock, I often wondered if the cordless option would use more power to recharge a battery than it would have if it was corded.
Well, since no system is 100% efficient they do use more power- but it's spread out over a longer period. If you only had a 1000 watt inverter, you might get away with a battery charger, but not a corded drill.
Facts are for people who can't create their own truth. Fact.- Bucky Katt
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Old 13-10-2010, 14:28   #7
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We carry both. Whatever you decide... here's a couple of things to keep in mind: with corded tools, check the tags to make sure they are 50/60hz... which I believe most are.

With cordless, check to insure that the charger will work off an inverter. We fried 2 'Craftsman' chargers before I actually read the owners manual... which stated to NOT use them with an inverter. I assume they mean a modified sine wave inverter.

For us, we've found that cordless drills are quite handy (we have both the regular and 90-degree varieties; but keep a small corded one aboard also. Plus a jigsaw, grinder, dremel tool, fein tool. A heat gun and soldering gun are also necessary and aboard.
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Old 13-10-2010, 14:33   #8
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We have corded sanders and saw, dremel, Drill. I have one cordless drill, a very small Bosch that came with two lithium Ion batteries. Much lighter and easier to carry then those 18v beasts, and can also get into smaller places. If I need to drill for a long time, the corded one does the trick. Having an 1000w inverter is also a pre-requisite.

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Old 13-10-2010, 14:54   #9
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been mulling this one myself recently (for the future). Realised that most jobs onboard (quite a bit of refurb) involve either hand tools or my cordless 18v Drill (Makita).....I have 2 batteries, 1 usually lasts a day of fannying around. Mostly involving drilling (no sh#t ), but also some (rough) grinding.

The one exception to that will be using a (corded) sander to finish off the bulkhead in aft cabin. but that sort of job won't be coming up again so won't be looking to keep that onboard.

Having said that I did recently treat myself to a Cordless 90 degree drill (only a 12v - Makita don't do a 18v at least not in the older (non-lithium) style )........a bit excessive ($$$) for the intended amount of use - but for a couple of places where can't get even a hand drill in will be worth it's weight in gold. and for that willing to trade less power / endurance.......but once those jobs are done won't need it onboard.

Apart from that my conclusion was that I don't / won't actually need any more power tools onboard - whether cordless or not.........I think the biggest difference to my onboard workshop capabilities would be fixing the vice somewhere decent, even if only surprised I have not yet drilled a hole in my leg
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Old 13-10-2010, 15:09   #10
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I was about to drop a ton on cordless until I realized that three of the biggest items I use don't really work cordless (heat gun, sander, and my multimaster). For any serious work I need to use a generator. Sucks, but true (in my case).
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Old 13-10-2010, 15:13   #11
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I would carry both if Living aboard. A "good" cordless for at sea or in rainy wet weather when mains power can be dangerous. Then have a cheaper chinese mains drill for backup.

Dewalt are reknowned for being heavy. That weight could be an issue in tight spots (say-reaching long distance through a locker, while youre upside down with both legs in the air) . My son is a plumber and refuses to use Dewalt for this reason. Check the comparible Hitachis-Makitas etc. I also dont recomend a Keyless chuck. (scenario- its been wet and miserable for three days- your hands are now like prunes and you need to drill in an emergency.- Your grip on a keyless chuck will be painful and most likely inefficient.)

good luck

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Old 13-10-2010, 15:18   #12
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DeWalt 18V system. Hands down. Ask any professional.

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Old 13-10-2010, 15:32   #13
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I've worked with power tools all my life and really like a cordless power drill, very useful for so many jobs, but all my other tools use far to much power to run off a battery. On job sites you will see some cordless tools, but only for light use. An electrician will have a cordless sawzall to cut conduit but will use a corded drill to bore through studs. Also, the batteries only last a few years and are very expensive, while a good $100 drill will last you a lifetime.
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Old 13-10-2010, 16:21   #14
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G'day, mates. Battery drill and drummel, plus. 120 volt drill, palm sander, jigsaw, heat gun, Drummerl, 4 inch grinder and vacuum cleaner. The most used tool on the boat, a 120 volt sewing machine! It has paid for itself 25 times over. A tip, we have one of the jump start battery packs with a 300 watt inverter which can work the sewing machine. When traveling to non 120 volt destinations, this gives you the flexibility of using your 120 volt stuff ashore. Cheers.
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Old 13-10-2010, 16:42   #15
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i hate the cordless tools. they are never charged up when you need them or else they are always plugged into a charger. i have had a corded craftsman drill for 30 years and it works great. tossed my cordless drill couple of months ago .. good riddance.

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