Our invitation to the 2010 Bosch Global Leadership Tour gave us a hope that we would soon be privy to a host of new product and accessory info. What’s more, our product tour comes from a company that boasts a rich heritage of building tools that are designed for the professional; whether that be in the realm of automotive, industrial, consumer goods or building technology. We spent all our time with Bosch’s Power Tools division, and most certainly that’s what this event was all about, but the company is proficient and well-established in a great many markets.
Our travel to Mount Prospect, Illinois was uneventful, save for a turbaned cab driver who felt that traveling 12-inches off the rear bumper of a car while zipping around an exit ramp at 60 miles per hour was “an acceptable risk” in order to shave off a few seconds from our travel time. Somebody call NASCAR, I think we got a walk-on. Needless to say, myself and my cab-companion, Marc from Homefixated.com, were impressed to see someone outside of New York City or Philadelphia drive with such disregard for human life. To let you know how well this event was put on – this is the worst thing that happened the entire time…
Bosch Company History
Our “Tour” started in Bosch’s hands-on tool demo lab, a large warehouse space that is specifically designed to offer a place where the latest tools can be used, abused and otherwise tested. Patience was required, however, and we began with a series of presenters, led by Frank Carroll, President of Bosch’s Power Tool division. He gave us a nice company overview while we sat, certainly interested, but admittedly looking over our shoulders at the tools behind us that were just waiting to be demoed. Turns out, Bosch is a company that is held with 92% privately-owned shares. The Consumer Goods and Building Technology division, which also includes power tools as well as thermotechnology (think hot water heaters), household appliances and security systems, make up just 26% of the international company that is The Bosch Group.
Another very interesting factoid that came out was that Bosch puts about 9% of its budget back into R&D (research and development). That might explain why they appear to have the best power-to-weight ratio in the industry and why their 12V Litheon tools are rolling out second-generation models as some are still figuring out their first-gen solutions. In 2009, the division’s associates generated sales of $3.6 billion dollars, 90 percent of which was generated outside of Germany. With brands such as Bosch, Skil, Freud Group (accessories), CST/berger, RotoZip, Vermont-American, Nelson, sia Abrasives, and Dremel, this is a very large company indeed.
While we drooled at the prospect of learning more about each of these divisions, the fact remains that they run largely independent operations – and we were here solely for Bosch Tools. The company’s power tools division can be broken down into the following categories: handheld power tools, benchtop, accessories, garden tools, and – their newest acquisition – measuring tools.
Power Tools, Accessories & Woodworking Presentations
Without losing much time, we were greeted to a presentation from Randall Coe, VP of Bosch’s Power Tools division. He introduced and gave overviews of Bosch’s anti-vibration technology, 12V Max and 18V Compact product categories as well as the company’s motor technology. This last was in reference to their new grinders and oscillating tools. He also introduced one of the more impressive tools – which we had to wait a bit to see – the Bosch Axial-Glide 12” Miter Saw (GCM12SD). More on this later as we expose the tools we are allowed to tell you about (we could tell you more, but then of course… you know the rest). Roger Amrol and Kevin Enke also gave us an overview of the new Bosch accessories. This included the statement that Bosch is basically the #1 accessories supplier of the North American market – thanks to its own line, sia Abrasives, and that of the newly acquired Freud accessories.
Joe the Pro
We also got to meet “Joe the Pro” (Joe Sainz) who is the face of a new marketing push for Bosch accessories. Joe is appearing in Bosch-sponsored videos designed to show the effectiveness of buying good quality accessories, regardless of who’s tools you plan on using them with. It’s a neat campaign and as we got to know Joe a little more over the following days it was apparent that he really knows and enjoys the business and could be a valuable asset to Bosch’s plan for world domination… at least with respect to their accessories that is. One thing was for sure, Joe knew his stuff and I can’t think of a better person to represent Bosch accessories in a way that’s believable and accessible to the pro or do-it-yourselfer.
Woodworking & Tool Demos
After a few impressive presentations that spanned about an hour, we finally got our hands on some tools. Everyone loved trying out the new Axial Glide 12″ Miter Saw – it’s amazingly smooth and really is one tool you have to experience for yourself. We had all the other competitor’s saws on hand for comparison and the difference was amazing. The Axial Glide Saw is smooth and takes up much less space, making it handy to use in cramped locations or even hallways. You simply can’t do this with other saws that have rails sticking out behind the blade. We also got some time with Bosch’s newest 12V Max line of tools including the new Bosch PS41-2A Impact Driver, which takes the Bosch PS40-2A we reviewed last year and makes it even smaller and more powerful. The new impact driver adds 130 in.-lbs of torque, a battery gauge and a larger LED light ring. On top of that, it’s lighter, faster (the tool has an extra 800 RPMs at its disposal), over an inch shorter, and uses the new BAT412 batteries that deliver more and consistent power.
Next, we got a peek at some new woodworking tools, including the new Bosch PL1682 Planer, which is the “son” of the well-regarded 1594K but is more simplified. For example, it drops a little power (to 6.0 amps) and loses the chip ejection switch. There is a new version of their 13-gallon Airsweep Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner (3931A) which should have a HEPA version coming out soon. Based on what we saw, however, that’s merely an issue of filing paperwork and receiving the certification as the vac already seems to meet the technical requirements for air control (plus it uses HEPA-certified filters). There are more excellent products, like the Bosch 1274DVSK Belt Sander (now as a kit, hence the “K” in the model designation) and the new MRC23EVSK Router Combo Kit which will be available in August. This router is incredibly robust and each of us had a great time using it and carving our initials (or company logos) into the provided wood stock.
New jigsaws are coming and we were treated to a preview of the Bosch JS470E jigsaw ($159) and JS470EB ($169 barrel grip) which will replace the aging, but still excellent Bosch 1590EVSK and 1591EVSK models – and at a lower MSRP than when those models debuted. These are heavy-duty 7-amp jigsaws and they looked to be very good contenders, wrapping extra power into an even smaller footprint. There will also be two other models, the JS365 ($129, 6.5 amp version) and an entry-level 6 amp JS260 jigsaw which will go on the market in September for just $99.
L-Boxx Tool Storage
Don Briner gave us a nice preview of their upcoming use of Sortimo’s L-Boxx tool storage system that seems to compete well with the Festool Systainer system (though Bosch was careful not to directly address this in their presentation). Bosch intends to, as an option, ship many of its tools in custom-fit L-Boxx containers. The first tools to ship with L-Boxx as an option will be the Bosch 12V 3/8″ Drill/Driver (PS31-2AL), Bosch 12V Max Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit (PS50-2BL) and an as-yet unreleased (and unmentionable due to NDA) jigsaw.
In addition, they will make available tool inserts for their existing products, making it easy to stack and protect your power tools. Secondly, they took everything about the Systainers and improved it. The L-Boxx system stacks easier, opens easier, and is less expensive. They have both side and top handles so you can move your tools about however you desire. They stack with a patented one-click system, so there’s no need to manually latch four separate fastening points in order to attach and detach them from each other. The L-Boxx units can even be locked. Bosch will initially release 4 models/sizes, ranging in price from $49-$79 each (with $10 increments in between) and there will be options and accessories to customize the boxes to fit your needs.
Bosch Measuring & Layout Tools
One thing we were surprised to find was that, thanks in part to CST/berger, Bosch is the global leader in measuring tools. They had just released 25 new laser leveling and distance measure products in 2009 and don’t seem to be letting up this year. The Bosch GRL250HV is a new $600 rotary laser system that provides a plumb & layout line for squaring. It has a smart laser system that adjusts power to match the rotation speed, allowing more power at higher speeds in order to increase visibility. The new tool also includes a new battery tray – addressing one of the primary concerns with existing products. There are going to be a few more models in this segment, and we’ll look forward to discussing those once Bosch releases additional information.
D-tect 150 Wallscanner Professional
The newest tool announced in this category was the Bosch D-tect 150 Wallscanner Professional. It was under NDA, but given that there is a YouTube video of it in action and an actual page of the Wallscanner on Bosch’s website, we pretty much consider ourselves cleared to talk about it – at least with regards to verifying the info we know is already present online. The Wallscanner is a handheld, battery-powered device that works in five detection modes with an ultra-wideband radar sensor system and three other sensors for precise detection of metal, wood, power cables and plastic pipes. It can, for example, detect the presence of rebar in concrete at a depth of up to nearly 6 inches. Since it uses radar, the LCD screen actually shows a physical representation of what you are scanning below. It’s very cool and something that we expect to sell well in professional markets.
Bosch also showed off a range of new laser distance measures, the chief of which was the GRL225 which sells for $179 and is shipping now. This unit more or less replaces the DLR165K and will be followed up by some more powerful models around August. The GLR225 has an effective range of 225 feet (hence the model number) while the newer GLR500 ($349) and GLR 825 ($429) will have, as you’d guess, longer ranges. The GLR825 even has an integrated viewfinder and is designed to be the longest rangefinder in the market. All of these units can be used with a sensor for the best possible range, even outdoors.
They also showed off their existing GLL2-80 and introduced us to some other very compelling and powerful layout laser tools that are going to make a lot of professional kitchen and tile installers very happy. Regardless of the trade, Bosch seemed to have a laser measuring or layout tool to fit the need. It’s obvious they are taking this segment of the market seriously and consumers and pros have a lot to look forward to this year and next.
Project Bean Bag Toss Build-Out
After lunch and some more hands-on, it was time for some fun. Bosch had arranged us into ten teams of four (or in our case, three) and I was paired with none other than Sean O’Hara from Toolmonger.com. The task was to build a bean bag toss kit from 1/2-inch plywood and some 2x4s. Both lumber and tools were plentiful, and we had two hours in which to build the two bean bag toss platforms. Sean, I and our assigned Bosch teammate quickly formulated a plan for the winning project and went to work. In two hours we had completed the task. What’s more, Sean had had a stroke of genius and cut out a flame template from a spare piece of sanding paper. With this, we sprayed flames over the top and bottom and awaited our expected prize for our “hot rod” entry.
Turns out, Bosch judges don’t appreciate a good flame job… perhaps they haven’t spent enough time online as we had… In any case, everyone was assigned a team to play against and our team worked its way through to the final four and then on the to the bean bag toss championship. We lost, but with our dignity, and the final tally had all present members of Pro Tool Reviews and Toolmonger winning prizes. Tom Gaige picked up best bean bag toss build (due to having impeccable construction quality), Sean and I picked up second place in the toss championship, and Toolmonger’s Chuck Cage (who, with a name like that, we expect to see in the next Mortal Kombat movie) was on the winning bean bag toss team. Overall, not a bad day for everyone involved.
18V Cordless Tools
The next day had us using Bosch’s new 18V cordless tools, including a new line of drills and drivers that we can’t mention. We were able to compare each against the competition, with nearly every major manufacturer represented. Bosch doesn’t seem afraid to take on anybody in a head-to-head comparison. See how short this section is? That’s inversely proportional to the amount of tools you’re going to see the company release in this category this year… just think on that for a few.
The afternoon brought us face-to-face with a whole lot of accessories. One of the more fun demos was Bosch putting its Daredevil spade bits up against the competition. To accomplish this, Bosch used a pair of identical 1012VSR corded drills and used gravity to force both down with equal weight onto a piece of 2×4. One drill held a Daredevil bit, and the other an Irwin spade bit. Even when the Bosch was positioned over a knot it won. Bosch even switched the bits in between tests so it was clear that neither drill was favored. Cool demo, great bits!
Another favorite was when we got to play around with various bits, reciprocating blades, oscillating multi-tool blades, and hole saws ourselves. We especially loved taking the new Carbide Hole Saws for a spin, cutting through tile, thinset and drywall in under 10 seconds flat. It did it with no drifting either! It’s available in sizes up to 4-1/8″, meaning you could use this puppy to shoot a dryer vent right through the wall – be it tile, wood, drywall, or some combination of all three. I wanted so desperately to try it on a plaster and lathe wall, but alas, Bosch didn’t have any available. After a ton of cutting, sawing, and drilling, we took a short break and then went outside to experience one of the coolest series of demos you can possible imagine summed up by the following phrase: concrete destruction.
Concrete Destruction – Fun, Fun, Fun
There is simply no way to put a bunch of people in front of massive concrete hammers and not evoke a sense of excitement – at least not with the crew we saw. We try to review a well-rounded amount of products here at Pro Tool Reviews, but it’s simply not practical for us to review, consistently, 65-pound Demolition Breaker Hammers. To get to jump behind Bosch’s new Brute 2 made us sort of giddy. The afternoon just got better as we tried out Bosch’s rebar cutting bits, Speed-X Hammer bits and even a new Spline WildBore Rotary Hammer bit that resembled (and basically was) a hole saw designed for concrete. We even used some of their new rotary hammers and bits to drill through 1/4-inch steel embedded in concrete. Good times, good times.
There was so much to do, from breaking apart concrete to using a new 9-inch High-Performance Angle Grinder to turn a block of poured concrete into a Terrazo-like surface. We drilled rebar, broke concrete, bored deep holes into aggregate-infested cement and came away feeling like we had been on vacation. Bosch even took a few moments to throw their new Power Box 360 Deluxe (an update to their Power Box line of radios) off a six-foot platform from arms-over-head height… We figured that was about a 12-foot-plus drop and the radio just kept on playing… kinda like Willie Nelson.
It was a great day and was capped off by an even better evening as we drove into downtown Chicago and had a VIP dinner at the House of Blues. It was a great opportunity to hang out with some new friends and enjoy a more casual atmosphere, discussing the finer points of home renovation and our favorite construction horror stories. The next day we were on a plane and heading back to our homes. The 2010 Bosch Global Leadership Tour was a great opportunity, not only to test out some new tools but also to experience a company that is not afraid to get out there with their competition and allow a group of media guys to really get their hands dirty. We certainly had a blast and can’t wait to get our hands on some of the newest tools Bosch will be releasing throughout 2010 and onward. For Bosch, we think it’s going to be a banner year.