"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Tool Review: Makita LXT600

Toby Roworth

Sep 26, 2012

One of the joys of having a new salary is the sense of financial freedom it provides, for the first few weeks at least, after which bills hit and one feels as poor as ever. In the months before I started working my drill fell closer and closer into the clutches of death, with the battery lasting little more than five minutes, during which it could hardly turn screws anyway. This was the perfect opportunity to spend more than I should on powertools...
I won't get into a DeWalt vs Makita debate here, especially as I know people who both read this blog and own inferior tools. To sum up, I was looking at Makita, having heard nothing but praise from a PA installation company.
I knew I wanted a drill/driver, charger and at least two batteries (the golden rule being that you always put a battery on charge as soon as it's flat, replacing it with the battery you did the same with last time). I also wanted professional grade tools, so that they'd last a reasonable time and handle some inevitable abuse. This basically suggested Makita's 18v LXT series. For around £300 one can buy a drill/driver, 2 batteries and charger - expensive compared to my old drill, but probably 6 times as useful.
Bit then I remembered to LXT 600, which gives you the same as above, along with a third battery, angle grinder, reciprocating saw, circular saw and light, all in a handy bag, for a mere £300 extra. Granted, it's £300 more, but the value is great.
What eventually swung me, however, was the angle grinder - despite my love of them, I've never owned one, and definitely not a battery powered one. The ease of bike theft would be wonderful, the sparks flying round the van a beauty to behold, the potential for serious eye damage unmatched.
So, long story short, I bought some powertools. Now for the review...
Batteries
The batteries are 3Ah, which equates to about 50 watt hours, from memory. They last long enough to get a good use out of all the tools, save maybe the angle grinder, and are relatively light.
The physical design is good, with a fairly low profile preventing them from standing out of the tool too much. They also have two air vents used by the charger, and maybe tools, to keep them cool - a nice little idea. The contacts are well shielded, possibly lickably so!
Three batteries is enough for most jobs, giving one for the drill, one for a second tool and the last on charge. For jobs like loft boarding, the drill and impact driver go through batteries very slowly, so the third can often be used for assorted saws.
Charger
The charger charges the batteries in 20-30 minutes, which is perfectly adequate for everything except the angle grinder, which eats through battery's like a Frank eats through steak.
Already mentioned is the fan that blows air through the charging batteries - a nice idea, but it's very noisy - a possible mod.
My favourite thing about the charger is its pretentiousness. When you spend this much on a battery charger, you want people to know. As such, it plays a choice of four pieces of classical music when a battery is inserted, and a longer version to let you know when it's finished!
Drill
The drill/driver doesn't disappoint. It has a choice of three speeds, numerous torque settings and a hammer action. It is supplied with a grip and depth stop, although the latter can't be used without the former.
It drills more than adequetly, a nice example being my drilling of a 12mm hole in 5mm steel bar, which it did without complaint. This also demonstrated just how torquey this thing is - it could turn a chunk of steel however hard I held it, and would easily beat my in a tug of way.
Screwdriver action works as expected, although I've yet to need to use a clutch setting above 6, so it lacks some manueverability when it comes to low-torque work, such as quickly rackmounting - it took me far too long to un-rack my compressors after racking them with the powerdrill!
Battery life must be good, as I haven't had to charge during a job.
Impact Driver
Essentially a little version of the drill, the impact driver takes screws in and out with a slight hammer action. The speed of this is quite impressive, and saw me taking apart Avo's PLASA bar in about 10 minutes.
It showed similar prowess when I was boarding the loft, being utterly merciless to the boards beneath.
Circular Saw
A battery-powered circular saw seems silly until you try and take an 8by4 back from Wickes in a Bedford Rascal - 20 seconds of sawing in the carpark and it fitted a treat.
It's noticeably less powerful than a mains-powered on, but still minces through boards like they're not even there. This has the benefit of it being quieter though, which is quite nice.
It looks a little weird, due to its grip that approaches pistol-style. This makes it really comfy to use though, so no complaints.
Angle Grinder
Anyone who's spoken to me has probably at some point picked up on my love of angle grinders - the way they can shape metal to your will, effortlessly, is quite a feeling.
I'll be blunt here - the battery life is shocking. When griding, rather than slitting, you have about 6 minutes before the battery's flat, which probably isn't long enough for most weld-grinding. Slitting isn't so bad, but still isn't great.
That said though, I wasn't expecting miracles, and other than the battery life it's a great little tool, which I'd happily use instead of a comparable mains-operated grinder.
Reciprocating Saw
After being led astray by Jeremy Clarkson's claims of reciprocating saws being pathetic, like turkey cutters, I've stayed away from reciprocating saws. Clarkson aside, I never saw how they could be better than an angle grinder.
Boy was I wrong!
When presented with wood the saw demolishes it, rather impressively. It does a similar job with metal, albeit more noisily. There are definitely times where I'd rather use the grinder, but for cutting curves this is a beast.
I was a little disappointed by the supplied metal blade, which has already lost some teeth after very little use.To be fair, however, I wasn't gentle. The wood (with nails) blade has fared much better.
I hope to actually use it on a chicken one day, but do have concerns of what animal fat will do to a power tool. If you ever get invited round my house for chicken, beware...
Light
With every set like this there's one tool that seems to have been added in just to bolster numbers. Here it is the lamp.
It's adequate, lighting an area as expected. However, it feels plasticy, and the action on it isn't as nice as the other tools would lead me to expect.
A quick test with a gel from LEE showed the pattern of the light is a little quirky, but this would only be a problem with stage use, which isn't quite it's intended use.
It makes a pinging noise occasionally whilst on, and a little more often when recently turned off - I assume this is due to thermal stresses.
All this said, it's making itself very useful as a bedside lamp, aside from the noises, and I can see it's potential use working in dark spaces, although this does use up a battery which, assume one could be on charge at any given time, requires the remaining battery to be swapped between tools, which is less than ideal.
As for good points, it has a spare bulb within the unit, which seems fairly easy to change, although I'm hoping it should last long enough for this to not be tested for a while. Battery life is very good, given that I can get the best part of a month out of it using it to light my bedroom.
Bag
The set comes with a handy bag. This has compartments for the three batteries, numerous inner and outer pockets and several handles, one for use with the wheels. I forsee no problem transporting the tools.
Unfortunately little thought seems to have gone into the shapes of the pockets - there are internal pockets aplenty, but very few of them fit the supplied accessories as well as I'd hope, and I tend to figure these things out pretty quickly. It's also been suggested that the bag has trouble holding additional tools.

Conclusion
To sum up, this is a great set of tools, and represents very good value for money, at least when compared to other Makita tools. I've yet to personally test the longevity of the tools, but I haven't heard anyone else disapointed, so have high hopes.The tools feel solid, and perform well. Their build quality leaves me with no worries chucking them in a backpack as I leave for a gig, and they've yet to show signs of damage.
I'm not going to pretend these were cheap - it's going to take a while for the cost/benefit curve to even out, but my planned projects should mean this happens fairly quickly.