First I’ve got to explain one thing. I was a awed even as I opened my new X4 Combo Kit that Ridgid sent me to review. Ever since I started working with wood, RIDGID seemed to loom tall over any competitor, the gold standard that the fledgling theater companies and schools I worked for could only dream about. They seem to go put in a huge amount of money and effort to make good on their simple motto: “We Build Reputations.” I was one such target of this generosity we’ll call reputation building, and I felt like Christmas had come early.
There, I’ve covered my bias. It would have been easy to give way to my awe and idealism and give these tools a glowing review, but that’s not my style. In order to get past this to a fair review, I had to push them to the absolute limit. Well, I did.
But first! A note about the batteries. The best thing about this whole set is the lithium ion batteries that boast the fastest recharge time in their class. The set comes with two batteries so as long as you’re careful you will never have to wait again for your tools to charge. They are long lasting, sturdy—dare I say rigid—and are easy to change from tool to tool. Which reminds me. Without further ado, to the tests!
Adversary #1 – The Reciprocating Saw
Code Name: Sabre
The Test: Any reciprocating saw can cut through wood and nails, quickly ripping apart wood structures. That’s what they’re for. But can they mince a railroad tie into little strips? Cause this one can. I started with a 6 foot long 8x8 and used Sabre to cut it into four 4x4s and then eventually to cut those in half, producing some nice vintage lumber that I used to assemble my kitchen island.
The really cool thing about this saw is its stability. You can make a straighter cut with this saw than any other reciprocating saw I’ve ever used, which makes it a nice backup for jobs you wouldn’t otherwise use it for. It’s just as heavy as other reciprocating saws, and while you might need some muscles to wield it for extended periods, it definitely comes with some hardcore points. Its battery wears down quickly, so make sure you keep the spare charging when you use it. It doesn’t lose power until the very end of its battery life, so you can use it without any down time, which is really nice.
Adversary #2 – The Circular Saw
Code Name: Weightless
The Test: I got it into my head to use aluminum square tubing for a set I built recently to assemble a bunch of shelving units. That required making about 600 straight cuts. Of course, when I got it all into the space, I realized that I had no way of cutting it (the space unfortunately but unsurprisingly lacked a miter saw). The circular saw came through. It sounds flimsy when you turn it on, kind of like a 4 cylinder engine in a car when you are used to a V6, but it gets the job done.
This saw shines because of its weight. It’s lighter than most other cordless circ saws, without sacrificing any power, which makes tricky jobs a lot easier—well just about every job for which you’d use a circular saw instead of a table saw. The blade that comes with the set is pretty disappointing. It does cut aluminum rather well and stood up to all of those cuts without needing to be replaced, but it’s an “all-purpose” blade, a term which in this case means that it doesn’t do anything well. Don’t be fooled. It’s not like flour. It doesn’t have a laser sight like many others in its class, but I actually think you can get a straighter cut without one as long as you make some practice cuts to get to know your saw.
Adversary #3 – The Light
Code Name: Light
The Test: It brings light to even the darkest of places.
I know what you’re thinking: come on. How do they justify a light as part of their 5 piece set? Well, I can’t really argue with you. For some reason most of these sets do that to you. The value of this set is in the other tools, not in this light. It does come in surprisingly handy when you’re in a space without really good light, like a theater or a garage and don’t want to take the time to set up a big flood. I have definitely used it a lot, but I wouldn’t buy it specifically.
Adversary #4 – The Impact Driver
Code Name: Woodpecker
The Test: My idea of an impact driver is something that is there for you. To quickly screw in a screw or take something apart, no questions asked. Its speed, longevity and consistency are the most important things. Consistent with the other tools in the bunch, this guy runs non-stop as long as you have one of the batteries charging. If you’re lazy, it’ll still last for a couple hours of very consistent, reliable work. It is just about as nice as this tool can get. It’s light, the mechanisms work like clockwork, and it quickly tap tap taps anything you are putting in or taking out. Honestly, it’s so powerful and easy to use that I almost always choose it over the drill.
The best feature of both of the drills is a bright light that comes on whenever you use the drill, making sure that you can see what you’re doing. You can also turn on the light without activating the drill, so you’ll have a flashlight wherever you go, which is far more indispensible than you’d think, unless you have a really great work space set up. RIDGID seems to have thought of everything. You’ll never need to stop what you’re doing; the tools are there for you.
Adversary #5 – The Drill
Code Name: Bazooka
The Test: RIDGID advertises this one as having the most torque on the market, 615 in. lbs, so I really couldn’t let it off the hook. An event design company I was doing some work for was making some steel tables and wanted to attach some hardware to the legs. I thought it was the perfect opportunity. I spent about 3 hours drilling through ¼ inch and 1/8 inch steel with relative ease (that is, at the same pace as my co-worker was working with a high end corded drill, whose brand shall not be named). If you end up trying this yourself, make sure you still use oil.
I am happier with this cordless drill than any other I have ever used. There is nothing more powerful, and it is fast, reliable, and has very long battery life before it starts loosing power. It comes with a brace to help keep it straight, which definitely has its uses. It’s heavy, but that’s not really an issue because you’ve got the light impact driver for lazy moments. And, because you have both screw guns, you can actually say “I’m getting out the big gun.” Which I know you all have been dying to find a way to say. I know I was.
In Summary: These tools are just about the best on the market. Each of the tools is high quality, powerful, sturdy, and reliable. The superb Lithium Ion battery system pulls the whole set together, allowing constant use without down time or loss of power. The company has one of the best customer service reputations in the business and the tools come with their lifetime service agreement. The $500 ticket will be prohibitive for many people, but don’t settle. These are what you want if you are a serious hobbyist, and they will make a great supplement for the professional. I have found so many uses for these tools that I never anticipated. They’ll surprise you. They’ll be there for you. Get them.