Craftsman’s Bolt-On system is a new modular power tool system where you swap tool heads for different functionality. This allows DIYers to have the versatility of many tool types without having to budget for separate full-size tools.
Our experiences with the Bolt-On tools have been quite good, but there are of course some compromises in terms of features and performance. Following are brief reviews of the starter kit and each tool head attachment.
For most of the tools we present pros, neutral points, and cons. Many of the cons are not intended to be complaints, but point out some of the features that you don’t get that you would with full-size corded or cordless tools.
Note: All of the photos shown here were taken by us prior to testing. “Action Shots” were left out to save space.
Craftsman 20V Bolt-On Starter Kit
The starter kit comes with the 20V cordless power handle, basic drill/driver head, a single battery, and a QuickBoost charger.
Bolt-On Power Handle
Since the base handle is to be used with all of the various tool heads, it should be comfortable, and it is. The balance is good, the handle is ergonomically shaped, and the grip texture is soft and comfortable.
The drill/driver tool head is about as basic as they come. 0-800 RPM, 3/8″ capacity, 10+1 clutch settings. Our only complaint is that rotating and adjusting the clutch across a wide range of settings leads can lead to a bruised thumb if you grasp the chuck too far back and hit the ledge in front of the trigger.
The QuickBoost charger is a welcome accessory and will fully charge 20V battery packs in 30 minutes. If you need just a little more juice, it will give you 30% capacity in 10 minutes.
We’re not sure about the math since 1/3 of the charging time should give you at least 1/3 of the charge capacity, but most other Li-ion batteries don’t like to be interrupted mid-charge. The QuickBoost charger allows for partial charges with no risk to the battery’s longevity.
Tool Head Changes
Swapping tool heads is easy once you do it a few times. Our preferred method is to grip the rear of the tool so that the top-mounted release button can be toggled with a quick thumb press.
When removing or attaching tool heads, keep your fingers away from the trigger switch! One of the few complaints we heard about the Bolt-On system is that the tool can turn on just before removal or after it snaps in. We always recommend taking the battery out of a cordless tool when changing bits, blades, or accessories. At the very least put the forward/reverse switch in its middle/neutral/lock-out position.
Craftsman Bolt-On 2-Speed Hammer Drill
The hammer drill attachment is larger than the basic drill/driver that comes with the starter kit, but it offers two speed settings, a hammering mode for drilling into masonry, and improved ergonomics.
- wider range of speeds (0-500 and 0-1600 RPM)
- can be used for drilling, driving, or masonry drilling
- wider clutch is easier to rotate
- because of its size it cannot be used in tight areas
- keyless chuck is 2-sleeve and non-ratcheting (but for the price that’s not surprising)
Craftsman Bolt-On Impact Driver
If there’s a must-have Bolt-On attachment, this is it.
- power! (up to 1300 in-lbs torque)
- compact size
- as with most other impact drivers, the 1/4″ hex adapter is designed for 2″ power bits and cannot handle 1″ insert bits without a separate adapter
Craftsman Bolt-On Jig Saw
While not as comfortable or versatile as the Craftsman Nextec cordless jig saw, the Bolt-On jig saw attachment works well for light duty cutting tasks. We used it to cut aluminum sheet metal, plywood, and thin plastic sheets without trouble. The handle configuration looks awkward but seems to work well enough.
- tool-free blade change
- rigid aluminum shoe
- enough space for second-hand support
- no bevel adjustment
Craftsman Bolt-On Circular Trim Saw
This 3-3/8″ trim saw works well for small straight cuts in boards and sheet goods. If there’s a second must-have Bolt-On tool, this is it.
- easy-to-reach safety button to prevent accidental activation
- on-board hex key storage
- 0.8267 maximum cutting depth is enough for most light-duty needs
- accurate cut-line indicator
- strong aluminum shoe
- no cutting depth or bevel adjustment
- arbor nut was too tight out of the boxes and needed to be loosen with a ratchet and socket
Craftsman Bolt-On Sander
This is a basic cordless “mouse sounder,” which means replacement sanding sheets should be easy to find. Not exactly a must-have, but it might come in handy.
Craftsman Bolt-On Oscillating Multi-Tool
The oscillating tool had makes for a very awkward-looking tool, but it’s actually quite comfortable to use.
- comfortable tool-free blade change
- adjustable blade angles
- it comes with extra hardware, presumably to make it compatible with older Craftsman accessories
- no mention of the extra hardware in documentation left us scratching our heads
Craftsman Bolt-On Router
This 1/4″ trim router attachment can be used for basic edge-routing, and for quick dados and grooves.
- safety lock-out also serves as lock-on toggle
- depth adjustment is straightforward and relatively quick
- spindle lock allows for easy one-wrench bit changes
- single-speed (9,000 RPM) is lower than for most other 1/4″ routers (single and variable-speed)
- battery life is inherently short
Craftsman Bolt-On Air Inflator
The basic inflator allows for quick topping-off of bike tires, sports balls, and inflatable toys.
- built-in pressure gauge
- built-in needle and nozzle storage
- no lock-on button means you always have to keep your hand on the trigger
After having used and tested the various Bolt-On attachments, we are convinced that Craftsman has indeed put together a very versatile modular tool system.
Most homeowners and DIYers should consider purchasing an additional battery and the impact driver attachment with the starter kit. While the extra battery isn’t essential, it’s a good idea seeing as how some of these tool attachments are very power-hungry. The impact driver holds its own against many full-size tools and we wouldn’t be surprised if Craftsman decided to offer a new starter set that comes with it.
The tool heads all have their strengths and weaknesses, but overall none of them seem to be lacking in terms of ergonomics or performance. Of course they don’t perform as well as full-sized tools, nor do they offer as many adjustments and features, but their capabilities are reasonable given their affordability.
Buy Now(via Sears)
The starter set is priced at $120 ($80 on sale), and the tool heads $30-40 ($25 and $35 on sale).
And in case you’re wondering about the Craftsman table, that’s #7 in our 2012 Craftsman tools holiday gift guide.
Thank you to Craftsman for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.
I liked your review, it was very informative. I noticed the black and decker matrix at Home Depot and was wondering if the heads and batteries are interchangable. I think it has a better warranty and cheaper batteries. Is there going to be a holiday pick on this product as well or maybe with the bolt on. Curious of all the differences
Thanks for the help!
Honestly your better off buying a drill off Ebay, as most drills these days are made in China and other places as well. All Craftsman and Black and Decker drills made these days are all made in China and aren’t worth what they cost.
I can’t tell you about the batteries, but the heads are said to be interchangeable between brands. It could be that the battery packs have different capacities, but that’s again something I can’t tell as I don’t have access to the 20V Matrix.
Between Matrix and Bolt-On, the Craftsman system has a couple of exclusive attachments worth considering, with the hammer drill at the top of the list. The QuickBoost charger is also a very good reason to buy the Craftsman Bolt-On starter set instead of the B&D Matrix.
The B&D Matrix starter set is cheaper, but it’s configured for the lower price point, if that makes sense.
I was wondering the same thing as Shae Lawler. I actually bought the drill and was disppointed afterwards to see how cheap it was at Home Depot. Will the accessories of the Black & Deckers work in mine, because I’d rather not spend the money for the same thing?
I love how people are made that black & Decker is cheaper. Go ahead and buy Black & Decker and find yourself wishing you would have spent a little more. B&D sucks
You do realize that Black & Decker manufacturers the Bolt-On system for Craftsman, right?
One attractive benefit of the bolt-on system is that Sears sells both cordless and corded bases. The corded driver sells for $60 (And I see it for $37 on-sale this week). So while I’m waiting for the batteries on the cordless system to recharged, I could in theory just use the corded base instead.
For a DIYer without a ton of room for tool storage, this system looks pretty attractive.
Now that the Bolt-on system has been out for a year, it would be great to see an updated review of these tools.
What is the torque rating on the included drill head attachement? It’s not published for either the Bolt-On or Matrix packaging. In fact, I can’t seem to find it anywhere.
I can’t find any quick published specs, but believe it’s in the 100 to 150 in-oz range.
How DO the tools fit into the bag ??
Hello, i bought the drill an year and a half before and it worth for me. Yesterday one carbón of the motor brokes. I’m from argentina, i chat with Sear repair service and the replace part it’s the body that cost $75.
I’m trying to find the motor, its a Mabuchi RS-550VC-7525, as it´s write on it.
My doubt is that in the specification the motor is 12volt nominal…someone know how it Works with the battery of 20v max ????
BUEN DIA ALEJANDRO A MI TAMBIEN ME PASO LO MISMO CON EL MOTOR DE MI TALADRO SI PUDISTE ARREGLAR TU TALADRO.
I hope that the torque specs being measured in in/oz is a typo. 1300 in/oz converts to 6.77 ft/lbs. That’s pathetic, I could tighten a fastener to a higher torque with my pinkie. I understand this is a drill, but for a tool that also plays roles as an impact I expect much more. Again, I hope this is a typo. As a perspective buyer this alone is a deal breaker for me.
Oops, that should be 1300 in-lbs! Thanks for the alert!
I have been reading about the Sear’s Bolt-On Drill/driver, etc., However, I have also noticed that a number reviews stated that the chuck keeps coming loose. Is a problem wit it? Did you come across this problem during your review?? Thanks in advance.
I loved this combo of tools till today – my oscillating tool attachment stuck and I wasn’t able to remove it. I have used different attachments before and had no problems switching from one to another. I have no idea what happened with one. I would appreciate if anyone help me with it.
That’s never happened to me, so I’m unsure about what to recommend you do. You could try contacting Craftsman customer service, and if that doesn’t work, send them a note through public social media services such as Twitter.
If a little wiggling isn’t enough to separate the two parts, maybe something inside has bent or broken off, preventing the release button from fully depressing.
I received a gift of the nicad B&D version of the bolt on. Battery life was bad! I’m liery of low voltage rechargeable tools. Craftsman (by B&D) china made does not generate confidence. Dave A
Low Voltage? 20V is one of the highest for battery powered tools. The battery is LI and I love it. The battery will run out with use. That simple and the capacity is not bad. It you want the longevity of use then they have a corded version that uses the same attachments. Also the fact the thing is made in China does not really make a difference in most cases. It is the price and care put into the product.
There is a low voltage version that B&D made, but the battery itself is smaller. B&D also has better version that has the same 20V LI battery. You were given the cheaper and weaker version as a gift. It is more for very quick and cheap use.
I would like to add to this review as Most people are bashing it and not even giving it a try. It is a sad problem and most don’t even take the most important reason for getting this into consideration.
The Craftsman Bolt-On and Black & Decker Matrix are a good combo to use and play with. The attachments do interchange but the batteries do have a bit of a different amp rating. Personally I would keep the batteries to their own charger and drill.
They do have corded version of both brands which takes and makes some of the attachments far more effective to use. Sometimes they feel better to use without the weight of the battery. They do have different ratings between the battery and corded versions of operational uses different speeds and such so need to keep that in mind. The corded is far cheaper than the battery version. I do know B&D has a lower voltage battery version but I would not recommend it.
I have had my Bolt-On 20V drill for a while and it is a beast. It has power that can out beat most battery powered drills. The battery life is far better than most of the same size as it being Lithium-Ion. I love the sander attachment but the lack of a trigger lock does suck but the trigger is variable and not a set pull speeds. The more you pull the trigger the faster is will turn. Most drills have a half pull and full pull speeds at the most.
I did have a problem with the motor and it tried to burn itself out but I suspect that it was because of rusty dust. I took it apart since replacement parts seem to be a no go but that can be said about most tools. I was able to get the drill working again and is running just fine. Not bad for it being 3 to 4 years old. (don’t remember when I got it but it was a new to come out and I got it that year for Christmas) The battery is working fine as it always has. The drill chuck problem might be because the inner screw has come loose and fallen out.
As for the attachments. I love them I have gotten the regular drill attachment as it does come with it and along with that. I got the oscillator, sander, impact driver, trim saw, and recently the hedge trimmer attachments. It came with the B&D Matrix drill as a combo. Not a bad price either as it is a rare thing to find now. I use the attachments a lot and have found getting the attachment do save you money as most people have the uses that they will fill. They do have limits but the limits is few.
You can buy each Tool instead of the B&D matrix or Craftsman Bolt-On and the attachments, but compared to the price you can get the attachments, which can be about half the price, then it makes all the sense in the world. Now for those that take and use the their individual tools heavily and need the lack of limitations that the attachments can pose (which like I said is few) then fine but most won’t ever run into those problems. I do use the tools a lot and have run into these problems but I have found they can be shared with other individual tools like the lack of a trigger lock.
If you need to grab a tool and use it quick then the bolt on is perfect because you grab it and go and taking a second or third attachment is way less cumbersome than three individual tools. I also like having two or three drill attachments including the impact driver. I can swap them out with need which happens a lot.
I will be getting more of the attachments like the cut off reciprocating saw, Jig saw, router, and another sander attachments. They have some ones I have seen like the socket impact driver attachment and a couple others I might look into getting one day but not sure. All in all I will never give my Bolt-on and Matrix systems up. I still have needs and will get the more specific tools but I will still also use the attachments over them in most cases.
I used the bolt-on impact accessory and it worked well. The only issue I had was with the star bit for deck screws getting stuck in the bit holder. It would not turn to release. I had to put the reverse button on and sort of grab the rotator and then it popped out. I was thinking maybe it was heated but I’m not sure. Any reason why the chuck would not release the bit?
Hope to build my son a tree house this coming spring, the drill and jigsaw will be especially handy. I have a bunch of B&D 20V Max batteries, but not the right tools for the job… yet.