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.