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First Choice Chooses the Versatility, Speed of Cordless Press Tools

Last updated: 05-02-2021

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First Choice Chooses the Versatility, Speed of Cordless Press Tools

Mike Flynn has been in the trades for the past 13 years, so he has seen the development of pressing technology from almost its earliest stages of acceptance. He can even remember the “good old days” when you had to set a fire watch and get in there to sweat joints.

“At my old company we used to do combis—heating and domestic in one unit—so we used to sweat all of them,” Flynn says. “It would literally be a two-day job. You would go, break down the unit, set up the wall, put your unit on start, put all your fittings together and start sweating… you couldn’t possibly get it all done in one day.”

After the switch to press fitting the job was cut down to 13 hours, start-to-finish. “We’d get in there at 8:00 in the morning, leave at 9:00 at night and the unit would be up and running,” Flynn says. “And then the next day you can go on to another install, go make some more money.”

He also has fond memories of a different company that gave him a corded press tool for a job inside a tight boiler room. “And yeah, I was tripping over it the whole time,” he says.

Mike FlynnNow, Flynn owns his own cordless press tools (a 12-v. RP 241 and an 18-v. RP 340, both from RIDGID), in part to keep something like that from ever happening again. And he’s also found a new home to use them. For the past two months he’s been working for First Choice Heating and Cooling in Metuchen, NJ, as a Lead Installer, heading up the company’s hydronic and steam installation.

First Choice covers a service area that includes most of north and central New Jersey with about a dozen trucks, ten installers and five service technicians. First Choice is a family-owned business that prides itself on offering its customers a total comfort solution. The company does service, repair, maintenance, refit, design and installation for both residential and commercial customers. First Choice will sometime sub out electrical contracting work, but everything else that has to do with keeping people comfortable they can handle in-house.

The move from cords to cordless operation took pressing to the next level. Suddenly, workers were free to move around an installation. The next limitation to deal with became battery life, and at every stage of battery development that zone of freedom has expanded wider and wider.

Just as an example, the RP 241 mentioned above currently uses RIDGID’s advanced Lithium Ion batteries, with each battery able to deliver roughly 140 crimps per charge. “Roughly,” because smaller fitting sizes sizes require less energy per press. Working with 1-1/4” copper fittings the battery may deliver as many as 150 crimps per charge.

For Flynn, runtime is crucial because of how he chooses to work. “The way I do it,” he says, “is I put together a small portion, strap it up and then press as I go. Instead of putting it all together and then pressing it. I’ve found that pressing as you go ensures you’re not going to miss any joints.”

Flynn finds the “auto-off” feature a big help, saving battery life while on the job.

Another feature that helps Flynn work, not just faster, but the way that suits him best, is the 360 degree swivel head that allows better access to tight spaces. (The 360 swivel is a new innovation—the old heads could only move 180 degrees.)

“The old school guys are like, well, if you plan your presses before you wouldn’t need to get into those tights spaces,” says Flynn. “Listen, you can plan all you want, but sometimes you can’t get in there. If you pre-press, say, a four-foot piece of pipe onto an elbow, and then another three foot piece of pipe, how are you going to get that in there? How are you going to get it back where you need to get it, without NOT pressing it in the first place and then trying to work your pistol in?”

Ceilings, he adds, are always tricky. So are teeny-tiny access panels cut in, for example, sheet rock, with the customer anxious you don’t cut out any more. “And you know,” Flynn says, “we’re not there to repair that. So, you pop a coupling, 90 or 45 degrees, and you have your C1 rings, and you press away and that’s it.”

The conventional wisdom on press tools has it that they’re basically a one-trick pony (albeit, with a very good trick). Thanks to some of the accessories now available with RIDGID press tools, that’s starting to change.

The LED light was an obvious no-brainer. But the soil pipe cutter attachment is useful enough to be its own tool. The cutter can get through 1-1/2” to 4” no-hub and service weight soil pipe in only a matter of seconds, without the need to score the pipe.

And then of course there’s Flynn’s favorite, the Strutslayr strut shear head. It can deliver fab shop quality, burr-free strut channel cuts on the job site in five seconds or less. “I don’t even want to use anything else,” Flynn says. “If you’re cutting with a bandsaw it bend it because of the motion you’re cutting with. This one, it actually keeps its shape, and it’s literally perfect… that’s the only thing I grab.”

Flynn typically keeps both his 12-v. and his 18-v. handy so he doesn’t need to swap heads all the time on the job site. Another reason he keeps two press tools around is so he can loan one out if he needs to.

Warm bodies being often scarce in the plumbing industry, Flynn has had to play teacher many times in his career, sometimes to people with little-to-no plumbing experience. Luckily, the same qualities that make a press tool easy to use make it easy to teach someone how to use.

“Just ream the inside and the outside of the pipe before you put in the fitting,” Flynn says, “if you’re not sure, mark the insertion depth, make sure it’s all together before you press it.” Flynn will show the trainee on a couple of joints, then let him do a couple of joints, and then it’s off to the races. And sometimes that’s just an afternoon helping out. But sometimes, it’s the beginning of a brand new career in the trades.


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