28 June 2002


FUNNY how small things sometimes bring benefits beyond their complexity. Take Universal Air Tools hose reel: costing £95, its a concept almost as long-established as the vice base opposite. Yet what it does – storing and dispensing air hose, keeping it out the way of feet, machinery and patches of poo – is no less useful for that.

A moulded flexible case hosts 8m of 3/8in bore hose (big enough in diameter to supply tools up to and including 3/4in square drive impact wrenches) with air coming in through a short tail on the drums centre spindle. Tug the business end and the hose unwinds, let go and it retracts.

This much is immediately clear without the benefit of Einsteinian logic. Rather less so is how to make the blessed thing stay out, but eventually the penny drops – the drum has a part-time ratchet which chirps every turn of the spindle. Let go between chirps and the hose winds back, let go during a chirp and it stays put. Elementary, Mr Bond.

We bolted the unit to a stanchion just inside the workshop door, feeding it from a regulator/oiler for air tool use. The drum swings in its bracket so hose can go easily out into the yard – kinder on all concerned when blowing out air filters – or into the building. And thats about it: The hose stays unkinked (though it does still spring into loops), doesnt need coiling up, keeps clean and has been going happily in and out for the past few months.

Any moans? A couple. The case could be taller – although theres a T-slot to help you lay hose tidily back inside, human laziness means it sometimes hoops up in one place and sticks. When that happens, a quick tug frees it. And 8m of hose is a little on the mean side; 10m would be better. But otherwise no complaints and a tidier, safer workplace. Universal Air Tools (01494-883300): part no 8103814.

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