A while ago, I purchased a DeWalt random orbital sander on-line. It had a power cord like a length of mangled rebar. Even in the 40° C (104° F) heat of summer, the cord was so stiff that it interfered with the sander’s operation.
I contacted DeWalt about the likelihood of similar complaints and the possibility of an upgraded cord, but their response was a curt “If you’re not happy with the tool, return it to the retailer for a refund”! The retailer wasn’t at all sympathetic either, so in disgust, I put the sander at the back of a drawer and out of mind.
In my current little home workshop, I don’t have the luxury of the unlimited shelving I once had during my working career and so I must be ever vigilant of every square inch of storage. Corded powertools can be disorderly items to store, so where possible, I have purchased cordless tools such as… well, a drill so far, but ultimately, the torque and limitless power of mains electricity is desirable for the operation of big grunty tools such as belt sanders and circular saws etc.
Something I was working on recently necessitated frequent, alternate use of several corded power tools and I realised I detested the lot of them! I decided to do something about it and so I took a pair of side cutters and cut the cords off all the tools (after unplugging them all first – naturally). I felt much better for it.
Of course, I could no longer use the tools from that point, but I promptly resolved the problem: I purchased a number of user-wireable IEC-14C in-line connectors and 0.5m IEC extension cables with moulded connectors (at $4.25, the extension cables were only 26 cents more than the bare in-line connectors).
IEC connectors are commonly found on an assortment of electrical appliances including computers, printers, sound equipment and electric kettles (although the kettle connectors have a higher heat rating and are only one-way interchangeable). IEC-C13 (female) and IEC-C14 (male) connectors are rated at 10 amps (heavier ratings are available; C19 and C20 connectors are the same size, but rated at 16 amps for example). C17 and C18 are identical to the C13 and C14 connectors, but lack the ground pin.
I popped the covers off the power tools to establish which of them were easily rewireable and which were soldered nightmares. I dug out the DeWalt ROS again and as its cord was all soldered up with other connections and little things that looked like bits of transistor radio, I left it well alone and wired one of the in-line C14 connectors to what remained of the original cable.
The Hitachi belt sander was a much simpler affair internally, so I took one of the short IEC extension cables, cut off and discarded the female connector, stripped the wires, crimped pre-insulated ring terminals onto the wires and screwed them to their respective connections in the sander’s junction block. The job is electrically sound, secure and looks ‘factory’.
Now my power tools live neatly side-by-side on a shelf without the customary entanglement of cords. I’m even contemplating fitting chassis-mount C14 inlets to some of my machinery which I roll around in- and outside the shed.
I also purchased a variety of different length IEC power leads; a 2 metre (6′ 6″) lead for bench work, a 3 metre (10′) lead for anywhere else within the shed and a 5 metre (16′) lead for when I’m working outdoors.
I’ve used this very amenable system of connection for a while now and it’s revolutionised my power woodworking! The connectors are a good firm fit, so there haven’t been any incidences of a power lead pulling out of any of the C14 connectors. However, should the C14s ever loosen up for some reason, there is a unique solution: A locking C13 power lead.
The locking C13 connector has a small button, which, when slid forwards, operates a small internal clutch (just like the stack of clutches in pipe cramp heads) that firmly grips the centre (ground) pin inside the C14 connector. I don’t feel the need for one (though they’re no more expensive than normal power leads); I just offer the information for what it is.
I’m aware Festool have introduced their ‘plug it’ power cords on a number of their power tools, but I hope the day will come when manufacturers universally incorporate IEC inlets (or a similarly compact system) into their power tools.