By Andrew Liszewski
There’s a good chance if you’re a regular reader of OhGizmo or just gadget and gizmo sites in general you’re also probably a bit of a do-it-yourself-er. And I’m not referring to building your own computer or setting up that wicked home theatre, I’m talking more in the lines of the projects seen on the MAKE: Blog every day.
Now unfortunately my skills on the electronics side of things are poor at best, so I can usually only admire those projects that incorporate circuits, wiring, LEDs and soldering. However anything else that might require a bit of construction is fair game. Whether it’s an Altoids tin iPod case or a cardboard fireplace setpiece.
From the company that created the ColdHeat Soldering Tool comes another tool for DIYers (particularly those with no soldering skills) in the form of the ColdHeat Freestyle Cordless Glue Gun. Instead of plugging into a power outlet the Freestyle uses a rechargeable battery similar to cordless drills making it usable pretty much anywhere you can carry it.
Long story short the Freestyle Glue Gun is a great improvement to the standard corded versions. While you may think being battery dependent would hinder the Freestyle’s performance that’s definitely not the case. In fact ColdHeat has managed to make a cordless glue gun that actually performs better than any of the corded versions I’ve used in the past. When fully charged I’ve found the heatup time to be less than a minute and battery life to be more than adequate for any project. The insulated tip and lower voltage of the Freestyle also makes it a lot safer to use than a corded version. (Full review after the jump.)
At first appearance the Freestyle Glue Gun has a nice modern design that will look good on any geek’s workdesk. The gun itself is made entirely of plastic (except for the metal stand and tip) but doesn’t feel cheap whatsoever. In fact it’s built quite sturdy and I suspect it could survive a few unfortunate falls with only minor scrapes. And given the gun’s cordless design I suspect people will be using the Freestyle in places that are far more prone to it being accidentally dropped.
I think the use of plastic is also important to help keep the weight of the Freestyle to a minimum. In fact since this glue gun’s biggest selling point is its cordless funtionality it obviously relies on a rechargeable battery, which can easily be removed or swapped out as necessary. The battery that the Freestyle uses actually feels a bit heavier than the rest of the glue gun itself, so it’s really no surprise that plastic was the material of choice here. (Besides of course keeping the price reasonable.)
And yes when attached the battery does make the Freestyle a bit heavier than most other corded glue guns you can buy today. There’s no doubt that some people will complain about this but there’s really no way around it especially considering the way the battery is used.
Since it’s not simply running a small bit of circuitry but rather has to power heating elements used to melt glue the battery needs to be a certain size to provide a decent amount of battery life. (At least when using today’s battery technology.) In my opinion the advantages provided by the portability of the Freestyle’s cordless design far outweigh the small bit of added weight a user has to incur. That being said with the battery attached the Freestyle is well balanced in the hand and feels similar to using a cordless drill, except the overall size of the Freestyle is quite smaller.
The battery on the Freestyle uses an external charger that plugs into the wall rather than using the glue gun itself as the charger. (Where you would plug an adapter into the Freestyle to charge the battery while it’s attached.) The advantage to this is that you can charge a second battery while still using the glue gun and then swap in a fresh one as needed. The downside is that since there’s no way to plug in or use the Freestyle with a cord, when your batteries are dead the glue gun is completely unusable.
The charging unit itself is only slightly larger than the battery so it takes up very little desk space. On one end of the charger is a bright green LED light that strobes while the battery is being charged and will remain lit when charging is complete. In fact I liked the bright strobe this charger uses because it’s visible from quite a distance and makes it easy to tell when the battery has completed charging. Depending on where you’re using the Freestyle (away from a power outlet for example) knowing if a backup battery is completed charging from afar could be quite handy.
As you can see in some of the images I’ve posted the trigger on the Freestyle is quite large and of course that helps make it easy to squeeze even with multiple fingers if more pressure is needed. The grey areas you see around the trigger and on the back of the glue gun’s handle are actually coated in a thin layer of rubber and are not just grey plastic. While the rubber doesn’t add any cushioning to the handle it’s basically there to increase the amount of grip on the areas where you hold the Freestyle. The rest of the glue gun has a smooth plastic finish so the extra grip added here does help.
On the top of the Freestyle is a clear plastic window that’s really only there to show how far the glue stick has made its way into the gun itself. This way you can easily tell when the current stick has been completely used and there’s enough room for a second stick.
On the back of the Freestyle is where the glue sticks are inserted and you’ll also notice 2 LED lights back here. The red LED is the low battery indicator and it will turn on and remain solid when the battery is almost out of power. When the battery is completely dead and in need of immediate recharging this LED will instead flash rapidly.
Above that is the yellow powersave LED. If the gun is left unused and untouched for more than 8 minutes it will automatically go into a powersave mode as indicated by this LED turning on. To help increase battery life during the powersave mode the heating elements are shut down and the glue is not melted. To bring the gun out of powersave all you need to do is simply pick it up or move it. The motion will be automatically detected and the gun will start heating the glue again.
Like I mentioned earlier near the tip of the Freestyle is a metal stand that has a rubber ‘foot’ that helps prevent the glue gun from sliding around when it’s been set down somewhere. More importantly it also keeps the metal tip from touching anything when the gun is not in use but still powered on. When not needed the stand can be flipped back against the body of the gun so that it doesn’t get in the way.
This stand however is one of the only concerns I have with the Freestyle glue gun. While resting on the stand with the battery attached the whole glue gun actually has a pretty high center of gravity which in turn makes it prone to falling over even when slightly bumped. While it’s not a major concern by any means it did happen a few times to me and it could prove a bit frustrating depending on the environment you’re using the glue gun in. (A busy workshop with tables being bumped could easily result in the Freestyle falling over.) Thankfully even when laid down on its side though the tip of the Freestyle doesn’t touch anything so using the stand is not completely necessary.
Finally we have the tip of the gun which is also made of metal but has a rubber covering around the majority of it. Besides serving as insulation which helps prevent burns if and when you accidentally brush against the tip, it can also help reduce the amount of melted glue that inevitably builds up on the tip of every glue gun. Or at the least makes it far easier to keep clean.
You’ll notice directly below the tip is a white LED bulb that actually serves as a built-in worklamp. Since the Freestyle can be used anywhere, you might find yourself gluing or repairing things where light is at a minimum and this is where the worklamp can come in handy. The power switch on the glue gun actually has two different ‘on’ states that controls the intensity of this LED, whether it’s set to low or high. In both options the glue melting performance of the gun is exactly the same. While the worklamp won’t serve as a makeshift flashlight by any means it’s more than bright enough for its intended purpose.
Believe it or not this will be the shortest part of the review since the Freestyle Glue Gun basically functions just like any normal glue gun should. However the good people at ColdHeat have still managed to make some useful improvements.
Besides the obvious convenience of being cordless another advantage the Freestyle has is its incredibly quick warm-up time. The manual suggests letting the gun heat up for between 1-3 minutes but from my own testing I can say that with a fully charged battery even a minute is more than enough time before melted glue starts flowing. (I will point out that the Freestyle is only designed to work with all-purpose or low-temperature glue sticks which is an obvious factor contributing to its rapid warm-up abilities.) However as the battery starts to lose its charge the gun will take a bit longer to fully heat up, again up to about 3 minutes.
Probably the biggest question about the Freestyle is how long it can be used before the battery requires charging again. The manual claims the glue gun will operate for at least 1.5 hours on a single charge. In fact in testing the Freestyle I actually ran out of glue sticks before the battery had given up. When you take into consideration the powersave features that ColdHeat has built into the gun (mentioned above) and how long one typically uses a glue gun for I don’t think anyone will really have an issue with the battery’s life. Of course if it does become a problem additional batteries will soon be available for purchase directly from ColdHeat. So an extra battery coupled with the external charger means you can theoretically always have a fresh battery available.
Sure you can go out to your local craft store and pick up a cheap glue gun for only a couple of dollars these days but odds are if you use a glue gun a lot you’re going to want something with a bit more build quality and features.
At $29.00 the ColdHeat Freestyle Glue Gun really does fit that bill perfectly. As much as carpenters probably can’t imagine using a corded drill these days I suspect the same will happen with glue guns. And yes I realise that butane-based cordless glue guns have existed for some time now, as well as the occasional battery powered unit but I think that ColdHeat has really gotten the combination of functionality, ease of use and performance right with the Freestyle.
– Cordless functionality allows the glue gun to be easily used virtually anywhere.
– On a fully charged battery warm-up time can be less than a minute.
– Built-in worklight a convenient addition.
– Risk of burnt extremities or shock greatly reduced.
– Battery does add weight and size to the glue gun.
– Prone to easily falling over when using the flip-down stand.
– Performance will slightly decrease as battery loses charge.
If you have any other questions about the ColdHeat Freestyle Glue Gun feel free to drop them in the comments below and I?ll try to answer them as best I can.