Compiling the annual list of Editors' Choice Award winners is one of our favorite tasks. We scout coast to coast for the best tools the industry has to offer, from new inventions to important innovations. Sometimes we're lucky enough to be the first to see a new tool–and have to bite our tongues until we're allowed to share it with you. And even in this technology-laden world, we're just as impressed with simple solutions as we are with high-tech wonders. In the following article you'll see shining examples of both.

This year's winners include a reciprocating saw that redefines its class, two powerful framing hammers, a clever new jobsite workstation, an expansive handheld digital organizer, a dust-free concrete drilling system, and a new router designed to fit the way woodworkers hold these tools. We've also chosen a simple bricklaying jig invented by an Irish carpenter that's winning acclaim in Europe.

As impressed as we are with all of these award-winning tools, devices, and accessories, we also want to honor the commitment, creativity, and determination shown by the companies and individuals that developed them. We thank them for trying to make our work easier, faster, and safer. If there's one thing shared by tool inventors, from product engineers at large tool corporations to the guys who strap on tool pouches every day, it's the drive to find better ways to work more efficiently.

Here's this year's class of Editors' Choice Award winners; 17 tremendous tools worthy of special recognition for their innovation and leadership to the tool industry. We think you'll agree these are the best of the year.

Editors' Choice 2002 Grand Award: Space Tools

This year's Grand Award honors the spirit of exploration and technical genius behind the tools used to build the International Space Station–not to mention the courageous astronauts who use them. If there's a leading edge in tool design, it's definitely here.

NASA crewmembers, engineers, and contractors face demanding, almost unimaginable tolerances and work conditions in assembling billion-dollar components in space. Yet these space tool designers are way ahead of the curve. And their tool creations are truly amazing. The best examples are at technological extremes.

First, there's the high-tech Pistol Grip Tool developed at Swales Aerospace, a 36-volt, fully programmable, cordless driver that's become the primary tool used in space construction. Then there's Brian Robert's elegant Roller Wrench, an infinite-position ratchet wrench with a unique hand-wheel. Both tools are perfectly matched to their users' needs and hold real promise for tool development here on Earth.

In fact, you've been using space tools for years. The cordless tools used to drill core samples on the Moon in the 1960s were the grandparents of the cordless tools you reach for every day. We're awed by this level of outer space tool development.

Makita USA

We've chosen Makita's 24-volt, 7-1/4-inch cordless circ saw (model BSS730SHK) as an Editors' Choice winner because it takes a big step towards matching cordless convenience with AC performance–especially if you upgrade to the 3-amp-hour battery. That's the highest amp-hour rating currently available.

The first thing Makita did was to make a saw for 7-1/4-inch blades. This gives you great cutting capacity (you can cut 2-by on a 50-degree bevel) and makes it easy to buy replacement blades. The company has also committed to a NiMH battery platform that many in the industry say is the future for cordless tools. And Makita's "smart" charging technology optimizes the long-term performance of its batteries. In our own field tests, our tester picked this saw as the winner based on its power, run time, and easy-to-use switches and adjustments.

The saw's cut capacity at 90 degrees is 2-1/8 inches; at 45 degrees it's 1-3/4 inches. It ships with one 1.7-amp-hour battery and costs $475. For more information, contact Makita USA, 800-462-5482;

Spec out Cordless Circular Saws on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products (TM).

DeWalt Power Tools

The first thing that comes to mind when you see this 4-gallon, portable compressor is–finally! DeWalt's new "suitcase" design puts the unit's weight more in line with your body as you carry it than standard, stacked-tank, or pancake designs. The manufacturer also used the sleek design to protect the gauges.

Model D55155 is a 2-hp, 14.5-amp electric, single-tank unit with an oil-lubricated direct drive pump and cast iron cylinder. If you've ever searched for breaker panels in the dark because your compressor popped it, you'll like the dual soft-start valves that DeWalt says help improve cold weather and low-voltage start-up.

This unit generates 4.5 cfm of air at 100 psi and has a protected tool-free, quick-drain ball valve for rapid and thorough draining. Know what else will have you saying "finally?" A cord wrap. For more information, contact DeWalt Power Tools, 800-433-9258;

Spec out Electric Air Compressors on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products (TM).

ebuild Specs for Electric Air Compressors.