Ridge Tool Co.

How long does it take you to sweat a joint in copper pipe? No matter how fast you solder, you'd probably have a tough time keeping up with Ridge Tool Co.'s Ridgid ProPress CT400.

Traditional joint-sealing methods require the application of heat and solder to a sweat joint. With the ProPress, you simply fit pipe and fitting together, place the jaws of the crimper around the joint, and squeeze the trigger. Four seconds later, the joint's sealed.

The ProPress exerts 17,000 to 35,000 psi (depending on pipe size) of force on a special copper fitting, which is lined with an elastomer gasket. The pressure and elastomer form a watertight seal. Ridge Tool claims the elastomer gaskets will last longer than the actual pipe.

The Ridge crimping tool sells for $2,249 and includes jaws for crimping pipes from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in diameter. Additional jaws for joining 2-1/2-inch to 4-inch pipe are available separately. The tool is available at professional plumbing supply houses and tool distributors. For more information, contact Ridge Tool Co., 888-743-4333; www.propresssystem.com.

Handspring

In keeping with our ever-broadening definition of construction "tools" we're giving our first high-tech Editors' Choice Award to Handspring for its Visor Prism personal digital assistant (PDA).

What sets the Prism apart from other handheld organizers is its Springboard expansion slot that turns your PDA into a digital camera or GPS unit. All the Springboard attachments are plug-and-play. Plug the camera in and start shooting photos. It's that easy to start documenting your jobsite progress for your files, or keep clients up-to-date with e-mailed images.

Because Handspring PDAs use Palm-based operating systems, they can communicate with Palm Pilots. The USB cradle connection makes the interface to your desktop computer fast and easy; the cradle also recharges the unit's lithium ion battery. The Visor Prism costs $299. The Eyemodule 2 camera accessory costs $149. For more information, contact Handspring Inc., 650-230-5000; www.handspring.com.

Stabila

Tall walls and short levels don't make for a good match. Stabila developed its extending Plate Levels to reach higher top plates, so you can plumb tall work accurately and easily. The levels come in two sizes: The 6-footer extends to 10 feet, and the 7-footer reaches 12 feet.

Each tool is built with Stabila's trademark quality. The levels feature fully-sealed, box-frame bodies made of high-strength, reinforced aluminum. The aluminum extension rails are marked with various plate heights for quick adjustment. A soft brake holds the extensions out before you lock them so they won't slide back down and pinch your fingers. The levels also have metal stand-offs at each end that hold their bodies away from the framing to accommodate for bent or warped lumber.

Stabila claims accuracy is within 1/32 inches over 72 inches compressed and 1/16 inches over 72 inches when the tools are extended. These levels also have Stabila's time-proven epoxy-locked vial system, which never needs adjustment. The 6-foot model costs $219; the 7-foot model costs $249. For more information, contact Stabila, 800-869-7460; www.stabila.com.

Re-Bats

This product's money- and time-saving abilities won it an Editors' Choice Award. North Carolina builder Mark Yancey was tired of paying a carpenter to sharpen 2x4s and then pummel them into the ground with a sledge hammer to site the corners of a new house. Re-Bats were born in a moment of inspired frustration as Yancey watched another cracked 2x4 being pounded into the hard ground.

The Re-Bat (re-useable batter board) is simply a 3-foot-long, three-prong steel spike with a sleeve that vertically holds a 2x4. Pound three of these into the ground (even in clay soil) with a sledgehammer, slide in the 2-by vertical pieces, nail up your horizontal batter boards, and you've got a corner ready for layout and stringlines. Once you're done with the site work and foundation, simply pull the Re-bats out of the ground and store them until the next job.

Before he came up with Re-Bats, Yancey generally used about 30 2x4s to lay out a house. Besides buying the 2x4s, he also paid for labor to cut and set them. He says a complete set of Re-Bats will pay for itself in about six buildings. Re-Bats cost $35 a piece or $100 per corner (you need three per corner.) For more information, contact Re-Bats Inc., 704-483-8779; www.re-bats.com.