I've never seen pride like toolmakers' pride. It's akin to proud parents watching their children go out into the world. And it's great for us at Hanley-Wood's Tools of the Trade to spend time with people who love what they do and believe in the products they make. After checking out all the new tools that have come out this past year, we chose 20 new products for special recognition – selecting them for this year's Editors' Choice Awards.
What do we look for? Innovation and leadership. Breakthrough improvements that make tools perform better and last longer, which help you work faster, safer, and smarter. This year's winners range from a simple product that extends the life of caulk tubes to a safe new "off" switch on Makita's pneumatic nailers we think all pneumatic tools should have. You'll see how three companies extended the journey to a cordless world by increasing battery voltage. One of our winners is a unique workbench invented by a humble New York City building inspector. And, for the first time, we've given an award to a building product that thinks it's a tool.
It isn't easy to choose these winners, but we feel each one stands out from all the great new products we've seen this year. And, while we honor these companies for their award-winning products, we honor the tool industry for another terrific year of innovation, creativity, and commitment. In the end, professional tool users everywhere are the real winners.
Stabila Elevator Tripod
The unique adjustable neck on Stabila's Elevator Tripod puts your level exactly where you need it. No matter what the tool or terrain – whether you use a laser level or sight scope inside or outdoors – the tripod neck provides 13 inches of play within a 47- to 90-inch height range. Rough-set the 6.5-pound aluminum tripod, then micro-set the sight platform with a hand crank. Set your line to 54 inches and begin placing upper cabinets; you don't need to measure off a reference line. If you need to shoot a sight line outdoors, the same mark can be recovered the next day. The tripod sells for about $220. Stabila Levels, 800-869-7460; www.stabila.com.
Spec out Rotating Laser Levels on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products (TM).
Ramset/Red Head TrakFast TF1 100
ITW Ramset/Red Head has come up with a new way to drive pins into concrete that we think will change PATs and will make your work faster and easier. The company's new TrakFast tool uses a cylinder of liquefied gas instead of traditional powder charges to drive pins. Each 6-volt battery drives approximately 3,000 pins, and each fuel cell powers approximately 1,200 shots. Since the tool holds 40 pins, you can shoot when you used to be reloading. The lightweight, 9.3-pound gun fires as fast as the newly designed nosepiece contacts the work. Its gas propulsion system is cleaner than powder, and its shock-absorbent body reduces worker fatigue. TrakFast sells for about $900. ITW Ramset/Redhead, 800-354-7432; www.ramset-redhead.com.
Tenryu America Steel-Pro Carbide-Tipped Saw Blades
"Tough as nails" is usually an exaggeration, but not in the case of Tenryu's line of carbide-tipped metal-cutting blades for portable saws. They easily cut through steel pipe, steel studs, sheet metal up to 26 gauge, and angle iron. In a pinch, the blades can also cut lumber, PVC, aluminum, copper, and brass. Tenryu combines impact-resistant grade C-6 carbide with a unique tooth design that produces burr-free cuts and lasts much longer than abrasive blades and twice as long as other carbides. The carbide technology allows cuts to remain cool, which extends blade life. The Steel-Pro line ranges from cordless circ saw blades to 14-inch dry-cutters. Tenryu America, 800-951-7297; www.tenryu.com.
Prazi Big Lugg Tool Holder
Prazi's versatile, clip-on tool caddy acts like a third hand. It's there when you need it most – atop a ladder, in a tight spot, or on a top plate. The swiveling hook clips on to any tool belt or pocket, and fits pneumatic nailer handles. It can also hold a cordless tool's battery pack when there's nowhere – or no time – to put anything down. For safety, the hook moves out of the way when not in use. It can grab a hammer head in that position. The Big Lugg sells for about $15. Prazi, 800-262-0211; www.praziusa.com.