This year's search for outstanding new tools, equipment, and innovative features was as challenging as ever, given the continued rate of product introductions from all corners of the manufacturing world serving professional construction markets.
These diverse companies are driven by a lot of different factors, but the one thing they all have in common is their dedication to providing technical solutions to the challenges facing construction pros. Whether the advances are financially driven, as in the case of work-vehicle fuel efficiency, or performance-driven – improved tool power, runtime, ergonomics, and convenience – anyone developing products for our markets is focused on these areas. And there continues to be impressive industry wide investment in new technologies despite uncertain economic conditions.
Each year we review all the new products we've seen in every category thatrelates to our industry, and compare notes on which ones stand out enough to earn special recognition. We're proud to present this year's Editors' Choice Award winners, 10 new products that will bring value to your purchasing decisions, increase your quality and productivity, and improve your efficiency.
HITACHI CORDLESS IMPACT DRIVER
We love the way this category has continued to evolve, especially in terms of performance features previously seen only in industrial assembly tools. That's why we got so excited when Hitachi introduced its newest 14.4-volt compact cordless impact driver with some game-changing features. The WH14DBL delivers 1,330 inch-pounds of torque (maximum) and comes with a brushless motor that Hitachi says provides 30 percent longer runtime. The tool also has four power and speed settings and a unique "burst" mode that delivers four impacts per trigger pull for fine control at any of the force settings. Expect an 18-volt version of this tool to appear in the U.S. too.
¦ Hitachi WH14DBL Cordless Impact Driver: $499. 800-706-7337. www.hitachipowertools.com.
FORD TRANSIT CONNECT WORK VAN
Ford introduced a welcome sense of practicality to the industry when it brought the Transit Connect work van to the U.S. from Europe, where it has been popular since 2002. This all-purpose work van is built by Ford in Turkey for worldwide distribution, and is designed for customization by authorized aftermarket upfitters to suit a variety of jobs and business needs. It sets a new model for efficiency in size, fuel efficiency, and cost, delivering 22/25 mpg (city/highway) fuel economy and up to 1,600 pounds of cargo capacity for a starting price of $21,475. The company is planning to roll out a battery-powered, all-electric version in the U.S. later this year, developed by Smith Electric Vehicles, a U.S. subsidiary of the U.K.-based Tanfield Group. According to Ford, SEV already produces medium-duty commercial battery-electric versions of the Transit, and we can't wait to see one.
¦ Ford Transit Connect: starts at $21,475. 800-392-3673. www.fordvehicles.com.
MAKITA FOUR-RAIL MITER SAW
Makita has always been known for bringing innovation and quality to its sliding-compound miter saws, and it continues its category-leading legacy with the new LS1016L, a 10-inch saw with 12-inch capabilities. The saw rides smoothly on a rigid four-rail system with six linear bearings that increases cut accuracy and reduces the rail travel room needed on full-extension cuts, contributing to the tool's compact size. And it gets its increased cutting capacity from a newly designed direct-drive gearbox and guard system that allows it to cut 65/8-inch (vertically nested) crown molding and 4-3/4-inch stock (vertical against the fence). It will also make 12-inch cross cuts at 90 degrees. Other features include a 15-amp motor with soft start and electronic speed control, a built-in line-of-cut laser, and an optional five-position mobile miter-saw stand. The company rolled out a 12-inch model at the beginning of the year.
¦ Makita LS1016L Sliding Compound Miter Saw: $549. 800-462-5482. www.makitatools.com.
RIDGID ANGLE GRINDER
When we saw Ridgid's new R1005 angle grinder, it immediately struck us as an ergonomic solution to this category's age-old problem. The R1005's unique ergonomic grip is a great improvement over those of typical grinders, which place users' hands over the full diameter of the motor. In addition, the tool's light weight (4.7 pounds) and compact design help increase user control and reduce fatigue. It's powered by a 7-amp motor and has tool-free guard adjustment, a three-position side handle, and a plug light (which enhances safety by indicating the presence of a powered tool). All in all, the tool represents a real breakthrough that we think other angle-grinder brands will be sure to follow.
¦ Ridgid R1005 Angle Grinder: $99. 888-743-4333. www.ridgid.com.
Festool makes a practice of producing category-leading tools, and the 3-1/4-hp OF2200EB+ router is no exception. In fact, it won our Spring 2009 router test as the most powerful, smooth, and user-friendly model in the class. The tool weighs 17.2 pounds and its 18-amp motor runs at 10,000 to 22,000 rpm. Award-winning performance features include the best plunge action in our test, as well as the best depth-locking knob and well-placed controls that can be operated without taking your hand off either handle. We also like Festool's through-the-base dust collection with an elevated vac riser, easy-to-reach plunge-locking knob in the handle, and great stop-rod adjustments and stops. Of course you pay a premium for such high quality, but when it comes to award-winning performance and features, this tool has it all.
¦ Festool OF2200EB+ Router: $800. 888-337-8600. www.festoolusa.com.
HUSQVARNA AUTOTUNE CHAIN SAW
Husqvarna's latest innovation makes the operation and maintenance of its two-stroke engines a new game and raises the bar for high-performance chain saws. Though they can be tricky to adjust, two-strokes must be kept in tune to maintain peak performance. The high-tech 576 XP AutoTune professional chain saw has a sensor that monitors the engine's combustion 20 times per second and adjusts the fuel-air mixture as needed to accommodate different gasoline octane ratings or blends, a clogged air filter, or changes in altitude and temperature. Husqvarna has so much confidence in this system, the carburetor doesn't even come with high and low jet-adjustment screws. The result? A 73.5-cc 5.7-hp chain saw that – says the maker – delivers reliable high performance and very low emissions. And the company plans to include Autotune technology in every new professional saw it develops.
¦ Husqvarna 576 XP AutoTune: $860. 800-487-5951. www.husqvarna.com.
ROCKWELL JAWHORSE WORKSTATION
Rockwell bills its Jawhorse as "the only workstation you'll ever need." And while the product's TV infomercials may make you think DIY, you might change your mind if you take this baby for a job-site spin. The Jawhorse may not be the first of its kind, but with greater stability, versatility, and user-friendly options, it is the best of its kind. The basic model serves as a sturdy sawhorse with an incredibly strong quick-release hands-free clamp, and folds up for easy transport and storage. Depending on the type of work you do, a variety of accessories could help you save time and control your workpieces, whether you're using the Jawhorse as a miter-saw stand, a plywood clamp, or a welding station – or just adding the flat worktable. Used in pairs, this device may lead you to put your old sawhorses out to pasture.
¦ Rockwell Jawhorse: $177. 866-514-7625. www.rockwelltoolsdirect.com.
MILWAUKEE CORDLESS MINI BAND SAW
Milwaukee continues its leadership role in trade-focused tool design with this exciting compact 18-volt cordless portable band saw, the M18 2629-22. The 3-1/4-by-3-1/4-inch throat is sized to handle 85 percent of the cuts most commonly made with much larger and heavier models. The big idea behind this little saw is the size and weight benefits you gain from using a short, one-handed saw that, at 10.25 pounds, weighs 40 percent less than its full-sized counterpart and is small enough to get into tight spaces. Features include a sliding shoe that retracts to allow flush-cutting against a wall, an impact-resistant one-piece shroud assembly that's easy to replace, and a novel blade "pusher" that you press to release a hot blade from the wheels without endangering your fingers. The saw is also available in a variable-speed corded model.
¦ Milwaukee M18 Cordless Portable Band Saw: $399. 800-729-3878. www.milwaukeetool.com.
NAIL KICKER DENAILER
With more and more emphasis placed on salvaging building materials for reuse and reducing the volume of material sent to landfills, a lot of contractors are taking a new look at the value of nail-infested lumber that used to end up in a Dumpster. It was faster and frankly easier to chuck those pieces, whether they were removed from a remodeling project or accumulated during new framing, and then head to the piles of new material. The Nail Kicker V20 pneumatic denailer could change that, making easy work out of nail removal from a variety of materials. The tool looks like a nailer without a magazine and is available with driver rods and nose guides sized for different-diameter fasteners. The company offers three nose-bore diameters for maximum efficiency in most common denailing applications: .167 inch (4.24 mm), .215 inch (5.46 mm), and .328 inch (8.33 mm). To use the Nail Kicker, you lay the material on a sawhorse, place the nose guide over the protruding nail point, and pull the trigger; the driver shoots the nail back out the other side. The spring-loaded nose guide lets you control the driver's depth.
¦ Nail Kicker V20: $499. 888-447-3873. www.nailkicker.com.
SENCO CORDLESS NAILER
Senco has simplified cordless-nailer operations with its new Fusion trim nailers featuring the company's Reflex-Shot technology, which provides instant trigger response. Rather than rely on fuel canisters or flywheels, the Fusion uses pressurized nitrogen gas in a closed system that drives the piston down just like in an air-powered nailer. The gas is repressurized when the motor forces the piston back up after each shot – up to three shots per second and 500 shots per battery charge. Two models are available, for 15-gauge (34-degree) or 18-gauge (straight) collated nails. They're equipped with tool-free depth-of-drive and jam-clearing, dry-fire lock-out, safety time-out function, 18-volt lithium-ion batteries with fuel gauges, and LED headlights. They also have three-position switches to lock or set the tools to single- or bump-fire mode.
¦ Senco Fusion Cordless Nailer: $390. 800-545-4596. www.senco.com.