Since our last new tool report in fall 2008, companies have been busier than ever cranking out the latest and greatest. Why all the focus on new products now, with the building economy at a near standstill and the pool of buyers arguably diminished? Some of the projects coming to fruition started as concepts years ago, and no one wants to stand still regardless of the market conditions. Emerging as a leader for the next boom period holds an obvious benefit for all who persevere.

So here are some of the new tool lines that have grabbed our attention since our last report. Catch up on all of our new tool reporting by checking out toolsofthetrade.net/blogs.

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Ridgid

1-Ridgid has two totally redesigned tile saws that are replacing its previous model. The new 7- and 10-inch-blade models are built on folding, rolling stands – same as the company's table and miter saws – and they feature a unique water-management system that relies on a garden hose or an attached bucket to supply water instead of the usual flat pan. The models are priced pretty reasonably for the category. Look for the larger tool in our tile-saw test.

Two pressure washers with Subaru engines and Cat pumps are also new. Both models have wheeled fold-down frames, onboard detergent tanks, and multiple spray tips. The larger washer features electronic fuel injection and is rated at 3,300 psi and 3.0 gallons per minute, while the smaller one is rated at 3,000 psi and 2.6 gallons per minute.

A one-hand trim router was also new for spring; it has a threaded micro-adjust mechanism, a rubberized body grip, and a variable-speed motor.

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Ryobi

2-Ryobi is introducing five tile saws for less-frequent tile cutters, including three low-cost 7-inch-blade models: two with overhead blades, and one table-saw type. The overhead-blade saws share the garden-hose water-supply feature of brand-mate Ridgid, or they can be plumbed with a pump. In addition, the company has new corded and cordless handheld circular saws for tile.

Also new for summer is a line of painting power tools, including a heat gun, corded and cordless paint sprayers and roller pumps, and a novel paintbrush-cleaning machine.

A six-port charger that works on all of the brand's 18-volt battery packs allows you to leave batteries in the unit indefinitely; it senses when to leave the batteries alone and when to top off their charge automatically, ensuring that your batteries are always ready to go to work when you need them.

Ryobi's biggest departure from its core tool market is the new Tek 4 system, which seeks to replace the disposable alkaline battery market with a compact, rechargeable 4-volt lithium-ion battery pack. Ryobi envisions the creation of a standard-size rechargeable battery format that will someday be included on all brands of consumer electronics, and it is releasing a small line of lifestyle products and tools to kick off the concept.

From a digital multi-tester to a digital camera to a universal cell phone/personal electronics charger, all of the new Tek 4 products fit the same battery. It's an interesting idea. We would never give up our cordless tools, and as we rely on cordless-tool batteries to power everyday gadgets like flashlights, work lights, small vacuums, and job-site radios, it makes sense to have reliable rechargeable battery packs available for even more products. The battery format seems too large for some of the items – such as the headphones – but it's a start.

If this standardized rechargeable format takes over for double-A batteries someday, remember you saw it here first.

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Milwaukee

3-Milwaukee, too, has entered a whole new arena with its introduction of a business unit dedicated to producing electrical testing and measurement tools. Since its power tools are already favorites among many in the electrical and hvac trades, Milwaukee decided to capitalize on their popularity with a new line of more than a dozen multi-testers, ammeters, temperature sensors, and material and voltage scanners. A new twist to some of these tools is that they can be powered by Milwaukee's M12 cordless power-tool batteries, an idea akin to that of brand-mate Ryobi.

Other developments in the subcompact M12 line include a laser plumb bob, a pocket-sized 3/8-inch-drive impact wrench, and a Power Port gadget that provides up to five charges for cell phones, mp3 players, or other personal electronic devices from one charge of its M12 battery. A two-speed drill/driver with a chuck, a PVC tubing shear that slices pipe and tubing up to 2 inches in diameter, and an improved M-Spector flexible-stalk viewer with a memory card that records photos and videos with sound are the very newest M12s.

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Bosch

The 18-volt M18 line has some exciting new tools as well, including a new compact hammerdrill/driver and three powerful new impact wrenches. The 3/4-inch-drive model has a tremendous 525 foot-pounds of torque, and the 1/2-inch model provides 450 foot-pounds. This is a lot more torque than makers were getting out of much larger cordless impact tools just a few years ago. The 7/16-inch-drive tool is actually an impact drill meant for powering large bits through telephone poles and for other jobs where a super-powerful cordless tool is needed but the reaction torque of a normal drill might topple a worker off his precarious perch. The drill's hexagonal-socket bit holder fits the shanks of many self-feeding bits and auger bits. Another notable new M18 tool is a 3-1/4-inch-capacity mini band saw that is designed to do most of the cutting jobs portable band saws are used for but at about half the weight.

As for corded tools, the mini band saw is available corded, and there is a new 1-3/4-inch SDS-Max rotary hammer and a 14-pound SDS-Max demolition hammer.

4-Bosch had a major new release recently when it announced its entry into the field of pneumatic fastening with its first-ever nailers and compressors. See our First Test and Product Watch sections for more.

On the cordless side, the company's first 14.4- and 18-volt lithium-ion impact drivers and impact wrenches just came out. For each voltage there are 3/8- and 1/2-inch-drive wrenches, and the drivers come with a choice of standard or compact battery packs. Bosch also added a laser-level product line since its acquisition of CST Berger last year. Single- and double-head rotating lasers, multiple line and point generators, and tile layout lasers are all part of the new lineup.

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DeWalt

5-DeWalt introduced six newly designed drill/drivers in its premium XRP line. Internal design changes include a new frameless motor and a three-speed transmission in a metal gear case; together, these improvements increase overall efficiency and allow the tools to get up to 30 percent longer runtime per battery charge, says the company. The original Nano branding for DeWalt's lithium-ion products has been dropped in favor of the less-confusing "XRP Lithium Ion."

Also brand new is DeWalt's first true compact 18-volt drill/driver, which combines the company's existing reduced body-size tool with a half-sized lithium-ion battery pack. Can subcompacts be far behind?

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Porter-Cable

6-Porter-Cable is expanding its "tradesman" line of tools – a more economical series of cordless and common corded tools – beyond the heavy-duty routers and sanders that make up the company's traditional tool line. In the corded category, a new drill and jigsaw have appeared recently, and more tools were added to the 18-volt cordless series. Among the highlights are a cordless rotary cutout tool with an attached dust-collection port, a revival of the old DustBuster-style vac, and impact drivers in both 18- and 12-volt models. Compact battery packs compatible with all of Porter-Cable's 18-volt tools are also new.

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Stanley

7-Stanley has long been known for its iconic hand-plane designs, many of which have been around since the 19th century. But times have changed, and the company has redesigned some of its most popular models. Nos. 9-1/2 and 60-1/2 block planes and Nos. 4 (shown) and 62 bench planes were the first out and will soon be followed by a No. 92 shoulder plane. The frog (blade support) and base on all the new block and bench panes are cast as a single piece of ductile iron; and all the new tools feature adjustable mouths and threaded, Norris-type adjusters for their extra-thick A2 irons. Stanley even dusted off its old nostalgic Sweetheart logo – first used early in the last century – to commemorate the new designs.

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Stiletto

8-Stiletto is introducing a series of six new titanium pry bars. As with all of the manufacturer's 100 percent titanium tools, the bars weigh 45 percent less than equivalent-sized steel tools, says Stiletto. The curved-end Multifunctional Flat Bars are available in 5-1/4-, 7-1/2-, 11-1/2- and 15-inch lengths. The Multifunctional Glazers Bars, with sharp, straight ends, come in 7-1/2- and 11-1/2-inch lengths.

– Michael Springer