Earlier this year I – and 50,000 others - went to the International Builders' Show (IBS) in search of new tools and building products. I enjoy going to trade shows because there's nothing like seeing new tools early on and in person. This year's show did not disappoint...

The news from Stiletto Titanium Tools is stainless - stainless steel that is.

The brand is releasing versions of their two most popular pry bars in stainless steel for cost conscious buyers. These quality bars are still on the expensive side in their categories, but will retail for much less than the titanium models they are patterned after.

A unique aspect of the flat bar is the bridge connecting the body of the bar to the curved nail pulling end. This feature adds stiffness to that end and prevents the "slingshot effect" that can send nails flying toward your face as the flexing tip of a flat bar overcomes the nail's resistance and lets loose the nail at high velocity.

For the cat's paw, a feature I really appreciate is the patented Dimpler. This is a hollow cylinder protruding from the side of the tool's head that allows access to a recessed nail. By pounding the Dimpler over the nail head, a channel is created that lets you pull the nail without horribly splintering the surrounding wood, as is usually the case with recessed heads.

The SSFB15, 15" stainless FlatBar ($40) should be releasing in about a week, and the SSCLW-12, 12" stainless ClawBar with Dimpler ($36) is due in five weeks.


Stiletto 15-inch FlatBar


Stiletto 12-inch ClawBar

Estwing announced that they are bringing the production of some of their tools home to the U.S. from Japan and Taiwan. Nearly all of their traditional product line is produced domestically, and the company is busy setting up dies one at a time for their newer line of pry bars (the ones with Japanese style cat's paw heads).

The Made in USA models will sport a sticker proclaiming that fact, and will be painted blue instead of the current black. The brand's RSC bar–a hybrid flat bar with a cat's paw head–is the first to make the switch.

In other developments, despite the building tool market going flat, sales have been growing for Estwing sporting goods (outdoor tools like axes), and their mining and geological tools. To make the most of this trend, Estwing will soon be releasing a double-bit axe and some other edged outdoor tools geared toward the tactical military market.

Hitachi didn't have their own booth, but were part of the Lowe's tool "oasis". This is where most of the tools in the show could be found, with several of the brands sold at Lowes all displaying together. The hot news from Hitachi was the upcoming release of their 18-volt cordless drill/drivers and impact drivers with brushless motors. Besides claims of 50% greater runtimes, the electronics that control the motors also allow for refined operations not available with brushed motor units. The tools have a digital control panel with buttons for the headlight, battery gauge display, and a power control pad that lets you choose from four maximum speed/power settings. In addition to these controls, the impact driver will have two impact settings: continuous, and limited. In the limited setting, each pull of the trigger only delivers three impacts to prevent overdriving in critical situations.

Having used the brand's 14.4-volt version of this tool for a few years, I feel confident saying that both the speed and impact control features are very useful to have in situations when you want to drive cautiously, such as when snugging screws against hinge plates or other hardware.

Pictured below, the DS18DBL drill/driver ($320 online) is currently available.

The WH18DBDL impact driver ($299) and DV18DBL hammer drill/driver ($299) will be out mid-April. All kits come with two 3.0 Amp-hour slide pack batteries. An impact wrench is set to follow later this year.


Hitachi Brushless Motor Cordless Drill

Kobalt launched a line of power tools last year. As the Lowes store brand, these tools are seen as competition for Ryobi tools sold exclusively at The Home Depot. (While not truly a store brand, distribution of Ryobi power tools in the US is limited to THD.)

Since Kobalt's first drill/driver came out last year, the brand has been busy. Besides cordless combo kits offered with either NiCad or Lithium ion batteries, new corded saws were also on display at the show. A circular saw, a reciprocating saw, two tile saws, and three sizes of sliding miter saws have been added to the Kobalt line. Along with common 10- and 12-inch blade sliders, the third miter saw is a miniature 7 1/4-inch blade slider. Not just for small work, miter saws of this size make great siding saws for fiber cement installers as the cost of specialty blades is a significant factor in their work.

As pictured: K15CS-06A 7 1/4" circ saw ($89), K12RS-06A recip saw ($89), SM2507LW 10" sliding miter saw ($199).


Kobalt K15CS-06A


Kobalt K12RS-6A


Kobalt SM2507LW

Tiger Claw, maker of hidden deck fasteners, was showing a new version of their Tiger Claw Installation Gun. This pneumatic tool is essentially a nailer that shoots special screws to fasten hidden deck clips. A unique nosepiece holds different brands of deck clips in place while and the tool shoots a screw through the clip's mounting hole.

Improvements to this latest version include a stronger, one-piece forged nosepiece that fits additional brands of clips, and a magazine designed to better hold the collated screws used in the tool. The installation gun retails for $279, but if you buy enough clips and pneumatic screws, frequent promotions throw in the tool free of charge.


Tiger Claw Installation Gun



Michael Springer has worked as a high-end remodeling contractor and is the former Executive Editor of Tools of the Trade.

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