By Michael Springer- August 5, 2008

Part I

Even though the building economy is slumping, new tool launches don't seem to be slowing down a bit. Rapid in-house prototyping allows companies to move designs to market quicker than ever, and fiercely competitive overseas production keeps many prices as low as they've ever been.

And were not talking about just a few improved models; some brands are rolling out entire new product lines and adding tools to existing platforms by the bushel.

Some of these new products profiled in the upcoming September/October issue are still being kept under wraps so we can't share all the details with you just yet, but here's a taste of the new crop.

Porter-Cable has a new line of corded and cordless tools loosely called the "Tradesman" line that is aimed at the lower-priced market defined as "between what is needed for the homeowner and the serious professional". The corded tools are circ and recip saws, drills, and angle grinders, and the cordless range includes drill/drivers, and circ and recip saws-all with 18-volt Nicad batteries. Not totally ignoring the lithium-ion battery craze, Porter-Cable is also introducing a more compact 18-volt drill/driver with a compact lithium ion battery.

Bosch has big news with the long awaited arrival of their lithium-ion cordless drill/drivers in 18- and 14.4-volt platforms. These drill/drivers will be sold in two different variations for each voltage: heavy-duty Brute Tough and lighter-duty Compact Tough versions. There will be full size and compact battery packs available for each voltage for maximum versatility. One of the last to market with 18-volt lithium-ion cordless tools, Bosch will undoubtedly fill out this product line with subsequent releases. Also new are additions to Bosch's 10.8-volt subcompact line such as the second generation of the Pocket Driver, a two-speed drill with a standard chuck, an LED flashlight, and another tool that we have to keep secret until the next issue.

Ridgid has new versions of just about every cordless tool in their 18-volt cordless lineup including a revolutionary new self-shifting drill/driver. Called AutoShift, this new feature downshifts the drill's gears automatically when the load is too much for high speed use and then shifts back when the trigger is released. This keeps the user from having to decide which speed to work in to balance productivity with motor protection. In Ridgid's launch of several innovative corded tools, standouts include a one-handed recip saw, a fiber cement circ saw with a built in blower, and a granite-topped table saw.

DeWalt is poised to reveal their new TrackSaw in both corded and 28-volt cordless models. It is a circ saw that rides on a straight base for making precise cuts without a table saw-a type more commonly found on European jobsites-so far.

Milwaukee has us biting our tongues for a while longer on what we know, but we really like what we've seen. Be sure to check the September/October issue to see it all.