Pacific Laser Systems
Bullet Tools
Milwaukee Electric Tool
Northwest Instruments
Richard Smaltz

In November, I attended the 37th annual convention of the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) in Las Vegas. Attended by distributors, retailers, and manufacturers of tools and related products, this members-only event is where tool makers unveil new products. The most recent show was filled with surprises: interesting twists on age-old tools, technical refinements of cutting-edge tools, and the never-ending advance of electronics. What follows is a quick first look at 12 innovative tools that were displayed at STAFDA. A few hit store shelves late last year, but most will come out in 2014.

Wera Chisel Driver

There is more to The Chisel Driver than meets the eye. The screwdriver's hardened tip and shaft that goes all the way through to a metal cap allows you to beat on it like a chisel without fear of damage. Where the shaft goes into the handle, there is a hexagonal bolster that you can grab with a wrench to assist in breaking free seized fasteners. Higher torque can be achieved by attaching a 1/4-inch ratchet or T-handle to the recessed female drive in the end of the impact cap. The easy-to-grip Kraftform handle helps prevents blisters and calluses. Chisel Drivers are available for slotted, Phillips, square-drive, Torx, and a variety of security screw patterns. Made in the Czech Republic, they have a lifetime warranty and are sold individually or in kits with prices starting at about $18. weratools.com

PLS Green Beam Lasers

Pacific Laser Systems recently introduced green-beam versions of two of their most popular lasers, the PLS 180 line laser and the PLS 3 point laser. Science has shown that green light is three times more visible to the human eye than red, which is why green lasers can be used in areas that are too bright for red ones. Until now, small green lasers have been rare because the diodes they used were hard to produce and not very reliable. But a recent breakthrough made it possible to fabricate reliable true green semiconductor diodes. Green diodes are expensive and consume more power, so the new PLS lasers have 30% (6 to 8 hours) as much runtime as their red counterparts. These new lasers are intended for use indoors; they don't pulse and they work about the same as red lasers in bright outdoor light. The MSRP for the PLS 180 Green Beam is $495; the PLS 3 Green Beam is $329. Parts are globally sourced with final assembly in the U.S. plslaser.com

Makita XSH01Z Dual-Battery Circular Saw

Unlike earlier tools in Makita's X2 line, the 36-volt XSH01Z does not require the use of an adapter; it's a native two-battery design. Powered by a pair of 18-volt LXT batteries, this 7 1/4-inch saw is said by its maker to have sufficient power to allow framers, remodelers, and others to "cut the cord" and go cordless. Details were sketchy at the time of the show, but a brochure on the company's Japanese website says the tool will be capable of making 205 cuts per charge in 2-inch by 11 3/4-inch Melapi—a type of soft luan lumber used in Asia. The saw weighs 10.1 pounds with batteries. Sold bare, it will have an estimated street price of $229. COO: China. makitausa.com

Werner Podium Series Ladders

The Podium Series stepladder has an oversize top step that functions as a standing platform and a waist-height guard rail that does double-duty as a tray for small tools and parts. The size of the platform and presence of the rail make it possible for users to safely and comfortably work facing any direction and without concern that they will stand too high on the ladder. Made from fiberglass and aluminum, these ladders have a 300-pound load capacity and a 1A Duty Rating, and will be available with platform heights of 3, 4, 6, 8, and 10 feet. Podium Series ladders are made in Mexico and will be available in May 2014 with prices between $150 and $550. us.wernerco.com

Bullet Tools Centerfire Circular Blade

Foam insulation and ICFs are frequently cut with standard circular blades, sending clouds of staticky and clingy "foam dust" into the air. With its double-beveled edge, the Centerfire blade slices through foam like a knife, leaving factory-clean edges, a negligible kerf, and almost no dust. This makes for easy reworking of pieces and far less cleanup than before. Blades will be available for use on 10-inch table saws and 7 1/4-inch inline saws and will sell for $90 and $60 respectively. The 7 1/4-inch model has a maximum rated speed of 4,500 rpm, so it can't be used on most sidewinders. Centerfire blades are made in the U.S. and will be released for sale in March 2014. bullettools.com

Metabo Ultra-M 5.2 Ah Battery

While most makers of 18-volt tools have only recently transitioned from 3.0 to 4.0 Ah battery packs, Metabo is introducing a 5.2 Ah pack to the U.S. market. This is the highest rating of any 18-volt pack currently available and was made possible by the joint development of new, more-energy-dense battery cells by Sanyo and Metabo. The 5.2-Ah pack is no larger or heavier than its predecessors and is backward-compatible to the company's other 18-volt tools. It stores 75% more energy than a 3.0 Ah pack and 30% more than a 4.0 Ah pack. Each cell is individually monitored and protected electronically, ensuring that each battery cell is evenly charged and discharged every time, thus greatly extending battery life and protecting the tools being used. The Ultra-M pack has a three-year warranty and is currently available with select tools. It was made available in the U.S. on Oct. 1, 2013, and can be purchased as a standalone piece. Cost: $139 for just the battery. COO: Hungary. metabo.us

M18 Jobsite Radio/Charger with Bluetooth

Every jobsite has chargers and many have radios, so it's nice when they can be the same device. Milwaukee's M18 (2792-20) radio/charger is the first jobsite model to include Bluetooth connectivity. You can wirelessly stream music to the radio from up to 100 feet away, which allows you to keep your phone where you can answer it. Unlike other radio/chargers, this one can charge or power USB devices while being run from a battery. And if you plug it in, it will charge the battery. The 17-pound device has all the usual features: a roll cage, a radio tuner, an auxiliary input, and a sealed storage compartment for media players and other small items. There's even a built-in bottle opener—for after-hours use, of course. Launched in February 2014, the M18 radio/charger is made in China and will retail for about $229. milwaukeetool.com

Fein ASCM18QX Brushless Drill/Driver

With four geared speeds, this new drill/driver tops out at an amazing 3,850 rpm; most cordless drills cannot do more than 2,000 rpm. It has an electronic clutch and an unusual system of removable chucks and bit holders similar to those offered by Festool and Metabo. With its brushless motor and supplied 4.0-Ah battery, it promises to have excellent runtime; Fein claims it can drive 1,800 screws per charge. This is one of several new 18-volt tools in a series that includes a hammer drill/driver, a two-speed drill/driver, an impact driver, and an impact wrench. The ASCM 18 is made in Germany and is available with 4.0 or 2.0 Ah batteries, or bare. A kit with tool, charger, case, and two 4.0-Ah batteries has an MSRP of $548. feinus.com

Bosch GLM 100 C Laser Measurer

This laser distance measurer has something entirely new—Bluetooth connectivity to a free measurement app (Apple iOS or Android) on a smartphone or tablet. It allows you to photograph a room or opening with the phone, measure it with the laser distance measurer, and then wirelessly transfer those dimensions to the phone—where they will appear on the photo. This is faster and more accurate than measuring with a tape and writing the dimensions on a sketch. You can email the dimensioned photo to a customer, supplier, or architect—or go to the cut station and use dimensions from your phone. The GLM 100 C can be used with or without the app. Without the app, it's a full-featured laser distance measurer with an inclinometer and a range of 330 feet. The tool is manufactured in Malaysia and sells for about $300. boschtools.com

LSC60 Laser Site Calculator

Some tools just go together, like a hammer and a nail set — or a measuring device and a calculator, which is what the LSC60 is: a laser distance measurer with a built-in calculator. Instead of taking measurements, writing them down, and then keying them into a calculator, you can go directly to the calculation. The LSC60 has six different measuring functions including area, volume, and continuous. It can be used for distances between 4 inches and 195 feet with an accuracy of +/- 1/16 inch. Its memory will store up to 30 measurements, which can be made in feet, inches, or meters. Produced in NWI's (Northwest Instruments) factory in China, the LSC60 has a suggested retail price of $199. nwinstrument.com

DeWalt DWE7491R Table Saw

The DWE7491R is one of three 10-inch table saws DeWalt introduced last fall. Intended to replace the venerable DW744, it offers greater rip capacity than any other portable jobsite saw—a whopping 32 1/2 inches. The most visible change over earlier models of its size is the switch from a plastic housing to a robust tubular steel roll cage. The removable guard and riving knife have been upgraded by the addition of a dust port on top, making it possible to connect a dust collection hose there as well as below the table—a feature similar to what is found on most European table saws. Similar to previous DeWalt models, this one has a rack-and-pinion fence system. The 4,800-rpm, 15-amp motor spins faster than motors in previous models. Made in Taiwan, the DWE7491R weighs 90 pounds with the stand and retails for about $599. dewalt.com

Knaack Jobsite Chest with Junk Trunk

This job box, model 4830-D, is an example of a common piece of equipment made better through the addition of one simple feature: a shallow drawer that slides out from underneath the main compartment. The drawer is a safe place to store small and delicate items that could be lost or damaged if thrown in with the kind of large, heavy tools typically stored in the main compartment. Dividing the box in this manner makes the main compartment shallower and easier to load and unload. The drawer and lid lock separately so there's an option to key the compartments differently and control who has access to each. The box is 48x30x35-inches; the full-depth drawer is 5 inches tall. This made-in-the-USA job box hit the market in January 2014 and has an MSRP of $803. knaack.com

David Frane is the editor of Tools of the Trade.