Our mission at Hanley-Wood's TOOLS OF THE TRADE is to bring you the best tool coverage in the industry to help you work faster, safer, and smarter. It's hard work, sure, but it's fun, too. Especially when it comes to searching out the annual list of Editors' Choice Award winners. Every year we comb the industry to uncover the tools we wish we'd invented ourselves. They are the "must-have" tools for your jobsites; the ones that make us nod our heads and say, "Finally!" Some of the tools and equipment you'll read about here were born of pure inspiration in the shops of contractor-inventors who have found a better way of doing things. Others are the products of massive research dollars and design efforts by product gurus and engineers at global corporations. This year's winners include a portable saw stand that really makes it easy to get around and a new work van that redefines the category. Wherever they come from, whatever their sources, here are our choices for the best tools from the past year. ?The Editors


A great thing about self-leveling, rotating laser levels is the immediacy of accurate layout lines. But while their speed and efficiency are indispensable on site, shooting both plumb and level lines usually means setting up the laser twice: once for level, once for plumb. The RoboToolz RT-7690-2 goes a giant step further by generating both axes simultaneously and lets you adjust them by remote control. According to the company, this new laser is the only self-leveling, rotating, dual-line, remote-controlled laser on the market, and it promises to make even quicker work of layout than ever before.

The tool uses a pendulum to level/plumb itself, has audio and visual indicators to signal out-of-level, and its remote control works on a radio frequency from up to 300 feet away. The radio frequency means that you don't need a direct line of site between the remote control and the level to operate the tool, which is nice for crowded jobsites. The RT-7690-2 also has six adjustable line lengths and adjustable rotation speed for different ambient light conditions or applications. The level includes a two-sided LCD reader that detects the beam up to 300 feet away, inside or out. Also, according to RoboToolz, the RT-7690-2 is easy to re-calibrate on site, eliminating downtime for the tool. It sells for $599.

For more information, contact RoboToolz, 650-903-4944; www.robotoolz.com


Spec out Laser Levels on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products(TM).


The Stacker Bracket is a unique kind of staging designed for roof framers. Its main purpose is fall protection, but it also serves as a work platform for high work like truss loading, installing sheathing, running fascia, building dormers, and other roof-edge operations. If you can leave it up long enough, even your roofers could get a running start at the paper and first courses.

What makes this system different, though, is how it attaches to the building. Instead of a ground-up installation like pipe staging or pump-jacks, the Stacker Bracket hooks over the top plate behind the frieze block. This installation method eliminates some of the slowdowns that can affect other types of staging, like utility line trenches, mud, and uneven terrain. Also, according to the company, your crew can install it when they're ready, which eliminates waiting for other trades to do their work. Finally, because Stacker Bracket installs from inside the building, it's safe to assemble. It also looks like a real time saver. The brackets go on before the roof trusses and are easy enough for one crew member to install and remove with basic tools. According to the company, California OSHA verifies that Stacker Bracket's engineering meets their scaffolding requirements and a federal verification is in the works. Brackets, end rails, scaffold planks, and 2x4 rails for a 2,500-square-foot house cost about $4,300.

For more information, contact FramePro Products, 888-813-8880; www.frameproproductsllc.com.