Known simply as STAFDA, the annual Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association convention is the most important tool event of the year — a members-only exposition where hundreds of tool companies show thousands of new products to distributors, retailers, and a few lucky journalists. The most recent convention took place in November, and Tools of the Trade was there to preview the tools and technologies that will be introduced in the coming year. Some of the products in this article are already out; the rest will be hitting store shelves in 2013. This is just a quick first look. As tools become available for testing, we’ll send them out to the job site and report back to you on how they do.
Skil MAG77LT Wormdrive Saw
Skil invented the hand-held circular saw in 1924. The original was a wormdrive, and the company’s been making that type of saw ever since. Its newest model, the MAG77LT, differs from current Skil wormdrives in a number of ways: The front and back grips are rubberized, the blade-changing wrench stores on the base, and the saw will cut up to a 53-degree bevel. These added features are clearly visible; what you can’t see is how light the saw is. According to Skil, the MAG77LT will be the lightest wormdrive on the market — 4 pounds lighter than the SHD77 and 2 pounds lighter than the MAG77. This was accomplished by replacing much of the aluminum in the saw with magnesium. The MAG77LT will be available this spring and is expected to sell for about $220. skiltools.com.
Stabila R-BEAM Level
Go to any show where tools are displayed and you’ll see dozens of brands of levels that are more or less the same. The R-Beam level stands out because it’s thicker than other levels and has an asymmetrical extrusion with a cross-section shaped like the letter “R.” According to the manufacturer, the tool’s shape makes it stronger and easier to use. The rounded edge is comfortable to grasp, and the three sharp edges can be used for screeding or as guides for pencils and knives. The extrusion is cut back from the vials to improve visibility, and the end caps come off so you can mark into corners. R-Beam levels will initially be offered in 24-, 48-, 84-, and 96-inch lengths; 72-inch and 78-inch models will come later. The 48-inch model is expected to sell for $129 and the 96-inch model for $250. stabila.com.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Drills and Impact Tools
With the introduction of the new M12 Fuel drills and impacts, Milwaukee’s already-large product line of 12-volt-max (10.8-volt nominal) tools just got bigger. It got better, too, because Fuel models have brushless motors and come with upgraded batteries — 2.0-Ah (three-cell) or 4.0-Ah XC (six-cell) packs. Among the improvements are thinner, more comfortable grips and a belt clip. Every M12 Fuel tool will have a built-in battery gauge and LED light. The line will include a drill/driver, hammer drill/driver, impact driver, and two impact wrenches. The drill/driver (2402-20/22) has a two-speed gear box and operates at 0–450 and 0–1,700 rpm. It produces 325 inch-pounds of torque and has a 1/2-inch metal single-sleeve ratcheting chuck. Like other Fuel tools, it will be available bare or in a kit with two standard batteries or one standard and one XC battery. The kit version (with case, charger, and one of each size battery) retails for $179. A bare tool costs $129. milwaukeetool.com.
Estwing Ultra-Lite Series Hammers
Estwing has been producing single-piece forged-steel hammers since 1923. At this year’s show the company introduced the Ultra Lite Series, a group of single-piece steel hammers that are made in the U.S. (Rockford, Ill.) and designed to compete with the lightweight titanium hammers that have become so popular in recent years. The 17-ounce and 13-ounce framing models are 151/2 inches long and come with milled or smooth faces. The 10-ounce general-purpose model is 131/2 inches long and has a smooth face only. All tools feature a shock-reducing grip, a magnetic nail starter, and a secondary pulling notch on the side of the head. These hammers hit the market in late 2012 and sell for about $40. estwing.com.
The foot-operated BenchJaws clamping vise is a bench-mounted version of the Rockwell JawHorse. It attaches to an L-shaped mounting plate that you screw to the corner of a bench. The operator can clamp hands-free by holding material between the jaws, pumping up and down on the foot pedal until the jaws tighten against it, and then sliding a switch on the front of the clamp. Releasing the clamp is a matter of sliding the switch back and pressing the foot pedal to loosen the jaws. The vise attaches to the mounting plate with thumb screws, and when not in use can be positioned on the edge or end of the bench. It accepts material up to 16 inches wide — or, if an optional extension is used, up to 24 inches wide. It sells for about $130. rockwelltools.com.
Bosch RHH181 Rotary Hammer
The RHH181 is a small 18-volt combination hammer featuring Bosch’s new CORE technology, which includes a brushless motor and electronics that control and monitor the tool and battery. The hammer accepts existing lithium-ion batteries but comes with the company’s new 4.0-Ah packs. It has three modes of operation: rotation only, hammering with rotation, and hammering only. Optimized for drilling holes for concrete anchors, it can drill up to an 11/16-inch hole but is best-suited to drilling 3/8-inch and smaller holes. According to Bosch, it delivers 1.7 joules of impact energy and can make up to 150 holes (1/4-inch by 11/2-inch) in concrete per charge with a 4.0-Ah battery. A light, compact tool, it weighs 5.7 pounds and is 111/4 inches long. Features include a built-in LED light and a heavily rubberized grip. The RHH181 will be released early this year and will sell for $499 in a two-battery kit and $249 in a case with no batteries or charger. bosch.com.
Senco has redesigned its entire line of DuraSpin collated screw-driving tools and will be releasing new models throughout 2013 — including integrated tools and attachments. The integrated models (AC and cordless) will feature a tool-free adjustable nose piece (for setting fastener length), reversible motors (for backing out screws), and a nose designed to drive fasteners flush into inside corners. There will be models for driving 1-inch to 2-inch and 1-inch to 3-inch fasteners at 0–2,500 or 0–5,000 rpm. Applications will include attaching drywall to wood or steel studs and fastening subfloor, wood decking, sheathing, metal framing, and rigid foam insulation. Cordless models will use the same 18-volt lithium-ion batteries as the company’s Fusion finish nailers. Two-inch models will roll out in March and April, with prices starting at $139 for corded and $259 for cordless. Three-inch models will come out this summer. senco.com.
CLC Stereo-Speaker Tool Bag
At first glance, CLC’s Tech Gear A233 MegaMouth Tool Bag appears to be just another zippered gate-mouth bag — that is, until you see the built-in speakers. An audio device (such as an iPod, MP3 player, or smart phone) can be placed into the clear plastic sleeve between the speakers and connected to the speakers with a 3.5-mm stereo jack. Power is provided by an AC adapter or four user-supplied D-cell batteries. With 18 pockets on the inside and 21 on the outside, the bag should keep tools well-organized. Features include a padded shoulder strap, pads that protect the bottom from abrasion, and a metal frame that stiffens the opening. The A233 bag costs about $120. goclc.com.
DeWalt Cordless Framing Gun
One of the most impressive tools at the show was DeWalt’s new hoseless 20V Max framing gun. Hoseless framing guns have been around for 25-plus years, but until now they’ve relied on fuel-powered combustion motors. DeWalt’s DCN690 is the first framing gun to be powered by battery alone. With no need to support combustion, the tool should work equally well at high and low altitude and be more reliable in cold weather. Most cordless electric guns are finish nailers and rely on belt-driven flywheels. This new framing gun has a brushless motor that engages directly with the drive mechanism — a simple, efficient design that allows for increased runtime and a lighter, more compact tool. At 9.0 pounds with the battery, the DeWalt cordless framer is only a pound or two heavier than a pneumatic. It takes paper-tape fasteners and is said to drive two nails per second and up to 650 nails (.131"?x?3") per charge. The DCN690 will be released early this summer in a one-battery kit with a suggested retail price of $549; a bare tool will be available late in the year. dewalt.com.
Panasonic Dual-Voltage Cordless Tools and 4.2-Ah batteries
Panasonic has long been known for battery technology — and why not, since it’s one of a handful of companies that produce battery cells and the only one that also makes tools. The company’s latest offerings are a line of dual-voltage cordless power tools and the first 4.2-Ah battery packs on the market. The tools are designed to be powered by both 14.4-volt and 18-volt lithium-ion batteries, making it possible for Panasonic owners to integrate existing lithium-ion tools and packs into a new system. The new 4.2-Ah batteries will work with new tools and with older ones of the same voltage. Owners of dual-voltage tools will be able to match the capacity of the pack to the job they are performing — 18-volt packs to maximize runtime or 14.4-volt packs to minimize weight. The new tools — a drill/driver, impact driver, impact wrench, and recip saw — and batteries will be rolled out later this year. They’ll be sold bare and in kits; the drill/driver will cost about $460 in a two-battery kit and $180 bare. panasonic.com.
Diablo Steel Demon Carbide-Strip Recip Blade
Like bimetal blades, the Steel Demon blade has a flexible steel back welded to a harder strip of metal into which the cutting teeth are later ground. On the Steel Demon, however, that strip is made from solid carbide (instead of high-speed steel, as on bimetal blades). This allows for smaller teeth than is possible when large carbide tips are individually attached to the blade — which means the blade can be optimized for cutting metal. Though it can cut all kinds of metal, the Steel Demon is specifically designed for cutting stainless steel, a material that is notoriously tough on blades. According to Diablo, the Swiss-made blade lasts up to 15 times longer than a standard bimetal blade. It’s 6 inches long, has 18 teeth per inch, and sells for about $9. diablotools.com.
Bostitch SmartPoint Brad Nailer
Bostitch did away with the separate contact tip when it designed the SmartPoint brad nailer. The nose of the gun is the contact tip, and the tool won’t fire unless it’s in contact with the work. The narrow nose of this 18-gauge brad gun is 80% smaller than normal, so it can place nails as accurately as a 23-gauge pinner but without the need to hold down a secondary safety trigger. Features include oil-free operation, toolless depth-of-drive, a selectable trigger, and a hinged nose for clearing jambs. The tool exhausts to the rear and is equipped with an internal filter and swivel air fitting. It also has a reversible belt clip with a pencil-sharpener built into it. The SmartPoint brad nailer kit includes a case and 1,000 brads. It will be available in March and is expected to sell for about $120. bostitch.com.
Amana ElectroBlu Blades
The nonstick coating on most table-saw blades is applied before the teeth are ground. Later, when the blade is sharpened at the factory, the coating is removed from the teeth. Amana’s ElectroBlu blades are coated after the teeth are ground, which means both the body and the teeth are protected from the buildup of resin. The coating is applied in an electrostatic bonding process and is micron thin, so it won’t interfere with the teeth’s ability to cut. Eventually, of course, this coating will wear off the teeth or be ground away when the blade is resharpened, but it will stay on the body indefinitely. ElectroBlu blades are available in a variety of sizes, including a double-sided melamine blade and a nonmelting plastic cutting blade. A 10-inch melamine blade retails for about $95. amanatool.com.
Makita HRH01ZX2 Cordless Rotary Hammer
Two things stand out about this tool: its battery configuration, and how powerful it is for a cordless model. It takes one 36-volt pack or two 18-volt LXT packs. The key to this setup is the adapter, which connects to the battery slot and holds two 18-volt LXT batteries, allowing the contractor to use the same 18-volt packs in all of his tools. The HRH01ZX2 is the only cordless rotary hammer rated at or above 3.0 joules of impact energy. If you want more power than that, you’ll have to go to a corded model. The hammer has three modes of operation: rotation only, hammering with rotation, and hammering only. Features include a built-in LED light and battery gauges on the adapter. The tool takes SDS-plus bits, will drill up to a 1-inch hole in concrete, and weighs 11.3 pounds with batteries. It comes with a depth gauge, side handle, 36-volt adapter, and contractor bag — you supply the charger and batteries. It costs about $350. makitatools.com.
Werner Compact Fiberglass Extension Ladders
Most extension ladders have two sections, but Werner’s D6200-3 series ladders have three — so they’re 25% shorter than comparable-length ladders when they’re closed. The compact design makes it possible to transport and store ladders where they wouldn’t normally fit — around tight corners and inside (instead of on top) of vehicles, for instance. The ladders are 1A rated (300 pounds) and come in five sizes, from 16 to 32 feet long. They sell for between $220 and $400. wernerco.com.