Launch Slideshow

10 Must-See Tools for 2013

10 Must-See Tools for 2013

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    DeWalt Cordless Framing Gun. Unlike other hose-less framing guns, the DCN690 is powered by battery alone (20V Max). It has a brushless motor, takes paper-tape fasteners, and is said by its maker to weigh 9.0 pounds – which is only a pound or two more than a pneumatic. The gun will be released for sale in the first quarter of 2013 and will sell for about $549.

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    Panasonic Dual Voltage Cordless Tools and 4.2-Ah batteries. Panasonic has long been known for battery technology – and why not, it’s one of a handful of companies that produces battery cells and the only one that also makes tools. Panasonic’s latest offering is a line of dual-voltage cordless power tools, which contain electronics that allow them to be powered by 14.4- and 18-volt batteries. This makes it possible for Panasonic owners to use older lithium-ion batteries with new tools without having to worry about voltage and to match the capacity of the battery to the runtime required for the job. The company is also introducing upgraded batteries, which will be the first 4.2 Ah 14.4- and 18-volt packs to be sold in the US. The new batteries will be backwards compatible with older tools of the same voltage. Panasonic will roll the new tools and batteries out in 2013; there will be a drill/driver, impact driver, impact wrench, and recip saw – though other tools could be added.

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    Estwing Ultra Lite Series Hammers. Estwing has been producing single-piece forged steel hammers since 1923. At this year’s STAFDA show they introduced the Ultra Lite Series, a group of single-piece made in the USA hammers intended to compete with the titanium hammers that have become so popular in recent years. They will be available with smooth and milled faces, and in 10-, 13-, and 17-ounce weights. Features include a shock reducing grip, a magnetic nail starter, and a secondary pulling notch on the side of the head. Ultra Lite Series hammers will hit the market in late 2012 and sell for around $40.

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    Diablo Steel Demon recip saw blades. Like a bimetal blade, the Steel Demon blade consists of flexible steel back welded to a harder strip of metal into which the cutting teeth are ground. But the strip is made from a different kind of metal; in bimetal blades it’s high speed steel; in Steel Demon blades it’s solid carbide. This allows for smaller teeth than is possible when carbide tips are individually attached – which means the blade can be optimized for cutting metal. The Steel Demon cuts all kinds of metal but is particularly suited to cutting stainless steel. According to Diablo, Steel Demon recip saw blades last up to 15 times as long as bimetal blades.

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    Stabila RBEAM Level. Go to any tool industry event and you’ll see dozens of new levels – and they’ll all be more or less the same. The RBEAM level stands out because it’s thicker than other levels and has an asymmetrical extrusion. According to the manufacturer, the shape of this tool 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. To improve visibility, the extrusion is cut back from the vials, and the end caps come off so you can mark into corners. RBEAM levels will initially be offered in 24-, 48-, 84-, and 96-inch lengths; 72- and 78-inch models will be coming later. The 48-inch model is expected to sell for about $129; the 96-inch model will go for about $250.

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    Makita HRH01ZX2 Cordless Rotary Hammer. The standout feature of this tool is the battery: It takes one 36-volt pack or two 18-volt packs. That’s right; it can be run off two batteries at the same time. The key to this setup is the adaptor, which connects to the battery slot and holds two 18-volt LXT batteries. This allows the contractor to avoid buying a 36-volt battery that doesn’t work in his other tools. The hammer takes SDS-PLUS bits and goes 0-1,200 RPM and 0-4,800 BPM. It has a built-in LED light and comes with a depth gauge, side handle, 36-volt adaptor, and contractor bag - you supply the charger and batteries. The tool is currently available and retails for about $349. For additional information and a video of the tool see this July 2012 blog entry.

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    Skil MAG77LT Wormdrive Saw. Skil invented the hand-held circular saw in 1924. The original was a wormdrive, and they’ve been making that type of saw ever since. Their 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 it will cut up to a 53-degree bevel. The added features are clearly visible; what you can’t see is how light the saw is. According its Skil, the MAG77LT will be the lightest wormdrive on the market – 4 pounds lighter than the SHD77 and 2 pounds lighter than the MAG77. Weight was shed by using more magnesium and less aluminum in the saw. The MAG77LT will hit store shelves in the spring of 2013 and is expected to sell for about $219.

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    CLC Tech Gear 18” MegaMouth Tool Bag. The A233 MegaMouth is a zippered gatemouth tool bag with a pair of built-in speakers that can be connected to portable audio devices such as iPods, MP3 players, or smart phones. Power is provided by an AC adaptor or four user-supplied D-cell batteries. The audio device slips into a clear plastic holder on the outside of the bag and connects to the speakers with a 3.5mm stereo jack. The A233 bag is available for purchase and has a suggested retail price of $119.

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    Bosch GLI PortaLED. The PortaLED is the newest addition to Bosch’s line of L-Boxx modular storage cases. It differs from earlier models in one significant way: there is a large LED light built into the top – which can be used to illuminate the work area. The light is powered by a 14.4- or 18-volt tool battery that slips into a slot inside the case. The battery takes up very little space so there is room in the box to store tools and supplies. The PortaLED has already been released in Europe and will likely show up here in 2013. For additional photos and information see this September 2012 blog entry.

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    Bully Tools Mortar Cart. Here’s a simple but clever idea: take a steel mortar mixing pan, attach wheels and a handle and you have a tool that can be used to mix and haul mortar, or haul anything else you feel like carrying. That’s what Bully Tools did when it developed the Mortar Cart. The company produces tools at a factory in Steubenville, Ohio, and makes just about anything that has handles: rakes, shovels, demo bars, roof stripping tools, floor stripping tools, and the like. The Mortar Cart is their latest offering and is expected to sell for $179.

In early November I went to Orlando, Florida, for the most important tool event of the year, the annual STAFDA convention, a members-only show where the tool and fastener manufacturers go to unveil new products. It's always a great show, and this year there were plenty of new tools you'll want to know about.

View a slideshow of 10 of the most interesting and unusual tools from the 2012 STAFDA convention. This is only a quick first look. Many of these tools are not yet available; when they are, we'll send them out to the jobsite for hands-on testing and report back to you on how they do.