Cool Tools, Hot Market

By Valerie Lemke

June 19, 2009 5 min read


Newest products feature multitasking, cordless capabilities

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

Attention do-it-yourselfers: If you haven't prowled through the tool departments recently, you're in for a treat. There are some cool new tools out there just waiting for you.

For starters, consider cordless power tools.

"Every tool maker you can think of has gone cordless," said Gabe Lael, tool expert for The Home Depot. "The tools have the same power and strength as models with a cord, and they have the added advantage of portability, less weight and smaller size."

Other benefits include the capability of working when no electricity is available and eliminating bulky, tangled cords, which themselves can present hazards.

Lithium-ion batteries hold the secret, according to Lael. "Every brand has gone to the lithium battery. You can use it all day, store it for three to six months, turn it back on and it starts right up. It will have retained its charge."

Cordless tools can handle diverse jobs, too. Kelly Brown, vice president of merchandising for tools at Lowe's, points to the Bosch 12-Volt MAX Multi-X as a case in point. "The Multi-X can be used to perform a wide variety of tasks including cutting and sanding, cutting PVC and copper pipe, removing grout caulk or tile and plunge-cutting in wood or drywall," Brown said.

You can get a similar kit from The Home Depot that includes a drill or circular saw, lithium batteries and a charger, Lael said.

The small, cordless Dremel is an example of another battery-powered power tool.

"It's great for people who have hobbies. You can choose from more than 100 different attachments to polish, sharpen, grind, etch, sand -- the list is endless," Lael said.

Other technological advances have made forays into the home improvement world. The Milwaukee M-Spector, a digital, hand-held inspection camera, is another innovation now available in the tool department. Developed primarily for plumbers and contractors who need to find a problem that may be obscured inside a wall or pipe, it features a three-foot cord with a camera that shows you a digital image of those hard-to-reach places where you may need a clearer view.

Ever since the invention of the shelf, curtain rod and towel bar, hapless handymen -- confident they can "eyeball" the level -- have spent countless hours putting these household necessities up. Upon completion, they're invariably on a slant with assorted extra holes in the wall.

Enter the laser level. "It fits in the palm of your hand, is battery-powered and shoots a 30-foot laser light across the wall, enabling you to put in one bracket and align the second perfectly," Lael said. The laser light is a do-it-yourselfer's godsend and a hugely popular Christmas present.

To help professionals as well as big-time do-it-yourselfers get a large outdoor site level before pouring the concrete, there's also a complete line of laser graders.

The laser level and the laser grader could be called both new inventions and old tools that have been improved upon, according to Brown. "Ultimately, tools are designed to solve user applications and through careful observation, we learn not only how to improve current tools but find new ways of doing things to improve the user experience, too."

Amazing innovations also extend to the tried-and-true hand tools that have served man since cave days.

"Today's hammer can come with wooden or composite handles or built-in anti-vibration qualities, for example," Lael said. "There's even a model with a magnetic top when you don't have both hands free to drive the nail, or for hard to reach place.

"Put the nail head on the hammer top, point up. A magnet allows you to swing the hammer, start the nail and release."

Some things never change, though. "Even in hammers you'll find a lot of different tricks and improvements, but we still drive the nail the same way we always did," he said.

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