Hand tools were likely the very first tools you got in your, well, hands. That’s because the nature of their design is basic – metal forged or cast into a shape. Along came improvements in the understanding of the chemistry leading to heat treatment and grips that were more comfortable and insulated against electricity. There’s still nothing like a good, comfortable hand tool for many jobs. Take a look at how the basics are still finding room for innovation for this year’s Hand Tools category of the 2014 Pro Tool Innovation Awards.
Winner – Clamps, C-Style
HART HCC0801/HCC0601/HCC0401/4/6/8” C-Clamps
What they say: HART adds to its professional and innovative clamp line-up by introducing the 8in. C-Clamp with Quicktight™ Technology. Quicktight™ Technology is a new innovative design that allows the user to secure and unsecure the clamp up to 10X faster than standard c-clamps. Easily adjust clamp opening by simply depressing the release leaver. In addition to QuickTight™ Technology, HART continues to add quality and innovation with a forged construction for superior strength and an adjustable handle for the most extreme clamping needs. In addition to these great Signature Features, you’ll know HART has your back with its Limited Lifetime Warranty.
What we say: We love the oversize handle on the the HART C-clamps. They provide a much more comfortable grip than traditional clamps. The quick release lever is an outstanding way to quickly set or release the clamp and avoid the many, many turns of the handle you would normally have to perform,
Winner – Clamps, Spring
HART HRC0201/Hand Clamp with CinchTight Tech
What they say: HART introduces the latest addition to its professional and innovative tool line-up. The HART 2in. Hand Clamp w/ CinchTight™ Technology offers a new way to secure a variety of materials never thought of before by hand clamps. Use as a standard hand clamp or let its innovative CinchTight™ Technology secure material even tighter by using a combination of Signature Feature Tightening Jaw Pads and Rope Cleat to give an extra secure grip. If these new innovations weren’t enough, you’ll know HART has your back with its Limited Lifetime Warranty.
What we say: We were very pleased with the grip that the Tightening Jaw Pads offer on these clamps. The Rope Cleat opens up the possibilities for some users and the release lever makes for easy use.
Winner – Clamps, Trigger
Lowell Thomas JackClamp Kit
What they say: The flexibility of the JackClamp is what makes it such a great tool – both bars can be completely removed and reassembled around or inside your project, allowing you to use it in places that other clamps just can’t fit. The attachments included with every JackClamp System allow you to meet the challenge of even the most complex projects. Whether you’re welding, installing cabinets, building a deck or just working at the shop, you’re going to love using the JackClamp.
What we say: This is the best bar clamp that we’ve ever tested. As a kit, the system is invaluable as an extra set of hands to hold up cabinets for installation. As a clamp or spreader, the power is more than adequate for everything we put it through.
Buy it Online | Read Our JackClamp Review
Winner – Laser Distance Measure, Long Distance
Leica Geosystems Disto D810 Touch Touchscreen Laser Distance Measure
What they say: The Leica DISTO D810 touch is the world’s first laser measuring tool with a touch screen and the ability to measure with a picture. The touch screen is easy and intuitive to operate; just like a smartphone, you can swipe and zoom with two fingers. You can take a single photo and capture measurements from that image, which saves time on the jobsite. Measurements can be quickly transferred to other devices using Bluetooth, avoiding the need to carry a clipboard and pencil. The instrument can also be used in bright sunlight since the on-board digital camera can see the laser dot even when the user can’t. The instrument features 12 advanced measuring functions and a specially designed tilt sensor to ensure extremely precise results.
What we say: Not everyone needs this much technology packed into a laser distance measure, but then again, not everyone needs to drive a Rolls Royce either. We still want one though!
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Winner – Laser Distance Measure, Short Range
Bosch GLM 15
What they say: Previously, professionals had two basic measurement solutions: The first was the age-old measuring tape. While familiar, it’s not the most accurate tool and can be cumbersome to operate with one person and in certain jobs, such as a floor to ceiling measurement. The second was the laser measure, which delivered better accuracy but could be larger than a tape measure and required a much higher monetary investment to purchase.
The Bosch GLM 15 delivers the best of both worlds by combining the accuracy of laser measurement with the simplicity of a measuring tape in a small, precise and portable package. At just $49, it also comes at an accessible price point for professionals in a wide array of industries – from contractors to realtors to painters.
What we say: This simple, affordable laser distance measure is a great tape measure replacement and time saver for area estimation jobs. This is a tool that almost anyone can pick up and effectively use in about 10 minutes.
Buy it Online | Read Our Bosch GLM 15 Laser Distance Measure Review
Winner – Pliers
Knipex 85 51 250 A SBA Spring Hose Clamp Pliers
What they say: Knipex 85 51 250 A Spring Hose Clamp Pliers have rotatable, universal grip inserts for reliably gripping the clamps in all positions. Slim head design; narrow head width, rotatable grip inserts: an ideal tool, especially in confined areas. Maximum jaw opening 80 mm; over 40 mm clamping range. 25 Adjustment positions.
A single pair of pliers for clamps and spring band clamps of different sizes up to 70 mm. Adapts to all positions due to rotatable grip inserts. Secure position of clamps in the pliers nevertheless guaranteed. Chrome vanadium electric steel, forged, oil-hardened.
What we say: The grip inserts allow you to go after those hose clamps from any angle. With so many around automotive applications and a variety of “creative” way to leave those clamps for someone else to remove, we really appreciate that innovation.
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Winner – Pliers, Diagonal
Irwin VISE-GRIP Max Leverage Diagonal Cutting Pliers
What they say: IRWIN VISE-GRIP Max Leverage Diagonal Cutting Pliers feature PowerSlot Technology, providing up to two times the cutting power with half the effort. The induction-hardened cutting edges cut through ACSR, nails, screws and even piano wire. The industry-leading three-zone comfort grips are contoured for optimal cushion and control, while the handles are equipped with integrated hooks designed to attach to the IRWIN Performance Lanyard system (sold separately), for safer elevated working conditions and easier retrieval when stored. The Max Leverage Diagonal Cutting Pliers are available in 7’’ and 8’’ skus.
What we say: The PowerSlot above the handles allows for greater force to be applied with less effort. Anyone cutting wires frequently will absolutely appreciate the comfort grip and smaller effort required to make each cut.
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Winner – Pliers, Locking
Milwaukee 10″ TORQUE LOCK Curved Jaw Locking Pliers 48-22-3410
What they say: As we spent time on the jobsite investigating this category, we found that many users were modifying their locking tools by welding a loop on the back end of the thumb screw. This created a way to set up their tool faster and produce the necessary holding force with a screwdriver,” says Ryan Schwoegler, Product Manager for Milwaukee Tool. “Inspired by this inventive user modification, our TORQUE LOCK™ Locking Tools feature a thumb screw with a more convenient geometry for hand force and a unique screwdriver through-hole design to produce maximum locking force.”
What we say: Even if there wasn’t a loop to use a screwdriver on for additional torque, the wide, flat thumb screw is a big improvement. The combination of the two sets a new standard for how locking pliers are adjusted.
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Winner – Pliers, Long Nose
Irwin VISE-GRIP ErgoMulti Long Nose Pliers
What they say: The IRWIN VISE-GRIP ErgoMulti Long Nose Pliers have a 62° angled head for a more natural feel and reduced wrist strain. The induction-hardened cutting edges cut through ACSR, nails and screws. The pliers are designed to strip 12AWG and 14AWG solid wire for added versatility. The three-zone comfort grips are contoured for optimal cushion and control, while the handles are equipped with integrated hooks designed to attach to the IRWIN Performance Lanyard system (sold separately), for safer elevated working conditions and easier retrieval when stored. The ErgoMulti Long Nose Pliers have a built-in spanner on the back for turning bolts, screws and grounding rods. The pliers are available in an 8’’ sku.
What we say: Does changing the angle equal innovation? When the result is a noticeable reduction in wrist strain, you better believe it! The three zone comfort grips also aid in the improved ergonomics of these long nose pliers.
Winner – Pliers, Wire Stripping
Klein J2068C All-Purpose Pliers
What they say: Klein Tools’ All-Purpose Pliers combine the features of a long-nose pliers and a wire stripper. This multi-function tool can cut, strip and loop 8-16 AWG solid and 10-18 AWG stranded wire. It can also shear 6-32 and 8-32 screws. The All-Purpose Pliers are built of forged steel with induction-hardened cutting knives for maximum durability and long life. The hot riveted joint ensures smooth action and no handle wobble. This tool is spring-loaded for self-opening action and features Klein’s dual-material Journeyman™ handles.
What we say: If you want a nice well-rounded set of pliers for stripping wire, it will be hard to beat these. For one, they have an entirely different feel from the Klein-Kurve wire cutters. There are going to be a lot of people who really like that—we do.
Read Our Review
Winner – Screwdrivers, Multi-bit
Klein 32700/32701 Switch Drive Handle System
What they say: A major trend for professional tradespeople using hand tools has been the quest for speed to increase productivity. While the use of power tools is increasing, there are hundreds of field applications that demand the finesse of a hand tool.
The patented quick release mechanism in the handle secures any accessory with a ¼” hex so you can move quickly from a power drill to a hand tool while maintaining the strength and performance found in a traditional Klein fixed blade screwdriver.
What we say: We love being able to use all of our accessories in impact drivers, but the fact is that there are times when even the lowest speeds don’t have enough control or finesse to do the job properly (or you simply don’t need the additional weight of a battery-powered tool). We’re happy to know that Klein quality is built into these hand drivers that give us the opportunity to do both.
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Winner – Shears, Siding
Bullet #620 20″ MAGNUM Siding Shear
What they say: Built to last and designed specifically for siding contractors who need a heavy-duty, dust-free solution for cutting siding and siding trim, Bullet Tools launched its new MAGNUM Siding Series 613 (13”) and 620 (20”) as the ideal solution for fast, easy siding installations without harmful silica dust and debris.
These top-of-the line shears provide a fast, clean cut on fiber cement, OSB, pressboard lap, vinyl, wood and shingles up to a little more than 1” thick. They feature full metal-jacketed ball bearings for increased power and ease of operation as well as mounting brackets for fast, easy tool stand mounting. Their hardened chromium-vanadium tool steel blade outlasts saw blades 20 to 1.
What we say: No more kicking up dust by using a saw to cut siding and trim. The thickness and variety of materials that the Bullet 620 can shear is impressive as well as the blade’s lifespan.
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Winner – Trowels
HART Quick-Tatch Interchangable Handle System
What they say: The Quick-Tatch design allows you to easily switch between trowels and floats with the use of just one handle. Being able to interchange the handle drastically cuts down on the profile of each trowel and float, making it easier to store and transport compared to traditional tools. Simply slide the Quick-Tatch handle over the spine of the trowel or float you choose, and lock into place. Quick-Tatch offers all you need to tackle your tile job and has 4 impressive HART Signature Features; Quick-Tatch design, Slide-Lock Handle, Blade Lock, and Drain System.
What we say: Being able to switch the handle between trowels and floats undoubtedly saves money versus having a handle on each tool. Getting to store all them together in a conveniently small plastic case makes this one of those “why didn’t anyone think of this before” kind of innovations.
Winner – Hammers
Milwaukee Stiletto 14oz Titanium Milled Face Hammer TI14MCF
What they say: The TI14MCF features a 14oz Titanium head that drives nails like a 24oz steel hammer, and dampens vibrations by up to 10 times. The new Poly/Fiberglass hybrid handle is up to 2X stronger than traditional wood handles and features an over molded grip that helps keep the hammer secure. In addition, a magnetic nail starter allows users to set nails with ease and a milled face gives better driving performance.
What we say: There’s no doubt that titanium is a premium feature on any hammer, and the design of this one from Stiletto has “premium” written all over it. For those that can swing the price, you’ll enjoy swinging this hammer…and you may never go back to steel.
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Winner – Knives, Pocket
Milwaukee Fastback Spring Assisted Knife 48-22-1995
What they say: The Fastback™ Spring Assisted Knife is a new addition to the Fastback™ family of knives. It features one-handed blade opening for easy activation, and delivers even faster activation by flipping open with the aid of a durable spring.
The knife features a stainless steel blade with a sharp cutting edge that the user can re-sharpen, and is designed with specific needs and preferences in mind. The Fastback™ Spring Assisted Knife features a black oxide coated blade for ultimate durability and sharpness, and a serrated edge for tearing through material like rope.
What we say: A quality spring assisted pocket knife is a pleasure to own. Milwaukee has made the Fastback to have that kind of quality at a price most people can really afford.
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Winner – Knives, Utility
Milwaukee Fastback II Flip Utility Knife with Storage 48-22-1902
What they say: Designed to activate the blade 3X faster than a 2-handed opening, the Fastback II™ Utility Knife features a Press & Flip-one handed blade opening for easy activation. In addition, a tool free blade change allows for fast and efficient adjustments, while a thin body design makes it easy for a user to store the knife in their pocket. The new magnetic blade storage will hold one spare blade at a time to keep the profile of the blade as slim as possible.
An integrated gut hook and wire stripper also increase utility by allowing the user to make cuts without exposing the blade and eliminates the need to look for another tool to accomplish the task at hand.
What we say: The blade changes are a breeze, leverage is good and it’s compact and stores nearly out of sight in your pocket. There are other excellent utility knives on the market, but none that I know of which will garner the stares this one will get when you flick it open for the first time…one-handed.
Buy it Online | Read Our Milwaukee Fastback II Knife Review
Winner – Tape Measures
Milwaukee 25′ Magnetic Tape Measure 48-22-5125
What they say: When we talked to users about the tape measures that are currently available on the market, two key frustrations continued to prevail: 1) numbers would wear away on their tape due to daily contamination like dust, dirt and water, and 2) the housing would break on their tape when they dropped it. As a result of our user-focused research process, we set out to solve these common frustrations and have delivered a line of tools that have truly earned Milwaukee’s Nothing But Heavy Duty badge of honor.
What we say: The Nylon Bond Blade Protection definitely keeps the markings on the tape measure better than traditional methods and the durability is excellent. The magnet works in two ways: holding the hook against the material while pulling the top of the tape down onto it.
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Winner – Nut Drivers
Milwaukee Magnetic HollowCore Nut Drivers 48-22-2507
What they say: Working side by side with users on the jobsite, we found that professional tradesmen were often modifying their nut drivers to work in long threaded rod applications by cutting off the back end and drilling out the core. This gave them the flexibility to perform applications such as running a 9/16” nut infinitely up a 3/8” diameter threaded rod for hanging uni-strut.
What we say: There’s not much worse than staring at a long threaded rod knowing you have to work a nut all the way to the end of it… which is when you get your apprentice some hands on experience. The color coding makes each size much easier to identify from a distance that the measurements are too difficult to read.
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Winner – Shovels
Mag-Lok Introductory Tool Set
What they say: The Mag-Lok Tool System is the first patented, inter-connected, long handle tool for commercial use. The benefits of the system are 1.) Space Savings, fewer handles and tool heads fit in a bag. 2.) Securablity, tools can be locked in a tool box or truck cab reducing the chance of theft. 3.) Lifetime warranty, if a tool or handle breaks, email us a picture and we replace it free of charge for life. Easiest warranty procedure in the industry. The Tool Set includes a 46″ Fiberglass Handle, a #2, 16 gauge round point shovel, a 16 gauge square shovel, a 24″ heavy duty broom, a 16 tine road/rock rake, a power extension and a Nylon Tool Bag. Over 50 other tool heads available to connect to our handles
What we say: We’ve seen tools that have interchangeable heads on many different tools, but not on something of this size. The idea of having a lifetime warranty on both the fiberglass handle and the interchangeable tools for all of my yard tools brings a smile to my face.