2015 Pro Tool Innovation Awards: Hand Tools

2015 Pro Tool Innovation Awards: Hand Tools

Long before power tools… heck, long before power, our ancestors developed hand tools. They learned how to use heat to mold, shape, and harden metal. They discovered how to purify and blend metals to reach desirable strengths. Despite being the most ancient of all tool categories, hand tools still see new innovation every year.

2015 Pro Tool Innovation Awards: Hand Tools

Winner – Screwdrivers

Klein Tools Adjustable Length Screwdriver 32571Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Klein’s Adjustable Length Screwdriver allows you to carry fewer tools while accommodating more applications. The adjustable shaft transforms anywhere from 4” to 8”, providing numerous lengths to use on the job. A removable and reversible shaft, with a different tip (#2 Phillips and ¼” Slotted) on each end, provides even more flexibility – doubling the number of uses. The proprietary system securely holds the blade in place and is as durable as a traditional Klein fixed blade screwdriver. In addition, the Cushion-Grip handle provides maximum comfort and torque. This made in the USA product saves both money and space on the tool belt while ensuring that you have the right tool for the job. The Adjustable Length Screwdriver can be used on internet boxes, telecomm boxes, generators and more!

What we say: When we first saw Klein’s Adjustable Length Screwdrivers, we thought it was going to be a notched system that took advantage of a quick release style system like an impact driver. We were wrong. Klein found a way to allow for infinite adjustments in the 4″ to 8″ range. While they’re not sharing how it works (and we don’t blame them!), the screwdriver blades are held as solid as a fixed blade screwdriver. With the traditional Klein cushioned grip and double ended blades, these are a sure winner!

Winner – Screwdrivers: Multi-Bit

Klein Tools Multi-Bit Tap Tool Driver 32517Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The Klein Multi-Bit Tap Tool Driver increases your job speed by combining tappers and drivers in to one tool. Now, tradesmen have many common applications available in one tool. The multi-functional Multi-Bit Tap Tool Driver is a screwdriver, a tapper, and a nut driver all in one. It is available with six common tap sizes and comes with four screwdriver tips and three nut driver sizes. The shorter length of the taps allows for improved access behind installed boxes. The Multi-Bit Tap Tool Driver cuts down on the number of bulky tools in your bag with one easy-to-use product. In addition, you save time by not having to go back and forth to your bag or up and down the ladder to complete a task. The driver also reduces the amount of money you have to spend on tools, saves weight and space on your belt, while it ensures you are prepared for the jobs you encounter.

What we say: We love it when multi-use tools save us time getting tools, money buying tools, and space in our tool belts. Klein achieves all three with the Multi-Bit Tap Tool Driver. With one hand tool, you can tap threads in the most common sizes, then turn around and drive a screw or nut without heading back to the tool bag or carrying additional tools on your belt.

Winner – Pliers

Engineer VampliersPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Have you ever been stuck with rusty, stripped, damaged, jammed or tamper-proof screws and needed to remove that screw? VAMPLIERS can do the job with remarkable ease. VAMPLIERS will even work on screws which have special, unique or tamper-proof heads. VAMPLIERS have a patented design of vertical and horizontal serrated inside jaws which bite into screw heads of various shapes without slipping. These serrations are what differentiate VAMPLIERS screw-removal pliers from ordinary pliers. They are much easier to use than screw extractors or locking pliers precisely because of the way it grips around truss, round or pan head screws.

What we say: When Clint reviewed the Vampliers, he was honest about his initial skepticism. What he found were pliers that do a really specific job really well. For removing screws that are too damaged to take out with a bit or socket, Vampliers are your go-to solution.

Winner – Pliers: Long Nose

Klein Tools All-Purpose Pliers with Crimper J207-8CRPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The Klein All-Purpose Pliers with Crimper combines the functions of a wire stripper, long-nose pliers and crimper in one tool! In the past, a tradesman would have to carry multiple tools to strip, cut, loop and crimp wire as well as shear holes. Traditional wire strippers were secured with a screw that would loosen over time causing the blades to “wobble” leading to uneven cutting and stripping. Also, the stamped wire stripper cutting blades would dull quickly. Now, tradesmen can have many functions built into one tool that is forged for greater durability. The multi-functional All-Purpose Pliers with Crimper can strip, cut, loop and crimp wire with the durability and quality the trades expect from Klein.

What we say: We loved Klein’s original All-Purpose Pliers and they just got better! Klein removed the spring in the middle (which we liked) and replaced it with a crimper (which we really like) to add another feature to this innovative hand tool. So how do you choose between spring loaded and crimping? We’ll let you know if we decide for sure. For now, it’s a split decision. We’ll take both for the tool box and carry the crimping model for the belt.

Winner – Pliers: Wire Stripping

Milwaukee Next Gen 6 in 1 Combo Pliers 48-22-3079Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: With an enhanced 8 to 20 gauge stripping capacity, the Next Gen pliers have the widest wire size range in the industry for a combo plier. The 6 in 1 pliers feature an all-metal swing lock design that is integrated into the handle for one-handed operation. The pliers feature improved handle ergonomics that allow the user to strip wire accurately with minimal effort, as well as overmolded grips for comfort and durability. The Next Gen 6 in 1 Pliers also feature a longer, curved blade design, giving the pliers more capacity to cut larger wire, including flat non-metallic wire. The Next Gen 6 in 1 Combination Pliers also have the ability to cut bolts and pull wire with its long nose design, and just like its predecessor, these new combo pliers can be used for reaming pipe, cutting wire, stripping wire and making loops.

What we say: Milwaukee’s second generation of 6 in 1 Combination Pliers build on the success of the originals. They now strip wire up to 8 gauge to cover dryers and ranges. The new forged non-metallic wire stripper for 14/2 wire and 12/2 wire also cuts 14 and 12 gauge solid wire. The design has also shifted to a curved cutting blade to allow for cutting fatter wire. In this series Milwaukee Tool also added a lightweight wire stripper to round out the line.

Winner – Pliers: Straight Jaw

Milwaukee 12″ Straight Jaw Tongue and Groove Plier 48-22-6312Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Milwaukee Tool continues to deliver best-in-class hand tool solutions with the redesign and expansion of its pliers line. With slimmer grips and application-specific designs, the expanded line up of fastening and cutting pliers are designed from the ground-up to deliver trade-specific features, and are up to 30% lighter than their predecessors. The new straight jaw pliers line, which includes a wider array of sizes from 6” – 20”, feature comfortable grips and exposed metal handles with an aggressively ground head for reaming and punching applications. The exposed handles and reaming head give users the ability to ream EMT and punch electrical knockouts with their pliers; without having to peel or remove their plastic handles.

What we say: It’s not often that innovation takes the form of removing things from a tool, but that’s exactly what happened with Milaukee’s Straight Jaw Tongue and Groove Plier. By bending in the back of the handle and removing some of the grip, the exposed ends can punch knockouts without damage to the handle. The head is also designed for reaming duties.

Winner – Pliers: Locking

Milwaukee Torque Lock MaxBite Curved Jaw 48-22-3610Milwaukee MaxBite Torque Lock Curved Jaw Pliers

What they said: The TORQUE LOCK MaxBite pliers feature an energized, hex-type curved jaw design called MaxBite, which provides maximum grip on hex bolts and round pipe up to an inch and a half in diameter. These new pliers give the user the compact size needed to access tight work spaces and the gripping power that is traditionally only found on much larger pliers and wrenches. All TORQUE LOCK Locking Tools feature a thumb screw with a more convenient geometry for effortless hand tightening and a unique screwdriver through-hole design to allow the user to create maximum locking force. The patented TORQUE LOCK adjustment screw delivers the most innovative solution for the fastest set-up and maximum leverage.  A traditional release lever design provides further jobsite functionality and convenience for increased productivity.

What we say: It was love at first sight when we met Milwaukee’s Torque Lock lineup and we’re happy to see the expansion and continued innovation with the MaxBit Curved Jaw Pliers. The new MaxBite feature really helps the grip on pliers of this size, especially on round pipe. Of course, the Torque Lock adjustment screw is still a favorite around here for getting an even greater grip after locking the MaxBite down.

Winner – Wrenches: Torque

Mountz, Inc. EPT Externally Adjustable Torque WrenchPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The Mountz EPT Torque Wrench has been designed to meet the rugged demands of the professional. The special material componentry of the internal parts provides increased reliability and a long service life. The tube shaft is heat treated to avoid any flex during the torque process. The one piece pawl ratchet is made from Cr-Mo (Chromium-Molybdenum Alloy) Steel providing superior strength than low cost carbon steel. The internal cam-set is housed in Aluminum Bronze to help reduce the coefficient of friction as the cam-set travels inside the shaft. The torque spring is constructed from Si-Cr Steel which promotes a longer spring life. The fit and finish of this wrench is solid and can be felt from the moment it is place in hand.

What we say: Each component of the Mountz EPT Torque Wrench is geared towards durability. Considering that this line has a torque wrench with a max of 750 foot pounds, it has be. Nine models are available covering 20 – 100 foot pounds to 150 – 750 foot pounds.

Winner – Wrenches: Adjustable

Crescent Pass-Thru Adjustable Wrench Set CPTAW8Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The new Crescent Pass-Thru Adjustable Wrench Set combines the versatility of an adjustable wrench, the power of a pipe wrench and the unmatched access of a pass-through ratchet in one comprehensive tool. A traditional 8-inch adjustable wrench features a wide jaw opening and is laser etched with both standard and metric scales for quick sizing. At the other end of the handle, a pass-thru ratchet works with the set’s 10 Crescent X6 combo sockets, which are designed to eliminate the need for additional deep sockets. The X6 sockets fit both standard and metric sizes from 3/8″ (10mm) to 3/4″ (19mm), and work with 12-point, hex, rounded hex, square, E-Torx, and spline fasteners. The wrench jaw is reversible, converting the tool into a powerful pipe wrench. Aggressive teeth on the reversed jaw grip pipes tight and reduce slipping.

What we say: Some innovations we just didn’t see coming. Combining an adjustable wrench, pipe wrench, and pass-through socket set was one of them. But then again, that’s what innovation does. Aside from the basic concept itself, we really like that Crescent went with a pass-through socket set rather than a standard ratchet.

Winner – Wrenches: Pipe

Milwaukee The Cheater Pipe Wrench 48-22-7314Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: By offering users a new-to-world, 3-length adaptable design, the Cheater gives users ultimate versatility on jobs that previously required multiple sizes of traditional pipe wrenches. The Cheater comes with 2 interchangeable handles which allow it to operate in three modes: 1) 10” mode for access in confined areas 2) 18” mode for general purpose use 3) 24” mode for additional reach and leverage. The reduced weight of the Cheater in 24” mode puts less strain on the user and maximizes their productivity. The Cheater delivers best grip thanks to its overbite design, with more teeth, keeping the work piece centered in the jaws. It features the slim jaw profile of a traditional 14” pipe wrench, and the jaw capacity of a traditional 18” wrench. The Cheater features the industry’s first dual coil spring design, in the body of the wrench, maximizing its durability and further improving grip.

What we say: When we first got our hands on The Cheater Pipe Wrench in Milwaukee, we knew February would be too long a wait for most plumbers. Buying one pipe wrench but getting three sizes with a 2-1/2″ capacity plus greater gripping strength is just too good to pass up.

Winner – Pliers: Hose Clamp

Knipex Tools 85 51 250 A SBA Cobra Hose Clamp PliersPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The Hose Clamp Pliers is a new addition to the Cobra Family and is made to quickly and efficiently open and move hose clamps from any angle. The rotatable tips on this pliers make it maneuverable from all different angles and opens clamps without great effort.

What we say: It’s tough to beat the Knipex Cobra Hose Clamp Pliers. By building on a pipe wrench base design, Cobra Hose Clamp Pliers allow users to get into tight and awkward spaces with rotating tips. They have a capacity of up to 2-3/4″ and increase leverage to make most work a one-handed operation.

Winner – PVC Cutting and Crimping

Corona PVC Pipe Cutter UT 65050Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The Corona PVC Pipe Cutter features high-carbon steel blade for maximum performance. A flip-up tab on the bolt meaning no tools are needed to change the blade quickly. Crosshatch grip on blade makes for easy replacement. Use one hand to cut pipe with ease whether you’re left or right handed.

What we say: Pipe cutters have been around for a long time – and for a long time we’ve left the blades on there way too long because changing them is a pain. Corona makes that task easier with a completely tool-free system thanks to the flip-up tab on the bolt.

Winner – Metal Cutters

Milwaukee 1″ Mini Copper Tubing Cutter 48-22-4251Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Swing cutters are commonly used for cutting copper tubing on the jobsite. Mini swing cutters in the market suffer from two common premature failures – broken adjustment mechanisms and corrosion. Milwaukee designed the 1” Mini Copper Tubing Cutter with a proprietary adjustment mechanism that delivers significant improvements to life and durability over competitors. During our field research, we often saw cutters with rusted rollers due to use in wet environments. To address this issue, the Milwaukee 1” Mini Cutter will include chrome rollers that deliver best-in-class corrosion protection. The combination of these two features will make the Milwaukee 1” Mini Copper Tubing Cutter the most durable mini swing cutter on the market. An easy grip knob will simplify adjustment and allow storage of an extra cutting wheel to improve user efficiency.

What we say: With one of the smallest hand tools we saw this year, Milwaukee went after a common problem with copper tubing cutters – corrosion. It seems like if you’re going to design a tool to cut copper tubing that you’d build in some rust protection. Maybe there was some, but Milwaukee takes it to the next level by using chrome to protect against water damage over time. The adjustment mechanism itself enjoys a more durable design to avoid failure not associated with corrosion.

Winner – Tile Cutting

Bellota POP-R Manual Tile CutterPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: A wide reinforced cast aluminum base with underneath ribs ensure rigidity, stability and precision while scoring and breaking the tile. This base is protected by heavy-duty foam pads for a comfortable breaking of the tile. Reinforced rail bar supports connect with the entire width of the base and with a double anchor to optimize the resistance to stress and a faithfully transmit the efforts of the user. Solid steel chrome-plated round rail bars ensure a smooth gliding and a higher scoring precision while being more resistant to wear. Secure and precise holding of the scoring wheel in the tool holder is accomplished with an inner steel shaft. Extra-wide trapezoidal sliders made of POM (Polyoxymethylene) improve rigidity, and provide exceptional toughness and wear resistance as well as a smooth gliding all along the bars. Aluminum cast breaker combines strength and dampening properties for a clean and comfortable breaking of the tile.

What we say: Precise manual tile cutting isn’t easy to accomplish, but Bellota helps is a couple of key ways. They went with solid steel bars and sliders that ensure sliding is smooth – an essential part of ensuring that scoring is precise. They also chose materials to help dampen the breaking force. An break that hasn’t been dampened by the tool has to translate that into the user’s hands or to the tile, causing pain or cracking the tile.

Winner – Hand Saws

Milwaukee Hacksaw 48-22-0050Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Our user research found that users need to two things from their hacksaw – high tension for fast accurate cuts and durability, as competitors often break. Our new hacksaw was designed to be the most durable, highest tension professional hacksaw on the market. The reinforced metal frame is up to 5X more durable than competition and our high-leverage tension knob helps users achieve up to 4X higher tension than competitors. This tool will deliver on the top two user needs more than any other hacksaw on the market.

What we say: Ever have your hacksaw get to the point that it can’t hold high tension anymore (or never did)? It sucks when you’re trying to saw through metal or PVC. Milwaukee’s new Hacksaw boasts a reinforced frame with a knob for creating higher tension that other hacksaws we’ve used. The metal frame design should prevent a lot of the weakening that happens over time with other saws.

Winner – Staplers

Milwaukee 7.5 Inch Hand Stapler and Nail Gun 48-22-1010Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Milwaukee Tool continues to deliver productivity-enhancing solutions to the professional tradesman with the introduction of a Staple & Nail Gun that provides up to 75% more driving power. With a dual-mode power switch, the Staple & Nail Gun is built to supply the power needed to drive staples flush into tough jobsite materials while allowing users to maintain control when stapling into more fragile or soft materials. A Tilt & Fire bevel on the front of the staple gun gives users the ability to fire and fully seat staples when the stapler is held at an awkward angle. An integrated staple puller eliminates the need to carry additional tools. An all-metal construction protects the stapler from weather and abusive job site conditions while a recessed jam-free magazine and overmolded non-slip grip handle provide ultimate utility and safety.

What we say: Milwaukee packed a lot of features into what could be mistaken for just a simple stapler. What drives pros to drag around compressor and nailer when a stapler could do the job? Consistency. Many staples just don’t have the power to consistently drive staples and brad nails without spending time pulling and reseating mistakes. Milwaukee solves that issues while adding the Tilt & Fire bevel that makes fastening effective even when spaces aren’t optimal.

Winner – Staplers: Hammer Tacker

Milwaukee 14.1 Inch Hammer Tacker 48-22-1020Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Milwaukee Tool continues to deliver disruptive innovation to its Hand Tool offering with the introduction of a Hammer Tacker designed to deliver 3X longer life than the competition. Built with a reinforced, rust-resistant, all-metal frame, this new product will redefine durability expectations for the professional remodeler. A rust resistant, all-metal frame protects the Hammer Tacker from harsh weather and drops from heights of 10 feet or more on the jobsite. A metal flush drive surface allows the back of the Hammer Tacker to be used to seat staples, without causing cracks in the housing; while an integrated staple puller eliminates the need to carry additional tools to the jobsite to assist with pulling and reseating staples. A jam-free magazine and overmolded non-slip grip provide ultimate utility and safety.

What we say: What’s better than a Milwaukee Stapler with 75% greater driving force? Milwaukee’s Hammer Tacker. In addition to getting to swing a stapler like a hammer, Milwaukee made some improvements to the industry standard. Going with a reinforced all-metal frame improves the lifespan tremendously. Since we can’t hold a hammer-like tool without using it to hammer in our stapling mistakes, we appreciate that Milwaukee gave us a design that won’t fail because of it.

Winner – Knives: Insulation

Milwaukee Smooth Blade Insulation Knife 48-22-1921Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Milwaukee Tool continues to rapidly expand its Hand Tool offering with the introduction of the Smooth Blade Insulation Knife, designed to stay sharper longer in mechanical insulation applications. Engineered for optimal edge retention and durability, the new offering stays sharp up to 5X longer than the current solutions on the market today. Designed primarily for mechanical insulators that are cutting several types of insulation including fiberglass, mineral wool, foam rubber and styrene, the new Smooth Insulation Knives feature a full tang for maximum durability and a rounded handle for smoothing applications. For added utility, the tools have a lanyard hole for tethering and storage, and also come equipped with a durable blade cover for safe storage.

What we say: Milwaukee’s Smooth Blade Insulation Knife is really well thought-out. When they saw people using kitchen knives to cut insulation, they made a kitchen knife – and put it on a Lance Armstrong-esque performance enhancing program. The full tang ensures durability by eliminating the tang coming through the handle over time. Edge retention is outstanding while the blade cover snaps into place for safety. Even the handle is designed to help with smoothing. This is the best insulation knife you’ll own.

Winner – Knives: Utility

Milwaukee Fastback II Utility Knife with Blade Storage 48-22-1903Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Designed to open 3X faster than 2-handed opening, the original Fastback features a press & Flip one-handed blade opening for fast, easy activation. Additional features such as tool free blade change, an integrated gut hook, and wire stripper improved user productivity on the jobsite. The Fastback II Utility Knife w/ Blade storage improves upon the original, delivering all the Fastback innovation but also features blade storage for additional convenience. The Fastback II Utility Knife w/ Blade storage increases blade capacity to 5 blades – one in the tool and four in the storage door, allowing users to fit an entire 5-pack of blades in their tool – all while maintaining the same thickness of the Fastback II Flip Utility Knife (48-22-1902). It will also incorporate a 45 degree cut position, designed to make easier pull cuts.

What we say: Innovation creates a platform for innovation and Milwaukee proves it with their latest Fastback II Utility Knife with Blade Storage. Taking the original Fastback’s speed, tool-free blade changes, and other features, Milwaukee gave us the ability to store an extra blade on the Fastback II. Now, we can hold 4 extra blades, the thickness hasn’t increased to accommodate it, and we still get all the other great features that have been built up along the way.

Winner – Multi-Tool: Wearable

Leatherman TreadPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Anytime, anywhere. The functionality of a Leatherman tool, with you everywhere. Our engineers designed multiple tools in each 17-4 stainless steel bracelet link, making usable tools like Allen wrenches, screwdrivers and box wrenches available at a moment’s notice. Adjustable to accommodate any wrist size, travel-friendly, and fully customizable with the links you need most, the Leatherman Tread is as stylish as it is functional.

What we say: The Leatherman Tread is an instant upgrade to your man card. How many multi-tools can you carry through airport security? This one makes it! Featuring a variety of handy tools, you’ll have what you need to tackle those tasks throughout the day that normally send you digging through the depths of your tools box – all attached to your wrist.

Winner – Marking

Milwaukee Inkzall Liquid Paint Markers 48-22-3712Pro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Like all Milwaukee INKZALL markers, aptly named for their ability to write through dusty, wet or oily surfaces, these new products are designed for the toughest of jobsite surfaces. The INKZALL Liquid Paint Markers are optimized for darker jobsite surfaces such as black pipe and structural steel, with extreme temperature and weather exposure. The INKZALL Liquid Paint Markers feature high performance paint and wear-resistant tips for writing on the dirtiest, hottest and roughest of surfaces. The high performance paint also creates the longest lasting marks that are both fade and water resistant. The optimized proprietary paint has an industry-best 10 second drying time to reduce smearing markings. The INKZALL Liquid Paint Markers are designed with a textured barrel that makes the markers easy to use when wearing gloves, and an anti-roll design prevents rolling around on work surfaces.

What we say: Give Kenny an Inkzall Liquid Paint Marker and tell him it’ll mark on the dirtiest, toughest stuff to write on and you’re sure to get a jobsite with “PTR” labelled everywhere. He might have left his mark in Milwaukee this year. Milwaukee built on the success of the original Inkzall and gave us the ability to write on dark surfaces that ink has a hard time with. 10 second drying time means your materials can be used or covered without delay. Even though it’s ink and even with gloves on, writing with the new Inkzall is easy and smooth.

Winner – Chalk Lines

Irwin Tools Strait-Line Mach6 Chalk ReelPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The IRWIN STRAIT-LINE MACH6 Chalk Reel features the new Easy Fill & Lock Top that provides a wide opening for increased speed and visibility when filling the reel or accessing internals.  The updated top is constructed of the same impact resistant aluminum as the body and can be locked securely with a 1/4 turn to prevent unwanted spills. The 100′ hi-tensile line is 2.5 times stronger than traditional IRWIN chalk reels for fewer breaks on rough, abrasive surfaces, and the reel has a 6:1 gear ratio to rewind the line 6X faster than traditional chalk reels. The new open access back panel allows for quick line change and cleaning, and the wide-prong hook provides secure anchoring. Lastly, the robust steel handle and large ergonomic clutch deliver increased durability, strength, and torque, and the metal drive gear resists failure under heavy load.

What we say: How do you create innovation in a chalk reel? If you’re Irwin, you make the Mach6 reel faster, put a durable line in it, and give it a big opening. Finding a balance between line durability and chalk delivering ability is a science that Irwin has dialed in very well. The larger opening makes refilling easier and also make much more accessible for clearing tangles or fishing out the line from breaks.

Winner – Squares

Empire Level Laser Etched Rafter SquaresPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Empire Level refreshes their Square line with new Hi-Vis Laser Etched Rafter Squares featuring permanent laser etched markings for maximum durability and life. The new squares are constructed of 6063 anodized aluminum for maximum durability so they will not rust, corrode, or crack. The 7” Hi-Vis Laser Etched Rafter Square (e2994) also features a 40% wider heel, providing more stability on any working surface. For added utility, the Rafter Squares also have a laser etched QR code to connect users with an online rafter book for common application instructions and conversion charts.

What we say: Smart hand tools made from aluminum with no computer chip? Almost everyone carries a smart phone now, and we love that we can get help directly by scanning the QR code on Empire’s new levels. Laser etching has been making its mark all over the jobsite with more permanence than simply deep stamping. We’re glad to see Empire make this move forward to create some of the most accurate, durable, and visible squares on the market.

Winner – Clamps: Spring

Rockler Woodworking Bandy ClampsPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: You’ll find it easier than ever to clamp edge moldings of almost any contour with our clever new Bandy Clamp edge clamps. The Bandy Clamp combines the easy one-handed operation of a spring clamp with the even pressure and no-mar qualities of a super-tough rubber band. Just open the clamp and stretch the band over your edging material. The deeper you set it, the tighter the pressure. Once the Bandy Clamp is in place, its jumbo ultra-grippy clamp pads simply will not slip, allowing all the clamping force to be transferred into the material. What’s more, the clamp works great for keeping power cables, extension cords and pneumatic lines out of your way as you work.

What we say: Rockler’s Bandy Clamps are just plain smart. Suddenly, traditional edge clamps seem unnecessarily awkward. Combing a no-mar spring clamp with a no-mar band holds molding or repairs down while the glue dries. Since it’s held by the band, you can adjust how much holding pressure you want on the piece by placing the clamp pads further down the work piece.

Winner – Masonry

OX Tools OX-P171250 Pro Brick CarrierPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The unique features the OX brick carriers has over the competition include heavy gauge solid steel construction (compared to light gauge stamped steel), a cushion grip handle, finger flange on the bar for easy pick up, and wide tongs that are 3/16″ thick steel for superior grip.

What we say: There’s no easy way to carry bricks around the jobsite, but it gets more tolerable with the OX Tools Pro Brick Carrier. Capable of pulling 8 – 12 bricks together for balanced, one handed carrying, this brick carrier is built to last with heavy gauge steel. User fatigue is reduced by the cushioned grip.

Winner – Concrete Floats

OX Tools OX-P016612, OX Pro Bullfloat and Handle SystemPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: – Comes with an integral tilt mechanism bracket that reduces cost as a separate bracket purchase is eliminated. 1/4-turn tilt mechanism for minimal wrist motion significantly reduces user fatigue and joint stress. Heavy duty yet light weight design also reduces user fatigue. Powder coat finish for easy cleaning. Unique proprietary telescopic handle system. Also easily adapted to industry conventional clip-together handles with optional adapters

What we say: Concrete work is rarely sexy, but the finished results can make or break your company’s reputation. With several size options available that all fit one handle, you’ll save money. Powder coating makes cleanup easier saving you time. Ergonomic considerations and light weight reduce user fatigue meaning your crew will be less likely to make mistakes the longer the day goes on.

Winner – Concrete Trowels

OX Tools OX-P018814, OX Pro Concrete Floor Finish TrowelsPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said:  A unique ‘double hung’ handle with a laid back grip angle provides correct positioning specifically designed for floor finishing. Exceptionally strong extruded aluminum blade shank and steel handle mount. Rust-proof stainless steel blade. Available in numerous configurations to suit user preference. New optional pointed type has the advantages of a pool trowel and also great for in corners.

What we say: Ox hits the ergonomic side of concrete finishing with their Pro Concrete Floor Finish Trowels. There’s no getting around being on your hands and knees for trowel work, but that doesn’t mean your wrist has to suffer from being forced into a tough angle all day. Ox also went with a DuraGrip soft handle for comfort.

Winner – Sledge Hammers: Long Handle

The AMES Companies, Inc. Razor-Back Sledge HammerPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: Traditional tools in the market today have epoxy glue or slip-eye handle connections. This new design has a steel reinforced connection that permanently “locks” the head onto the handle and holds it there for maximum security and head retention. The new Razor-back fiberglass sledge line also addresses handle break concerns with three-layer overstrike protection: (1) Large Poly Overstrike Boot feature; (2) Thick Poly Handle coating over the Fiberglass Core; (3) Fiberglass interior rod. Additionally, end-users were concerned with their hands slipping in mid-action, and our new “Baseball Bat” shaped end provides a secure grip. The new soft grip handle dampens vibration also. The lanyard hole is fiberglass reinforced to provide strength and prevent breakage if dropped.

What we say: Intentionally slinging a heavy metal object around on a stick – what could possibly go wrong? A lot actually. We love the attention to the Razor-Back’s handle by going with a baseball bat style. Even with gloves, hand fatigue takes its toll and can cause slipping. The shear force that a long handled sledge has to deal with lends to head separation and the steel reinforcement builds a lot of confidence. The Safe-Lock head design provides steel anchoring to the handle to keep the head from flying off as years of use take its tool. AMES backs the Razor-Back with a lifetime warranty.

Winner – Shims

Red Horse USA WinBagPro Tool Innovation Awards 2015 - Hand Tools

What they said: The WINBAG is the most versatile and revolutionary tool that has been put on US market in many years. It will completely change the way installers do all kinds of work, making their lives a lot easier while saving them tons of time. The WINBAG is a very powerful hand operated inflatable air cushion made of fiber reinforced material. It is designed to provide a maximum pressure of up to 220 lbs. and can be used in a wide variety of applications. It gives the user infinite adjusting possibilities for example when installing windows, positioning heavy doors, levelling furniture, kitchen cabinets and household appliances.

What we say: The WinBag makes a lot of sense and is so easy to use that your kids can help you with leveling and installation duties. We like the 220 pound capacity and the ability to make fine adjustments to create perfectly levelt results.

2015 Retail Sponsors

Acme Tools small
Nail Gun Depot
Ohio Power Tool
Tool Barn

Related articles