Walking the aisles at the annual Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) trade show is like being in the front row at the tool industry's Super Bowl. Hundreds of tool and hardware manufacturers display and demonstrate their latest wares to distributors and retailers. For the STAFDA show represents a golden opportunity to talk shop with manufacturers large and small to get a preview of the exciting products that are going to be available over the coming year.
Here is a cross-section of noteworthy products we saw at the latest STAFDA show, which was held last November in Las Vegas.
1. Cutting-Edge Accessories
Spyder Products has only been around since 2008, but it has already introduced several unique power tool accessories. Take its German-made chrome-vanadium jigsaw blades, for instance, which have teeth on both edges. I was told that the rear teeth help clear the kerf—to prevent binding, bending, and breaking—while creating a cleaner cut by acting as a sander. The rear teeth also allow the blades to cut in reverse. At the Spyder booth, I watched a blade make a tortuous cut in 3/4-inch plywood. The blade was pushed hard while repeatedly turning on a dime; it even pivoted in place without breaking.
In a separate demo, a carbide-tipped Spyder Pro TCT hole saw punched through a 3/4-inch plywood sample in a heartbeat. The "Rapid Switch" and "Rapid Core Eject" hole saws can bore through a variety of materials, including wood, brick, and fiber cement. Spyder offers other noteworthy accessories, too, including double-sided blades for oscillating multi-tools. Spyder, 888.471.2239,spyderproducts.com
2. Dual-Battery Circular Saw
Makita's new 36-volt 7 1/4-inch circular saw is the latest addition to the 18V X2 LXT lineup of cordless tools, joining a rotary hammer, a chain saw, a blower, and a hedge trimmer. Each is powered by two batteries (hence the X2) from the company's flagship 18-volt LXT lithium-ion platform, which includes more than 70 tools. According to Makita, the circular saw weighs 10.1 pounds with the batteries installed and cuts 2 5/8 inches deep at 90° and 1 7/8 inches deep at 45°. The bare tool (XSH01Z) includes a blade and costs about $230. The kit (XSH01X) adds two batteries, a charger, and a tool bag, and it costs about $420. Makita, 800.462.5482, makita.com
3. Rechargeable Three-Plane Laser
Spectra Precision's new self-leveling LT56 Universal Laser Layout Tool is designed to compete with the versatile Bosch GLL3-80. Both project one horizontal and two vertical 360° reference lines in three perpendicular planes that, depending on the modes you select, can collectively establish plumb, level, or square for any interior application. Both also have a pulse function so you can use them outdoors with a detector. They're accurate to within 1/4 inch at 100 feet, and they allow you to override the self-leveling function for slope work. Unlike the Bosch, however—which is powered by four AA batteries that are said to deliver from five to 18 hours of runtime—the Spectra Precision uses a rechargeable 3.7-volt lithium-ion battery that's designed to deliver from 25 to 45 hours of runtime on a full charge. According to the manufacturer, the LT56 also projects brighter and crisper lines than the Bosch. The LT56 costs about $450 and includes a case and a universal bracket. The LT56-2 costs about $550 and adds a detector. Spectra Precision, 888.527.3771, spectralasers.com
4. Pneumatic Shingle Cutter
The new Captain Edge model HB-150 pneumatic hook-blade cutter by PneuTools resembles the Ridgid model R040SCA roofing cutter and is in fact made in the same Taiwan factory. Delivering 9,600 strokes per minute, it cuts roofing paper, roll roofing, and composition shingles (including architectural shingles) and can trim layered shingles at rake edges. The trick is to start the cut and let the tool and its beefy replaceable hook blade do the work. For best results, PneuTools recommends using a compressor with at least a 5-gallon tank and a minimum output of 4.9 SCFM. The HB-150 weighs 1 pound, and at 10 1/2 inches long with a blade installed, it will slip into most toolbelts. It costs between $80 and $100, including a hook blade. PneuTools, 888.689.2529, pneutools.net
5. Runaway Runtime
In 2012, Metabo introduced one of the first batteries to be rated at 4 amp-hours to the U.S. At the STAFDA show, the company displayed the world's first 5.2-amp-hour battery, which it is plugging into its 18-volt lineup of cordless tools. According to Metabo, the new battery is the same size and weight as its 4-amp-hour battery but delivers more power and, predictably, about 30% more runtime on a full charge. It costs about $140 and packs a three-year warranty. Metabo, 800.638.2264, metabo.us
6. Cordless Jobsite Floodlight
The typical cordless work light used to be a xenon flashlight that came with cordless combo kits. But new models have been rolling out lately and redefining the category. Milwaukee's new M18 18-volt floodlight, for instance, contains eight LEDs with two output settings emitting up to 1,100 lumens at an intensity of up to1,300 lux. An octagonal bumper on each end keeps the light stable when you rotate it to direct the beam. You can also stand it on a vertical piece of 1/2-inch EMT conduit, string it up with mason's line, or hang it on a nail. I watched a demonstration at the booth, and I was impressed. The light costs about $100 without the batteries or charger. Milwaukee, 800.729.3878, milwaukeetool.com
7. 21-Gauge Pinner
Judging by recent threads in the Finish Carpentry online forum, 21-gauge brad and pin nailers are gaining serious traction with carpenters who appreciate fasteners that provide significantly more holding power than 23-gauge pins and leave much smaller entry holes than 18-gauge brads. Popular models are made by Cadex and Omer, but Senco just became the first mainstream power-tool manufacturer to join the conversation. The company's new 2.7-pound FinishPro 21LXP fires 21-gauge headless and slight-head pins from 5/8 inch to 2 inches long. Deluxe features include last-nail lockout to prevent dry firing, a narrow nose for easy access, a reversible belt hook, and a jam-clearing wrench and extra no-mar pad that store on board. The tool is scheduled to hit the market this spring and will cost about $250, case included. Senco, 800.543.4596, senco.com