165-Foot Laser Measure
If you do much estimating or working alone, a laser measure can be a real time-saver. It's easy to operate: Hold the laser to one surface, turn it on and measure to a distance of up to 165 ft. You can also use it to calculate area, volume and angles, and record all your results wirelessly on your phone. There's also a handy digital level.
For many contractors and real estate agents, a laser measure is an essential tool. But DIYers may also find one handy: It's like a super-long, one-handed tape measure that you can slip into your pocket. You can buy the Bosch 165-ft. Laser Measure at The Home Depot and other retailers.
A Welder with a Brain
I own a MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welder, but I don't use it often enough to remember all the settings, so I end up ruining a lot of material getting reacquainted with the welder. A steep relearning curve is not a problem with Lincoln Electric's new POWER MIG 210 MP. All you need to do is enter the type and size of the stick or wire electrode and dial in the steel thickness (up to 3/8 in.), and it automatically sets the right power for the job—you can hit the ground running every time.
The kit comes with just about everything you need to do stick, MIG and flux-core welding—including sample wire spools. The welder is super portable (40 lbs.) and works with both 120- and 230-volt power, so you can use it anywhere. The POWER MIG 210 MP welding kit is available for about $1,200 at local and online welding supply stores.
Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
Tool Chests ? Not Just for Mechanics
Mondo tool chests like the ones you see at professional mechanics' shops used to cost thousands of dollars. Way too much for the average shop rat. But prices on professional-grade tool chests have dropped into the $1,000 range over the past few years, putting them within reach of most serious DIYers.
I recently picked up a Kobalt stainless steel tool chest and a matching tool cabinet. The units are 41 in. wide and built with double wall construction. All 20 drawers have full-extension ball-bearing slides, each rated for a hefty 99 lbs., which is plenty strong for my needs.
This setup isn't just for mechanics either: The deeper drawers are perfect for locking up drills, nail guns and routers. And the drawers come with rubber liners so my chisels and hand plane blades won't get nicked up. The tool cabinet also comes with a side-mounted power strip, three built-in AC outlets and two USB ports. I added so much storage space that a couple drawers needed to be filled with more new toys. Assembly required a total of 10 minutes for screwing on the wheels. I bought my Kobalt tool chest and cabinet at Lowe's.
Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
A Full-Performance Table Saw for Half the Price
I bought my first cabinet saw 10 years ago: a Grizzly G1023. It was a monster, with a 3-hp motor, a beefy fence and a dust collection system that actually worked. Unfortunately, an out-of-state move forced me to sell it.
Once I settled in, I bought a cabinet saw that cost twice as much as my Grizzly, but it didn't perform any better. I had to sell that one for another cross-country move. I decided to go with a Grizzly once again. Why pay twice as much for the same performance? But this time, I bought the G1023RLW?same as the G1023 but with a built-in router table. The newest version also has a European-style riving knife and an even better dust collection system. And like my first Grizzly, it's a monster! Purchase this saw and other Grizzly products at grizzly.com.
Jason White, Associate Editor
Powerful Saw, Smart Batteries
Pros have been reluctant to cut the cord on larger tools because of a reduction in power and limited run-times. But DeWalt has addressed those concerns with a pro-grade double-bevel compound sliding miter saw equipped with a brushless motor run by two powerful FLEXVOLT batteries. And if there's a plug-in handy, the saw can be converted to a corded saw by means of an adapter.
The versatility of the new smart FLEXVOLT batteries that power this saw is another big plus. Two of these 60-volt batteries can be combined to produce 120 volts in larger tools like this miter saw. Or one battery can be used to power 60-volt tools like a cordless DeWalt circ saw or grinder. But here's where it gets interesting: This very same 60-volt battery knows when you plug it into a 20-volt tool and will provide 20 volts of power with 6.0 amp-hours of run-time. That's up to four times the run-time of previous batteries (a 9AH version will be available soon).
Now you only need a couple batteries to power a whole arsenal of tools, including the tools you already own. Purchase the complete package, including the DHS790AT2 saw, two FLEXVOLT batteries, dual-port charger and corded power supply, at home centers, tool stores and online retailers.
A Practically Perfect Planer
I do lots of woodworking, almost all of it starting with rough-sawn lumber. Flattening and smoothing that lumber requires three tools: a jointer, a table saw and a thickness planer. I've had my DeWalt DW735 planer for about eight years now, and the only maintenance it has required is knife changes. (Use only clean, metal-free lumber since a set of knives costs upward of $60.) All that trouble-free performance, despite sending thousands of feet of various lumber types, thicknesses and widths through its maw.
It has three two-edged knives in the cutter head, so you can flip them around when one side gets dull. There are two speed settings: The slower one is for smoother cuts (179 cuts per inch), while the second setting is for speedier work (79 cuts per inch). Frankly I only use the slow speed when I'm cutting wide or extra-tough lumber. The fast speed yields plenty smooth results using a much quicker feed rate. The thickness scale is absolutely dead on.
The dust system is the best I've ever seen on any tool. It has an internal blower to supplement any dust collection system you may have. If you don't have dust collection, it's still almost mess-free if you simply direct the chips into a trash can. It'll handle stock up to 6 in. thick and 12 in. wide. At about $550 a copy, these rascals ain't cheap, but after eight trouble-free years, I gotta tell ya: I love mine!
Travis Larson, Senior Editor
Robotic Lawn Mower
The Automower from Husqvarna works great. The guide wire that runs around the perimeter of your yard is held down with stakes, so no trenching was necessary, and programming is simple. The whole setup took less than 90 minutes. What makes this machine excel is the retractable, razor-like cutting blades. They're just a fraction of the size of thick steel blades, which results in clean cuts, longer run-times and super-quiet operation.
Serious Heavy-Duty Driver and Drill
I love Milwaukee's new impact driver and hammer drill: brushless motors for longer run-times, Milwaukee's best batteries and all the bells and whistles (LED lights, power meters, belt hooks, etc.). I've used these tools hard for a few months now and they haven't let me down. I was particularly impressed by the impact driver's speed selector, which can give you better control when it's set for slow speed.
The two tools are available as a set, with two batteries and a charger at The Home Depot. Plus, you'll find lots of other pro tools that use the same excellent battery platform.
Ken Collier, Editor at Large
More Than A Garage Door Opener
This game-changing garage hub is called the Ryobi GD200. It has a powerful 2-hp motor under the hood, instead of a 1/2-hp like most other openers. It features a super-quiet, steel-reinforced belt drive rather than a noisy chain or screw drive. It also has an LED light, which should last as long as the opener itself. The light is activated by a motion detector and turns on whenever you enter the garage.
But what really sets this unit apart are the seven ports. Each port receives a module of your choosing, including a fan, a CO and temperature sensor, a Bluetooth speaker that broadcasts and receives music or phone calls from your smartphone, a retractable electrical cord, a battery backup, and even a laser system that tells you when your car is parked in exactly the right spot.
Super-Quiet, Portable Power
I visited the folks at Generac at the 2016 National Hardware Show. They were excited to show me their new iQ2000 (2,000-watt) inverter power generator. I was impressed. It has clear and easy starting directions and an LED dashboard that displays how much time you have before you run out of fuel.
But the most striking feature was how quietly it ran. I've never heard a quieter generator. It would be perfect for camping, tailgating or anywhere you need power but don't want to yell over the roar of a noisy engine. The Purchase the iQ2000 in stores and online.
Jason White, Associate Editor
Pull Power, Light and Compressed Air From Your Ceiling
When auto mechanics need a trouble light, receptacle or compressed air, they just reach for the ceiling and pull down whatever hose or cord they need. Now you can too. The Chamberlain Garage Power Station mounts on your ceiling and has a 25-ft. multifunction pull-down/retractable 'hose' to provide light, power and compressed air.
The base unit plugs into a nearby receptacle and houses an air compressor capable of putting out 100 psi (great for bike tires). Pop two MR16 halogen bulbs into the ceiling unit to get 100 watts of area lighting in addition to the LED work light on the retractable hose. Find the Garage Power Station at home centers and online.
The foldable Cub Cadet Hauler can handle 800 lbs. of whatever you've got—mulch, soil, rocks—and unload it easily with the press of a foot pedal. You can fold one side down for easy access to a heavy bag of fertilizer or fold down all the sides and use it as a flat bed to haul logs, fence posts or lumber. There's an optional tool caddy for rakes and shovels and a handle kit to convert the trailer to a two-wheel pushcart.
The best thing about the Hauler is that it folds up small enough to be stored in your garage or shed. That's a big benefit: Most trailers stored outside die of exposure to the elements long before they would have worn out from actual use. The Cub Cadet Hauler is available wherever Cub Cadet products are sold and online.
Big Blade Saw for Deep Cuts
Cut—flip—cut again. That's how we have to cut a thick post or beam with a regular circular saw. Maybe the cuts line up, maybe they don't. With the new 10-1/4-in. worm drive saw from Skilsaw, you can cut through thick materials in one clean pass. The saw has a cutting capacity of 3-11/16 in., and it weighs only 16.45 lbs. (less than some 7-1/4-in. worm drive saws.) The motor is powerful enough to plow through the toughest laminated veneer lumber. This beast of a saw, called the Sawsquatch, is available at home centers, tool stores and online retailers.
Mark Petersen, Associate Editor
Powerful Yard Tools
Not that long ago, battery-powered outdoor equipment was a promising idea, but not all that practical. But battery technology has improved, and the power of modern lithium-ion batteries has grown substantially. First there was 18 volts, then 36 volts, then 40, 56 and now even 80 volts from a single battery! When you combine these honkin' big batteries with new motor technologies, you get tools that compete favorably with their gas-engine cousins. Chain saws powerful enough to cut 18-in. logs all morning. Mowers you can use for huge yards. Trimmers that will run longer than you can.
And boy, do we love the benefits. Reliable push-button starting, quieter operation and no messing with gas (or worse, mixing gas and oil!). You'll find most of the major manufacturers making these next-generation tools. Each offers many tools that take the same batteries: mowers, trimmers, chain saws, blowers, pole trimmers, hedge trimmers and more. The new 80V battery from Greenworks will even run a snow blower! Cordless tools cost more up front, but they are super-handy! If you've ever doubted that battery-powered tools would pack enough power for you, give these new ones a try.
Pizza to Go
For the person who loves to make pizza, now there's the PizzaQue?a dedicated propane-powered pizza oven (26 lbs.) that's easy to take camping, to the beach, tailgating or your weekend place. It takes about 20 minutes for the PizzaQue to heat up, it reaches high temperatures you can't get in a home oven (well over 700 degrees F), and it has two built-in pizza stones. Pizzas take only about five minutes each to bake! The PizzaQue PC6500 is available at The Home Depot, Cabela's and online for about $200.
A Safer Portable Table Saw
Table saws are inherently dangerous. You're always just one distraction away from becoming Four-Finger Freddy. In the last decade, SawStop has revolutionized table saw safety with a blade that stops within milliseconds of making contact with your skin.
Now Bosch has introduced a portable job-site saw with its own flesh-detecting technology. The blade on the REAXX GTS1041A drops down in a fraction of a second when it senses human contact. The advantage over the SawStop technology is that the REAXX does not destroy the blade when the safety mechanism is activated. Getting back to work only involves swapping out a single cartridge, which takes about 60 seconds. Unfortunately, safety comes at a price: The REAXX costs about $1,500. But it's still cheaper than the medical and lost-work costs of an accident. Each replacement cartridge provides two activations (you remove the cartridge and turn it around to get the second shot). The REAXX is available at home centers and online.
A Better (Not Bigger) Pressure Washer
I used to believe that bigger pressure washers were always better. So I bought a big, monster 3,200-psi gas-powered model that I used every spring to clean my deck, wash the siding and blow out my gutters. But I never once used it at full pressure because it would have damaged the siding and deck boards. And I hated how heavy it was and how much floor space it took up in my garage.
I recently decided to downsize to a compact Ryobi electric model. It's lightweight (just 25 lbs.) and small (fits on an 18-in. shelf), and it's plenty powerful enough (1,600 psi) for all my cleaning jobs. It has all the features of my other machine for less than a third the price, and now I don't have to mess around with gas. I passed along my old pressure washer to my son, who still has a strong back and a three-stall garage. I bought my Ryobi RY141600 at The Home Depot.
Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
A Sawhorse and Then Some
The Centipede is a multi-legged, portable support base that folds out in seconds and is as versatile as it is funky looking. It can function as a workbench, tool stand, table base, or as a pair of good old-fashioned sawhorses. It's not only perfect for construction but also handy on a camping trip, tailgating or anywhere you need a stable platform. The two sizes both come with quick clamps to cinch down sheet goods, and X-cups designed to hold 2x4s. The 2 x 4-ft. model can support 1,500 lbs. The 4 x 8-ft. version can handle 3,000 lbs.! They're available at Lowe's.
One Tough Cooler
If you have an active outdoor life, you need a serious outdoor cooler like the Igloo Sportsman Pro. It's designed for heavy use with super-thick insulation, a handle that means business, nonskid feet and a lockable lid to keep out critters. It also has a drain that won't make you wait half an hour. If your adventures require a hard-core cooler, check out the Sportsman Pro. It's available in the 20-qt. size shown and in larger sizes up to a 70-qt.