Smart new tools for homeowners

Highlights of this year's most innovative power tools

By Douglas Thomson

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Over the course of a year, a lot of new power tools pass through the hands of the editors at Canadian Home Workshop. While most of those tools are capable, only a few really manage to impress us.

Our 12 favourite tools of 2005 share a common trait-once you click on the power switch, it immediately becomes obvious that their engineers have made things faster, safer or more accurate than the previous industry standard.

Laser tools

The Ryobi Airgrip laser level uses a small battery-powered vacuum to help it stick to walls (even unpainted drywall) without marring the surface underneath. It’s a great tool for help with installing wainscotting, crown moulding, stair railings and even aligning pictures. Approximately $60. Visit or call 800-323-4615.

The Zircon MultiScanner elevates the once-lowly stud finder to a whole new level of utility. As well as detecting the centre of studs up to 1 1/2″ deep, the scanner also looks for live electrical wires, copper plumbing and even rebar up to three inches deep in concrete. Approximately $80. Visit or call 800-245-9265.

High-tech, high performance

If Luke Skywalker owned a drill, it would probably look like the Hitachi DS14DMR. In addition to its futuristic good looks, this 14.4-volt cordless drill delivers a near-perfect balance of power and weight. Other features include a two-speed transmission, externally accessible carbon brushes, an industrial-grade 1/2″ ratcheting chuck to reduce bit slippage and a 22-stage ratcheting slip-clutch. We also liked the five-position belt hook and LED work light. Approximately $315. Visit or call 800-448-2244.

Tool-less blade change

This 7 1/4″ circular saw from Porter-Cable is a classic case of a good tool that’s made a whole lot better by a few fairly simple tweaks. The saw’s new (and surprisingly simple) quick-change keyless arbour means blade changes are fast and easy. And the saw’s magnesium construction helps keep its weight down to a fairly trim 9.6 lbs. A dust exhaust port that rotates helps keep sawdust off your clothes, and an on-board cord clip keeps the cord away from the blade side of the tool. Approximately $180. Visit or call 800-321-9443.

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