2013 ToolBoxBuzz Tool Awards

awards1Editor’s Top Picks For 2013

Here at ToolBoxBuzz we get to play with tools, hundreds of new tools every year in fact, so we thought it would be nice to recognize some of our favorites from this year. There’s no scientific formula here, more of a recognition from Rob, Brad and myself about which tools really impressed each of us this year. Each of us has picked a top tool from several categories including: Cordless Tools, Power Tools, Pneumatic Tools, Diagnostic Tools and Hand Tools.

We also put our heads together and came up with a unanimous vote for the most innovative Brand this year. If you love tools like we do this is a fun post!

Rob’s Top Tool Picks for 2013

Rob spends as much time evaluating tools as anyone I know. Between his shop and on-site evaluation he’s got his finger squarely on the pulse of tools.  At least two of his picks were very high on my list as well. If you don’t follow Rob on his other site you really should take a look at AConcordCarpenter.com.

CORDLESS TOOL TOP PICK: Milwaukee FUEL Cordless Sawzall

2720-22AThe all new Milwaukee FUEL M18 Sawzall is an amazing example of corded power in a cordless power tool. This new tool offers professional tradesmen a cordless solution that doesn’t give up power and functionality. You can read our full review of the Milwaukee FUEL Cordless Sawzall for an in-depth look at this exciting new tool. The following are a few of Rob’s thoughts on it:

Milwaukee is cutting the cord with the new FUEL lineup – this saw is impressive – they really kicked some ass with it! Until the M18 FUEL I never used a cordless reciprocating saw, now I’m a convert. The M18 FUEL Sawzall has unrivaled power and performance.

POWER TOOL TOP PICK: Festool TS 55 REQ Track Saw

Festool-TS-55-REQ-Plunge-Cut-Track-SawThe crew here at ToolBoxBuzz have spent quite a bit of time evaluating products from Festool this year and it’s really easy to list this tool as a top pick. The folks at Festool make some of the finest power tools on the market right now from our perspective. The Festool TS 55 REQ is an example of a power tool designed from the bottom up to meet the needs of finish carpenters in the shop and on the job. You can learn more about the Festool TS 55 REQ Track Saw in our detailed review. Here’s what Rob thinks:

I do a lot of work in high end, walk up, city condos where restrictions prohibit dusty table and miter saws.  the Festool TS 55 REQ  allows me to get a lightweight tool on-site with tablesaw accuracy and superior dust collection. In addition, this tool cuts the time process which results in a more methodical, efficient and accurate end product.

HAND TOOL TOP PICK: Milwaukee FASTBACK™ Spring Assisted Serrated Knife

Milwaukee 48-22-1995 Fastback Serrated KnifeKnives seem to be all the rage these days and contractors are not just looking to a utility knife for all day use. Milwaukee has expanded their popular FASTBACK™ line of knives to include some really nice models including their Spring Assisted Serrated Knife, Model 48-22-1995. If you’d like to read our complete review you can find it here: Milwaukee FASTBACK Serrated Knife. Here’s what Rob has to say about this cool new knife:

The combination of a smooth and serrated cutting edge with a Tanto tip results in the BEST all around cutting edge and tip for job site conditions. It’s fast, smooth spring assisted opening blade is awesome and slick!! The belt clip is designed to secure one-handed, without looking and offers great tension, holds tight in position and does not fall out.

Brad’s Top Tool Picks for 2013

Brad-Staggs-TS-022013-300x300Brad is no stranger to the tool world and always makes it his mission to dive deeper into tool features than anyone I know. He’s been a busy guy in 2013 ramping up his own Tool centered site over at ToolSkool.com. As always Brad has some interesting thoughts on some of the great products from this year.

CORDLESS TOOL TOP PICK: Milwaukee M12 FUEL Hammer Drill/Driver

Milwaukee-2404-22Milwaukee has taken full advantage of brushless technology in their motors to enhance cordless tool platforms. The M12 FUEL line really showcases how they have used brushless motors to increase the performance of their 12 volt platform so it can be used in tools that previously only used 18 volt batteries. Essentially they are able to create a much lighter, smaller hammer drill on a 12 volt platform while not sacrificing power. The combination of brushless motors with excellent battery packs and advanced electronics are a home run that allows 12V cordless tools to play in the PRO category. You can read a full review of the product here: Milwaukee M12 FUEL Hammer Drill / Driver Kit.

Brad’s thoughts on this exciting new 12V Hammer Drill:

Honestly, I didn’t understand the ‘brushless fuss’ until I met this tool. Milwaukee combined their brushless motor technology, dubbed FUEL, and their incredibly powerful 12 Volt lithium-ion battery packs to create one of the best drills I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Hands down, this drill will do work and last longer than some 18 Volt models out there.

POWER TOOL TOP PICK: RIDGID 10″ Portable Table Saw Model R45101

R45101 Table SawI’ve been saying that RIDGID Tools are a hidden gem for several years now. Seems as though Brad is feeling the same way when he chose the RIDGID 10″ Portable Table Saw for his top power tool. I also think this is a pretty sweet saw when you consider the price and number of features. You can read a great full length review that Brad wrote here: RIDGID 10″ Portable Table Saw. Here’s what Brad had to say about this table saw:

This saw is loaded with features that you’d expect only a stationary cabinet saw to have. Between the accessory storage and the tight, accurate fence, Ridgid has a tool that works well – both on the remote job site or in a space-challenged shop.


DEWALT DCN690M1 Cordless Framing NailerI guess you could say this tool covers both the cordless and pneumatic categories. Regardless, it’s an impressive tool worth mentioning in this years list of top picks. This exciting new cordless framing nailer uses a brushless motor to generate impressive speed and performance without the use of a gas system! This sort technology is sure to revolutionize the fastening industry.

The DCN690 isn’t on the shelves yet but Brad got his hands on one and did a full review that you can read here: DEWALT DCN690 Cordless Framing Nailer. This is what Brad had to say:

Though it was supposed to be released in the states earlier in 2013, the DCN690 has yet to appear on store shelves. I think the likely cause is the fact that they wouldn’t have been able to keep up with demand. This nailer is a real workhorse, and a surprise contender to  unseat Paslode in the framing nailer genre. Using only a battery (no fuel cell), this nail gun has the power and stamina to last all day on the job.

Todd’s Top Tool Picks for 2013

Todd Fratzel HeadshotWhat a great year it’s been! The tool companies continue to battle it out for market share by continually innovating with new technologies and materials. The speed at which many of these companies bring new products to market is truly amazing. Luckily for all of us tool junkies out there we benefit from their extreme competition with lots of great new tools each year. Developing my list hasn’t been easy and I’m sure there are several other tools that could have easily made my list.

CORDLESS TOOL TOP PICK: Milwaukee FUEL Cordless Circular Saw

Milwaukee-M18-Fuel-Cordless-Circular-SawI’m sure you’re thinking we sound like a broken record but the fact is Milwaukee blew all of us away with several of their new M18 FUEL tools and the M18 FUEL Circular Saw is hands down my top pick for a cordless tool in 2013. I wrote a detailed review on this saw that should help shed some light on why I feel so strongly about it: Milwaukee M18 FUEL Cordless Circular Saw. Summing up how I feel about this exciting new saw:

Milwaukee has hit a home run with their new M18 FUEL Circular Saw. They have combined brushless motor technology with extended run time batteries and advanced electronics to create a cordless saw with the performance of a corded one. It’s hard to believe until you start plowing through wood and forgetting it’s a cordless tool.

POWER TOOL TOP PICK: Bosch 3931A-PB Wet/Dry Vacuum

Dust collection has become such a huge part of safe working practices especially on jobs that involve lead paint removal and other potentially dangerous materials. Bosch continues to bolster my opinion that when they introduce a new product it offers incredible design features and top quality construction. The new Bosch 3931A-PB 13 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum proves my point with exceptional quality and features that make it a top pick.

I am very impressed with their Power Broker™ Dial. This feature is a huge asset for contractors working in older buildings that might not have sufficient power to handle a saw and vacuum at the same time. The dial allows you to adjust the power to the vacuum so the saw combined with the vacuum won’t trip a breaker. You can read my detailed thoughts on this product here: Bosch 3931A-PB Wet/Dry Vacuum.

Contractors that need high performance mobile dust collection that’s built for extreme use really need to take a look at the Bosch 3931A-PB. Once again the Bosch engineers have attacked a seemingly simple tool and packed it with great features.


Here’s another tool that could fall into the cordless category but then again most tools are headed that way. Technology is quickly becoming an extremely important part of tools and the DCT418 from DEWALT is no exception. I remember 20 years ago in college when I saw the first ground penetrating radar demonstrated and thinking to myself that sure would be handy on a smaller scale. Well that technology is now not only available on a small scale but it’s extremely affordable.

The DEWALT Radar Scanner allows the user to identify objects behind wall board materials. It can detect wood and steel framing, plastic pipes, electrical wires, ferrous components and even non-ferrous items. We’ve got a detailed review posted at: DEWALT DCT418 Hand Held Radar Scanner. My impression of this new product:

DEWALT’s Hand Held Radar Scanner is a must have tool for any renovation contractor, plumber or electrician specializing in renovation work. This small but sophisticated tool gives a contractor Super Man vision that helps identify framing and mechanical items that otherwise might not be located without cutting into the wall. Definitely one of the best investments I can recommend this year.

Editor’s Note: We’ve just learned that the radar scanner has been temporarily discontinued until around mid-2014. They are in the process of making product upgrades to the user interface. The changes being made are to help users differentiate between embedded objects and materials. As we learn more details we’ll update everyone.

2013 Most Innovative Tool Company Award

Each year the three of us spend hundreds of hours testing and evaluating new tools. We are fortunate enough to get a “look see” behind the scenes at many of these tool companies and it’s amazing the effort and expense that goes into bringing new and innovative tools to the market. So we thought it was fitting to recognize a tool company that really stood out in 2013 with their innovative products and impact to the industry.

The vote was an astounding unanimous selection with no hesitation. This years 2013 MOST INNOVATIVE TOOL COMPANY AWARD goes to Milwaukee Electric Tool Company. The folks at Milwaukee have a slogan that they freely boast at media events saying “Disruptive Innovation” and we think that definitely describes their 2013 lineup. Their 12V and 18V FUEL line of cordless tools is nothing short of amazing. They truly have “cut the cord” and pushed cordless tools to an amazing new level.

We want to congratulate Milwaukee and all the other tool companies. We hope you’ll check out some of the great tools we’ve listed this year. We are excited to see what’s in store for 2014 and know there will be some amazing new products!





About the author

Todd Fratzel

Todd Fratzel is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz, and the President of Front Steps Media, LLC, a web based media company focused on the Home Improvement and Construction Industry.He is also the Principal Engineer for United Construction Corp., located in Newport, NH. In his capacity at United he oversees the Residential and Commercial Building Division along with all Design-Build projects.He is also the editor of Home Construction & Improvement.

@tfratzelTodd Fratzel

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  1. Larson

    This is a great list of some innovative products this year, but I’m curious about the hand held radar scanner. I initially wanted it like crazy but like the nailer the date kept getting pushed back. Eventually it came out (kind of) and got blasted by reviews on Amazon. Now Home Depot says it was discontinued? Do you have any info from Dewalt on this Todd? The idea of it seems awesome it the functionality is there.

    1. Todd Fratzel

      Larson – I’m aware that some people have given it bad reviews. In all the cases I’m aware of it’s guys not using it properly and not taking the time to learn how to use it as a tool. I haven’t heard anything from DEWALT about it being discontinued. Here’s my perspective on the complaints.
      – This is NOT xray vision as I joked about in my article. It’s a diagnostic tool that has certain limitations. However, when used properly it can give us information behind the wall that was never available before.
      – It is very effective at finding “things” behind the wall and trying to identify the material, wood, plastic, metal, or non-metal.
      – To be used effectively the wall should be scanned at the bottom, middle and top. Why? Well things don’t always run in a straight line.
      – Some complain about false positives. This can/will happen when a screw is scanned, when corner bead is present, things of that nature. However, when you map the wall in 3 locations, and use some thought it’s pretty easy to come up with a very good idea of what’s behind the wall. It’s NOT 100% perfect, but it’s WAY better than anything else I’ve ever used.

    2. Todd Fratzel

      Well, well….after looking into your comment it appears a new model is coming out and the previous one has been discontinued (http://www.dewalt.com/tools/cordless-instruments-radar-scanning-dct418s1.aspx)

      I’ll find out what’s going on and report back. Thanks for the heads up!

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