By BUILDER Magazine Staff. You work hard in the heat and the cold, so the last thing you need is for your tools to act up. And who needs heavy tools that make work harder than it already is? Tool manufacturers feel your pain, which is why a good portion of their research and development efforts has been dedicated to offering new tools that are lighter, more powerful, and more durable.

The ultimate goal is to help enhance builder productivity on the construction site, and manufacturers are taking different approaches. Brookfield, Wis.-based Milwaukee Electric, for example, has introduced new tools that offer more power than had been available: Its 13-amp high-torque drill has the highest speed in its class, the company says. "More power increases the application of our tools," says brand media manager Rich Peterson. "If contractors are drilling a 4- or 5-inch hole through a joist or a stud, they can do it quickly and easily if the tool has the power."

Power play

Photo: Courtesy DeWalt

In addition to its high-torque drill, Milwaukee Electric has introduced a high-power metal-cutting circular saw to make cutting galvanized pipe, metal studs, and metal roofing much easier. Bostitch, the fastener division of New Britain, Conn.-based Stanley, is also pursuing power but is looking at increasing comfort for the contractor as well. The company's latest introduction is a new line of small-body brad and crown staplers that it says are some of the lightest products on the market yet offer the highest power-to-weight ratio in their class.

"We use a magnesium housing, which results in lighter-weight tools," says John Chapski, director of market and business development. "Even though magnesium costs more, it makes a big difference for the user." Moreover, the magnesium housing is more durable than aluminum and helps wick heat away, the company says.

Upward mobility

Photo: Courtesy Bostitch

One thing Baltimore-based DeWalt is looking at is ease of movement on the jobsite, says Jason Goger, an assistant product manager with the company. Thus, DeWalt is trying to convert corded tools wherever it can. "We are looking at every tool that is not cordless and putting it in a cordless configuration to see if we can provide some power and mobility for contractors."

Though there are other 18-volt metal- cutting saws on the market, DeWalt has introduced a new cordless saw that offers more cutting capacity with faster and cleaner cutting. The DW934-K uses a 6 3/4-inch blade--instead of the standard 6 or 6 1/2 inches that other manufacturers use--so it is the only unit in its class that cuts 2-inch- diameter (inner) conduit pipe in one pass, Goger says.

Rough 'n rugged

It's well and good to offer more power and increase mobility, but some manufacturers say that if the tool is not going to last, it's all a waste of time. At the end of the day, says Jason Feldner, a representative for Chicago-based Bosch, pros want to know that they can depend on the tool and that it will last a long time. "We have found that users aren't necessarily looking for more power," Feldner says. "They are looking for better tools that will last longer than the 12 to 16 months normal cordless tools last."

Photo: Courtesy Milwaukee Electric

In an effort to give users better tools, Bosch has introduced the Brute-Tough and Compact-Tough line of drill/drivers. Designed to reach different segments of the market, the products are tough and reliable, the manufacturer says.

The Brute-Tough products are designed with a 1/2-inch chuck for continuous heavy use in high-torque applications, and the Compact-Tough products have a 3/8-inch chuck and a high power-to-size ratio for applications where the user needs flexibility and versatility.

"On the jobsite it is inevitable that tools will drop," says Randall Coe, product marketing director at Bosch. "The Brute-Tough products can be dropped many more times than the competition, and they will still work."

For the users who are not driven by bravado and power, the Compact-Tough line offers more than enough power for the job, but the tools are compact and designed for smaller hands, he says.

Photo: Courtesy Paslode

Heavy metal: The manufacturer says this 18-volt cordless metal-cutting circular saw is the only one in its class that cuts 2-inch-diameter conduit pipe in one pass; it provides more capacity with faster, cleaner cutting, too. Designed for steel framers, roofers, and pros who want a lighter and more convenient tool for cutting steel, the saw has an all-metal upper and lower blade guard, a stainless steel shoe, and a multi-coated sight-line window. It weighs 9.1 pounds with battery, measures 13 inches, and uses a 6 3/4-inch titanium carbide-tipped, metal-cutting blade. DeWalt. 800-433-9258. Feather weight: The new family of oil-free trim and finish tools includes some of the lightest products on the market, the company says. The magnesium-frame brad and narrow crown finish staplers weigh as little as 1.9 pounds, but the manufacturer says they offer the highest power-to-weight ratio in their class. The narrow crown stapler (shown) has a fastener range of 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches and weighs 2.5 pounds. Bostitch. 800-782-6539.

Photo: Courtesy Bosch Boss hawg: The manufacturer says the 13-amp Super Hawg high-torque drill has the highest speed and highest amp rating in its class. The tool has a low-speed clutch that protects the gear train from sudden high-torque stalls, and an easy rotation speed selector allows smoother high/low shifts. It has a positive control T-bar front handle that allows users to get a good grip, plus a 90-degree Roto-Lok rear handle. A two-position side handle allows for additional grip or bracing. A rocker reverse switch can be operated by thumb if quick reverse is needed to remove a wedged bit in a tight spot. Milwaukee Electric. 262-783-8311. Master blaster: The TrimMaster finish nailer is the only 18-gauge cordless product available, the manufacturer claims. It has a depth-of-drive adjustment that provides control for nailing in hard or soft wood and a long, narrow nose for placement in tight spots. A quick-clear nose handles nail jams easily. Weighing 4.9 pounds with battery, the tool drives 1,200 fasteners per fuel cell and 4,000 fasteners from each battery charge. Paslode. 800-682-3428.

Tough talk: The 14.4-volt and 18-volt Brute-Tough professional drill/drivers are engineered to take abuse. The tool has a Dura-Shield exterior housing, and the interior has a steel-reinforced collar that strengthens the vulnerable part of the drill. The 14.4-volt unit reaches speeds up to 1,500 rpm, and the 18-volt drill reaches speeds up to 1,300 rpm. They feature a 16-position metal chuck ring, a ratcheting 1/2-inch single-sleeve chuck with carbide jaws, and 475 inch/pounds of torque. Bosch. 877-267-2499.