hand tools awards lg

Hand tools have been a part of human culture since the moment we realized not everything could be done with our own appendages. Small and large, improvements have been ongoing ever since. This year, the Pro Tool Innovation Hand Tools Awards have seen outstanding leaps in design and have even ushered in a new class—the smart hand tool. 

Winner – Chalk Lines

Milwaukee Bold Line and Precision Line Chalk ReelsMilwaukee Bold Line and Precision Line Chalk Reels

What they said: Current chalk reels available lack the durability that’s expected on the jobsite. Throughout our research, we saw countless broken chalk reels on jobsites-namely broken gears and ripped lines. Users repeatedly buy new chalk reels, leading to an immense amount of downtime and cost. Chalk reels are so widely used on the jobsite that they shouldn’t be looked at as a disposable tool. Through a never-before-seen gear system and proprietary clutch, we’ve set out to completely change the way users can expect to use their chalk reels, giving them the long-lasting durability they need to tackle all of their projects.

What we say: Aside from a reinforced housing, the big deal surrounding the Milwaukee Chalk Reels is the planetary gear system. Going with this design creates a slightly more complex system that distributes the force of across multiple gear surfaces. Less stress on the gears means longer life for the tool. Milwaukee also developed a StripGuard Clutch to protect the gears from stripping out in the event of a snag. It also helps if you reel it in too fast and don’t quite stop when the hook catches. The end result is a long-lasting chalk line that no longer needs to be considered a quick consumable tool.

Price: $11.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Clamps

Rockler 54804/ Drawer Front Installation ClampsRockler 54804 Drawer Front Installation Clamps

What they said: The Rockler Drawer Front Installation Clamps offer two way clamping with indexing and adjustment screws for installing applied drawer faces. Their unique design allows you to clamp the drawer face in position, make small adjustments and attach. This replaces methods including multiple clamps or double sided tape and reduces the need for more than two hands! Once the clamps are setup they can properly center an entire bank of similar drawer faces. Also, because of the thin profile of the metal you can close the drawer face with the clamp attached and check the vertical gap between drawers for a consistent look.

What we say: Setting drawer faces for installation has gotten significantly easier thanks to Rockler’s Drawer Front Installation Clamps. Like you could do with any clamp, they hold the drawer front in place. These clamps, however, add a non-marring pad to keep the work surface clean. From there, the real innovation takes over. Threaded side adjustment screws help you center the front perfectly. Once you set it, the rest of the drawers of the same width are already taken care of. You get quality results without needing to grow extra hands!

Price: $39.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Electrical

southwire 6-N-1 Multi-Purpose Side Cutting PlierSouthwire Tools & Equipment MPSCP 6-IN-1 Multi-Purpose Side Cutting Plier

What they said: These 8″ Multi-Purpose Linesmans Multi-Tool Pliers feature drop forged construction, a high-leverage pivot joint, and spring-loaded opening assist. The MPSCP 6-IN-1 side cutting pliers will strips 8-14 AWG solid wire and 10-16 stranded wire. It also has integrated No. 6-32 and 8-32 screw shearing.

What we say: These new side cutting pliers are comfortable. There’s a new trend towards multi-function hand tools. The Southwire MPSCP 6-IN-1 pliers take the place of cutters, pliers, and strippers. These are strong wire cutters, too, cutting ACSR, screws, nails, and most hardened wire. They’ll even ream pipe.

Price: $29.98

For more information, click here.

Winner – Flashlights

General Tools TS07 ToolSmart Flashlight Inspection CameraGeneral Tools TS07 ToolSmart Flashlight Inspection Camera

What they said: The ToolSmart Flashlight Inspection Camera is the perfect inspection tool. By combining a high powered 600-lumen flashlight with a high definition camera, you are able to illuminate dark spaces and record your findings. Equipped with WiFi, this tool offers the ability to be used in concert with the free ToolSmart app, for both Apple and Android phones. The smartphone screen displays a live stream from the camera, allowing the user to see exactly what the flashlight is pointed at even when it is not in their direct line of sight. For jobs requiring documentation, images and videos can be saved to the ToolSmart app with the push of a button. Everything needed to write a report, share details with clients, or come up with an estimate is organized and ready to go.

What we say: The General Tool ToolSmart Flashlight Inspection Camera makes inspection and documentation of larger spaces easier by simply pointing your flashlight at the area of interest. Saving the still or video image with the ToolSmart app on your phone, you get a higher resolution idea of what is going on than with cameras designed to go behind walls. You can also simply watch the stream live on your phone. You get 600 lumens of light output, and a true 1280 x 760 resolution will let you see things a traditional inspection camera just can’t quite bring into focus. Home inspectors, plumbers, and other tradesmen who regularly document their findings should find this tool appealing.

Price: $69.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Pocket Knives

Milwaukee Hand Tools-Knives, PocketMilwaukee Hand Tools-Knives, Pocket

What they said: While most professionals carry utility knives to help accomplish specific jobsite tasks, many also carry a pocket knife for use throughout the day. Users are tough on their pocket knives and expect them to hold up to demanding applications. With this in mind, we set out to deliver a pocket knife solution with a blade that can withstand hard use, but also includes features that make it the perfect knife to carry all day long.

What we say: What we love about the Hardline Pocket Knife is that Milwaukee brought a quality D2 steel folder to market at an excellent price point. Most knives in this range are going to be made with 440HC or 8Cr13MoV as a mid-grade option, but Milwaukee was able to put premium D2 steel in their blade. Other features knife enthusiasts and general users alike will appreciate include a solid frame lock, easy to use flipper with bearing for deployment, and a stylish stone wash black oxide finish. For users looking for a quality folder designed to work as hard as you do, the Milwaukee Hardline is your knife. It’s even available in three sizes (2-1/2, 3, and 3-1/2 inches) and with serrated and non-serrated options.

Price: $59.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Utility Knives

Milwaukee Fastback Flip Utility Knife with Blade StorageMilwaukee Fastback Flip Utility Knife with Blade Storage

What they said: The original Milwaukee® Fastback Utility Knife has been iconic since it was first introduced to the industry, and the innovation behind it has set the bar for all other utility knives that have followed. We’ve now fully redesigned these tools to make them even better than the originals by offering a version with increased blade storage. And we’ve done it all without sacrificing its ergonomic shape or ease of opening, which are defining features for Fastback fans.

What we say: Milwaukee Fastback Utility Knives have been incredibly popular since they were first introduced and they continue to be tweaked. Sometimes, minor changes change the function or feel of a tool for worse, but Milwaukee managed to increase the blade storage while keeping the same physical profile and function in our hands. As a folding utility knife with easy opening, gut hook, wire stripper, and 45-degree angle for pull cuts, we’re left wondering what they could possibly do next. 

Price: $14.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Levels

Milwaukee REDSTICK Box LevelsMilwaukee REDSTICK Box Levels

What they said: Milwaukee Tool has once again delivered innovation to a core category of tools aimed at the professional building trades with the introduction of REDSTICK Box Levels. Designed with an All-Metal Backbone that reinforces the box level frame and new-to-world, SHARPSITE Vial Technology, REDSTICK Box Levels are the most durable and easy to read layout solution for professional tradesmen-delivering precision accuracy within 0.029 degrees. 

What we say: With the acquisition of Empire Level a couple years ago, there didn’t seem like much reason for Milwaukee to go after a self-branded line of levels—or so we thought. Where Empire reaches the the mid-range professional user, Milwaukee RedStick Box Levels are going after the high-end level sector. RedStick addresses two major areas of concern that follow accuracy: durability and visibility. More than just solid metal, the Backbone reinforced frame is designed to be more rigid than stamped metal alone to resist deformation. SharpSite Vials also use black bands to create a high-contrast edge that combine with magnified vials to make it easier to read. 

Price: $139.00

For more information, click here.


  • Empire e95 UltraView LED Box Levels

Winner – Jobsite Marking

Milwaukee INKZALL Liquid Paint MarkersMilwaukee INKZALL Liquid Paint Markers

What they said: INKZALL Jobsite Markers have set a new industry standard for marking tool performance on the jobsite. The INKZALL Liquid Paint Markers raise the bar once again by featuring high performance paint and wear-resistant acrylic tips for writing on the dirtiest, hottest and roughest of surfaces. The high performance paint also creates the longest lasting marks that are both water and UV resistant. Furthermore, the optimized proprietary paint has an industry-best 10 second drying time to reduce smearing markings.

What we say: Milwaukee Inkzall Liquid Paint Markers take over where Inkzall Markers have to call it quits. This is usually due to high temperatures on dark metal surfaces. The new markers stay true to the Inkzall line’s promise of being able to write through virtually anything on the jobsite. We love the acrylic tips and the use of paint that is both water and UV resistant. Of high importance for jobsite use, Inkzall Liquid Paint Markers also dry in about 10 seconds before the environment or the crew mess it up.

Price: $4.99

For more information, click here.


  • Pen Company of America RevMark, the Quickdraw Marker

Winner – Laser Distance Measures

NWi Smart LDM laser distance measureNWi Blackbox Smart LDM

What they said: People don’t take measurements for the sake of taking measurements, there’s always a purpose behind the data. Getting measurement is a key part for that, but having a tool that can help them problem solve, do calculations for them and then guide them to complete their project, that’s what “Smart” means for NWi.

Our new Blackbox smart LDM connects in real time to our Smart phone app. With the app, you can take a picture of the background of the project, and then insert what they need done as an object on to the background.

Our Blackbox Smart LDM has a backlit OLED screen that blends seamlessly into the design. Overall dimensions are about 4 inches long, and around 2 inches wide and thick.

What we say: NWi is quickly making a name for themselves as developers of the smartest tools on the planet. Not content to stand by with a simple Bluetooth connection to save measurements from a laser distance measure, the NWi Blackbox Smart LDM allows you to create an interactive map with pictures, notes, recordings and video along with the data you collect. They’ve even built in the ability to process user commands and guide you through the job completion. Finally, an OLED screen means you can read the NWi Blackbox anywhere—even in broad daylight. Can your laser distance measure do all that?

Price: $48.00

For more information, click here.


  • General Tools TS01 ToolSmart Laser Distance Measurer
  • Bosch GLM 50 C Laser Distance Measure

Winner – Tape Measures

NWi CubitNWi Cubit

What they said: Cubit is a Smart measurement device that is capable of building an interactive Smart map with direct / indirect dimensional data, along with notes / videos / recordings for design. And is also capable of taking the commands for “what to do with that data” and problem solves and guides the user in completing their project. It enable users to do projects with minimal measurements and almost no calculations.  

What we say: The NWi Cubit is one of those tools that combines two common tools, adds innovation, then takes it up several levels by making it smarter. In a first for tape measures, there’s a laser distance measure built in. Rather than using a tape for measurements, simply guiding the housing along the path measures using a wheel instead. This opens up accurate measuring of curves and irregular objects. Connected to the app on your phone, the data you collect can also be combined pictures, videos, notes, and recordings. It will handle user commands and even guide you through the completion of your project—all in a smart unit the size and feel of a tape measure.

Price: $72.00

For more information, click here.


  • QUICKDRAW PRO Marking Tape Measure QD25-PRO

Winner – Trundle/Measuring Wheels

Milwaukee 12" and 6" Measuring WheelsMilwaukee 12″ and 6″ Measuring Wheels

What they said: Milwaukee Tool continues to rapidly expand their Layout and Measurement offering with the introduction of 12” and 6” Measuring Wheels. The most durable and accurate of their kind, the new units were designed for extreme durability, increased ergonomics, and productivity.

Constructed of reinforced aluminum frames and reinforced folding joints, the new measuring wheels are able to withstand the toughest jobsite conditions. Durable locking pivot points help quickly fold the units for transportation and storage. To prevent build-up of dirt and grime that could potentially jam the wheel, the 12” Measuring Wheel has also been designed with a Debris-Cleaning Wheel Flap that easily clears away contamination while rolling. In addition, the 12” measuring wheel also includes a reinforced kick stand.

Both feature ergonomic pistol grip handles, designed to provide similar ergonomics to that of a power tool handle, fitting the hand of the user better than other wheels on the market. These handles feature a top brake function that can be used to ‘lock’ the wheel and the reading, increasing accuracy. The 12” Measuring Wheel is also designed with a top handle clearing function for easier use, allowing the user to reset for each measurement without bending over.

What we say: A trundle wheel is a trundle wheel, right? Well, yes…until you break it. Then it’s just another awkward piece of junk to add to the recycling pile along with the other wheels your crew broke over the last few weeks. The new Milwaukee Measuring Wheels specifically go after the durability of the common layout and measuring tool with reinforced joints and an aluminum frame. We’ve seen this take a kick from an angle that would break a man’s leg and keep measuring accurately without any visible damage. That’s the kind of jobsite tough we like to see from the company known for their “Nothing But Heavy Duty” (#NBHD) moniker. 

Price: $69.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Miscellaneous Hand Tools

Portamate PM-1800/Panel CarrierPortamate PM-1800 Panel Carrier

What they said: The best way to describe our Port-A-Mate PM1800 sheet carrier is it’s like a hand truck specifically made for boards. Well, that comparison would be more valid if a normal hand truck flipped up and locked into a level, horizontal table-saw feed stand, of course! Because that’s exactly what this one does-the height is fully adjustable from 28” to 40”, meaning just about any table saw can be accommodated. The bottom support leg locks into place, giving you the stability you need to cut with confidence, and then go back for another sheet or three! It’s strong, sturdy, and can handle 2-3 sheets at a time, making it a true workhorse for your shop. And it’s built by Port-A-Mate, so you know it’s going to last for years to come.

What we say: Port-A-Mate’s PM1800 Panel Carrier looks like a hand truck with wheels attached the wrong way. On closer inspection, it quickly reveals itself as a smart way to move sheet material around the shop by yourself. Once you reach your saw, this panel carrier flips up to create a portable feed stand to work from. Since it’s adjustable up to 40 inches in height, you should be able to match it up to just about any table saw. It’s also rated to carry 350 pounds, so you can move multiple sheets at once and increase your productivity.

Price: $109.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Nut Drivers

Klein Tools 32800/6-in-1 Multi-Nut DriverKlein Tools 32800 6-in-1 Multi-Nut Driver

What they said: The Klein Tools 6-in-1 Multi-Nut Driver is a first of its kind, multi-function tool featuring six interchangeable hex sizes, including 3/16”, ¼”, 5/16”, 3/8”, 7/16”, and 9/16”.

This tool is built with a heavy duty handle and shafts that exceed the torque performance of regular nut drivers. It also features a wrench assist on the shaft for even more torque when needed. Klein’s classic Cushion-Grip handle provides comfort while in use.

What we say: How do you take tools like the Klein Heavy-Duty Nut Drivers and make them even more convenient for tradesmen? There might not be much more you can do, but if you could carry all them with a smaller, lighter footprint, that would be helpful. Klein pulled it off with their 6-in-1 Multi-Nut Driver. It packs six of the most common hex drivers into one hand tool.

They accomplished this by designing three interlocking driver shafts with different sizes on each end. When you’re working with the smallest four, all three shafts stay on the handle. Moving up, simply simply remove the the shaft required to give you access, and pocket it. Once you’re finished, put it back in and store the driver with all sizes on one handle. It’s a great solution to eliminate the need to carry 6 different nut drivers in your tool belt.

Price: $27.38

For more information, click here.

Winner – Pliers

Channellock 12" Oil FilterChannellock 12″ Oil Filter/PVC Pliers with Angled Head

What they said: CHANNELLOCK proudly introduces an updated version of this go-to tool. The American-made 2012 12″ Oil Filter/PVC Pliers has all of the strength and reliability of our iconic Tongue and Groove Pliers, and still meets the special needs of large PVC and oil filters.

What makes this tool special is that is has a 30-degree angled head which allows access to previously impossible to reach areas. The 2012 12″ Oil Filter/PVC Pliers with Angled Head is made with right-angle teeth to grip in all directions. It accommodates most cars and light truck filters and fits PVC, conduit and fittings. It is constructed with a PermaLock fastener to eliminate nut and bolt failure and has the famous CHANNELLOCK BLUE grips for comfort.

What we say: Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference, and that’s the case with the Channellock 12” Oil Filter/PVC Pliers. If you’ve ever been underneath a vehicle with a typical oil filter pliers, few give you the space you need. With most tools its difficult to reach the filter, let alone turn it. Channellock made the simple change of angling the head 30 degrees and unlocked the solution to better access. 

Price: $24.52

For more information, click here.


  • Milwaukee 6in1 Combination Wire Pliers

Winner – Pry Bars

HART Double Ended Nail SetHart Wrecking Tools

What they said: Nothing works harder than the new HART Wrecking Tool Family. The 180 Degree 10 in. Nail Puller and 15 in. Pry Bar are forged for up to 4x greater strength, forged grips for 5x better control, and StrikeZone for enhanced strike location. The 12 in. Double Ended Nail Puller is forged to give 4x greater strength, features StrikeZone and anti-slip grip to separate it from the competition. The Double Ended Nail Set allows you to have 2 sizes within one tool and the anti-slip grip allows you a better grip.

What we say: While it’s unusual for us to feature a family of tools over a single tool in the Pro Tool Innovation Awards, Hart’s Wrecking Tools got our attention thanks to the sum of its parts. These smaller, lighter tools are easier to manage than many of their counterparts, but it’s more than just size. Textured handles on the 10” Nail Puller and 15” Pry Bar along with the non-slip grip on the 12” Nail Puller offer extra security when you’re swinging a 24-ounce hammer near your delicate hand bones. Using a forging process ensures that even though these demo tools are smaller, they’re also stronger. We just hope that Hart will offer them together as a set.

Price: $9.97 – $14.97 ea.

For more information, click here.

Winner – Saws

Milwaukee 12" High Tension HacksawMilwaukee 12″ High Tension Hacksaw

What they said: Two key features are most important for hacksaw users: Durability and high tension. To address these needs, Milwaukee designed its new hacksaw with a reinforced metal frame, making it the most durable hacksaw in the industry today. A high-leverage tension knob at the top of the hacksaw’s frame allows the user to easily tighten the blade to the highest tension needed.

For added utility, the hacksaw features 6-blade storage capacity as well as a 45° blade position for a better angle on flush cuts.

What we say: Milwaukee wasn’t the first to come out with a high-tension hacksaw, but subtle improvements have made a difference in tension and durability. The all-metal frame is stout, but not overweight, with rigidity that’s going to be tough to overcome and cause failure. The tensioning mechanism starts at the top with the adjustment knob, runs to a mid-handle pivot point, and down to an arm that pulls to increase tension. This combination creates much greater tension on the blade to keep it from wobbling while you cut. Having 6-blade storage also doesn’t hurt—a feature we’ve not seen on many hacksaw models.

Price: $24.99

For more information, click here.

Winner – Squares

Empire Hi-Vis Laser Etched Rafter SquaresEmpire Hi-Vis Laser Etched Rafter Squares

What they said: With highly visible laser-etched graduations, the new squares are 2 times more accurate than traditional squares and will never wear off, giving users the confidence that they are measuring correctly the first time. We know that our users don’t have time to re-work mistakes, so we are committed to increasing their productivity by providing the most accurate and durable layout and measuring tools on the market.

What we say: The rafter square is often one of the most under-appreciated tools in your arsenal—that is, until it’s time to use it. A cheaply built square can ruin your day. Empire avoids this with their 7” and 12” Hi-Vis Laser Etched Rafter Squares by going with a 6063 anodized aluminum construction that’s up to the task. Laser etchings ensure that markings don’t fade or rub off, and a good, wide heel keeps it stable. Empire also etched a QR code onto each square. Scanning it will send to you their website’s online rafter book for help with use and conversion charts to make the job easier.

Price: $10.49

For more information, click here.

Winner – Wrenches

Milwaukee Cheater Pipe WrenchMilwaukee Cheater Pipe Wrench

What they said: There’s no category of tool that’s more core to the plumber’s arsenal than the pipe wrench, so it might come as a surprise that this product space has largely been untouched when it comes to thoughtful innovation. This lack of innovation in the market has resulted in pipe wrenches that fail to satisfy an array of user needs –from lack of versatility and grip, to insufficient leverage and uncomfortable handles. Through many discussions with our users and listening to their needs, we knew we had to provide a solution that was dramatically disruptive to this space. We’ve now fully redesigned the traditional pipe wrench to make it more efficient than it’s ever been before.

What we say: Milwaukee calls it the Cheater, an official name to a common nickname given to giving pipe wrenches more leverage. We really don’t see how being smarter is cheating. What’s the solution when your pipe wrench is too long? Grab one with a shorter handle. But then the jaws are too narrow…and the whole job goes downhill from there. The Milwaukee Cheater takes the capacity of an 18” pipe wrench and gives a shorter handle option for tight spaces and a longer handle option for extra leverage. The result is one pipe wrench to handle what used to take three tools to cover. 

Price: $99.99

For more information, click here.


  • Husky Long-Beam Universal Wrench Set with Surface Grip