Tools of the 2015 STAFDA Trade Show

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Through the decline of many larger trade shows over the last decade, the members-only STAFDA show has remained the best place to see the most professional tool brands all under one roof. STAFDA stands for Specialty Tool And Fasteners Distributors Association and their annual show serves to connect manufacturers with distributors and dealers who move their products out in the market. Lumberyards and other building-supply companies make up a lot of the membership so the focus of the show is geared toward the pro. I like it that way since there are no displays of plastic lawn chairs, gazing balls, or gopher poison to trip over – just pure tools, fasteners, and equipment for getting some real work done. Here’s a breeze through what was new and notable from the major brands.

Bosch and Fein

Bosch and Fein shared the biggest news with their shared preview of a whole new system of oscillating multi tools and blades due out next year. Instead of maintaining Fein’s unique star-shaped mounting pattern and Bosch’s competing 12-hole OIS pattern, the companies combined their efforts to develop the Starlock system. And not just one system, but three new ones – Starlock, Starlock Plus, and Starlock Max, similar to the naming convention of Bosch’s successful SDS rotary hammer bit sizing terminology.


The main difference in the tool-to-blade interface is the three-dimensional socket the blade sits against that looks kind of like a big bottlecap. With much more area in contact, both power transmission and troublesome wear on the blade mount should be improved. The Starlock systems let you snap blades on and off without the use of tools, and there is no loose spindle to handle like on the current Fein models. So you never have to touch a hot blade or spindle during blade changes.

Plain Starlock will be the standard size and will fit on most of the OMTs out now, while Plus and Max systems will feature longer and larger blades and will not be backwards compatible. It is claimed these larger blades require too much power for the average tool to handle without burning out in short order. So will we end up with more massive tools to power longer blades, or will they just have shorter stroke arcs and lower oscillating speeds to make up the difference? We’ll have to wait to see.

As confusing as it is, I’m not sure if this development will result in higher-performance tools that make work faster and easier for the end user or just makes it easier for both brands to sell more accessories. In either case, when the two leading brands in OMTs essentially declare their existing tools obsolete it is big tool news. It will be interesting to see if this move is embraced as a game-changing improvement or if we’ll look back on this as a “New Coke” of the power tool industry some day.


Makita had so many new products to see that it required a few hours in their booth to check them all out, no kidding! The company is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year and it seems like they just added a sku for every year.

Among the standouts was an upgraded cordless 7 1/2-inch blade miter saw with the added power of Makita’s unique X2 double battery system. If any tool in the line can benefit from the extra power of 36 volts instead of 18, it’s got to be a miter saw. The improved version has the same architecture of the previous model with its amazing crosscut capacity over 12 inches, but the new motor is stronger and runs at over 2 1/2 times the previous rpm for cutting more like a corded saw.


Makita’s 12-volt max tools are switching over from tower battery packs to slide packs so just about every tool in that line will have a new model in continuing product rollouts. The battery packs will be available in 2 and 4 amp-hour versions and will feature fuel gauges.


Speaking of batteries, a 6 amp-hour model with a fuel gauge is on the way that is claimed to have a charge time of less than one hour. This means Makita will soon have 18-volt battery options of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 amp-hours.

Three new cordless recip saws were shown by Makita, all with a vertical crank design that is said to reduce side-to-side deflection of the blade for smoother cutting. 18-volt models will be available with either a standard motor or brushless motor, along with a 36-volt X2 model with a brushless motor.


Makita’s new X2 mini vac is available with either a standard filter or a HEPA filter and can run off two 18-volt batteries or with AC power.

To make abrasive metal cutting easier, Makita’s new 14-inch chop saws have a novel built-in spark guard to reduce the hazard created by showers of flying sparks on the job site. The saw will be available in two versions with the premium model featuring tool-free miter angle adjustment and a tool-free wheel attachment knob designed for quicker abrasive wheel changes.


A basic line of laser levels and measuring tools are new to Makita. Two of each are the first out but you can expect this product line to expand.


Along with their heated clothing line, Makita showed off a unique cooling jacket with a fan mounted to the back. While it creates a huge volume of air flowing over your skin, it also puffs you up to look like a marshmallow.



Another company with a booth full of new tools was DeWalt. And along with DeWalt products, the entire Stanley family of pro brands was represented with booths side by side from Stanley, Bostitch, Proto, and more.


Laser levels are new for DeWalt and they are starting out with two red beam and two green beam models. The units are intended to be powered by the brand’s 12-volt Max battery packs, but for users not in that battery platform there are empty DeWalt packs available that fit four AA batteries instead.


DeWalt’s new premium 20-volt Max compact drill/driver and hammer drill/driver models have brushless motors and LED headlights adjustable to three levels of brightness.


Also new from DeWalt is 20-volt Max brushless motor impact driver with a standard protruding bit holder nose. Like the flagship model (with the recessed bit holder nose), this one also has three speed/power settings and three LED headlights surrounding the nose.


Battery powered cordless nailers are an exciting development and DeWalt continues to be a leader in the field with a new 16-gauge angled magazine trim nailer (pictured) as well as a positive placement metal connector nailer for attaching framing hardware like joist hangers.


As an alternative to holding an angle grinder sideways for handheld metal cutting work, DeWalt created a purpose-built 6-inch cutoff tool with the switch on the correct side and with a retractable guard that covers more of the cutoff wheel for increased control and safety. Available in standard size with a paddle switch or in a longer rat tail version with a rear handle and trigger switch.


Diablo held a mini press event onsite at the show where they showed off more fast-cutting blades in their line of carbide tooth blades for cutting steel and iron. On the jobsite, these materials have traditionally been cut with bonded abrasive blades or blades with many small bimetal teeth but Diablo has been busy perfecting shock resistant carbide teeth that can cut ferrous metals faster and last longer than the alternatives.


Recip saw blades with carbide teeth tough enough to cut ferrous metals are a fairly new development. At the event, the Diablo folks demonstrated how their Demo Demon blades could cut through even hardened steel by hacking through wood embedded with masonry nails.


For cutting sizable cast iron pipe, using a 12-inch long recip blade in place of a handheld cutoff saw with a large diameter bonded abrasive wheel made for an effective demonstration. The Diablo Steel Demon recip blade will cut steel alloys, stainless steel, and cast iron up to 1/2 inch thick.


For use in dry cut chop saws, Diablo’s new Steel Demon circular blades feature ceramic-metallic (cermet) teeth that work on both mild steel and stainless steel.


And even though their new 7 1/4-inch circ saw blade is designed for regular job site cutting, Diablo demonstrated it by cutting through a torturous sandwich of wood and asphalt shingles and lag bolts to show that the carbide teeth are durable even when abused. With every third tooth having a unique centered point called a “tracking point”, the blade is said to cut straighter and with less vibration.


Metabo made waves recently with the release of their higher amp-hour LiHD (high density lithium) 18-volt battery packs that the brand claims will provide a dramatic increase in power as well as longer runtime, versus just providing longer runtime. Metabo already had pretty beefy 5.2 amp-hour (Ah) batteries available for the last few years but their new full size packs jump up to 6.2 Ah and the compact packs are 3.1 Ah. There are also new 5.5 Ah packs sized just under the energy level limit for lithium ion cells that necessitates special shipping considerations.

Metabo Grinder
Metabo Grinder

First out with the powerful new batteries are a line of 4 1/2″, 5″, and 6″ angle grinders from Metabo. The tools feature active safety brakes, a new tool-free wheel mount, and battery ports that can be rotated to keep the battery pack out of your way in different working positions. Expect Metabo to really raise the bar with cordless grinders next year as they plan to release a 36-volt model that can power a 9-inch grinding wheel.



Senco’s switch to red colored tools from the previous mix of grays and silvers was apparent throughout the product line and provides the brand with a more recognizable trademark color. One of Senco’s newest pneumatic nailers is an 18-gauge brad nailer with the addition of an LED headlight which seems like a good gadget to have for improving aim when pointing the tool into corners and other shadowy areas.


Partnering with the Mantis brand of deck clips, Senco’s new hidden deck fastening nailer attaches the clips with reversible collated fasteners, a combination screw/nail that is shot in like a nail, but can be tightened or removed like a screw.


Senco’s new hybrid air hose is made of a lightweight polymer designed to make the hose soft, supple, and durable. An added bonus is that the hose is field-repairable by virtue of its threaded compression fitting ends instead of typical swaged fittings.



To add flexibility to any hose connection, even if the tool lacks a swivel plug fitting, Senco is offering swivel couplings that can be threaded onto any common air hose. Swivel plugs are also available to fit to individual tools.



And for you zombie apocalypse arsenal folks out there (and other outdoors enthusiasts), Estwing’s newest products are increasing their reach into the sportsman / soldier market. Starting with the successful launch of two-bitted axes and combat tomahawks a few years ago and continued with more utilitarian camper’s and hunter’s axes available in different colors as seen at the show. Survival machetes are also brand new and will soon be followed with a line of knives. Oh yeah, and they also make some nice hammers.


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About Michael Springer

Craftsman and former tool magazine editor Michael Springer specializes in testing tools and covering the tool industry for construction and woodworking professionals. Based in Boulder County, Colorado, but going wherever the story takes him, Michael crisscrosses the country yearly visiting tool manufacturers and industry personalities and attending trade shows. He also treks to major manufacturers in Europe to stay apprised of the newest tool developments and track the design influences that shape many construction tool products long before they reach our shores. When not out sleuthing or at the shop or job site running the kilowatts through the latest power tools, Michael enjoys unplugging and getting his hands on his collection of antique and new wood shaping tools. He enjoys nothing more than a day of rustic woodworking, starting with a log and making the chips fly with chain saw, axe and adze.

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