Welcome to the Great Hand Tool Revolution. Toolmakers worldwide are racing to reinvent and transform hand held tool looks, fit, and function. Is it just a Crescent wrench? A locking pliers? A utility knife?
What’s the latest trend line from the hand held tool aisle? What’s headed your way six months from now? Charlotte Gooding, a 12-year veteran of The Home Depot and senior merchant for hand tools, storage, and automotive, shares this trend report based on the more than 2,000 Home Depot stores she supports:
Hybrid tools are definitely becoming more popular, because the pro carries fewer tools and gets jobs done faster and more efficiently. A good example is a Crescent adjustable wrench with an integrated ratchet. Say a pro is under the sink and needs to loosen a fastener. This tool instantly converts into a pipe wrench or a ratchet-and-socket tool. Multifunction versatility is increasingly common.
The best example is Milwaukee. Three years ago they didn’t have much of a presence in hand held tools. Now they’re a significant player, thanks to innovations like their torque-lock plier. They noticed how pros were welding an open end on locking pliers to insert a screwdriver shank. They used the shank to increase torque. Now Milwaukee locking pliers have a thumb screw for the shank. It’s simple, smart, and innovative.
Many manufacturers have gone back to the drawing board for design ergonomics. How does the grip fit? Is the weight right? Balance? Think about hammers. Hours and hours of meetings are spent discussing weight, balance, striking force, and vibration. How does it feel in a contractor’s hand? Today it all matters.
We recently launched a new tool family called Husky 100. The tools offer smaller arc swings and longer handles, which means you can turn fasteners in tighter spaces.. They’re definitely high performance tools, but the big difference-maker here is the black matte finish currently trending in stores. It has a more attractive, more glamourous look that appeals to both pros and DIYers.
Pros are seeing a lot of OSHA and code requirements for tethering tools. More and more manufacturers are making tools likely to be used in high places, like pliers and knives, with tethering attachments to prevent long drops. Safety mechanisms are another area of innovation. DeWalt has a new auto-load concept in a line of utility knives. You just move a lever back and up, and the new blade is all set. The pro doesn’t risk injury by resetting the new blade.
Lasers. Laser technology is advancing so rapidly. There is some amazing laser technology coming out in a couple months that I’m very excited about.
Automotive. About 1,000 of our stores will have an automotive parts destination by the end of the year. We’re becoming a one-stop shop.
If you’re a hand tool lover, there’s never been a better time to lighten-up your tool belt with today’s multifunction wonders.