I recently had the chance to spend some time with a number of people involved with the development of new portable power tools for DeWalt. It was a fascinating experience giving an in-depth look at everything from initial research and comparison reviews to prototypes and job site testing before actual product introduction. The specific tools covered were a new line of lithium-ion powered compact cordless drill-drivers and related tools powered by the same battery that are due out later this year. We'll be covering more on the tools later, but what I want to talk about today is the process.

One of my long-standing complaints with a lot of so-called new tool introductions is that they really aren't all that new. Most involve incremental improvements to existing tools. Drill drivers are a classic example of this. There may be some new technology, some changes in ergonomics, and a few whistles and bells added, but it's still a drill driver. Think for a minute about truly new and innovative tools that have been introduced to the woodworking industry in the last five years. There aren't many that aren't really just incremental improvements to existing tools or technology.

Now don't get me wrong. Some of the things I might call incremental improvements are really positive changes. A spin through this year's finalists for the IWF Challengers Awards is an impressive list of new technology. But what about truly new, never seen before tools? Tools that might be considered a whole new product category? What kind of a new tool would rock your world or dramatically change the way you do business? In the portable power tool category, compare the introductions of the first Lamello biscuit joiner or more recently the Festool Domino tool to an announcement of yet another portable sander or cordless drill. Or in stationary tools, look what CNC routers have done to even small shops.

So, let's all think outside the box. What revolutionary tool would you like to see? Dream big. Here's my idea: I hate sanding, especially hand sanding. I want a magic box that you could just put parts in of all shapes and sizes, and they come out perfectly sanded despite complex profiles or tight corners. Yeah, I said I was dreaming, but that's where good ideas start. What's your innovative tool daydream?

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