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Gear of the Year 2021: Tools

Mow, saw, ratchet, and screwdrive (we’re making it a verb) all you want with these tools.

gear of the year
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Best Cordless Mower
Ryobi RY401140US

This U.S.-built mower can cut a tremendous area with its two (6-Ah) batteries, and its X-shaped blade leaves a pristine surface in its wake. Rear-wheel drive translates to good hill climbing and side-hill performance, and its bagging on all surfaces (level, side-hill, and uphill) is also commendable.

2 of 11
Best Small Shop Vacuum
DeWalt DCV517B

The DCV517B is only slightly larger than a hand vacuum, but it’s still thoroughly DeWalt. It provides superior vacuuming power and the ability to tackle anything from a bowl of breakfast cereal dumped on the floor (milk and all) to a handful of metal shavings on top of your workbench. The HEPA air filter is incredibly robust.

3 of 11
Best Circular Saw
Flex FX2131A-1C

One of the most productive tools we’ve used is the Flex 6.5-inch circular saw. With a pivoting dust-ejection port, it’s also among the cleanest. A small-but-mighty 24-volt motor powers a belt drive off that motor, spinning the blade. This design puts the blade in line with the handle, affording us an excellent view of the cut line.

4 of 11
Best Screwdriver
Dremel HSES-01

When our wrists can use a break, we turn to this ¼-inch hex-drive tool. It’s got enough power to install and remove fasteners on appliances, locksets, and hinges. We even used it to drive No. 8 wood screws into pre-bored pilot holes.

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Best Heat Gun
Wagner HT400

Wagner’s Heat Tool is nine inches long, small enough to fit in the top shelf of a toolbox, and its two heat settings of 450 and 680 degrees are ideal for small jobs. We used it to lift decals and soften paint and caulk. Bonus: It heats up and cools down quickly.

6 of 11
Best Knee Pads
Klein Tools Hinged Gel Knee Pads

Klein’s version ranks among the more thoughtful and efficient designs of the humble kneepad that we’ve seen. Each is hinged above the knee, with a cushioned pad and elastic straps to hold it in place. The two layers of padding cradled our knee, the mesh lining helped reduce sweat buildup, and the nonslip plastic had just the right amount of traction as we scooted along a concrete floor.

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Best Clamps
Jorgensen 33412 E-Z Hold

The only expandable bar clamp we know of, this Jorgensen can link end to end with another E-Z Hold to increase the span of its grip. The versatility doesn’t stop there. It works great as a spreader and as an ordinary fast-adjusting bar clamp. Its jaws slide easily and quickly, without deflecting.

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Best Pliers
Channellock SpeedGrip

We love Channellock’s flagship tongue-and-groove pliers, and the SpeedGrip is another standout from the brand. You adjust these via a push button. Press it, spread the jaws, and release to set the jaw width. Furthermore, the aggressive cross-hatch teeth provide near-alligator-jaw levels of grip.

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Best Reciprocating Saw
Metabo CR18DAQ4M Mini
$109.00 (16% off)

Weighing 3.6 pounds with battery and blade, this reciprocating saw is a perfect fit for homeowners doing odd jobs. We drove it through Douglas fir, plastic, and steel without issue. We also like that it accepts jigsaw blades, greatly increasing its versatility, especially if you don’t have a reciprocating saw blade easily available.

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Best Work Light
Ryobi PCL631

This LED work light can be powered by an 18-volt Ryobi battery or an extension cord. At its highest 3000-lumen setting, it’s capable of lighting a campsite or darkened attic. Its medium setting (1800 lumens) and low setting (1000 lumens) are more useful for close-quarters lighting, for home repairs. The center panel is fixed, but the two side panels fold out and can pivot 90 degrees (relative to the center), providing lamination over a large area.

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Best Snowblower

Ego’s cordless, 24-inch, two-stage snowblower got a 25 percent increase in capacity this year, with two, 56-volt, 10-amp hour batteries. Its performance was already impressive, able to compete with gas-powered blowers of similar size, throwing snow up to 50 feet. Now, it will run even longer and clear more snow in one charge.

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