Editor choice

Editor’s Pick: Best Products of 2021

The editors of Woodworking Network have sifted through dozens of new and innovative products that were introduced in 2021. Some of these products have made appearances at early trade shows to host live presentations during the pandemic, and some have won awards at these shows. Others that we have had the chance to try and actually use. Another novelty this year is an official FDMC Editor’s Choice badge, which we hope the selected products will wear proudly as they represent a revolutionary innovation in the service of the wood industry, increasing efficiency and productivity. The following is a purely subjective list of some of the best we’ve seen this year.

Best robotic product
LestaUSA, Self-taught robot and Lesta cart system
LestaUSA claims that manufacturers of wood products can finish 50% more furniture without hiring by using the self-learning robot and cart system. Lesta robots reproduce the painter’s precise movements, from the angle of the gun to the presses of the trigger in learning mode. Even the specific rotation of each part on the carriage is replicated. Repetitive tasks can now be automated, allowing employees to focus on quality and production. The system can be used with existing or new trolleys. This product was a Visionary Award winner at the AWFS in Las Vegas, and editor-in-chief Will Sampson actually got to try his hand at programming the robot in person.

Felder PCS Editor's Choice Award

Best Stationary Machine Product
Felder Group USA, PCS preventive contact system
Ever since SawStop started using hot dogs to demonstrate its saw safety technology, people have tried to come up with even better systems, but there were very few offerings for industrial sliding table saws. This is changing with the new PCS (Preventative Contact System) from Felder Group. This is a saw safety technology for industrial saws that is designed to provide operator safety by detecting movement within a certain threshold of the blade. This triggers a safety mechanism that quickly lowers the saw blade under the saw table before the blade hits the flesh. The technology earned Felder a Visionary Award at the AWFS show.

Guffey PivotLine Editor's Choice Award

Best Finishing Tool
Guffey Systems, PivotLine Finishing System
Sometimes to speed up the finish it’s not about the finish itself, but it has everything to do with how you handle the parts you finish. This is part of the thinking behind the PivotLine finishing system developed by Nathan Guffey at Guffey Systems. He found a way to make vertical spraying easier and eliminate wet room handling, while still allowing all sides of common cabinet parts to be sprayed without having to wait for one side to dry. Guffey developed the system originally for use in his own cabinetry shop. He worked with APTUS DesignWorks, an engineering and design company, to develop the system to be modular and marketable for any store. Stores we spoke with that use the system say it has revolutionized their finishing process.

ISOtunes Aware Editor's Choice Award

Best security product
ISOtunes, Link Aware and Pro Aware reactive hearing protectors
We previously looked at ISOtunes Link and Xtra 2.0 hearing protectors paired with your Bluetooth device to allow you to listen to music and answer phone calls while wearing hearing protection. But these devices still dampen all outside sounds, possibly preventing you from hearing coworkers trying to get your attention. Now the company has introduced two new models, ISOtunes Link Aware and ISOtunes Pro Aware. They both come with situational awareness to protect you from loud noises only when they reach an unsafe level and to allow you to hear normally when sound levels are not dangerous. We tried them on in the store and were amazed at how well they performed, even with sudden percussion sounds like nail guns. In addition, the wireless Bluetooth connection always allows you to answer the phone or listen to your music.

Spyder Stinger bits Editor's Choice Award

Best Tooling Product
Spyder bits, Stinger Mach Blue
If the bits were designed to be like sports cars, the Spyder Stinger Mach Blue would be, with the vibrant blue coating that is said to provide up to 100 times more holes than titanium or black oxide bits and up to ‘eight times faster than titanium bits.

We can’t speak for these exact claims, but when we tried them out in store we were surprised at how far they outperformed more conventional industrial bits.

These are hex shank bits designed for most cordless tools. They are branded and sold specifically for Lowe’s Visitor Center stores. But the 10-piece set, featuring 1/16 to 3/8 inch bits for drilling wood, metal and other materials, makes a practical addition to any carpenter’s tool kit.

We abused them in the store, drilling holes in the metal, and were surprised at their resistance.

Northtech iDovetailer Touchscreen Editor's Choice Award

Best CNC Automation Product
Northtech Machine LLC, iDovetail
Northtech claims that its iDovetail CNC combines real-time interactive 3D drawings and is the first dovetail with servo positioning for the X, Y and Z axes, giving it the same capability as an inverted CNC machine. The small footprint makes it ideal for precision end work such as mortise and tenon returns or stair treads. It can be used for wood or plastics. This shows that CNC technology is applicable even to small carpentry productions. He won a Visionary Award at AWFS.

Palram Palight Board Editor's Choice Award

Best New Materials Product
Palram Palight Building Board
Palram Americas presented PALIGHT BuildBoard, an expanded PVC alternative to wood composite panels like MDF, particle board and plywood. Built to last, Palight building panel sheets are ideal for making cabinetry, closet organizers and components. The cellular polymer composition provides resistance to moisture, mold and bacterial growth. Editor-in-chief Will Sampson tried the product in his store and was intrigued by the possibilities.

Nordfab QFV Duct Installation Software Editor's Choice Award

Best Software Product
Nordfab Ducting, Quick Fit 3D Visual Duct Design Tool
Nordfab claims its Quick-Fit Visual is a free and easy-to-use online tool for designing duct installations. QFV provides automatic calculation of duct sizing and system requirements. The company claims that users can produce a 3D visual quote and plan, research and procure all of the components needed for the installation, and get the information needed to complete the installation. Users can also generate a .dwg drawing for use with CAD tools. The product won a Visionary Award at the AWFS.

Nemo Grabo Prolifter 20 Editor's Choice Award

Best material handling product
Nemo Power Tools, Grabo Pro-Lifter 20 Cordless Suction Lifter
One of the most dangerous things in any woodworking operation has nothing to do with cutting tools or powerful machinery. It is the heavy lifting of materials and finished products. There are plenty of tools that attempt to make these tasks safer, but few do with the elegance and versatility of the new Grabo Pro-Lifter 20 from Nemo Power Tools. This cordless portable machine is designed to lift over 300 pounds. We tried it out in the store and found it to work well on a wide variety of materials including wood paneling, drywall, and tile.

Pinske Butlers wins Editor's Choice award

Best Edgebanding Product
The Pinske Edge, Edge Butler
The Pinske Edge Edge Butler is designed to make edgebanding faster and easier by creating less downtime to switch between strip colors. You can hang all the colors of bands needed for that day on the cart, then roll the cart to the edgebander to start banding; you no longer have to go back and forth to grab the next stripe color, the company says. The stand is fully adjustable to accommodate different heights, and the butlers come in different sizes to suit the width and thickness of each group. He won a Visionary Award at AWFS.