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9 Innovative Inventions We Saw in 2016

This year we saw the invention of a lot of neat, useful things that allow us humans to do more, waste less, use nature to protect ourselves from nature, create absolutely perfect toast and more.

The New Jersey family behind the Zenesis House developed a nature-powered snow-melting system, allowing them to ditch their shovels forever while creating their own electricity.

A Texas homeowner used water to fight water, saving his home from flooding using the clever Aquadam.

A tween girl from New Zealand invented the Kindling Cracker, which allows one to safely and quickly turn firewood into kindling.

The Makinex Powered Hand Truck allows single users to effortlessly hoist and move nearly 400 pounds, with no fear of sustaining back injuries.

The Zipper Truck System is a brilliant, sustainable way to quickly build tunnels that will last forever.

The Vertical Walking invention allows folks to ascend and descend while using less energy than taking the stairs.

From Japan comes the Tsunago pencil sharpener, which allows you to combine a shorter pencil with a longer one, so you can use pencil stubs up right to the very end.

A Canadian inventor developed these crazy omnidirectional wheels and put them on his Toyota, though we have our doubts about the video.

And in a quest to create absolutely perfect toast, appliance manufacturer Balmuda developed a special toaster that requires adding the magic ingredient: Water.


More from Core77's 2016 Year in Review

The 16 Best Stories from 2016

16(ish) of 2016's Best Materials Moments

2016 Best of Furniture Design

10 Things 2016 Had to Offer to the Future of Transportation

2016 Best of Digital Fabrication

15 Reader Submitted Projects That Wowed This Year

Footwear Designs That Pushed Boundaries in 2016

2016 Marks the First Year in the "Age of the Drone"

The Best of Sketching in 2016

9 Ways Robots and AI Took Over 2016 + How to Cope

2016 Year in Photos

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Tools & Craft #43: Observations from an Ex-Power-Tool-Designer

My first job out of college was designing power tools for Black & Decker in the '80s. Not the consumer-grade stuff; I worked in the Industrial Construction division—I'm talking aluminum housings, no plastic, real bearings, expensive tools. We produced the best power tools made in the USA at that time with real innovation. Our competitors were other industrial tool makers like Milwaukee, Metabo, and Festo (which later became Festool).

During that time the B&D consumer division was making three grades of not-so-great tools which were what you would buy in Sears and normal stores. This was before Makita and Hitachi had any real impact in the market. (Ten years later all of this was gone. None of the professional grade tool companies in the US are left - they are brands only.)

I was no power-tool-designing genius but I learned a tremendous amount in the year and a half I worked there. I learned from my colleagues, I learned by watching. I still quote from my experiences there to the folks here at Tools for Working Wood. It was an amazing time for me.

At lunchtime we'd walk the length of the factory to the company cafeteria and back, passing the company store. We used to pop by the store at least once or twice a week where we could buy various seconds of tools, the odd souvenir and things like this very limited edition train car in the picture. In my time there I assembled a fairly good collection of circa-1980 power tools from the company store and at the time they were the best tools you could get - I will probably write about them in the future.

But while I have great nostalgia for my time there, power tool technology has gotten a lot better over the years. And while I feel that, especially when it comes to traditional tools, the older designs if done well can't be beat, seeing how modern technology can push the design of a fret saw or a coping saw is really interesting and keeps me from constantly looking backwards.

This is a really exciting time to be an ironmonger. In the past ten or fifteen years we have seen a revolution in the design and availability of well-made and well-working hand and power tools. The hand tools in both traditional and new designs work better than ever, and power tools are easier to use, more functional and safer than ever before.

This is happening just as the need for these tools is, I fear, peaking. The end product, furniture, has been left behind. Furniture itself as a possession is less important than it was. For all the advances in tools, building a Newport highboy, or a Ruhlman bureau is still really hard to do and takes skill and practice more than just fancy tools.

Skill is skill and that won't change.


This "Tools & Craft" section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.

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We believe that a truly good product is inherently beautiful and useful. This kind of beauty does not happen by accident though! At Formost we do not only find good products for you but we test them and tell the stories of the people behind these products. This way you experience a story while receiving something which shall last for generations and accumulate some nice stories itself.

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