By Katy Tomasulo. While you were on your summer vacation--and work was a distant memory--tool manufacturers were unveiling their latest tools and accessories, hottest technologies, and all-around great gadgets. These tools were introduced at the National Hardware Show, held in Chicago August 11 - 13. On the following pages you'll see a showcase of great new products fresh from the factory. From laser levels to pneumatics to putty knives, companies are cranking out a wide range of tools that'll make your jobs easier and more efficient. As you'll see, this year was as exciting as any year past in terms of new introductions.

And this is just the tip of the new-product iceberg. Product manufacturers will be demonstrating their new wares at the International Builders' Show, which will be held in Las Vegas on January 21-24, 2003 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

--Katy Tomasulo is the managing editor of Hanley-Wood's TOOLS OF THE TRADE and PROSALES magazines. This story first appeared in the July/August issue of Hanley-Wood's TOOLS OF THE TRADE.

Fasten up: The latest screw for the Quik Drive fastening system is designed specifically for use with composite lumber materials, including decking. It features an aggressive type-17 cutting point and an auger shank designed to aid in material removal. The screw's compact head with countersink nibs allows users to drive screws to the right depth for a more finished appearance that minimizes the mushroom effect. The 2-inch fasteners sell for $97 per box of 2,000; the 21/2-inch screws come in boxes of 1,500 for $85. For more information, contact Quik Drive, 888-487-7845;

Courtesy Zircon

Circuit training: The CF12 circuit breaker locator from Zircon helps a solitary user determine which breaker controls a specific circuit so he or she can turn off power and work on one circuit without turning off power to the other circuits. The device includes a transmitter that plugs into the circuit via a standard outlet and sends a signal down the wire, and a receiver wand that scans breaker-box breakers. The unit activates a green LED light and an audio signal when it finds the correct breaker. The device costs $70. For more information, contact Zircon, 800-245-9265;

Courtesy American Tool

Get a grip: American Tool offers a new line of Vise-Grip locking pliers with a handle made of durable composite resin, offering users a better grip and a more comfortable feel. The pliers are available in a variety of jaw sizes for a range of tasks. The tool comes in a two-piece set for $20 to $25 and a three-piece set for $26 to $35. For more information, contact American Tool, 800-866-5740;

Courtesy Hitachi

Going round in circles: The C7SB2 7 1/4-inch circular saw features a 15-amp motor, a magnesium gear case, a no-load speed of 5,800 rpm, a one-piece aluminum die-cast base, and a soft-grip handle. The tool offers a 55-degree bevel, compared to 45 degrees in a previous model. The saw also is available with an electric brake. Model C7SB2 retails for $99. For more information, contact Hitachi, 800-706-7337;

Laser light show: Porter-Cable now offers a line of laser levels, including model LL3100, which features three bubble vials and three laser beams for square, plumb, and level tasks, and a built-in magnetic base for securing the unit to metal studs and pipes. The rotary laser, model LR1100, has a three-speed remote control, a 100-foot radius, and two laser modes. The tool will self level when within #177;10 degrees of level. Model LS3100, a laser square, offers gravity-leveled technology, out-of-level detection, and auto shut-off. Model LL3100 sells for $129, model LR1100 for $339, and model LS3100 for $219. A tripod is available for $99. For more information, contact Porter-Cable, 800-487-8665;

Courtesy Metabo

Palm pilot: The Power Grip compact cordless driver from Metabo is ideal for use in a range of hard-to-reach places, including cabinetry, electrical installation, and automotive work. Designed to fit in the palm of your hand, the tool is 79/16 inches long and weighs 1.4 pounds. It features a 4.8-volt, variable-speed reversing motor that delivers up to 44 inch-pounds of torque. The tool sells for $145. For more information, contact Metabo, 800-638-2264;

Air apparent: Designed to offer greater handling, power, and reliability, Campbell Hausfeld's new professional series of pneumatic tools includes nine tools: two 1/2-inch impact wrenches, a 6-inch dual action sander, a 3/8-inch ratchet, a 25/8-inch air hammer, a full-size die grinder, a cut-off tool, a 3/8-inch reversible drill, and a 3/8-inch keyless-chuck drill. Model PL1534, the 25/8-inch air-powered hammer shown, offers cutting, chipping, and scraping functions ideal for masonry work. The tools range from $30 to $120. For more information, contact Campbell Hausfeld, 888-247-6937;

Courtesy Porta-Nails

Pound for pound: Designed for speedy hardwood flooring installation, Porta-Nails unveils its Portamatic Hammerhead 2, a pneumatic version of the company's original Hammerhead flooring nailer. The tool features the Preferred Seating system, which ensures that the ram does not return until the nail is properly seated, to help users install floor boards tightly. The tool will nail 1/2- to 33/32-inch tongue-and-groove wood flooring and can be converted to a face nailer by changing the shoe. The nailer, which is mallet-activated, accepts angle and face nails. It retails for $598. For more information, contact Porta-Nails, 800-634-9281;

Courtesy DeWalt

Charge it: Nicad batteries heat up during charging and heat is bad for battery cells. To evacuate heat and maximize battery life, DeWalt has a new fan-cooled battery charger for 24-volt tools. The new charger circulates air to dissipate damaging heat. It also monitors battery temperature and determines when to charge or when to activate the cooling fan. The company also is unveiling a 2.4-amp-hour Nicad battery that offers 40 percent more run time and up to three times more recharges than earlier models. The units will come with 24-volt kits, but also are available separately for $85 for the charger and $119 for the battery. For more information, contact DeWalt, 800-433-9258;

Courtesy Marshalltown

Putty in your hands: Marshalltown is introducing 11 new DuraSoft handle joint and putty knives, including a 11/4-inch chisel knife, a 2-inch flexible putty knife, and a 5-inch joint knife with hammer end. The tools feature high carbon steel blades that are hardened, tempered, and polished. The prices will vary for each product. For more information, contact Marshalltown, 800-635-5443;

Courtesy Spotnails

Raising the roof: New from Spotnails, the VRN45 coil roofing nailer features a 360-degree adjustable exhaust, a quick-clear nose, and a rubber grip. The tool, which weighs about 5.4 pounds, will drive coil roofing nails from 7/8 inch to 13/4 inches long. It costs $280. For more information, contact Spotnails, 800-873-2239;

Ahead of the curve: Makita is unveiling two new jigsaws that feature a newly designed tool-less blade clamp, LED lights built into the housing to illuminate the cut line, and a variable-speed dial with electronic speed control. According to the firm, the tools have low vibration and noise levels and dust-proof construction. A top-handle unit, model 4340FCT, and a body grip tool, model 4341FCT, are available. For more information, contact Makita, 800-462-5482;

Courtesy CST/berger

Leveling off: The LaserMark MP5 instantly provides plumb, level, and square calculations up to 100 feet from the unit. It features five self-leveled, highly focused 650-nm beams that operate simultaneously and deliver accuracy within 1/4-inch at 100 feet. The unit's gravity-design pendulum self levels instantly and automatically. The MP5 costs $299. For more information, contact CST/berger, 800-435-1859;

Courtesy Senco

Claim to frame: Designed for the professional user, Senco's line of XtremePro pneumatic tools features upgraded internal drive components for maximum durability, long-term performance, and higher drive power ratings than the company's previous models. The FramePro 701XP clipped head nailer features a compact, easy-to-handle body and a short, 30-degree, in-line magazine. Its suggested retail price is $319. For more information, contact Senco, 800-543-4596;

Courtesy Bosch

Demolition derby: The Bosch 11318EVS 12 1/2-pound SDS demolition hammer can remove 350 to 400 pounds of 5,000-psi concrete per hour, compared to 175 to 225 pounds per hour for traditional 11/2-inch combination hammers, the company claims. The tool offers 8.8 foot-pounds of impact energy, an 11-amp motor, and delivers 1,300 to 3,000 bpm. It also features a vibration-dampening handle, a power light, constant response circuitry, and service lights that alert users when preventative maintenance is needed. The demolition hammer retails for $569. For more information, contact Bosch, 877-267-2499;

Courtesy Stanley

Hold tight: Sheather Plus collated framing nails offer 100 percent more uplift capacity and up to 50 percent more shear energy capacity than common sheathing nails, says Stanley. The nails feature a 50-50 shank design; 50 percent of the nail is smooth-coated and 50 percent features aggressive rings to enhance the shear plane area. The 21/2-inch-long nails are available in diameters of .131 and .113 inches. The fasteners come in a box of 5,000 for $55. For more information, contact Stanley, 800-782-6539;