Most folks just wait for new tools to turn up at their local hardware store. But Erik and Ellen Petry, our Team FIN husband-and-wife team, weren't satisfied with that. Instead, they accepted our offer of a free pass to attend the 2003 National Hardware Show, right alongside reporters and industry insiders from around the country. The Petrys spent a full day at the show, held in Chicago this past summer. From the thousands of products on display, they found a few that should be especially useful to farmers. Here is Erik's report.

All-terrain fan

You can roll this large, powerful fan anywhere you need a breeze. The handle used for pushing also serves as a stand once you reach your destination. It would work great in the shop, barn or outside on those hot summer days. The four-blade, 42-in.-dia. fan is belt-driven from a ½-hp electric motor. Price: $600. For more information, contact Triangle Engineering of Arkansas Inc., Dept. FIN, 1101 N. Redmond Rd., Jacksonville, AR 72076, 800/255-9014, visit www.trianglefans.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Lighted house number

Seeing as most of us live in the country, the Lighted House Number would be a welcome addition to any yard entrance. It's solar, so you do not have to worry about wiring or batteries. It keeps your house number illuminated the entire night. We practically are regulars at this booth each year because the company's other products are quite useful, especially the wireless driveway alarm. For more information, contact Design Tech International Inc., Dept. FIN, 7955 Cameron Brown Ct., Springfield, VA 22153, 800/337-4468, visit www.designtech-intl.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Concrete cleaner

Am I the only one with machinery that drips oil? Drive Up Super Cleaner actually penetrates beneath the surface of porous concrete, asphalt or masonry and forms a chemical bond around oil or grease. Just hose it off with water. Ellen likes that it is biodegradable and nontoxic. Price is $13.90 for a gallon jug or $7.00 for a 1-qt. spray bottle. For more information, contact Specialty National Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 488, Kernersville, NC 27285, 800/996-8783, visit www.driveupusa.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Waterbroom

After you apply Drive Up Super Cleaner, get out your Big Badger Waterbroom. It attaches to any garden hose for fast removal of dirt and grime on nearly any surface. It looks like a shop broom but uses water instead of bristles to clean the area and glides on two swivel casters, making it a great tool to clean concrete pads and floors. While some cheaper competitors of similar design are manufactured from plastic, these brooms are made from ¾-in. aluminum pipe and heavy-duty brass fittings. Prices range from $93 for a 24-in. model to $125 for a 56-in. model. For more information, contact Haviland Corp., Dept. FIN, Box 769, Linn, MO 65051, 800/325-3915, visit www.havilandcorp.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Truck bed lift

It's like having a little crane in the back of your pickup. The Spitzlift can hoist 700 lbs. and pivot 360°. It's a great idea for lifting heavy objects onto a truck bed. A load control disc brake stops backlash and freewheeling. The universal adapter base fits any truck or utility vehicle because it can attach to the receiver hitch or mount directly in the bed of the truck. I can think of a lot of ways to use this on the farm, but my brother-in-law also thought it would be great for hunters to use for hoisting and field-dressing game. Price ranges from $389 for a 3-ft. lift to $399 for a 4-ft. lift. For more information, contact Spitzlift, Dept. FIN, Box 6433, Abilene, TX 79608, 866/774-8054, visit www.spitzlift.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Eternal flashlight

Let's face it. We have all found ourselves trying to make repairs in the dark with a dim flashlight. Here's a solution. This product was originally marketed in Hong Kong as the “Eternal Light.” That's a pretty accurate description, but here in America it's called the Hummer Flashlight, supposedly to capitalize on the brand name of the SUV/suburban tank of the same name. The light requires no batteries or bulb replacements ever. It would be an asset to any combine toolbox.

A built-in magnet sliding between metal coils charges the light's capacitor. For prolonged use, you just shake it 10 seconds every three minutes to illuminate the high-efficiency white LED bulb. The rugged, translucent plastic housing measures 8 in. long, and it weighs 8 oz. It is available for $29.95 through The Sharper Image in stores or by visiting www.thesharperimage.com. For more information, contact Daka Development Ltd., Dept. FIN, Unit C, 8/F., Leroy Plaza, 15 Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon, HKSAR, visit www.daka.com.hk or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin

Cordless band saw

The X-Band won a blue ribbon at this year's National Hardware Show. No wonder. It is useful for cutting material in the field or cutting a short piece of material outside without dragging the whole length into the shop. Weighing in at less than 8 lbs., it's lightweight, but surprisingly effective. It can make more than 100 cuts on ¾-in. conduit on a single charge of its 2-amp NiCd 18v batteries. The batteries recharge in about an hour, and the quick-release blade is easy to change. The tool will sell for around $350, which includes two batteries, charger and molded carrying case. For more information, contact Stout Tool Corp., Dept. FIN, 510 Highland Ave., Suite 254, Milford, MI 48381, 877/337-8688, visit www.stouttool.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Tool holster

There are lots of belt hooks out on the market, but the E-Z Holster's unique combination of hooks and Velcro straps makes it one of the more versatile systems out there. I like that it can keep a power drill or air tool secure when you need both hands to climb around in high places such as buildings or grain bins. It's a great item for safety. Price for a three-pack is $18.95. For more information, contact E-Z Holster, Dept. FIN, 674 Crystal Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15228, 866/394-6578, visit www.ezholster.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Telescoping ladder

This lightweight aluminum ladder stores small, but slides out to a useful length. It weighs only 23 lbs. and extends from 2½ up to 12½ ft. It has a duty rating of 225 lbs. It would be great for a service truck. I'd use it for reaching up the side of combines and auger wagons. Suggested retail price is $249, but you may find a lower price on the QVC shopping network on TV. For more information, contact Dial Industrial Sales Inc., Dept. FIN, 10 Esquire Rd., Suite 19, New City, NY 10956, 800/821-8388, visit www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Bolt remover

Add a set of Xtraktor heads to your wrench collection for the next time you need to get a grip on a buggered nut or bolt. Just make sure to get a new replacement nut. Prices vary by set size and retailer. For more information, contact CJTitan LP, Dept. FIN, Box 678, Saegertown, PA 16433, 866/987-5867, visit www.xtraktortools.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Work lights

Although this spotlight is not 12v powered, I like how it comes in a handy and durable case that can be thrown (literally) in my truck. The 1,500W, triple-head lighting system unfolds into a tripod. Extension legs adjust for uneven surfaces. The stand telescopes from 40 to 76 in. with “easy grip” locking nuts. Other nice features include weatherproof on/off switches and extra bulb storage tubes. The case comes complete with four 500W halogen bulbs. For more information, contact The Designer's Edge, Dept. FIN, 11730 N.E. 12th St., Bellevue, WA 98005, 425/637-9601, visit www.designersedge.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Turn a drill into a shear

The economical TurboShear uses an electric drill as its power source. The attachment's camshaft inserts directly into the ⅜-in. chuck of a standard 1,200-rpm A/C or cordless drill. It will cut up to 20-gauge steel in a straight line or navigate tight-curved patterns. An offset design helps keep your hands away from the work surface. The unit requires both hands to operate, so metal must be preset or clamped into place before cutting. List price is $60, but we found it on www.amazon.com for $50. For more information, contact Malco Products Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 400, Annandale, MN 55302, 952/473-3878, visit www.turboshear.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Portable hose reel

A conventional air hose reel mounts permanently, reducing its range. What makes this product unique is that you can take it anywhere you need additional air hose. Several sizes are available. The Contractor series has tapered spool sidewalls, easy-access inlet connections, reinforced steel construction, powder-coat finish and increased hose capacity. It includes 100 ft. of PVC construction air hose with solid brass fittings. A brake keeps hose from unwinding unintentionally. A mounting bracket lets you mount the reel to a wall or vehicle. Price: $99.99. For more information, contact Legacy Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, 6281 N. Gateway Dr., Marion, IA 52302, 800/645-8258, visit www.legacymfg.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.