The National Hardware Show filling the gigantic McCormick Place Complex in Chicago once again impressed our Team FIN husband-and-wife team Erik and Ellen Petry. While concentrating their efforts in the hardware and tool sections, the Rochelle, IL, couple found plenty to oooh and ahhh about.

Here's a look at Erik's top picks from the annual show.

  1. Updated pliers

    Just when you thought a pliers couldn't be improved, along comes the SeberGrip 8-in., self-adjusting, two-in-one pliers. The SeberGrip multiples your hand strength, resulting in less stress on your arm and hand. Once the pliers is set, you can use your hand and arm strength for tightening or loosening nuts or bolts. The pliers performs the same on thin or thick materials. It easily changes from locking to a regular pliers. It will cost $30 at Sears under the Craftsman name. Contact Seber Inc., Dept. FIN, 2438 Cades Way, Vista, CA 92083, 888/806-8225, visit www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 200.

  2. All-in-one tool

    When you're working in a tight space and can't hold on to several screwdrivers and a flashlight, this special screwdriver will come in handy. It combines several tools into one, including three Phillips, three flathead and two eye-glass screwdrivers, all with magnetic tips. Plus, a flashlight is imbedded in it to help pick out that tiny screw head. You can find the new tool at Target stores packaged under the name Durabilt and retailing for $14.99. The product also is marketed under the name Mr. 7-Hands. For more information, visit www.tridirectmarketing.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 201.

  3. Painting on plastic

    Krylon's new Fusion paint for plastic is impressive. So much farm equipment today has plastic and poly pieces on it. This paint will stick to it. No sanding or priming is required, and the paint dries within 15 min. It is available in 16 colors and retails for $3.79 to $4.49/can. Wal Mart and several major hardware stores should start selling the paint this month. Contact Diversified Brands, a Sherwin-Williams Business Unit, at 800/457-9566, visit www.krylon.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 202.

  4. Torch cart

    Uniweld has introduced a cart called Da Box that houses all the gauges and regulators for torch equipment in one compartment, away from the tanks. The company also makes a version for service trucks that can be locked. Suggested retail price: $250. Contact Uniweld Products Inc., Dept. FIN, 2850 Ravenswood Rd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312-4994, 800/323-2111, visit www.uniweld.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 203.

  5. Drill light

    The Jattco cordless drill light clips onto an extra tool bit holder to illuminate those dark spaces where you don't have a spare hand to hold a flashlight. The light kit works on most major brands of cordless drills. Two AA batteries power the light, and it swivels 90° up and down and 360° around. The light sells for $14.99 plus $4.95 shipping. Contact Jattco, Dept. FIN, Box 213, Thornton, PA 19373, 610/361-7978, visit jattco.tripod.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 204.

  6. In-the-field welding

    When I received the literature on GoWeld before the show, I was skeptical. However, after trying it myself I was really impressed.

    GoWeld is a battery-powered, portable MIG welder with a heavy-duty motor that can weld steel up to 1/2-in. thick. It runs on standard 12v batteries. It is not something you would use for everyday fabrication. Instead, it would work well in a service truck for brief on-site welding. Manufactured by Broco, it retails for $795. Contact Broco Inc., Dept. FIN, 8690 Red Oak St., Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730, 800/845-7259, visit www.goweld.com, www.brocoinc.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 205.

  7. Voice-sensitive earmuffs

    I could have used these E-Muffs while building bins this summer. Unlike other ear protection, the E-Muffs are electronic. They mute loud noises but amplify low-level sounds so you can carry on a conversation. The muffs are weatherproof and lightweight and operate on two AA batteries. Suggested list price is $99.95, but Cabelas now offers them for $79.95. Contact Cabelas at 800/237-4444 or www.cabelas.com. Contact the manufacturer, Intermark World Products Ltd., at Dept. FIN, 919 Sherwood Dr., Lake Bluff, IL 60044, 800/453-2101, visit www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 206.

  8. Grease gun heater

    At last year's show, we saw Legacy's heavy-duty, pistol-grip grease gun. This year, we were impressed with the company's latest product, the grease gun warmer. It's a heated bag that houses a grease gun as well as an additional cartridge for those mornings when it's too cold for the grease to flow from the gun. It uses a 12v power supply, via a cigarette lighter, and warms the gun to proper operating temperature. Price: $39.99.

    Legacy also came out with a blow gun that is great for inflating truck and car tires, but doubles as a blow gun for blowing out radiators, etc. The model AG4 retails for $17.50. Contact Legacy Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, Box 9, Cedar Rapids, IA 52406-0009, 800/645-8258, visit www.legacymfg.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 207.

  9. Generator/arc welder

    The Lincoln Electric Power Arc 4000 is the size of a small portable generator but has an arc welder built into it. Like a generator, it also has 110v and 220v outlets but is small enough that a farmer can throw it into the back of his pickup truck. Suggested retail price: $1,479. Contact Lincoln Electric, Dept. FIN, 22801 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, OH 44117-1199, 216/481-8100, visit www.lincolnelectric.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 208.

  10. Tiny torch

    This little butane torch may be used for soldering. I like that it is small and entirely portable and can be used as a blow gun for heat-shrinking tubing when wiring. The Ronson Tech Torch sells for $49.94. Contact Ronson Consumer Products Corp., Dept. FIN, Box 6709, Somerset, NJ 08875-6709, 800/526-4281, visit www.ronsoncorp.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 209.

  11. Optical tape measure

    You can use the Ranging Optical Tape Measure in spaces where use of a conventional tape measure would be impractical (or even dangerous). In just seconds it will tell you the height of a building or grain leg or the length of a fence or a room. It will read up to 100 ft. in distance. Small and lightweight, the optical tape measure in a black finish retails for $59.95. Contact American Visionwear, Dept. FIN, 6812 Fairgrounds Pkwy., San Antonio, TX 78238, 888/228-2522, visit www.opticaltapemeasure.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 210.

  12. Waterproof phone case

    For those of you who are prone to dropping your mobile phones, as I did in someone's sump pump pit, the Boxit mobile phone case will protect your phone. You can dial through the flexible clear front and talk or listen through a waterproof Gore membrane. The shock-resistant case also floats if the phone is dropped in water. Boxit accommodates most mobile phones on the market. Suggested retail price: $34.95. Contact Nite Ize Inc., Dept. FIN, 5735-E Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, CO 80303, 800/678-6483, visit www.niteize.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 211.