By Mike Morris

Even as construction activity slowed to a crawl over the past year, research and development at tool companies continued at a determined and impressive pace. With the economy poised for a comeback in 2010, toolmakers are just now rolling out their latest innovations to meet the anticipated demand. Every year at this time, the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) show becomes the premier venue for members eager to display their newest gear – and Tools of the Trade is right there with them, scouting for the best new products and technologies so we can bring them to you in the coming months. Here's a roundup of some of the newest tools and accessories we'll be checking out in Atlanta – but we won't stop searching the show until we've found every new item we think you should know about.


The 12-volt Sub-Scanner Cordless Detection Tool (model 2290-21) is an extra-heavy-duty "stud finder" powered by Milwaukee's M12 rechargeable batteries. It can detect rebar buried up to 6 inches deep in concrete, as well as the location and depth of various materials – wood and metal studs, copper, aluminum and plastic pipe, and AC voltage – beneath gypsum, ceramic tile, and marble. The tool has a pistol-grip design with four base rollers for smooth measurements. Price: $349. 800-729-3878.


The Lenox Mobile Torch System II (MTS II) is a combo gas-torch canister connection and accessory carry-all designed for professionals. It holds a torch head with a 12.5-foot hose, two standard 14.1-ounce gas cylinders or new 16.92-ounce gas cylinders (or one of each), plus solder, flux, tubing cutters, and other on-the-job items. The heavy-duty molded case includes a hose wrap and a heat-protected holder to cool torch tips after use. Price: $189. 800-628-8810.


General Tools & Instruments' lightweight 3-inch and 6-inch nonmarring, nonconductive carbon-fiber-composite Digital Fractional Calipers provide precision measurements in three digital-readout modes: inches to four decimal places, fractional inches to 164 inch, and millimeters to two decimal places. The slides are calibrated in both inches and millimeters. Price: $21.95 (3-inch model 1433) and $32.95 (6-inch model 146). 800-697-8665.


The striking face on Stanley's two new FatMax graphite hammers is 70 percent larger than standard hammer faces, providing a larger "sweet spot" to improve user accuracy, says the maker. Dual-tempered head rims reduce steel chipping and spalling, and lightweight graphite core handles with ergonomic ribbed rubber grips ensure comfort. Price: $14.99 (16-ounce curved-claw model 51-505) and $17.99 (20-ounce rip-claw model 51-508). 800-782-6539.


Two new wood-flooring router-bit sets offer precision-mated profiles with integral nail slots for solid wood from 58 to 3/4-inch thick or engineered wood from 1/2 to 58 inch thick. Both two-bit sets have carbide cutting edges, double flutes for one-pass cuts, and built-in guide bearings. They're intended for router-table use only. Price: $113.78 (engineered-wood set no. 55454) and $119.03 (solid-wood set no. 55456). 800-445-0077.