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Remember when builder's trade shows were raucous affairs, full of hype and wildly expensive products? It's a different world out there now, thanks to the recession. Many of these events have seen their attendance plummet as more and more builders and remodelers choose to stay home and concentrate on simple survival. This has not been the case for JLC Live, however, as anyone who attended the Providence, R.I., show in March can attest: Throughout its three-day run, the exhibition floor was jam-packed. Attendees were able to put their hands on a wide variety of new products - many of them American-made - and in some cases speak directly to the designers. High-quality materials, labor-saving devices, and a host of products designed to prevent moisture problems and energy leaks were in abundance. As were tools, of course - lots and lots of tools. Here's just a small sample of what was on display.

Siding Helper

Tired of snapping chalk lines or using a hand-held jig to ensure consistent siding reveals? The Gecko Gauge is designed to ease the tedium of installing fiber-cement siding by providing support and ensuring correct placement. PacTool says its new device is adjustable for a wide range of reveals and uses a nonmarring cam-action clamp to fasten itself to the lower lip of the previous course of siding. The company cites a study by fiber-cement producer James Hardie that found that installers who used the Gecko Gauge were almost 50 percent faster than those who snapped lines to lay out siding reveals. Eight different models are available to accommodate different siding styles and reveals. The SA903, which adjusts in 1/4-inch increments and works for reveals ranging from 5 to 8 inches, costs about $65 per pair.

PacTool International, 800/297-7487, pactool.us.