Often, my job can be as engaging as a four-star movie. I get the official sneak previews of the newest tools in the market. Sometimes, I even get a demo and use them around the house. At trade shows, all the major power tool manufacturers are more than happy to demonstrate the latest in technologies, specifically fasteners. While walking these shows and from the hordes of press releases I receive, one thing has stuck out: the ever-evolving drywall-related line of tools. Like scientists working around the clock to remedy the world's ailments, the drywall industry continually produces more efficient tools that help in labor, cost and ergonomics.

The Gypsum Association reported for its third quarter that the United States has already shipped 27.1 billion square feet of wallboard. With the remaining quarter yet to be announced, the total for 2005 could exceed last year's record of 34.24 billion square feet. As you'll read in Trade News, Lafarge has announced it will be expanding its drywall manufacturing facility in Kentucky and USG will be expanding its joint compound plant in Florida, both beginning next year.

Obviously, the demand is there. At the heels of the Katrina and Rita rebuilds, it's safe to forecast the market will still be booming for several years. To keep pace with the demand for all that board to be hung, the major players will be improving on existing product lines and perhaps conceive some entirely new innovation that will revolutionize rockers across the country.

I saw a few products at the recent Remodeling and STAFDA trade shows, respectively. At the former, Myron Ferguson gave a presentation on finishing techniques (see his feature on page 50) and several of the exhibiting companies donated some goods. C.H. Hanson's RockSplicer is a far improvement from the standard utility knife-you know, the non-retractable blade that stops production to unscrew the body apart to flip the blade. Now, Hanson has its Mag Knife, an enhanced utility blade that features a snappy ergonomic design and easy-to-open body by the turn of a knob.

Encouraged by its makers, Ferguson was also busy kicking around the WobbleLight. Although this has been on the market for years, there are some improvements on the design's body, making it much more abuse resistant than before. It's not a cheap purchase, so the company wanted to ensure that for all the inconsiderate contractors in other trades that could care less about the rocker's tools, the light would keep burning no matter how many times the plumber kicks it.

Ferguson was using Full Circle International's Radius 360 Sanding Tool, a product I've heard plenty of rave on that has saved lots of time and the sanders exalt it. We all wonder what that company will do next.

I recently spoke to Mike Collins of Full Circle and we had a good talk about the industry and trends. He remarked that more than ever he's observed a lot of company involvement with contractors, encouraging critical feedback to ensure the very best in product offerings. Case in point: I swore secrecy to a manufacturer on announcing its improvement with a product that I saw tested at the Remodeling Show but I will give you a hint: less dust.

As a final note, I would like to mention something I heard some time ago and I have been thinking about it since: beveled board on four sides. This product has been introduced in Europe; a market I would assume is still somewhat younger than ours in North America. The benefits of such a board would be obvious, most importantly less time spent finishing. Manufacturing costs would be phenomenally higher, I'm sure. But if the demand were there ...

As the latest drywall tools develop, we'll run those in the Toolbox department or in the Bench Test. In the meantime, visit the magazine's bulletin board at www.i-boards.com/bnp/wc for some contractor feedback regarding the trade, tools and business. There's some good, constructive dialogue there.

On behalf of the Walls & Ceilings staff, have a happy holiday season. Be safe and be good.