29 March 2017



Secure wall plugs in problem surfaces

The toilet paper holder in the bathroom was loose because the holes in the wall were crumbling, and too big for anchor plugs. I used bigger plugs, but that only made the holes bigger. I wasn’t sure how to fix the problem, so the holder remained loose for a few years, much to the consternation of my wife and daughters.

I stumbled across a product called Wetnfix, designed to “secure wall plugs in problem surfaces.” I had my doubts it would work but I thought it would be worth a try.


It comes with 20 cotton mesh discs treated with gypsum plaster.


I dipped a disc in a glass of water and wrapped it around a wall plug (not included). Actually, I used two discs per wall plug because the holes were so large.


Then I stuck the plugs in the hole and tapped them with a hammer until they were flush with the wall. A few minutes the plaster was set and I fastened the toilet paper holder to the wall.


It worked! I suspect it’s likely to hold, at least until my nephew stands on it so he can look out the window.

03/29/17 -- Mark Frauenfelder

28 March 2017


Hario Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Sludge-free cold brew coffee

I originally picked this up when Hario partnered with Blue Bottle to sell them last year. I like it so much I bought a second to use at work. It is the best way I’ve found to make cold brew coffee in just the right quantities. My previous system was one of those huge toddy systems. While I liked the result, I had to grind and use huge amounts of coffee each time I wanted to make some. Then it made so much it would last 3-4 days and start to taste off towards the end.

The Hario system only makes around 500-600ml (after you pull out the filter). I add cold water to this to bring it up to the 650ml capacity of the bottle. This lasts me a day or two at the most. The genius of the system is the filter. Instead of draining coffee through the bottom and leaving the coffee behind, the filter attaches to the silicon top, just remove the top and the filter comes out with it. Remove the filter and put the top back on. Additionally the filter is made from polyester. It’s so fine I can’t see any holes in it, it just looks like translucent plastic. I never have coffee sludge at the bottom, no matter how fine I grind my coffee. At work I’ll prep the setup before I leave in the evening and when I come in the next morning, it’s ready to go. With the removable top the main glass container has a wide mouth that makes clean up easy, even if you don’t have a dishwasher and need to hand wash it. If you don’t want to grind your coffee (I can’t at work) I’ve found the New Orleans style Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory makes a great cold brew coffee.

03/28/17 -- Kevin van Haaren

27 March 2017


Stainless Steel Scraper/Chopper

Kitchen tool for scraping, crushing, chopping and measuring

Even though I’m an avid baker, I’d always thought bench scrapers were pointless until I was given one as a Christmas gift a few years back. I thought a knife or a spatula would be just as good as a scraper for most purposes. Since receiving one, however, the bench scraper has become a great multi-purpose tool in my kitchen. When I’m baking, I use it to lift and transfer pastry dough and divide cinnamon rolls. The inexpensive Norpro version I have includes a ruler on one side, which is handy to measure dough thickness. The bench scraper is also great for cleaning, though. I use it to scrape dough and other stuck-on detritus from my wooden countertop, and to remove any sort of burnt gunk from my cookie sheets. It is sharp, but not so sharp that it damages surfaces or leaves scrape marks. I’ve also used it as a pry bar on occasion. The Norpro scraper is under $6 on Amazon. For a stainless steel tool that lasts pretty much forever and has so many uses, this is a bargain.

03/27/17 -- Abbie Stillie

26 March 2017


Reader Favorite: Spyderco Bug Knife

Itty bitty knife

The Spyderco Bug Knife was one of the best-selling items of 2015 – MF

I have carried this tiny knife for a few years, connected to a Photon Freedom micro light (another cool tool I heartily recommend over the oft recommended Microlight II) for the world’s smallest EDC (Every Day Carry) set. A knife and light combo will cover 95% of any odd daily task I encounter while working in an office and lab environment. This knife is the perfect size for professional office dress. It disappears in my pocket until I need it.

It is the smallest knife I have ever found and is just big enough for general scraping, tiny hole poking, and little thing slicing you need to do on a daily basis. It does not have a lock mechanism, but as long as you know that, you can use it in a way that will not cause it to close. It is stainless steel, so it is tough and corrosion resistant.

I recently lost my Bug knife and confirmed what I already knew: that I could not do without it for even a week. It costs only $12 on Amazon, so it is a bargain.

03/26/17 -- Mark Nordhaus

26 March 2017


10 Minute Mail/Mint/Quotables

Recomendo: issue no. 35

Spam beater:
10 Minute Mail is a disposable email address. Just go to the website, and you are presented with a newly-minted email address that self-destructs after ten minutes. Here’s a sample address: l544960@mvrht.com. Use it when a web form requires an email address and you don’t want to end up on their list. From the FAQ: “If the website makes you verify the email address by sending you a link you have to click on, then you can read the email right here on www.10minutemail.com and click on the link.” — MF

We eat enough granola that we can’t keep up making our own. But most store-bought granola is way too sweet with sugar. And it’s expensive. For the past many years I’ve been gobbling up Bob’s Red Mill Honey Granola, bought in 4.5 pound bulk packages on Amazon. It is only mildly sweet using honey, and not expensive. We add our own nuts, raisins, etc. — KK

Money management:
I’m liking the new Mint much more than before. Now that it’s merged with Mint Bills, I can manage both bills and accounts in one place, and it was a lot easier to connect to all my accounts than before. Also, being able to view all my transactions in one place and categorize them permanently makes budgeting painless. — CD

I do most of my writing and editing in Google Docs. Sometimes, though, I am asked to edit a manuscript in Word. In those cases, I don’t really use Word because it is bloated and clunky. Instead, I use a free Word-compatible word processor called Bean (for OS X only). It’s snappy and the “full screen” view creates a distraction-free editing experience. — MF

Folding hack:
I thought I was a pro at folding clothes (thanks to my college days spent working at Gap), but recently came across this hack for folding North Face jackets in an Amazon review and was amazed at how compact this technique made my hoodie sweater. I rolled it into the size of softball and was able to carry it in my small crossbody bag. — CD


  • “I’ve always been very careful never to predict anything that has not already happened.” — Marshall McLuhan
  • “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” — Dorothy Parker
  • “Decisions are made by those who show up.” — Jennifer Pahlka
  • “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein
  • “Not long ago what we have today was so implausible that nobody bothered to say it would never happen.“ — Marc Andreessen
  • “The first 90% of a project is a lot easier than the second 90%.” — Tim Sweeney
  • “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.” — General Shinseki

Some quotes I’m finding guidance from. (I can’t vouch for the primacy of the sources.) — KK

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03/26/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

25 March 2017


Ask Cool Tools Featured Question

Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

evieb would like suggestions for the best way to carry two cell phones.

03/25/17 --


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Foldable Step Stool

Strong folding step stool

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Vitaquick Pressure Cooker

Silent and steam-free pressure cooking

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Crossbow Pistol

80-lb draw weight crossbow pistol

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Danielle Applestone, CEO of Other Machine Co.

Cool Tools Show 073: Danielle Applestone

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Chop2Pot Foldable Plastic Cutting Board

Hinges fold into a chute when the handle is squeezed to guide food into pot

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Duct tape without the residue

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What's in My Bag? 23 February 2017

Announcements: 09/6/16


CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

About Cool Tools

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.