Digital Height Gauge

This tool is very useful for accurately setting the height of table saw blades or router bits. It also works well for setting the position of a fence relative to the table saw blade or router bit. I’ve been using one for about two years. It lets me setup a table saw or router more accurately than I could by eye. Normally one tries to make all identical cuts at one time on the same setup. However, if you miss a cut, or damage a work piece and need to make a new one, this height gauge will let you match your original setup very closely.

also has an extensive line of other digital height and positioning gauges for a wide variety of woodworking machines.

-- Cornell Wright  

Wixey WR200 Digital Height Gauge with Fractions

Available from Amazon

TeleBouncer Blocker TB1000

For the last several years, one of the most annoying aspects of my life has been the incessant and unstoppable telephone spam — four, five, six calls or more cold calls a day from telemarketers. The do-not call lists are worthless. Telemarketers pay no attention to them.

Most mechanical devices to block such calls are based on caller ID, for which the phone company charges $10 a month. Then you have to keep updating your list of blocked numbers. On top of which, your phone keeps ringing for each new number that you haven’t blocked yet.

Then I discovered TeleBouncer from Demys, a blocker that has nothing to do with caller ID. Rather, it intercepts all incoming calls and tells callers to press 1 (or 2 or 3) to reach you. Only after the caller presses 1 does your phone ring. This immediately shuts out robocallers and all recorded messages.

My outgoing message says, “Hi, this is Lee. If I know you, I’m happy to talk to you. Please press 1 now. If you’re a telemarketer, I’m not buying anything. Please hang up now.”

I’ve had my TeleBouncer for nearly a month, and I haven’t received a single spam call in that time.

The only downside is that after you’ve installed a TeleBouncer, the only phone that does ring (once a caller has pressed 1) is the phone that the device is attached to. Fortunately, I can hear that phone from everywhere in my house.

-- Lee Dembart  

TeleBouncer Blocker TB1000

Available from Amazon


Workflowy, in its most basic form, is an online outliner. It creates bulleted lists so it’s a super-fast way of laying out ideas in a useable fashion (project planning, article outlines, research projects, etc.)

The app is available in your browser, has iOS and Android apps and a Chrome extension.

I’ve used Workflowy now for a couple of years. It has made project planning simple, made it easy to manage (and think creatively about) about 25 consulting projects and all of their online marketing strategies. I’ve used it to keep a permanent packing list for our annual car-camping trip with friends (including what games their kids like), for planning the online courses I teach, for “scripting” my podcasts, for taking notes from conference presentations and even for planning new services for our clients.

The free version is complete and would work for most people. I’ve upgraded to the paid version because I needed to be able to create more than 500 items/month.

Workflowy is one of only a few apps that I keep open all the time and than I have used daily for more than 18 months. I don’t know how to be successful without it!

-- Travis Allison  

Free, up to 500 items per month
$5/month for pro version

Feather Double Edge Safety Razor

Shaving is boring and can get expensive. Around 2005, I received a free Gillette razor with umpteen blades. Schick had discontinued the Diamond FX blade I liked so well and I looked at what was in my future. It went on the shelf unopened, and is still there. I started haunting second hand stores looking for old double edge razors. Probably have several dozen, from “like new” to “trash.” There is a learning curve to this. I did try a straight razor, very briefly. That proved to be more excitement than I can handle. Purchased a Merkel, a beautifully made razor with (in my opinion) horrible balance. I grew up shaving with Bic disposables, which may explain my sense of “razor balance”. Finally settled on and used a very nice old Gillette with an aluminum handle for several years.

Tried a couple made in Pakistan DE razors and they made mincemeat out of my face. Beautiful on the outside, the pins that hold the blade in alignment with the head were undersized allowing the blade to cock in the razor leaving corners hanging out. I’d tried Feather blades and they are one of the best, if not the best – but expensive for a double edged blade. I ran across their Feather razor, currently $15.82 and eligible for free shipping. I gave it a try. For me, it is as near perfection as I could hope for in a razor. Lightweight, and the balance is where I like it. Been using it for about 6 years and it is as good today as when it was new. Handled a couple drops to the floor and sink with no damage.

One of the coolest things about these razors are that the blades are standardized. I have blades from all over the world – Israel, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, Turkey, Russia … the list goes on. All fit and work perfectly in the Feather razor or any other quality double edge razor. Some blades are better than others, some last longer than others. Most are quite inexpensive. I have my favorites, but for a change of pace shuffle the blade deck on occasion and try something different. 100 blades for under $10 (and eligible for free shipping). Both Amazon and eBay are full “exotic” double edge blades. Even the packaging can be pretty cool.

The quality of the shave is equal to that of the Diamond FX I loved. After the initial shave, I splash water on my face and do a quick second pass. I shave daily, and while the life expectancy of the blades varies considerably, even between blades in the same package, a blade normally goes for close to 2 weeks before I replace it.

After learning to be careful when waving the razor around my nostrils, I rarely nick myself. Like, almost never. Every third day I’ll carefully wipe the edges of the blade by pinching it between 2 fingers. The soap scum buildup makes the blade act dull when it actually has quite a bit of life left in it. The Rainbow blade I’m currently using is on its third week. Pretty much everything is recyclable, the paper the blades are wrapped in and even the blades themselves.

-- Norm  

Feather Double Edge Shaving Razor

Available from Amazon


I have used this tool for over a year now. It is the best tool to extract juices from citrus fruits and infuses the water directly into the water bottle. It is superior to others (and I have tried many) for two reasons. Firstly, it extracts the MOST juice than any other tool I have used and secondly, the water tight seal to prevent any leaking has remained intact since first use! This tool has allowed me to increase my water intake by 3 times and the citrus juice has helped in preventing kidney stones, soothe a sore throat, assist with weight loss, and aid in overall vitality.

-- John Bellavia  

Citrus Zinger Juicer

Available from Amazon

Glenn Fleishman, Writer

Glenn Fleishman is a Seattle-based technology journalist, and two-time winner on Jeopardy! He’s a senior contributor at Macworld, regularly writes for The Economist, and pens stories about parking and cryptography for Fast Company.

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Show Notes:

OpenX $5

“This opens plastic clamshell blister packs. It’s got a great gripping handle. There’s a little blade you can push out and it’s got a spring on it so it doesn’t stay up permanently. It also has a deep hole with a razor blade embedded inside it so you can’t reach it and hurt yourself. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Default Folder $35

“Default Folder keeps a long list of folders I’ve recently navigated to. I’ve got folders all over the place. I dream of a day in which Spotlight and other automatic full text search engines actually do what they’re designed to do years ago which is prevent the need to have folders, but I still use folders for a lot of basic organization.”

Fitbit One $88

“I didn’t want a wristband. I’m one of those people who does not like rings or things on my hands or wrists. I am very aware of that so I thought I’d get one that I can clip on or stick in a pocket. It’s a distance activity-tracker and it has a barometer in it, so it can tell you if you’re going up steps.”

TreadDesk $995

“I used a standing desk first and then I got a treadmill after a few months of figuring out that I could stand all day. I’ve had it I think 4 years now and I use it almost everyday and I find my best writing is while I’m walking on it.”


Mini Boom Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

I’ve been using several models of this for the last 2 years — the Mini and a larger version, the UE Boom (no “mini”) that is slightly more unwieldy for packing in your luggage, but also a bit sturdier. (I’ve had one UE Mini Boom die on me.)

I work in music, travel a fair bit & shift between different computers and environments frequently. But having access to decent quality sound is a constant need, and this enables me to have a good baseline level of quality wherever I go, with minimum prep or fuss. You can connect it to most devices (laptops, phones, tablets) via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm jack. Honestly I tend to prefer the jack as Bluetooth connections can be finicky, and the Mini Boom is small enough it can be secreted on any kind of surface pretty easily (at the edge of at towel rack in a hotel bathroom, or a few inches of spare space on a bookshelf).

It’s better than headphones because you don’t have that “voice inside your head” effect and can do other work while listening; it’s better than built-in computer speakers for obvious reasons; and I’d say it may even be better than a full-on stereo system because as we enter the streaming music era, you don’t know where the music will be emanating from (a phone, a tablet, a laptop) and this allows you to switch between sources on the fly much more quickly than a traditional sound system.


-- Alec  

UE Mini Boom Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Available from Amazon

3M Tekk Virtua Safety Glasses

I love cycling fast, but the wind makes my eyes water, especially in cooler weather. That is probably a safety hazard.

So I got these safety glasses to wear while biking. They ride high enough that they will block the wind even when you are hunched down low over the handlebars, and there is no frame to block your vision. They are cheap enough to be nearly disposable. The frames are wide enough to fit even my wide Korean cheekbones, but still fit closely enough that no wind sneaks around the edges. They are available in a variety of colors if you need glare reduction.

Their only downsides: 1) the lens have sharpish edge that wouldn’t bother most people, but do very lightly touch my Korean cheekbones. I softened the edges with some sandpaper. 2) they don’t come with a case. (I use an old sock.)

Simple, cheap, effective. They probably make dandy safety goggles in the shop too, but this model is particularly suited to cycling, because of the lack of frame.

They are available at Home Depot in one or two colors, and at Amazon in all colors.

-- Karl Chwe  

3M Tekk 11329 Virtua Anti-Fog Safety Glasses

Available from Amazon

Husqvarna 550 XPG and 560 XPG chainsaws

In the world of professional arborists and tree fellers there are only really two makes of chainsaw that you’ll find them using: Husqvarna or Stihl. You’ll note that I said Husqvarna OR Stihl because almost everyone prefers one make or the other and tend to use them pretty much exclusively. You can have hours of debate and discussion over who makes the best saw and everyone has their favorite.

Well I’m firmly in the Husqvarna camp. I’ve used various Husqvarnas felling, snedding (limbing) and crosscutting trees for more years than I care to remember. Every now and then Husky comes out with a real classic saw. The last one I fell in love with was the 357XP and I used that saw far longer than I should have before retiring it.

They’ve done it again with the 550 XP and the 560 XP saws. These are both medium capacity professional grade saws that are made to work – and work they do. The thing that makes them different from other saws is their combination of balance, low weight, power, and acceleration. In some saws you can have low weight, but pay for it in terms of balance. In others you might get a really torquey engine but pay for it with slower acceleration. Husqvarna seem to have gotten the mix just right with these two.

I originally bought the 550 XPG as a smaller saw for some clearance work I was doing (it has a 50cc engine) and I quickly fell in love with it. In fact I liked it so much that I almost immediately went out and bought its bigger brother, the 560XPG (60cc capacity) to replace my main felling saw. What do I like so much about them? Well the main thing on first picking them up is the balance, they just feel right. They sit nicely in the hand and the 550, with a 13 inch bar, fairly dances when you’re cutting small stuff. Now, no industrial saw is going to be truly lightweight but these weigh in at 5.1 and 5.7kg respectively – much lighter than older saws in this class.

However, what really sold me on them is their acceleration. You don’t think of chainsaws as having to have quick acceleration, but when you’re snedding conifers, the ability to get the saw up to cutting speed almost instantly is really important. It saves a lot of time, fuel, and effort, which might not important for the occasional user, but when you are processing twenty or thirty trees a day it really does make a difference, which you can feel at the end of the day. Both these saws have something that Husqvarna calls “rev boost” and I’m not sure how it works but it makes the saw accelerate noticeably faster than most other saws I’ve used. They also have an electronic engine management system that runs their “autotune” system that can compensate for altitude, fuel mix, air filter condition etc. It seems to work just fine and an interesting spin off is that I can have the dealer plug it in to a computer in their workshop and give me a readout of the number of hours it’s been working, maximum revs reached, hours worked since last service and a couple of other useful bits and pieces.

I decided with these saws to spend the extra bit of cash and buy the XPG model which has heated bars, it’s the first time I’ve used heated grips but especially in the wet cold they make a very pleasant difference, they do get a bit hot after a while but I just switch the heater off once I’ve warmed up.

Now there are a bunch of reviews on the web that criticize the early manufactured saws that came out around three years ago, but as I got my first one in 2013 they seem to have worked through the kinks and I’ve never had a problem with mine, except for one thing which does seem to be a common complaint from users. If you are working the saw hard in hot weather and you let it cool down past a critical level it can become an absolute bear to restart. This only seems to happen if I’ve stopped cutting for more than twenty minutes and less than an hour or so (we call it “half hot.”) It only seems to happen in hot weather and the problem goes away if you’ve stopped long enough for the saw to cool completely. If I’m stopping for a cup of coffee or a similar short break then I get round the issue now by popping the cover off and leaving the saw in the shade. It seems to let the saw cool more evenly and lets it restart straight away.

Anyway, minor niggle apart, I reckon these are the best mid-sized saws Husqvarna have made and when it’s time to retire these two I’ll be replacing them like for like.

-- George Graham  

Husqvarna 550 XP

Husqvarna 560 XP (UK only?)

Cargo net

When I got my motorcycle a year ago I bought this bungee net to secure loads to my seat. It has proved indispensable over thousands of miles of casual and touring use. It easily stretches over a sizable duffel and holds it securely in place. The models with the wire hooks are prone to losing their rubber caps making them a scratch risk. But the wire hooks stay more firmly attached to the net compared to plastic hook models.

-- Rick Weber  

Heavy-duty 15″ Cargo Net for Motorcycle

Available from Amazon