This might seem like a bit of a specialty tool, but for a homeowner or finish carpenter, it makes installing any kind of fixture a snap. “Vix” is a brand name for the S.E. Vick company, more generically it’s a “self-centering” drill bit, and they make a few different sizes, but I’ve only ever used the smaller one — need a bigger hole? Use it as a pilot bit. Hinges, cabinet pulls, shelf brackets, anything you need to fasten to a piece of wood, this bit prevents the tip from wandering so countersunk screws will seat perfectly. I first encountered these as a carpenter — attaching cabinet hardware is usually the last thing on the job, so you really don’t want to screw up at that stage. The vix bit makes it pretty much idiot-proof. I’ve had one for at least ten years, and it still worked great when I lost it a few weeks ago. It was sorely missed until I replaced it.
In theory, corkscrews are great tools. In practice, however, they’re often either challenging to use, over-engineered, or prohibitively expensive.
But as I opened a bottle of wine on New Year’s Eve, I realized that the Quirky Verseur is by far the easiest, fastest corkscrew I’ve ever used.
Simply slide the flared plastic tube of this odd-looking device over the top of the wine bottle, squeeze gently to hold it in place, insert the corkscrew until the tip pierces the cork, and and start turning clockwise. The cork comes out with hardly any effort. No pulling, no prying, nothing but a clean, extracted cork 100% of the time.
But it’s not just one tool — it’s four tools rolled into one. In addition to being a great corkscrew, there’s a recessed foil cutter in the handle to help you swiftly get to the cork (it takes a few times to get the hang of using this), a pouring spout for drip-less wine delivery, and a minimalist bottle stopper to keep the wine you don’t drink fresh. Everything fits together in one piece for easy storing. It’s a wine-opening multi-tool.
Blogger and author David McRaney introduces us to some lesser known creative solutions to life’s tiny nuisances that will help you untangle your wad of keys, opt for a better YouTube experience, and explore the future of musical experimentation.
David’s Blog, You Are Not So Smart
You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney
Here are David’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:
“You don’t have a big wad of keys and they just swing out like a pocket knife and go into the door and you twist it, open a door and then swing it back in. It’s all nice and tight and compact and I like it. ”
“You may have seen something like this in a guitar store. That’s how I started looking for it because I used to have all my guitars around my house and my basses on stands and it only takes two or three and suddenly a whole side of your room is taken up by the stuff. ”
“The way I was first introduced to this is there’s a band called Pinn Panelle and they had a video where they did a live cover of Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites“…and the bass player was able to make the dubstep bass sound by using this controller…His name is Nathan Navarro and he’s got some really face melting bass solos that he’s created using this device and his album even comes with tablature for his solos.”
“Everyone knows that YouTube comments are the worst place on the internet. They are so horrible. I hope that if some sort of extraterrestrial intelligence is scanning our database of knowledge that they don’t ever see the YouTube comments. But usually Reddit comments about a video are pretty good and sometimes really amazing things can be in a Reddit thread…”
This is a 5-inch diameter magnifying glass mounted on a swing arm, and the assembly has a vice clamp to mount itself to the edge of a table or desk. It includes a ring of light around the lens to illuminate the work vividly. This allows you to place your work on the furniture surface and swing the magnifier over the work so you can comfortably access tools, the material, and additional lighting when needed. When one does not need it, it can be taken down and stored in twenty seconds, and set back up as needed in almost as little time.
I have used it for 5 years. It allows me to see extraordinarily small things and, when appropriate, make precision repairs, such as cracked or clogged parts in expensive electronics and tiny splinters in skin. Children whose toys are broken sometimes become heartbroken until they are repaired or replaced, and this can allow immediate salve to them. When they get a painful splinter, this not only saves them prolonged pain, but may save the parent a trip to a medical provider. In addition, children tend to adore exploring the world of tiny things such as insects, and manufactured things using these.
For really tiny detail, one can combine this with a headset magnifier. Most of these headsets allow multiple lenses at one time so you can use only one of its lenses if you want moderate magnification or all three for extreme. The disadvantage of the headset is the disorientation when not looking only at the work, such as looking for tools, parts, and instructions which will seem blurry and distracting unless you continually raise and lower the headset as you look from the closeup work to more distant other things. That is the advantage of the swing arm magnifier; you can look from close to more distant without limitation since the swing arm magnifies only the work you want magnified.
I have been using this for 7 months, since my daughter was 16 months old. I love it! She was constantly wanting to either sit on the counter or have me hold her while I was prepping meals/snacks/drinks. This enables her to climb up and be counter level in the kitchen and I have both of my arms and hands free. It also comes with accessories (like a chalkboard and castle stuff) which I have not purchased, but likely will. What I love about this, versus other products, is it gives her the independence she so desires but is safe (compared to a step ladder or stool of some type).
Cool Tools is giving away a one-year membership to the TripIt Pro (a travel organizing service, which we reviewed here) to one person who writes and submits a Cool Tool review between now and Thursday, September 18 at noon PST. It’s a $40 value. We’ll pick our favorite review (about any tool you love) and notify the person who wrote it. (I won’t send the physical card — just the redeemable gift code.)
If you write a review and you don’t win the gift card, don’t despair — if we like it we will run it here on Cool Tools. We pay $25 for each review we run. Please use our Submit a Tool form to send us your review.
I recently completed an extensive search for a new bag. The goals were to provide space for my work items (laptop, etc), easy access to camera equipment with a quick shoulder sling, and a compact design for riding my motorcycle.
The solution was the Chrome Niko Pack. This bag has two spaces: one at the top for my work items and laptop, and one at the bottom with a side zipper for camera equipment. The velcro straps on the back make a great spot to attach a tripod.
Here’s what’s in my bag on a regular basis:
- Canon 5D Mark II (would love to upgrade to the Mk III sometime)
- Canon 40mm pancake lens
- Canon 24-105 L lens
- Vivitar 285HV flash
- CowboyStudio wireless hot shoe triggers (finally a trigger that doesn’t suck)
- Extra CF cards
- Wasabi Power LP-E6 batteries (cheapest 5D spares around)
- Mamiya C33 (a gift from an fantastic friend, trades off with the 24-105)
Strapped on the outside:
- Manfrotto BeFree travel tripod (excellent for traveling!)
In the top compartment:
- Macbook Pro 15″ charger, and VGA adapter
- Beats headphones (the old versions were great)
- Velodyne V-Pulse earbuds with foam tips
- Anker 10000mAH USB battery (how is this only $30?)
- Lightning USB cable
- Ray-Ban Wayfarers
- Uni-ball 207 bold point retractable pen (preferred by 2 out of 2 Frauenfelders surveyed)
- Hand sanitizer
[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service like Bitcasa to upload the photos, and email the text to email@example.com. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]
I recently needed to fill a particularly expensive prescription. The first pharmacy I visited, a big box retailer with a reputation for low prescription drug prices, quoted a price of $800.
A few moments later, I found the exact same prescription from a pharmacy just down the road for less than $300.
The market for prescription drugs in the US is ridiculously inefficient. Fortunately, companies like GoodRx.com are creating tools that can help you find the best prices online, making true price comparison fast and efficient.
GoodRx works by pulling in price feeds from most of the top pharmacy chains in the US, allowing you to search and sort by drug, delivery form, dosage, count, and pharmacy type. It’s trivial to compare prices for brand name vs. generic, and the website automatically sorts the results by price.
If you create an account on GoodRx.com, you can save searches for later reference, which is handy. Prices change daily, so it’s worth re-checking prices before refilling your prescriptions.
Once you find the best option, you can print out a “discount card” that contains GoodRx’s Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) information, so the pharmacist can find the GoodRx quoted price. (They’ll also mail you a card for your wallet if you request one.) Every time you fill a prescription using GoodRx’s group information, they make money via referral fees, so the service itself is free to use.
Out of curiosity, I had the pharmacy quote prices using the GoodRx rate vs. my major health insurance company’s negotiated group rate. GoodRx won by $150.
A quick search on GoodRx.com saved me over $500 in less than a minute. If you live in the US and need to fill a prescription, search here first.
– Josh Kaufman
This little gadget hones your razor after each use, and extends its usefulness by keeping it sharp longer. It’s a strip of silicone rubber in a plastic holder. You push your razor along the strip a dozen or so times after you’ve shaved. I’ve used it for about two years and it works well – it gives me at least double or perhaps triple the number of shaves before the blade becomes too dull to use. I’ve tried other similar things but this is the one that works best.
Imagine a stack of hacksaw blades riveted together in several spots and then bent out like expanded metal mesh. This is what you have with the Shinto Wood Rasp. It is extraordinarily effective at removing material. I use it to shape wood parts as well as when working with fiberglass and epoxy in my boat building business. It can cut aggressively yet can leave a smooth surface.
The expanded metal configuration of the blade allows sawdust and shavings to pass through the blade without gumming up the works as is common with standard rasps. The teeth remain sharp for a long time. I’ve used my rasp for nearly 15 years on some difficult materials and it still cuts quite well. A high quality traditional rasp doesn’t have the same longevity.
The blade is two sided, one fine, the other coarse. There are several different handle configurations available: in-line permanently affixed, offset, and offset with a second forward handle for more pressure. I like the offset handle to get full strokes, the full length of the blade. The handle can be easily switched from one side to the other.
A good “Rambo” carpentry tool, when you want to do a lot of damage fast, but still capable of clean work.