02 December 2016


Teva Sport Sandals

Comfortable, durable, healthy, versatile sandals

I can’t believe Teva Sandals haven’t been recommended here yet. I have worn various models of Teva sandals for 25 years.


– They are comfortable. The straps do not chafe, but are plenty durable. The velcro fastening allows quick adjustments, even if your feet swell, and even if you wear socks. They also have soft, cushy but resilient midsoles, with varying degrees of arch support.

– They are durable. For me, they last at least five summers of near-continuous wear. I replace them when the tread wears away in spots, though I don’t really need to. I have never worn the soles through to the midsoles. The straps never wear out, though the velcro eventually loses some of its grip. The velcro would be easy to replace, but I have never done it.

– They are healthy. With your feet mostly open to the air, you do not develop athlete’s foot or other fungal infections. You do not develop calluses or blisters. (You may develop a “Teva tan” however, where the straps leave a characteristic pattern on your feet.)

– They are versatile. Originally developed for rafting, they are secure, protective and grippy enough for all sorts of sports. I have played volleyball, gone hiking in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo mountains, and toured Greece in mine. They are unaffected by water and dry quickly on your feet. With socks, they are wearable in surprisingly cold days. (The soles are all non-marking, incidentally.) You can wear them on more occasions than you might other sandals, to the ultimate benefit of your feet.

– With the Microban zinc treatment, the stinky Teva problem is gone. The sandals are stink-free, and stay that way for the life of the sandals.

– They are reasonably priced, $50 to $100, though often available for cheaper.

– There is a huge variety of models, including leather versions, flip flops, slides, models that enclose your foot to varying degrees, etc. There is even a sheepskin-lined version. But the Original Universal model is the cheapest and works great. The Hudson, Hurricane, Katavi and Terra Fi models have more aggressive soles, plus Microban, nylon shanks, and midsoles with more arch support. I prefer models without leather like the Hurricane, because leather absorbs water and dirt, darkens and stains with use and generally shows its wear, while the synthetic materials look new for years.


– They might be too casual for some settings. But that also depends on what else you are wearing. I used to wear them with khakis and button-down shirts to work in a tall office building all the time.

– I suppose there has to be one part that wears out faster than the rest. For Teva’s, it is the velcro. But it would be easy to replace the velcro, not even an evening’s work with needle and thread.

– I think there are no other disadvantages. They aren’t suited to climbing K2, working in building demolition, or attending a funeral, but you knew that already.

There are other sport sandals, notably Chaco’s and Keen’s. Chaco’s are great if their footbed fits your foot (for me they don’t.) They are notably thicker and heavier than Tevas, and more expensive. Keen’s are also great (I wear their shoes and boots all winter), but they are more elaborate, heavier and expensive than Tevas, though there is overlap. I wear Keen sandals for riding my bike, and Tevas for everything else. If I had to choose a current model, I might go for the Hurricane. It has Microban, a nylon shank, a nice molded midsole and footbed, and their more durable sole, but no leather, and it costs only $60. Their higher-end Terra-fi is much the same, but with a stickier but less durable outsole. And for the record, it is pronounced “teh-vah,” not “tee-vah.” It is the Hebrew word for nature.

12/2/16 -- Karl Chwe

01 December 2016


Dymo Plastic Label Embosser

Fantastic for art projects

This is as old school as it gets. I have friends who are crazy into labeling, but I’m quite disorganized. I organize my files once every six months and it piles up with tax stuff and documents. I go nuts because I can’t get any work done and so I organize it. I have very bad handwriting, so I write in my chicken scrawl on all the file folders and I can’t really identify them later.

I went to my friend’s house and he’s one of those nerds who follows David Allens’ Getting Things Done so he’s got labels on everything. He’s got labels on his file folders, his food, his pets, everything! He had one of these three hundred dollar labeling machines, a steam-propelled thing that produces beautiful ink jetted labels. I thought “that seems kind of nice,” but since I was experimenting with labeling I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

I went to Amazon and I sorted them from cheapest to most expensive and it turns out the cheapest one was like fifteen dollars [It is now $9 on Amazon – MF]. It was one of those old school ones where you turn to the letter you want and clunk it out, then you turn to the next one, and clunk that out. It’s got those black, red, or blue little plastic strips and you’re pushing each letter into it.

I looked at it and I thought “that’s a fifteen dollar experiment . If I end up being lazy and not actually doing any labeling I won’t waste too much money.” So I ordered this thing and it has the advantage of not running on batteries or needing electricity and it turned out to be so delightful to use.

I discovered it’s actually useless as a labeler because if you make a mistake the label and the letters come out wonky and if you push harder they come out whiter and they’re a little uneven. And I thought, “well this is actually a sub-par labeler, but it’s fantastic for art projects!”

I started writing poems on it. One line of a poem was one strip and I would just tape them to things around my desk. This follows one of my dictums, which I’ve discovered over and over again: bad tools make for great art! Tools that were designed to do something utilitarian and fail miserably at the task tend to produce delightful aesthetic experiences, and this is exactly why David Byrne discovered that PowerPoint and Excel were fabulous for creating artistic works. PowerPoint, as Edward Tufte proved, degrades cognition, but what degrades rational cognition can augment aesthetic cognition and you can do beautiful, crazy, stupid things with it. And, over and over again, when I find a tool and realize it’s totally useless I go “Ok what can we do with it that’s nuts?” This is what this thing is. I’ve realized this is not a label making thing because it fails at that. This is a publishing platform for producing the strangest looking type imaginable.

12/1/16 -- Clive Thompson

(This review is from our Cool Tools Show interview with Clive Thompson. — editors)

30 November 2016


Floyd Table Legs

Table legs that attach to a flat surface to create a table

My husband and I recently moved to a wooded property in the southeast and are busy building all sorts of rustic tables from fallen trees. The question is always what type of legs to use? The Floyd Leg is our answer. The leg system is meant to be used by city dwellers to ease their pain of constructing disassembled furniture and frequent moves but we found it an easy solution for our handmade tables. The legs are simple to install and can be used on any flat surface (wood, glass, stone, etc.). And of course, the legs can be easily removed, transported, and reinstalled when necessary. They also come in various sizes for benches and other types of tables.

11/30/16 -- Penny Koppinger

29 November 2016


Wink Gift Guide: Books for Makers and Crafters

Great instructional books

Over at our Wink website, which reviews remarkable books that belong on paper, we’ve put together a holiday gift guide to our favorite books for Makers and Crafters.

11/29/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

29 November 2016



Free recipe manager

I have given up on spending a lot of money on cookbooks and just surf the web for recipes. Pepperplate is a free recipe manager that works with a JavaScript-bookmark off your Firefox or Chrome browser (it may work on other browsers) to create recipes. The recipes can then be viewed in the browser, or on your iPhone or android phone/tablet.

Pepper Plate knows about some recipes and automatically creates the recipes in Pepperplate. However, most of the recipes I like require a drag a drop creation method, but it is quick. I use Firefox to create the recipes, and it is very simple. I’m a seat-of-pants cook and spend the day cooking for the week, so I don’t use the menu planner or shopping list, but someone who is into planning would like it.

You can also double, triple, etc your recipes. I almost always double, so I spend less time cooking. I have been using it for over a year and I have stopped using my other recipe manager (that is a paid app). It’s fast and full featured. I create the recipe in Firefox and then display it on my tablet when I am cooking. I also peek at the recipe on my phone when shopping to make sure I have everything. Gone are my paper shopping lists, sticky note filled cookbooks and not being able to change my mind in the grocery store. Oooh chocolate chips are on sale. What could I make? Let me check my Pepperplate app. Its is the best recipe app I’ve used and it is free.

11/29/16 -- Joseph E Dante

28 November 2016


Cool Tools 2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Podcaster’s choice

Favorite gift ideas from the guests of the Cool Tools Show

This month and next month, we are presenting a series of gift suggestions selected from the pages of Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities (which itself makes a great gift), and from the website. This week: picks from our podcast guests.

“The Janome HD3000 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine ($400) is, for me, the prosumer heavy duty sewing machine that won’t break the bank. There’s a specific foot for doing a surger stitch and I’m sewing with fur lately as part of a costuming thing and the fur requires a serger stitch for maximum strength.” — Adam Savage

Mushroom coffee is exactly what it sounds like. It is coffee with mushrooms in it. In this case, it has instant coffee, about 40 milligrams of caffeine in a full packet, which is very low. Generally speaking, a cup of espresso might have 80 milligrams. A really strong cup of coffee might have 150 milligrams. This is 40, but it’s combined with different types of mushrooms and substances. It has, in my case, a very profound cognitive effect. This has been something that I am using as a cognitive tool and just an experimental food right now, which I’m fond of.” — Tim Ferriss

How to Read a Book ($12), is a tool about different techniques and strategies for extracting the content of books. You’d think it was a lot simpler than that based on the title, but it really teaches you strategies that I think are great. I wish I had read it when I was in my first year of high school.” — Star Simpson

I tried the Vitamix 5300 Blender ($430) and the smoothie that I made — the world stopped and everything went dark and a spotlight went down on the smoothie. It was the best thing in the world. I was full. I was full all day. I had energy. I lifted a car off of a fire hydrant in the garage. It was amazing what I was able to do. It’s been the most amazing thing. … Anything blends in this.” — Dan Benjamin

“Something I love is my Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill ($26). It’s less than $30 and one of the things I really like about it is it’s quite a bit of work. It might not seem like a selling point but … I get more of a boost to my morning to making my coffee than I get from the coffee itself, and there’s also a meditative quality about it.” — Hugh Howey

Want more? Check out our other 2016 gift picks as well as our 2015 Gift Guide, 2014 Gift Guide and our 2103 Gift Guide

11/28/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder


img 11/28/16

Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms

More than 700 common American phrases, sayings, and expressions

img 11/25/16

Over Sink Kitchen Drying Rack

Dish mat unrolls above an open sink for air-drying washed items

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Rust-Oleum Vinyl & Fabric Sponge Applicator

Restore color to faded or worn seats, dashboards, door panels, carpets and more

img 11/23/16

Spotlight Rechargable LED Vehicle Light

Recharges in your car’s 12 volt power outlet

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What's in My Bag? 10 August 2016


What’s in My Bag — Wayne Ruffner

Outdoorsman shares his ultimate bug repellent kit

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.

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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.