17 July 2018

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9 Useful Electronics Tools Under $13

Our tool picks for electronics hobbyists

Aven Adjustable Circuit Board Holder

Hakko Flush Cutters

A-szcxtop USB Powered Soldering Iron

Wearable Magnifying Glasses

Digital Servo Tester Controller with Voltage Display

General Tools 481 Swivel Head Deburring Tool

Poster Tack (any brand)

Mini 60x Microscope Magnifying with LED

Heat Shrink Tube Assortment (Note: The specific product shown in this video is no longer available from Amazon. The link here is to a comparable, highly-rated heat shrink assortment.)

-- Donald Bell 07/17/18

(Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews — editors)

17 July 2018

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Kershaw Ken Onion Chive Knife

Everyday carry all around convenient small sharp thing

I’ve been using various models of the Chive ($29) for 6+ years. It’s perfect for how I use it — everyday carry all around convenient small sharp thing. It has a small (~2″) 420HC blade, light, spring-assisted assisted opening (with a small flipper) and stainless steel so I can run it under hot water or otherwise clean and wash it with less concern about rust. The steel is a a big deal for me. Other small folders I’ve used have relatively softer blade steel, whereas the 420HC is a nice balance between holding an edge and easy to sharpen.

The Chive will not replace a large folder, but that’s not how I use it. I remove the attached pocket clip and drop it in my pocket, where it disappears. I really like the solid (frame) blade lock, and it also has a small lock to keep the blade closed in your pocket — said lock having an adjustable tension screw that stays “adjusted.” I like the profile of the blade, with a small curve, and I use it constantly.

I realize the preceding sounds like a list of features, but those are the features that are important to me that I want in a small folder and that the Chive gets just right. The are lots of different finishes available – polish, colors, edge serrations. It has an MSRP of $69.99, but the street price for the basic model ranges form $24 – $40 depending on the seller. I have 5 (I think – maybe 6), varying in use from hard use (funny to say about a 2″ blade, but there it is) to a couple that I keep very sharp for selective use and one “dressy” or “barbecue” version in high polish stainless.

-- Steve 07/17/18

16 July 2018

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ChefAlarm

Robust kitchen thermometer

Cooking thermometers used to be a kitchen consumable. They barely lasted a year, so I would buy the cheapest one and suffer when it broke during a boil. The biggest problem was probe loss from liquid or cord damage. Got the ChefAlarm as a gift four years ago and have never looked back. This review involves the optional, submersible probe.

I cook a lot. Not just frequently, but lots of ways and lots of different items: Smoking, grilling, sous vide, stove top, oven, brewing beer. Thermometers just did not survive for long. The ChefAlarm has worked for everything. Ever want to start a pot and be able to walk away until just before it boils over? Throw in the probe, set the ChefAlarm for 208F and you will have plenty of time to turn down the heat. Ever want know when a pot has cooled enough to add the final ingredient? This gem even has a low temperature alarm. It has a timer, swaps from F to C with a button click and can be calibrated without opening the case (but has never needed it). Batteries last for over a year. The electronics are gasketed, so are splash proof.

It is a one-item kitchen computer. The noise maker on mine stopped working within warranty, so they sent a brand new kit (the whole kit, everything) and did not ask for the old one back. How is that for customer service? It should be purchased directly from the company’s website. No warranty on anything purchased from Amazon, eBay, etc. The only way to find a discount is to click on “Specials” at the top of the site.

-- Edward Pscheidt 07/16/18

16 July 2018

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Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover

Heavy-duty stain removal

I have a 1927-type porcelain bathtub, and it once looked that old. I tried fruitlessly over the years to remove the dinginess at the bottom with scouring pads and liquid tile cleaners. Then someone gave me a pumice scouring stick and I was able to restore the tub to good-as-new condition (without marring the finish). It took ten or 15 minutes, and required several rinsings and re-scrubbing of spots I’d missed, or hadn’t worked on hard enough. But in the end, it really worked; and annual touch-ups require three to five minutes. I wouldn’t use these sticks on plastic, though. They’re so abrasive they’d scour into anything softer than glass. As such, the sticks are also good for removing paint from concrete and tile, baked-on build-ups from ovens and grills, and rust from garden tools.

I got one recently for $8.50 at True Value. Pumie also makes a less fancy stick without the plastic handle that costs half as much at True Value ($4.50). I recommend spending the extra bucks: the handle makes it less yucky when scouring a toilet bowl ring, and it doesn’t require you to wear gloves to protect your hands when scouring a tub. These sticks last long enough that it’s worth spending more for convenience. Mine wore down about 30% while doing my tub the first time, and about another 7% getting out some nasty persistent stains in my toilet bowl.

-- Roger Knights 07/16/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2007 — editors)

15 July 2018

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Shantaram/Smartnews/MakeHub

Recomendo: issue no. 103

Long-form listening
One of the best books I ever listened to is Shantaram. This very long story — 43 hours! — is the fictionalized autobiography of an Australian outlaw who hides out in the slums of Bombay, is thrown in Indian prison for drug dealing and eventually follows his guru to fight for the muhadjin in Afghanistan. He is a holy thief, a wise sinner, a coyote trickster, and this meld of the sacred and profane is what gives the story its epic rousing power. The narrator in the audible version does hundreds of foreign accents pitch-perfectly and captures the enthusiasm of the Indian sub-continent. Even after 43 hours I wished the story-telling would never end. — KK

Best news app
Smartnews is a free, lightweight, mobile app for iOS and Android. It presents the top news stories in different categories and is updated frequently. You can add your favorite news sites to it, too. When I want to find out what’s going on, it’s the first place I go. — MF

Indie online projects
MakeHub is an crowdsourced list of interesting and useful projects by indie developers. You can sort by which has the most social media followers or votes on Product Hunt. Through MakeHub, I came across colorkuler, which extracts and displays your instagram color palette, and had fun comparing my palette with people I follow. — CD

High leverage philanthropy
I’ve been making micro-loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world via Kiva for 10 years. I loan small amounts (less than $100) to say, women in Africa hoping to buy a sewing machine to start their own sewing business, or herders in Bolivia needing some equipment to make cheese, and soon enough they will repay the loan, so I can re-loan the money again to someone else. I’ve gone through 4 cycles of loans for my first money, and there is less than 0.1% delinquency — a rate any bank would die for. 100% of my money goes to helping the individuals I select; Kiva’s operating costs are funded separately. The money keeps going around. It’s one of the best bargains in the world. — KK

Worry about it later list
I got the idea to make a worry list from this Forbes article on organizing your feelings. I keep a sticky note on my laptop and when something is bugging me I add it to the list and mentally shelve it until later. By the end of the day, most of it doesn’t matter and then I get to cross it out and that feels great. — CD

Moth catcher
We have pantry moths in our kitchen cupboards, and can’t get rid of them. But we can greatly reduce how many there are with these moth traps. They look like little scout tents but the inner walls are coated with a sticky substance. Once every 9 months we replace the trap, which by then is covered with the creatures. — MF

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 07/15/18

14 July 2018

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Raymay Pencut Scissors

Pen style portable scissors

These are scissors, if you can believe it. These are Raymay Pencut scissors from Japan. I got them for around $6 on Amazon. And if you want some for yourself, using the Amazon link in the description helps support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

It can be handy to have a pair of scissors in your kit, either for travel, or in your car. The problem is that they’re stabby and the handle can be a little bulky.

The Pencut solves both problems by including a cap that snaps in place, and flexible handles that collapse down. The result is a super compact pair of scissors that are safe enough to keep in your pocket.

One other cool feature is that these can be easily adapted for left hand use. These little plugs here on the handle can pop out and be placed on the opposite side, which forces the flexible bit out the other side, reversing the grip.

Now, there are plenty of compromises here. The blade is only 2 inches long. The short handle doesn’t offer much leverage and isn’t exactly comfortable. But if space is a premium I can’t imagine a more compact pair of scissors that are still reasonably useful.

-- Donald Bell 07/14/18

(Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews — editors)

ALL REVIEWS

img 07/14/18

Leatherman Micra

Keychain Size Multitool

img 07/13/18

Alex Glow, Hackster.io

Cool Tools Show 131: Alex Glow

img 07/13/18

OXO Apple Divider

Healthy snacking in 30 seconds

img 07/12/18

Fiskars SewSharp Scissors Sharpener

Cheap, disposable scissors sharpener

img 07/11/18

Kidz-Med Medicine Dispenser

Pacifier for administering meds

See all the reviews

EDITOR'S FAVORITES

COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST

07/13/18

Cool Tools Show 131: Alex Glow

Picks and shownotes
07/6/18

Cool Tools Show 130: Tom Fassbender

Picks and shownotes
06/29/18

Cool Tools Show 129: Jake von Slatt

Picks and shownotes

WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
23 February 2017

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.