24 September 2017


Text-only CNN/Cheap mobile home/Youtube shortcuts

Recomendo: issue no. 61

Text-only CNN
This no-graphics version of CNN’s website looks like the web circa 1993, and I love it. I think they should run a couple of text ads to monetize it, because I don’t want them to stop. — MF

Cheap mobile home
For generations hipsters have been retro-fitting vans into mobile homes. Once they were VW vans; today they are Dodge Sprinter vans. The best source I’ve come across for tutorials on how to remodel a used cargo van into a roaming house is a YouTube channel by Dylan Maga. Maga collects diverse videos of hundreds of regular folks building their vans and tiny homes in great and satisfying detail. — KK

Youtube shortcuts
I can’t believe I didn’t know these Youtube shortcuts before! To pause a video press K. To fast forward press L. To rewind press J. To watch frame by frame forward or backward, press the period or comma key. — CD

Garage parking aid
There’s probably a simple DIY substitute for the AccuPark Vehicle Parking Aid, but I was happy to pay $11 for it. I adhered this yellow plastic mini speed bump to the garage floor using the attached double-side tape. We can now drive our electric car right up to the optimum spot to plug in the charger port. — MF

Swedish funny
Deep in the basement of Netflix is a very funny Swedish movie called “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.” Subtitled in English, I found the humor translated well into American. It’s sort of a Swedish version of Forrest Gump meets Mr. Bean. This big hit in Sweden was playing on Netflix streaming but now is on Netflix DVD only. However, last year they made a sequel that is almost as good, “The 101-Year-Old Man Who Skipped Out on the Bill and Disappeared,” and this one is currently streaming on Netflix. — KK

Laundry organizer
My husband and I bought these mesh bags to organize our laundry. We use black sharpie to write washing instructions on them like “no fabric softener, dryer ok” or “cold wash, hang dry.” This has cleared up a lot of confusion. — CD


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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 09/24/17

22 September 2017


Gaffer’s Tape

Duct tape without the residue

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

If you think duct tape is useful, try Gaffer’s tape, known by the brand Permacel (P-665). It’s the standard film industry tape. Easy to rip with your hands yet very strong. The adhesive is designed to not rip off paint. My film teacher stuck some on the school wall and left it sit for the whole day under a kilowatt of light a few inches away. The next day it peeled right off leaving the paint on and no adhesive residue.

Standard practice is to roll smaller amounts of the tape off onto a film core for use during the shoot. It comes in many colors and is easy to write on. Uses include sealing film cans and labeling them, marking spots on the floor for measuring, labeling of all kinds. This stuff is really strong. I’ve heard it referred to as “hundred mile an hour tape” used by NASCAR racers. Also nice is that it comes in a one inch width which I usually have to rip duct tape in half to get. Comes in 2″, 3″ and 4″ widths as well.

Another tape, P-672, is about double the price of P-665 but is weatherproof, twice as thick, and the adhesive is designed for low temperatures. It’s the real Gaffer’s tape. Sealing in the cold is important as film cans generally get refrigerated or frozen.

-- Monty Zukowski 09/22/17

21 September 2017


Wendy Frauenfelder, crafter and amateur chef

Cool Tools Show 090: Wendy Frauenfelder

We have hired an editor to edit the Cool Tools podcast. It costs us $300 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $277 a month to the podcast. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have nice rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Our guest this week is Wendy Frauenfelder. Wendy likes to cook, fix things, pretend to be a bartender, and do therapy dog work. She also is fascinated with wild yeast and slow food.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Stanley 66-358 Stanley Stubby Ratcheting MultiBit Screwdriver ($10)
“I always keep a screwdriver in the kitchen, just so that I don’t have to go to the garage if I something inside the house that I need to work on. So this is my new screwdriver inside the house, and there’s a couple things I like. First, it’s small. It’s like four-and-a-half inches long, and so it fits in a junk drawer really easily. The second thing I really like about it is it’s a ratcheting screwdriver. So, if you’re fixing a knob on a cabinet or something you don’t have to spin it around in your hand, you can just kind of ratchet it in, which I love. But you can also make it just a steady, regular kind of screwdriver. Then the third thing that I love about it is you unscrew the cap on the top of the screwdriver and inside are five other tips. So you’ve got three Phillips head and three regular screwdriver tips, and they vary from pretty tiny to large and fat, and they’re right there in the cap, so you can grab your screwdriver without knowing what kind of screw you’ve gotta work on, and you’ll have the right tip.”

24 oz Mason Drinking Jar & Stainless Steel Straw ($10.50)
“It’s actually a Ball jar, not a mason jar, and then it’s got the regular kind of screw-on lid, but whoever made this took the little flat part of the lid on top and put a rivet in it and made a hole so you can stick a straw in there. It is actually pretty waterproof. I wouldn’t say you should leave it upside down in your car, but I’ll usually put a smoothie in here, and every once in a while I’ll shake it to just kind of mix up the liquid again, and it’s doesn’t come out at all. So, it’s that waterproof. … A lot of times these will come with a metal straw, and I don’t like that because, since I drink a smoothie out of it, I’m afraid I’m never really getting that clean, so I found some straws on Amazon that fit to the bottom. It had to be an extra-long straw. It fits to the bottom of the jar, and it’s got a little bend in it, and then I just toss it when I’m done. … I just feel like glass gets really clean. And you don’t have to worry about BPAs.”

GFDesign Drinking Spoon Straws ($10.50)
“I was looking at cocktail items, and this caught my eye … We started using it when I was making mojitos, and you gotta stir up a mojito, because you’ve got some granulated sugar in the bottom of it when you muddle the mint leaves. So you stir it up with this thing, and then I’m thinking, ‘This is great, because then you just leave it in there, and you sip through it.’ And if your sugar didn’t all dissolve, you can still start drinking your mojito and kind of stir it as you go along.”

Buy me a pie!
“I am kind of like a connoisseur of grocery shopping list apps. [This app] is actually organized by store, so I have a Whole Foods list, a Target list, and a Costco list, basically, and I can open whichever one I want, and then I can add items to whichever one I want. You can have the same item in different lists. You can have as many lists as you want if you buy the paid version. I think the free version you’re limited to maybe two or three. …What I really like about it is that you can color-code these items by grocery store area or by aisle. So everything that’s veggie is green and fruit’s green, and meat is under the red category, and cold foods are blue and frozen foods are gray. So that way, as you’re going through your list, you go to produce and you just see all the produce that you need to get is all in one section.”


21 September 2017


Dewalt Dual-Mold Safety Goggles

Best cheap safety googles

[Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews]

I picked these up these Dewalt Dual-Mold Safety Goggles on Amazon for around $10.

I have a bunch of different safety glasses I’ve bought over the years — glasses, goggles, even face shields. None of them are perfect, but they work. My biggest complaint, aside from how badly they all get scratched, is that glasses tend to hurt my ears after awhile. Maybe that’s weird, but I’m always on the hunt for an alternative.

My favorite current option is this $10 pair of goggles from Dewalt. They’re fully enclosed and wrap around your head with a wide elastic strap that I have tensioned just enough to hold onto my face.

There’s a soft rubber gasket that presses against your face. It’s much softer than your typical lab goggles. You also get better visibility because the lenses curve around your face.

Now there is some ventilation at the top of the goggles to help prevent them from fogging up. There’s also an anti-fog coating inside. I’ve worn them on a hot day, and you can definitely feel moisture build up in them, but I haven’t had them fog up in a way that made it hard to see.

Some Amazon reviews mention that these are a good option for fitting over prescription glasses. Your mileage may vary depending on your glasses. As an option, Dewalt’s product page says that you can order prescription inserts that clip inside the goggles. They also offer a version of these with a UV blocking sunglass front.

Now, they’re not perfect. Like anything else they will scratch up, and the rounded front doesn’t help things. They’re bulkier than glasses and not as easy to store. I find it best to hang them on something. And on a hot day, the fully closed design will make your face sweaty. But, the tradeoff is that you really feel like your eyes are protected from every angle, especially if there’s a lot of fine sawdust flying around.

-- Donald Bell 09/21/17

20 September 2017


OXO Peeler

Superior vegetable peeler

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

It is hard to image how the traditional kitchen peeler could be substantially improved. Remarkably, the OXO Peeler accomplishes this. Easier to use, vastly more comfortable for long stretches, sharper, and more productive. The OXO Peeler continues to win awards in test kitchens. A superior tool; worth the few extra dollars.

-- KK 09/20/17

20 September 2017


Midwest Auger

Never use a post hole digger again

I bought a house a few years ago that has a cheap fence. Rather than putting posts in at the edges where the neighbor’s fence had already been installed, they tacked my fence directly to the rails of the neighbor’s. So a few years go by and the nails are rusted and the rails are rotting and the dogs have figured out that they can push their way out of the yard. I either need to put in a new fence (and do it right) or I can add a couple of posts and buy myself another year or three before buying a new fence. Guess which I picked?

I had resigned myself to buying a post hole digger and suffering through when my co-worker mentioned a tool he had – the midwest auger. It’s a manual auger with two blades that form an open bucket. He brought it in the next day. It was old, covered in rust and showed signs of long use combined with neglect. I brought it home anyway and to give it a shot. I started the hole with a couple of turns and dumped the bucket. Each couple of turns made the hole 6″ deeper. I ended up digging two post holes in under 15 minutes and even had to backfill one of them because I made it too deep. A couple of clicks on Amazon and I am now the owner of a brand new midwest auger… I’ll never use a post hole digger again.

-- Art Provost 09/20/17


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Gutenberg Magic Catalog

Thousands of free ebooks for Kindle and other ereaders

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SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner

Removes stains from carpet, stairs, upholstery, and more

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Deejo Folding Knife

Lightweight pocket knife

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Never-fail sharp tweezers

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Greg Gage, CEO of Backyard Brains

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23 February 2017



We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

I’m sure we got some things wrong. If you find a mistake or have suggestions about our current iteration, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.


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.