16 January 2017


Rawhide Mallet

Hit things you don't want to damage

The first time I used a rawhide hammer was back in the 60s when I took a leather craft making class from a local Tandy Leather Store. Since then I have used that same hammer for a multitude of uses besides decorating a cowboy belt (Which I still have!). The rawhide has enough mass that it transfers a good amount of energy into the item it is used on without scarring it. Wood and plastic items that have come under the hammer have been persuaded to open or unstick with a few well-placed taps. Dovetailed drawers have been tapped together for gluing without any marring. Like a lot of tools, once you own one you will find many uses for it.

01/16/17 -- Kent Barnes

15 January 2017


Tiny Cards/New Scientist/Wild Hibiscus Flowers

Recomendo: issue no. 25

Memory Aid:
Tiny Cards is a free smartphone app that lets you make spaced repetition flashcards to help you learn languages, history facts, the elements, constellations, or anythings else. I’m using it to help me with my Japanese vocabulary. — MF

One of the few paper magazines I still subscribe to is New Scientist. It is a weekly dose of real science reporting, with broad lay appeal. Of course there is an online version, but I prefer to turn pages and read while I eat my lunch. Either way, it’s the best solid source for new science. — KK

These Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup have become essential in my life. They can make any cheap champagne taste like liquid gold. The flowers themselves taste like a sweet fruit and they look so pretty sitting at the bottom of a flute. — CD

If you are not already using a password manager like 1Password, Dashlane, or LastPass you are inviting trouble. I am not a very security minded person generally, but a password manager on your phone, tablets, laptops and desktops is outright essential today. Let it generate strong passwords for you, keep your credit card and bank info, and supply them wherever and whenever you need them. No regrets. — KK

Travel Tip:
When I travel I take snacks with me: Macadamia Nuts, Starbucks Via instant coffee pouches, and Graze Bars. I recently added a new item: 0.5 ounce coconut oil pouches. They go great with my low carb diet. I can spread it on chicken and vegetables to increase the calories without adding carbs. I love the taste of coconut oil on almost anything. — MF

A friend recommended I download this free 5-minute plank app (iOS) to strengthen my core and I’ve been using it almost religiously. You just press the play button and the timer will alert you to change positions. The visuals are helpful and I was able to up the rest time to 10 seconds between positions. Here is a similar highly-rated app for android. — CD

Get the Recomendo weekly newsletter a week early by email.

01/15/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

14 January 2017


Best Cool Gifts Received

Tell us about your favorite gifts

The time AFTER the holidays is really the best time to get gift suggestions. Now we can share the unexpected gifts we may have received from others. Were there any cool tool-ish gifts you got this year worth sharing? Leave a note in the comments, with links please.

01/14/17 -- KK

13 January 2017


Victor Fly Magnet Trap

Fly trap with non-poisonous bait

International Amazon link

I’m retired and have converted my garage into a woodworking shop. So, I’m out in my shop several hours each day. The problem is that at certain times in the year there are an enormous number of flies in the area and they are constantly flying into my shop. I checked on the web to see if there was a solution to this. It turns out there is. There are numerous fly traps available but the one I chose to try is called the Victor Fly Magnet Trap. It comes with a powder that you put in the jar and mix with some water. It smells terrible but the flies seem to love it. Then you hang it from a tree or fence, but not too close to where people could smell it. After I hung the first one up in my front yard I was shocked at how many flies it trapped. It only took a few days to catch thousands of flies. The black stuff floating on top of the water was flies it caught in just five days. Pretty gross looking, but it really cut down on the flies coming into my work area. Over this season I’ve emptied and refilled it three times. You can purchase refill packets and reuse the jar. It’s made my woodworking so much more enjoyable not having those pesky critters flying around.

01/13/17 -- Steve Petermann

12 January 2017


Multi-Bit Screwdriver/Nut Driver

Shaft holds 6 universal tips

I have used this tool for decades at home and more importantly on my boat. The boat has many different types of fasteners and hose clamps which need constant attention. The multi-bits and nut drivers allows me to do much of the work without resorting to another tool. The major change in behavior is that I am kicking myself if I go to fix something and I do not have it in my pocket. It has a rubber grip which makes it much easier on the hands. It allows for more force to be use to tighten or loosen. Also the quality of the steel is such that I have never damage it despite rough service. Their choice of the sizes of the nut driver are perfect for all my hose clamps. And I have used it in a marine environment almost daily (at least during the summer) for decades and it is as good as new.

Bits included: 3/16″ (5 mm) and 1/4″ (6 mm) slotted, #1 and #2 Phillips, 1/4″ (6 mm), 5/16″ (8 mm), and 3/8″ (10 mm) nut drivers, #1 and #2 square-recess, 3/8″ hex driver

01/12/17 -- Dean Raffaelli

11 January 2017


What’s in My Bag — Tyler

A geographer shares his go-to essentials

I am a geographer for the Department of Defense who works mainly as an information systems professional (GIS). I generate, process, and visualize data, and therefore spend my day inside of an office and behind a computer.

When I’m commuting by car, my bag is an old Lowepro Nova 1 AW ($20), (this is 80% of the time). I bought this as a used bag at a local camera shop. I primarily purchased it for holding an SLR and accessories, but the bag is spectacular at carrying small loads in a compact and comfortable manner. I frequently switch it back to photo gear mode; It’s full of pockets and separators and overall very versatile. I believe it’s comparable to the modern Nova 160 AW ($45).


Within the bag are personal and work items: an ECOlunchbox, small notepad ($10), moleskine pocket weekly planner, Lamy Safari pen, extra pen, Ray-Ban Clubround sunglasses ($160), iPhone 6 with cheapo cover and tempered glass screen protector, iPod Nano 1st Gen, Panasonic in-ear earbuds within a film canister, Volvo key, Belroy Card Pocket, and a cheap badge holder.

I usually stick to items which have proven themselves; even the miscellaneous pen is one that has consistently worked well. However, a few of these products are really worth highlighting.

ECOlunchbox ($31)
People are constantly surprised by how much I fit into this thing. It always carries a sandwich in the bottom and an assortment of vegetables/olives/cheese on top. I sometimes throw a piece of fruit or granola bar in my Lowepro, but the ECOlunchbox carries my main lunch really well in an extremely compact package. Some people have had trouble with rusting; I always hand wash mine and have had no problems. The ECOlunchbox has drastically reduced the number of plastic and paper bags I use.

Lamy Safari ($20)
This was my first fountain pen and has remained my only fountain pen. It’s so darn cheap and does so well when used with a fine nib. I hope some day to upgrade, but this one hasn’t let me down for two years running. I often buy these as gifts, and have converted many.

Panasonic in-ear earbuds ($10)
These are surprisingly good earbuds for the price. I’ve had several different types of earbuds, from Skull Candy to Shure custom fits, and these Panasonics stack up well. The medium gel fits my ear really well (they come with three sizes), and they are so cheap I buy several to make sure I’m never without. Always hook-em-horns before putting in canister!

Belroy Card Pocket ($60)
This slim wallet fits well in the front or back pants pockets. I mainly carry cards, with some paper and cash mixed it, and it handles everything well. Two dividers help with basic organization (plus a nifty SIM card slot if you’re a traveler!), but there is none of the extra material that you get with a bi/tri-fold. The construction and materials are solid; I have only seen some wear along the zipper after a couple years of daily use, and the leather gets more supple with time.

iPod and Moleskin Monthly Notebook ($16)
I know these are old school. I am often without my phone and thus need some basic organization & media tools. Moleskines are great, I buy one every year. The iPod sticks around because it just keeps ticking.

Everything gets thrown into two main compartments within the bag except for the sunglasses (front pocket), and the wallet and car key (triangle flap pocket). I sometimes wish I had more space, and I will soon grab a bigger bag if I begin to include project management notebooks/organizers. But for now this has been a great setup that has served me well.

01/11/17 -- Tyler


img 01/11/17

BurnGuard Oven Mitts

High-temperature oven mitts

img 01/10/17

LED Candles with Timer and Remote

Candles that burn 500 hours per pair of AA batteries

img 01/9/17

Orbit Lawn Watering Soaker Irrigator

Water plants and lawn without washing away soil

img 01/7/17

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Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

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A geographer shares his go-to essentials

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.

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.