Mann Lake Beekeeping Starter Kit

This is the least expensive kit for starting beekeeping. It has everything you need to raise some honey, except 3 things. You’ll need bees; order them by mail separately, or find a swarm. You’ll need to add at least one “upper” story of frames to store your share of the honey, and you’ll need access to an extractor – extracting honey by hand from this upper is possible but extremely messy. With care the equipment included should last many decades. You need only keep adding boxes of frames.

Used bee equipment is not advisable these days because of rampant bee disease. A beginner should start with new gear. There are a few sources with cheaper kits, but their shipping costs — between costs $60-$90 – will kill any bargain. Mann Lake offers free shipping, a fantastic deal with such bulky stuff. Also, their boxes and frames come fully assembled, which is also not the norm. That can save you several hours, and for a beginner, it provides assurance everything is right. Get the unpainted option; that’s easy enough to do and you can choose your color (they don’t have to be white).

If you have Amazon Prime you can get the same deal through Amazon.

-- KK  

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

The Basic Starter Kit Includes:

  • Assembled Hive Bodies or Supers
  • Assembled Frames with Rite-Cell® Foundation OR
    Waxed Standard Plastic Frames
  • Assembled Telescoping Cover w/Inner Cover
  • Assembled Bottom Board w/Reducer
  • 9 1/2″ (24.13 cm) Hive Tool
  • Economy Leather Gloves (Large, color may vary)
  • Alexander Bee Veil
  • Dome Top Smoker w/Guard
  • “The New Starting Right With Bees” Book



 

Make 12 Cool Parent-Child Projects

projects

Next week (August 4 and 5) my 11-year-old daughter Jane and I are conducting a free 2-day live video workshop produced by CreativeLive. We’ll show you how to make 12 cool projects, ranging from electronic musical instruments to balloon videocameras.

You can watch the live video of the workshop for free, or if you live in the SF Bay Area, you can come into the studio and participate with me and Jane. (If you want to come into the studio and have a 9- to 13-year-old, let me know in the comments.)

Here’s the link to RSVP to the free live class, and to learn more about the class: http://cr8.lv/markfdiy

Please forward this link to anyone who might be interested. Thanks!

 



Handleband Smartphone Mount

The Handleband straps to the handlebars of bikes, motorcycles, strollers and anything else with a set of handlebars and enables you to carry any kind of smart phone. As a cyclist and motorcyclist I now have GPS on my rides at all time. When I’m on my road bike it is connected to strava, on my mountain bike I can follow routes on mapmyride and on my motorcycle simply follow directions on Google maps. The best bit? The built in bottle opener to crack open a cold one at the end of a long ride.

-- Ben Idle  

Available from Amazon



 

Cool Tools Show 007: Lloyd Kahn, Editor-in-Chief of Shelter Publications

On the latest episode of the Ask Cool Tools Show, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Lloyd Kahn, editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications. He shared with us many useful tips, ranging from how to get the most out of your camera lenses, to alternative activities for the senior surfer. Lloyd has spent much of his life researching the best possible tools and products for any purpose and doesn’t disappoint with this lineup of excellent picks.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3

Show Notes :

Shelter Publications Website

Surfmatters Website

Some of Lloyd’s books:

The Septic System Owner’s Manual

Shelter

Tiny Homes on the Move

Here are Lloyd’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

Olympus OMD EM-1 Mirrorless Camera $1299

“It got me to put away my Canon cameras which weighed five pounds. This one is just so much smaller and it’s one of the mirror-less cameras…The mirrorless part is what, I think, saves on the weight…When you look at it, if you’re a Canon or a Nikon guy, it’s going to look just like a miniature of one of those cameras.”

 

Fourth Gear Flyer Surf Mat: $139-$199

“It’s inflatable. So instead of lugging this surfboard around and worrying about getting it smashed up on the airplane or paying a hundred bucks to have it shipped, you just fold up this surf mat in your backpack…and when you get there blow up your surf mat and go surfing.”

DaFINS $62-$66

“I have fins called DaFINS…that are made in Hawaii. They’re smaller than the normal fins you see and more flexible and they’re touted as being preferred by world class body surfers.”


10mm Twin-Wall Poly-carbonate 4′ x 12′ sheet $140

“It’s expensive, but it’s double walled so you get some insulation and it’s clear like glass. It has a ten year guarantee and I bought four by twelve sheets…we tore off the fiberglass and put that on the greenhouse so everything in the greenhouse is much happier now. I’ve washed it once since we installed it. I just take a soft brush and a hose and wash the dust off the roof.”

Makita 18 volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Variable Speed Impact Wrench $206

“It weighs less than the typical drill that you see. There are really no controls on it other than a trigger, like you can’t set it for different speeds or different torque. What it does is it backs up a little bit. Each time it goes forward it goes back a little bit, so it kind of chatters. It’s just really great for grabbers and screws.”

 



Ubiquiti NanoStation and Picostation

I wanted to add Internet to the building my kids’ ski race team operates out of, but the nearest point to the building we could get service was a good 400 yards away. It was not feasible to use cable.

We tried using consumer-grade product to set up a wireless bridge, with very poor results. Someone gave us a pair of Ubiquity M5 Nanos, and I can’t believe how good they performan. Once I found the tutorials, they took less than 10 minutes to set up, and about a half hour to mount (most of that time setting up my ladder). They use Power Over Ethernet (POE), so the only cable running to the device is the ethernet cable. The best part is that they are very inexpensive – $60 each from Amazon. We are only bridging 400 yards, but these devices are reported to work very well up to several kilometers, as long as you have line of sight. Speed tests showed absolutely no noticeable degradation in speed.

Since we were so happy with the first setup, I also used a PicoStation access point to broadcast wifi at the building. The range is easily 3-4 times what you will get out of a consumer grade wifi router. It takes a few minutes to set up, but the performance is so worth it.

Since then we have added bridges to two other buildings 600 meters away, and set up several outside access points to provide wifi on our training venue and to provide live timing of races.

The best part – they just work.

nano

-- David Thickens  

Available from Amazon



Boarding Area

There’s a small cottage industry of avid travelers exploiting loyalty and frequent flier programs to earn maximum free “miles.” The best moderated forum I’ve found for their tricks, tips, and hacks on how best to fly free, or almost free, is a group of bloggers called Boarding Area. They all share great stuff but I am particularly fond of Gary Leff’s blog, View from the Wing. He specializes in maximizing miles for free trips.

-- KK  

Sample Excerpts:

Here’s what I believe to be the current 10 best credit card signup bonuses on offer: 1 Chase Sapphire Preferred offers no fee the first year, 40,000 points after $3000 in spend within 3 months, no foreign currency conversion fees, double points on travel and dining, points transfers to United, Hyatt, Southwest, Amtrak, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Marriott Priority Club, and Ritz-Carlton. Probably the best all-around credit card, and with a great signup bonus. There was for a few days a similar offer with just $2000 rather than $3000 as the required spending, but that was pulled rather quickly.

*
Six tips for folks just getting started with miles and points. The basics are:

  • Start with a goal, that motivates you and also helps your choice of program. Nothing worse than finding out you want to go to French Polynesia, but United miles only let you get there flying to New Zealand first.
  • Never pass up miles, always sign up for frequent flyer programs even when it’s not your primary program. The miles add up eventually. Lots of programs become easily manageable at a site likeAwardWallet.com.



Panda Ultra Wifi 150Mbps Wireless N 2.4Ghz Adapter

Why would you need a WiFi adapter for your laptop, when one is built in? Well, the built in one might be broken, or only support an older standard.

But this tool is really cool when not used as an adapter — but when used as an access-point.

Hotels (and the more expensive ones do this more frequently than inexpensive hotels) nickel-and-dime you on Wifi connectivity. One of the ways they do this is by selling you connectivity to ONE device.

ONE?! I’d bet most hotel guests have at least a smart-phone, in addition to their laptop, and possibly tablets, e-readers, wifi-equipped cameras, etc.

Enter this little tool.

You install it in your laptop (I use it in a Windows 7/64 bit laptop, but other Windows versions, as well as Mac and many Linux versions are supported) and it takes the incoming wifi from the hotel and re-transmits it as an access point, to which you (and your family or buddies) can connect.

It is small enough to simply throw in your kit and carry all the time (though so small you may easily lose it in your gear pack) and cheap enough to be a no-brainer purchase for any frequent traveler.

-- Michael Orr  

Available from Amazon



Dime Tech Waistband Portable Voice Amplifier

I earn a living explaining tech to people, but I have a rather soft voice. That can create some challenges, especially when I want to talk for several hours at a mini maker faire. I did some research on Amazon.com and opted for this portable voice amplifier. It worked very well for my needs at a recent mini maker faire. I was able to speak for several hours without going hoarse. It has rechargeable lithium batteries.

The limitations of this device? Sometimes it squeaks with feedback if you turn up the volume to the highest settings. The device is loud enough for my needs without turning it up all the way.

Another useful purpose for this device is for use at CoderDojo meetings — where children sometimes make presentations about computer programming. At one such meeting I attended, a very bright 2nd grader was explaining about the Python program she is working on. If I had owned this device before her presentation, I would have loaned it to her — and her voice would have carried further back into the room.

I’d strongly recommend this device as a purchase for school and public libraries, as some community members might need to use such a device just once or twice a year — and it might not make sense to purchase the device to own privately for such sparing use.

-- Phil Shapiro  

Available from Amazon



Xtracycle Electric Cargo Bicycle with Hooptie Child Handrail

edgerunner
(Click image to embiggen)

My wife and I live in San Francisco with our two children, who are now 6 and 4. Our apartment lacks a parking spot, and it’s always a drag trying to find street parking both at home and at most of our errand or kid-trip destinations. When we do drive in the city, traffic is often heavy. I find myself gazing wistfully at the cyclists passing by us.
Back in February 2013, we bought an Edgerunner Electric cargo bicycle, from Xtracycle, and it immediately became indispensable. We rely on it almost every day, and have more than halved our car use. Xtracycles are “longtail” bikes, which means that their frames extend further back than typical bike frames, creating a longdeck over the rear wheel. Xtracycle and World Bike founder Ross Evans originally invented this style of bike as a cargo-carrying bicycle add-on for the developing world, and he open-sourced the geometry of his frame-extension solution to create a shared standard for longtail bikes. As a result, numerous third-party manufacturers now make Xtracycle-compatible accessories, ranging from panniers and decks to friction-drive motors and pedal-powered blenders.

In contrast to bikes modified with the Xtracycle frame extension, the Edgerunner Electric is built with a one-piece frame to conform to the Xtracycle standard. There are other popular cargo bikes based on purpose-built longtail frames, such as Surly Big Dummy, which follows the Xtracycle standard, and the Yuba Mundo, which does not. but the Edgerunner uniquely has a smaller, 20″ rear wheel. This lowers the center of gravity of any load in back, which makes the bike more stable and easier to ride, It also increases the rear wheel’s torque, which helps with carrying loads up hills.

To carry our kids, we outfitted our bike with a Hooptie Handrail, which rings the rear deck and gives them more to hold on to than they would have with handlebars. Surrounded by the Hooptie, they have fun riding forwards, backwards, facing each other, and facing away from each other– all four permutations. I especially love it when we take a family bike trip and my wife takes “the Big Bike” with the kids in back; that way, I can talk, high-five, and clown around with the kids from my own bike, riding close behind. It’s a blast.

The bike’s switchable “electric assist” uses an internal rear hub motor to boost your pedal power, and a thumb throttle lets you ride the bike without pedaling at all. Charging the battery takes about 4 hours, and we do it every few days. I usually ride the bike without the assist switched on, and it pedals just fine, although it does feel heavy. I use the assist when taking kids or heavy loads up hills, and I almost never use the throttle. I see electric bikes as “cheating” and we almost didn’t get the Electric version because it costs $1000 more and I was so impressed from test-riding the regular, non-motorized Edgerunner with both kids. But now I’m very glad that we got the Electric; it makes a big difference in our hilly city, and we use the Big Bike far more often than we would if it lacked the motor. No matter how lazy you’re feeling, you won’t balk at taking an electric-assist bike.

I believe we are calmer and happier since we got our Edgerunner Electric. You can park it anywhere that you can lock a bike, and it’s more fun, feels better, and is often faster than hauling the kids around town in an autosaurus, getting stuck in traffic and having to hassle with child seats. There’s no gas to buy and low maintenance costs, and if we went car-free with it, we could stop buying auto insurance. I love taking my kids on it, talking with them about the interesting things that we see while riding, and joining the growing number of young-kid families around here who ride cargo bikes and ring their bells when they pass each other.

-- Paul Spinrad  



Wide Mouth Canning Jar Accessories

I was planning to write a review of the Norpro Wide Mouth Funnel, because it’s one of my favorite kitchen tools and has revolutionized my food storage process. But then I realized the funnel is a small a part of a larger system of jars in my kitchen.

The iconic canning jar — better known as the Mason or Ball jar — is the only cheap, standardized storage solution I know. There are, of course, fancier, more expensive jars available, but buying enough of them to be truly useful is cost-prohibitive, and with new designs you run the risk the company will stop making them after you’re heavily invested. Weck, Fido and Bernoulli jars, while classic and useful for specific purposes, lack full standardization: you take apart the lid for cleaning and then wonder which jar that lid belongs to. Not so the canning jar.

Usually around $1 apiece (or 25 to 50 cents in thrift stores), canning jars are cheap enough to build a collection. I have at least a dozen of each size in regular rotation in my kitchen, pantry and fridge and use them many times a day:

  • In the morning I pull out a few 4oz jars and dole out my vitamins for the day.
  • I pack lunch items, including soup, tea, pudding, and nuts or seeds, in half pint and pint jars which then go into an insulated lunch bag (available at your local thrift store).
  • We use the pint size as drinking glasses, of course. At our wedding we had an assortment of jars and colored sharpies for guests to label them with. (Classy, I know.)
  • My immersion blender fits snugly into a wide-mouth jar to make shakes, mayonnaise or whipped cream. Leftovers can be easily capped and stored.
  • When I make sauerkraut or other anaerobic ferments, I use a 4oz canning jar as a weight inside a wide mouth or bail-top jar, to keep the veggies under the brine.
  • Straight-sided jars can be used in the freezer without breaking. Put them in warm water for a few minutes and the food slides right out.
  • Their usefulness is by no means limited to the kitchen.

funnel

The website Food In Jars has a useful taxonomy of canning jar sizes.

Presumably because the patent has long expired, the canning jar is fair game for all kinds of innovative accessories. My favorites are the aforementioned funnel, which works elegantly with a small strainer in both wide or standard mouth jars. One-piece lids are also handy.

There are a myriad of other innovative accessories, including the Cuppow (previously reviewed on Cool Tools), Kraut Kaps, ReCAP, Tattler lids, and the Holdster. So far none of these have proven themselves indispensable, but they’re all evidence that the magnificent canning jar continues to inspire.

A couple of caveats:

Unless you have tiny hands (or an excellent dish washer), stick to mostly wide mouth jars. Standard jars are hard to clean (except for the shallow 4oz size).

Although “salad in a jar” is a thing, canning jars don’t make great lunch containers if you pack sandwiches or just want a “bowl like” dining experience.

As far as I’m concerned there really isn’t a perfect non-plastic lunch container on the US market. I’ve tried many, from Indian tiffins to Ikea glass lunch containers. Inevitably they aren’t leak proof, or they are but then they get a dent, or you lose the lid, or the seal gets filthy or wears out, and then the parts aren’t replaceable, or the company stops making them and you have to buy a new set. I dream that one day someone will design a standardized, open-source, leak-proof travel bowl. I already have a name for it: the extra-wide mouth.

-- Reanna Alder