The Blair Holcutter provides a way to make clean holes in sheet metal. The antenna Holcutter in particular is useful for drilling an antenna mount on a vehicle. The main advantage of this tool over a regular hole saw is that it creates a clean hole. Also, there is a shoulder on the Holcutter to prevent cutting too deep into the metal. It is carbide metal, and should last for a long time.
Children at heart rejoice! Mike Evans has a list for you (and your kids) that will have you playing and learning with a selection of entertaining guides and tools. Mike’s picks reduce the initial learning curve of trying to get into a new activity so you and your kids can jump right in and start having fun! To see more of Mike’s toys, tools and projects, be sure to head over to his blog, Secret Dad Society.
Comic Life $15
“I’ve been using this for the last seven years. It’s a fantastic app that’s really easy to use. I can’t stress enough that kids can get a lot out of it. You basically have templates. You pull from your iPhoto or whatever your photo items you have, and you just import your photos right into the panels. There’s panels that are templates that are pre-made, but you can also customize it. The photos automatically size to the frame, and you just drag and drop word balloons.”
“I feel like it’s my obligation to get this information out there. I’ve been using this for 10 years straight daily. It’s so easy to use. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but anyone that does shave their head, I have to tell them about it.”
“I love how, first of all, it empowers you to just start doing it. I think that’s a cool virtue of a cool tool. It makes you want to use it. When you look at the book and then you go out in public, you can’t help but look at people differently. You’ll see somebody and you just look at their brow line or their nose anatomy and you’re thinking, “… I would love to draw that person.”
“…[W]henever I walk by these, I can’t help but pick them up and use them for a few minutes. I think that’s why they’re so cool. I immediately got better when I started using these balls. I definitely would say these are worth it.”
“It’s basically like a fishing rod without the rod. It’s a reel. It’s got ball bearings in it…There’s a few other varieties out there.. You can get your kit out up really fast and you can bring it in really, really quickly…”
You don’t want to mess with your phone much while driving, period. But because we depend on our phones for driving directions, music, calendar appointments, etc… and, oh yeah, talking on the phone, this car mount provides the most straightforward way to keep your phone accessible in an environment where you really don’t want to pay much attention to your phone (mount).
It holds your phone, securely, where you can see it – and without fuss and fidgeting to get it in our out of the mount. Hold it up to the magnetic surface and it grabs and holds firmly (I’ve been down some pretty bumpy dirt roads without a single slip).
Need to remove your phone quickly? Just lift it off – no clamps or clips to mess with. The mount face swivels and tilts easily for view adjustment and the sticky-cup suction has stayed firm on my dashboard for nearly a year (and still going). The only downside for me, is that my phone case now has a thin, rectangular metal plate stuck to the back of its case for the magnet to contact. This plate hasn’t caused any phone usage issues – it still slips in my pocket fine – it’s just not as aesthetically pleasing. Another option is to try to place the thin metal plate between your phone and its case, and if the case is thin enough the mount face can grab it. The package includes two of the rectangular stick-on plates and another smaller round plate for the under-case option.
I work in the subalpine regions of Washington state studying high elevation amphibians. My work schedule is usually 5 days on in the backcountry, 2 days off in town to resupply and catch up on email.
On any given work trip into the backcountry I’ll walk up to 20 miles per day, visit up to 50 wetlands, and carry 10 extra pounds of research gear. Over the past several years the amount of research gear that I’m required to carry has increased, driving down the weight and number of other things in my backpack.
Here’s what’s in my bag:
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Porter Pack, $310 - It fits me well and its weight is reasonable at 33 oz. It’s waterproof and white so you can see the down inside.
A homemade down quilt, comparable to Nunatak Arc Specialist, $479.
A homemade shelter, comparable to Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp, $120 and Serenity Shelter, $145.
Thermarest Neo-Air Small, $110 - I have had a few small holes in it over four years, but they were patched easily with Gorilla Tape.
MSR Groundhog Stakes, $16 for 6
Evernew 1.3 L Titanium pot, $60 - I’ve met folks who have used this pot for 20 years. Just be sure to get the version which is NOT non-stick. The plain titanium will last much longer.
Vargo Titanium Spork, $12 - Short enough tines to not loose all your liquid when used as a spoon.
Super Cat Stove, Free or $2 - The lightest stove on earth. Make your own at home in five minutes.
Denatured alcohol for the stove in an old soda bottle.
Stuffsack for food, $10
LiteTrail NyloBarrier Odor Proof Bag, $5 for 3 - Food goes in here, then in the stuff sack, which prevents rodents and bears from being too interested in my pack.
Aquamira Bottle, $20 with Sawyer Mini filter, $17 - The most convenient way I’ve found to filter water in the backcountry. Get the Sawyer filter though, the one that comes with the bottle is awful.
Arc’teryx Phase SL T-shirt, $46 - Not all polyfiber shirts are created equal. This is one of the only ones I’ve ever used which actually moves sweat away from my skin.
Gramicci Men’s Rocket Dry G Pants, $36 - Simple, light, quick-drying pants. No gimmicks.
Darn Tough Socks 1/4 Ultralight, $13 - This company will replace your socks when you wear holes in them.
Ibex Hooded Indie Wool Shirt, $80
Patagonia Capilene 3 Long Undies, $55
Feathered Friends Daybreak Jacket, $240
Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody, $150 - This windbreaker is my favorite clothing item. I wear it for sun and bug protection. When working with amphibians, we do not use sunscreen or bug repellent and instead must cover up our skin. I wear this, long pants, and a head-net for bug and sun protection.
Headnet, $15 - You can probably find this cheaper off-line.
Leica 10×25 BCA Binoculars, $500 - The lightest, quality binoculars I have found.
Suunto Core Watch, $233 - Combine this with a topo map for dead simple navigation.
Belomo Triplet Loupe, $35 - The best-quality cheap loupe.
Rite-in-Rain Notebook, $8 - We use larger versions of these for work. Personal notes go in this one.
Zebralight 52W Headlamp, $64
Platypus 2L Soft Bottle, $10 - I try to never carry more than .75 L of water, but when I need to, I use this.
Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide Drops, $13 - A backup to my water filter, repackaged in smaller drip bottles.
Suunto M-3 Compass, $25 - Adjustable declination is my guilty pleasure.
Bic Lighter $1
Leatherman Squirt PS4, $30
Kiss My Face Sunscreen, $7 - Used occasionally on my nose.
Canon S100 Camera, $400 - I have had three of these. It’s my favorite camera. The most current version is the S120.
Skilcraft Pencil, $27 for 6 - My favorite pencil. It’s very hard to find though. The steel lead sleeve fully retracts into pencil body to avoid breaking the tip or punching holes in your clothes/pack/body.
Skilcraft Ballpoint Pen, $13 for 12
Maps printed from CalTopo.com, Free - A free alternative to topo map software. No account necessary. The advanced features are there if you need them but don’t get in the way.
[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service to upload the photos, and email the text to firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Mark Frauenfelder]
In Ask Cool Tools, Sylvar has asked about the best way to digitize several shoeboxes full of photos:
I’ve got several shoeboxes full of photos, mostly 4×6 size, and would like to get them scanned so I can upload them into Flickr and discard the originals. Is there a reason why I should buy a bulk-feeding scanner and spend my time supervising the scanbot, or should I just ship them all off to some service and let them handle it?
If you have a question of your own, please ask!
Unlike many guitar or case humidifiers that use a sponge or other absorbent material to hold water, this clear plastic disk is filled with water but uses a special material that swells up to regulate the rate at which moisture leaves the device. You can see at a glance when it needs refilling, it refills in seconds, and to a degree you can regulate the amount of moisture in the case. Very cool. They recommend the use of distilled water which you can buy at the grocery store and keep in a corner — I guess a gallon will last nearly forever.
When’s the last time you got excited about your socks? When’s the last time you messaged your friends to tell them about your socks? In addition to recently doing both of these, this is also the first time I’ve ever written about my socks.
The evangelism-inducing socks in question are called Bombas, a line of athletic socks that were launched last year after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Project creators David Heath and Randy Goldberg asked for $15,000 and ended up getting over $142,000.
The idea behind the Bombas sock project was two-fold: design an amazing pair of socks from the ground up and use the sales of said socks to subsidize the giving away of free socks to the homeless and other needy humans. Dave and Randy got the idea for the project after reading that socks are the number one item requested at homeless shelters. So now, for every pair of Bombas you buy ($9/pair), a pair is donated to a shelter or other suitable charity.
The do-gooder aspects are admirable enough, but what about the socks themselves? The first thing you need to know about me personally is that I have a painful history with socks. I have severe arthritis and resulting poor circulation. As a result, I have a devil of a time finding socks that don’t make my ankles swell. With probably 75% of the socks I buy, by the end of the day, I have a painful and unsightly sausaging effect above the top band of the socks. Sometimes this gets so bad that I develop painful blisters along the top band. The result of this is that I end up with a few pairs of socks that are comfortable enough and I wear those over and over again until they fall apart. And the trouble with these comfortable-enough socks is that, because they’re loose in the ankle, they tend to fall down. No fun, either. Bombas socks alleviate all these issues and are, hands down, the most comfortable, supportive, and physically-kind socks I’ve ever worn.
During the development process, the Bombas design team re-examined every aspect of the sock. They tested hundreds of tension levels around the ankle and came up with a stitching approach they dubbed “stay up technology.” They figured out how to create a toe that has no uncomfortable seams and a heel that forms a natural cup around the back of your foot. They also came up with a honeycomb stitching pattern for the midfoot that sort of gives your foot a comforting squeeze as you wear them. The soles of the socks are also slightly padded, which feels really good, especially to my always-aching dogs.
I was first introduced to Bombas in the fall of 2013 when I gave a talk at the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. I was on a book tour, promoting my recent book, Borg Like Me. Some friends of mine had given me a collection of touring socks and challenged me to create some sort of “Socks on Tour” performance piece around them. So, I started introducing my socks before my readings and asking audience members to come up after the reading and have a photo taken, sock-to-sock. After the Long Now reading, a guy came up, took off his shoes, and began evangelizing about his Bombas socks (he’s been a backer of their Indiegogo campaign). I thought it was a little odd, but hey, I like odd. I went home, looked up the socks, ordered a pair, and about 20 minutes after wearing that first pair, I went back online and ordered a bunch more. I soon plan to replace all of the unwearable socks in my drawer.
As much as I love my Bombas, I have a few criticisms. I’m not really thrilled by the overly vibrant, busy design. I hope that, given the success of the socks (they’ve been having trouble keeping them in stock), they’ll offer other designs. This doesn’t bother me too much – whoever sees your socks? – but I’d prefer less over-the-top design. The other, more significant drawback, is that while the padded sole is really comfortable, the extra material (pima cotton, BTW) makes my feet sweat more than usual. But honestly, given everything else that I love about these socks, I can deal with a little damp-foot. When you’re really in love, you’re willing to turn a blind eye to a few faults. I’m in love.
This is hands-down, the best vacation guide to Walt Disney World. The authors visit the parks several times a year to keep their information up-to-date. The guide utilizes survey data from park attendees as well as loads of first-hand information.
The best parts of the guide are the planned routes in the back of the book. They have several different routes for seeing each park depending on what your priorities are. Each route gets you to the attractions you want to see with a bare minimum of waiting on line. The book will pay for itself many times over in saved vacation time!
The guide also contains a wealth of best-practices for a Disney World vacation that will help you get the most out of your trip.
Installing a door knob is a tricky job, and having to install a new lockset on my daughter’s bedroom door was proving head-poundingly frustrating until the guy at the hardware store sold me this nifty template. Basically, this template idiot-proofs the installation of a door knob.
You screw it to the door where you want the knob, use the included hole saws to cut the holes for the knob and latch and it’s done! This kit costs only a little more than the hole saws you’d have to buy to do the job anyway, and it’s lots cheaper than buying a whole new door if you mess up the job. The two tricky bits are remembering to screw the template to the door, and making sure that the hole saws are tightly screwed to the arbor of the drill. There are more expensive kits with higher quality materials, if you’re planning to install a lot of doorknobs, but this one will probably last me a lifetime.
As your basic all-thumbs carpenter, I really need a device like this!
For years, I was frustrated by stripped screw holes, particularly with wooden doors. To get a screw to stay in the stripped hole, I stuffed wood pieces, plastic anchors, basically anything I could find that would fit in the hole. Usually the fix failed, and I was again searching for a MacGyver fix.
A friend suggested plastic wood, which can easily be found at your local hardware store. Simply squeeze a thin layer into the into the stripped hole, let it dry, then repeat until the area is sufficiently closed up. It’s easy to use and quick drying, and is sandable and paintable. Usage isn’t limited to screw holes, it can be used on any finished or unfinished wood. Highly recommended.