24 August 2016


ThinOptics Reading Glasses

Vert thin and lightweight reading glasses

I was looking for reading glasses and wanted neither the usual ones with their lumpy cases that are too thick to carry in my pants pocket, nor the folding ones where I’d inevitably get my smeary fingerprints all over the lenses.

Searching online I noticed there were “pince nez” style ones, which have a springy nose bridge and no temples. ThinOptics reading glasses are this style and extremely compact. They take advantage of the springy nose bridge as also a means to fit into one of 2 cases: (a) a smartphone case with a slot in the back for the glasses, or (b) a slim case with double-stick tape to stick on a billfold or similar item or just slip into a pocket.

I’ve had mine for about 6 months. The spring nose bridge works well for most non-athletic uses and are quite comfortable. I wouldn’t try jumping around or shaking my head vigorously with them on. They come in several frame colors and 2 case colors, in +1.50, +2.00 or +2.50 power, at prices comparable to standard reading glasses.

08/24/16 -- Michael Khaw

23 August 2016


Anaconda Slide-Hammer Manual Log Splitter

Slide-hammer pounding action splits logs in seconds

I needed something besides the usual axe and log splitter — which I’m both too old and clumsy to wield — to reduce my firewood to burnable size. Found this on Amazon for $36 and it’s changed my life. I just stand in my garage, stand a chunk of firewood on end, position the blade of this baby on top, drive the sliding part down on the blade a few times and — bam! –two easily split, perfectly size pieces for my wood stove.

08/23/16 -- Harold Schechter

22 August 2016


Nitecore Tube Keychain LED Flashlight

Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery provides a runtime of up to 48 hours

The Nitecore Tube is my go-to keychain flashlight after using many giveaway promotional products or $1 LED lights sold next to convenience store cash registers. The extremely light-weight rechargeable lithium-ion battery is quite a change from the expensive coin cells that made me unwilling to use other small lights.

With a rechargeable battery, I don’t feel guilty running the flashlight for a long time to light up a room or to clip to my clothing as an indicator light at night. At the lowest setting, it will run for 48 hours, and cost a fraction of a cent to recharge using a micro USB cable.

One click is the low setting (very reminiscent of lighting a candle in a dark room) and a double click is the high setting. Maximum output is 45 lumens, which is surprisingly bright for a flashlight smaller than a USB stick. Click and hold the button to fade the light to any brightness in between.

The only downside could be the small size. I don’t keep it on my key ring, so it’s occasionally difficult to hold onto because it’s small and flat. Tying a small loop of paracord to the end or attaching a key chain makes it easier to quickly get it oriented in your hand.

08/22/16 -- Trace Gilton

21 August 2016


Universe/Futurology/Create a board game/Truecaller

Recomendo issue #4

I’ve had a lot of fun in the past few days playing with a new iOS app that creates a mosaic of video, still images, and sound, and into which you can also paste code to create animations and actions. They are cool post-gif loops. You then share and follow others who are creating. Still in beta, it’s called Universe. Follow me! — KK

Last year I started using a Salux Japanese Nylon washcloth (reviewed on Cool Tools), and I won’t ever go back. No other product has made me feel this clean before. It exfoliates, but it’s not as rough as some gloves or loofahs I have tried, and I use the one labeled “super hard.” — CL

A series I am binging on is Silicon Valley. I know all these people and every detail of their lives and situations is pitch perfect right on. The producers get the tiniest details exactly right, from the technology to the mannerisms, as well as their bigger narrative. I haven’t laughed so much is ages. At the same time, it’s a remarkably fantastic advanced class in what technology companies are *really* like; whether you want to work in one, or start one: watch this series. — KK

Reddit’s Futurology subreddit features news stories that point to our future. “New antibiotic found in human nose.” “Singapore Scientists Grow Mini Human Brains.” “Should a human-pig chimera be treated as a person?” I visit it daily. — MF

I recently bought the Junior Game Inventors Kit to build with my soon-to-be stepson. We had a lot of fun creating a board design and brainstorming “consequence” and “reward” cards. We didn’t get a chance to finish and play the game, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves. Very reasonable price for a kit that inspires creativity. — CL

Truecaller is a free, ad-supported smartphone app that blocks telemarketers’ calls. When a call from a spammer comes in, your phone will display a red screen that says “Identified as Spam.” And if a telemarketer slips through, you can easily add the number to Truecaller’s database. — MF

Want to get our next Recomendo a week early in your inbox? Sign up for next Sunday newsletter here.

08/21/16 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Lamar

19 August 2016


Scotchlite Spoke Reflector Bicycle Clips

Be seen on your bike at night

As the days get shorter, bike commuters have to find ways to make themselves more visible when riding in the dark. Usually cyclists buy lights for the front and back of their bikes only, leaving themselves vulnerable because they aren’t easy to see from the side. These spoke reflectors fit the bill for several reasons:

  • super bright and reflective
  • require no batteries
  • weather resistant
  • lightweight
  • easy to pop on and off your spokes
  • boring enough that nobody wants to steal them
  • cheap enough in case they do
08/19/16 -- Laura Welcher

18 August 2016


Mighty Mug Travel Thermos Mug

Resists accidental knocks to help avoid spills

My wife likes to drink water. She keeps a cup or glass with her as she works, and also has one on the night stand when she sleeps. She knocks over her water often. I have learned how to do an emergency disassembly and dry-down of electronics because of this.

I saw the Mighty Mug in the store, and bought one for her for Christmas. I wrapped it and hid the box in the garage, but after the phone got drenched once more, I just gave it to her early. This product has a suction cup device on its base that will hold it in place on any smooth surface. If your hand bumps into it, even with some force, it will not fall over. But if you lift it straight up, it will come up with almost no resistance. Half-asleep flailing for the water cup cannot detach it. Accidental impact while reaching for the computer mouse have no effect. I don’t have to buy a new keyboard, or dry the phone in a bowl of rice anymore!

08/18/16 -- Daniel Kim

(No review of the Mighty Mug would be complete without this video of Kathy Lee Gifford knocking it over - MF: Here's a video that shows what is inside the Mighty Mug: — editors)


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Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard with Mouse

Small keyboard and touchpad for Windows and Mac

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Best Comment of the Week

We are awarding a copy of the Cool Tools Catalog to the best comment of the week

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Stand and Store Lobby Broom and Dustpan

No more bending with the dustpan

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Powerlock 33-212 Measuring Tape

Thin profile tape measure fits in pocket

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What's in My Bag? 10 August 2016


What’s in My Bag — Wayne Ruffner

Outdoorsman shares his ultimate bug repellent kit

Announcements: 08/10/16

Reader Survey Results

A month ago we offered you a survey to give us all a glimpse of who is reading this blog. About 1,400 people replied to the 30 or so questions. The big idea was that we editors would get a better image of who you are, and you, the readers, would also gain some insight into what your co-readers think, once we shared the data. We had no specific plans for doing anything with the results – we just thought it would be useful as we continue to make Cool Tools a better experience for you.

After looking at the results, we offer a few observations about this audience. Most of you read this blog via RSS, at least once a week. Almost half look at it daily. More of you prefer to read books (except for the Cool Tools book!) than to spend time in the workshop. But you are at ease with video. More likely urban or suburban, than rural. Surprising to us, a large portion of you are newish readers. Glad to say, far more of this community is optimistic rather than pessimistic … and so on.

A PDF of the results of the quantitative questions are here. (We are still going through the write-in answers and will post those results later.) We’d love to hear your comments about what you all find in these results; please post in the comments section of this entry. In addition, if you are so inclined, you can mess with the raw data which is in a spreadsheet here. We hope you do. If you discover anything interesting about the Cool Tools community, please share it with us, and we can consider posting it as well. We’re also interested in learning how you think we can use these survey results to improve Cool Tools.

— KK

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.


Kevin 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.


Mark 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).


Claudia Lamar 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.