Nu-Flare Rebel 90 Flashlight

I have an uncle who is a hard-core user of flashlights in his work and his hobbies. He’s an airframe and powerplant mechanic specializing in experimental aircraft, so he spends a lot of time looking behind panels and into tiny, dark recesses that haven’t been seen by human eyes since the plane was built. He needs a good light to do this, but he had had a very frustrating time finding just the right one.

A couple of years ago, I had a long talk with him about the features he wanted in a flashlight, and I searched around until I found the Nu-Flare Rebel 90, which I gave to him as a Christmas present. It’s so good that he carries and uses it every day, and when he thought he had lost it, he got a little stressed out until he ordered a replacement. Of course, he found the “lost” light before the replacement arrived, but now he has a backup.

Here are some things that make this the best light for him:

A lot of lights have multi-function switches – actuate it once for dim, again for bright, a third time for strobe, etc. In his experience, these switches usually were in the wrong mode, or would simply fail. This light has none of that – it is either on, or it’s off. It always works exactly as expected, and there’s never a need to think about how to switch modes. The pushbutton switch is on the tailcap, and has a satisfying clicky action. If you only need the light for a moment, a half-press will give you light without locking the light on.

It’s also small enough in both diameter (just over 1″) and length (under 4.5″) that it’s easy to get into tight spaces and to see past; but it’s not so small that it’s difficult to hold onto or easy to misplace. But for all its small size, it makes a LOT of light – you won’t want to look directly into the beam.

I visited my uncle a few weeks ago, and we needed to use his light to look into a dark cranny for a project we were working on together. This spurred some idle fiddling with the light, and that spurred discussion about how long he had had it and his satisfaction with it. He’s been using it daily for a couple of years now, and it’s still a spectacular light. He’s stopped his previous pattern of buying new lights every few weeks, and when I got home, I ordered one for myself.

It does use an odd battery – CR123A. These are more expensive and less readily available than AA or AAA sizes, so he also recommended some Li-ion rechargeable batteries for it. I got a kit with four batteries and a charger, which allows me to keep a set in the light and one on standby. As an added feature, the charger has both a wall plug and a 12V cigarette-lighter adapter, so it can charge batteries either at home or on the road.

-- Josh Drew  

Nu-Flare Rebel 90 77R92L flashlight

Available from Amazon

Windell Oskay, Co-Founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

Windell Oskay is the co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, a Silicon Valley company that has designed and produced specialized electronics and robotics kits since 2007. Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories also runs a popular DIY project blog, and many of its projects have been featured at science and art museums and in Make, Wired, and Popular Science magazines. He’s the oo-author of the recently published book, The Annotated Build-It-Yourself Science Laboratory.

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Show Notes:

Rotring 600 Mechanical Pencil $24

“The Rotring 600 is a beautiful instrument. It has a hexagonal body that’s a lot like the size and shape of a traditionally yellow pencil, except it’s made of nice heavy brass. The part where you actually hold it has a cylindrical, thoroughly knurled grip, also made of brass. They come in either brushed nickel or black painted.”

Aluminum Brazing Rods $30

“You heat up your metal and then you wait until the brazing rod melts as it touches the surfaces. It starts to wet to the surface. Then you can just bond your metals together. It works on aluminum, magnesium, galvanized steel, brass, and copper. It’s shockingly easy and strong for what it does. It’s sort of like a low budget welding technique for people who don’t do a lot of welding.”


Woodpecker’s Page of One-time Run Tools

“Woodpecker’s makes some unbelievably beautiful machined jigs for doing woodworking operations. I have a ruler from them, and it’s just a 12 inch ruler. It’s made of quarter inch thick aluminum machined on every side, and laser engraved. In a sense it’s absolutely overkill, but on the other hand it’s just the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever called a ruler.”

RoboGrip Pliers $31

“I’ve been using these, I’ve got several sets of them. Some of these 20 years old, and as far as I can tell they’re completely indestructible. Just a joy to have. Frequently somebody is asking, “Where’s the Robo Grips, because we need them.”

Metcal MX-500 Soldering Iron $832

“The Metcals are the legendary great soldering irons. They work on a really interesting principle that regulates the temperature at the tip, not by using a thermostat but actually by using radio frequency power that is sent down to the tip.”

The Three Fives Kit: A Discrete 555 Timer $35

“The 555 has just 26 transistors in it and a bunch of resistors, and you solder them together and you make this thing that’s a working 555 chip. It’s kind of amazing to not have one as a black box, but something that somebody can actually go in and measure what’s going on inside of it.”

The XL741 Discrete Op-Amp Kit $35

“The other is the 741, which is the classic op amp. That is still the classic building block of all analog circuit designs.”

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Kenu Airframe Phone Mount

I have been on a quest to find an in-car cell phone mount for some time now. I have tried various suction cup, non-slip, lighter socket plugs, cup holder and air vent versions including various hacks using paper clips, rubber bands and coffee cups only to be left wanting. Recently I came across the Kenu Airframe mount, and it’s just what the doctor ordered. This little mount has four fingers on the back of the phone clip that clamp to both thick and thin air vent fins. The fingers can be rotated to accommodate either thick or thin fins in any orientation (vertical, horizontal, diagonal). I have used this tool for approximately one month now and it is exactly what I imagined should exist; it is a simply elegant solution.


-- Steven Smith  

[I have one of these, too, and I like it. One thing to keep in mind is the possibility of overheating your phone if you've got hot air coming out of the vent that the phone is attached to. This is rarely an issue here in Los Angeles, but if you live in Minneapolis, I'd think twice before buying one. -- Mark Frauenfelder]

Kenu Airframe – Portable Smartphone Car Mount

Available from Amazon

Emergensee Variable Focus Eyeglasses

Emergensee Variable Focus Eyeglasses adjust between -6 and +3 diopters, and come in a pretty sturdy case. They don’t correct for astigmatism.

These were apparently distributed to victims of the tsunami in Japan a few years back. I’ve kept a pair in my first aid kit, and on they have been used by a friend who lost his glasses over the side of the boat. He was amazed that we could fit him out with an adequate substitute.

The insert is clearly marked to be used for temporary use only, and are not scratch resistant. On their website, they now have notices posted referencing several states whose optical industries have felt it necessary to inform consumers that these are not a substitute for getting your eyes checked.

I heard about these on a radio program in 2012, and immediately contacted the company, which is in the U.K. They were not selling in the US yet, but made it possible for me to buy a pair.


[Take a look at the Amazon reviews before ordering these. Many people say they are shoddy. However, they sound like they might be useful in an emergency. In the meantime, I'm waiting for Eyejusters to launch. - Mark Frauenfelder]

Emergensee Variable Focus Eyeglasses

Available from Amazon

Bison Designs Last Chance Belt

Once you start gaining weight, certain forces of physics start to come into play. Your belly tends to push down on your pants and regular belts become ineffective. This is because it is hard to tell where your waist is and you end up tying the belt beneath the waist at your hips. The solution to this problem is a belt that does not have holes but can be tied off anywhere. There are those leather belts that have holes all along them but they are not exactly business wear.

Enter the Last Chance belt. I like the one in gunmetal. Although originally designed for outdoor types this belt is simple and elegant. It also lets you tie off your lower half like a tourniquet so some judgment is required. I’ve used it for two years now and am very satisfied.

-- Edward G Iglesias  

Bison Men’s Last Chance Heavy Duty Gunmetal Buckle 38mm Belt

Available from Amazon

Cuisinart Egg Cooker

I can’t cook. I also can’t dunk in the NBA – different reasons, but both truths are immutable. I do, however, like to eat. Eggs are a particular favorite; unfortunately my culinary ineptitude makes me the proverbial guy who can’t boil an egg without screwing it up. Enter Cuisinart with this small egg-shaped appliance. I decide how many eggs I want and how I want them cooked. The chart tells me how much water to put in the bottom (with a neat measuring beaker to get it right – the beaker also has a pin to pierce each egg). Close the device, press the button, and perfect eggs are done in several minutes when the timer goes off. It’s a single use device that would drive Alton Brown nuts, but screw Alton – he can cook, I can’t. This egg cooker means I don’t have to eat out every morning.

-- Dave Eastman  

Cuisinart CEC-10 Egg Central Egg Cooker

Available from Amazon

GoStak Twist n’ Lock Storage Jars

Trying to live a healthy lifestyle in the modern world is hard enough. Exercising regularly, getting your diet in order, and getting adequate rest is a respectable task in and of itself (and far more important than supplementation) – but for those of us who want to go above and beyond with supplementation, it becomes even more complicated. Depending on your needs and your goals, you may want to take a “pre-workout” powder before you lift weights, and a protein shake immediately afterwards. On top of that, maybe you’re taking a twice daily dose of fish oil or some other supplement. It’s hard to keep track of everything.

If, like me, you’ve gotten sick of having a handful of separate sandwich baggies to serve a bunch of different purposes, consider the BlenderBottle GoStak. This modular canister system takes up little space in a bag or backpack, and even fits inside of an empty shaker bottle. Because it is smaller than the lip of most shaker bottles, powders pour easily into them without getting all over the place. Smaller canisters can carry a handful of supplements.

The GoStak is also great for an overnight bag, so you can be sure you’ll have the supplementation you need for the next day.

-- Randy P.  

GoStak Twist n’ Lock Storage Jars, 4-Piece Starter Pak

Available from Amazon

Zander Rose – Executive Director, The Long Now Foundation

Alexander “Zander” Rose is the executive director of The Long Now Foundation, which was founded in 1996 to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution that fosters very-long-term planning. He was hired to build their clock that lasts 10,000 years. He’s also the founder of the Robot Fighting League, and a contestant on the ABC series Battlebots (airing Sunday nights)

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

Show Notes:

Knipex Parallel Plier Wrenches $162 “You can adjust them, but then when you actuate them, they have flat jaws that stay totally parallel. They’re way more powerful than a crescent wrench even though they look like a set of pliers. They don’t damage the flat surfaces that you’re working against.”

Gear Drive Case Ball End Hex Keys $55 YouTube Video “There’s these little gears in the actual plastic case that gear them all together, so when you grab one wrench and turn it, they all turn out together, and so you can pull one wrench out and then relock them all back in. People who’ve used the most common brand, Bondhus, will know that you spend a lot of time wrestling with two hands trying to get hex keys in and out of the case.”

Bafang Mid Drive eBike $850 “Most e-bikes use a powered wheel and the bummer about that is that you have this extremely heavy wheel. If you want to use it in pedal only mode, you’re trying to turn a 40-pound wheel. This kit made by Bafang, a Chinese company, uses what is called mid-drive. This means that the power comes in at the cranks. That means your wheels are standard. Your transmission is standard. You can use normal gear sets and things like that in conjunction with your electric bike kit.”

Yuba Boda Boda Family Cargo Bike $1000 “There’s a lot of cargo bikes out there that are extremely long, by both Yuba and Xtracycle. The problem with those is that they don’t fit on bike racks. The Boda Boda by Yuba has a little bit longer wheelbase than a normal bike but still fits on normal bike racks.”

Chinese High Power Bike Lights $65 “Those early Lupine lights were $600 to $700 each and now, there’s just a plethora of Chinese versions. They’re down $50, so it’s affordable to have one on your helmet and one on your bars and have a total of something like 2,400 lumens, which is just pretty insane. You look like an F16 landing on an aircraft carrier when you have this setup.”

Water Activated Resin Cast Material $42 “This is a small tiny roll of what looks like gauze but it’s actually a resin-activated cast material. You can custom make it to any shape. If a bone is sticking out, you can work around that. If you have climbing tape with you, which generally we do, you can just make a splint up one side of their leg and then wrap around that or at their arm and wrap around that with the climbing tape and then it doesn’t have to be cut off.”

Skin Stapler $13 “Normal people are not good at suturing but if you want to close a wound and get somebody back to pavement and it’s going to take several hours or a day, then a person with very little experience can actually close that wound back up with the skin stapler.”


Pendleton Board Shirt

I have been wearing a black Pendleton Board Shirt almost every day for the last two years. I can’t get over how perfect this 100% wool shirt is.

It’s truly a four season item. In the summer it works as a top layer for cool nights. In the winter, it’s a perfect extra layer for indoors, letting you lower the thermostat a few degrees.

What really sells me on this shirt is the button front. Pull-over sweaters are all or nothing – you are either hot or cold. And taking them on and off over your head is a hassle. Zip-ups are nice, but after a couple of washes the sweater inevitably shrinks a bit and the zipper gets all puckered, pulling the sweater out of shape.

I tried wearing cardigans, but they are a little too Mr. Rogers (sorry, Fred). And sweatshirts and chamois shirts don’t fly in settings where smart casual dress is required. The Board Shirt has a great look with a nice, roomy cut and a pajama collar. It can fit in at my office, at the gig or on the trail.

Even though it’s wool, I toss it in the wash with everything else. It shrinks a bit for the first dozen washes or so. You might want to buy once size big to allow full flexibility with layering. The felt is very soft and easy to wear on the skin.

It was stylish enough for Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and warm enough for Grandpa Max who sold newspapers on Boston sidewalks all winter. What more could you want?

-- Jeremy Fink  

Pendleton Men’s Classic Board Shirt

Available from Amazon

ClipMate Clipboard Extender

I have been using ClipMate for several years (at least since 2007) on various versions of Windows. It is the first program I install when setting up a new machine. It saves everything that is copied to the clipboard and allows you to organize them into folders and subfolders. So, I keep copies of the e-mail addresses that I use with sites that insist the format is “” without the quotes of human names that are stored in my Contact list. I keep track of boilerplate kinds of text that I need to use repeatedly. The clips can be formatted text (you can force it to plain text) or graphics.

Powerpaste is a very useful feature that allows you to paste a set of clips, automatically advancing to the next one in the set each time you paste. There are many other features, including many that I have never even learned how to use; but the ones that I do use make it an incredible tool. It can hold thousands of clips and you can search them easily. Frankly, I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t use a tool like this.

-- Sherman Gavette  

ClipMate Clipboard Clipboard Extender

Available from Thornsoft