26 April 2018


Delta Water Amplifying Showerheads

Reduce water consumption

A few years ago, in an effort to reduce our water consumption, I went hunting for some low flow shower heads. At the time I had only experienced heads in the wild that left a bit to be desired. Poor pressure and/or small spray patterns often took longer to rinse soap off, somewhat canceling out any water savings.

A friend of mine recommended I try out the Delta 75152 Water Amplifying Showerhead. At around $20 bucks there wasn’t much risk so I gave it a try. I was impressed by how much better this was than typical low flow shower heads. The spray pattern is large, and feels like a traditional showerhead, but it’s using less water.

The first unit I bought was the Delta 75152 that offers a knob to adjust flow from 1.8gpm to 2.5gpm. I found that the 1.8gpm was plenty, and I haven’t moved the adjustment knob in years. My local utility, as well as many others, offer rebates for fixtures that are WaterSense Labeled, so my second unit was the Delta 52655 ($22) that has a fixed 1.5gpm flow rate.

After having these for 4 years, I have experienced no trouble with lime or calcium buildup, and they look as good as the day I installed them. The only negative I’ve found with these heads is that the angle adjustment is somewhat limited, so I can’t swing the head around to rinse the walls of the shower on cleaning day. That problem is easily fixed with a splash of water from a cup.

-- John Taggart 04/26/18

26 April 2018


Adjustable plier comparison

Comparing three types of pliers

In this Cool Tools video, I’m going to show you three slightly different types of adjustable pliers. Links for all three options are in the video description, and by picking any one of them up, you’re helping to support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

For the longer than I care to admit, the main pliers in my house were basic pliers with a notch for a bigger or smaller grip. If this still describes where you’re at, I’m going to walk through some other options and why you may want to pick them up. If you’re already a plier pro, feel free to add your two cents in the comments.

After stripping a few bolt heads and needing to work on some household plumbing, I bought these adjustable tongue and groove pliers. These are very common, you can get them for around $15.

Opened all the way up, you can adjust the width of the mouth, and when you close it, the two sides lock into one of the grooves on the handle to keep that particular fit.

The three things that are great about these:
1. The mouth opens up wide enough to adjust plumbing. You need to tighten a threaded washer on your bathroom sink — these are perfect.
2. The long, flat face of the jaws and the incremental adjustment provides a good enough fit for bolt heads and bigger hex nuts. If it’s too much trouble to find the right wrench, this usually gets the job done without stripping what you’re working on.
3. The long handles provide some real leverage you can work to your advantage. If you’re working on something old and rusty, these are fantastic.

What’s not great is that they’re too big for smaller projects, and the adjustment is a somewhat fiddly two-handed thing that can be a pain if you’re working on a lot of different sized things.

For something a little different, I’ve got these self-adjusting Robogrip pliers. These were about $23 on Amazon — not cheap, but they put my basic pliers out of a job. They’re super handy for everyday stuff.

The cool thing about these is that as they crunch down on the thing you’re grabbing, they’ll automatically lock in for a pretty secure grip. So, they’re easy to use one handed — they get rid of the fiddly aspect of the tongue and groove pliers. And the size is right in that sweet spot where it can handle big stuff fine and still be useful for small projects too.

These also come in a bigger size, or with a flat jaw instead of a curved one, but the 7-inch curved jaw version has been good for me.

Finally, let’s talk about Vise Grips. Now, I am late to the Vise Grip thing. They come in wide range of sizes and there are some really unique offshoots with special applications.

These are a relatively small, 4-inch long-nose model recommended by Jamie Windham through a Cool Tools review. Their superpower is that not only can they be adjusted to fit what you’re working on, but they’ll lock in place when you fully squeeze down on them.

And once they’re locked, if you really want a super tight fit, you can tighten the tension screw at the bottom by hand or with a hex wrench.

These, for me, have replaced my needlenose pliers. Because how many times have you chewed up the small thing you’re trying to grab just on the process of gripping it over and over again? This way you just lock it in once and turn the whole thing.

They’re also great as a little mini vise, either for glueing up small things, or as a third hand for soldering something up. They’re great on the end of a cable or rope if you need to tension something and want a solid grip. They’re great, and when you want to release the vise, you just pull apart the handles with a little force.

The downside to these is that fiddling with the thumbscrew does take some patience nearly every time you use it. Also, unless you cover the ends in a rubber sleeve or gaffer tape, it will bite into material just like vise would.

So that’s it, just an overview on some adjustable plier options in case you’re ready to branch out from something basic. Of course there are hundreds I didn’t cover here, so if you have a favorite, be sure to leave a comment.

-- Donald Bell 04/26/18

(Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews — editors)

25 April 2018


Neural Synthesizer, 3D Printed horse, Welding plastic [Maker Update]

The best maker tips and projects of the week

This week, a Neural Synthesizer from Google, a 3D printed horse, welding plastic, a charcoal fume extractor, a constellation necklace, extending your drill by a foot, Eagle 9, and soldering unicorns. This week’s Cool Tool is the Irwin 12″ bit holder.

Show notes

-- Donald Bell 04/25/18

25 April 2018


Omega Boar Bristle Shaving Brush

Soft Boar's hair bristles for a close shave

I gave up using aerosol shave cream a few years ago and have been using shaving brushes ever since. I have a few shaving brushes, including a very expensive badger hair brush that I received as a gift, but this inexpensive Omega boar bristle brush is the only one I use.

If you think about it, squirting a dollop of aerosol shaving cream on your hand and smearing it on your face doesn’t do much to prepare your skin for shaving. I’m sure the foam doesn’t really get down around the base of each whisker. This boar bristle brush really works the lather into your beard, making the whiskers stand up for a nice smooth shave. Using a brush has the added benefit of cleaning of every pore. Your face will feel the difference. I prefer the stiffness of the boar bristles over the badger hair. I have no way of proving it, but I feel like I get a better shave with this boar bristle brush than the more expensive badger brush.

I purchased the brush I’m using at an estate sale, and I’m sure it saw plenty of use before I bought it, yet it has never lost a bristle. I’m surprised to see that the identical shaving brush is still made in Italy, and is available on Amazon for $13. The one I’m using is still going strong, but I’m planning to buy a second brush just to have one in a different color. You can use this brush with your favorite aerosol shave cream, but I like mixing up warm lather in a mug. I find that the shaving soap “pucks” last for months, much longer than a can of aerosol shaving cream. There are many types and flavors (scents?) of shaving soap to chose from, and I suspect that they all work reasonably well.

There are even shaving soap “sticks” that you wet and rub on your beard, and then use a wet brush to work up a lather directly on your face. Choosing a soap or cream really comes down to personal preference. Whatever soap you chose, I don’t think you can go wrong with this boar bristle brush.

-- Runciblefish 04/25/18

25 April 2018


Japanese Screw Punch

Hole maker

This lovely tool can punch through multiple layers of paper, mat board, etc. It is great for making eyelet holes in fabric as well as leather. Used by book makers and mixed media artists. It is amazing in its ease and is very durable! Earns Extra Foofy Points to be able to say you have a “Japanese Screw Punch.”

— Jane Wynn

The advantage of this tool (sometimes called a Paper Drill) is that unlike your usual plier-like paper punch, this one is not constrained by where you want a hole. You can drill a hole anywhere on any size sheet — not just the edges — by bearing down on the handle. To compensate for the lack of leverage you do get in a plier-like punch, the shaft of this screw punch rotates as you press, neatly slicing a trim hole. It will go through 15 pages of paper at once; thicker materials will require multiple passes. It comes with five bits, but the largest one will be smaller than the typical paper punch hole, so I’ve found more careful alignment is required.

— KK


(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2005 — editors)

24 April 2018


Reusable gear ties

Giant twist ties

Today we’re taking a look at these reusable gear ties made by Nite Ize. These come in a bunch of different lengths and colors, but I got this pair of 18-inch ties for $7 an Amazon. If you end up wanting these same ones, the link in the description takes you right to them and helps support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

These are essentially giant twist ties. There’s a bendable metal wire inside and the outside is made from a waterproof, UV-resistant rubber.

Just like you’ll usually see twist ties used to bundle produce or secure products in a package — these are great for wrapping things together.

They’re great for wrapping cords together.

They can be used to hold together a bedroll or a rolled up yoga mat.

You want to secure a Go Pro to a pole? You can do that.

You want to create a makeshift mount for your phone. You can do that.

Make a stand for your flashlight? No problem.

It’s just a great, generally handy thing to have around. Great for camping or traveling. A lot of reviewers recommend them for tying things down on boats or kayaks, or just generally rigging things together temporarily.

And one tip from my own experience is that you can very simply twist these together to double the length. The ribbed, gummy quality of the rubber sticks to itself pretty well.

Previous Cool Tool review of the Night Ize Gear Tie

-- Donald Bell 04/24/18


img 04/24/18

Platypus SoftBottle

80% less weight and bulk than a hard bottle.

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Helinox Chair One Camp Chair

2-lb chair supports can support up to 320 lbs

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Braun MobileShave M-60

Easy cleaning under running water

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Bob Clagett, Maker

Cool Tools Show 119: Bob Clagett

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Ice Cream Spade

Flat blade digs into frozen ice cream

See all the reviews


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Park Team Race Stand

Essential bike maintenance tool

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Bissell Natural Sweep

Fastest carpet cleaner

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Diagrammatic Chart of World History

5,000 years of history in one square meter

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Smart Move Tape

Clearest box labeling

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 119: Bob Clagett

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 118: Michael Borys

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 117: Matt Blum

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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.

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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).

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