26 August 2016


Best Comment of the Week – Contigo Water Bottles

Stainless steel water bottle keeps drinks cold for up to 18 hours

Reader comments are useful for us and, we hope, for you. We learn good information from comments – Is there a better tool than the one reviewed? Is there a different use for the tool? Is there a story to tell about the tool? The feedback helps us make Cool Tools better.

As a way to encourage you to write comments and to thank you for writing good comments, we award a copy of Kevin’s book, Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities to the reader who wrote the best comment of the week. This week’s winner is Sandra Darst. She wrote:

“I drink a lot of water too, and used to have problems with it spilling all the time too. Then I found the Contigo water bottles and mugs. They don’t ever leak, even if tipped upside down or knocked completely off the table. Contigo’s Autoseal technology means that you just press to sip, and when you put it back down, it automatically seals. The button is intuitive, because it’s right where your hand is when you pick the bottle up to drink anyway. I’ve been a Contigo fan for years!”

08/26/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

26 August 2016


Indexing Flat Pry bar

Head indexes over 180 Degrees and locks in 16 positions

I have worked as a carpenter off and on for years and have used all kinds of pry bars from old crow bars, the Wonder Bar in the ’80s and various Stanley pry bars since.

I happened upon this Crescent pry bar while browsing through the hand tool department at my local Home Depot, an activity I indulge in when my wife is not with me. I played around with the indexing feature and realized that this bar could be used in very cramped quarters because the handle can be positioned in 16 different positions.

I bought the bar and immediately found several jobs for it. I had some spikes that I needed to remove from the side of a floor joist. They were large and rusty and in a position where I couldn’t use a conventional pry bar. I grabbed the Crescent bar, set the handle angle so it would fit between the joists and quickly removed the spikes.

Even though the handle angle changes, you still have the long handle that provides a lot of force at the claw. The indexing mechanism snaps positively into position and is well constructed. I wish I had owned this tool decades ago. It’s become an indispensable part of my tool collection. They also make a 30 in. model.

08/26/16 -- Bob Switzer

25 August 2016


Ikea Utility Cart

Portable Tool Cart

I work at home at my dining room table. I am also a stationery nerd. But as I don’t have a desk, I searched for way to store the items I need during my work sessions. I saw the Ikea Raskog utility cart at a pen shop about two years ago and drove to the nearest Ikea to purchase it immediately.

It’s the same height as my dining room table at about 31″. It has three shelves which I’ve stocked with my favorite tools, with the top most shelf stocked with the most used tools. It’s fairly compact, and has wheels. When a colleague or study buddy sits at the table with me, we move the cart between us to share the tools. It is more expensive in Canada than in the USA, and I still find it great value. It comes in two colors in Canada, and three in the USA.

08/25/16 -- Helen Hegedus

24 August 2016


ThinOptics Reading Glasses

Very 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


img 08/18/16

Mighty Mug Travel Thermos Mug

Resists accidental knocks to help avoid spills

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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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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.