21 June 2018

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Lexel Caulk

The "duct tape" of all caulks

They call this stuff caulk, but I use it as a general purpose glue. It pretty much sticks anything to anything. It may not hold as strongly as epoxy, but for 90% of my attachment jobs it does the trick. Almost everything in my mobile illusions museum is adhered with Lexel. It sticks better than silicone sealant and is not as obnoxious to work with.


Used to stick everything to everything.

-- Doug Payne 06/21/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

20 June 2018

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Sierra Stove

Lite-weight stove burns fuel found along trail

There I was, in driving rain, cooking breakfast under a tree over an intense, portable fire. Fresh coffee and scrambled eggs.

It was a Sierra Stove I got for $52. It’s a mini-forge, forcing air into a small insulated chamber where a double handful of twigs (or dung or whatever) can heat water in a couple minutes—just a little longer than a butane stove, but with NO fuel or fuel containers to carry. One enthusiast hiked from Mexico to Canada cooking with one, claims Chip in The Compleat Walker IV. Chip himself now claims to camp largely solar–with backback solar charged batteries running his flashlights and his Sierra Stove.

The basic unit I got weighs 18 ounces and is clever and well-evolved. Accessory goodies can be found at the manufacturer’s site. The newest item is a titanium version that weighs only 10 ounces, for $129.

I was impressed at how little fuel was needed, and how funky it could be. A switch offers high or low speed on the fan, driven by one AA battery. No igniter — my Bic failed me in the rain, but a Lifeboat match and lil’ firestarter saved the day. Unlike butane, the Sierra Stove does blacken your pots and pans, which is the main nuisance — they go in Ziploc bags anyway though. All in all an impressive little rig.

We’ll all want one when the economy collapses completely and we have to live homeless.

-- Stewart Brand 06/20/18

19 June 2018

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5 Resistor Kits compared

Round up of inexpensive resistor kits

In this video I’m going to show you 5 different resistor kits for electronic projects. I found all of these on Amazon.

Whether you’re just getting started with electronics or you’re an old pro, a well organized assortment of resistors is incredibly useful.

The good news is that there are a bunch of options you can quickly get on Amazon. The bad news is that the quality and organization is hit or miss. So I’m going to show you 5 options.

Let’s start out with this one from Yobett. On paper, this one seems like a crazy deal for around $17. You get 166 different ¼ watt resistor values, 10 resistors per value. It comes packed and labeled and there’s a little chart inside with all the values listed.

But I have two problems with this. First, once you dig around for the resistor you need the organization falls apart almost immediately.

Second, the leads on these resistors are these thin, wimpy legs that aren’t breadboard friendly. And I’ve found this problem with a lot of resistors I’ve bought through eBay or Amazon. If you’re used to a solid, Radio Shack style of resistor lead, these will disappoint.

Next up, at just $9, there’s the RexQualis 22 value kit. You get 550 ¼ watt resistors, all separately bagged and labeled with big, legible numbers. It also includes a resistor code cheat sheet.

I like this set. The organization is great. There’s not a lot of different values, but you get the most useful and common range, from 10 ohms up to 1 megaohm. My only complaint is that the resistors still have these wimpy legs, similar to the other kit. Fine for through-hole PCB projects, but not great for breadboarding or point-to-point stuff.

Next up is the Elegoo resistor kit. It’s around $11, and comes with 525 ¼ watt resistors across 17 values.

This one comes in a neat, plastic case. Each value comes in its own individual bag, clearly labeled. You also get a resistor code chart and a list of all the included values.

The problem with this one is that there’s no linear order to how it’s organized, or any way to really keep them in order. You just hunt for what you want throw it back in.

The leads are a little stiffer on these guys. You can breadboard with these, but they’re still a little squishy.

Now here’s my personal favorite. This 16 value kit from Joe Knows Electronics isn’t the best value or most complete kit. But for around $8 you get an individually bagged assortment that’s clearly labeled and will stay organized.

The leads are relatively stiff. They’re a classic beige color because they’re 5% carbon film style. And you get a code chart inside the lid. A few extra values in here would be nice, but this covers the most common breadboard project values, and there’s enough room in here that I could pop in a few bags from the other kits and keep them organized here.

Now, I was so impressed by the way they did this kit that I also ordered up their $20 860 piece kit with 86 values.

It’s the same idea, but the box is larger, you get more values, and the resistors themselves are a more precise quality that use copper leads. I find the whole thing a little overkill for me, and honestly none of these really delivered the old school lead stiffness I was hoping for.

So that’s a look at some of the different resistor kits you can buy on Amazon. There are a bunch out there, but my advice after looking at all of these is to consider organization over quantity.

Yobett 166 Values 1/4w Resistors pack

REXQualis 22 Values 1/4W 1% Resistor Kit Assortment

Elegoo 17 Values 1% Resistor Kit Assortment

Joe Knows Electronics 1/4W Resistor Starter Kit

Joe Knows Electronics 1/4W 1% 86 Value 860 Piece Resistor Kit

-- Donald Bell 06/19/18

18 June 2018

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Fiskars Take-Apart Shears

Designed for tasks all over the house

I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I’ve found that for a multitude of kitchen activities, scissors are important. Whether for cutting cooking twine, small bones or a chicken breastbone, they can be very useful. Normal office scissors don’t have the right length of blade and the joint can harbor germs and food residue.

The Fiskars shears are one of a number of scissors specially made for the kitchen. They feature shorter, stainless steel blades and a take-apart joint for cleaning. However, these shears are one of the least expensive, yet still reliable pairs. — AK

***

Shoot, we keep pairs of these in the kitchen, office & home desk drawers and my tool bag. These are the epitome of a Cool Tool, perfectly functional, simple, clean and comfortable. — Wayne Ruffner

06/18/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

17 June 2018

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3M SandBlaster Ultra Flexible Sanding Sheets

Better than sandpaper

It’s time for another Cool Tools review. This time we’re looking at this Ultra-Flexible sandpaper by 3M. I got four sheets of this for around $7 on Amazon, which is kinda pricey for sandpaper but I’ll show you why it’s special.

We’re all familiar with sandpaper. Sometimes, there’s just no substitution for sanding something by hand.

These Ultra Flexible sheets aren’t paper at all. The grit is backed by a smooth plastic film that feels like packing tape, but stretchy. It is the limpest, floppiest sandpaper I’ve ever used. And honestly it weirded me out when I first tried it. It’s a very different feel.

But there are some huge advantages. The packaging states that it lasts 15 times longer than conventional sandpaper, but it doesn’t say why.

One reason is that it doesn’t rip. You could destroy it if really try, but the plastic back would rather stretch than rip.

It also doesn’t crease. I can fold it, I can roll it up, I can form it around complex shapes, I can crinkle it up into a little ball if I want — but it just goes back to being this floppy sheet of sandpaper. So it’s very versatile.

It can also be used wet or dry, since there’s nothing to get soggy. The flexibility makes it resistant to clogging. And you can shake them out like a rag, or whip them on the table if you need to knock anything loose.

They’re cool. I’m glad I have them. They come in Medium, Fine, and Extra Fine grit. I’ve been keeping a Medium sheet rolled up at my workbench that I use almost like a sanding rag. Mark from Cool Tools has been using these for sanding the wooden spoons that he whittles.

3M SandBlaster Ultra Flexible Sanding Sheets:
Medium
Fine
X-Fine

-- Donald Bell 06/17/18

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

17 June 2018

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Mother American Night/CloudMounter/DonorsChoose

Recomendo: issue no. 99

Barlow’s stories
When I took LSD, I got it from John Perry Barlow. Barlow was a famous internet pioneer and a veteran hippy. Barlow was also a semi-politician, pundit, writer, and a most remarkable story teller. He died recently but left an amazing fast-paced memoir behind, which I thoroughly enjoyed. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found moments of profundity in his autobiography Mother American Night, a series of tales which I will happily re-read. — KK

Use cloud storage like a local drive
I use several cloud storage services. The easiest way to access them is with CloudMounter, a $49 Mac utility that mounts OneDrive, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox, and others as local hard drives on my desktop. Setup was painless and it works flawlessly. — MF

Equipping students
Few things in life are as satisfying as getting handwritten thank-you notes from school kids for helping them learn. DonorsChoose is a non-profit that features thousands of public school teachers seeking basic school supplies, or extra gear for special projects (rocket kits for science!). The teachers post their pitch. You choose a project. When it gets fully funded they post verification pictures of the kids using the resource which your funds provided, and later they’ll send you a fistful of amazingly detailed (and endearing) letters from the students themselves. You’ll want to do this. — KK

Motorized corner desk
I am very happy with my IKEA standing desk. I bought it because I needed an affordable corner desk for my small home office and the BEKANT sit/stand desk ($529) was half the price of other adjustable height corner desks on the market. There’s different sizes and color combos you can choose from and the desk comes with a 10-year limited warranty. — CD

Bamboo gardening gloves
I bought these $7 gardening gloves for pulling up roots in my yard. They have a textured, latex grip that kept the roots from sliding out of my hand. They’ve held up well after many hours of hard work. — MF

Keep your hair in place while sleeping
I use my satin pillowcase ($10) on nights before “no-wash” hair days. The silky pillowcase prevents my hair from getting tangled up or matted so that I barely have to brush it or style it. Beauty blogs claim that these pillowcases also prevent face wrinkles while you’re sleeping, which would be an added bonus if true! I just like how it makes my hair look and how cool and soft it feels. — CD

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 06/17/18

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cheap, durable, rechargeable power source

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Wood pencil with a large, blocky eraser

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Spray thin materials such as stains, sealers, urethanes, varnishes, and lacquers

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23 February 2017

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.

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).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson 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.