25 May 2018


Kishore Hari, Scientist

Cool Tools Show 124: Kishore Hari

Our guest this week is Kishore Hari. Kishore is a scientist/science educator who’s been building science events for the last decade, but he really sees himself as a community organizer for science. He’s currently the science correspondent at Adam Savage’s Tested.com and the host of the weekly science podcast Inquiring Minds.

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Show notes:

26-Piece Steel Dapping Doming Punch Block Set ($45)
“The reason I’m so obsessed with this tool as of late is I grew up reading comics, and the comics I read all featured this character Thanos, which has now entered the cultural mainstream with the Infinity War movie. Ever since I was about 10 or 11 years old, I wanted to build an Infinity Gauntlet so I could have control of all of the space and time, I guess. And with the emergence of all of these Marvel movies, people started creating all of this different versions of Infinity Gauntlets, like 3D-printed ones, and I wanted to make it in my own way. …And there are lots of way to do it, but I found somebody who was posting all these videos about hand-shaping metal. It’s not something I’ve ever thought of in my life or something that I’ve done since metal shop when I was a kid, but I have to say it’s one of the more satisfying things I’ve ever done is just pounding metal on mini anvils and shaping it slowly over time. Nothing comes out perfect. It has a lot of little nicks and scratches because I’m hand-shaping everything, but I love that. … Dapping is sort of what the set is referred to. It’s sort of the tools are called dapping sets. And there are all these different punches and anvils and other kind of components, and you use a hammer along with this dapping block. It’s mostly commonly used in jewelry-making, so a lot of jewelry makers have used this. … you can make different sort of textures using that tool and different hammer sets that come along with it, so you’re able to shape and create depth in the metal you’re creating. You can create different sort of structural elements. ”

Foldscope paper microscope
“Foldscope is one of the most exciting tools I’ve seen in a long time. Stanford professor Manu Prakash is this sort of like the poet laureate of the science world. I find him lyrical. And what he’s obsessed with is creating low-cost, high-quality scientific instruments as a hobby, and so one of the things he did was create a paper-based microscope where for, at scale, as little as 10 cents a microscope you can sort of fold different … a die kind of cut piece of paper along with these very cheaply constructed lenses and actually get up to 40x to 100x magnification so that you can build your own microscope in the middle of a field and examine stuff in real time. It’s an incredible piece of technology because of what that means is we could be out in the Saharan Desert or we could be in our backyard in your woods, and you could take out a microscope and all of a sudden actually be looking at the microscopic world in a different way.”

Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder ($199)
“My H4N travels with me everywhere — recording has become a way of life for me. And it isn’t the newest, or best, etc. – this recorder has been incredibly reliable for me. This is basically the size of a soda can, and it’s been out for, I don’t know, probably eight, nine, 10 years, something like that since, this recorder first came out, so it’s not fancy. It’s just like the one I have just works. It gets really high-quality audio. It allows you to plug in microphone inputs. But moreover, it’s a story about the stories I’ve collected with this thing that just sound great because it’s simple to use and it’s so portable. It has allowed me to capture stories in the oddest of places. I use it every week for my science podcast, so my H4n has the voices of Nobel laureates on there to my mom. …this is a podcaster’s dream tool, I think, because it’s easy. It doesn’t go wrong unless you do something wrong, like forget to put batteries in it. I think it’s the gold standard for anyone recording audio, especially on the go.”

Boa System Shoes
“I don’t like tying shoes. I’ve never liked tying shoes, and if you were to really pin me down I would tell you that I am bad at tying knots, and I have been since I was like six. And so this is a silly thing, but I’ve always thought shoelaces are antiquated technology. I don’t understand why we all our tie our shoes, because there’s better things out there. A couple years ago I got turned onto this shoelace system called the Boa System, which is a ratcheting lace system. So your shoe is basically a slip-on, and you slip it on, and then there’s a gear on one of the sides of the shoe, and you just turn the dial, and it ratchets it down to the tightness you want. It takes a half-second for you to get the right tightness, and then you’re on your way. And to release, you just need to snap out there. You pull it — it has a quick-release — and your shoe just comes right off. I’ve never gone through TSA quicker than with this shoe system.”

Also mentioned:

The Anglerfish

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24 May 2018


Klein Switch Drive

Handle fits any driver with a ¼” power tool accessory shank

Screwdriver bits: Most people seem to love those itty-bitty insert bits, the 1/4″ hex drive magnetically-kept bits for all sorts of screw heads. A huge assortment of these bits are available for pretty much anything appropriate. However, insert bits (small & usually only kept by a magnet) are easily popped out and, for me, tend to roll away. Get lost, too. And, being so short, the driver end is thickened up – sometimes too much to end up being useful in all situations.

So rather than those frustratingly too small insert bits, I’ve been using power bits. These are, in one sense, the same as insert bits with the same wide assortment of useful ends, but with the significant difference being that they *lock* into their chuck. Also, they can be much longer; some I use are a foot long and really reach in past a lot of stuff. A great solution. Really. Power bits don’t cost a lot more, and getting good ones isn’t difficult (most of mine are from Wiha). They can reach further and there’s no worry about leaving the bit in a fastener or wondering where it rolled away to. All mine were collected with the intent to use them with cordless drills &/or impact tools. For manual use, my tool bag still had a thorough assortment of traditional screwdrivers.

The rub: All those driver handles add a lot of weight. Finally, it popped into my head that I needed to find a handle that fit all my Power Bits. While I can use the machines, I can also not carry any machine with these bits and still put them to use, saving myself the weight of those gizmos and losing the weight of all those handles. There are different versions of these handles by different manufacturers. I prefer the Klein Switch Drive for its “manly” size and how its locking mechanism works: Just press its washer-slim disk against the handle to swap bits. Again, any Power Bit will fit this handle. (It’s not appropriate for insert bits though a Power-Bit-based insert bit holder can be used.) It’s a good product that really lightens up my tool bags & adds flexibility.

-- Wayne Ruffner 05/24/18

23 May 2018


Digital Shower Thermometer

Battery free real time shower and bath water temperature monitor

I recently had to replace a shower handle, and at the time I thought about getting one with the built-in digital thermometer. But due to time limitations and budgetary constraints, I opted to go with just a basic functional model. But, just this past week I stumbled across this cool tool, a low-cost and easy to install alternative. The best part? It is powered hydraulically! That’s right, no battery to replace, ever. The force of the water moving through the unit spins an internal generator, powering up the illuminated LED display. This device is super easy to install; I was able to do it with no tools at all. It’s easily adjustable for readability, it seems to be accurate, and it reacts instantly to changes in water temperature. This is not only a great safety device to prevent accidental scalding, but it also makes it so nice to always have the water temperature pre-adjusted to your optimal comfort level before you step into your shower. And at 15 bucks, you really can’t go wrong with this cool tool. But, be aware that this model only displays in Fahrenheit, not Celsius. There are other models available, in the same price range that do display in Celsius.

-- Randy Cantu 05/23/18

22 May 2018


42 in. Off-Road Farm Jack

Multipurpose design for lifting, pulling and spreading

Homesteading involves lots of pulling, prying, yanking, and tugging on things — everything from ripping out stumps, moving structures, to dismantling fences. Mechanical advantage is a must. There are a lot of tools out there that can give you the needed leverage, but one of the humblest and most versatile is the farm jack. The farm jack is a lot like any other jack you might have used, reduced to its simplest form. The entire thing has about seven parts, and it works with a simple spring loaded ratchet-and-pawl system that is nearly indestructible. I’ve had the Pittsburgh farm jack for a year and I’ve used it for a variety of tasks that would otherwise have been either a big nuisance or just plain impossible, including moving a 400-pound chicken coop, pulling stubborn U-posts out of the ground, and lifting equipment into an elevated position for repair. This jack is rated to 3.5 tons and has a maximum lift of 42 inches. The base has bolt holes in case you want to mount it to a board for better weight distribution, and the jack prong is just the right size to hook under a 2×4 to prevent marring whatever you are jacking up. You’ll also often see farm jacks strapped to the hoods of Jeeps among those who go off-roading — if your vehicle flips, it’s useful to have something available to help flip it back. As a testament to the value of this particular jack, it’s one of the few pieces of equipment at Harbor Freight that almost never goes on sale — but with a 20-percent coupon you can get it for under $50.

-- Andreas Orphanides 05/22/18

22 May 2018


Midland ER310 Emergency Radio

Best emergency radio

I picked this up for around $60 on Amazon. I never thought I’d pay that much for a radio, but I’ll show you why I did, and if you want for yourself, the Amazon link in the description helps support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

Chalk it up to paranoia or the fact that I live in earthquake country, but I’ve recently been bolstering my emergency supplies. Browsing through an emergency prep guide on The Wirecutter, I came across this radio as a clear, standout pick, and something I didn’t have anything like.

What you get is this relatively light, plastic brick with a ton of features, all of which can be run from an included rechargeable battery that you can recharge from the sun using the built-in solar panel, or by cranking it, or with a USB charging input. AA batteries can also be used as an alternative. The rechargeable battery is rated at 32 hours.

For features, you get an AM/FM radio, plus a National Weather Service radio band that can tell you about current and upcoming weather conditions. With that, you also get a weather alarm you can turn on that’s tied to the weather service. So if a weather alert goes out, this thing sounds an alarm.

There’s a nice, sturdy antenna here that gets good reception. I also like that there’s a bright Cree brand LED flashlight on one side, which is also powered by the rechargeable battery. It has two brightness settings and an SOS flash mode.

Below that there’s this ultrasonic dog whistle, which you activate with a long press of the flashlight button. You can’t hear it, but if it works, it’s supposed to help rescue teams locate you.

Finally, on the other side you also have a USB output so you can use the radio’s battery to recharge other things, like your phone. There’s also a headphone output if you want to be able to listen to the radio without bothering anyone else.

All-in-all, it feels like a well-constructed, well thought out device. I keep mine set up in the window so it stays charged. And, I sleep better knowing that I have it. For me that’s $60 well spent.

-- Donald Bell 05/22/18

21 May 2018


Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit

Easy way to grow fresh mushrooms

Over a year ago, I received a mushroom-growing kit as a gift. Since I often find that novelties like this can require time and attention to detail that I didn’t have, I kept putting it off until finally last week I decided enough was enough. The thing was causing unnecessary clutter in my life, so I thought I’ll just throw it out. But before tossing it, why not at least open it up and see what happens.

The kit is a cream-colored log-shaped object encased in a plastic bag. The instructions say it needs an environment where the temperature varies by about ten degrees through the course of a day, and it must be not be in direct sunlight. Springtime in the Northwest certainly meets that requirement, so I cut off the top of the plastic wrapping with a scissors, hand-sprinkled a little water on it, and set it outside under our front doorstep. That’s it.

I forgot about it until a week later my son happened to be under the steps again and noticed that the thing was covered in mushrooms! The mushrooms share a single root, so I simply grabbed the base and pulled out the entire flush, and then separated them into smaller strips. A little olive oil, pinch of salt, a couple teaspoons of sugar and soy sauce and five minutes later we were eating enough mushrooms for our family of four. I can’t believe how easy this was. The instructions say that I’ll get multiple flushes if I continue to feed the log. I haven’t tried that yet, but even if I don’t, that one single meal was maybe a pound of fresh, organic mushrooms that at a farmers market probably would have cost me close to the $16 price of the kit itself.

-- Richard Sprague 05/21/18


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Paint Roller Cleaner

Paint Roller Cleaner

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Lodge Pan Scraper

Food and stickers scraper

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Solid Ribbon Epoxy

Epoxy putty in solid strip cures when kneaded together

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Fiskars Post Hole Digger

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Celestron FirstScope

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Toto Eco Drake

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Park Team Race Stand

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