Cool Tools 2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Mark’s Picks

In the days leading up to the holidays, we are presenting a series of gift suggestions. Today: Mark’s picks. (Previous gift guide posts: Low Cost Tools, Beautiful Books)

Sugru is a moldable silicone rubber compound that air cures and sticks to everything I’ve ever applied it to, including glass. I’ve used it to mend suitcase zippers, two pairs of headphones, a dishwasher, and many other broken things around the house. It comes in a variety of bright colors, as well as black and white. $18 for an 8-pack


Make: Electronics is the best book on learning electronics I’ve come across. It assumes zero knowledge and teaches you the function of components and common circuits through well-explained projects, many of which intentionally push components beyond their rated limits so that you end up frying them. It’s a great way to reduce your anxiety about making mistakes. Charles is an excellent photographer and charming illustrator, and puts both talents to good use here. (I’m editor-in-chief of MAKE, which is owned by the same company that published Charles’ book.) $23


Illuminated Multipower LED Binohead Magnifier. I’ve used mine to remove splinters, solder small components, check my kid’s hair for lice, remove gunk from a camera’s USB port, and lots of other tasks. They are more powerful than reading glasses, and the LED illumination is excellent. $8


An Island to Oneself
In the 1950s, a 50-year-old New Zealander named Tom Neale moved to a tiny island called Suwarrow (aka Suvarov) in the Cook Islands. He was the only human inhabitant, and his story of survival is absolutely fascinating. I read Robinson Crusoe and was disappointed; An Island to Oneself is the real deal. Neale eked subsistence out of a garden and by fishing, and carefully used his supplies of spices and tea (he used the leaves over and over again). He had zero contact with the outside world, and since Suwarrow wasn’t in a shipping lane, visitors were very rare. I wish the book had been longer — I loved every word of it. $24


Fagor 3-in-1 Multicooker Unlike most pressure cookers it has an electric browning feature, which lets you brown beef, fish, or chicken right in the pot before you pressure cook it, greatly improving the flavor. The Fagor is also a slow cooker and a rice cooker. Because it is so versatile, I use it almost every day. The throw-everything-in-the-pot-and-push-a-button approach has broadened my cooking horizons. I’ve made rib roast in the slow cooker that had my in-laws coming back for thirds. I’ve made mouth-watering chicken stuffed with sun-dried tomato pesto, basil and goat cheese in a matter of minutes. I’ve made salmon with spinach and lemon sauce, fennel and Italian sausage, creamy risotto, and spicy Bolognese sauce. Thanks to an online army of pressure-cooker devotees, I’ll never run out of recipes. $90

-- Mark Frauenfelder