Ladder Hooks

Our recording studio is a cable-rich environment, and we struggled to find a tidy yet accessible storage solution. These hooks are awesome; the screw is fat enough to anchor securely, while the body is slim enough to make hooking the cables over it painless and fast. We installed twenty of these puppies two months ago, and an unexpected consequence is that the studio is tidier more often because people are more willing to put cables back after use because the hooks are so easy to use.

-- Mark Gilbert  

Ladder Hooks
$5/pair

Available from Amazon



Swiss Army Spirit Multitool Plus Ratchet

Over the years of buying many multitools, I realize there is no “perfect” multitool. But the Victorinox Spirit (plus ratchet) comes close. Victorinox is known for making precise tools, and the Spirit is no exception. I bought the Spirit in 2010. Since then, it has proven to be an invaluable accessory in my everyday carry. With ergonomics in mind, the Spirit is designed with curved handles, and you can access other its tools without exposing the pliers. It can be open with a flick of the wrist, allowing for quick deployment of the blunt nose pliers.

Unlike most other multitools, the Spirit optionally comes with a bit set and ratchet.

The only thing I dislike about the Spirit is the fixed pair of scissors it comes with. Unlike traditional Swiss Army scissors, the one that comes with the Spirit lacks mobility. You wouldn’t be able to cut very fast nor large using scissors from the Spirit. Another complaint most people have is with the “butter” blade. Most people prefer a pointed style blade, and that can be easily solved just by purchasing the Spirit X (but it doesn’t come with a ratchet and bit set).

Finished with beautiful stainless steel, the Spirit is certainly my multitool of choice. It’s not as customizable or rugged as a Leatherman, but the Spirit works for my needs. So far, it has not rusted, or failed on me while on the job as an all-around handyman.

-- Jefferson Deng  

Victorinox Swiss Army SwissTool Spirit Plus Ratchet
$110

Available from Amazon



Shredder scissors

What’s handy when you need to shred credit card receipts, or yet another unsolicited credit card offer? A pair of multi-bladed scissors. These scissors have five blades on each side and will neatly crosscut a page to prevent identity theft. They use no electricity and fit in a drawer, which is more than you can say for an electric shredder.

-- Amy Porges  

Multi Blade Shredding Scissor
$17

Available from Amazon



Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

I originally purchased the Gerber EAB a couple of years ago in an attempt to shelter my nicer pocket knives from the abuse of opening and breaking down cardboard boxes at work; cardboard dulls blades quickly. Of course, it’s also great at all the other miscellaneous tasks suited to pocket knives.

The EAB (exchange-a-blade) is essentially a standard utility knife redesigned to be an every day carry knife. There are plenty of utility knives on the market that have been designed to opened up like a folding pocket knife, but this is the only one I’ve found that is small enough and light enough to carry in my pocket every day. It’s just under 2.5″ in the closed position, and weighs about 2 oz.

The clip is wide enough to serve as a money clip, but it’s also stable and deep enough to ride well in a pocket without wiggling loose. The blade itself is reversible, and when it wears out it’s replaceable with inexpensive standard utility knife blades (which sell for about a dollar). The EAB has a nail nick for opening with a thumbnail, but it’s also opened easily enough with one hand by using the set screw as a thumb stud. A liner lock keeps the blade from closing on your finger when it’s in use.

Overall, the EAB has been a workhorse of a knife, and has earned a permanent place in my pocket. I haven’t lost mine yet, but when I do it’s cheap enough that I won’t hesitate to replace it. And I love that I don’t have to sharpen the blades — I either flip them around, or just replace with a fresh one.

-- Brendon Connelly  

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife
$12

Available from Amazon



Square Shopping Pail

Four-gallon rigid-plastic square buckets can often be found for free (although sold online for $5 and up). Try local restaurants, as they often buy frozen fruit or other foods in these containers. I’ve found these to be super useful for carrying groceries. For several years, they’ve been my regular totes. Unlike canvas or other sacks, these can’t leak, stain, or tip over easily in the car. They have a handle. You can load them up with heavy bottles or cans and still easily carry two pails. If there’s a spill, they rinse out. Not in use, they stack. In the store, a nested pair fits on the lower level of the shopping cart. I shop fairly often, so I usually don’t need more than fits in two pails, but one can always drop a couple cloth bags into a pail, for additional carry space, using the pails for the heavier items.

On car trips, they make efficient use of space, packed with rainy-weather gear or various other categories of supplies. They are easy to move around when rearranging things or carrying to and from the car.

They often come with square lids, a little fussy to snap on and off, but not necessary for shopping. With a lid on, the container is weatherproof for use outdoors. I’ve camped with a small tent, and stored things in these buckets outside the tent.

My suggestion is to get some for free.

-- Lynn Nadeau  

4-Gallon Square Pail
$7



Isopropyl Alcohol Liquid Cleaner 99.9%

By now most people have had the unfortunate experience of getting their phones wet and had to wait while it sits in a bag of rice to see if it survived — if you haven’t, consider yourself one of the lucky ones! The best thing to do when this happens is immediately take the battery out of your phone and put it in a bag of rice and wait a few days to see if it will be able to dry out enough to function again.

Recently I dropped my iPhone in a swimming pool and found out the hard way you need a special tool called a Pentalobe screwdriver to remove the battery cover, since I didn’t have one the current and water mixed causing the circuit board to start corroding.

But you still have hope. With a little patience and this video you will be able to take your iPhone apart and scrub the board with a toothbrush and some isopropyl alcohol (90% or better) to remove the corrosion. For a few extra bucks I opted for the purest Isopropyl I could find (99.9%), which has a faster drying time and less residue than the diluted stuff available at most pharmacies.

-- David Dale  

99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol Liquid Cleaner
$5.95 / 100 ml Bottle

Available from Amazon



Flap Wheels and Flap Disks

Anyone working with metal should be aware of these two tools. They make finishing metal a smoother experience. I prefer these two attachments over composite disks, belt sanders, or orbital sanders.

I learned about them as a construction worker while prepping process pipe for welds on oil refineries. Both tools are standards in the steam fitting trade. I’ve since used them on robot creations, blacksmith projects, and anywhere else metal is involved.

Flap disks are more forgiving than standard composite grinding disks. (Use grinding disks and stones to grind, but use the flap attachments to finish.) Flap disks allow the user to treat a work piece like a sculptor. There’s a sense of touch and shaping involved. Less likely to gouge while still smoothing at a fast rate.

The flapper wheel has similar qualities but gets inside tight spots and is excellent on irregular surfaces. Attach it to an end grinder, drill, or set one up on a bench grinder.

Flapdisk_1

flapdisk_2

Here are before-and-after photos of a railroad spike knife that was ground with a flap-disk. (Actually it is the un-ground side of the knife vs. the ground side). Doing this took less than 2 minutes.

Railroad Spike Knife from Dustin Firebaugh on Vimeo.

-- Aaron Nipper  

Flap Wheels and Flap Disks
Around $10

Available from Amazon



The Losable Knife

I have a lovely little classic Swiss Army knife gifted to me by a former manager who gave them to every member of our team a few years back. It lives in my purse or pocket and gets used almost daily for a variety of tasks — the small scissors, blade and file come in handy. Since it’s on my person most of the time, I’m always worried that one day I’ll forget about it until emptying my pockets at the airport, and then it will be gone (many of my colleagues lost their knives this way).

The Losable Knife is intended to address this problem; it has most of the same features as my brand-name knife (though no toothpick or tweezers), but given that a box of 5 knives costs less than two good cups of coffee, I worry much less about it going astray. After using one for a few months, I have no complaints about the quality of the blades/utensils, and at this price I can afford to spread a few around the house so that I always have one at hand.

-- Ellen Grove  



Vaughan Mini Pry Bar

As a locksmith, holding open a door while working on it (or preventing it from relocking) is a daily event at least, for me. This little bar will jam neatly under most, holding it solid. (In one direction at least. I also carry a 160mm version which will jam it in the other direction too, if needed, or, of course, a second door.)

It turns out it has many other uses, many of them things I’d either not have bothered with or would have (ab)used something else to do the same task. Now I miss it whenever I misplace it.

 

-- Nigel K Tolley  

Vaughan Mini Pry Bar 5-1/2″
$6, or $32 for a 10-pack

Available from Amazon



Polypropylene tie-down cam straps

As a whitewater kayaker, I am a frequent user of 1″ wide, polypropylene tie-down straps for easy and secure tying of boat to roof rack, but over the years there have been many instances where I have been glad to have them in the car for other purposes. This week, I used them for securing an Ikea bed frame to the roof when it didn’t fit inside the car. Past uses include strapping up a falling-off bumper, tying bundles of firewood, and as a guy-line for a tarp. Just about anywhere a rope will do, a cam strap will do better.

I got my first set of straps as a giveaway with a paddling magazine subscription 7 years ago. They’ve been in continuous use and are just about as good as new. I’ve never seen or heard of one failing.

Sometimes, I’ll see new paddlers trying other systems: ratcheting buckles, ropes, etc…but they always end up with simple, not-too-tangly, no-knots-required, versatile cam straps.

The old standby comes from NRS and runs $4.00 to $7.75, depending on length, but you can get all kinds of custom options from strapworks.com. My unreasonably organized and clever friend got various colors in lengths equal to the number of letters in the color: 3′ red, 5′ white, 10′ camouflage, etc.

Oh, and you can open bottle caps with the cam. What else do you need?

-- Jordan Yaruss  

NRS 1-inch Tie Down Strap
$4 and up depending on length

Available from Amazon