ROK Straps

They are way better than bungee cords. I use them to secure a bag to my motorcycle when touring. There are no hooks to scratch anything or “bend loose” as they secures with a loop in the strap itself. They are easy to use: attach, buckle, tighten.

When I first saw them at a motorcycle show, I thought yes, they are cool, but they are kind of pricey. I put it on my Christmas list and have used them this past riding season including several multi day trips. I now think they are easily worth it. They have uses beyond the motorcycle world… think anywhere a bungee would be used.

They offer several sizes for different applications. I use the model that adjusts between 18″ and 60′. It’s one-inch wide.

rok2

-- Ted VanderWall  

ROK Straps 18 to 60″ Adjustable
$22 for a twin pack

Available from Amazon



Author and Wired columnist Clive Thompson [Cool Tools Show #002]

In this entertaining second installment of the Cool Tools podcast, Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, discusses the problem with laptop calculators, a surprising use for uncommonly bad tools, and what we all can do to stop stock photos from ruining the internet… all while introducing us to some terrific cool tools. (Listen to episode 001 with guest David Pogue here.)

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript

Subscribe to Cool Tools Show

Show notes:

Clive’s website

Clive’s Wired column, “Only You Can Overthrow the Tyranny of Awful Stock Photos

Here are Clive’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

soulver
Soulver: $12-18
“The guys who made Soulver decided to create a calculator that actually didn’t try and look like an old calculator, and as a result it’s way more fun to use. You can type in semi-regular expressions like ‘this times that minus this’ and you can take a result from one column and drag it down into another so you can do dynamic addition and subtraction.”


dymoDymo DYM12966 Plastic Label Embosser: $14.84
“This is actually a sub-par labeler, but it’s fantastic for art projects!”


ifixitiFixit 26 Bit Driver Kit: $20
“I only use it once a month but whenever I use it it’s the only thing that will fix whatever stupid little electronic thing has fallen apart.”


live-scribeLivescribe Pen: $130 – $200
“I’ve been using this for five years and it has been incredibly transformative of my note taking as a reporter. I use it in face to face situations and it allows me to be as comprehensive or un-comprehensive as I want with my written notes.”

 



David Pogue of Yahoo Tech [Cool Tools Show #001]

In this inaugural episode of The Cool Tools show, we pick the brain of guest David Pogue, founder of Yahoo Tech, for some lesser-known tips, tools, and life hacks. We move from discussing productivity apps, to office products, to kitchen appliances.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript

Here are David’s picks, with quotes from the show:

busycal
BusyCal for Mac: $50
“One of my favorite things about BusyCal is that on any other month-view calendar today’s date is where it would fall if it were on a wall calendar, which might be on the bottom row, but by definition you’re looking at a calendar to plan ahead. BusyCal has the option of having today’s date be at the top of the calendar even if it’s the last week of the month. It’s a perpetually scrolling month view and it makes so much sense, so you’re always looking ahead.”


evernote
Evernote
: Free or $5-$10/month Subscription (Click here to get one month of Evernote Premium for free.


bose15
Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones
: $279
“They’re so comfortable, they cut the noise a lot and you listen to your music in great style and great sound. However, I also keep a spare because they have to be charged and sometimes they’re dead.”


nomad-key
Nomad Charge Key and Charge Card
: $29
“It’s a tiny rubberized two inch strip and can go on your keychain. One end slides into your USB jack. The other end slides into your iPhone.”


spark
Spark
for Mac: Free
“A really great macro program. I don’t use the dock ever. I open everything with keystrokes: ‘control w’ for Microsoft word, ‘control b’ for BusyCal, ‘control e’ for Evernote etcetera, and then I’ve set up the escape key (top left right across from the backspace key) to be the left handed delete key, and it is life-changing.[I've bolded this because it is a great tip! - Mark]


adobe-voice
Adobe Voice for iPad: Free
“It hearkens back to the old days of  Mac Paint or HyperCard, or simple tools with infinite possibilities.”


seal
Anchor TrueSeal Food Storage
: $23
“My fridge looks like a commercial, it’s so organized and beautiful.”


chop2pot
Chop2Pot
: $14
“It’s a cutting board that folds in thirds so once you’re done cutting the thing you fold up the wings and make a chute so the food slides into your bowl without falling off.”


snuglet
Snuglet: $12-$19
“This tiny little liner for the MagSafe jack, which through some miracle of physics, amplifies the magnetic grip of the power plug so that it does not fall out unless you really kick it or trip on it.”

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



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