Alltrade Auto-Loading Squeeze Utility Knife

This is by far the best Utility Knife (box cutter) I know of. I have been using them for 12+ years.

1) They “fit your hand” very well – almost like custom made.
2) The blade comes out easily – just press the black leaver underneath.
3) The blade retracts easily and safely – black button
4) There is a storage area for new blades – behind the word Alltrade
5) The blades exchange easily and safely – yellow button. Simply press the yellow button and pull the used blade out. The new blade automatically loads when the device retracts.

Due to their sturdy construction, I can do “heavy duty” jobs without the device slipping.

-- Ed Flowers  

Alltrade 150003 Auto-Loading Squeeze Utility Knife
$12

Available from Amazon



Pyranna Plastic Package Opener

Who hasn’t struggled trying to open one of those heavy duty plastic product packages, or sliced their hands or fingers in the process? This inexpensive little gadget, which I’ve been using for the past few years, makes it much easier to get to your plastic-sealed merchandise. You could just use a hand-operated can opener but the Pyranna is more compact and ergonomic, and it wouldn’t be out of place in your desk drawer.

-- Peter Laird  

Pyranna Plastic Package Opener
$4

Available from Amazon



Chestnut Tools Hanging Scale

Many of the things I want to weigh are odd shapes and sizes. I can use rope, string, wire, etc. suspended almost anything from this digital-readout scale. I can weigh a fish by putting the hook between the lure and the fish. I have used this thing for about four years. It’s vastly superior to the Zebco De-Liar Fish Scale I have in my tackle box.

-- Scott Morgan  

Chestnut Tools Portable Electronic Scale
$13



Spud Bar

First, I don’t own this specific model, but this is most like the one I do own. The one I inherited three years ago was referred to as a pry/spud bar. I’ll be referring to it as a spud bar in this review. I wouldn’t recommend trying to dig a post hole with just a spud bar, I imagine it’s possible, but it’ll take you awhile and you’ll look silly. If you’re doing any kind of landscaping or burying any kind of post that isn’t supposed to be moving for a good deal of time, I’d make sure you have a spud bar at your disposal.

So what’s the purpose of a spud bar you ask? Well, if you’re digging in an area that has a fair amount of clay, your typical post hole digger is going to struggle to break up the clay to remove from the hole. But, if you force the wedged end of the spud bar into that clay a couple times and pry, should be a lot easier to remove the clay from the hole.

I’ve also use the spud bar to help clear gravel, roots, heck, I’ve even used it to help clear some concrete. My personal favorite use was when I used mine to pry/roll the ~300 lb. odd shaped rock to a new location in my back yard, friends still don’t believe I moved it myself. The flat round end allows the spud bar to be utilized in coordination with a mallet or sledge hammer to help wedge/drive it wherever you intend.

When it comes down to it, it’s just a shaped steel bar, a simple tool that if utilized correctly, can quite effective.

-- Samuel Sanders  

True Temper 69-Inch Post Hole Digging Bar
$27

Available from Amazon



Kelvin 23

I travel a lot, and I don’t always check a bag, which means the vast majority of multi-tools are verboten due to the knife/saw/other bladed instrument that they all seem to have.

The Kelvin 23 is different. It’s a 23-in-1 tool that’s compact and lightweight. I bought it on a splurge several years ago, and I’ve been happy ever since.

At around $25, it includes everything you need while you’re out and about:

  • A screwdriver, with 16 screw bits, Hex, Flat, Phillips, Square. It also locks at 90 degrees to give you more leverage when you need it and is magnetized to help keep screws in place
  • A hammer – while the ‘hammer’ part is nothing more than a flat round part on one end of the tool, it works surprisingly well for basic hanging needs
  • 6 foot tape measure
  • LED light
  • A level – being that the tool is only 5.25″ long,it’s not the most accurate level, but it does work in a pinch!

While it doesn’t have a pair of pliers included, other than that it covers about 90% of the stuff I do at home or need when I’m away. I’ve used it to hang pictures, put together Ikea furniture, tighten squeaky hotel beds, hammer things back into place and more.

I don’t end up using it often, but I do feel better just knowing I have some kind of multi-tool with me when I’m traveling!

-- Jeremy Pavleck  

Kelvin 23 Multitool
$25

Available from Amazon



 

Lloyd Kahn, Editor-in-Chief of Shelter Publications [Cool Tools Show 007]

On the latest episode of the Ask Cool Tools Show, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Lloyd Kahn, editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications. He shared with us many useful tips, ranging from how to get the most out of your camera lenses, to alternative activities for the senior surfer. Lloyd has spent much of his life researching the best possible tools and products for any purpose and doesn’t disappoint with this lineup of excellent picks.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3

Show Notes :

Shelter Publications Website

Surfmatters Website

Some of Lloyd’s books:

The Septic System Owner’s Manual

Shelter

Tiny Homes on the Move

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

Olympus OMD EM-1 Mirrorless Camera $1299

“It got me to put away my Canon cameras which weighed five pounds. This one is just so much smaller and it’s one of the mirror-less cameras…The mirrorless part is what, I think, saves on the weight…When you look at it, if you’re a Canon or a Nikon guy, it’s going to look just like a miniature of one of those cameras.”

 

Fourth Gear Flyer Surf Mat: $139-$199

“It’s inflatable. So instead of lugging this surfboard around and worrying about getting it smashed up on the airplane or paying a hundred bucks to have it shipped, you just fold up this surf mat in your backpack…and when you get there blow up your surf mat and go surfing.”

DaFINS $62-$66

“I have fins called DaFINS…that are made in Hawaii. They’re smaller than the normal fins you see and more flexible and they’re touted as being preferred by world class body surfers.”


10mm Twin-Wall Poly-carbonate 4′ x 12′ sheet $140

“It’s expensive, but it’s double walled so you get some insulation and it’s clear like glass. It has a ten year guarantee and I bought four by twelve sheets…we tore off the fiberglass and put that on the greenhouse so everything in the greenhouse is much happier now. I’ve washed it once since we installed it. I just take a soft brush and a hose and wash the dust off the roof.”

Makita 18 volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Variable Speed Impact Wrench $206

“It weighs less than the typical drill that you see. There are really no controls on it other than a trigger, like you can’t set it for different speeds or different torque. What it does is it backs up a little bit. Each time it goes forward it goes back a little bit, so it kind of chatters. It’s just really great for grabbers and screws.”

 



Victorinox SwissCard

This small, flat, semi-translucent plastic card contains a sharp blade, an even sharper pair of scissors, a file, a tweezers, a toothpick, and a pen. They all slide into the card, and come free of it for independent use. The whole kit is the size of a credit card, and about three times as thick. It lays flat in my pocket and weighs very little. I use it daily. It prompts a smile most every time I do, and it’s a good conversation piece. Highly recommended and undeservedly under-popular.

-- Gru  

Available from Amazon



Tim Jenison, Founder of NewTek [Cool Tools Show #005]

Tim Jenison, Founder of NewTek and star of Tim’s Vermeer, a critically acclaimed documentary about his discovery of a possible tool used by hyper-realist painters throughout history, takes us behind the curtain this week to see what tools made this investigation possible.

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

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

Fadal Milling 4020 Machine (Prices Vary)

“…I just love the interface on it. It’s so simple it’s just brain-dead and it does everything you need to do…They’re extremely simple and reliable.”

“How to Learn any Language” by Barry Farber $7

“A lot of people start out wanting to learn a language and then they realize it’s a lot of work, but the emphasis of this book is how to teach yourself a language, not to go to school but how to do it yourself and he’s got a step by step plan that actually works. Can’t recommend the book enough. ”

Point It $9

“It’s just a bunch of tiny little color pictures so if you can’t communicate with somebody you whip this out and point at a picture. There’s so many pictures in it that you always get the idea across. ”

Fujitsu Scansnap $420

“You just drop the papers in and push the button. There’s really no software to mess with. It just scans them in, both sides of the sheet if it is double sided, in color and it’ll turn it into a PDF or anything else you want.”

evernote

Evernote Free

“You can drag any kind of material to it and it automatically shows up on all your computers and a local copy is kept on your computers. On your iOS or Android device it keeps the index and downloads things as you need them, but everything in synced constantly. ”

Superfocus Eyeglasses (No Longer Sold)

“Right now I’m looking at my computer screen and it’s about fourteen inches away from my eyes, but the whole thing is in perfect focus. Now, if I was wearing bifocals I’d have to tip my head back and try to find the part of the lens that works…There are other people making variable focus glasses, but nothing as good as this, so I really hope somebody takes over and starts making them again. ”

Foursevens Mini MLR2 flashlight $33

“You get incredible battery life because it’s always defaulting to low brightness and you can hold it in your teeth. It’s really small and it’s really handy. As I said, I’ve been through a lot of flashlights and this is currently the cream of the crop.”

Flex 6700 radio $7500- $8000

“Ham radio is kind of a niche. I just had to mention it because I use the thing every day and it’s just a totally different experience to knob turning Ham radio. ”

Leatherman Skele-tool CX $67

“Y’know it’s amazing how much time has been saved by everybody having a multi-tool in their pocket because you’ve gotta run and rummage around this toolbox and that’s what we always used to do, but it’s a new world.”

Xcelite R3323 Steel Slotted Pocket-Clip Screwdriver, 3/32″ Head, 3″ Blade Length $6

“…there’s one tool that a nerd cannot be without and that is the “Green Tweaker,” the Xcelite R3322, which is a tiny little flat-blade screwdriver that every tech head has to have to make adjustments on things. Actually, the 3/32″, 3″ is the better one to have because it’s a bit longer. ”

Jenison Comparator Mirror (Not Sold)

“This extremely simple elegant device, it’s just a mirror on a stick and you have to put the mirror in exactly the right spot. If you spend enough time, you end up with a hyper-real photographic-looking painting.” (In the podcast, Tim shares some building tips that were not included in the documentary.)

 

Available from Amazon



Creative Good Founder & CEO Mark Hurst [Cool Tools Show #4]

CEO and Founder of Creative Good, Mark Hurst brings a laundry list of Cool Tools to our show this week. Our highly productive discussion yields tips on how to properly rinse your text, type most efficiently and how you might casually pick up Mandarin Chinese in your spare time.

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

Show Notes:

Mark’s Website

Mark’s Book, Customers Included

Twitter: @MarkHurst

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

Default Folder X: $35

“You know how when you save a file it brings up that little popup dialogue box and it shows the file hierarchy? If you wanna save that file in a particular folder, generally you have to click through this morass of folders… Default Folder makes that process much easier by letting you set hot keys to go to your most commonly accessed folders with one keystroke.”

TextWrangler: Free

“How often do you go to a webpage and you copy some text and you place it in wherever you’re gonna place it, in Word or somewhere else, and suddenly it has the crazy font and italics and the blue color that the original source had an you go, “No, no, no, no! All I want was the text!” And there’s no easy way to remove all that stylistic data. What you do is just paste it in a Text Wrangler file and then copy and paste it out of Text Wrangler to wherever you’re going to put it. I think of it as rinsing off the text until you’re left with the pure ASCII.”

 

Instapaper: $10

“It’s clever enough to save if an article is broken up into three or four click-throughs. It’ll pick up all of those pages’ content and put it in one long scrolling list and it does a text rinse…and displays it without all of the cruft that comes up in a lot of the content sites. One of the best things on my iPhone, bar none is Instapaper.”

Pinboard.in: $10

“With one keystroke. I can tag that URL and get back to it anytime later. All the bookmarks are saved in the cloud. Really simple elegant design. I just love the service. ”

Ask MetaFilter: $5

“Every time I go on somebody’s saying, ‘Does anybody remember that movie? The guy looks to the left and then a watermelon hits the sidewalk.’ And in three minutes someone gives a link to the YouTube clip of that happening. ”

KTdict+ C-E: $4

“If you’re an English speaker learning Chinese, you have three things to memorize, the Chinese character, the definition and then the Pinyin, which is the phonetic pronunciation, including the tone. Most flashcards will give you two sides to the card, but this one actually does three sides…”

 

eStroke: $7

“What it does that the dictionary app does not do is it will show an animation of a character being drawn, and that’s indispensable. ”

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by John E. Sarno: $7

“I was sitting down to breakfast with a friend of mine who said, “Oh, you have back pain? No problem! You just need to read the book!” and [I said] “What book? I don’t wanna read a book!” But he convinced me to read this book and I read it from front to back. The book is very clear: you just need to read the entire book. A few weeks later my back pain disappeared and it really hasn’t come back.”

 



$8 Ikea Tool Set

I recently moved and somehow lost my tool box. I knew I would have to wrestle with endless amounts of disassembly, reassembly, and re-reassembly and so I bought an Ikea Fixa tool kit for $8.

My kids love using them because they can swap out screw driver heads, the tools fit their hands (I think they might be a tad smaller than traditional tools), and, because at this price point, I got two boxes so they didn’t need to share.

In our era of digital devices and power-everything, this tool kit was an example of K.I.S.S. working beautifully.

Contents: Contains: Hammer with separate rubber face, adjustable wrench, combination pliers, bit screwdriver with bits for slotted, cross-head, hex screws, awl.

-- Yen  

Ikea Fix 17-piece tool kit
$8