Little Giant MegaLite Ladder

Unfolds to allow access to the roof, folds to allow use as a four-foot or ten-foot step ladder. One ladder that is light weight, serves multiple purposes, and is well-designed and built. Comparable folding ladders are either flimsy, heavy, or a pain to use.

-- Jim  

Little Giant Megalite Aluminum Ladder

Available from Amazon

Surgical Huck Towels

Huck towels are durable low-lint cotton towels canonically used for wiping down surgical instruments after sterilization, but they are useful for many other tasks where a clean strong towel is optimal. They are praised by window-washers, auto detailers, and professional housecleaners, and they are very popular in my household.

I got some from a nurse friend and found them to be much superior to my existing “cleaning rag” options. I have had many lint-based disappointments with traditional “shop towels” and huck towels have displaced them for most uses.

Because they are designed to retain their advantages over a long life of many washings, they are a good value and there is a secondary market of still-functional towels removed from institutional service.

They are available new and “reclaimed” from many outlets. Check with a local janitorial supply merchant, or look online. Of course, there are several vendors on Amazon and Ebay. The big institutional distributors such as Uline and Grainger carry them, too.

Pricing varies quite a bit, but seems to cluster around $0.50 per towel when buying a small case.

-- Erik Hoover  

Surgical Cotton Huck Towels Blue 15″ X 25″ – Pack of 12 Pcs

Available from Amazon

OXO Good Grips Microfiber Slim Duster

I was looking for something to clean under my major appliances without removing them. Vacuum crevasse tools are never long enough and nothing beats cloth-to-surface contact like this microfiber duster.

You’ll make a yuck face after extracting years of accumulated cat food kibbles and M&Ms from underneath your range and fridge.

The duster sleeve (washable and replaceable) is very fluffy along the edges and I’m slightly concerned about it catching on something under the appliance. Hasn’t happened yet, though. I ordered another just in case.

Yet another OXO win.

-- John Coke  

OXO Good Grips Microfiber Slim Duster

Available from Amazon

Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits

For nearly 40 years this guide has introduced boy scouts, 4H-ers, homesteaders, survivalists, and pet keepers to the practicalities of raising rabbits. Now in a new 4th edition, it’s still the best manual for getting started with rabbits for food or show.

-- KK  

Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits
Bob Bennett
2009, 256 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Watch carefully at feeding time

A good raiser watches stock closely at feeding time. While they are eating, run your hand over each rabbit. A rabbit that’s a bit bony should get more feed. If a rabbit hasn’t cleaned up its pellets something is wrong.

To determine the cause of appetite loss, first check the water supply. Is the crock or jug empty? Is the valve plugged? Rabbits don’t eat when they are thirsty. They must have plenty of water. Most of the time a rabbit that isn’t eating isn’t drinking.


If you run your hand over each rabbit at feeding time, you will know if you should increase the ration or not.



If the doe starts to carry straw around, she probably will kindle in a day or so.


The doe needs peace and quiet a few days before the litter is born and a few days after. Dogs and children can be particularly disturbing at this time. Upsetting the rabbitry routine can cause the doe to kill her young or abandoned them, so it it is vital that you keep things calm and quiet.

You will, of course, be very curious to see the litter. If you have placed the nest box in the back of the hutch but in full view from the front, you will be able to see into it, and by the 31st day you should see a pile of fluffy fur toward the rear of it, moving slightly up and down.


Ten-day old babies in the nest. Newborns should be handled rarely if at all, so the doe will not be upset by the intrusion in her nest and so you avoid passing your sent to the young.

Love Glove

With three cats in the house, fur gets all over our furniture and clothes. I didn’t want to make a dozen Monkey Couch Guardians, so I bought a Love Glove to attack the problem at its source – on the cats.

The Love Glove looks like an oven mitt. The palm side is covered with rubber nubs. To use it, you simply pet your cat. The loose fur comes off and sticks to the glove. It’s easy to peel off. My cats go into throes of ecstasy when I use the Love Glove on them. They even get excited just seeing me approach them with the glove on my hand.

I have collected a lot of fur so far. My younger daughter is saving it because she wants to use it to make the projects in Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat.




-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Love Glove Grooming Mitt for Cats

Available from Amazon

Reaping Hook

About 9 years ago I moved into a lovely saltbox style home nestled in the redwoods above Santa Cruz California. After a few seasons of neglecting the brush, weed, and redwood sprout growth, everything from invasive Scotch broom to the Russian wheat that my neighbor planted has invaded my yard.

I went about educating myself about brush clearing and now use a machete and a reaping hook, which I learned to make and use from a video tutorial. In the video Don Fernando Caamano of Ecuador shows how to create your own reaping hook from a bifurcated branch. Chop the branch down to the right shape and a very strong and lightweight hook is created. This tool has been very useful to me and even better, it was free.

The reaping hook is essentially a complement to the machete in your other hand. I also use it to help drag and clear branches after bucking up a fallen tree for firewood. The hook keeps your hands out of the area that you are swinging a machete into. It also keeps the poison oak, spiders, ticks, and whatever else is lurking to harm my person at arm’s distance. On softer vegetation you can use the hook to pull the plants taut to expose the roots and stalks and sever them with your machete. I also use the hook to pull all my longer or larger trimmings into a pile for cleanup before I go back through with a rake.

I’ve never tried a commercial reaping hook because as far as I know it doesn’t exist aside from the bladed models which are also referred to as reaping hooks but are really a sickle. This is a hand made tool that can be seen in museums and found in old barns. It is free to make but becomes a valuable tool once you use it a few times. Thank you Don Fernando Caamano.

-- Seth Wilson  

Reaping hook

The Book of Bamboo

Bamboo works. Bamboo does more things than any other material. Many of its traditional uses are inventoried here. A shape-shifter, bamboo’s super-human abilities are amazing. Its grass fiber is all that plastic would like to be, plus more. This is an encyclopedia of bamboo ideas.

-- KK  

The Book of Bamboo
David Farrelly
1984, 352 pages
From $24 [only available used]

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Arundinaria gigantic: 30 feet by 1 1/4 inch, – 10°F
(Arundinaria macrosperma).

One of two bamboos native to the continental United States, its “canebrakes” once covered large areas from Virginia to Texas and provided an effective exist from the South for runaway slaves headed north for freedom before the Civil War.



We live surrounded by such an abundance of tools that the advantage of a material that requires few tools, and those hand powered and even handmade in many cases, is not so apparent in industrial centers as in the hinterlands where bamboo is most abundant.

Bamboo’s high silica content is famous for dulling tools. Tool effectiveness will be increased, time spent sharpening reduced, and work in general cheered by using molybdenum steel or an equally hard alloy. Many a bamboo house has been machete built, but more tools are demanded for more refined work, some peculiar to processing bamboo and therefore unavailable at standard tool sources. The Chinese bamboo tub and bucket maker requires some thirty different tools and gadgets to measure, cut, fit, and assemble his wares.



For kites or other miniworks, soak the pieces to be bent overnight in water with a dash of ammonia, then tie in desired shape around a mold to dry. You can heat small pieces in a candle flame. The mortar holding the fibers in place becomes flexible with heat and permits bending to chosen shape, which is retained after cooling. Take care not to scorch or burn bamboo by leaving candle too long in one position. Try using a bucket of hot sand to shape small pieces, as eyeglass doctors do to shape plastic frames. Don’t force the bamboo’s pace, nor try to bend it too far, or you’ ll crack it.



Bamboo animal cages and feeding troughs reduce expensive importation of metal cages, are more amiable to the cages, and can be repaired from locally available material.

Big Wally’s Plaster Magic

This is a very easy to use system for reattaching parts of plaster walls and ceilings that have started to separate from the lath behind. You just drill holes through the plaster, inject a treatment that softens the plaster, followed by adhesive, then use screws with plastic washers to push the softened plaster flat against the lath and hold in place while the adhesive hardens. Then you can remove the washers, and smooth the area and fill the holes with plaster or joint compound. I’ve used it several times over the past 2 years and have avoided having to remove and replace whole walls and ceilings. It can also be used to try to prevent cracks from growing.

I’ve probably spent about $100-200 per room of my house. It’s very easy to use, and helpful if you only have a few small problem areas, or just prefer to save an old plaster wall or ceiling during restoration or repair of an old house. They also sell patching plaster as well.

-- Reed Hedges  

Big Wally’s Plaster Magic

Reflectix Foil Insulation

Reflectix is a reflective insulation that looks like silver bubble wrap. It’s commonly used in attics as insulation. It reflects heat, and works best if there’s a small dead air space between it and whatever you’re insulating (you can use a small strip of reflectix to create that space). It’s lightweight, you can buy a 4′ x25′ roll of it for less than 50 bucks, and it’s easy to work with.

I use it in a lot of ways beyond its traditional use as a radiant heat barrier in attics. It’s great for small-scale insulation projects, covering frost-sensitive plants at night, covering a window when the sun’s blasting in.

Last winter, I threw some over the chicken coop when it got really cold at night, and I’m planning to use it to shade their coop when it gets hot this summer. While I’ve never used it this way, it might make a great parabolic reflector for solar uses, as long as it didn’t get too hot. I can see lots of backpacking uses for a length of this lightweight stuff (as a thermal barrier under a sleeping pad, as a reflector behind you when you’re sitting by a fire to reflect the heat back (though you should take care to anchor it well so it doesn’t get into the fire), or as a sunshade on a hot day.

-- Amy Thomson  

Reflectix 24-Inch by 25-Feet Bubble Pack Insulation

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Reflectix

Duracell CEF23 NiMH battery charger and USB Device charger

Low self-discharge (LSD) NiMH batteries have been mentioned at least 3 times before on Cool Tools under the Eneloop brand name. These batteries retain 85% of their charge after a year in storage, making them almost as convenient as alkalines (keep a few charged ones on-hand, ready to go). At about $2 each, they pay for themselves after 4 or 5 uses.

This review is about chargers, which are not all made equal. The Duracell CEF23 is superior to other chargers in several ways:

  • “Smart” charger – doesn’t just use a timer, but looks for specific behavior of the battery voltage to determine when charging is done
  • Independently charges each battery – can mix AA and AAA’s and start/stop each battery independently.
  • Charge speed of about 4 hours is a happy medium between reducing the life if your cells (very rapid charge) vs. having to wait very long
  •  Ability to charge from an AC outlet -or- 12VDC (e.g. car plug or solar panel)
  • Ability to act as a USB device charger – powered by AC, 12VDC, -or- the 4 batteries in the charger

Those last 2 points put this charger above most others. In emergency situations, you can recharge batteries without needing AC, and you can use any 4 AA’s (NiMH or Alkaline) to top off your cellphone or other USB devices. You could pop one of these in an emergency kit and give it a recharge every year or so.

Unfortunately, Duracell stopped making the US version of this charger. But you can get the Australian-plug version (CEF23AU), bundled with a US-plug adapter and 4 AA LSD NiMH batteries, for about $20. That’s cheaper than most other chargers, which don’t have the extra features this one does. Not bad!

If you add a generic 12V car power cable (e.g. from Radio Shack), a few extra LSD AA/AAA’s batteries (consider Tenergy brand), and some “AA spacers” that let you use the AA batteries to replace C/D batteries, you’d be totally outfitted with LSD batteries for about $60.

-- Adam Berson  

Duracell Mobile Charger with 4 AA Rechargeable NiMH Batteries, CEF23AU

Available from Amazon