EGear 30-Day Lantern

I have used this one for over a year. My grandmother was thrilled to have a couple during an extended power outage last year. When we got power back we passed the lanterns on to her friends until they had power restored. We never changed the batteries and neither did they. My grandmother gave one to all her friends last Christmas — best received gift ever. One of the best features is that it is actually bright enough to be useful. I love the hook on the bottom that lets me hang it from a fixture or pipe. (There was a huge battery shortage before, during and after the storm so now I keep a set of rechargeable batteries on hand for them.)

-- Tim Stone  

eGear 30-day lantern

Available from Amazon

Suncast Lawn & Garden Cart

The Suncast Yard Cart is rated 4.8 stars on Amazon. (And that’s the average of 124 reviews!) It is superior to a wheelbarrow for most of a homeowner’s purposes. It is easier to navigate (it’s pulled, not pushed), less tippy, less costly, lower-maintenance (no inflatable tire or rust-prone body), lighter (mostly plastic), less of a space hog, and less tiring (since none of the weight is borne by the shoulders).

I’ve used it for collecting lawn clippings and yard debris. (It can also be used to bring grocery bags into the house from the car.) I’ve been pleased by all the features I mentioned above, plus by my ability to unload it into my yard-waste “dumpster” by lifting it over the latter’s upper edge. (There is a recess at the bottom that one can grasp to lift it.) Try that with a wheelbarrow!

It has two minor flaws. It tends to tip backward on a slope when empty, and its handle is a bit short for taller people (over 5’11″). The floor of the cart should be changed so it slants upward to its front. (Not much capacity would be lost.) Then it wouldn’t tend to tip backwards when “at rest” on a slanted surface, even if its handle were higher because it had extra screw holes in it 2 or 3 inches below the current set, for use by tall people.

I used a similar cart of a different brand, Easy Go, for about a year. The Suncast Cart is superior in having larger wheels, a better handhold at the bottom, greater capacity (I put my old Easy Go completely inside my Suncast), squarer corners (making it easier to fit certain borderline-size rectangular objects securely inside), being cheaper ($28 vs. $38), and being more sturdily built. It has a metal (not plastic) handle and appears to have a thicker plastic body. (Its shipping weight—the only weight data available on Amazon—is 7 lbs. vs. 5 lbs. for the Easy Go.) Its bottom isn’t flat but domed, for strength.

-- Roger Knights  

Suncast LC1250D 15.5-Gallon Capacity Poly Rolling Lawn Cart

Available from Amazon

Avalanche Roof Snow Rake

I’ve used the Avalanche Snow Rake for the past three Duluth, Minnesota winters and it’s the best snow removal tool I’ve ever used. Old school roof rakes were clumsy, hard to use and damaged shingles. Climbing around on a snow covered roof is no treat either. The Avalanche Snow Rake makes quick work of snow removal with a fraction of the effort. The snow slides off the roof with ease, even on roofs with a relatively shallow pitch. By far one of the best investments I’ve ever made!

-- Ivan Hohnstadt  

Original Roof Snow Removal System AVA500

Available from Amazon

Husqvarna Helmet

I’ve been using chainsaws for many years. Over the decades I have
probably owned 5 or 6 different ones. In the 1960s and ’70s I used
chainsaws extensively, cutting up redwood (from the beaches or
windfallen trees in the woods) into bolts, and which I then split into
shakes for roofs and siding. These days I use a Stihl Woodboss MS270,
24″ bar for firewood. Every year I find wind-felled oak on country
roads, haul it home, cut it into stove-size lengths, then rent a
splitter for a day and stockpile a year’s or more worth of firewood.
Point is, I’ve had a lot of chainsaw experience.

The other day I was sawing through a piece of wood on the woodpile and
as I finished the cut, the blade hit a log below it and snapped back
towards my face. It sent a chill of adrenaline that I somehow felt in my
ears. Very scary.

BUT I was wearing my Husqvarna helmet, which combines skull protection,
ear guards, and a metal mesh facemask. I’ve only been using the helmet
the last few years, prompted by a log rolling down the hill and knocking
me down. I felt then I should have had one of these helmets all along.
Good thing. This time the blade didn’t reach my face, but if it had, the
mask would have blocked it from carving up my flesh.

I urge you chainsaw users: get one of these. $40 or so. Play it safe,
please. The more hours you’ve operated chainsaws, the more the chance of
a freak accident. Experience doesn’t make you invulnerable.

-- Lloyd Kahn  

Husqvarna ProForest Chain Saw Helmet System

Available from Amazon

Trenching tool

We use these for trenching in dripline in difficult conditions, and for other trenching work. The wood handles last a long time, unless you are careless with them. Lee Valley sells spare handles and I keep a couple on hand. I have not replaced any for several years now. They work best if sharp, of course. Sharpen them with a large chainsaw (round) file on the inner curve of the tool and clean up the outer edge a bit with a flat file if

Trenching depth: typically about 6″ to 8″, any deeper than 12″ and it is a bit awkward.

I also find them handy for general excavation (e.g. digging out a bit of extra soil for
a valve box) and one of the people who works for me uses one in his garden a fair bit.

-- Ian Ralston  

Trench Digger

Mann Lake Beekeeping Starter Kit

This is the least expensive kit for starting beekeeping. It has everything you need to raise some honey, except 3 things. You’ll need bees; order them by mail separately, or find a swarm. You’ll need to add at least one “upper” story of frames to store your share of the honey, and you’ll need access to an extractor – extracting honey by hand from this upper is possible but extremely messy. With care the equipment included should last many decades. You need only keep adding boxes of frames.

Used bee equipment is not advisable these days because of rampant bee disease. A beginner should start with new gear. There are a few sources with cheaper kits, but their shipping costs — between costs $60-$90 – will kill any bargain. Mann Lake offers free shipping, a fantastic deal with such bulky stuff. Also, their boxes and frames come fully assembled, which is also not the norm. That can save you several hours, and for a beginner, it provides assurance everything is right. Get the unpainted option; that’s easy enough to do and you can choose your color (they don’t have to be white).

If you have Amazon Prime you can get the same deal through Amazon.

-- KK  

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

The Basic Starter Kit Includes:

  • Assembled Hive Bodies or Supers
  • Assembled Frames with Rite-Cell® Foundation OR
    Waxed Standard Plastic Frames
  • Assembled Telescoping Cover w/Inner Cover
  • Assembled Bottom Board w/Reducer
  • 9 1/2″ (24.13 cm) Hive Tool
  • Economy Leather Gloves (Large, color may vary)
  • Alexander Bee Veil
  • Dome Top Smoker w/Guard
  • “The New Starting Right With Bees” Book

Ammo Can Organizer

I can’t believe it took me this long to find this set of three organizer trays that stack neatly inside a common .50 caliber ammo can (available at any military surplus store, or here on Amazon).

The three sturdy  trays contain a total of 22 compartments of varying sizes and can be stacked in any order. The largest compartment runs the length of one of the trays and is large enough to hold a couple of screwdrivers. The organizer is made in the U.S.A. from chemical-resistant polypropylene.

Combined with the toughness of a .50 cal. ammo can, it should be a waterproof and practically indestructible small parts storage solution.

-- Curt Nelson  

Farm Show Magazine

Farm Show has been the DIY magazine of rural North America since 1977.  While MAKE magazine may have fantastic coverage of 3D printing and home-built drones, it’s a whippersnapper wet behind the ears compared to the depth of ingenuity contained by this tabloid magazine published 6 times a year.  They’ve been hacking in a parallel universe, and this periodical offers a window into that world for those who may not regularly come into contact with the <2% of the population that is involved in farming.

Don’t be put off by the name — even if you don’t have a farm, there is a surprising amount of useful data in each issue. I suspect someone living in an apartment would not find it particularly good for their lifestyle, but even urban gardeners with the tiniest of plots would find value in some of the firsthand experiences that are passed along by contributors.

Crop and plant wisdom, clever fabrication hacks, new alternate energy company experiences… it’s a wide and unpredictable mix of information.  One of my favorite areas is custom farm equipment modification that shows off what can be done with spare time and few dollars.  Some of the machines and mods are astoundingly practical, and some of which are head-shakingly bizarre or even dangerous (200HP lawn mowers?)

Much like Cool Tools, the content is driven primarily by contributor/subscribers. Included are tool reviews on pretty much anything used in agriculture, or in a farmhouse, or by someone who is self-sufficient.  Some of the reviews are long prose with photos and diagrams, but many reflect the “make-what-you-say-matter” ethos of the rural readership and are just short write-in messages with pros and cons in a few brief sentences or less.

Farm Show takes no advertising in their regular issues, and publishes reports about tools and companies for good or ill — mostly verbatim from people writing in. There are many articles that are clearly contributed by vendors, but they tend to be on the short side and are more announcements than advertisements, and are edited by the staff to have more content and less marketing noise.

I look forward to every mailing, and even review the back issues frequently since I often find that some new problem I have is addressed by past articles to which I didn’t pay much attention on the first reading.  And with the subscription typically comes a “Best of Farm Show” booklet, which is a compilation of some of the best hints and hacks.

I will also admit to having a soft spot in my heart for anything that comes on newsprint paper, perhaps from early mental pathway imprinting from the Whole Earth Catalog.  I really don’t like glossy magazine formats, and the cheap paper allows for more content at the same price. They have electronic back issues for subscribers dating back to 1977 and even offer a searchable back issue DVD for only $40, which in my opinion is incredibly reasonable given the content value.

Here’s the top of the list from around 140 articles from the first issue of 2013:

• 4-Speed Drill Press Works Great
• 4-WD Articulated Deere Tractor
• Abandoned Silo Sprouts Elm
• Ag Professor Helps Revive Churro Sheep
• Air Tool Organizer Rack
• Air-Powered Australian Water Pump Works
• All-Wood Brush Mower Built For $125
• Allis Chalmers “B” Gets A Low Profile
• Animal Hair Adds Life To Ceramics
• Articulated Case Garden Tractor

-- John Todd  

Farm Show
Yearly cost: $23.95/yr (6 issues)

Sample Excerpts:

Pesticide Powder Duster

Together with Delta Dust Multi Use Pest Control Insecticide Dust, I wiped out a humongous yellow-jacket nest inside one of our cellar walls.

Forget nasty canned aerosols — this nifty update on a classic industrial-age hand tool takes on anything from hornets to bedbugs. Extra points: go green with diatomaceous earth instead of the hard stuff.

-- Spencer Reiss  

Pesticide Powder Duster

Available from Amazon

Site-in-Clean Rest

As a responsible firearms owner, I keep my guns properly secured, and I keep them well maintained. However, I live in a town home and space is at somewhat of a premium. I do not have the room to create a dedicated “gun room” or “man cave.” I keep my firearm cleaning supplies stored in a toolbox inside of a closet. When it comes time to clean a rifle or shotgun, I invariably find myself laying towels out on a table, and using books or other items from around the house to prop the firearm up for cleaning or other work.

I realized that it was time to buy some sort of gun stand or vice, to hold a rifle or shotgun in place for cleaning and light gunsmithing, like installing a scope. The trouble is that gun vices are generally rather large and bulky. This is fine for someone who has the room for a dedicated gun workbench. But for the “kitchen table” gunsmith, a smaller, preferably collapsible, solution is much more desirable. It would be even better if the stand would double as a rest for bench rest shooting at the gun range. A rest that keeps both the foregrip and stock immobile is very useful when trying to sight in a scope. Enter the MTM Site-in-Clean Rest.

This rest is made of plastic, is modular, and disassembles for storage. The base has a removable cover under which the two black plastic “forks” can be stored. When assembled with the top off, the base cavity can hold cleaning supplies such as brushes, jags, patches, solvents, and oils. Depending on how the firearm is placed in the forks, the barrel can be angled down for cleaning, or can be held horizontally for use as a shooting rest. There are a total of four slots for the forks, allowing the user some customization based on the length of the firearm and the desired orientation. There are three rubber soled feet that keep the base stable. The rear foot is threaded with a knob to allow for height adjustment. This makes the rest useful for lining up a firearm when sighting in a scope. Overall the design is well thought out, while keeping the product flexible and cost effective for the consumer.

This product is clearly a rest, not a gun vice. I have used it for installing and bore sighting a scope at home, but I would not use it for any activity that requires a firearm to be held perfectly still under a great deal of force. Furthermore, I would not recommend using this as a shooting rest for extremely high power, high recoil rifles. For any caliber much beyond .22LR, I would recommend a dedicated shooting rest, or using some tie downs to ensure that this rest doesn’t move. Finally, this rest is better suited for rifles and shotguns with traditional designs and profiles. There are better vices and rests out there for the tactical rifle enthusiast.

This being said, as a rest for cleaning and a bit of work at the range, this product fits my needs quite well. My favorite feature is that I can collapse this down when I am done and it stores nicely in a closet. There are plenty of other options out there for someone who is looking for a gun vice or a shooting rest, but I would heartily recommend this product for the occasional shooter whose storage space is at a premium.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

MTM Site-in-Clean Rest

Available from Amazon