Cool Tools Library Update and Contest

We’ve had such a fantastic response to the Cool Tools Library request I mentioned on Friday that we’re going to turn it into a contest (previous submissions will be grandfathered in). Feel free to submit recommended books until Monday, February 13th. The authors of the two best reviews can pick a prize from the Cool Tools Prize Pool (which has been updated with some really great prizes!)

Once more for good measure:

What’s the essential book for carpenters? Metalsmiths? Landscape designers? Tailors or seamstresses? What about information design? Or sous vide? Tanning or taxidermy? Home brewing? Car repair? Bicycle frame building? The list goes on and on.

Every trade and hobby has their own bible, and we want to identify and collect them all in one place so that others may benefit.

Submit your recommendation (or request) here, post it in the comments below, or feel free to email it to

— Oliver Hulland



Walking/biking tour of Asia

While I read Cool Tools for reviews on hiking, camping, and travelling, the truth is I’m 100% urban bred. My dream, however, is to embark on a solo walking/biking trip through a number of Asian countries including China, Russia, and the Caucuses. I daydream of biking out of my Chinese city into the surrounding villages, and I’m looking for any resources or guides for the uninitiated.

-- Meira Katz  


Snow Chains

I have been looking for the best snow chains for my tires in the winter. I am most interested in those with easy installation and quick removal under duress. Faffing about with complicated easily-tangled stuff is a singularly joyless experience.

-- Paul Beard  


Tool Request

I’m looking for the the ultimate tool for preventing birds from striking glass windows. The problem is compounded by glass windows on both sides of the house; birds see through the house and think they can fly through.

-- Phil Earnhardt  


Source Wanted


Pipe Cutter

Can you help me find this tool? It has no number on it. I used to use it on 1/2-inch polypropylene and schedule 40 pipe. It cuts pipe very easily.

— Garry Shirts


Fan Belt Tensioner

I am looking for this tool and can’t find it anywhere. JC Whitney no longer seems to carry it. It was called an Instant Fan Belt Tensioner. I spotted it here.

It’s used to force two pulleys on the face of an engine apart to tighten the belt around them. Modern engines have tightener devices built in. Older engines don’t. Marine engines like mine (and the gent’s on the link above) don’t. Yes you can use a long screwdriver to lever it out but it is a two-handed job that ends in skinned knuckles, cursing and bent screwdrivers.

-- Matt Foss  

Source Wanted

Having a reputation as a note-taker, I was given by a co-worker two notebooks made by a Canadian company, Think In Ink, Inc. The 100 substantial pages are 3.5″ x 5.5″, and alternate between blank and lined (genius!). It’s bound with a doubled plastic spiral that allows you to remove pages without ripping, and fits a standard ballpoint pen. There’s also a plastic sleeve at the back to store loose bits and papers, and a laminated/plasticky cover that can withstand years of sweaty palmed abuse, or being carried in a back pocket. I brought the second notebook with me to Europe this year, and carried it everywhere. I started to get worried as it filled up. Despite Europe’s plentiful stationery offerings, there didn’t seem to be a replacement that had all — or even some — of the Think In Ink’s admirable features.

Efforts to contact the company since I’ve returned have been fruitless — the website ( has expired, and the only phone listing I can find for them goes unanswered. Since the business seems to be shuttered, I’m wondering if Cool Tools’ readers could recommend a replacement?

— Erin

[Follow-up entry here]


Solution Wanted

I have a number of jobs to do on the roof of my house. In my younger years I had no trouble working high, and even spent time caving and some rock climbing. However when I hit sixty my comfort level working high vanished, and now I am quite insecure over a few feet above ground. Roofing was not one of my many earlier stints, so I really do not know where to begin in setting up a securing system for working safely at height. Surely there must be some easy-to-use “cool tool” for people working high. If anyone can help me with a recommendation on this, I would appreciate it.

— Mike Saunders