V-Block Drill Press Centering Fixture

This is a great solution to a vexing problem – drilling round stock exactly in the middle using a drill-press. The round stock fits snugly in the V-shaped channel so there’s no need to clamp it down. I’m sure there are other solutions like this, but this is the only one I have used.

Center the V-Block by lowering your drill (with the power off), then clamp the V-block off and you are ready to drill.

-- Les Hall  


Available from Amazon

Carpet Stair Tool

I am remodeling a kitchen and we had a friend come and install marmoleum floors and countertops. I always enjoy working with different contractors because everyone has their own systems. Brett was quite meticulous, which comes with his vast experience. I was impressed by his carpet stair tool, which I had never seen before. It looks like a big masonry chisel, but he used it to level seams between plywood subflooring edges.

Once two sheets have been nailed down next to one another Brett ran the edge of the tool along the seam — it runs smoothly where the sheets are in the same plane and hits a bump on one side or the other if the sheets are out of plane. He then took a hammer, hit down the side that was high, and ran the tool over the seam again to check. The he filled the seam with a fast-drying mortar to ensure the seam was strong and stayed in plane.

The carpet stair tool also has a mushroomed head for striking with a hammer. But you can also use it to drive down nails that are hard to access because they are under cabinetry toe kicks — just put the mushroomed head against the nail and hit the blade of the tool with a hammer.

3-1/2-Inch Carpet Stair Tool

Available from Amazon

Magnetic Stud Finder

Using a magnet to find the hardware in studs is the most accurate way to find a stud. This simple, non-electric gizmo really works — much more consistently than other stud finders I’ve tried. You could make your own using a supermagnet, but this one comes ready to go with two large supermagnets mounted in a easy-to-hold device with a level. You swipe it around the wall till it pulls itself to a nail or screw underneath. Perpendicularly up/down is your stud. It’s strong enough to work through baseboards. No batteries, lasts forever.

-- KK  

CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by C.H. Hanson

Magnetic Pick-Up Tool with Light

While opening my Mac Mini to add RAM and replace the hard drive I dropped two screws. They rolled under the couch to be lost in the dust bunnies. The hard drive screw was only about 2mm in size. My old eyes weren’t up to spotting the tiny thing. I found my magnetic pick-up tool, extended it and swept it under the couch. Click! Screw #1! Another minute of sweeping. (Shoo away the dogs.) Click Screw #2! And THAT screw is almost microscopic.

I had no idea the tool has an LED light on it. That was a pleasant surprise. It helped me see down the recessed screw holes.

-- Mike Andrews  

Craftsman Magnetic Pick-Up Tool with Light
$13 ($21 on Amazon)

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Craftsman

Tool Tales: Story Tape

Story Tape started out as an April Fool’s joke. The folks at Lee Valley Tools assumed people would enjoy reading about the fictional product (a spool of retractable blank measuring tape that you can write notes on with a Sharpie pen), but their R&D team liked the idea so much that they decided to put them into production. I can imagine a couple of different uses for them — measuring your child’s growth, and marking the width and depth of your car’s trunk. What else?

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

[Thanks to Doug French for sending us this.]

Story Tape, 12′

Sample Excerpts:


Story Tape — the only measurement system that’s exactly as accurate as you are! Not only is it compact (and affordable to ship), when the tape is not in use, the recorded measurements are cleverly retracted into the integral case, where they are protected from damage, wear, or fading. The luxurious yellow composite case has a sprung lower lip that cushions the datum surface hook from any possibility of impact distortion due to over-exuberant measurement stowage. The recording surface has been carefully designed to reflect the widest spectrum possible in the visible light frequency range, ensuring that it’s usable everywhere your eyes are. Custom precision measurements can be permanently recorded with fine-tip alcohol-based permanent markers. This tape can truly tell a tale.

Tool Tales: 3 Mystery Tools

The “what is this tool” item in your latest email reminded me of tools I have that I invited visitors to guess the purpose of. Enclosed is a photo of three of them. (In case the scale is not obvious, the whale-bone thing is eight inches long.)

Large image.

-- Stephen Malinowski  

[Do you have a Tool Tale to share? E-mail us! Also, if you are new to Cool Tools, please subscribe to the weekly newsletter that has 5 tool reviews in each issue. -- Mark Frauenfelder]

Tool Tales: Contraption in My Dad’s Tool Collection

I came across this contraption in my dad’s tool collection after he passed away. He was an electrical engineer/computer science guy, so I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with his work. Any ideas?

Large image 1

Large image 2

It has a variety of adjustments and appears to clamp on to a shaft or housing around 3″ in diameter and is approximately 14″ x 9″ overall. It’s made of cast aluminum with a few steel shafts and plastic handles. The back has some numbers cast in to it, (shown in second image), but no manufacturer or other identifying marks.

The “Bonus” label is for when I use it as an extra credit for my technical theatre stagecraft class tool quiz. So far no one has any idea. (Although I give extra credit for creative or entertaining answers.)

-- Bill Potter  

[Do you have a Tool Tale to share? E-mail us! Also, if you are new to Cool Tools, please subscribe to the weekly newsletter that has 5 tool reviews in each issue.]

Hand Tubing Bender

I own an inexpensive MIG welder that I use to make the occasional small metal project or repair. Until recently, I’ve been using bar, or angle stock for my projects, and my work usually ends up with a fairly crude and heavy look.

Recently, I needed to make a set of motorcycle pannier racks, and wanted them be lightweight with a more professional appearance, so I decided to make them out of 1/2″ steel tubing.

To bend steel tubing without kinking it, you’ll need to use a tubing bender. These benders are basically a pair of matching dies with long handles attached to them, which allow you to gain leverage. Each die has index marks on it, which allow you to make very accurate bends, to specific angles.

You can buy hand bender sets that have interchangeable dies to allow you to bend different sizes of tubing, but the inexpensive ones only do a single tube diameter and bend radius. I found a 1/2″ bender on eBay for $36. The one that I bought was marketed as an “Imperial Eastman” brand, but there are many to choose from.

My pannier racks turned out great. But beware, I found it difficult to bend steel tubing with a wall thickness over .035″. Steel tubing this thin is challenging for me to weld withought blowing through, but I managed.


See photos of finished project.

Imperial Eastman Tubing Bender
$80 (Prices vary based on size and model)

Available from Amazon

Nail Puller

For the longest time I didn’t know the name of this tool. I was working in a cleanup crew on a theater project and found this in the tool box. No one there knew what it was, but since all the plyers and hammers were already in use I figured I could use it to pull nails and staples out of the floor.

It worked so well, that I cleared more floor space than 8 other people combined in the same amount of time.

The length of the handle give you leaverage and the design is such that the mouth bites harder the harder you lever the nail. The first nail I pulled came out so smoothly, I thought the tool had slipped off the nail. And the slide handle allows you to set the jaws down around a nail even if its flush to the surface.

It also has a narrow profile that allows it to get close to the edge of things. If you are pulling a lot of nails or staples, get one of these (or one of the competitors). They are wonderful. –

-- Robert Platter  

[We first reviewed these leveraged nail pullers back in 2006, and there are several different companies that manufacture them including HIT Tools which is the model featured above that is, unfortunately, not available online.--OH]

Crescent 56 Nail Puller

Manufactured by Crescent Tools

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

Komelon Speed Mark Tape

Because of improvements in tape-measure technology, even a cheap fat 25-foot tape can extend in the air without support ten feet or more, can deal with 99% of my needs, and will roll up into a pocketable 3-inch case. I don’t even bother with tapes less than 25 feet now. I like the Komelon Speed Mark because every inch is labeled with fractional graduations in 1/8″ increments (and hashes to 1/16); for instance, the tape will be marked: 13F, 5 and 5/8 inches. In bold easy to read fonts. No figuring needed. A thumbable button will slow its rewind to prevent damage during its return. This one is not expensive and well made.

-- KK  

Komelon Self Lock 25′ Speed Tape Measure

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Komelon

Sample Excerpts: