Windell Oskay, Co-Founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

Windell Oskay is the co-founder of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, a Silicon Valley company that has designed and produced specialized electronics and robotics kits since 2007. Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories also runs a popular DIY project blog, and many of its projects have been featured at science and art museums and in Make, Wired, and Popular Science magazines. He’s the oo-author of the recently published book, The Annotated Build-It-Yourself Science Laboratory.

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Show Notes:

Rotring 600 Mechanical Pencil $24

“The Rotring 600 is a beautiful instrument. It has a hexagonal body that’s a lot like the size and shape of a traditionally yellow pencil, except it’s made of nice heavy brass. The part where you actually hold it has a cylindrical, thoroughly knurled grip, also made of brass. They come in either brushed nickel or black painted.”

Aluminum Brazing Rods $30

“You heat up your metal and then you wait until the brazing rod melts as it touches the surfaces. It starts to wet to the surface. Then you can just bond your metals together. It works on aluminum, magnesium, galvanized steel, brass, and copper. It’s shockingly easy and strong for what it does. It’s sort of like a low budget welding technique for people who don’t do a lot of welding.”

Woodpecker’s Page of One-time Run Tools

“Woodpecker’s makes some unbelievably beautiful machined jigs for doing woodworking operations. I have a ruler from them, and it’s just a 12 inch ruler. It’s made of quarter inch thick aluminum machined on every side, and laser engraved. In a sense it’s absolutely overkill, but on the other hand it’s just the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever called a ruler.”

RoboGrip Pliers $31

“I’ve been using these, I’ve got several sets of them. Some of these 20 years old, and as far as I can tell they’re completely indestructible. Just a joy to have. Frequently somebody is asking, “Where’s the Robo Grips, because we need them.”

Metcal MX-500 Soldering Iron $832

“The Metcals are the legendary great soldering irons. They work on a really interesting principle that regulates the temperature at the tip, not by using a thermostat but actually by using radio frequency power that is sent down to the tip.”

The Three Fives Kit: A Discrete 555 Timer $35

“The 555 has just 26 transistors in it and a bunch of resistors, and you solder them together and you make this thing that’s a working 555 chip. It’s kind of amazing to not have one as a black box, but something that somebody can actually go in and measure what’s going on inside of it.”

The XL741 Discrete Op-Amp Kit $35

“The other is the 741, which is the classic op amp. That is still the classic building block of all analog circuit designs.”

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Zander Rose – Executive Director, The Long Now Foundation

Alexander “Zander” Rose is the executive director of The Long Now Foundation, which was founded in 1996 to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution that fosters very-long-term planning. He was hired to build their clock that lasts 10,000 years. He’s also the founder of the Robot Fighting League, and a contestant on the ABC series Battlebots (airing Sunday nights)

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Show Notes:

Knipex Parallel Plier Wrenches $162 “You can adjust them, but then when you actuate them, they have flat jaws that stay totally parallel. They’re way more powerful than a crescent wrench even though they look like a set of pliers. They don’t damage the flat surfaces that you’re working against.”

Gear Drive Case Ball End Hex Keys $55 YouTube Video “There’s these little gears in the actual plastic case that gear them all together, so when you grab one wrench and turn it, they all turn out together, and so you can pull one wrench out and then relock them all back in. People who’ve used the most common brand, Bondhus, will know that you spend a lot of time wrestling with two hands trying to get hex keys in and out of the case.”

Bafang Mid Drive eBike $850 “Most e-bikes use a powered wheel and the bummer about that is that you have this extremely heavy wheel. If you want to use it in pedal only mode, you’re trying to turn a 40-pound wheel. This kit made by Bafang, a Chinese company, uses what is called mid-drive. This means that the power comes in at the cranks. That means your wheels are standard. Your transmission is standard. You can use normal gear sets and things like that in conjunction with your electric bike kit.”

Yuba Boda Boda Family Cargo Bike $1000 “There’s a lot of cargo bikes out there that are extremely long, by both Yuba and Xtracycle. The problem with those is that they don’t fit on bike racks. The Boda Boda by Yuba has a little bit longer wheelbase than a normal bike but still fits on normal bike racks.”

Chinese High Power Bike Lights $65 “Those early Lupine lights were $600 to $700 each and now, there’s just a plethora of Chinese versions. They’re down $50, so it’s affordable to have one on your helmet and one on your bars and have a total of something like 2,400 lumens, which is just pretty insane. You look like an F16 landing on an aircraft carrier when you have this setup.”

Water Activated Resin Cast Material $42 “This is a small tiny roll of what looks like gauze but it’s actually a resin-activated cast material. You can custom make it to any shape. If a bone is sticking out, you can work around that. If you have climbing tape with you, which generally we do, you can just make a splint up one side of their leg and then wrap around that or at their arm and wrap around that with the climbing tape and then it doesn’t have to be cut off.”

Skin Stapler $13 “Normal people are not good at suturing but if you want to close a wound and get somebody back to pavement and it’s going to take several hours or a day, then a person with very little experience can actually close that wound back up with the skin stapler.”


Jared Zichek — Collectible Figurine Maker

Jared Zichek is a Figurine Maker who relies on a long list of tools to keep his limited edition resin figurine-making business, Golden Age, flowing smoothly. Listen in on this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show to hear Jared discuss his business and offer insight into how these tools have become an essential part of his day-to-day operations.

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Show Notes:

Paasche AEC Air Eraser Etching Tool $50

“I got this [mini sand blaster] specifically for finishing 3D prints, resin 3D prints. Because even the best 3D prints have traces of layering usually and it can be quite challenging to remove it without hurting surrounding details, especially if you have like an organic type sculpt like, say you sculpted a woman’s dress and you don’t want to obliterate the folds. I loaded it with baking soda and I think I put it at about 40, 45 psi on my compressor. I sprayed it and it worked pretty well. It removed most of the layering without really obliterating the surrounding details.”

3M Acryl-White Glazing Putty $17

“I’ve been using this for about a year. It cost us about $16.50 on Amazon. It comes in a very large tube that will last you for several years. It’s similar to a Tamiya White Putty which is a very nice fine filler putty but it’s much less expensive. It’s ideal for filling small holes, scratches, and other surface defects on resin 3D prints. It has a quick drying time. It dries in about 30 minutes. It can be sanded very smooth and it blends well with the surrounding surface, and also has low shrinkage.”

PJ Tool & Supply All Purpose Polishing Compound (Blue) $2-7

“I found this on PJ Tool and Supply. It’s an all purpose polishing compound. It costs $6.25 for 14 ounces, and a 1-inch buffing wheel is $2. These buffing wheels are for a Dremel tool.”

Miniature Buffing Wheels $2

“You take the buffing wheel and you stick it into the block of polishing compound and get some on there and then you apply it to the print you’re polishing. You’ve got to do it at a low RPM and you should wear eye protection. Because if you do it at a high RPM, you can burn the plastic.”

Moment of Inspiration 3D Modeling Software $295

“The guy who made MoI used to be a developer for Rhino. I’m not really familiar with CAD programs. I work with stuff that’s used for making games. But it was pretty intuitive, pretty easy to use and you can really quickly create a mechanical and man-made type hard surface models like guns, planes, robots, cars. It has a very useful Boolean capability where you can add and subtract, combine objects quickly to make complicated mechanical shapes and then you can apply nice fillets and chamfers to the edges. It’s just something that’s harder to do with like a polygon modeler like Softimage.”


Andrew Mayne, Author and Magician

Our guest this week is Andrew Mayne. He is a magician, maker, and the author of five bestselling mystery and thriller novels. He’s the star of A&E’s magic reality show Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne, and he’s worked for David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and David Blaine. His latest book is a thriller titled Name of the Devil

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Show Notes:

 Google Forms Free

“If I’m anywhere and I have an idea, I just press the button… It pops open the form that’s fitted for mobile and I can either type or say whatever I need and click “send.” It’s saved to a database that later on I can go back to and go look through.”

Daedelus Touch $1

“They actually have another app called Ulysses, but Daedalus is a really nice distraction free environment for writing. I’ve written a lot of stuff using that.”

Boogie Board Sync $94

“This electronic note taking device is lightweight. You don’t really worry about it as far as what happens to it. It’s nice because you can erase something but it saves everything you erased to an erase folder. If you hit the button wrong, it’s okay. It’s still there.”


Tinkercad Free

“What I love about Tinkercad 3D modeling software that the model is simpler. You use primitives — circles, squares, triangles and stuff — to build things up…”


Ben Krasnow – Maker and YouTube Star

Our guest this week is Ben Krasnow. Ben works at Google[x], Google’s semi-secret technology development facility, where he creates advanced prototypes. Ben previously developed virtual reality hardware at Valve. After work, he spends time on various projects that usually involve circuit design, machining, and chemistry. You can follow Ben’s projects on his youtube channel, Applied Science.

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Show Notes:

Digital Inclinometer $31

“It’s a small box about the size of a pack of gum, maybe, or a little bit bigger. It has a magnetic base on the bottom of it and a digital readout. What you do is you stick it down with the magnets to something, like a table saw, and zero it. Then, you pick it up and stick it onto the side of the saw blade and it will tell you the angle between those two surfaces.”

Fiberglass scratch brush $8

“It’s the size of a large ballpoint pen. Instead of a pen coming out the end, it has about a quarter-inch diameter cluster like bundle of fiberglass fibers. The glass fibers are very abrasive. What you do is you push the brush down onto something that you want to clean and swirl it around. The tips of the glass fibers actually scratch away at the surface of the thing that you want to clean. The glass is really hard, so it will clean metal parts. It will erode away plastic parts if you brush them long enough. Then, as you use it, the glass bristles break off and exposes fresh, sharp fibers.”


Stereo Microscope $140

“This one is used a lot by electronics folks. If you have one sitting on your desk that you use for surface mount electronics part assembly, you will start using it for, basically, everything else. Then you realize that it’s just completely indispensable and you really can’t set up a desk without one.”

Devcon Plastic Welder $20

“There’s other brands that sell Plastic Welder, but it’s actually not the same stuff as Devcon. You’ve got to get the actual Devcon stuff. It’s basically a two-part adhesive. It looks like epoxy. It comes in one of those twin syringe packs, but it’s actually not an epoxy. I believe it’s an acrylic glue. It smells really strong, so you know it’s going to be really good.”

Nitto Tape $27

“It’s a craft paper tape with, I think, an acrylic adhesive on both sides and it’s extremely strong.”

Kapton Tape $13

“It’s not quite as strong as the Permacel we were talking about, but Kapton is a really good electrical insulator. If you want to stick something down to your circuit board, Kapton Tape is really good because it keeps your circuit isolated, and if it’s double stick, then you can put a little bit of Kapton down on the board and then stick something to that and still have pretty good electrical isolation.”


John Edgar Park – Producer at Disney Research

This week we invited our friend John Edgar Park to discuss the tools and apps that simplify and enhance his daily life. John is a Producer at Disney Research and a writer for such outlets as Make, Boing Boing, and Adafruit Learning. John also has a knack for building, making and tinkering and uses his perspective as a creator to apply these tools to life’s everyday challenges. We hope you enjoy this latest episode of the Cool Tools Show.

Show Notes:

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Behmor 1600 Coffee Roaster $370

“What this thing offers is fairly brainless operation. It looks like a toaster oven and has a rotisserie drum inside. There’s a motor turning the drum slowly to keep the beans agitated. It has little paddles inside the cage to keep the beans from falling in a pattern. It has two big halogen heating lamps in the back of the unit.  ”

QuickRes $5

“This is a little dock icon that lets you pick the resolution on the Macbook screen. You can pick any of a dozen resolutions that are good for the retina display, or you can set it up so that at  the press of a button it will flip between two or three different presets that you’ve chosen.”

Wooden Gymnastics Rings $33

“I’ve started using gym rings instead of a pull up bar or almost any other equipment to do things like dips. I also drop them way down to the ground and do push-ups on them. You’ll wobble like crazy, and that forces you to engage all types of stabilizing muscles.”

6” Digital Calipers $13

“I don’t know why I went so long without having these, but I got a few years ago. It’s a really cheap set of digital calipers that can measure up to 6 inches of inside diameter, or outside diameter, or the depth of something. It has a depth gage tail that swings out as you roll the head of the thing along the shaft. It has a digital read out. You can switch between inches and millimeters.”


Artist and Author Douglas Coupland

Our guest this week is Douglas Coupland. Since 1991, Douglas has written thirteen novels published in most languages. He has written and performed for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company and is a regular columnist with the Financial Times. He began a visual art practice in 2000, and his first museum retrospective opened in summer 2014 at the Vancouver Art Gallery and travels to Munich this summer. In this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show, Douglas introduces us to some new tools as well as new ways to think about old ones.

Show Notes:

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Subscribe to Cool Tools Show

The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present By Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulbricht, and Shumon Basar

Japanese brush pens $5

“I discovered them first in Japan, where they’re more or less perfected. I guess you would call them the Japanese Sharpie. You open them up. They come in a variety of colors…They’ve got these long pointy nibs which are super flexible. They’re very good mimics for hair or whatever material you might use for a brush. They have a line quality that is…so unlike say, a Bic pen or a Sharpie…with these pens it’s a genuine calligraphical experience, and wonderful.”

Little spiral notebooks $1.40

“I think back when I was at Wired in ’93, I don’t know if you remember [Douglas spent a few weeks with us at the Wired offices in San Francisco when Kevin and I were editors there. – Mark], I used to have these little spiral ones in my pocket. Every time I saw something new or…had an idea, I’d just jot it down. Then the people in my life started mutinying around 1997, saying, ‘You just can’t bring that thing out anymore. Douglas, you’re spooking us. Every time we say something you pull it out.’ Then five years later comes the smartphone revolution and now everyone’s doing the exact same thing, albeit electronically. I just like having the paper.”


“I think fingernails are really important and they never get talked about…There’s nothing like them. They’re the most underrated tool.”

Drawers from Ikea $120

“…[T]here’s this wonderful set of drawers that IKEA makes that really is a storage dream, actually. They’re not like Billy bookcases, they’re just these white drawers you pull out.”


Freelance Writer, Bob Parks

Freelance writer Bob Parks delivers a handy inventory of tools for home improvement and renovation projects in this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show. Be sure to check out Bob’s website to see some of his most recent articles for magazines like Popular Science and Bloomberg Business Week.

Show Notes:

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SawStop 10-inch Jobsite Table Saw $1500
“SawStop has lowered the price of their table saws. These are the saws that have an electrical system that automatically stops the blade once your finger touches it. It stops in 5 milliseconds, so that you only get a little nick on your finger.”

Ellipse Half Mask Respirator $32
“Super low profile on the face, you can put your glasses or your hood over it. It doesn’t feel like anything. And I also hate when I’m using a good respirator, the feeling of the straps pushing into my safety glasses, and this one seems to have solved that ergonomic challenge. I love the feel of it on my face.”

Fernco Wax-Free Toilet Seal $4
“Typically, it’s very awkward when I’ve got the wax seal on the floor, I’m grabbing this incredibly heavy toilet, my knees aren’t that great, so I’m swinging this thing over the hole, trying to land it in the middle of the wax ring…the first time I usually miss and crush the side of the wax ring, and have to start again. This is a different process. You turn the toilet over and you press this wax-free ring, the adhesive, into the toilet drain. And now you’ve got this long, 4-5 inch plastic throat and this adhesive piece stuck to the toilet. So it’s completely stuck, you can basically lift the whole toilet with the plastic throat. And so it’s really in there good.”

Sawyer Mini Water Filter $17
“This is an example of where technology and design completely recreates the market. Water filtration while camping used to be a huge pain in the butt and the devices cost from $100 to $400. And now this little device, that is now 1.9 oz, fits right in the palm of your hand, and can filter 100,000 gallons of water.”



Creative Instigator, Mark Krawczuk [Cool Tools Show Episode # 25]

Mark Krawczuk is a self-professed Creative Instigator with many interesting and exciting projects in various stages of development, like the Lost Horizon Night Market and Mason Project. Be sure to check out some of Mark’s posts here on the Cool Tools website, like this one, which was referenced in today’s episode of the Cool Tools Show.

Links to some of Mark’s projects:

Everyhere Logistics

Lost Horizon Night Market

Mason Project

Show Notes:

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 Slack $0-$99/mo & Threadable $3/mo

“Whenever you’re trying to organize a big group of people, there’s always conversations happening. But just using an email list there winds up being a lot of chatter, and so I found the combination of Slack and Threadable really, really great.”


inRoute $4

“The thing that I really liked about inRoute, is that it gives you a number of different options to tell you things like elevation, and curviness, and it also gives you the temperature, and the windiness across your entire route…So if you are doing any road trips, it’s really nice to get that extra level of information.”

Minimal Folio $3

“Minimal Folio is a portfolio app. It lets you put a bunch of images together, but not necessarily navigate it in a linear way. It’s set up in terms of columns, so you can drag images into different columns, and then you can navigate either down a column or across columns. If I want to quickly jump from one element to another, I don’t have to go through all of my visuals. I just slide across the different columns.”


“I bought a pair of shoes, and they were great, but the heels wore out a lot sooner than I expected them to. I wasn’t 100% satisfied, so I walked into REI, showed them the shoes, and told them my story. They were like, ‘Well if you’re not 100% satisfied, we should do something about that. Do you want your money back or do you want a new pair of shoes?’



Mike Evans, Musician and Blogger [Cool Tools Show Episode #23]

Children at heart rejoice! Mike Evans has a list for you (and your kids) that will have you playing and learning with a selection of entertaining guides and tools. Mike’s picks reduce the initial learning curve of trying to get into a new activity so you and your kids can jump right in and start having fun! To see more of Mike’s toys, tools and projects, be sure to head over to his blog, Secret Dad Society.

Show Notes:

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Comic Life $15

“I’ve been using this for the last seven years. It’s a fantastic app that’s really easy to use. I can’t stress enough that kids can get a lot out of it. You basically have templates. You pull from your iPhoto or whatever your photo items you have, and you just import your photos right into the panels. There’s panels that are templates that are pre-made, but you can also customize it. The photos automatically size to the frame, and you just drag and drop word balloons.”

Headblade Sport Ultimate Head Shave $6.20

“I feel like it’s my obligation to get this information out there. I’ve been using this for 10 years straight daily. It’s so easy to use. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but anyone that does shave their head, I have to tell them about it.”


The Mad Art of Caricature!: A Serious Guide to Drawing Funny Faces, by Tom Richmond $20.60

“I love how, first of all, it empowers you to just start doing it. I think that’s a cool virtue of a cool tool. It makes you want to use it. When you look at the book and then you go out in public, you can’t help but look at people differently. You’ll see somebody and you just look at their brow line or their nose anatomy and you’re thinking, “… I would love to draw that person.”

MMX Plus Juggling Balls $10

“…[W]henever I walk by these, I can’t help but pick them up and use them for a few minutes. I think that’s why they’re so cool. I immediately got better when I started using these balls. I definitely would say these are worth it.”

Kite Tool Ballbearing Blue Plastic Reel Line Winder $7.10

“It’s basically like a fishing rod without the rod. It’s a reel. It’s got ball bearings in it…There’s a few other varieties out there.. You can get your kit out up really fast and you can bring it in really, really quickly…”