Master Grooming Tools

Master Grooming Tools.jpg

I’ve used this tool, for about 6-months on a long-haired Chow/Labrador mix and on a Corgi. They both shed like crazy and the undercoat is a serious challenge with the Chow. This grooming tool takes care of the undercoat like nothing I’ve ever used. It’s also apparently less painful for the dogs, as it doesn’t have the tendency to dig straight in like the previously reviewed Furminator, which I liked well enough before trying this one.

I have the 16-blade version. It gets down deep and pulls the undercoat and dander OUT. The blades are much more robust than the Furminator, and there’s no chance of bending. It’s a VERY well-built device, and the rubber handle looks weird but feels good in the hand. I can’t think of a single improvement I’d make.

I will say that the first time you use this tool, try not to be too ambitious. It took three or four sessions with my chow (an outside dog, and it had been awhile) before I got all the lumps of undercoat off him. Not because the tool was rough with him, but just that he had so much to remove. The Corgi was done in one session, and despite her shorter hair, this tool removed huge volume of fur. Her haunches are very thick, but this tool goes right through it without the tearing I’d been so careful to avoid with the Furminator.

Now, both my dogs love this thing. When I’m working on one, the other dog comes up to pester me so he gets a turn. Once the major de-undercoating is done, it’s a simple matter to use this weekly or as-needed to keep things fluffy. Both dogs really look forward to their grooming.

-- Bill Womack  

[Note: This replaces the now unrecommended Oster Grooming Rake, and is a canine alternative to the previously reviewed Furminator. --OH]

Master Grooming Tool

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Pet Edge

Pittsburgh Pro Composite Ratchets

composite ratchet.jpg

I have multiple Snap On, SK, and Craftsman ratchets so when I first head how smooth and nice the action is on the Pittsburgh Pro Composite Ratchets from Harbor Freight I scoffed. A metal mechanism inside a plastic and rubber covered ratchet?

So I tried the 1/4″ and 3/8″ models and all I can say is WOW! I have not tried the 1/2″ model yet, but all three sizes are dirt cheap at under $10, feature lifetime warranties, are light-weight, have a non-conductive body, are “warmer” to use in cold weather, and have a butter smooth 72-tooth ultra-fine ratcheting mechanism. This isn’t to suggest you ditch your regular ratchets for high torque applications (use a breaker bar) but these are quite nice and have earned a place alongside my other ratchets. These are a real gem.

-- Warren Flearl  

Pittsburgh Pro Composite Ratchets
1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″

Available from Harbor Freight

Manufactured by Pittsburgh Professional

Machinery’s Handbook


I have been using the Machinery’s Handbook for 30 years. My first was the 14th edition when I started out as a machinist. Throughout my engineering career this handy reference has served in projects large and small.

My 26th edition has accompanied me on three continents and has never disappointed. Machinery’s Handbook is the Bible of the mechanical industries. It provides mechanical and manufacturing engineers, designers, draftsmen, toolmakers, and machinists with a broad range of material data, from the very basic to the more advanced.

It has always provided accurate, concise and easy to locate reference material for any mechanical project. The only thing that could improve this fantastic reference is to have a digital copy on my smart phone.

-- Scott Trube  

Machinery’s Handbook
Erik Oberg, 29th Edition
2012, 2800 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

machinery handbook chordal distances .jpg

machinery excerpt 2.jpg

Reverence for Wood

reverence title.jpeg

Wood was the plastic of the previous era. Better than plastic today it could be found for free, and re-grew itself. This thin beautiful book is a quick orientation to the merits and features of wood. It begins with trees and ends in tools and materials. Should you appreciate the old-timey ways of working with wood, and how these skills shaped early America, as author and artist Eric Sloane does, his sketches will suggest many ways to use and reconsider wood today.

-- KK  

A Reverence for Wood
Eric Sloane
2004 (1965), 112 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:





Charcoal during the 1800’s was used for many things other than making iron. People cleaned their teeth with it. Although the first results may look ghastly, there is actually nothing more beneficial for teeth than charcoal powder. Swallow some of it? Also good; there is nothing better for upset stomach. It even sweetens the breath. If you want to purify water or remove an offensive odor from anything, use charcoal. Sailors used to throw burnt muffins into their water supply when it became stale or smelly; meat packers used to pack their meats in charcoal. Ice was stored in charcoal, gunpowder was made with it; printer’s ink, black paint, medicines even highways were made form it. In 1865 someone dreamed up this idea, thinking that since charcoal is the longest lasting of materials, a road made of it would be very durable. Timber was piled along the middle of the road and burned right here; then the charred material was raked out and tamped down.



Wiha Quality Tools

Manufacturers sometimes deliberately make it difficult to open their products. A common method is to use odd-shaped specialty screws. Without the right driver, the unit remains sealed. Wiha makes very high quality hand tools, and likes to offer them in great variety. They are a great source for premium versions of specialty screwdriver and screwdriver tips. This table gives a sense of what you can find. Of course they carry a great variety of premium tools in “ordinary” styles (Phillips, slotted, etc.) as well.


-- KK  

Wiha Bits
$45 for a set of 31 bits, also available in smaller kits

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Wiha

Backwoods Solar


One version of solar electric is off-the-grid power. This technology is most useful for homes located beyond the power lines, in a cabin, or a boat, or Amish-like, opting out of the system. The size and costs of photovoltaic panels makes it difficult to generate a lot of off-the-grid power so in addition to the solar gear, you need to modify or replace appliances and lifestyles within your home. Wiring up even a small cabin to the sun is not a simple task. The best source for current information for family residences off-the-grid, including a store that sells select gear, is Backwoods Solar. They have a large website, a paper catalog of gear and advice, and they keep up with the latest. They also run a consultancy for projects, but based on customer feedback, they will cheerfully use email and phone to help you get what you need if you ask.

-- KK  

Sample Excerpts:


Many standard refrigerators and freezers use so much power that battery charge is depleted very quickly. It is not practical to use most standard electric refrigerators or freezers with independent power unless you have a powerful water turbine generator. Super efficient refrigerators designed and tested for solar power, listed in this website, operate on less than half the usual power. Some carefully selected Energy Star rated conventional refrigerators using under 400 – 450 kilowatt hours a year may be acceptable.


All of our technical salespeople own and operate an off-grid home that is powered by the products we sell. Scott and Tracey’s post and beam home is powered by a Harris Hydro system with Xantrex and Morningstar products. John powers his log cabin with Kyocera and Evergreen solar modules plus Outback products. Shawn uses a Bergey wind turbine and Kyocera solar modules as well as Outback power components. Terry has an ES&D hydro turbine plus Kyocera solar modules on a tracker with Xantrex power products. Tom utilizes Shell SQ175 modules and Outback products for the home he built from the lumber he milled from the trees on his property. Alan is currently designing his off-grid home and provides backup power to a grid-connected deep well pump with a Xantrex inverter and transformer.



This new generation, deep cycle, flooded lead acid battery offers high capacity and heavy duty plate grids which resist positive plate breakdown. The plates are double insulated with glass mat and polyethelyne envelope, eliminating the possibility of separator misalignment, cracked separators, and shorting.

Each 2 volt cell is built into its own lightweight container made of durable polypropylene. The cells are then assembled into a tough outer container with a removable lid. Even if this outer container cracked, acid spills are prevented and the battery still operates. The individual cells are bolted together allowing the battery to be disassembled and the cells individually removed for easy on-site installation. Free battery book and Hydrometer included with each purchase.

Rated at 3200 Cycles at a 50% Depth of Discharge. B-S models have a 2 year free replacement, 7 year pro-rated. KS, CS & YS Models 10 year warranty: three years full warranty; and then seven years pro-rated warranty.


ET 135W Poly, 12V, $319

ET Solar ET-P636135 Polycrystalline PV modules generate very reliable solar power for on-grid and off-grid applications, as well as residential and utility-scale solar power systems. These polycrystalline photovoltaic modules are designed and manufactured to comply with very strict international quality standards. Strong design, procurement and production efforts ensure that these products generate high solar power and take up small spaces. Backed by a 25-year warranty on power output, ET Solar modules bring lasting values. Made in China, UL listed for the US and Canada.

Et solar 95 watt 1 large


Super sensitive digital scale

A reader in Ask Cool Tools was looking for a cheap digital scale that could weigh items to a precision of 0.01 gram. Most kitchen scales run on a precision a magnitude lower at 0.1 gram. You’ll need a wind shield for scales this sensitive because air currents will disrupt the reading at this level.

— KK

Digital 0.01-gram resolution scales are plentiful and very inexpensive (< $20) on eBay and other online retailers. Most of them have a small, flat stainless steel pan, and tare for a container, making them convenient for use with small quantities of food. I used one from eBay identical to this unit and was satisfied with the performance. Note that I was using it for balancing motorcycle pistons, a less demanding task than some others.

Note that you can also obtain scale weight sets for calibration.

I believe that general-use precision weighing of small, light-weight objects is a problem solved by any one of these small,inexpensive digital scales.


Ref=dp image 0

American Weigh Scale Scalemate Sm-501 Digital Pocket Scale, Silver, 500 X 0.01 G
$25 from Amazon

Commenter Stefan Murphy notes that the above item has less than 2.5-star reviews on Amazon. He found a better option with all 5-star reviews, that is also 2/3 the price. However the max weight is only 100 grams, instead of 500. He says, ” A little poking around, and based on reviews the below looks to be much better. I’m in the market for a product like this and will be purchasing the below.”

American Weigh Scale Ac-100 Digital Pocket Gram Scale, Black, 100 G X 0.01 G, $11

Ref=dp image 0 1


Note: It is worth keeping in mind that when you pay $20 or less for a 0.01 gram scale, you are getting what you pay for. These may be sufficient for your needs, but if you truly need 0.01 gram precision, you aren’t likely to get it. Definitely invest in, not one, but two calibration weights, and check the scale before each use. I say use two weights because the scale may calibrate correctly at, say, 1 gram, but its linearity may be off, and it may be off at every other weight. If you calibrate using one weight and then the scale weighs correctly using a different weight, it is more likely that it is working properly.

You should also note that battery-operated scales will usually require recalibration as the batteries get weaker and their output voltage changes. And keep in mind also that temperature plays a large role in the scale’s weighing. You may find that the scale produces different results after it has been turned on for five minutes and its internal circuitry has warmed up (from the electricity flowing through it).– Joshua Bardwell

Gorilla Gripper

gorilla gripper.jpeg

I have used this tool to haul sheet goods over the last couple of years during a whole house renovation. There are probably ten sheets of drywall that I haven’t replaced upstairs and in the basement of my 1100 sq.ft bungalow. I have mostly used the Gorilla Gripper to haul drywall but have also used it to haul sheets of plywood around the house. With it I can haul 14 foot sheets of drywall by myself with ease. I no longer have to wait to have someone around to help move sheet goods.

— Rob Chapman

As an alternative to the now unrecommended Stanley Panel Carry consider the Gorilla Gripper. (I own both.) It’s 9 times as ‘spensive, but I feel like it works significantly better for a few reasons.

With the Stanley, I had to bend my back at an awkward angle to pick up the sheet – the length from the tray (where the bottom edge of the sheet goods rest) to the handle is too short. (Perhaps Big Horn Panel Toter is a good middle of the road solution @ $12. I have not tried it, but the handle looks longer.) The difference is stooping down to reach the handle at 14″ vs. at 4 feet (the height of the panel).

Also, you have to put both the Stanley and the alternative under the bottom edge of the sheet. This can be awkward if it is heavy, like plywood, and seems more prone to damaging corners. The GG lifts from the top of the panel.

It’s easier to adjust your balance, since you don’t have the friction of the material preventing moving the tool side to side, and probably easier to test balance, too.

— D. Sastray


Gorilla Gripper Panel Carrier

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Gorilla Gripper



Screen Shot 2012 02 16 at 11 47 27 AM

Thingiverse is a swap meet for exchanging digital files for 3D printing of tiny objects, like the stuff for doll houses. You download a file and print out the object using a the previously reviewed Makerbot or 3D printing service. Eventually, the objects will be larger, and the selection larger, and you’ll be able to print out complex things. For now, 3D printing is a thrilling hobby, and this exchange site is a real tool for model makers.

-- KK  

Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife

gerber hinderer.jpeg

This knife is designed by firefighter Rick Hinderer for the working Firefighter, EMT or Medic. It has a serrated stainless steel blade, a window punch and a foldaway seatbelt cutter. But what tempted me, and what gets used the most, is the built in oxygen tank wrench. It is a deceptively simple slot in the handle, but it has time and again come in handy switching out portable oxygen tanks while on scene. No more sending someone running back to the rig because someone on C-shift forgot to replace the oxygen wrench back in the bag! The over-sized thumb studs make it workable even with bunker gloves on and it comes with a 9-piece kit of screw bits.

— Jesse Hinds

I’ve used this knife for two years, and found that it has served me well in all my field work. For me the knife is exceptional because of its appropriate sizing and ergonomic hold. It’s easy to use with gloves on. The strap cutter on the back side is excellent and I end up using it a lot. The rubber strip with different tools have been useful for hard to access spaces. It does not replace a multi-tool, but is a great compliment to it.

— Jason DeJong


Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Gerber