Bogue Ultrasonic Jewelry and Glasses Cleaner

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My wife and I have an awful lot of jewelry and glasses that needed cleaning; expensive prescription glasses, cheap reading glasses, sunglasses, and all sorts of shiny baubles. Ultrasonic jewelry cleaners seemed to be so cheap online (and get such good reviews) that I felt it was worth the $30 or so to find out if they really worked.

The Bogue Ultrasonic Jewelery Cleaner works great. The directions, which are poorly translated from the original Chinese, are useless and unintentionally hilarious. That’s OK, though, because the machine only has an “ON” and an “OFF” button. All the directions need to say is put the item in the tub, cover with water, add a drop of dishwashing detergent and press the “ON” button. After three minutes it shuts itself off and your item of jewelry or smeary reading glasses are now incredibly clean. Just rinse them off and be amazed. Really.

Our jewelry looked like it did when we first saw it in the jeweler’s case. We knew this for sure because our eyeglass lenses were cleaner than they’d been in years. Your small items will be so clean you’ll want to clean everything you can fit into it, so go ahead and try it. Clean your razor, your electric toothbrush heads, pretty much anything the absurdly-translated Chinese directions suggest. Drop it in and three minutes later it will be cleaner than when you first acquired it.  

DSCN43691.jpeg We’re nowhere near tired of it yet, so we’ve moved it onto the bathroom counter to be closer to the little things we will inevitably decide to drop into it. As a bonus, the blue light of the machine makes a nifty nightlight for the bathroom counter, too. For $30 it makes a great gift. These little cleaners have been out for years so their novelty may have worn off, but their utility definitely has not. We like keeping our things beautiful, and $30 is a minor investment for a lifetime of maintenance.

[Note: It looks like there are several nearly identical products being sold by different brands on Amazon. Most of them get good reviews, and it seems the brand itself doesn't really matter when choosing at this price point.--OH ]

Bogue Ultrasonic Cleaner
$30

Available from Amazon



Monoflo Nestable Totes

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These Monoflo storage containers, most commonly seen in the back of grocery store delivery trucks, are the best solution I’ve found for moving, shipping, and storing stuff. Every other system I’ve used previously had a fatal flaw. In particular, the Rubbermaid and Sterilite totes I’ve tried all cracked, failed to stack well, and had lids (when I could find them) that never seemed to fit properly (especially if you came close to loading them to full capacity).

Manufactured here in the USA by Monoflo, a company that specializes in industrial storage and delivery solutions, these totes are really well made and far superior. Originally designed for light industry, they work just as well in domestic settings.

I own ten of the 16-gallon nestable totes. Five went to a project that required the distribution of kits filled with educational materials to local schools, and the other five I use at home for storage. While they aren’t exactly a sight for sore eyes (I keep them tucked away when at home), everything else about them sings with utility.

They stack efficiently and safely (I’ve stacked all ten with weight inside and they barely budge when shoved). When empty, the two halves of the attached lid fall to the side allowing the containers to nest perfectly. They have reinforced holes moulded into the handles for zip ties that secure the lids shut when needed. Unlike others I’ve tried these crates don’t buckle or crack when moving (I’ve filled one with as much water as I and a friend could lift, and it held fast). And despite being made of a hard plastic they are fairly comfortable to carry.

Speaking of which, they’re made out of a high-density polyethylene resin (reminiscent of milk crates) that is far sturdier than alternatives like Rubbermaid. A testament to their durability came when I shipped them across country via FedEx (the heaviest weighing 80-lbs) and everyone arrived without failure; no cracks, chips, or broken hinges, despite what was clearly rough handling over a 3,000 mile journey.
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Not everybody will love the criss-cross “multi-fingered” lids, but I find that they work well, stay closed when moving, and create a uniform flat surface for stacking. The biggest problem emerges when trying to access anything when the crates are stacked.

Overall, I have found the 16-gallon size to be perfect for my needs. Anymore, and they’d be so big I wouldn’t be able to move them myself when fully loaded. And while they aren’t the cheapest storage solution around at $15 a piece, I know they will last far longer than all the others I’ve tried. Highly recommended.

-- Oliver Hulland  

[I believe they are eligible for a volume-discount and free ship-to-store at Ace Hardware. And check out this PDF for more information and sizing. --OH]

Monoflo Nestable Tote
16-gallons
12.5″H x 16.6″W x 27.2″L
$20

Available from Life and Home

Manufactured by Monoflo



Vinyl Zipper Wallet

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A clear vinyl bank bag is a great and inexpensive way to organize tools or materials. I’ve been using these for years in the field, and I love them. Yes, they stiffen up in the winter, but none of mine have ever been damaged, winter or not.

These are better than the typical canvas bags because it’s easy to see what’s in them. I use a bunch of these for very different purposes, and the old Klein bags I had were frustrating because I didn’t know which was which – unless I wrote on the blank side, and then the bag was kinda locked into that purpose forever more.

These things are just too easy. A perfect Cool Tool.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Vinyl Zipper Wallet
11″ x 6″
$7

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by MMF Industries



Brother P-Touch 2700/2710

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I regularly have to label lots of electronic equipment. Compounding the complexity, I also have to label both ends of the cables that connect to this stuff. My customers generally have detailed requirements about all sorts of info to be included in these labels. While my peers generally have all the same labeling equipment available to them as I do, I use system that makes it much easier to manage the complex task. I use one of the higher end Brother P-Touch label makers, the PT-2700 that can connect to my computer via USB. I got my current one from eBay since the refurbed unit I’d been using for years developed an intermittent problem with the display (but it still printed fine). These were both less than $100.

Most of my peers sit in front of their labelers for hours pounding out one label after another. Frequently, they have to redo labels since their minds go numb pretty fast and they start making stupid mistakes. My approach, in contrast, takes a fraction of the time and is suitable for even small jobs of a handful of labels. My redo rate is almost nil, too.

There are two keys to doing bigger jobs with this little printer. The first is to use Excel’s CONCATENATE formulas to manipulate columns of variables (text or numbers, like names, IP addresses or rack IDs) into little chunks of data that you want to appear on your labels. Don’t be scared of this, formulas aren’t needed, but are terrific if there is complicated sequencing going on. This will make sense with a little fiddling in Excel. The second key is to use Brother’s “P-Touch Editor” software to connect to the Excel file as a database. Many fields, many lines and many format options are available for your typesetting efforts, so some pre-visualization of your finished product pays off here. Each line of your “database” will contain all the cells available to each individual label. One row, one label; many cells, many layout possibilities.

The first time you try this, it may be confusing, but going to File>Database>Connect will make the Excel file available for laying out the fields. Insert>Database Field will get your data into the label representation in the Editor’s screen. The bottom half of your screen will show all the data the Editor has to work with, and cycling between lines there will cycle the info on the label representation.

Once you’ve gotten things tweaked so you’re happy, do a “chain print” and soon a little pile of labels will accumulate. This system based approach is why I think the Brother P-Touch labeler is the best for producing large quantities of labels.

The TZ format tapes this printer uses are available in different widths, color combos and even with better adhesive (TZS labels are the best, and I use them almost exclusively). The PT-2710 adds a case & power adapter, space for various tape cassettes & spare batteries. Good for the back of a truck.

If professional, legible, well-formatted, long lasting identification labels are your goal, this is a terrific system to use. I depend on it.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

[The 2710 is the same unit as the 2700, but comes with the optional carrying case.--OH]

Brother P-Touch 2700/2710
$100-$130

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Brother



Fatwood

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There’s not much new in the art of firemaking, and most methods are a few hundred thousand years old. But in the 21st century, getting a fire started in the fireplace can still be more difficult than it needs to be. Crumpling up inky newspaper as tinder under a full size split log is hit or miss at best, and gathering up sticks as kindling is a pain, especially for city dwellers.

This winter, I’ve solved the problem with the discovery of “fatwood” firestarters: small sections of resin-rich pine (most commonly from the longleaf pine Pinus palustris) produced from stumps. They just work: criss-cross two of them, light them and they will quickly catch and burn long enough to get the big logs going. They work every time. They smell good, they’re inexpensive and they’re sustainable. They come from existing stumps and the Fatwood company plants three trees for every one they use. Start a cozy fire faster with a clear conscience this winter.

[These firestarters are really great for getting campfires going in tough wet conditions, too (that is as long as you remember to toss a few in the back of the car).--OH]

Fatwood Firestarters
$26 for 10 lbs
Available from Amazon

For those interested in larger amounts my family has always gotten 25 lb increments of fatwood for $30 from LL Bean with free shipping.

Manufactured by Wood Products International



EurekaZone Power Bench System

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Eight months ago I started searching for a small quality table saw for my personal shop. Spoiled by being raised around an Altendorf sliding table saw, I dreaded having to compromise with an undersized contractors saw. I started researching for the best solution. I had seen the SawStop on CoolTools and welcomed the advance in safety. I had also used the previously reviewed Festool tracksaw and admired it’s small storage size and dust collection. However, a commenter on CoolTools led me to EurekaZone and the EZ-One Power Bench. After using EZ tools for 8 months I don’t know how I ever lived without. They’re brilliant.

The EZ-One Power Bench makes repeatable, straight, clean cuts better and more safely than a table saw. For most woodworkers, including myself, it can inexpensively replace a table saw, panel saw, miter saw, joiner, and router table.

This system has so many advantages over the traditional power tools I grew up with: the ability to get clean cuts with cheap blades, excellent dust collection, increased safety from accidents, pinching, and kickback, and all using any circular saw or router. The system requires far less space and can be adapted to work in more ways than I can imagine.
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The EurakaZone (EZ) system is remarkably affordable. One can get started with a basic track for around $150 and use any circular saw you have around to make clean straight cuts. One isn’t penalized for starting with a smaller system. EZ sells parts individually for everything they make. You can build up as needed – everything works together – and there’s plenty of help and DIY ideas on the forums to make your own customizations.

Another advantage is the small, New Jersey based company. Far from a slick faceless corporation, it’s an idiosyncratic organization and personally I find their independence and owner/inventor Dino Makropolis to be very endearing. The entire operation from r&d to production is based in one location. There are no dealers or advertising, everything is basically word-of-mouth. The videos posted online have zero edits in order to prove that there are “no tricks” to the tools. Makropolos is a gifted inventor, committed to making an outstanding tool in order to share the love woodworking. (He once suggested turning the company into a non-profit) He is active in the forums uses feedback from customers to implement improvements and upgrades.

In my own experience with the EurekaZone tools, it’s hard to find words. I love these things. I sincerely believe it’s an extraordinary leap forward for woodworking. It’s like an alien from The Planet of Common Sense came and showed us all what power woodworking tools should be. And the logic truly is alien at first. It was difficult to get my head around after being raised with traditional tools. (The Core77 video helped immensely, but I am still learning).

In fact, the one downside to the EurekaZone system is the time and attention it takes to learn the new paradigm; wood is always safely clamped in place, expensive blades aren’t needed for clean cuts, crosscut before ripping, and more. So far I feel challenged by the tool and smarter for using it. Whenever I think I found a limitation, I discover a smarter way.

If you relish using a great jig, or programmed a computer to find a better, more efficient way of working, then you’ll love the EurekaZone system.

[EurekaZone sells both a prebuilt and DIY Powerbench system, and as Steve pointed out they also offer the option of slowly building up components over time.--OH]

EurekaZone EZ-One Powerbench
Price varies depending on components
$1250 for full prebuilt system, DIY models available

Available from and manufactured by EurekaZone



Seber Racheting Knife

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I have been using a tanto style, honed edge ratchet locking knife by Seber Design Group, and the only way I would ever recommend a knife is if it was extraordinary. And it is. It’s heavy, some people might not like that in a pocketknife, but I hardly care if it makes my pants sag with its weight, because it is the best blade I have ever used. Thanks to its ratchet it locks at any angle, and is seriously sturdy when it locks. I applied every pound of force in my body to it once, and it did not buckle. It does have a slight play in the lock, but that is normal for this kind of rachet, and does not make it any less effective.

Besides having the brute force necessary to lock the blade in place, it has the ability to lock it anywhere above 45 degrees and be unbreakable to ordinary people with ordinary strength. This means you can adapt the Seber knife to any job. Cutting plastic, cutting any sort of tubing weaker than stainless steel? Cutting rope? Cutting branches, slicing fruit, cutting carpet, canvas, nylon, fabric, paper, cutting woody braches and fibrous stems, cutting anything? You need this knife.

Okay, I admit you don’t need the tanto version, the tanto is for stabbing and slashing, adapted from the katana and similar weapons, and I got it for sale on Amazon in the tanto format only, but they make others: a drop point for normal use, in serrated or honed, and both the drop point and the tanto point have 8Cr13MoV steel, similar to 440C stainless steel, hardened up to 58-60 RHC. All that means is they did not cut many corners when it came to sourcing materials. They also make a folding utility knife that features the same ratchet as the other knives, but takes any traditional replaceable utility knife blade, and is (hopefully) as awesome as my knife is.

Seber is, as far as I know, the cheapest, most effective, and most importantly, the only racheting angle locking knife. If I am wrong, and there is something better, I would love to hear about it.

For what you can actually do with the knife, just look around youtube for ‘Seber knife’ if you are skeptical, and watch it unfold for yourself, or go to Seber’s website, and watch them cut everything you can possibly cut with a stainless blade with ease. That’s the point I’m trying to make here. Everything you do with a blade, is easier and safer with the Seber knife, and it is as far as I know, one of a kind.

-- David Douglas  

Seber Ratcheting Knife
Available as a utility knife, tanto blade, or traditional straight/serrated blade
$25

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Seber



Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

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No doubt, the best batteries I’ve used are Sanyo’s Eneloop cells. They’re NiMH but the self-discharge problem is pretty well licked, and Sanyo are the ones who solved the problem.

Eneloops are still the best, but there are more makers now of LSD (Low Self-Discharge) NiMH cells. Usually marketed as “ready to use”, their initial charge should still be available at time of purchase.

Sanyo has a fairly broad range of chargers available to go with these things, of which I have a couple. But to really get the most from my cells, I use the LaCrosse Technology BC700 Alpha Power charger. A very good combination for me.

– Wayne Ruffner

I use Eneloop NiMH cells in my Canon 580 EX Speedlight strobe and have been perpetually impressed by their rapid cycling, and ability to hold a charge over time. Of the sixteen I originally bought two years ago, every single one is functioning at near full capacity.

– Oliver Hulland

 

[We originally reviewed the Eneloops in 2007, but I was impressed to see that not only do they remain the standard amongst heavy battery users, but that they have improved performance (lower discharge over time, and 500 additional recharge cycles) and felt that it was worth re-reviewing to reflect that they remain the best rechargeable battery.--OH ]

Eneloop NiMH Low Self-Discharge Rechargeable Batteries
750 mAh, AAA 4-pack
$9

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Sanyo



Spyder Scraper

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Last year I removed some old vinyl tile from our dining room. Even with the help of a friend and a a heavy duty floor scraper, it took all afternoon. Some tiles popped up fine, but most stuck tenaciously and had to be pried up with a thin blade. Miserable.

The kitchen had the same tiles, and yesterday I cleared them all out by myself in about 30 minutes without breaking a sweat. The difference? A Spyder Scraper, which fits into any brand reciprocating saw.

It’s not a complete solution alone, because it’s hard to get the saw itself underneath the tiles as they peel up. Use the Spyder to loosen the edges, and then a long handled manual scraper to scoop up the tiles. When the manual scraper hits another tough edge, hit it with the Spyder again. Two people working together in this fashion should be able to clear 300 sq-ft in well under an hour.

I used the 4″ blade; they also come in 2″ and 6″ for different purposes including removing tiles adhered with thinset. I wish I’d had one a couple of years ago whenI redid the bathroom!

-- Scott Noyes  

[Note: Whatever tool you use, do what we used to do: buy a block of dry ice and put it briefly on each tile before removal (put it on the next tile while you work on the current one). The tiles shatter easily, the glue is rendered brittle, and removal is fast. --John Jorsett]

4″ Spyder Scraper
$10

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Spyder

Sample Excerpts:

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The Spyder Scraper attaches to any brand reciprocating saw.




Fels-Naptha

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Fels-Naptha is old school soap that works great when it comes to stains. I had a pair of khakis that I got old chain grease on, washed them regularly about 3-4 times. Regular wash didn’t get the stain out, so I called it a bust. Then 3-months later I used a little elbow grease and Fels-Naptha, just rubbing the fabric against itself for 5 minutes, and sure enough, the grease came right out. The soap is good for plenty more as well.

-- Tanner  

[After Tanner suggested Fels Naptha for getting bike grease out of a pair of Khakis, I tried it out on some grease stained pants and it worked perfectly. It does take a bit of effort, but the results are worth it. I also managed to get rid of some pesky collar stains.--OH]

Fels-Naptha
$4

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Fels-Naptha