GUM Oral Care Kit

Two incredibly handy tools seldom used for their intended uses are dental mirrors (a.k.a. “inspection” mirrors) and dental picks. The one problem with most inspection mirrors is that when you have to look into awkward electronic or mechanical crevices where you need a mirror, you also need a flashlight for illumination and a spare hand to hold the light. This kit (#832) has a dental mirror with a bright flashlight integrated into the handle and a switch in the grip, freeing up your other hand. The other neat thing is that for less than $10 you get two dental picks — great for nudging or extracting small inaccessible components from assemblies. Recently, I was upgrading a friend’s computer. The motherboard was mounted in a “baby ATX” case which was a very tight fit. To locate the CMOS reset jumper or check to see if the memory socket catch was engaged, I needed the use of the lighted mirror to negotiate the dark spots where those components were hidden. In the same manner the picks were handy to snag small cables within the case.

-- Stephen A. Kupiec  

GUM Oral Care Kit
$38 (for six)

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Sunstar Americas, Inc.

Stanley Tripod Flashlight

I replaced my D battery Mag-Light with this small LED light that only needs AA batteries. I get whiter light, longer life, and more intensity. Tripod lights have always been great tools (I work at Amazon, so I see a lot of gear). The problem with the traditional ones is they get very hot, use lot of battery power, and burn out fast. Stanley’s tripod light – the first LED version – takes all the advantages of LED and combines it with the convenience of a fold up stand.

I have already used it for a variety of household projects since I bought it last year. The best use has been to install dimmers. Usually I’d have to do this during the day or ask my wife to hold the flashlight. With the tripod light, I can now do it by myself at any time.

-- Jason Goldberger  

Stanley Tripod Flashlight
Manufactured by Stanley

Available from Amazon

Electrilite Flashlight


This cool flashlight doesn’t need batteries and will charge itself — and cell phones — with a quick hand crank. One minute of windup gives 30 minutes of light. Most other windup emergency products I have seen have are bulky radios with a little beam for lighting. This product combines three high powered LEDs with a radio that has a rather loud speaker. This is also the only hand crank flashlight/radio I am aware of that has a built-in adapter outlet to charge cell phones. Combine that with a really sleek looking design, and you have a great flashlight.

Whenever the local power goes out, this is the product I want to have around. It allows me to communicate with people by charging my cell phone and it allows me to hear news from the radio.

-- Mike King  

Electrilite Flashlight
Available from Cool Stuff Cheap

This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Fiber Optic Flashlight Adapter

This tool is nothing more than a short fiber optic wire attached to a rubber hood, which goes on the end of a Maglite or equivalent. It completely gets rid of the problem of aiming a flashlight beam into a small hole. Just insert the end of the adapter and voila, the inside is lit up and you don’t have to contend with all the glare from the light hitting the edges of the hole. Comes in 7″ and 20″ versions.

It’s simple, inexpensive, and essential.

-- Mike Ginou  

Nite Ize Fiber Optic Flashlight Adapter
20 inches

Available from Amazon

This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Super White LED Lamp Product

While we wait for LED table lamps to emerge from the development phase and arrive at our local Wal-Marts, Hong Kong manufacturers have started selling ultra-high-output white LEDs direct to the consumer via eBay. These are the raw components, plus resistors for wiring them to a 12-volt car system, which is a popular application to create “undercar phantom glow” and other effects which will be familiar to those who have seen episodes of “Pimp My Ride” on cable.

The singularly named Light of Victory Led Store will send you, via airmail, 100 large size LEDs (1 cm diameter, 130,000 millicandles) for thirty-five bucks, including series resistors and air-mail postage. What a deal!

Of course you will have to do a little work at your end, drilling holes to mount the LEDs in a panel, and hooking them up to a power supply. The series resistors are not necessary if you buy a 3.5 AC adapter for house voltage, available for less than $10–check Froogle. Just remember to hook the shorter wire of each LED to your negative source, and the longer wire to your positive source. Each diode draws just 20 milliwatts, making them, I think, the most efficient known form of artificial light, already finding widespread use in flashlights, tail lights, and turn signals. Soon to be used for ambient indoor lighting in an RV near you?

I expect to be writing a build-your-own-LED-reading-lamp crafts project for Make magazine later this year. Meanwhile you can have fun playing with this almost magical device.

-- Charles Platt  

Super White LED Lamp Product
$35 including air mail from Hong Kong
Sold by Light of Victory Led-Store

PolyBrite Dog Collar

The pet blinker reviewed on Cool Tools is nice, but I’ve used a larger one which I’ve found works much better. They give a full 280 degrees of light, and being a much larger surface area of illumination is a real advantage. I can see my dog in the deep underbrush, even if he’s laying down (where the “dangling” type lights get blocked by leaves and front paws.) We get about 5 months of use out of a single battery in flash mode, which we run for about 1.5 hours a day. We could get longer, but the light starts to dim a bit after that time period.

-- John Todd  

PolyBrite Dog Collar

Available from Amazon

This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Pet Blinker

Sending my black shitzu out on a dark night from my country home can cause some stress. Not knowing where the little mutt has gone has me worrying if he has wandered off too far. Plus out in the country there are many predators that would consider the little dog as a snack. I found this pet blinker in a local feed store. It is the greatest thing I bought for my pet. The bright LEDs can be seen for a good distance and the low battery usage means a long time between changes. The blinker is very light and does not weigh down my little dog. All I have to do now at night is just follow the blinking light to know the location of my dog.

-- Roland  

[Please see the more recently-reviewed PolyBright Dog Collar. -- SL ]

Pet Blinker
Manufactured by Flipo

Available from Amazon

TerraLUX LED Replacement Bulb * Nite Ize LED Kit

This item converts any AA or AAA Maglite into an LED torch, with the same brightness as the original, the same ability to focus the bulb, much longer battery life, and eliminating the need to ever change the bulb again. It fits in the same way as the bulb, and does not require any modification to the Maglite. This is a way to keep on using the sturdy Maglite casing and benefit from LED technology.

— Ellis Weinberger

TerraLUX TLE-10 MicroStar1 LED Replacement Bulb
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by TerraLUX


Easily and inexpensively upgrade those Mini-Mags lying around in your drawer to life long L.E.D bulbs and longer battery life. You lose the focus feature but who cares. Niteize has a bunch of other useful stuff as well.

— Cliff Rediger

Nite Ize AA Mini Maglite LED Upgrade Kit
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Nite Ize


This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Cyclops Spot Light

At Costco I found a 15 MILLION candlepower rechargeable flashlight for $29.99. It pretty much stopped me in my tracks. After charging all day, it’s incredibly bright. The only analogy that I can think of is the spotlight on a police helicopter.

It’s a model CYC-S1500, made by Cyclops Solutions of Bedford, Texas. It uses a standard automotive H4 130W halogen bulb and what appears to be a motorcycle battery. It has a high and low-power setting and it comes with both AC/DC charger and 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter. Manufacturer’s claimed burn time on high power is 40 minutes.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a light like this would ever be available for thirty bucks. My friends and I are already talking about upgrading ours with super-duper PIAA H4 bulbs and Optima batteries, to hopefully create a real monster…

-- Curt Nelson  

[Since this review appeared in 2005, the 15-million spotlight has more than *doubled* in price. Amazon sells a more powerful 18-mil version for the same price, but reviews are mixed. If you have any experience with the 18-mil light or know of a reasonably-priced 15-Mil, please let us know. SL]

Cyclops S1500 Spot Light
Available from Sruggs

Manufactured by Cyclop Solutions

Foamcore Gray Card

It sounds so trivial, but a simple piece of gray-colored foamcore, purchased at a local craft store, is a godsend for digital photography. The board’s flat surface serves as a perfectly uniform, non-glare background for shooting gizmos and stuff. Stuff, as in stuff you want put up for auction on eBay, stuff to illustrate articles, stuff for your blog. The stiff gray card — 20 by 30 inches — produces no highlights, even in full sunlight. The objects appear to float in limbo (or all white). Moving and removing objects from the image using Photoshop is a cinch.

— Stefan E. Jones

A foam gray card is one of the cheapest useful photo accessories you can get. I use mine all the time. There are plenty of ways to enhance close-up shots, but none simpler or cheaper. If you want to get fancy in your clipping, you can try some green card, as in greenscreen.

— KK


Foam Board, Graystone
20″ x 30″
$69 for 10 boards

Available from Amazon

Or $12 for 2 boards Available from Office Depot (no longer available)