Wagner DeckMate

I’ve used the Wagner Deck Mate for years. Its smart design really speeds up staining the planks in a deck. It has an aluminum handle, gravity-feed reservoir, control valve knob, and swiveling paint pad head. The long handle lets you stain the deck while standing up (and off your knees!)

Fill the reservoir with up to a ½ gallon of stain or sealant, and then twist the yellow knob to control the flow of stain down into the paint pad. As you glide the pad along the decking it both applies stain and back brushes for even and full coverage in one step.

A really clever feature is the center brush: a brush-within-a-brush that protrudes down and rides along inside the space between the decking slats. The stiff bristles both keep the paint pad in position as you go and get stain down along the side edges of the decking. Genius!

To clean, just place the Deck Mate in the sink and run water thru it.

-- Bob Knetzger  

Wagner DeckMate
$20

Available from Amazon



Handy Paint Pail

I’m glad I don’t have to stain my cedar deck every summer but when I do I’m extra glad I found the Handy Paint Pail. It’s a quart-sized container that holds paint or stain while you do brush work. The wide, rubbery strap works two ways. Slip your hand through the adjustable strap. Your hand relaxes into a gentle curve: no cramps from hours of gripping a paint can. You can also use the handle in reverse: wear the can across the back of your hand. This leaves your hand free to grip ladders or hold things. The unique D-shaped cup is really useful. The curved part fits your hand while the flat side fits the brush.

The pail also has a very clever feature: a strong magnet molded into the inside the cup magically holds your bush up and out of the paint (and catches any drips). Clean up is a breeze — just toss away the used vacuum-formed liner (and slip in a fresh one for next time). As you can see from the photo we’ve used our HANDy Paint Pail for many years of staining and painting, inside and out.

pail-2

-- Bob Knetzger  

Handy Paint Pail
$10

Available from Amazon



Booq Boa Shift Backpack

The booq Boa Shift backpack adds a little bit of luxury to the daily task of carrying your stuff around. The cool modern exterior has a look that’s far elevated from your schoolyard backpack, but the style is equality matched in functionality. On the outside the bag features waterproof nylon (thunderstorm tested, it works remarkably well!) as well as vented material on the underside that keeps your back from getting too hot. Inside it has soft creamy fabric that’s ideal for protecting delicate items; it has a laptop sleeve that fits any Mac and most PC laptops under 15-inches. There are a variety of smaller pockets as well. The actual cargo area holds a good amount, while remaining lightweight thanks to the material and cut of the bag.

-- Arden Baichtal  

Booq Boa Shift Backpack for 15-Inch Laptop
$150

Available from Amazon



uFactory uArm

uFactory is a new startup in Shenzhen that makes electronic gadgets, most of which are sold through Kickstarter campaigns and then get featured in uFactory’s online store. A case in point for the success of the company’s business model is the Arduino-controlled uArm, a desktop robotic arm that can be operated via Bluetooth or a Windows computer.

The arm got its start with a successful Kickstarter that earned them a quarter-million dollars. Funders paid $185 (versus a future price tag of $255) for a complete kit, available in laser-cut acrylic or wood. It comes with 1 mini and 3 standard-sized servos. You’ll also get an Arduino clone as well as a shield for controlling the arm. The kit even comes with white cotton gloves (a tradition someone totally needs to implement in the States).

The business end of the arm is a type I’ve never encountered in a robot arm — it comes with a pneumatic vacuum gripper that picks things up by placing the applicator against a hard, smooth object and then grabbing onto it with air pressure.

The uArm a great challenge kit if you’ve graduated past the blinking Christmas tree kit and want something that’s really cool.

-- John Baichtal  

uFactory uArm
$296



Entrepreneur and Inventor, Dan Shapiro

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 |See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Robot Turtles creator Dan Shapiro recommends inventions and innovations that offer a surprisingly valuable experience for their price. If you’re looking for high value on a shoestring budget, you won’t be disappointed by Dan’s picks.

Show Notes:

Dan’s Website

Dan’s bestselling game, Robot Turtles

Here are Dan’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:

Brushless DSLR Gimbal $450

“…you look at what comes out of it and it looks like you just shot a documentary even though you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s like sprinkling magic fairy pixie dust on any video you shoot. These things are incredible! I’ve been using every excuse I have to shoot video now because it’s so amazing.”

 

 

The Art of Electronics $60- $120

“It’s not theory. It’s not highfalutin. It’s, ‘Here’s how to go build things that work.’”

 

 

Navdy $300

“To get something comparable with your car would be thousands of dollars if it’s even available. I think the Corvette has one that’s a multi thousand dollar option. And then at some point in the future you won’t be able to upgrade the firmware, swap it out. The Navdy you can just plunk on your dash…”

 

 

Cheerson CX-10 multicopter $20

“Its super stable and small, fits in your pocket easily with room to spare and it’s even capable of doing flips. The thing is just remarkable.”

 

 

AliExpress Free

“They have everything from fashion to electronics to lumber, across the board. It’s one of those secrets in my list of suppliers. Everybody knows about Ebay and Amazon. Some people know about these sites like BangGood and Deal Xtreme…but AliExpress is underappreciated.”

-- Cool Tools  



Texas Fireframe Fireplace Grate

The Texas Fireframe is the best way to burn ordinary logs in your ordinary fireplace (that is, no pellets, no gas, no installation, no electric fans) and not have most of the heat go up the chimney. Going by the catchphrase/slogan, “The Physicist’s Fire,” this improvement on the fireplace grate permits an arrangement of the logs that forces the heat into the room. In fact, I can put my hand into the fireplace over the fire and hold it there for thirty seconds or more, but I have to lean in from the side, because the heat coming into the room is so intense that I can’t stand directly in front of the fireplace.

Unfortunately for the manufacturer, this thing — made of cold steel — lasts practically forever. In fact, I’ve used the first and only Texas Fireframe I ever bought for over thirty years. Still works as well as it did the first winter I had it.

Check out the diagram of how it works at the website, and you’ll probably have an “Of course!” reaction. It’s definitely a cool tool.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 3.12.16 PM

-- Bob Leedom  

Texas Fireframe
$95 to $215



Blue Piston Wireless Rechargeable Speaker

One of the drawbacks I have found with iDevices is the limited way they have of sharing sound with others. They work great with an ear bud. You can buy a splitter and have two people listening at the same time, but they have to be close together. Their speaker system is hardly loud enough. You have to be sitting right beside it to hear it. As always, when a problem occurs, industry is quick to find solutions. This problem has been answered with a profusion of speakers that can be used with them. Many of these are not really portable in that you would not carry them around since they are too large. They produce great sound but they are best used in one place. I prefer to have a speaker that is more versatile, one that I can easily take anywhere with me. Logiix has the perfect solution for me, having come up with the Blue Piston Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. I have been using it for about fourteen months and it has worked perfectly for me.

The Blue Piston Speaker gets its name from the compact circular design. You are not limited to the blue color as there are seven colors to choose from, of which blue is one. It is lightweight (180 grams) and compact (Dimensions: Height – 5 cm (2″) Diameter 6 cm (2.5″)), which is perfect for traveling. The Blue Piston even fits in a car’s standard drink coaster. This speaker is designed to communicate seamlessly and wirelessly with any Bluetooth device. The wireless component gives you the freedom to place your speakers anywhere you like. This portable bluetooth speaker has a brushed aluminum military grade shell and built-in low frequency resonance system for a clear sound. The maximum volume that you can get out of it far exceeds what the iPad can give you. You will be able to blast the sound all through the house if you want.

Getting started with the Speaker is a snap. The first thing I had to do was to make sure it was fully charged. I plugged this into my USB plug. It has a special cable that links the speaker to any USB charging plug or your computer. A red LED on the speaker indicated that it was charging. The light turns off when fully charged. It typically takes about two or three hours to fully charge. My biggest complaint with most bluetooth devices is the charging life. The batteries always seem to need recharging. The Blue Piston lasted way longer than any other bluetooth speakers I have tried in the past. The full charge easily lasted 8 hours. The on/off switch helps to decrease the loss of battery life and the speaker is able to turn itself off after about 15 minutes of inactivity. When the speaker’s battery starts running low, an alert tone will sound every 30 seconds and the red LED will start to flash.

This speaker has a couple of extra functions. Besides the charging cable, it comes with an auxiliary cable to link the speaker to any other speaker via the headphone port. This means that the Blue Piston can be used as the speaker for any audio device, even if there is no bluetooth capability. Another plus to this speaker is the ability to control an iPhone. There is a built-in microphone. To answer a call, simply press the multifunction button and start talking. Pressing it again, ends the call. To reject a call, hold down the button until you hear an indicator tone (about 3 seconds). This then provides a hands-free iPhone that you could use when driving.

Lastly, the Blue Piston comes with a small carrying pouch which will hold the speaker and the two cables. That way, you won’t have to look around for the micro USB charging cable when you need it, as infrequently as this occurs. The speaker also has an anti-slip pad attached to the bottom of the base. The only function missing from the speaker that many other bluetooth speakers have is a volume control on the unit itself. You’ll have to rely on the volume control on the source device for that.

The Blue Piston Speaker was mainly made for enjoying stereo sound superior to the iPad’s built-in mono speakers. I like that I can move the speaker to almost anywhere in the house and still enjoy the audio. It has a range of about 10 meters as long as there are no walls in the way. I took it to my basement and there was no loss of fidelity. And the sound quality is superb. It comes with a one year warranty.

For the size, convenience, and price you will not find a better speaker out there.

Logiix Blue Piston Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker
$30

Available from Amazon



Steripod Toothbrush Sanitizer

I travel for a living, with limited space and staying in campgrounds 6 out of 7 nights a week. Most of my toiletries find their way into a single dopp kit, haphazardly tossed in as I try to avoid setting anything down in that puddle of questionable liquid on the counter.

This year I had the unfortunate experience of discovering what it tastes like to brush your teeth with a toothbrush full of lotion. I had to replace the brush because it wouldn’t lose the taste.

Days later I came across the Steripod Toothbrush Sanitizer. Traditional toothbrush covers don’t easily fit on many electric toothbrushes where these are universal. Gone is the snap cover that doesn’t always hold, replaced with a simple clip. The spring is strong enough that it won’t open on its own in your bag.

A simple rinse of your brush before brushing removes any taste that the sanitizer (which is infused in small pads on the interior walls of the sanitizer and is made from the herb thyme) might leave. I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the sterilizing feature but the whole package has kept my toothbrush cleaner.

-- Matt Johnson  

Steripod Clip-on Toothbrush Sanitizer
$6 for a 2-pack

Available from Amazon



Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun

Over the years I’ve owned half a dozen glue guns, ranging from $6 craft guns up to $120 semi pro guns. They dribbled glue, took forever to heat up, and couldn’t output much glue.

That last issue is a big problem for big projects – you have to use the glue while it’s hot and if the gun can’t quickly output all the glue you need then you can’t stick the parts together.

I was skeptical that the DeWalt could possibly be as good as the package claimed: “heats up 50% faster,” “outputs 50 4-inch glue sticks per hour.” That’s 1.2 pounds of glue per hour, which is far more than any of the previous guns I’ve used. It’s not in the realm of professional glue guns but those cost hundreds of dollars while the DeWalt is $19.95.

Everything on the package is true. I’ve been using this gun for a month and it heats up very quickly, doesn’t dribble glue when you aren’t pressing the trigger, and outputs a phenomenal amount of glue.

Unless you are sealing cardboard boxes all day long this should have enough capacity for any DIY project. It’s better than guns costing 5 times as much.

-- Hank Thomas  

Dewalt Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun
$20

Available from Amazon



CRC Electronic Contact Cleaner 2000

I first ran into a can of this wonderful stuff when I started my first job, and have found it invaluable since, to the point where I have a can at work, home, and even leave one at my parents’ house.

What this is, is a can of non-flammable, liquid, electronic cleaner that can be pin-point sprayed onto various powered-down electronic contacts which are often unreachable or time-consuming to repair/replace.

Smartphone power button not responding? DSLR knob not switching modes? Static in the line jack? EQ slider no longer smooth? Try some of this spray, and if it’s an electronic contact issue, it might just magically fix it.

Even after you’ve given them ample warning, the look of horror on the faces of your friends and family as you spray a stream of liquid onto their non-waterproof electronics is priceless. Even better is the look of delight when they realize there is no evidence of the liquid, and you’ve fixed their gadget.

Because it evaporates nearly instantaneously, you won’t end up with liquid damage to components or surroundings, is plastic-friendly in that it doesn’t discolor or crack it, and is safe to use liberally.

My personal favorite is the CRC Contact Cleaner 2000, since that’s what I first used, and I also chuckle a little when I use any product with the “futuristic” number “2000″ in it.

There are many fine products from competitors such as Permatex, B’Laster, and WD-40, as well, with varying claims of higher cleansing performance. Perhaps in really tough environments, this may be important, but for my typical home/office use, the CRC Contact Cleaner 2000 has worked just fine. Regardless of what cleaner you purchase, make sure you’re purchasing a version that is explicitly listed as non-flammable and compliant with all 50 states on low VOC (volatile organic compounds).

-- Kaz Mori  

CRC Contact 2000 VC Precision Cleaner, 16 oz
$36

Available from Amazon