23 September 2016


Black Diamond Telekneesis Kneepad

Articulated design moves with you and ensures full patellar coverage

Before retirement, my job frequently required me kneel and crawl, often on pavement or gravel. Being taller than average, I was also prone to banging my knees on my desk. The Black Diamond Telekneesis kneepads put an end to these distractions. Telekneesis kneepads are a hard shell design thin enough to wear under pants and comfortable enough to wear 12 hours at a stretch. Once adjusted, they stay in place all day. They’re about 3/8” thick and won’t show under most trousers. Durability seems excellent. After 3 years of daily wear my pair shows some pilling on the fabric lining. The elastic straps still stretch. The shells have a few superficial scrapes that remind me what a good investment these are.

09/23/16 -- Bob Kegel

22 September 2016


Submit a review for a chance get a $50 Amazon Card

Tell us about a tool you love

We are going to award a $50 Amazon gift card to the writer of our favorite review between now and Friday, September 30, Noon PT.

Here’s the form to submit your review.

Here are some guidelines for writing a review for Cool Tools:

We’re looking for recommendations of things that you have used for at least six months.

A Cool Tools review should answer the following questions:

How long have you used it?

What does it enable you to do (what are the benefits, rather than the features)?

How this tool has changed your behavior?

Why do you think this tool is superior to others (and why should readers believe you)?

Where can readers buy the same one you use?

If possible, include a photo of the tool in use, that would be great.

If you are involved in the invention, creation, or distribution of a tool, please do not send us a review.

The Whole Earth Review guidelines (written by Kevin) for reviews went like this: “Write your review. Then write us a letter explaining why we should devote space to your item. Throw away your review and send us the letter.” Replace “letter” with “email.”

(Image from What is this mystery tool?)

09/22/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

22 September 2016


1TB Ultra Portable External Hard Drive

Portable backup drive

I’ve been using these Western Digital 1TB drives for years. They connect to a computer through a single USB cable, which handles power and data. They weigh about five-and-a-half ounces, which is less than my iPhone 6 Plus. They are small enough (4.3 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches) to carry in a travel bag without even knowing they are there.

I use a Mac utility called SuperDuper to make a bootable clone of my desktop hard drive, and sometimes take it with me when I travel (not often, because it would be bad to lose it and expose all my information to whoever found it). I have three other My Passport 1TB drives. One of them is called “media” and it stores my photos, videos, and music. I keep it on my desktop. The other is called “backup media,” and it’s connected in another part of my house through the USB port on a Wi-Fi range extender. It gets backed up every night via SuperDuper. And then I have a drive called “Time Machine” which is an Apple Time Machine backup of the files on my desktop computer’s hard drive. (I also have a personal cloud storage device and offsite backup – call me paranoid, but I like knowing my files won’t go into a black hole.)

When I upgrade to a new computer, it’s easy to plug in the backup drive, boot from it, then use SuperDuper to clone the internal drive.

09/22/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

21 September 2016


Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil

Food won't stick to it

Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil is a tool that has been in my cooking tool box for more years than I can remember. While this specialty product has limited applications, I have so far found three highly satisfying uses; roasting vegetables, reheating pizza, and covering a cheese topped casserole for baking.

In all cases the foil eliminates a significant frustration, making it a delight to use. Roasted vegetables are a staple of my diet. (I particularly like to slow-roast sweet potatoes at 375° for 45 min. on each side. Try it!) Roasting vegetables enhances their flavor by converting starches to sugars, but charred melted sugar can be tough to remove from a pan, and if you line a pan with standard foil it will usually tear when removing the vegetables. Not so with the non-stick foil; tilt the pan and the vegetable will slide off.

I also like to make pizza, but reheating leftover slices unenviably results in sticky melted cheese oozing onto the pan, and with standard foil you end up with torn-off foil fragments attached to your slice. Yuk! Use this non-stick foil and your slices are guaranteed to be foil-free.

My third use of this foil is somewhat less compelling; having cheese stick to a foil casserole cover is far from a disaster. However, my frugal nature hates to delegate any cheese to the trash can. How non-stick is this? 100%! Nothing sticks to it! This is perhaps why there are no competing products; I can’t image another product being better than this.

Just for kicks I tried woodworking glue and Liquid Nails. No problem, they just peeled off. As far as the safety of the product is concerned, the Reynolds website states that the coating “is a proprietary food-safe coating that is … safe for food contact.” and that it “does not contain Teflon or PTFE …”. I’ll leave that for you to interpret.

What about costs? The Reynolds non-stick foil is roughly the same price per sq. ft. as Reynolds standard weight “sticky” foil when both are purchased in a 75 sq. ft. roll. However, if you buy Reynolds standard foil in a 200 sq. ft. roll, which I find a reasonable size, the price per sq. ft. drops in half, and if you buy a store brand of standard foil the cost difference is even greater. However, even with a cost of this foil at least double that of standard foil, with my sparingly use its utility far outweighs its premium price. Additionally, an added bonus is that this foil is “heavy duty”, and while Reynolds doesn’t specify thicknesses, it seems to be equivalent to their standard heavy duty foil.

Not often does a tool perform its designate task with perfection, but this tool does, and at an affordable price. Try out a roll!

09/21/16 -- Dave King

20 September 2016


Luke Khanlian, Long Now Clock Engineer

Cool Tools Episode 63

Our guest this week is Luke Khanlian. Luke is a Design Engineer working on a mechanical clock intended to tick for 10,000 years. Starting as a mechanic’s apprentice at age 15, he began to accumulate tools and skills that would lead him to a career in Special Effects for film and television. In the early 2000’s Luke saw an opportunity steer towards Robotics and Rapid Prototyping. While competing in robot combat events, working on film effects and trying to get a small 3d Scanning and Printing business off the ground, Luke landed a job at Applied Minds (a research and development company with close ties to the entertainment industry). For someone interested in all aspects of designing and building things, this was a dream job. After working on many amazing projects, he started to focus primarily on Danny Hillis’s ambitious 10,000 Year Clock Project. It was big step from creating temporary things in the shortest possible time, to monumental objects that will potentially outlast this civilization. In addition to trying to be a good engineer, Luke is also trying to teach his kids that with a few skills and a bit of imagination they can modify, improve and ultimately create their own environment; they can tailor the objects in their lives to suit themselves.

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

Show notes:

Mora Chisel knife (Alternate handle).
“It’s made in Sweden, it’s carved in steel and it looks like a fixed blade knife with a plastic handle. It’s got a square blunt tip, and by blunt I mean it’s squared off at a 90 degree angle at the tip of the knife and so it looks like a woodworkers chisel from the front and a straight knife blade from the side. It allow you to do all kinds of things, and I think it makes a great tool belt or tool bag utility knife. It will cut most anything, certainly opening cardboard boxes and cutting through carpeting and doing all kinds of household chores. It’s also a scraping tool — I often use it to lift the corner of tape or scrape off the label. If you’re a carpenter it’s a great tool to add and if you’re a tinkerer or a homeowner it’s a very inexpensive fun knife to have and it certainly is an eye opener to use. It’s also impervious breaking the tip off if you do pry with it. It’s not intended for prying but tools like this get used for all kinds of things.”

Sculpture House #42 Carbon Steel Spatula
“You can look at a lot of similar tools, dentist tools come to mind, other kinds of epoxy mixing spatulas, but none of them approach the quality that this has. I’ve had this one for 23 years and it’s amazing. I’ve used it for everything from building the molds for various creatures and sculptures and things like that in the past, to currently using it for detailing out 3D prints or picking them off the build surface. The other thing that this tool is really great at is in model building, when you want to apply a sticker or a decal or something like that. You can stick it to the very tip of the flat surface and use it kinda like a single bladed tweezers and lay it in place and make very fine adjustments.”

BMI 2M Quicky Tape Measure
“This is different in that it’s just the metal band, but it’s wound backwards and it’s printed on the convex side of the metal band. When you press your finger on the trigger, the tape extends automatically. It’s unwinding the spring. With one hand you can extend the tape. You can get very accurate measurements and you can also put very accurate pencil lines on your piece. Or use it as a ruler when you’re drawing. I find that I use it as a drawing and layout tool as much as a measuring tool.”

Kraft Paper Roll 60lb. Weight and cutter

“Cover your table with this 60 pound brown craft paper. You can usually find a width that fits the table surface that you usually work on. I like the 60 pound weight because it’s heavy enough that it resists spills and a certain amount of cutting. It’s not so heavy that you feel bad using it or throwing it away when you’re done. The real magic of it is that it acts as a recorder for the story of your project. As I’ve used it in the past, if you’re working with a sculpture or a part, if you’re cutting a piece in half, you can set the half on the table and then trace around it. Now you have a cross section view that you can use to lay out components to go on the inside or to make adjustments in the profile or the design.”

09/20/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

20 September 2016


5-Port 40W USB Universal Smart Charger

Universal USB smart charger with 4-foot power cord

I take this smart charger with me on all trips, including business and family travel. Having five USB ports means I can charge everyone’s phones and a portable charger at the same time.

Instead of plugging directly into the wall outlet, it has a 48-inch power cord. This is an important feature, because it means I can plug the cord into a hard-to-get-to hotel rooom outlet and set the charging unit itself on a table or desk. The model with 5 smart ports is $22, and the model with 2 smart ports and 3 universal ports is $15.

09/20/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder


img 09/19/16

Razor Blade Safety Glass Scraper

Remove the old stickers and gummy adhesive from glass surfaces

img 09/16/16

Wiss 1DS Industrial Shears

Do-pretty-much everything shears

img 09/15/16

Paprika Recipe Manager

Organize your recipes, make meal plans, and create grocery lists

img 09/14/16

Sluggo Slug Bait

Seriously non-toxic slug bait

img 09/13/16

Pyrex Cups for Informal Dining

Grandad teaches grandsons the best way to eat

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Announcements: 09/6/16


CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

About Cool Tools

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Lamar runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.