I have used Benchmark maps for the past 14 years. They are the most detailed atlases I’ve ever seen. They are more adventure-friendly than any other atlas I’ve used and they are an excellent companion to GPS based systems as they show you deserted mines, ghost towns, land artworks and also public land (for impromptu camping). They are also excellent resources for side trips down dirt roads when you wonder to yourself “Where does that dirt road go?” as they require no batteries, mobile network or GPS signal.
The atlases only exist for the American western states. I own the California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah atlases. I keep all four in my truck at all times.
I first encountered these tools on a site that dealt with Japanese imports. Apparently they’re more popular there than in North America.
They’re basically little handheld devices that punch through small stacks of paper and then fold tabs and slots together to secure the sheets to each other. That makes them serve as paperless staplers.
As long as you don’t have too many sheets, I’ve found that they work perfectly well. There are no consumables to replace, and the resulting stack doesn’t have any extra materials that could interfere with (or create extra work for) recycling.
We have a cheap plastic unit that we bought years ago from a site that I believe no longer exists, and it’s served without trouble.
The Egg Calculator works flawlessly when preparing sous vide (slow cooked) eggs. For those not familiar with sous vide eggs, you can cook eggs in 63 degree C degree water – and they’re amazing when done to your liking, which is where the Egg Calculator comes in. Using the Calculator and a sous vide immersion circulator (a small, affordable tool that regulates water temperature), you can dial in the precise consistency of your egg white, from runny to firm – perfectly every time, like a pro.
I don’t think there’s another tool available online that gives you to ability to prepare sous vide eggs. My family is loving the Sunday Eggs Benedict!
Amazon has dropped the price of Kevin’s book, Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities to $19.99, which is an all-time low. There’s no telling when they’ll raise the price again, so if you don’t have the book yet, now’s your chance to pick it up at a bargain price.
Here’s my review, which ran on Wink Books:
For over ten years, Kevin Kelly (a co-founder of Wired and an editor of the Whole Earth Catalog) has been publishing recommendations of useful tools on his website, Cool-Tools.org. Using the Whole Earth Catalog as an inspiration, Kevin has collected over 1,500 reviews from his website into a full-color, massively oversized, 472 page catalog of how-to information of immense interest to makers. Kevin’s definition of a tool includes anything that helps you get something done — it could be a website, a book, a map, a material, an item of clothing, a gadget, or anything else that improves your abilities. If you wanted to rebuild civilization after a zombie apocalypse, this would be your guidebook.
The effect of seeing these reviews on large pages (when opened, a two-page spread is 22″ x 17″) is remarkable. As Kevin wrote on his site, “There is something very powerful at work on large pages of a book. Your brain begins to make natural associations between tools in a way that it doesn’t on small screens. The juxtapositions of diverse items on the page prods the reader to weave relationships between them, connecting ideas that once seemed far apart. The large real estate of the page opens up the mind, making you more receptive to patterns found in related tools. There’s room to see the depth of a book in a glance. You can scan a whole field of one type of tool faster than you can on the web. In that respect, a large paper book rewards both fast browsing and deep study better than the web or a small tablet.” As a result, Kevin has no plans for releasing an electronic version of the book (and the website is the electronic version, anyway).
When Kevin showed me a copy — airmailed from Hong Kong hot off the press — my mind was blown, just as it was when I discovered a copy of the Whole Earth Catalog when I was a 10-year-old. This is the book I want my kids to blow their minds with.
Jimmy DiResta is a maker, toy designer, and TV show host. He’s been the host of a number of DIY shows including Dirty Money, Trash to Cash, Against the Grain, and Hammered with John and Jimmy DiResta. He co-hosts the Making It Podcast, and has a fantastic YouTube channel called DiResta with videos on his latest builds and handy tool tips.
Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page
Revolver from SOG $70
“It’s basically one shank of steel. Half of it is buried in the handle, and there’s a pivot point at the front forward part of the handle. Then you push a trigger and it unlocks. You rotate the blade 180 degrees. One half is a Bowie knife and the other half is a really sharp lifetime guarantee saw. It’s perfect for a camping trip.”
Light-up Baseball Cap $17
“It’s one of those inventions that when it comes out, everyone’s like why didn’t we think of that. Everybody knocks it off. Power Cap is the one that I happen to see most often. The best quality ones have been available from Cabelas.”
Ice pick $6
“…if you carry one for a couple days in your shop, you’re going to begin to realize how often you’ll reach for it. That’s what I tell everybody. Just carry one, and you’ll begin to realize how often you need it and, to keep it sexy and smooth, I put a thin little handle on it.”
Tactical Pen $20
“If you walk out of the house and you have a pencil or a Bic pen, in 10 minutes you’ve given it to somebody, or you lost it, or you don’t care. But if you carry around a tactical pen, it just becomes like a semiprecious item that you’re going to constantly remember, oh, I lent that person my pen. Give it back to me when you’re done. That’s really the main reason I like it. Because it looks good with my gear, and it’s not something I would leave behind.”
When I started to try making my own yogurt – around 45 years ago – it was a case of trying several methods, each of which fell foul of messy, expensive or poor results, or other factors in similar categories.
About 10 years ago I came across EasiYo. I’ve used it ever since. Initially it looked pricey, but over time I’ve realized it is good value. Indeed, if you were to use only the sachets of dried milk and dormant cultures which EasyYo sells – which makes very nice yogurt – it would be expensive nice yogurt.
But the idea is brilliant! The key bit of kit is the insulated flask which is used to control the temperature of the dried milk and cultures and water mixed. It takes about 5 minutes to set it to work, and 24 hours later you get about a kilo of very nice yogurt.
The modification: Always on the look out for making things more cheaply, I have substituted the dried milk in the sachet with the cheapest dried milk available at my local supermarket. About 12 tablespoons of this. For the yogurt culture, I add a dessert spoon of the yogurt in my fridge as the starter. That’s it. Lovely yogurt, even better value, cheaper. Every so often, say after 12 or 15 iterations, I make a “new” yogurt using an EasyYo sachet (my favorite is natural Greek yogurt), but this is a matter of personal taste.
Additional note: As a bread maker for about as long as I have been trying to make yogurt, I have found this yogurt to be a great addition / substitute for liquid in the initial process.
I’ve had the True Utility Keyring system for four or five years now. It’s not so much a “system” as a ring, a shackle, and a few clips. The shackle keeps your keys from jangling around too much (especially if you add a few washers) and it makes them smaller and easier to handle, since they don’t splay out perpendicular to their flat axis, like they would on a common split ring. While it’s a huge pain to change out keys the first time, the convenience makes up for it. The clips have allowed me to swap out the items on my keychain like I would in a backpack. Using short lengths of paracord has made the TU Keyring system pretty wonderful, allowing different items to sit at different distances from each other so they fit in my pockets better. The split ring is slightly better than usual, and the clips are wonderful. I’ve also added a tiny bit of 3M grip tape (for stairs) to my house key so I can find it without looking at my keys.
Here’s an image of my keys:
I’ve been using Thayer’s Medicated Superhazel as an aftershave for a little over 2 years now, after seeing it recommended on YouTube by Sharpologist. It has left me lamenting the money – and possibly incremental bits of my health – that I wasted on more expensive, artificial chemical based aftershaves.
It’s cheap (a $12 bottle will last me 6 months or more), immediately and effectively soothes razor burn, and has a eucalyptus scent that’s just strong enough to be bracing, but isn’t cloying or long-lasting like many aftershaves.
All-in-all, a cheap and effective product that’s superior to pricier alternatives.
Going Abroad is both a very amusing read and extremely practical. Americans abroad tend to have two kinds of toilet difficulties, low tech and high tech.
At one end of the spectrum, there is the squat toilet. This may appear to be simply a porcelain hole in the ground with foot rests, but you can learn to use it. First, you probably need to practice squatting before you leave home. You need to build up those underused muscles so that you don’t fall in. Second, you need to learn which direction to face. (Hint: you want the two holes involved to more or less line up).
The second low tech problem is toilet paper (or the lack thereof). You’ll learn how the locals wipe themselves without paper. Actually, they usually rinse with water. That bucket and dipper by the toilet are not for drinking. Still, be careful about grabbing anybody’s left hand. Local customs do vary.
Why is there a waste basket full of used toilet paper in the bathroom? Why don’t they flush it? There’s a reason. Don’t you flush yours. You may knock out the plumbing system for the building, or even the whole village. (I’d like to take this opportunity to once again apologize to the people at the Naval Museum in Haifa. I didn’t know.)
The USA used to be a technologically advanced nation. Not so much anymore. The problems at the other end of the spectrum involve high tech toilets in more advanced countries, particularly Japan. The important thing is to learn how to flush them without needing to call down to the hotel reception desk for assistance. Unfortunately, this book is somewhat dated. It does not cover the latest toilets, which are probably Wi-Fi hotspots that will analyze the contents of your excrement and send health recommendations to your phone. But the main thing is how to flush.
In this book you will also learn about the mysterious bidet, what it is for, and most importantly, what it is not for.
This book is very well-illustrated to aid in learning.
My dentist told me that I grind my teeth at night and needed a night guard to prevent tooth damage. I agreed to get a custom mouth guard and boy was I shocked when I found out the cost. It was roughly $500 dollars that my insurance didn’t cover. That was about 8 years ago. That mouth guard was getting pretty beat up and grimy and discolored. I wasn’t eager to shell out another $500 dollars for another custom mouth guard and considered just getting a sports mouth guard from a sports supply store.
Then I came across the SISU SOVA Night Guard. It costs only $40, can be custom fitted and works well enough that a lacrosse coach suggested I check it out. The way it works is that you get a flat piece of plastic that is moldable when submerged in near boiling water for a couple minutes. You take it out, put it in your mouth and let it form around your teeth. This creates a custom fit just for your mouth and teeth. I’ve used it about a month and it has worked just as well as my $500 custom-fitted night guard from the dentist. The nice thing is that you can’t screw it up. If it doesn’t fit or isn’t comfortable, you can put it back in hot water to reshape it again. My guess is that you can’t do this endlessly, but once you get a good fit you should be all set. It also boasts small holes that allow you to drink and breathe which I find to be a negligible benefit, but the major plus is that it is custom-fitted from the comfort of your home for less than $50. It is BPA, PVC and Latex free. It feels about as comfortable as my existing mouth guard and works just find. I don’t know about the durability, but at $40 I can easily buy one every couple of years if it starts getting gross.