30 June 2016

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2TB Shockproof Waterproof Portable Hard Drive

Passes waterproof test for one meter under water for 30 minutes

Short review: Silicon Power’s Armor A80 USB 3.0 is a military grade portable hard drive which is waterproof, dust-proof, and can withstand serious drops. It will keep your data safe and provide fast access with its USB 3.0 connection. The connecting cable is securely stored, out of the way, in a recess. The Silicon Power Armor A80 portable hard drive offers very fast performance. Despite all that, it still manages to be as compact as other portable drives that are based on a 2.5-inch standard internal hard drive. The drive is compact and nice-looking. It makes an excellent portable drive for travelers and home offices alike.

Longer review: If you were tasked with designing the perfect external hard drive, what would you build into it? Storage size, durability, the power source, the physical size, and the speed of data transfer would certainly be at the top of the list. Throw in the power source and the ease of access and connection and you would be getting pretty close to an ideal drive. I would like mine to look good sitting next to my computer. And finally, I would want it to be resistant to accidental liquid spills and drops. And all of this at an affordable price. Well, I don’t have to look far to find this ideal drive. It exists in the form of the Armor A80, a 2TB USB 3.0 Rugged Portable External Hard Drive from Silicon Power.

The hard drives on today’s modern computers are in the Terabyte range. My iMac is 3TB and it is nowhere near full. The 2TB size of the A80 provides me with more than enough backup space. It will serve as a great Time Machine storage device, or even better as a CabonCopyCloner source that will exactly duplicate my computer’s drive. If an external drive is to be truly portable, it is going to have to stand up to a few bumps and bruises. The A80 has been drop tested directly onto a concrete floor. It has withstood falls from over a meter. This includes tests on each of 26 contact points (8 corners, 12 cut surfaces, and 6 major surfaces). That is my definition of durable. It certainly lives up to its “Rugged” moniker. It comes with a three year warranty to back up its rugged claim.

The Armor A80 has a great read/write speed since it uses the latest USB 3.0 interface. It is backwards compatible with USB 2.0. I tested an older USB 2.0 drive and found the A80 to be about five times faster. It thus saves you the user precious time backing up to and from the hard drive when transferring mass data files. If you use it as your Time Machine drive, you will notice a great speed improvement. There will be fewer lags in computer use while it is waiting for Time Machine to finish its hourly backup. It has a hot plug and play functionality. This means that it connects to just about any USB slot on your computer. I tried it through the keyboard port, which often does not provide enough power to a drive, and it worked fine. The only source that proved difficult was my old USB 2.0 hub. The drive was unreadable through it. I tried it out on my newer USB hub which has both a 3.0 and 2.0 slot and it worked fine from both. There was quite the variety of speeds from each of these ports. The slowest was connecting the drive through a USB 2.0 cable to the back of my computer. Next came the keyboard. The best speeds were through the USB 3.0 cable that comes with the drive to the USB port on the back of my computer as well as using the USB 3.0 port of my hub. In case you are wondering if your port is USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, the USB 3.0, which was released in 2008, is usually colored blue.

The drive is compact and light weight. It measures 13.9 cm x 9.4 cm x 1.8 cm (5.5 inches by 3.7 inches by .7 inches) and weighs in at around 200 g (0.55 pounds). It comes with two USB 3.0 connection cables. On one side, the drive has a deep groove that holds a short 10cm USB 3.0 cable. This cable-carry design makes the drive very convenient to use on the go. You are never without a connecting cable. It is this cable storage feature that sets this drive apart from all other drives I have used. With other drives, I am always afraid of losing the connecting cable. The way that it is stored, usually strapped to the outside, gets in the way. It could easily be detached without my knowledge. The drive also comes with a second one meter USB 3.0 cable in case you need to connect it to the back of a desktop. This makes it a perfect travel companion, easily fitting in a bag or purse or even your pocket. As for appearances, the Armor A80 has a rich looking royal blue metallic color painted onto a high quality aluminum casing.

I saved the most unique quality for last. It is water pressure, vibration, and dust proof in compliance with the waterproof test. It can be submerged to a depth of one meter under water for 30 minutes and is still fully operational. It is up to the task of surviving unexpected situations such as rain drops or liquid-spillage. One ambitious reviewer wrote that he actually tried submerging the drive in the kitchen sink overnight, leaving it under a running shower head for about half an hour, and dropping it from the level of his belt a few times while walking, and the drive indeed survived it all. The cover of the drive was susceptible to dents and scratches, however, which is why I will not go to the same extremes for my review.

06/30/16 -- Marcel Dufresne

29 June 2016

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Nail Punch for Trim

Long nose allows easy access to 1/2" J channel

I picked up this tool on clearance, thinking it could be useful at some point. It is made for (among other things) nailing into vinyl siding J-channel trim. It would be useful for hammering a nail into any sort of confined space. I’ve used it on staples for electrical wiring – the type that have a small nail on either side — to attach Romex style electrical wiring to a wooden stud, for example.

To use it, you insert a nail in the punch, and hit the hardened steel extension on the other side of the punch.

I was stapling a lot of electrical wires to some plywood inside a wall underneath the electrical panel in my house, so as you might imagine, it was difficult to get a hammer inside a hole cut into the wall where the wires are, and then try to hammer a nail whose head is about 1/8″ wide. The Wiss nail punch tool made this job incredibly simple.

The applications for it seem fairly specific, but boy, will you be glad you have the tool when you run into one of those situations.

punch

06/29/16 -- Loren Lasecki

28 June 2016

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Spider and insect glue board traps

Sticky traps for six- and eight-legged vermin

We have used these traps for about a year now. They work great, and are a nice alternative to using pesticides indoors. We still spray outside of the house, but these caught 3 to 10 spiders and bugs each over the last 6 months in our house. They are dirt cheap too. You can get 100 for around $20. We have 10 of them deployed in our 2,200 sq. ft. house. So, that 100 would last us 5 years if we change them every 6 months which seems appropriate. I wish I had known about these sooner!

06/28/16 -- Brad Hodge

27 June 2016

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Julbo Sherpa Sunglasses

Lightweight traditional glacier glass

I’ve had my Julbo Sherpas for a couple months now, and boy do I wish I’d found these a long time ago. They’re possibly the best pair of sunglasses I’ve ever owned – not to mention, coolest?

First, the flaws (but not dealbreakers): they will make you look like you have some sort of special-needs eye-condition. Maybe this is a pro, not a con, but mislead other people about your vision requirements at your own risk. Also, you cannot wear them while driving, or cycling – the leather blinders knock your peripheral vision out, so unless you have a very fancy car with a lot of blind-spot technology, merging and checking for cyclists becomes challenging, and possibly dangerous.

For everything else, these sunglasses can’t be beat. The lense quality is spectacular for a pair at this price. The leather blinders work well to prevent internal reflections or glare sneaking in – they are detachable, I suppose, if you really do want to drive with them on. The frames themselves are very lightweight and comfortable, and the arms have a great wraparound-ear feature that prevents them from flying off your head in strong gusts. This wraparound piece is made of a soft rubber, so it doesn’t hold too tightly – which means they don’t really rub, so they don’t bother you. I don’t know why more sunglasses don’t do this.

I’ve used them while skiing, as very capable replacements for goggles. I’ve fished and hiked with them on, getting them wet and sweaty, and I’ve worn them just floating around in the pool while reading. The style might not be for everyone, but at this price, there’s not a lot to say no to.

06/27/16 -- Alexander Parkinson

24 June 2016

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Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters

Cool Tools Show 057: Adam Savage

Our guest this week is Adam Savage. Adam was the co-host of Mythbusters and editor-in-chief of Tested.

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

Show notes:

image_4948
19″ Forged Alloy Nail Puller($42)
The first tool I wanted to talk about is a really ancient tool and it’s a cast iron nail puller. It’s got a little beak at the end like a octopus’ beak or a squid beak and that’s the part you put around the nail. … You use the handle to hammer the beak and the beak clamps in and grabs both sides of the nail. Then you pull back on the handle using the lever to the side of the beak and it yanks a nail right out of the wood. I use this tool maybe once every couple of years, but every time I do there’s no other tool that would have done what this does. … You could have a nail that’s missing it’s head and this thing could still pull it out. Try and find me another tool that could apply that much physics to the problem of pulling a nail. … It feels right out of a Sears catalog or a Montgomery catalog from the turn of the last century.

Kunz 151
Kunz 151 Flat Spokeshave ($29)
I was shocked at how easy it was to use a spoke shaver, at how well it took a square piece of wood and made it round in literally about 15 minutes. … Like the rule of knives. You cut on the pole. You place it on the corner and you adjust the angle of the wood with how you’re holding it and you pull back towards yourself and you can, with really impressive precision, peel off a lot of or little of the wood as you’re puling the spoke shaver towards you. … I was really surprised at how ergonomic it was, at how much fine motor control even a beginner like me had in making this two by four, or this one by one, a nice round dowel.

844k_in_stand
Marameter 844K Intramess Mahr Federal Self Centering Bore Gages
If you’re doing high level machining work. This is what’s called a check gage or a comparato. This allows you to make sure that the parts that you are making are absolutely scalable to each other, or you’ll have a set of gage blocks. Gage blocks are, let’s say you want to make something that is exactly 1.3759 inches tall. It’s got to be that tall because you’re working with incredibly high tolerances for a piece of NASA hardware. You’d set that height up using gauge blocks, which are a set of blocks that allow you to put them together in multiple combinations that give you every gradation and then you’d place them underneath this check gauge and you’d center it so that it would be set, so that zero on the check gauge was at 1.3795 inches tall and then you’d machine your part and you’d put it into double check that it was exactly the correct height. This is when your working with tolerances, obviously, much finer than the thousandth of an inch, which many high level machines are built to. It’s not actually that I have a regular need for this much accuracy, but I love knowing that it’s possible.

sewing
Janome HD3000 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine w/ Hard Case ($400)
I have been sewing my whole life, since home economics in the 70’s. I had this [old] sewing machine I bought for a job about 20 years ago. It’s been in recent times coughing up a little blood. It’s 25 years old and I decided to upgrade. I did a little research and I found that the Janome HD3000 was, for me, the best mix of a prosumer heavy duty machine that wouldn’t break the bank. … There’s a specific foot for doing a surger stitch and I’m sewing with fur lately as part of a costuming thing and the fur requires a surger stitch for the maximum straight and it’s really cool. It’s opened my eyes to using custom feet for different types of executions like button holes and things like that.

06/24/16 --

24 June 2016

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Smittybilt Beaver Step

Simplest way to add a stepping point to get into your pickup truck's cargo area

This is a combination truck hitch step/recovery point/bumper protector. This step has an interesting shape, more like a broad arrow head than the beaver tail it is named after. The unique shape makes it very easy to thread a recovery strap through and/or around it for secure use.

As for its construction, it is SOLID piece of steel which is then powder coated. As it is a solid piece of steel, it is quite heavy for its size. This construction means that it is extremely heavy duty. I am a bigger guy and I can jump on this step and it does not budge.

My only complaint is that it is a little loose in the 2″ hitch, so it will rattle around a little if you do not do something to tighten it up. I decided to wrap the hitch portion with a few layers of electrical tape. It is nice and tight with the tape and it should also help prevent it from rusting in the hitch. I would also recommend a good locking hitch pin so it does not walk away.

06/24/16 -- Matt Schirmacher

TOOL REVIEWS

img 06/23/16

Roper Whitney Jr. No. 5 Punch Kit

Hand punch will make holes in sheet steel, aluminum, and brass.

img 06/22/16

Electrician’s Knife

Edges designed for stripping cables, also good for cleaning 3D printed parts

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Bodum Shin Cha Tea Press

34-ounce glass tea press for loose teas and tea bags

img 06/20/16

Scanpan Professional 9.5-Inch Fry Pan

Ceramic-titanium nonstick finish is safe for metal utensils

img 06/20/16

What’s in My Bag — Daniel Webb

A software developer by day, musician by night shares his bag full of album-making tools

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Ask Cool Tools Featured Questions

Share your knowledge with your fellow Cool Tools readers

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A software developer by day, musician by night shares his bag full of album-making tools

Announcements: 05/15/16

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Feedly is a great way to read Cool Tools

A couple of years ago, hundreds of thousands of our readers read Cool Tools using Google Reader, an RSS aggregator. But when Google pulled the plug on Reader, tens of thousands of our readers didn’t bother to resubscribe by using a different RSS reader.

Kevin and I are both RSS junkies. It’s the way we read all our blogs. And the reader we use is Feedly. It’s evolved over the years and now it is better than Google Reader ever was. The free version is excellent (I have no reason to pay $5 a month for the premium version).

I recommend reading Cool Tools via Feedly. We offer the full text of every post, not just an excerpt. Give it a try and I think you’ll understand why 61 thousand people read Cool Tools readers through Feedly.

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.

kevin

Kevin 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.

mark

Mark 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).

claudia

Claudia 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.