18 August 2017


Door Ease Lube Stick

Unsticks sticky doors, windows, and drawers

Door Ease is a stick of wax for unsticking drawers. I inherited an old stick of it when I moved into a house. The previous owners left it behind. One day I had a sticky drawer and I thought, “Wait, I have the technology!” so I went downstairs and got my Door Ease and it hasn’t stuck since.

-- Gareth Branwyn 08/18/17

(This review was excerpted from our Cool Tools Show podcast interview with Gareth. Listen to it here. — editors)

17 August 2017


Maker Update: Self-Centering Drill Bits

The best DIY projects of the week

In Donald Bell’s latest Maker Update video, he looks at acoustic levitation, an Arduino made by Sony, a new kit by Anouk Wipprecht, self-centering drill bits, and a turning old monitors into a video wall. See show notes here.

From the video transcript:

For this week’s Cool Tools review we’re going to take a look at this self-centering drill bit set from Bosch. Great for makers and DIY home repairs. I wish I’d bought these years ago. This set cost me around $23, and if you want the same one, clicking the Amazon link in the show notes helps to support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

If you’ve ever tried to attach some pre-drilled piece of hardware to something — a hinge, a latch, a coat hook — you’re probably familiar with the challenge of placing the hardware, marking where the holes need to be, and then carefully drilling. But if your pilot holes are just a little off — even in just one hole, the whole placement of the hardware will shift. It bugs the crap out of me.

A self-centering drill bit makes this process foolproof. The bit has a spring-loaded collar that sits into the hardware you’re attaching and keeps the drill bit dead-center. So long as your hardware doesn’t shift, the holes will be perfectly center.

This set from Bosch comes with three common bit sizes — a #6, #8 and #10. They’re also a quick change design that can just drop into an impact driver, making it easy to drill and screw with the same tool.

I will say that if you’re only using this occasionally, you could spend less and just get the smallest size. That will give you a centered pilot hole that you can expand with any regular drill bit. That said, for bigger projects, having the right size bit keeps you from having to drill the same hole twice.

-- Mark Frauenfelder 08/17/17

17 August 2017


Daiso Dollar Tools

Tools for a buck-and-a-half

Who knew? Daiso, the Japanese dollar store, sells a small selection of new tools for $1.50 each. Yes, they are obviously not high quality, but for a leather punch, or bronze brush, or mini-screwdrivers, the quality is sufficient.  Here are some of my recent purchases from a local Daiso store. Each one cost $1.50 which is garage-sale prices for new.

Five Chisels — These are small, but sharp. Short pencil size.  Can do detail work in wood.

Fluorescent Blackboard Marker — Writes on glass, hard and soft surfaces, washes off with water.

Precision Screwdrivers — Small gauge screwdrivers for the screws found in gadgets, and eyeglasses. Has a nice rotating thumb pressure tab. Half are philips, half slotted.

White Cable Ties — 170 small ones (about 3 inches). Often all you need for the cables and cords around your desk.

Green Cable Ties — Long (12 inches, 30 cm) and green. Can be used in the garden to tie up staked plants, or bundle branches, etc.

Long Driver Bit– Dual-ended philips shaft extension for electric drill.

Large Leather Punch — Makes an 8 mm hole.

Leather Punches — Two smaller punches, for 4 mm and 5 mm holes, about what you need for a leather belt.

Wire Brushes – Three: Bronze, Stainless steel and nylon.

Silicone Collapsing Funnel — Easy to store. Easy to clean.

Garden Shears — For small hands.

Paint Knife — Use this for mixing epoxies, or applying gels.

Draw knife – Technically it is a hand scythe, but it would work as a draw knife.

Silicone Spatula —  For pastes, grouts, filler, paints — no stick!

Rubber Hammer — Small rubber headed hammer. One side is softer.

You can buy some Daiso items online — via links provided — but only in bulk quantities.

-- KK 08/17/17

16 August 2017


Rob Reid, Bestselling Sci-Fi Author

Cool Tools Show 085: Rob Reid

Our guest this week is Rob Reid. Rob is the New York Times bestselling author of novels including Year Zero and the freshly-released After On. A longtime entrepreneur, he founded Listen.com, which created the Rhapsody music service. Years ago he was a Fulbright scholar in Cairo, and he still speaks better Arabic than you’d think.

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:

“[Trint] is a transcribing service. … So what happens is you upload your conversation … you hit a button and it thinks for a few minutes, and it transcribes it voice-to-text…And then you click anywhere in that transcript, and it starts playing at precisely that moment… [It’s] dynamically linked to the conversation. You click on a word, and it starts playing there. And you cross words out. Like for instance, let’s say somebody “um-ed” a few times, or they stammered, or they said something and they didn’t like the way they started and they said it again. You cross out that stuff that wasn’t meant to be there. And it’s not professional editing quality, but you hit the play button and it skips that stuff, so you end up getting a very, very, very rough cut of what your editor might create.”

Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder ($350)
“This thing is very rugged. It’s a beautiful piece of industrial design. It’s got a very nice heft to it. It will take up to six inputs with four XLR jacks … basically you can patch in four microphones of any arbitrary quality that you happen to have access to. It takes SD cards, so you can go up to 128 gigs and have gazillions of hours of capacity. The battery life is good. It’s about 20 hours on a few AAs, which is neat … I’ve been lucky enough to conduct six of the seven interviews I’ve done so far face-to-face … and so being able to field produce and get out there and bring a couple microphones with me and this tiny but magnificent piece of electronics and get something that is near-studio quality is very, very precious for me. It’s about the size of a guitar pedal or a chunky glasses case. It’s really, really portable.”

“So instead of using the built-in Apple player, which I think is okay-ish at best, I use something called Downcast … It allows you to listen up to 3X speed with a lot of granularity as to how fast it is. … I’m sure others have come up with a term. I call it “fast listening.” And it is particularly important to me as a podcaster right now because I have this need to listen to lots of stuff, but I think it can be valuable for anybody. … We need our downtime and our zen space and time to just reflect, but we all have many hours of stuff to do each week where our brain is way too engaged to allow true creative thought or deep relaxation, yet nowhere near enough engaged to be anything other than bored, whether it’s doing dishes, packing, walking the dog, exercising, walking through airports, the whole bit.”

After On
About After On ($19)
“After On is my second work of fiction … and this new book is set in the world that I know so well. It’s set in an imaginary start-up, set in present-day San Francisco. So it’s very much about the entrepreneurial world and the way that we do entrepreneurship and start-ups today in Silicon Valley, but at the center of the story is a rather diabolical social media company called Flutter, and it kind of embodies everything that’s wrong with social media dialed up by maybe about 20%. And this’ll sound like a spoiler but it’s really not, because you’ll see it coming from page one, but about midway through the book Flutter attains consciousness. But rather than going all Skynet and trying to kill us all, it takes on its character from that which it is, which is a social network, so it basically becomes a hyper-empowered, super-intelligent 14-year-old brat.”


16 August 2017


Self-Grip Self-Adhering Tape and Bandage

Flexible, secure, easy to administer

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

A sprained ankle on the trail or a weak knee in sports needs a really firm bandage that won’t move in strenuous activity. That’s what a self-grip bandage does. I’ve been amazed at how firm a purchase this tape can make against itself. It holds itself together much tighter than a velcro grip (and far better than any Ace bandage), yet is quite smooth against your skin (it only sticks to itself). In fact it is so steadfast that unwrapping can be a challenge. It even adheres (to itself) under water. Comes in colors, too.

-- KK 08/16/17

15 August 2017


Wacaco Minipresso GR

Hand operated, no batteries, portable espresso

Hotel room coffee is, at best, bad and more often terrible. Hotel room espresso is usually limited to what is available in the lobby coffee shop, if there is one.

Since I spend a reasonable amount of time traveling for work (mostly via car) and I like my morning espresso I’ve tried several portable espresso machines to get me my morning espresso fix. I’ve found that the Wacaco Minipresso is the best portable espresso machine available. I’ve tried the Handpresso (I didn’t like having to use pods) and the much loved Aerobie but neither of those got me the espresso I wanted.

I’ve been using the Minipresso for well over a year now and can say it has held up very well after being used on a regular basis. It does the trick. I grind a small amount of coffee before my trip and store it in a glass jar. I use the in-room coffee pot to make hot water (run at least one full “pot” to clean it out first) and then use the Minipresso to make my morning espresso without having to leave my room. This works very well when traveling to places without a good coffee shop nearby. A couple of recommendations:

  1. Make more hot water than you need and heat your espresso cup with hot water before filling it with espresso.
  2. Take an espresso cup along with you so you are not stuck using the built in, plastic espresso cup that is part of the system.

I carry everything necessary (along with a flask for an evening cocktail) in a small lunch bag. The next addition to my travel kit will be a portable coffee grinder (most likely a Porlex mini – reviewed on Cool Tools).

-- Jason Reljac 08/15/17


img 08/14/17

Maker Update: Bobbleheads & Burrs

Pivot blade allows easy burr removal from iron pipe, copper and PVC tubing

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Semi-rigid Endoscope Inspection Camera

Small camera mounted to a bendable semi-rigid cable

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Autoseal Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Drinks stay hot up to 5 hours and cold up to 12 hours

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23 February 2017



We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

I’m sure we got some things wrong. If you find a mistake or have suggestions about our current iteration, please let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.


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 Dawson 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.