19 April 2018


Ice Cream Spade

Flat blade digs into frozen ice cream

Trouble getting ice cream out of the carton? Bent spoons? Scoops that don’t penetrate? Wondering where the first aid kit is? One solution for parties (when the carton will likely soon be an empty husk) is to just slice the whole thing, paper & ice cream together, with a big knife.

Another solution is an Ice Cream Spade. What’s linked here is very similar to one we’ve been using for years: It’s a chunk of aluminum with a hollow handle that has some sort of “anti-freeze” in it. The relatively flat blade (as compared to scoops) much more easily gets into concrete-like frozen goodness. We’ve got a sister scoop model (same make/construction) but the scoop seriously doesn’t get the penetration the spade gets. And the mass of the metal maintains enough heat to avoid being a contributor to a big frozen/welded problem. And a quick rinse through hot/warm water is like honing a knife – it’s freshly sharpened, so to speak.

Sticking these into a dishwasher is discouraged as 1) the aluminum might corrode and 2) the fluid in the handle might end up being lost. I’m sure ours have been through the machine more than a few times and are still just fine, and hand-washing is easy too. Even if the fluid becomes lost, a hot rinse will help it through the concoctions.

There are a lot of similar models out there; I can’t attest to even the one linked – it may or may not be exactly as ours. A lot of reviewers seem to expect these things to cut ice cream like a Light Saber; it’s not magic, some effort is gonna be required. The one linked might be more expensive than some others though its reviews are pretty good. This summer, avoid the battle and enjoy the relative ease of using a spade like this.

-- Wayne Ruffner 04/19/18

19 April 2018


Neopixel trampoline, pocket power supply, mirrored arcade cabinet

Maker Update's projects of the week

This week on Maker Update, a Neopixel trampoline, pocket power supply, a mirrored arcade cabinet, light-up fingernails, Pixel Times, and a psychedelic scuba mask. This week’s Cool Tool is Socket Bit Hex Shanks.

Show notes and links here.

-- Donald Bell 04/19/18

18 April 2018


Seventh Generation Free and Clear Fragrance-Free Dish Dish Detergent

0% fragrances, dyes, phosphates, or triclosan

Seventh Generation makes eco-friendly cleaning products. I am on board with that, but I would prefer not to spend more money or lose some effectiveness. But their Free and Clear dishwashing liquid is both cheap and good.

Good (in rough order of importance):

— Cheap. A 25 oz. bottle costs about $3 at Walmart or your grocery store. For some reason, Amazon charges more. [Amazon sell a 6-pack for under $18, making it about the same price as Walmart).

— Effective. Wirecutter calls it a tie between it and Dawn Ultra. I have used both, and I think I might use a tad more of the Seventh Generation for the same jobs, but that might be because it is clear, and hard to see when I squeeze just a drop out (which is all I ever use at a time.)

— Fragrance-free. This is a big one, and why I stopped using Dawn. There is no strong cloying odor of watermelon, patchouli, mango, or whatever to mix, sickeningly, with the odors of stale food and grease on your pots and pans, and to cling to sponges, cutting boards and countertops. That might be a personal foible, but it isn’t unique to me. Dawn does not make a fragrance-free version, though it does make a dye-free version. (Seventh Generation also makes scented versions that use plant-based essential oils and extracts.)

— It does not contain phthalates, triclosan or phosphates. Phosphates are gradually going away. But phthalates are typically found (and not labeled as such) in the fragrance compounds in detergents. They are “estrogen-like,” so even minuscule amounts can have biological effects, both on you and fish, birds, etc. Triclosan is a pointless antibacterial that hurts fish, helps create invincible super-bacteria, etc. It has been banned in hand and body soaps, but not dish soaps. It also contains no dyes, but I am indifferent about that.

— It isn’t tested on animals. I personally can understand the logic or even the necessity sometimes of testing on animals, but I think it should be avoided when necessary. And here, it wasn’t necessary! It is cheap and works great.


— Ummm… The stuff is crystal clear, so you might end up using a bit more on your sponge because it doesn’t stand out.

— I suppose I wish it didn’t come in a plastic bottle. But there might be no alternative.

Summary Seventh Generation Free and Clear dish liquid is cheap, effective, cruelty-free, benign to the environment, and comes in a fragrance-free version. Win/win/win/win.

-- Karl Chwe 04/18/18

17 April 2018


FloTool Shaker Siphon

Shake to start siphoning

I have been using a “shaker siphon” for 10+ years to fill up cars, boats, generators, lawn mowers, etc. The problem with fuel cans is that when they are full they become unwieldy to pour from a spout. The best method I have found is to siphon fuel from the can rather than pour it.

To use a “shaker siphon” put the copper end into the fuel can and the tube into the tank you want to fill. Then lift the copper end up and down (shaking it) in the fuel can. The entire process takes seconds. The system works best if the fuel can is higher than the tank it is filling. Afterwards a siphon is created which transfers about 3 gallon or so per minute from the fuel can into the tank. You will hear a bit of jingling from the copper end which lets you know it is working.

I can typically get almost all of the fuel out a can with a few ounces leftover. Those last few ounces are easy to pour out. Lifting the copper end out of the fuel can stops the transfer immediately. When you are done, it is best to lift the copper end above your head while the other end is still in the tank to let any fuel in the line drain into the tank.

I use the Hopkins FloTool Shaker Siphon. There are several variations of this design on Amazon and from what I can tell one is good as the next.

-- Cameron Cole 04/17/18

17 April 2018


Nite Ize Spokelit LED Bicycle Spoke Light for Bike Wheels

Easy-to-attach spoke lights

In this Cool Tools video I’m going to show you these Spokelit bike lights by Nite Ize. I bought these for around $14 on Amazon and by using the link in the description to pick some up for yourself you help support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

These are a plastic, self-contained light, powered by replaceable watch batteries. You give them a squeeze to turn them on. A second squeeze gets them blinking, and a third squeeze turns them off. Battery life is between 20-25 hours depending on which mode you use.

The idea is, these just wedge right into your spokes. There are grooves here that grab your spokes, plus the wings just sort of weave in.

In the light of day, they’re super boring honestly, and that’s ok. Because they just look like generic reflectors I never feel like anyone’s going to rip these off.

At night, though, these add a dramatic streak of light to your rims, making your bike more visible people. These come in other colors — there’s even a rainbow effect version, but red seemed like the safe choice.

I’ve been riding with them for a few weeks now and I haven’t found them distracting. It’s just a nice, low key addition that makes biking at night a little safer and it’s a good price for what it is.

Previous Cool Tool Review.

-- Donald Bell 04/17/18

15 April 2018


Pocket magic trick/Minimalism notebooks/How to apologize

Recomendo: issue no. 90

Imp bottle magic trick
I bought this $5 pocket trick in 2015. It’s a tiny plastic bottle with a spherical base. It has a weighted bottom to keep it from tipping over. I can make it lie on its side, but no one else can (unless they know the secret, and surprisingly few do). Drive your friends crazy with frustration. — MF

Minimalism notebooks
I’ve long been a fan of blank (no-lines) Moleskine notebooks, large and small. I recently switched to Minimalism Art notebooks which are very similar, maybe better, quality and half the price. They also come in bright cover colors. — KK

Apologize effectively
I often refer back to this Reddit LifeProTip that describes the three parts of an effective apology. (1) Acknowledge how your action affected the person; (2) Say you’re sorry; (3) Describe what you’re going to do to make it right or make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t excuse or explain. It’s amazing how easy this is to forget so I have it saved and pinned in my iCloud notes. — CD

Binge watch TV: Colony
I’m eagerly looking forward to season 3 of Colony, a science fiction thriller about a world under lockdown after aliens arrive and take over. We never see the aliens — the oppressors are the humans who have cut a deal with the aliens to administrate repressive and cruel martial law in exchange for better living conditions. The story centers on a family trying to survive in a militarized, walled-off Los Angeles, where the smallest infraction is punishable by death. — MF

Teleport around the world
Globe Genie is a relaxing respite from my daily routine. I randomly bounce around to remote places, imagine myself there and appreciate the hugeness of the world. — CD

Pinterest scrapbooks
A lot of folks, especially guys, kind of sneer at Pinterest, but I use it all the time. I have the Pinterest plugin activated on my web browsers, so anytime I come across an image or visual idea on a webpage I want to save, I simply click on the little red Pinterest bug that appears in the left corner of that image, and it is saved to a “pin board” of my choosing. The advantage of this method over say Evernote is that each image saved can unearth many more similar images from all the Pinterest boards. So say I am researching how to make a lumber rack, I can collect a few examples from Google Images, or from some online forum, and then Pinterest will generate many more similar that others have collected. I can then curate my own collection from those, which is better than just looking at pages of Google results. You can keep your collections private or make them public, as I do with some of mine. — KK



img 04/13/18

Michael Borys, Interactive Design Director

Cool Tools Show 118: Michael Borys

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Maker Update

The best maker projects and tools of the week

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OBD II Diagnostic Scan Tool

Learn why the idiot light went on

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Upholstery Fabric Spray Paint

Extends the life of outdoor furniture cushions

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Robo-Grip Pliers

Jaws adjust automatically

See all the reviews


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World Map Wallpaper

The largest map of the world

img 09/27/13

Backyard Sugarin’

DIY sweets from trees

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Adobe Lightroom

Photo organizing, manipulating

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Engel Hot Knife

Superior textile cutter

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 118: Michael Borys

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 117: Matt Blum

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 116: Koichi

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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