Honeywell 7-Day Programmable Switch

I learned about this switch in the comments section of Cool Tools for a different, timed switch.

Our home has a bunch of outdoor lights on two separate switches. I had swapped out the incandescents for LEDs (CFLs don’t work outside here in the winter outside and will wreck themselves), but we still wanted to automate all of them. Installing light sensors & timers was not the solution I wanted, but, until I saw the comment for these, I didn’t know what we needed.

These switches are ideal: Find the lat/long degrees (easy on the Internet) and date/time of your location, and the internal astronomic table “knows” when dusk & dawn are in your area, year round. We wanted ours to come on at dusk, go off at midnight, so a simple extra program step, and we’re done. It’s coming up on two years since I installed them and, even with a few power interruptions later, we’ve still yet to touch them again.

These switches coupled with LED “bulbs” give us good, reliable, inexpensive outdoor light that we don’t even have to think about. Wonderful.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Honeywell Econoswitch 7-Day Solar Time Table Programmable Switch for Lights and Motors

Available from Amazon

Improvised Medicine

Improvised Medicine is essential reading for any medical professional, from EMT to surgeon, who may ever run out of medical supplies. Whether the cause is poverty or isolation, disaster or war, this book provides improvisations and work-arounds.

In thirty-seven chapters, Iserson covers all fields of medicine, including dentistry and psychological care. Topics range from triage to sanitation, from infectious diseases to documenting deaths. Each chapter has several pages of references, citing sources from medical journals to POW memoirs. These could be very useful in persuading medical colleagues to take the procedures and substitutions seriously. The book is also well-indexed.

Among topics covered:

  • Reusing disposable medical supplies
  • Using expired medications or street drugs
  • Rehydration formulas
  • Improvising lab tests
  • Making IV equipment
  • Direct blood transfusion from person-to-person
  • Making a blood warmer
  • Using a razor blade as a scalpel
  • Preparing a helicopter landing zone
  • Preparing your patients for evacuation on aircraft or pack animals
  • Adapting adult-size medical supplies to care for children or infants
  • Making hospital beds and rehab equipment from normal household items
  • Adapting a ventilator to work for multiple patients at the same time
  • Why you may not want to bury the dead immediately.

This book will not teach you how to do surgery. If you know how, it will show you how to work without the equipment, drugs, lab support or electricity you would normally expect to have. While not intended for non-professionals, if you have Where There is No Doctor on your bookshelf, you might want this book next to it.

For a trade paperback, this book is expensive ($57). A Kindle edition is available for $45. However, if you are out of IV tubing, you may not have any way to recharge the battery.

-- Walter Noiseux  

Improvised Medicine: Providing Care in Extreme Environments
Kenneth V. Iserson
2011, 578 pages

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:





Petzl e+LITE Ultra-Compact Emergency Headlamp

I’ve been using headlamps for various purposes for a couple of years now: For yard-work in dimming light, for riding my bike to and from work in the autumn, when I have to be on the road before the sun rises or after it has gone down, camping, etc. Different lamps work for different purposes.

This tiny lamp is the smallest one that Petzl offers, and fits easily into a pocket. It’s not terribly strong, so it’s unsuited to lighting your way if you need a lot of light. But there are times when you want very little light – just a night-light attached to your forehead, so to speak. I use it when I’m reading bedtime stories to our ten-year-old. It’s just bright enough to light up the page, but not enough to keep him (or me) from drifting off to sleep.

There are five settings: Dim white light, brighter white light, red light, and strobe functions for both the red and white settings. I never use the strobe settings – though the red strobe would make this a good tail-light for a bicycle. But the red light is very useful. A red bulb produces a light that feels much less harsh than white light. So when I wake up at midnight and need to get a glass of water, I grab this light, turn on the red bulb, and go about my business, without waking myself up more than is absolutely necessary.

Petzl claims that the battery will last for ten years. I’ve only been using my e+LITE for two years, so I can’t confirm how accurate this is. But after many night-time uses, it’s still working well.



-- Scott Reid  

Petzl E+LITE Ultra-compact emergency headlamp

Available from Amazon

Help Us Make Our Guide to the Best Non-Fiction Podcast Series

We are podcast fanatics. We’d like to find out what your favorite non-fiction podcasts are and why you like them. Please take the following survey to help us create a Guide to the Best Non-Fiction Podcast Series. (If button below does not work for you, use this link).

Image: Shutterstock

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Argo 8×8 Frontier ATV

We had to move stuff through woods and areas where there were no roads. We had tried 4-wheeler ATVs, but they were really only good for moving one person at a time, and not at all good for added stuff. Too high, not designed for carrying much of anything. Too fast, easy to crash in the woods.

We had no desire to try using horses, but I’m sure they would’ve worked really well with some sort of trailer.

These Argo 8x8s though, worked wonderfully. Low to the ground, no risk of ever tipping one of these, and with a pretty large bin it was easy to carry equipment. With eight wide tires, they never sunk into mud too deeply. These float too! So we could even cross small streams & marshy areas without much concern. Worked pretty good in snow too, but we never added tracks nor fought really deep snow.

They skid steer, and are very easy to drive. We never felt they were likely to tip, and they aren’t super speedy, so the only pain we ever felt was twig-whipping on our faces. We found them to be mechanically reliable too. Never broke down, never left us stranded. Easy to move them around on a simple flatbed trailer.

If this looks like something you could use, then I assure you it’ll do the job.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

2015 Argo Frontier 8×8 650
Approx. $15,000

Manufactured by Argo


Amazon Prime Day: Find Out If Our Top Cool Tools Are On Sale

Wednesday, July 15 is Amazon Prime Day, which promises “more deals than Black Friday.” This is the first Prime Day, so I’m not sure how fabulous it’s going to be, but I’m going to be checking Amazon throughout the day to see what kinds of deals are being offered.

A Prime membership itself is a good deal if you order a lot of things through Amazon. The main benefit is free 2-day shipping with no minimum order size, and discounted 1-day shipping. For me, that benefit alone makes Prime worth getting. The other two benefits I use and like are Prime Instant Video (40,000 free TV shows and movies) and Prime Photos (unlimited photo storage).  Amazon Prime cost $99 a year, but you can try Prime free for 30 days and take advantage of the Prime Day sale.  (Alternatively, if you are in the market for a decent smart phone, consider the Amazon Fire Phone, which currently sells for $199 and includes a year of Prime, making the effective price of the phone $100.)

In anticipation of Prime Day, we’ve put together the top 25 best-selling Cool Tools in the last two years, starting with the most popular. They are all available on Amazon, and there’s a good chance that at least a few will be sold at a discount on Prime Day. Even if they’re not on sale, check them out, because they are tools your fellow readers have bought in large numbers.

  1. Fantastic Ice Scraper with Brass Blade — Scrapes away crusty stuff in the kitchen and garage
  2. Love Glove Grooming Mitt for Cats — Cats love this fur brush
  3. Swiss+Tech Utili-Key — 6-in-1 Multi-Function Tool
  4. Gerber EAB Pocket Knife — Folding utility knife with exchangeable blade
  5. Shave Well Fog Free Shaving Mirror — Low price, foolproof shower mirror small enough to travel with
  6. Panda Ultra Wireless N USB Adapter — Adapter shares wifi signal with other devices
  7. Bluetooth Mini Interface OBD2 Scanner Adapter — Wireless car diagnostic tool
  8. Hugo’s Amazing Tape — Reusable tape sticks only to itself
  9. Key Rack Locker — Improved locking keyclip
  10. Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Adapter — Space saving travel adapter
  11. Illuminated Multipower LED Binohead Magnifier — Designed for both serious hobbyists and casual users
  12. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
  13. Kaboom with OxiClean Scrub Free! — A better toiler cleaning system
  14. O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream — Relief for cracked and split hand skin
  15. Woolzies Wool Dryer Balls — Natural fabric softener
  16. Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser — Demolishes dental biofilm
  17. OXO Steel Measuring Jigger — Angled surface lets you read measurements from above
  18. PlaSmart Perplexus — Brilliant 3D maze
  19. Photive 5-Port USB Rapid Charger — Conveniently charge multiple devices
  20. Tibet Almond Stick — Refresh old strings on guitars
  21. Sugru Hardware Sealer — A moldable silicone rubber compound that sticks to everything
  22. Spyderco Bug Knife — Itty bitty knife
  23. Chef’n Stem Gem Strawberry Huller — Decapitate strawberries with the push of a button
  24. Megapro Pocket Driver — Handy driver for small jobs
  25. Cheerson CX-10 Quadcopter — Tiny quadcopter for indoor fun
-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Thermos Stainless Steel Can Insulator

We’ve got some of those standard foam can koozies (I looked that up) that aren’t really very effective, are kind of a pain to use and are starting to tear up. Time to upgrade.

I stumbled onto some metal/vacuum models made by Thermos. Having always had good luck with Thermos devices, I bought two of their Stainless Steel Can Insulators. This was late last year, when it was already cool, so 1), it really wasn’t the ideal time to “test” these things, and 2) I tend to drain a can pretty quickly. My wife, on the other hand, tends to nurse her sodas, so she’s the one who’d say if they do their job well.

I was immediately impressed by the fit & finish of these things. Set a can on top of one, and it just slides in nicely. Easy to remove – especially compared to a foam type. The rubberish seal at the top is also the grippy part, so it sits very nicely in hand.

And they provide a noticeably better life-of-a-cool-drink. My wife was a doubter but has come to really appreciate these things. Faster than prepping a glass with ice, and leaves no condensation rings behind. Now that it’s warmer, the effectiveness of these things is even more obvious. Pretty dang good, for sure.

They’re sleek, not blimped up. In fact, they fit in car cup-holders, which is arguably some sort of a good thing, but will also give you an idea of their sleekness.

Keep in mind that, while very good, these things aren’t magic. Drinks will warm in them, but it’s slowed down a lot. And there’s no fighting to get cans in/out. Way better than those foam things. Pricier too, of course, but they’re stainless steel and should last a very long time.


-- Wayne Ruffner  

Thermos Stainless Steel Beverage Can Insulator for 12 Ounce Can

Available from Amazon

Jared Zichek — Collectible Figurine Maker

Jared Zichek is a Figurine Maker who relies on a long list of tools to keep his limited edition resin figurine-making business, Golden Age, flowing smoothly. Listen in on this week’s episode of the Cool Tools Show to hear Jared discuss his business and offer insight into how these tools have become an essential part of his day-to-day operations.

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

Show Notes:

Paasche AEC Air Eraser Etching Tool $50

“I got this [mini sand blaster] specifically for finishing 3D prints, resin 3D prints. Because even the best 3D prints have traces of layering usually and it can be quite challenging to remove it without hurting surrounding details, especially if you have like an organic type sculpt like, say you sculpted a woman’s dress and you don’t want to obliterate the folds. I loaded it with baking soda and I think I put it at about 40, 45 psi on my compressor. I sprayed it and it worked pretty well. It removed most of the layering without really obliterating the surrounding details.”

3M Acryl-White Glazing Putty $17

“I’ve been using this for about a year. It cost us about $16.50 on Amazon. It comes in a very large tube that will last you for several years. It’s similar to a Tamiya White Putty which is a very nice fine filler putty but it’s much less expensive. It’s ideal for filling small holes, scratches, and other surface defects on resin 3D prints. It has a quick drying time. It dries in about 30 minutes. It can be sanded very smooth and it blends well with the surrounding surface, and also has low shrinkage.”

PJ Tool & Supply All Purpose Polishing Compound (Blue) $2-7

“I found this on PJ Tool and Supply. It’s an all purpose polishing compound. It costs $6.25 for 14 ounces, and a 1-inch buffing wheel is $2. These buffing wheels are for a Dremel tool.”

Miniature Buffing Wheels $2

“You take the buffing wheel and you stick it into the block of polishing compound and get some on there and then you apply it to the print you’re polishing. You’ve got to do it at a low RPM and you should wear eye protection. Because if you do it at a high RPM, you can burn the plastic.”

Moment of Inspiration 3D Modeling Software $295

“The guy who made MoI used to be a developer for Rhino. I’m not really familiar with CAD programs. I work with stuff that’s used for making games. But it was pretty intuitive, pretty easy to use and you can really quickly create a mechanical and man-made type hard surface models like guns, planes, robots, cars. It has a very useful Boolean capability where you can add and subtract, combine objects quickly to make complicated mechanical shapes and then you can apply nice fillets and chamfers to the edges. It’s just something that’s harder to do with like a polygon modeler like Softimage.”


Zip Zester

This citrus zester tool has 4 different blades; two are included and the others are available separately (I have all 4).

I have virtually no rotator cuff in my right shoulder, which, along with severe arthritis, makes using a microplane for what I do almost impossible.

What I do is make my own liquor infusions using 190 proof alcohol. To make limoncello, for example, I need the zest and juice from a dozen lemons. That’s a lot of work even with a great tool like the Microplane zester. The Zip Zester makes this into a simple job (my 5-year-old granddaughter actually did this for me; she thought it was great fun. And, instead of small pieces as with the Microplane (which you can get from the Zip Zester if you wish), I get very thin strips that make for better extraction.

The tool works exactly as described, zesting with not even a trace of white pith, something that takes a little effort with the Microplane. At a list price of $100, it’s a lot pricier than the $15 Microplane. But, for me, the price was well worth it (and I got it at a 20% discount w/free shipping). Also, where it used to take me an hour or more to do a dozen lemons w/the Microplane, it was a matter of minutes with the Zip Zester.

It does seem like the predominant use for the tool is in commercial applications (restaurants, bars, catering etc.) where it has to pay off big time. But, I now find myself making at least twice the number of infusions I used to; everybody keeps coming back for more.

-- Kenneth Fink  

Zip Zester Ultimate Kitchen Zester and Cocktail Garnisher

Available from Amazon

Mediasonic Digital TV Converter and Digital Video Recorder

I came across a good low-cost solution for cutting the cord from your cable company in favor of over-the-air (OTA) digital HD (ATSC) broadcast signals: the Mediasonic HW-150PVR.

While almost anyone can plug a simple antenna into their TV and get programming (and you should confirm you receive strong signal before buying this box), this $37 box adds DVR and program guide functionality for your broadcast signals – two things people might be less willing to give up when leaving cable. Guide data is received over the air, so results may vary.

Definitely a Tivo is a superior device – one key thing lacking in this device is the ability to set a “season pass” (record every episode of a show by name). But for a fraction of the price and avoiding Tivo’s monthly guide data fee, this device might be adequate for your needs (recordings can still be scheduled by time).

It requires an external USB drive for recording, which means you actually have to spend more than $37, but also means you can have lots of storage and can easily move the recordings to a PC (where you could also convert them into a suitable format for a tablet).

Including rabbit ears and a decent size USB drive, you could easily be up and running for $100 all-in.

Check out the user manual here.


-- Adam Berson  

[Read the Amazon reviews to learn about some of the frustrating things about this converter. The reason we are including it is because it is a very low-cost alternative to TiVo and other subscription based DVR services. -- Mark Frauenfelder]

Mediasonic HW-150PVR HomeWorx ATSC Digital TV Converter Box with Media Player and Recording PVR Function/HDMI Out

Available from Amazon