Vintage Clauss Scissors

My awareness of scissors has been raised recently. Dunno why, but really, they’re a tool we all know, use, value — but, I think, under-appreciate.

We have several pairs of various Fiskars scissors. No complaints, good tools.

But my appreciation of old-style, hot forged, all-steel scissors has been piqued. These things were made in the heyday of heavy manufacturing. You know, the steel scissors with the black-painted handles? Maybe all chrome? You can still get some of these new, but on eBay and in flea markets, the old ones are still there, outlived their previous lives, looking for new ones.

For example, you’ve probably seen the telco guy with his snips and knife on his belt. Those are some old-style tough scissors. Made by Clauss or Klein, they can last a whole career with minimal care.

I’ve got a pair of Clauss 3769 shears in my desk. They’re long, elegant, have a satisfying heft, cut very cleanly – and I have no idea how old they are but I can tell they’ll outlive me.

Like good old buildings, good old tools survive. There are lots of scissors looking for new homes. A little time with a honing stone might help them, some steel wool or WD-40 might make them look a little better. And your hand will always appreciate using them. Way better than most of those plastic-handled cheapos.

Clauss was started in Ohio in 1877. And there are others out there too. These were cool before cool was.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Vintage Clauss Scissors
Prices vary on eBay

Omni Grid Rulers

From the world of sewing comes this fabulous array of clever transparent rulers in a variety of shapes and sizes, including rectangles, squares and triangles. I use my 6″ x 24″ omni grid ruler for cutting out fabric with my rotary cutter. Quilters use them for cutting out quilt pieces in various geometric shapes. People cutting templates or marking tricky cuts will find these transparent rulers very handy as you can see the surface through the ruler. There are angles for cutting 45 and 60 degree angle on many of the rulers.

A wide variety of accessories make these rulers more useful: glowing tapes for marking the ruler when making many cuts of the same same size, clear “sticky” stuff to put on the bottom of the ruler so it will not slide, suction cup handles for grips to make them easier to move, as well as cases and storage options.

On the down side, they are fragile, and can break if dropped on a hard surface.

-- Amy Thompson  

Omnigrid rulers
Prices vary

Available from Amazon

Solar Shield Over-Glasses Sunglasses

I wear glasses. Mine are good ones, and I have little clippy sunglass “covers” for them that are polarized and work pretty well too.

But they’re sorta delicate, and really take two hands to properly fix to my specs. Not ideal for driving, when I may want to stick something on quickly and with a single hand.

Years ago I bought a truly ugly pair of Fitovers. They worked like I hoped but even just wearing them driving I got laughed at. Plus, they’re somewhat expensive. (Lots better looking these days, too.)

I stumbled into Solar Shield sunglasses at a Walgreen’s drugstore. They’re less than $20, much less ugly, and work pretty good too. Polarized as well.

Good for summer glare, even better for winter snow glare, and even good out of the car too. The, I dunno, brow-ridge on the frame shades the inside of the specs to cut down on behind-the-lens reflections (when sunlight gets directly in behind the sunglasses, what you’re seeing though your sunglasses is in competition with glare from your face, etc.), so a baseball hat isn’t so needed outside.

These things are cheap enough and fit simply enough that we’ve got two pair in each car — driver’s and an extra.

There are different sizes, so while you can pick these up online, I suggest going to Walgreen’s to find what fits your specs first.

These are not tiny little things, so you’ll need to have some space to store them. And one pair of mine broke for unknown reasons. That’s then I found that parts are not interchangeable between sizes. But again, these are not expensive, so while I was disappointed, I just replaced them.

You may not be styling with these things, but you’ll be comfortable. And a lot safer in those bad driving situations, too.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Solar Shield
$10 – $15

Available from Amazon

Nite Ize S-Biner MicroLock

I, too, owned a Nite Ize S-Biner, and found it convenient to put my keys, keyfobs, thumbdrives, etc, on — except the spring was too loose, and things would pop off all the time.

Then I found the locking S-Biner. The larger #2 and #4 locking S-Biner had a piece of rubber on the spring that you could slide in order to lock. While this worked well to lock it in place, I found the operation to not be smooth at all, and difficult to apply leverage to such a small piece.

Ironically, I then found the S-Biner MicroLock, which conceptually does the same thing, in that it locks the springs, but does so with a single, rotating knob in the middle. This knob allows for considerably smoother operation and application of torque than the tiny rubber pieces on the #2 and #4 S-biners.

As such, this is now my favorite inter-link for my keys, keyfobs, etc. It works surprisingly well, the locking mechanism is quite secure, and easily the fastest when it comes to swapping things in and out.

The little secret extra value here is that while you can buy 2 MicoLocks for about $5, you can buy the Nite Ize Key Rack Locker, which comes with 6 of these MicroLocks for $10.

I now have these all over the place, and enjoy the convenience of attaching and detaching things with ease, yet knowing that it will absolutely not randomly detach. The biggest impact this has had is on my backpack, which happens to be a hybrid city/camping backpack, which has lots of service loops. I can finally make use of the loops without worrying about the hassle of using keyrings, or the fear of losing things when using a non-locking S-Biner or velcro.

-- Kaz Mori  

Plastic Storage Caps for Wide Mouth Canning Jars

White plastic one-piece screw-top lids sized to fit either regular or wide-mouth canning jars. Mine came from Lehman’s but they are often available at hardware or kitchen-ware departments, where they sell the jars. These are not for canning, but simplify storage in pantry or fridge. They are easier to handle than two-piece metal lids, don’t rust or dent, and clean easily. I’ve used them daily for years.

-- Lynn Nadeau  

Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps, 8-Count

Available from Amazon

Bag Balm

I’ve suffered from dry skin and eczema since childhood. I tried every over-the-counter and prescription remedy available, and nothing worked until I discovered Bag Balm, which I’ve been using for over a decade now.

Originally developed to soften and heal the chapped and cracked udders of dairy cows, its dead-simple formula – petrolatum lanolin with a touch of 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate antiseptic – works wonders. It’s slightly thicker than petroleum jelly and goes on a bit stickier at first, but the greasiness quickly dissipates as it softens the skin. Its mildly medicinal smell is off-putting to some, and although I find it pleasant, a few drops of rosemary or spearmint oil blended in definitely gives it a more spa-like aroma.

Bag Balm’s greatest strength is that it works on the skin far longer than even the most robust moisturizers. In addition to soothing work-roughened hands and healing eczema, I also smear a thin layer over my exposed face prior to Northeastern wintertime surf sessions, lessening the icy shock of that first duck dive and keeping my exposed face protected for hours, with none of the post-surf face chap I had in the past.

-- Eric Schmid  

Bag Balm Moisturizing & Softening Ointment
$12 / 10 oz. can

Available from Amazon

Turn a Cheap Smart Phone into a Great MP3 Player

A great way to obtain an excellent MP3 player is to re-purpose an old smart phone. I bought an LG 800 (new in box) off eBay for $10 with free shipping.

Just don’t activate it (unless you need a phone, that is). It will come with a micro USB charging cable. Charge it up, slip in a micro-SD card, put it in airplane mode (longer battery life), and presto you have an excellent Mp3 player. I have used one for over a year now and love it.

I suggest adding a grippy style cover so you can hang onto it. The protective cover will just cost a couple of bucks and you can even install a lanyard to keep the small phone around your neck while working out.

The LG 800 has a full size (3.5 mm) stereo audio jack, so no adapter is needed. Just plug in your favorite set of ear buds or headphones. The music player works great and has a slider, so you can easily jump to different parts of a podcast/audio book. I have had purpose-built MP3 players before that made this nearly impossible; you would have to sit there holding the fast forward button for 5 minutes or so.

After a few seconds, the screen will go blank while playing audio files (to save battery life), and so that you don’t accidentally turn it off or skip forward or back. Just push the center button and another onscreen button to access the music player app. An attractive “now playing” screen shows the cover art with a slider and rewind/FF buttons. Volume adjustment is done with a toggle button on the side of the phone.

Besides being able to play podcasts and songs, you also get a built-in camera, calendar, to do list, memo pad, alarm clock, and many other functions. It does not have wi-fi, but if you want your re-purposed smart phone/MP3 player to be able to be used as a small tablet, just skip the LG 800 and go with an older Android smart phone that you can buy for $30 or so on eBay. But the LG has inherent advantages — better battery life (about 10 hours of continuous listening) and it is small.

To get content onto it, simply connect it to your computer and allow it to go into connect mode — at which time you can drag and drop Mp3 files into it. This will keep an older device out of a landfill and will serve you well as a modern “Walkman.”

-- Justin Lamar  

[Some cheap phones on eBay have "bad ESN" (electronic serial number) in the description. It is a hassle to activate a bad ESN phone with a mobile carrier, but you can still use it as an MP3 player. -- Mark]

Cheap smartphones
$1 and up on eBay

Kaboom Scrub Free Toilet Cleaning System

I have been using the Kaboom Scrub Free Toilet Cleaning System for over 6 years now, since first reading about its predecessor, the NeverScrub Self-Cleaning Toilet System here on Cool Tools. I originally ordered the previous version through a special offer from the manufacturer and, a few months later they sent me a free sample of the newer current version. This is an update of the original article.

Everything in the original article applies. The main difference is a complete redesign of the little plastic tank which allows easier replacement of the disinfectant tablets. With the original design, the screw-top stuck mercilessly, eventually resulting in breakage of the screw threads from repeated forcing of the screw-top to open it.

The unit consists of a little tank which is clipped to the top of the water closet, just inside the lip of the tank cover, with water lines going from the flush valve into the plastic reservoir holding the disinfectant tablets, and out to the overflow tube of the toilet. The plastic reservoir is filled with bleach-like tablets, which slowly dissolve, releasing disinfectant into the toilet bowl whenever the toilet is flushed. Simple and effective. Unlike some other products, which release rubber-corroding chemicals right into the tank itself, and destroy the rubber gaskets, this product only releases the chemical agent into the toilet bowl. I have never had to replace any gaskets due to corrosion as a result of using this product.

As long as you replenish the disinfectant tablets, the product “just works.” It releases a dilute bleach-like solution into the bowl every time you flush. It has a reassuring chlorine-like smell (actually it’s bromine) and it keeps the bowl sparkling clean. Though you still have to do the occasional bowl scrub, it reduces the frequency of this task significantly. Once every 4-6 weeks keeps things nice and clean.

The interval between tablet replenishments, of course, depends on the traffic the particular toilet experiences. I add tablets about once a month. You can tell they need replenishment when the intensity of the bromine smell diminishes noticeably.

A side note on the refill tablets is in order. I made mention of this in a comment in the original article. Though the price of the Kaboom unit itself is modest, a pack of just 2 refills costs as much as the product. So if you replaced the refills once a month, you would end up spending about 6 times the price of the product every year for refills. The old razor blade/camera film profit scheme.

A much cheaper solution is to use Spa Brominating Tablets. One bottle lasts me about 2 years. Interestingly enough, the Amazon listing for the Kaboom product also refers to a listing for Spa Brominating Tablets. Someone must have read my recommendation in my comment in the original article.

-- Larry Albertelli  

Kaboom with OxiClean Scrub Free! System

Available from Amazon

SpiderPro Dual Camera Holster

I am a news photographer that moonlights as a wedding photographer. In my line of work I need to get the image fast and I often don’t have time to change lenses. For years I would carry 3 cameras around my neck with different lenses attached so I could get the image I wanted. Especially on long wedding days, this left my back and neck hurting.

The Spiderpro holster system utilizes a plate with a pin that attaches to your camera base and connects with a slot on your belt to hold your cameras on your hips. This gives your cameras freedom of movement at your hips and allows you to carry them comfortably without having weight on your shoulders for extended periods of time. This also makes crisscrossing straps unnecessary, and is much more streamlined looking as well, for the discerning wedding photographer.

Cameras lock into place each time they’re returned to holster. In the lower position, locks keep cameras secure for longer-term carrying and in upper position, locks disengage for quick and easy access.

The adjustable belt fits most waists, but being more portly, I contacted the company about a larger size, and my request was honored quickly with an extender that works perfectly.

I’ve purchased plates for all of my DSLRs and the belt takes the weight with ease, I never have felt like a camera would drop off. The company makes lighter duty holsters for point-and-shoots as well.

-- Matthew A. Walker  

SpiderHolster SpiderPro Dual Camera System

Available from Amazon

Butterfly Spring Door Closer

This is a simple very powerful spring that closes the door perfectly every time. I have it installed on the door between my house and garage, which is difficult to close completely and easily blown open by wind.

It’s not too fast, nor too slow. If I push the door closed, it gives it enough extra oomph to make sure it closes completely. If I let it close the door, most of the time it closes and latches, worst case, it’s pushed against the door jamb and doesn’t move in the wind.

Most pleasant (and unexpected) of all is that the magnetic “hold-open” catch that I have on the door for those few occasions when I want it held open, still works fine with the spring. It seems to be the absolute perfect tension.

My only caveat would be around small children and a heavy door swinging shut.

Installation is a bit tricky. You need to pull up one of the hinge pins about 3″, then pry the spring open, which takes a bit of strength, then slip the spring over the extended hinge pin and rest the rubber covered arms over the door and the wall. This is tricky because your fingers are on the sides of the arm that go against the door and wall, so you need to open it even further than the 90 degree angle it sits at with the door closed. Once you have it over the hinge pin, you push the hinge pin back most of the way, but the pin will forever stick out about an inch – the length of the spring.


-- Chris Hartmann  

Butterfly Spring Door Closer

Available from Amazon