REVIEWED ON: 03 May 2016

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Lee Valley Peasant Chef knife

Slicing and chopping kitchen knife

My mother has never asked me for anything the past thirty years. The moment that she saw my peasant chef knife…it became hers. I bought it 4 years ago to teach french knife techniques to students at church, and quickly found that it was far better than most knives on the market under $100.

I suspect that Rob Lee made this $36 knife as a love-letter to his mom. It’s perfectly sized for a woman, and kicks the snot out of most non-custom chef knives on the market.

Blade steel: This is o1 steel. This pure steel gets sharp enough to shave translucent slices of tomato, but is tough enough to debone a duck. As a blade steel, o1 gets far sharper than most western stainless steels (victorinox, forschner, Furi, cutco, wustoff, etc) and far tougher than japanese steels (shun, global, etc).

Blade profile: This 6 3/4″ blade looks non-intimidating like a stubby santoku. However, this chef knife is based on a centuries old French chef knife. The blade is thinner than most German profile blades (Wustoff, Henkles), which allows it to cut easier. There is an adequate distal taper, meaning that the knife doesn’t get wedged in place. There is a usable point, with a nice curve that allows the full length of the knife to be used.

Handle: The handle is nicely shaped pakka wood. While knives shouldn’t be put through the dishwasher, this handle will likely be indestructible. It is also (like most things Lee Valley) very comfortable and handsomely made.

This knife shouldn’t be special. However, I know of no other knife on the market that offers a decent blade, good profile, and comfortable handle.

05/3/16 -- Matthew Lau

REVIEWED ON: 02 May 2016

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Polder Clock, Timer and Stopwatch

Versatile lanyard timer

I use timers a lot, in the kitchen, BBQ, watering the yard and drying clothes, reminding me when something is ready or finished.

I like the Polder timer. It has a lock switch that keeps you from accidentally changing the settings as you wear it around your neck and can be mounted magnetically.

Clock, stopwatch, count up to 24 hours, down to 10+ hours.

I especially like the overtime timer that tells me how many minutes I was late after the medium loud buzzer goes off, a great cooking help.

Now time is on my side.

05/2/16 -- Kent K Barnes

REVIEWED ON: 02 May 2016

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Joshua Schachter, Creator of Delicious

Cool Tools Show 052: Joshua Schachter

Joshua Schachter is the creator of the social bookmarking site, Delicious, the creator of GeoURL, and the co-creator of Memepool.

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:

othermill
Othermill ($2,199)
“It’s basically a 3-D remover. The examples it comes with are mostly targeted around designed PCB, PC boards, so it comes with copper-clad boards, and you etch away and drill through the places where circuits would, chips would go in, parts would go in, and be soldered to … It’s not too expensive, it’s easy to machine .. Other Machine has made software that’s actually pretty good if you have 2-D shapes you want to cut out of materials, it can go directly from SVG to machine, and when I’m in a hurry I often do that. It’s a tiny CNC machine, but it is a real CNC machine, so it’s not dumbed-down in any particular way.

80:20
Extruded aluminum rail, 80-20 (price varies)
“80-20 is a series of rail used for industrial and scientific use. It’s pretty inexpensive. You can get pieces of it on Amazon. Basically, they’re long slots of aluminum with a channel in them so that you can easily bolt, unbolt, rearrange the parts. The nice thing about aluminum is you can actually cut it on woodworking tools. .. [and] it’s not irreplaceably expensive, so you don’t feel too bad when you mess with it, change it up a bit.”

Vacmaster
VacMaster VP122 ($690)
“A vacuum chamber sealer is often used for sous vide in professional kitchens. … [It] drops the pressure [down] in a chamber with the bag of food … seals the bag, and then returns the pressure. It basically seals it in a vacuum. …The vacuum is powerful enough that when you put fruit or vegetables in there, the vegetable cells contain a tiny pocket of air called a vacuole, and the vacuum sealer will burst the vacuole, so for some things like watermelon or some fruits it will change texture entirely. You can also put liquid in there which will get pulled into the cells when the vacuum releases. You can make pickles in a few minutes. You can infuse pickles with vinegar or with brine. You can also infuse fruits with alcohol, that kind of stuff. One of the things I like doing is infusing tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, so the vinegar goes inside the tomatoes.”

delicup
Deli Cups ($12)
“Deli cups are these little polypropylene little containers that, when you get Chinese food and the soup comes in one it’s got a little top. They’re super cheap. I think it’s like $50 for 200 on Amazon, cheaper if you shop around, but I use if for a ton of things. When I take stuff apart, I use it to sort the parts, the screws, the little bits that come off of things. I’ve heard people say they use muffin tins to organize parts for when they take stuff apart. I use deli cups instead, because you can seal them, put them away, etc. I use them as parts bins for new parts when I’m building stuff. I use them for mixing chemicals quite a bit because the polyethylene or polypropylene does not react to much, so it’s a great thing to mix stuff in.”

Other links:
MeshCAM, CNC Software for Non-Machinists

05/2/16 --

REVIEWED ON: 29 April 2016

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Brass Garden Hose Shut-Off valve

Control garden hose flow from the end you are holding

Best hose shut off for the buck, period. Solid brass except for the nylon value core and not as bulky as the Dramm at more less than half the price (a solid product BTW but expensive and the turn stem gets hung up on stuff all the time). Some of the other “brass” shut offs have plastic turn stems and they are the achilles heel, the kiss of death, the weak link, if you will.

I’ve used these consistently for the last 8 years or so.

04/29/16 -- J. Sciarra

REVIEWED ON: 28 April 2016

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Mini Pick and Hook Set

Multi-purpose picks

These are well made, about 5 inches long, a nice bright safety orange, and sell for a couple of dollars. There are many companies that offer these sets, such as Tekton and GearWrench, and some have nicer rubberized grips (but these nicer sets cost more).

I have 4 sets of these, and I keep a set in the kitchen gadget drawer. They come in handy for kitchen tasks such as cleaning out the coffee grounds in my reusable K-cup. Sure I could use a butter knife, but the straight pick tool is so much easier and makes quick work of this simple and constant job. It gets all the coffee out of the nooks and crannies.

Out in the workshop/garage, they come in handy for grabbing and hooking small items like wires to pull through holes and removing electrical connectors. They are so small that they allow more precise positioning than other tools like pliers. And using the hook ended one means less chance of breaking delicate clips.

Also, they can be used to open packages and doing things like poking holes in the ends of certain sealants and glues. And they are great for cleaning out crud in between tight seams on things like appliances.

Once you own a set, you find a lot of uses for them.

04/28/16 -- Justin Lamar

REVIEWED ON: 27 April 2016

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Silicone BBQ gloves

Protect your hands against heat while cooking, baking, or BBQing

I’ve stopped using a turner to flip over steaks and hamburgers on the grill. It’s much easier to use these heat-resistant silicone gloves to handle the meat. With them, I can set the meat anywhere on the grill I want. I also use them to pull the roasting pan out of the oven, and for lifting heavy turkeys out of the roasting pan. I don’t bother carving the bird with a knife, either – I just take the hot meat off the carcass with the gloves on. I’m able to easily strip the meat clear to the bone. You say you want your chicken breast in neat slices? Fine, I’ll make a reservation for you at Furr’s.

Now, these gloves do conduct heat more quickly than an insulated fabric potholder, and they retain heat longer. So you can’t be leisurely as you handle hot things with these gloves.

04/27/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

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Rose Eveleth, Journalist

Cool Tools Show 051: Rose Eveleth

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Tiny mouse with touch gestures

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Knitting kit subscription

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What's in My Bag? 23 March 2016

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What’s in my bag? — Dennis Nishi

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Announcements: 04/27/16

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Good deal: Pogo Connect iPad stylus $9

In 2013 Robyn Miller, the co-creator of the fantastic computer game Myst, reviewed the Pogo Connect iPad stylus, declaring it an “awesome tool.” At the time of the review, there weren’t many pressure-sensitive Bluetooth styluses available. Today there are many other options, and they are probably more awesome (and if you would like to review one for Cool Tools, please do!). When the Robyn reviewed the Pogo, it was $66. Amazon has it priced to clear out the inventory at $8.95. At that price, it might be worth a try!

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.