Leatherman Multitool OHT

I’ve had many multitools: Leatherman, SOG, Kershaw, etc. but this is by far the best.

It’s a bit weighty (as most multitools are) but this one has stood true through every scenario I have been able to expose it to: two tours overseas, buried in the sand; rescue swimming and diving in extreme search and rescue missions; and bushcraft survival.

It has every feature I could need in an every day life. I carry this tool more than my wallet, cell phone, even keys. I’ve modified a few little aspects on it just to suit personal desires, such as: replacing one tool for a phosphorus rod, using the lanyard hole for a self-made paracord lanyard including fishing line, weights, and hooks embedded, etc. But none of these mods interfere with the original tool itself.

I now work as a paramedic full time, as well as with at-risk youth for Outward Bound and I use this tool daily, usually multiple times.

-- Andrew Thomas  

Leatherman OHT
$88

Available from Amazon



Klein Rapi-Driv Rotary Screwdriver

I was on a job recently and saw a guy using one of these to remove some long threaded screws on a switch plate, and after watching him I had to get one.

The key is, with a standard screwdriver there is a limit to how fast you can operate it. With this one, you can turn on the speed when you want. Your movement comes from your elbow instead of having to repeatedly turn your wrist to its limit.

It saves so much time. It works really well on low-torque, machine screws (the kind with a lot of threads per inch, like in switch plates). Sometimes a plate will have short screws, but sometimes you encounter a plate that has 1″ or 2″ 6/32 screws that to take forever to get out or in with a standard hand operated screwdriver. With this screwdriver, you can be done before you could walk across the room for the drill.

It’s perfect if you are painting, and don’t need/want to carry a drill around. You can keep one of these in your back pocket.

Tangentially, this Christmas I received the Kobalt Speed Drive ($18) which is a fascinating (if complicated) solution to the same problem. While it is cool (the 6x gear ratio turns the screw whichever way your wrist moves), it is heavier and larger than the Klein. Also the bit attachments can be easily dropped, lost, etc.

-- Allen Watts  

Klein Tools Cabinet Tip Screwdriver, Yellow and Black
$12

Available from Amazon



Masterson Rinse Well

I am a painter and I have used the Masterson Rinse Well daily, for years. (The same unit!)

It consists of a 28 oz (840 ml) plastic water bottle which, when filled and inverted onto the base, feeds water into a well in the center for brush wetting or cleaning. Pressing the button at the front drains the used water into the reservoir underneath and automatically refills the well with clean water. The area surrounding the well can be used as a kind of palette and there are two holes to hold brushes.

This multi-function unit takes up very little drawing table space, is durable and easy to clean, is inexpensive, and is an all-around excellent tool. (Having an extra water bottle is a good investment for limiting trips to the water faucet.)

-- Pamela Ehrlich  

Masterson Fresh Water Rinse Well
$15

Available from Amazon



WP 34S Scientific Calculator

This scientific calculator is very cool for two main reasons. First, it is a new open-source project driven by a small team of people who clearly love HP (Hewlett-Packard) scientific calculators. Probably no one at your workplace or school has this.

Second, in my opinion it’s the best option for anyone who ever fell in love with an RPN (reverse polish notation) HP calculator in the latter 20th century (e.g., HP32, HP42). That’s mostly because it is a reprogrammed version of an HP30b, so the key-feel is good and it’s powered by a fast ARM processor.

The latest similar offering from HP is the HP35s, which is too bulky and has known mathematical errors, poor design and quirky behavior. The WP34s solves these problems beautifully. The user manual is very well-written, but I recommend the fantastic WP34s Beginners Guide (also free).

-- Paul Bridges  



 

Matt Cutts, Head of Web Spam Team at Google [Cool Tools Show Episode #20]

Our guest this week, Matt Cutts, is a well-known blogger and the head of the Web Spam team at Google.  For more recommendations from Matt be sure to check out his personal blog.

Show Notes:

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

nuzzel

“…[I]magine somebody posted a great link. Maybe three of your friends posted a great link on Twitter, but you happened to not be looking at Twitter at that moment. Nuzzle let’s you see that and get a recap of what you might’ve missed, and it also bubbles things up based on how many people have been Tweeting about this. It’s a really good way to just dip your hand into the stream and see what’s going on without watching every single Tweet go by.”

Uses This

“…[T]he person who runs it basically goes out and asks four simple questions to a bunch of different people. He gets an incredible amount of different people to participate. They’ll talk about all kinds of different things that they do, or that they use. You can find out the hardware and the software that they use…and also their dream set up. People answer those questions in very different, very creative ways… It’s almost like if you could be invited into somebody’s house and look at their book shelf…You get a good feel for the things that they enjoy, and that can often help you find out and discover new things.”

Logitech Wireless Presenter R400 ($38)

“[I]f you give a lot of talks or presentations, you’re always tied to the computer, you’re pressing the up down button or left right. This let’s you walk around an auditorium. It’s got a laser pointer built in. You can forwards or backwards. I used it on my Chromebook recently to give a talk at North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It works with Mac, and Windows, and even Chromebooks. It works very well.”

The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds ($12)

“This book, The First 20 Minutes, is sort of a summary of all the different things that she’s learned over the years from reading through the research and talking to experts in the field…some of them are almost like tricks or gimmicks. Like, stand on one foot while you’re brushing your teeth and you can work on improving your balance for free. Or, pickle juice might help with cramps. A lot of it is just ‘Hey, here’s what the current science says about the best ways…to work out without having it be a total bad experience.’”

GarageMate

“This project is compatible with all the major garage door openers…suppose you’re going biking and you want to open the garage door…and you don’t want to take your keys with you. You can just open up this app on your phone, press one button, and the garage door opens up. It’s just like magic.”

 



Schrade Key Chain Pry Tool

I got this as a birthday gift and it’s been on my keychain since. It’s about 3.25 inches long and about an inch at its widest. It has several tools including: pry tool, bottle opener, seat belt cutter, screw-driver, and a wrench driver that accommodates a variety of bolt/nut diameters.

It has a hole for attaching to your keychain, but also comes with a lanyard if you don’t want to attach directly to your keyring.

The seat belt/cord cutter is recessed so you shouldn’t cut yourself unless you really try, but it sometimes can get caught on your pocket on the way in. Also, if you have young kids, be careful if they play with this as their fingers may be small enough to fit in the blade area.

The thing I like most about it is its weight. It is made of titanium and weighs 0.5 oz., about the weight of 3 quarters! I have had several other keychain tools, but they were all either too heavy or too bulky. With the pry tool on my keychain, I hardly notice the difference in my pocket.

-- Stuart Peterson  

Schrade Key Chain Pry Tool
$23

Available from Amazon



Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug

I bought my first Zojirushi stainless steel mug as a Christmas gift for my wife. She likes to take a lot of coffee with her to work for the day, typically filling both a travel mug and a thermos. I was looking for something that would keep a couple of servings of coffee hot for a long time, but would be easier to drink from than a traditional thermos. I came across this product, with extremely good reviews, and decided to get one for her to try.

After several months of daily use, my wife adores this travel mug. The finish is very durable; my wife’s mug looks like new after months of use. The lid both seals and locks into place when closed, and, when engaged, a secondary locking mechanism prevents the lid from being opened. This is ideal, allowing the user to put the mug into a bag without worrying it will pop open on its own. The lid can be disassembled into component pieces for easy cleaning. The only time the mug leaked was after a complete disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly. After re-orienting an incorrectly installed gasket, the integrity of the seal was restored.

Recently, when my wife was on spring break, I borrowed her Zojirushi to take to work. I was astounded with the performance of this mug and, frankly, jealous. The Zojirushi mug kept my coffee piping hot for over eight hours. I was so impressed, a bought a second mug for myself, which I now use daily.

A variety of colors are available, from the basic black and stainless finishes to blue, pink, and gold. This mug is available in two sizes, 12 and 16 ounces. The diameter of the mug is the same, so the sizes share the same lid, but the 16oz size is taller. The Zojirushi mug is on the expensive side, but I believe the quality more than justifies the price.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Zojirushi SM-KHE48AG Stainless Steel Mug, 16-Ounce
$27

Available from Amazon



Sony Pocket AM/FM Radio

It doesn’t have stereo reception or digital tuning or even a darn clock, but my little Sony Pocket Radio has been going strong for a decade. A pair of AA batteries supplies me with months of music, news, and sports broadcasts. Its reception is strong and steady, the volume is more than adequate, I’ve dropped it a few times without harming it, and it’s about the price of a sandwich. Sure, I wish it came it cute colors. Yes, it tends to tip over on occasion. And it’s so easy to carry from place to place that my biggest complaint is that I sometimes don’t know where I left it. But in the age of HD and wireless and internet media, this pocket radio proves that stuff doesn’t have to fancy in order to be great.

-- Jeremy Jackson  

Sony ICF-S10MK2 Pocket AM/FM Radio
$13

Available from Amazon



Kikkerland Universal Travel Adapter

I live on one side of the planet and work on the other. When I go on or come off work, I’m a couple of days in transit, meaning that 1) I need to charge my gadgets and 2) I need to be able to use a variety of outlets when I do it.

I’ve gone through a bunch of international adapters over the last few years. The cheap ones break or quit working. The pricier ones are clunky, and invariably get lost or stolen (everybody needs one, not everybody has one, and if you leave yours somewhere for two seconds somebody will walk off with it, guaranteed). All of them take up too much space in the bag.

I haven’t been using the Kikkerland UL03-A long — only a couple of months now, and I love it. I’m not alone: two of my co-workers saw it and immediately demanded to know what it was and where I got it. It doesn’t take three-prong plugs, only two-prong, but its design is pure genius. It’s not a wall wart. It’s surprisingly flat, and long. You pull it into two pieces and use its various bits to make an adaptor that will fit your socket. It works well and frees up tons of space in your bag. Great if you like to travel light.

Another in this design seems to be the Road Warrior, imported from Japan. I haven’t used one, but it does the same thing.

-- David Hines  

Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Travel Adapter
$10

Available from Amazon



Microwaveable Bowls With Handles

I habitually ate while seated on a sofa or at a desk. I had difficulty with plates and ordinary bowls. They could be too hot to carry; they were liable to spill their contents; and they were tricky to set down safely on my lap or to find free space for on a desk. So I was happy when I picked up a large (20 oz.) stoneware bowl with a handle. (Two cups =16 ounces.) It could hold a large-size can of soup. It was comparatively compact—and its handle was cool after microwaving. To accommodate it, I avoided food that required a knife and fork.

Recently I acquired four brands of containers that have snap-on lids, which:

  • Protect my microwave from getting splattered. (The lids need only be laid atop the containers, not snapped tight.)
  • Keep the heat in, speeding up the heating process and reducing the power consumed.
  • Keep the food warm for longer after it’s been heated.
  • Allow me to store leftover portions—or portions yet to be eaten—in the fridge in an airtight container.
  • Prevent food from spilling while being carried. (Provided the lids are snapped tight.)
  • Permit me (in two of the brands) to steam-cook certain vegetables.

Other advantages are that the containers:

  • Don’t need potholders.
  • Are safe to use in microwaves and dishwashers.
  • Are less tiring to hold (three brands).
  • Weigh less (two brands).
  • Look better (one brand).
  • Are insulated (one brand).

Three of these bowls have 4.5 or better ratings on Amazon, based on at least 150 reviews—the other is 4-rated. Here’s a quick run-down, from the least to the most expensive. Each one has attributes that would make it the first choice for some potential buyer.

1. Microwave Bowl with Lid; Set of 4: $15 for four, or $3.75 each, including shipping. (above photo)

It’s plastic—and there’s no claim that it’s BPA-free. It is about half the cost of the next-cheapest alternative. What you get is basic: the mugs are very lightweight and the lids lack a vent-hole. Amazon reviewers have noted that over time the flimsy lids distort enough in the microwave that they no longer provide a watertight seal—so they can’t be used to transport soup from a home to the office.

The upside is that the extra three mugs can be used as airtight containers in the fridge to store portions from a previously prepared large batch of stew or homemade soup—which eliminates having to ladel each portion out subsequently, and enables one to warm up the container on a countertop for a few hours before heating, reducing the oven’s energy consumption. (In effect, you can use these mugs as Tupperware substitutes. If you like this feature, and you like to make a really large initial batch of stew, you should buy a second set.)

bowl-2

2. Sistema 656 ml (20 oz.) Soup Mug: $7. All plastic—BPA-free.

Lightweight but not flimsy. Its three clamps are meant to ensure a watertight seal, presumably primarily to allow soup to be carried to the office for heating there. Unfortunately, a trickle of water escaped when I upended it and shook it vigorously. A thick soup or stew would not leak—or not much—even if sharply tilted and shaken during transport. A plastic bag would prevent any slight leak from spreading. It could be safely carried in a car inside a small cardboard box with a raspy-side Velcro patch on its bottom, keeping it anchored to the carpet. (And so could the other containers.)
A tight toggle switch in the lid opens the vent to allow steam release during heating. If left closed—or even if open—certain vegetables like carrots & brussel sprouts can be steam-cooked; you can turn down the power after the initial heat-up phase to save power.

bowl-3

3. CorningWare French White 20-Ounce Mug; bowl is stoneware, lid is plastic & BPA-free: $13

It’s heavy—so it’s best used at a table or desk. It’s good-looking—it has a nice color, fluted sides, and flared top. It’s similar to #2 in terms of its mild leakiness when shaken and its ability to steam veggies.
Lid removal is easier if the lid’s top is pushed down at the same time its tab is lifted up. (The instruction sheet is devoid of such tips—e.g., that the vent hole is opened by pulling up on the blue tab—it provides only warnings.)

bowl-4

4. Cool Touch Microwave Bowl With Unique Handle; plastic outer bowl, thin ceramic inner bowl, plastic lid: $13

This is a bowl, not a mug, so it has a slightly larger capacity—24 oz.—than the others. I steam-cooked a half-pound of brussel sprouts in six minutes. You can, unlike the others, set it on your lap (or on a heat-sensitive surface) right out of the oven—the outer shell insulates the heat inside; and it keeps the food warmer for longer.

The innovative thumb-hook handle encourages the fingers to curl under the bowl and support it, providing the comfiest and most secure grip of the bunch, so it’s good for eating in an easy chair or sofa. Its wider base and lower height make it safer in bed. And this is the best brand for someone who is infirm or has arthritis because its handle is the easiest to grasp and release, and because it has a secondary handle on the opposite side.

Envoi: If you are considering buying one of these, you should read the reviews on Amazon to learn its full range of quirks and pluses. (One quirk shared by the three brands containing plastic is that there will be small burrs on their edges that should be sanded off. The plastic is also liable to stain to some degree—although this affects only the underside of the lids in the two brands whose bowls are ceramic.)

-- Roger Knights