Trenching tool

We use these for trenching in dripline in difficult conditions, and for other trenching work. The wood handles last a long time, unless you are careless with them. Lee Valley sells spare handles and I keep a couple on hand. I have not replaced any for several years now. They work best if sharp, of course. Sharpen them with a large chainsaw (round) file on the inner curve of the tool and clean up the outer edge a bit with a flat file if
needed.

Trenching depth: typically about 6″ to 8″, any deeper than 12″ and it is a bit awkward.

I also find them handy for general excavation (e.g. digging out a bit of extra soil for
a valve box) and one of the people who works for me uses one in his garden a fair bit.

-- Ian Ralston  

Trench Digger
$45



Hugo’s Amazing Tape

I was introduced to Hugo’s Amazing tape several years ago by a colleague. He uses the tape to keep board game boxes closed for storage, and it has quite a following in the board game and collectible card game community. The tape is flexible, reusable, and has the fantastic quality of only sticking to itself. These qualities make it ideal for securing something that you need to wrap and unwrap repeatedly. Hugo’s Amazing Tape is available in rolls of various lengths & widths, allowing the user to cut a length to fit their needs.

I have found many household uses for Hugo’s Amazing Tape. I have used the tape as a sort of clamp, to secure oddly shaped objects together while glue dries. I have used it to secure small parts within an assembly to prevent them from falling out of place during storage. It is also perfect for securing rolls of gift wrapping paper, and for securing spools of thread, twine, or rope. I’ve also used it on all of my board game and puzzle boxes. Hugo’s Amazing Tape won’t leave sticky residue, and it doesn’t bind, crush, or decay like a rubber band. It is an indispensable addition to my household tool box.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Hugo’s 2-Inch by 50-feet Amazing Tape
$12

Available from Amazon



Sport Rocketry * Rocketry

The next step up from boy scout model rockets is high power rocketry. This is real fun for adults. These things will go miles high. It’s a strictly build-your-own endeavor, requiring permits. The National Association of Rocketry publishes a bi-monthly magazine for sport rocketeers called appropriately enough, Sport Rocketry. But my friends who are avid amateur rocketeers scoff at Sport Rocketry as kid stuff. They want to make their own real rockets reaching the stratosphere. From their garages come complex computer-guided peaceful missiles. They struct their stuff in Rockets, the magazine of the Tripoli Rocketry Association.

bigrocket

BigRockMan

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.11.58 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.12.48 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.22.36 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.24.38 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.25.05 PM

-- KK  

Sport Rocketry
$62 (includes membership)

Rocketry
$42

Sample Excerpts:

High Power Rocketry, also known as HPR, is similar to model rocketry with differences that include the propulsion power and weight increase of the model. They use motors in ranges over “G” power and/or weigh more than laws and regulations allow for unrestricted model rockets. Like model rockets, High Power rockets are typically made of safer, non-metallic materials such as cardboard, plastic, and wood, however, construction and recovery techniques usually differ somewhat, due to the requirements imposed by the use of HPR motors. This means that these models must be constructed in such a way that they have the ability to safely fly under these higher stress conditions.

High Power rocket motors cannot be purchased over the counter by the general consumer and typically are not carried by your average hobby store. They can be mail-ordered or purchased at some launch sites by adult modelers who are High Power certified, which is a requirement to purchase and use them. The NAR offers a three level certification program for modelers who want to fly high power rockets. Also, High Power rockets must be flown in compliance with their own separate High Power Rocket Safety Code.

Launching High Power rockets requires more preparation than launching model rockets. Not only is a larger field needed, but FAA clearance must be arranged, well in advance of the launch date. There may also be local or state regulatory issues to be addressed before you can fly your first high power rocket. This is another good reason for joining a NAR Section – many organized clubs already have the personnel and experience in making these tedious arrangements, freeing you to concentrate on the actual flying.




Cuissential SlickFroth

I often mix stuff into my coffee: cream, coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides, taurine, even some resistant starches like inulin as part of my low carb life. Previoius to getting the slickfroth, I had to choose between a small hand blender or a spoon. I did not expect much (you know, a battery powered small toy) but I have found that this device works much better than I expected as a mini-handblender for liquids and powders. While it will not chop up the contents of thick smoothies, it will mix liquids together or powders into liquids very well. It offers a very useful tool in-between a hand blender (over-kill for many situations) and just mixing with a spoon (often not adequate).

-- Dale Simpson  

Kuissential SlickFroth 2.0
$18

Available from Amazon



SOG Multitool

I’ve had my SOG multitool (with power-assist, in black) for probably 10 years. It’s geared, so the pliers and wire cutter add nearly double the gripping power. I’ve used the saw for cutting drywall, the knife for anything needing a sharp sturdy knife, and every other tool at one time or another. It is truly durable, comes in an industrial leather belt pouch and if I had to pick just one thing to take with me into any situation, it’d be this.

-- Rob Campbell  

SOG PowerAssist Multi-Tool
$68

Available from Amazon



Plastic Bone Folder

“Bone folders” made of real bone are classic, but I prefer a plastic one. The one I use for making crisp folds in origami, for bookmaking, folding cards, and paper construction is molded to the hand for extended ergonomic use. It slides super easy with no trace on paper. Sharp point, makes a really crisp fold. Lasts forever. Inexpensive. If you work with paper, you’ll want one of these.

-- KK  

EK tools Bone Folder
$4

Available from Amazon



LightDims

Found this tool at the local computer store. I used to apply small pieces of Post-It Notes over the LEDs on equipment in my home office. I replaced them with the original strength LightDims to cover several irritatingly bright LEDs and they work really well. I haven’t found anything else quite like it. I can still read the status of the LEDs, but they no longer light up my office like a Christmas tree.

-- Chris Knight  

DimIt light-dimming stickers
$6 – $14

Available from Amazon



Swivel Straight Christmas Tree Stand

One Christmas tradition I was happy to discard what was the annual fight with the tree stand. My brother and I would wrestle the tree into the kind of old stand that uses bolts to screw into the trunk to ostensibly stabilize it. Being the younger of the two, I had the task of holding the tree while lying on the floor after it had been impaled on the stand’s spike and then turning the three bolts into the soft pine in rotation, all in an effort to try to have the tree stand straight. Between the griping and groaning and being covered with pitch, this was a major operation that often had temporary results, leading to guy wires from the tree to the wall to keep it upright.

And then my mother bought a Swivel Straight Stand.

20 years later, having inherited the stand, putting the Christmas tree up is a breeze.The mechanism attaches to the tree separately from the stand, so you can do it outdoors before you bring the tree in. You then plop it into the stand and — voila! — the tree is standing solidly. Need to have it tilt to the right? Push the foot-lever in the stand down, move the tree to perpendicular, release the lever. Done. I can think of no gadget in my household of gimcracks that has been as simple and dependable.

-- John Bulger  

Swivel Straight Tree Stand
$48

Available from Amazon



Kickstarter School

Kickstarter is the premier crowdsourcing platform. It offers a way to finance your project by enabling current fans and wanna-be customers to pay you before you do your project. You don’t pay back your backers except indirectly with creative rewards as thanks. Often the reward is a unit of your project — a device, book, game, etc. Kickstarter is not the only crowdsourcing venue, but it is the largest, most active, and the most refined. So far, over 35,000 projects have been successfully funded — all kinds of creative dreams including games, gadgets, documentaries, music, shows, and one-of-a-kind happenings. One of those winners was a project I launched in 2012 — a graphic novel. We successfully raised $42,000 to complete a second book in our fictional universe. Like many financed projects, I believe that if we could not have crowdfunded it, the project probably would not have happened. In this way, Kickstarter is a fantastic cool tool.

There’s an art to running a successful crowdfunded campaign. While there are several guide books that offer advice on how to raise “big bucks” on Kickstarter, none of them (yet) are better than the simple free Kickstarter School section on the Kickstarter site. It tells you how to prepare the essential “video pitch” that seems to be needed, and gives suggestions on structuring your rewards (what backers get by funding you). Yet it is missing some things I wished someone had told me before we began our Kickstarter campaign:

1) We didn’t have enough cheap seats. Have a lot of different levels of support — including a lot of inexpensive ones of only a few dollars — to give everyone a chance to contribute. And don’t be shy about adding a few really high levels either.

2) Don’t rely on Kickstarter to find funders. You need to gather your fans first before you start, and then once gathered, use Kickstarter to engage them with your project. Once you pull the trigger, there’s no time to find new fans — and they don’t come from Kickstarter. Fans first, then Kickstarter.

3) It’s a full time job. Kickstarter campaigns ordinarily run about one month and during that time, it takes almost full time work to cheer, coax, and promote the project to your fans. There is nothing automatic or easy about it. Somebody has to lead the crowd during the whole time.

4) It all happens at the end. Even with successful grants, the bulk of the contributions come in at the end. So don’t stop drumming; keep sprinting till you’re past the finish line.

5) Don’t forget the Man. When calculating how much you need, remember not only to include the cost of delivering your supporters their rewards, but don’t forget the 8% commission Kickstarter and Amazon will take. That’s a hefty chunk of your total that you need to compensate for when setting your goal amount.

I have friends who skipped Kickstarted and opted for other crowdfunding sites. For instance Indiegogo will deliver funds even if you don’t meet your goal (Kickstarter is all or nothing), 33Needs shares profits with backers for ongoing enterprises (Kickstarter only funds projects), and so on. However for most projects I think Kickstarter is the place to start; it’s well crafted. I hope to do another crowdsourced project, but not as large. In fact, while the giant successes get the most ink, what Kickstarter really excels at is financing medium and small projects that one or two people can reasonably achieve.

-- KK  



rTracker

The rTracker is currently one of the most versatile and customizable apps for self-tracking on the market. Unlike other tracking apps that offer you a fixed set of questions pertaining to only one or two areas (e.g., your body measurements or mood), rTracker allows you to set up your own questions, so you can log any aspect of everyday life, all in one app.

I personally use it to log and store data for about 70 different life variables, including heart rate, weight, mood, social interactions, situational context, etc.. The rTracker also offers a great selection of measurement scales, from boolean (“checkbox”) to multiple choice (“radio-button”) to numeric and text input. I especially love the “sliding” scale, which better represents latent continuum (e.g., mood or happiness) than Likert scales.

Viewing your past records is easy, and you can always go “back in time” and change or add the data point for any given day and time. Another awesome feature of rTracker is shareability: you can export not only data, but also the questionnaire set up so other people could install the same questions on their phone.

The “function” feature of the app allows you to carry out calculations and data manipulations “on the fly”, right in the app. For example, I track my self-esteem on a daily basis using three questions. The “function” automatically calculates the arithmetic average of responses to all three questions in order to get the summary score.

For those of you who are concerned about privacy: rTracker stores your data directly on your phone, and you export it by plugging the phone in the computer and using iTunes.

Finally, rTracker is truly “mobile”: you are not “tied” to the computer, and can log and view your data “on the go”. It also does not require a wireless signal in order to open and use it.

mzl.rjmztkwu.320x480-75

mzl.xryjcfhm.320x480-75

rTracker for iPhone
99 cents