27 July 2017


ChicoBag Reusable Travel Pack

Backpack unstuffs from attached pouch

This is my third ChicoBag, along with the Hobo Shopping Tote and Produce Stand Mesh Reusable Produce Bags. It has two side bottle pockets, and the ripstop fabric is made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Machine washable. Extremely light, and folds up inside itself in a zipper pocket to make a small pouch when not in use. To tell the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever rolled up in the small little pouch since I got it because I use it every day and do not leave the house without it. I can testify it is big enough to fit two six-packs of canned beer.

-- Kent Barnes 07/27/17

26 July 2017


Maker Update #44: Head worn magnifying glasses

Adjustable head worn magnifying glasses

This week on Maker Update, converting XP to exercise points, losing WD Labs and Arduino 101, printing butterflies, and marking your tools. This week’s Cool Tool is wearable magnifying glasses.

I bought these a year ago looking for a way to get a better look at soldering up small stuff. They really are perfect for those times when you’re wiring or painting or glueing up something tiny and delicate. Plus there’s a little LED on the front that helps put a little extra light on things.

These come with an interchangeable set of lenses. The most powerful one gives you 3.5 times magnification and is the one I leave on all the time. I honestly wish these went up a little higher, as the lower lenses really don’t do much for me.

The lenses are plastic, so they can get scratched if you’re not careful, which I’m guilty of. On the upside, compared to glass these are lightweight and can be worn for long periods without hurting your face. The lens also flips up and down so you can kick in the magnification just when you need it.

But by far my favorite use for these is put these on and surprise people. They make you look so super nerdy. They should really file these things under birth control. They are quite possibly the unsexiest pair of glasses ever made.

-- Donald Bell 07/26/17

26 July 2017


Noah Thorp, Founder of CoMakery

Cool Tools Show 082: Noah Thorp

Our guest this week is Noah Thorp. Noah is founder of a tech innovation network called CoMakery. Previously, he co-founded a holacratic blockchain prototyping studio. He was the VP of Engineering at Nasdaq Private Market, and he ran a record label where he wrote algorithmic music and pressed obscure records on thick Czechoslovakian vinyl.

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Show notes:

FORLIFE Stump Teapot with SLS Lid and Infuser ($23)
Zojirushi Micom Water Boiler & Warmer ($125)
“Most people when they hear “a teapot” they might like it’s fairly large, but this is actually, it’s really for a small amount of tea. … What I really like about it is it has this basket inside of it, and so you put the exact packet size, pre-measured tea into the basket … if it’s at just the right brewing level, you could just pour it out directly into glasses. I have a Zojirushi water boiler, so the water is always at the right temperature for sort of the tea of the week. So if it’s pu’er, it’s probably at 208. If it’s something that’s like a black tea or a more roasted green tea it’ll be at like 195. And it’ll be lower if we’re drinking green tea.”

Poloniex Crypto Currency Exchange
“Most people are unaware that there are 600 different cryptocurrencies at this point or maybe more. And so there’s a really active trading culture, and there’s some very active marketplaces. Poloniex is my favorite exchange. With Poloniex you can’t actually trade … You can’t actually transfer U.S. dollars into it. You have to first purchase bitcoin, and so one of the easier ways to do that is to go to Coinbase and then transfer U.S. dollars there to that exchange, and then you transfer your bitcoin over to Poloniex. Then once you have your bitcoin at Poloniex, then you can basically say, “I want to buy X MadeSafeCoins for this amount, or storjcoins for that amount.” And what’s really nice about this particular platform is that they have all the candlestick charts and some of the chart analysis tools that you would expect for more serious trading, or I should say for serious trading. And you also can see the kind of strength of the buy and the sell orders, so you can basically do some pretty good analysis of what the health of those tokens is. It’s also knowing a lot about news.”

Hexen 2.0 Tarot ($26)
“I listed this not because I do a lot of tarot card readings, but this particular tarot card deck is the HEXEN 2.0 tarot card deck, which all of the cards have interesting figures from cybernetics, alchemy, the counterculture, and various government conspiracy theories. And I discovered this deck as I was exploring some of the aggressive meme propaganda warfare that was occurring in the fall, and I found this podcast, which is called Expanding Mind, where they were talking about the long arc of memes going back to meme magic propaganda in World War II and things like that. … It has a picture of like the sun and the moon, and then underneath it, it says, ‘Implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology and ecology, political science, psychology, philosophy, and the organization of society.’”


26 July 2017


Craftsman Telescoping Lighted Inspection Mirror

Telescopic range of 6-3/4 to 37 in.

If you work with A/V equipment or computers, you know that all the ports/plug-ins tend to be on the back side of the machine, snugged up against the wall. This tool allows you to slip a mirror behind the equipment and see where things are located. With the incorporated LED light, finding what you are looking for is much easier even in dark nooks and crannies. Now, anytime I need to connect an HDMI cable, an A/V cable, or a USB cable, the first thing I grab is this mirror.

Once I started using it on a regular basis, I found more scenarios where it came in handy: finding things in the lower section of my engine compartment (especially when I dropped a socket and it got stuck somewhere), checking the soap level in the soap pump bottle under the kitchen sink, looking at the plumbing in the bathroom vanity, etc. I’ve even used it to see where the cable feed hole is on my desk when I’m trying to get yet another USB cable connected from point A to point B.

It has a telescoping handle that extends 33 inches, a non-slip grip handle, and a bright LED light, powered by a standard CR-2016 battery. The mirror unit can be swiveled about 300 degrees, making it easy to adjust to any situation. It is fairly compact, and folds almost flat. I haven’t seen many of these in tool stores, and the few I’ve seen are more expensive than what I paid for this tool. It sure beats using the dental mirror and flashlight setup I used before!


-- Martin Lange 07/26/17

25 July 2017


Hercules Stands Wallmount Guitar Hanger

Auto grip yoke securely holds guitar

I used to have all my guitars and basses on stands — it only takes two or three and suddenly a whole side of your room is taken up by them. Then I remembered these hangers that guitar stores use. They take guitars down and put them back up over and over again, and the hangers they use have mechanism inside.

The way they work is they have a saddle, a U-shaped design, and when you put the guitar in the saddle and then lower it, the weight of the guitar causes a mechanism to grab onto the guitar and swing its arms around it and hug it and then now it’s securely in place in the wall. Then when you want to take it back off again you simply lift it up and then that mechanism releases it. It’s a really neat simple machine that grabs and releases your guitar. It uses three screws and it drills right into the wall.

-- David McRaney 07/25/17

(This review was excerpted from our podcast with David McRaney. — editors)

24 July 2017


Stretch Wrap

Quick self-binding wrap

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

The genius of this product is that it sticks to itself. You just roll it around the boxes or posters or lumber that you want to wrap and it sticks tight. I use it for a bunch of things, as in the garden to stake trees to stakes or to tie say tomato plants to a frame, or as shown in the photo, to keep some nuts together with ball bearings (and have them be visible). It’s the same material they use to wrap boxes of books on pallets so that they’re one tight bundle for shipping. Also cool is that it is such a strong yet ultra-thin plastic membrane, not using a ton of resources to produce. They sell them at U-Haul stations. They’re cheap!

Above is a pic of stretch wrap I bought at a U-Haul location. At left is a tube of skateboard ball bearings, with some loose nuts wrapped to the tube. Not only attaches them, but keeps them visible.

-- Lloyd Kahn 07/24/17


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23 February 2017



We Refreshed Our Website

If you read Cool Tools via RSS (which is the way Kevin and I read blogs) then you probably don’t realize we updated our website design today. We took your feedback seriously and tried our best to simplify the design and make it more legible.

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Thanks for reading Cool Tools and being part of the community.

If I’ve still got your attention, I’d like to remind you that Cool Tools runs reviews written by our readers. Please recommend a tool you love.


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.

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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.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin 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.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark 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).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson 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.