09 December 2016


Boing Boing’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Suggested gifts from the directory of mostly wonderful things

Besides being editor-in-chief of Cool Tools, I’m also an editor at Boing Boing. Boing Boing has an annual gift guide, and it’s worth sharing. It’s got musical instruments, crossbow pistols, pointed ears with built-in earbuds, model rockets, board games, Cthulhu ski masks and much, much more. (I’m also sharing Cool Tools’ gift guide with Boing Boing readers.)

Check out Boing Boing’s gift guide here.

12/9/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

09 December 2016


Wedge Locking Washer

Bolts stay tight even when exposed to severe vibration

I first learned about Nord-Lock washers after installing a turbocharger on my 2000 Mazda Protege. Four-cylinder engines typically run rough but the addition of a turbocharger spinning at 120,000RPM caused lots of vibration and vibration causes bolts (even those secured with conventional tightening systems, safety wire, or adhesives) to loosen and I was constantly re-torquing bolts. Then I learned about the Nord-Lock washers, installed as a pair of lock washers that has cams on one side and radial teeth on the opposite side. Nord-Lock wedge-locking products positively lock the bolt in a joint which cannot loosen due to vibration but can be un-tightened in a conventional manner by sufficient torque. Nord-Lock washers were developed by a Swedish company but now are widely available through fastener stores, Amazon and eBay. Nord-Lock washers are, as one would imagine, more expensive than conventional washers but the results — when needed — well-justify the cost (and the washers are reusable).

“The key is the difference in angles. Since the cam angle ” α ” is larger than the thread pitch ” β “, the pair of wedge lock washers expand more than the corresponding pitch of the thread.”

12/9/16 -- John Blinn

08 December 2016


Wink Gift Guide: Best Art and Design Books

Curated books from Wink

Over at our other Cool Tools Lab website, Wink (which reviews remarkable books that belong on paper), we have a gift guide of wonderful art and design books, which were curated by Gareth Branwyn. The titles are: Natural Curiosities, A Walk in Eden, Dear Data, Lost Envoy, Free Press, The Rise of David Bowie, Hieronymous Bosch: Complete Works, Inside the Artist’s Studio, Frank In The 3rd Dimension, Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging from Around the World.

12/8/16 --

08 December 2016


Magnetic tool holder

Keeps tools within easy reach

I bought this wall-mounted magnetic strip to have easy access to tools I need for simple household tasks: opening packages, hanging pictures, assembling furniture, tightening loose nuts, installing door locks, measuring things, simple plumbing repairs, etc. It’s much better than keeping the tools in a kitchen drawer, because I can instantly find the tool(s) I need instead of digging around. The magnet is very strong, so I don’t have to worry about a tool falling off. The strips come in various lengths. The one I bought is 24 inches long. The shortest I’ve seen on Amazon is seven inches.

12/8/16 -- Mark Frauenfelder

07 December 2016


Heavy Duty Kitchen Shears

Multi-purpose cutters

[This review is from an edited transcript of our interview with Gareth Branwyn on the Cool Tools Show — MF]

When I moved into a house in 1999, the owner left it filled with tools from the 1950s. Everything was very high quality. In the kitchen’s top drawer there was a strange pair of scissors, called “nutcracker scissors,” because they have a serrated area inside the handle that looks like it was made for cracking nuts. It actually isn’t. It was made for twist-off bottle tops, but you could also crack nuts with it. The scissors are basically a kitchen multitool of the 1950s. They’re really optimized. Everything is thought through, and they have a lot of little gadgets on it. There’s a bottle opener. There’s a little tab on the thumb hole, which I eventually learned was for lifting the seal on Ball jars. On the outside of the finger hole there’s a flat surface. I think that’s just a little hammer for maybe tamping down the jar lid before you do canning.

[Kevin has a similar pair. Here are his comments, also from the episode]: “They live in our kitchen drawer. We use them for cracking crab, for anything you need to crush, for opening bottles, for cutting through things that you’re gonna eat. Sometimes we use it instead of a knife — we’ll cut things up instead of a knife, like shearing vegetables.”

12/7/16 -- Gareth Branwyn

06 December 2016


Boogie Board

Replacement for paper, scratch pads and sticky notes

I’ve had this for almost a year, and it has completely eliminated the mess of sticky notes I had accumulating all over my desk and monitor at work. It is a screen on which I write all my notes and to-do lists for the day. You use a simple stylus to write anything you want on it. Whatever you write on it stays until you hit the button that erases the whole screen.

The battery never needs replacing, and while it’s LCD technology, it seems a lot like e-ink, feels a lot like writing on paper, and if I want to save an idea long term, I snap a picture with my phone.

It’s light, easy to travel with, good for doodles, and inexpensive. Put it on the fridge, use it for work. Share a note with a loved one, play tic tac toe while waiting for a wedding to start.

12/6/16 -- Ryan Peeler


img 12/5/16

Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening System

Sharpens your knife to the exact bevel you specify

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Cool Tools 2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Mark’s Picks

Favorite gift ideas from the editor-in-chief of Cool Tools

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Galapagos/Amazon Fresh/QALO

Recomendo: issue no. 19

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Teva Sport Sandals

Comfortable, durable, healthy, versatile sandals

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Dymo Plastic Label Embosser

Fantastic for art projects

img 11/30/16

Floyd Table Legs

Table legs that attach to a flat surface to create a table

See all the reviews


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What's in My Bag? 10 August 2016


What’s in My Bag — Wayne Ruffner

Outdoorsman shares his ultimate bug repellent kit

Announcements: 09/6/16


CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

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.

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.