19 March 2018


Self-Healing Cutting Mat

Optimal place to cut

You razor-cut things on this mat, and unlike other materials it won’t accumulate a field of cut marks to misguide your blade. The self-healing rubber keeps the surface uniformly smooth, clean, and firm. And protects your table. Get the largest one you have room for and can afford. A large mat also says: don’t pile stuff here.

-- KK 03/19/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 — editors)

19 March 2018


Lacrosse felt insoles

Provides comfort, additional warmth, or a more snug fit

I’ve been using these insoles in most of my shoes for years. They’re meant as replacement insoles for Lacrosse work and rubber boots, but they work great in just about any type of shoe. I buy them in my regular shoe size, but they’re larger than most of the stock insoles. Using a stock insole as a pattern, I trace its outline onto the felt with a marker pen, and trim with scissors to fit. I find them more comfortable than most other insoles I’ve tried. They make my shoes feel like I’m wearing a comfortable pair of slippers. They help keep my feet warm in cold weather, and they’re also good when it’s warm, probably because they’re breathable and absorbent. They come in two different thicknesses, 6mm and 9mm. I use the 6mm in most of my shoes, but with some roomier boots I use the 9mm. These may not be appropriate for someone who needs arch support, as they’re just flat felt.

-- Ken Altman 03/19/18

18 March 2018


Mobile Justice/Daily/Long-term thinking

Recomendo: issue no. 86

Mobile justice
If you spot police officers doing something wrong, you can record them with the free Mobile Justice app from the ACLU. It sends the video directly to an ACLU server so even if the police illegally confiscate your phone they won’t be able to delete the incriminating video. — MF

No-frills To-Do app
I like to blame my To-Do List apps if things don’t get done. I get annoyed with reminders, then turn off notifications, and eventually delete. Daily – Zen Planner’s super simplistic design is non-threatening and easy to use. I type up tasks and move them to either the Today or Soon screen. — CD

Two Rooms and a BoomLong-term thinking
To encourage me to take a long-term view I’m a regular at the Seminars for Long-term Thinking hosted by the Long Now Foundation (where I am a founding board member). The hour-long talks (plus 30 minute Q&A) happen once a month in San Francisco. The topics are surprisingly diverse, ranging from ancient history to speculative futures, from food to nuclear power, from Silicon Valley to the Silk Road — all with a slant to the next 10,000 years. Several hundred past talks are archived and available to the public as free podcasts. For those outside San Francisco, or disinclined to travel unnecessarily, a membership to the Long Now gives you access to a real-time streaming version of each talk; you can even ask questions live. (Next up, next week, Steven Pinker.) — KK

I played this social deception/deduction game with about a dozen other people on the JoCo Cruise a few weeks ago. If you’ve played Werewolf or Mafia you’ll be familiar with this kind of game. In Two Rooms and a Boom, the goal is for team red to blow up the president, and the goal of team blue is to stop them. Each game takes about 15 minutes and if you’re like me, you’ll end up playing multiple rounds until way past your bedtime. It’s addictive — MF

Best scheduler
The best way to schedule a meeting for a bunch of busy people is via Doodle, a free easy website. No need to sign up. Just lay out all possible time slots and let everyone else go to the site, and click the times that work for them. The site sorts out the best time/date. No email tag. Quick, painless, I’ve been using the site for years. — KK

Get rid of frizz and flyaways
My favorite quick-fix hair product is Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine. The product description says it’s unique and hard to define, and it’s true. I use it when I don’t have enough time to heat style my hair. I rub a dime-size amount between my palms and pat it through out my hair to smooth it out, create shine and get rid of flyaways. — CD

Recomendo now has a Facebook page! Follow us for daily recommendations.

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 03/18/18

18 March 2018


Retractable Sharpie

Marker pen with no cap

When I saw these retractable Sharpies in a commercial during the Super Bowl I thought finally, an ad that actually influenced me to buy something.

Mine arrived yesterday from Staples and they are everything I’d hoped they would be. The same great Sharpie ink and point, but no more cap to hold on to or put down and lose or forget about.

What the great engineers at Sanford have done is create a minuscule hinged door that operates entirely within the instrument’s barrel, opening and closing like a submarine’s hatch.

-- Joseph Stirt 03/18/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

17 March 2018


Wiss 8″ Kitchen Shears

Old-fashioned multi-purpose kitchen shears

In this Cool Tools video review we’re going to take a look at a new pair of classic kitchen shears. These are made by Wiss, they’re Italian made and run about $30. And by using the link in the description to pick them up on Amazon you help support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

These are all-metal, multi-purpose kitchen scissors. I remember growing up with a pair like these in our kitchen. They’ve got a serious heft to them. This particular design has been made under the Wiss brand since the 1930s. And part of the appeal has always been the extra features they crammed in. This section here works as a bottle opener. Above that you have this nubby section meant for twisting off small lids. It can also work as a nut cracker or crab cracker. There’s a flat section on the handle that can be used as a small hammer. And this little protrusion on the top is supposedly used for unsealing ball jars, or generally unsealing lids that are vacuumed tight. Also, unlike the ones I grew up with, these include a deep notch on the blade that’s perfect for cutting rope, or bundles of stems, without them slipping down the blade. And because there’s a removable screw here, there’s no reason you can’t take these apart to wash them if you use them on food or something messy. It also means you can tension them up easily if they get loose.

Now, the downside for these from my time with them is that the extra weight compared the other scissors in my house makes me a little nervous about dropping them. If these drop on your hardwood wood floor or your foot — you’re going to be crying.

Also, the paint on the handle started to chip after just lightweight use. I see 50 year old versions of these on eBay where the paint has held on — so chalk that up to they just don’t make them like they used to. If you can find an old pair and restore them, that might be the best way to go. But even then, an all-metal handle isn’t super comfortable no matter what the paint looks like.

-- Donald Bell 03/17/18

17 March 2018


Ridgid Pro Pack

Rectangular Vacuum Cleaner

Like many people, I’ve had a lifetime of those round shopvacs on wheels with various attachments strung out around the house. The Pro Pack solves a lot of the problems that the traditional shopvacs had. It’s in a rectangular form factor much like a giant toolbox, right down to a sturdy handle and storage compartments for all of the attachments and the power cord. The shape and light weight make it easy to carry and store, and because the vacuum is so powerful — 5.0 peak HP — you can pick up all sorts of things. To empty, just pop off the top and pour the contents out. It’s easy enough to manage that I’ll probably be using it around the house almost as much as my regular vacuum cleaner.

-- Annette S. Leung 03/17/18

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)


img 03/16/18

Zach Supalla, CEO of Particle

Cool Tools Show 115: Zach Supalla

img 03/16/18

Motion Sensor Light Bulbs

Light bulb with built-in motion sensor

img 03/15/18

Indestructible Field Book

Waterproof, tearproof, weatherproof notebook

img 03/14/18

Suncast Garden Tool Hanger

Keeps broom bristles straight

img 03/13/18

Waterproof RGB LED Strip

Cheap, quality source of 5 volt programmable colored LED strips

See all the reviews


img 07/22/03


Better than clay

img 11/15/04


Kindling splitter

img 07/9/10

Nesco Food Dehydrator

Affordable dehydrator

img 10/27/10

Knipex Pliers Wrenches

Rapid, safe, strong pliers wrench

img 01/1/09


Personal outsourcing

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 115: Zach Supalla

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 114: Scott Smith

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 113: Madeline Ashby

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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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).

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