Calslock Portable Door Lock

I have owned this tool for approximately two years. It manually locks an inward opening door. Ideal for travelling, students or anywhere that you would want privacy and security and there is likely to be multiple copies of the door key in circulation. I am on the road most weeks and have been walked in on in several hotel rooms by people with duplicate keys. I did some research and came across portable door locks.
It will not stop a determined attacker, but that is not what it is made for. It stops someone sneaking into your room using a duplicate key or bypassing the lock. A lot of hotel rooms have security chains, but there are videos on the web showing how these can easily be defeated. It also works on doors with no locks, aslong as there is a recess in the door jam where the door catch fits you can use it.

I originally had a similar one to this that I lost. When I went to replace it they had stopped production. I tried having tried several other designs but was never happy, then came across the Calslock one. At the time I purchased they only appeared to be sold on eBay, which worried me, but having purchased one there was very good service and it is an excellent product. (Still on eBay and cheaper than their home page!)

What makes this a cool tool compared to other portable door locks is a combination of things:

- It is a very good design, slim enough to fit doors that have a very tight fit.
- Easy to operate quickly if you need to get out in an emergency.
- Very adjustable from the thinnest cheapest door to thick heavy fire doors, I have yet to come across a door that is outside it’s adjustment range.
- It is very simple, only two large parts so no small fiddly bits to lose or to go wrong.
- Finally it is cheap, only $9.95, including free postage in USA on eBay or $12.95 direct.
I have no affiliation with Calslock, but whole heartedly recommend their product.

-- Graham Simpson  

Calslock Portable Door Lock
$10

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Calslock



Totes Compact Umbrella

When I got back from a trip to Europe, the one thing I felt I needed more than anything, was a good sturdy umbrella. After much research I found this small Totes umbrella. In my past experience, most small collapsible umbrellas were utter garbage. This is simply not the case here. I have had this thing for about 2 years now. I bring it with me any time there is rain in the forecast.

It’s slightly larger than most collapsible umbrellas (about 14 inches long when collapsed). The handle feels strong and sturdy in hand. It’s comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The auto open and close button works brilliantly and opens with strong force. When open, it is a full “golf size” umbrella, able to easily fit two people underneath. In the wind, there is a magical springiness to it that keeps it from being unwieldy. I’ve had absolutely no issues in heavy wind.

-- Sam Rosenblum  

Totes Golf-Size Auto Open Auto Close Compact Umbrella
$27

Available from Amazon



4AA Pack-Away Lantern

During a recent 27-hour-long power outage, we rushed out to find emergency lighting. While most people grabbed the biggest lanterns they could find, we centered on these handy Pack-Away Lanterns. They touted long run-times on 4 x AA batteries (20 hours on low and 8 hours on high), and they delivered!

We clipped three to our dining room light to provide plenty of light for card games. Then, we used one of the lanterns to provide overnight light for our cat that is scared of the dark (a true fraidy-cat!).

The lanterns are small, and the top pushes down for packing and storage. I throw one in my backpack any time I head to an event.

There’s a wire loop/handle at the top that folds flat, and a small clip that can attached to the handle. The clip could be used for attaching the light almost anywhere, like the inside of a car hood, a beltloop, or chandelier.

-- Steve Simpson  

Coleman 4AA Packaway Mini LED Lantern
$22

Available from Amazon



Wink’s Remarkable Book Picks for the Week

Wink is Cool Tools’ new website that reviews one remarkable paper book every weekday. We take photos of the covers and the interior pages of the books to show you why we love them. This week we reviewed books about spectacular close-up photographs of the elements, bubble-gum-sweet yet provocative French girls of the 1960s, a mapped guidebook to the underground city of Hong Kong, a grab-bag of 100 fascinating topics related to black, wonderfully weird medieval clip-art, and Chip Kidd’s ingenious book covers.

Take a look at these books and many others at Wink.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  



Quizlet

Quizlet is used almost daily by 12 million people but you’ve never heard of it unless you have a high school student. It’s a cloud-based flash card app. Here’s how my highschool son explains it.

Quizlet is what I and all my friends use to study vocabulary or anything else we have to memorize for class. It is super easy and super fast to add a card. No paper, auto-define buttons, lots of keyboard shortcuts make the process of creating a Quizlet quick and painless. Because Quizlets are all stored in the cloud, I can access them from anywhere and not worry about losing track of it. I usually type the cards on my laptop and then review/test on my phone. I can easily share my Quizlets with friends. There’s built in gamification for testing myself which makes memorizing a million words less of a daunting task. Quizlet also has a lot of other features which I haven’t yet tried; to me it is mostly a practical memorization aid. The best feature of all though is that it’s completely free!

quizlet2

-- Tywen Kelly  

Quizlet
Free



DuraSpin Phillips Bits

Designed for use with DuraSpin’s also-awesome automatic drywall screw gun, I found that the replacement bits were an inexpensive source of joy for use with power screwdrivers and drills for many electronics shop, computer repair, telecom, and datacenter uses.

Typically sold as a two-pack for around $7, I’ve found them at Ace Hardware and Home Depot, among others. They’re never with the other bits, but instead are usually stocked next to the DuraSpin tools.

Anyone who has done serious work with electronics has been frustrated by screws that can’t be reached by a regular length power driver. Bit extensions are wobbly, and the variable diameter extender’s shank can make it difficult to move through a bunch of cords and other obstructions, as well as block your view.

The nine-inch EA0128 bit, lightly magnetized with a tool magnetizer, allows you to reach that nasty screw down in a corner that’s holding a PCB in place, surrounded by delicate components. In a data center rack, it can reach through a bundle of cables so that you can hit a mounting post screwhole straight on, rather than trying to manually start a screw and then drive it at an angle because the power screwdriver is too bulky to go straight on. The EA0128 is a great enabler for such tricky environments.

The downside to this tool is that it feels awkward at first, because the tip is so much further from the user. However, once used to this, it becomes very natural, and eventually the short bits start to feel awkward.

The bits are nearly indestructible, and are convenient to abuse as crowbars or nail sets in a pinch.

Having used these for probably about twenty years, largely in combination with our totally awesome Milwaukee 6546-6 cordless screwdrivers, I cannot imagine doing any significant amount of electronics work without them.

-- Joe Greco  

Senco EA0128 Replacement Bit
$10 / 2-pack

Available from Amazon



Quick Door Hanger Brackets

I’ve been building a small cabin for my farm in Stamford, Vermont for 25 years — in my mind, that is. Last year I finally had a local contractor put up a shell for me to finish out. My wife and I went to the farm in July and lived in the construction space while we worked. I wanted to get the job done in in two weeks. (We met each other in Peace Corps Bahrain and are flexible people, but camping out among stud walls in your 60s got old fast.)

Our design included space-saving pocket doors, but the need for a bit of privacy for the bathroom forced a quick design change. A pre-hung door was my answer for the bathroom to get some privacy and get it fast. I watched some YouTube DIYs that showed me how to plumb and shim but I was a carpenter rookie with limited time. That’s when I turned to the Quick Door Hanger. It is easy, quick, dummy proof, and allows for adjustments of any mistakes you most likely won’t even make. The wood-shimming balance act goes away. I hung the door myself in no time and it closed perfectly.

To use the Quick Door Hanger, you start by screw-mounting one of the brackets behind each door hinge, as well as on the opposite side of the door. The brackets have notches in them, which you line up with a level line (drawn using a 6-foot bubble level) before screwing them into the door frame. That’s it. Perfect for rookies like me, but I’ll bet it’s a major time saver for pro finish carpenters, too.

-- Richard Silc  

Quick Door Hanger Kit
$5



Woodheat.org Website

Six years ago I left the city for a house in cottage country surrounded by acres of woodland. The house included a big but simple woodstove and we began using it. As I was new to this method of heating, I began searching the net for advice. Woodheat.org is the best site for all your questions about the matter. This nonprofit, nongovernmental agency, dedicated to the responsible use of wood as a home heating fuel, is full of informative material about all aspect of using wood to heat your home. The site is huge and has sections about firewood, chimneys, fireplaces, safety, water heating, boilers, etc.

I used free plans provided on the site to build two inexpensive woodsheds to shelter my firewood. We also upgraded our stove to a non-catalytic EPA certified one. On average, advanced EPA-certified stoves are about one-third more efficient than the old box. This I learned from the site. Woodheat.org is packed with techniques and valuable tips. Also worth mentioning, and rare today: you will not find any advertisement anywhere on the site.

-- Jean Schoeters  

Sample Excerpts:

The hardest lesson: firewood takes a very long time to season Most folks who split their wood and stack it in well-spaced rows find that they can dry their wood in about six months. If you have your wood stacked in early spring it should be ready to put away for winter’s use by October. However, it may need longer than that if you live in a damp maritime climate or use very dense wood like oak, which is notorious for taking a long time to dry. If you burn very hardwood, it is wise to process or buy it in the fall for use the following fall. That way you’ll be sure of having properly seasoned wood.

*

The biggest single efficiency booster: upgrade to an EPA certified stove

1. Although the EPA wood heater certification program was created to reduce air pollution, it resulted in added benefits like higher efficiency and increased safety. On average, EPA certified stoves, fireplace inserts and fireplaces are one-third more efficient than older conventional models. That’s one-third less cost if you buy your wood and a lot less work if you process your own.

2. Because advanced technology EPA certified heaters burn the smoke before it leaves the firebox, they extract more of the energy in the wood. This results in higher efficiency and less air pollution in your neighborhood.

3. Less smoke in the flue gas means less creosote (which is condensed smoke) in your chimney. Using an advanced technology wood heater reduces maintenance costs because your chimney will need sweeping less often.

4. The chimney deposits that do accumulate are much less combustible, which greatly reduces the chance of having a dangerous chimney fire.

5. EPA certified heaters are easier to use because their fires ignite and burn more reliably.




Rachet Rocket

I’ve gone through loads of portable bike tools over the years. Most are functional, and will get you out of a pinch on the road, but they usually make big compromises in the name of compactness and light weight. When I’m home, there’s usually a tool that does the job better in my toolbox and the portable tool stays with the spare tubes waiting for the next ride. In the years that I’ve had the Ratchet Rocket (hard to remember how many), I’ve found myself pulling it out for all sorts of jobs around the house.

A tiny ratchet set is just the thing on many quick fix-it jobs. Although the Ratchet Rocket is tiny and lightweight, it sacrifices nothing in build quality and strength. It’s become practically indispensable when assembling flat pack furniture (Ikea should consider selling it as a suicide prevention aid). My tool has had some hard labor over the years, but it shows no wear.

-- Mickey  

Topeak Rachet Rocket RX Mini Folding Bicycle Tool
$35

Available from Amazon



Wink’s Remarkable Book Picks for the Week

Wink is Cool Tools’ new website that reviews one remarkable paper book every weekday. We take photos of the covers and the interior pages of the books to show you why we love them. This week we reviewed books about Chip Kidd’s ingenious book covers, Jill Greenberg’s delightful photo portraits of primates, Jimmy Nelson’s stunning high-fashion portraits of tribal people in their most distinguished, authentic costumes, Annie Leibovitz’s stories behind her best photographs, the world of Game of Thrones in the form of a large pop-up, fold-out map, and Thomas C. Card’s photos of exuberantly colorful Japanese street fashion tribes.

Take a look at these books and many others at Wink.

-- Mark Frauenfelder