REVIEWED ON: 06 May 2016

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Aluminized Steel Non-Stick Cookie Pan

Baking pan retains heat and won't rust

A few years ago after I retired, I found more time for baking.

We have a bunch of what I call baking pans, both aluminum, and steel.

I found that for many things the steel seemed to toast the bottoms better than the aluminum, but are much harder to wash and rust easily.

Then I found the Chicago metallic commercial pan, which is the best of both worlds. Aluminized steel! Much heavier and seems to retain the heat very well. Warning on this heat retention: These do not cool down fast like 100% aluminum!

Dishwasher safe, and lifetime warranty.

05/6/16 -- Kent Barnes

REVIEWED ON: 06 May 2016

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Full Circle Fresh Air Countertop Compost Collector

Allows oxygen to flow through organic kitchen waste, reducing odors

I’ve been composting my kitchen scraps for awhile now, using various systems, and this countertop compost bin, which I’ve been using for two years, is the best I’ve used so far.

There were two issues with other bins that I’ve used: 1) rottten vegetable residue on the bottom of the bin that must be cleaned out after it’s emptied and 2) swarming fruit flies.

The Compost Collector solves both those problems. You line the bin with a compostable bag (I use BioBag 3-gallon size), then remove it when it gets full, leaving your compost bin nice and clean. It takes about a week for me to fill the bag, and I’ve seldom had problems with leak-through. If your bag does dissolve a bit (this can happen if your scraps are really soggy or if you let the bag sit way too long), the bin comes apart for easy cleaning.

This bin has good airflow, which slows down the decomposition of the veggie scraps, but the air goes in through tiny holes in the top which fruit flies can’t get though as well as a gap at the bottom where air circulates around the bag. So as long as you remember to keep the top closed, fruit flies aren’t an issue. In addition, it’s not smelly like bins that have no airflow, unless you put something in it that’s smelly to begin with.

The Compost Collector is also sturdy and good-looking, and doesn’t take up too much space on the counter.

05/6/16 -- Abbie Stillie

REVIEWED ON: 04 May 2016

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Felt Guitar and Ukulele Picks

Pick made from high density wool and cotton material

I’ve been using these for more than 20 years as a semi-professional bass player.

They are great for ukulele players, but using them for bass allows me to play with a pick (which is easier than using my fingers) but the sound created is “smooth” like finger plucking.

It’s superior to hard picks because of this “finger sound feel.”

05/4/16 -- Andre

REVIEWED ON: 04 May 2016

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What’s in My Bag? — Heron

Best fishing gear for backcountry hiking trips

I like to fish an ultralight form of Tenkara on backcountry hiking trips. Traditional Tenkara fishing rods collapse to around 20 inches in length. This is a little too long to fit inside my backpack, so I prefer to use a Japanese “Keiryu” style rod which collapses to around 15 inches in length. These 15 inch rods easily fit inside my backpack. The rods I recommend are:

Daiwa Kiyose SF Series ($135)

Shimotsuke Kiyotaki ($80)

Como inexpensive rod ($5)

Besides the rod there are a few small items needed. TenkaraUSA made a great set of nippers and forceps, which are now discontinued. A similar set of off-brand nippers can be found here for $7, and forceps by Wright & McGill forceps for $12.

Rio Powerflex Tippet 5X ($5)

Moonlit Katana Tenkara Line ($20)
I prefer to fish with furled line instead of a level line. These lines from Moonlit are custom made for you. I especially like the tip ring connector which makes for a durable connection between the main line and tippet.

Meiho Tenkara Line Holder ($6)
Dead simple design, it just works. I prefer the 56mm version.

My fly box of choice is the extremely difficult to find Flexatop SB23195. This little box is perfect for my fishing style, and it costs only a few cents. I buy them by the dozen and hand them out to friends.

Al Mar Falcon Ultralight knife ($117)
A lovely fishing knife. When not in use, I keep this clipped into the chest pocket of my shirt to make sure it dries thoroughly as the blade does not resist rust well. This knife is slim and lightweight, large enough to cut up most fish I clean, but small enough to carry unnoticed all day. Around 80% of the action this knife sees is slicing veggies for lunch while fishing, the other 20% is cutting up fish. This is not an overbuilt knife, I would never think of cutting wood, opening a bottle, etc. with it.

E-Case eSeries 9 Case ($16)
I like to bring my phone with while fishing for topo maps (with Gaia GPS) and to snap photos. I usually don’t use a case with my iPhone 6, so this super heavy duty zip closure case is a perfect place to temporarily put my phone while fishing to protect it when I inadvertently fall in the water. Made by a reputable brand, they make Platypus soft water bottles, Therm-a-rest mattresses, MSR outdoor gear.

ZipLoc freezer quart bag ($18, Pack of 3)
I keep my phone in the E-Case in one pocket, and everything else besides the rod goes in a ziploc in my pocket.

05/4/16 -- Heron

REVIEWED ON: 03 May 2016

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Lee Valley Peasant Chef knife

Slicing and chopping kitchen knife

My mother has never asked me for anything the past thirty years. The moment that she saw my peasant chef knife…it became hers. I bought it 4 years ago to teach french knife techniques to students at church, and quickly found that it was far better than most knives on the market under $100.

I suspect that Rob Lee made this $36 knife as a love-letter to his mom. It’s perfectly sized for a woman, and kicks the snot out of most non-custom chef knives on the market.

Blade steel: This is o1 steel. This pure steel gets sharp enough to shave translucent slices of tomato, but is tough enough to debone a duck. As a blade steel, o1 gets far sharper than most western stainless steels (victorinox, forschner, Furi, cutco, wustoff, etc) and far tougher than japanese steels (shun, global, etc).

Blade profile: This 6 3/4″ blade looks non-intimidating like a stubby santoku. However, this chef knife is based on a centuries old French chef knife. The blade is thinner than most German profile blades (Wustoff, Henkles), which allows it to cut easier. There is an adequate distal taper, meaning that the knife doesn’t get wedged in place. There is a usable point, with a nice curve that allows the full length of the knife to be used.

Handle: The handle is nicely shaped pakka wood. While knives shouldn’t be put through the dishwasher, this handle will likely be indestructible. It is also (like most things Lee Valley) very comfortable and handsomely made.

This knife shouldn’t be special. However, I know of no other knife on the market that offers a decent blade, good profile, and comfortable handle.

05/3/16 -- Matthew Lau

REVIEWED ON: 02 May 2016

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Polder Clock, Timer and Stopwatch

Versatile lanyard timer

I use timers a lot, in the kitchen, BBQ, watering the yard and drying clothes, reminding me when something is ready or finished.

I like the Polder timer. It has a lock switch that keeps you from accidentally changing the settings as you wear it around your neck and can be mounted magnetically.

Clock, stopwatch, count up to 24 hours, down to 10+ hours.

I especially like the overtime timer that tells me how many minutes I was late after the medium loud buzzer goes off, a great cooking help.

Now time is on my side.

05/2/16 -- Kent K Barnes

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Good deal: Pogo Connect iPad stylus $9

In 2013 Robyn Miller, the co-creator of the fantastic computer game Myst, reviewed the Pogo Connect iPad stylus, declaring it an “awesome tool.” At the time of the review, there weren’t many pressure-sensitive Bluetooth styluses available. Today there are many other options, and they are probably more awesome (and if you would like to review one for Cool Tools, please do!). When the Robyn reviewed the Pogo, it was $66. Amazon has it priced to clear out the inventory at $8.95. At that price, it might be worth a try!

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.

kevin

Kevin 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.

mark

Mark 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).

claudia

Claudia Lamar 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.