22 March 2017


LePen 10-Pack Colored Pen Set

Non-smearing ink pens

As other left-handers will understand, pencil and most ink smears as I write, since I was taught to write with the paper tilted to the right. I could teach myself to write with the paper slanted in the the other direction, but it feels weird. Instead, I use Le Pen, which doesn’t smear. Le Pen is my choice because it has a a micro-fine plastic tip, but doesn’t seem as delicate as some. I can leave the lid off and it doesn’t dry out. As someone who occasionally suffers from carpal tunnel, I love that it requires very little pressure to write. Some pens just feel good to write with, and Le Pen is one of them. I bought Le Pen for work a couple years ago, and now I make sure to purchase more in every office supply run (because they disappear from my office, not because they break or run out of ink).

03/22/17 -- Abbie Stillie

21 March 2017


Crossbow Pistol

80-lb draw weight crossbow pistol

I bought this crossbow pistol because my family’s favorite character on The Walking Dead, Daryl Dixon, uses a crossbow to take out zombies, and we thought it would be fun for target practice. It was only about $25, and I didn’t expect it to be very powerful, but I was wrong. A bolt shot from this thing could kill someone. It easily penetrates plywood. I’m not sure if a bolt could go through someone’s skull, but it would definitely lodge itself in a leg, arm, abdomen, or neck.

If you buy this, give it the same respect you would a firearm. It’s not a toy, but it sure is fun. That said, I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 should use it without adult supervision. Also, be sure to check your local laws to make sure you are allowed to use it where you live.

It doesn’t require a lot of effort to cock it, but a smaller kid would not be able to figure out how to do it. The safety automatically engages when you cock it, thankfully. The crossbow comes with three aluminum (very sharp) bolts. You can buy a pack of 36 additional bolts for $12.

03/21/17 -- Mark Frauenfelder

20 March 2017


Danielle Applestone, CEO of Other Machine Co.

Cool Tools Show 073: Danielle Applestone

Our guest this week is Danielle Applestone. Danielle is a material scientist, co-founder and CEO of Other Machine Co., the leading manufacturer of high-precision desktop CNC milling machines. Formerly, Danielle ran a DARPA project to develop digital design software and manufacturing tools for the classroom. Danielle’s team took that technology and launched Other Machine Co. in 2013.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Monarch Instrument Examiner 1000 ($1,200)
“I came across this electronic stethoscope as part of our manufacturing process. We would get motors from a manufacturer that looked balanced and met a spec, but once we put the whole machine together, sometimes a machine would have a lot of vibration and we didn’t know how to quantify that vibration or to know what was good or what was bad. … There’s a lot of intuition when you’re putting something complicated together like “Well, it feels right,” or “It doesn’t feel right.” That’s really hard to do so we found this amazing thing, which cut a ton of time out of our manufacturing process and now we have beautiful graphs of everything. We know exactly what things vibrate and which ones don’t. You can use it on musical instruments. It’s an amazing tool. Once you have one you realize how much you needed one in your life.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 2.39.16 PM
Bicycle inner tubes with holes in them
“I came across bicycle inner tubes with holes in them through a friend who had made a sail boat that was attached only with these bicycle inner tubes —it was a catamaran. The reason why they’re so important is they are waterproof, they stretch, and you don’t have to tie them in knots, so you can latch things together really quickly and then undo them, and make a new configuration. … They’re used a little bit like a bungee cord, but bungee cords are really expensive and you have to make do with the hooks whereas if you take a long inner tube that has a hole in it — you’re not going to use it anyway — slice it up into strips. It’s like a variable length bungee cord, but it also doesn’t have the hooks so you can just wrap it around itself and tuck it under and it’ll stay put.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 2.44.44 PM
The Encyclopedia of Country Living ($20)
“This is a great tool. This is so comprehensive for every little thing. I moved out into Kentucky and lived on 1200 acres for a while and didn’t have much. It was the go-to for, “Okay, we need to build a shanty for chickens. We need to learn how to clean a chicken.” It has everything, like “How to bury your own dead.” … The thing that’s magic about this book is it has the right level of detail, just enough to get yourself in trouble. … It’s just enough to get you going and then you can kind of DIY the rest. I still use it. The pages are all rained on, and moldy, and whatever, but it’s well loved.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 2.50.03 PM
X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer
“Yeah, well we just went from just about the lowest tech to the highest tech thing I’ve ever laid my hands on. … What’s great about this tool is it’s super useful for telling what’s on the surface of materials. I used to be a material scientist and I worked on lithium ion batteries. The surface is where all the action is. There’s not a lot of techniques out there that are nondestructive. Usually, if you invent a material, you have a sample, you have to crush it up or put it on a slide, you have to do something to it that mixes the surface in with the bulk. Sometimes, you don’t want that. … The X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer is amazing because you can just put a sample in and it’s nondestructive …. How it works is you take a beam of x-ray, so you shoot photons at the surface of your material and those photons have enough energy to pick off electrons. A photon goes in, ejects an electron, and then there’s a collector that collects that electron and measures the kinetic energy, measures how fast it was moving. Then, if you know the energy of your x-ray going in, and the energy of that electron that you caught, you can just subtract and figure out how tightly bound was that electron to my surface. What’s cool about that is if you know how tightly a molecule was hanging onto it’s electron, you can tell what that molecule was. Whether it was a sulfur dioxide, or sulfur monoxide, the electrons that are swimming around those molecules will be held differently depending on what those molecules are. … The place that I used one was at the University of Texas at Austin. They’re quite common, but they’re usually at universities, or national labs … They’re millions of dollars.”

03/20/17 --

20 March 2017


Chop2Pot Foldable Plastic Cutting Board

Hinges fold into a chute when the handle is squeezed to guide food into pot

Chop2Pot is a cutting board that folds in thirds so once you’re done cutting the thing you fold up the wings and make a chute so the food slides into your bowl without falling off.

This recommendation is from our Cool Tools Show episode with David Pogue.

03/20/17 -- David Pogue

19 March 2017


Unlock phone/Jimmy DiResta/Yoga Studio

Recomendo: issue no. 34

I derive great enjoyment and instruction from watching YouTube videos of Jimmy DiResta making stuff. All kinds of things from knives, to tables, to weird art. He is a master general-purpose craftsman, and with few words, he lets his actions speak. When he gives tips, he is awesome. For a great example, witness his Hot Glue Tips. – KK

Unlock phone:
If you bought a phone that’s locked to a specific mobile carrier, you won’t be able to use it with another carrier until you get it unlocked. AT&T says they will unlock phones you’ve had for two years, but the process is so arduous that it’s never worked for me. They make it difficult on purpose, I suspect. But I’ve unlocked phones using an unlocking service on eBay and paying $6 per phone. I gave them the phone’s 15-digit IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) serial number and a day later they sent me an email to let me know it’s been unlocked. I have no idea how they do it, but it works. — MF

Exercise app:
Yoga Studio by Gaiam are like mini-yoga classes in your pocket. You can choose from 65 videos, varying in duration of 15-60 minutes. I’m still in beginner mode and the 15-minute videos go by so fast! The app is available on Android and iPhone for $3.99. — CD

“No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.” This quote comes from Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability. Her talk and teachings on authenticity, connection, and courage, based on 12 years of research, inspired me to be a better friend to those in my life — to show up and be present and hold a space of empathy for those in need. Available as a 6-hour audible download or audio CD, listening to her is like listening to your funniest friend, who’s also a doctor. — CD

Great read:
My friend Stewart Brand has been trying to resurrect extinct species. He is not the only one. Ross Andersen has written a beautiful article in The Atlantic, entitled Welcome to Pleistocene Park, about a charismatic Siberian family who are trying to bring back the wooly mammoth by the thousands in order to change the climate. The article is a memorable story about a complex father and son relationship, about renegade Russian scientists, about tree-smashing tanks, about isolation of the tundra and the role of mammoths, about deep geology, and of course about the astounding science of restoring extinct animals. All told with beautiful grace. A 20-minute read that is highly recommended. — KK

If you maintain a website or blog, HTML Reference is a site that has examples of different HTML tags. Many of the tags are new to me, but look useful, such as the article tag. — MF


Get the Recomendo weekly newsletter a week early by email.

03/19/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

18 March 2017


img 03/17/17

OpSite Flexifix Transparent Film

Long-lasting, flexible, inexpensive adhesive bandage roll

img 03/16/17

Cutco Trimmer Kitchen Knife

Knife with a lifetime guarantee

img 03/14/17

No-Break Mechanical Pencil

Pencil has spring tip to prevent lead from snapping

See all the reviews


Recent Questions Answers Given Answers Favorited

Probelm with links in email notifications of replies to Disqus threads

Lately the ‘Reply to’ links in email notifications of replies to Disqus threads in CT reviews do not go to …

0 0

Why is commenting disabled in Recomendo?

While giving tips like you do in Recomendo is nice, disabling comments makes it pretty much a one-way street. Like …

3 0

External battery pack to power LG Probeam projector

The new LG Probeam projector is quite bright, lightweight (10 pounds) and relatively affordable ($1,499).  It would be fun to …

2 0
See all the questions

Editor's Favorites

img 04/9/04

Analog Atomic Wall Clock

Constant automatic accuracy

img 06/8/13

Celestron FirstScope

Best beginner telescope

img 01/12/04

Pumps-a-lot Water Pump

Simple emergency sump pump

img 05/30/11

Snark SN-2

Best Clip-On Instrument Tuner

img 12/18/15

Bose QC20 Headphones

Best all around noise cancelling earphones

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 073: Danielle Applestone

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 072: Dale Dougherty

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 071: Robyn Miller

Picks and shownotes

What's in My Bag? 23 February 2017

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.