Avalanche Roof Snow Rake

I’ve used the Avalanche Snow Rake for the past three Duluth, Minnesota winters and it’s the best snow removal tool I’ve ever used. Old school roof rakes were clumsy, hard to use and damaged shingles. Climbing around on a snow covered roof is no treat either. The Avalanche Snow Rake makes quick work of snow removal with a fraction of the effort. The snow slides off the roof with ease, even on roofs with a relatively shallow pitch. By far one of the best investments I’ve ever made!

-- Ivan Hohnstadt  

Original Roof Snow Removal System AVA500

Available from Amazon

Nuance Wine Finer

This is my girlfriend’s cool tool — not sure how long she’s had it but I’ve been using hers for a couple months. It’s a multipurpose wine tool. It fits snugly down inside the neck of a wine bottle (never had it pop out), allowing you to pour without drips. At the same time, it’s aerating and filtering the wine. It also comes with a stopper for when you’re finished pouring.

We did a taste test with friends at Thanksgiving. Uncorked a bottle of red, poured a glass, then put the wine finer in and poured a glass. The difference in taste was amazing. I’m sure there are people out there who have the patience and forethought to uncork and decant their reds ahead of time, but I’m not one of them.

I love that this thing fits down inside the neck of the bottle and then acts as a stopper – not some separate aerating device that you have to go get each time you want to pour a glass. And since it’s acting as the stopper, you don’t have to deal with cleaning it until you’re finished with the bottle.

-- Mary Lindsey  

Nuance Wine Finer with Flat Top

Available from Amazon

Index Knobber, Backnobber, and Jacknobber

I’ve been using products from Pressure Positive for about 20 years. They are great for self massage. I especially enjoy the Index Knobber, the Backnobber, and Jacknobber.

indexThe Original Index Knobber lets you apply deep pressure to muscles, and tendons, without stress to the fingers or hands.

The Orignal Backnobber (photo above) is solid chrome molly steel rod with wooden balls on each end, and can be used to apply deep pressure to the back muscles, using your arms (or even the knees, if you’re limber enough).

jackThe Original Jacknobber, along with a hard solid rubber ball (lacrosse), can be used to get deep tissue in the pelvis / hip, by resting it on while laying on the floor. Lacrosse balls can also be used for the back, by rolling around on it, very slowly. Cheap and effective.

It can really hurt to do this, if you’ve got trigger points, but over a month or two, the pain diminishes during the massage, and between massages, so it’s well worth it for chronic muscle / tendon pain.

I’ve been doing self-massage most of my life, and these 3 tools are “best in class,” IMHO.

None of these has ever broken, and 15 years after I purchased it, I asked the owner if I could buy the small wooden balls to replace the larger one on my Backknobber, and he sent them for no charge. Nice people to do business with. I have no business relationship with them, other than as a long term very happy customer.


-- Michael Rostagno-Lasky  

Addi Turbo Knitting Needles

I’ve been knitting for almost 50 years. Addi Turbo knitting needles are the best: smooth, sleek and well-made.They are made in Germany. I can’t buy them often, but when I need a new size for something, I am willing to pay their premium price. Quality and a size range that can’t be beat. Mostly they make (and I use) circular needles, but they also make 3″ glove needles that I have used for making tiny little finger puppets. No one else makes needles as short (that I know of).

-- Bonnie Phillips  

Addi Turbo Knitting Needles
Prices vary depending on size and type

Available from Amazon

HUB-ee Wheels

Creative Robotics’ HUB-ee wheels are just what they sound like: hub wheels, where the motor is contained inside the wheel’s hub to save space on your robot. Hub wheels are great for complicated builds like rack-and-pinion steering rigs where you want wheels that both drive the robot as well as turn to steer. They also make for very clean builds because a lot of components you could normally see are hidden.

Each HUB-ee Wheel consists of a 12mm gearmotor, a small circuit board equipped with a motor driver chip and a quadrature encoder, as well a gearbox, all concealed inside the hub. They come in a small number of configurations: 180-1 and 120-1 gear ratios, available in either metric or imperial.

The wheels connect to a microcontroller with a Micro-MaTch ribbon cable, and Creative Robotics also offer breakout boards for managing these connectors, as well as a HUB-ee friendly prototyping shield. If you don’t want to use the breakout boards, Creative Robotics shows you how to cut a Micro-MaTch cable in half and attach the wires individually to the controller.

The HUB-ee wheels attach to your robot’s chassis one of two ways. The first are fairly typical M3 screws. The other is much more intriguing: the M3 holes also double as Lego cross-axle holes that accommodate a standard cross-connector pin. These holes don’t go all the way through, limiting the tensile strength of this attachment method. However, the cross-holes are on both sides of the wheels, allowing you add support to either side.

-- John Baichtal  

HUB-ee wheel

Tingsha Cymbals

I’ve used these humble, handheld cymbals for two years running, and they have become an invaluable part of my meeting facilitation toolkit.

I often convene large groups for collaborative working sessions, brainstorming exercises, PechaKucha presentations and the like. When trying to keep 50-60 creative people to a fixed schedule, transitioning from one activity to the next can easily eat into your productive time. Enter tingsha cymbals: one strike of the cymbals produces a high, pure ringing sound that instantly cuts through the chatter and brings everybody to attention–with a relatively low volume output.

Designed for meditative purposes, these cymbals are a portable, low-tech cool tool for corralling large groups.

-- John Appiah-Duffell  

“Om Nama Shiva” Tingsha Cymbals 2.5-inch

Available from Amazon

Ear Syringe

For some reason my ears get clogged up with earwax (cerumen is the technical term) about two to three times a year. When it first happened, I was told to use a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide and one of those rubber bulbs you use to clear a baby’s nose. This strategy never worked for me, and I would inevitably end up in a doctor’s office hard of hearing. I got tired of paying the copay for something that seemed so trivial, and did some research only to find that for about $12 you could order a near identical chrome syringe as the one they use in a doctor’s office and do it yourself. All it requires is standing (or sitting) in the shower, and carefully syringing your ear with warm water. After a few syringes full of warm water out pops the ear wax plug, and wham my hearing comes back all at once.

At $11, it’s probably one of the better investments I’ve ever made. With that being said, there are some precautions, and you should probably talk to your doctor before you do this yourself.

First, not everybody has wet earwax. Many asians have the recessive trait for dry earwax, and as such they have their own special tools for removing blockages. If you have any pain in your ear you’re better off going to the doctor to get it done lest you damage your tympanic membrane. Also, some people can be sensitive to temperature changes in their inner ear and can experience dizziness and vertigo (some instructions tell you to do it seated in case you fall over; this is made worse if you use cold water). I would also not recommend using these on children given that they have shorter ear canals, and are more prone to ear infections (especially if they’ve had issues with eustachian tubes). Definitely talk to your pediatrician first.

Finally, you shouldn’t be cleaning your ears too frequently. Cerumen serves many functions and as such shouldn’t be removed on a regular basis unless absolutely necessary. As it stands, if you find yourself needing to clean out your ears a few times a year these are great tools. It takes a little bit of time to learn how to aim into your ear canal, but once you get the hang of it you can save yourself an unnecessary trip to the doctor.

-- Oliver Hulland  

Ear Syringe, 4 Oz

Available from Amazon


Around my house, the best thing about a Lego kit is building it. When it’s finished, it’s fun to admire for a few minutes, but by the next day, my daughter and I have lost interest. We just want to build another kit, but they are too expensive to buy every couple of days.

Pley is a Lego kit subscription service that focuses on the fun part – the building. It’s like NetFlix. Pley costs $15 a month. You make a queue from over 250 kits, and Pley sends you the kit at the top of your queue. When you are done, take the pieces apart and put them in the supplied shipping box. Pley pays shipping in both directions. If you lose a couple of pieces, you won’t be charged.

Pley will then send you the next kit in your queue. Each kit is cleaned and sanitized before you receive it.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  


Digital Day Counter

I bought two of these Digital Day Counters a few years ago. But I really did not start to use them till I began making water and milk kefirs.

Now I just stick one of these suction-cupped timers on a jar of fermenting kefir, and it lets me know how many days it has been fermenting.

Most timers are set up for seconds, minutes, and hours. These tiny timers count up to 99 days. They are water resistant, and yes they work in the refrigerator.

-- KentKB  

DaysAgo Digital Day Counter

Available from Amazon

Adafruit PCB Ruler

The Adafruit PCB Ruler is more than just a way of measuring things. It is also the ultimate reference (at least for the size) for folks designing their own PCBs. The ruler is made of a 6” length of PCB laminate, and naturally it offers the requisite inches and centimeters. Where the ruler diverges from the expected is that it is covered, both sides, in reference materials for PCB design: want to know what a 24-mil trace looks like? What about a 28-gauge via? The ruler also has footprints for over a dozen surface-mount components like minuscule SOT-23 chips, the size of half a grain of rice. At $5 the ruler is a great deal anyway, made all the better by the fact that you can get one for free from Adafruit just by spending $100 in their store.

-- John Baichtal  

Adafruit PCB Ruler