Gerber Artifact

We’ve all been there. You run out of the house for a quick errand and leave your everyday carry multitool on the table by the door. You’re not going to need it, right? I’ve been burned by this so many times it’s not even funny; clawing apart clamshell packaging in my car, scrounging for a coin to grapple with that flathead screw, breaking a fingernail whilst prying something, or worst, not being able to open that beer.

Because of all this, I’ve been a fan of the keychain tool family of lifesavers. For a long time, the Leatherman Micra was my go-to backup tool. It now belongs to the TSA. (I forgot to take it off of my keychain before a plane trip.) I wanted something that had a small footprint like the Micra but was TSA-friendly without sacrificing total usability.

Enter the Gerber Artifact. Two flathead screwdrivers, a pry-bar, nail puller/wire stripper, bottle opener, philips driver, and a holder for a removable EAB #11 hobby blade. (Pop it out before flying, buy a spare at any convenience store when you touch down if you really need it.) Paired with a small keychain LED light, I’ve got enough gear to tide me over in most situations.

The Artifact has lived on my keychain for about a year now. I’ve used every tool on it and found it equal to most any task I can throw at it. The bottle opener isn’t perfect, and the flathead drivers are a little too thick to grapple with some screws, but a little work with a mill bastard can solve that if it’s a problem. The blade rusts out pretty fast, but a $7 pack of spare blades solves that problem.

Bottom line, this tool isn’t your replacement EDC multi. But it will serve as a great backup and can be denuded of its airline-unfriendly blade in a hot second, meaning you’ll never be without a basic set of tools.

(For those who want to forego the knife component entirely, the Gerber Shard lives up to the task.)

-- Benzo Harris  

Gerber Artifact
$12

Available from Amazon



SmartJars

Somehow our work bench keeps getting taken over by a crazy mess and our current organizational system, the one left to us with the house, was just not cutting it for how we use the garage (aka Halloween Craziness takes over). We found SmartJars in May 2013 at the Bay Area MakerFaire and were impressed with them. Basically a build-it-how-you-need-it solution, with containers that can be popped on and off a standard peg board for use.

You attach SmartJars’ colored jar holders to your peg board, organize and color code as you like. Then you snap the plastic jars into the holders for storing. The jars can be removed and returned to their holders easily, but are held securely when snapped in place. The jars are clear so you can see the contents; you can also add labels to the front for more specifics. You can rearrange the jars if you choose. Color coding my jars has helped let me tell other people where things are. Such as look for rubber bands in the Yellow household goods section. Or Nails are in white and screws are in blue. And the color coding also helps me put the jars back in the right areas if I have taken more than one out at a time. The jars are big enough (2.5″ in diameter and 4.5″ tall, or 10 fluid oz.) to hold some larger bolts and other items that tend to take up a bit more room than many organizing systems have, but more of that room is in the length that sticks out from the peg board, so the footprint on the peg board doesn’t take up too much space and you have room for lots of the jars.

We bought a bunch during their pre-release promotion and have reorganized our garage work bench. We aren’t quite done with the reorganization, but its working well so far. There have been several times this year during our haunted house build when someone has needed something and I have been able to produce the jar with that item right away.

We have seen photos from people who have used them under kitchen cupboards to organize spices as well. They are very versatile.

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 4.40.11 PM

-- Rachel Lea Fox  

Smart Jars
6 Jar Starter Pack: $20



What’s in My Bag? John Edgar Park

John Park bag20

Curious to know what’s in my daily work/travel bag? Please, have a look (click the images for an even closer look). I carry this bag and gear for my daily work routine, as well as when I take trips. Note: I do carry some worrisome, pointy things that I place in checked baggage or leave behind when flying. More on that below.

For context, I work in CG animation at DisneyToon Studios, am a maker of robot-y, Arduino-ish things, and write about it for Make: magazine, BoingBoing and other places in print and online. I travel between locations in Los Angeles and overseas for work, so my bag is a bit of a mobile office. (Thanks for the suggestion, Justin.)

John Park bag01

The bag: I carry a Filson bag, made in Seattle, WA ($335, Filson 72 Hour Briefcase). I’ve taken many other bags all over the world — from Papua New Guinea to Belarus, Pakistan to Singapore, Poughkeepsie to Mumbai — this one has quickly become my favorite. Just the right carry-on size with proper, minimal organizational features for my needs. It’s rugged, weather resistant, and made of waxed cotton, bridle leather, and heritage awesomeness. Plus, it makes me feel more outdoorsy than I currently am, so that’s a psychological bonus.

John Park bag02

Let’s have a look in the left outer pocket.

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Sunglasses, writing, fixing, lighting:  I have somehow managed to not yet lose these lovely polarized Ray-Ban sunglasses. I carry a Sharpie marker, a wonderful little $4 technician’s screwdriver (see my review), a solid pen that takes Fisher Space Pen refills ($55 and up), a small AAA flashlight, and a Wörther mechanical pencil ($35 from Hand-Eye Supply).

John Park bag04

Snacks and meds: I stash snacks and pill capsules in this old army ammo pouch from my dad. He gave it to me when I was a kid to play soldier. (You’ll have to get one at a surplus store, because my dad is fresh out.) I usually have one or two snack bars and some nuts or granola in there. Also, lip balm  and instant coffee packs. Lastly, I use these great little waterproof Delrin pill capsules ($6 and up depending on size) to carry antacid, Tylenol, Advil, pseudoephedrine, industrial strength Immodium (helpful for travel to places with unsafe water), and Tic-Tacs. Because I love them. (Also: fresh breath.)

John Park bag05

Sharp things: This is the grouping I put in my checked luggage (alongside my double-edged safety razor) when flying is involved. At the top, the best groomsman gift I’ve ever gotten, the Leatherman Micra multitool ($25, or free if you are in the right wedding party). Next, my beloved Victorinox Swiss Army knife, which I’ve carried into the woods, the city, and around the world on adventures since my parents gave it to me for my fourteenth birthday. Note: sometimes I swap out the knife for my full sized Leatherman SuperTool or Leatherman Juice CS4 so I’ve got good pliers on hand. Connected to my knife is a seriously effective pair of government issue tweezers ($7). At the bottom, is an innocuous-looking capsule.

John Park bag06

Grappling hook: Not so innocuous now, are we? The micro grappling hook ($27 from Maratac). This item is absurd. I really shouldn’t carry it. But I must, due to a pact I made with my teenaged self to always be super freaking awesome as an adult. I have used it legitimately three times – in all cases to retrieve things from rooftops and trees. (It is not intended to support the swinging bodyweight of the foolish/optimistic.) The three spikes are stored inside the capsule and then thread into place when needed. As seen below, I also carry a long length of paracord to be deployed with my ridiculous grappling hook.

John Park bag07

On to the right outer pocket.

John Park bag08

Tunes, tape, adapters, photos, cards: I’ve got photos of my kids, a business card case I made from scrap leather, a zipped ripstop nylon bag full of electronics adapters, an earbud wrap in the shape of an owl I made on the laser cutter, standard Apple earbuds, plus an iPod Nano with some workout tunes on it (nifty that it’ll function as a radio during the post-apocalypse rebuilding of Earth, unlike my iPhone), and a long strip of folded over duct tape (Gorilla brand, $6 a roll) for emergency repairs or live-action body-part censorship.

John Park bag09

The adaptors: Within this ripstop nylon bag I stash a standard VGA adapter for my MacBook (helps when hooking up to strange projectors), MacBook ethernet adapter (not pictured), a Lighting-to-USB cable and wall wart for my iPhone and iPad (please note the Rainbow Loom wrap my daughter made for holding the coiled wire), a USB thumb drive with presentations and documents (useful when I need to give a talk without hooking up my laptop), and a rechargeable Li-Po battery pack for my iPhone and iPad (or any USB powered device).

John Park bag10

Shall we have a look in the main compartment?

John Park bag11

Laptop, notebooks, art: I’ve got my laptop and power adapter, the latest bit of artwork my daughter gives me before a long trip, a small Moleskine pocket journal ($8 for three), and a square-ruled Maker’s Notebook (~$20) for project notes and sketches.

John Park bag12

My laptop is a 13” MacBook Pro Retina (starts at $1300), which I find to be a snappy computer with a great-looking screen and relatively small size and low weight. The sleeve I sewed from an old pants leg and some felt.

John Park bag13

Toiletries, sleep mask, water bottle: I keep all my grooming supplies in this little canvas dopp bag ($60 from Archival Clothing). Thankfully, I sleep pretty well on long flights, particularly with the aid of a good sleep mask. My favorite is this pair of Eye Shades with earplug pocket ($20 from Bucky). I like to have a refillable, insulated water bottle on hand to slake my thirst, this one is $35 from S’well.

John Park bag14

Staying so fresh and so clean: After a long flight, I like to freshen up before landing, so I carry all of this stuff on board. I basically take a standing bath in that tiny little lavatory, hence the need for the excellent MSR PackTowel medium personal towel with which to dry myself, $13 from REI. The rest is standard stuff – deodorant, hair cream, eye drops (important on airplanes), a solitary band-aid, Q-tips, cough drops, ear plugs (how’d I end up with three?), a tiny vial of North Atlantic from CB I Hate Perfume so that I can smell beguiling, and hand lotion. Plus, a small bottle of aromatic bitters for soothing the stomach and crafting in-flight toddies from hot water, honey, lemon, whiskey and bitters.

John Park bag15

iPad and travel documents: I carry an iPad mini ($269) for reading books, watching movies, and playing games on flights, as well as for ready access to documents at work. I built this little adjustable stand from an old webcam monitor mount, some lead sinkers (to give it weight), and some Sugru for grip. The document case is a repurposed car sun visor organizer.

John Park bag16

John Park bag17

Papers please: In order to make travel, particularly international travel, as simple as possible, I keep everything for passage, customs, boarding, and the like in one place. In the document case I carry my passport, tickets, itinerary, immunization records, airline and hotel membership cards, spare arrival card forms, and any local currency I’ve accumulated or exchanged. Plus, an extra pen.

John Park bag18

Strap, rope, keys: Tucked in the rear patch pocket is the bag’s shoulder strap (when not in use), a length of 550 parachute cord, and my keys, which I attach to the bag’s key clip/lanyard so I can find them when I return home. The paracord ($7 for 100’)  is good to have in many of situations, but mostly because without it, my sweet grappling hook is of greatly reduced utility.

John Park bag19

That’s pretty much my whole kit + kaboodle. Not pictured here: for longer trips I tear off and pack a few pages of the NYT Crossword Puzzle page-a-day calendar (~$10 for 365 puzzles), a pack of Sugru for repairs, as well as a good, dense magazine, such as Monocle. Hope you enjoyed peering inside. What would you offload or swap out? Please add your comments and suggestions below.

[OK, now it's your turn. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service like Bitcasa to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



Magic Arm with Camera Bracket

The Magic Arm is just that, a magic arm to hold your camera, lights, bounce, flag. I use it with the camera bracket on one side and Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp($25, photo below) to turn a staircase railing, or the railing of a scissor lift, into a camera support. You could use it similarly to mount a camera to a bicycle handlebar.

I also use the Magic Arm with a Super Clamp at either end (the camera bracket is detachable) as a brace. For video and photo projects, the uses are extensive.

There are similar products, but this is by far the best. I’ve had two in my grip bag for more than a decade.

clamp

-- Elon Schoenholz  

Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm
$130



Author Howard Rheingold [Cool Tools Show #003]

Howard Rheingold is a critic, writer, teacher, and artist; his specialties are on the cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony, virtual communities, digital media and learning, and online co-learning. He joins the Cool Tools podcast this week to discuss how his budding interest in woodworking has enriched his creative projects and led him to amass a whole new arsenal of cool tools. In this episode, Howard shows us a thorough list of must-haves for any beginner in woodworking or circuit tinkering, as well as some quality-of-life items to cultivate a healthy working environment.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Podcast on iTunes | RSS | Download episode | Transcript

Subscribe to Cool Tools Show

Show notes:

Howard’s Etsy Page

Here are Howard’s tool picks, with quotes from the show:





6′ x 8′ Tuff Shed: ~$2,000.00 (See website for exact pricing.)
“I’ve got a six by eight foot shed installed. They broke it down into parts and moved it through my narrow garden gate and installed and painted it, all level and nice, for two thousand dollars for an eight by six foot shed. You’ll be amazed at the amount of stuff I’ve been able to cram in there.”


Makita Compound Miter Saw: $449.00-$796.00
“I’ve got a Makita compound miter saw, which is invaluable. Compound means you can move it in an angle in the horizontal plane, but you can also move it at angles in the vertical plane to make bevels. That’s very useful especially if you get a blade with more teeth on it so that you can make finer cuts.”


Survivair S-Series Half Mask respirator mask: $27

“The respirator I’m using is the Survivair, S. Series Half Mask Respirator. Cost me thirty bucks and I figure it’s worth it to not have to worry about my lungs.”


Jet 10-inch lathe: $419 – $521

“I have a Jet mini-lathe. Again, I took a wood turning class and the teacher recommended it. It’s a 10-inch, which enables me to work in a pretty small space.”


Rikon 8-inch grinder: $140


Wolverine Grinding Jig: $92

“By the way, if you get a lathe you have to get a grinder, I found out, because your tools get dull very quickly, so I’ve got a Rikon eight-inch grinder and at the recommendation of my wood turning teacher. I got the Wolverine grinding jig with it.”


Uvex Bionic Face Shield: $42 – $54


Roker Wireless portable bluetooth speaker: $23

“I just put on Spotify or my iTunes, click ‘Library,’ start playing it on my iPhone, and then just turn on my speaker and turn on Bluetooth and, bang! It’s pretty substantial.”


Spoonflower Fabrics: See website for pricing.

“If you go to Spoonflower.com you can upload any image and they’ll send you fabric.”


Copy Paste Pro: Free

“Copy Paste Pro will remember up to the last two hundred things that I either cut or copied to my clipboard. The clipboard, by the way, Ted Nelson calls “the abominable hidey hole.”


Radio Shack Wire Wrapping Tool: $3 – $13

“It wraps wire around a pin and makes just as good an electrical connection — and just as good a mechanical connection — as soldering does. You put a little shrink wrap on it and it can be quite robust if you’re not going to move it around too much.”


Adafruit Perma-Proto Breadboard: $7.00

Mark: “Adafruit makes these really great printed circuit boards that have the same letter and numbering system as a solderless breadboard”


Palomino Blackwing 602 Pencils: $23/doz.

“One thing that Boing Boing turned me onto are Blackwing pencils. I’ve got those out in the shed. I’ve got them in my sketchbook here in the office.”


Felco Pruners: $54 – $63

“I use them for cutting up anything that’s basically smaller than your thumb and there’s a lot of it in my garden. If you’ve got fruit trees or you’ve got bushes or blackberries or ivy, anything like that you’ll use it a lot.”



Paper Clay: $12/16 oz.

“It’s mostly paper but it’s also got a little bit of clay in it. You don’t need to bake it. It takes a couple of days to dry and after it dried you can sand it and paint it or put something more substantial over it and it’s very, very lightweight which is a good reason for using it.”

 



Seam Ripper

I recently realized that many people are unaware of seam rippers. You can buy one for under 5 bucks. Use it to remove an old hem before sewing a new one, removing scratchy labels, dis-assembling thrift shop clothing to re-purpose the fabric, opening a seam to tailor clothing. Easier and faster than nail scissors. I don’t sew a lot, but I use a seam ripper pretty often.

-- MB Davidson  

Seam Ripper
$4

Available from Amazon



ROK Straps

They are way better than bungee cords. I use them to secure a bag to my motorcycle when touring. There are no hooks to scratch anything or “bend loose” as they secures with a loop in the strap itself. They are easy to use: attach, buckle, tighten.

When I first saw them at a motorcycle show, I thought yes, they are cool, but they are kind of pricey. I put it on my Christmas list and have used them this past riding season including several multi day trips. I now think they are easily worth it. They have uses beyond the motorcycle world… think anywhere a bungee would be used.

They offer several sizes for different applications. I use the model that adjusts between 18″ and 60′. It’s one-inch wide.

rok2

-- Ted VanderWall  

ROK Straps 18 to 60″ Adjustable
$22 for a twin pack

Available from Amazon



Samsung Galaxy Centura Prepaid Phone

Tracfone (a prepaid wireless phone provider) used to be strictly low-tech, throw-away, prepaid burner phone territory, but they’ve recently introduced an Android smart phone to their line-up. It currently costs about $80, and you get triple minutes for the life of the phone. It operates Wifi when it’s available, and then you get a meg of data for every minute you buy on one of their cards. I end up using about 20 minutes a month strictly on data, but I could probably shave that down if I limited some of the apps I run to Wifi only. (30 minutes cost $10 at Tracfone.com)

The phone (Samsung Galaxy Centura) isn’t top of the line, by any means, and runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but I haven’t found an app I couldn’t load (though browsing the Web on it can be a little daunting, and when I tried to run Fruit Ninja, the program lagged to the point that it was sort of unplayable).

It’s got an adequate rear-facing 3meg camera, and supports Bluetooth, and you get a little more than 2.5 gig of non-upgradable storage. I suppose that if I were downgrading from a more expensive smartphone, I might be a little frustrated with it, and not just because the screen size is much smaller than other phones I’ve seen. But when you consider a more conventional smartphone with data plan would probably cost you upwards of $50 a month, minimum, this is a real bargain.

Tracfone availability map.

-- Dave Faris  

Samsung Galaxy Centura Android Prepaid Phone
$80

Available from Amazon



 

Wink’s Remarkable Book Picks of the Week

Wink is Cool Tools’ 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:

The High Fidelity Art of Jim Flora – Joyously explosive art from a forgotten illustrator of 1940s jazz records

Big Meals for Little Hands – Sophisticated meals that kids will enjoy making as well as eating


Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines
– A jaw-dropping seventy-year history of prurient pulp

The Timechart History of the World – A spectacular 14-foot-long foldable chart that graphs world history from 4,000 BC to today

Graffiti World: Street Art From Five Continents – Jam-packed with 2000 images, Graffiti World is the best gallery of world-wide street art

The Engineer’s Sketchbook – A collection of timeless mechanical concepts explained with basic principles

Take a look at these books and many others at Wink. And sign up for our Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

-- Mark Frauenfelder