11 November 2019

11 November 2019


What is a gift worth giving? Let us know

Readers Choice

Cool Tools is different from other tool review sites because we publish recommendations written by our readers. In that spirit, we’d like to hear your gift suggestions for the upcoming holiday season. What gifts have you given that you think others would enjoy? Please tell us about them using the form here.

Next month, we’ll post a “reader favorite” holiday gift guide using the suggestions you submit.

Photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash

-- Mark Frauenfelder 11/11/19

10 November 2019


Magnetic key holder/Ikigai/Abstract

Recomendo: issue no. 172

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Magnetic key holder
I saw one of these cute cloud-shaped magnetic key holders ($7) at my friend’s place and wanted one immediately. It solves my one reoccurring problem: not knowing where I put my keys. It came with adhesive backing so I was able to “set it up” right away. Easy peasy. — CD

What is your reason for being?
Ikigai is a Japanese word that can be roughly translated into English as “a reason for being.” I appreciated this graphic, which shows how ikigai is at the intersection of what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at. — MF

The best of design thinking
I loved the first season of Abstract on Netflix. Each episode playfully explores a field of design by closely following the work of a key designer in that field. Toys, cars, costumes. To investigate typography, they follow the efforts of a type designer as he tries to design a new specialty font, explaining how all fonts work. That goodness was exceeded by the new Season 2, which has even more brilliant expositions. Since each episode is crafted by a different director, the format of the show is innovative and creative itself.  Every minute is a joy. — KK

Cheapest soda hack
My beverage of choice is sparkling water. To eliminate single-use bottles in our household, we have a Sodastream machine to make our own fizzy water. But Sodastream has stopped making the large 32 oz CO2 canister and has upped the refill price on the smaller ones, making it expensive. The solution is a hack: We now refill our own large 24 ounce canister for $5 at a sporting goods store using a paintball canister. (The squeamish can use a SodaMod food-grade canister.) All you need is a $19 brass adapter (mine is Protek) to fit the canister into the proprietary threads a Sodastream needs. — KK

Advice for connection
This YouTube video about Oprah breaks down her magical ability to make people comfortable with their raw emotions. She does this by not trying to defuse tension, and instead validating people when they are the most vulnerable. There’s a bunch of other tips for having meaningful interactions, but the narrator suggests that the most important thing to focus on is to discover is what moves people emotionally. — CD

Open clogged drains
Our 50-year-old grease-encrusted drain pipes kept getting clogged, and lye-based drain openers weren’t helping. Even frequent plumber visits weren’t fixing the problem. In desperation, I bought this 25-pound pail of powder called Green Gobbler. I poured a few cups down a clean-out drain with a bit of hot water. It started bubbling and our house soon smelled like rotten eggs (this is apparently normal when using this stuff). It worked — no more slow draining sinks. Much cheaper and more effective than a plumber! — MF

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 11/10/19

08 November 2019


Jesse Genet, Co-founder of Lumi

Cool Tools Show 199: Jesse Genet

Our guest this week is Jesse Genet. Jesse is the co-founder and CEO of Lumi, which helps e-commerce brands manage their custom packaging. Before that, she was the creator of a DIY product called Inkodye, which launched on Kickstarter. She’s been an entrepreneur for 10 years and lives in Los Angeles.

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Show notes:

Bite Toothpaste Bits ($30/4 mo. supply)
I love a company reinventing our rituals, I also enjoy the plastic free movement questioning why so many liquids and goops are shipped around the world in boxes. All of us are used to toothpaste being in a tube; that form factor feels sort of unquestioned, in way. This company created these little tablets that come in a glass vial, as opposed to a tube. So much more efficient in terms of how they ship and how much space they take up. You just put one in your mouth with a little bit of water and chew on it as you brush, and it gives you the same experience. You’ve got that same level of grit and mintiness, or whatever you want. They’ve got a couple different versions. I find them to be really amazing for travel, because it can’t explode in your bag. TSA doesn’t hassle you about it. This has been a fun one to use and to also practice changing habits.

Pumpkin Punchers ($16, out of stock)
Pumpkin Punchers are not part of my daily ritual in the same that Bite Toothpaste Bits is. But this falls into the category of products that I sometimes discover as an adult where I really question all of the decisions that my parents made growing up. I don’t know of everyone’s experience of pumpkin carving, but this is a pumpkin carving tool, and if anyone else was like me, your parents handed you this really dull, serrated blade and were like, “You can make a jack-o-lantern,” and you’re like, “I don’t know, can I? I have tiny hands, and this is a dull blade, and I’m cutting a gourd.” And so basically Pumpkin Punchers are cookie cutters, but they’re in the shape of jack-o-lantern face shapes that you might want, and you just put them over the pumpkin and then you pound them in. And it’s something that I’ve enjoyed using, because now we can take people who are younger, and they can actually make jack-o-lanterns that they’re proud of.

Joymode is an online service. You can rent objects that are for experiences in your life. So to make it concrete, you can rent a bunch of big pool floaties and have a pool party, but you’re just renting them. And you subscribe to Joymode monthly, and you can rent as many experiences as you want in that month. It’s in certain markets, so you have to check if it’s available in your city. I’ll have a party and I’ll want to have giant Jenga, but I do not need to own giant Jenga. I live in downtown LA; there is no place to then store my giant Jenga. They literally call them “experiences,” so a crawfish boil is an experience, and it comes not just with the pot, but it comes with the bibs and other accessories you might want. And they literally drop off those items at your house, and then you usually have them for a two or three day rental period, and then they pick that stuff back up. Gamechanger for me because I love to do impromptu activities but can avoid random amazon purchases I regret later.

Mesh Laundry Bag and Facial Rounds Set ($26)
This is facial rounds that are machine washable, and the brand I picked here is Marley’s Monsters version of that, but effectively replacing your cotton ball-style rounds people use to wash their face and do things for personal hygiene. With these machine washable ones, they’re actually better quality than those ones that we buy from the drug store and throw out constantly, and so it’s a twofer, where I actually enjoy using them a lot more, and I never have to buy more of them because I can just throw them in my washing machine.

Also mentioned:

Lumi Box Company
People might assume because we sell packaging I want the world to use more packaging, but it’s the opposite. I do have a heart, and that’s not how I think about it. The more efficient package utilization gets, the better off we all are. And the reality is, the world is using and insane amount of packaging as it stands; it behooves us all to optimize it, so I that’s really at the core of Lumi.

Lumi Youtube channel
There isn’t great holistic information about packaging out there, and that’s one of the reasons we put a lot of effort into some of our content. I did a series of videos called Shipping Things, where I would break down more concepts holistically. Like, an overview of everything you ought to know if you’re considering a poly-mailer, which is those plastic bags, as opposed to boxes. Or all the alternatives to printed boxes. Like, you could do printed tape instead, which is way cheaper than printing the box itself. So I did these overview shows that really help you understand what your options are, and a lot of the options for when you’re doing a Kickstarter and you might not have the budget for custom printed boxes. Honestly, if I could think of another resource that was really good, I would point people to that, but we couldn’t find one, and it’s one of the reasons we created some of our stuff.


We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! If you would like to make a one-time donation, you can do so using this link: https://paypal.me/cooltools.– MF


08 November 2019


Construction Adhesive

Not just for construction sites

Construction adhesive ($4) has a major role in building construction, but I have been using it as a household adhesive. It has a number of unique characteristics that make it possibly more useful than most of the alternatives.

It fills gaps with strength, unlike cyanoacrylates like Superglue or polyurethanes like Gorilla Glue. It is somewhat flexible, which often makes a more durable repair for things like shoes, clothing, tents, etc. It is much stronger than Shoe Goo or urethane sealers, which the clear versions resemble superficially. It has tremendous initial tack. Often you can spread it, stick the two pieces together, and you are done. The glue is sticky enough that often you don’t need clamping (which is a virtual necessity for Gorilla Glue and its relatives).

It is easy to apply. Unlike contact cements like Barge Cement, you don’t have to apply it to both sides, let them dry, then carefully stick them together (and get an instant that you cannot realign if you didn’t bring the pieces together perfectly.) You just spread it on one piece, jam the two pieces together and adjust, and you are done.

It also cleans up with soap and water, unlike epoxy, polyurethane glue, cyanoacrylate glue, contact cement, etc. It is waterproof in non-immersion settings, unlike white or yellow glues. It comes in a variety of formulations with a variety of characteristics, so you can choose high-strength, UV-resistance, clear or a kind of beige, ability to stick to foam insulation, even low VOC, etc. as needed. It is also sold in small tubes, though only in a few varieties.

As for cons, I can’t think of any real disadvantages. If you want to bond two rigid things that mate perfectly, use Super Glue. If you want to bond two rigid things that don’t mate perfectly, use epoxy. For wood, use carpenter’s glue. For pretty much every other material, porous or non-porous, flexible or not, construction cement works great, at least so far.

I guess it isn’t completely clear whether the stuff in the little tubes is the same stuff sold in the large tubes that require a caulking gun. But the large tubes are cheap, so some experimentation isn’t out of the question.

The clear version from Liquid Nails let me make the only successful shoe repair I have ever made of a peeling sole. I stuffed the shoe full of newspaper, masked off the uppers, applied the glue, then applied blue masking tape on the outside to pull the sole close to the shoe. When it dried, it looked perfect, and for the last few years the glue has held strong while flexing with the shoe. I never had such luck with Shoe Goo, Super Glue, urethane sealants, Barge cement, etc.

I have used construction glues from both Loctite and Liquid Nails, and both brands seem to work well. You have to be careful to get construction cement, and not silicone sealant.

-- Karl Chwe 11/8/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2013 — editors)

07 November 2019


30-Ounce Glass Oil Pourer

Durable Olive Oil Container Provides Precise Control

We’ve had this glass oil pourer ($25) for over two years. The tapered spout allows for easy control when pouring. Drips and dribbles fall into the wide collar (that also acts like a funnel when filling) instead of on the kitchen counter or down the side of the container. The drip-proof nozzles that come with olive oil bottles aren’t nearly as good. Other advantages over using the bottle the oil comes in:

  • It has a low center of gravity, making it unlikely to tip over if knocked.
  • The shape provides fantastic balance for precise control.
  • You can buy your oil in bulk for savings.
  • You can run the whole thing through the dishwasher.

It’s extremely durable: I’ve bumped it more than I’d like to admit, as well as accidentally banged it onto the tile countertop when setting it down.

It’s become our go-to wedding gift.

-- Jason Huebsch 11/7/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2013 — editors)



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EBike Shipper

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Best beginner telescope

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Omega Juicer

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Cool Tools Show 199: Jesse Genet

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 198: Gareth Branwyn

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 197: Emily Nussbaum

Picks and shownotes

06 November 2019


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.

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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).

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