29 September 2020
29 September 2020
12-outlet strip with 6 ft. cord and 15 amp circuit breaker
Long rigid power strips are mostly used in server rooms and the like, but make a fantastic way to add a bunch of outlets at home. Unlike their smaller plastic brethren, they look ok when mounted under a counter or at the base of a backsplash. Unlike smaller strips you can use the mother-of-all wall warts (the ur-wart?) in each outlet and not block anything. They are made of metal and won’t crack when you drop something on them. I got my first giant power strip a decade or more ago and it is still going strong.
I’ve mounted one under a counter in the kitchen to allow all appliances to be plugged in even in our pre-war rental that is sparse on outlets, and another to the back of the headboard to power the charger armada that it takes to keep an increasing array of handheld gadgets happy and fed each night. I use one on a workbench in the garage to allow me to plug in a soldering iron AND a radio AND a light AND a laptop without crowding them crowding each other.09/29/20
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2016 — editors)
27 September 2020
Recomendo: issue no. 219
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This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Yet nothing about its subject would suggest greatness. My Octopus Teacher is about a tired middle-age man who befriends a small octopus in a South African kelp reef. He visits the octopus every day for a year (while filming it), and what he learns from the octopus is oceanic. This tiny creature is otherworldly, a superhero alien from another galaxy, and her life connected to the particular reef expands until it fills the universe. Everything is divinely photographed. Must see. — KK
Cheap pocket synthesizer
My wife got me one of these tiny Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-14 Sub Synthesizers for Christmas last year. It’s made by Teenage Engineering, creators of the amazing (and expensive!) OP-1 Synthesizer. This pocket model is only $50 but is a lot of fun to play and very versatile. Watch this video a feature rundown. — MF
Right now the prettiest thing on my screen is an image I found on Visuals of Earth, which has a trove of dreamy and magical wallpapers that are free to download for your phone. The @visualsofearth Instagram also reposts and shares lovely images by digital artists. — CD
Green trash bags
In our region we have a large green bin as part of our weekly trash pickup. All compostable kitchen and yard waste goes in it. But in the kitchen, the trash liner gets messy with wet food and scraps. Recycled paper bags are soggy, and you can’t toss in plastic bags. The solution is green compostable liners, like large doggy poo bags, so we can transfer the entire bag right into the compost bin. These compostable bags made from plant starch are so convenient, we use them for all trash now, to cut down plastic waste. There are a number of brands; we use Unni Tall Kitchen Trash, 50 bags. — KK
I am a big advocate for talk therapy. Paying someone to listen me vent/ramble, who in return offers sound advice and clarity has improved every aspect of my life. Having shared that, Catherine Andrews, who I consider a self-care expert, has written a very thoughtful post on her favorite healing resources to help you move past talk therapy. I was excited to discover some tools I had never heard of before, like Embodiment, Future-Self Journaling, and Sound Baths. — CD
33 of favorite pieces of wisdom
Author and marketer Ryan Holiday recently posted a list of advice he called “33 Things I Stole From People Smarter Than Me.” They’re all worth reading, but here are a couple of my favorites — MF
- 17. Steve Kamb, the founder of NerdFitness.com, told me that the best and most polite excuse is just to say you have a rule. “I have a rule that I don’t decide on the phone.” “I have a rule that I don’t accept gifts.” “I have a rule that I don’t speak for free anymore.” “I have a rule that I am home for bath time with the kids every night.” People respect rules, and they accept that it’s not you rejecting the offer, request, demand, or opportunity, but the rule allows you no choice.
- 32. The personal finance advisor Ramit Sethi talks about how you can just… not reply to things. It felt rude at first, but then I realized it was ruder to ignore the people I care about to respond to things I didn’t ask for in the first place. Selective ignoring is the key to productivity, I’m afraid.
Want more? Every couple of weeks the three of us record a very brief video of something new we recommend. No more than a few minutes in total. We call it Recomendo Shorts. Enjoy!09/27/20
25 September 2020
Cool Tools Show 245: Joshua Schachter
Our guest this week is Joshua Schachter. Joshua is the founder of del.icio.us and inventor of tagging, which became hashtags. Joshua has founded two startups, invests in startups, runs an event for autonomous racing called Self Racing Cars, and is an amateur race car driver.
Disposable Scalpels ($10, 10pk)
I grew up in a household where both of my parents went to art school and they had not gotten in the habit of using scissors to cut paper and things. If you wanted to cleanly cut paper, you put it down on something, on a piece of glass or something and you use a razor blade to cut it. So I grew up using razorblades instead of scissors, which is not the safest thing, but it’s a habit I got into. And I always noticed that not-great scissors leave terrible edges. I have been using razorblades for a long time, but they are awkward to hold and difficult and hard to precisely get into places. So I discovered not too long ago, disposable scalpels. They last for quite a long time. I’m not very tough on them. There’s various shapes, they’re super useful for cleaning up 3D prints and cutting things precisely. They are wickedly sharp when they finally do go and they can crack because they’re not that tough. I put a piece of tape over them. So no one gets cut when they go into the garbage.
A threaded insert is basically a plug with a screw hole in the middle of it, and there are many kinds. So what I do is when I 3D print something, I leave a 6.5 millimeter hole where I want the bolt hole to be. And then when it’s time to put together, I put the threaded insert on the tip of a solder iron, and I just push it into the hole and it lines up and pops in. And now I have a brass threaded slot in my 3D print. There are ones that have external threads so that you can screw them in. And in fact, on a CNC table that I made, our CNC router table, I drilled holes and then I screwed in brass threaded inserts. I put like a hundred threaded inserts into this piece of plywood. And then I could bolt down anything I wanted and then unbolt it, re-bolt it, because the brass is going to survive the threading and unthreading for a long time.
Slim Project Case ($45, 10pk)
This is an organizational thing that I use. Basically, if I’m working on a circuit board, like an Arduino with a sensor and there’s eight parts and three tools and whatever, I put all this stuff in the project case together. And what happens is when I have to swap to another project, or I get blocked on this project, I can just close the thing up, and put it on the shelf. Many of my projects are small enough to fit in that. I do have larger bins for bigger projects, but I have dozens of these. And it lets me keep everything together. Especially if I’m using a special tool or something, I’ll just put the tools in the box with it directly. So that means that when I want to pick up a project, everything is already organized and put together in one spot. So I don’t spend a lot of time gathering the pieces to work on something, working on it, and then scattering the pieces when I have to stop working on it.
The McMaster-Carr Catalog
McMaster-Carr is the ultimate hardware store. They have everything. And it’s literally the best e-commerce site I’ve ever, ever seen, plus education on everything. There’s a plastic section and they will tell you, this plastic has good durability but poor machinability, and this one will melt at whatever. There was a physical catalog, but I don’t have one, I go online and it was kind of the inspiration for the Wheelhouse mailing lists that I run, which is like about 60% of the time, I’ll talk to a very active maker and they’ve never heard of this. And I’m like, how do you survive? I will still go to Amazon a lot for bolts or whatever, it’s fine, but for like really expensive things like the linear rail I bought, I assume that the McMaster’s just carrying the good stuff. I’m so uneducated. I don’t know what even the name of the thing that might solve the problem is. So I will just type stuff that’s sort of related to the problem into the search box, like clips, grabby clips, long clips, et cetera. And you will get stuff. That’s the problem with Amazon — if you ask for something sufficiently weird or obscure, you just get like, t-shirts.
About Wheelhouse mailing list:
Wheelhouse is basically three or four things that you might add to your repertoire as a maker. It’s a new material, it’s a new kind of tool, or it’s a new kind of technique. And the idea is that there is some reasonable chance that you’ve never heard of it. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a YouTube video that you can cause silicone molds to grow or shrink with the application of mineral oil. So you can actually scale 3D parts. And I was just like, Holy crap, that seems very useful, right, and then you put that in your pocket for later. And on top of that, I try to get cross pollination from other communities. I was watching a video about a cosplay costume build and she glued two pieces of foam together and then just sanded it down and it never would’ve occurred to me that you could use sandpaper on foam to clean it up and it worked fine. And I’m like, well that seems useful for cosplay, but you could probably use that for other things. I found one in a vintage computer restoration thing. They used baking soda and crazy glue, cyanoacrylate glue. And basically you put a little bit of glue on and then you put the powder on and it solidifies to rock hard instantly. But it’s not so tough that you can’t just file it down. So they basically restored like a commodore 64 part and painted it. And I’m like, crap. That seems useful.
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.– MF09/25/20
24 September 2020
Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #62
Like one of the tips in this issue? Share it on social media and link back here. It really helps in spreading the word. Thanks!
Getting Data Out of Digital Calipers
I love my iGaging digital calipers. They’re amazing for the under-$40 price and they even come with a digital data port that allows you to export readings right into CAD programs. Unfortunately, the cable to do that costs three times more than the calps. This has inspired many hardware hackers to create their own output cables and wireless solutions. This well-documented version uses a SAM32 board and code available online. There’s even an .STL file for printing out a plastic cover for the circuit board. Fancy. (Sadly, my iGaging calps do not allow for this hack. I would have to go with a solution like this.)
Waterslide Transfer Paper
Reader Martin R. wrote to me to recommend this waterslide transfer paper. As a game crafter, I’m definitely interested in making my own decals for gaming miniatures. I’ve heard mixed reviews on some products in this category, but this brand has over 4K positive reviews on Amazon.
Gesture-Messaging for Video Conferencing
I wrote about this on Boing Boing. Cameron Hunter came up with a way of using gestures to signal cartoon-like word-balloon messages in video conferencing.
Tactile Marking with Hot Glue
If you find yourself forever plugging in a USB cable upside down, holding your Apple TV remote backwards, or otherwise dealing with a device with an ambiguous orientation, you can add some tactile feedback by placing a spot of hot glue to indicate orientation.
Creating a Masking Tape Measuring Template
In the opening moments of Jimmy DiResta’s latest video, where he builds a set of gates for his farm, he demonstrates several great tips. First off, he lays the gates out directly onto the concrete floor of his shop with chalk. Yes, he has a huge warehouse shop space to do this. Your mileage may vary. He also uses masking tape to mark off the board layout on one side and then peels up and repositions the tape on the other side to transfer the markings.
I have always had a soft-spot for knot-tying and rope-handling terms. Here are some basics.
Several people wrote in to say that some of the terms I used in my first “Maker Slang” piece were actually established technical terms, not slang. Indeed. “Maker Slang” is just the name of the column. It will include slang, jargon, and long-standing technical terms. Similar to the “Jargon Watch” column I edited for Wired for 12 years. It was a combination of jargon, slang, and industry terminology.
In my request to hear about unusual and unusually-useful tools, Doug B writes:
“When I was moving shops last year, someone left a small shopping cart in front of the old shop. It sat there for weeks (honest!), so I drafted it into the move. Now it holds a position of honor in my new studio. It moves all of the tools and supplies that I need for a project out of my tool closet. It holds cut parts to move from station to station. I can get all of the stuff out of the truck in one go. And it’s a great temporary place to put junk that isn’t a work surface, then wheel it around to put all that junk in its proper place. Indispensable!”
Reader Joe P. wrote in to remind us of the shop utility of scalpels: “Seeing Mike M’s forceps in issue #59 reminded me of a repurposed medical tool I use in my wood workshop: a scalpel. 100 blades plus a free handle, for just $8.25 on Amazon.09/24/20
(Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here. — editors)
24 September 2020
Hot glue without power cords
One of my favorite tools is a hot glue gun. However you so often just need them to do one quick thing, and setting up extension cords to get it to where you need it, or cranking up a generator if you are working at a more remote site, is super annoying. I started looking into cordless glue guns and there are a few, but they seem to center around using the batteries from the Ryobi line of tools. I use all Makita cordless tools, and I did not want to have a whole new battery and charger type to deal with. I found this amazing solution which is the Surebonder Pro 18v glue gun. It is used by the automotive industry as part of pulling dents from cars without drilling holes. While it too was designed around Ryobi batteries, they sell it with adapters for Makita, Dewalt, and Milwaukee batteries. It also has a nice feature in that it stands up on the battery, whereas corded glue guns are always falling over from the cord getting moved around. The glue gun gets hot fast, can run for a few hours (depending on battery size), and most importantly allows you to glue something quick without setting up cords.
[Find an adaptor for your batteries here]09/24/20
Since university, I’ve bought about a dozen pairs of kitchen scissors ranging from budget and store brands to ostensibly premium …
This peeler will save you a lot of time and skinned fingers
COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
23 September 2020
What’s in my bag? issue #68
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