27 May 2022

James Home, Designer and Technologist

Show and Tell #315: James Home



James Home is a designer and technologist living aboard a forty-foot sailboat called Rejoice. You can follow him on Twitter @jameshome, or visit his website at jameshome.com

Samson Rope
Knots3D app
Myerchin Offshore Knife Kit
Lumio Lito Classic
Spectra Watermakers Aquifier 200
Brother P-touch CUBE
Long Now Foundation


27 May 2022



Pattern recognition competition

Set is a simple game in a class by itself. You get a deck of cards with colored symbols. These are laid out, face up. To play the game you need to organize the symbols into sets of three “un-alikes” — but they can be grouped in more ways than one. Many more ways. Everyone else is trying to group them into sets faster than you. This game exercises a unique part of your brain that few other activities do. Half math, half intuition, all concentration. It’s fun, loud, fast-moving, and very challenging to do well, yet easy enough for small kids to join in meaningfully (that is, do better than you). After several years of playing the game, here is what I’ve observed:

1) It can’t be explained; it has to be shown.
2) Some folks are more gifted than others at finding patterns fast.
3) But *everyone* improves, often within the span of a game.

I hear that many schools use this game to teach sets and logic in math class, and that’s great. We use it as a raucous parlor game. Like the game Go, Set possesses the kind of simplicity which keeps expanding, never growing old. And as far as games go these days, it’s cheap.

-- KK 05/27/22

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2005 — editors)

26 May 2022

Testing Everyday Carry Folding Knives

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #122

Got a tip to share? Tool to recommend? Tall shop tale to tell? A tip to bust? Please share with the class.

Testing Everyday Carry Folding Knives
In this Project Farm videoTodd tests out 15 brands of everyday carry (EDC) folding knives from Fallkniven, Benchmade, Gerber, Victorinox, Kershaw, Cold Steel, Kizer, CRKT Fossil, Leatherman Skeletool, Milwaukee, DeWalt, COAST, Kingmax, Vulcan, Master USA. In the end, the expensive Benchmade ($170) performed best, but the Kizer ($69) and Kershaw ($87) also showed impressive results. The surprise was the Kingmax (at only $13). It performed decently and includes useful features, like a window breaker and seatbelt cutter.

On the Make: Podcast Talking About My Book
A few weeks ago, Dale Dougherty of Make: and I had a fun chat about my latest book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, Vol. 2.

DIY lifer Gareth Branwyn has compiled a new volume of his series, Tips and Tales of the Workshop, Volume 2. He joins Dale Dougherty to talk about how he collects tips — asking a person directly to share a tip is not very productive. He shares some of his favorite tips he has found. He talks about the aspirational quality of tips, how picking up an idea from someone can help us become better. Learn more about Frankenstein prototyping, that things aren’t perfect in the vaults of Gothic cathedrals, and that details layer one on top of the other.

Listen here.

Adam Savage on Retirement and Idea-Vulnerability
In a recent Q&A, Adam Savage was asked if he shares his project ideas with family and friends. His sincere answer touches on the vulnerability of an idea and how you want to be careful with whom you entrust those ideas to. His answer reminded me a little bit of Stephen King who was asked about whether he shares his work-in-progress books with anyone. His answer is no, NEVER, because of the vulnerability of the idea. King doesn’t let anyone read a word until he’s finished. His first reader is always his wife, Tabitha, because he knows she knows about idea-vulnerability. King says to have one reader, someone who understands what you’re doing and knows how to navigate the precarious nature of your creative process. Similarly, Adam suggests figuring out who the people are who you can talk to “safely” and only share your ideas with them.

Answering the question on will he ever retire, Adam struggles to even wrap his mind around the concept. He says: “Retirement for me means spending a lot more time passing on my knowledge…I’m never going to stop making stuff. I’m never going to cease collecting objects, stories, and ideas…My hobby is my living, my living is my hobby. I’m always going to be doing that.“ He’s aware enough to recognize the great privilege he enjoys (as do I) of being able to do what you truly love for a living and getting paid for it. And because he’s doing what he loves, he never plans to stop, he just might start getting paid less and less for it.

Making a Portable Weight for Surface Mount Soldering
While going through some old makezine.com content, I happened upon this little gem, a simple tool for holding surface mount (SMT) electronic components in place. This could be useful for holding any small objects. The link to the project is dead, but here it is via the Wayback Machine.

Using Toothbrush Travel Cases to Store Bits, Blades, Etc.
From the latest issue of Family Handyman comes this idea for using cheap translucent toothbrush travel cases to store bits, blades, and other small tools and components.

Resin Printer Settings Spreadsheet
By way of Donald Bell‘s Maker Update comes this really useful tool. As someone relatively new to resin printing, I’ve come to realize just how important printer settings are for successful prints. Layer height, exposure time, base exposure time, and light-off times can all impact your print success. And all of these values can be different for different resin brands. This spreadsheet on Maker Trainer shows the optimal settings for all the common (and not so common) resin brands.

Maker’s Muse

Think of the thing that's so obvious that no one is going there. Go there.

Think of the thing that’s so obvious that no one is going there. Go there.

Shop Talk
Reader Foster Schucker sent in this tip (which I included in my first tips volume):

“I recently saw the tip about the hanging bags and thought I’d share my tip for what I use to hold all of Raspberry Pi parts. It’s a jewelry bag with 36 compartments on both sides. It was inexpensive and it’s been nice to be able to see the parts at a glance.”


On the question raised by reader Gary Shell on the Amazon prices almost always being higher than Todd at Project Farm lists them as in his videos, Raoul Miller writes:

“Answering Gary’s question – Amazon does dynamic pricing. When a web site features an item that is somewhat obscure and interest in it rises substantially, then they raise their prices. You just need to wait a week or two for the traffic to it to die down and the price will go back to where it was.”


(Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here. — editors)

26 May 2022


Pancro Lens Cleaning Fluid

Nonstreaky Lens Cleaner

How do you keep a camera lens clean? You cover it with a filter. But how do you keep the filter clean?

I floundered for many years with streaky Kodak solutions and other goofy products, till I was referred to a mysterious product called Pancro by an extraordinary AC named David “AC Dave” Wendlinger. Pancro comes in industrial white bottles with a big sticker on the front, “PANCRO Professional Lens Cleaner Non-Streaking Non-Residue Non-Toxic Fast-Drying” (almost poetic).

Who knows what it is. But it works like magic. Now my lenses are spotless. This stuff cleans anything with glass; binoculars, telescopes, cameras, rearview mirrors. I carry a little bottle of it in my pocket for my eyeglasses. A pack of Rosco Lens Tissue goes well with it.

Best practice for cleaning the lens/filter? First, hold the camera upside down with the front lens pointing down. Use a little blower with SOFT bristle brush to blow off any particles from the lens surface, particles that will fall off the lens aided by gravity. Put a few drops of Pancro on the Rosco lens tissue and softly polish the lens in a circular motion. Rotate the 4 corners and both sides of the tissue so that you always are using a clean part of the tissue to avoid grinding grime into the lens surface. Repeat upside-down brush operation if necessary. Inspect with an extremely bright flashlight pointed at an angle to the element. Some people recommend a cloth instead of the Rosco paper, but I’ve found them too fussy to keep clean and free of abrasive particles. Canned air can work as well, but it can streak the lens if freon is accidentally sprayed when held upside down or sideways. And it can’t be checked in baggage legally.

-- Paul Lundahl (Creative Director/Partner, eMotion Studios) 05/26/22

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)

25 May 2022


Garage/Shop/Patio Blower

Inexpensive blower

The covered back porch seems to be the center of my home. Lots of time spent there with bird feeders hanging on the eaves and squirrels begging for peanuts. It’s not large but has a porch swing and a couple of chairs, a metal can for peanuts, and other sundry obstacles to cleaning. Sweeping off sunflower seed hulls, leaves and peanut shells was a pain because of the obstructions. The thought hit me that a dedicated leaf blower would simplify life when it came to cleaning. But a leaf blower is kind of large for the job, I’m not overly fond of rechargeable tools like this, and really dislike small engines (or rather, they dislike me). I wanted no maintenance, compact and reasonably priced. I thought about a small shop vac as a blower, but that’s bigger than I wanted and more expensive. Searching on Amazon, I ran across the Performance Tool W50063 Compact Red 600 Watt Garage/Shop/ Blower/Patio Blower and thought it might be sufficient for my needs. It has far exceeded my expectations. This thing is small enough to be kept under the porch swing, it is on a 25′ extension cord, so I can not only keep the porch clear of debris, but can clean up the adjacent breezeway. For $27 it is unbeatable. It does claim to be a vacuum as well, but I didn’t want that and honestly, it’s more an advertising thing than a working reality. That’s OK, I didn’t want a vacuum. This works very well, pushes a lot of air, the size is perfect for this use.

-- Norm 05/25/22

(This is a Cool Tools favorite from 2017 — editors)

24 May 2022


Brother Sewing Machine

Cheapest portable sewing machine

This Brother sewing machine is light, small, cheap and reliable. I use it for occasional household work and mostly to make repairs to uniforms and sew on patches. It can do ten stitches and that’s more than enough for me. Especially handy is the buttonholer. This little box, in combination with a beginner’s sewing book, can help you do everything that you can imagine short of embroidery. It has held up most admirably considering how much I use it.

I’m an old Red Cross disaster guy currently flying with the Civil Air Patrol. For some missions, CAP is the USAF Auxiliary and as a result, we have two uniform types: AF and corporate. If you’re active and train moderately, you can be promoted and you also get all these dratted qualification badges. Tailors or cleaners charge around ten bucks a patch, and a uniform can have LOTS. My BDUs: ten patches each. My flight suits: only five. But it gets nuts. The unit has paid for itself by simply allowing me to avoid patch sew-on charges. All else is gravy.

-- Angus mac Lir 05/24/22

(These super cheap machines will work for a while on light duty jobs. I repair machines professionally, and find that these lightweight machines do not hold their timing well. Another option would be to get an old cast-iron New Home, Morris, or Singer Touch-A-Matic at a garage sale or on Craigslist. Any sewing machine repair shop can tune it up to work like new, and parts are common. The old cast iron machines will sew much heavier fabrics (and leather) and will not flex or go out of time. --OH — editors)


img 05/23/22

Weighted blanket

For sleep and stress

jamescham 05/20/22

James Cham, VC at Bloomberg Beta

Show and Tell #314: James Cham

1 05/19/22

Organizing Cables and Other Gear Using Hanging Storage Bags

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #121

img 05/18/22

Samsonite Spinner 20

Travel case with four multi-directional spinner wheels

img 05/17/22

Favorite tool finds under $10

A roundup of inexpensive useful tools

See all the reviews


img 09/1/05


3D Tangrams

img 01/28/19

Rescue Tape

Silicone tape

img 04/17/03


A knife that will get through security

img 03/6/20

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Charcoal Starter

The best way to start a charcoal barbecue

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #315: James Home

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #314: James Cham

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #313: John Markoff

Picks and shownotes

19 January 2022


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