29 May 2020


Dr Tung’s Tongue Cleaner

Best tongue scraper

Just a simple tongue scraper but the only one I can find made with stainless steel. I’ve had same one for 8 years, as it refuses to break. Easy to clean and gets all debris off my tongue in a couple of quick sweeps.

-- Greg Schellenberg 05/29/20

(I have not used this particular tongue cleaner, but I am a tongue scraper convert. They improve the bad taste I have in the morning, especially after eating onions the night before. -- Mark — editors)

28 May 2020

Making Your Own Gear Ties

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #47

For my next HackSpace column, I’m thinking about doing a basic guide to molding and casting. If you have any tips on the subject, give me a rattle.

If you’re new to the newsletter, welcome! This is a participatory effort, so please feel free to share YOUR favorite tips, tools, or tell us an inspiring shop tale.

Making Your Own Gear Ties

Organize your gear with DIY ties.

Organize your gear with DIY ties.

My ol’ Make: colleague, Jason Babler, wrote to say that he’s been making a ton of these “gear ties” (as in ties for organizing your gear) after he saw this video. Basically, all you need to make them is some paracord and armature wire.

3D Printer Noise Reduction for Two Dollars

Silence that rattle trap for two bones.

Silence that rattle trap for two bones.

I wrote about this yesterday on AdafruitStefan of CNC Kitchen explains why he uses concrete “pavers” (which you can get at a home store for about US$2) under his printers. Basically, it’s for noise reduction. But being a CNC Kitchen video, he goes into great detail about what actually causes the sounds that can make your printer annoying to be around and ways of mitigating the racket. He also looks at other noise reduction measures, like 3D-printed spring feet, foam pads on your printer’s base, and a foam pad below a paver base.

Precision Pocket Oilers

For those teeny-tiny lube jobs.

For those teeny-tiny lube jobs.

Many years ago, I got a gorgeous Japanese robot kit that came with the loveliest little needle-tip oil tube dispenser. At some point, I lost it. So, I was tickled to see this Cool Tools video, with Donald Bell and Jordan Bunker, where Jordan shows off a similar (though much larger) precision pocket oiler. The oilers are two for $8 on Amazon.

Making Your Own Shop Recipe Books

Mix at your own risk!

Mix at your own risk!

If you mix up a bunch of your own glues, paints, finishes, lubrications, solvents, etc., consider creating a small formulary to keep the recipes for the mixes you use. Such a book is also a great place to keep any measurements, weights, temperatures, formulas, and other notes that you might use on a regular basis. I keep those in the back. For my books, I use blank-page Moleskine Cahiers notebooks. I use twine to create a loop so that I can hang them from my pegboards.

Aligning Sanding Discs

From Acme Tools' Instagram page.

From Acme Tools’ Instagram page.

I just followed the amazing Acme Tools Instagram page. There are a ton of seriously useful tips on there. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more in the future. Here, they show how you can use a couple of 3/8″ dowel pieces to line up the holes of a sanding disk onto a disk sander. Store the dowels with your disks.

The Maker’s Muse

Thinking outside the (junction) box. Another great tip from Acme Tools.

Thinking outside the (junction) box. Another great tip from Acme Tools.

Shop Talk

In response to my tip a few weeks back on organizing your browser tabs, reader Bill Schuller writes:

I also keep a very large heard of browser tabs. If you use Chrome, the closest thing to a sheep dog in this analogy is Cluster – Window & Tab Manager. I use it to find, rearrange, purge, and move groups of tabs into new windows. It also allows you to “pause” tabs, which removes them from working memory for those occasional moments when you’ve really gone overboard with the number of open tabs.

While we’re talking about Chrome extensions, I can’t live without Video Speed Controller. A few years ago, I was getting a demo of some of the awesome technology that Aira creates to help folks with a visual impairment navigate the world. During the demo, I learned that it’s not uncommon for folks to learn to listen to audio at 8x speeds. Since then, I’ve been slowly adapting to absorbing information more quickly. It works with any HTML5 video including YouTube and the like. At work, it also makes getting through Zoom recordings a whole lot quicker too.


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

28 May 2020


Plastic Dice in Bulk

Portable instant amusement

I carry 3 red dice in my back pocket so that I can play a game called Cee-lo with people that I meet. Like most betting games, Cee-lo has a rough reputation. But played among friends, not betting for money, it can be rather wholesome.

I really like being able to play a simple dice game with people for a few reasons:

– it’s a really fun game!
– I’ve successfully played it with kindergartners and every age group above,
– I’ve gotten mixed age groups to have a GREAT time playing,
– It never runs out of batteries or needs to be upgraded,
– it’s very portable,
– it gets people to talk in real time,
– I don’t have to hand an expensive device to other people or count on them having one, or having one compatible to mine.

I’ve also found that the game itself is pretty simple, but with the betting aspect things get really interesting. And the world is full of trinkets to bet with. Collect a bunch of stones, or sugar packets, or tear up a piece of paper into bits that are all roughly the same size, or anything you can get a reasonable number of and you’re in business.

That said, my personal favorite thing to bet with is the little scraps that people have in their pockets: twist ties, tooth picks, vitamin pills, movie stubs. It is amazing to see how people will value these little bits of nothing while they are playing, but once the game is over, it all goes back to being little bits of trash. (I also like to see what people do to get that one important item back, that they really shouldn’t have played in the game…)

One thing about dice games: everyone plays them different. To paraphrase the Cee-lo advice U-God of Wu Tang in this NSFW (language) video: state the rules and save some fools. Better to spend a bit of time outlining the rules at the beginning then to get into any sort of fight later. (And not a bad rule in life in general.)

So, here is how I play Cee-lo:

Cee-lo – 2 or more players – 3 dice

Determine who is going to be playing and who is going to be the first player.

If betting, all players put in their bet.

The first player rolls all three dice until they get a recognized combination, or are otherwise disqualified

The combinations are, ranked from best to worst:

The highest possible roll. Instant win of the round for the player who rolled it. They take the entire pot, and the next round begins. This skips the turns of anyone who has not gone.

Rolling three of the same number is known as “trips”. Higher trips beat lower trips, so 4-4-4 is better than 3-3-3.

“Spare and a Pair”
Rolling a pair, and another number, establishes the singleton as a “point.” A higher point beats a lower point, so 1-1-3 is better than 6-6-2.

Automatic loss. Play forfeits turn, but the game continues.

Any other roll is a meaningless combination and must be rerolled until one of the above combinations occurs. It is also an automatic loss if a player rolls the dice 5 times without getting a meaningful combination.

If either of the dice roll off the playing surface, it is also an automatic loss for the player.

Play then proceeds around to other players, going clockwise.

The player who rolls the best combination wins. In cases of a tie for the best combination, there is a a shoot-out: the players who tied will play another round of the game until there is a single winner.

The winner gets to stat the next round.

And that is all there is to it! I also like it the way the game is explained in this video.

There are PLENTY of other games you can play with dice. But, Cee-lo one my favorite!

I usually buy dice by the 100, so after I teach people, I can give them their own set.

-- Mark Krawczuk 05/28/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2014 — editors)

27 May 2020

Wall Mount Thread Checker

Easy-to-use thread verifier for both nuts and bolts

Tools (Recommended):
Nut & Bolt Thread Checker (Wall Mounted)

Tools (Other):
Nut & Bolt Thread Checker by Thread Checker


-- Sean Michael Ragan 05/27/20

27 May 2020


What’s in my bag? — Elise Bramich

What's in my bag? issue #51

Sign up here to get What’s in my bag? a week early in your inbox.


Elise Bramich is a British comedy producer freelancing at broadcast production companies and working with comedians on scripts, live shows, podcasts, and YouTube sketches (still a thing). She is currently interested in developing world-building sitcom scripts that ignore The Great Social Pause and get on with being funny in their own little big universes …

About the bag

The Kanken Laptop 15 ($115)
This Kanken is sneakily a bit larger than your standard one and includes that all important laptop pocket for keeping documents unrumpled and providing some expandability (you can def get a pair of pyjamas/a stack of comedy flyers/ a Zoom recorder and mic in there too). This one has served as my One Bag for 10 days in Spain, 2 weeks in Thailand and my everyday work bag for 3 years now. I’ve come to love its cutesy beaten up look — a bit like my own jaded and still earnest demeanour toward my industry.

What’s inside the bag

Rubick’s Void: I have half memorised how to solve the cube and so it still provides something of a puzzle with a half remembered algorithmic method drifting in my brain. I love something to fiddle with and if my phone dies or I want to let my thoughts drift this is a great way to do it. I think everyone should have a non electronic fidget gadget be that knitting, drawing or a toy like this. Zoning out is great way to solve problems like plot lines in scripts, gags or trying to think in a less linear fashion. Like the whole holding a stone in your hand until you fall asleep thing. This Void version of the cube is lighter than most as it has no middle and can even be carabiner-ed onto the front of a bag.

Tape measure: I am a sucker for a charity shop/thrift store (usually in Edinburgh for the Fringe festival) but given I’m often in a rush running to another show or wearing some sort of complicated dungarees/boiler suit, I love having a tape measure so I can check out whether something might fit or not and then take a punt on it. If it doesn’t fit it’ll get recirculated to another charity shop as soon as possible and hopefully the lifecycle will continue! This one is a strong fibre glass make from China picked up from my local sewing shop.

Heart Shaped Carabiner: Are these not the most universally of useful things? This one slots through my zip handles to provide a mild added level of security when on the tube or on buses, which is good if you always have memory cards and drives full of rushes in there that are IRREPLACABLE. Lightweight, functional and acting as little mementoes of trips, I have a green heart shaped one from Flying Tiger, a mini pink one from a Loqi packable shopping bag and a fun gold key one from Ale Hop.

Muji PP Cream Pot Triple: My makeup routine is a slap it on and go affair and I often have that horrible moment in the toilets before a meeting as I glimpse my face and realise I probably don’t look professional enough. My go-to products in here are Maybelline baby face primer that mattifies in seconds and dries quick which is good because my internal mantra is almost always “Elise, we don’t have time for this”; The Ordinary foundation which does wonders on rosacea and blushes of shame when you can’t remember a comedian’s name even when you know you love their tight 5; and Lush shimmer powder which can be used under eye as an illuminator, on the lids as a pretty colour and even on the décolletage to activate Party Mode. I top this pot up every couple of weeks and I’ve never had a spillage yet.

-- Elise Bramich 05/27/20

27 May 2020


4AA Pack-Away Lantern

Long-lasting portable illumination

During a recent 27-hour-long power outage, we rushed out to find emergency lighting. While most people grabbed the biggest lanterns they could find, we centered on these handy Pack-Away Lanterns. They touted long run-times on 4 x AA batteries (20 hours on low and 8 hours on high), and they delivered!

We clipped three to our dining room light to provide plenty of light for card games. Then, we used one of the lanterns to provide overnight light for our cat that is scared of the dark (a true fraidy-cat!).

The lanterns are small, and the top pushes down for packing and storage. I throw one in my backpack any time I head to an event.

There’s a wire loop/handle at the top that folds flat, and a small clip that can be attached to the handle. The clip could be used for attaching the light almost anywhere, like the inside of a car hood, a belt loop, or chandelier.

-- Steve Simpson 05/27/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2014 — editors)



img 01/25/19

Fantastic Ice Scraper

Cheap and great brass ice scraper

img 08/28/17

Pumps-A-Lot Water Pump

Simple emergency sump pump

img 06/7/11

Photon Microlight II

Ultralight and bright

img 12/18/15

Bose QC20 Headphones

Best all around noise cancelling earphones

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 227: Ariel Waldman

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 226: Maggie Koerth

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 225: Rob Beschizza

Picks and shownotes

27 May 2020


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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