14 May 2021
Handier than a socket set
I’ve used this dogbone wrench for three years. Keep it in my desk and use it much more frequently than my socket set. I always have the right size wrench handy in a single tool, and it rotates, so it functions more like a socket than a crescent wrench.05/14/21
14 May 2021
Cool Tools Show 278: Dug North
Our guest this week is Dug North. Dug is a maker, best known for his mechanical wooden sculptures. He spent five years running an antique clock restoration business. These days he enjoys outdoor bushcraft activities. He is the founder of Whiz-bang Projects —an online source for inspiring vintage project plans. You can find Dug on YouTube @dugnorth, and on Instagram @dug.north, and on Facebook @DugNorthCreations.
Leatherman Surge Multitool ($130)
The Surge is a Leatherman product that they’ve really done right in a couple of fundamental ways. I don’t know if you’ve ever used one of the originals, but using the pliers could be kind of a painful experience if you really bear down on the handle. These are nice and thick. When you open up the handle they’ve got these big rounded edges that are quite comfortable, even if you squeeze really hard. Typically on a Leatherman you have to open up everything to get to the tools within. That’s fine, except if you have to open it frequently it gets a little tedious. So this has four tools on the outside, so you don’t need to open up the pliers to get to them, and all of the tools on it lock so that they can’t close on your fingers or anything like that. So just in terms of the basics they’ve done really well.
Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel ($32)
Slightly less glamorous, but still useful is a small shovel for camping, hiking, bushcrafting, keeping in the trunk of your car — that kind of thing. This is made by a company called Cold Steel. And allegedly it was designed for the Russian Special Forces, because it could be used for entrenching, I suppose. But a unique feature about it is that it has three sharpened edges along the edges of the shovel blade, so it could also be used in some sort of military fashion. It is rigid, it has a Hickory handle and a non folding steel blade that is held to that handle with two Phillips-head screws. So you could make a long handle for it in the field. And it measures in at just about 20 inches, so that’s not excessive for say strapping to the outside of even a fairly small backpack.
TITAN SurvivorCord ($35)
When you’re camping or doing bushcraft, or spending any time in the outdoors, one of the core things that most people have with them is some kind of rope, twine, cordage, something along those lines. A very popular one, for good reason, is 550 para chord, the chords that are used on parachutes. And one of the reasons that it’s so popular is it’s very strong, it’s allegedly able to hold up 550 pounds, but it can also be taken apart because there are seven strands inside. And then the sheath that’s holding all those strands together can also be used independently. So depending on the situation you could use the full cord, or you could use the sheath, or you could sort of take it apart and use the inner strands. This company called TITAN has taken this idea to another level by putting very specialized inner strands inside of their paracord. So their paracord ends up being able to hold 620 pounds as opposed to the typical 550. The special strands are monofilament fishing line, brass, thin gauge brass wire, they call it snare wire, and finally, a waxed jute cord, which is waterproof fire starting tinder.
Wazoo CacheCap ($30)
This is by a company that I just love called Wazoo, and they sort of have this niche of survival gear, if I could call it that, but in sort of everyday clothing and in sort of very small micro format. And one of the products I love is called their Cache Cap. So this is a baseball cap that looks like any other, and what makes it special is that it has six pockets within the bill and the crown of the hat. There’s three pockets on the bill, two are on the outer edges and those are really designed for a product that they sell, though it doesn’t have to be, a small folding ceramic knife and a ferrocerium rod, so that you can start a fire. And then there’s a larger Velcro pocket on the bill in which I have a slightly larger folding knife. They sell things to put in these hats if you want, but I made up my own kits.
About Whiz-bang Projects:
I’ve got this long standing fascination with mechanical things and projects from the past, the kind of stuff you’d find in like a 1920s copy of Popular Mechanics or Boy’s Handy Book. And I think other people do too, but when you read some of those, they’re pretty scant on detail. And sometimes they include materials that we simply can’t get any more or would be unwise to get. And so I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to make these things available and then find a way to sort of translate them for a new age and perhaps give people the level of support and detail that they need in order to complete these things. I feel like I’m the kind of person who can read one of these and probably figure out how to make something. But other people I think might look at it and say, “Well, where are the step-by-step instructions?” And get a little bogged down. And so the idea of Whiz-Bang is to offer these vintage plans in various categories that sort of provides more or less in the way of instructions and help.
12 May 2021
What’s in my desk? issue #101
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I’m a software engineer, writer, maker, and huge Tolkien nerd. As is true for many makers, I’m fanatical about the tools I use. I’m happy to share a few of my own go-to solutions for common life problems! — Nathan Baker
About the desk
I’ve been working from home since March of last year. My home study is not large enough for two full-size desks, so one of my first pandemic projects was building a second desk for myself. That way I could guarantee it would fit precisely in the space I had available and could maximize surface area and minimize cost and wasted space. The only tool I needed was a drill, and I was able to pick up all the supplies I needed at Home Depot. It paid off that I did my homework beforehand … knowing the exact lengths of 2x4s I needed, they were willing to cut them for me.
What’s in the desk
reMarkable 2 ($399)
This writing tablet has dramatically decreased my clutter and increased my organization. Billed as the “world’s thinnest tablet”, it does one thing very well: hand-written documents (ok, it actually does two things well: hand-written documents and annotating PDFs, but I don’t use the latter functionality). Thanks to this device, I no longer find myself scrabbling through endless sheets of paper trying to find the one I took those all-important notes on.
AmazonBasic writing pads ($10, 12pk)
For stuff that I know I’m going to write down and then throw away, these cheap 5×8 writing pads can be bought in bulk. I put them everywhere in my house — I’m rarely out of arm’s reach of one. For jotting down quick thoughts, making temporary lists, doodling, or a hundred other tasks, these are my go-to.
Pentel EnerGel 0.35mm Needle Point pen ($3)
I grew up being told not to waste paper, so I learned to write very small. As a result, I like very, very fine points on my pens. And I absolutely require my pens to write the first time — no scribbling in the margins to get the ink flowing. I carry one of these pens in my pocket everywhere I go, and I keep a couple of them close at hand in my desk drawer.
TuTuShop under-table drawers ($14, 2pk)
I found these in Recomendo issue 223, and they are the perfect addition to my simple, homemade desk. If I find myself needing to store more things than can fit in one of these sliding pencil drawers, I know I need to take some time to declutter. They have a simple adhesive on top that, once stuck, has not failed me yet, and though I’m quite tall they don’t hang down low enough to hit my knees when I swivel in my chair.
(We want to hear about unusual and unusually useful items that you have in your desk, bag, closet, fridge or where ever you keep things. It can be anything really: work bag, pantry shelf, beauty drawer, toolbox, etc. Start by sending an email to email@example.com with a photo of the things in your chosen space (you can use your phone). If you get a reply from us, fill out the form. We’ll pay you $50 if we run your submission in our What’s in my ...? newsletter and blog. — editors)
12 May 2021
Inexpensive great chef knife
A really great chef’s knife is insanely sharp, yet retains its edge easily and feels well-balanced and welcoming in your hand. These days, a decent high-grade chef’s knife can cost $100-$200. Several cooking publications, including Cook’s Illustrated, recently tested a bargain chef’s knife that rated just about as good as the $100-plus knives. It’s the Victorinox Chef’s Knife; the one we use.
The Victorinox is a hybrid of a thin Japanese blade with a 15-degree edge (western knives have a 20-degree edge), but with the longer, broader blade of European knives. It is lightweight, nicely balanced, and lethally sharp. It has a comfortable, grippy handle that won’t slip even when wet. There are five cooks in our household. This is the knife they all grab first. It may not be quite as super great as some of the other previously-reviewed chef’s knives, but considering the price, it can’t be beat.05/12/21
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2009 — editors)
11 May 2021
Clearest box labeling
Two things smoothed out my family’s move a few years ago: designating Open First boxes for each room in our new home, so that on the first night after the move we wouldn’t be missing any essentials; and this Smart Move Tape.
The clearly marked and color-coded designations (Office, Bedroom, Bedroom #2, Kitchen, Storage, etc.) made unloading go quickly for our movers, and organizing our many cardboard moving boxes much easier for us later on. No doubt we could have accomplished something similar with a handful of colored Sharpies, but it would have taken a lot of consistently careful writing to even approach the same effect — at a time when we were looking to make less work, not more — and the colored tapes really help make sorting a breeze.05/11/21
10 May 2021
COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
12 May 2021
What’s in my desk? issue #101
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