22 January 2019


Easy Sorter Funnel Tray

Organizes bits and pieces in the workshop or the home

I grew up in the age where my father never threw anything away without disassembling it first and scavenging any usable parts. (Thanks for that lesson, Dad!) This included nuts, bolts, screws, switches, wire, etc. As a result, his workbench always had coffee cans sorted with different items. Naturally, I adopted the same idea when I struck out on my own. There is nothing more satisfying than needing a screw, nail or washer and knowing I likely have the exact part sorted on my workbench, thus saving a trip to the local hardware or big box store.

I know every one of you can relate to that! The problem arose whenever I needed to sort through a particular container for the item I was looking for. Quite often I would use a cardboard box or copier box lid to sort through the pile of parts looking for that exact item I needed. While this part worked satisfactorily, replacing the unwanted parts back into the can was always problematic. More often than not, many of the parts wound up spilled on top of the workbench, missing the can entirely. I don’t quite recall where I picked up the Easy Sorter Funnel Tray but I have had it more than 10 years now. Other than some accumulated dirt and a few minor scratches, it has not weakened in any way. The yellow color is a bonus which helps it to stand out on my often cluttered workbench. This item is constantly being used whenever I am at my workbench and I would not hesitate to buy another one should this one ever fail. This tray continues to be the most used tool in my workshop!

-- Roy Schmoutz 01/22/19

21 January 2019


Drop Stop

Car seat gap filler

I have been using the Drop Stop ($20) for over 5 years and have a set for each car. Once installed (takes one or two minutes) I’ve forgotten about them, until I drop something between my seat and center console that would have otherwise fallen through the crack and under the seat or into the abyss. The Stop Drop stops the dropped item (pen, phone, money, wallet, etc.) from falling through. They come in black and tan, are made of soft pliable material that conforms to the space, have a slot for the seatbelt latch, and slide back and forth, unnoticeably, when adjusting the seat. They are easily removable and washable. I’ve given them as gifts and they have been very appreciated.

-- Paul Hanna 01/21/19

20 January 2019


Searchable Recomendo/Stoop/ifyouhigh

Recomendo: issue no. 130

Searchable Recomendo
We made a searchable, inexpensive version of our Recomendo book. This PDF (in glorious full-color!) is only $1.99, and available internationally. Download, browse, and search through 550 great recommendations. — KK

Newsletter App
I’ve been using the Stoop app to discover and read new newsletters. It’s great to have them all in one place where I can let them pile up and read when I have the time. I’m really enjoying the Clearer Thinking newsletter, which offers tools for better decision-making. You can also find Recomendo on there! — CD

If You High (and even if you aren’t)
The ifyouhigh Instagram account has 3.4 million followers, but I recently stumbled on it and am hooked. It’s an endless scroll of strange and beautiful short videos of natural phenomena, machinery in motion, slo-mo, time-lapse, art, and other “Whoa dude!” moments that you don’t need to be high to appreciate. (Photo of Moonlit fog waves at Mount Tam above) — MF

Typeset in the Future
I’m spending hours studying this coffee-table book celebrating the typography and design used in science fiction movies. What do we see on screens “in the future”? More broadly, this dense picture book, Typeset in the Future, is a roundabout way to examine where the interface design of technology is headed. — KK

The Alien Exercise
In Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass, she describes the Alien Exercise for rebooting yourself and getting some clarity. Imagine you are an alien and you’ve just landed on Earth — into your body and life. Take notice of all the connections, opportunities, skills, possessions and people who love you and can help you. What would you do and how would you feel? I think this is great for brainstorming projects, ideas and new ways to enjoy your day-to-day life. — CD

Cheapest Lightning Cables
Lightning charging cables are expensive and seem to fray quickly. Micro USB cables, on the other hand, are dirt cheap and seem to last forever. I bought a 10-pack of adapters that convert a Micro USB plug into a Lighting plug. The price for all 10 was $7, about half the price of a single Lightning Cable. I tested them, and there were no duds in the pack. — MF

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 01/20/19

18 January 2019


Daniel Pink, NYT Bestselling Author

Cool Tools Show 158: Daniel Pink

Our guest this week is Daniel Pink. Daniel is the author of four New York Times bestsellers on work, business, and psychology. His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into 39 languages. Dan was also host and co-executive producer of “Crowd Control,” a National Geographic TV series about human behavior. His latest book is When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

3M E-A-Rsoft Yellow Ear Plugs
“I’m a big fan of ear plugs because I find that I work a lot better if I just block out sound. And a lot of times, what’ll happen if you have expensive noise canceling headphones, the battery will run out, or you’ll forget them, or I will actually always worry about losing them. And so, I buy this box of ear plugs. They come in these small, individually wrapped pairs, and I use them for everything. There’s something, to me, that when you put in ear plugs, it just blocks out the rest of the world and signals that you’re in it. … I basically keep a fist full of them in my back pack. They’re very good in hotels, too. Because a lot of times in hotels, it’s like, ‘Oh, I have the room next to the clanging ice machine. Oh, I have the room next to the elevator and there are 3000 Kiwanis from Buffalo, drinking all night and coming in late at night.’ And so, anyway. All of which is to say that I don’t have many friends, but I have a lot of ear plugs.”

Faber Castell Jumbo Grip Pencils
“Over time, I’m not sure how it happened, I really like using pencils. As a writer, as a note taker, I still find, maybe it’s delusional, but I find that I think better if there’s some tactile element to what I’m doing. I almost never take notes by computer on my laptop. I prefer to take notes by hand. And there’s actually some evidence that that aids in retention. I just did it because I liked the tactileness of it, and I love pencils. I love the sound of pencil on a paper, the scraping that it makes. I like the way that it looks. I tend to doodle and sketch a fair bit, and so it’s much better than pens for that, because pens often have that little dollop of ink sometimes that will gum on there. And as I’ve experimented with pencils … the ones that I settled on were these things called Jumbo Grip Faber-Castell pencils. And what they are is that the barrel is thicker than a typical kind of number two pencil. That’s one thing about it. The other thing about it is that the barrel isn’t really a barrel. It’s not in the shape of a cylinder, as most pencils are. It’s actually in the shape of sort of a rounded triangle. And it also has these things, and I don’t know what to call them. … There’s like a line of small raised plastic dots that are akin to braille in their texture, and what they do is they allow actually a firmer grip. And it turns out, that they’re often used in elementary schools, for like first graders, second grades, especially boys, who struggle a little bit with fine motor skills, because it gives them a little bit more grip. I ordered these pencils by the case, and I sharpen them, and I grind them. I’m literally holding one right now. So, I love these pencils. And they’re totally cheap.”

“Masterclass is a set of classes conducted by like the best people in the world at what they do. So, if you look at basketball skills, they have Steph Curry. If you look at screenwriting, they have Aaron Sorkin. You look at acting they have Helen Mirren. They have a lot of writers, comedy they have Steve Martin. … it’s very, very well produced. And so, what they are, is it’s a series of classes, but the classes are more like interviews. They’re not as purely didactic as somebody standing in front of a class and telling you precisely how to do something. At least, the ones that I’ve watched and enjoyed. But you get to see people who are really, really great at something explain how they do it. And as I said, it’s very well produced, and they’re divided into videos … They vary in length, but the videos can be anywhere from three minutes to sometimes 20 minutes, and they’re divided into certain sections based on what the person is trying to teach. Helen Mirren has a very short video about how to walk onto a stage. Something that you wouldn’t think about, but that you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s actually a big thing. Like how do you walk onto a stage if you’re an actor?’ … Margaret Atwood has one about novel writing that was fantastic. … But what I think is interesting, like in the class on wine with James Suckling is things like how do you hold a glass to examine the color of a wine. And it turns out, anytime I did do it, I was doing it completely wrong. …. So, I think it’s a great investment. I think it’d make a super cool gift, too.”

Hell’s Handle Fish Spatula
“I’m not much of a cooker. But if it involves cooking outside, that’s my domain. And so, we’ve ended grilling a lot of fish, because we have three people in my house who don’t eat meat. And fish is actually really hard to grill, because it’s very different in consistency from a beef steak … And a lot of times the fish, particularly when you cook it on the skin side, it sticks. And I was always frustrated, and some how, I think it was my wife found this spatula that is the greatest spatula I’ve ever seen. And I’m not exaggerating. I mean, it is so great. And so, all the sudden, I’m able to up my grill game significantly because of this spatula … It sort of has this beveled edge to it, and it has this handle, and it’s like exactly the right level of flexibility. And so, you can get underneath the fish in a way you can’t with a regular spatula, and it has some give, so you can actually, with fair amount of confidence, say take a hamburger or something like that, and literally like flip it in the air. This is the first time in my life I’ve been excited by a kitchen tool. So, if you grill fish at all, this is perfect. I mean, it’s just a great, great product. And the brand name is kind of cool, too. It’s called Hell’s Handle by Mercer.”

Also mentioned:

WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $400 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


18 January 2019


L-288AMBT Portable Radio

Feature packed inexpensive radio

I’m a radio fan: I don’t have a TV and I enjoy the public radio news reports, more factual and less tainted, and I discover new music through the local radio stations, we even have some pirate stations sometimes. It’s simple, autonomous and doesn’t rely on an internet connection or precious smartphone battery.

Having heard my stepmother wasn’t listening to the radio anymore, I wanted to offer one to her. Her daughter told me not to give her anything too important as she feared it would be soon taking the dust, so I bought a cheap one for 10€ on Amazon, with honorable reviews. It turns out it’s a gem, with some limitations, but really neat nonetheless.

Build to cost as little as possible, it’s not obviously pretty, but it’s still good and small enough to not notice. The great things are the packed features: it’s rechargeable with a standard USB outlet, so doesn’t need disposable batteries, separate rechargeable cells or a specific charger, it’s also an MP3 player for USB drives or MicroSD cards, a Bluetooth speaker and even has a microphone to work like a cellular speakerphone. Sound is perfectly decent and when at maximum could be heard in the next room, with no distortions.

The antenna is a real antenna, no a flimsy wire. For the radio stations memories, it scans all the spectrum and saves each after the previous one, so you can’t choose memories but it’s also easy to set up. The only bothersome thing is it wakes up not in the last used mode but in Bluetooth mode, and it says “the Bluetooth device is ready to pair” – it can be abbreviated by pushing the mode button immediately at wake-up.

I honestly hope my current radio dies so I can get one for me. It’s available with multiple designations, often with “L-288AMBT” printed on the front, from multiple outlets like Amazon, eBay (starts at $15), banggood, dealextreme, aliexpress and so on.

-- Marc Lacoste 01/18/19

17 January 2019


Titanium Coated Utility Shear

Makes easy work of sheet metal

This Titanium Coated Utility Shear gives both power and precision when cutting sheet metal. This past summer it was a huge help for fine cuts on complex corners and angles as we wrapped building soffits and fascia in aluminum panels. It also saw use on some HVAC sheet metal projects. The blade size, handle shape and spring contribute to give me excellent cutting control and doesn’t overly distort the cut metal. This tool makes the traditional tin snips seem like a clumsy meat cleaver.

-- Chad Cooper 01/17/19


img 01/16/19

Screw and Nut Grabber

Spring-loaded jaws grasp tiny screws

img 01/16/19

Software-Defined Radio

Receiving radio signals using a tuner dongle

img 01/15/19

Micro USB Adapter Connector

Adapter connector for cell phones and tablets

img 01/14/19

Mpow M5 Bluetooth Headset

Wireless over head earpiece with noise reduction

img 01/13/19

Digital Recomendo

Downloadable, searchable PDF

See all the reviews




Cool Tools Show 158: Daniel Pink

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 157: Jen Schachter

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 156: Michael Kupperman

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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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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.

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