08 December 2021


Uniball Signo White Pen

Write in white on dark surfaces

Do you want to be able to write in white on dark surfaces? There is a Sharpie marker that writes in a Silver color. (Reviewed here in 2003.) The Sharpie’s tip is a bit broad so it doesn’t work for fine, thin, writing. Still, it works pretty well; I have a couple and have used them several times. I learned of, and ordered, an alternate solution about 6 months ago called Uni-Ball UM 153 Signo Broad Point Gel Pen – White. It’s more like a ballpoint pen than a felt tip like the Sharpie. I think I prefer the Uni-Ball over the Sharpie but each probably has some surfaces that it works best on. The only negative I’ve encountered is ordering from Amazon results in shipment from Japan which takes several weeks instead of the day after tomorrow.


Here’s a video review of the Uniball Signo White Pen:

-- Russel Brooks 12/8/21

05 December 2021


Typatone/Quiet your mind chatter/Kevin’s Golden Oldies

Recomendo: issue no. 281

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Make ambient music by typing
Go to Typatone, tap out a few characters on your keyboard, then click the on-screen button with the musical note. It will play an original piece of music. Each time you click the button, it plays a different style of music. This could be useful for podcasts or videos. — MF

How to quiet your mind chatter
Here is a case for talking to yourself more often. Ethan Kross, experimental psychologist and neuroscientist, suggests that a key strategy for controlling negative thought loops and ruminating is “distanced self-talk” — talking to youself as if you were another person. This involves calling yourself by name and using non-first pronouns like “you”. This interview on Nauti.lus goes further into the technique. I like to talk to myself out loud while I’m driving alone. It’s a sacred time when I get to ask myself questions, spew out my fragmented thinking and work problems out. I feel confident and safe doing this in the car, because no one can hear me and if anyone sees me they’ll just assume I’m on the phone. — CD

My golden oldie products
This year I focused my Cool Tools Holiday Gift list on golden oldie products that I still use. Stuff that I have recommended in the past and still love and use now. But none of these seven are really gift items, so ignore the title. These are just proven good stuff I recommend. — KK

Far out followable
My favorite out-of-this-world twitter account to follow is the Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity. It keeps me up to date on Rover’s findings and images, like this picture postcard posted recently. It’s a dose of awe in my timeline. The most recent raw images of Mars can be found here: https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw-images/ — CD

Analog planner
I’m a die-hard Google Calendar user, but my wife swears by Lett’s Classic Weekly/Monthly Planner. It’s about the size of a smartphone and each two-page spread displays seven days of the week plus a small monthly calendar for reference. She keeps it in her purse (along with a pencil). — MF

Self-healing car tires
We have a small all-electric car (Chevy Bolt) that does not carry a spare tire. Instead it is outfitted with Michelin Selfseal Tires. I was a little dubious these would work, but recently I had a tire puncture from a large screw in the tread, and the system worked well. The self-healing goo inside the tire kept the air in despite the puncture. But the screw was too big to remain. So in my garage at home, I pulled the screw out with pliers, which initially let some air out. Overnight the tire half-deflated. Next day I pumped it up again, let it sit for a few hours and it was as good as new. No issues. While this won’t work for gashes or huge punctures, I’d certainly consider Selfsealing tires for my next car. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 12/5/21

03 December 2021


Wendy Frauenfelder, Cocktail creator

Cool Tools Show 307: Wendy Frauenfelder

Our guest this week is Wendy Frauenfelder. Wendy is the family’s handyperson. She also likes to bake wild yeast sourdough. She’s obsessive about doing the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and Spelling Bee every day. And she loves to make and share cocktails on her Instagram called oh_happy_hour.

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Show notes:

Peeps Eyeglass Cleaner
This is a cool little gadget and the overall rating is really good, like four stars. But if you start to go down and look at the reviews, the first  20 are one star reviews. So I was like, uh-oh. I wasn’t really sure, but I was looking for something that was just easy to clean my glasses. Because I seem to smudge all the time. So I decided to give it a shot and I got one and I immediately liked it. The thing I like about it is you don’t have to use any kind of fluid with it. It’s a one step process, not a two step process. It’s got two little pads that feel like suede, which I don’t think it is, but they’re soft like that. And you pinch your lenses in between the two pads and just rub it. And at first you’re going to see some smearing going on and you’re going to think it’s garbage. And if you just keep it up for about 10 seconds, your lenses are just crystal clear. And when you put them back in the case supposedly they recharge. I don’t know how you recharge these because there’s no electricity in it. But that’s what they call it. I guess it sort of resets the pads.

RAK Magnetic Wristband
I do a lot of the handy work around the house, installing ceiling fans, repairing parts, replacing parts. I put in new doorknobs all over the house. Stuff that takes a lot of little bits and pieces. And you know, I end up either sticking little things in my pocket, especially when I’m going up on a ladder or in my mouth, which is gross. And this little wristband is lightweight, easy to put on, and it’s got Velcro. I have a tiny, tiny wrist and this goes down enough to fit my wrist. I think it would fit probably anybody. And it’s got little magnets all the way around it and a little dividing section. So you can put your little bits on there so you don’t lose them. And I even put my different drill bits on there. Because a lot of times I’ve got to switch out between the flat and the Phillips and it’s just a great way to store it.

PopSockets PopGrip for MagSafe
I know there’s a lot of people like me who like pop sockets so that you can rest your phone in your hand pretty easily and reach the front of your phone with your thumb. And I love it. I think they’re great. But I also find myself wanting to have my phone mounted in the car and I’ve tried a bunch of different kind of mounting systems and some are good. Some aren’t so good. Sometimes they ruin your dash a little bit or leave a sticky substance on there. And I saw one that was a MagSafe magnetic phone mount for your car. And I have a MagSafe phone and a case as well. And I thought, Oh, that’d be easy. But I like my pop socket. So I decided to give up my pop socket. And then I was at Target and I saw this pop socket that’s usable with a MagSafe case. And it’s just like a regular pop socket, but it has an oval back to it. And that oval back fits right on your MagSafe magnet. And it’s a tight, strong fit. You can’t shake your phone off it. It’s tight. And then you use it as you want to use it. I use it during the day. And then when I get in the car, I just slide it off really easily. Just pry it off and I can stick my phone on the mount in the car.

Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer
This is a hot tool for your hair that can be used two ways. One is you can use it to overall just dry your whole hair. If you’re the kind of person who does a blowout style, which is that you use a hair dryer and a brush with, which is a two-handed process, not a big deal if you’re used to it, but you know, if you’re not used to it probably as a big deal. So you can use it for that, which I do and it does give you some volume because you can lift at your roots, which is great. But the thing I really am finding I use it for more often is touch-ups. So if I’m washing my hair every two to three days, on the off days I wake up and it’s a little crazy. Instead of flat ironing it and getting it stick straight, I can use this, I can get a little curl into it. I can re-volumize I can make the whole thing look like it’s a fresh hairdo.


02 December 2021


Kids Toothpaste

Tasty toothpaste for kids and adults

I wondered why it took one of my sons so long to brush his teeth and why he spit every couple of seconds. It turned out that he didn’t like the mint flavor and mint sting and didn’t like the foamy texture. So, I set out to find other alternatives. What I found is that there is a class of kids toothpastes that are equal to the therapeutic qualities of adult toothpaste (they clean your teeth and have fluoride) but without the issues that annoyed my son and that limited his brushing. And I found that they are really very nice to use, kid or not, and whether you have issues with regular toothpaste or not.

The two that I have tried are Tom’s of Maine Kids toothpaste in a number of their flavors, Mango Orange and Blueberry, which have less foam than other brands, but still do have some foaming ingredients in them. Both flavors are very pleasant. Tom’s is a mass market brand available in supermarkets.

The other brand is Tasty Paste, a brand that I found only online. This brand comes in two flavors, Vanilla and Chocolate, has no foaming chemicals in them at all and most of all really taste great. They have an odd side benefit for me given that they taste like pudding or candy — I can fool myself that I had some dessert after dinner when I brush my teeth and feel like I have had a sweet. There are quite a few other brands on the supermarket shelves and on line that I have not tried. This is not a one-tool recommendation but a suggestion that there is a class of toothpastes available that might solve some problems that you have and make dental care more pleasant.

-- Lee Ellman 12/2/21

01 December 2021

What’s in my survival kit? — Dug North

What’s in my … ? issue #130

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Dug North 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. You can find Dug on YouTube @dugnorth, and on Instagram @dug.north, and on Facebook @DugNorthCreations.


I am passionate about learning and teaching wilderness survival skills. As an example for my students, I put together a well-rounded survival kit. This kit is based on a design by my colleague, Tim Swanson of Owl Eyes Wilderness.

One of the hardest things to do in the wild is keeping track of your stuff. This is why every item in the kit is bright orange or red.


Orange Waist Pack ($13)
You must have these items with you if they are to be of any use. This is the reason for dedicating a small pack specifically for this kit. Let’s say you go for a day hike. You might take your main backpack off now and then. Only take this waist pack off if it is absolutely necessary.

ESEE Fixed Blade Knife ($70)
In most environments, the most essential survival item is a sturdy knife. ESEE makes two small fixed-blade knives that don’t take up a lot of room. The models I like are the Izula and the Candiru (shown).

Exotac fireSLEEVE ($18) for the Bic Lighter ($20, 5ct)
It may not fit with your mental image of wilderness survival, but the classic Bic lighter is the best fire starter you can possibly have. The fireSLEEVE protects this valuable resource by keeping it dry, preventing the gas button from accidentally discharging the fuel, and by making the lighter float in water.

UST StrikeForce Fire Starter ($20)
Isn’t it redundant to have two ways to start a fire? Yes – and that is precisely the goal. A ferrocerium rod can create thousands of fires and is an ideal backup for a lighter. This model is not only orange, but easy to handle, and has a small compartment to hold dry tinder. Scrape the rod with the metal striker to ignite the included tinder tabs.

Black Diamond Ion Keychain Light ($20)
This little flashlight puts out an impressive 40 lumens of light. Unlike most flashlights of this size, it has a twisting lock that ensures it will not turn on by accident while jostling around in your bag. The brightness can be adjusted and it has a dedicated strobe mode for signalling.

S.O.L. Utility Reflective Tinder Cord ($26)
Cordage allows you to construct shelters, repair gear, and make other helpful items. This utility cord has an outer sheath that glows brightly when light hits it at night. The inner core is a specially designed fire-starting tinder to use in conjunction with your lighter or ferro rod.

Orange 55 Gallon Drum Liner ($20)
Something as simple as a large trash bag can serve many uses — from improvised poncho, to tarp shelter, to make-shift sleeping bag. Few items are so worth their weight.

Aquatabs ($11) with Whirl-Pak Stand-up Bags ($9)
Drop one Aquatab tablet into one of these free-standing plastic bags filled with water and in 30 minutes you will have a liter of drinking water that is free of pathogens. This is a lightweight means for staving off potentially dangerous levels of dehydration.

LuxoGear Emergency Whistle ($8)
A whistle can signal for help at great distances and for far longer than the human voice. Remember: three blasts in sequence is the universal signal for distress.

Cotton bandana ($7)
This is another simple item that is easy to underestimate. A cotton bandana can serve as a signal flag, head covering, washcloth, dust mask, bandage, and water pre-filter.

Tiny Survival Guide ($12) with Plastic Fresnel Lens ($9)
This little booklet is actually a folded waterproof poster that provides concise information on a variety of survival topics. In a bad situation, a little expert guidance could be invaluable. Tuck a flat plastic fresnel lens into the guide as a backup for your reading glasses and third possible means to start a fire by solar ignition.

All of these items have been tested to my satisfaction. It’s true that the cost of the full kit does add up, but keep in mind that these items have been chosen to help save your life. How much is that worth?



img 10/8/10


Burly folding backwoods saw

img 09/12/03

Snorkel Hot Tub

Wood powered hot tub

img 08/9/07

Fiskars Post Hole Digger

Best post hole digger

img 05/19/04

Correlated History of Earth

Understanding geological and biological time

img 04/4/05

Snap Blade Knife

Bargain pocket knife

img 01/8/07

Engel Hot Knife

Superior textile cutter

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 307: Wendy Frauenfelder

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 306: Windell Oskay

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 305: Carol Tilley

Picks and shownotes

01 December 2021


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.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

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We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

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.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is claudia {at} cool-tools.org.