19 January 2022

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Furniture Sliders

Reusable furniture sliders for carpeted surfaces

Furniture Sliders are smooth polymer sliders, filled with a spongy material (they call it a special grip pad). They are an improvement on the “furniture coasters” my mother used to put under the sofa in that the special grip pad does really work, allowing you to move furniture easily. They work on carpet, though our experience has involved sliding things over berber and low-ply (we’ve never owned shag).

We have moved some pretty heavy furniture using them. You *might* be able to slide an upright piano this way — but I would leave moving a grand piano to the professionals.

These also work well for slipping under boxes on moving day.

-- Martin Schwimmer 01/19/22

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

19 January 2022

What’s on my industrial bookshelf? — Spencer Wright

What’s in my … ? issue #136

Most people think of Spencer Wright as something of an engineer, and he mostly thinks of himself as mechanic. But in truth he’s a writer and editor who runs theprepared.org, a newsletter about engineering, manufacturing, and infrastructure.

 

I run theprepared.org, where I write and edit writing about engineering, manufacturing, and infrastructure, and manage a community for folks who think and work in adjacent areas. And, I spend a lot of time obsessing over bikes, and trying out new (and old) tools — so much so that I run a shared woodworking, electronics, and bike shop in Brooklyn, NYC.

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Behind my desk there’s an industrial bookshelf loaded up with textbooks and histories and paper airplane kits, and I use the top shelf to store a bunch of toys, tools, and mementos. This is my space.

Test weights

Test weights

I run a metric shop: My weather apps are in centigrade, I measure things in millimeters and distances in kilometers, and I take my own weight (er, mass) in kilograms. I’ve found it pretty easy to make all of these transitions (a few days of seeing 25° C in your weather app will give you a pretty strong sense of what that means), but I don’t weigh small objects that often and needed a little help getting used to grams. So, I got some test weights.

These two test weights cost me about $20, and they’re just perfect tactile objects. Holding them (mostly the hundred gram weight) in your hand is a great way to get a sense of the low end of the metric scale for mass.

The Public Radio

The Public Radio

Looking back on my life, I tend to mark time by the moments at which I realized something about the way the world works. Some of these moments correspond with things I’ve read or been taught, but the most memorable ones are the times where I caused a material change to a space I inhabit.

To be a little more specific: Pretty much every time I’ve made a new physical thing, my understanding of the world has been enriched. And that understanding is preserved, as if in amber, in the prototypes I’ve kept around.

Anyway, on my bookshelf are two pre-production samples of The Public Radio, a little FM radio I created in collaboration with Zach Dunham back in 2014. The two prototypes are about two years apart in age, and while the differences may seem subtle, they represent very different understandings of assembly, design, and production efficiency. Since they were made, we shipped tens of thousands of these little radios around the world, and I love thinking back to just how hacky the prototypes were when we first started working on them.

Time Since Launch

Time Since Launch

CW&T is one of my favorite design shops, mostly because the stuff they make is so highly opinionated. I’ve got a handful of their creations, each of which is somehow both off-kilter and perfect. My favorite is Time Since Launch, which is kind of a single-use stopwatch – it’s a glass vial, inside of which is a seven segment display which counts up continuously from the moment that its (grenade-style) pin is pulled. Mine has been going for about two years, marking the time since I started working on The Prepared full time. Every time I look at it, I feel a nice sense of accomplishment and am reminded of all the ways that my self employment has evolved.

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A couple years ago I got a proper lab notebook — something that’s designed for IP documentation, like you would use if you worked in corporate R&D. I totally fell in love. A hardback notebook just feels official, and it’s way better for sketching and long form notetaking than a pocket notebook. I take daily notes in mine, and carry it with me next to my laptop; its format and durability complements a computer perfectly.

01/19/22

18 January 2022

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Book Freak #56: How to Practice Mindfulness

Short pieces of advice from books

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk, a renowned Zen master, a poet, and a peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967. Here’s advice from his best-selling book, The Miracle of Mindfulness.

Use your breath to collect yourself
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

Focus on what’s now, not what might come
“If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes.’ What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future — and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”

Understand that all time is your time
“Then Allen said, I’ve discovered a way to have a lot more time. In the past, I used to look at my time as if it were divided into several parts. One part I reserved for Joey, another part was for Sue, another part to help with Ana, another part for household work. The time left over I considered my own. I could read, write, do research, go for walks. But now I try not to divide time into parts anymore. I consider my time with Joey and Sue as my own time. When I help Joey with his homework, I try to find ways of seeing his time as my own time. I go through his lesson with him, sharing his presence and finding ways to be interested in what we do during that time. The time for him becomes my own time. The same with Sue. The remarkable thing is that now I have unlimited time for myself!‘“

Try practicing aimlessness for just five minutes
“Most people cannot believe that just walking as though you have nowhere to go is enough. They think that striving and competing are normal and necessary. Try practicing aimlessness for just five minutes,and you will see how happy you are during those five minutes.”

Book Freak is published by Cool Tools Lab, a small company of three people. We run the Cool Tools website,  a video review YouTube channel, and a couple of other newsletters, including Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop TalesWhat’s in my bag? and Recomendo. I hope you’ll check them out. You can support our work by becoming a patron via Patreon.

01/18/22

18 January 2022

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Silicone Rubber Self Fusing Tape

Waterproof repair wrap

Electrical tape simply does not work in a marine environment. Even duct tape won’t stick to something wet. Try getting any tape to stick to a rope or line on a boat. Or try to get a waterproof seal on a hose leak. X-treme tape can do all these chores with flying colors because it is a non-adhesive, self-bonding wrap. It’s not really tape since it’s not sticky. This stuff is sort of magical. You stretch it on and it self-fuses tight under tension. It works in cold and wet, and won’t melt on hot surfaces, so you can use it on engines. It is easy to apply even when it is below freezing. The tape doesn’t stick on itself until you want it to. Once tightened this silicone-based wrap forms a reliable bond even in water. I use it as an insulator around wires, like electrical tape. I wrap the end of ropes with it. X-treme tape bears up for many seasons under constant UV and sunlight and the extreme cold, heat, and wet of harsh weather. It’s so good I use it for any outdoor tape application.

-- David Siesel 01/18/22

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

17 January 2022

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Parallel Jaws Pliers

Tight gripper

My favorite general-purpose pliers are parallel-jaw pliers. They excel at crimping and grasping near the tips since they apply uniform pressure across the whole face. Since the jaw faces stay parallel, these pliers may be used in a pinch to hold or turn a small fastener without deforming its face. A small groove running down the center length of one jaw lets you use these pliers to tension cable or wire, and many models come with an effective wire cutter on the side.

I had a pair, passed down from my father, that was stolen — I despaired of replacing them until I found this robust spring-loaded pair of Shimano pliers made for fishermen. Parallel-jaw pliers are also apparently used by jewelers and tennis-racket stringers among others.

-- Philip Flip Kromer 01/17/22

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

ALL REVIEWS

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Cat donuts/Luciteria/OneTab

Recomendo: issue no. 287

01/13/22

Hanging Devices That Have Keyhole Mounts

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #107

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Pocket Caliper

Accurate measurements up to 1/32″

img 01/7/22

Picquic Sixpac

Best multiple-bit screwdriver

See all the reviews

EDITOR'S FAVORITES

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Knipex High Leverage Cutters

Clippers that cut anything

img 01/25/19

Fantastic Ice Scraper

Cheap and great brass ice scraper

img 01/8/07

Engel Hot Knife

Superior textile cutter

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Smart Move Tape

Clearest box labeling

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Audible

Satisfying audio books

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Sven-Saw

Burly folding backwoods saw

See all the favorites

COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST

12/24/21

Cool Tools Show 310: Orson Rossetto

Picks and shownotes
12/17/21

Cool Tools Show 309: Lenore Edman

Picks and shownotes
12/10/21

Cool Tools Show 308: Meredith Arthur

Picks and shownotes

WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
19 January 2022

ABOUT COOL TOOLS

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.