25 August 2019
Recomendo: issue no. 161
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Tip to keep your home address off the internet
This tip comes from my friend Cory Doctorow, my co-editor at Boing Boing. Last year he posted a tip on how to keep your name and address off the internet. I’ve been using his tip and it works. He wrote, “There are dozens of free “peoplefinder” sites that buy up commercial databases and combine them with other sources to make your home address searchable. You can find instances where this has happened to you by googling your name and home address, and then you can google the removal forms for each of the services and get yourself delisted. But your name will keep getting re-added: if you set a Google Alert for a search on your name and address, you’ll get a message every time you get caught in these databases and you can remove your name again. This won’t work on the for-pay background check sites that Google doesn’t index, but it will keep your name and address clear of low-level scumbags who stick with free sites for their doxing activities.” — MF
The best writing on the internet
The Browser is by far the best guide to great writing on the internet. It’s a newsletter that recommends 4 or 5 great pieces a day — both new ones, or those years old — that are worth your time (and it indicates the piece’s length). Although there is a paid daily version, the free weekly version is a good place to start. I find this newsletter dangerous because the wide variety of subjects is intoxicating and every single article is superb. It’s the most potent distraction in my life, but I don’t regret a minute of it. — KK
Water bottle sling
For walks and short hikes, I’ve been forgoing my daypack for this ChicoBag’s water bottle sling. It’s convenient and comfortable to wear and it even has a large pocket for my phone and keys. Like most ChicoBags it folds up and takes up no space, so I just carry it on me at all times. — CD
One of the disadvantages of never having TV is that I miss ads for things everyone else may already know about. For instance I recently discovered spreadable butter. This is real butter that has been blended with a small amount of oil (olive or canola, your choice) to keep it super easy to spread straight out of the fridge. Comes in many styles at any supermarket; Land O’Lakes Spreadable Butter is a national brand. It’s the best thing since sliced bread. — KK
Q&A site for all your English questions
When I can’t find the right word or phrasing using Power Thesaurus or Ludwig, I’m on the English StackExchange searching for answers or posting questions. You can ask anything relating to grammar or usage or word choice and English experts will start responding right away. You can also check the “reputation” of any user who responds to confirm they know what they’re talking about. — CD
Heavy duty paper towels
These Scott Shop blue towels may look like ordinary paper towels but are much thicker, absorbent, and durable. When one of our cats decides to barf on the floor (which is often) I reach for these towels, knowing my hand will stay dry when I clean up the mess. — MF
23 August 2019
Cool Tools Show 189: Jordan Bunker
Our guest this week is Jordan Bunker. Jordan is a freelance engineer, designer, artist, and prop-maker based out of Oakland, California. He’s also a former Make: magazine technical editor and BattleBots robot builder. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @TensorFlux.
Dykem Steel Blue Layout Fluid Spray ($14)
When working with metals, it’s useful to be able to make clear, precise lines on the surface to be worked on. Layout fluid is typically applied to the surface and allowed to dry as a colored film, and then a scribe is used to make light marks in the film. Many home-shop machinists know about the brush-applicator type of fluid, but this particular product is a spray, which makes applying the fluid a lot faster. There’s lots of different companies that make layout fluid, but Dykem is kind of the go to company for a lot of machinists and fabricators. I typically use blue or red. I think it’s just easier to see things in blue and red.
MCMaster Carr is one of my go-to companies for just about any kind of material or hardware needed for a project. Of course, you can search for what you need on their website, but being able to physically page through their catalog can often reveal the existence of hardware that you didn’t even know existed. They only make a limited number of these catalogs, and they aren’t available for purchase on their website, but I’ve heard that if you order often enough from them, they’ll send you one. You can also request one from them, but I’ve never tried, and I find it’s easier just to buy one from eBay for about $30 or $40. It’s not color. Everything’s in black and white, but there’s a photo — I mean, they’re actually beautiful illustrations. I’m not sure how they exactly they’re generating, they look like kind of like their photos that they’ve converted to line drawings, but everything’s in black and white. Mine’s actually doubled as a coffee table book, just because I find it so useful.
Air Force Jumpsuit (used, varies)
In my shop, I do a lot of welding, grinding, and working with chemicals. I found that I needed some kind of covering that would protect me, and found that military jumpsuits are a great option. Our tax dollars went into developing these suits, and they manufacture them by the thousands, so they’re easy to get ahold of online or at a military surplus store, typically for about $20 – $30. They come in a variety of sizes (just as recruits do), and are made of a temperature-resistant, chemical-resistant, and abrasion-resistant material. I’ve been using mine for years, and have yet to put a hole in them (unlike several of my shirts and jeans). What you want to look for is Aramid fabrics. It’s kind of a class of fabrics or fiber — Kevlar is one of them, Nomex is another, they’re kind of brand names — but they’re specifically formulated to be temperature, chemical and abrasion resistant.
Hot Air Rework Station ($55)
Most of the prototyping I do requires electronic design as well, and if you’re working with surface mount components, a hot air station is pretty vital. Usually when people think of soldering, they think of a soldering iron and that’s great for what are called through-hole components. Well, if you’re doing anything surface mount where there are no holes in the board, you’re just sticking a component right onto the surface, and getting your soldering iron right there is a little tricky. So, a hot air station, what it does is it blows hot air out of the tip of this sort of wand and directly onto your parts and kind of melts all of the solder right around the area where it’s heating up. So that’s really useful if you’re doing very small surface mount parts. And a lot of times if you go to look for a hot air station, they can be pretty expensive. A lot of them have lots of fancy bells and whistles and you’re paying two or 300 bucks for these things. But this model is around $40 and doesn’t really have any fancy options or anything like that. You can dial up the temperature and you can change the air pressure — the force of the air blowing out. But it’s great to have it on the bench, Even if all you do use it for heat shrink tubing, which is where mine gets most of its use.
Make: magazine Skill Builder Articles
I recently moved to San Francisco to work for Make Magazine, as a technical editor. And one of the things that they wanted me to kind of exclusively write about was kind of just sharing all the random knowledge I’ve accrued over the years of different materials and processes, and how to work with them. So the Skill Builder articles, we’re kind of focused on some things that are very simple, like how to use hand files appropriately. Most people don’t realize there’s two different techniques. There’s the one where you kind of a draw your file along parallel to the thing that you’re filing, but there’s also the way where you turn it perpendicular and you kind of scrub it across the surface and it results in a lot finer shavings, so you can smooth things out a lot better. There’s all sorts of little tips and tricks for how to work with acrylic or I did a whole section on different types of rivets. I also went into how different technologies work. Like with lasers — there’s big gas tube lasers that you might be familiar with, if you worked with a laser cutter before — but you know how do those laser pens work? How is it generating the light? Those sorts of things. So the Skill Builder series of articles was really just to kind of give people the groundwork. Because a lot of times you’ll buy files, but they don’t come with an instruction manual. And if you try to look it up online, there’s all sorts of information. It kind of just feels like drinking from the fire hose. So I was trying to provide a very simple way for people to kind of get their feet wet and learn slowly about all the different ways to interact with materials and use the tools that they might have in their shop.
We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 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.– MF08/23/19
23 August 2019
Simple gluing and filling to repair broken parts
One of the emblems fell off of my car and I wanted to reattach it. I talked to the owner at the car repair shop I frequent and he pointed me to a supply house to get the right adhesive. At first the supply place recommended some double stick foam. I would need to apply it to the emblem and then carefully cut around the emblem. Sounded like a lot of work so I asked if there were any other options.
They sold me a “Q-Bond” repair kit ($11). This stuff is amazing. It says it is cyanoacralate (same stuff as super glue) but it works so much better than any super glue I’ve ever tried. It stuck my emblem to the paint on my car in less than 15 seconds (the box says it is “rock hard in 10 seconds” and they aren’t kidding).
The kit comes with 2 bottles of the glue, and 2 bottles of filling or reinforcing powders. The black powder is for plastics and the grey powder is for metals. Yes, you read that right, metals! This stuff will fix a crack in your crankcase or repair a door handle, etc. It is heat resistant up to 180 C / 350 F.
Use the powder to reinforce an area that you are gluing if it will be under heavy load. You can even fill in part of an item that is missing, recreating the missing bits. Just create a “mold” of the missing bits using tape, aluminum foil, etc. to build a dam to hold the powder. Then fill the space with the appropriate powder. Once you apply the glue to the powder, the two react and form a solid part. Note that this is an exothermic reaction (it gets hot) so be ready for that. Once cured, you can grind, file, sand, and paint the hardened powder to match whatever you fixed. You don’t have to use the powder (they are intended to fill in voids or to reinforce a connection). You can just use the glue by itself. It works great. Much, much better than any of the super glue brands I’ve tried (and I’ve gone through a bunch of them).
Q-Bond is now my go-to solution for anything that even remotely looks like it will be a challenge to glue. I haven’t found anything yet that I couldn’t glue with Q-Bond.08/23/19
22 August 2019
Lets one person carry a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood
As a single mom and homeowner, I often find myself needing to move some large/awkward/heavy item (such as a sheet of plywood), which is difficult to manage on my own. I cobbled together some interesting — but still awkward — ways of doing this….and then I found the Pocket Kart ($11). It’s quite simple: a comfortable swivel handle attached to an L-shaped hook, with a little serif on the end to keep the items you’re carrying from sliding off. You just lift the panel onto the hook (it stands up by itself so that isn’t difficult), grab the handle, steady the top of the panel with your other hand, lift…and you can easily transport the panel where it needs to go, without stress, sweat, or splinters—and without needing to find a neighbor to help you.
The hook is about 2 inches wide, so you can carry multiple sheets at once if you’ve the strength and inclination. It’s useful for all sorts of hard-to-carry items: rolls of wire fencing, hay bales, drywall, doors, corrugated panels; it also works well for paint cans and buckets, keeping those wire handles from digging into your hand, and can hold multiple filled plastic grocery bags at once. The handle swivels, so you can use it right- or left-handed, at whatever angle works best.
It folds up to fit in a pocket, purse, or toolbag (making an irregular triangle that’s 5.25″ at its widest points, and about 1″ thick), or it can be hung on a nail or a pegboard. Don’t forget to take it with you to the lumberyard — it’ll make getting the sheets into your vehicle much simpler. I’ve had mine about 10 years, use it several times a month, and see no signs of wear; it’s made of a tough nylon resin that will likely outlast the trump of doom. Next time you need to carry plywood by yourself, you’ll wish you had one!08/22/19
21 August 2019
What's in my bag? issue #11
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J Young is a Property Claims Adjuster for Country Financial Insurance. He spends a lot of time on the road inspecting homes and writing repair estimates for insured clients all over Washington State.
BAGSMART Electronics Organizer ($18)
This is the first aid kit of a modern man. Charging cables, battery banks, flash drives, and adapters of every kind stay neatly organized in this bag that zips flat to fit in my messenger bag. A must for anyone living the #donglelife.
Bosch Compact Lazer Measure
There’s nothing more embarrassing than hearing the audible gasp from a client as the metal end of a tape measure skims millimeters above their wood floors at mach 2. This tool is not only safer and massively faster, it is also incredibly handy to use as a laser pointer during onsite estimates when talking to homeowners about a specific area on a ceiling or floor.
Mini Snap Blade Knife ($1)
I have experimented with many different knives for everyday use ranging from expensive tactical folding knives to a standard box cutter style utility blade. I have settled on these small and cheap utility blades as the most efficient and effective knife for general purpose use. The most important part of the form factor to me is that the blade extends out of the front of the handle for fast one-handed operation and is also lockable to keep it from shredding things (like my hands) as it is clipped to the inner pocket of my messenger bag.
Post-it Notes ($10/12pk)
In a sea of digital reminder apps and to-do list tools, I still prefer the humble sticky note to capture anything that pops into my head that I need to remember. They are a staple of my own personal GTD system of “capturing” anything while on-the-move to process later when I’m back in front of my laptop. On days when I have long drives from claim to claim all over the state, it’s not uncommon for me to have a dashboard full of them with ideas, memos, and reminders which I can easily re-stick into a neat stack to process later.
About the bag
My go-to bag for the last 9 or so years has been this old Ogio “Hip Hop” Messenger bag. I have tried laptop backpacks, convertible duffel bags, and everything in between but I keep coming back to this one. I would recommend a link to where you can buy one but they have been discontinued for quite some time.
21 August 2019
Are crayons really a cool tool? Yes, if you buy the right crayons. We bought these Stockman Beeswax block crayons when my first daughter was one. All four of my children used them and we (amazingly) still have all eight of them. The block shape is perfect for toddler, child and adult-sized hands. There are no labels to peel off, no points to have to sharpen, and they are almost impossible to break under normal circumstances. They can be used to draw hard lines or do shading. They last an incredibly long time, since they are harder than standard crayons. They come in a nice tin that snaps and stays closed (and it continues to work after 20 years!) The only thing these crayons don’t do is fine-point coloring, but isn’t that what colored pencils are for? If you have kids or plan to have kids, make a lifetime investment and buy a set of these block crayons. In 20 years, you’ll thank me!08/21/19
COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
21 August 2019
What’s in my bag? issue #11
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