11 June 2021

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Invitation to Show and Tell

Submit your short video reviews

For two decades Cool Tools has published reviews written by readers and fans of this site. To continue this tradition, we are now inviting reviews in the form of videos. The technology for taking a simple video is now accessible on phones, and the apps to edit them are easy enough for us to use. We are now ready to take user-made videos that recommend cool tools.

We will take very short (3 minute max) reviews, edit a few of them together, and post them on our YouTube channel.

Here is an example of what we are looking for:

 

The important details: Record your review with your phone in HORIZONTAL (landscape) mode. This ensures it transfers to YouTube easily. We can not accept portrait mode (tiktok) videos. Avoid showing your face, or talking facing the camera. Point the camera at the tool, your hands, or torso of someone else using it. The focus is the tool, not the reviewers.

  1. Show us what the tool does, and how you use it.
  2. Tell us why it is better than similar things.
  3. Tell us why we should believe you. (How long have you used it, did you buy it yourself, what experience do you have with these kind of things?)
  4. Keep it brief. 3 minutes or less.
  5. Review only tools easily available to others, and include purchasing information/link in your email submission.
  6. Upload your videos into this form.

As we have always done, we pay for anything we end up publishing. After reviewing all submissions, we pay $25 for any video review we post.

This will be a lot of fun. We don’t have a fixed format for these video reviews, so we look forward to your version of what a great review should look like.

Show and Tell us about your favorite tools. To begin with, it’s okay if we may have already reviewed the same tool in the past on the website. We are broadcasting to a new audience, and they would like to know about the best tools. Tell us about the really great stuff.

06/11/21

11 June 2021

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Mike Senese, Executive Editor of Make

Cool Tools Show 282: Mike Senese

Our guest this week is Mike Senese. Mike is the executive editor of Make: magazine. He’s worked as a DIY journalist and TV host throughout his career, with roles at Wired and ReadyMade magazines, and on Discovery and Science channels. You can find Mike on Twitter and Instagram @msenese.

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

Show notes:

skatemultitool
Skateboard multi-tool ($19)
This is a skateboard multi-tool. It’s a T-shaped tool that has on each end a different size socket. It’s got a ratcheting socket on one end, so you can bolt on your trucks. It’s got a die on one side, so if the axle for your trucks is getting chewed up and you can’t get the nuts on enough to get your wheels on and off, you can redo it. The ratcheting aspect of it, you can hear it. There’s something really pleasing about that. As you just twist those wheels on, you don’t have to constantly be changing your wrist around. You just click, click, click, click, click. Put your trucks on and off, it’s really nice. And it’s been really nice for me, because over the pandemic, one of the things that me and my family have been doing is a lot of skateboarding. We built a little ramp in our garage, and my son’s just about to turn seven. We like to go out there, and we just roll back and forth. So this has been getting a lot of use. It’s just representative of the fun that we’ve been having together as a family with this as our activity.

siliconecups
Silicone measuring cups ($10)
One of the things that I’ve been having fun with in the garage as we roll back and forth is making these wax skulls. I bought a silicone skull mold, and just for kicks, I’ve been melting them down to wax and pouring them in, and letting it congeal and opening up and see how they look, and changing colors and melting crayons into them, having fun with it. Trying not to make a big mess. And I started getting to the point where I was thinking, “Ah, I really wish that I had a silicone cup,” because when the wax hardens off of these molds, you can just fold them apart and the wax pops out and breaks apart. And it’s just so easy to manipulate. But it’s a pain in the butt with the tin cans and everything else that I’ve been using. So I looked on Amazon, and of course, there’s like 500 variations of that exact thing. So I bought a set that looked suitable for me. It was maybe a little bit less than $10. It came with two larger ones and a couple smaller ones, and it came right away. And they’re pliable and just so satisfying.

clearice
Clear Ice Ball Maker ($30)
If you guys have ever tinkered with freezing ice, it always comes out cloudy. There’s actually a clear ice community out there, and it’s super nerdy and awesome and really cool. It’s been fun to see this clear ice community figure out how to really dial in small and efficient clear ice system. There was Kickstarters about this, and now you can actually find these different forms of these clear ice tools, like big whiskey ice cube bowl systems. You can find them online, all the big outlets. And it involves doing directional freezing. So you’ve got a pool of water, and then you’ve got the mold that sits above it with water that leads into it. And as the ice freezes, it’ll freeze from the mold down into that pool of water, because the pool of water is insulated around the outside of it. And as it freezes downwards, it’s pushing the air downwards that’s trapped inside of it. So you get the ice cube without the pockets of air in it, which causes the cloudiness. And it works, it works really well.

plasmacutter
Plasma cutter (I’ve been playing with the Hypertherm Powermax 30 Air) ($2,000)
Plasma cutting, for me, is the closest like feeling a superhero, like I actually have superhuman abilities. Welding being second, because you’ve got welding, you’re fusing two pieces of metal together. But with plasma cutting, you are cleaving materials apart and it just doesn’t make sense that you’ve got the ability to do this. And they’re compact, and it’s just so powerful. It’s just kind of astounding. I recently was able to access the Hypertherm Powermax 30 Air. It caught my eye because it has a built-in air compressor, and one of the things that was always challenging with welding and with plasma cutting is that you need to have an air system of some sort. With a welder, if you’ve got a MIG welder, you have to have your gasses for that. TIG welding, same thing. The tungsten gas for TIG welding. With plasma cutting, you have to have a big compressor that’s got enough force to keep the plasma moving, and then enough storage that it just doesn’t constantly recharge itself. And I don’t have that in my house. I don’t have space for big air compressor systems. Then I saw this, and it’s kind of newish, and it’s got a built-in compressor. It’s pretty amazing.

Boron-LTE-Product_1_-min_500x
Particle Boron microcontroller ($60)
Particle is a microcontroller company, and they’ve got a focus on IOT. They work with a lot of companies to put devices into their products so that they can communicate with the internet. I know Jacuzzi’s always one of the big ones that they talk about. I guess there’s a connected Jacuzzi hot tub that you can get. But you’ll find some of their devices inside of the rideshare scooter setups and so forth. And Boron is one of their products. It’s one of the boards that they’ve had. It’s been around for a few years, a couple years now. And it works with cellular data. So some of the boards, originally Arduino came out and you’d have to plug it in with USB, set it up, program it, and then you could unplug the USB, plug it into a power source, and it would run the program that you have working on it to make a servo move, or to make a light blink. A million other exciting things. And then some of the companies started adding in WiFi as a capability, way to communicate with it, or to control it or to connect with it. Then Particle did the same thing where they had some WiFi on some of their boards, and then they added a couple of boards that had cellular capabilities and LTE cellular capability. Boron was one, and I think the other was the Electron. Again, professional use in mind, and something that I didn’t really tinker with much at all, but we reported about it. And then earlier this year, they made a big announcement that they were adding a tier to their cellular package for makers that would allow for free cellular data and free use of the Particle cloud platform. And I think that’s just so exciting, because if you’re working on a project that needs some form of long-range communication, WiFi was really the only thing you could do that was free. But cellular is everywhere. Everybody’s got a cellphone now, and it’s hard to go too far away from any populated area without having cell coverage. And now, you could create a project with the Particle board, a maker-scale project, and interact with it anywhere. And it just opens up all these exciting ideas of things that you could build or make or do.

About Mike’s Blog:
mikeblogpizza
Pizza making’s really been one of my biggest passions since forever. When I was in high school I worked in pizza places, when I was in college I worked in pizza places, and even after college. And it’s just been this journey of, how do you make the perfect pizza? And so I’ve spent a lot of time, a number of years just trying to figure out. So I just spent years and years collecting pieces of information about different ways of making all the ingredients decently, and how to use your kitchen appliances in different ways. How to use your broiler to cook pizza, instead of just using the oven itself, or how to use the stove top, or barbecuing. I actually barbecued pizza, which a lot of people, I think, are doing now. But that’s probably the second-best way of making pizza, aside from having your own wood-fired oven.I’ve got my site that I was maintaining really actively for a long time called mikesense.com/doit. And it was just a lot of DIY-projecty stuff. But all of my pizza blogging ended up in there, too.

06/11/21

11 June 2021

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3M Headlight Polishing Kit

Polishing kit for anything plastic

I originally bought the 3M Headlight Polishing Kit in order to remove the haze on my truck’s plastic headlights, but I have since found that it has a plethora of uses. Basically, you use the progressively finer grit sanding surfaces to smooth the plastic and grind away the scratches and finally polish using the 3M rubbing compound. My headlights looked new and were way more effective after the treatment.

The other day I discovered that the compass for my sailboat was scuffed pretty badly, and I tried using the polishing kit to buff it out (after testing on some safety glasses first). The results blew me away. The compass lens was crystal clear! I’ve since been polishing anything plastic that I have that’s been scratched. Calculators, display screens, etc. You could put this kit together yourself with p500, p800, p3000 grit pads and a foam compounding pad with some 3m rubbing compound but the kit is very convenient and should last a long time as long as you use water with the sanding pads.

-- Jason Tan 06/11/21

10 June 2021

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Over Sink Kitchen Drying Rack

Dish mat unrolls above an open sink for air-drying washed items

I hate big, bulky dish-drying racks — and so does my small kitchen. I’ve been using drying mats on the counter, but they also take up space, are never quite large enough, and can mildew on the bottom if you’re not careful about drying them out every time.

This rack, over one side of my double sink, creates a handy drying rack over an area I wasn’t really using much anyway and keeps the moisture off my counter and back in the sink where it belongs. It’s cleverly constructed out of silicone-coated stainless steel rods, connected at both ends with a thick silicone band, so it rolls up easily if needed. As long as you have good support at both ends, it’s quite strong and holds a huge pile of pots, dishes, and utensils; I put my 14-pound cast-iron dutch oven on it and it barely flexed.

The grippy silicone helps keep items from sliding off or chipping, and also keeps the rack from sliding around. Mine stays secure even though one end of it barely fits on the rolled edge of a bull-nose tile — but the other end is up against the back-splash, so it’s not going anywhere.

It’s also handy to drain vegetables or hold my cookbook to keep the counter clear. If you need to access the sink under it, you can roll part or all of it out of the way easily.

It’s also dishwasher safe, BPA free, and heat resistant up to 450 F, so you can use it as a trivet…I’ve even considered cooking bacon on it in the oven over a baking sheet (it should work, and keep the bacon less greasy) but I haven’t quite worked up the courage to try that yet.

One thing it won’t do is hold plates upright to dry, like a regular drying rack. They’d slip right through, or tip over. Everything needs to be laid flat…but since this was what I was doing before, it’s no hardship.

MEASURE YOUR SINK CAREFULLY. There are quite a few different sizes and colors of this item, by multiple manufacturers; this one is one of the longest (20.5″) and fits my sink perfectly, but your sink may vary. Figure out what measurements you’d prefer, then do a search using those dimensions to find the rack that fits best. Measure twice, buy once! If you need a dish-drying area, but would rather do without bulky dish-racks on your counter, this may be the perfect solution!

-- Barbara Dace 06/10/21

09 June 2021

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What’s in my desk? — Lee Ellman

What’s in my desk? issue #105

Sign up here to get What’s in my bag? a week early in your inbox.

I am an urban planner working to make the city of Yonkers, NY a better place. — Lee Ellman

 

My desk was inherited from my first boss and mentor and is at least 60 years old — a metal desk from “Y & E” Manufacturing — the same model that you will see on the sets of TV shows about older New York City police stations. A little battered but essentially indestructible, it is so much better than the pressed wood desks that would replace it. Called “tanker desks,” a number of furniture companies made these sheet steel desks from 1946 until the 1970’s. They were most often found in institutional settings, like schools and government offices. Based upon the large number that are available on-line at retro furniture sites mine is not the only one to have survived in good shape after years of hard use.

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Oxo Tea Infuser ($13)
Like all things Oxo it works perfectly. I make a liter sized pot of good whole leaf tea, usually Pu Ehr, every day — twice a day when I am at an evening board meeting.

Spray ‘n Wash ($8)
Eating lunch while working leads to drips on my shirts. Hit the spot with stain stick and the stain doesn’t set and the shirt is saved. I am embarrassed to say that it is a part of my place setting at lunch.

Bag Balm ($11)
Bag Balm is meant for cow udders, smells like raw wool because of all of the lanolin in it, has been on the market since 1899 and it is the best for dry and chapped skin. Not fancy, very old time Vermont — unpretentious and just works. The green metal can is distinctive and has a great graphic of a cow surrounded in red clover on the cover.

Page Points ($19)
Page Points (now called Copper Page Nibs at Levenger.Com) are thin metal tabs that mount on a page in a book to semi-permanently mark a location. Like a metal post-it note but more permanent and far more satisfying, they lay flat to the page, don’t damage delicate paper, don’t stick out beyond the edge of the book or fray the way a paper sticky note does. Planners refer to our city zoning ordinance all day, every day, and I use these to highlight the sections that I most often need to find.

06/9/21

09 June 2021

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Robo Grip Pliers

Self adjusts around object. Spring loaded for one hand operation.

Last year I purchased a rolling toolbox second-hand. I spent the summer cleaning it out and saving all the useful items to merge with my own set of tools. This pair of Robo Grips went into the plier drawer without much thought. The first time I used them I realized these pliers were both self-adjusting and magnified my hand power. After working outside all day my hands were tired and these helped my work seem a bit more effortless.

Since then these have a permanent place on my workbench and have been reached for time and time again. These Robo Grips are made by Western Forge and despite the moving parts have proved to be incredibly durable. The claws self-adjust around objects as you squeeze the handle and are spring-loaded for super easy one-handed operation.

I prefer these over the usual set of vise grips, there is no adjusting or fine-tuning the gap, and no danger of over clamping, plus they weigh half the amount of my similar-sized vise grips. I use the 7-inch version almost daily. You can find these at Sears if you like an excuse to visit the mall or check out your favorite online purveyor of goods.

-- Seth Wilson 06/9/21

ALL REVIEWS

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6-Pack PopSocket Sticky Adhesive Replacement Kit

Sticky adhesive replacement kit for PopSockets

mountzip_thumbnail 06/7/21

Hangable Zip Ties

Zip Ties You Can Screw Into

img 06/7/21

Mirror Image Wall Clock

Clocks for mirror users

img 06/4/21

Seth Raphael, Hi-Tech Magician

Cool Tools Show 281: Seth Raphael

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No-Break Mechanical Pencil

Pencil has spring tip to prevent lead from snapping

See all the reviews

EDITOR'S FAVORITES

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Knipex Pliers Wrench

Rapid, safe, strong pliers wrench

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iFixit Magnetic Project Mat

Magnetic DIY repair station

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Smart Move Tape

Clearest box labeling

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Murphy Bed

Next generation of hideaway beds

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A Pattern Language

Design heuristics

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T-reamer

Hole expander

See all the favorites

COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST

06/11/21

Cool Tools Show 282: Mike Senese

Picks and shownotes
06/4/21

Cool Tools Show 281: Seth Raphael

Picks and shownotes
05/28/21

Cool Tools Show 280: Rusty Blazenhoff

Picks and shownotes

WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
09 June 2021

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.

When Amazon.com is listed as a source (which it often is because of its prices and convenience) Cool Tools receives a fractional fee from Amazon if items are purchased at Amazon on that visit. Cool Tools also earns revenue from Google ads, although we have no foreknowledge nor much control of which ads will appear.

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.