22 February 2019


Elon Schoenholz, Commercial Photographer

Cool Tools Show 163: Elon Schoenholz

Our guest this week is Elon Schoenholz. Elon is a former guest editor of Cool Tools and has been working as a commercial photographer documenting art and architecture in L.A. for the past 20 years. He’s a husband and father, gardner and an avid cyclist, and a founding member of the LA County Bicycle Coalition. He raced cyclocross for three seasons, without ever breaking the top 10.

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Show notes:

Gitzo 11-foot Carbon Fiber Tripod ($1,237)
“I’ve had a lot of tripods over the years. Gitzo is known for making the best. I believe they’re a French company. But this tripod is special in that it’s considerably taller than any other tripod I’m aware of. I think with the center column, it gets up close to 11 feet, but over 10 feet. I actually use it more than you might expect at its full height for shooting exteriors and also for getting over very large pieces of art. Sometimes I’ll photograph rugs or tapestries and have to get really high up. … There’s really nothing else in the game that even competes with this one.”

Krane AMG500 ($296)
“Almost more important than my tripod is my cart, because a lot of times … I don’t have a budget for an assistant, but I’m carrying a ton of gear. And for a while I was using a Magliner, which is like what a UPS driver uses. It was just a little bit overkill. And the Krane model that I found at Samy’s Camera in LA is just a perfect in-between for me. I easily get 250 pounds on it, and it’s just great. It folds down very small, so it’s much more portable than a Magliner would be, but it carries more than twice as much as what one of those little folding carts would carry. It has two basic setups. You can have it set up so that the bottom of it is flat, or you can angle the bottom of it, but even when the bottom’s angled, it’s still rolling on all four wheels. I have a Pelican case with lenses, a big backpack with my Profoto lights, another backpack with my camera bodies and laptop, a tripod bag, and then another bag with light stands and umbrellas, and that all fits. And then two sandbags, and that all fits on the cart, and I’m able to move it myself without assistance.”

VSGO Full-Frame Digital Camera Sensor Cleaning Swab Kit ($20)
“I recently started shooting with the Sony a7RIII that came out within the past year or so, and it’s been a revolutionary camera for me. But it’s a mirrorless camera, and so therefore, there’s no barrier between the sensor and the open air when you switch lenses. So I found right when I bought it and started using it, I was getting lots of dust on the sensor, and besides the expense of paying $50 to have a camera repair place clean the sensor, I couldn’t be without it for 24 or 48 hours. So I looked into cleaning it myself and was pretty afraid to touch the sensor, but I went for it, and I got these inexpensive swabs by a company called VSGO. I found it on Amazon, pretty well reviewed, and I watched some YouTube videos. And I did it myself very effectively by a little bit of optic cleaning fluid that comes with it in a kit.”

Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar ($30)
“One of the most useful things I own [is] a pull-up bar that can be taken down anytime. So as opposed to the traditional, old-school pull-up bars that would screw and torque into a door frame, this rests on top of the door frame. Some door frames have sort of the equivalent of a window frame, where there’s a little ledge. And so a piece rests on that, and then sort of due to leverage and gravity, it’s very, very stable. So you can take it off, and you can put it up or take it down in just a moment, and I particularly like that because I like to have it in the kitchen. If we have company over, I take it down. But I do a lot of my work from home, and getting away from the computer and hanging, as I believe I may have heard Tim Ferriss talking about, that’s something that I find is enormously helpful for my back when I’m at my computer all day.”

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


22 February 2019



No-tool zipper replacement

This product allows you to replace a broken zipper slider without having to buy and install an entirely new zipper. The slider on my favorite alpaca sweater disintegrated in my hand. I went to a tailor and she wanted $40 to replace the zipper and in addition, I had to supply the new zipper. The existing zipper was fine but no slider. The Fixnzip costs under $13 with shipping and did the trick.

It is a clever slider with a clamp built in so you can install it by slipping it onto one side of the zipper and then the other and turning a thumbscrew to tighten the clamp. It worked perfectly. Detailed instructions are on the Fixnzip website.

-- Jack Lieberman 02/22/19

21 February 2019


Battery Powered LED Spotlight

Motion-activated spotlight

We live on a country road near the Mendocino coast. The walk from where we park our cars to our house is a pathway about 100 feet long. It gets quite dark there at night and now and then the power goes off, which makes it hard to see the path and even the house. We solved the problem with these battery-powered motion-sensor lights ($16). They are sensitive, bright and easy to install.

They are fairly efficient, though of course if there is much movement around them they will go off more frequently. They come as single units or in packs of three and four. My only complaint with them is that their waterproof ability varies per unit. Sometimes water gets in and makes them stop working until you open them up and dry them out. Sometimes it stays dry. It just has a thin O ring for a sealer.

Now they have a more waterproof version, the MB390 300-Lumen Weatherproof Wireless Battery Powered LED Ultra Bright Spotlight with Motion Sensor ($28), that also has twice the lumens. And they now make a dual swivel-light 500-lumen version ($32).

We have not yet tried the waterproof version, but will next time we have call to buy more.

-- John Coate 02/21/19

20 February 2019


Rock N Roller MultiCart R2 Micro

Instantly transforms into 8 different shapes

What I find most useful and unique about this adaptable rolling cart ($100) is that it folds to a relatively compact size that I can easily fit into a normal car while being able to unfold and expand to carry a large number of boxes.

I like it better than the common folding dollies that have a lower load capacity and have only two wheels that only operate in an upright position. Being able to put into a long horizontal position allows the Rock N Roller carts to carry unusual loads that might not stack in a stable fashion on a typical upright dolly.

-- Evan Goss 02/20/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2010 — editors)

19 February 2019


King Arthur Dough Whisk

Wire dough mixer

I try to bake by hand as much by hand as possible because it’s a nice contrast to working in front of a computer every day. But one part of baking I never used to enjoy was the mixing of the dough. At first, it gets all gummed up on the spoon or spatula. Then, once the dough comes together, it doesn’t seem as if you’re mixing the ingredients so much as pushing a big ball around the inside of the bowl.

For a year, I’d seen the dough whisk ($9 for 2) in the King Arthur catalog. I never ordered it because I thought the wire part looked a bit fragile. I finally decided to give one a try, figuring I’d send it back if I didn’t like it. Well, I’m never sending it back.

The whisk’s wire is extremely stiff. I’ve yet to encounter a dough it doesn’t slice through with ease. I don’t know how much thought went into designing the twists of the wire, but it’s amazingly efficient at bringing dough together. When I made a double batch recently, I was worried I might have given the whisk more than it could handle. Nope. Mixing took no more effort than a smaller batch.

Clean-up is a breeze: Only a little bit of dough adheres to the wire, which is easy to dislodge with a wipe of the fingers. After that, it goes into the dishwasher.

So far, I have the large model, but I’m planning to buy the smaller one to use in smaller mixing bowls. I suspect that once I also have the smaller one, I’ll never have to order another, unless it’s for a gift. I’ve seen similar-looking whisks on Amazon for a few dollars less, but I don’t know how well they’re constructed. King Arthur’s whisks have their logo on the wooden handles and feel very, very sturdy.

-- Tom Streeter 02/19/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2010 — editors)

18 February 2019


MMX Plus Juggling Balls

The ultimate mix of juggling ball and beanbag

Having the right weight in a juggling ball is extremely important.

You need a weighted ball. The bounce of the ball, how hard it is, and whether it’s likely to bounce is extremely important. You want a ball that has a dead bounce, that’s not going to bounce right off your hand, and that you can catch.

MMX Plus Juggling Balls are fantastic. They’re weighted and they’re sort of a cross between Hacky Sack and a ball. They’re squishy and they’re filled with beads. It’s a silicone kind of exterior, a thin exterior. It doesn’t hurt your hands. They don’t stick together either.

Whenever I walk by these, I can’t help but pick them up and use them for a few minutes. I think that’s why they’re so cool. I immediately got better when I started using these balls. I definitely would say these are worth it.

-- Mike Evans 02/18/19

(The review is from our podcast with Mike Evans. — editors)


img 02/15/19

Tommy Honton, Experience Designer

Cool Tools Show 162: Tommy Honton

img 02/15/19


Open your garage with your iPhone or Android

img 02/14/19


Superior wood filler

img 02/13/19

Cable Tie Gun

Zip tie perfection

img 02/12/19

Pocket Chain Saw

Hand-powered chain saw

See all the reviews


img 07/8/18


Classic puzzle in great package

img 10/8/10


Burly folding backwoods saw

img 09/14/17


Never-fail sharp tweezers

img 05/7/10

How To Cook Everything

Essential iPhone cook book

img 08/4/13

How Buildings Learn

Making adaptable shelter

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 163: Elon Schoenholz

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 162: Tommy Honton

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 161: Madeline Ashby

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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