07 May 2021
Cool Tools Show 277: Randy Regier
Our guest this week is Randy Regier. Randy is an artist living and working in Kansas City, Kansas. Randy has lived on both coasts over his life but has settled in the middle because it’s a good place to live on the least amount of money in order to make the most amount of things. You can find Randy on Instagram @rand.regier, @tipo_american_art, and @the_gongfarmer_cartoon.
Tools_01: Three books I have had for almost 20 years to which I never tire of returning to and sampling: The Shape Of Time by George Kubler, Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga, and The Future As History by Robert L. Heilbroner
One thing that’s sort of profound about these three books is that each time I return to them, I’m not the exact same person and I have a different experience reading them. I see things in there that maybe I missed or wasn’t ready to read the first time. One of the things in my experience and from my point of view in making is we maybe don’t speak about play as much as I wish we did or it’s devalued. Play is considered something that’s done when we’re not being serious about lives. I find play to be a reason for living. Without play, I don’t know why I would even want to be here. I take play very seriously and at the same time it’s fragile and it can be very brief and it’s beautiful. Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga is just a really elegant look into what the real value of play is — in animals, in humans, and what have you. All of these books are modernists. They’re ancient by contemporary standards in the sense that a lot of people feel that we’ve moved beyond these writers. The Future as History by Robert Heilbroner is profound in that I would urge people to read it now that are having difficulty with the current times, which may be a majority of persons thinking that is all rather new series of events, the degradation of the American Dream. One of the most profound things in this book was he talks about the American experience as sort of based on this notion of eternal optimism, which no other nation in the world was part of their DNA. Yeah, so the books, one could be under the impression looking at them that the reason I have them is for the covers, which would be reason enough, actually, as I didn’t actually buy them for those covers. I bought them for the titles and I’ve read them and a couple of them I’ve read two or three times, but it’s like they say you can’t step into the same river twice.
Tools_02: A Makita 18 Volt Drill/Driver
I use this tool constantly. It is light, powerful, ergonomic and with the led light — it’s so fine you can’t borrow it. With some tools, the more you use them the more you realize they just enable you to just be so wildly productive when you have the good fortune to be in a really productive groove and things are going and where I have these ideas that I can’t wait to make manifest. There’s X amount of hours in the day and the right tools are the things that enable me to realize my best intentions, so it’s large words or it’s sort of a profound statement to try to apply to a Makita drill/driver. I use that thing for so many different processes. What’s the old phrase? “The hammer forms the hand?” Where the right tool can lead you to be more competent. A really quality tool can improve you as a human and your capacities. I really feel that way about that drill. It fits my hand beautifully. It’s got that wonderfully thoughtful LED light, which I’m still geeking out on and I’ve had that for 10 years. I can’t believe that I live in a time in human history where you can have an electric drill without a cord on it and a light built in.
Tools_03: A five gallon bucket full of tie down straps, bungie cords and zip ties.
This bucket lives in my car and allows me — any time I see some free potential object against the curb, buy some damned thing or am given some large (useable) donor object — to get them home in the least Grapes of Wrath way. The tie-downs, the bungee cords, the zip ties, those things are absolutely invaluable because I use a predominance of found objects in my work. My toys are not made out of toy parts. They’re made out of found objects or the guts of found objects. When we lived in Wichita that was a pretty good picking ground. It’s a city that’s had a lot of aircraft industry over the years. A lot of cottage industries, and you drive by these old businesses and they’d be timed out, so this stuff would be shoved out in the back or out to the street. I built a piece out of a 1949 Kelvinator refrigerator. A 1949 Kelvinator refrigerator was built by the Nash Automobile Company, and so it’s got all of these automotive motifs and it’s stamped steel. It’s a piece I built Celestial Mechanic out of, which is at the Ulrich Museum. Any rate, so here’s this refrigerator that has got this fantastic amount of parts and potential, all of these stamped steel and these chrome medallions and the structures. Well, if you’re going to drag that thing home, you got to tie it down depending on what you have to drive. I mean, that’s a pretty big object, but there’s other things that I will see or people will give me things. For God’s sake, people give me too much stuff, but their intentions are good. Sometimes they get these things, they’re just awkward and they’re too big for the vehicle. We drive this little old Mazda car. I don’t even have a van these days, and so I try to jam these things into the trunk of this car, and then the tie-downs make it possible for me to get that old thing home with the least amount of humiliation.
Tools_04: A library of three-ring binders of scores of color copies of vintage toy packaging and book illustrations (scanned or web sourced), either for historical reference and/or to check the predominant color palette, verbiage and style of any given era.
Almost every toy-themed piece or series I begin starts with leafing through these binders seeking the image that I most want to emulate, distill, parody and/or celebrate next. I’m a big fan of books on paper and I consume a lot of imagery when I do a lot of research. One of the things that attracts me the most to being an active artist is that I love researching. It’s a form of archaeology. How do you find the thing? Where is the thing that you wish to find? What else will you find when you’re there? In this era of the web that we live, there is an unending rainfall of images … that was Umberto Eco, I think, that said that. I find these images of these really rarefied or lovely mid-century toy packages, model kit boxes, toys from all over the world. These are not objects that are available to me and they’re not the kind of thing that anyone has really sought to do a really beautiful series of coffee table books about. But the only way I have access to them is through the internet. I want them as studio materials, as images, because I really pour over them. I’ll go to Google image search. I’ll hit images. I’ll go to my tools and I’ll hit large so I get a big enough image that I can print on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. I make my own books. I never tire of looking through those. I’ll look at those images and it’ll be boxes that were done by French manufacturers and English and Americans and Japanese. You know, those are real illustrators, real people painting those paintings, and so you look at those toy boxes and you can see how they were trained to create the effect of window glass or the reflection off of a chrome. It’s just an endless source of fascination for me and I can’t go into an art museum and get that information.
About Raise the ToyGantic:
I’m quite fond of Raise the ToyGantic, a short film that the LA based Gail Lerner made a few years ago using my toy sculptures throughout as key agents of the narrative. I was able to be around the set for much of the filming and it was just a grand experience. She made a really lovely film out of the whole endeavor. Gail had seen my work a number of years ago, and when she was in Maine and when we were there we crossed paths. In 2015, she made a 26-minute-long short film based on a key piece of mine, an eight-foot-long toy ocean-liner that I built, sunk it in a lake, and then a year later went back, brought out of the lake and presented it as if I’d found it and had uncovered the entire history of it as a line of large toy ships that sunk. That was an incredible experience because for me, what it did was I tend to leap from one piece to another like someone jumping across a creek, jumping from stone to stone, not thinking that those stones have a relationship to each other. The pieces that she used in that film, I never thought of them as being part of a narrative. They were each independent sort of standalone things that pointed at this or that or the other conceptually. When she made that film, in a way she gave my work back to me more dimensional, more connected, and more meaningfully than I had ever imagined myself.
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.– MF05/7/21
06 May 2021
Hands-free workbench magnification
This is a 5-inch diameter magnifying glass mounted on a swing arm, and the assembly has a vice clamp to mount itself to the edge of a table or desk. It includes a ring of light around the lens to illuminate the work vividly. This allows you to place your work on the furniture surface and swing the magnifier over the work so you can comfortably access tools, the material, and additional lighting when needed. When one does not need it, it can be taken down and stored in twenty seconds, and set back up as needed in almost as little time.
I have used it for 5 years. It allows me to see extraordinarily small things and, when appropriate, make precision repairs, such as cracked or clogged parts in expensive electronics and tiny splinters in skin. Children whose toys are broken sometimes become heartbroken until they are repaired or replaced, and this can allow immediate salve to them. When they get a painful splinter, this not only saves them prolonged pain, but may save the parent a trip to a medical provider. In addition, children tend to adore exploring the world of tiny things such as insects, and manufactured things using these.
For really tiny detail, one can combine this with a headset magnifier. Most of these headsets allow multiple lenses at one time so you can use only one of its lenses if you want moderate magnification or all three for extreme. The disadvantage of the headset is the disorientation when not looking only at the work, such as looking for tools, parts, and instructions which will seem blurry and distracting unless you continually raise and lower the headset as you look from the closeup work to more distant other things. That is the advantage of the swing arm magnifier; you can look from close to more distant without limitation since the swing arm magnifies only the work you want magnified.05/6/21
05 May 2021
Easy cold-brew coffee
Cold brewing has recently become my preferred method for brewing my morning cup.
I love my coffee iced, but I never loved my typical approach: brew hot coffee, cool it, store it until I’m ready to drink. Half the time I forget to brew ahead and I end up drinking it hot.
Cold brewing coffee works like this: combine ground beans with room temperature (or cooler) water and let steep for 12 to 15 hours. That’s it.
I love the smoother flavor of cold brewed coffee. From what I’ve read, some folks consider the resulting coffee to be a concentrate in need of dilution. Not me. Maybe it’s the ice.
One of my favorite things about cold brewed coffee is it requires no special materials. There are cold brewing devices on the market from Toddy and Filtron, and maybe they deliver an even better cup, but I must confess I can’t imagine how. As long as you can soak ground beans in water, and give them a good 12 hours, you’re good to go. That makes a French Press, in my estimation, the perfect vehicle for cold brew. It’s how I do it, but by all means use whatever tool you prefer.
According to Wikipedia, cold brewed coffee seems sweeter due to lower acidity. “Because the coffee beans in cold-press coffee never come into contact with heated water, the process of leaching flavor from the beans produces a different chemical profile than conventional brewing methods.” That seems like maybe it would be easier on people with heartburn or sensitive stomachs. I have neither; I just like the way it tastes.
To be clear, the resulting cup of coffee looks just like any other hot-brewed cup. It’s not the color of tea, it’s not some strange brew, it’s a regular cup of coffee. It’s just not hot. And yes, I still have to plan ahead to make it the night before, but there are fewer steps so it seems easier.
I’ve read that you can cold brew your cup and then heat it, and that the resulting hot cup of smooth drinking coffee is outstanding. But I can’t personally attest to this; seems like in that case I’d just brew hot coffee in the first place. Cold brewing coffee is clearly perfect for those times when you prefer your coffee iced, which for me is about 360 days a year.05/5/21
05 May 2021
What’s in my desk? issue #100
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I have been a full time pipemaker for almost 12 years. My pipes are fully handmade using mostly traditional methods and materials in my home workshop and are sold around the world. — Chris Askwith
About the workshop
I use a lot of power tools in my pipemaking but all of the fine detail is done with hand tools, knives, files and sandpaper for the most part. I have tried having all my tools within hands reach as is commonly done by jewellers but found this crowded and encouraged me to get stuck in one position. I now keep most tools just out of reach so I regularly get up from my chair and take the opportunity to stretch and move around a bit, it seems to work well for me even if it is less efficient.
What’s in the workshop
Gluing some sandpaper to a bit of wood is an age old trick for making sanding easier, especially for small, flat surfaces. These sandpaper handles or sticks however are so much better. A simple clamp holds the paper in place and it pulls the paper quite taught, it takes just seconds to change the grits (though I prefer to have one for each grit if possible) and the handles make sanding both easier and more comfortable thanks to the file style handle. Quite inexpensive too. Best used with cloth back abrasives I find.
The Shinto saw rasp is a fast and efficient way to remove material without clogging and leaving a smoother surface than a traditional rasp. It has a coarse side and a smoother side and I have found it effective on softwoods, hardwoods and many kinds of plastic and resin.
I have found the Click 2000 Puggy gloves to be the perfect compromise between dexterity and protection in a light duty work glove. They keep my hands warm, allow me to perform reasonably fine tasks, increase my grip and give me a reasonable level of protection against abrasion, scratches and dirt. I wear these pretty much all day in my shop and each pair lasts for several weeks and will handle a couple of cycles through the washing machine as well.
I’ve tried every style of safety glasses/googles over the years and they all have their pro’s and con’s but these from UCI are the best I have found. They are comfortable, fit my face well, give good visibility and seem to be pretty scratch resistant. The foam padding is easily removed if you need more ventilation. Most importantly for me I have found I like the included strap that can be used to hold them just snug to my face, safety glasses slipping forward is big annoyance and danger when using a power tool so this feature is essential for me but way more comfortable than elasticated goggled which are often too tight for long periods of working. Very reasonable price for the quality as well.05/5/21
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03 May 2021
01 May 2021
Recomendo: issue no. 250
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See a satellite tonight
A Google engineer made this cool website where you can track satellites that crawl across your neighborhood sky. It will give you times and names of the satellites that are coming your way and even show you how it’ll appear in the night sky with Google Street View. I’ve been setting alarms on my phone to go outside and look. Of course, it’s made me realize how much light pollution we have. Hopefully, you don’t have as much. — CD
Nesting bowls with airtight lids
Now that my wife and I are vaccinated, we’re enjoying backyard visits with friends. I bought this set of 6 nesting stainless steel bowls. They’re good for bringing food to a backyard barbecue. The largest one is 7 quarts — capacious enough for a large salad. The lids form a tight seal, too, which means they won’t fall off in the car ride over. — MF
Ultimate workshop course
The best course I’ve ever taken in workshop skills is a series of YouTube episodes by the British inventor Tim Hunkin. In his Secret Life of Components he goes through all he knows about the “components” you’d use to build something: glues, fasteners, hinges, bearings, switches, springs, etc., and he knows an awful lot. Every minute is crammed with the practical advice of a master craftsman gained over decades of experience. I’m wowed by how much I learned. — KK
Turn your smartphone into a Game Boy Camera
My daughter bought a vintage Game Boy Camera and thermal printer on eBay. It takes very low resolution photos that have a nostalgic charm. Recently I came across this web-based simulation of the Game Boy Camera. It’s fun to see what things look like in a two-color palette of blocky pixels. Here’s sample. — MF
How to wake up early advice
Here is a 5-step plan for waking up earlier and with more energy shared by u/FrankOppedijk on Reddit. The key advice I found is once you decide how many hours you need for sleep and develop your relaxing bedtime routine, you start by shifting your wake up time by 5 minutes each day, and you energize yourself using various techniques like natural bright light, drinking water, an activating breathing exercise like Bellows Breath, or quick heart-pumping exercise. I found it very encouraging. — CD
The stories of colors
“I love it when someone wakes me up to see what I was sleepwalking through. Adam Roger does that in this book. He showed me that the colors we see everywhere today are technologies we invented! Invented colors! Head explodes!” That’s the blurb I wrote for Roger’s new book Full Spectrum. Reproducing the colors of nature is not easy, yet despite being surrounded by manufactured colors in our modern lives, the story of these inventions are invisible. This is one of those books that opens up a world right in front of my nose. — KK
Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #88
COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
05 May 2021
What’s in my desk? issue #100
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