18 June 2019


Circuit Playground Express

Sophy Wong Talks Circuit Playground Express

Sophy Wong is a designer and maker whose projects range from period costumes to Arduino-driven wearable tech. Her work has been featured in Make: Magazine, and she writes articles and tutorials for HackSpace Magazine and Adafruit. Sophy documents her work at SophyWong.com and on her YouTube channel.

Circuit Playground Express by Adafruit
Price: $24.95

-- Donald Bell 06/18/19

(Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews — editors)

18 June 2019


Book Freak #8: How to Negotiate

In this issue: how to be a better negotiator

Book Freak is one of four newsletters from Cool Tools Lab (our other three are the Cool Tools Newsletter, Recomendo, and What’s in my bag?).

In each weekly issue of Book Freak, we offer three short pieces of advice from books. Here’s the advice from our latest issue.

Listen to the other side

“It all starts with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing.”
― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It (2016)

How to prepare for any negotiation

  1. Focus on outcomes. What is it that you want to walk away with? Being as specific as possible also increases the likelihood of negotiation success.
  2. Support your desired outcome with data that points to its reasonableness.
  3. Writing down your key points in advance – and practicing them – enables you to stay focused on what’s most important and avoid going off on tangents.
  4. Err on the side of asking for more, rather than less [of what you really want].
  5. Be willing to walk away.

― Lois P. Frankel, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers (2014)

How to make the most of victory

“The bargaining position of the victor always diminishes with time. Whatever is not exacted during the shock of defeat becomes increasingly difficult to attain later.”
― Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (1994)

-- Mark Frauenfelder 06/18/19

18 June 2019


Ridgid AM2550 Air Mover

Moves a lot of air

We purchased this air mover ($238) over a year ago to deal with a fairly damp basement. We live in the Northeast US where the weather was quite rough during the past year. We have had to deal with the worst snowfall on record, Hurricane Irene, and persistent heavy rainfall. We also live in a high water table region so we are prone to flooding. We are lucky because we have a floor drain and a sump pump in our basement. However the sump pump cannot help when the power in our area goes out.

During Hurricane Irene we were fortunate: we only lost power for eight hours. This air mover really helped dry out our basement quickly. In order for any surface to dry there should be air circulating constantly. In a basement this can prove to be a tricky thing. This air mover is extremely powerful. Damp floors usually dry in an hour or two, while small bits of standing water take a couple of hours to fully dry.

We also used it to dry our old wooden floors when we polyurethaned them recently, cutting the job time by half. When it puddles up on our concrete patio I just move this unit outside and the puddles are gone. Although not one of it’s recommended uses, I also blew everything-including leaves, twigs, debris and some small neighborhood children-off of our driveway for easy collection.

The machine is a beast. I have had this one running for days at a time, and it continues to work just fine. In a basement it has to be moved every couple of hours so the air stream can cover the affected areas. Recently it became covered in hydraulic cement, both inside and out. I thought the machine was finished, but after cleaning some gunk out of the engine it started right up. I have never tried any other air movers so I cannot make any comparisons with it’s competitors, but I bet this one blows the rest away.

-- Tom Bundrick 06/18/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)

17 June 2019


Long Reach Permanent Marker

-- Jordan Bunker 06/17/19

17 June 2019


Fiskars Cuts+More

Multipurpose scissors cut everything

I use shears and scissors constantly while building projects from leather and fabric and other materials. I have tried other types, from kitchen shears to more expensive models, but I have found this model from Fiskars ($12) to be the absolute best. In my toolbox, they are indispensable.

The shears are made out of titanium which decreases the need for frequent sharpening. However, the included protective case doubles as a sharpener for when the need arises. They are a true multipurpose tool with a wire cutter, twine cutter, light rope cutter, and even an awl tip for making holes. In terms of use, I have cut leather, fabric, even sheet vinyl with equal ease. They cut cleanly every time, on every material.

fiskars open.jpeg

They even come apart for cleaning or whatnot. Too cool! Fiskars is a brand I trust, and these shears confirm that fact once again. I believe these handy shears are a great addition to any toolbox.

-- Stephen Young 06/17/19

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2011 — editors)


img 06/22/09


Realtime budget overview

img 10/12/18

Knipex Pliers Wrench

Rapid, safe, strong pliers wrench

img 09/5/05

Inflatable Life Jacket

Comfortable water safety

img 10/3/12

Murphy Bed

Next generation of hideaway beds

img 09/25/17

Felco Pruners

Superb garden clippers

img 08/19/13

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Charcoal Starter

The best way to start a charcoal barbecue

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 179: Dave Rome

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 178: Cameo Wood

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 177: Adam Savage

Picks and shownotes

23 February 2017


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.