18 July 2019


Power Cord Splitter

Lightweight power sharer

What’s so cool about a power cord splitter? Sure, it turns one plug into two, but so what? The genius of this short adaptor ($6) is that you can pack it in your travel bag. So when you come upon the lone outlet in an airport, cafe, or hotel lobby that is already occupied, all you need to do is to politely ask to insert this spitter. Now you can add your line without disrupting theirs. And of course, at times you may use its doubling yourself.

-- KK 07/18/19

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

17 July 2019


What’s in my bag? — Gareth Branwyn

What's in my bag? issue #6

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

Gareth Branwyn writes on DIY media, tech, and culture. He’s been an editor at Wired, Boing Boing, Mondo 2000, and Make:. He is the author of ten books, including his most recent Amazon best-seller, Tips and Tales from the Workshop.

Moleskine Cahier Journal ($9)
I have carried Moleskine Cahier Pocket Notebooks (3.5″ x 5.5″ Plain/Blank) in my pockets and travel bags for decades. I have many dozens of volumes of them, filled with book and article ideas, dreams (both the waking and sleepy-time varieties), writing fragments, research, etc. If I ever woke up to a fire in my house, these are what I would grab on my way out of the door.

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen ($12/6pk)
A Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen (black) has been next to my Cahier Notebooks ever since I started carrying them. I love the flow and feel of the nib. I buy a dozen every year. Years ago, I realized I was losing my ability to write (after years of all-day typing). I now love switching between keyboard and notebook. Sometimes, if I get stuck writing something, I’ll change to handwriting to help stir things up.

Maglite Solitaire Flashlight ($14)
I have had the same Maglite Solitaire flashlight in my laptop bag for over 20 years. It runs on a single, long-lasting AAA battery, has a decently-bright, adjustable beam (for its size), and fits on a keychain. Perfect for finding your car keys or the keyhole of an unlit door. For more powerful lighting, I usually have a Maglite Mini not far from access.

Moo Business Cards
Several years ago, my son and I designed and printed Artistic License cards after I saw several friends issuing their own (one was an art teacher who issued them at the end of the year). I get these printed, laminated with rounded-edges, through Moo Cards. I’ve issued hundreds of them and have even made some money selling them online and at art shows. I mean, hasn’t everyone been in a situation where they needed a little artistic license? What’s in YOUR wallet?

About the bag
I have carried the same Brenthaven laptop bag since 1997. I reviewed it for Wired back then and raved so much about it, they used my review on their hang tags for years. I guess my glowing assessment was correct because, all of these years later, I’m still happily carrying the same bag and it shows few signs of wear. If it ain’t broke …

More about Gareth
Gareth recently launched a new weekly newsletter, Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales, published every Tuesday. You can subscribe here.

-- Gareth Branwyn 07/17/19

17 July 2019


The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook

How to cook in small spaces

I happened across The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook at the local library, and the subtitle (“Everything you need to know about setting up and cooking in the most ridiculously small kitchen in the world: Your own”) caught me instantly. The cute cover suggests charm over content, but the book itself doesn’t waste a paragraph. It’s pithy, insightful, inspiring, and entertaining.

Justin Spring grew up on a boat, with a kitchen even smaller than mine — essentially a camp stove, an ice chest, and a bucket. He has huge insight into the problems of small kitchens, including the “shut-off point” where clutter stops most food preparation and the local takeout place gets a lot of business.

He is not hesitant to make solid, practical suggestions, and includes websites for sourcing. He weighs in on everything from the best tool cabinet to repurpose for a kitchen, to the best sources for cheap, lead-free, by-the-stem crystal.

This is a truly holistic guide to getting the most possible use and enjoyment from a tiny kitchen. It includes 100 recipes tailored for the small kitchen (“one-pot, toaster oven brownies”).

I have only had this book for a week, but it has inspired one full day of kitchen cleaning (!) and doubled the number of meals I eat at home. It is not comparable to anything else I’ve seen, either on the web or in print: no glossy photos of gleaming granite countertops, no vague, sentimental, market-friendly prose. The closest thing I’ve seen was Mark Bittman’s guide to stocking a minimalist kitchen, but that was four pages and this is over two hundred.

If you are struggling with a tiny kitchen and have almost given up on eating at home, this book is a lifesaver. If you want to eat well, eat healthily, entertain occasionally, and generally live like a normal person despite your itty bitty kitchen, I can’t recommend it enough.

-- Tricia Postle 07/17/19


And Also A Quick Word about Blenders
The best new blenders will now do the work of mixers and food processors-- and in itty bitty kitchens, where limited counter space cuts down on the possibilities for countertop appliances, multitasks of this sort are particularly valuable. Nearly any blender will do for basic blending tasks (for ten years I managed very well with a used bar blender purchased for $5 at an Episcopal Church tag sale; I have no doubt it blended up many a daiquiri before it came into my life.)


The Refrigerator
Consider washing out your refrigerator interior with a deodorizing solution of baking soda and water and (after unplugging the appliance) cleaning the coils on the back-- they attract dust, which interferes with the refrigerator's ability to cool and thus drives up your energy costs. If the refrigerator has wire shelving inside, install sheets of plexiglass over them-- they will clean up easier, and your food items won't topple over so much. Just take the measurements to a hardware store and have the inexpensive Plexiglas cut to order.

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

17 July 2019


Book Freak #14: Rules to Live By

Simple advice for living

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 this issue of Book Freak: simple advice for living.

Three rules to live by
“Three rules [Lou Reed] and I came up with – rules to live by. The first one is don’t be afraid of anyone. Imagine living your life so that you are afraid of no one. Second is get a really good bullshit detector and learn how to use it.
 And third is be really, really tender.”
— Laurie Anderson, Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists

Making the best of the bad bargain
“Let us make the best of that bad bargain of being born in this vile planet, where we may find, however (God be thanked), much to laugh at, though little to approve.
― Mary Wortley Montagu: “Letter to James Steuart, Jan 13, 1761,” A New Dictionary of Quotations

Do nothing, expect nothing
“Shikantaza is the Japanese translation of a Chinese colloquialism for zazen, which in English means ‘single-minded sitting.’ In shinkantaza, you forget even that you are sitting, and your mind enters a state of nothingness. You are not seeking enlightenment, you are not strengthening your will, you are not doing this for good health — you aren’t actively thinking of anything. In Soto Zen, you simply sit, without striving.
― Sunmyo Masuno, The Art of Simple Living


16 July 2019


Dualit Toaster

Ultimate analog toaster

We have had a Dualit toaster for the past 5 or 6 years, and to this day, it works perfectly. My parents have had their Dualit toaster for at least 15 years, and it still works perfectly, too. These machines are manually-operated with levers (to move the bread up or into the toaster slots as it doesn’t pop up with a spring), switches (to choose whether you have one or more of the slots heating) and dials (the clockwork timer to decide how long you want the elements to remain on), so there is nothing to go wrong, digitally. And if the heating element fails (something I’ve never heard of it doing), they are easily replaceable. The toaster we own is a 2-slice unit. You can also get them in 4-slice units, and you can purchase a basket for sandwich making that fits into the nice, wide slots for the toast slices. We have this sandwich basket, and use it often.

The Dualit isn’t a cheap toaster, but it’s well worth the investment. When our last “normal” toaster quit several years ago, my wife refused to purchase another until we could afford the Dualit. While they normally ran about $200 for the 2-slot unit, she found one on clearance in Kitchenkaboodle, and snatched up the last one they had. We’ve never looked back, and we’ve never regretted our purchase. The only thing my wife says she’d change is that, if it had been available on clearance, she would have purchased a red one. As it is, ours is dark blue. It still looks great!

Beware of look-alike imitations! If it’s got spring-loaded slots, it ain’t a Dualit!

-- Adam Morris 07/16/19

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

15 July 2019


Electrician’s Scissors

-- Dominic Morrow 07/15/19


img 07/15/19

Gyroscopic Inline Screwdriver

Controls torque and direction with your wrist motion

img 07/12/19

Oliver Hulland, Emergency Medicine Doctor

Cool Tools Show 183: Oliver Hulland

img 07/12/19


Speed reading Chrome Extension

img 07/11/19

Corona AC8300 Sharpening Tool

More than just a gardening tool sharpener

See all the reviews


img 06/7/11

Photon Microlight II

Ultralight and bright

img 12/15/04

Kapla Blocks

Precision building blocks

img 04/21/04


Perfect scalp razor

img 12/18/15

Bose QC20 Headphones

Best all around noise cancelling earphones

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 183: Oliver Hulland

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 182: Richard Kadrey

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 181: Kirsten Dirksen and Nicolás Boullosa

Picks and shownotes

17 July 2019


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.

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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.