22 October 2020


Bodum Shin Cha Tea Press

34-ounce glass tea press for loose teas and tea bags

After 5 years of pretty much exclusively using my Bodum teapot, I have gotten so used to it I only notice the process when I’m not at home and have to use a different teapot.

I like having a big pot of tea sitting on my desk while I work on the computer but with most teapots, the tea continues to gain in strength the longer it stays in the pot; unless you want to outright remove the tea which is nothing but a hot mess. This is the best teapot in my experience for being able to brew tea that can stay in the pot but not continue steeping and increasing in strength.

The system is very simple, the strainer inside the teapot has no holes in its bottom section so when the plunger is fully depressed the tea cannot continue to soak in the water as it has been cut off and sealed in the bottom of the strainer.

I use it whenever I’m at home and can have 1 liter of tea that is of a consistent strength sitting on my desk, making the only other issue I have to deal with the fact that eventually, it will go cold which is an issue I have not found a solution to other than drinking the tea.

I was not able to find the exact porcelain model I have online anymore, it seems like Bodum may have discontinued it but they make the same size and shape pot out of borosilicate glass (the stuff pyrex is made from) so if anything it’s now stronger and more shatter-resistant if dropped plus since its now clear you can see exactly how much tea is left in the pot.

-- Thomas Webster 10/22/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2016 — editors)

21 October 2020


Zip-It Drain Cleaner

Hooks out gunk

This flexible 24″ plastic probe will remove an alarming amount of hair and gunk clogging your sink or shower drain. It descends easy. You can snake it down without taking off the usual drain plug. The many little reverse (and very sharp!) spines hook hairballs and other unmentionable crap as you carefully back it out. It removes grunge that liquidators won’t budge. Sold as disposable, a cautious wipe will keep it going forever. We have a very hairy household; I can’t keep the plumbing going without it.

-- KK 10/21/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2004 — editors)

21 October 2020

Look Better on Zoom With This Portable Light

Compact LED Camera Light

Aputure AL-M9 Amaran LED Mini Light

GuestTyler Winegarner

So there’s a couple of things that make this really cool, aside from the fact that it’s really tiny — it’s about the size of a credit card, though it’s a good bit thicker than one. I would say it’s about 10-12 millimeters thick. It has this magnetic cover, and under there it’s got a grid of nine LEDs, and these magnets in the four corners. That’s what holds this diffusion plastic in place. On the side you have the on/off switch, a dimmer control, and the micro USB charging port. It’s got an internal battery that lasts for about 80 or 90 minutes at full power. It’s quite bright

-- Tyler Winegarner 10/21/20

21 October 2020


What’s in my bag? — Jeff Carroll

What's in my bag? issue #72

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Jeff Carroll is a fully remote Product Manager who has worked in the software development industry for over 3 decades. He lives out in the middle of the Missouri woods near Mark Twain’s birthplace. His bag goes along when he takes the 3-hour drive to the healthcare system where he works. During the pandemic he has also started sewing his own pouches and bags.


About the bag

Boundary Supply Arclite Sling in Xpac material ($162). Why do I love this bag? One word. Magnets! This bag combines a cool design in VX21 Xpac material with practical use of magnets throughout. There are Fidlock buckles that hold down the lid and connect the sling. Small magnets inside compress the bag so it is very flat when empty yet able to expand. And finally a magnetic keyholder in the front pocket. This bag holds a surprising amount while still appearing small.

What’s inside the bag

Hawbuck Travel Wallet ($67). This thin wallet is made from Dyneema, an ultra-strong composite material. It holds my field notes, a small Fisher pen, passport or work ID, and all the items listed below. I stuck another Fidlock snap magnet on the strap that comes with it so it can attach to the keyholder in my bag.

ThinOptics Reading Glasses ($50). I’m at that point where I only need glasses for some reading. Unfortunately, that means I forget my regular prescription glasses enough that I need to stash a pair as backup. These magnifying reading glasses fold into a case a few millimeters in height and slip right into my travel wallet.

TravelCard Lightweight Charger ($29). Flat is the theme again with a 5mm 1500mAh charger that can give my phone a boost during the day. This version has a lightning charger but other versions offer micro-USB or USB-C. When I travel for longer periods of time, a bigger battery goes in the bag but this one guarantees I’ll always have phone power.

Victorinox Swisscard Lite Pocket Tool ($33). There are different versions of the Swisscard credit card tool that can slip into a normal credit card pocket. This one comes with a small blade, scissors, rulers, tweezers, magnifying glass, straight pin, pressurized ball point pen, and Phillips screwdrivers. All that I need for the rare work day away from home.

-- Jeff Carroll 10/21/20

20 October 2020


Cuisinart 12-Piece Cookware Set

Well designed basic cookware set

I got the Cuisinart 12-Piece Cookware Set after living with crappy cookware for way too long. The net is full of glorious reviews for this set and they didn’t lie; it really is fantastic cookware and a great value. They’re stainless steel with a thick aluminum core for even heat distribution. The Multi-Clad Pro set is very similar to the American-made (and much more pricey) All-Clad cookware. Some reviewers actually prefer these to the All-Clad.

What I like about the set:

  • Very even heating. Liquids heat without “spot” boiing. Even heating on the frying pans greatly reduces burning and sticking so everything cooks better with less hassle. This cookware actually requires less energy (lower heat) than cheap cookware because it heats evenly and retains the heat.
  • Long, comfortable handles. The handles don’t get too hot, and they are pretty easy to hold when lifting full pots.
  • Tapered edges for easy pouring.
  • The insert steamer encourages me to to steam more healthy vegetables. It also makes a handy colander.
  • The set comes with 5 lids, in 4 different sizes. The two large ones fit the large pot, the large saucepan and the large frying pan. The next size down fits the small frying pan and the steamer. The mid-sized and small pots each have their own lids as well.
  • The handles on the lids are set pretty tall so they stay cool. Plus, you won’t burn the back of your hand when you lift off a hot lid.
  • The lids are easy to clean since they don’t have any little nooks & crannies you can’t get at. Years ago I owned Chantal cookware with glass lids. The clear lids were nice but the metal frame around the lids attracted gunk that was impossible to get completely clean.
  • The lids fit securely but are not too tight. With a lid in place you can turn a pot almost 90 degrees before the cover slides off; they’re very secure. Yet they are loose enough that they “breathe” easily when something boils underneath. You don’t have to worry about building pressure inside from a sealed lid.

As with all cookware, observing proper care will guarantee you years of happy use with the Multi-Clad Pro set. Never use metal utensils with good stainless-steel. The mirror surface will lose its non-stick quality. Use wooden spoons, silicon spatulas or food-grade plastics. These are a little harder to clean than my old cheap steel cookware, but not much. The previously-reviewed Bar Keepers Friend with a non-metal scouring pad seems to restore the finish nicely.

-- Jonathan Steigman 10/20/20

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2016 — editors)

19 October 2020


Felo Phillips #2 8-inch screwdriver

Smooth seamless handle for maximum comfort

Everyone should own a dedicated Phillips #2 screwdriver with a 8-inch shank. This is probably painfully obvious to a seasoned handyman or mechanic, but based on an informal survey of friends & family it seems we’ve all been getting by with a multi-bit screwdriver or a set with standard shanks. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but over the years I’ve run into a surprising number of situations where narrow diameter openings and/or deeply recessed screws precluded the use of my usual screwdriver.

Some recent examples include repairing an old solid wood dresser, removing unneeded shelves from my freezer, and removing a car door panel to replace a window regulator. I’m sure Cool Tools readers can name other times they’ve been thwarted by a screwdriver that just won’t fit.

Save yourself a last-minute trip to the hardware store by stocking an appropriate screwdriver in advance. I own this model from German brand Felo. It features a comfortable, anti-roll handle and a hardened tip. The latter is important because a prematurely worn-out tip will necessitate replacing the whole screwdriver. At roughly 12-inches overall it fits in any toolbox or can easily be hanged on a pegboard. Despite being made in Germany it’s only marginally more expensive than knock-off brands; I’ll gladly spend a few extra bucks for a quality tool for life. You likely won’t need it often, but when you do you’ll certainly be glad to have it.

-- Nabhan Islam 10/19/20


img 10/16/20

Brian Fisher, Curator of Entomology

Cool Tools Show 248: Brian Fisher

img 10/16/20


Self-adhesive rubber bumpers to use as feet, stops, and spacers

The cable ties that bind. 10/15/20

The Antique Art of Cable Lacing

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #65

img 10/15/20

Offgrid Mindfulness Alarm Clock

Meditation timer that’s not connected to the internet

See all the reviews


img 01/10/07

Get Human

Access to human help

img 12/11/03

Beyond Backpacking

Super ultra lightweight camping

img 05/7/10

How To Cook Everything

Essential iPhone cook book

img 11/27/08

Omega Juicer

Quiet, versatile juice extractor

img 09/12/03

Snorkel Hot Tub

Wood powered hot tub

img 06/28/06

Nolo Self-help Law Books

Do-it-yourself legal aid

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 248: Brian Fisher

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 247: Vanessa Mason

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 246: Mark Moffett

Picks and shownotes

21 October 2020


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