06 July 2022

Comparing Wire Nuts to Wago Connectors

Comparing Wire Nuts to Wago Connectors

Don’t forget: I now offer a way for you to promote your tool, newsletter, book, blog, video channel, app, etc. Coming soon: Unclassifieds at the end of the newsletter. Share your work with fellow readers and help support this publication. Here for the skinny.

Comparing Wire Nuts to Wago Connectors

In this GreatScott! videoScott decides to compare wire nut connectors, common in the US, against Wago connectors, more common in Europe. Scott tests for ease of use, problems, speed of application, reusability, size, price, pull test, resistance, and flammability. In the end, both connectors perform as adverised, with Wagos being far more expensive. But if you don’t mind spending the bread, Wagos seem to have some real advantages over nuts for ease of use, speed of application, and reusability.

Overcoming One’s Fear of Machining

I love that Bob Clagett admits in the beginning of this video that he fears his Bridgeport mill and metal lathe. He rarely uses them as a result. To try and at least dip his toe in the machining waters, he decides to undertake a simple project: create a channeled metal stop-block for his radial arm saw. In the video, he timidly goes about the project, reveals his apprehensions and lack of deeper knowledge about the tools, but in the end, he comes away with a very serviceable tool. It’s not perfect, but it’s decent-looking and it works. And he now has less fear and intimidation around these tools. I’m sure he will look back on this project years from now and have a soft spot for it.

Great Measuring Tips

There are a ton of measuring tape tutorials and tips and tricks videos out there. Many of them cover similar ground. Most of what this video from Stumpy Nubs includes has been covered elsewhere (I cover many of these tricks in Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of my tips books). But it’s a nice collection of tricks and there are a few here that you may not have seen, like how to throw out a tape to where you want it to go, how to do quick subtractions of numbers by turning a tape on itself, and the party trick of using a tape measure to tell someone the year in which they were born. Another tip that might be new is using a Sharpie on your tape to create a storey stick (marks of common measurements) and then cleaning it off with WD-40 when you’re done using those marks.

Put Screws Back When Disassembling

In this Tested video, in which Adam Savage is making a replica of the movement tracker from the movie Aliens, he does something worth pointing out: In disassembling parts he’ll be reassembling, rather than storing the hardware somewhere and then trying to remember where it all goes back, he temporary hand-screws it into the threaded part of the piece for safe keeping. If that’s unclear, see 7:11 in the video.

Using Chair Sliders as Jaw Guards on Clamps

On Colin Knecht‘s Instagram account, he shares this tip from a follower. You can use self-adhesive chair and table felt or cork feet as jaw guards on your shop clamps.

Leaving More Witness Marks

As a word nerd as well as a maker, I’ve always been in love with the tech term “witness marks.” It is used in clock-making and elsewhere to refer to marks and other evidence (whether intentional or not) that offer clues as to how something was once put together or repaired. It can also be used to refer to little notes left inside of an objects giving dates of when it was serviced/repaired and what was done. I think the practice of intentionally leaving marks and notes should be more widely applied – as you repair and maintain the perennial objects in your life, leave a mark, a history of your interactions with them.

Maker Slang

Drag soldering. Note the use of poster tack to hold the IC in place.
Drag soldering. Note the use of poster tack to hold the IC in place.

Jargon, slang, and tech terms of interest to DIYers.

Burning an inch – When taking tape measurements that you want to be as accurate as possible, you can start the ruler at the 1″ mark in case the end hook on the tape isn’t 100% accurate (and then, of course, you subtract 1″ from your resulting measurement).Crustard –A textured ground-covering paste used in tabletop gaming terrain, diorama-making, etc. Made of a mixture of fine sand, PVA wood glue, tile grout, baking powder, and acrylic paint.Drag soldering – A technique for soldering the numerous “gull-wing” leads of an integrated circuit. You basically deposit solder on the tip of your iron and drag it over the surface of the pins on all sides of the IC that have pins.

Crustard –A textured ground-covering paste used in tabletop gaming terrain, diorama-making, etc. Made of a mixture of fine sand, PVA wood glue, tile grout, baking powder, and acrylic paint.

Drag soldering – A technique for soldering the numerous “gull-wing” leads of an integrated circuit. You basically deposit solder on the tip of your iron and drag it over the surface of the pins on all sides of the IC that have pins.

Shop Talk

In response to my item on creative ways of using your phone as a work tool, Tim Hare responded:

“In regard to note-taking on a phone: for Android users, including Amazon tablets, ColorNote is a great app for making little notes and task/check lists. You make them standalone or create them on a day in the calendar that’s part of the app. This is one of those apps that’s pretty intuitively easy to use, does what it does and doesn’t try to be a Swiss Army knife of an app. Android only, though. I use it for lists of things I need to get at the hardware store, to jot down dimensions, or to remember a link to something that I found through the phone.”

On the same subject, Gord Crone writes:

“I use my phone to take a picture of model and serial numbers of any tools, appliances etc. Helps for product registration, searching for online manuals, warranty issues etc.”


01 July 2022

Diego Rodriguez, Former CPO at Intuit

Show and Tell #320: Diego Rodriguez



Diego Rodriguez has had a career spanning business, design, and technology. He served as Intuit’s Chief Product & Design Officer, a Senior Partner at IDEO, and as a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers. He is a founding faculty member of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (aka “the d.school”). Over the last several years he has been an investor, advisor, and member of several corporate, startup, and nonprofit boards. He earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering and humanities with honors from Stanford University, and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School. Among Diego’s accolades is a Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Award. Fortune named him one of “The Smartest People in Tech” and Fast Company called his writing “a must-read for anyone who wants to incorporate design thinking into their work.” He holds multiple patents.


01:48 – Timber Mountain Bike Bell
06:10 – InstantPot
11:14 – Fiskars Pruning Stick
19:01 – Selmer Mark VI saxophone


26 June 2022


5 tips for optimizing travel/Answer the Public/What came first?

Recomendo: issue no. 311

Best foreign city travel tips
Author Dan Pink has mastered the art of delivering fantastic advice in 2 minutes or less. His latest Pinkcast is his 5 tips for optimizing travel to a foreign city. I concur with these 100% and do them myself. To save you 2 minutes here they are:
1. Go to the highest point in the city.
2. Buy a local newspaper.
3. Ride public transportation.
4. Go to McDonald’s (Seriously.)
5. Spend an hour in a grocery store.
But you’ll miss Dan’s humor and his persuasion if you don’t watch his pitch. — KK

Autocomplete data from all over the world
AnswerThePublic takes all the autocomplete data from search engines to report back what questions people are asking all over the world. You can test out the the search engine with 1-2 keywords, which is helpful for anyone doing market research or just nosy like me. You can use it twice a day for free without having to pay a monthly cost. — CD

What came first?
What came first: Watts Towers or The Beatles’ Abbey Road? The film Tom Jones or Eagles’ Their Greatest HitsThe Dream by Henri Rousseau or England’s Natural History Museum? This Google quiz asks questions like these (and shows relevant images) and challenges you to click what came first. A faster answer will yield a higher score. — MF

Face mask ear saver
I’m still wearing a face mask indoors. But my ears are paying the price, especially on long flights when the pressure of the loops against the back of my ears becomes painful. Last week I started using these Velcro face mask extender straps, which pull the loops away from the back of my ears. I should have bought these things two years ago. — MF

Free bank wire transfer
I use Paypal to send money to strangers (like on Ebay or Etsy); I use Venmo to pay friends; but if I need to send a lot of money (more than several thousand $$$) I use Zelle. Unlike Venmo which holds a reserve in your account that you replenish, Zelle is basically a bank to bank wire transfer – for free. But the interface is person to person. Still can’t do it internationally, but it is very handy for larger peer-to-peer payments in US. Easy to set up. — KK

Chill-inducing music
This Spotify playlist comprises of 715 songs, handpicked by neuroscientists, and meant to elicit “frisson,“ which means a sudden feeling or sensation of excitement, emotion or thrill in French. Music that increases in loudness or has an abrupt entrance of a new voice or deviations from harmony can often induce “frisson.” Human screams also incite the same response. Which makes sense because one of the songs on the playlist made me increasingly uncomfortable. This article on Big Think will give more background on the ways we experience this profound emotional state. — CD

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 06/26/22

24 June 2022

Robert Stephens, Founder of The Geek Squad

Show and Tell #319: Robert Stephens



Our guest this week is Robert Stephens. Robert is the founder of The Geek Squad and former CTO of Best Buy. The Geek Squad will turn 30 in 2024 and employs over 24,000 people. His newest company launching soon, is ChainList, a platform for re-usable checklists and was inspired by CoolTools. A native of Chicago, he now lives in the Bay Area. Robert’s newest company, ChainList will enter public beta soon. It was inspired by his time building Geek Squad – which is still powered by checklists. Chainlist let’s you find, make, remix, and subscribe to checklists. With NFC and QR codes — you can even store this info onto physical objects like homes and equipment. Just like CoolTools, ChainList hopes to offer everyone access to useful processes.

NFC coin tags
NFC Tools app
MakePass app
Payment Links from Stripe


19 June 2022


Ransom Notes/How We Feel/The Spice Trail

Recomendo: issue no. 310

Sign up here to get Recomendo a week early in your inbox.


Side-splitting party game
I played Ransom Notes with my family a couple of weeks ago and we laughed ourselves to tears. Each player grabs a handful of about 75 words printed on magnetic strips (they look like refrigerator magnets) from the inventory. Someone draws a card from the deck and reads the instructions. Example: “Tell someone you’ve clogged their toilet during a party.” Each player has to use their word magnets to form an answer on a small metal plate. Example, “I have elaborate booty chaos please not mad,” or “did dump tough disappear.” You are supposed to vote on the “best answer,” but we were too busy laughing hysterically to keep score. — MF

Beautifully-designed mood tracker
I stopped using mood tracking apps a while back, because I got better at recognizing slight mood shifts and anticipating my own needs in the moment — whether that’s asking for space, taking a screen break, or hugging my dog. But now I’m back on the mood tracking app bandwagon, because How We Feel is more than just a mood tracker — it’s created by scientists, therapists, designers and engineers, so not only does it help you find the right word for your feelings, it helps you understand the science behind emotions and provides strategies to regulate your mood with elegantly produced videos, and the analytics of your mood over time are displayed in beautifully-designed patterns and colors. It’s free and I believe it’s in beta, so it will only get better. — CD

The Spice Trail
Before oil, empires fought over gold. And before gold, empires fought over spice. There were six spices that opened up the Americas, and bound Asia and Europe together permanently. Kate Humble, a BBC host, journeys to the remote geographical sources of these 6 spices in her series The Spice Trail. The depth of her research and travels are astounding. I am in awe of how ignorant I was about these substances, and now I am grateful how intimate with them her travels made possible. There are 3 sessions available on YouTube: 1) Pepper and Cinnamon. 2) Nutmeg and Cloves. 3) Saffron and Vanilla. History + Travel + Food. Highly recommended. — KK

Simple sitting-posture correction
At least once a week, I move a tabletop mirror (similar to this one) onto my desk to help with my sitting posture. I keep it just to the right of me so it’s not distracting and I position it so that if I can see myself in it out of the corner of my eye, I know I’m sitting up straight. — CD

Touch tap the back of an iPhone
I only recently learned that you can configure an iPhone to perform an action by double- or triple-tapping the back. You can use it to take a screenshot or go to the home screen, for instance. I use it to open the camera app. Here’s how to do it. — MF

The best screw
One of our Cool Tools podcast guests, Jeff Waldman, author of Tools: The Ultimate Guide, turned me onto the best construction screw there is. It’s the GKR R4, used to bolt together wood framing, decking, or cabinets.  As he describes in our Cool Tools Show-and-Tell video, the engineering in this tiny piece of metal is amazing. It is designed to be super easy to attach large pieces of wood together very securely very fast. In my experience the GKR R4 screws are stronger and faster than comparable screws. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 06/19/22

17 June 2022

Brian Lam, Founding Editor of The Wirecutter

Show and Tell #318: Brian Lam



Brian Lam is the Founding Editor of The Wirecutter.

Third Wave Water
Weber Workshops The Key electric coffee bean grinder
Naniwa Diamond Stone



img 06/17/22

Spring-Loaded Self-Striking Center Punch

This week for my Cool Tools video review I’m going to show you a fancy automatic center hole punch, great …


A Portable Soldering Station

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #124


Charles Lindsay, Artist-Adventurer

Show and Tell #317: Charles Lindsay


Building Vertical Tool Drawers

Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales – Issue #123

See all the reviews


img 07/8/18


Classic puzzle in great package

img 01/1/09


Personal outsourcing

img 10/21/11

The Wirecutter

Meta-review site for gadgets

img 12/31/04


Hole expander

img 09/27/13

Backyard Sugarin’

DIY sweets from trees

See all the favorites



Show and Tell #320: Diego Rodriguez

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #319: Robert Stephens

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #318: Brian Lam

Picks and shownotes

19 January 2022


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.

© 2022