27 November 2021
Instead of suggesting the best products that I encountered this year, I want to suggest the best products I know about and still use today. Think of these as golden oldies, that are still golden.
This $10 painting app is the best $10 I have ever spent. It enables my iPad to become an art studio. I paint with Procreate every evening to make my daily piece of art. The app includes different “brushes” which turn the stylus into different kinds of media — say a pencil, or an ink pen, or an oil paint brush, or a calligraphy brush — so I get a whole studio of different art supplies. I can paint with textures, mask edges, replicate and manipulate basic digital functions like copy and paste. And there is a large Procreate community offering custom brushes, and tutorials. Powerful tool, and cheap.
I use this free app on my phone to identify plants and flowers. Aim the phone camera at the unknown botanical and it will quickly offer an identification of the species, or second best, the genus. It gives an answer about 95% of the time, including domestic and wild plants. Once you get an ID, you can look up more info about it on the web.
This app will identify a bird from its song or chirp. Even if the bird is hidden, or not close, this app will usually identify the species. In the app you can play a pre-recorded bird song of that species to confirm it is correct. Merlin can also ID two bird sounds at once in the same place. It’s free for iOS and Android.
Pilot G2 Mini Pen
My go-to pen is the Pilot G2 gel. It lays down a very smooth, very dark line. This popular pen also comes in a mini-version which is shorter than the regular ones, which makes it perfect for carrying in my pocket. I have a Pilot G2 mini in every pants and jacket I own.
I love our electric car. We bought a Chevy Bolt because it was way cheaper than any Tesla at the time. It is the best performing car I’ve ever owned. It’s powerful, agile, and quiet. We are very happy with it. The joy of never visiting a gas station can’t be measured. There are more EV options now, so we might not get a Bolt if we had to buy one now, but there is no way I’d go back to a gas car.
Cordless Glue Gun
Workshops have gone cordless. Every power tool made is now available in a cordless version, which makes it faster to get, and easier to handle. One of the last tools to go cordless is a glue gun. Like other cordless tools, being cordless makes it easier to work with, particularly if you are sharing it, or working on something large. It is really liberating to have no cord while gluing. This one needs Ryobi tool batteries, or an adapter for other brands (I use it with Dewalt batteries).
These earbuds work perfectly with an iPhone. The audio is sterling, and the built-in microphone works amazingly well. I use them to listen to podcasts while walking and to have distant conversations while walking. They are pricey, but hassle free, so worth it to me.
26 November 2021
Cool Tools Show 306: Windell Oskay
26 November 2021
Gift suggestions from Cool Tools' alum
The editors of Cool Tools have curated a number of gift suggestions selected from our website, newsletters, videos, and podcasts. This week: former web manager Camille revisits some of her favorite Cool Tools and shares a few more.
I’ve been wearing these Russell Sheepskin-Lined Moccasins for 10 years, and it shows. Shortly after Wrye Martin’s original review ran, I ordered a pair of Russell boots for hiking, and although they are also wonderful (and still in great shape), it’s the slippers that I’ve worn nearly every day all these years. They are warm, perfectly cushioned by the shearling, tolerate a little walking around in the backyard, and thanks to their custom construction, they actually fit my feet, which have a two-size differential. I keep flirting with the idea of buying something off-the-shelf in town, but I just need to make peace with the 3-5 months production time and do it.
Blip Blox Synth For Kids has been a great addition to our instrument collection since the kids were very young. Its brightly colored knobs are highly grabbable and the whole thing is easy to wipe down. Ours has certainly taken a number of falls from toddler heights. All this means the kids can tweedle to their hearts’ content and dad can play along on his more delicate synths. Can do way more than my demo which illustrates the low barrier to entry. Here’s documentation – the “Mapped” doc and “What they do” docs are helpful beginner references.
Kinderfeets Kinderboard ($89-$99) is an open-ended balance toy that can be used as a slide, boat, hill, bed, catapult, sled, etc etc. Santa delivered ours a couple years ago, and our now 5yo and 8yo still enjoy playing with it. This is the bamboo version.
The Sonos system has been mentioned a couple times on Cool Tools (by Louis Rossetto, Wayne Ruffner), and recently Jim Louderback shared about the Move speaker on the Cool Tools podcast. Our household is also a big fan. In addition to the One and Move, we also really enjoy the Beam ($449), which is a great compliment to our minimalist frame TV, and Symfonisk ($149), a more affordable speaker without voice activation which is a good fit in our youngest kid’s room
Festive drinkware; A beautiful fruit basket; movie-night TV trays; storage whose purpose is obvious; indulgent relaxation tools; an easy game; a plushie from a favorite book; a stack of fun magazines; a delightful piggy bank.
Magazines: Milk Decoration, Mother Tongue, The San Franciscan, Aquila, Honest History, Illustoria, Little White Lies, Neko Maru, Life Cats
25 November 2021
Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #103
What was your favorite tool this year? Why? It doesn’t have to be a new tool just one that comes to mind when asked this question. Send me your answers (with a pic, if possible). I want to do a round-up of readers favorites for 2021. I’ll pick one of the respondents and send them a copy of my tips book.
Making a Simple Storage Case Rack
On the Shop Hacks FB group, member Riley Schatz posted a pic of his simple solution for a rack to hold his plastic storage cases. Many of us have these plastic cases and there are numerous projects online and on YouTube for building more elaborate racks. This is the simplest to date, little more than some scrap 2x4s and plywood hung below a workbench.
Review: Amazon Removable Compartment Professional Organizers
Speaking of multi-compartment storage cases, Amazon just recently (I think) began offering cases under their Amazon Basics brand. Being something of a collector of these cases, I decided to get one and try it out. I got the smaller 15-compartment case (8.3″ L x 13.3″ W x 2.4″ H). They also carry a 19-compartment case (16.5 x 13.2 x 2.4). The 15 case is $17.80, the 19 case is $20. The case I got is much small than the Stanley, Harbor Freight, and other cases that I have (which are closer to the 19-compartment case). I purposely went for the smaller case because I want to use it to house game components and didn’t need the larger size. In terms of features, the removable trays are a must-have for me. They have a nice compliment of small, medium, and large trays. In terms of quality, these cases are on par with the Harbor Freight ones. Like the Harbor Freight cases, they are made of heavy-duty polypropylene. The latches are the weak spot on the both brands, with the Amazon ones being nearly identical to the HF closures. Even with medium use, I’ve had the latches on two HF cases fail. The Amazon cases are comparable, but HF still has them beat on price. Their (full-size) 20-bin case is only $10 (as low as $8 on sale) and their deeper 8-bin case is $15 (as low as $11). The only reason to recommend the Amazon cases is if you want the smaller size.
Using Wire Ferrules
Flat Panel Speakers Made from Foamboard
This is more of a project recommendation than a shop tip. On the AmplifyDIY channel, they build these cheap (a few hundred bucks) and easy-to-make flat panel speakers using little more than insulation foamboard, a pair of exciters, and a mini power amp. They results are very impressive. Also: Be sure to check out the follow-up video. In it, he tests out different shapes, panel treatments, adding a second exciter to each panel, and other tweaks.
Why You Need a Vise in Your Workshop
In this Essential Craftsman video, Scott explains the virtues of a vise and why you need one in your workshop. In our new house, there’s a big gaping hole in the wooden workbench in the garage where the vise appears to have been unceremoniously ripped out. I’ve already spotted a sweet small bench vise with an anvil at a local antique store. I’m looking forward to buying and restoring it soon.
How to Tune Up a Cheap Chisel
In this video, Anne of All Trades shows how to properly sharpen chisels, especially how you can sharpen cheap ones and get them closer in sharpness to more expensive tools. I especially appreciate that she demonstrates how to hold and use your body to get the right angle and pressure on the blade as you sharpen
We just moved into a house that has these crazy 4-switch light and fan panels in the bathrooms. Unlabeled, a newbie can do a lot of speculative switching before finding the one you want. So, not surprisingly, these 3D printed switchplate symbols have caught my eye. As soon as I get my 3D printer set up, I might be printing some of these.
In the response to my “Put the Dang Tools Back!” in the last issue, reader John M writes:
“I’ve been working on the “put the dang tools back” for years now. Coming up on three years since the last shop move, the problem that looms the largest is that there is no “back” to put things until you create one. The last move went from 3,000 sf to 1,600 sf, so it’s been tricky. Making the job harder is the need to be functional over the need to be organized. Yes, taking the time to organize will make the work easier, but that job needs to get finished NOW so we can pay the rent! Needless to say, instead of spending my limited time pursuing personal projects, I tend to spend it cleaning and organizing. Somewhat satisfying, but not as much as other projects.“
Also in response to “Put the Dang Tools Back!,” Cool Tools reader LarryA2010 writes:
“Good advice. Easier said than done. I have projects at varying stages, piles of tools and materials, and other stuff strewn about my workshop and I hate putting things back. I do keep some tools and materials organized though. I have a worktable made from a solid core door on top of two wood filing cabinets which hold folders of sandpaper and other useful items. Most-used tools are in a simple tool caddy on the floor. Two old bureaus hold sets of wrenches and other large tools. Plastic totes hold unfinished projects. Solvent cans are in a row on the floor next to my chair with a strap wrench on top to tighten them so they don’t evaporate. I still have tools and small materials covering much of my table, and tools and materials spread all over the floor. I can’t get myself to organize them. One thing I do have that I keep in order is this really useful Alvin, Spin-O-Tray, Rotating Desktop Organizer on top of the desk. It makes it easy to replace often-used small tools after I use them.”11/25/21
(Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here. — editors)
24 November 2021
What’s in my … ? issue #129
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Gioia Palmieri is Consulting Editor and Co-publisher of Mineshaft magazine. She is finishing her first novel and in her spare time she likes to oil paint. She and Everett Rand live in Durham, North Carolina with their daughter, Irena.
Mineshaft #41 will be coming out in the Winter 2022, featuring new work by R. Crumb, Glenn Head, Mary Fleener, Christoph Mueller, Max Clotfelter, Kim Deitch & More! Plus Special Feature “Suited Up” with Robert Armstrong! You can follow Mineshaft on Instagram @mineshaftmag.
“The best magazine being published in the 21st century” — Drew Friedman
I started painting a few years ago and since then I’ve found tools for my painting that I hope will be helpful for you if you’re interested in painting. I like to stand while I work and use my work counter for writing and painting. When painting, I mix the paints on a piece of freezer paper with its corners held down by painter’s tape near the edge of the counter near my easel. I store my paint and smaller canvases on the shelving under the counter. My workroom has a number of large windows that let in plenty of natural light.
Gamblin makes excellent oil paints in Portland, Oregon. Besides a great color selection of paints that are easy to mix, I like their focus on creating non-toxic paints. I use their website for paint information such as this helpful page, but their paints as of now are only available through art stores. I purchase mine at Utrecht. Gamblin also makes an odorless mineral spirit called Gamsol for your oil paint cleaning needs.
Rosemary & Co. is a wonderful company that handmakes paint brushes in Yorkshire, England and is run by Rosemary and her daughter. With excellent customer service and a user friendly website, they make it easy to order from the UK. I like their free physical catalog where the photos of each brush head is the actual brush head size. They make all types of brushes using real animal hair or ones that are completely synthetic, plus they sell palette knives and brush holders (featured in the photo).
Artist Brand Canvas make attractive, sturdy canvases in Los Angeles. They have all kinds of sizes and are reasonably priced. Having one of their canvases, a Rosemary & Co. brush and some Gamblin paint is an inspiration for your painting!
And don’t forget your color wheel! I like to keep mine handy. You can purchase it from many stores online, but they have a website. They even make a special color wheel for gardeners, and all their wheels are made in the USA.11/24/21
24 November 2021
COOL TOOLS SHOW PODCAST
WHAT'S IN MY BAG?
24 November 2021
What’s in my … ? issue #129
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