12 August 2020


What’s in my bag? — Amantha Imber

What's in my bag? issue #62

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Dr Amantha Imber is an organisational psychologist, founder of behavioural science consultancy Inventium, and co-creator of the Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies list. In 2019, Amantha was named as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence. Amantha is also the host of the number one ranking business podcast How I Work, where she interviews some of the world’s most successful people about their habits, rituals and strategies for structuring their day and being more productive.

About the bag

Gorman backpack: my backpack of choice is from Melbourne-based designer Lisa Gorman. Half of my wardrobe is probably from Gorman, so I was very excited when she started making backpacks. I don’t think this bag is available anymore, but I love it so much. It is lightweight (being made out of a parachute-like fabric) and I love the bright print. My only wish is that it had more pockets, but that’s easily solved through purchasing an internal bag organiser so things don’t get lost.

What’s inside the bag

Mix Pre 6: I host the podcast How I Work, and pre-COVID, I would do quite a few interviews outside of my studio. Many podcasters opt for the Zoom H5 or H6, but I found the Zoom wasn’t great for tuning out background noise. I’ve been using the Mix Pre 6 for over a year now, and it’s my sound mixer of choice for recording all podcast interviews. While it’s slightly more expensive than the Zoom, I find it eliminates nearly all background noise and produces amazing sound quality. I also use the Mix Pre 6 in my studio for recording back-ups. It hasn’t failed me yet!

Logitech Keys-to-Go: I like to keep my backpack as light as possible, so when I don’t want to lug around a laptop, I pack this portable keyboard. It connects via bluetooth to my iPhone and allows me to use my iPhone as a computer and type things quickly. The keys are smooth and the pressure feels just right, making for a top notch typing experience.

Logitech spotlight: another Logitech device! As part of my work at behavioural science consultancy Inventium, I do a lot of keynote presentations (well, more so pre-COVID). I feel like I have tried every presentation remote on the market and this is the one that I stuck with. I never leave home without my Logitech Spotlight — it’s by far the best presentation remote I’ve used. It’s simple to use and works 100% of the time. And it feels so light and comfortable in my hand.

Uni Mechanical Pencil Kuru Toga Roulette Model 0.5mm: I love a good mechanical pencil and this one has had over 4000 5-star reviews on Amazon. I figured that 4000 people can’t be wrong so I bought one. The pencil is very comfortable to write with and is incredibly precise (as you would expect from a mechanical pencil). The only problem is that my 6 year-old daughter loves it as much as I do, so it often does disappearing acts from my bag…

Fressko coffee cup: For many years, I was on the hunt for the perfect take-away coffee cup — one that keeps my coffee warm and is easy to wash. And something that looks good too. I finally found that mix in Fressko. The cup is insulated and keeps my coffee hot for a couple of hours. And unlike some cups that have fancy lids that are hard to clean, Fressko keep things simple and the cup and lid are quick and easy to wash.

-- Amantha Imber 08/12/20

(What's in YOUR bag? We want to hear about unusual and unusually useful items that you carry in your bag. We are especially interested in the specialized bags of doctors, athletes, repair techs, artists, gardeners, hikers, etc. Start by sending an email to claudia@cool-tools.org with a photo of the things in your bag (you can use your phone). If you get a reply from us, fill out the form. We’ll pay you $50 if we run your submission in our What’s in my bag? newsletter and blog. — editors)

09 August 2020


First Reads/Drive & Listen/Improved Dictanote

Recomendo: issue no. 212

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Free bestselling ebooks
If you are an Amazon Prime member, you are entitled to two free Kindle ebooks per month from a selection of 9 popular bestselling books chosen by Amazon that month. This same program, called First Reads, also gives you access to free short stories and Audible readings for listening, commissioned as Amazon originals. I can usually find at least one book I am interested in each month, and since it is free, why not? —KK

Drive & listen
This cool website, Drive & Listen, pulls dashboard cam videos from YouTube and pairs them up with local music channels so that you can feel like you’re cruising around in a foreign city, blasting the radio, all while sitting at your desk. — CD

Improved Dictanote
I recommended Dictanote a few weeks ago. It’s a Chrome-based application that converts speech to text. It’s faster and less buggy than my Mac’s built-in dictation. Recently, Dictanote released a Google Chrome extension that lets you use Dictanote within almost any website. Now I’m using it to answer emails in Gmail, which has been a big time saver. It doesn’t work with Google Docs, which is unfortunate, but for longer form speech-to-text writing I use Dictanote’s notebook and copy and paste the text (in fact, I’m using the notebook to write this recommendation). It’s $19, and because I’m such a terrible typist, it paid for itself within the first day or two. — MF

Enjoy the boss radio sound of KHJ 93 Los Angeles
One of my favorite things about Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was listening to clips of 93 KHJ, a radio station that pioneered the “boss radio” sound in the 1960s. The DJs were all vocal virtuosos, and the most talented of the bunch was a guy by the name of “The Real Don Steele.” Almost all of these broadcasts have been lost to time, but fortunately, some people recorded KHJ on their tape recorders in the 1960s, and the recordings found their way to the Internet. The Internet Archive has a couple of recordings from the 1960s of Steele’s show on KHJ. Here’s another, and another (with other KHJ DJs, too). If this kind of thing interests you, you can dig up more by searching “khj airchecks.” — MF

Email design database
If you’re in the newsletter business, Really Good Emails has a huge database of marketing emails and newsletters that you can search for inspiration. You can “collect” designs that you like, view code, and see examples of how it looks across different email clients and devices. I was not surprised to see Food52 emails on there, because I always feel compelled to click (and sometimes buy) whatever they send me. — CD

Opaque white ink
In my workshop and studio, I label boxes, shelves, drawers, cases, bins, and parts with a very dense white “ink” which is really white correction fluid in a stubby pen. White is usually much more legible than black, but white ink is much more difficult to apply heavy enough to cover any surface. These Pentel Presto Jumbo Correction Pens do a fantastic job applying thick non-drippy white paint via a fine point tip, and are small enough to carry in my workshop apron. They draw perfectly opaque white on any surface, instantly, even vertical surfaces. I have not found anything else that will do that. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 08/9/20

07 August 2020


Jennifer Robbins, Designer

Cool Tools Show 238: Jennifer Robbins

Our guest this week is Jennifer Robbins. Jennifer is a designer who is best known for her work in web design. She has written thirteen books, including Learning Web Design, 5e (O’Reilly) and she co-founded the ARTIFACT Conference. Currently, she’s excited about the relaunch of “Cooking with Rockstars,” her pre-YouTube video podcast in which she interviews indie rockers about food. You can find her on Twitter @jenville.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

5 Year Diary by Tamara Shopsin ($25)
The first pick that I have is a little 5-year diary, designed by Tamara Shopsin. I just write down what happened at each day, who I talked to, and I usually end up recording what food I cooked because I’m big into cooking. I have a log for almost every year of my life. But this is the first time I’ve really gotten into a five-year journal and I love it. I love this one in particular because it’s just very simply designed, it’s very classic. It’s small, and there’s just enough room to write a couple of sentences. It’s very easy to maintain every single day because there’s no big commitment. And I’m four years into this book now, so it’s really starting to pay off because when I write down what happened, then I can look back and see what happened on that day, three years back. And for me that’s really fun. I think it plays to my natural bent toward nostalgia. I particularly like the clean and functional design of this journal. So many journals are over-designed.

Fiskars Titanium Rotary Cutter ($20)
I have really gotten into sewing lately. I’ve always sewn, but just straight-edged things like curtains or a comforter cover. But in the last year I’ve really gotten into sewing clothing and much more adventurous items. And it’s cool to be in my mid 50s, learning a whole new world of skills and tools and trying more and more challenging patterns. And then I discovered the Fiskars rotary cutter and you use it along with a straight edge and it’s a game changer. It completely just changed the way I work. I’m a fairly precise person, so just the ability to cut patterns really precisely and cut things exactly to precise inches, which is really more of a challenge to do with sheers where you’re lifting the fabric and it shifts around more. With this you’re pressing it down with a straight edge and just running that nice titanium blade along the edge of the straight edge and you get just perfect results. There are a number of other sewing tools I’ve recently discovered and delight in, such as a dedicated invisible-zipper foot, a thread snip, a seam gauge, and pattern weights, but the rotary cutters have had the biggest impact on my process.

Schaedler Precision Rules ($30)
I have had mine for 30 years. And if a ruler could be sexy, this one’s pretty sexy to me. It’s just what it sounds like. It’s a super precise ruler, and it’s printed on a very thin translucent plastic. I have a set of two of them, and the one I’m looking at now has inches along one edge down to one 64th of an inch. And it has metric down to half millimeters. And then there’s picas down the middle, for the first 12, every point is marked. I have another one that has picas along the edge. As a book designer, I am partial to the pica ruler, which has found steady use throughout my career.

Moped Crossbody Bag by Lug ($70)
I have been using the Moped bag as my “everyday” purse for at least 10 years. It’s just the right size–big enough to hold everything I need for a day (even a light sweater) but not so big that everything is swimming in it. But it’s the POCKETS that I love! So many pockets! There’s a back pocket that fits my iPad perfectly, a handy front pocket for my phone, and a side pocket that I use for glasses, a water bottle, or a compact umbrella. I have a whole system. They come in a lot of different fabrics, but I like the simple gray heather. And it’s not fancy. I have fancy or evening purses, but I’m not a purse person. People pay a lot of money for purses. I’m shocked. This one’s very affordable.

About Cooking with Rockstars:
Years ago, starting in 2002, I started doing video interviews with indie rock stars about food. It was called Cooking With Rockstars, and I had the site up from maybe 2002 to 2008. Then the site went offline and I just never came around to getting it started again. There was always something else to do and that was always lower priority. But recently, I was talking with Jeffrey Zeldman who works at Automattic and he gave me the assistance of a team at WordPress who built it for me and we revived it. So it’s back online. I’m able to rerelease all of the old videos. I have a whole bunch that were in the can that were never released. They’re old, but they’re newly released. And I might, after you can actually do things like visit people again, might do a few new interviews coming up. So I’m excited about that.



06 August 2020

Adding a Sharper to Your Tape Measure

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #56

Adding a Sharper to Your Tape Measure



A few seconds into this Laura Kampf video (on building a simple folding table), I spotted this cool little “hack.” She attached a schoolbox pencil sharpener to the back of her tape measure for hands-free sharpening on the fly. Great idea!

Basic Molding and Casting

Making a molding box from Legos for casting small parts.

Making a molding box from Legos for casting small parts.

Creating quick casts and molding small parts is a lot easier than you might think. There are all sorts of products for making one- and two-part molds and different liquid plastics and resins you can use for casting. This video shows how you can quickly duplicate small parts using a simple, one-part silicone rubber mold and a polyurethane casting plastic. Also note the use of Lego bricks and plates to construct a mold box.

Tales Told by the Oldest Tools in the Shop

Wait, is that pink nail polish on your driver handle?

Wait, is that pink nail polish on your driver handle?

Shop tours are my jam. This tour, by a bored, house-bound Ben Heck, is a bit different than most as he focuses only on the oldest tools he owns and regularly uses. I love “shop tales” (see newsletter title above) and there are some great ones in here, like the origins of the above two screwdrivers. The worn-off pink on the top one is from nail polish Ben’s sister painted on there when they were kids. He’s had these drivers since childhood, uses them nearly every day. and says he would likely literally cry if he lost one of them.

Color-Coding Your Keys

It only takes a few seconds to color-code your keys.

It only takes a few seconds to color-code your keys.

For years, I’ve had a small square of cellophane tape on my house key so that I can easily ID it on the chain. R Andrew Doan posted this oldie but goodie to the Shop Hacks Facebook group. A little enamel paint and a couple of minutes and you can color-code your key set for easy identification. And they’ll look swanky, too!


My next favorite thing?

My next favorite thing?

Years ago, I got turned on to the Canary Cardboard Cutter via an early episode of Donald Bell’s Maker Update. I’ve bought at least a dozen of them since and given them away to family and friends. In a recent Izzy Swan video, he raved about this ceramic-blade cardboard cutter. I just ordered one. I’ll review it in a later edition.

Designing in Whimsy, Art, Humor, FUN!

Let the Good Lord judge the accuracy of your machine work.

Let the Good Lord judge the accuracy of your machine work.

I’ve been watching my way though Uri Tuchman’s YouTube channel. Uri is an artist, designer, inventor, and maker of all trades. One of the things I love most about his projects is that he always incorporates art, whimsy, and a sense of humor into his creations. He makes an optical center punch but carves it into the head of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. He turns a machinist’s test indicator into Michelangelo’s hand of God. He shapes a tiny hammer into a whale. In Uri’s world, tools have personality and make you smile as they go about their jobs. If you ask me, the world needs a lot more of this.

Maker’s Muse

I'm sure that was oddly satisfying. Spotted on the 2600 Magazine FB group.

I’m sure that was oddly satisfying. Spotted on the 2600 Magazine FB group.

Shop Talk

Reader Stephen Rudy writes: “I wanted to throw my 0.2 cents into the art cup arena. In my shop, we use inexpensive soup containers from the restaurant supply store for lots of things. They are the type Wonton soup usually comes in. They make great forms for making silicon molds in addition to the mixing and storage applications.


I’ve written about my friend Hans Gerhard Meier’s MakerMap before. He wrote to tell me that has now launched it to the world. If you have something maker-related to “see, buy, or meet,” consider adding it to the MakerMap.


(Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here. — editors)

06 August 2020


Lock & Lock Food Storage Containers

Containers in a variety of sizes use the same lid

[In a recent issue of our Recomendo newsletter, Kevin recommended Snapware Glasslock containers for leftover food storage. Cool Tools reader Todd Lappin emailed to tell us that he thinks Lock & Lock food storage containers are superior and explained why.– MF]

Both products have good lids that form strong, gasketed seals. But the Lock & Lock…
  • Is great in the refrigerator AND exceptionally good for travel or transport (such as bringing your lunch to work, picnics, potlucks, weekend trips, etc.)
  • Plastic, not glass, so can’t break and it’s much lighter
  • The lids have tabs for locking, not just a friction fit, for an even more positive, more foolproof seal
  • As a test, I have literally drop-kicked L&L containers containing wet, oily foods inside, resulting in no leakage whatsoever.
  • That latter confidence test is why L&L are the only food containers I will carry inside a backpack or carry-on bag. And yes, I usually bring one when I travel for inflight food en route and restaurant leftovers at the destination.
  • Again, my utterly baseless hypothesis is that all this comes down to a culturally unique use case: Lock & Lock is Korean, and Koreans routinely store and transport wet, fermented, yummy-but-pungent foods like kimchi. Plus it’s a place where lots of people bring their lunch to work. This necessitates great seals and reliability.
So that’s just basic mechanics. As a lifestyle bonus…
  • LocknLock also offers containers in a variety of sizes, many of which use the same lid. So in our house, we have lots of different containers with different capacities, but all our lids are the same size. MUCH easier to manage, store, and wrangle.
  • Likewise, that common size means they stack and store neatly and easily in the refrigerator. (See photo, with wet tofu storage at top left)
  • I’ve been using some of mine for 5+ years by now, and all of it still functions like new.  Well made!
-- Todd Lappin 08/6/20


img 08/5/20

What’s in my bag? — Mike Streetz

What’s in my bag? issue #61

img 08/5/20

Opinel No 10 Carbon Steel Folding Knife

Single blade knife with rotating lock

img 08/4/20

Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler

This peeler will save you a lot of time and skinned fingers

Thumbnail Template 08/3/20

Spring Tools Double Punch

Hammerless action ensures accuracy & precision

See all the reviews


img 10/16/19


Better bandage

img 04/9/04

Analog Atomic Wall Clock

Constant automatic accuracy

img 07/24/17

Stretch Wrap

Quick self-binding wrap

img 03/8/10


Guided construction set

img 01/24/13

Eneloop Batteries in bulk

Rechargeable battery tip

See all the favorites



Cool Tools Show 238: Jennifer Robbins

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 237: Steven Dubner

Picks and shownotes

Cool Tools Show 236: Cooper Bates

Picks and shownotes

12 August 2020


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.