General Purpose Tools

Cool Tools 2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Mark’s picks

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Gift suggestions from Cool Tools' editor-in-chief

The editors of Cool Tools have curated a number of gift suggestions selected from our website, newsletters, videos, and podcasts. This week: Mark’s picks!



“The Bug-a-salt gun ($40) doesn’t ‘cream’ the flies, it leaves them pretty well intact, but it is quite effective. Non-toxic, environmentally friendly, it is spring powered and doesn’t eat batteries. Just table salt. It is possible to shoot flies out of the air. There is nothing else like it.” — Norm Bolser



“No need to buy charcoal lighter fluid or self-starting charcoal briquets. Just put two crumpled sheets of newspaper in the bottom chamber of Weber Rapid Fire Chimney Starter ($20) and add briquets. Light the newspaper and 20 minutes the briquets will be cherry red and ready to use. Once you use this you’ll wonder how you grilled without it.” — Mark Frauenfelder



Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 ($1,299) has been an indispensable addition to my synth arsenal: partly because it produces sounds I can’t find elsewhere and partly because it’s so incredibly easy (and yes, even fun) to use. I love handing my OP-1 to non-musicians and watching them as they almost instantly begin ‘programming’ a sound. For a performer, this kind of ease-of-use is power: to effortlessly turn a few knobs and get to the sound one is after. No fiddling around. In this regard, the OP-1 is a musician’s instrument.” — Robyn Miller



“I bought this weird-looking Wonder Winder ($30) a few years ago. After installing the wall mount near the power outlet in my garage and winding my cord into the basket, I was quite surprised to discover I could pull out the 100′ of power cord, tangle/kink free in about a minute to the end of my driveway. I would do my chore (usually the leaf vacuum for lawn clippings and leaves) and, in another minute or two I could wind up the cord, detach the cord winder from the wall mount and put it on the shelf.” — Jim Service



“The most important aspect of pizza is the crust, and a conventional home oven does not achieve the high temperatures needed to cook pizza crust properly. Everyone acknowledges the wood-burning oven is the best choice but it costs thousands of dollars and requires hours of preparation time when you want to use it. The Pizzeria Pronto ($260) oven contains a gas burner beneath a double pizza stone with a top that is open in the front so you can slide the pizza onto the stone. The results are quite good — much better than anything I’ve been able to achieve with a conventional oven (and I’ve tried every trick out there).” — David Zicarelli


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“I originally bought this classic Italian coffee maker for camping, but the coffee was so good I use it every day. It is so simple to use and the result is superb. I prefer French roast coffee in this coffee maker. It comes in 1,3,6,9 and 12 cup versions. The 6 cup version gives you enough coffee for a good mug of strong/bold coffee. It is very sturdy and well made in Italy. It does require hand washing and not dishwasher safe, but the simple process of pouring water in the well and putting the coffee in the filter cup and screwing it together and putting on a stove, makes enjoying the end result a rewarding experience.” — Angus Miller

See our other 2019 gift guide picks to date. Want more? Check out our 2018 Gift Guide picks, as well as our 2017 Gift Guide, 2016 Gift Guide, 2015 Gift Guide, 2014 Gift Guide and our 2103 Gift Guide

11/17/19