Cool Tools

Hole Center Measuring Attachment

Welcome to the first GTTST of 2021! I’m really looking forward to where we can take the newsletter this year and how I can best serve you. I’d love to hear from you. What would you like to see more of? Less of? Is there anything I’m not covering that I should? I see this publication as a conversation, so I’m always looking to hear your tips, stories, tool and supplier recommendations, and anything else related to making, inspiring creativity, and self-reliance.

Hole Center Measuring Attachment

[caption id="attachment_37705" align="alignnone" width="600"]Find your center, man. Find your center, man.[/caption]

On FacebookSean Ragan shared this Thingiverse file. It’s for printing adapters that go over the external jaws of a set of calipers to accurately measure the center of holes. In response to the post, Evil Mad ScientistLenore Edman pointed out that you can get the same result using this trick (which I’ve written about before): “You can get center-to-center measurements by measuring your hole’s diameter, zeroing out your calipers, then taking an outside-to-outside measurement. (Zeroing essentially subtracts the diameter of one hole.)” Sean Ragan responded: “I know that trick, but it’s not terribly accurate because you don’t get good indexing on the curved interior surfaces of the holes in either step, whereas turned, tapered caliper heads can be relied upon to be kinematically on-center in round holes with no wiggle room.”

Breadboard Basics and Tips

[caption id="attachment_37704" align="alignnone" width="600"]Neatness counts. Neatness counts.[/caption]

I love seeing the different working techniques of makers and their reasoning behind them. In this Ben Eater video, he runs through the ways he prototypes circuits on a solderless breadboard. He describes why he likes to keep it loose (using flexible jumper wires) when first testing out a circuit (to not let all of the fussy measuring and wire cutting get in the way of his creativity). And then he shows, once he’s decided on a circuit design, how he tightens things up with measuring, cutting, and installing neater wire hookups. Ben also describes why he doesn’t always use an auto-stripping wire cutter and how he accurately measures and cuts wire lengths using an old-school stripper. He also explains why he doesn’t use bending tools, preferring to let experience show him where to properly bend his leads. One great tip when cutting wires: Measure three breadboard tie-point holes beyond where you want to plug in your wire, cut there, and then strip the wire back by three holes. This will give you perfect wire length and perfect depth in the tie-point hole.

Noting Paint Colors Inside of Switch Plates

[caption id="attachment_37703" align="alignnone" width="600"]Message in a switch plate. Message in a switch plate.[/caption]

On the Acme Tools Instagram page, they shared this wonderful tip. To keep track of what paints were used in a room, list them on the backs of switch plates in that room

This reminded of a piece that Sean Ragan posted on Make: years ago about writing a time-capsule about your time in the house and pasting it on the back of a switch plate for future occupants to discover.

[caption id="attachment_37702" align="alignnone" width="600"]Every switchplate tells a story. Every switchplate tells a story.[/caption]

Story Board Templates

[caption id="attachment_37701" align="alignnone" width="600"]3D printed story-telling tools. 3D printed story-telling tools.[/caption]

Sophy Wong has a new video up where she shows her 3D printable storyboard and thumbnail templates and how to use them in a sketchbook. I wrote about these in the newsletter ages ago when Sophy first showed them on Twitter and have been looking forward to her making the files available and telling us more about how she uses them. Here is the project page on her website and the files on Thingiverse.

Adding Magnet Switches to the Savage Workbench Lights

[caption id="attachment_37700" align="alignnone" width="600"]You can never have too many lighting options. You can never have too many lighting options.[/caption]

The Adam Savage “One Day Build” that’s had the biggest impact on me was his project for building bendable LED workbench lights using video light panels and Loc-Line tubing (parts herehere, and here). I bought the parts immediately, built my own, and my workbench has never been the same. In this follow-up video, he shows how he used magswitches (magnets you can switch on and off) to add bench-wide mobility to his lights.

Toys!

[caption id="attachment_37699" align="alignnone" width="600"]The iFixit Tech Toolkit The iFixit Tech Toolkit[/caption]

Certain tools are so beloved that, if you mention them to owners of said tool, they light up like a Christmas tree and can’t stop talking about how much they love it. Such is the case with the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit. This kit has everything you might need for taking apart and repairing personal electronic devices, from a 64-piece bit driver set, to spudgers (tools for opening pressure-fit plastic components without causing damage), tweezers, a suction cup phone-screen remover, and a grounding strap. If you repair your own computers, game consoles, phones, and other consumer electronics, you want this kit (if you don’t already have it).

Shop Tale: They Almost Called Him Stubby

Newsletter reader (and general contractor) Jack B sent in this cautionary tale. It’s a fine example of what I call The Kenny Rogers Rule (knowing when to hold ‘em, fold 'em, and when to walk away from a project). If you have a shop tale to share, email me.

The weather had been terrible, one huge snowstorm after another. We were way behind on a four-plex build and that meant that even the general contractor (me) had to pitch in and work hard to finish.

Late into the night before Christmas, I was cutting OSB (oriented strand board) with a Skilsaw. I had two full sheets on sawhorses and was cutting along when it dawned on me that I might not have the blade set low enough. Without thinking, I reached under the OSB to see if I could feel the blade. In the fog of fatigue, feeling a spinning blade with my fingers made perfect sense. As luck would have it, I was only cutting through one of the sheets, so my fingers were safe. When I realized what I’d just done, I immediately stopped for the night. Being nicknamed “Stubby” for the rest of my life seemed too great of a price to pay.

Maker's Muse
googlyeyes

 
Cool Tools

Auto Center Punch

A simple superior tool about the size of a stubby pencil that punches a tiny depression in metal. It's used to start a hole or mark a point. But unlike standard punches, which you need to hit with a hammer -- whose impact usually misaligns the spot you intended to punch -- this one gets its punch from a tiny internal spring that flexes as you press the tip down. You simply press the punch where you want a dent and there it is exactly. A classic.

-- KK

We in the rescue trade also use these pretty routinely to safely remove the glass in automobiles. They work particularly well on the glass in the side and rear windows and leave all of the little glass bits intact in the window frame until you gently remove them with gloved hands. The bits then go where you want (generally) and not on your patient. I assume that keeping one in your car would let you punch out your own windows in case of emergency. Just remember that it is key to use the device on the lower corner of a window or the glass can shatter and go everywhere.

-- J. James Bono

 
The Technium

Concluding our 25-year Bet

luddsmash

Twenty five years ago I made a bet in the pages of Wired. It was a bet whether the world would collapse by the year 2020. I made the bet at the end of an interview I conducted with author Kirk Sale, who had some notoriety for smashing computers with a sledge hammer in the tradition of the Luddites. He predicted the collapse of civilization in 25 years. I asked him if he was willing to bet on his vision of global collapse. (You can read the interview and original bet here in the article Interview with the Luddite.) We agreed to bet $1,000 on the state of the world in 2020. Sale was betting on a trinity of three global disasters; I was betting on progress. At the time we agree to let our mutual book editor, Bill Patrick, hold our checks. As 2020 rolled around, what I thought was an easy win, turned out to be not so obvious, so Kirk and I agreed to let Bill Patrick made the big decision at the very end of 2020. So last night, December 31, 2020, Bill Patrick made his decision. I am posting it below.

In the run-up to the end of the year, I wrote out my defense of why I thought I should win, which I sent to Bill Patrick as he was making his decision. Also, Steven Levy spoke to me and Kirk Sale and Patrick, and wrote up the story of the bet for Wired, which you can read here.

***********

Subject: Big Decision
Date: Thursday, 31 December 2020
From: William Patrick
To: Kirk Sale, Kevin Kelly

Thank you gentlemen for entrusting this grave decision to me.

In deciding who wins, I find myself with no choice but to be an originalist, working closely from the words on the page, and the most significant are “not even close,” and “convergence.”

To deal with the former, it seems best to try to score the contest round by round:

Global Environmental Disaster

Environmental problems have far more to do with old school, industrial technology (slowly being retired) than with information technology (which may well be the only hope for a solution). Even so, with fires, floods, and rising seas displacing populations; bugs and diseases heading north, ice caps melting and polar bears with no place to go; as well as the worst hurricane season and the warmest year on record, it’s hard to dispute that we are at least “close to” global environmental disaster.

Round goes to Kirk

Economic Collapse

Not much contest here. Even with a pandemic, unemployment is a problem, but nowhere near a crisis—at least not in the closing days of 2020. (Stay tuned.) The Dow recently hit 30,000, and the leading currencies are cruising along. (Bitcoin, an entirely new form of currency unimaginable in 1995, is soaring—nearing $20,000 when I last checked.) So, Kirk’s dire prediction was way off.

Round goes to Kevin

War between rich and poor, both within and among nations.

This is a toughie. Kirk’s apocalyptic forecast is especially problematic when you factor in huge economic gains in China and India, driven in large part by tech. On the other hand, how heavily do you weigh economic unrest as a factor in spawning the terrorism that triggered “forever wars” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia? And the economic dislocation among blue collar workers that allowed Trump’s faux populism to win them over? Meanwhile, anger at police abuses has led to massive protests from the left and bloody riots in the U.S. and Europe. It’s hard to say that “the poor rising up in rebellion” accurately characterizes the current state of the world (especially with that rising middle class in Asia) but it’s also hard to say, when you consider the unrest in the Islamic world and Trump supporters waving automatic weapons, that we’re “nowhere close.”

Round is a toss-up, with an edge to Kirk.

Which brings us to the exact wording—including punctuation—of the phrase that pays: I bet you US$1,000 that in the year 2020, we're not even close to the kind of disaster you describe—a convergence of three disasters: global currency collapse, significant warfare between rich and poor, and environmental disasters of some significant size. The way this statement is constructed, Kirk must hit the trifecta to win, meaning that all three horses of his apocalypse must come through, i.e. the three must converge. Only one of his predictions was a winner; one came in neck and neck; and one was way back in the pack.

So, Kevin wins, but it’s a squeaker, and not much cause for celebration.

Let's hope for "progress" over the next 25 years that is less equivocal.

Best for 2021.

Bill

**********

Why I believe I won the 2020 Bet

It’s clear to any impartial observer that the world as we know it has not ended, although it might be close. But it has been close for a while, and that is the thrust of Kirk Sale’s argument. Twenty five years ago, it looked to him like the civilizational infrastructure that we humans had built up over millennia was near a breaking point, and that it could not last another 25 years. It was breaking down, Sale believed, because technological civilization was incompatible with nature. Technology and civilization operated at an unnatural scale, unnatural speed, and in a manner that destroyed living systems. But, the living system of the planet was so much larger than humans and their inventions, and both were so much more dependent on this natural world -- although inventors refused to acknowledge this -- that the living planet would hit back, exert its rules, and the invented world manufactured by technologists would collapse and crumble. Sale was certain this failure had already started, and he was so certain enough of its inevitable demise that he was willing to bet $1,000 that the collapse would be in full swing within 25 years.

Sale might be right that we are on the edge of that collapse today, and that in the next 25 years, by 2045, it will be in full swing. But that is a different bet. The claim we are trying to resolve in December 2020 is -- as the bet states -- are we in the full collapse right now?

California and Australia probably had their worst fire seasons in history and they were certainly triggered by human activity, including global warming, poor fire management, and the relentless incursion of urban sprawl. Powerful hurricanes are more common. And the arctic and Antarctica ice is melting. Those are large scale phenomena. If by some magic they never got worse, would we call the current state, this minute, “continent-wide environmental disaster” ? If we were to take a snapshot of the lives of the 7 billion people walking the Earth today, most of whom live in urban areas, and whose lives have only been mildly affected by the fires, floods and melting ice, they are not acting like they are in a collapse. If this is a disaster, it is a weird disaster that is not evident to its 7 billion inhabitants. Sale might argue that they are all sleepwalking in a disaster field and that the real impact around them is about to happen, and that could be true but that is a different bet.

The strongest case for a global environment is the tiniest one: the Covid-19 virus. This has indeed affected almost everyone on the planet, and it has affected their behavior in significant ways. You could make a more than poetic argument that the virus pandemic is a response by the living natural world to the unnatural densities of modern human cities. You could say that such contagious diseases are nature pushing back, and that the lockdowns, curfews, border closings, not to mention millions of deaths due to the virus, are an evident and actual environmental disaster. In many senses, I agree. It is fair to take a broad view of the environment to include the viral world, and this virus has indeed made a global negative impact.

It has even had a global financial impact, putting a pause on local enterprises, eliminating millions of jobs, and disrupting global trade. But the most amazing attribute of the Covid-19 pandemic has been how little effect it has had on the world compared to what could have happened. Given both the lethality and contagiousness of this virus, and the density of urban life, it could have, and in the past, would have, caused far far more damage than it did. It did not because of the global response to it. At an unprecedented scale and speed, civilization built a response to the virus. Around the world, billions of people simultaneously changed their behavior, while continuing their work for the most part. An impressively large part of the economy can be run by fewer people than ever before. And in less than a year, scientists came up with remedies for the illness, including ones that can potentially eliminate it. Science came up with treatments to diminish its damage on those who did get it. We are not out of this woods yet, and we could have done 100 times better, but compared to the total disaster it could have been, this is a story of how well civilization is working, not of how it collapses.

Here was my 1995 on-the-fly summary of our bet: “So you have multinational global currency collapse, social friction and warfare both between the rich and the poor and within nations, and you have continent-wide environmental disasters causing death and great migrations of people. All by the year 2020, yes? … I bet you US$1,000 that in the year 2020, we're not even close to the kind of disaster you describe—a convergence of three disasters: global currency collapse, significant warfare between rich and poor, and environmental disasters of some significant size.”

That is a bit vague, due to my attempt to encapsulate Sale’s just-shared idea on the spot. But luckily Sale spent a few minutes articulating the conditions that could be measured in detail. He was forecasting a convergence of three events, and I’d like to respond to each of three “metrics” he suggested in detail here.

Sale says: “The first [measurement] would be an economic collapse. The dollar would be worthless, the yen would be worthless, the mark would be worthless—the dislocation we saw in the Depression of 1930, magnified many times over.” Even after an unprecedented global pandemic, unemployment figures are not bad, and no where near Depression levels of 1930. The dollar is not worthless, nor the yen or mark, or Euro. In fact, in terms of the global financial market, stocks are at an all-time high. This prediction is as wrong as it could get.

Sale says: “A second would be the distention within various societies of the rich and the poor, in which the poor, who comprise, let's say, a fifth of society, are no longer content to be bought off with alcohol and television and drugs, and rises up in rebellion. And at the same time, there would be the same kind of distention within nations, in which the poor nations are no longer content to take the crumbs from our table, and rise up in either a military or some other form against the richer societies.” Let’s take the two parts one at a time. There is a measurable divergence of rich and poor in modern societies, with a few percent rich owning more than the rest of society altogether, but for some reason this fact has not led to rebellions, revolt, or armed uprisings at any scale. The imbalance of wealth is generally true around the world (and worst in the richest nations), while the absence of uprisings by the poor is generally true around the world, too. This may be because in most of the world, the poverty of the poorest has generally been reduced, even as the rich get much richer. So while the relative gap between the rich and poor grows, the poor around the world have gotten richer in their own eyes, and so they are not “rising up in rebellion.”

The following point -- predicting conflict between rich and poor nations -- also has not happened, probably for similar reasons. By and large, a middle class has emerged in most developing nations, and their poor have gotten less poor. Furthermore, the economic fate of any nation is more and more connected to other nations, via imports and exports, and going to war with wealthier nations doesn’t help your citizens. So, economic isolation is rightly seen as something to be avoided, and therefore there has been a refreshing diminishing of war between nations. It is clear Sale’s second metric failed to happen.

Sale says: “The third is accumulating environmental problems, such that Australia, for example, becomes unlivable because of the ozone hole there, and Africa, from the Sahara to South Africa, becomes unlivable because of new diseases that have been uncovered through deforestation. At any rate, environmental catastrophes on a significant scale.” Sale came close to being right with “new diseases” -- Covid-19 -- even though it is unlikely due to deforestation. (Covid is more likely due to Chinese propensity to gather, farm raise and sell wild animals in horrible conditions.) Yet, as I mentioned above, this could be seen as an environmental failure due to the pressures of urban life on the natural world. However, despite a bad fire season, Australia is not unlivable (at least according to the 23 million living there in 2020) and ditto for Africa. Both continents have experienced Covid-19 and neither are unlivable because of this new disease. Sales' last phrase is harder to judge: are there “environmental catastrophes on a significant scale”? We could talk about over-fishing in the ocean, and I’d agree that it is an environmental problem on a significant scale. Ice melting in the arctic regions is another. Whether these are recoverable problems or outright catastrophes -- Australia unlivable -- right now is something I’d debate. Being generous I’d agree that this prediction is half-true.

However the bet was the convergence of all three catastrophes, a trifecta of collapse, a multi-dimensional apocalypse. This did not happen. Sale might argue that it is all about to happen, and indeed it might. But that is a different bet. That is another 25-year bet. That bet would say that in the year 2045, the three collapses he outlined -- financial collapse, war between rich and poor, and an unlivable world due environmental catastrophes -- would be in full swing.

In my boldness at that moment, I said that none of Sale’s predictions would be close to what happens. "Close" is a poor choice of words for a bet. It is 100% arbitrary. If we had written out the bet I would not allowed its use. I felt we were betting on Sale's description of the convergent apocalypse and by "not close to it" I meant that no one would be confused or be perplexed by what they saw.

I don't think most people today would say we are close to the convergence of the three apocalypse. We may be closer (or at least further along) on the environmental axis, but I believe if you asked the average citizen on this planet about whether we are close to the three apocalypse today, this minute, they would say no. If you read them Sale's description and asked them to look around and judge whether that is what they saw, it does not look anything like the disasters that Sale specified. I would say it does look close to what he describes.

My optimism that we are not close to global disaster is not based on thinking we have fewer problems than we do. I see real harms in our world today, real big problems, especially global-scale problems. Rather, my optimism is based on our improving ability to devise solutions to them. The list of troubles in the future will certainly increase in the next 25 years -- and most of those troubles will be triggered by the technological solutions we make today -- but we are rapidly inventing and improving the tools and the means for seven billion humans to create a million ways to overcome them. That is what I am betting on. Kirk Sale lost the bet not because he misjudged our problems, but because he misjudged our capacity to deal with them.

I am so certain of our capacity to keep improving that I offer Kirk Sale a double-or-nothing bet. He may believe the problems he clearly sees will surely soon spin out of control. If they have not brought collapse in the last 25 years they certainly will in the next 25 years. I, on the other hand, believe we won’t be anywhere near collapse in 25 years. I am willing to bet $2,000 on that. I believe that we are in fact on the eve of a 25-year period of global progress and prosperity, the likes of which we have not seen before on this planet. In 25 years, poverty will be rare, and middle class lifestyle the norm. War between nations will also be rare. A bulk of our energy will be renewables, slowing down climate warming. Lifespans continue to lengthen. I’ll bet on it.

*********

Kirk Sale did not take me up on the double or nothing offer.

 
Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Tywen Kelly

Tywen Kelly is a student of media ecology. He is taking the next year to write essays and make art in pursuit of researching how media and ecology intersect. At the end of the year he will award himself an MFA.

 

About the bag
The bag I use is the Peak Design Everyday Backpack v2 ($260). It is the 30 liter version. It is the perfect size for personal item when flying, but the smaller version at 20 liters is a better everyday carry.

What's inside the bag
Pocket Travelers Notebook ($12)
For my birthday this year my friend got me this refillable leather notebook cover which uses elastic bands to hold small notebooks inside. It can hold up to three at a time comfortably and still be small enough to stuff into my shirt’s breast pocket. The elastic band system means that I just throw my pen inside, whatever page I’m on, and have it clamped in place for easy packability. The leather is good quality and accretes a nice patina over time.

Stickers from Sticker Mule
Stickers are a great mini-gift to hand to friends when you meet up. I used Sticker Mule to print 50 of my small doodles onto a die-cut iridescent 2" x 2" sticker. I keep four or five in my wallet at all times to surprise friends with. I also use the stickers to label everything that is mine — camera equipment, notebooks, chargers, etc., such that it is not mixed with others’ kits.

Tech Pouch ($60)
The Peak Design Tech Pouch is an origami-inspired organizer that stores every gadget accessory you need to travel. It conveniently stores my many cables, earphones, SD card holder, power brick, USB sticks, pens, and my Kindle. The price is on the hefty side, but the quality material, dense stitching, thoughtful design, and the fact that now I don’t travel without it has made it a worthwhile investment.

Aputure AL-MC Video Light ($90)
If you’re a photographer or videographer on the go, this is the ideal travel light add-on. It’s small, cordless, lightweight, and adjustable from very dim to as bright as a thousand suns. The LEDs are also RGB, so you can paint a subject with any color light you please. It’s convenient to charge via USB-C and convenient to hand-hold or stick to a metal surface with it’s built-in magnetic back. If you have more than one of these lights you can control them all via a smartphone app. I find myself using this it as a rim or fill light on my photo and video shoots.

 
Cool Tools

2020 Happy List — Kevin

kkhappylist00001
Rode Wireless Go
Recording great sound is the key to making good video. I get pleasure in the total plug-n-play goodness of a Rode Wireless Go. This pair of tiny devices allows me to record myself or someone else far from my camera while recording video in my camera, or phone. Without cables or wires. I clip one square on my camera, and the other square goes into the pocket, belt, or shirt of the person being recorded. Done. They can be 1 meter away or 80. It’s professional quality sound, and for this quality, the price is cheap.

kkhappylist00008
Japanese Block Print
David Bull is an craftsman living in Tokyo, Japan who continues the ancient art of woodblock printing, or ukiyoe. Using handmade ink, handmade paper, handmade cherry blocks, and carving each meticulous cut by hand, Bull makes up to 20 separate color blocks for each print. This is not that unusual. But David Bull teamed up with an American artist who designs ukiyoe prints based on video game characters. They have produced a line of limited prints, hand pulled from these intensely carved wood blocks. They call their series Ukiyoe Heroes. You can watch Bull hand carving the heroes here. Given how much work goes into these, signed prints are not that expensive. I bought a copy of Infestation because I was awed by his work on the hair.

kkhappylist00007
Cordless glue gun
A glue gun is the second tool you need after a sharp knife. You can do so many things with it. It’s just fun gluing almost anything to almost anything instantly. My delightful discovery this year is a way to make a glue gun even more fun: cutting the cord. A cordless glue gun is the cat’s meow, the bluebird of happiness, the apex of tinkering, playing and making stuff. Grab and glue. So far there is really only one model, the Surebonder Cordless, that you can fit whatever cordless tool battery you have with the right adapter.

kkhappylist00006
Anatomical model
I love anatomical models because they make the miracle of our own bodies visible. I have a 3-foot (1m) visible person standing on my desk. It’s big but not that detailed. This year I found some smaller incredibly sculpted visible humans that are so accurate they are educational. These 12-inch (24cm) Mixed Dimension models are astoundingly detailed, thanks to state-of-the-art 3D printing. These models started as a Kickstarter project. I have three versions on my desk now: a transparent one showing innards, one showing all the muscles in insane detail, and one half skeleton and half skin. They are so lovely I’ve given them as gifts.

kkhappylist00005
Balloon dog
In the visible vein of a visible person, why not a visible balloon dog? How can you not smile when you see this? This guy, who is about 8 inches tall and just as long, started out as a kit I assembled. Now it sits on my desk and keeps me from taking myself too seriously.

kkhappylist00004
Prusa 3D Printer
Printing stuff in physical form from easily found files on the internets is a real joy. It’s kind of like a new superpower. I’ve been delighted with how many things have already been digitized and are available either for free and for cheap. I went with a Prusa MK3S printer kit. I am very happy with the printer but I don’t recommend the kit version because it took a week of my life to assemble. The hard part of 3d printing is mastering 3D software to create a new file to print, but so far I am having the most fun printing out existing files, with modest modifications.

kkhappylist00003
Sees Candy
I’m no world expert, but See’s Candies are the best chocolate candies in northern California. They’ve been making them the same way forever. Warren Buffet, who is not easily impressed, bought the company. We’ve tried all the Sees varieties many times and the unanimous conclusion of our family and friends is that the Dark Chocolate Marzipans are the best. They hold up to repeated consumption. They are high on my happiness list.

kkhappylist00002
Component Stamps
There is nothing like making your own social cards. Gratitude, sympathy, empathy, when written onto paper and with some effort delivered to the hands of another person says so much more than a text or email message. I delight in using component rubber stamps in making cards. These fancy rubber stamp kits supply me with design elements that can be easily recombined into pleasing images. Stamp Bug remixes insects, Stamp Garden generates botanical forms, and Stampville creates architectural forms. I also combine all three motifs for super designs. Comes with two tertiary color inks, for extra subtlety. And yes, kids love these.

 
Cool Tools

Cheap Fluke Digital Multimeter

Cheap Fluke Digital Multimeter

[caption id="attachment_37479" align="alignnone" width="600"]The 101 of reliable DMMs The 101 of reliable DMMs[/caption]

In this video, Adam Savage looks at digital multimeters (DMM). He talks about high-end models, like the Fluke 77, and a cheap starter Fluke, the 101, which is just over $40! I’ve had the Fluke 117 for years, and like Adam, have a lot of loyalty to the brand.

Truing Rough-Cut Lumber

[caption id="attachment_37478" align="alignnone" width="600"]Jimmy D droppin' the science. Jimmy D droppin' the science.[/caption]

In this interview on Jimmy’s YouTube channel, interviewer Adam Price asks Jimmy a bunch of questions about his process, from designing, to materials, to fastening and gluing, to hardware.

In the above drawing, Jimmy is showing how you can “true” an edge of a piece of rough-cut lumber. If you have a surface planer and a table saw, you can save money by buying rough-cut, he says. It’s cheaper because it comes unplaned, but it has no true (or “factory”) edge. After planing it down, you can add a true edge. You nail the rough-cut lumber to a piece of wood that does have a factory edge and feed the rough-cut through your table saw. In the above sketch, that’s the table saw’s fence on the far right, a piece of plywood with a factory edge against the fence, and the rough-cut lumber nailed to the plywood. That little hump upper-left is the saw blade. When done (and de-nailed) that resulting cut becomes your true edge. See this part of the video starting at 15:22.

Give the Gift of Restoration

[caption id="attachment_37477" align="alignnone" width="600"]The gift of referb The gift of referb[/caption]

The latest issue of HackSpace magazine (free PDF) has a piece I wrote on tool restoration. In it, I show off a simple tool I restored for my beloved Angela last Christmas. This is her art studio hammer. She bought it at a Goodwill store for $1.99. As you can see on the left, it was covered in paint, spackle, putty, adhesive, and the handle was split at the head. Shabby. I “borrowed” it from her and went to work on restoring it. It was a fun project to work on for a bit every night after dinner. The results are on the right. I included a photo of the before-hammer in the package. She loved it.

This is a great gift to give to someone. Take one of their old, exhausted tools, or buy one at a charity shop/garage sale, and restore it back to its original glory. Important Note: Make sure they’re OK with tool restoration before doing this. Some people freak out at the very idea of restoring old tools and tool boxes. They think the wear, gunk, and imperfections are what give the tool its story, its character (see the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”).

Turning Grocery Delivery Pouches into Mailers

[caption id="attachment_37476" align="alignnone" width="600"]An eBay purchase ready to mail out. An eBay purchase ready to mail out.[/caption]

I don’t know about you but I have a ton of these large foil bags used for Amazon food deliveries. I’ve started using them to mail out my books and merch I sell on eBay. I also cut them up and use them for packing inside of mailing boxes. You can easily cut them down to any size you need and assemble with shipping tape. They also look cool as a mailer.

Snakes on a Drain
snakedrain
As several people pointed out in response to my DIY Drano recipe, decloggers only act on the trap, not the rest of the pipe. For that, you need a snake. I have a snake, but it’s old and funky (it came with the house). I need a new one and want one with both manual and drill-powered capability. I’m looking at this one. If you have a snake that you think is a good buy, please recommend.

(De)merit Badges

[caption id="attachment_37474" align="alignnone" width="600"]Oops. Looks like someone released the magic smoke. Oops. Looks like someone released the magic smoke.[/caption]

There’s no shame in failure. That’s one of the greatest ideas driving the maker movement: creating a supportive environment where it is OK to fail; that making mistakes is part of the learning process, a feature not a bug. To celebrate this notion, the Tested.com team is offering (de)merit badges so that you can wear your f-ups with pride. So far, they have a short-circuit badge (above), a measure once, cut twice badge, and an injured hand (de)merit sticker. They promise more in the future and are looking for suggestions.

Maker's Muse

[caption id="attachment_37473" align="alignnone" width="600"]"The street finds its own uses for things." -William Gibson. Pallet stairs. "The street finds its own uses for things." -William Gibson. Pallet stairs.[/caption]

Shop Talk
In response to my last newsletter’s piece on cleaning “hacks,” I immediately got an email from reader Megan M. She wrote: “Please do not clean your silver this way. It etches the surface, leading to more susceptibility to tarnishing and shortening its lifespan.” She thoughtfully provided this link to what looks like silver polishing best practices. Thanks, Megan!

May I Issue You an Artistic License?

[caption id="attachment_37472" align="alignnone" width="600"]Don't leave home without it. Don't leave home without it.[/caption]

If you’re looking for some gift ideas for the artists and makers on your holiday list, consider supporting my work here by buying some of my merch. I sell these Artistic License cards. They come in a wax-sealed envelope and are made of thick card stock with a durable finish. They are $5 each or 5 for $20 (postpaid in the US, foreign orders pay the extra postage). I have them ready to ship. Email me if interested.

Also consider buying my book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop.

[caption id="attachment_37471" align="alignnone" width="600"]Crack the sweal, release the muse lurking inside. Crack the sweal, release the muse lurking inside.[/caption]

 
Cool Tools

Mathematical art/Gmail snooze options/Brainstorming tool

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Mathematical art
I have a soft spot for curiosities — unusual artifacts, either born or made. In fact, I have a whole wall of them in my studio. I recently added some weird mathematical shapes that could only exist because either they were grown biologically, or 3D printed. These lightweight nylon 3D artifacts are created by mathematician Henry Segerman, and sold in his Shapeways Shop. They are stunning, with bold, simple complexity, like the shells of creatures from alien planets. For art, they are reasonably priced. — KK

Change your default snooze times in Gmail
Snoozing” is a Gmail feature that helps me hide and postpone emails until I am emotionally ready to handle them. Unfortunately, the default snooze time in Gmail is 6PM which is long after I want to be checking work emails. I only recently discovered how to change the default snooze times (No. 5 on this list) which is go to Google Keep > click on the “gear” icon in the upper-right corner > select “Settings” > and under “Reminder Defaults” you’ll find the times that affect Gmail snoozing. — CD

Idea generator
My daughter told me about director Harmony Korine’s brainstorming tool, which he demonstrates in this video. It’s loose, unstructured, and irrational, which may turn some people off, but my daughter gave me examples of how she’s used it with excellent results and I’m impressed. — MF

Remote parlor game
A really fun parlor game you can play with friends and family at a distance is Among Us. It’s a bluff and deceit game like Werewolf or Mafia. The fun of the game is the cascading social ramifications of bluffing, being fooled, not being fooled, detective work, psy-ops, acting, being found out, persuading, leading, and getting surprised. The game runs on mobile phones ($0, or $2 for ad free) or Windows PC (everyone does NOT need to be on the same kind of device), and usually the group gathers in parallel on Zoom or Discord to chat during the game. There is some degree of coordination needed to perform mindless busy work tasks in the game, but otherwise no fast twitching is needed to really enjoy this social game. I think of it as playing Werewolf remotely. — KK

My sketches on stuff
Lately I’ve been posting photos of my sketchbook drawings of monsters, robots, space creatures, and contraptions on my Instagram feed, and people have asked if I could put them on various products. So I started a store on Society6, which has clocks, water bottles, bath mats, tables, notepads, stickers, and so on. Check it out here. — MF

Recomendo storefront
If you’re looking for gift ideas, check out our Recomendo storefront. Here you’ll find the books, tools or products that we’ve recommended in our newsletter (if they are available on Amazon). Other Cool Tools Lab storefronts that you can check out are the items shared in the weekly What’s in My Bag? newsletter or the four favorite tools shared by guests on the Cool Tools Show podcast. — CD

 
Cool Tools

Julie Sokolow, Film Director

Our guest this week is Julie Sokolow. Julie is the director of the new documentary Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story. The film profiles an activist who walked barefoot across America to protest climate change. She’s also the director of the feature documentaries Woman on Fire and Aspie Seeks Love. You can find her on Twitter @juliesokolow and Facebook and Instagram @julie.sokolow.

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

Show notes:

transcendentalmed
Transcendental Meditation + Catching the Big Fish + Transcendence
I’m a big fan of David Lynch and always sought to learn more about his creative process. I was so intrigued when he started to write about Transcendental Meditation. I read his book Catching the Big Fish, and followed it up with Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal’s book Transcendence. Both claimed that by meditating for 20 minutes twice a day, one could significantly improve one’s mental health and increase creativity. I learned TM about seven years ago and it’s helped me overcome anxieties that were holding me back. I love the sense of calm, confidence, and connectedness it gives me. I can’t think of a cooler tool than a mantra!

corkboard
3’ by 2’ Cork Board ($25)
The first time I edited a feature-length documentary, I had no clue what I was doing. I felt completely overwhelmed by mountains of footage and no sense of how to organize it all. The end result was alright, but I needed a better system. For my second documentary, my producer got me a giant cork board and advised me to map out the story structure. Wow, what a help! I loved writing brief scene descriptions on notecards and rearranging the scenes on the cork board. It gave me a sense of control and a much-needed bird’s-eye view of the story I was trying to tell. I would recommend a massive cork board to anyone working on a big project. You have to break things down into manageable chunks (chapters, scenes, whatever). Also, standing at the cork board gets me away from the computer, even if it’s just for five minutes.

spire
Timbuk2 Backpacks (varies)
I’m a city dweller and I tend to carry a backpack with me wherever I go. Back in the day, I used to buy flimsy bags that would fall apart in a year. Then, I discovered Timbuk2 backpacks, which are insanely durable. I’ve had the Spire for four years and it still looks brand new. It’s comfortable, waterproof, and has tons of pockets. I use it for lugging around anything from a 15 inch laptop to a bunch of groceries. Last year, I bought the lightweight and attractive Tuck Pack, which is perfect for the gym. The main compartment is spacious and easily houses sneakers plus a change of clothes. The water bottle pocket is perfect for a 20oz HydroFlask. I’m not using these bags as much during the pandemic, but I still like to preach the gospel of Timbuk2.

manssearch
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl ($9, paperback)
As many of us helplessly wait out the pandemic, it would be wise to read this inspiring book by Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. He managed to derive meaning from the most intense and harrowing experience as a prisoner in Auschwitz. He attributed his survival to his ability to find meaning and purpose, in spite of suffering. Frankl writes, “When we are no longer able to change a situation…we are challenged to change ourselves.” Frankl used his experience to found logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy focused on helping people find meaning in their lives.

About Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story:
barefoot
My latest film is about a writer and activist who decided to walk barefoot across the country in order to protest climate change. He managed to walk over 700 miles completely barefoot. He was filming himself the whole time, posting videos on YouTube. He's a very funny and very inspiring kind of person who the New Yorker called a compulsive social media diarist, and likened him to Andy Kaufman. So he's just a really wonderful character. And sadly, people might remember the news coverage when he died on this walk. So the film is also about that. There's interviews with his friends and family to give a portrait of his life and the walk and also make meaning out of that situation. The film is out now on Amazon and iTunes.

 

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! If you would like to make a one-time donation, you can do so using this link: https://paypal.me/cooltools.– MF

 
Cool Tools

Calm zooming/Kiddle.co/Colorful bowls

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Calm zooming
Unexpectedly, you can decrease the fatigue of zooming all day if you don’t see your own image on the screen all day. The easiest way to hide your self picture in Zoom is to hover over or right-click your image until a blue square appears in the upper right corner. Click on the 3 white dots, and in the dropdown menu, click on “Hide Self View”. Once it was gone I noticed the absence of an irritant I had not been aware of before. Zooming is calmer. — KK

Visual search engine for kids
Kiddle.co is an illustrated, large-font search engine designed specifically for kids . It’s powered by Google Safe Search so only family-friendly results are returned. If any “bad” words are entered you get an “Oops, try again!” I tried to break it by searching for whatever “adult” words I could think of. “Death” told me to try again, “Dying” directed me to a Death facts for kids page, which is interesting. I don’t have a kid, but if I did this would be their homepage. — CD

Colorful bowls
I’m a fan of colorful plates, cups, and bowls, so when I saw this set of six porcelain bowls last month on Amazon I bought them without first checking the size. (A rookie mistake!) Fortunately, they aren’t the size of thimbles. In fact, they’re bigger than I expected, which is a bonus, as I’m a hearty eater. — MF

Font identifier
Every now and then I come across some text whose style I find attractive and I wonder what font they are using. I grab a shot of it and slip it into the “What the Font” website which usually can (90% of the time) identify the font. I don’t know if there is a better identifier but this free one works for me.  — KK

DIY Spice Chart
I came across this cool visual guide to making your own spice blends on Reddit. It made me realize I should be utilizing my coriander more often. — CD

How to remove stuck cups
In a recent issue of my Magnet newsletter, I asked readers to help me separate two coffee cups that somehow got stuck together. (It’s the second-to-last item in the newsletter.)  Almost all of the hundreds of suggestions I received involved cooling the small cup and heating the big one to allow thermal expansion to do its work, but that didn’t help. Can Recomendo readers come up with a solution? Send email to: markfrauenfelder+stuckcups@gmail.com — MF

 
The Technium

The Essential Workshop Tool Kit

My young adult son needs a tool kit. He needs a small set of versatile tools to make and repair things. Projects could be making simple furniture, doing home repairs, creating his art projects, building sets for his photography, making gifts, crafting Halloween costumes, inventing equipment for his adventures, etc. I have assembled what I consider to be an essential set of modern tools that would enable him, or anyone, to make 90% of whatever they imagined. For the most part, I tend toward cheap tools, because I believe in starting cheap and earning better tools through experience, so you know what you want. The core of a modern tool kit is a set of cordless power tools. With basic cordless power tools you can go quite far. I went with a combo set, because it is hard to beat the price, especially when they are on sale. (Check camelcamelcamel.com). The total cost of all these is $1200. This may seem to be a lot, but considering that you get a full workshop of tools and some of them will last a lifetime, it is quite a bargain. Anyone who knows tools will look at my list and see an essential tool that is missing. That's the nature of a list like this. I'll leave the joy of adding to the collection to my son.

The tools in this list link to Amazon, where you can see more details about the tools. (The affiliate link is my son’s. As an Amazon Affiliate he earns from qualifying purchases.)

The tools:

Cutting mat — Perfect surface for cutting with blades, also soft mat for working on delicate projects, also protects bench surface. 24" x 36".

Long metal straight edge — used for drawing lines and cutting materials.

Retractable utility blade — Big exacto knife. Main thing is replaceable break-off blade. Olfa retractable.

Staple gun — Basic for stapling fabric, mesh, sheets.

Spring clamps x 4 — Used for holding wood, paper, dowels, pipes, anything thinner than an inch.

Bar clamps x 2 — Used for wider pieces. 12 inches.

16 foot tape measure — Big enough for rooms, small enough for projects. Komelon Gripper.

Small level — All that is needed.

Step drill set x 3 — For drilling thin materials like plastic or sheet metal.

Vise grips x 3 — Small and large and long.

Speed square — For right angles.

CA glue + Accelerator — Accelerator turns super glue instant.

5 minute Epoxy — Two part bottles will last a long time.

Wire stripper — Makes electronics so much easier. Irwin vise grip stripper.

Solder gun — Basic kit with solder and solder remover.

Electrical twist connections — Assortment for connecting wires.

Silicone Wire rolls — 22 gauge for easier electronic projects.

Multimeter — For electronic projects and troubleshooting.

Masking tape — Used for masking and more. 2 inch wide.

White out — For labeling everything.

Digital calipers — For measuring small things.

Center punch x 2 — For making starter holes.

Set of drill bits — Basic, titanium, Dewalt.

Japanese hand saw — Basic saw.

Pliers x 5 — Assorted set of channel locks, needlenose, nippers.

Basic hammer — Standard 16 ounce.

Snips — Straight cut for cutting metal.

Pipe wrench — For plumbing.

Pipe cutter — For cutting copper pipe, conduit, and other lightweight pipes

PVC pipe cutter — For cutting plastic pipe

Vise — Basic workshop vise.

Cordless tool combo set — Makita 7-piece cordless tools: drill, impact driver, circular saw, recipo saw, grinder, blower.

Cordless jig saw — Makita jig saw.

 
Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Nabhan Islam, MD

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Nabhan Islam is a Medical Science Liaison (MSL). A MSL is non-promotional role that serves as a bridge between the pharmaceutical industry and clinical practice [of Medicine]. The majority of his time is spent meeting with specialists and attending medical conferences within his territory to keep both parties apprised of the latest developments within his therapeutic area. After previously working in Respiratory Medicine, he’s hoping to switch to Vaccines & Infectious Disease to help advance a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

 

About the bag
Waterfield Bolt Briefcase ($269-$299): After owning a half-dozen bags over the last two decades, I knew exactly what I wanted in my perfect laptop bag. This briefcase is available in 3 sizes so you can choose the correct dimensions for your laptop without any extraneous weight or bulk. There are two separate padded compartments for my laptop and tablet. Lastly, the carry-on passthrough sleeve doesn’t impinge on the rear drop pocket — a very handy (and very rare) arrangement.

What's inside the bag
Jabra Speakerphone ($130): A must-have for frequent virtual meetings. Vastly improves the audio quality of conversations and lets you speak and listen naturally without fumbling with headphones. Doubles as a speaker for presentations with sound, and playing music back at the hotel (versatility is key when traveling). There are wireless models available, but USB is foolproof with zero chance of a dropped signal or dead battery.

Snow Peak Titanium Cutlery Set ($26): Life on the road means a lot of take-out and delivery, and I’ve found myself with a meal and no utensils on more than one occasion. I’m also trying to reduce my use of single-use plastic. It’s hard to articulate but the tines and bowl are shaped just right, and perfectly nest together in a neat storage bag. Titanium is also extremely lightweight and hypoallergenic (no nickle = no metallic aftertaste).

iOttie Magnetic Air Vent Mount ($17): This is the easiest, most compact, and reliable way of mounting my smartphone to a litany of different rental cars. The mount easily attaches to a vent fin with press-fit prongs and a locking ring, which then holds my phone via a small magnetic plate attached to the case. The magnet is rock-solid; my phone doesn’t move an iota once placed. Due to the tapered design, the mount also functions as a stand for watching movies — clever!

Muji Sewing Kit ($5): This tiny kit features a few needles, needle threader (where have you been all my life), thread in neutral colors, safety pins, and a pair of mini scissors. The scissors easily get the most use trimming the loose thread I inevitably find 5 minutes before my presentations. The kit is TSA/CATSA (Canada) compliant so it’s safe in your carry-on, and there’s some space to add your own buttons too.

 
Cool Tools

Easy world clock/Skinskool/Vote early

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Easy world clock
The Loclock webpage offers a dead-simple way to see what time it is anywhere in the world. Click the little menu icon in the upper left corner to choose which cities to include on a 24-hour circle. — MF

Skincare dupe finder
Skinskool is a “dupe finder” that compares the active ingredients in your favorite skincare products and matches them to other products on the market. This is such a useful tool if your favorite serum or cream has been discontinued or you just want to find a less expensive alternative. — CD

Vote early
In the US, 41 states enable early voting. Early Voting is the national clearing house linking the procedures for early voting for each state. Vote early to be sure. — KK

Superior color printing
In my experience laser printers are superior to inkjet printers for precision, speed, and reliability. If you are an occasional printer, laser is the way to go because they don’t clog up. Until recently, however, color laser printers have been out of reach in price. But now a new crop of inexpensive color laser printers are available. I am really happy with my HP Laser Jet Pro M255dw, which does 2-sided color printing for $300. Cost of replacement toner, per page, is similar to ink. — KK

Notebook hack
I’ve been upgrading my daily to-do notebooks with these self-adhesive library card pockets. It’s just an easy way to keep receipts, post-its and other notes together until I integrate them into my digital filing system or task list. These manila pockets along with my better pen holder help to keep my love alive for my analog to-do list. — CD

Surprising dice
In a recent issue of my newsletter, The Magnet, I wrote about a fascinating curiosity called nontransitive dice. It’s a set of three nonstandard dice with confounding rock-paper-scissors behavior. No matter which of the three dice your opponent chooses, you can always pick one of the other two dice to beat it. I made my own nontransitive dice on a 3D printer, but they are also available on Amazon if you want a set. — MF

 
Cool Tools

Hootsuite/Permute/Ask Nature

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Social publishing center
I publish the same material on different social media platforms from my computer using a web-based app called Hootsuite.  With Hootsuite I can pre-schedule material ahead of time. I can post images from my camera on Instagram, which otherwise is hard to do. I get analytics, respond, and manage Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc, all from one dashboard. There is a limited free version but I pay for the basic $30/month small business version. — KK

Easy file format conversion
Permute is a Macintosh desktop app that converts video, audio, and image files from one format to another. It’s versatile and has not failed me yet. I was able to use it to convert a video that was terribly jittery that no other application could fix, but Permute converted it to an mp4 and it came out perfect. It costs $15 from the developer and it also comes with Setapp’s large library of applications available by subscription for $10 a month, which is how I found it. You can try Setapp for 7 days for free. — MF

Learn from Nature
Asknature.org is a free online tool where you can search thousands of nature’s solutions to various challenges. Like how a decentralized society helps ants to recover from a food shortage or how maple tree seeds twirl in a tornado-like vortex to increase the reach of where their seeds are planted. You can also discover nature-inspired ideas like this design for a thermos inspired by polar bear fur. Just ten minutes a day exploring this website will get you thinking differently. — CD

Fire TV Stick 4K
I bought the original Fire TV stick when it first came out a few years ago. When the HD version with a voice-activated remote control came out a couple of years later, I bought that and I appreciated the extra speak and talk-to-search feature. Amazon recently released the Fire TV Stick 4K. The remote comes with volume controls and an on-off button for the TV so I don’t need to use the TV remote anymore. It’s also much faster than the previous versions of the Fire TV stick. It’s a worthy upgrade. — MF

Funny watchable
Ronnie Chieng makes me laugh. Might be because most of my relatives are Asian American, but I think his humor is much broader than that. You can catch him on Netflix’s stand-up special Ronnie Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America. — KK

.new shortcuts
Google’s .new domains are exclusively reserved for action-based shortcuts, like doc.new for creating a new Google Doc. And now there’s a growing list of companies who have created easy-to-remember shortcuts for things you might already do. Like “story.new” to create a new post on Medium or “sell.new” to create a new listing on eBay. For the up-to-date list check out this page. — CD

 
Cool Tools

Bob Potts, Industrial Designer

Our guest this week is Bob Potts. Bob holds a MFA in Industrial Design and was Design Director for a series of corporate groups responsible for design development of diagnostic medical products including Corning Medical and Bayer Healthcare. He holds sixteen patents and has been a frequent presenter at international industry conferences, design seminars, and design programs and business schools. His design groups have won sixty international awards for design excellence and have been featured in ID, Print, Communication Arts, Axis, NIKKEI DESIGN, Business Week, and Fortune. You can follow him on Instagram @bobatharbor.

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

Show notes:

jorgensenezhold
Jorgensen E-Z Hold Craft Clamp
I love these hobby-sized clamps because they are small, have a pistol grip handle and a quick release trigger so they are really easy to use. They come in 4” and 8” lengths with 50lb clamping pressure. You can easily convert the clamp to a spreader by turning one of the ends around. They come in packs of two.

lithiumblower
EGO Lithium Cordless Variable Speed Blower
This is the tool I use the most around the house. Because it’s electric, it’s quiet, there are no fumes, and the ergonomic design just feels good. There are two settings, regular and turbo, and the turbo setting may use up battery power fast, but it can even move piles of wet leaves. I made a shoulder strap for mine, but they also make one. The EGO batteries come in various sizes but they work for all tools, so you don’t have to buy a battery for each new product.

stanleybar
Stanley Wonder Bar 15.5” Pry Bar
It may be bright yellow and funny looking, but it’s a fantastic tool with five-star ratings just about everywhere. It’s beautifully conceived and simply works. The flat end fits under cedar shake siding and can pop out the nails without any damage to the shingle. The bends in the tools create really handy pivot points so you can lift things by yourself, like cabinetry or wall panels.

bonnets
Al’s Fishing Hook Protective Bonnets
This company is in Eliot, Maine, and was founded in 1952 by Al. I love these hook covers because they keep lures that have treble or single hooks on them from catching in your skin, your clothes, your upholstery, your fishing kit, your wayward children, and on other lures. These bonnets allow you to carry treble hook lures loose, in your pocket. These are perfect for lure collectors, too, because without covers, your lures stick into one big gob and you will never get them apart. These bonnets are perfect because they are so simple. It’s one piece of plastic that solves a massive worldwide problem. Okay, not a massive problem, but fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the world. There are three color-coded sizes, they float, and they allow the water to drain off the hooks. The link above is for Al’s Goldfish website but you can email sales@alsgoldfish.com and they will create custom amounts/pricing, for you.

foamcore
Foam core
The one tool that I think has revolutionized the making of models is foam core, which I think everyone's familiar with — the white board with the foam in between it. Foam core models tend to be more preliminary models. You can make them very, very fast using anX-Acto knife and glue, and then the second thing that happened pretty much in the same time frame was the use of molded foam in blocks that you could machine. They came in all different grain sizes, they came in different colors, you can paint them and so on, and you could make parts that look like machine parts, and it was a very inexpensive and lightweight material to use to make models. They pretty much replaced the use of wood, which was the standard for years and years and years.

 

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $390 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! If you would like to make a one-time donation, you can do so using this link: https://paypal.me/cooltools.– MF

 
Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Jane Friedman

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Jane Friedman is a publishing consultant and writer who (during non-pandemic times) regularly speaks at conferences around the world. Her goal is to help writers better understand the business of publishing and how to succeed in the industry on their own terms. As a writer and editor who works with all of her clients virtually, it’s hard to find her far from her work bag and laptop. You can learn more at janefriedman.com.

 

About the bag

TUMI Arrivé Hannover Laptop Slim Brief Briefcase: I bought this at the TUMI store while waiting for a connecting flight at the Charlotte airport. It was something of an impulse buy—I was so tired of the ill-shaped and uncomfortable bag I had at the time. This one is much smaller, minimalist in fact, and it’s comfortable to carry for long periods of time. Its small size prevents me from loading it up with more than I need or can reasonably haul around a conference. It fits my Macbook Air perfectly and has a scuff-resistant finish that keeps it looking sharp after years of wear. It’s absurdly expensive, but I’ve never loved a bag more.

What's inside the bag

Dongles for every occasion: Because I speak and present so often from my own laptop, I have to be prepared for any situation. So I carry three dongles: one for HDMI and two for VGA, just in case one fails. They’re secured together with a Gear Tie rubber twist.

Moleskine’s Volant journal, XS: This is the smallest you can buy. I don’t use paper and pen that often, but this specific journal is useful for jotting down resources for people who ask me questions in conference hallways. Then I rip out the page and hand it over. Cheap and easy.

Chinese silk pouch: Others commonly use these pouches for jewelry, and while they’re great for that purpose, I love having them to store things like a Square credit card reader, or even cleaning cloths for my glasses. I prefer pouches with the zipper and snap closure. You can easily find them online in a variety of colors and styles.

Levenger business card holder: I’ve had this holder for 15 years now; it’s one of my favorite personal possessions. It’s monogrammed and the leather has become soft, pliable and loved. Levenger doesn’t offer this model any longer, but you can find similar options on Etsy.

 
Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — John Bobo

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John BoboI’m a motor sports executive, but I have a secret life as a writer. OK, it’s not secret — it’s inconspicuous. My novel “Three Degrees From Justice” was a Kindle #1 in Noir Crime (probably for a full 10 minutes), and my book for new prosecutors “The Best Story Wins” from Tower Publishing is used in many law schools and DA’s offices.

About the bag

TomToc Travel Messenger Bag: Lightweight but a lot of padding for the laptop and protection against elements. Some bags create compartment fatigue. You feel like you spent the entire day zipping and unzipping. Not this one. The folks at TomToc Goldilocked-it in. The amount of zipping/unzipping is “just right.”

What's inside the bag

Bloc Rhodia No. 8 pad: Lined or graphed. I’ve always liked Rhodia pads/paper because they work so well with ink from fountain pens. When I saw this 3" x 8 ¾’’ list, I gave it a try, and now it’s become a must carry for my daily To-Do list. Really helps me knock out the day.

Adjustable Tablet Stand: A super inexpensive and lightweight Amazon Basic. I first saw one in a Microsoft Store holding up Surface Tablets when they first came out. At about $8, you’re OK if you lose it on the road. This is my third. Also good for holding larger tablets and iPads.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard: My on-the-go writing rig is using the Bear App on my iphone, while it’s perched sideways on the stand and using this Bluetooth keyboard. Really works well on airplanes when you don’t have enough room to get out a laptop. Also good to have with you when you don’t want to carry a laptop. I’ve carried this for years because it has a crazy rechargeable battery life.

Lamy Scribble 0.7 mm mechanical pencil: The perfect pencil for drawing/sketching during conference calls (I’m a chronic doodler). It’s got a width and weight to it that’s incredibly comfortable in the hand. You go, “Oh, that’s German Design. Awesome!” I obsess over pens and pencils, but I find this one never leaves the bag because I can use it anywhere.

 
Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Mike Streetz

Mike Streetz is a new dad, home automation aficionado, electronics tinkerer/maker, and IT Consultant by day. He hails from Sydney, Australia, and is currently based in Los Angeles with his wife and son. You can find him on Flicker and Twitter @O_P.

 

About the bag

Tactical Molle EDC Pouch ($11)
I like this because it’s big enough to fit my wallet, phone, keys, pen and notebook. I got the one that comes with straps because with that much stuff in it pulls down my pants. The cell phone pouches in the front and back are padded to protect the screen and it fits up to an iPhone XS Max. The placement of the straps isn’t the best and the one I got frequently flips upside down if it’s not weighted right, so be mindful of that and don’t leave the zips open.

What's inside the bag

Sofirn SP31 v2.0 Tactical Flashlight ($37)
This thing is BRIGHT. It uses a standard 18650 battery and comes with a charger. It has multiple brightness settings, the low setting is really useful for not blinding yourself in the dark. It remembers the last setting it was on. I use it all the time for finding stuff I’ve dropped in the car, behind the couch or under a table. It’s so bright you can use it for finding a tiny screw you’ve dropped in a shag pile carpet by looking for the reflection.

Nite Ize INKA Key Chain Pen ($12)
Nite Ize bought Inka and these pens were really hard to find for a while but I’m glad they are back on Amazon because I’ve subsequently lost a Fisher Space bullet pen in the meantime. These use the space pen refills but due to the screw on cap, this pen is less likely to fall out of your bag. Also has a resistive touch screen pen cap on the other side, which are making a comeback in the days of COVID and nobody wanting to touch the ones on credit card machines. People are saying in the reviews they are not as good as the originals made by Inka, I haven’t had the new one long enough to say, but so far it seems good for the price, which is about half what the originals were.

Big Skinny Leather Hipster Wallet ($48)
This is the only wallet I’ve found which will hold all my cards, cash, and a tile slim without the massive bulge of most wallets. It looks huge but it fits in most pockets, and so far it’s lasted me over 5 years. The card slots can get loose after a few years, but just jam some business cards in there. They have an RFID blocking version now too.

RFID blocking car key case
These are the cheapest ones I could find on Amazon and they absolutely work. If your car is parked close enough to your house that you can unlock it from inside then you need these to protect from thieves that use range extenders to pretend to be your key. They can open the door to your car, steal everything in it, and in some cases even start the car and drive off. We put our keys in these as soon as we get out of the car now.

Other items in photos:

 
 

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