Cool Tools

What's in my insect photography bag? — Mark W. Moffett

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I am a tropical biologist and explorer known for my studies of animal social life, and especially the behavior of ants, and I’m acclaimed as well as an insect photographer. Because I often work in remote places, I need to cram any and all tools I might need into a bag that I keep on my back day after day.

Pictured are the small items that I carry to watch ants and other insects —tools I describe below starting at the left and proceeding clockwise:

1. A small mirror to follow ants moving under objects within the leaf litter — surprising how often this helps. I have tracked ants many yards over periods of hours with this mirror, an insane job.

2. A vial of sugar water dyed red to keep track of which ants are which (the ones that turn cherry red belong to my colony, hooray!).

3. One of the vials of 70-80% ethyl alcohol I carry for preserving insect specimens.

4. A vial of dilute honey and a vial cooking oil, used as baits to assess what tasty diet my ants prefer and then to follow the ant workers back to their nest.

5. 20X loupe (magnifier) on a silver chain that I wear around my neck when I need it often.

6. Face mask made from blue cords and the sleeve of an old yellow t-shirt that I should perhaps replace with a mask against Covid — this I put on to avoid disturbing insects (breathing on certain kinds of ants can make them very angry!).

7. Strong twine that can be employed, for example, to tie back any vines that get in the way of my access to a study subject so that I don’t need to cut down any annoying plants.

8. Orange flagging tape to mark the location of an ant nest or some other study subject.

9. Sometimes I see something big! This is a small monoscope with a carabiner to attach it to one flank of the camera bag, which I use to quickly identify a distant subject like a bird before I pull out the 100-400 mm lens from my bag should I decide to study it further, or to take its picture.

10. A featherweight forceps, which allows me to pick up an insect without hurting it (though I’m fearless about using my fingers — ouch!).

11. A black-stoppered aspirator, used to suck bugs into a small plastic container to examine later.

12. A Swiss army knife with all the fixin’s (though I’ve grown cautious about bringing one on trips because before arriving at the airport I often forget to move it over from my camera bag into a check-in bag, and so airport security officials have looked at me crossly and confiscated several).

13. A cheap compass because the one in a phone or GPS can fail in dense forests ( #$%!!! Where am I???).

14. Extension arms that I adjust to position one or two camera flashes exactly where I want them to give my small subjects the best beauty treatment. (Notice the red tape I’ve put around one arm, which makes this device harder to miss should I put it down in the leaf litter — I stick a bit of this bright colored tape to every small item of camera gear I own, such as my lens caps.) This is the only piece of actual camera gear from my bag that I show here. But, FYI: For insect photography I carry a 60 mm Canon macro lens, a 1-5X Canon macro lens, three 25 mm extension tubes and a Canon macro twin light (ring lights flatten the subject and should be avoided unless you’re photographing postage stamps).

Cool Tools

Best video shorts/4 levels of reading/Easy eggs

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Best video shorts
Short videos are an emerging art form. With the advent of phone cameras and free editing software they are within reach of almost any maker. One of my favorite seats to see the best art video shorts is to go to the Vimeo Staff Picks. They go through an ocean of new creations and curate the best video shorts. — KK

Four different ways to read books
The Curious Reader has a great outline of the 4 different reading levels and sub-types pulled from “How to Read a Book.” The first level being Elementary Reading — where the main question of reading is “What does the sentence say?” Level two is Inspectional — where you ask, “What is the book/article about?” This is how I read most news articles and blog posts. Level three is Analytical — when you want to really understand the topic by asking questions and chewing and digesting it. The fourth level of reading is my favorite: Syntopic Reading. This is where you read multiple books on the same subject and compare and contrast the ideas. Each reading level serves a different purpose, so it’s helpful to ask yourself before reading, “What do I want out of this book or article?” — CD

Easy boiled eggs
The easiest way I know to boil eggs is with an Instant Pot pressure cooker. Put one cup of water into the pot, add 1-6 eggs (use a steamer basket if you have one), and cook using low pressure for 3 minutes. Let the pressure subside without releasing the valve. You’ll have perfectly boiled eggs. — MF

Saline nasal spray
I stopped using a neti pot to irrigate my sinuses with salt water because of the risk of infection. I switched to pressurized aerosol saline mist, called Simply Saline by Arm & Hammer. It’s sterile and convenient. It never fails to get rid of my phantosmia whenever it flares up. — MF

Extended flame
The most useable flame lighter I have is a Bic Reach. This design takes your usual Bic flick lighter, and outfits it with an extended 1.5” (35mm) pipe that ignites the flame away from your thumb. I find those long butane lighters with a two-button safety switch to be both fussy and unreliable, but a regular Bic can’t reach where I want the flame, so this Bic Reach is just perfect for lighting candles, fireplaces, camp stoves, etc., reliably on the first try. It’s probably not what you’d carry everyday in your pocket, but perfect in the utility drawer. — KK

Ways people improved their quality of life
“What improved your quality of life so much, you wish you did it sooner?” was asked by u/colorfulsoul_ on Reddit and the thread is worth scanning for ideas to adopt. Someone suggested placing your phone on permanent “Do not Disturb” only allowing calls from “Contacts” — which would save me from a lot of spammers. Other life improving tips were: breathing exercises, buying a good kitchen knife, separate blankets in beds for couples, and buying a cart that will carry all your groceries from your car to inside in one trip. — CD

Cool Tools

What's in my plastic bin? — Mark Frauenfelder

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Mark Frauenfelder is the co-founder of BoingBoing, and the founding editor of Make magazine. He is a research director at Institute of the Future, and the author (and illustrator) of seven books. Every week he shares useful tips and recommendations of things that interest him, like interviews, recipes, quotations, and more, in his newsletter The Magnet.


For one reason or another a bunch of random stuff has ended up in this smallish plastic bin I keep in my closet. Every time I look at it I’m surprised by what I find in it.


When I was an engineer at Memorex in the mid-1980s, a coworker gave me a photocopy of a self-published booklet by Timothy Leary called Starseed: Transmitted from Folsom prison. I haven’t read it in 35 years, but it had something to do with Comet Kohoutek and how it was going to either destroy all life on the planet or lift human consciousness to a higher level. (You can read a scan at the Internet Archive)


I got this little plastic tool kit from the amazing Tokyu Hands department store in Tokyo. I think the plastic is made of some kind of composite material because it feels very hard, and I’ll bet it would really work as a tool kit. But I like the way it looks attached to the mold sprues so I keep it intact.


I picked up this nose hair removal kit from a store in Tokyo called Village Vanguard. It comes with little plastic beads that you put in the microwave and heat until soft, then attach a plastic wands to it and stick up your nose. When the plastic cools down you pull it out and your nose hair is stuck to it like a nightmarish lollipop. I tried it and it hurt a lot. When I posted about it on Boing Boing people told me it’s a good way to get a nasal infection, and having an infection in your nose is really bad because it’s close to your brain. I’m not going to use it again. I use a nose hair trimmer instead.


My daughter bought this little plastic statuette in Chiang Mai, Thailand for me. It served as the inspiration for a project I’ve been working on for a year and a half. I’m drawing 4900 little creatures in a notebook. Here’s a video of my progress.

Cool Tools

Tangoes/Arduino clone/Uppercase

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Favorite social puzzle
The simplest toys are the best. Our favorite family social puzzle is a tangram, an old classic from China made of 7 geometric pieces that you arrange to fulfill a required silhouette. With two sets you can race to finish. It is much harder than it looks, yet doable and fun for small folk. You can make a tangram from cardboard, or 3D print one yourself, but the version we grab is Tangoes, a tidy travel case with two sets of pieces, plus cards (with solutions) for all the target images. We own 3 or 4 Tangoes ($12), enough for larger groups.  — KK

A better Arduino clone
An Arduino is a small easy-to-program device that lets you add interactivity to your projects. Because Arduino is open source, you can buy inexpensive clones. My favorite is the Keyestudio Plus. An Arduino Uno is about $25, and this clone is half the price. The best thing about Keyestudio Plus is that it has a USB-C jack instead of the bulky USB-A jack found on the Uno. It has a lot of other useful features like additional pins for power and a switch to change the voltage from 5V to 3.3V. Here’s a photo of one next to an Arduino Uno. (If you want to learn how to use an Arduino, I have a class on Skillshare you can take using this link for a one-month free trial). — MF

Arts and craft analog
I’ve ceased all subscriptions to the paper version of newspapers or magazines — except one. I subscribe to Uppercase, a paper-based magazine celebrating art and crafts. Each issue is overflowing with exuberant examples of creativity from non-famous artists. Painting, textiles, ceramics, patterns, vintage, printmaking, etc. It’s a hand-made quarterly, with no ads, unabashedly analog, and basically the work of one woman, who tends to feature art that is invigorating, positive, and joyous. The periodical itself is a work of art that reflects the passion of an artisan, and I derive immense pleasure from its curated pages. — KK

How to find the right therapist
Here is some great advice on how to find the right therapist. One of the first steps is to figure out what kind of therapeutic framework you need. When I first started therapy I had anxiety that sometimes resulted in panic attacks. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy taught me how to redirect a thought so that it doesn’t create overwhelming feelings that would affect my behavior. Now, 8 years later, I have a person-centered therapist that I talk to about all aspects of my life. Each session feels like I’m catching up with my very insightful and intelligent friend who I can vent to and ask for advice. I always tell my friends that you are allowed to break up with your therapist if the fit isn’t right. I saw three therapists before I found my most recent one, who I’ve been seeing for three years now. Finding the “right therapist” feels like you’ve acquired a super power. — CD

Discover pieces of poetry across an animated land
Wayfinder is a soothing online game that involves traversing a vast landscape collecting fragments of seasonal-inspired poetry to restore balance to the natural world. The game itself is short but uses machine learning to create thousands of combinations of verses and visuals so that you have a completely new experience each time you play. It’s very lovely. — CD

Netflix secret genre cheat sheet
To find a list of all the Netflix titles in a specific genre, zero in on a movie genre using the codes listed here. Add the code to this URL: For example shows you Netflix’s Japanese movies, and shows you film noir titles. — MF

Cool Tools

Building a Motor on a PCB

In my ambitious quest to reach 4000 subscribers by my 100th issue, I need a lot of new subscribers. Can you do me a huge favor? Can you talk to just one of your fellow maker/DIY enthusiasts and get them to sign up and give the newsletter a try? If a bunch of you do this, we’ll reach that goal in no time. Thank you!


Coming next issue: The triumphant return of the Molding and Casting Skill Set series!

Building a Motor on a PCB
Last issue, I included Kevin Kelly’s project consideration flowchart which ends with the question: “Would anyone else ever do this?” (If Yes, then don’t do it). If ever there was an electronics engineer who works by a similar credo, it’s Carl Bugeja. Folding circuits, jumping circuits, holographic LEDs, transformer robots, and more, Carl has explored them all. In this recent video, he updates his PCB-based motor project.

Camping Cooler Improvements
In this Laura Kampf video, she looks at 3 things you can do to improve a large camping cooler: Use the outside, use the lid, and add shelves. There is a meta tip here that’s applicable to any storage situation: Always consider the full volume of the available space, or as an organizationally-obsessed friend used to put it: Work the cube!

Magnetizing Your Snips to Catch Metal Offcuts
James at Stumpy Nubs has started a new series of “Weekend Workshop Tips.” This is great news for tips nerds like myself ‘cause he is a constant source of great ideas. In this first episode, among 4 woodworking tips, he shares an idea that can apply to anyone who uses snips in the shop. You have undoubtedly experienced clipping off a brad or other metal piece and had that piece fly into the ether, never to be seen again. By placing a rare earth magnet in the jaws of your snips, that’s where the offcut will go.

Making Drill and Charger Station for the Small but Mighty
Well-known YouTube maker, Izzy Swan, has a new shopmate, Maggie. Izzy is 6'2" and has designed his shop to accommodate his long reach. Maggie is… well… NOT 6’. They will need to make changes in the shop to accommodate her. In the first such project, they create a drill holder and charging station that has a hinged shelf that pulls down to access the charging units there. In the video, Izzy and Maggie use a Grabo tool, a cool vacuum device that allows both of them to more easily move sheet goods around the shop.

Using Desoldering Annoy on Hard-to-Desolder Parts
In this Collin’s Lab Notes, Adafruit’s Collin Cunningham offers an idea for dislodging a particularly stubborn component that you can’t seem to remove using standard desoldering. Desoldering alloy can be applied and then re-heated to remove the old solder and reluctant component.

Is It Safe to Listen to Music in the Workshop?
In this Stumpy Nubs video, Jim answers the question: Is it safe to listen to music in a shop amongst power tools and other dangers? His basic answer: As in most things in life, your mileage may vary. He offers an experiment: work for an hour doing something (non-dangerous) that requires full concentration while listening to an audio book. If, at the end of that hour, you can’t remember much of what you’ve heard, you may be OK listening to music or podcasts or other things you don’t mind backgrounding. I personally can only listen to non-lyrical, ambient music in the shop if concentration is required. Anything more engaging is too distracting and feels dangerous to me. Jim also points out that you can always wear wireless headphones that have a pause button and engage that when operating a power tool.

Maker's Muse
Watch Chinese master carpenter, Granpa Amu, cut and carve a foldable Luban stool from a single piece of wood. [Via Laughing Squid]

Shop Talk
In response to my item on chalk spray makers for hole marking, Kurt G writes:

I use the FastCap markers myself, but if a hole is too deep, or I need greater precision, I would use a transfer punch. If I was away from my shop, I would get a dowel or bamboo cocktail stick, dip it into paint, and use that as an improvised deep hole marker. I really enjoy your newsletter!

Cool Tools

What's in my bag? — Kristina Budelis

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Kristina Budelis is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, and product manager based in LA. She is currently working as a Senior Product Manager at The New York Times, where she is focused on a new, pre-launch product for kids. She’s also a documentary filmmaker (in the past year, she’s had films premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, on, and NBC Digital) and the cofounder of KitSplit. You can find Kristina on Twitter @kbudelis.


I have a bunch of different bags, ranging from highly practical (shout out to my highly ergonomic Tikbuk2 backpack) to purely aesthetic (a number of fun colorful purses, mostly vintage). But right now, my go-to when I don’t need to carry much is this small fanny pack (which I wear as a purse, not as a fanny pack) from Forever 21, which was around $20 and has really held up despite heavy use over 3+ years!


Skin Aqua Moisture Milk Sunblock ($15): I live in LA and have very pale skin, so good sunblock is a must. I’ve tried a ton of different options. My friend/ skincare guru Ben Feinberg recommended this one, and I’m totally obsessed with it. It is lighter in texture than any other sunblock I’ve tried; super powerful; and moisturizing, too. I also like the form factor—this little bottle fits in a pocket or a tiny bag. While it’s not cheap, I think it’s worth it and it lasts a while!

Green leather phone case and wallet ($20): This case is just $20, and comes in a number of different colors. It looks cute and holds my phone, a few credit cards, and some cash. I like having my wallet & phone combined so I just have to grab one thing when I walk out the door (especially because I have a smartlock, so I don’t carry keys anymore). I also like that this one covers my phone screen when it’s closed, so I can have my phone out but be a little less distracted by it since the screen is out of sight when I’m not using it.

Sunglasses ($16): As an LA resident I need to carry sunglasses everywhere. I have a few pairs, bu these are my current favorites. They look similar to the much more expensive Ray Ban sunglasses that are popular right now. But I’m prone to losing sunglasses, so I generally stick to affordable options. These are $17, flattering, stylish, and polarized. They also came with a cloth case (not pictured).

Burt’s Bees lip shimmer ($5): I love this little guy! It’s really moisturizing and feels like chapstick (in a good way), but looks flattering / more like lipgloss. It has a subtle taste/smell of peppermint, is just $5, and super easy to find (available at most drugstores, many grocery stores, etc).

Cool Tools

Kevin, Mark, Claudia (Cool Tools Team)

This is a special episode of the Cool Tools podcast, because we have our regular crew of the small Cool Tools team of Claudia, Kevin, and I, and we're each going to talk about two of our favorite tools.

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

Show notes:

YouTube Premium Subscription ($12 per mo.)
I am using YouTube Premium as an alternative to Pandora or Spotify. You can listen to YouTube on your phone, but the issue that I was having was that you cannot close the app and continue to listen to whatever you're streaming without paying for it. So I debated for a long time, whether or not I was going to subscribe. Then I realized that I was listening to a lot more YouTube soundscapes than I was Pandora and that's pretty much what I listen to all day while I'm working or taking walks. I needed the ability to close out of YouTube on my phone and still be able to listen to whatever I was streaming. And I've had it now for a few months and I canceled my Pandora account because I realized this is all I pretty much need. With YouTube Premium, you also get access to YouTube Music, which is a separate music streaming app, like Pandora and Spotify.


SAMSUNG T7 Portable SSD 1TB ($150)
This is for a portable hard drive, and I think most people are familiar now with these USB powered portable hard drives. All you have to do is have a USB cable. There's no power adapter or anything. They're very convenient. They're very rugged. They're pretty inexpensive now. I think you can get like a one terabyte for under a hundred, but I did get this solid state one for the first time. They are much, much smaller, much lighter and super fast. It's a great way to back up your stuff quickly or for a scratch disk, if you're doing audio or video editing and things like that. I am now going to just start using SSDs for everything and not use spinning media anymore because that stuff is like antiquated junk.


30 Ft Retractable Extension Cord Reel ($38)
It's a workshop tool. It's a tool I have been putting into my studio anywhere where I've had extension cords. My solution up until now has been to cable chain these long extension cords. Just dealing with long extension cords is a hassle. And the solution is kind of like an automatic roll up that's very similar to what you have in the vacuum cleaner in your house, where you pull the cord out and then you can kind of tug it. It clutches, and then you can undo it and it spools back in. If you have an area where you are always trotting out an extension cord, this is the way to do it. You put one of these in. You can hang them from the ceiling and put them on the side or underneath something. And you just unroll it when you need it and you tug it and it closes up and it's done.


Mindful Beta (Free Chrome Extension)
My second tool is a Chrome extension because I basically live in Chrome and it's called Mindful. It's designed by a designer at Google. It's a text editor. Every time I open a new tab in Chrome, I go back to my ongoing list. For me is it's a growing list of things to do, reminders, links to things I want to check out. And because it's saved in Chrome, I go back to the same list, whether I'm on my desktop or my laptop. So if I move, every time I open a new tab, my to-do list is just there in my face waiting to be checked off. This project was inspired by Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, whose concept is "What you see is all there is." So the only notes you remember are the ones you see.


Trader Joe's 100% Natural Ginger Drink Mix ($14)
This is something that I discovered a few weeks ago at Trader Joe's, but people are reselling them on Amazon and it is an amazing powdered ginger. There's no sweeteners or anything. It's not just a powdered ginger root, but it is the powdered ginger juice. You can mix it into hot or cold water, and then you have like a really great ginger beverage that you can make as strong or as dilute as you want. You can add honey or lemon, and it's really refreshing. I will mix a half a pack with about eight ounces of hot water and it makes for a really good herbal tea. I feel like it kind of clears your nasal passages and it's an astringent. So it just feels really cleaning to your mouth and nose and throat. Also, I feel like just the pepperiness is an alternative to caffeine. It can kind of make you feel a little perky when you're a little sleepy. What I love about it is how easily it dissolves, too. So you have a pure solution and that makes a big difference in the mixing and the enjoying of it.


Justrite 8 oz Polyethylene Red Dispenser Can ($33)
In a workshop, you often need to have a solvent to clean things. That's kind of a really common thing where you were cleaning something to prepare for painting, or just to clean it in general. Degreasing, cleaning a surface for a 3D printer pad. There's just tons and tons of uses. And because it's a solvent, you have to really make this tight. And so there's this thing of opening up a can of solvent from a really tight lid and then finding a cloth to pour it onto. Anyways, it's a hassle, but this little device has a seal that you just press on. You have a little finger hole and you turn it upside down, you press it and the solvent comes out. And when you let go, it's a complete seal that keeps the solvent in, which you can store it in. It's OSHA safe, meaning that it can't tip over very well and leak stuff out. It's not escaping. So it's a really, really convenient way to have a solvent on hand at all times very quickly so you can just pour something in, because otherwise, this is kind of a multi-step process that you would have to deal with. It's the size of a mug with a brass spring-loaded dispenser on top. And it has a kind of industrial look and it's about $30 and it should last forever.

Cool Tools

The Metaverse Primer/Terms & Conditions/How to Eat

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Next big thing
I’ve been predicting that the next big thing after smart phones are smart glasses at work in a Mirrorworld or a Metaverse. That still has not happened, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen in the next few years. But I’m sticking with my prediction that it will be the next big thing. The best case I’ve seen for how this will be built is this very long technical essay by Matt Ball, which serves as the Metaverse Primer. — KK

Play the Terms & Conditions game
In this web-based game, Evil Corp attempts to con you into accepting its terms and conditions with 29 sneaky tricks (e.g., “Would you like to not receive our newsletter? Yes or No”). I managed to successfully outwit 27 of Evil Corp’s dastardly tricks. Let’s see if you can beat me! — MF

How to eat
I am enjoying Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s Mindfulness Essentials series of small “How to” books. How to Love is one I revisit often. Right now I am reading How to Eat — short meditations on connecting with the Earth, enjoying your food and eating with others. Below are three excerpts. — CD

  • Wait without waiting — Standing in line at grocery store or a restaurant, or waiting for the time to eat, we don’t need to waste our time. We don’t need to “wait” for one second. Instead, we can enjoy breathing in and out for our nourishment and healing. We can use that time to notice that we will soon be able to have food, and we can be happy and grateful during that time. Instead of waiting, we can generate joy.
  • Our ancestors are in the soil — In the soil are many people who have died, have been transformed, and have become part of the soil. Maybe in this mouthful of rice are also the bones of hundreds of generations as well as many leaves, worms and animal’s bones. Maybe in a previous life you had been there and died there, and your own bones have disintegrated in that land. During the time of eating, your practice is to look deeply into that grain of rice and enjoy all that has gone into its creation. There are so many things to enjoy and to discover in each bite.
  • Eating and smiling — Sitting at the table and eating with other people is a chance to offer an authentic smile of friendship and understanding. The most important part of the practice is to look at each person and smile. Upon finishing your meal, take a few moments to notice that you have finished, that your bowl is now empty, and your hunger is satisfied. This is another opportunity to smile and be grateful that you have had this nourishing food to eat, supporting you on the path of love and understanding.

Inexpensive stock photography
I use a lot of stock photo images on the various websites I work on. I recently discovered Scopio, which is offering a lifetime subscription for $29. I like the selection of photos, and the fact that they don’t look as generic as a lot of stock photos. Here’s a sample for a search for “red and white books.” — MF

Tape adhesive
Often the best way to secure one object to another is with heavy duty double-sided tape. The bond may be as strong as screws or nails, without the need for holes. And unlike a glue joint, its tidy, and kinda removable. Put the two-sided tape on, zip off second coating, and squeeze together. Fast. I use this tape for mounting gear, electrical devices on walls and tables where I don’t want screws. The best brand is 3M Heavy Duty Mounting Tape. I am always surprised by how much weight it will hold. — KK

Reader recommended note app
After last weekend’s favorite note app recomendo. Multiple readers replied and recommended Simplenote as an alternative to Apple Notes and as a universal note-taking app. Reader Titus said, “I really like Simplenote. It provides a web interface as well as iOS and Android apps.” — CD

Cool Tools

Restoring and Re-Creating an "Intimate Contact" Vise

[Welcome to a surprise (to you and me both) weekend edition, brought to you by a newsletter app hiccup that caused me to lose a bunch of content on Friday.]


I hope you’re all having a good summer. If you’re working on any fun projects, I’d love to see them. I may share some with the class.


How many people were actually participating in the Molding and Casting Skill Set series? I will be going back to that ASAP, but I wanted to get some idea of how many people were actually following along. Please let me know.

Restoring and Re-Creating an "Intimate Contact" Vise
It may sound like something from an entirely different realm of human interaction, but in this Hand Tool Rescue video, Eric restores a rare 1913 vise for “obtaining intimate contact with, engaging, clamping bodies of any shape” [Patent here]. Eric calls it a “fractal vise.” Whatever you call it, it’s really a cool gadget and his restoration is fascinating to watch.

And if you look at this device and pine over the fact that this tech never caught on, fear thee not. By way of Maker Update comes news of a 3D printable version of the vise, created by Chris Borge, inspired by Eric’s video.

Using Surface-Mount Components in Through-Hole Circuits
This Twitter edition of Collin’s Lab Notes demonstrates a brilliant idea for adapting surface-mount (SMT) components for use on a breadboard or other through-hole circuit using a couple of header pins to hold the soldered SMT component so that it can plug into a breadboard or other through-hole circuit.

Removing a Splinter in a Pinch
Got a nasty splinter and are without tweezers?⁠ The Acme Tools Instagram page has this suggestion: “Simply use three washers, as shown, to remove the little annoyance.” Seems like thinner washers would work better, but you get the idea.

Design for Disassembly (DfD)
Mark Frauenfelder posted this Core77 piece on Boing Boing about the concept and practice of DfD:

Design for Disassembly (DfD) is the straightforward design method and philosophy that ensures that all elements of a product can be disassembled for repair and for “end of life.” This allows for and encourages repairs, with the result that a product’s life cycle is prolonged; and it allows for a product to be taken apart at the end of its life so that each component can be reclaimed as a technical nutrient (i.e. recycled) or biological nutrient (i.e. composted). Among other shifts in thinking and making, this means minimizing materials, using simple mechanical fasteners instead of adhesives, clearly labeling components with their material type, and ensuring components can be disassembled with everyday tools.

When I broke the glass vessel of my French press this weekend, I ordered a replacement vessel instead of purchasing an entirely new coffee maker. This was only possible because my French press was designed so that it could be easily disassembled. On the other hand, my electric kettle has started to leak. There are no small screws for me to open it – in fact, it’s mostly glued together. This means that when I finally cave and admit that this kettle is broken, I have no way to repair it and no way to recycle its parts. In contrast to the French press, the product was not designed for disassembly. My only option is to throw it out, and to buy a new one.

Read the full article here.

Adam Savage's Guide to Drill Bits
Adam Savage’s tool tips videos are always a treat. You get an education on the design and function of the tool, Adam’s recommendations for his favorite products in the category, and you get great stories – ‘cause tools always come with stories. In this video, Adam looks at drill bits, describes the physical science of how different bit-types cut and remove material, and he makes the case for step and Forstner bit sets (among other recommendations).

Crowdsourced Tools
A new, periodic feature where I ask YOU for tool recommendations and some collective B.S. detection.
Spray chalk marking pen: I saw a video on Instagram of one of these spray chalk marking pens and thought it was an interesting idea. They’re for marking a drilling target through a deep hole. You place the barrel of the marker over the hole and press to fire. All good, but this tiny marker, a mere .6 ounces, is $18 on Amazon! Currently, I use a FastCap long-nose pattern marker for this sort of thing, but I’ve encountered several instances where it was too shallow for the holes I wanted to mark. Has anyone here tried one of these or a cheaper alternative? An airbrush blow pen?

Apartment tool kits: A gift that I’ve given several friends and relatives moving into a new home or apartment is one of those all-in-one tool kits with cheap versions of all of the essential starter tools one needs (hammer, pliers, tape measure, socket set, driver and bits, level, etc.). I’ve also put such kits together myself as gifts and but that’s a lot more expensive. Many of these kits are in the $50 price range, and I know from experience, the quality and design of the tools varies dramatically. Is there such an “apartment toolkit” you recommend?

Silicone Mixing Cups and Stirrers
Working on the Molding and Casting series reminded me how many plastic cups and wooden stirring sticks you use when working with casting rubber and resin. In this short Cool Tools video, Tyler Winegarner extols the virtues of reusable silicone cups and stirring sticks for resin work. When the waste material on the cup and stick is dry, you just peel it all off. This set of cups, sticks, and other accessories costs only $11 on Amazon.

Notable Quotables
“The top question I get asked after every video is ‘Where did you learn this stuff and how can I (or my kid) do this?’ Here’s what I say. Find a project that drives you. Seek lessons only for what is needed to finish that project. Repeat. The things I do are not taught, they are discovered.” -YouTuber Jeremy Fielding

Shop Talk
Even more moving advice from reader Mark White:

“My wife and I just moved after being in our previous home for 17 years. The best tip we got was to mark off the attached garage with masking/painters tape into areas and label with room names (living, den, etc.). As your movers/friends are bringing in the boxes, have them leave the boxes there. This method has multiple advantages such as not having to live among boxes, and if you are paying your movers/friends by the hour, this shaves off time because they don’t have to take the boxes all of the way into the house. This also allows you to unpack at your leisure and to go get what you need at any particular time and in ‘ I need this now’ order. Thanks again for a e very informative newsletter.”


Doug Pocius, responding to jumper wire kits:

“The 26 gauge solid copper wire used in telco cables makes dandy prototype board jumper wires, and scraps are usually free! A long time ago, I came across a 1 foot piece of 3” diameter cable in the trash with maybe 200 pairs of this wire in many different solid/stripe color codes. Never had to buy jumper kits after that. ”


I got a resounding yes from many readers on the superiority of Robertson/square head screws. Steve Roberts writes:
Yes on Robertson bits! I was first exposed to them when I bought a Canadian boat, and have preferred them ever since. Being able to stay locked into the head EASILY, with my Magapro multi-bit driver, is fabulous… even when I can’t see what I’m doing. I wish they would become the dominant standard.


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