Cool Tools


Make guitar picks from any flat plastic

As an amateur guitar player, this is a fantastic tool that allows me to achieve the following:

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OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set

The sheer number of OXO products available and the variety of price points they are built to makes it inevitable that some of them will be duds. Indeed, over time it has become clear that the presence of the brand on an item does not necessarily guarantee good design or build quality. That said, I have found their Good Grips steel measuring cups to be a great success in both regards. After more than a year of daily use, I still can’t think of anything that would improve them.

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Areaware Bottle Opener

This bottle opener takes a relatively mundane task and turns it into a pleasurable aesthetic experience. The beauty of this opener is in its design simplicity. It is made of a piece of wood, a bent nail and two magnets. That’s it. The leverage from the nail opens beer bottles easily, one magnet catches the bottle cap and the other magnet makes it easy to mount on a fridge or other metal surface.

I have owned one for over a year and it is always my go-to bottle opener above any of my skeleton key style bottle openers. The handle is comfortable and, while the magnetic cap catching capability might seem superfluous at first, I am always grateful for it once I’m a few bottles into the evening. The mounting magnet keeps the handle open from the perspective of the plane of the surface to which it is mounted making it easy to grab in a time of need.

I was originally gifted this tool and have gifted it myself on several occasions. All recipients have reported back with delight at this opener’s simple beauty and practical usefulness.

Of course, there are much less costly alternatives (including your teeth, the edge of a hard surface or the lighter trick) to opening bottles and the size of the handle does not make this tool something you want to carry around in your pocket all of the time, but that isn’t it’s point. This opener combines a sophisticated design sensibility with functional effectiveness that elevates the status of an every day utility to a cool tool. -- Eoin Russell

Areaware Bottle Opener in Walnut ($14)

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

This bag has been my indefatigable mobile office for the past 2 years.

I am a train commuter navigating from Boston’s suburbs into Kendall Square (MIT), Cambridge five days a week. Productivity is important to me during my commuting time and the bag offers outstanding organization and comfort to allow me to work anywhere.

This bag is loaded with organizational features, durably crafted and stylistically elegant (and customizable!). Few bags excel in all three of those critical elements. I use the large size, and while it can be roomy for lighter daily travel, having the extra space accommodates the occasional overnight trip or the large object that I need to tote into my work-space. -- Nathan Chesley

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag 2014 Large ($109)

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker brews perfect tea every time

It is amazing how different the same tea tastes when you have the ability to consistently experiment with the brewing temperature and steeping time. Different teas require different brewing temps and steeping times to bring out the best flavor. I like green tea. The Breville allows you to set the temperature by degrees and the steeping time. Do you like strong tea? Set it to steep longer. Once you set it, it is all automatic. No more waiting for your tea to cool from boiling to drink it. Would like another cup of tea? The Breville will keep the tea at your set temp for 60 minutes.

Yes, this appliance is expensive. However, after using it nearly each day since November 2010, it is totally worth the money, and remains one of my favorite purchases and is very reliable. I’ve had zero problems with it. Breville makes great appliances, and they are very well made, with excellent customer support. -- Kevin Lindsay

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker ($250)

Grease Monkey Gorilla Grip gloves: thin, durable, grippy gloves

I ran across these gloves when I did a bathroom remodel around 2 years ago. Basically, they are a thin synthetic knit glove that has a palm and fingertip area that’s coated in a “polymer.” Traditionally, I’ve worn those cheap rubber dipped gloves when working with tile, but these gloves are far superior. The best part of these gloves is that they are really thin and allow for all the manual dexterity that you would have in a nitrile glove, but the Gorilla Grip gloves are much more durable. They’re great for wet work because they let the back of your hand breathe and dry out.

When I did tile work with them, they were really great for using with the wet tile saw. Even though they were wet, they didn’t slide around, get soggy, or come apart – even when soaked in water. I’ve used them as a go to general purpose glove for most home improvements. Just this past week, I used them on a drop ceiling project and an attic insulation project. They were great in that they protected my hands from the ceiling tiles and insulation while allowing me to switch tools and do fine motor tasks while wearing the gloves.

These gloves are the perfect medium between a disposable rubber or nitrile glove and a heavier work glove while being better than other rubber/vinyl dipped gloves. -- Chuck Balog

Grease Monkey Gorilla Grip Gloves ($9)

X-Stand Portable Notebook Cooling Stand

I’ve used this laptop stand for six years after discovering it branded and sold by Targus (where it can no longer be found). After losing mine, I found it again branded under “Hercules XStand Portable Notebook Cooling Stand” and “Opteka X-Stand Ergonomic Portable Airflow Cooling Stand.”

The stand is beautifully built, light (all-aluminum structure), and well-designed. It’s for 15″ – 17″ laptops, and easily folds down to something you could slip into a pocket. The stand tilts the keyboard a few degrees, which is nice, but its primary use is to allow plenty of airflow under the computer for cooling; I find it substantially reduces the temperature, which is not only nice for me, it certainly helps lengthen the life of my laptops. It has to be used on a flat surface – not your lap. I use it everywhere.

The stand is far-and-away the smallest and lightest laptop stand I’ve ever seen, and retails online for anywhere from $15 to $23.-- Barry Schwartz

X-Stand Portable Notebook Cooling Stand ($23)

EGear 30-Day Lantern - a month of light from three D cells

I have used this one for over a year. My grandmother was thrilled to have a couple during an extended power outage last year. When we got power back we passed the lanterns on to her friends until they had power restored. We never changed the batteries and neither did they. My grandmother gave one to all her friends last Christmas — best received gift ever. One of the best features is that it is actually bright enough to be useful. I love the hook on the bottom that lets me hang it from a fixture or pipe. (There was a huge battery shortage before, during and after the storm so now I keep a set of rechargeable batteries on hand for them.) -- Tim Stone

eGear 30-day lantern ($40)

Dahon Speed D7 folding bicycle

Of all the ways to navigate cities, I find I get to know them best on a bicycle: not too slow, not too fast, just high up enough to observe, and quasi-meditatively conducive to thought.

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Foolproof tool sharpening

Any chef will tell you, a sharp knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. I have tried many different types of sharpening methods, from stones to steels, electric to manual. Stones are hard to use because you need to maintain a very consistent angle while using it, and other gimmicky sharpening tools are just not good enough to give you a good edge. And very, very few can sharpen a serrated blade. I won’t lie — I can’t use a manual sharpening stone to save my life.

My dad got me the Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener and I swear I’ve never seen its equal. It is approximately the size of an electric drill and uses sanding belts of three different grits: 80 for repairing blades, 220 for sharpening, and 6000 for putting on that smooth polish. The sanding belts are very easy to change and last long enough for you to sharpening everything in the house, from your scissors and kitchen knives to axe and lawnmower blades. The head of the tool swivels so you can use it free-hand to sharpen very large items, like shovels.

One of the best features is the guards that attach to the tool that keep the sharpening angle perfectly consistent. The first guard offers a 50° angle for large hunting and butchery knives, and a 40° angle for thinner knives. The second guard allows you to sharpen serrated blades and heavier outdoor blades.

Best of all, this sharpening system only costs around $70 and packs of 6 replacement belts cost around $9. They also offer packs of 2 diamond belts for around $26 for sharpening those pesky ceramic blades. -- Joel Roush Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener ($69)

Blast the wax out of your ear with this scary-looking $15 device

For some reason my ears get clogged up with earwax (cerumen is the technical term) about two to three times a year. When it first happened, I was told to use a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide and one of those rubber bulbs you use to clear a baby’s nose. This strategy never worked for me, and I would inevitably end up in a doctor’s office hard of hearing.

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Blade buddy hones your razor after each use

This little gadget hones your razor after each use, and extends its usefulness by keeping it sharp longer. It’s a strip of silicone rubber in a plastic holder. You push your razor along the strip a dozen or so times after you’ve shaved. I’ve used it for about two years and it works well – it gives me at least double or perhaps triple the number of shaves before the blade becomes too dull to use. I’ve tried other similar things but this is the one that works best. — Stephen Saxe

Blade Buddy ($20)

Toastabags: make a near-perfect grilled cheese sandwich


I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a good kitchen novelty, and it was certainly that affliction that initially drew me to the Boska Holland Toastabags, but it turns out they’re both practical and really useful too.

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Fogless Shower Mirror

mirrorShaving in the shower this morning I was trying to think of a tool that is really useful as I’ve appreciated all the tips others have provided.

Then I looked at the fogless mirror I’ve been using for nearly two years now. (Never ran across the smaller Shave Well shaving mirror recommended here back in August. Shave Well is 6×4″ as opposed to 7×5″ for this product.)

This fogless mirror, with the unfortunate company name of Toilet Tree, is the best we’ve found for this task.

Nothing fancy, just a mirror filled with hot water in a container. But it works. Even the silicone glue has been working great in adhering to the shower tile.

Simple and utilitarian, it the “#1 Selling and Ranked” product in its category by customers on Amazon. -- Ira Altschiller

Fogless Shower Mirror with Squeegee ($30)

Rubber finger tip

I have been using a rubber finger tip for about 4 months, 5 times a week, 2-3 times/day for approximately 5 minutes a session. It enables me to flip through a large stack of pages quickly.

If you want to flip through a large stack of matte paper, your finger just won’t do. The oils on your finger are not enough to grip letter paper and licking your finger to improve grip gets tiring, is messy, and leaves you… parched. This tool leaves no mess, is cheap, and highly consistent in its usefulness. Different sizes available. -- Josh Miller

Rubber Finger Tips ($3/Doz.)