Cool Tools


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.)

Tomato Shark tears through tomatoes

I have dozens of tools and gadgets in my kitchen. Years working in the restaurant and catering world left me with an inventory of items that I bought for this job or that party.

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Hugo's Amazing Tape: Resuable tape sticks only to itself

I was introduced to Hugo's Amazing Tape several years ago by a colleague. He uses the tape to keep board game boxes closed for storage, and it has quite a following in the board game and collectible card game community.

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Idiot-proof wake-up alarm: Screaming Meanie

When I travel I often use earplugs at night (E.A.R foam are my preferred brand) to mute the sounds of strange places and get a good night’s sleep. Only problem is, the pathetic “eep eep” sound of a typical travel alarm cannot penetrate the earplugs. For years I have searched for a truly heavy-duty portable alarm, and finally found a good candidate at the Petro Truck Stop in Kingman, Arizona: The Screaming Meanie.

Also available from online sources, the Screaming Meanie is not a clock. It is a countdown timer. You set the number of hours and minutes between now and the time you want to wake up. You can also set the volume, either to “loud” or “frighteningly loud.” In case 110 decibels is not enough (“loud enough to wake the dead!”), they have a 220 decibel version too!

When you start the Screaming Meanie the alarm is ON by default. This eliminates my habit of waking up five or six times just to check whether I set my travel alarm correctly. You just know this thing is going to work. You can’t possibly sleep through it because while the 10 and 5-minute warnings can be turned off with one button, it takes 3 buttons pushed simultaneously to silence the final alarm. My only quibble is that it should be smaller (it is a rounded plastic block, 1″ by 2.25″ by 5.25″) but hey, it was designed for truckers. -- Charles Platt

Screaming Meanie ($25)

Cuissential SlickFroth: Fast milk frother

I often mix stuff into my coffee: cream, coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides, taurine, even some resistant starches like inulin as part of my low carb life. Previoius to getting the slickfroth, I had to choose between a small hand blender or a spoon. I did not expect much (you know, a battery powered small toy) but I have found that this device works much better than I expected as a mini-handblender for liquids and powders. While it will not chop up the contents of thick smoothies, it will mix liquids together or powders into liquids very well. It offers a very useful tool in-between a hand blender (over-kill for many situations) and just mixing with a spoon (often not adequate). -- Dale Simpson

Kuissential SlickFroth 2.0 ($18)

Floppy Tube quickly pops skin off garlic

When you are pulling together a meal, anything you can do to minimize prep time up front — or more importantly, along the way — helps make things run more smoothly and cleanly.

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Cheap electric bike: Currie Ezip Trailz

This is the electric bike I recommend for anyone on a tight budget. The Ezip Trailz is a bargain in terms of how much it can affect your life on little dollars. It is by far the best selling electric bike in the United States, for good reason: For less than $500 it is a decent electric bike with reasonable performance. At this price point if you just ride the bike regularly it will pay for itself quickly.

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Swiss Army knife in a credit-card shape


This small, flat, semi-translucent plastic card contains a sharp blade, an even sharper pair of scissors, a file, a tweezers, a toothpick, and a pen. They all slide into the card, and come free of it for independent use. The whole kit is the size of a credit card, and about three times as thick. It lays flat in my pocket and weighs very little. I use it daily. It prompts a smile most every time I do, and it’s a good conversation piece. Highly recommended and undeservedly under-popular. -- Gru

Victorinox SwissCard ($25)

Golden Mean Calipers

calipers

I absolutely love these things and have used them for a couple of years. I enjoy wandering around with my kids and having them put it up to just about everything. (“Dad! this has a golden mean in it as well!” — I’ll never get tired hearing that). You can also use them to bring some simple relational beauty and balance into anything physical that you make.

You can go to this website for some very well made ones (and a little pricey) or just download some plans for a few bucks and make your own. -- Eric Warner

Golden Mean Calipers ($35)