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Cool Tools


Fast, accurate paper and fabric cutting with a rotary cutter

I purchased my first rotary cutter (a 28mm) in the fall of 1979. These are basically round razors on handles; they allow for precise cutting of fabric, paper, cardboard, etc.

In the years since then I have purchased larger and smaller diameter cutters (they come in four sizes; which one you choose depends on how many layers you want to cut), ergonomic cutters and brands other than Olfa.

I keep coming back to the Olfa cutters because of the high quality and user-friendliness. I am especially happy with the ergonomic design – for its lock open/lock closed feature for the blade and for the fact that I can cut accurately while seated (my spinal stenosis makes standing to cut painful).

These are quality tools and well worth the expense. Be sure to purchase a self-healing cutting mat (there are many brands and sizes on the market) — this will protect and prolong the blade sharpness on your cutter as well as protect the surface on which you are cutting. -- Linda Schiffer

Snuglet - prevent accidental power cable disconnects

Millions suffer in silence as the freakin’ MagSafe magnet in Mac notebooks turns out not to be strong enough, so every time you shift on the couch it falls out. I don’t know if you have this problem, but many of us are very frustrated that the magnet is not as strong enough as it was in the old days.

There was a successful Kickstarter thing called a Snuglet. It’s a shim, it looks like a staple. This tiny liner for the MagSafe jack, through some miracle of physics, amplifies the magnetic grip of the power plug so that it does not fall out unless you really kick the power cord or trip on it or something, which was the original idea. -- David Pogue

This is from the Cool Tools Show podcast with David Pogue. See all of David's picks here.

Gerber E-Z Out Jr Knife

The Gerber E-Z Out Jr Knife ($22) has been my daily carry knife for 16 years. It is a small light weight belt clip knife with a serrated blade that lets me cut anything from paper to rope and straps. The thumb slot in the blade allows you to open the knife one handed. The lock release makes it easy to fold the blade back in one handed. The belt clip is handy but secure. - Peter Lucas

Looney Pyramids - invent your own games

Looney Pyramids (formerly known as “Icehouse Pyramids”) are a system of plastic board game playing pieces. They come in a variety of colors (10 are commonly available) and 3 sizes and are sold in sets. The pieces can be used like a deck of cards for boardgames with the rules for over 300 games utilizing them already published online.

The publishers, Looney Labs, also greatly encourage their fans and customers to create their own games using the pieces. I have created a few myself and entered design contests that are fan run and intended to expand the Pyramid game world. As a means for creating your own boardgame or just a versatile system to playing hundreds of games, they are a fantastic investment of your entertainment dollar. -- Sam Zitin

Flexi Freedom retractable cord dog leash

First off, this leash is incredibly comfortable to hold. You wouldn’t think so by looking at it but I have walked, run, skied and bushwhacked with it in every season and you hardly know it’s there. Part of it is the soft rubber coating on the handle but it’s mostly the moulded shape that snugs right into your palm.

Next, it is very strong. When my 65 lb male Samoyed goes after a squirrel, the half inch wide, spring loaded belt pays out until it reaches the end and whammo: full stop, no problem. I haven’t cracked the case to see how the end of the belt attaches to the reel but it has stood up to this punishment nearly every day for several years now. Of course, this also speaks to how the spring-loaded, stainless steel D clip is fastened to the dog end of the belt: it’s looped through, folded back and crimped with a plastic clamshell.

The leash has an elegant locking-mechanism that works reliably and intuitively by pushing a button with your thumb and then engaging a switch. This locks the belt at whatever length you want, and yep, it holds firm when charging dog meets end of leash. The belt is released just by pushing the switch again. Both setting and releasing the length are easy to do with one gloved hand.

When you run, walk or ski with your dog, the reel constantly pays out and retrieves slack (unless you’ve set the lock) so the belt rarely gets tangled the way other leashes can. This adjusts for both human arm swinging as well as for various dog movements. I sometimes clip the Flexi onto my belt, which frees up both hands for hiking or ski poles, or for carrying stuff.

Finally, it is almost completely silent. Impressive that in all seasons, with the belt getting wet, dirty and freezing, it has not developed the slightest squeak. -- Tam Stewart

iMagnet phone mount - hassle free mount for driving

You don’t want to mess with your phone much while driving, period.

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Cellulose fibre filler - cure for stripped screw holes in wood

For years, I was frustrated by stripped screw holes, particularly with wooden doors. To get a screw to stay in the stripped hole, I stuffed wood pieces, plastic anchors, basically anything I could find that would fit in the hole. Usually the fix failed, and I was again searching for a MacGyver fix.

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Bungee cords with a ring for gripping

I camp a lot and picked up six Power Pull bungee cords last year.

I thought the pull ring was a good idea after having more than a few regular bungees slip from my hands while stretching. The ring makes these easy to secure. Even better, the ring provides an additional tie down location. This works out great when latching locations are limited. My wife really loves them, a huge plus. A simple, very useful, innovation. -- Patrick Leary

Best sippy cups for toddlers

There’s no end to the amount you can spend on gadgetry for child-rearing, and yet I’ve been amazed at the poor design and shoddy construction that seems to dominate even the high-end of the parental gear spectrum.

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Gadget review: Leatherman Multitool OHT

I’ve had many multitools: Leatherman, SOG, Kershaw, etc. but the Leatherman Multitool OHT ($88) by far the best.

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Schrade Key Chain Pry Tool: a half-ounce multitool

multi

I got the Schrade Key Chain Pry Tool as a birthday gift and it’s been on my keychain since. It’s about 3.25 inches long and about an inch at its widest. It has several tools including: pry tool, bottle opener, seat belt cutter, screw-driver, and a wrench driver that accommodates a variety of bolt/nut diameters.

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Zojirushi stainless steel mug: leakproof travel thermos

I bought my first Zojirushi stainless steel mug as a Christmas gift for my wife. She likes to take a lot of coffee with her to work for the day, typically filling both a travel mug and a thermos. I was looking for something that would keep a couple of servings of coffee hot for a long time, but would be easier to drink from than a traditional thermos. I came across this product, with extremely good reviews, and decided to get one for her to try.

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Sony Pocket AM/FM Radio - $13 and no service contract!

It doesn’t have stereo reception or digital tuning or even a darn clock, but my little Sony Pocket Radio has been going strong for a decade. A pair of AA batteries supplies me with months of music, news, and sports broadcasts. Its reception is strong and steady, the volume is more than adequate, I’ve dropped it a few times without harming it, and it’s about the price of a sandwich. Sure, I wish it came it cute colors. Yes, it tends to tip over on occasion. And it’s so easy to carry from place to place that my biggest complaint is that I sometimes don’t know where I left it. But in the age of HD and wireless and internet media, this pocket radio proves that stuff doesn’t have to fancy in order to be great. -- Jeremy Jackson

Stanley Tripod Flashlight: Portable, hands-free LED lighting

I replaced my D battery Mag-Light with this small LED light that only needs AA batteries. I get whiter light, longer life, and more intensity. Tripod lights have always been great tools (I work at Amazon, so I see a lot of gear). The problem with the traditional ones is they get very hot, use lot of battery power, and burn out fast. Stanley’s tripod light – the first LED version – takes all the advantages of LED and combines it with the convenience of a fold up stand.

I have already used it for a variety of household projects since I bought it last year. The best use has been to install dimmers. Usually I’d have to do this during the day or ask my wife to hold the flashlight. With the tripod light, I can now do it by myself at any time. -- Jason Goldberger

Hands-free workbench magnification

This is a 5-inch diameter magnifying glass mounted on a swing arm, and the assembly has a vice clamp to mount itself to the edge of a table or desk.

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Hol-ee Roller - dogproof chew toy

A friend gave my dog the Hol-ee Roller ($6) in January, and my dog and I like it so much that I have since started to phase-out other dog toys. It is durable. My dog is a strong chewer, and has destroyed many a lesser toy. It is attractive. Who doesn’t love a geodesic dome? It is light and squishy, bouncing off objects denser balls would damage. It is large. This might not seem important, but my dog has been known to attempt furniture disassembly while attempting to retrieve a ball that has rolled under the sofa. Despite its size, it is easy to pick up. Dogs can chomp on a vertex, and I can hook it with a finger. Touching it is not disgusting. Despite its size, it has little surface area to get slimy. And no tennis ball fuzz. -- Jonathan Harford

An automatic smart driving assistant that streams car data to your phone

The "quantified self" personal measurement tools all seem too constricting to me, at least at this point in my life. But, as one who cringed when I needed to buy my late-model Mazda3 for a commute, the concept of a "quantified car" makes a lot more sense. Buying a car means investing a decent sum of money in a depreciating collection of metal that requires sizable ongoing investments. Even when experiencing the joy of the open road, I'm still haunted by how much this contraption costs me. So, to ease my heartburn over car ownership, I bought the Automatic "Smart Driving Assistant" ($99) in early 2014.

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