Cool Tools


Craftsman reinforced tool bag - holds lots of tools in a small container

I converted from a toolbox to this Craftsman tool bag last year and I could not be happier. I live in an apartment in Singapore with no tool bench and limited space. Over the years I’ve kept my tools in a series of metal and plastic toolboxes. The boxes always seemed to be too full.

Then I visited a friend in England who had a wonderful canvas tool bag, which held assorted screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, hammers, tape measures and other tools compactly and efficiently. Though I could not locate a canvas bag in the United States, I found this synthetic bag at Sears. I’ve consolidated my tools from my hard toolboxes into the bag and am pleased with the accessibility of my tools and the compactness and portability of the bag.

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Dewalt DW920K-2 Two-Postion Screw Driver Kit

I have used this for 2 years. It is very effective in narrow spaces such as IDF (Intermediate Distribution Frame) closets, where I have to add switches or UPS units to rack units. The wand shape makes using this screw driver very effective since it gives me the additional length from the chuck to the screw that a normal electric drill configuration fails to achieve.

I wish it also had a LED illumination adjacent to the chuck, which Dewalt is adding to its newer electric product line. -- Stephen S. Wizowski

Dewalt DW920K-2 1/4-Inch 7.2-Volt Cordless Two-Position Screwdriver Kit $70

UppaBaby G-Lite stroller: lightweight baby transportation

As a new parent, I bought an expensive jogging stroller, thinking it would be all I needed. After trying to steer it around the mall and through crowded city sidewalks, I changed my mind. I bought a cheap umbrella stroller, and liked the convenience of it, but it was difficult to push, difficult to open, and my baby seemed uncomfortable.

Finally, I caved and bought the UppaBaby G-Lite. While at around $150 it’s more than I wanted to spend, it has been one of my most-used pieces of baby gear since I bought it a little over a year ago, and I can use it for several more years since the weight limit is 55 pounds. Other lightweight strollers I looked at seemed too bulky, didn’t have a sunshade, looked difficult to clean, or were plain ugly.

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Surprisingly handy small crowbar

As a locksmith, holding open a door while working on it (or preventing it from relocking) is a daily event at least, for me. This little bar will jam neatly under most, holding it solid. (In one direction at least. I also carry a 160mm version which will jam it in the other direction too, if needed, or, of course, a second door.)

It turns out it has many other uses, many of them things I’d either not have bothered with or would have (ab)used something else to do the same task. Now I miss it whenever I misplace it. -- Nigel K Tolley

Vaughan Mini Pry Bar 5-½" $6

Amped Wireless Range Extender - Send Wi-Fi to your home's weak spots

My cable modem and WiFi router are on one end of our long house. The signal peters out before it gets to my daughters’ bedrooms, and because they like to do their homework in their rooms, I needed to come up with a way to extend the range. The Amped Wireless SR20000G Range Extender did the trick. I placed it in our dining room and it greatly extended the wireless signal. Setup was trivial and hassle-free. The speed of the data transfer did not noticeably diminish (i.e., my kids don’t complain when they watch Netflix on an iPad). I recommend this quick solution for spreading Wi-Fi around your house. -- Mark Frauenfelder

Amped Wireless High Power Wireless-N 600mW Gigabit Dual Band Range Extender, Model SR20000G $140

Astonishingly absorbent towel

I take at least two daily showers and have problems with cotton towels getting damp, smelly, and yucky because they can’t dry quickly enough in the hours between. I recently turned to an item I’ve had for a year and used for the opposite intended purpose — the Ergodyne Chill-Its is designed to keep someone cool on a hot day by absorbing a lot of water and evaporating gradually. But, since it’s moisture-absorbent, it can also be used for the effectively inverse purpose: GET YOU DRY FAST!

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Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Duo: All day charger for mobile gadgets

I bought this USB charging unit because I have a lousy sense of direction. I get lost in buildings and in cities, even ones I’m familiar with. My iPhone’s GPS map is a godsend. I use it when I’m driving, walking, and taking public transportation.

When I was in Tokyo in June, I brought along a small Android phone installed with a local data SIM card. I used the phone as a wireless hotspot for my iPhone, and appreciated having access to the online map to guide me from my hotel to the subway station, and to attractions like the Tsukiji fish market and Kabuki-Cho. It was also nice to call home using Skype, and to post Instagram photos. The only problem was that the batteries on the Android phone and iPhone drained after a few hours, forcing me to ask people, chikatetsu wa doko desu ka? in badly-accented Japanese, to find the nearest subway station.

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Skooba Laptop Weekender Travel Bag - a carry-on bag for gadget lovers

I go somewhere on a plane at least twice a month. For over ten years I’ve used a Briggs & Riley roller carry-on, and I’ve been fairly happy with it. It’s heavy for its small size and the zipper pulls all broke off (I made replacements from binder clips and Sugru) so I’ve been keeping my eye out for a replacement. After hearing great things about the accessibility and capacity of the Skooba Weekender duffle, I decided to give it a try. It turned out the be the most convenient carry-on I’ve ever used.

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Poison oak and poison ivy skin barrier: Invisible Glove

I am horrifically allergic to poison oak. I am also an avid mountain biker in northern California. This not a good combination. I have tried all the soaps and wipes, but none of them really help, especially if you are out all day and can’t get to a shower soon after exposure.

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Recycled surgical towels are awesome

Huck towels are durable low-lint cotton towels canonically used for wiping down surgical instruments after sterilization, but they are useful for many other tasks where a clean strong towel is optimal. They are praised by window-washers, auto detailers, and professional housecleaners, and they are very popular in my household.

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The Love Glove

With three cats in the house, fur gets all over our furniture and clothes. I didn’t want to make a dozen Monkey Couch Guardians, so I bought a Love Glove to attack the problem at its source – on the cats.

The Love Glove looks like an oven mitt. The palm side is covered with rubber nubs. To use it, you simply pet your cat. The loose fur comes off and sticks to the glove. It’s easy to peel off. My cats go into throes of ecstasy when I use the Love Glove on them. They even get excited just seeing me approach them with the glove on my hand.

I have collected a lot of fur so far. My younger daughter is saving it because she to make the projects in Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat. -- Mark

Love Glove Grooming Mitt for Cats $6

How to Win a Fight - A guide to avoiding and surviving violence

This book could be titled “How and Why You Should Do Everything Possible to Avoid Getting Into a Fight.” The authors (both martial artists who’ve been around the block a few times and have the scars to show it) spend a good number of pages explaining why fighting is always terrible idea — even if you manage to win, you end up losing (your attacker’s relatives could sue you or seek revenge, you could go to prison, and for the rest of your life you could carry the knowledge of having crippled or maimed another person).

The authors also go into detail explaining how to recognize the first signs of a situation that could escalate into a fight and what to do. Only after they’ve convinced you to avoid a fight do they get to the section about effective ways of defending yourself.

The final third of the book deals with the often unconsidered aftermath of a fight: administering first aid and what to do to stay out of jail. -- Mark Frauenfelder

How to Win a Fight

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Dogbone Wrench - handier than a socket set

I’ve used it three years. Keep it in my desk and use it much more frequently than my socket set. I always have the right size wrench handy in a single tool, and it rotates, so it functions more like a socket than a crescent wrench.

Design has been around for years. I own the newer Black & Decker model, but Craftsman makes one too. -- Elon Schoenholz

Black & Decker MSW100 Ready Wrench $26

The best way to start a charcoal barbecue

No need to buy charcoal lighter fluid (or “boy scout water” as they call it in my home state of Colorado) or self-starting charcoal briquets. Just put two crumpled sheets of newspaper in the bottom chamber of this metal chimney and add briquets (I buy the large bags at Trader Joe’s for $7 each) to the top. Light the newspaper with a match and go back into the kitchen to prepare food for grilling. In 20 minutes the briquets will be cherry red and ready to use. Once you use this you’ll wonder how you grilled without it. Take a look at the insanely happy Amazon reviews (4.9 star average with over 800 reviews.) - Mark Frauenfelder

Weber Rapidfire Chimney Charcoal Starter $15

Rugged tiny USB flash drive fits on a key ring

I cannot say enough about this key-shaped USB flash drive. The first model I purchased I owned for several years. It was only 2GB and I still have it on my keychain, alongside my new 32GB model that I picked up for $35. I use them almost every day. They stay on my keychain, and it means I always have storage space with me as well as pertinent documents I might need, such as the latest copy of my resume, and an ebb-and-flow selection of images from my portfolio.

It is indispensable in my daily activities. I use it to bring home work and exchange music with friends. I even use it in my car to play my MP3s through my usb port thats connected to my stereo. It’s a large amount of space in a small package that’s gone through the wash a few times and still works. I’m still surprised when I hand it to people to transfer files to and they have never seen one. -- Matthew A. Walker

32 GB LaCie PetiteKey USB flash drive $35