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Hand crank extension cord winder

I use several corded power tools around the yard and garden such as a chain saw, leaf vacuum, hedge trimmer, etc. Many’s the time I would put off a chore using them because I would have to uncoil the 100′ of power cord and probably have to untangle/unkink it before using it. After the job was done, it would take another few minutes to coil up the power cord and try not to tangle it in the process.

A couple of types of cord reels I tried didn’t work particularly well. So I bought this weird looking cord winder a few years ago. After installing the wall mount near the power outlet in my garage and winding my cord into the basket, I was quite surprised to discover I could pull out the 100′ of power cord, tangle/kink free in about a minute to the end of my driveway. I would do my chore (usually the leaf vacuum for lawn clippings and leaves) and, in another minute or two I could wind up the cord, detach the cord winder from the wall mount and put it on the shelf. Those chores now get done when needed instead of being put off since the cord unwinding/re-winding takes so little time. -- Jim Service

Wonder Winder Hand Crank Extension Cord Winder: $20

Scotch Tear-by-Hand packaging tape

My family ships a lot of boxes during the holidays, and we go through a few rolls of packaging tape. Large pistol-grip tape dispensers don’t work well on smaller boxes — I have never been able to get the hang of using the serrated blade to cut off the tape.

I was happy to find out about Scotch’s Tear-by-Hand packaging tape. I (and more importantly, my wife) can easily tear off strips with our hands. It’s easy to get the length you desire, and the tear is perfectly perpendicular. Also, it’s easy to find the end of the tape on the roll by running your fingernail along it. This stuff is like magic. I never want to use any other kind of packaging tape. -- Mark Frauenfelder

Scotch Tear-by-Hand Tape, 1.88 Inches x 50 Yards $20

Post It Labeling Tape: Post-It paper by the roll

I found this product over a year ago. It comes in yellow, green, pink, and white, on a dispenser similar to scotch tape. The paper feels like the same paper used for the original Post It notes, and works well with a Sharpie pen for labeling. The back of the paper is fully-covered by the adhesive (unlike Post-It notes, which have a strip of adhesive only along the top).

I can label anything, remove the label and reuse it. I do this frequently with food storage as I shift things around from one container to another. The labels don’t roll up at the edges or fall off after a few months. I first used the tape when I was moving, because I was using a lot of plastic storage boxes, which I couldn’t write on, and the tape (I bought neon green) was so much easier to use than masking tape.

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Woolzies- Wool Dryer Balls

Woolzies are felt wool drier balls the size of a tennis ball. I have been using them for several months – after purchasing them on Amazon, and trying for the first time, I just keep them in the drier all the time now.

They save quite a bit of energy as the drying time is reduced by 30-40% or so. Woolzies also work better than plastic drier balls: I have noticed a marked difference in the quality and softness of the dried garments.

This product is efficient and environmentally friendly through and through: they’re made of pure wool so no plastic or other chemicals are used to make them. They drastically reduce the time required to dry clothing, they are gentler on the dried fabric, which also comes out softer and almost wrinkle-free. -- Denis Zaff

Woolzies- Wool Dryer Balls $34 / 6-pack

860-piece resistor kit

A couple of years ago I started working on electronics projects again after a long hiatus. To stock up on components, I bought bulk packages of resistors, capacitors, diodes, and transistors.

The packaging for the 860 resistors I bought from Joe Knows Electronics is excellent. It’s a rugged closable cardboard box with 86 sealable plastic bags, arranged by resistor value from 0 ohm to 10M ohm. Each bag is labeled and contains 10 resistors.

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Kindle Paperwhite - best e-book reader

I’ve been reading books on mobile devices since 1997 when my first daughter was born and I learned that I could hold a Palm Pilot and her at the same time. It was good to have an illuminated screen so she could sleep in my arms in the dark while I tapped my way through a novel.

Since then I’ve owned lots of different e-readers: Sony Librie (2004), Kindle (2007), iPhone (2007), iPad (2010), Kindle Fire (2011), and Nexus 7 (2012). They all have their own pros and cons, but none of them comes as close to perfection as the Kindle Paperwhite, which I bought in 2013.

A Paperwhite is better than a tablet because there’s no screen glare — an iPhone, iPad, Nexus 7, or Kindle Fire is useless outdoors on a sunny day. The Paperwhite (it's on the right in the above photo) is better than my original Kindle (on the left in the photo) because the display is illuminated, so I can read it in bed with the lights out while my wife sleeps. The Paperwhite also has much better battery life than any of my other e-readers, even the original Kindle, which requires recharging every couple of days. The size and weight of the Paperwhite allow for comfortable one-handed reading. (The iPad requires propping on a pillow for reading in bed.)

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Retractable cable combination lock: visual deterrent to amateur thieves

[UPDATE 6 January 20014: Unrecommended! See video of how Mark cut the cable with a pair of scissors.]

You ran into the store for one minute, came back out and your bike was gone! Or your skis, or motorcycle helmet.

You know that big, heavy, secure lock you never carry because it’s too big and heavy? This is the compromise solution – easy to carry and easy to use. This lightweight cable lock fits in your pocket and prevents “casual theft.” Let them steal someone else’s bike/skis/helmet (not cruel, just realistic). The retractable cable extends 24 inches.

I’ve been using these for about 10 years or so. Squirt a little WD-40 into it once in a while to keep it from freezing in the cold. Replace it at the first sign of balkiness (it’s cheap enough). -- Evan Marks

Master Lock 24-Inch Retractable Cable Lock $9

Cool Tools Show & Tell live video! (7:30pm PT 12/4/2013)

Streaming live from Kevin Kelly's house right now: the first Cool Tools Show and Tell meetup! A couple of dozen folks are demonstrating and talking about their favorite tools, and Kevin will show everyone his new book, Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. Watch the live stream here or at the Google Plus event page.

Watch the Cool Tools Show & Tell Meetup

There's still time to start or join a Cool Tools Show & Tell Meetup in your town. But if you can't make it for some reason, you are invited to watch the live video stream of the Show & Tell taking place at Kevin Kelly's place tomorrow (December 4, 2013) at 7:30pm PT. I'll post a streaming video here on Boing Boing, or you can visit the Google event page here and watch the video.

To learn more about the Cool Tools Show & Tell Meetup, read Kevin's post about it here.

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Cool Tools book reviewed on MacBreak Weekly

MacBreak Weekly is one of my favorite podcasts so it was a nice surprise to see Andy Ihnatko and Leo Laporte review Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools book on it. Leo said the book is “the best Christmas present for everybody in your family ever!” (I'm editor-in-chief of the Cool Tools website.)

Cool Tools Show & Tell Worldwide Meetup: 12/4/2013

Do you have a favorite tool that you’d like to let other people know about? Then come to the first Cool Tools Show & Tell Worldwide Meetup on December 4, 2013! Bring your favorite tool (hand tools, maps, how-to books, vehicles, software, specialized devices, gizmos, websites — and anything useful) and be prepared to talk about it and (if feasible) demonstrate it to other cool tools enthusiasts.

To lead a local Cool Tools Show & Tell, visit the Meetup page and enter the name of the city or zip code of where you would like to host a meetup into the field in the upper right corner. Then, click on the community of your choice and RSVP.

If you are not yet a member of Meetup.com, you’ll be given the opportunity to sign up for a free account. Once you’ve joined your community and RSVP’d for the Cool Tools Worldwide Meetup date on Dec. 4, you can suggest a location for the event and begin inviting your friends.

Share on Facebook or Twitter or use your community URL (example: http://www.meetup.com/Cool-Tools/Boulder/) to invite local friends via email. Otherwise, use http://www.meetup.com/cool-tools to spread the word to people around the world. Please consider videotaping your local meetup and uploading the videos for others to see. We will post links on the Cool Tools website.

Bonus! If you are in the United States would like to lead a local meetup and are able to host at least 10 other people, we would like to send you a complimentary copy of Kevin Kelly’s new book: Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities.

From the Whole Earth Catalog to Cool Tools

My friend and Cool Tools review website partner, Kevin Kelly, made a cool video about the making of his new book, Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. He says: "The Whole Earth Catalog was a bible for DIYers in the last century. Cool Tools is the same for this century. Here is what you can expect from this huge oversized book."

OP-1 Portable Synthesizer by Teenage Engineering

Musicians beware! The OP-1 is a synthesizer that some may love and others may dismiss as a mere overpriced toy.

For myself, Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 has been an indispensable addition to my synth arsenal: partly because it produces sounds I can’t find elsewhere and partly because it’s so incredibly easy (and yes, even fun) to use. (See video below.)

The color-base interface took me by surprise! There’s practically no learning curve for adjusting the eight separate sound engines (and effects) — the machine is highly visual in this regard. In fact I love handing my OP-1 to non-musicians and watching them as they almost instantly begin “programming” a sound. For a performer, this kind of ease-of-use is power: to effortlessly turn a few knobs and get to the sound one is after. No fiddling around. In this regard, the OP-1 is a musician’s instrument.

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Fast metal finishing with flap wheels and flap disks

Anyone working with metal should be aware of these two tools. They make finishing metal a smoother experience. I prefer these two attachments over composite disks, belt sanders, or orbital sanders.

I learned about them as a construction worker while prepping process pipe for welds on oil refineries. Both tools are standards in the steam fitting trade. I’ve since used them on robot creations, blacksmith projects, and anywhere else metal is involved.

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Easy cold-brew coffee with a French press

Cold brewing has recently become my preferred method for brewing my morning cup.

I love my coffee iced, but I never loved my typical approach: brew hot coffee, cool it, store it until I’m ready to drink. Half the time I forget to brew ahead and I end up drinking it hot.

Cold brewing coffee works like this: combine ground beans with room temperature (or cooler) water and let steep for 12 to 15 hours. That’s it.

I love the smoother flavor of cold brewed coffee. From what I’ve read, some folks consider the resulting coffee to be a concentrate in need of dilution. Not me. Maybe it’s the ice.

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