Bic Cristal Xtra Bold is the best cheap pen

I've always hated Bic's cheap Cristal ballpoint pens as much as I've wanted to love them. An iconic example of 20th-century design genius, they are unreliable, ubiquitous, and produce a nasty debossed line even when they work. But look, everyone: they fixed it. Read the rest

Lockdown tool prevents ladders from kicking out

Ladder lockdown is a metal tray with super-grippy patches on its underside; set it down on any surface (including ice!) and then set your ladder's feet in the tray and cinch it in place and the ladder won't "kick out" and injure you and your loved ones. Read the rest

Review: Quickie Jobsite Broom

As a man, the idea of buying a decent broom filled me with a billowing resentment, a lockjawed defiance at the very notion of replacing pointless labor with quality tools. I liked forcing results from a feeble polyester-fringed stick that would fold like a garden hose if pushed too hard.

When the last one broke, though, I was in a dreadful hurry and ended up grabbing the first one I saw under the false impression it was like $5.97. But it wasn't! It was $19.99. Twenty fucking dollars!

Even as I stormed from the checkout to the car, though, the weight of it in my hands began whispering to me. Seducing me. Talking to me about the dust it would move, the way it might put even the heaviest clods of muck in their place.

Within minutes of deployment on its first job (lawnmower clipping overflow) I was smitten. Something that once took minutes (shoveling my grass dust onto someone else's property) now took a fraction of the time. I immediately rushed to the back of the house to see if it could move the soggy little dunes of mud accreting on the edges of my crappy brick pathway. It did.

Lifting it to glint in the sunlight, I envisaged a science-fictional future wherein, firearms prohibited by the vast and sprawling mechanisms of a progressive world government, the last real men develop elaborate martial arts that turn everyday brooms, like this one, into brutally subversive instruments of self-defense and political self-determination. Read the rest

Use these handy bits to drill out stripped screws and bolts

When a bolt or screw is stripped, I drill it out with this extractor set.

When working on old motorcycles, or just my old VW bus, I encounter a lot of stuck screws and bolts. Frequently prior mechanics have left fastners completely rounded off. When these things happen, I grab my drill.

These extractor bits both burnish the stripped head, and then screw into it and extract it. They are not simple to use, and it takes a very steady hand -- something I don't always have -- but slow and patient work generally produces good results.

Speed Out Extractor HSS Broken Bolt and Damaged Screw Extractor via Amazon Read the rest

This 10mm battery terminal ratchet makes my eternal screwing up less painful

My cars and bikes have the batteries in hard to reach places. This 10mm battery terminal rachet helps out!

In prepping the Vanagon Westy for a long roadtrip, I found I've killed my house battery. I ordered up a replacement but dreaded getting into the battery box. In a Vanagon, Volkswagen hides the batteries underneath the passenger and drivers seats. Getting at these battery terminals is a comedy of errors and blood. I'd go so far as to say the blood was compulsatory until I got this handy rachet at Harbor Freight.

It is small. It fits where I need it to. It is a rachet, and as such I am not constantly trying to re-seat the fucker while zapping myself against a grounded battery box in a thoughtlessly engineered tight space. At least VW put a cover on the battery box, albiet a conductive metal one. My '78 Audi 5000, the model with occasional self-determination, had a passenger bench burnt with splashed battery acid from another VW/Audi underseat battery adventure.

10mm Side-Terminal Battery Reversible Ratchet Wrench Chrome-Plated via Amazon Read the rest

Man takes the "cheapest" survival tool kit into the woods

Wranglerstar found the cheapest survival toolkit on Amazon, then took it into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. There's a shovel, a saw, a magnetic LED flashlight with a tactical hitty thing and a USB outlet for charging gadgets, a pocket chainsaw, and a bag— all for $30. It's not awful, but the price didn't last.

Reviewing "cheapest" gear, I've noticed that the sellers are watching and sometimes jack the prices when a site or YouTuber with any audience posts something, as appears to be the case with this particular viral video. This will probably force reviewers to post roundups of cheap gear, so readers can easily figure out the "cheapest decent thing" from a fair selection.

Previously: The $7 Verical Ergonomic mouse is not awful. Read the rest

Sometimes a cheap plastic drain snake will save the day

My daughter has long hair. This cheap drain snake has cleared a number of plugged bathroom sinks, and our tub. The snake drags out a lot of hair. Perhaps because it is so "supple."

When it is the kitchen sink, and dishwasher, that aren't clearing however, you may need to call a plumber. :(

Vastar 3 Pack 19.6 Inch Drain Snake Hair Drain Clog Remover Cleaning Tool via Amazon Read the rest

Easy to use bicycle chain tool

Guess how I'm spending Saturday morning? This bicycle chain tool works for both my road bike and my mountain bike that loves to break its chain.

Oumers Universal Bike Chain Tool With Chain Hook via Amazon Read the rest

A multitool that's also a belt-buckle

SOG's $60 Sync II "wearable belt buckle" multitool isn't the only multitool/buckle on the market, but it does add a couple very sensible innovations, like a clip-on/clip-off base that lets you use your tool without taking off your belt, and a squared-off form factor (like a pair of folding travel sewing scissors) that adapts the folded tool for the buckle form-factor. Read the rest

How to make a mallet from milk jugs

Peter Brown made a serviceable mallet from melted down plastic wood jugs.

HDPE is the plastic used in many household containers including gallon sized milk jugs. I melt down about 7 milk jugs and 3 powdered lemonade containers to get enough HDPE to make my mallet head.

The handle of the mallet is made from a cherry board and adds a nice warm contrast to the plastic! This mallet packs a punch and is quite heavy given it smaller size!

Read the rest

Robot Maker and YouTuber Simone Giertz's favorite tools

Our guest this week on the Cool Tools Show is Simone Giertz. Simone is a Swedish native who now resides in San Francisco. Millions of people come to watch her build shitty robots on YouTube and she recently launched her own astronaut training program to get herself into space. Simone's videos have been featured on The Ellen Show, The Late Show, Mashable, Business Insider, Wired, Conan O'Brien, and more. Whilst most recently joining master builder Adam Savage's tested team.

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Show notes:

Dremel 4200 ($114) “I started building stuff about 3 years and I’m rediscovering everything that people have known for a long time. … Dremel tool kind of goes in the line of that … it blew my mind because I do a lot of aluminum fabrications. I make parts out of aluminum frames or customized parts that I already have and for that it's freakin' great because it's like having your own arm do it but at a much higher RPM. It's like a little pen. It's just such an accessible tool. You're just sitting there and you're cutting. It has the tiniest little cutter blades and it’s just nice. … It’s a super versatile tool and it takes up no space.”

Original Prusa i3 MK2S kit ($699)

"I am definitely not an authority in 3D printing. I am a total 3D printing novice. Read the rest

Multitool in a hairclip

I have no hair. But if you do, and it's long, consider this MTA Hairclip that doubles as a stainless steel multitool containing a screw driver, wrench, ruler, cutting edge, and trolley coin to unlock a shopping cart. It's also available in slightly different pink and black models that include a bottle opener.

They're $9 from Amazon. Read the rest

A residential contractor shares what's in his tool belt

Paul Abueva is a residential contractor. He shared the contents of his tool belt at Cool Tools (a web site I run with Kevin Kelly and Claudia Dawson).

I am a residential contractor who does remodeling and repair work, so I carry tools that that are useful to a variety of trades work. Over the years I’ve put together what I believe to be a perfect compromise between weight and function. Read the rest

Addicted to data? $10 USB car charger with a voltmeter

Yes, I really do "need" a 12V USB charging adaptor with a built-in voltmeter.

Driving my VW camper van around, I frequently swap the USB charger with a voltmeter. I'm always curious about how much current my alternator is putting out, and if my house batteries are charging up. I also worry that my kid may plug into the wrong 12V outlets and drain the starting battery. This charger lets me know what is going on as I charge. I NEED TO KNOW!

There are a few chargers with voltmeters, I picked this one as it has both 2.4A and 1A charging, the swivel lets me angle it so I can read it while driving, and the display is super easy to read/understand. When the engine is running the voltmeter tells you what current it sees at your 12V port, with the engine off it's reading the charge from the battery.

Thanks to help from our readers, I successfully put together and sized my house battery, solar panel and portable fridge to allow me uninterrupted cold storage, regardless how long I stay out. This voltmeter helps me manage the system. I'll write up a post what I ended up going with soon.

HAWEEL Rapid LED Dual USB Car Charger Adapter(5V/3.4A output) with LCD Screen Display via Amazon Read the rest

Small, sharp knife disguised as a housekey

SOG make excellent knives: I know because I had many of them confiscated by the nascent TSA in the early days of the Global War on Terror, that liminal moment when I was still kidding myself that I would remember to empty my pockets of useful tools before boarding a flight. Read the rest

The joy of air compressors

One of my most useful tools is invisible, infinitely recyclable, and free — well, in a sense. It’s AIR. You do need another substantial tool (compressor) to use it; but then endlessly refilling your tank only costs the electricity or other fuel to run it. A compressor has so many uses for any serious “maker” that any list is bound to be wildly incomplete. I got my first (largish) machine decades ago to blow water out of copper plumbing pipes that needed soldering.

You only need a hose and cheap end fittings for simple tasks like pressurizing tires and balls, blowing dust out of computer/electronic innards, wood/metal chips out of deeply drilled holes, debris from vehicle vents, clogged vacuum cleaner filters, etc. etc. I’ve also found multiple uses for spray paint gun, abrasive cutoff tool (for metal), air hammer, ratcheting wrench, impact driver (nearly essential if you do any vehicle tire work). My air powered stapler, finish nailer and framing nailer have seen much use in carpentry and fence construction over the years; many other specialized air powered tools exist. When I no longer needed the large compressor, I replaced it with a more compact, less capacious unit that’s incapable of large flow tasks like spraying paint, but still incredibly valuable for almost everything else. Compressors (electric or gas powered) are widely available new and used, from under $100 to well over $1000 — pick a size and quality proportional to the sustained air flow (CFM) you need and how heavily it will be used. Read the rest

Millennium Falcon multitool

The $30, 4" x 3" die-cast zinc alloy tool includes four hexkeys, two screwdrivers and an adjustable wrench, with tool storage inside a magnetically sealed compartment. Read the rest

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