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

Mininch tool pen: a "pop a point" screwdriver

The Mininch Tool Pen uses the "pop a point" mechanism used in mechanical pencils to hold and switch magnetic screwdriver bits; it's made from machined aluminum and weighs 93g with all six bits inside. It's $70 and comes in three colors and your choice of Imperial, Metric and EU bits. (via Wired) Read the rest

Cutting jawbreakers with a 60,000 PSI waterjet

The recently-launched Waterjet Channel has been cutting all kinds of stuff with their high-power device, like these giant jawbreakers. Other good ones include an SLR camera:

And a rubber band ball:

Giant Jaw Breakers vs 60,000 PSI Waterjet (YouTube / Waterjet Channel) Read the rest

12-in-1 Stanley Multitool for $8

What's not to like about this 12-in-1 Stanley Multitool, especially when it costs just $8 on Amazon? I grabbed a couple to have around the house so I don't need to get my toolbox from the garage for minor fix-it tasks.

Read the rest

Leatherman MUT: great-looking successor to the Skeletool

There was a time when I had a lot of multitools: it started innocently, with a classic Leatherman "pocket survival tool," which I carried everywhere, and because when you have a multitool, everything looks like a screw, bottlecap, thing-in-need-of-sawing/scissoring, or filing, I used it all the time. Read the rest

Shaper Origin is a handheld CNC router

I just watched a few of the demo videos for the Shaper Origin. It's a handheld, computer numerical control, router that allows you to cut precise shapes into flat stock. Since it is handheld, there's really no limit to the size of the things you want to cut out. Looks really cool. It costs around $1500. Read the rest

Nut Wizard also picks up tennis balls

There are a of Nut Wizard videos on YouTube. People use them to pick up all kinds of spherical objects.

Here's a multi-headed Nut Wizard that makes short work of 40lbs of pecans on the lawn:

Here's a fellow who uses one to pick up shell casings. True to YouTube form, he doesn't show how it works until the video is half over: Read the rest

Kickstarting beltbuckle multitools

Tony Zentil, a mechanical engineer, has a fully funded Kickstarter for a variety of multitool belt-buckles aimed at skateboarders, snowboarders, and motorcyclists -- they're a significant advance on my old, beloved 686 belt-buckle stolen by the security staff of London Gatwick airport in 2011. Read the rest

Ingenious idea for a Thor toolbox

If you were a Norse god/superhero who moonlighted as a carpenter, this Thor Hammer Tool Kit would hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately right now it's just a concept design from Dave's Geeky Ideas!

When not being carried around for Asgardian cosplay, this hammer opens up to reveal all the tools stored inside. The handle is shared with an actual hammer, which is fastened into a removable tray. Beneath the tray is a reservoir for loose tools and nuts/bolts.

Read the rest

Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired, shares his four favorite tools

Chris Anderson is the CEO of 3D Robotics and founder of DIY Drones. From 2001 through 2012 he was Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine. Before Wired he was with The Economist for seven years in London, Hong Kong and New York. He’s the author of the New York Times bestselling books The Long Tail, and Free, as well as Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. His background is in science. He started with studying physics and doing research at Los Alamos, culminating in six years at the two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science. Chris is also the founder of the site Geekdad. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife and five children.

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Show notes:

Carvey CNC Machine ($2,000)

CNC machines are subtractive. 3D printers add plastic but CNC machines cut it away. … The Carvey is the first one that really feels like it belongs in my workshop, on my desktop. It's beautiful. It's quiet, it's got a cover, hydraulic hinges, etc. … It's the perfect replacement for a laser cutter in that it does 2D quite easily. It can actually do limited 3D, which is to say give depth to stuff. … Think of it right now as the kind of thing you would use for carving wood, plastics of various sorts.

Cricut Explore Air Machine ($250)

The Cricut is a CNC paper cutter and plotter. Read the rest

Hex bit sockets make Allen keys irrelevant

I hate Allen keys. This set of ⅜" drive hex bit sockets means I rarely have to fight one of those stupid tiny things again!

Ever tried getting an over tightened socket head screw out of a 40 year old motorcycle's drain pan with 2 ½" long Allen key? I gave up. I ordered this set of ⅜" drive sockets to make the job easy, and it was. They come in handy when building a Blahblahblah from Ikea, or pretty much anything that needs a hex bit wrench.

This Crafstman set comes with sockets sized 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10. 3 and 4 seem typical for most build-it-yourself furnishing. 6, 7 and 8 seem to be useful all over German and English motorcycles. Getting the seat off a Triumph is now a lot easier.

Not that a lot of socket fasteners come with dictated torque settings, but it is notionally helpful to be able to put these on the torque wrench as well.

I should likely get a set of Torx bits as well, although I still like what I currently use.

CRAFTSMAN EVOLV 7-PC HEX BIT SOCKET SET *METRIC* via Amazon Read the rest

Sound artist Meara O'Reilly describes four favorite tools

Meara O'Reilly is a sound artist and educator, most recently in residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. She is co-creator of the Rhythm Necklace app, a musical sequencer that uses two-dimensional geometry to create rhythms. Her collaboration with Snibbe Interactive on sound-based cymatic concert visuals for Björk's Biophilia album was included in the world tour.

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Show Notes:

OP-1 Portable Synthesizer ($849) "I have to say that the OP-1 is one of the best new instruments that's out there. I found it to be simultaneously complex and accessible. ... Essentially, it doesn't sacrifice complexity but it has great design constraints that allow you to make something right away. ... It's not a full octave and the keys are not full size. ... There's all these buttons on it that, at first don't make any sense and they sort of just have numbers or whimsical little designs on them and when you press them, all of a sudden there's this advanced functionality."

Sketch ($99) "It's kind of now my go-to design tool because it's such a focused piece of software, in terms of, it was focused specifically on what I was trying to do, which was basically prototype how something would look on a iOS device and be able to immediately export things and put them in code and put them in action, as opposed to having to do lots of, jumping through lots of hoops to export stuff. Read the rest

Finger Ease is guitar string lubricant that smells nice

I really like Finger Ease guitar string lubricant. While I doubt the spray does a thing for the sound of my strings, I find it allows me to play for quite a bit longer.

Read the rest

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