I interviewed Cory Doctorow for the Cool Tools Podcast

Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Cory for our Cool Tools podcast. He talked about his four favorite tools as well as his latest writing projects and various other topics. Find out more in the show notes. Read the rest

Seven top tips from makers so far this year

Here are seven of my favorite DIY/maker tips published this year in my weekly newsletter, Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales.

Etching Metal with a 9v Battery Etching is easier than you think. Leah of See Jane Drill demonstrates how easy it is to etch a metal surface using little more than a 9v battery and wires, vinegar, salt, and Q-tips.

Finding the Thickness of a Wire Emory Kimbrough was one of the winners of my Tips book drawing in December. I asked contestants for one great tip. Emory sent me ten. And then, a few days later, he sent me another five – all publication-worthy. I’m excited to share them. Look for more Emory tips in the coming months. Here’s the first one:

If you need to find the thickness of a wire but don’t have a micrometer or calipers, wrap the wire around a dowel many times in a tight helix leaving no gaps between the coils. Now, just measure the width of, say, thirty coils with an ordinary ruler and divide by thirty. The more coils you wind, the more accurate your measurement. And even if you do use top-quality digital calipers, it’s even more accurate if you use this wind-and-divide method than if you measure a single thickness.

Organize Cables in Dollar Store Pencil Cases The column I’m currently working on for HackSpace magazine will cover workshop storage and organizing. As part of my research, I asked for relevant storage ideas on my Facebook page. My friend Jake Hildebrandt shared this idea. Read the rest

Interview with photographer Meeno Peluce about his favorite tools

My guest this week on the Cool Tools Podcast is Meeno Peluce. Meeno grew up as a successful child actor in Hollywood, and his kid sister is Soleil Moon Frye of Punky Brewster fame. He then moved behind the camera and has spent his life photographing and filming the world around him, from the burning ghats in Varanasi to the luminous landscapes of Tinseltown. He’s a proud Papa and ask him his profession, and he’ll tell you he’s a Meeno, and all that might entail. He gave himself the name when he was two in Nepal. It’s been an adventure of individualism and a constant search for personal experience ever since. You can find him on Instagram @meeno_the_man.

See show notes here Read the rest

Interview with Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff is one my oldest and dearest friends. He's also one of the sharpest media theorists and cultural critics I know. It's always a thrill to have a conversation with him because he makes me question my opinions and I alway end up with a changed brain. So it was great fun to have him on the Cool Tool podcast.

Douglas is named one of the "world's ten most influential intellectuals by MIT. He's an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His twenty books include the just-published Team Human, based on his podcast, as well as the bestsellers Present Shock, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc., and Media Virus. He also made the PBS FRONTLINE documentaries, Generation Like, The Persuaders, and The Merchants of Cool. He's a professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at Queens College, a columnist for Medium, and his novels and comics, Ecstasy Club, A.D.D., and Aleister & Adolf are all being developed for the screen. You can find him on Twitter @rushkoff and Youtube.

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Show notes:

Written language Written language is definitely a tool. It's a medium. It's an environment. There's all these ways to think about it, but I love thinking about words as a tool. Because particularly, when I'm mad about something or I feel like there's something that people don't get, once I can put words around it, once I can articulate what's happening, what people are feeling, or the dysfunction, or the paradox, I feel like it empowers me and so many other people to then go do something about it. Read the rest

Jane Metcalfe, co-founder NEO.LIFE, has a cool upcoming book

Kevin Kelly and I interviewed our friend Jane Metcalfe for the Cool Tools podcast. Jane is the founder of NEO.LIFE, a media and events company tracking how digital tools and an engineering mindset are transforming human biology. Prior to that, she made chocolate on a pier in San Francisco at TCHO Chocolate. Jane is probably best known as the cofounder of Wired magazine.

The Kickstarter campaign for her new book "Neo.Life: 25 Visions for the Future of Our Species" is now live.

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Show notes:

Offi Mag Table ($249) I love bent plywood! I also love magazines, so this bent plywood magazine holder/side table designed by Eric Pfieffer is a total winner. There is something just so satisfying about seeing a sweep of beautiful wood flow down into a curve and splash back up the other side. And that's not all. The table makes a perfect companion to your LazyBoy recliner for Sunday afternoon reading delight. But, you can also turn it on its end and use it as a makeshift work surface, which is great when a colleague has to come be in the video conference but also wants desk space to take notes. It's so good looking I used it this week on stage for an event we produced.

Souk Shopper Basket by Bohemia I used to find shopping at farmers markets physically taxing mostly because I get excited and buy way more than I can carry, always. Read the rest

This cheap professional grade electric razor is an upgrade I never knew I wanted

I started going bald in my mid-twenties, thanks to a combination of stress and shitty genes. I put up with it, right up to the point where I started thinking about getting a hair cut that would mask the amount of hair that I had lost. Realizing that, for me at least, this was the way to vain insanity, I went to my barber and told him to shave it all off, right down to the wood. I've been shaving my head ever since. For close to two decades, that shaving was done with either a straight razor or an old school safety razor, depending on whether or not I was traveling. Unfortunately, my relationship with sharp things and hot lather came to an end this past September. As part of  a physical with my new family doctor, it was discovered that I had an 80% blockage in my ticker—I'd been trying to kill myself, for years, with booze and bad food (and once again, shitty genes.) I had a stent put in me and was prescribed a ton of cardiac-related medications, blood thinners, included. My doctor made it clear that shaving with an exposed blade needed to be a thing that I didn't do anymore. Any injuries to my scalp, no matter how minor, would bleed like a sunovabitch. "You should invest in an electric razor," My cardiologist told me. "You'll get used to it, real quick," my friend Richard, who'd has a stent put in his heart the year before, told me. Read the rest

My podcast interview with John Hodgman

I interviewed the delightful John Hodgman about some of his favorite tools, and I learned many good tips from him (especially how to reverse sear a steak). As you probably know, John is a writer, performer, former PC, once the resident expert on the Daily Show, and now the author of two books of non-fake facts and true stories from his life, Vacationland and Medallion Status. You can find him at Twitter @hodgman and on Instagram @johnhodgman.

Here are the links to the tools he talks about.

Image: Courtesy John Hodgman Read the rest

Review: The Winkler Knives Medic Axe is as beautiful as it is expensive

For years, I’ve kept a tomahawk on hand. It accompanies me into the bush, lives next to my side of the bed when we’re staying in sketchy areas for protection, and has traveled with me to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Spain, across Canada and the United States. As I live in a 40-foot RV, I consider it to be as vital a piece of safety gear as the fire extinguishers we keep in the front and rear of the vehicle.

A good tomahawk can be used to quickly breach walls, doors or windows – an important ability to have, if we ever find ourselves trapped in our rig in a way that keeps us from its only door and two escape windows. I tell anyone who asks me about it to keep one in their emergency preparedness kit or bugout bag: during Hurricane Harvey, some folks were only able to avoid flood waters by getting to their roof through a hole cut in it with an axe. Others weren’t so lucky. What I’m getting at is while a tomahawk or axe is often seen as a weapon – some are, by design – they can also be used as a safety tool which, once you have one, you’ll find countless uses for.

So, today for show and tell, I want to talk about my new tomahawk.

Last month, Daniel Winkler of Winkler Knives gifted me a Medic Axe—one of the new designs that he’s recently churned out. It’s a simple piece of cutlery, but damned if it isn’t a piece of art. Read the rest

I love my Opinel No. 8 pocket knives

I keep an Opinel No. 8 pocket knife in most of my jackets. This one has been with me for years.

I buy Opinel No. 8 pocket knives for a lot of reasons. They are elegant in their simplicity. The carbon steel blade is excellent, stays sharp and develops a lovely patina. The handle is a simple piece of wood that fits well in your hand. The locking neck ring is pretty ingenious, and down right fool-proof if you use it.

Best of all, they are cheap and I don't mind losing them when I've forgotten to remove one on its way to the airport. The "No.8" 3.35in blade, perfect for most of my camping needs, is not allowed to board a plane on my person. Frequently, like last weekend, the heroic defenders of democracy that are the TSA just let me pass thru, but on occasion they will confiscate it.

I've had this blade since 2012. The patina started out by stabbing a lemon, but over the years has taken on a life of its own. While the ink on the side of the handle has slightly worn off, this knife just keeps getting better.

I hope I don't lose this one, it has ranged from Baja to Canada.

You can decorate, carve or otherwise modify the handle to your liking.

Opinel Carbon Steel Folding Everyday Carry Locking Pocket Knife via Amazon Read the rest

Interview with Scotty Allen, host of the Strange Parts Youtube channel

My Cool Tools podcast guest this week is Scotty Allen. Scotty is a nomadic engineer, entrepreneur, adventurer and storyteller who orbits around San Francisco and Shenzhen, China. He runs a YouTube channel Strange Parts, a travel adventure show for geeks where he goes on adventures ranging from building his own iPhone in China to trying to make a manhole cover in India.

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Show notes:

1080P HDMI digital camera video microscope ($299)

“So one of the things that I have gotten an outsized amount of value from over the past year has been this microscope that I bought here in the electronics markets in China. It's a no-brand-name microscope that I got from a little tiny microscope booth in the market, and it's really been this incredibly high-leverage tool for me, and I didn't realize how much I was missing out until I bought it. It's been really great for doing detail work. And I use it for really small soldering work on iPhones and related circuit boards … It's a binocular microscope. It's not super high magnification, but because it's binocular you get depth of field, and so you can really see well. So you can look through the microscope and work underneath it with tweezers or a soldering iron or other tools and in great depth see what you're doing."

Frame.io Read the rest

Digg founder Kevin Rose talks about his favorite vegetable fermenter and cryptocurrency wallet

My guest on the Cool Tools podcast this week is Kevin Rose. Kevin is a serial entrepreneur and product builder, having founded the social news site Digg in 2004. Later Kevin pursued a career in venture investing, investing in companies like Medium, Ripple, and Blue Bottle Coffee while at Google Ventures and is now investing at True Ventures.

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Show notes:

Peloton Bike ($1,995)

“I had taken a couple stationary bike classes and the ones that you actually have to go in person, but then I had a buddy of mine, that was like you don’t understand, these classes are a lot of fun, they really motivate you, you can do it your house, and for me that just sounded like, okay, I’ll give it a shot, and I went and tried it at a friend’s house, and I got hooked, purchased one, and for a geek it's awesome because you get all the really detailed analytics on the screen there post workout, and then it's all live streaming classes, so like when you're in a class the instructors will call you out by name sometimes, and there's all different types of instructors depending on your music style and likes, so I've just found it to be a great way — if you have an extra half hour — to just jump on for 20 minutes and get a work out in." Read the rest

Watch how 19th-century Genaille-Lucas calculating rulers work

Multiplying large numbers before calculators led to a number of ingenious inventions to make things easier, like these Genaille-Lucas rulers demonstrated by the fine folks at DONG.

Via manufacturer Creative Crafthouse:

In the days before calculators, methods of simplifying calculations were of much interest. In 1617 Napier also published a book describing a method to multiply, divide and extract square roots using a set of bars or rods. These became known as Napier's Bones. (avail on our website)

In the late 1800s, Henri Genaille, a French civil engineer, invented an improvement to Napier's Bones that eliminates the need to handle carries from one digit position to the next. The problem was posed by Edouard Lucas and thus the alternate name of Genaille-Lucas Rulers (or Rods).

There are also sets for division. You can get your own set online or print your own from these free files.

Genaille-Lucas Rulers (YouTube / DONG) Read the rest

Open a six-pack all at once with this indispensible gadget

No time to waste opening an entire six-pack one bottle at a time? Now there's finally a solution: Sixoverone, the hexa-opener you never knew you needed.

Here's another demo:

If you'd rather do it the old fashioned way, efficiency comes with practice.

SIXOVERONE (via Indiegogo) Read the rest

Take a look at the Gonzo Gizmo author's favorite tools

My guest on the Cool Tools Show podcast this week is Simon Quellen Field. Simon is a chemist and former Google software engineer and is the author of over a dozen books, including Gonzo Gizmos, Return of Gonzo Gizmos, Culinary Reactions, Why is Milk White, Elements Vault, Why There's Antifreeze In Your Toothpaste, Electronics for Artists and, most recently, Boom!: The Chemistry and History of Explosives. He's the author of the science toy website SciToys.com and several novels.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Taylor Wharton LD10 Aluminum Liquid Dewar ($638) “I’m often asked to demonstrate scientific toys and things at different science conventions, like the Google Science Fair … and one of the things that they love when I show off is all of these fun things that you can do with liquid nitrogen. And, of course, it lasts a lot longer if you keep it in a big Dewar. So, I’ve got this thing, it’s about 2 feet tall, about 10 inches in diameter, And holds 10 liters of liquid nitrogen, which I get locally from a place called Nitroderm. And we do all kinds of fun things with it. Put some liquid nitrogen in a bowl and squirt some whipped cream out of a spray can into it, freeze it really hard. Kids pop it into their mouth and crunch on it and fog comes out their nose like a dragon.” 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

One fantastic motorcycle-powered hair salon

If only I still had hair. Read the rest

Interview with Nick Bilton, author of new book about The Silk Road, American Kingpin

In this week's Cool Tools Show podcast, Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Nick Bilton. Nick is a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair and author of three books, including Hatching Twitter and his latest, American Kingpin, which chronicles the rise and fall of the Silk Road and the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Here's a bit from the interview:

Mark: I feel, in a lot of ways, the story of the Dread Pirate Roberts, aka Ross Ulbricht, is kind of like Breaking Bad.

Nick: Yeah, it's a kid who was the sweetest, nicest kid, who decided to build this website where you could buy and sell drugs, because he believed they should be legal and it spiraled out of control. Next thing you know he's running an empire that's making hundreds of millions of dollars, and ordering hits on people from the Internet, and selling guns and drugs and you name it in between.

Mark: And every three letter acronym government agency after him and competing with each other to get him.

Nick: Yeah, every single one. IRS, DHS, HSI, FBI, you name it.

Kevin: Sounds like a movie.

Mark: Yes. More than one of those agencies going rogue too. It's got everything. The way you tell it too, it's like a novel. The amount of research you must've put into this is incredible, because the conversations you have, there's stuff ... Kevin and I were saying, we follow this story, but it's like your other book, Hatching Twitter, it's being there ... Read the rest

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