This low-cost contour gauge is very useful

This 10" contour gauge makes measuring for detailed or difficult cuts easier.

Having seen ads for these all over Instagram and other websites I was intrigued. For less than $15 I had to give a contour gauge a try. They are as handy, and easy to use, as the videos suggest.

This Avide gauge is cheap and it works. The pins are held into the frame with enough pressure that a very moderate amount of force will shape the gauge, but the pins will not slide or move once you draw it away and go to work.

I am also interested in the 5" version as there are some tight spaces around a few pipes this one may not fit. We shall see.

10 Inch Contour Gauge Irregular Profile Gauge Duplicator Tiling Laminate Tiles Edge Shaping Wood Measure Ruler Plastic Woodworking Tools Profile Jig Guide via Amazon Read the rest

Retractable Apple certified Lightning-to-USB cable also comes with good advice

Always pull both ends at the same time.

I absolutely hate it when my Amazon Basics retractable Lightning-to-USB cable disappears from my travel bag. These gadgets are small enough and neat enough they can just get jammed into a dark corner of your bag and will be there when you need a charging cable.

I would have enjoyed using mine today, but I was recently traveling with my daughter and find I must order another.

Watch what and how you pull.

AmazonBasics Apple Certified Retractable Lightning to USB Cable - 2 Feet (0.6 Meters) - White Read the rest

This 2TB USB 3.0 portable Seagate drive is perfect for backups

I am backing up to this Seagate 2TB portable disk.

I last backed up my laptop a little over 8 months ago. I thought I would get back to my usual storage device, a Drobo 5N2, however, I have not visited my brother in a few months. I left the Drobo to serve as his Plex media server until I have a living room again.

Living la vida #vanlife!

As I frequently work from the road I was suddenly overcome with a need to backup my laptop. The Seagate is fast and fairly quiet. The drive is small and light enough to be a nearly unnoticeable addition to my bag.

Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD – USB 3.0 for PC Laptop and Mac (STGX2000400) via Amazon

Read the rest

TubShroom really works

If you have the right kind of drain TubShroom really works.

My last home did not have a drain that'd accept a TubShroom. Every few months I'd have to run a slug of LiquidPlumbr to speed the drain back up. TubShroom returns a surprising amount of hair, for a bald guy, to the garbage rathen than my sewer lateral.

TubShroom via Amazon Read the rest

This rebar-tying video is weirdly calming

I'm not an engineer, but I can't stop watching this hypnotic and oddly satisfying video of tying rebar. Read the rest

An embossing label gun is my favorite way to label

This DYMO Xpress embossing label gun is the boss. Read the rest

Non-marring nylon spudgers for prying open electronics

This set of nylon spudgers is excellent.

My Amazon Kindle Voyage is one of my most treasured pieces of electronica. The battery, after 5 years, started to give up the ghost. It is dying in a rapid and dramatic fashion. I really did not want a different model Kindle and the Voyage is discontinued.

I was worried I could not open the Voyage without destroying it. Amazon famously glues things in place and I tend to break plastic bits.

Instead of using a small eye-glass repair sized flathead screw driver, I decided I would try the right tool for the job. This set of spudgers matched with slow and steady movement did the trick. Amazon used double-sided sticky tape to make shit annoying. I was easily able to open the case.

3 Non-Mar Nylon Spudger Pry Bar tools to Open and Repair iPhone, Smartphones, Laptop, and Electronic Plastic Cases via Amazon Read the rest

Fantastic wireless thermometer for the BBQ or grill

Digital thermometers are a great tool when slow cooking meat.

It is pretty easy to under or overcook meat on the grill. Monitoring the internal temperature of your food, as you cook it, is a really good way to be sure that food is as done as you want it and no more. This affordable ThermoPen set-up does the trick for me.

I like to use one probe at the grate and one inside the item I am cooking. That way I know what is going on!

ThermoPro TP-08S Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer Dual Probe for Grilling Smoker BBQ Food Thermometer - Monitors Food from 300 Feet Away via Amazon Read the rest

This silicone 'Scoop and Spread' is one hell of a kitchen tool

This set of useful silicone kitchen tools includes my new favorite for mixing, spreading and stirring.

I needed something that could stir sourdough starter inside a milk bottle. I wanted to be able to scrape the sides of said bottle clean as I did it. The 'scoop and spread' in this great set of Tovolo kitchen tools does the trick amazingly well.

The 'scoop and spread' is the strange double-headed device pictured second from the left. Much like Darth Maul's lightsaber, this thing kicks ass.

Strong enough to cut through sticky clumps of dough as I make batches of pretzels or a loaf of bread, the 'scoop and spread' also replaces my danish dough whisk. The tool is also wonderful at getting peanut butter out of a jar, or mixing up separated peanut butter in a jiffy.

I also like the rest of the set, but holy cow! The 'scoop and spread' is my new hero.

Read the rest

Writer David Moldawer's favorite tools

My guest this week on the Cool Tools show is David Moldawer. David is a Brooklyn-based writer and book collaborator who spent more than a decade as an acquiring editor in New York City publishing. He was an editor on a number of books I've written. He also writes a weekly newsletter for nonfiction authors and experts who aspire to be authors called The Maven Game.

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

Raw transcript excerpts:

Focusmate Focusmate has been transformative for me over the last few months. It’s very simple. It pairs you with a random person via webcam and you work together for 50 minutes at a time. So it’s like having a virtual coworking partner. So what happens is you have a calendar and you pick a slot. Let’s say I want to work at 9:00 AM — it’ll say “You’re working with John or Bill or Melinda at 9:00 AM,” and at that time I click start and it brings up a typical webcam, video-chat-kind-of window, and the other person’s there sitting at a desk and I’ll say “Hi, what are you working on?” They’ll say, “Oh I’m grading something because I’m a teacher.” And I’ll say, “Okay great. I’m doing some editing because I’m a book collaborator,” and that’s it. And then we’ll just sit there and work with the webcam going. Nobody really watches each other. Read the rest

The King of Cool's super cool watch

Steve McQueen, the King of Cool, famously wore a Tag Heuer Monaco in his epic 1971 racing film Le Mans.

There are lots of debates about McQueen fashion items. The King of Cool is also frequently pictured wearing a Rolex Submariner. Let us not get into Belstaff vs Barbour. Read the rest

Once again my 12v voltmeter diagnoses a won't start issue on my VW bus

Old cars. Old Wiring. This Innova "Battery and Charging System Monitor" saved my butt again.

Almost every time I start my 1987 Vanagon I plug in this voltmeter, and watch the voltage drop as I start the car. It goes right into the cigarette lighter plug. I watch to make sure the battery doesn't drop below a healthy level while starting. 10.5 is about as low as it should read.

Earlier this week, returning to my bus with a bag full of groceries, I put in the meter and turned the key. The meter ready 12.7v. That is healthy. Turning the key didn't drop the voltage at all, and there was no sound coming from my starter. The fuel pump, tho, I could hear.

I tightened up all the contacts on the starter, checked a few things up at the dashboard (there is a ridiculous "do not start" switch in the automatic transmission's shift-lever box) and magically the current would drop to 12.4 and the starter made a little click. Clearly there was juice in the battery, but it wasn't getting to the starter.

Corrosion and old wires were the culprit. Some clipping and solder later, now the car starts up great.

I keep this fine tool in each of my cars. I keep a real multitester under the seat of my motorcycle.

Salt air is a real pain in the ass.

INNOVA 3721 Battery and Charging System Monitor Read the rest

The Microwriter, a tiny chording word processor from 1984

Photo by Bill Buxton of the Microwriter

Back in the 80s, the inventor Cy Enfield created this fascinating device -- a six-button "Microwriter" where you'd chord combos of buttons to produce the entire alphabet, letting you jot down notes on the go.

Microsoft's Bill Buxton calls it "the world’s first portable digital word processor" (the front-page photo for this post is from Buxton's hardware collection) and Open Culture wrote a terrific piece about the Microwriter a few years ago, citing from a 1984 interview Enfield did with NPR, discussing his "aha" moment:

“It occurred to me that ... it would be possible to combine a set of signals from separate keys, and therefore you could reduce the total number of keys. But, of course, this involved the learning of chords… difficult to memorize… But how do you make these chords memorable? And, one day, staring at a sheet of paper on which I was drawing a set of five keys in sort of the arch formed by the finger ends, it occurred to me, ah! if I press the thumb key, and the index finger key, anybody can do this just listening now, press your thumb key and your index finger down and you’ll see that a vertical line joins those two finger ends, a short vertical line. There is an equivalence between that short vertical line and one letter of the alphabet. It’s the letter “I.”

Buxton's site has some scans of the gorgeous user's manual, including this one:

There are chording keyboards these days, most notably the Twiddler, and stenography tech. Read the rest

A cheap set of watchband springs and their associated removal tool

When replacing a watchband, or fixing one where the spring bar has gone awry, this super cheap tool and set of springs will come to the rescue.

Much like an eyeglasses repair kit, a watch spring bar tool is never around when you need one. Trying to push that tiny pin in and get the spring to engage, or disengage, is maddening. If I do not just break the spring bar and send bits a flying, I'll find some tool around the house to try that invariably scratches the lugs on my watch.

This cheap box of springs and a removal tool can sit in my desk drawer and just always be there. The set comes with replacement tips for the tool, and 108 spring bars in the standard sizes.

Watch Spring Bar Tool Set for Watch Wrist Strap Repair Kit, 108PCS Extra Watch Band Pins via Amazon Read the rest

How to serve a billion images a month on a budget

I wrote earlier this year about Lorem Picsum, a site that provides random placeholder images for use in design projects in the spirit of Lorem Ipsum, the classic jumbled-up latin passage used likewise for text. It's taken off. Creator David Marby explains what it's like to serve a billion images a month of a budget.

Processing images is very CPU intensive. As Lorem Picsum runs on a very small budget, to cope with all the requests as the service became more popular, we wanted to avoid doing so as much as possible. This meant adding caching to multiple layers of the architecture. We added two separate layers of caching: A CDN in front, as well as a second cache layer using Varnish Cache. To make the image processing as efficient as possible, we decided to use libvips, as it's very fast and resource-efficient.

As part of making Lorem Picsum as easy to use as possible, we've never required any registration, API keys, or enforced any usage limits. This has generally worked out well, but once in a while a high traffic site deploys production code calling our API, usually accidentally, which leads to [problems]

Read the rest

Man bought Jaws of Life on eBay to, er, access ATMs

Police in Southington, Connecticut arrested Joshua Moore who is accused of robbing numerous ATMs of $200,000-$300,000 in cash. How would Moore have accessed the machines? He got the right tool for the job.

According to the investigators, "the suspect utilized a battery powered hydraulic spreader similar to what is used by firefighters during vehicle extrications (Jaws of Life) to gain access into the ATM machine."

And where would Moore have gotten such a thing? eBay, 'natch.

(Fox61) Read the rest

Get a ryoba handsaw right now

I've tried a few times to make useful yet portable things out of wood and never really succeeded. To cut a long story short, what I never realized was that handsaws sold in home improvement stores are worse than useless, and all I needed to do was get something else.

The Gyokucho Ryoba Saw — itself $20 or so at Amazon — changed everything for me. Instead of crude, difficult, frustratingly slow cuts irrespective of grain, it glided through so easily that woodworking became instantly fun and creative instead of a grueling waste of effort.

To woodworking naifs like myself, the Japanese design might be alarming at first: you cut on the pull instead of the push, and (at least on this type of saw) there's a second set of teeth instead of a reinforced back. One set's filed to rip with the grain, the other to make crosscuts. I got used to it in moments, and so will you.

I'd almost forked out $100 on a fancy backsaw, but I doubt I'll ever need something like that now even if I spend the rest of life sawing random lengths of wood in my garage.

The first things I've made: a workbench, two radiator covers and a new desk.

Woohoo! I know these are beginners' work, but these items are solid, stable, and exactly what I wanted. Dirt cheap too: perhaps $30 of wood each. (The $200+ cost of custom-fitting covers for big old radiators is what motivated me here).

Honestly this thing makes sawing wood so easy it's like playing fucking Minecraft. Read the rest

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