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Hercules Stands Wallmount Guitar Hanger

25 July, by mark[ —]

I used to have all my guitars and basses on stands — it only takes two or three and suddenly a whole side of your room is taken up by them. Then I remembered these hangers that guitar stores use. They take guitars down and put them back up over and over again, and the hangers they use have mechanism inside.

The way they work is they have a saddle, a U-shaped design, and when you put the guitar in the saddle and then lower it, the weight of the guitar causes a mechanism to grab onto the guitar and swing its arms around it and hug it and then now it’s securely in place in the wall. Then when you want to take it back off again you simply lift it up and then that mechanism releases it. It’s a really neat simple machine that grabs and releases your guitar. It uses three screws and it drills right into the wall.

-- David McRaney

[This review was excerpted from our podcast with David McRaney. ]

Hercules Stands Wallmount Guitar Hanger ($21)

Available from Amazon

Stretch Wrap

24 July[ —]

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

The genius of this product is that it sticks to itself. You just roll it around the boxes or posters or lumber that you want to wrap and it sticks tight. I use it for a bunch of things, as in the garden to stake trees to stakes or to tie say tomato plants to a frame, or as shown in the photo, to keep some nuts together with ball bearings (and have them be visible). It’s the same material they use to wrap boxes of books on pallets so that they’re one tight bundle for shipping. Also cool is that it is such a strong yet ultra-thin plastic membrane, not using a ton of resources to produce. They sell them at U-Haul stations. They’re cheap!

Above is a pic of stretch wrap I bought at a U-Haul location. At left is a tube of skateboard ball bearings, with some loose nuts wrapped to the tube. Not only attaches them, but keeps them visible.

-- Lloyd Kahn

Stretch Wrap, 5″ wide x 1000′, single roll ($5)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon


24 July[ —]

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

I picked up four of these at my local container Store, not knowing exactly how I’d use them, but guessing they’d come in handy. Within 48 hours I’d already used them twice-once to secure the barrel of my telescope to its collapsed tripod for easy transport to a remote location, and then to stabilize a table and chairs in the back of my car for a trip across town-both times with great success. These giant, rubberized “twist-ties” were much more efficient and easier to use than a bungee cord in both cases.

Griptwists offer several advantages over bungees in particular. First, they provide “point-to-point” stability, rather than “tie-down” or “net-like” attachment. For example, when moving dining room furniture in the back of my car, I was able to use four Griptwists to connect the legs of chairs to each other, etc., at critical points, so that the entire mass (i.e., of one table and four chairs) was stabilized from within, rather than essentially trying to “net” or “wrap” the mass together from the outside, with bungee cords. Second, with bungee cords, there’s always a certain amount of “give,” unless you stretch them to their maximum, which isn’t always practical; bungeed objects will often move a bit more than you want them to. Third, if you do stretch bungee cords to their maximum, they exert great pressure on the object being contained. I wouldn’t have wanted to use bungees around the barrel of my telescope, for example. The Griptwists remain as tight (but only as tight) as you tie them, with no inherent potential energy to give or take along their own length like elastic bands. Which brings to mind a fourth benefit: no danger of “snapback” when it’s time to unload or unpack.

Some things will always have to be netted down, and sometimes the stretchiness of bungees provides a benefit in and of itself (like the ability to squeeze one more last-minute object under the cords, without having to repack). Moreover, from the outside, to the extent they lack handy points where a Griptwist could be employed (e.g., a couch, a canoe, a stack of luggage or boxes). But for temporarily affixing one object to another in point-to-point fashion, with stability, I see more everyday utility in the Griptwist.

-- Adam Zaner

[Although the Griptwist product is no longer available, one commenter has referred us to a comparable, well-reviewed product by Nite Ize.]

Nite Ize Gear Ties 2-pack, 18-inches ($7)

Available from Amazon

Easy Fermenter Wide Mouth Mason Jar Lid Kit

24 July, by mark[ —]

Since April 2016 Amazon has been selling this lid-kit for $35. I’ve used it to make hassle-free (no-“burping”) kimchi. Once fermenting is complete, these lids can be reused to make new batches and replaced by standard lids. (The latter can be air-sealed with the Food-Saver Wide-Mouth Jar Sealer reviewed on Cool Tools)

The kit contains:

  • Three lids utilizing a “waterless airlock valve technology [that] lets carbon escape. But also makes sure zero oxygen can enter.” Low-profile lids that “are a fraction of the size [i.e., height] of those clunky three piece airlocks. This means we can store our jars almost anywhere a mason jar can fit.” This is a strong selling point to me. I put them in a kitchen cabinet, not on a countertop.
  • A “date setter [built into the rim] keeps track [of] when your ferment started so you always know when it’s almost complete.”
  • “An “integrated easy release tab” that allows a thumb-assist when unscrewing the lid.
  • An air extractor pump “to suck out the oxygen during the later stages of your ferments.” (E.G., after opening the lid for taste testing or eating partial contents.)
  • “A 30 page getting started guide, Fermenting recipe e-cookbook and access to our ask the experts forum”

It’s rated 4.8 stars on 657 Amazon reviews. I suggest not pumping out too much air after partially consuming the contents, lest it become a struggle to unscrew the lid after it’s been in the fridge. I suggest leaving a full inch of head space and employing a weight to keep the contents from rising too much during fermentation, to keep brine from escaping through the valve. (But it only forms a little pool that can be rinsed away if it does.)

A few Amazon reviewers complained that the pump pooped out on them and that there was no plain and convenient way to get a new one. However, as of April 19, 2017, the Pump for fermenter jar alone can be bought on Amazon for $5.99 (and free shipping).


-- Roger Knights

Easy Fermenter Wide Mouth Lid Kit ($35)

Available from Amazon

History of Japan/Skillshare/Hand protection

23 July, by claudia[ —]

Happy hangers:
Following the advice of Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo, I’ve gone through my closet and kept only those clothes that “bring me joy.” Second step was to extend the joy by arranging the dress clothes on uniform decent wooden hangers, recycling the mess of wire misfits I had accumulated. I got 30 wooden hangers cheaply from Amazon Basics for $18. Happy clothes!. — KK

Organize reddit posts:
Savvit.io is great for the occasional redditor, like me, because I save a lot of posts and then I forget about them. A basic, free account let’s me sync up once a month, organizes all my saves by subreddits, and then I sort through them to revisit, delete or bookmark permanently. A pro account is only $9 per year and lets you link multiple accounts and gives you unlimited saves and monthly synchronizations. — CD

Digest lactose:
My wife is lactose intolerant and gets a stomach ache when she eats dairy, unless she chews a Lactaid tablet beforehand. It contains lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose. It really works. She keeps them in her purse. — MF

Learn a new skill:
I signed up for a free 30-day trial of Skillshare because I wanted to improve my drawing skills, and I did. There’s more than 16,000 video classes to choose from. A monthly subscription is $15 per month, but I opted to cancel before the trial ended — they make it really easy and in fact, when I went to cancel they extended my trial another month! They also offer classes in photography, film, cooking and writing. — CD

Hand protection:
I have a supply of nitrile gloves on hand. I wear them to prevent my hands from getting dirty, like when handling rat traps or greasing the wheels on my garage door. I also use them to keep my hands from smearing nice things, like high quality art paper for my wide-format printer. Two hundred ambidextrous gloves cost $13.50 on Amazon. (Tip: some tasks require just one glove.) — MF

Painless history:
My favorite example of how video is displacing much of what books used to do is this short YouTube video on the History of Japan. In only 9 minutes it covers the complex, twisted, obscure history of Japan but with insight and clarity. (One of its subtle tricks is to use nick names instead of proper names for people.) The clip has racked up 30 million views because it teaches so well. — KK

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

StylusReach Flexible Flashlight

21 July[ —]

[This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2003 – MF]

My brother-in-law, who’s a tool salesman, gave me one of these lights for Christmas. It’s a natural white super bright LED light on a flexible, shielded cable. The LED has a rated life of 100,000 hours. The light is extremely tough. My bro-in-law likes to whack the crap out of ‘em to demonstrate how durable they are. Waterproof too. Two settings on the light: blinking and steady. There’s also a blue LED version, which is easier on the eyes. The StylusReach is pen-sized (when the shaft is folded over and clipped to the battery tube) and 14 inches long when extended. It has a pocket clip (and you thought that Fisher Space Pen made you look like a geek!). I use mine for all sorts of hardware hacking and around the house stuff (like looking under the burner on our stove to try and find out why the stovetop heated up to the point where it shattered the tempered glass stovetop inset!) Inside computers, you can actually clip it to the side of the case to direct the light where you want it. It’s also really useful for seeing behind furniture, etc. The light lets me clearly see what I’m going for before I reach and grab.

-- Gareth Branwyn

StylusReach Flexible Flashlight ($20)

Available from Amazon


21 July, by mark[ —]

If you have an appliance (especially an older one) that has a minor problem and you want to DIY the fix instead of buying a replacement or buying a repair, consult RepairClinic.com. Type in the model number and you get taken to a page that lists the most common problems. The page for that problem lists – most likely/common to least – the various things that could cause a problem. For example, for our 20 year old washer, the page told us “for a small leak at the front of the machine”, it’s most commonly this part. The part arrived in a couple days and the linked video had crystal clear instructions on how to take apart the machine, swap the part and close everything back up. Best of all, in case I forgot, the emailed invoice even had a link to the video.

-- Burton Strauss


Kwik-kut Food Chopper

20 July, by mark[ —]

As a kid, I helped my mother cut out biscuits with this cutter. When I saw one at an estate sale a few years ago, I snagged it. It was only then that my mom let me in on a secret: this tool is useful for so much more than cutting biscuits. She uses it instead of a pastry cutter to make pie crust and biscuit dough, plus chop strawberries, nuts, and vegetables. Sure enough, I haven’t used a pastry cutter since. With just one circular blade, it’s much easier to clean than a pastry cutter with its multiple blades that always seem to get gummed up. Last time I made strawberry jam I used it to chop the strawberries a bit, and it worked so much better than my other options: a knife, which would have taken too long, and a food processor, which would have turned the strawberries into mush. It’s still my go-to cutter for biscuits and is just the right size for donuts. The cutter is made in America and will last for decades. My mom has had hers for at least 35 years, and it still works great.

-- Abbie Stillie

Kwik-kut Cutlery R115P Plain Food Chopper ($7)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

Brad Templeton, Futurist

19 July, by Kevin Kelly[ —]

We have hired an editor to edit the Cool Tools podcast. It costs us $300 a month. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $172 a month to the podcast. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have nice rewards for people who contribute! – MF

Brad Templeton is founding faculty for Computing & Networks at Singularity University, and Chairman Emeritus and futurist of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the leading cyberspace civil rights foundation. He is on the board of the Foresight Institute. He also advised Google’s team developing self-driving cars, and writes about such cars at robocars.com. He also advises Starship on delivery robots and Quanergy in the LIDAR space. He founded ClariNet Communications Corp (the world’s first “dot-com” company.) He also created rec.humor.funny, the world’s longest running blog.

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:

4K TVs as computer monitors
“[I have] a 50-inch 4K television, and you may think, ‘Wow, that’s really big, how far away do you sit from it?’ I sit the same distance I sat from the 30-inch and the 24-inches that so many people use. In fact, if you think about it, the typical 24-inch HD monitor, that is the most common sort of monitor sold today or a few years ago, that actually is one quarter of 4K and it’s 24-inches, which means it’s basically half of the 50-inch screen. … The great thing though is, they’re selling these TVs really cheap. They’re selling them down, you can get them for five, 600 bucks, even less …They didn’t want you to use these as monitors, they designed them to be TVs. So there’s s few tricks to pull, but if you do you can get something that’s just amazing.”

“I run a voice over IP PBX in my home, that’s a little unusual. You may not need to do that, but there are lots of voice over IP services now, so you can get even your landline phone to travel with you. No matter where you are in the world, even on your cell phone or on your computer or if you want to bring a small phone with you because you like that landline experience, which I happen to. I like the voice quality and the physicality of it for a real conversation. You can get that and proxy it up so that my phone in California, you can call it, and it’s gonna ring at my desk in Paris and I can call you back. It’s gonna look like I’m there. A lot of people are doing that.”

Fire TV Stick ($40)
“I brought [overseas] my Amazon Fire Stick. I have the first generation one, that was my mistake. The second generation one can be programmed to do what you need to do here, which is use a VPN, a virtual private network. Why? Because you want to cheat all these global content controls that are telling me, even though I have an American Netflix account and I’m paying money into it right now, Netflix will not show me the things that I pay for in the US, ‘cause I’m in France.”

Sony cameras
“I like the fact that my cameras keep getting smaller. … I’ve got the Sony a7RII, that’s about the best of the digital SLRs for image quality right now. Now, Sony just came out with their A9 which is possibly better. And then in their line I have their APS-C size, that’s the sensor that’s about half the size of a full 35 millimeter frame. That drops a lot of weight. … I also have, again it’s Sony so this one doesn’t have to be, but it’s one of the nicest little point and shoots. That fits in your pocket, and it’s the DSC-RX100 IV, and that guy does get some great images. But of course it just has a point and shoot zoom lens on it.”

Starship Technologies
“My favorite tool I’m working on right now is with a company that’s based in Estonia, and it’s called Starship Technologies. We’re making a delivery robot. It’s a little robot the size of a big beer cooler, and it’s got six wheels, and it’s not fully autonomous yet, but it’s going to be. It’s going to bring you everything that you want to order in 30 minutes, and it’s gonna cost under a dollar to do it. … Like so many things these days, you won’t be able to get one. You’ll be able to get one to bring you something, or if you’re a delivery company you might be able to buy them. “

Maker Update: Kreg Rip-Cut

19 July, by mark[ —]

This week on Maker Update: LEDs for your eyes, talking to your lamp, a new marble machine, the poor man’s table saw, and a giant super soaker. Show notes here.

This week’s Cool Tool is the Kreg Rip-Cut. It’s a $32 guide for a circular saw. It’s great if you have a small workshop, or no workshop. If you have a table saw, there’s probably no reason to buy this. But if you have a small garage like mine and you don’t want to surrender the space and money to have a table saw, this and a circular saw are an effective way to accurately break down sheets of wood.

It comes in two pieces. One is a universal adapter that can mount onto just about any circular saw — including left handed ones. This just screws onto the existing plate, and I just leave mine on all the time.

The other is this L-shaped aluminum ruler designed to hug and slide against the straight outside edge of your wood. You latch the adapter plate onto the ruler, measure out where you want your cut, and make it happen, using the edge of the board to guide your cut.

Now, there are two obvious limitations on this. One is that the aluminum guide only extends out up to 24 inches. The other is that you’ll need some kind of spoiler board if you want to cut all the way through your material.

Alternatively, you could buy a long metal guide track or even use a long 2×4, and clamp it down wherever you want and let that guide your cut. But, using the Rip-Cut, there’s no limit to the length of your cut, especially with a battery powered saw. Also, if I want to rip another, identical section, there’s no setup. I just move back to the beginning.

Even more important for me, I don’t have to store a big, long, metal track in my workshop. This thing just hangs out of the way, and it’s small enough I can just throw it in my back seat if I need to take it somewhere.

-- Donald Bell

Kreg KMA2675 Kreg Rip-Cut ($38)

Available from Amazon

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