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High Temperature Glue Gun

20 February, by mark[ —]

I am in my second year of using the Surebonder high-temperature hot glue gun. As a crafty type, I have used a hot glue gun most of my life, but as a maker, I always opted for epoxy or other stronger, less convenient adhesive options.

There are many high-temp hot glue guns, but I like the Surebonder because it has an attached stand. You can put it down and brush away the glue webs, and hold the piece with both hands. For some reason, it rarely dribbles, unlike most other hot glue guns I have owned. Now I can put two irregular shapes together, tacking first then filleting.

For dirty or rusty pieces that you don’t want to clean (you might like the look of that metal urn, for example, and don’t want a shiny spot), I have found that gluing a tongue depressor or the like down first, then peeling it away, cleans just the glue area and lets you get good adhesion.

The only “drawback” is that it takes longer to harden. But the bond is so much stronger it’s worth blowing a few extra breaths onto the glob to get it to set.

-- Andrew McElfresh

Surebonder H-270F High Temperature Full Size Glue Gun ($11)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

FFF Tour/OverDrive/Exploratorium

19 February, by claudia[ —]

If the Found Footage Festival tour ever comes your way, I highly recommend you check it out. The two guys who host the events scour thrift stores and yard sales for the most obscure and awkward infomercials, public access shows, training tapes and home videos to showcase. I’ve been to four of their shows and I always laugh so hard it hurts. They currently have 8 volumes available on DVD. You can watch videos of some of their findings on the website. — CD

The US is basically the only country in the world not using metric. It’s not that hard to learn a rough sense of how many kilometers in a mile, or pounds in a kilo. But it is very hard to convert temperatures between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The solution is to convert all your thermometers to Centigrade: on your phone, in or outside of your house, on websites. Have any digital device display only Celsius, so you can’t cheat. In about a year, you’ll have a reliable and native sense of what’s cool and warm in degrees C. This is supremely handy if you travel anywhere outside of the US. — KK

I feel like an idiot for not discovering OverDrive sooner. It’s a free mobile app that lets you check out ebooks, audiobooks, and videos from your local public library. To use it, you need a a library card from your town or county. I got an Los Angeles Library e-card by signing up online and a couple of minutes later I was reading A Burglar’s Guide to the City. — MF

Since I live in the San Francisco metro area, I get a lot of out-of-town visitors. My favorite place to take them is the Exploratorium along the bayside waterfront. It is the original hands-on science museum, and still the world’s best hands-on learning experience. Many of the interactive exhibits now common at science museums around the world began here; the Exploratorium has all of them and many more found nowhere else. This sprawling temple of innovation and maker-goodness can easily occupy me — even after my 50th visit — for four hours or more. (I normally get saturated after only one hour in other museums.) Of course while it is perfect for kids of all ages, every Thursday evening it’s reserved for adults, and crowded with innovators and artists of all types. — KK

I spent the last year buying and returning boots in search of a pair that come close to Lucky Brand Basel boots in comfort and style. I’ve gone through two pairs of them in black in the last 5 years and I finally gave up searching and bought an additional pair in brown. I love these because they’re stylish enough to solicit compliments, and they’re so comfortable that I can literally walk miles in them every day. — CD

Would you like to improve your chance of having an empty middle seat when you fly on Southwest? Here’s a trick I’ve started to use that works. When I board, I look for a 3-seat row of chairs where a very large person is sitting in the window or aisle set. I will sit in that row, either in the aisle seat or window seat. As the plane starts to get full, passengers will be reluctant to sit in the middle seat because the big person is encroaching on the space. One time when I did this, the guy sitting in the seat (he was probably 6’5” and weighed 300 pounds) leaned over and said conspiratorially, “No one will sit here. It’s always the last seat they take.“ — MF

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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson

Ask Cool Tools Featured Question

18 February, by claudia[ —]

mamayama recently asked “What’s your favorite dental floss for closely spaced teeth?” and here were the replies.

BuildTak Spatula

17 February, by mark[ —]

I love my BuildTak Spatula, I bought it from them at a 3D printing expo, and it was a great investment of twenty bucks. The spatula is designed to remove prints from a 3D printer build surface. I have a stable of 3D printers in my classroom, and the newest printer is big enough for me to lean inside of.

When 3D printing, prints get literally glued to the glass printer bed, and sometimes it’s a struggle to get them up without damaging the print. Printers generally come with a standard issue putty knife for this. I’ve also used a screwdriver. They are not the right tool for the job. The angle is all wrong. You want to come in at the very bottom of the print, flat to the glass plate, a putty knife needs to be flexed strongly to get it in that position. The spatula on the other hand has a head that is at a right angle to the handle so it easily slides along the plate; this means that the you don’t have to flex the blade. The large flat blade makes it less likely to damage a print, and allows for easier use on large prints. The handle is nice and comfortable and allows for quite a bit of force to be applied.

I also use the spatula for cleaning the glue off the bed. I wet the surface and can glide the blade along the bed picking up the left over glue.

-- Andrew Woodbridge

BuildTak Spatula ($22)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

Six-Ounce Pyrex Custard Cups

16 February, by mark[ —]

Glass custard cups do not seem like a cool tool you would use all the time, but once you have them I bet you will. A lot of the Pyrex custard cups I own were hand-me-downs or bought at the flea market. They can be microwaved, placed in the oven (even when taken frozen from the freezer), and do all the things you would expect from good Pyrex products. I use them almost daily, as dipping bowls, to hold condiments, receptacles for hot items like bacon grease, small containers to put in the refrigerator for leftovers with a little plastic wrap on top. Glass is very easy to clean and does not stain or retain odors.

-- Kent Barnes

Pyrex Bakeware Clear Custard Cups, Set of 8, 6-Ounce ($17)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

What’s in My Bag? — Marcel Dufresne

15 February, by claudia[ —]

These are the contents of my gadget bag when my wife and I go traveling. The contents vary somewhat depending on whether we are camping or traveling outside of North America. All the items in the photo I would consider an essential part of our time away from home.

The bag:

Prop ’n Go Tote ($50)
This bag has enough room to hold all the items (most of them are flat and take up little space). The bag has some padding to keep the contents somewhat protected. There is a small pouch at the top that keeps all the cables and then GNS 2000 (below). Best of all, it allows me to position the iPad at whatever angle I need for comfortable use while reclining.

What’s inside the bag:

iPad (Varies)
The iPad is the most important item for me. There are too many uses to list here. I use an old case with it to protect the front glass while in transit.

Amazon Fire
Fire Tablet ($40)
The Amazon Fire is my wife’s ebook reader, as well as email and surfing tool. She needs her own as I am usually using the iPad and not willing to share.

HooToo TripMate Elite Wireless Router ($30)
The HooToo Elite serves many functions. It is a charging plug and a spare battery pack. I store movies on my thumb drive and use the Elite to wirelessly connect it to my iPad (no internet needed). Lastly, it is a Wi-Fi booster. The thumb drive I carry is an F80 32G drive from Silicon Power ($19). It is lightweight but very sturdy, being totally metal. There are no caps to worry about and it is supposedly water resistant (have not tried this out). These two items sit in the convenient storage case that comes with the Elite.

3-1 charging cable
3 in 1 charging cable ($7)
The 3 in 1 charging cable cuts down on the number of cables I carry. I can use it to charge the iPad, the Fire and my bluetooth speaker.

GNS 2000 GPS ($85)
The GNS 2000 is my offline GPS system. It connects via bluetooth to my iPad (which does not have GPS capabilities) and serves to get us around. It enables any map app on my iPad to show our immediate location.

Skross World Travel Adapter ($40)
The Skross world travel plug is an absolute necessity if travelling abroad. It also has a couple of USB charging slots.

tuneFRĒQS Share headphones ($30)
The tuneFRĒQS Share headphone cable can by used separately or with my wife’s headphones plugged into it. We can listen to podcasts together at the airport. It also has an on/off button to quickly control the broadcast.

Now for some less used items:

Blue Piston
Logiix Blue Piston Element Speaker ($50)
This bluetooth speaker has my whole music library stored via a micro SSD card. It is water resistant and perfect to carry along. It also serves as an iPad speaker when needed.

Solar Power Lantern
Solar lantern ($17)
A solar lantern is a great flashlight to carry along. I don’t have to worry about batteries for it. I use it to read from late at night when I don’t want to disturb my wife. The placement of lights in hotel rooms is not always suitable.

electroc teacup heater
Portable immersion heater (varies)
Lastly, there is an electric teacup heater. It will heat up a cup of water in no time at all. I picked this item up at a small hardware store in South America.

-- Marcel Dufresne

[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $50 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. ]

Boat Hook

15 February, by mark[ —]

I’ve found a boat hook to be surprisingly helpful in several ways when trimming trees in my back yard, usually with a pole saw:

  • If a cut-off branch falls onto another branch and stays there, it can be dislodged by shaking or yanking one or other of those branches with the hook. (This is also helpful after a windstorm.)
  • If a cut branch hangs by a strip of bark that wasn’t cut through, similar shaking or yanking can get it loose; or a helper can pull the hanging branch into a new position where the hinge is more easily accessible by the pole saw.
  • If a branch is inaccessible by the pole saw because of an intervening branch, a hook in the hands of a helper can pull the latter aside. Sometimes this shaking and shoving can be done by pushing with the backside of the hook, instead of pulling with it. This tool can also do small jobs that would otherwise require a ladder, like:
  • Shaking apples loose from an apple tree.
  • Lifting or manipulating a rope or wire (e.g., looping Xmas lights over a porch).

  • Clearing icicles or heavy snow from tree limbs that might break under their weight.
  • Clearing caterpillar cocoons or wasp nests (in winter) from trees or the edge of a roof.
  • Pushing or pulling something that it would be awkward or risky to get close to, such as a toy boat in a boat basin.

I forget where I got my hook from; it was over 30 years ago. Mine has a metal hook with pointed ends on the hook and the shaft. It might not even be a “boat hook,” but a barge-pole, or a who-knows-what. I haven’t found its exact match on Amazon. What I found is made of nylon (enabling it to float). It “telescopes” out from four feet to eight feet, so it can be shipped and stored compactly.


-- Roger Knights

Starbrite Economy Boat Hook ($25)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

Anti-Steam Ove Gloves

14 February, by mark[ —]

Oven mitts frequently suffer from design flaws: they may be too flimsy, too clumsy, or simply more decorative than useful. My current favorites are my Anti-Steam Ove Gloves: they’re not very decorative, but boy, are they useful!

They’re constructed like a sandwich: an outer layer of knitted Nomex and Kevlar — just like firefighter suits — with red silicone strips on the palm-side to enhance your grip, a middle layer of latex to protect you from steam burns, and an inner layer of soft cotton next to your skin. They’re very comfortable and flexible, allowing dexterous handling of hot pans. They’re sized generously, so will fit most hands; they’re a little large on my medium-sized hand, but still offer superior dexterity compared to most other oven mitts.

I’ve been using mine for 4 years, and they’re holding up well. They’re machine washable…but don’t put them in the dryer, or the latex layer will disintegrate; just drip-dry them.

Note that they are sold as SINGLE GLOVES, not as a pair, so be sure you’re ordering the correct glove (the link given is for a right-handed glove). I originally bought one for just my dominant hand, but eventually got the other hand a glove of its own; it’s just more convenient (and safer) to have both hands protected. They have a little hanging loop; I hang them on a magnetic hook on my oven door, so they’re handy when I need them. If you are handling *really* hot items (over 540 degrees F), you might consider the Thermobest gloves or the welding gloves reviewed elsewhere on this site, but for the temperatures more commonly encountered in a kitchen, these are great!

-- Barbara Dace

Ove Glove Right Hand Anti Steam Glove with Red Non-Slip Silicone Grip ($17)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

Bluetooth Receiver Streambot

13 February, by mark[ —]

Over the past two or three years, this Bluetooth receiver has allowed me to listen to tons of podcasts and music while cooking, doing dishes, and anything else where I’m not sitting still. My smartphone is large and heavy, so it’s impractical to keep it in a pocket while moving around. This device is small and light enough to easily hang from a 3.5mm plug.

To use it, you plug any headphones into the device then wirelessly connect it to your smartphone. I loosely wrap my headphone cable around my neck.

Sound quality is good, battery life is fine (about 8 hours on a charge), range is fine. The interface is weird. Whatever. If you like podcasts or want to like podcasts (or music), this gadget could make a big difference in your life.

-- Peter Froud

Mpow Bluetooth Receiver Streambot ($15)

International Amazon link

Available from Amazon

Negotiation Academy/The Expanse/Jewelry cleaning hacks

12 February, by cooltools[ —]

Skill Builder:
Two Slate journalists attended a class on negotiation skills at Columbia Business School and created a 10-episode podcast called Negotiation Academy. After listening to the series, I feel like I can negotiate a better deal for myself from now on. — MF

The best science fiction series now going is The Expanse. It’s set in a plausible 200-year ahead horizon, a period where Earth, Mars, and asteroid Belters are in conflict. The everyday details of life in 2200 are well defined and worn convincingly; the characters nuanced and realistic, with no glaring villains. The science is sound, the production values high, and the plot is a detective thriller. The first season of 10 episodes is free on Amazon prime. The second season begins on Syfy channel any day now. — KK

Jewelry Hack:
I once overheard a Tiffany’s salesman whispering to his customers that the store used only Windex to keep their diamonds shiny, and since then that’s all I use. HuffPost has a great article on other jewelry cleaning hacks. I have yet to try ketchup on silver, but it’s definitely on my list. — CD

You aren’t allowed to bring a bottle of water past airport security, and the bottled water sold at airport convenience stores are expensive. But many airports now have filtered water dispensers. I keep a collapsible water bottle in my travel bag. It rolls up to a tiny size and weighs nothing. Free water, what a concept! — MF

Shopping Tool:
ReviewMeta.com has helped me avoid a few bad purchases on Amazon. It analyzes the product page, adjusts the rating, and reports back on possible unnatural reviews based on unverified and incentivized purchases, word phrase repetition and more. — CD

Tool Tip:
Don’t throw away a can of spray paint when the nozzle is not working. If there is still paint inside you can easily swap the nozzle with another one from another can of paint that is working. Just pull it off and swap. Clean it when you are done by turning the can upside down and spraying till it is clear. Then you can return the nozzle to the original can if you want. To get really geeky, order extra nozzles online. — KK

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