In the Make: Online Toolbox, we focus mainly on tools that fly under the radar of more conventional tool coverage: in-depth tool-making projects, strange or specialty tools unique to a trade or craft that can be useful elsewhere, tools and techniques you may not know about, but once you do, and incorporate them into your workflow, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. And, in the spirit of the times, we pay close attention to tools that you can get on the cheap, make yourself, or refurbish.
Our fearless editor Gareth has fallen victim to the giant blizzard currently hitting the east coast. The last we heard from him, he was trapped under tons of snow, he’d lost Internet access, he was out of cereal, and manflesh was starting to sound pretty good. So, assuming that Gar may be too busy fighting for survival to write his regular Toolbox post, we’re putting you, the reader, on the job.
What is your favorite tool right now? My new baby is a SOG Specialty Knives B61-N. It’s tough as nails and packs a Colonel Kurtz-esque black oxide finish that makes Leatherman tools tremble.
How about you, readers? Post your favorite tools in comments.
[I'm back! The net is back online, the power has held, and I haven't had to resort to chewing off my own arm. Yet.
When I think of my favorite tool, besides my trusty Leatherman Wave, a surprising device springs to mind, the Aerolatte. Here's part of my review from Street Tech a few years back. I drink far less coffee now than I did then. Six to eight mugs as big as my head each day? No wonder I had a heart attack! -- Gareth]
The Aerolatte ($14-20) is nothing more than a battery-powered stainless steel mini-whisk. You use it to quickly froth milk for lattes, cappuccinos, milkshakes, frappes, etc. It seemed like nothing more than a fun toy when we played with one at a relative’s house one Christmas. Now that we own one, it’s become a daily-used kitchen tool. I’m finding it has all sorts of side benefits besides just making tastier coffee (it seems to bring out a beanier flavor in the brew).
I’m an unrepentant coffee addict. I drink six to eight jumbo mugs a day. I usually pour probably 2-3 tablespoons-worth of cream or Half n’ Half into each mug. I also use three Equal tablets per mug. In the course of a day, that’s a lot of rich dairy and depression-friendly Aspartame. With the Aerolatte, I’m now using regular milk instead of cream, and I find the coffee tastes sweeter when infused with the frothed milk, so I only use two Equal tabs. Because the milk thickens and froths up to nearly half the volume of the mug (you froth the milk in the cup first, then add the Joe), I’m also drinking less coffee. I still drink six to eight mugs a day, but it probably works out to be as much as one mug less of actual coffee. And I swear that I get a bigger buzz. Maybe it’s just placebo effect, but who cares? Better buzz, less fattening dairy, less coffee, less artificial sweetener, and a richer flavor. It’s also a cheap thrill to whip the bejezuz out of the milk. What’s not to love?
BTW: Ikea sells a knock-off of the AeroLatte for like $2 each. The parts are a lot chintzier, and I don’t know how long the motor will last, but hey, $2!
I know the tools section on MAKE tends to favor small multi-tools, but lately, I’ve been using the heck out of my small wet-dry vac. Even though I have a larger 6 gallon vacuum, I almost always use this 2 gallon model instead. I got mine on sale for $20 a long time ago and I probably use it every other day. — Tgmake
Not sure if this is really a tool, but I’m finding that I’ve made use of Gorilla Glue more than I ever thought I would. Elmers makes a variation of the stuff, too, so pick up whatever’s on sale. Never really thought about going to the Gorilla Glue website until I wanted to get a URL for this comment, but I’m glad I did. They have a nice chart that helps you pick the best glue for your situation. — Tgmake
Leatherman Squirt 94 Make: Warranty Voider I got at Maker Faire. As a stagehand, I have a toolbelt full of tools, and during work, I carry a Leatherman Wave in my pocket and always a Surefire L5 LumaMax, and a few Photon keychain lights. But on my keychain, this is always with me, even when I am not working — the Warranty Voider! — Kent Barnes
Opinel No. 7 Pocketknife — This simple French folding pocket knife has one blade which is locked with a twist of a metal barrel. It is inexpensive, but the steel of the high-carbon model I have is excellent and can take a wickedly keen edge: great for woodcarving and whittling. — Oceaneer99
[These knives keep showing up on my radar as of late. I first saw one at the last Maker Faire Bay Area, and since then, they've been popping up all over the place as recommended. I'll have to pick one up. -- Gareth]
Stanley 99 Classic Retractable Utility Knife — I have one of these in each work areas. It’s great for general purpose cutting, and the blades are replaceable if you break or dull them. I like to touch them up with a strop before use to get them really sharp. I use them for everything from cutting picture frame mats to trimming sheetrock to size, and for rough carving of wood projects. It’s also excellent for marking where you want to cut with a crosscut saw. If you follow with an angled cut on the waste side, you make a triangular groove for your saw to ride in, improving accuracy. — Oceaneer99