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My father loved to write crap down. He’d dream up some idea or another, and he’d jot it down in one of a half-dozen little notebooks he used to carry around with him. I remember one time as a kid when I asked him about something, and to answer me he produced one of his older notebooks. Hell, I can’t remember what it was I asked. But I clearly remember him ruffling through page after page of drawings and scribbles, trying to find the answer. He paused on one page, which contained a crude (but surprisingly precise) drawing of a suitcase with two different kinds of wheels on it. “I really should’ve done something about that,” he said, tacitly suggesting he’d scooped the originator’s patent.

I tried to emulate him over the years, carrying around various cheap ringed notebooks like the ones he always stuck in his back pocket. The first real success I had at keeping a notebook long enough to reference it for information over a couple weeks old was with Moleskines. Since 2008 or so, though, I’ve gone mostly digital, snapping phone pics and doodling in various versions of electronic note-keeping apps.

I’d love to tell you that one or the other of these methods is the complete awesome, but really they each offer some advantages — and significant disadvantages. One size definitely doesn’t fit all. So in classic Toolmonger form, I’m going to run down some of the options I’ve tried so far. If you find one that really works for you (or if you have better ideas than mine!) please share in comments. I’ll be watching.

Read on past the jump for a comprehensive look at the options.

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It has turned out to be one of the hottest summers on record here in Texas. Until just last week, the DFW area had not had a day where the recorded temperature sunk back into double digits since early June, when the first post on this subject came out. Since then I’ve been steadily tracking my electric bill, and the results have been eye opening.

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Collecting all the facts about any given subject before you make a judgment is paramount to achieving an enlightened perspective. Take, for example, the humble chainsaw. The media portrays this internal combustion wonder as a villain, but we question if that’s really so. In general, the industry looks to the 1977 Kenobi standard in which the lightsaber dubbed “an elegant weapon” by the scales’ now deceased creator fails to take into account all the elements that make personal-defense multi-tools the competitive industry it is today.

While well-meaning, Ben was overly focused on Jedi recruitment and the lightsaber resale customer base to realize his product was actually part of the problem. The chainsaw is many things; however bringing an entire galaxy under the yoke of an oppressive dictator is the legacy of the “elegant” lightsaber, not the diligent chainsaw. A chainsaw has never slaughtered a temple full of Padawan learners in the hands of a silent assassin — a ‘saber has.

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The ever-expanding closet project continues with the addition of an entire built-in cabinet system. My plan is to convert this space into an organized area that will sport 3 cubbies for shoes and six cabinet spaces that will contain linens, clothes and odds and ends — all for under $100. It’s a larger task than the rack system above it; however when I’m done I’ll have a sharp-looking closet with tons of great space.

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Dark and ancient magic of the old world was summoned to protect the secret of the new Sawzall blades. The fates Clotho and Lachesis themselves sat behind a folding table, smiling as they collected our signed blood pacts. A young lad, barely a man, foolishly took photos in its presence, and there where he stood spawned a hellmouth. Its unholy fury sucked him down into the sulfur and magma; we didn’t even know his name. So now, having reached the appointed hour, we can speak of what we saw without fear of cursed reprisal: a blade that bares fangs and does not break teeth on steel.

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After years of writing about tools and the tool lifestyle, we believe that everyone — man, woman, homeowner, apartment(/bar)-dweller, college student, everyone — should own a few basic tools and the accessories needed to make them useful. So we decided to throw together a list along with some recommendations for where to find ’em, how much you should pay for ’em, and what you can do with ’em.

We don’t intend this as an exhaustive list of every tool you could (and should) possibly own. Instead, we’re targeting the gear you’ll find useful day in and day out — and that occasionally may pull your ass out of the fire when you’ve done a great job of lighting it up.

Of course this wouldn’t be Toolmonger without your feedback. Think no one really needs a utility knife? Wonder why we’re not going to include a scroll saw? Speak up! As you see the each post in the list (starting today), feel free to let us — and more importantly other readers — know what you think. And if you’re reading to assemble your first toolkit, do what we do: Pay attention to comments. There’s as much useful info there as you’ll get from us. Toolmonger readers are sharp, like your pocket knife better be, too.


Many of the project sites we look at take a Julia Childs approach to their holiday wood projects — you know, using materials you don’t have, tools you can’t afford, and plans you couldn’t draw up even if you were a rocket scientist. So to combat this effect we put together a reindeer and accompanying sleigh that you can assemble with a few simple tools and under $15 worth of lumber — in under a day.

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Green Oil

With lawn and garden season fast approaching, it’s time to fire up the garden polluters, and by that I mean the tools powered by two-stroke engines. Luckily, Green Earth Technology has developed its new line of Green Oil, a “Green alternative” to your regular motor oil. Green Earth Technology makes their G-Oils from American-grown base oil that’s “enhanced with the power of nanotechnology and dehydrogenation”.

G-Oil contains bio-additives such as amino acids, plant and vegetable extracts, non-ionic surfactants, and plant-based fatty acids in a base of colloidal micelles. It all adds up to produce a range of oils that’ll work in anything from your lawn mower to your heavy-duty turbocharged and super-charged diesel.

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Leatherman Skeletool

Leatherman’s new Skeletool is a stripped down, lightweight (five ounces!) multi-tool with all the tools you expect from a Leatherman: a screwdriver, a knife, and pliers.  And unlike with previous Leathermans, the knife and the bottle opener (the hook at the back) are accessible without opening the tool.  Oh yeah — it also looks bad ass.

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post-wj1.jpgWe’ve received quite a bit of email (and even some comments) requesting additional coverage of industrial tools and waterjet machining in particluar.  So, we went looking for a friendly “waterjet expert” to introduce us (and you) to the technology. 

Man, were we lucky.  We found Carl Olsen.  Carl works for OMAX, a manufacturer of high-end precision abrasive waterjet systems.  But Carl’s waterjet experience goes way back.  According to him, his father was one of the originators of the waterjet cutting concept back in the 1960’s, and while other kids played cowboys and indians, he ran around with the garden hose cutting up the yard playing “waterjet.” 

For the last 10 years, he’s helped OMAX develop and improve the software that controls their cutting machines, but in his spare time he created and maintains http://www.waterjets.org/, a site chock full of myth-dispelling excucational facts about waterjet technology.  Between all this, he took the time to talk to us.

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