May 10, 2018

Written by

Chris Gonzales

We write about a lot of tools and a lot of toys on this site, but we’ve never explored the intersection of both categories…until now.

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The Tool Chess chess set. ($249)

The Tool Chess chess set. ($249)

Tool Chess »

Tool Chess is a handsome (and hefty!) chess set with pieces fashioned by hand from everyday nuts and bolts.

The sets are crafted by a father-son duo who have put some great presentation into their product — every chess piece is finished with a beautiful powder coating, and each set arrives in a tool chest carrying case (in your choice of black or red). It also comes with a green-and-white vinyl roll-up board so you can easily play anywhere. And yes, the pieces are felt-bottomed.

Hanayama "Nutcase" cast metal puzzle. ($10)

Hanayama “Nutcase” cast metal puzzle. ($10)

Hanayama “Nutcase” Puzzle »

Don’t be deceived by the simple appearance of Hamayama’s “Nutcase” puzzle; this thing is a definite brain teaser. This cast metal puzzle offers two challenges:

  1. Disassemble the case to reveal a hidden compartment with small nuts inside.
  2. Reassemble the puzzle but with the words on the bolts in reverse order (i.e. nut-casecase-nut)

This puzzle will probably take a while for you to solve on your own. Of course, you could always read the included solution if you get stumped, but where’s the fun in that?

Fluke 561 infrared thermometer. ($183)

Fluke 561 infrared thermometer. ($183)

Fluke 561 Infrared Thermometer »

If you’ve never used an infrared thermometer like the Fluke 561 before, it will seem like magic at first when you do. Just point it at something, pull the trigger, and it’ll display the temperature of that object. It’s specifically useful in kitchens for measuring the temperatures of cooking surfaces, oven interiors, sauces, etc, or you can use it for HVAC/electrical/mechanical applications.

But let’s be honest here: Once this thing’s in your hands you’re going to use it to scan EVERYTHING AROUND YOU. No matter how bizarre the target, you’re going to know the temperature of it: your SO’s earlobes; your cat’s face; that wall over there; the tree outside; your coffee just after brewing; the same coffee just before you finish it; your keys; the list goes on and on. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Fluke 561 can measure temperatures from -40°F to 1,022°F (-40°C to 550°C) and has a distance-to-spot ratio of 12:1, meaning it measures a diameter of one inch across at one foot away, 24 inches at two feet away, and so on.

The Retreev mini grappling hook. ($30 for stainless steel, $32 for red + black)

The Retreev mini grappling hook. ($30 for stainless steel, $32 for red + black)

Retreev Mini Grappling Hook »

You could advertise that the Retreev mini grappling hook is actually meant for retrieving objects from hard-to-reach places, but come on, you know the real reason you want one: It’s the first step to putting together a Batman-like utility belt, right?

Okay, all kidding aside, this thing has a rare earth magnet built into the head meant to latch onto ferrous metal objects — such as drones, tools, and keys — and three removable spikes that come out of the body for when you need to grab something out of a tree, off a roof, over a ledge, or from a sewer drain. It’s also pocket sized, so you can keep it in a gear bag with no problem. You never know when it’ll save your butt.

The Skyline ruler. ($9 for each city)

The Skyline ruler. ($9 for each city)

Skyline Ruler »

It’s a standard metric ruler on one edge (20cm), and a detailed city skyline stencil on the other. There’s not a whole lot else I can say, other than that it looks awesome and is fun to doodle with when you’re not using it to measure things.

They’ve got stencils for…

  • London
  • Paris
  • New York
  • Berlin
  • Amsterdam
  • Toronto
  • Jerusalem
  • Tel Aviv
  • Tokyo
  • Sydney
  • Barcelona

Star Wars R2-D2 pizza cutter with sound effects. (from $36, via third-party sellers)

Star Wars R2-D2 pizza cutter with sound effects. (from $36, via third-party sellers)

Star Wars R2-D2 Pizza Cutter with Sound Effects »

We love this R2-D2 pizza cutter, which actually bleeps and bloops like its droid inspiration whenever pressed down. You can hear what it sounds like at 2:48 of this video:

As of this writing, the pizza cutter is only available on Amazon via third-party sellers, but all the ones listed have good ratings.

Snap Circuits alternative energy kit. ($46)

Snap Circuits alternative energy kit. ($46)

Snap Circuits Alternative Energy Kit »

If you’re the kind of parent who grew up watching shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beakman’s World, the Snap Circuits Alternative Energy Kit is just the sort of thing you and your kid can geek out over.

This thing is chock full of circuits and other cool parts — such as a hand crank, a solar cell, an FM radio, a windmill, and a lot more — that can be assembled in 125+ ways (don’t worry, there are step-by-step instructions) to help teach kids about electricity and alternative forms of energy. Educational!

  + If you already have this particular kit or the “green energy” theme isn’t your thing for whatever reason, they’ve got plenty of other editions to choose from.

Diabolix Bottle Opener »

The Diabolix bottle opener is one with a lot of personality. It’s made from polyamide (PA) resin with stainless steel teeth, so it’ll last you for years and years, plus it’s comfortable to grip and easy to find in a drawer whenever you need it. It always puts a smile on guests’ faces when you break it out at parties, and it makes a great novelty gift year-round. If all else fails, you can hand it to a kid and they can pretend it’s a monster toy.

Comes in a variety of colors: red, blue, gray, green, yellow, and anthracite.