Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #24
Using Pennies as Spacers
On the Shop Hacks Facebook group, Adam from A-Z's Custom Woodworking writes: "If you ever need to ensure consistent, even spacing of multiple gaps on a project, a US penny is 1/16” thick. Used on this occasion in making a jewelry box to ensure equal and even spacing above, below, between, and on both sides of the jewelry box drawers so that all the reveals are 1/16” all around." BTW: You can also use playing cards as spacers. They are usually made from 11.5 pt card stock, which is .0115" thick. You can use them in multiples to get the spacing you desire.
30-Degree Blades for Olfa Knives
In my last newsletter, I wrote about the Olfa utility knives. I was amazed at the response I got. Other people apparently love these knives, too. And new folks were apparently sold on them. Through my Amazon Associates link, I sold over thirty of them! Newsletter reader Laurin wrote to tell me that he uses the 30-degree blades in his 9mm Olfa. He gets them from AliExpress. He says that the pointier blade allow for getting into smaller spaces.
Toliet Paper and Your Plumbing
In the Oct/Nov issue of Family Handyman, they tested a bunch of TP to find out which brands and types were kinder on your pipes. Not a big surprise, but single- and double-ply break down much quicker than gazillion-ply, quilted, padded, etc. The products that fared best were Scott 1000, Angel Soft, and Kirkland Signature. More info here.
Marking in a "Squeezy Spot"
Maker O.G., Steven Roberts of Nomadic Research Labs, sent me this cute little hack when I put the word out for measuring and marking tips (the subject of my next HackSpace column). Steve was installing a drawer in his boat, to hold his digital piano. He needed to mark the keyboard's feet so that he could drill wells in the drawer to help secure the instrument in place. But how to reach under there? "Easy! Just nip the end off an old pencil, grab it with hemostats, and reach in through the gap between piano and shelf."
Reviving Old Markers
Did you know that you can easily bring a dead, alcohol-based marker (e.g., Sharpie, Magic Marker) back to life simply by removing the nib from the marker (however you get inside your particular pen) and depositing a few drops of isopropyl alcohol onto the felt material? It is usually the solvent the ink is mixed with that dries out before the pigment does.
Shop Talk: The Universe Is a Collection of Parts
I met an inventor once, named Perry Kaye. He had a brilliant approach to prototyping his designs. He didn’t try to reinvent the wheel--he used existing wheels from something else! He called this approach “Frankenstein prototyping.” When Perry came up with a new idea, rather than going the conventional route of drawing up plans and paying a rapid prototyping service or someone else to fabricate it, he’d just head to Home Depot, Toys “R” Us, and the local hardware store. He’d find the parts he needed on existing products (a handle here, a type of blade there, this motor, that gearbox). Then, he’d cut up these existing products and stitch them together into his new monster creation.
This is an incredibly powerful perceptual shift— to see the physical world around you as a collection of parts that are currently in one configuration, but are just waiting to be taken apart and recombined into something new. Especially with today’s 3D printers and cutters, high-performance adhesives and other materials, and so many cheap components readily available online.
Besides saving time and money, there’s an added benefit. When you’ve spent so much prototyping an idea, you become literally invested in making it work, even if it doesn’t. But when you’ve only invested an afternoon and a few bucks on a Frankenstein prototype, you’re more likely to salvage whichever parts you can, and move on to the next idea. This method of rendering your ideas allows you to iterate quickly and gets you to a smarter, more viable design that much faster.
Of course, you don’t need to be an inventor in the classic sense to benefit from this way of looking at the world. You can make one-off creations with this method, or solve vexing design problems on existing projects. We have this perceptual blindness where we tend to see things as they are rather than the potential for what else they can become. Frankenstein prototyping is a way of training oneself to see that potential.