Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #30
Favorite "Meta" Tip
Of all of the tips I posted this year, this one had the biggest impact on me personally. It made me re-think a lot of the ways that I work and made me more mindful of not being sloppy, cutting corners, and getting ahead of myself.
Scott of Essential Craftsman shared this pearl of wisdom on an episode about using construction string: “Details layer. The more accurate you can get in your details, even with something as mundane as how you tie your knot – it all accumulates to acceptable accuracy.” This is a maker’s truth. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because I am the king of rushing, lazy work habits, and fudging the details. So, I know exactly what he means. I think understanding and applying this concept is the difference between a master craftsperson and an amateur. As I work, I don’t put tools back, I don’t stop and sharpen or change blades when I should, I don’t read instructions, I rush things and I try and skip doing things the way I know they should be done. Details layer, and before you know it, I am frustrated and the project is way off square (whether literally or figuratively). This weekend, I tried to be ever-mindful of this truth and I could see a difference in my work. I think I'm going to make a “Details Layer” sticker and hang it in my shop.
Favorite Practical Tip
Building contractor and educator Leah Bolden of See Jane Drill has featured a number of tips over the years that have been real eye openers. This one may be the coolest.
How to Use a "Tick Stick"
Leah from See Jane Drill often shares extremely useful ideas. In this video, she shows how to use something called a “tick stick” to copy and transfer an unusual shape. Watching the video, at first, I had no idea where she was going with this, but I had a real “ah-ha” when she started reproducing the shape.
If you paid any attention to my making-related writing in 2019, on both Make: and here in my newsletter, you undoubtedly heard me singing the praises of 1-2-3 shop blocks. Here's a refrain.
Now that I’ve covered 1-2-3 Blocks three times in this newsletter, you might think I have a bit of a #toolcrush. Guilty. I ran across this Stumpy Nubs video covering “5 Must-See Woodworking Tools,” and in it, he includes 1-2-3 Blocks (at the 14:25 mark). Lots of uses on the table saw, router table, and elsewhere in the woodshop. And I didn’t know that there’s a depth gauge attachment for 1-2-3s. Sexy.
Favorite Maker TV
I know that Adam Savage's Tested might seem too obvious, too established of a maker channel for me to highlight here. But when I tried to think of the YouTube channel that I found the most inspiring, informative, varied, and fun this past year, Tested immediately came to mind. I rarely watch a Tested video, be it a build video, an episode of "Still Untitled," an interview, or a skill builder where I didn't come away feeling smarter and even more hopeful about the world of making and the world in general. That makes this must-see TV.
Favorite "Life Hack"
From one of my first issues.
DIY Faux Radar Gun
This piece from the Daily Mail is a hoot. This Nottingham woman slows the roll of speeders through her neighborhood by tracking after them with what looks like a radar gun. It’s a hairdryer. “I have never seen so many brake lights go on,” she says.
Favorite Maker Trend
I saw a dramatic increase in tool, machine, and toy restoration videos this year. Or maybe they were just clearer on my radar. I wrote a piece on Boing Boing about it.
The existential end-time pleasures of watching silent restoration videos
It is perhaps in the spirit of our anxious, rickety age that antique tool, machinery, and toy restoration videos are becoming increasingly popular. There is something oddly comforting and therapeutic about seeing the old, the forgotten, the previously reliable (now seized with rust and neglect) being lovingly restored to life. These videos are simple, quiet (usually with no spoken narrative), and most of the restoration process is carefully shown, from disassembly to cleaning, sanding, repainting to re-assembly and testing. This is a world in which time, Evapo-Rust, a wire wheel, and some rattle-cans of enamel paint can repair the past to near show room luster.
The Maker's Muse
Keep smiling, keep your mind and creativity supple, keep thinking outside of the box.
Thanks to all of you for supporting my work in 2019. Here's to even more fun and inspired making in 2020.