Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #128
A Master Class in Prototype Making
In response to John Baglio's search for a series of prototyping videos he'd run across, Talon Chandler immediately responded with:
"He's probably talking about Dan Gelbart. Dan is a local legend among engineers in Vancouver, BC. He founded Creo, a printing technology company that sold to Kodak circa 2005, and several other companies including Kardium, a growing healthcare company. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Dan once (I interned at Kardium close to 10 years ago), although I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting his extraordinary shop."
Others also messaged me and told stories about the impact of Dan's videos on them. They are amazing. I haven't found a treasure trove like this since discovering TubalCain/MrPete222 some 15 years ago. Anyone interested in precision machining, prototyping, water jet cutting, and a wealth of general machine shop wisdom should check out this channel.
Expanding the Usefulness of 1-2-3 Blocks with a Hardware Kit
I've long been a fan of 1-2-3 blocks and always have them handy when doing a host of different projects. They're great for quick measuring, aligning, holding parts together for gluing/ fastening, as shop weights, and countless other applications. One of the features that few people outside of machining use are the holes drilled into the blocks. These are not just there to keep the overall weight down. They are threaded and non-threaded holes designed for attaching the blocks in various configurations (such as for making right-angle or T-shaped jigs).
In this Stumpy Nubs video, James introduces a clever little hardware kit for easily attaching blocks -- and attaching them with nothing proud of the surfaces. As he points out, you can source these screws and through-hole fasteners yourself, but why not support the guy who came up with the idea for this kit? That guy, Mike Taylor, sells a kit of 6 hex-head screws, sized for 1", 2", and 3" attachment, 4 threaded through-hole dowels, a hex key, and a slotted driver head -- all housed in a handy little plastic box. I immediately bought a kit (only $10) and I love it. Mike also makes really high-quality blocks at an affordable price ($20/pair). I snagged a pair of those, too. It always feels good to support a maker small business.
Using Finger Pressure to Match Hex Head to Wrench
On the Twitter account of software engineer Roach, he posted this clever way of matching a hex head to a hex wrench. Pressing your finger into the head will leave a dimple that you can use to size the appropriate wrench.
A Prompt Book for Better AI Art Generation
If you've spent any time on social media lately, you've likely seen some of your acquaintances go down the rabbit hole of artificial intelligence image generators like Midjourney, DALL-E, and Google's Imagen. These programs take descriptions that you feed them and return AI- generated art interpretations of that input. It's very addictive and fun and has huge disruptive potential. My wife Angela and I were joking a few weeks ago that in the future, art will be nothing more than the ability to input the most fulsome description of what you want. And then, just a few days later, Recomendo shared a link to The Prompt Book, a free PDF of instructions, examples, and tips for refining your input commands. It's directed at the DALL-E program, but its ideas can be applied to any of these art generators. In the future, art will be incantation.
Making a Shop Paper Roll Dispenser
Poking around on the 'Tubes, I came across a series of DIY videos, called Try, that Kevin Kelly did on Cool Tools in 2020-21. How did I miss these? Here's one on building a kraft paper roll cutter for your shop and a really charming one about the sign that he made for the Kelly compound in Pacifica, CA. I hope he gets inspired to do more of these.
Jargon, slang, and tech terms from the many realms of making.
FEP -- (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) A tough, no-stick plastic material commonly found in the bottoms of resin vat 3D printers. Its translucence allows the light source beneath it to shine through the vat, curing the resin onto the build plate.
Holidays -- A term used by professional painters and gilders/gold leafers to refer to gaps in coverage. It derives from the joke that a painter must have taken some time off, a little holiday, by not covering an area they should have. [Hat tip to gilder Michael Kramer]
Minimal viable product -- A phrase used by Italian maker and product developer, Giaco Whatever. In creating a product, you want to pare your idea down to its minimum possible components. See also: KISS (keep it simple, stupid)
Real job -- A project that's a series of tasks and challenges that imply significant time and effort -- as opposed to a task which can be quickly accomplished. "That's a real job. I need to set aside an afternoon for that."
Resilient idiot -- A self-deprecating admission that sometimes knowledge and skills seemingly won't stick, not matter how hard you try and learn them. Coined by Donald Bell. Not to be confused with Andy Birkey's similar: actual moron.
In response to my piece on inflatable pry bars, reader Adam replied:
"This is a very common tool for locksmiths when dealing with vehicle lockouts. The inflatable pry bar can generally create enough space for the locksmith to drop a loop down to grab the lock pin from the interior of the door frame and gain entry without having to damage or possibly ruin the actual lockset on the car door. But don't underestimate their power. I used one on an old car when I locked my keys in and it bent the door to the point that it never fully aligned to the door frame gasket again."