Gar's Tips & Tools - Issue #155
Weekly-ish access to tools, techniques, and shop tales from the worlds of DIY
I was thrilled to discover this shout-out from Kevin Kelly in a recent Recomendo.
I continue to be impressed by Gar’s Tips & Tools, a newsletter that we co-publish with Gareth Branwyn. Every week Gareth scours the internets and the youtubes to find practical tips for makers of all stripes. His sources range from weekend crafters to hard-core professional workshoppers, from sewing cosplay to blacksmithing to woodworking. I generally find at least one or two tips I did not know about. All in a one quick read with ready links.— KK
I got a big bump in subscribers after this. If you are new to this newsletter as a result, WELCOME! Please let me know how I’m doing.
Alignment Dots on Electronics
For years, I saw other people, like my pal Kent Barnes, recommending alignment dots for mindlessly mating a jack to a plug without having to align the exact location or figure out the plug orientation. I finally broke down and did this for all of my gear, and man do I feel foolish for waiting so long. I used my FastCap Pattern Marker to make the dots.
Building a Cart for Your Portable Parts Organizers
One of the most-requested projects I get asked about are DIY rolly cabinets for storing portable parts organizer cases, popular among makers. In this video, Adam shows a super simple, easy-to-build cabinet that he made for his parts cases. He also uses the video as an excuse to show off his new Savage-branded Sortimo cases (only $105 each!). Anyone who’s watched Tested knows Adam’s weakness for Sortimo (and other expensive tools that many of the rest of us can’t afford). Obviously, you can tweak the dimensions of this basic build to create a similar cabinet for lowly Harbor Fright, Amazon Basic, Stanley, or other brand organizers.
Tim Hunkin’s Master Class in Hole Cutting
Several weeks ago, I got a message from a subscriber saying that they couldn’t believe I hadn’t written about Tim Hunkin’s latest series, The Secret Life of Components. I, in fact, have. But that was a good reminder for me to catch up on the latest installment, an amazing one-hour ode to holes and how to drill them in wood, metal, concrete, how to center a hole, and cutting large and small holes. There are also invaluable tips on bits, sharpening, cutting holes on lathes and milling machines, and more. This a master class in hole cutting done in that inimitable Hunkin style.
NeoPixel and LED Diffusion Tips & Tricks
In this thorough video and written guide, Erin St. Blaine of Adafruit, runs through many of the different methods you can use for defusing NeoPixel and LED light strips, from plastics, paper, fabric, and foam, to creating infinity mirrors.
The Difference Between a Ruler and a Rule
Just when you think you know most everything about rulers, tape measures, and similar tools, you learn something new. I always thought that, when someone used the term rule instead of ruler, they were just being all fancy-pants. It turns out, as James points out in this Stumpy Nubs video, there is a difference. A ruler starts with the first mark (e.g. 1") inset from the edge. Rulers are used in education, for working with paper, and other applications where you want confidence in a beginning mark. A rule (here’s a nice one he recommends) has the beginning measurement at a well-ground edge with no inset measurement mark. A rule is used in woodworking, machining, and other situations where you’re measuring from inside angles and the like. Cool! I just put a new wrinkle on my brain.
TOYS! Reusable K Cups in the Shop
I was always a naysayer when it came to pod coffee machines. The pods are expensive and an environmental nightmare. But then I married into a Keurig machine. In the middle of my workday, grabbing a quick cuppa is essential during afternoon slump times. So, K-cup pods soon became a nasty habit — until I discovered reusable K-cups. You load them with 2 tbs of coffee, slot in as usual, and you’re good to go. It only takes a few seconds to load a pod, and if you wanted to, you can load a bunch ahead of time and store them in an air-tight bag to keep fresh. They cost only $9 for 6 cups. A perfect way to make a cup of afternoon coffee in your shop with little hassle and no waste.
Reader Chuck writes:
Everyone knows how good Benchmade knives are, but boy are they pricey, starting around $125 and some now at the $300 mark. OUCH! I think Civivi knives are a hidden gem at a fraction of the price. The Elementum is in the $50 range depending on blade style and handle and the Pintail is in the $80 range. They also have the Mini Praxis that’s under $30 and still has a good D2 steel blade! I own all 3 and have no complaints. They hold an edge well and are easy to sharpen. (The Work Sharp field sharpener is my go-to.)