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Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #50

Cue the Confetti Cannons! It's our 50th issue! Thanks to all of you who've supported this effort and
Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #50
Cue the Confetti Cannons! It’s our 50th issue! Thanks to all of you who’ve supported this effort and especially those who’ve contributed tips and feedback. Much appreciated. Let’s keep the conversation going!
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I’m still looking for “Tips my dad says,” things you learned from your father or grandfather. I will post the best of these the week of Father’s Day. I will also pick someone at random and send them an autographed copy of my book.

Improving a Cheap Airbrush
Crappy brush? Try polishing the needle.
Crappy brush? Try polishing the needle.
I wrote about this video on Make: a few years back, but wanted to resurface it here. I saw several friends writing on social media about purchasing cheap airbrushes to experiment with and thought they might benefit from this. In this video, Rahmi of Scale-a-Ton shows how he improved the quality of a $20 brush, mainly by polishing the needle (with a swab and polishing compound). They use low-quality, roughly-polished needles on cheap brushes. He also replaced the O-ring with a seal made from beeswax. He claims that if you give the needle a good polish after every few uses, the brush will even get better over time. For twenty bones, it’s worth a try.
Laser-Cut Riser for Cutting Mat
A CNC-cut riser for a cutting mat.
A CNC-cut riser for a cutting mat.
Using his Glowforge, Norm from Tested created this versatile little riser for his Alvin 8-½" x 12" cutting mat. It allows the work surface of the mat to be raised, allows him to more easily move an in-process project around, and it can be changed up with different drop-in surfaces. Pop in a wooden panel and it becomes a general, hard work surface. Add a puzzle frame and it becomes a puzzle table. He also added LED light strips underneath so that he can pop in a frosted glass panel and use the riser as a lighted display or light box. Norm offers the vector files if you’d like to cut and build your own.
Yet Another Tape Tip Tip
Fold. Crimp. Tear. Tabbed!
Fold. Crimp. Tear. Tabbed!
Tywen Kelly (Kevin Kelly’s son) shared this tip, spotted in a Potato Jet video :
At @12:05 in the video, this YouTuber sneaks in a quick minute-long description of the best way to take a piece of tape from a roll such that the piece can easily be removed after it is applied
  1. the piece has a clean 90 degree edge
  2. a new piece can easily be ripped from the roll later
You get all of these benefits from a single, fluid motion, so it’s at no extra cost to normally removing a piece of tape!
Using Cards as a Contour Guide and Other Tricks
Copy complex contours with a stack of playing cards.
Copy complex contours with a stack of playing cards.
Here’s one from the ever-clever Leah Bolden of See Jane Drill. Five “card tricks” for around the shop. Some I’d heard of, like using the cards as precise shims or spacers (cards are usually 0.010" or 0.012" thick), but I hadn’t thought to use them as a guide for copying a complex contour (above) or as a sanding block for very small crevices.
More Clamping Power
Back 'at thang up!
Back 'at thang up!
Another great tip from the Acme Tools’ Instagram account. “If you need more clamping power from a spring clamp, just insert the squeezed handles of a second clamp inside the handles of the clamp holding the workpiece.”
Life Hacks
A while back, I posted about my discovery of multi-bagging kitchen and bath trash cans (‘cause I hate dealing with the bags). I’ve added a new twist. I now also store a bundle of the kitchen bags in the bottom of the can, so when I’ve used up the three bags I’ve lined the can with, I just reach in for another three.
Shop Talk
Reader Rj Godin responded to my piece on using paracord and wire to create gear ties:
“Putting wire inside paracord jackets seems like a lot of work for marginal benefit. For years, I have used 12-gauge wire trimmed from either BX or romex. Twist a couple turns around an extension cord, leaving a few inches to wrap around the coil – presto – your cord is tied and the tie is always there.”
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In response to my call a while back about your favorite DIY catalogs, reader Todd Leonard wrote in to remind us of the electronic goldmine that is… well… Electronic Goldmine. I concur. That catalog was a staple for me when I was a regular robot builder years ago.

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Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. Check out the Cool Tools website, the Cool Tools podcast, YouTube channel, and their other two newsletters, What’s in my bag? and Recomendo.
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Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales

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Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales! is copyrighted by Gareth Branwyn, and published by Cool Tools Lab, LLC. Commissions may be earned from the links above.