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Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #71

You know those tips you try after seeing them on YouTube or reading about them in tips newsletters (y
Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #71
You know those tips you try after seeing them on YouTube or reading about them in tips newsletters (yes, like this one) and they frankly suck? I want to hear about them. Send me tips that you’ve tried that seriously did not perform as advertised. I want to gather up a list of DON’T try this at home tips.
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Like what you see? Spread the word (and the link). And, as always, please share your favorite tips and shop tales with me. I love getting email from my readers!

Cheap Fluke Digital Multimeter
The 101 of reliable DMMs
The 101 of reliable DMMs
In this video, Adam Savage looks at digital multimeters (DMM). He talks about high-end models, like the Fluke 77, and a cheap starter Fluke, the 101, which is just over $40! I’ve had the Fluke 117 for years, and like Adam, have a lot of loyalty to the brand.
Truing Rough-Cut Lumber
Jimmy D droppin' the science.
Jimmy D droppin' the science.
In this interview on Jimmy’s YouTube channel, interviewer Adam Price asks Jimmy a bunch of questions about his process, from designing, to materials, to fastening and gluing, to hardware.
In the above drawing, Jimmy is showing how you can “true” an edge of a piece of rough-cut lumber. If you have a surface planer and a table saw, you can save money by buying rough-cut, he says. It’s cheaper because it comes unplaned, but it has no true (or “factory”) edge. After planing it down, you can add a true edge. You nail the rough-cut lumber to a piece of wood that does have a factory edge and feed the rough-cut through your table saw. In the above sketch, that’s the table saw’s fence on the far right, a piece of plywood with a factory edge against the fence, and the rough-cut lumber nailed to the plywood. That little hump upper-left is the saw blade. When done (and de-nailed) that resulting cut becomes your true edge. See this part of the video starting at 15:22.
Give the Gift of Restoration
The gift of referb
The gift of referb
The latest issue of HackSpace magazine (free PDF) has a piece I wrote on tool restoration. In it, I show off a simple tool I restored for my beloved Angela last Christmas. This is her art studio hammer. She bought it at a Goodwill store for $1.99. As you can see on the left, it was covered in paint, spackle, putty, adhesive, and the handle was split at the head. Shabby. I “borrowed” it from her and went to work on restoring it. It was a fun project to work on for a bit every night after dinner. The results are on the right. I included a photo of the before-hammer in the package. She loved it.
This is a great gift to give to someone. Take one of their old, exhausted tools, or buy one at a charity shop/garage sale, and restore it back to its original glory. Important Note: Make sure they’re OK with tool restoration before doing this. Some people freak out at the very idea of restoring old tools and tool boxes. They think the wear, gunk, and imperfections are what give the tool its story, its character (see the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”).
Turning Grocery Delivery Pouches into Mailers
An eBay purchase ready to mail out.
An eBay purchase ready to mail out.
I don’t know about you but I have a ton of these large foil bags used for Amazon food deliveries. I’ve started using them to mail out my books and merch I sell on eBay. I also cut them up and use them for packing inside of mailing boxes. You can easily cut them down to any size you need and assemble with shipping tape. They also look cool as a mailer.
Snakes on a Drain
As several people pointed out in response to my DIY Drano recipe, decloggers only act on the trap, not the rest of the pipe. For that, you need a snake. I have a snake, but it’s old and funky (it came with the house). I need a new one and want one with both manual and drill-powered capability. I’m looking at this one. If you have a snake that you think is a good buy, please recommend.
(De)merit Badges
Oops. Looks like someone released the magic smoke.
Oops. Looks like someone released the magic smoke.
There’s no shame in failure. That’s one of the greatest ideas driving the maker movement: creating a supportive environment where it is OK to fail; that making mistakes is part of the learning process, a feature not a bug. To celebrate this notion, the Tested.com team is offering (de)merit badges so that you can wear your f-ups with pride. So far, they have a short-circuit badge (above), a measure once, cut twice badge, and an injured hand (de)merit sticker. They promise more in the future and are looking for suggestions.
Maker's Muse
"The street finds its own uses for things." -William Gibson. Pallet stairs.
"The street finds its own uses for things." -William Gibson. Pallet stairs.
Shop Talk
In response to my last newsletter’s piece on cleaning “hacks,” I immediately got an email from reader Megan M. She wrote: “Please do not clean your silver this way. It etches the surface, leading to more susceptibility to tarnishing and shortening its lifespan.” She thoughtfully provided this link to what looks like silver polishing best practices. Thanks, Megan!
May I Issue You an Artistic License?
Don't leave home without it.
Don't leave home without it.
If you’re looking for some gift ideas for the artists and makers on your holiday list, consider supporting my work here by buying some of my merch. I sell these Artistic License cards. They come in a wax-sealed envelope and are made of thick card stock with a durable finish. They are $5 each or 5 for $20 (postpaid in the US, foreign orders pay the extra postage). I have them ready to ship. Email me if interested.
Also consider buying my book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop.
Crack the sweal, release the muse lurking inside.
Crack the sweal, release the muse lurking inside.
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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.