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I’m fascinated by “street tech,” by how people actually use tools and technologies in ways their designers never intended. I’m also fascinated by improvisation, of all kinds. As a result, I’m slightly obsessed with tool tips, those funky, ingenious, and “why didn’t I think of that?” ways that people use (and abuse) the tools in their lives.

One thing I love about tool tips is the disproportional impact a great tip or working technique can have on your work life. Like: it took me a while, in doing electronics, before it occurred to me that you could use tape or poster putty to hold components in place for soldering. It’s now rare that I don’t use this technique. Here a few tips from “SpikenzieLabs:”

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Organize your projects:
The “tool” here is the blue plastic bucket. These buckets are re-used mushroom packaging. (Nice, that makes them free!) They are great at holding bits and pieces. When starting a new project, I’ll often gather up all the parts needed and throw them into one of these bins. If the part is static sensitive then I’ll leave it in it’s protective package, otherwise I’ll just put them in loose.

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Fingers too big ?
Lots of people use breadboards to either make or prototype their electronics projects. Many people get frustrated by short circuits or knocking out parts as they add components or make changes.

When I started to use these tweezers, those problem were a thing of the past! These guys are not those ultra fine tweezers that you would use to pull out a splinter but nice big ones. Big, but still much smaller then my fingers. With these, I can get in-between almost anything on my breadboards without touching the parts next it it. (I still turn off the power, though.)

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Hold it still:
How often do you put a part into a PCB then turn it over to solder it in place and have fall out? In cases where bending the pins to hold the part in is not an option I reach for my 3M Brand Blue painters masking tape. This love this stuff! It has a great balance between good tack, to hold things in place and releasability, without getting everything gummy.

Cool Tools @ SpikenzieLabs

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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