Another week of tips and techniques I’ve scooped up into my Felix the Cat magic bag o’ tricks. Don’t forget to share in the comments below any tips that you’ve come across in your travels. And if you’re going to be at Maker Faire Bay Area on May 20th, come see my Amazing Tales from the Shop panel (see details below).

Building a Simple 2×4 Jack

Over on Essential Craftsman, Scott shows us an ingenious way of building a post jack using nothing but a couple of 2x4s.

Correctly Measuring Heat Shrink

Hack-a-Day recently ran a piece on the chemistry behind heat-shrink tubing. Heat-shrink is fascinating stuff, and ever so useful once you get over the strange particulars of how to size it, how to determine the percent of shrinkage when heated, and after you consistently remember to thread the heat shrink onto your wires BEFORE splicing or soldering down components! In the Hack-a-Day piece, they link to a manufacturer’s how-to on properly sizing your tubing. Basically, you measure the diameter of the thinnest part of what the tubing will be covering and then choose heat shrink that’s 20-30% larger than that.

Learning to Swim by Wading in Over Your Head

On one of Jimmy DiResta’s recent Vlogs, he shows off the amazing Dupont power hammer, circa 1890, that he recently acquired. Jimmy has been learning forging and smithing and acquired this impressive antique as part of developing that skill set. He said he thought he was in over his head with this machine, but that was a good thing. “This is how I learn. I force myself into situations where I have to commit,” says Jimmy. I thought this needed to be called out as a tip. I too have always forced myself beyond my comfort zone in nearly everything I explore. My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach when it comes to learning and what I think I’m capable of. Yes, it can mean that you fail a lot, but you fail faster and you learn a lot in the process. And you always end up much closer to your goal than if you had only tip-toed your way in. When in doubt: Dive! Dive! Dive!

Pre-Gluing End Grain

In this recent Make Something video on making relatively simple but swanky-looking picture frames, David reminds us of a great tip when dealing with end-grain wood that you’re planning to glue. The exposed grain of the wood can wick up a lot of the glue you apply to join it, weakening the resulting join. To prevent this, you simply pre-glue the end-grain to be joined. That glue will wick into the wood so that the glue you apply on top of that to create the actual join will stay put and will have more surface area to adhere to.

A Monkee Makes a Branding Jig

This great tip comes to us from none other than Micky Dolenz of The Monkees! Micky is a woodworker and he and his daughter Georgia have a woodworking business called Dolenz and Daughters. On their Instragram feed, they shared this tip for creating a simple jig for registering a branding iron. As Micky demonstrates in this little video, with a guide like this, you can do multiple applications of the iron and still have everything register properly. You could also use this same idea on rubber stamps.

[Side Tip: If you haven’t heard the most recent Monkees record, Good Times!, give it a listen. You may be pleasantly impressed. I was. It was one of my favorite albums of 2016. Here’s a review I did of it on Boing Boing.]

Talking Tips, Tools, and Tall Tales at Maker Faire

Last year’s tips panel with Mark Frauenfelder and Jimmy DiResta. Sadly, Jimmy can’t make it this year.

If you’re going to be at Maker Faire Bay Area, come see my Amazing Tales from the Shop panel on Saturday, May 20th, 4:30pm. I’ll be talking tall tales from the shop and sharing beloved tips and tools with my pals Mark Frauenfelder (Boing Boing, Cool Tools), April Wilkerson (Wilderdos), John Edgar Park (Adafruit Industries), and Donald Bell (Maker Project Lab). Comes share your stories, too.