Tips of the Week: Workbench Saddle Bags, Safety Pin Slings, and the Value of a Portable Stick

Tips of the Week is our weekly peek at some of the best making tips, tricks, and recommendations we’ve discovered in our travels. Check in every Friday to see what we’ve discovered. And we want to hear from you. Please share your tips, shortcuts, best practices, and tall shop tales in the comments below and we might use your tip in a future column.


Try a Workbench Saddle Bag

Via Donald Bell’s Twitter feed comes this simple improvement to your workshop: Adding “saddle bags” to your bench by attaching an unused tool belt along one of the edges. Donald comments: “I’m not sure I’m into it yet.” I can see where this could be helpful in the right spot and a pain if installed in the wrong place.

Making a PVC Soldering Iron Case

Caleb posted a piece earlier this week about Jeremy Cook’s video on making a PVC case for a soldering iron. I thought it was worth pointing out again. A chunk of pipe, two caps, and some insulating material and you have a snazzy-looking and convenient case to protect your iron in your tool bag.

Keeping Broken Drivers, AKA “Portable Sticks”

Make: contributor Andrew Lewis sent this to Tips of the Week: “I hardly ever use slotted screws these days. Occasionally, I’ll use one in a repair, but generally, I rely on electronic screwdrivers with pozidrive tips to do the bulk of my fixing. If you take a look at my toolboxes, you’ll see that I have a lot more flat bladed screwdrivers than you might expect. That’s because some of them started out as pozidrives that broke. When a screwdriver breaks, I grind the end to a flat blade, and it becomes what I call a “portable stick,” basically a metal stick with a handle. I hang on to them because you never know when you might need to fashion that special tool for a job, and the portable stick is the perfect starting place to make most of those tools-you-can’t-buy. A little bit of grinding, gluing, brazing, and/or bending and you can make a tool that takes all of the stress out of a difficult job.”

First Aid: Making a Safety Pin Sling

If you need a sling to immobilize an arm but don’t have anything suitable to make one, you can use safety pins to fix the cuff of the shirt to the chest of the shirt until you can find something better. Use several pins if you have them and make sure to gather as much fabric as possible to prevent the weight of the arm from tearing the fabric. [via Dr. Caroline Lewis]

Servo Tester/Controller

On this week’s Maker Update, Donald Bell demo’d a category of device I didn’t even know existed: cheap servo testers. For a mere ten clams (even less), you can get a Digital Servo Tester Controller with Voltage Display on Amazon that can control 1-2 servomotors (simultaneously). This one has some nice features like two types of power input, two outputs, and a voltage display. For the price, this is a really quick and dirty way of adding manual control to a servo project.

Baking Soda to Clean Glassware

In this video, Whole Earth Catalog-era homesteading shelter icon, Lloyd Kahn, shares his method for hand-washing dishes. He says doing it his way is fairly quick and easy, saves 1/3 the water of a machine, minimizes grease in the septic system, and adds gray water to the garden (and the chickens get the scraps). There are some good tips in here, like having the dinnerware drying rack also be the storage rack, so dishes never have to be stored away. He also shows how he uses baking soda and a big shaker to get glassware sparkly clean.


Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn