Tips of the Week: Filament Dry Box, Phonecam Memos, Testing Car Coolant with a DMM

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.


Making a 3DP Filament Dry Box

DMMWe’ve talked on Tips before about the importance of keeping your 3D printer PLA filament dry. Anyone who has worked with PLA knows that it is susceptible to absorbing moisture over time. We’ve talked about the Ziploc bag and descants solution before. In this simple project video, the mighty Becky Stern shows how she built a filament dry box which lives above her 3DP, keeping all of her filament clean, dry, and happy. I love the addition of Teflon tubing from the box to the printer to even keep dust and air exposure to a minimum on the way to the printer.

Bar Clamp Rack

Kerryn Carter (@toolschool on Instagram) just bought into the Bessey clamp system, from a German company known for their high-end bar clamps and other clamping technology. Bessey bars are not cheap and they come with a number of accessories. To deal with all of this, Kerryn built a simple wall rack with shelves to hold all of the extra bits. If you’re going to invest in expensive tools like this, you want to be able to keep everything together, safe, and handy for use, and hey, you might as well show off your investment, too.

Your Phone as a Memory/Notation Tool

This may seem like an obvious one, and hopefully an idea that you already employ, but I thought it worth mentioning anyway. I use my phone all of the time as a memory and notation tool. Just this week, I have used my phone to photograph the back on my cable modem, to read the serial number without having to move the unit, to get the name and number of the furnace company after my furnace died, and to remember my parking level in a garage. And I rarely write down a quote from a book anymore. Since I’m going to have to transcribe it into my computer anyway, no need to write it into a notebook and then transcribe. I just take a shot of a book page.

Value View Gas Bottle Status Indicator

In a recent one of Jimmy DiResta’s vlogs, he showed off these Value View bottle status indicators. I love these. Anyone who has dealt with bottled gas of any kind knows what a bummer it is to leave the gas on and have it bleed out. It can be wasteful, annoying, expensive, and dangerous. These caps have a red inner ring that is revealed when the gas bottle’s handwheel is in the On position and that red indicator is covered when the handwheel is turned off. It would probably be really easy to design and print knobs similar to these on a 3D printer.

Testing for Engine Corrosion via Coolant and a DMM

This is so cool, and something I never knew. You can apparently test to see if you have corrosion in your car’s radiator, water pump, or heater core by using your trusty digital multimedia (DMM). Do a voltage test (set to 20v or less) on a warm, revving engine (positive probe in coolant, negative on (-) battery terminal. A reading of .4 volts or less means that your cooling system is corrosion-free. If your reading is higher than .4 volts, the electrolysis additives have been exhausted which is an indication that there is corrosion some place in the system. Might be time to replace your radiator or water pump. [via Family Handyman]


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.

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