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.

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Lead Paint Testing Pen

If you are working with restoring old machines, appliances, furniture, or repainting an old house, you want to test the existing paint for the presence of lead before you start stripping, sanding, cutting, etc. This can quickly and easily be done by using something like 3M’s Instant Lead Check Kit. You get 8 tests in the kit for under $30. You can also get a single-use kit for around $8. To use, you swab the paint and the testing swab turns red in the presence of lead. [via Hand Tool Rescue]

Displacement Eureka!

On the Instagram channel for Graz Makes, Graz posted an Igram Story of him cleaning and restoring a rusty old anvil. In setting up a bath of vinegar to remove decades of rust, he decided to take a tip from that old Greek weirdo, Archimedes, and use a little displacement to reduce the amount of vinegar he needed. He filled some jugs with water and placed them around the tub in which he’d immersed the anvil. This is a smart thing to consider every time you need to submerge something in a solution, especially if you don’t have a lot of the solution, and/or if it’s expensive.

Using Vibration Gloves

Fran Blanche has a new feature on her YouTube channel, called FranLab Quickies where she shares quick tips and other thoughts (and a cute little ad libbed theme song that she sings). In her first Quickie she shares her tip on using vibration gloves. Fran got a Shaper Origin, and she loves it, but the vibration of the machine gets to her after a while. To counteract that, she got herself a pair of vibration-dampening gloves. So that she could still operate the touch screen controls, she cut the fingertips away from the gloves. You can get a pair of these gloves online for under $20.

[From my new book, Make: Tips and Tales from the Workshop]

Use a Straw to Scoop Up Squeeze-Out

There are many techniques for, and much debate over, how to deal with squeeze-out, the excess glue that squishes out from two bonded workpieces. Trying to remove squeeze-out from an inside corner can be especially challenging. This tip from WoodSmithTips shows a clever way of using a plastic drinking straw to scoop up squeeze-out from inside corners.

[Watercolor by Richard Sheppard]

Tips and Tales from the Workshop


I was so thrilled to see that former Make: staffer, Sean Michael Ragan, had posted this picture of himself on social media holding my latest book and had written the following review on Amazon.

Work Smart, Not Just Hard
“Tips” is an understated word to describe what’s going on in this book. Yes, you can read it on that level, and if you’re a person who keeps tools and uses them to build and/or fix stuff you’ll find this book chock-a-block with forehead-slapping “why didn’t I think of that” advice that will make your shop projects faster, better, and more enjoyable. But that’s not the only thing that’s going on here by a long shot. This book is nothing less than a capstone course in outside-the-box thinking, and even if you never directly use even one of the specific “tips” it contains, you’ll come out the other side a much better creative problem solver than you went in, just by virtue of having absorbed so many great and original ideas.

The book is starting to circulate. If you get a copy, please take a picture of yourself holding it, tag me, and use the hashtag #tipsandtales. Besides being a book about tips, this is also a book about the human side of tools and how they are used. Tips and Tales itself is a tool, so I’d like to see the humans who are using it. And don’t forget, Father’s Day is coming up (June 17th). This book would make a perfect gift for any maker dad in your life.