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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Freezer Paper Image Transfer

I’m anxious to try out this technique for creating image transfers by printing a mirror image of your art onto freezer paper and then burnishing it onto your work piece before the ink dries. Spotted in one of the builds (the dice tower project) on the Wicked Makers YouTube channel.

Beeswax, Not Soap, as Thread Lube

There is a long-standing and well-traded tip about keeping a bar of soap handy in your shop and running screw threads across it to lubricate them for easier screwing. I even included the tip in my book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop. But a friend of mine, Christos Liacouras, shared with me a link to a discussion about how soap is not the best lubricant you want for this purpose. Soap can attract moisture and discolor your workpieces. The superior lubricant is apparently beeswax. Chris pointed me to this discussion thread.

Other Uses for a Drill

There is a ridiculous number of tips round-up videos on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and other social media and video sites. Tips are a favorite subject for those casting about to try and generate videos that go viral. Some of the collections are garbage, stunt tips and hacks that no one will ever actually use in their day-to-day lives. Some are outright dangerous. Others are hit and miss affairs. Others still are actually decent round-ups of useful tricks, techniques, and clever uses of tools. Sifting through these (as people post them to your FB wall) can be a great opportunity to test your understanding of physical science and engineering, safe shop practices, and applying common sense. They can also give your Bullshit Detector a good workout. Make: friend Angus Hines shared this “drill hacks” collection with me on Facebook. There are some decent off-brand uses for a drill in here. Which ones would you put into the categories of: Actually Useful, Clever, But a Stunt, and Danger! Will Robinson!

Avoid Home Shopping Network Narration

Continuing in our series of tips and cautions related to audio and video production for makers… This one might be more of a personal preference than anything else. It concerns more of what I have called “Send Before Midnight Tonight!” production, the kind of over-driven sales-speak that we’ve all learned from late night low-budget TV ads and QVC/Home Shopping Network programming. If you listen to something like QVC, you will hear the salesdroids starting nearly every sentence with “You’re going to want to…,” “You’re going to get…,” etc. This is a psychological sales “trick” of making the potential buyer already imagine themselves behind the wheel of their NEEEEEEEEW CAR! (or whatever). It’s annoying enough that we hear this kind of manipulative speech in these high-pressure sales situations, but I also hear it a lot in maker’s YouTube project narration. “You’re going to take your craft wire and…,” “You’re going to want to fold the edges…” Again, maybe not a big deal, but something to be mindful of. Just say: “Take your craft wire…,” “Now, fold the edges…,” etc.

If You Can’t Anodize, Alodine

I posted a piece earlier this week about anodizing aluminum at home. It may be easier than you think, but it’s still a significant, non-trivial process. On my FB wall, my friend John Ülaszek offers a quicker n’ dirtier alternative. “In lieu of anodizing aluminum, Alodine is a conversion coating you can easily do at home and it creates a pleasant gold finish. Its not homemade, but it’s a method suitable for home.” The above image, from Jim Pavlick’s airplane build blog, shows some plane firewall parts that have been Alodined.

[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]

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WIN A COPY OF MY BOOK! Donald Bell is doing a giveaway on his Maker Update show. Submit one of your best tips and he’ll be choosing three submissions and sending out copies of my book.