Tips of the Week: Reviving Saw Inserts, Makeshift Clamp Caulking Gun, Water Resistance Hacks, and More

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.


Drawer Paper-Roll Dispenser

I wrote about Moonshine Metalworks in last week’s Weekend Watch. In one of Steve’s videos, you can see this clever use of a metal drawer. He keeps rolls of shop paper along the edge of a metal drawer. To dispense and cut a piece, he simply pulls the sheet over the edge and then uses the relatively sharp edge of the drawer to tear off the paper that he needs.

Funky-Fresh Vise Jaw Liners

Also from the same video on Moonshine Metalworks comes this little bodge. To add some more forgiving jaw liners to his vise, Steve simply zip-tied a few chunks on wood to the metal jaws.

Simple Dual-Edge Sanding Block

Jimmy DiResta is the Shop Master on NBC’s new Making It contest reality show. For the website, they are doing some fun tips videos. Here, Jimmy shows you how to make the simplest sanding block (by gluing sandpaper to a block of wood). But in doing so, he also shows why it’s important to leave one side of the block un-papered (so that you have the option of sanding or not-sanding both angles of a corner).

A Little Water Resistance

After receiving my book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, Stefan Jones tweeted “Now I feel like showing off some house hacks” and posted the following:

Thrift store cafeteria tray used as backsplash to protect drywall around garage water spigot.

Thrift store cafeteria tray used as backsplash to protect drywall around garage water spigot.

Reviving a Zero Clearance Insert

Also inspired by my book, maker Geoff Meston from Stuff I Made shared this video with me. In it, he shows how he used a little body filler/Bondo to revive the Zero Clearance Insert on his miter saw. This will also work on table saw inserts. As Geoff points out, these inserts act as more than just a spoil board, they support the underside of your workpiece and help prevent tear-out along the bottom edges of the cut.

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


If you have a tube of caulk but no gun, you can use a QuickGrip bar clamp (with something on the back end to press into the caulk tube) as a makeshift gun.

[Watercolor by Richard Sheppard]


If you get a copy of my book, 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’re used. Tips and Tales itself is a tool, so I’d like to see the humans who are using it.


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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