Make and Mend tricks from Tim Anderson

Make and Mend tricks from Tim Anderson

When I was editing The Best of Instructables, one of my favorite authors in the book was Tim Anderson, who also edits our regular “Heirloom Technology” column in MAKE. Tim has hundreds of Instructables, many of them collections of time-saving, energy-saving, make-do, and kludgey-cool repair tips. Here are some excerpts from his Tips articles related to repair and maintenance.


Sharpen Sandpaper with an Old Tire
When the sandpaper gets clogged I sand a chunk of old tire with it, and then it cuts well again. The rubber works like a big eraser to scrub the sawdust out between the grains of abrasive on the sandpaper. You can buy products that are meant to do this, but an old tire works plenty good, and you’ll never have trouble finding one.


Bar Soap is Screw Lube
This is a boatbuilder’s trick. If you lubricate a screw with soap, it goes in a lot easier and holds just as well. You’re much less likely to break the head off when putting it in.


Bandsaw Toothbrush
This toothbrush cleans the side of the blade that rides on the wheels. Otherwise crap can build up on it and cause a crooked cut, tire wear, etc


Close Quarters Hacksaw
A co-worker of mine wrapped tape around this hacksaw blade to use it in some confined space. Usually I’d wrap the other end to use it as a pull saw. I’d use masking tape cuz the feel of this vinyl electrician’s tape creeps me out.


Sharpen Knife on Soapy Water Stone
To keep your water stone from clogging, put a little dish soap on it along with the water.
You’ll feel the difference.


Fix a Zipper
The first way a zipper dies is usually by not fully zipping the two halves together. Then the zipper separates when the slider is in the up position. Then you get the garment for free.

Wrestle the zipper apart by whatever means won’t cause permanent damage.
Then take a pair of pliers and carefully pinch the base of the slider together as shown.
Just bend it a little. The zipper will now work perfectly.

From the pages of MAKE:

MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets
In this special issue, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). In this issue’s “Heirloom Technology” column, Tim Anderson shows you how to move trees using a homemade tree dolly.

In the Maker Shed:
The Best of Instructables Volume I The Instructables staff, the editors of MAKE, and the Instructables community itself put together this collection of the best food, home and garden, technology, science, and crafts how-to’s from the site. The Best of Instructables includes full-color photographs, complete step-by-step instructions, and tips, tricks, and build techniques you won’t find anywhere else. Over 300 pages!

8 thoughts on “Make and Mend tricks from Tim Anderson

  1. Christian Sweningsen says:

    Lubing threads is a great idea; soap is not. Its a crap-shoot; depending on the soap, it can corrode the screw – though you won’t know it, as its hidden away.

    Wax is better – candle, or bees.

  2. DanYHKim says:

    The fix zipper photo shows a really gummed up Velcro hook patch. Use a needle, knife blade, tweezers or fingers to remove all that extra lint and thread to restore your Velcro’s stickiness.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Good tip, Dan. I’ve used tweezers for this.

  3. unbwogable says:

    A wax toilet bowl ring also works well for screws, albeit a messy way.
    The main issue with soap is that it is usually moist, and can absorb water (not very well, but every little bit counts).

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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. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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