More handy tool tips

More handy tool tips

One of the many wonderful things about editing The Best of Instructables was getting to delve deeper into the content on the site and getting to know (or at least the work of) some of the characters that make Instructables their virtual workshop. One such person is Tim Anderson (who I mainly knew of from his excellent Heirloom Technology column and other work in MAKE). Tim has done over 150 Instructables, and a number of them appear in the book, including one on how to get a free yacht! Seriously.

Like me, Tim has a “thing” for collecting tool tips and tricks and has posted dozens of “handy tricks” round-ups (“50 Handy Tricks,” “40 More Handy Tricks,” “Island Handy Tricks,” “Handy Bike Mods and Projects,” “Handy Tricks From Guatemala,” the list goes on). Here are just a few entries (from “40 More Handy Tricks”). Search on “handy tricks” to see them all.


Cop Repellant – Taillight Repair Tape
I believe in minimum consumption. So my vehicle is old and rusty. That’s not as common as it used to be. In fact I can cross the country and not see a car as decrepit as my own. That makes me Catnip for cops. Or Copnip or something.

Now that they’ve got the BIG LIST, cops everywhere are looking for excuses to pull people over. Maybe they can catch an actual criminal just by checking your name against the list.

Immigrants named “Andrew’s Son” flooded through Ellis Island at one time. We Tim Andersons all look the same although we aren’t related. At any time there are lots of arrest warrants out for one of us. So whenever I get pulled over it takes forever. And then the cop is really disappointed that I’m not the bail jumping sex offender from Ohio or the deadbeat dad from Indiana. The good thing is after poring through the catalog of Tims gone berserk, they often feel less excited about the fixit ticket they would otherwise write me, and they sometimes let me go with a warning and a disappointed look.

The last time I got pulled over for cracked taillight lenses, I put patches of red “taillight repair tape” on them. Ever since I put the red tape on, No more random stops.
It sends a secret message to the police: “this guy got pulled over recently and they couldn’t bust him for anything real.”


Stuffed Animal Vs Bungie Scars
This stuffed animal has been stuffed under a bungie cord to keep it from marking the hood. Seen on Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA.


Water Bottle Microphone Stand
I couldn’t find my mike stand and needed to type while talking, so I tied my mike to a water bottle with a jumper cable. It works so well I’m still using it that way.


Improve Electrical Contact with a Hammer
This extension cord wasn’t making good contact when I plugged things into it. So I hit it on the side with a hammer to bend the contacts together a little bit. Now it works fine. I can feel it gripping when I plug something into it. This method works with sockets made of plastic that’s not too hard.


Light Dimmer Speed Control for Dremel Tool
Mike O’hara of Potenco, Inc. modified his fixed-speed Dremel tool. He bought a Litton in-line light dimmer control and spliced it into the exension cord of his Dremel tool.
ta-da! Speed control. When shopping for dimmers for this sort of thing, look for the ones that say they can handle inductive loads, such as motors.

40 More Handy Tricks


From the Maker Shed:

The Best of Instructables is available in the Maker Shed at a pre-release price of $29.99. We also have a landing page where we’ll be putting up material related to the book. And Eric J. Wilhelm himself will be guest blogging here soon in celebration of the book’s release. So stay tuned…

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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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