Tips of the Week: Maker Faire Bay Area Edition

Maker News Workshop
Tips of the Week: Maker Faire Bay Area Edition

One of the many great things about a Maker Faire is that it gives you the chance to catch up with friends, to talk to them about latest projects, and things they have in the works. Those conversations often come with tips. Here are a few of the tips I picked up at this past weekend’s wonderful Maker Faire Bay Area.

Turning Wood Screws Counter-Clockwise to Start Them

I always enjoy catching up with Make: contributor and toy designer, Bob Knetzger at Maker Faire. We usually end up geeking out over vintage toys, electronics, and science kits. Over a drink at the bar, he’s always worth a few tips, too. Here’s one he shared that he was aghast to discover that even a luthier friend didn’t know:

“In order to avoid cross threading or stripping out wood screws that you’re going to remove and then reassemble: DON’T just start turning the screw when you put them back. DO replace them into the existing holes, but instead, first turn them BACKWARD (counter-clockwise), very sensitively, with just a tiny bit of inward pressure. At some point, you’ll feel the screw “fall into” the previous thread in the wood. STOP. Now turn the screw clockwise to tighten the screw. This will prevent stripping out the wood!”

Close Your Eyes When Blowing Out Sawdust

This may seem like the simplest safety tip in the book: Closing your eyes whenever you’re blowing out sawdust, especially from drill holes. But you’d be amazed how many people forget. Even if you have safety glasses on, you still want to close your eyes to prevent any particles from getting through the open areas of your eye wear. Never forget: Close your eyes whenever blowing away dust! This one was also from Bob Knetzger.

Magnetic Reacher

Hanging out with Make: contributor and pal, Kent Barnes, is always a memorable experience. Kent is known for being something of a gadget freak and the kind of Captain Tinkerpaw who always has pocketfuls of nerdy plenty. During my “Amazing Tales from the Shop” panel, when we asked the audience for stories and a little tool show and tell, Kent did not disappoint. Among the things he pulled from his many pockets was this telescopic magnet reacher. He says it’s one of those things that, once you have it, you find all sorts of uses. It can extend to 25″ and can pick up as much as 3 lbs.

Fridge Magnet Coin Cell Battery Organizer

Kent was all about magnetism this Faire. He shared this tip at the Faire and then sent me this picture when he got home. He uses the magnetic strip on the back of an old fridge magnet to organize his button cell and coin cell batteries.

Cutting Polyurethane Foam with a Knife

While cooling our heels in the Crew Office at Maker Faire, Make: author Charles Platt shared this tool tip with me. He was looking for something to reliably and cleanly cut polyurethane foam (used in such things as padding sensitive instrument cases). Many methods he’d tried were not satisfactory. Then, he walked into a Jo-Ann’s Fabric and saw them cutting big slabs of foam with an electric carving knife. Charles went right out and bought himself one (for about $25) and he lived happily ever after. There are numerous videos on YouTube showing how to cut foam with such a knife. Here’s one.

Using a Knife to Mark Cutlines

YouTube player
Make:‘s video producer, Tyler Winegarner, shared this one with me. Maker Andy Birkey is a big proponent of marking cutting lines on a workpiece with a razor knife instead of a pencil. He claims you get 300% more accuracy with such a razor line. But as he points out, razor knife marks can be hard to see on certain materials and finishes. No problem. Just rub some nearby sawdust over the mark and it will “light up” sufficiently so that you can see it.

Amazing Tales from the Shop

Talking “Amazing Tales from the Shop,” from L to R: Donald Bell, Mark Frauenfelder, John Edgar Park, April Wilkerson, Gareth Branwyn.
If you are interested in our panel discussion from the Faire, on tips and tales from the shop, you can see it via the Maker Faire Twitch feed. Here is the full feed. Our panel starts at around 6:47:10

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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

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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