5 Head-Slappingly Good Shop Tips and Build Tricks


In my never-ending quest to collect and share as many “eureka!” tips and “Now, why didn’t I think of that?” tricks as possible, I bring you five more practices that I picked up last week. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please post them in the comments. I’m collecting the best into a book. You may see your name in lights!

Bring Dead Sharpies Back to Life

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Ray from the TabLeft Workshop runs through the simple steps to reviving a dead alcohol-based marker (Sharpie, Magic Marker, etc.). To try and bring your marker back to life, simply remove the nib from the maker (however you get inside the particular model of pen) and deposit a few drops of isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol onto the felt material inside. It’s the solvent that the ink is mixed with that dries out first, making the pigment unable to flow.

Lubricate Your Glue and Goo Caps

tipsCaps on certain adhesives/glues, like cyanoacrylate and Shoe Goo, have a tendency to get stuck/glued on no matter how hard you try and keep them clean. You can prevent this by smearing a little coating of petroleum jelly onto the threads of the tube. You can also get the same effect by spraying a little squirt of WD-40 inside the cap.

Drive a Nail with a Clamp

tipsTrying to affix a brad or nail in a situation where there’s no room to swing a hammer? Trying using a C-clamp and draw the nail into the wood by screwing the clamp. This trick comes from The Family Handyman, in a round-up of classic handyman tips.

Use a Caulking Gun as a Clamp

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I’ve had this one on my radar for a while, so I was tickled to see Izzy Swan cover it in one of his new tips videos. The idea is simple. Need a bar clamp in a pinch, don’t have clamps, but you do have a caulking gun or two lying around? Remove the tube of caulk, slot a few chunks of wood into the jaws of the gun, and you have a fairly effective emergency clamp.

Tape Measure Tool Retriever

tipsHere’s another one from Izzy Swan, this one from his 5 Tape Measure Hacks video. So that he can pick up a tool, hardware, or other metal-based object that he may drop from a ladder, behind a cabinet, or otherwise out of reach, he keeps a neodymium (“rare earth”) magnet attached to the side of his tape measure. If he drops the object, he places the magnet on the hook of his tape measure, extends it, and retrieves the item. The magnet and the tape are strong enough to even pick up something as heavy as a hammer.

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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 garstipsandtools.com.

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