Tips of the Week: Quick Sand Casting, Cardboard Cutting, Free Steel, and Overlooked First Aid

Tips of the Week: Quick Sand Casting, Cardboard Cutting, Free Steel, and Overlooked First Aid

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.


Power Tip Cleaner for Soldering

This week, Ben Krasnow tweeted an image of his Hakko FT710-04 powered solder tip cleaner with the text: “Do not underestimate how amazingly great these powered solder tip cleaners are. Wow!” I didn’t even know there was such a thing. They appear to be available online for as low as $140, new. I assume you could find one, used, on auction for about half that. Do others here have experience with one of these? I kind of hate cleaning my iron and know the value of keeping everything clean, but I don’t know that I could justify the expense. Currently, I use dollar store brass scrubbies as my cleaning medium.

Quick Casting with Kinetic Sand

Make:’s Video Producer, Tyler Winegarner, shared this one with me this week. On HomeMadeModern, they experiment with using kinetic sand as a quick n’ dirty medium for press-molding and casting. The results are pretty impressive and the low-melt alloy they used seems to not effect the sand at all. And, I have to have that melting pot they use!

Get a Cardboard Cutting Saw

On this week’s Maker Update, Donald Bell reviews this nifty-looking cardboard cutting saw. The review made a believer out of me and I instantly ordered one. They are under $6, shipped. Not only will I use this in breaking down the significant amount of cardboard that I recycle, but I will use it for cutting both cardboard and Styrofoam for hobby projects.

How to Get Free Steel

ChuckE2009 specializes in welding repair and fabrication. In this video, Chuck shares the tip of scoping out construction sites for scrap steel. You’ll want to ask permission from the contractor, but many sites are now more open to just giving away scrap and cut-offs because the scrap price per pound is currently so low. Also, don’t hesitate to locate your local suppliers of steel, wood, plastics, paper, and ask them if they have scrap and cut-offs that you can have. Visiting a local metal working shop is also a great way of getting chunks of steel to use as shop weights, either free or for a few bucks.

Don’t Forget Meds in Your First Aid Kit

Dr. Caroline Lewis, wife of Make: contributor, Andrew Lewis, is a specialist trauma care doctor in the U.K. I asked her to share a few maker-friendly first aid tips. She writes: “Always remember to keep your first aid kit stocked with not only the usual over-the-counter drugs (ibuprofen, paracetamol, codeine, anti-histamine, etc), but also some of your prescription medications, if you take any. This can help if you ever run out unexpectedly.” Many good first aid kits actually come with a couple of empty bottles expressly for this purpose.

Keep a Razor in Your First Air Kit (and a Pair of Good Scissors)

Dr. Caroline Lewis: “Most people think to include scissors, but not many think of putting a disposable razor in their first aid kit, too. Shaving around an affected area can help bandages and wound closing strips to stick to skin, especially if you’re particularly hairy.” And make sure it’s a good pair of trauma sheers in your kit. Not only might they be used for cutting bandages, they may also be called upon to cut through clothing and the like. Here’s a pair that we recommended (via Donald Bell).

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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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