Tips of the Week: Needle Bottles, Playing Cards in the Shop, and Heat-Bending PVC with Sand

Tips of the Week: Needle Bottles, Playing Cards in the Shop, and Heat-Bending PVC with Sand

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.


Different Types of on the Fly Connectors

needleOn Barb Makes Things, Barb runs through a number of different types of connectors one can use to join thin, lightweight materials on the fly. In the video, she looks at brads (paper fasteners), zip ties, pieces of barbed plastic, and drinking straws.

Needle Bottles and Capillary Action

needleI just recently bought a pack of ten 30ml needle-tip glue bottles on Amazon for $8. Into one bottle I put my 1-3 sec Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue and into the other went my CA accelerator (aka a “kicker”). In doing plastic and miniature modeling and assembling things like laser-cut wooden storage racks, using the gluing method of squeezing out a bead of glue along the seam of your join, then quickly following it with a bead of kicker, has been a game-changer.

Playing Cards in the Shop

needleOn Nick Ferry’s YouTube channel, he shares this great tip for using playing cards in the shop. Because playing cards are reasonably thick, coated card stock of a known thickness (11.5pt stock or 0.0115″), you can use them, singly or in stacks, to raise and shim a workpiece that you are drilling or cutting.

Super Clean Cable Splicing

needleIn this fantastic quick technique tutorial, Becky Stern shows you the best way of stripping, soldering, and shrink-tubing a cable splice. The trick is to offset the wire joins so that, when you add heat-shrink to the individual wires, and then the entire splice, you don’t get a big lump in the cable.

You NEED a Teflon Craft Mat

I’ve sung the praises of Teflon work mats (aka craft mats) here on Make: (and elsewhere) before. But I just bought another box of five 16″ x 20″ sheets of these pieces of PTFE (Teflon) material for $10 and thought their virtues were worth praising again. In doing art, modeling, crafting, and any sort of work with paints, glues, epoxies, and the like, I don’t think I’ll ever work without one of these mats on my workbench again. Nothing sticks to them! You can mix glues, epoxies, whatever you like, right on the surface. Everything just peels off when it’s dry. When I bought and reviewed my first craft mat, at 15″ x 18,” sold as a branded Inksentials Craft Sheet, it cost me $14. Expensive, but still worth it. But at $2 each, these Teflon sheets are a must-buy in my opinion.

Dyslexics of the World, UNTIE!

One of the first things I related to about Jimmy DiResta is that he is a fellow dyslexic. Like me, he’s an eye-baller (“If it looks straight, it is straight”). Apparently, he’s also not above writing on his hands to keep things sorted out in his brain. On Instagram, he showed this image of him writing the button and stick functions for his camera drone on his fingers to keep things straight. Man after my own heart.

Here’s a tip for all you dyslexic drone pilots out there!! believe me it helps!! #diresta #mavicpro

A post shared by jimmydiresta (@jimmydiresta) on

Bending PVC with Hot Sand

needleMake:’s Senior Video Producer, Tyler Winegarner, hipped me to this tip. On the Darbin Orvar channel, Linn shows how she experimented with heat-bending PVC piping. After trying to heat the outside of the pipe to bend it, she decided to try filling the insides of the pipe with hot sand. The results are impressive. For small-to-mid diameter PVC pipe, it looks like a great way to twist and form piping into whatever shapes you desire.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.