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.
Spring Board Clamping
The always resourceful Andy Birkey offers this unique approach to clamping, using bendy strips of wood wedged between the ceiling and your worktable.
Combo Square 3D Camera Hack
In response to my piece on using a combination square, Make: contributor Bob Knetzger sent me this camera tripod hack that appeared in his “Toy Inventor” column in the magazine: “For taking 3D photos with a regular camera you need a tripod and stereo photo slide bar. Professional slide bars cost $50 or more, but you can make a DIY bar fast and cheap that will work just as well. Here’s how: Hack a T-square level [combination square]! Use one with a frame that’s big enough to sit flat on the top of your tripod. Drill a hole in the square to fit onto the tripod’s stud, or if needed, use a ¼”-20 bolt and nut to attach to the tripod. Drill another hole near the end of the steel rule to hold your camera. Attach your camera with a ¼”-20 bolt and a nut. Carefully thread the bolt into the camera’s socket, and then tighten up the nut behind the rule to secure the camera. You’re done!”
In this project video on building a solar USB charger, Becky Stern shows off a really clever way of holding a motor or other cylindrical object for soldering using a rubber band and a pair of Helping Hands. One of those head-slapping “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments.
One of our most popular posts here on Make: is about the lineman’s splice, a sturdy and robust way of wrapping and soldering wires that is standard practice in many industries and at NASA. This post on Instagram by Phil Burgess reminded me of this wonderful technique and he shares a tip I’d never heard about using two pennies as makeshift pliers to grip and twist the wires.
Lineman splice / Western Union splice: trick is to not use your bare fingers. 2X pliers or can substitute coins for one of them. pic.twitter.com/ZxhCS1w4T9
— Phil Burgess (@PaintYourDragon) November 4, 2017
Understanding Pin Headers
This video does a very fine job of running through all of the basics of using male and female pin headers in electronics projects. The video includes a number of great tips, like slotting male headers into a breadboard before soldering them onto a PCB so that you’re sure to get the pins perfectly perpendicular to the board.
Another Reason to Buy Extra Parts: Beer!
My old friend Tim Slagle, a DC-area hardware hacker I met through Dorkbot DC and HacDC, shared this tip with me years ago: “Having some extra parts on hand is a great way to help out your fellow hardware hackers. It can also add a social element to what can otherwise be a rather solitary hobby: “Hey, I need a part for my project” “I have xtras!” “Awesome, I’ll come pick them up. And bring beer!” Over the years, I have frequently shared the tip of always buying extras whenever you buy parts for a project. Having them in stock to share with others, as a way of being generous and being social, is another great reason for this practice.