Tips of the Week: Soldering 101, Soap Case Project Boxes, Flexi-Tips for Gluing

Tips of the Week: Soldering 101, Soap Case Project Boxes, Flexi-Tips for Gluing

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.


Soldering Basics

Far too many people are intimated by soldering. It may seem difficult and complicated at first, but it really isn’t. Earlier this week, German maker Michael Stapelberg‏ (@zekjur) posted this image on Twitter and wrote: This soldering reference card from @adafruit is the most to-the-point explanation of good soldering practices I have ever seen.” It really is good because it graphically shows you pretty much everything you need to know to get started in soldering. It really is just a matter of following these simple guidelines and putting in a bit a practice.

Soap Cases as Project Boxes

Allie Weber (@RobotMakerGirl) is a young maker who we have covered here before. This week on Twitter, Allie shared a great tip on super-cheap small project boxes for electronics projects. “My new favorite go-to case for small electronics and boards projects: .97 cent travel soap cases from Walmart. Did anyone else ever think of this?” I certainly hadn’t. Nice idea, Allie.

Canary Cardboard Cutter

Months ago, on Maker Update, Donald Bell extolled the virtues of the Canary Cardboard Cutter, a cheap tool for making quick work of breaking down cardboard. I immediately ordered one. It took forever to arrive from China, but I got it a few weeks ago and I love it. Ed Lewis got one, too, and was so impressed by it that he made a short YouTube video to share his enthusiasm and recommendation.

Flexy-Tips for CA Gluing

I’ve been writing about my recent discovery of using capillary action with CA (Cyanoacrylate) gluing. This is where you hold your two workpieces together, run a bead of CA glue along the join, and follow it up with a bead of CA accelerator (kicker). I’ve been using some cheap needle bottles I got on Amazon for this purpose. They work great, but the little steel needles clog extremely easily and are a pain to clean out. In response to my talking about all this online, I got a message from a reader, David Goldberg, a Senior Mechanical Designer at Walt Disney Imagineering. Dave writes: “Instead of putting super glue in a needle bottle, try Pacer Technology Flexy-Tips. You fit them over the nozzle on the glue bottle. They have very thin spouts and are a non-stick plastic that is less prone to clogging. When they do clog, you just trim back to clear. Plus, since they taper, you can trim them way back to get a larger opening.”

Know Your Local Maker Resources

Yesterday, on @drunkenwood, David Picciuto’s Twitter feed, he posted:

Make Something @drunkenwood * Jan 18

“You use tools that I don’t have. Unsubscribe.”

Cool! I also use a 2011 Kia Sorento to pick up my materials. So if you don’t have a 2011 Kia Sorento to pick up your materials then you’re screwed. Unsubscribe.

And this week, someone in our comments section here on Make: said that they unsubscribed to the magazine because too many of the projects required 3D printing, CNC, or laser etching, all technologies they don’t own. I don’t own any of these machines, either, and I never let this get in the way of me pursuing a project that requires them. How do I accomplish such magic? I have friends with all of these machines. My local libraries have these machines. As do the half-a-dozen makerspaces in my area. And that’s only the machines I know about. The added benefit of asking a friend or going to a library or makerspace to get your job done is that you get a little face-to-face human interaction in the bargain (something many of us could use these days). There are so many maker and shopcraft resources available in most populated areas now. If you don’t have these machines at home, find out what your local (and mail-order) options are, make a list of these resources, and the next time you come across a cool project that requires you to get something 3D printed or laser-cut, you won’t have the excuse that not having this tech precludes you from pursuing the build.

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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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