Tips of the Week: T-Pin Probes, Shop Fans, Clamping with Glue, and Using Digital Calipers

Tips of the Week: T-Pin Probes, Shop Fans, Clamping with Glue, and Using Digital Calipers

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.


How to Use Digital Calipers

I don’t own a pair of digital calipers, but I’m planning on finally getting a pair. In anticipation of that, I found this Skill Builder here on Make: that runs through the basics of how to measure with a pair. It’s not really a collection of tips, more of a calipers 101, but the animated GIFs showing each feature in action are helpful.

Circulating Fan for Your Shop

On Andy Birkey’s channel, he has a new (sponsored) video extolling the virtues of NewAir high velocity fans. He has a wall heater on one side of his shop, leaving the other side to get cold. By installing a fan next to the heater, the shop now enjoys more evenly distributed heat. Years ago, I installed these little (PC-fan-sized) circulation fans in the door frames to several rooms of my house. It made a huge difference in heat distribution.

Super Glue “Clamping” for Drilling

If you watch a lot of DiResta and other YouTube makers, you may have already encountered this trick, here seen in a recent Laura Kampf video. To hold one metal workpiece to another for drilling them together, you can use CA glue as a temporary clamp. Once you’ve sunk your holes, you simply break off the glued piece.

T-Pin Probes

This one comes from Martin Rothfield, an engineer and a former member of HacDC, my local makerspace. Martin uses common T-pins in the jaws of alligator clips to go where the clips can’t. Martin writes: “This is a trick I learned while troubleshooting cars. Works great on ham radio powerpole connectors, too.” This little hack can work on any application where you need needle probes and you only have alligator clip connectors. [H/t Alberto Gaitán]

1/2-Rolls of Paper Towels

Make: pal Kent Barnes sent this tip in a while ago. For years, Kent’s been cutting rolls of paper towels in half. He writes: “I love paper towels, but they can be quite wasteful, especially when using paints or chemicals that you cannot recycle and they end up in the garbage or landfill. Years ago, I started cutting rolls of regular paper towels in half to create half sheets. Now, with the advent of commercial half-sheet paper towels, my half-towels can even be cut into quarter sheets!”

String Guides for Sign Drawing/Painting

On the Friends of Type Instagram feed, they show how they go about creating a string grid for transferring a lettering design onto a large chalk board.

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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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