Tips of the Week: Tracing Photos for CAD, Dissolving ShapeLock, Glazing Putty, and a Cool Needle-Threading Trick

Tips of the Week: Tracing Photos for CAD, Dissolving ShapeLock, Glazing Putty, and a Cool Needle-Threading Trick

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.


Tracing Photos of Objects for 3D Designing

On the latest I Like to Make Stuff, Bob builds a human-sized prop of the coveted Optimus Prime Blaster Cannon from his childhood. To get an accurately-scaled and detailed 3D model of the prop for 3D printing some of the parts, he simply took a photo of a tiny Blaster toy, brought it into Fusion 360, traced, revolved, and extruded to create the shapes for his gun. With a camera, a CAD program, a 3D printer, and tons of time and patience, you can print out the world — at least as props.

Using Glazing Spot Putty

Also in Bob’s Optimus Prime video, he uses something I have never even heard of, Glazing and Spot Putty, in the gap-filling, smoothing, and finishing of his Blaster. Glazing and Spot Putty, unlike traditional Bondo, is a single-part putty designed for quick, small automotive body repair. It works right out of the tube, dries quickly, and sands well.

Easy Way to Thread a Needle

Threading a needle

Via Boing Boing comes this fascinating method of threading a needle. Basically, you place the thread across the palm of your hand, place the eye of the needle perpendicular to the thread, press the needle into the thread and wiggle it back and forth across the thread until a loop of thread gets worked up through the eye. I love this!

7 Methods for Desoldering

I unearthed this gem from the Make: vaults this week. You likely already know about the solder sucker tool and solder wick. Here are a few other methods for removing solder from old components and PCBs.

Photographing Small Objects

On Games Workshop’s “Warhammer Community” site, they offer up some excellent tips for photographing gaming miniatures. Of course, these tips can be used to photograph any small objects or project steps.

Dissolve ShapeLock in Chloroform

This tip comes to us by way of Jim Newton: “ShapeLock plastic is a great molding and building material for lots of projects. ShapeLock, also known as polycaprolactone, becomes moldable at around 160° F and hardens to a nylon-like plastic when cooled. But did you know that you can dissolve ShapeLock in chloroform solvent? This allows you to do things like dip objects into it, cast it in a mold, or paint it onto surfaces to form thin sheets. You can buy chloroform online.” As you know, chloroform is an extremely toxic, potentially deadly, substance and should only be used if you know what you are doing and take proper safety precautions in using it very seriously.

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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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