Tips of the Week: Unfreezing Hex Heads, Tissue Printing, Plastic String from Bottles, and the Universal Greeblie

Tips of the Week: Unfreezing Hex Heads, Tissue Printing, Plastic String from Bottles, and the Universal Greeblie

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.


Freeing Tight and Frozen Hex Heads

In this Ultimate Handyman episode, he runs through a number of common (and not so common) methods for freeing stubborn and downright frozen hex head bolts. The chisel method (of biting a chisel blade into the head and hammering it free) is shown above.

Tissue Paper Printing

I’m in the process of building some 20mm billboards for a Gaslands terrain board. In doing research, I ran into this method of printing billboard art onto tissue paper (that’s been secured to a regular piece of paper and run through your printer). Allegedly, doing this and then securing the tissue to a piece of balsa wood with spray adhesive gives your billboard a realistic painted-on and faded effect. Can’t wait to try this.

Adam Savage Reveals the “Universal Greeblie

Anyone who’s done any scale modeling and “kit bashing” is probably familiar with the term “greeblie,” coined by George Lucas to refer to all of the misc parts that are glued onto spaceship (and other) models to add interest, depth, texture, and to create a sense of narrative even across the surfaces of things like the Star Wars Death Star. In this little video, Adam introduces us to the most iconic model kit that has given birth to thousands of greeblied creations. The kit is the 1/72 scale Anzio Annie K5(E) German Rail Gun from Minicraft/Hasegawa. I had heard of the importance of this kit in the history of scratch-built and kit-bashed model making and movie practical effects modeling, but I was unaware that, on one of the sprues of that model is a single part (the 8 pieces in the center of the photo above) that is the greeblie of all greeblies. It has apparently been used on nearly every model in the Star Wars universe and has become so universal that they are sill using it on digitally-designed ships in current Star Wars films. Given the iconic nature of this part, you might expect to find it on Thingiverse. You would be correct.

10 Ways to Make a Pencil Holder Using Heat

In this sponsored video for Jimmy DiResta’s YouTube channel, he quickly and cleverly runs through ten ways in which you can create a cool pencil holder using heat (the sponsor being Bernzomatic). He runs through everything from making a cup from leather, melting a vinyl record, vacuum-forming (sorta), using soldered rings, and more. There are a number of useful tips and technique reminders here, like the use of burnt wood finishing seen here.

Learn Tinkercad

One of these days I need to break down and actually learn Tinkercard. When I do, this is likely the tutorial series I will start with.


You can build a simple cutting jig for breaking down plastic bottles into plastic string using six washers, two screws, a piece of wood, and the blade from a plastic, school box pencil sharpener. Make two columns of three washers spaced far enough apart to hold the blade. Screw the columns into a piece of a wood with the blade sandwiched in between the first and second washer in the stacks— make sure to tighten the blade in place. Now, to break down a bottle, cut the bottom off with a utility knife and begin twisting the bottle through the blade to cut strips of the plastic. The resulting plastic string is surprisingly strong and can be used in all sorts of lashing and tying applications.

[Watercolor by Richard Sheppard]


If you get a copy of my book, please take a picture of yourself holding it, tag me, and use the hashtag #tipsandtales. Besides being a book about tips, this is also a book about the human side of tools and how they’re used. Tips and Tales itself is a tool, so I’d like to see the humans who are using it.


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. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn