Tips of the Week: Enlarging Washers, Gaffer’s Tape Patterns, Screw Identifying Tools

Tips of the Week: Enlarging Washers, Gaffer’s Tape Patterns, Screw Identifying Tools

As always, we want to see some of your favorite shop tips, tricks, hacks, shortcuts, whatever you care to call them. Please share below in the comments and we might include them in a future column.

More on Zip Ties

Last week, we shared a tip from Scott Haun on twisting off zip tie tails with a pliers rather than cutting them. This got something of a heated response. On Facebook, Pete Prodoehl pointed to a piece on Rasterweb on how to cut the tails with angle flush cutters so that they’re completely flush with the lock. Mark Frauenfelder was inspired by the column to try out the plier-twist method himself, was satisfied with the results, and posted his results on Boing Boing (to an annoyed chorus of commenters who thought it was much ado about nothing). As in all things, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), but I’m content to know that I can twist these tails off with my Leatherman and not have to use a pair of specialty pliers (when such pliers may not be at hand).

Enlarging the Inner Diameter of Washers

Our pal Jordan Bunker shared this method he used to hold washers in place while he enlarged their inside diameter.

Making Patterns with Gaffer’s Tape

In this Laura Kampf video, where she builds a really sweet “Ultimate Festival Bike,” she uses a technique for making a cutting pattern that we’ve seen a lot on DiResta. In creating a cutting pattern for a wooden panel within the bike frame, she uses gaffer’s tape to cover the area, then cuts the tape mass with a utility knife, and then uses it as a pattern for cutting her panel.

Invest in a Screw and Thread Checker

On a recent episode of Tested’s “Shop Tips,” Frank and Sean discuss various tools that can be used for identifying fastener hardware in the shop. They recommend getting a Screw (and/or Thread) Checker. You can get these on Amazon for between $10-20. The tool in the top of this photos is called a Thread Checker and they sell for under $30.

Burning a Mark in Wood

On Epic Workshop, they show a neat trick for using burning as a way of filling in a carved mark. After carving a Bilbo Baggins pipe, to sign it, the maker carves a runic mark on the bottom of the pipe, puts the mark over a flame to burn the area, and then sands away the soot on the surface, leaving a distinctively inlined mark.

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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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