Tips of the Week: Spinning Minis, Saving Breadboard Space, and Perhaps the Homeliest Tool Ever

Tips of the Week: Spinning Minis, Saving Breadboard Space, and Perhaps the Homeliest Tool Ever

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.


Spinning Minis

On Boing Boing this week, I posted a piece about improving one’s skill at painting fantasy gaming miniatures. This led to a lively discussion on the Boing Boing BBS on mini painting. In the midst of this, Make: contributor Stefan Jones shared a great tip. Anyone who’s serious about painting minis knows that you need to wash them before painting them to get off any residual mold release agents and grease from your hands that you may have deposited while assembling the figure. Stefan uses an old salad spinner to do this. A few drops of liquid soap, some warm water, a gentle spin, and your minis are ready to air dry and paint.

Basic Darning and Mending

We’ve long said here at Make: that everyone should know the basics of both soldering and sewing. One of those sewing skills would be darning and mending. In today’s disposable culture, basic clothing repair has become a dying art. Several years ago, Make: craft contributor, Haley Pierson-Cox, stumbled upon this neat post on The Coletterie featuring instructions on darning and mending techniques issued by the British government during their “Make Do and Mend” campaign during World War II.

Tool of the Day

If you’re as much of a tool freak as I am, you may already know about the Twitter feed, Tool of the Day. Dominic Morrow, a UK maker who runs the feed, describes it as “a virtual museum of bought, found, cleaned, or restored vintage and modern tools.” Above is Tool of the Day No. 220: “Copper tipped, flame heated soldering iron.”

The Safety Pin as Multitool

John Park sent me a quick phonecam video extolling the virtues of keeping various sizes of safety pins handy in the shop. They offer a thousand uses whenever you need a sharp, pointy bit, for poking, picking, scrapping, and the like. And, of course, pinning. And, as John points out, they have a safety cover to protect you from the business end (and even a loop on the other end for hanging on a nail or string). I couldn’t agree more. I use safety pins all of the time, too, as an “ejectrode” (90s slang term for something used to engage the manual eject on a CD/DVD drive), as a reset button-pusher on electronic devices, to unclog my glue applicators, and dozens of other uses. The safety pin might be the ultimately example of what I call a “homely tool,” one that is so common, so un-sexy, and so day-to-day invisible that you barely recognize it as a tool.

Inline Resistors Save Space on Breadboard

I ran across a link to this gem while poking around in the Make: archives this week. Dave Cook from Robot Room: Through-hole resistors can take up considerable space on a solderless breadboard or circuit. Fortunately, these resistors often provide a convenient path for signals to pass underneath. But occasionally, resistors simply take up precious space and complicate the routing of signals. The 7447 chip (seen here) drives current to the numeric LED. But, the LED segments need resistors to protect them against too much current. In this case, one end of each resistor is pushed into the solderless breadboard, while the other end of each resistor has a wire soldered to it. The other end of the wire connects to the appropriate LED segment.”

Bulldog Clips as Clamps

In the project video post I wrote about yesterday, I point out that Minni from Minimalist Maker always lists a couple of useful tips in the descriptions to her videos. One trick in her tool roll video that she doesn’t point out (but employees in the video) is to use “bulldog” or binder/banker clips as clamps for holding together relatively thin, flat materials, for edge-gluing, sewing, etc.

More on Tool ID Marks

In last Friday’s column, we talked about creating a special brand or ID mark for all of your tools. This tip got a special shout-out on Donald Bell’s weekly Maker Update show. And on Tool of the Day, a follower, Martin O’Hanlon‏ (@martinohanlon), shared an image of how his granddad used to mark all of his tools. Do you have a tool mark? If so, show us in the comments below. Or, if this discussion has inspired you to start thinking about a mark, share that thinking with us, too.

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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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