Tips of the Week: Finishing Solder Points, Keeping Your Scales Clean, and a Hurricane Bonus Tip

Tips of the Week: Finishing Solder Points, Keeping Your Scales Clean, and a Hurricane Bonus Tip

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.


Yet Another Use for Poster Putty

In this episode of the dungeon crafting channel, Black Magic Craft (on building a little farmhouse/hunting shack for D&D), Jeremy does something with poster putty (aka BlueTac) that I had never thought of. When using open containers of water, washes, and other liquids, Jeremy puts a blob of putty on the bottom of the container to prevent it from getting knocked over. I am always afraid I’m going to knock over my smnall water cup, so I will definitely be doing this from now on.

Taping Your Dovetails

On Instagrarm, Kerryn Carter (aka Toolschool) shared this about taping off dovetail joints before cutting them in. The tape helps prevent “tear out” while cutting and chiseling the dovetails.

“Finishing” Solder Joins

By way of the always-recommended Maker Update, Donald Bell introduced me to this technique for finishing off the solder points on a PCB. As Donald points out, many PCBs are so lovely these days, works of art in themselves, that you might want to have a more aesthetic finish to your populated circuit boards. To do this, rather than side-cutting the little solder mounds at the top of the mound, with this method, you cut as close to the board as possible and reheat and re-plump the points with a hit of the solder tip and some solder. What you end up with are these handsome little solder pillows. UPDATE: Donald has posted an Instructable with more details on this technique.

Moving Glue with Air

Another week, and anoother Tips of the Week column giving the high-fives to Andy Birkey. In this Gimme a Minute video, Andy shows you how you can get glue into hard to reach areas with a little spritz of compressed air.

Keeping Your Shop Scale Clean

solderBy way of Tested, comes this little gem for keeping your digital shop scale clean. When using it to weigh and mix epoxies, resins, and the like, sleeve the scale into a gallon ziploc bag. The bag will bear the brunt of any yuck splashed around during your working process.



Create a Freezer Power-Loss Indicator with a Quarter and a Cup of Water

solderAre you in the path of a hurricane or otherwise in jeopardy of losing power? To help determine, when the power goes back on, whether your freezer thawed (or partially thawed), try this little trick. Freeze a cup of water, place a quarter on it, and place it in the freezer. After the storm, when the power is restored, check the cup. If the quarter is unmoved, the freezer is safe. If the quarter is partially submerged, you had some thawing, but the freezer contents may still be safe. If the quarter is at the bottom, you had a significant failure and the contents of your freezer are likely spoiled. I plan to just keep such a cup in the freezer from now on. And, BTW, if you do end up with a fridge/freezer full of spoiled food, check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Spoiled food is usually covered (if not the result of flooding).

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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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