Tips of the Week: Captain Obvious Edition

Tips of the Week: Captain Obvious Edition

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.


In my forthcoming book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, I recount a conversation with toy inventor Bob Knetzger at Maker Faire Bay Area last year where I asked him for some tip suggestions. His response was: “Close your eyes when you’re blowing sawdust out of a hole.” This is the kind of safety reminder that may seem painfully obvious on its face, but it’s also worth being reminded of such things from time to time. I spend a lot of time trying to collect those glittering gems of “ah-ha!” tips, it’s nice to not neglect a few of the “duh-ha!” tips, too. I asked my Facebook friends to share some of their best Captain Obvious tips. Here are some of my faves. You can read the entire thread here.

  • No Machining Alone. -Lenore Edman
  • Change your sanding pad twice as often as you think you should. -Kaden Harris
  • Never try and catch a falling tool. -Barry Devenney
  • Always exercise caution, as if the circuit is live, even if you’re sure it isn’t. -Andrew Lewis, Jon Singer
  • Motors are stronger than muscle. If a tool starts to pull away, let it go, and hit the stop button. – Andrew Lewis
  • If you’re cutting more than 3, make a jig. -Andrew Lewis
  • You need more light! -Andrew Lewis
  • Don’t use your damn teeth! -Robin Moore
  • Close your mouth when you’re working on something above your head. -Rafe Needleman
  • You need more clamps – Lenore Edman
  • If you’re using a roll of tape, cut a few pieces off and stick them to the edge of the table. Otherwise, it’s impossible to tear off a piece of tape while holding your project with both hands. -Bob Parks
  • Sharpen. -Michael Colombo
  • Never put your nose over an open bottle to smell the contents of it. wave your hand over it to blow a bit to your nose and smell the vapors. -Miguel Valenzuela

Pre-Order My Tips Book!

My latest book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, will be released by the first of next month. You can pre-order it on Amazon. Here are a few of the early reactions: “Gareth Branwyn is the Tip Master,” Kevin Kelly, Cool Tools. “Gareth has essentially created a magic book for makers,” Donald Bell, Maker Project Labs. “It’s “ah-ha” moment overload!,” Becky Stern, Instructables.

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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

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn
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