Tips of the Week: Crayon Finishes, Kitchen Hammers, Bathing Your Boards, and Great from Harbor Freight

Tips of the Week: Crayon Finishes, Kitchen Hammers, Bathing Your Boards, and Great from Harbor Freight

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.


Crayon Wood Finish?

Young UK woodworker, Matt Estlea, had a thought. Finishing and polishing waxes are made out of wax. And so are crayons. He wanted to know if he could finish wood with melted crayons mixed in liming wax. The results are pretty impressive.

Hammers in the Kitchen

Our pal Alex of French Guy Cooking recently teamed up with blacksmith Alec Steele to create his own meat hammer. Once he got it back to the kitchen, Alex decided to experiment with all of the various ways one can use a hammer in the kitchen.

Stencil-Making App

Via Donald Bell’s latest Maker Update comes this useful web app. Type in any text and the app will render it in stencil form. You can upload fonts and you can save the resulting file as an SVG.

Testing Tolerances in 3DP

Donald Bell recently ran a contest on his Maker Update YouTube show to give away three copies of my new book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop. Viewer Jonathan Whitaker submitted this winning tip: Before you 3D print a large mechanism, or part of one, it’s worth making sure that everything will fit the way you expect. For key parts like components that press-fit or parts that need to turn, I print off just that region of the mechanism and test it out. It takes ten minutes, and saves me having to re-do a much longer, larger print. Above is the latest print where I did this. Before I printed the main base, I printed two different sized posts that mate with the main gear. It fit perfectly the first time, and I didn’t have to spend 3 hours re-doing it.

Harbor Freight Tool Recommendations

I just discovered the channel, Real Tool Reviews. On it, Daniel does serious, in-depth reviews of tools and product vs. product shoot-outs. In a number of videos, he takes a hard look at Harbor Freight tools to discover which ones are actually great values. Two items that he recommends are the U.S. General 5-drawer mechanics cart (which can be had with coupon for as little as $190) and the Braun Slim Bar LED Light (as low as $20 with coupon). Both tools are covered in this video. I was already interested in the tool cart. I think he sold me on both.

Wheel Barrow Recliner

That moment when you discover that your wheel barrow can also be used a surprisingly comfy chair. From the Homestead/Survivalism FB group.

[From my new book, Make: Tips and Tales from the Workshop]


When you first get into electronics, it seems counter-intuitive to expose your circuits to cleaning solutions, but cleaning your PCBs should always be part of your circuit-building regimen. And you want to clean the board before and after you populate it. Make: contributor Ross Hershberger writes, “Cleanliness is next to solderliness. Freshly scrubbed copper takes solder with less heat and wets more thoroughly, so always scrub or otherwise de-oxidize your boards before soldering. I use isopropyl alcohol and a fine abrasive like a Scotch Brite. You can also use a pen eraser followed by alcohol. For bad corrosion, use a glass fiber ‘pen.’ Steel wool may leave fibers that can cause shorts.” [RH]

[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.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).