Tips of the Week: Cutting Resin with Microbeads, Herringbone CNC Tape, Hiring a Machine Shop

Tips of the Week: Cutting Resin with Microbeads, Herringbone CNC Tape, Hiring a Machine Shop

Tips of the Week is our weekly peek at some of the best making tips, tricks, and recommendations we’ve come across 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.


Learning with the Feynman Technique

I have a confession to make. Before I wrote the book, Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots, I had actually built few robots. But I was writing about robots for Wired and elsewhere, I got asked to do a DIY robot book by a publisher, and I really needed the money. So, I said yes. I would study heavily, do a lot of trial and error building, come up with something that worked, and then write it up. I ended up with a book that one newspaper said set “a literary standard for how tech books should be written.” It became a book that was used in high school and college tech courses and that served many a high school science fair project. A UK professor was using it in his class and wrote begging me to write a companion beginner’s guide to AI, too.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was basically applying the learning technique used by celebrated American theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman. Basically, the idea is that, as you learn something, you mock-teach it back to yourself by explaining it in writing and speaking the material out loud, as if you were teaching a class. By doing this, you not only more deeply impress the material upon the brain for better retention, you find the holes and weaknesses in your understanding and can go back and re-study those parts. I think this is also what made my book work so well. My understanding was fresh; beginner’s mind. And I didn’t do what experts often do, which is make a lot of assumptions about what people already know or fail to identity basic things that need to be covered. Sometimes, when you know something so well, basic aspects of it become backgrounded for you. For a newbie recording his or her journey of discovery, all of those things are fresh, still visible. Here’s another video explaining the same technique. [Via Lifehacker]

Skipping the Tabs on Your CNC Prints with Herringboned Tape

In another hijacked episode of Andy Birkey’s “Gimme a Minute” series, Josh Price Of P. I. Workshop offers this tip for forgoing CNC support tabs. When using double-sided tape to secure your piece to the work table, arrange the tape in a herringbone pattern. This way, you will “catch” the pieces that you’re cutting out so that you don’t have to include tabs in your design. After the machine is finished doing its business, carefully pry away the waste material, and your cut piece(s) will remain stuck to the tape and the work table where they can be carefully pried up.

Tips for Hiring a Machine Shop

This week, I bumped into this piece on the site, 7 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Machine Shop. Here’s one of the seven tips: Be flexible with your material choice – Another consideration when ordering a custom part from a machine shop is that the particular material requested might not be on hand at the time of your order. If your application allows for flexibility, consider extending it to the shop producing the part to reduce both cost and delivery time. So if Aluminum 6061 or Aluminum 5052 will do, let the machine shop know!

Cut Your Resin with Microbeads, etc

I found this little tidbit in the comments to a piece we published in 2014 on resin casting parts. User Joe Humpamonkey offered: “Glass bead (‘microshperes’), polyester fibers, glass cloth, hell, pebbles, straw, aluminum chips swept off the floor, will not only add incredible strength to your cast parts (think ‘concrete + aggregate), but they will cut your resin bills in half. Almost all manufacturers recommend 50% by volume or more of filler.”

Create a Simple Tool ID Mark

Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft shared this tip with me at Maker Faire Bay Area 2017. His granddad worked in various shops with others over the years, and as is common practice in such circumstances, he identified his personal tools so they wouldn’t get confused with other’s. His granddad marked all of his tools with 5 notches or slashes. Caleb inherited a lot of his grandfather’s tools and he says that those 5 notches have come to symbolize quality to him. And he jokes: “How would a CNC mill look with 5 notches on the side?” It’s a good idea (and fun!) to establish an ID mark to put on all of your tools, especially if you work with others or your tools travel outside of your shop.

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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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