Tips of the Week: DIY Pocket Notebooks, No-Brand Woodburning, and Running a Gratitude Loop

Tips of the Week: DIY Pocket Notebooks, No-Brand Woodburning, and Running a Gratitude Loop

Last week’s tips were almost entirely reader-submitted. This week’s are entirely from my online travels, nuggets panned from the stream of videos and online projects I wadded through in search of Make: content. Please share any tips that you’ve come across in your travels in the comments below. If they… pan out (ouch), we’ll run them in a future column.

The “Grandfather’s” Search Term

In a recent video on Wood by Wright, James Wright does an excellent job of running through the various ways that you can acquire free or inexpensive wood (free pallet wood, making it from logs, getting it from a local mill, etc). In the midst of the video, he drops one of the coolest tips I’ve run across in a while. Obviously, searching for wood on Craig’s List is a smart way to go, but James has a unique method. He’s set up a Craig’s List search string notification for “grandfather’s” (possessive). So, things like “I’m cleaning out my grandfather’s workshop” will get scooped up. Years ago, this notification returned: “I’ve purchased my grandfather’s barn and now I need to clear out all of the lumber. I’m selling it all for .50 a board foot.” James went to check it out and it turned out to be 20,000 feet of white oak, air dried for 15 years. He bought as much as he could cram into his van and he’s still pulling from that stock today. As he points out, with this search term, you’ll also scoop up tools and other great granddaddy goodness. This reminds me of a similar tip I used years ago to get some amazing deals on eBay: search on misspellings of your search terms. Those listening get far less traffic due to the spelling error.

Create a Gratitude Loop

This one comes from marketing guru Seth Godin by way of Cool Tools. If you’re speaking at a conference or meeting that a lot of people and organizations were involved in putting together and you feel compelled to acknowledge everyone, don’t waste your precious presentation time doing so. Make a slideshow beforehand of everyone you wish to thank (with their name and other appropriate titling) and run that on a loop while everyone is finding their seats. Ask each contributor to take their own picture or arrange to have everyone photographed (depending on your situation). Have fun with this and be as silly, clever, irreverent, etc. as the situation dictates.

Using a Glove to Preserve a Working Brush

In this video on FarmCraft101, in building a gorgeous DiResta-inspired corner bench, Jon reminds us that you can temporarily cover a paint or stain brush by inverting your disposable glove over the brush between coats. You can also stretch the other glove over the can. This allows you to take a break without having to clean the brush or re-seat the lid on the can.

Make Your Own Pocket Notebooks

I have been using the Moleskine Cahiers Pocket Notebooks every day since 2006. I now have dozens of volumes of them, filled with article and other ideas, design sketches, notes on my day, and various other scribblings. They’re fun to go back through to see where my mind has been over the years. I often find buried gems I can use today. As much as I love the Cahiers, they aren’t cheap. And while I customize mine with added cover art, stamps, and stickers, it’s just not the same as if I’d made them myself. In this video on I Like to Make Stuff, the ever-clever Bob Clagett shows how quick it is to make your own. When you do, you have something that’s infinity customizable, with whatever cover design and paper stock you want, whatever internal paper (or combinations of paper), pockets, notebook size, and on. I’ve made a few of my own notebooks over the years and they definitely hold a special “inspired object” status in my collection. Bob plans to also sell books that he’s made as a way of making a little scratch for the channel.

Wood Branding with Ammonium Chloride

This is an amazing tip. Laura Kampf shows you how to create and use a simple solution of ammonium chloride and water, activated by a heat gun, to create a poor person’s wood branding. With this technique, you can paint it on, use it with rubber stamps, or load it into a marking pen. As she points out, it’s a bit funkier than traditional branding, but for many applications, it’s good enough.

Centering Holes on a Rod

On Johnny Q90’s YouTube channel, he shares this method for creating a simple drilling jig for easily and accurately centering holes on cylindrical stock. The picture pretty much sums up the basic idea.

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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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