Tips of the Week: Drilling Glass, Ice Pick Level, Organizing Small Parts, Combo Squares, and Clean Your Fingernails!

Tips of the Week: Drilling Glass, Ice Pick Level, Organizing Small Parts, Combo Squares, and Clean Your Fingernails!

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.


Liquid Chrome

For John Park’s latest Adafruit build, where he fashioned a pretty badass lightsaber using Adafruit’s new HalloWing board and NeoPixel LED strip, he needed some silver embellishments to add to the icon weapon’s handle. Liquid Chrome to the rescue! Liquid Chrome makers are a great way to get a chrome-like effect on non-metallic surfaces, like the plastic handle on the sword.

Drilling Holes in Glass

Jack Houweling of Jax Design decided he wanted to experiment with cutting holes in glass bottles. Turns out, it’s not really that hard. All you need is a jig to firmly hold the bottle in place, a clay/putty dam around your hole to hold water to cool and lubricate the cut, a sharp diamond hole saw bit, and some patience.

DiResta Ice Pick as Drill Level

Eric of Hand Tool Rescue (one of my fave YT channels at the moment) recently visited Jimmy DiResta’s shop and the two of them collaborated on restoring an old band saw. Assembling the restored saw, Eric showed Jimmy a trick you can do with one of Jimmy’s ice picks (or any similar tool with a ring handle). Placing the ring over a bit while drilling a hole, you can insure the drill is straight by the pick hanging from the bit. As long as the bit is level, the pick with stay put. If your sinking your hole high or low, the pick will travel backwards or forwards along the bit. Neat!

Your Hands in Project Videos

Here’s another one from my ongoing series of tips related to maker media production. If you’re doing photos or video that involve a lot of close-up shots of your hands, if it’s not too inconvenient to the moment, consider cleaning your hands and fingernails. A lot of people (me being one of them) are seriously skeezed out by dirty fingernails. Certainly if the work is inherently dirty (e.g. no one expects clean hands from, say mechanics or printers) you get a pass. But always try and have your hands as clean and neat as possible if you are no longer dirtying them and the camera is going to be on them a lot. Those of us with this particular phobia thank you.

Safe, Simple Weed Killer

Need a cheap, environmentally safe weed killer? Just mix some salt into some white vinegar, shake, spray, and watch them pesky weeds shrivel up and die.

10 Uses for a Combination Square

In this highly-recommended video, Stumpy of the Stumpy Nubs YouTube channel shares ten very useful ways of employing a combination square in a shop. Many of us think of the combo square as simply a tool for checking and marking 90- or 45-degree, and maybe as a level (if your square includes one), but Stumpy shows you how it can be used for things like checking saw fences and blades for square, setting heights for router bits and blades, using it as a depth gauge, and more.

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


Use double-sided tape to hold small parts in place while you disassemble or reassemble something. Affix the tape to a piece of paper and write where the part goes.

[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.

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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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