Tips of the Week: Drilling Hooks, Concept Sketching, Electronics Helper App

Tips of the Week: Drilling Hooks, Concept Sketching, Electronics Helper App

Last week’s “Tips of the Week” column included several of my own tips. This week, I’m happy to include some tips submitted by Make: readers. I want this column to be a conversation, a tips and tricks sandbox, as much as a repository for perennial shop wisdom.

As always, please share your own tips in the comments below. And feel free to ask questions about shop techniques and practices for which there may be a shortcut, a useful tip, a technique you didn’t know about. If we can’t answer it, we’ll try and find someone who can.

Drilling Screw-In Hooks

In Bill Livolsi’s $10 DIY Camera Jib Crane video he uses an old trick for quickly screwing in screw eyes, hook bolts, cup hooks, and the like. You chuck a hook into your drill and then hook it around the looped hardware you’re trying to screw in. Pull the trigger and go. For large, looped hardware, this is a real time and finger saver.

Also see last week’s tip for twisting wired pairs with a drill.

Extending a Tape Measure

This video of tape measuring tips covers a lot of what we’ve covered in the past. But here is something that was new to me. On Stanley Fat Max series tape measures, you can rigidly extend the tape for up to 11 feet. This allows you to use the tape measure as a giant pointer, indicating features on a roof, trusses, gutters, etc.

Saving Spray Nozzles

In response to Laura Kampf’s spray nozzle maintenance reminder in my February 24th “Tips of the Week” column, BonzoDog1, one of our readers, commented: “In addition to clearing paint nozzles by inverting the can and spraying propellant, I remove all nozzles before throwing used cans away and keep them in a jar of acetone. If a new aerosol can clogs, I can usually find a replacement.”

Concept Sketching

I’ve heard of this trick before; letting the thickness of your pen assist you in conceptual sketching. You use a thick-line pen for broad-strokes, basic conceptualizing, and then switch to thinner pens as you refine your design. Here, industrial designer Reid Schlegel shared a little video on his Instagram feed on how this works.


I just got a new Android phone and my BFF, Alberto Gaitán, turned me onto ElectroDroid, a wonderful and free digital toolbox for electronics enthusiasts. ElectroDroid includes such common electronics helper tools as a resistor color band decoder, SMD resistor decoder, and Ohm’s Law calculator. But it also includes such handy functions as an LED Resistor Calculator, and calculators for Voltage Dividers, 555 chips, OpAmps, and more. There are also plug-ins you can get for the app that add functions like a parts finder, chip databases (AMD and PIC), and a circuit simulator. Great stuff. Thanks, Alberto!

Binder Clips as Electronics Assistant, Third Hand

In response to last week’s tip of using a binder clip as a make-shift glue gun stand, Make: reader Antron Argaiv commented: “Binder clips can also be used as clamps…for gluing small boards or to temporarily hold those anodized aluminum power resistors or TO-220 power semiconductors to a heat-sinking baseplate. I’ve also used them as ‘third hands,’ to stabilize small parts or wires while soldering.” [Image from a piece on mechanics tips in JP Magazine/Four Wheeler Network.]

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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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