Tips of the Week: Pipe Fitting, Casting with Jello Molds, Diffusing LEDs, and DIY Dust Containment

Tips of the Week: Pipe Fitting, Casting with Jello Molds, Diffusing LEDs, and DIY Dust Containment

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.


Use a Pipe Fitting Calculator

April Wilkerson is building a set of gates for her new property in Texas. In cutting the metal pipe supports for her gate posts, she needed to cut in the proper angles and curves where the angled support pipes meet the main upright posts. Her husband Cody found a free calculator app that made easy work of this and April had a perfectly-matched pipe fitting to weld.

Ordering Delivery Food Late?

I’m not sure if this is a real tip or not. Recently, working late in my shop/office, I have ordered delivery food right before the restaurants closed. Each time, I have noticed that the portions seem to be greater than normal. In one Chinese order, the deliver bag weighed a ton and the boxes where crammed with food. I assume that, within the hour of closing, the restaurants are trying to get rid of any remaining food that they’re likely going to throw out anyway. I haven’t done this enough to see if it’s a reliable pattern, and therefore a real tip. Feel free to experiment and report back.

Jello Molds

Did you know that you can make a quick n’ dirty low-yield casting mold from a 50:50 mix of gelatin and glycerine? This video shows you what the results will look like and they are decent enough for many applications where you need to make a quick and not terribly high-res copy of something.

Options for Diffusing LEDs

In this latest video from Becky Stern’s YouTube channel, Becky runs through thirteen different ways that you can diffuse the light from LEDs that you are using in your projects. Some of these will already be known to most Make: readers (tissue paper, glass, fabric), but there are some ideas here you likely haven’t thought of (e.g. ping pong balls and crinoline tubing).

Improving Your Center Punch

In this FranLab Quickie, Fran Blanche shows how she whipped up a simple wooden T-handle to make her center punch easier to hold and to allow for more force to be applied.

Bicycle Tent

I saw this Sleeping in Tents post via my friend Lisa of Second Ascent, an excellent camping and outdoors consignment shop here in Arlington, VA. People were quick to point out that this would do nothing to thwart critters from joining you in your warm slumber and the bike takes up most of the space, But at least as a quick, emergency rain shelter to keep you, your bike, and your gear dry, it’s maybe an option to keep in mind.

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


You can easily make a simple containment box to prevent dust and small particles from escaping into the room when you’re sanding small items. Basically all you need is a card- board box, some old rubber gloves, a few layers of plastic wrap, and masking tape.

[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

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