Tips of the Week: Planer Grain, 3D Printing Time-Lapse, Molding Tips, and Labeling Shop Liquids

Tips of the Week: Planer Grain, 3D Printing Time-Lapse, Molding Tips, and Labeling Shop Liquids

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.


Feeding a Jointer or Planer with the Grain

In a short shop tips video on Chris Cute’s channel, he shares several keepers. One is especially useful to woodshop newbies (and likely even some seasoned ‘shoppers) on grain direction for planing and jointing. You always want to feed the wood into your planer the same direction as the grain. To determine grain direction, look at the V-shaped grain patters in the wood. They point in the direction of the grain. Given the way the cutter head turns in a planer or jointer (counter to the feed rollers), you’d want to feed this board into the machine in the opposite direction of the arrow marked here. Make sense? Chris explains it clearly in the video.

Date Your Finishes, Solvents, Etc.

Another tip from Chris Cute: Label your stains and other finishes (and why not solvents and other liquids, too). Some of these products can spoil over time, their ingredients can separate out, pigments degrade, etc. If it’s a year or more old, probably best to not use (or at least test first). (See below for another great can labeling tip in an excerpt from my new book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop.)

Tupperware Mold Boxes

In the home parts casting video that I wrote about earlier this week, I spotted a number of useful tips. To make mold boxes for parts casting, you can use Tupperware-type plastic storage containers with the bottoms cut out. (He uses silicone caulk to seal the container down to the work surface.)

Agitating Bubbles with a Belt Sander

Another clever tip from the parts casting video. To agitate the plaster casting medium in the mold box to remove any bubbles, he held an electric sander up against the table. The vibrations from the sander are transferred through the table, into the mold box, and the bubbles are worked out.

Making a 3DP Time-Lapse Photo Switch

As always, Ben Krasnow has some great tips in a recent video on his new Form 2 printer and his 3D printing of his own brain. To create time-lapse 3DP videos, Ben created a simple switch that takes a pic of the print bed every time the print tray touches the switch as the tray travels back and forth in its print cycle. It was just a matter of installing a micro-switch that the bed would touch and hooking that up to a cheap shutter release he bought on Amazon. The micro-switch was then hard wired to the switch contacts on the shutter release so that every time the micro-switch closes, it’s like you’re pressing the shutter release. Nifty.

Coffee Creamer Tab: Handle or Spout?

Here’s an interesting little debate that Jimmy DiResta posted on an Instagram Story last night. He took a little video of a guy showing how he claimed you’re supposed to use the little tab found on single-shot coffee creamers. He claimed it’s supposed to be used as a handle to hold the creamer as you pour. Jimmy always thought it was there to act as a little spout. I thought the same. I am always suppositions of these sorts of claims (like the one about how a Chinese food container was designer to transform into a dinner plate or that the little square bit on the end of disposable chopsticks is designed to be broken off and used as a chopstick stand). I always suspect that these are clever uses that are discovered by users after the fact. What do you think? Coffee creamer tab: Handle or Spout?

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


On the bottoms of your paint cans, write the names of the rooms, pieces of furniture, and other items you painted with that color, so you won’t forget. [Craig Smith]

[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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