Tips of the Week: Tiny Component Pick Up, Zip Tie Cable Weaving, and Spec’ing for Fun

Tips of the Week: Tiny Component Pick Up, Zip Tie Cable Weaving, and Spec’ing for Fun

As always, we want to see some of your favorite shop tips, tricks, hacks, shortcuts, whatever you care to call them. Please share below in the comments and we might include them in a future column.

Museum Wax Picker-Upper

Our pal John Edgar Park shared this little nugget on his Instagram feed, using a bit of museum wax (used for holding objects on shelves) to pick up tiny parts. You can also put a little blob on the head of a screw driver to hold small screws that are awkward to hold by hand.

Thinning Paints for Miniature Painting

In this Instagram gallery, miniature painter @malev_minis explains the benefits of using Citadel Lahmian Medium (or similar acrylic medium) to thin Layer and Base paints in the Citadel line (and all such acrylic miniature paints).

Hey ya'll ! I'm back today with another simple #malevstyles post. Today I wanted to talk about thinning paints and "two thin coats" as made Famous by Duncan. GW's Paint system has several 'styles' of paint, like Layer, Base, Shade – and Edge. All of their paints are formulated, and made for a specific application in mind, like their 'Base' Paint Range. These are more opaque, and have a higher pigmentation than some other paints. Because of this, the Base paints tend to be a bit thicker, and more gloopy and just overall *appear* to be problematic. But the bonus is that they cover really well, and are generally really good at what they're intended for! In the first picture, you can see my paint pot. It's doing alright, but it's relatively thick and just isn't all that neat. But this really isn't a problem, as I mentioned in my last post the appearance of the paint pot isn't really important, what is important is if you can get workable paint from it; Do this on the palette. A: is straight from the Pot, on the palette. B: is the same paint thinned down with Lahmian Medium. It's hard to really discern a difference here, but the edges are the tell. Thinned down paint spreads out more, due to less liquid cohesion. You can see the paint that isn't thinned down has curved edges where the liquid is retracting a bit. Once your paint is thinned nicely, you'll notice immediately the result you can achieve with a smooth application of multiple layers. In the next picture, you can see the Carapace of the warrior with just 1 layer of Celestra grey. A nice liberal application, but whats important when applying is you need to let paint dry; Don't go over areas multiple times, you'll get streaks that way. Just cover it, and let it dry. Don't worry about how patchy it looks.. You'll learn to like this as it's a indication you're headed in the right direction. And as Duncan would say, two thin coats! The next photo is the second layer, applied in the same way over the top. You may need to go over some spots 3 or 4 times, but when it dries and looks super clean and flat like this – You're in business for a perfect foundation to go from there! Thanks y'all!

A post shared by Malev (@malev_minis) on

The Poor Maker’s Wire Cutters

cableIn one of the many tool tips videos to be found on YouTube, I found this idea for MacGyvering a wire cutter if you need one in a pinch. You simply remove the cutting blade on a school-type plastic pencil sharpener and screw it onto one of the jaws of a clothes pin. To cut the wire, affix where you wish to cut and twist the pin around the wire.

Project Spec’ing as Play

This might seem an odd tip, but I want to leave space in this column for such oddities. When I was a teen, I had many geeky and DIY interests. I was heavily into bike camping and ten-speeds, model rockets and R/C planes, science and space exploration, and I had dreams of buying a 1963 Ford Econoline van and tricking it out as a camper and partymobile. I didn’t have enough money to keep up with my project ambitions, but that didn’t stop me from fantasizing… and fully spec’ing out my dream projects. I made it into a game. For instance, I would set a budget for myself and then see what sort of custom rocket I could design and build for $50. Or, I would design a van restoration and remodeling and then use the J.C. Whitney catalog to spec it out to see how much it would all cost. I tried to be as realistic as possible, to make sure everything I bought would work together. This whole process was extremely educational. I learned about how you spec a project, what you need to pay attention to, and how to read technical catalogs. I learned about the parts and materials I was specifying and I learned how to make project and budget trade-offs. It also left me with a life-long warm and fuzzy place in my heart for spec’ing. It’s still one of my favorite aspects of realizing a project. I’m not sure how many adults want to plan and spec projects for fun, but if you have a teen with a dream, maybe sit him or her down with a catalog and some graph paper and challenge them to practice realizing that idea. With today’s Internet, you can delve so much deeper into understanding all of the components you’re virtually buying and how they would all work together.

Zip Tie Cable Weave

I came across this short piece from last year by Donald Bell outlining a couple of cable management techniques using zip ties.

Here’s how to do a zip tie cable weave.

1. Lay your cables down parallel to one another and count them. The number of zip ties you’ll need is equal to the number of cables you’re weaving.
2. Loosely attach one zip tie across the entire bunch of cables like a collar. Leave plenty of slack.
3. Tie loose, perpendicular rings completely around the first zip tie between each cable, parallel to them.
4. Tighten the first tie, then move on to the small rings. Trim any excess.

Making a Retractable Pocket Saw Blade

You can create a retractable pocket saw blade by removing the blade from a retractable utility knife and using it as a template to cut a suitably-sized hacksaw blade to size. Then drill a hole where the thumb-handle mounts and replace it into the utility knife housing. You now have a retractable pocket saw.

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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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