Tips of the Week: Adding Color to Engravings, Marking Holes with Magnets, and the Value of Keeping Your Mistakes

Tips of the Week: Adding Color to Engravings, Marking Holes with Magnets, and the Value of Keeping Your Mistakes

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.


No-Slip Fabric Grip

Trying to machine-sew a piece particularly rambunctious piece of fabric? Make: contributor Andrew Lewis offers this great tip. “Spray both sides of a piece of tissue wrapping paper with temporary fabric adhesive. This will help stop stretchy or slippy fabrics from moving while you sew them. The needle cuts through the paper as it stitches, so you can just rip the paper away when you’re done.”

The Value of KISS *and* of KYM (Keep Your Mistakes)

engravingsIn this little video, also from Andrew Lewis, he recounts the story of facing a problem with the tiller/rudder connection on his old houseboat and designing and building a solution that may have gone a bit… overboard. After spending hours designing, 3D printing, assembling and installing his solution, he found a much better solution that took mere seconds to install and cost pennies. This was not only a hard won lesson in KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid), but he now keeps his original, over-engineered solution in his shop to constantly remind him of this important engineering lesson.

PVA and Water as a Water-Resistor

engravingsHere’s another one from Andrew Lewis. You can create a water-resisant solution, for treating things like a fabric shower curtain, by soaking the fabric in a mix of PVA glue and water. PVA is not waterproof, but it will add water resistance. Carpenter’s glue is waterproof, so I guess you could create a mix of that for true waterproofing?

Using Magnets to Locate a Pass-Thru Hole

engravingsMaker O.G. Steve Roberts sent me this little gem for how makes sure that the cable pass-thru holes he’s cutting into the cabin of his sailboat are exactly where he wants them to be. “I use a pair of .75″ diameter N52 Neodymium magnets to locate the perfect spot to drill through the cabin wall, as it is easy to measure incorrectly and poke a hole where oops damn it you didn’t mean to… All you do is tape a magnet in place on one side of the wall, slap another onto the opposite side of the wall, draw a circle, and go from there.” Of course, this method only works in situations where you have access to both sides of the wall.

Heat-Sealer as an Organizing Tool

engravingsOne of my Facebook friends shared this suggestion with me. He bought a ULINE Heat-Sealer on eBay (you can get them for about $50) and he uses it to keep parts, equipment, and supplies organized around the shop. He says it’s super-easy to bag and tag all sorts of stuff and the bags protect it all from bumps, scratches, and corrosion. Several different sized rolls of plastic will accommodate all sorts of shapes and sizes of things you wish to bag, tag, and store.

Adding Color to Laser Engraving

On the YouTube channel, Laser Wood Minnesota, they offer this great tip for coloring fine-detail laser engraving. Used a dye meant for coloring epoxy (such as TransTint), mixed with denatured alcohol. It’s easy to apply and you simply wipe the surface clean which leaves only the deeper engraved surfaces with dye in them.

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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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