Tips of the Week: PVC Can Holders, Poor Maker’s Shrink Plastic, and Pre-Making Mistakes

Tips of the Week: PVC Can Holders, Poor Maker’s Shrink Plastic, and Pre-Making 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.


PVC Pipe Spray Can Holders

PVCOver on Stuff I Made, Geoff shows this really quick, simple, and I think pretty righteous way of creating holsters for your rattle can paints and other aerosol products by cutting and mounting a C-shaped length of PVC pipe.

Using Equipment Dead Space to Your Advantage

On Jay Bates’ channel, he shares a video of some useful shop organizing tips. One of these concerns how you arrange your machinery. For most of us, shop space is always at a premium. When setting up a shop, you want to carefully think of the workflow around the machines and how you can optimize operational efficiency and tools and material retrievability. In doing this planning, Jay suggests that you use the dead space of each machine (the side that you never interact with) to your advantage by grouping these edges together. In the photo above, you see how he’s butted the back ends of the band saw and planer, and the right side of the table saw, together.

Circular Saw Circle Jig

PVCThe ridiculously inventive Izzy Swan is a master jig maker. He’s bent many of the machines in his shop to his mischievous maker will by creating some sort of crazy jig. In this video, he creates a simple circle cutter and router using a circular saw mounted to a piece of wood that turns on a screw center point.

Bread Tag Cable Labels

PVCI completely reorganized my shop last week (post coming soon). While cable-wrangling, I was reminded of the elegant simplicity of IDing cables using plastic bread bag tags as labels. I’ve had these on my equipment for years.

Anticipating Trouble, AKA “Pre-Making” Mistakes

Our pal Andy Birkey sent me this great tip. Because Andy works with a lot of historical architectural restoration, he often doesn’t have a lot of room for error. He often can’t afford to fail, scrap the piece, and try again. So, what he does before and during a project is try to anticipate (and work to avoid) every possible thing that could go wrong. He calls this “pre-making mistakes.” As Andy says, taking the time to sort of inventory every thing that you might do to mess something up, and adjusting yourself accordingly, should at least prevent you from making the stupidest of those mistakes. I think this approach is useful in any sort of making. I have always thought that one of the things that separates the reckless amateur from the safer and seasoned maker is the ability to innately understand, anticipate, and react to all of the physical forces, tools, and materials one is working with. A pro artisan backgrounds all of this, but a lot of that “pre-making mistakes” processing is going on all of the time.

Poor Maker’s Shrink Film Plastic

On this Barb Makes Things video on using plastic shrink film, she shares something of which I was unaware. You can using Type 6 plastic (common in food packaging) as shrink plastic. It’s not quite as uniform and consistent as commercial shrink plastic, but for many applications, it is apparently just fine. She has some other great tips in the video, like sanding the plastic to get a frosted effect (and to hold more marker pigment) and using baking parchment on the heating tray to allow you to quickly swap out pieces you’re heating from the oven (and to prevent sticking).

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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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