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Top Ten Shop Tips for 2015

Top Ten Shop Tips for 2015


In 2015, we published a lot of tips collections here on Make:. And they proved very popular. I’ve always had a “thing” for the humble shop tip, that simple little trick, technique, or workaround that, when you find out about it, if it’s good, you quickly try it. Using it helps you to remember it. It soon becomes part of your work life and you never forget it.

Here are my selections for the best tips that we published last year. I chose them based on how much traffic the posts got, the number of positive comments the tip received, and how many of them stayed in my workflow (which was most of them). Did you incorporate any of these tips into your making? Or adopt other tips featured in our tips articles? Please share your stories in the comments.

Tangle-Free Power Cords

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In this workshop trick, homesteader Dirt Farmer Jay offers his tip for a superior, less kinky way to store your power cords.

Extremely Useful Notebook Organizing Hack

edgeTabHack_4-620x406This was one of our favorite organizing hacks for 2015, so I wanted to make sure everyone saw it. I’ve been using it ever since writing about it and I’ve found it very handy. At World Maker Faire, I had several people come up to me, happy to tell me that they’d adopted the trick and were loving it.

The Tablesaw “Rip ‘n Flip”

tableSaw_3-620x390Make:’s Jimmy DiResta offered up some really great tips this year in a series of Jimmy Tips videos on his YouTube channel. In a piece we did rounding up some of his tablesaw tips, he offered this tip for more easily ripping thin stock. You simply rip it halfway down, flip it around (keeping the same edge against the fence), and rip down the other half.

Drill a Perfect 90° Hole Without a Drill Press

izzyTips_1-620x331Another YouTube maker star, Izzy Swan, also offered up some great tips last year, including this one for using a chunk of wood with a 90° angle cut into it (or, in a pinch, two offset factory-edge wood pieces) to create an easy guide for drilling holes that are perfectly perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece.

Friction Weld with Plastic in a Rotary Tool

In a piece called “Six ‘Now, Why Didn’t I Think of That?’ Shop Tips,” I shared Matt Griffin’s awesome tip for using a rotary tool to create a plastic welder for repairing plastic components. To use it, all you have to do is chuck some plastic filament into a rotary tool. Applying it to your work piece, the friction will melt the plastic, creating a decent plastic-to-plastic bond.

Use a Rubber Band on a Stripped Screw Head

rubberbandScrew1This is one of those simple yet effective tricks that’s become a darling on Pinterest. It does work. Just place the width of a rubber band over a stripped screw head and press your driver into the rubber to get a usable grip on the head. See five more “Why didn’t I think of that?” shop tips.

Use Stretch Wrap to Bundle Packages

DiResta_1-620x381Another great tip from Jimmy DiResta When packaging and mailing fragile items, wrap them in bubble wrap, then stretch wrap, then close the wrap with tape and leave a folded tag on the end of the tape so that the unpacker just has to pull on the tape to unwrap the bundle. The normal method of taping the bubble wrap requires cutting/slicing to unpack, which can damage what’s inside.

Cut Pipe with a String

usesForTools_1-620x620We published a piece excepting five clever tips from Family Handyman. One of them was this old gem, widely known in the scale modeling world, but maybe not widely — to cut plastic pieces with a string. “It’s almost as fast as a saw and fits into tight spots where saws won’t. To give the string a starting point, cut a shallow notch with a file or hacksaw blade. Then simply pull the string back and forth to slice through PVC or ABS pipe.”

Reviving Old Cans of Spray Paint

Remove the nozzle and soak it overnight in a solvent such as mineral spirits or paint thinner to dissolve the paint. If that doesn’t work, try putting the can in a bucket of hot (not boiling!) water. This will reduce the viscosity of the paint, and help increase the pressure in the can. See more spray painting tips in this article by Make:’s Jordan Bunker.

Gluing Standoffs into Project Enclosures

Enclosure4This tip actually hasn’t appeared on Make: yet. Former Make: contributor, Matt Mets, shared this for an upcoming article in the magazine. I thought it was such a great idea, I wanted to share it here. Matt writes: “Glue down standoffs to make a quick, removable mount for a PCB-based project. First, attach the standoffs to the PCB using screws, and then glue the other ends of the standoffs into your project case. Now, if you ever need to swap out the board, just unscrew it!”
[Enclosure images via Sparkfun]

BTW: I am writing a tips book for Maker Media, so if you have any, please share them below.

7 thoughts on “Top Ten Shop Tips for 2015

  1. Vinny says:

    This might be a good tip to add. Check this video of Bleepin Jeep on Youtube: at 9 min in, he uses a shop light and a square to get a straight line tracing the shadow across a curved surface. Pretty cool trick I had never seen before.

  2. Workshopshed says:

    I used a variation of the standoff’s technique with my clock project. I connected the standoff to a wood base using Sugru.

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  3. Eli Peter says:

    I’ve never had the rubber band trick work for stripped screws – the rubber just rips up. I’d advocate using vise grips instead.

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    2. Blake says:

      You mean to actually grip the screw head? That won’t work on countersunk screws, which I think the vast majority are.

      1. Eli Peter says:

        Ah, true. I’d probably just keep a screw extractor kit for that situation.

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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. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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