Tips of the Week: Cheating a Wrench, Fire-Cleaning Tools, and More

Tips of the Week: Cheating a Wrench, Fire-Cleaning Tools, and More

Starting today, every Friday, we will be publishing a piece here on Make: rounding up some of the best shop tips we’ve encountered in our online travels over the course of the week. Here are a few gems that caught our eye this week.

If you encounter any great tips in your weekly travels, for any type of making and tool-use, please share them in the comments below. If we like your tip, we will include it in the next week’s column.

Cheating a Wrench

wrenchTip_1In this tool tricks video on Classic Work, Ethan shows off some “mechanicin'” tips, including this leveraging classic known as “cheating a wrench.” Basically, you’re interlocking one wrench into another to gain a much greater mechanical advantage. As he points out, you have to be careful, and make sure to keep everything square, or the wrenches could slip and you could break your wrist. Carefully done though, you’ll be amazed at how much pressure you can bring to bear.

Speed-Handling a Clamp

clampTipIn the same tool tricks vid, Ethan shows another classic move, how to single-handedly open and close a clamp if you only have one hand free. You just hold the clamp by the handle, leaving the rest of it free, and then you spin the clamp to open (or close) it.

Cutting Your Own Gaskets

cuttingGasketI’ve never seen this tip before and love it. If you need a gasket for a part and don’t have a commercial, pre-cut one, you can cut your own right on the part, using a sheet of gasket material and a ball-peen hammer. Nifty! [From Classic Work’s tool tricks.]

Reviving a Spring

springReviveIn his 9 Uses For A Blow Torch video, Dave Waelder uses a propane torch to heat up and re-shape a spring.

Fire-Cleaning Tools

fireCleanIn Dave’s blow torchs video, he also shows how he sometimes cleans seriously gunked-up tools with a blast of heat from the torch and some judicious scraping.

“Getting the Hang of It”

axeHandleIn April Wilkerson’s latest project video on making an axe handle, she struggled with the build, her first attempt at such a thing. After she completed her handle, when some Instagram followers gently pointed out that the handle was installed backwards, she decided to scrap it and start over again. Some worthwhile lessons here. She got to overcome her previous mistakes, try out some different techniques the second time, and she got to construct the handle in such a way that she was able to try out the handle “hanging” technique. This is when you hammer on the back end of the handle to wedge the head on the other end. She claims in the video that the phrase “getting the hang of it” originates from this practice, though that might be apocryphal. Either way, April does get the hang of it, and by sticking to her guns and re-doing the project, she ended up with a lovely handmade tool that she can be proud of, learning some valuable skills in the process.

Shop Weight Counterweight

jimmyWeight_2We’ve pointed out before Jimmy DiResta’s frequent use of chunks of metal and other shop weights to hold things down, insure square corners, create stop blocks, etc. In this video for Core77, where he’s restoring a vintage display case, he uses a disk of metal as a counterweight to hammer against when trying to hammer into a long, thin piece of wood with little support. Holding the disk beneath the hammer point provides needed support and secures the workpiece for confident hammering.

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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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