Seven top tips from makers so far this year

Here are seven of my favorite DIY/maker tips published this year in my weekly newsletter, Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales.

Etching Metal with a 9v Battery

Etching is easier than you think. Leah of See Jane Drill demonstrates how easy it is to etch a metal surface using little more than a 9v battery and wires, vinegar, salt, and Q-tips.

Finding the Thickness of a Wire
Emory Kimbrough was one of the winners of my Tips book drawing in December. I asked contestants for one great tip. Emory sent me ten. And then, a few days later, he sent me another five – all publication-worthy. I’m excited to share them. Look for more Emory tips in the coming months. Here’s the first one:

If you need to find the thickness of a wire but don’t have a micrometer or calipers, wrap the wire around a dowel many times in a tight helix leaving no gaps between the coils. Now, just measure the width of, say, thirty coils with an ordinary ruler and divide by thirty. The more coils you wind, the more accurate your measurement. And even if you do use top-quality digital calipers, it’s even more accurate if you use this wind-and-divide method than if you measure a single thickness.

Organize Cables in Dollar Store Pencil Cases
The column I’m currently working on for HackSpace magazine will cover workshop storage and organizing. As part of my research, I asked for relevant storage ideas on my Facebook page. My friend Jake Hildebrandt shared this idea. He uses dollar store zippered pencil cases to organize and label all of his cables in a drawer.

Weaving Springs Together
On Quinn Dunki’s BlondiHacks channel, in a video about making a tap follower tool, she shares this little hack I’ve never thought of. If you don’t have a spring with the degree of tension you’re looking for, you can create a stronger spring by simply pressing two weaker springs together.

Finding the Center of a Dowel/Rod with Sandpaper?
Emory Kimbrough writes: “Here’s a method for finding the center of a dowel or any solid rod that will fit into a drill or drill-press chuck. Besides the drill or drill press, it uses only sandpaper. A lot of center-finding methods that use pencil-and-straightedge geometry or store-bought center-finding gizmos become hard to use and inaccurate on small-diameter rods, but this method excels with the skinny little workpieces.

"Just place the rod into the drill chuck and spin the end of the rod against the sandpaper. The sandpaper will scratch a bulls-eye pattern of concentric circles in the rod’s end, revealing the center. Center-punch the bulls-eye and you’re ready to drill into the cylinder’s axis.

"This works for both wooden and metal rods. If the concentric rings aren’t as distinct as you’d like, try a different grit of sandpaper. In the left photo above, some ½” aluminum round stock is being spun in a drill press against some coarse sandpaper glued to a wooden block. In the right photo, you can see the concentric circles sanded into a wooden dowel.”

Carrying Electronics in a Hanging Jewelry Bag

Hmmm... should I go with the ribbon cable choker or the Raspberry Pi earrings?

My friend Jade Garrett offers this really clever idea for traveling with and organizing electronics. She uses a hanging jewelry organizer. She says she’s pulled this out at a hackathon to hilarious reactions.

OK, this one is from last year, but it's just too good not to share:

Using Baking Soda and Superglue to Reconstruct Broken Plastic Parts


In this video on Tech Tangents, AkBkukU shows how you can use CA/Superglue and baking soda to reconstruct and repair broken plastic hinges, pins, and other parts on old computers and consumer electronics. You basically use the glue and soda to build up material that you can then sand and file down into the shapes you desire. The resulting material is surprisingly workable, strong, and durable.

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