My favorite maker tips for 2022

I edit a weekly newsletter of DIY/maker tips. Every year, I go through it and pull out the entries I think are the best of the year. Here are some of this year's favorites.


Can You Really Revive Felt Tip Markers with Isopropyl Alcohol?

In the first volume of my Tips and Tales from the Workshop, I included a tip on reviving felt alcohol-based ink markers. The tip claimed that the alcohol frequently evaporates before the ink is exhausted. By "adding a few drops of isopropyl alcohol," you can bring the pen back to life. In response to the book, several people questioned whether this actually worked. I tried it, and yes, it works.

I have a lovely Greg's Garage modified Sharpie that had dried out. At first, I tried "a few drops" of IPA. The next day, I marked a sheet of paper with lines. The pen only worked for about a half a page of mark-making. The next day, I poured some IPA over the felt cartridge and redid the test. This time, I got two days of ink out of it (covering a full 8-½ x 11 piece of paper each day). Next, I placed the cartridge in a small jar of IPA for an hour to thoroughly soak the felt. I've now been drawing lines with it each day (a page per day) for 5 days. Above is the 5th day. It's started to dim a little, but the point is, you can bring a felt tip pen back from the dead and get a few more days/weeks/months out of it (depending on how frequently you use it). But, you want to soak the felt, not just use a few drops.

Finding the Perfect Pair of Scissors

In this video, Todd at Project Farm puts 15 models of scissors through their paces. He tests scissors by KAI, Gingher, Heritage, Klein Tools, Henckels, Fiskars, Bianco, Ultima Classic, Westscott, Livingo, KitchenAid, Singer, Scotch, and Stanley. The scissors were tested for sharpness and durability after cutting through 1,000 feet of paper, 20 passes through cardboard, 10 passes through aluminum sheeting. In the end, the expensive KAI scissors (at $78) performed best overall, but the Fiskars ($26) and Klein Tools ($24) models did amazingly well, too. I have the Fiskars and love them.

Rule of Thumb for Buying Tools

In a fascinating video from Adam Savage (where he has an "epiphany" on the science of precise measurement) he also shares a great tip on purchasing tools: "Buy the cheapest tool you can if it's a tool you don't know how to use, learn how to use it, and see if it integrates into your process and into your shop, and then go and buy the best tool that you can afford. Frequently, that one will last you for the rest of your life."

Using Bits of Left Over Molding Rubber to Volumize New Molds

Anyone who's ever done any molding and casting knows how expensive molding rubber is and how aggravating it can be to be pouring a mold and come up short with your mold mix (an all-too-frequent occurrence). In this Robert Tolene video, he offers a tip for saving on molding materials. He calls it "dunkin' chunkies" — he cuts old mold pieces into small chunks and adds them into a new mold pour (in the areas where they won't interfere with the object being molded).

Changing the Output Volume of a Pump Bottle with a 3D Printed Collar

This clever idea was posted on the Tableft Workshop's Instagram account. This can obviously be applied to any pump-bottle liquid:

"Coleys class was apparently going through the hand sanitizer really fast so i made the school these little collars to limit how much can be dispensed at a time, works like a charm and is still more than enough for adult hands let alone a 7-year-old. Printed 50 of them which should cover the school for awhile with plenty extras."

Using a Shop Towel to Constrain Snipped Bits

In this crazy Pask Makes video, where he painstakingly makes a Japanese Kumiko-style panel out of welded nails, he shares a simple but smart idea. When cutting/nipping bits of metal or other material that might fly away, line up your cut and then cover the workpiece with a towel before doing the cutting. This will prevent the waste pieces from flying all over your work area.

Adding "Mouse Ears" to Your 3D Print to Avoid Warping and Popping Off the Build Plate

On Make:, Caleb Kraft shares a simple and fast trick for when you have adhesion problems with some areas of a 3D print. Add little "mouse ears" to the print which will increase the surface area for better bed adhesion. These thin little disks of plastic can then be snapped off when you're done.

A Web App for Creating Project Boxes

Via Bob Clagett's I Like to Make Stuff comes this handy resource. MakerCase is a free web app that allows you to design boxes and project cases that can then be laser- or CNC cut. You enter your desired box dimensions and material thickness, and MakerCase automatically generates a three-dimensional model of the box that can be freely rotated. Once you're satisfied with your design, MakerCase turns the model into an SVG or DXF file that can be sent to a laser cutter or CNC router.

Using UV Resin for Water Effects

UV resin has become a popular bit of kit within the tabletop game modeling and diorama communities. Using it, you can easily to duplicate parts, create window glass, and other cool and realistic tabletop effects by simply depositing the resin and hitting it with a UV light for instant curing. In this Tabletop Time video, they explore the idea of using UV resin to create water bases and drips for sea-based miniatures.

Life Hack: Pirate Sight

Recently, after watching the pirate black comedy series, Our Flag Means Death, I went down a rabbit hole researching the real-life pirates fictionalized in the show. During that search, I happened upon a commonly-held idea of why pirates wore eye patches. There was nothing wrong with their eyes. The patch was a sort of night-vision tech. During their daily ship duties, a pirate would be frequently going from the bright sunlight of the deck to the relative darkness inside the ship. A patch over one eye acted as a darkness adapter. If you went below deck, you simply moved the patch over your sun-acclimated eye and you could immediately see with the dark-adapted eye. I mentioned this to my son, Blake, and he said he'd read the same thing and begun closing one eye when going to the bathroom at night so that eye could safely lead him back to bed in the dark. I tried this and it works! Not sure if the pirate story is apocryphal or not, but the concept seems sound. Argh!

Handy Chart for Volume Conversions

From the highly-recommend Reddit sub, CoolGuides.

Put Screws Back When Disassembling

In this Tested video, in which Adam Savage is making a replica of the movement tracker from the movie Aliens, he does something worth pointing out: In disassembling parts he'll be reassembling, rather than storing the hardware somewhere and then trying to remember where it all goes back, he temporary hand-screws it into the threaded part of the piece for safe keeping. If that's unclear, see 7:11 in the video.

Making Clay Out of Common Soil

I had no idea that you could derive clay, suitable for making pottery, from common soil. I thought you had to find a vein of red clay and harvest that. Sure, such clay is obviously preferred, but you can also render out clay using reddish soil (which has high clay content) or really any type of soil. All you need to do is suspend the soil in water and filter out the heavy materials. After straining through a cloth, you are left with clay.

Animations of 75 Different Knots

Via the Tools for Possibilities newsletter comes this amazingly useful resource. Knot-tying is a fundamental maker skill. But learning to tie them from a text, or looking at still images, can make them seem unnecessarily confusing and complicated. I don't know about you, but seeing these knot animations immediately makes me want to grab a rope and go to lashing school.


Here are my tips round-ups for 2021 and 2020 (part 1 & 2).