A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted.
Leah Bolden has done some eye-opening videos in the past about tools and common tool functions that many casual makers may not know about. Watching this recent video, I knew most of the hidden tools-within-tools she reveals. The ones that were new to me were the 90- and 45-degree angles built into handsaws and the tool inside of a retractable box cutter knife for snapping off the blades. Of course, this only applies to some models of saws and utility knives. My saws and knives do not include these features.
I don't know that much about crimp connectors, but I thought I at least had a solid command of the basics. Then I watched this video. In it, James Gatlin covers identifying different gauges of connectors, the difference in crimping insulated and non-insulated connectors, tips on using a crimping tool, how to properly execute a crimp, why you don't want to scrimp on your crimping tool, and lots more.
Slang, jargon, and technical terms for the many realms of making things
[Value of Measurement] Strong (Example: “4-5/8 strong”) — Meaning the stated measurement (4-5/8”) plus a little extra, but that extra (4-11/16”) doesn’t matter at the resolution you care about measuring (e.g. framing a wall).
Baby fat - Used at JPL to describe extra storage space that you will soon grow out of. [Via Adam Savage]
Interference fit (also known as “press fit”) — A form of fastening between two parts where the parts are so tightly fitted together that the interference of their surfaces results in a secure join. Used in machining.
Peck drilling - A method involving periodically retracting the bit from the hole being drilled. The primary purposes of peck drilling are to improve chip removal, reduce heat buildup, and enhance lubrication of the cutting surface.
Shadow line - In industrial design, a feature where a narrow, recessed gap is created between two surfaces or panels. This gap is usually very precise and intentional, creating a visual effect that mimics a shadow. Shadow lines are often used to enhance the aesthetics of a product, giving it a more defined, sleek, and modern appearance.
Untying Knotty Knot Tangles
I’ve really been enjoying the Instagram excerpts from Kevin Kelly’s book, Excellent Advice for Living. I appreciate that they range so widely, from philosophical life lessons (“To manage yourself, use your head, to manage others, use your heart”) to the very pragmatic, as seen above.
Readers offer feedback, tips, tales, and tool recommendations.
Michael Una writes: In your most recentTips & Tools, you mention that buying old tools is a great way to get started. I wholeheartedly agree, and I'll offer a tip here: If you ever see an estate sale, go into the garage or the basement and try to find the old guy's stash of tools and parts. Oftentimes, the estate sale company will grossly undervalue tools and let them go for $1-5 apiece. And, as you say, they are generally of high-quality, old American steel. I have acquired many clamps, saws, drill bits, chisels, copper wire, wrenches, pliers, and various hand tools from estate sales. Sometimes you might find an old table saw or drill press as well.
My old pal Andrew Sasaki sent in this tip:
If you remove different-length screws from a device, say the bottom cover of a laptop, it can be difficult to remember which screw goes into which hole. Placing the removed screws on a stable surface in the same relative positions they were removed from (see above pic) helps reduce the trial-and-error when you need to screw them back in.
Introducing The Whiteboard Deck!
My latest product — 10 US Poker-sized (2.5" x 3.5") dry-erase cards wrapped in a paper band and stored in a muslin drawstring bag. The deck also comes with a fine-point dry-erase marker that has a sponge eraser and built-in magnet. The Whiteboard Deck is $10 with $5 shipping (foreign orders at the shipping rate to your country). Order up to five decks for the same $5 shipping.
The Whiteboard Deck can be used for everything from to-do lists, to notes around the shop, to idea brainstorming, to game design, to... Imagine the Possibilities! If interested, email me for payment arrangements.