Sashco Big Stretch Caulk

My uncle has been doing contracting work for 4 decades, and he turned me on to Big Stretch a while ago. It’s a great product for caulking around windows and door frames where you expect to see movement as the house moves and shifts around. It’s not designed for standing water or submersion scenarios — for that you want a silicone caulk or the previously reviewed Lexel, but everywhere else I generally turn to Big Stretch. It’s easy to tool with your finger, it adheres really well, and it will stretch rather than tearing. It doesn’t get hard over time, it’s paintable, and it’s a delight to work with.

It comes in a variety of colors, although finding them at a local store can be tricky. The clear goes on milky and turns clear as it cures, which makes it easy to see how good your caulking job is while you’re doing it. It does well reusing a partial tube if you seal the nozzle well (either one of those red caps or some foil tape).

It’s more expensive than other caulks, but if you look at the Amazon reviews you’ll see that the consensus is that it’s worth it. If you have trouble finding it, try finding the retailers in your community that supply contractors.

-- Toby Ovod-Everett  

Sashco Big Stretch Caulk
$6 -$14 per tube, depending on color

Available from Amazon



J-B Wood Restore Premium Epoxy Putty

I’ve recently used this product to repair a substantial amount of wood rot around our home. In reality, the best way to deal with wood rot is to replace the wood with new material. J-B Wood Restore comes into play when the wood rot that you find will be A) Structurally insignificant or B) a MAJOR pain that you want to delay for a period of time until you can deal with it by replacing material. The trick is knowing when you stop chasing rot and go with the replacement.

The half dozen or so places I needed to address were sized from a quarter to the size of a baseball. I used a Dremel tool with a high speed cutter to get into the spots and remove all the rotted wood. Then I applied a wood hardener (and not included with the kit) to seal the wood against further rot. The epoxy putty is a two part compound that you mix together in a 1:1 ratio. It’s pretty easy to mix together, but it helps to add a bit of water. After around 20 minutes, it cures up incredibly hard, yet can be worked with regular woodworking tools. With a wood chisel and a bit of 50 grit sandpaper you can make it as smooth as the surrounding woodwork. A bit of primer and paint, and it was like new.

There are quite a few other products in this class of items, but they either require special applicator guns or are insanely expensive. With what I needed to do, I really couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on the stuff that the pros use. Especially when, with wood rot, you’re just kicking the can down the street for a while until you’re ready to replace material.

(This is the same product as Elmer’s Structural Wood Repair – I’m not sure who is the original manufacturer of the stuff.)

-- Chuck Balog  

J-B Weld 40005 Premium Epoxy Putty Kit – 12 oz.
$18

Available from Amazon



860 Piece Resistor Kit

A couple of years ago I started working on electronics projects again after a long hiatus. To stock up on components, I bought bulk packages of resistors, capacitors, diodes, and transistors.

The packaging for the 860 resistors I bought from Joe Knows Electronics is excellent. It’s a rugged closable cardboard box with 86 sealable plastic bags, arranged by resistor value from 0 ohm to 10M ohm. Each bag is labeled and contains 10 resistors.

One thing threw me off when I got them — they are 5-band resistors, and I was familiar with 4-band resistors. (Bands are the painted colored rings on resistors that indicate their value.) But it was easy enough to figure out the value of the resistors, especially since they camed in labeled bags. (The inside lid of the box has a chart in case you pull a resistor out of a bag and forget its value.)

Joe Knows also sells a 320-piece transistor and diode kit, but I didn’t buy it so I can’t vouch for it.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Joe Knows Electronics 1/4W 86 Value 860 Piece Resistor Kit
$18

Available from Amazon



Heat Sealable Packcloth

I used heat sealable packcloth to make scuba bag prototypes. I used the heat sealable type because I didn’t want to sew a bunch of different patterns while trying them out. A regular household iron seals it fine but I used a sealing iron for RC plane wings to add precision.

The seam is strong and water tight. I’d think heavy duty stitching would be stronger, but for many purposes the heat seal is strong enough. Since it’s just regular packcloth with a shiny glue side added, it has the same durability expected from packcloth. As a test I filled a bag with about a gallon of water and hung it from the garage ceiling. After several months it still didn’t leak. I’ve also pulled on seams hard enough to turn my knuckles white without it tearing, though my suspicion is that if I tried hard enough I could rip it with the right leverage.

The material is pricey compared to regular packcloth, but it saves time on sewing and lets those that don’t know how to sew work with a tough fabric.

-- Aaron Nipper  

[Here's a high-res photo of Aaron's bag - Mark Frauenfelder]

Manufactured by Seattle Fabrics



Strapworks.com

You can see all the different strap types and strap hardware (buckles, tie downs, keepers, clips, etc.) in use on all sorts of stuff swirling around us in daily life. But if you want to get some for your own projects?

Strapworks.com has pretty much all of it. Metal or plastic hardware. All sorts of strap and webbing material.

Inexpensive, easy to work with. Helped me a few times, and I know I will continue to use them when the need arises.

-- Wayne Ruffner  



Tear-Aid

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Tear-Aid is watertight and airtight adhesive repair tape marketed for use in repairing outdoor products. I first found it when I was looking at options for repairing a tear in a self-inflating sleeping pad and read a recommendation of Tear-Aid from a former bouncy-castle operator. That real-world endorsement was enough to get me to try it and it has performed well for me.

I didn’t want to experiment with a liquid patch because I couldn’t be sure if the solvents would interfere with the composition of the sleeping pad, so this option was attractive. The instructions are clear and application was simple. After preppng the area with alcohol, I peeled the backing off and pressed the tape over the problem area. The tape is tough but flexible, and is transparent. It sticks very well and the sleeping pad now stays at pressure perfectly.

Tear-Aid Type A is for fabrics and Tear-Aid Type B is for Vinyl only. I have tried Type A, but not Type B. My local sporting goods store stocks the small repair kits for around $10, but the product is also available in rolls or by the foot from some vendors online.
The small repair kit I bought includes a 30 cm length of the 7.5 cm width material, as well as some small patches and a length of monofilament provided to add durability in making edge repairs.

This tape is useful, versatile, and compact, and I plan to keep it on hand for emergencies. You can get it from their website but it is widely available in stores that cater to camping, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.

-- Erik Hoover  

[This PDF instruction manual from Tear-Aid is helpful, and also includes a thorough list of materials that Type A and B work with. --OH]

Tear-Aid Type A (for fabric)
Patch kit, or 3″ x 5′ roll
$4-$35
Available from Amazon

Tear-Aid Type B (for vinyl)
Patch kit, or 3″ x 5′ roll
$9-$28
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Tear-Aid



Inventables

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You can buy hardware store materials of the future from these folks: Translucent concrete, rubber glass, unwetable sand, suction cup tape, etc. They primarily sell small quantities of very innovative stuff, but will work with you if you like what you tried and want it in bulk. The materials and devices are so amazing you’ll invent things just to use them.

– KK

I have used Inventables a lot. I have found them to be responsive and helpful when I have a question about a product, or when I want to get larger quantities of a sampled product for a real application. For example, when I needed some Stretch Sensing Rubber in a different diameter for a toy I was designing, and they promptly got me the size and quantities that I needed for the prototypes. When we were designing a high-volume medical device that needed a piezoelectric actuator, they put me directly in contact with the manufacturer of the material.

– Danny Hillis

 

Sample Excerpts:

Talking tape
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Talking tape makes it possible to mechanically create sound from various objects. With one hand, you hold the top of the tape. With the other, you slide your thumbnail down the ribbon against the grooves. Do this and you hear, “Congratulations!” The ribbon has grooves just like a traditional record. When your fingernail is pulled down the ribbon, it causes sound vibrations. The card works as the amplifier to make the sound louder. You can replace the card with a plastic cup, a balloon, a greeting card, or just about anything. The ribbons can be made to play any sound you can record; however, the manufacturer claims voices work better than music.

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Conductive thread
Incorporate this silver-plated nylon thread into fabric
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This is a silver plated nylon thread that can conduct electricity. These types of threads are usually manufactured for anti-static electromagnetic shielding, intelligent textiles, wearable technology, and heating purposes. The particular type featured here is great for sewing resistors into fabric and for other general sewing applications.

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Bendable Wood
Allows for creative applications of solid wood
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Bendable Wood is a cold-bendable compressed wood that enables the creation of dramatic and unique bentwood parts using thick, solid, quality hardwood lumber. The maximum radius for bending is in the range of five times the board thickness as long as the wood moisture content remains between 20 to 25%. The desired shape/form becomes fixed and stable upon drying to 6 to 8% moisture content. Available in more than ten of the most common North American hardwoods. This product should not merely replace steam bent, laminated, or kerfed components, but it should be employed to make your work easier and inspire much more dramatic and challenging bends that could not otherwise be fabricated using solid lumber. The unique properties of this wood enable a new world of ideas, experimentation, creative solutions, fast production environments, and performance. Choose to do it yourself, or let us do it for you.




Stainless Steel Locking Wire

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Over the years I have used pipe clamps, zip ties, Velcro straps, and all sorts of other fastening methods, and many have their rightful place for various uses. However, I have discovered a versatile and inexpensive material that, when combined with some other tools for specialized uses, fits the essence of a cool tool: durable, flexible, inexpensive and versatile. Stainless steel wire is sometimes known as safety wire or lock wire; it is used routinely in the aerospace and other industries and conforms to national standards for strength and performance.

Stainless steel wire is available in different sizes measured in nominal diameter for different purposes, and in various quantities depending upon one’s capacity needs. For general purpose fastening and use around the shop and home, I have found that 0.041″ nominal diameter wire in 1-lb dispenser canisters (approx. 220 ft) works really well. At about $6 per pound, that works out to less than 3 cents per foot.

This particular size can be bent easily by hand, is durable and strong, and can be manipulated easily with various hand tools. In use it’s sturdy yet reusable, and as a fastener it’s super inexpensive. It’s also corrosion-resistant, non-magnetic and unaffected by UV light.

There are some specialized hand tools that make stainless steel wire even more useful:

The previously reviewed Parallel Jaws Pliers put uniform twists in safety wire installations and are generally useful when using wire as a strapping material for multiple twists. The previously reviewed Clamptite hose clamp tool is the best hose clamp solution anywhere, hands-down. And finally the previously reviewed Fencing pliers, a great multi-tool when working with wire fences and general repairs using stainless steel wire.

Here are just a few uses I’ve found for stainless steel wire:

-Building a bamboo vine trellis
-Keeping posts from splitting when pounding them with a sledge hammer
-Repairing a leaky hose fitting
-Keeping my aging, rusting catalytic converter from rattling
-Repairing my temporary fence until I can get around to building a proper one

With a spool of stainless steel wire, some needle-nose pliers and a pair of wire cutters, there is very little I can’t fasten. With a Clamp-tite tool, some wire twisting pliers and and a pair of fencing pliers, the number of possibilities rises exponentially.

Simple, effective and versatile. Inexpensive and long-lasting. What more could you ask from a tool? Plus, it’s a tool that justifies the use of other cool tools. I’d call that a recipe for a Cool Tool, for sure.

-- Geoff Keochakian  

Stainless Steel Locking Wire
.041″ diameter, 1 Lb. Coil
$8

Available from Harbor Freight



Novus Plastic Polish

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I’ve found that Novus plastic polish works very well for the sorts of things that readers wondered if the previously reviewed 3M Headlight Polishing Kit worked on. I use it when cleaning and removing scratches from pinball machine parts and have had a lot of success polishing things ranging from cell phone displays to sunglasses.

There are three different compounds: #3 for dealing with big scratches, #2 for normal/light scratches, and #1 for a basic clean. #2 does the job for just about everything I’ve used it on. Available in 2-oz, 8-oz and half-gallon bottles. I’ve had 8-oz bottles of #1 and #2 that have lasted me several years of occasional use. I’d expect the half-gallon to last practically forever. Wonderful stuff.

-- Alex Mauer  

Novus Polish Kit, Plastic Polish and Scratch Remover
Three 8 oz bottles
$17

Available from Amazon

Novus Plastic Clean & Shine, Formula #1
64 oz
$19
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Novus



3M Headlight Polishing Kit

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I originally bought the 3M Headlight Polishing Kit in order to remove the haze on my truck’s plastic headlights, but I have since found that it has a plethora of uses. Basically, you use the progressively finer grit sanding surfaces to smooth the plastic and grind away the scratches and finally polish using the 3M rubbing compound. My headlights looked like new and were way more effective after the treatment.

The other day I discovered that the compass for my sailboat was scuffed pretty badly, and I tried using the polishing kit to buff it out (after testing on some safety glasses first). The results blew me away. The compass lens was crystal clear! I’ve since been polishing anything plastic that I have that’s been scratched. Calculators, display screens, etc. You could put this kit together yourself with p500, p800, p3000 grit pads and a foam compounding pad with some 3m rubbing compound but the kit is very convenient and should last a long time as long as you use water with the sanding pads.

-- Jason Tan  

3M Headlight Lens Restoration Kit
$16

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by 3M