And please spread the word if you like what you see here. Thank you!
A Look at the Proxxon Motorized Angle Polisher
Last issue, I wrote about Adam Savage restoring the yellowed plastic cover of a vintage Nagra IV-S audio recorder. He ended up using a combination of a 12% hydrogen-peroxide bath and stages of a polishing compound to bring the cover back to its former glory. In this video, he talks about the Proxxon motorized angle polisher he uses while restoring the faded and scratched plastic dome on a spacesuit helmet replica and extolling the virtues of the tool.
Paint Coatings: The Great Weapon Against Rust
Grady of the fantastic Practical Engineering channel continues his series on corrosion engineering by looking at one of the great weapons wielded in the war against steel rust: paint (or more accurately paint coatings).
Next-Level Oscillating Multi-Tool Tips
Wow. James of Stumpy Nubs always brings the goods, but I learned so much from this video on improving one’s use of an oscillating multi-tool. I just recently bought my first cheap oscillating tool (to see how I like it) and am just beginning to learn how to use it properly. Even if you’ve had an oscillating tool for a while, I bet you’ll learn something here. How to angle your plunge cuts, pre-scoring cuts, holding onto the blade for better control (yes, it’s safe), using semi-circular blades for making straighter lines, so much more. Lots of tips for cutting metal with an oscillator, too. And, James has a good recommendation for an inexpensive blade assortment.
Quick ‘N Dirty Aluminum Casting
In this Daniel LupienYouTube short, he shows you how easy it is to create a simple sand mold and cast it in aluminum. All you basically need is a chunk of aluminum, a crucible and tongs, a source of heat, some kinetic sand (or regular casting sand), and something to press into the sand to create the mold.
No-Cost Stud Finder
When my wife and I moved to our new digs in Benicia, CA last fall, I needed to install a swivel-arm wall mount for our TV. I simply used a 1″ disk magnet I had on-hand to locate the stud. No fancy stud finder needed. In this Becky Stern tip, she shows the method of using a string and a magnet. Easy peasy. If you’re uncomfortable with this method and want to make sure to find the center of the stud and locate (and steer clear of) any wire runs, pipes, etc., sophisticated imaging scanners can be had for under $30.
Fixing a Leaky Faucet with a Ten Dollar Tool
We know that professional plumbing doesn’t come cheap. Doing your own basic maintenance and repairs may seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t. Jobs like clearing a trap, changing a toilet float assembly, or replacing faucet washers are relatively simple and easy. Years ago, I changed a toilet float kit. It was easy (after getting the very frozen-in old assembly out). And, I felt like I’d accomplished something and saved myself over $100. The replacement kit was $15.
Mark Frauenfelder of Cool Tools recently replaced the rubber washer in his shower. He writes in Recomendo: “Our shower head was leaking, even after I replaced the rubber washer. YouTube informed me that I had a scarred valve seat, which is the brass ring that’s supposed to form a tight seal against the washer. I bought a reseating tool for about $10 on Amazon, which smooths the surface of the valve seat. It worked, and saved me a $150 plumber visit.”
“Move carefully and fix things.” -Civic technologist, Bill Hunt
“Read your fear as excitement.” -Author and public speaking guru Scott Birkin [Said about public speaking, but applicable to many other, similar situations.]
Reader Art Elliott shares this tip:
“My fav pencil is the tri-conderoga. It’s the best of both worlds. Three sided, so it doesn’t roll away, and thinner than a regular carpenters pencil, so you get sharper lines, but it’s also thicker than a regular pencil, so the lines are still nice and thick. My family got me a pack for Father’s Day and they’re my go-to in the garage.”
On the issue of CA glue curing accelerated by water or baking soda or baking soda and water, reader Josh Martin writes:
“Setting CA glue with water makes an inconsistent, often crumbly consistency to the set glue. Baking soda improves on this, but nothing works as well as accelerator (or just time).”
In reference to storing CA glue in the freezer, reader KX4WD enthuses:
“The money I could have saved on super glues over the years with this storage tip!”
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.
Our subscriber base has grown so much since we first started seven years ago, that most of you have missed all our earliest recommendations. The best of these are still valid and useful, so we’re trying out something new — Retro Recomendo. Once every 6 weeks, we’ll send out a throwback issue of evergreen recommendations focused on one theme from the past 7 years.
Like Sudoku, but with colors
ColorKu is a nice looking wooden game board, with holes that hold colored wooden marbles in nine different colors. Game play is just like Sudoku, but this version makes it fun to play with others. It comes with about 100 starting problems, but you can use any Sudoku problems by assigning each color a number. I gave this to my sister for her birthday and she loves it, too. — MF
My wife bought me a dartboard for Christmas last year and we play darts a few times a week now. She got a high quality dartboard — a Winmau Diamond Plus Tournament Bristle Dartboard — and it’s much better than the cheap dartboards I had as a kid. The darts rarely bounce out, and the board has held up well, showing little signs of use. — MF
Pomegranate’s Charley Harper puzzles are beautiful and sturdy. Each piece is glossy and locks well with other pieces, and it’s a fun distraction for a few hours. I’ve bought two so far — Tree of Life and Exquisite Creatures. — CD
Favorite social puzzle
The simplest toys are the best. Our favorite family social puzzle is a tangram, an old classic from China made of 7 geometric pieces that you arrange to fulfill a required silhouette. With two sets you can race to finish. It is much harder than it looks, yet doable and fun for small folk. You can make a tangram from cardboard, or 3D print one yourself, but the version we grab is Tangoes, a tidy travel case with two sets of pieces, plus cards (with solutions) for all the target images. We own 3 or 4 Tangoes ($11), enough for larger groups. — KK
Play a cold case detective
Unsolved Case Files is my new favorite game to play with my husband and friends. Each case file comes with evidence photos, suspect interviews, coroners report, witness statements, newspaper clippings and more. The objective is to work collaboratively and solve three mysteries before you can “crack the case.” So far I’ve solved the Harmony Ashcroft and Max Cahill case and each one took a couple hours. They can be challenging, but it is so satisfying when you’ve completed one. The quality of the documents and materials are so good, that these made-up characters actually come to life and it’s hard not to let it all get to my head when I’ve solved one of the mysteries. It makes me feel like a real detective! I just ordered my third case on Amazon because they are often out of stock, so now I’m just gonna grab one when I can. I also signed up on their website to be notified about new cases that will be released later this Spring, and I discovered if you sign up for their email list, they will email you a free mini-case that you can download and print out. — CD
Werewolf, intense social game
When we meet for family reunions, or gather with friends, our favorite group game is Werewolf. Classrooms and corporate retreats also play Werewolf. It’s a deduction/deception game, extremely social, that is as much fun to watch as to play, so it can involve everyone. The games are exhilarating, surprising, and addictive. The only gear you need are some cards. While you can get by with an ordinary deck of cards, a set of dedicated Werewolf cards makes it much easier. After you’ve played a number of basic games, it’s easy and fun to play with variations, which are supported by this deck of Apostrophe Werewolf cards ($13). — KK