Donald Bell, Maker Update


Cool Tools Show 284: Donald Bell

Our guest this week is Donald Bell. Donald is the creator and host of the weekly video series Maker Update. He’s a writer for Autodesk. And you’ve probably seen him on the Cool Tools YouTube channel, where he’s been creating tool review videos for us since 2017. You can find Donald on Instagram and Twitter @makerprojectlab.

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Show notes:

Locking Guitar Tuners ($29)
I’ve been a guitar player since I was in high school. And one of the kind of rituals of owning a guitar is restringing it. Putting the strings on it, which is kind of a pain in the butt, but once you get used to it, there’s the ritual kind of soothing of it. But when you’re running the string into a traditional guitar tuner, you usually have to give it a lot of slack and you have to do a few winds on the tuning peg before there’s enough on the peg to kind of keep the string intention. And so it doesn’t slip out and unwind on you in the process. And there’s kind of an art to it. There’s a lot of people with different opinions and on exactly how to do it, having the wind go in one direction or the other, or have it a lock on itself. And there’s a whole discussion group I’m sure on best practices for winding guitar string. But one of the things that’s come out relatively recently are these ideas that these locking tuners, which sounds more involved than it is. What these do is that it has a little screw that comes through the back of the tuner that clamps down on the string to keep it in place, so that it doesn’t come out the little guide hole that you usually have in the tuning peg. And it allows you to quickly run a string into the tuning peg, clamp it down with this extra little bolt, and then just get to tuning your guitar string without all the extra winds and frustration that can come out of traditionally tuning a guitar string. So you don’t have to do three different winds. You don’t have to keep slack on the string. You can really just run the string right through the guitar tuner and clamp it down, and get to winding it. And you can replace your strings faster and it seems to do a great job of holding tune.

Akro-Mils Louvered Steel Wall Panel Garage Organizer ($38)
I think anyone who has a workspace or a workshop, struggles with how to keep it organized. I know that there’s a million different solutions for all the different ways that people want to have the workshop organized. I struggled with figuring out what was the best solution for me. A lot of times that comes down to what is the size of the thing you’re trying to store? How frequently do you want to access it? Where do you have space in your workshop? I have a lot of friends who have storage bins or they’ve constructed little shelving units that perfectly fit the exact style of storage bin that they’ve gotten. So what I went with ultimately were these Akro-Mils bins that are stackable bins. And the Akro-Mils system, if you’ve ever looked at it, it comes in 100 different sizes and flavors. They have are these steel wall panels that come in a variety of sizes too, that allow you to have a very strong steel leap, almost like a French cleat system for you to hang the Akro-Mils plastic bins from. So I put one in my small workshop and then I wound up putting another one later on in my garage. And they’ve been a real benefit. You can set them up pretty high on a wall, in kind of a dead space that you wouldn’t otherwise be using. And there’s really no space required. Unlike a shelving unit, they don’t come out from the wall at all. It’s a millimeter of steel that you’re screwing into your wall to kind of cleat in these different bins. So they’re very space efficient and they’ve really helped me out.

Irwin Tools 1882793 SPEEDBOR Countersink Wood Drill Bit, 4-Piece ($23)
When I was starting out with just a small set of tools before I even had a garage, I knew one of the first tools you’re ever going to buy is a electric drill, or a drill of some kind. And my everything was my electric screwdriver. It was for drilling holes. It was for putting together IKEA furniture. It was everything. And then when I came up in the world, I was able to buy both an impact driver and have my electric drill. And at that point, my electric drill didn’t have to be everything for me. It really just had to be a drill. And so my breakthrough moment was just keeping in that drill at all times. This is a countersink drill bit, which is a kind of tapered drill bit. They come in different sizes. And I think the one I have linked here is a four piece set that comes in different sizes. And they’re perfectly made for drilling the kind of pilot hole you want to drill for a drywall screw in particular. At the base of the drill bit, they have a counter sink so that it can drill out a little bit of that space for the screw to go into. And instead of me hunting around all the time for the perfect size drill bit to put into my drill, I feel like nine times out of 10, this thing can drill the hole that I want it to drill.

Airmon Palm Size PM2.5 Air Quality Monitor ($33)
I made a video for this that you can find on the Cool Tools YouTube channel. And it’s called the Airmon Air Quality Monitor. It’s a cube, but about the size of a tennis ball. And it’s a portable air quality monitor that is amazing. The design looks really cool. It looks like something you’d want to keep on your desk. The fact that it’s so attractive was one of the things that compelled me to buy it. But the main reason I got it, was because fire season happens here in California all the time. And when it’s upon us, knock on wood, you wake up every day checking the air quality reports, and you’re trying to see if there’s an orange cloud around you, or red cloud around you, or what color the map is around your home. And typically those are readings that are taken outdoors from different monitors that are around your town. And so you take measures against that. You try to seal up your doors, you try to run your air purifiers, all that stuff. But, without something like this, you don’t really have a good sense of whether or not you’ve done a good job of purifying the air in your home. You need some kind of internal measure to know like, okay, it might be a red cloud outside of my door, but how well have I cleaned the air inside my home? So this gives you an indication of that. It specifically looks for the PM 2.5 particle size, that is the most damaging to your lungs. And you pair it with an app, an adorable, little Japanese animation app that’s adorable to the point where you think this can’t be a serious tool, but it is. And when you open up the app, you tell it to run, it runs for maybe 10 seconds kind of moving air. You hear a little fan, like a little tiny computer fan, as it’s moving air past the sensor to tell what the air quality is. And then it gives you a reading and the little character on the display will be there, jumping with joy that you’ve got clean air, or he’ll be a little bit sad and have a mask over his face, and you’ll get an actual reading.

About Maker Update:
My weekly series, Maker Update, can be found on the Digi-Key YouTube channel. This September will be the 5-year anniversary of the show. I’m thrilled that it’s still going, that I still love doing it and that people still seem to be into it. And Digi-Key, a electronics part supplier, is our sponsor for that show. So the show pops up on the Digi-Key YouTube channel. They’ve been around for a long time. In fact, the Digi-Key part number is kind of like the gold standard of when you’re making a bill of materials for an electronic design you’ve come up with. If you’re trying to tell people what type of capacitor or a resistor, or transistor you’re using in your design, oftentimes it’s assumed you’d include the Digi-Key part number in that bill of materials. They’re very excited about bringing in new generations of people who are into electronics. I think they see Maker Update as a show for bringing in people who are really starting to just tinker around with electronics, and projects, and are excited, and kind of moving them into the world of electronics.


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