Gareth Branwyn, Writer and Editor


Cool Tools Show 198: Gareth Branwyn

Our guest this week is Gareth Branwyn. Gareth has been writing about DIY technology, media, and culture for over three decades. He’s a former senior editor of Boing Boing, a founding contributing editor to Wired, and the former editorial director of Make: Magazine. He’s the author of 10 books, including his most recent, Tips and Tales from the Workshop. He currently regularly writes for HackSpace, Boing Boing, and Better Humans. He’s currently writing a book about his life-long obsession with William Blake. He also has a weekly newsletter called: Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales. You can find him on Instagram @garethbranwyn.

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Show notes:

Mr. Hobby G-Tool ($27)
I do a lot of tabletop gaming modeling, modeling for fantasy and tabletop war games. So I do a lot of cutting miniatures off of sprues, hobby parts, modeled parts off of sprues. And you get little nubs leftover when you cut them off the sprues, and you have to sand it or file it or whatever. And sometimes, these pieces can get quite complicated with lots of little tie in points, and it could just take forever. I hate it. It’s one of my least favorite parts of hobby modeling. And I saw this guy demoing this little tool — it’s basically a rotary toothbrush, and it’s got these little sanding pads on the ends. I just went through a whole faction of miniatures, and there was a lot of parts to it. Each little model had 10 or 12 parts. They’re 28 millimeter, so they’re tiny. And I just blew through this sanding.

iGaging Absolute Origin Calipers ($40)
I am so in love with these things. They’re so beautiful and they’re super accurate. They are an impressively featured set of digital calipers that rival Mitutoyo models but cost three times less. Besides being a fantastic set of high-precision calipers, they use the common CR2032 batteries (and even come with an extra) and they have a data port so that you can connect the device to your computer and port measurements directly into CAD programs.

Disposable Scalpel Blades ($10)
I’m bad about replacing my Exacto knife blades when I’m working. And so I get to the point where I’m just working with an extraordinarily dull blade before I break down and change it. So my friend Andy Berkey recommended disposable scalpels, and I bought a box of those. I just love the fact that if I need something that’s very, very sharp, I can reach for that. I’ve had the box now for a month or two and I think I’ve used one blade. So I’m not going to use them very frequently. But it’s just a nice thing to have if you need something that’s sort of sinfully sharp. The edge itself is a lot thinner than an Exacto knife blade so it’s really good for getting panel lines and things on models. You can’t even get that G tool into things like under an armpit on a miniature. So I’ve been using the scalpel blade to just go in there and scrape the panel lines. It’s very pointy. I also use it now to pick up things. If I’m picking up pieces of plasticard to put onto a model, you can just stab it with the end of that. So it’s a really good pickup tool as well.

Replacement brushes for rotary tools ($7)
Sadly, many rotary tool, aka Dremel, owners don’t seem to know that when a tool becomes sluggish or stops working, it is likely only worn-out motor brushes. These are easily and cheaply replaced via two screws usually found on the sides of the tool. And if you open those up, you just replace the worn out motor brushes with these carbon brushes and you’re good to go. They literally take seconds to replace.

Also mentioned:

My monthly 2-page tutorials in HackSpace
For people that don’t know, HackSpace is a UK magazine that’s very similar to Make. It comes out monthly. There is a print subscription, but the PDFs are free to download. I do these two page tutorials in that.

How to Be a Better Writer
A piece I wrote on Better Humans collecting many of my tips on writing and editing that I’ve picked up over the years.

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