Gareth's Tips

Gar’s Tips & Tools – Issue #177

Weekly-ish access to tools, techniques, and shop tales from the worlds of DIY

Gar’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here.

An Arty Intro to Screws

Van Neistat’s videos are the kind of content that likely gives some makers hives, especially pros. He is obviously following in the aesthetic footsteps of artist-maker Tom Sachs. As such, his videos take a funky, whimsical, and humorous approach. They are as much art as they are instructional. Some may argue the balance. I, for one, say the more ways of inspiring people to make things, the better. And I have to say that some of his ideas (don’t put things on top of other (unrelated) things, shelves everywhere, and one-handed access to as much as possible) have become very influential to my own approach to the shop. This video is his ode to screws, especially self-tapping sheet metal screws, which he prefers for many applications.

Sharpening Nail Clippers

I have a pair of fingernail clippers that my aunt gave me for a high school graduation present (in a men’s manicure set). So strange to think that I’ve had this set my entire adult life. I’ve kept using the clippers even though they’d become desperately dull. After searching YouTube, I discovered a video on how to take nail clippers apart, clean and sharpen them, and put them back together. Sure, you can get new ones for next-to-nothing, but it’s super easy, it only takes a few minutes, and it’s less crap for the landfill. And this means I will have dearly-departed Aunt Dolores’s gift with me for the rest of my life. BTW: The video recommends a ceramic sharpening rod. I just used one of my very narrow foam sanding sticks.

Making a Tape Measure Strap

Laura Kampf was perennially unhappy with the belt clips on her tape measures (with good reason — they stink!). She decided to think through what she didn’t like about the clip and design something that better fit her needs. The result is a clip-on strap that hangs below your shirt line and allows you to easily use the tape without even having to remove it. She decided to produce 50 of them for sale. They sold out immediately. But she shows you how to make your own in this video.

Know How a Tool Wants to Hurt You

In my book, Tips & Tales from the Workshop, Vol. 2, I quoted talented hobby machinist Quinn Dunki saying “Your tools are trying to murder you!” That may be melodrama for effect and comedy, but the point is well taken. There are so many different ways that the tool you are using can leave its orbit, lose a part, cut you, grab you, stab you, blow up in your face… You get the idea. Being mindful of exactly how the tool works and its potential failure modes can make a real difference in your safety. In my youth, when I had waist-length hair and ran a print shop, one day I was at the Davidson Dualith 500 printing a newsletter (gawd, what a temperamental beast of a machine!). I whipped around to grab a tool off of a nearby service cart. Next thing I knew, I was cheek by jowl against the ink rollers, being pulled into the machine. Luckily the power switch was within frantic swatting distance. Turns out, my ponytail had flipped into the rollers when I’d turned my head quickly toward the cart. That was not on my Print Shop Accident Bingo Card! But it sure was after that. A somewhat terrifying reminder to always secure loose clothing and hair, and never underestimate the importance of situational awareness in the shop. Trust me, removing thick, sticky printer’s ink from foot-length hair was not an enjoyable experience!

Cheap First Aid Kit

I saw this super-cheap first aid kit in my Amazon travels the other day. It was under $20 with a 5% coupon, so I thought, “Why not?” I’ve been needing a small kit for my garage workbench. I’m kind of amazed with all that’s in this. It has a bunch of different bandages, burn gel, cold compress, eye pads, antiseptic wipes, etc. It even has an emergency space blanket. Going to get one for the car, too.

Disney’s 1945 Industrial Cartoon “The ABCs of Hand Tools”

I don’t know about you, but I love industrial films from the 40s, 50s, 60s. I stumbled across this amazing Disney cartoon on YouTube about hand tools. Being from 1945 and extolling the virtues of skilled artisans, hand tools, and American manufacturing might, you can’t help but think back to that time, hot on the heels of WWII — all of those GIs coming home, looking for skilled work, and setting up workshops in their garages and basements. And, truth be told, I actually learned a few things here. Embarrassingly enough, I never knew that the flat part (behind the joint) of traditional side cutting pliers is a tool for crushing the insulation to make it easier to strip it from the wire.

Shop Talk

Readers offer their feedback, tips, tales, and tool recommendations.

Reader Tim Durkin writes:

For years, I fumbled with organizing my orbital sanding discs (5”). One day in Home Goods store, I was looking at refrigerator beverage can holders and had a moment of clarity/insight/brainstorm. I looked at these can holders and saw them, in my mind, filled (or nearly so) with sanding discs. I bought one and it’s perfectly sized. I then got all fancy and cut out tabs for labeling and separating the different grits. I use the back of the holder for sanding blocks/pads. After putting the discs in their new home, I just had to lay down… overwhelmed by my cleverness.

Here’s a pic. They save tremendous space and are super-easy to make and use. And they’re cheap! There are similar versions made for other food storage that will work. Some even have handles.


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