Gareth's Tips

Halloween Prop Making

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #100

Did you miss me? Sorry for the silent running. I was busy getting married and making the final move to California. Whew. Glad to finally be settling in.

I will now be returning to regular weekly newsletters, currently publishing on Friday. As always, if you have tips, tool recommendations, favorite maker jargon/slang, or feedback, please share with me.

Halloween Prop Making
Over at Wicked Makers, they created a fun outdoor Halloween display featuring a pirate skeleton fountain. The pirate, sitting in a rum barrel, guzzles wine for all eternity. How charming. There are lots of great tips on creating Halloween haunts in this video, like how to create aged plastic bone using wood stain and bending and posing a plastic skeleton with a heat gun.

For another fun and surprisingly easy Halloween project, check out this Make: video where Caleb demonstrates the popular method of creating skulls from plastic milk jugs using a heat gun and a Halloween skull as a mold.

Working with Wood Models
Via Make: comes this Eric Strebel video on making wooden models. In the video, Eric runs through the very basics of using hobby woods, like balsa and basswood, to create models (for whatever prototyping or other purpose). These days, when we think of prototyping, we tend to think of 3D printing, laser-cutting, and maybe styrene modeling, but wood is always an option, too.

A Shipping Tape Dispenser That Doesn’t Stink?
As you might imagine, we just went through seemingly miles of packing tape in our move across country. Like a lot of folks, I abhor the crummy plastic dispensers and cheap tape that constantly tears (speaking of which, do not buy this tape – it was paper-thin and constantly tearing.) Via Cool Tools, I learned about the apparently decent (and cheap) tape/dispensers at Harbor Freight. I’ll try this product next.

Help People “Close Their Loops”
Working on complex projects (of any kind) is always challenging. Those challenges are quickly compounded as you check in with others on your team and they fail to respond in a timely and thorough fashion. Every one of these outstanding communications becomes an “open loop” that remains a worry/to-do list item until it’s responded to. You can do a huge favor to those along the project’s work chain by responding in a timely fashion and answering all questions asked.

Maker Slang
Mother color – I recently learned of a new (to me) painting technique, called mother color. This is when you pick a thematic color and add that color to every other color in a painting, miniature, model, etc. to create color harmony throughout the piece. Here’s a video detailing the technique.

Tear out (or chip out) – What happens when the grain of wood along an edge being cut cannot support itself and tears away along the cut. Methods of preventing tear out include using painter’s tape along the cut line and pre-scoring the line with a razor knife.

More on End-Grain Gluing
In the last issue, we included a link to a video on Patrick Sullivan’s YouTube channel where he tested the strength of end-grain gluing and found that such a bond can actually be quite strong (contrary to popular belief). This led to much misunderstanding of his findings, some useful discussion, and numerous response videos. Here’s a great video from James at Stumpy Nubs with further clarification of what Patrick actually tested and how people misunderstood his findings. As Patrick himself points out in the comments to Stumpy’s video:

Thanks for what I feel is a fair commentary on my video about end-grain glue. If viewers came away from the Glue Myths video with the idea that I am promoting end-grain joints, or that they should start making furniture out of 3″ square blocks, then I failed to convey my thoughts clearly enough. I am trying to put together some objective, factual information about how glue works. My hope is that this information will be used as a tool by savvy woodworkers to design joinery that is strong enough to perform its intended purpose.

Comparing Deep Hole Pattern Markers
On the Cool Tools channel, our pal Donald Bell takes a look at three different deep hole pattern markers, the Pica, the FastCap, and the Dixon. I’ve been using FastCap markers for years now and love them, although I agree with Donald that the tip is a little wider than I’d like. He doesn’t declare a winner. Each makers has its strengths and drawbacks.

New Take on the Book Nook
Last issue, I included the term “book nook,” a popular form of crafting right now. These nooks are little book-themed dioramas that slot between books on a shelf. I saw this ad for a commercial book nook maker where all of the characters in the nooks “break plane,” 3D art that emerges from the nook, something I haven’t seen in homemade book nooks. Yet.

Shop Talk

Reader Marty Lindal writes:

“Another source for moving boxes: When evaluating moving companies, ask if they can provide free used boxes. I’ve moved locally with the same mover about 5 times and he always offers both new boxes for purchase or free used boxes and free tape and packing paper. As you know, these things add up. And he’ll pick up the boxes when you are done with them.”


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

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