Gareth's Tips

Mesmerizing Machines in Motion

Gar's Tips & Tools - Issue #143

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

Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to the new Substack edition of Gareth’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales, now shortened to Gar’s Tips & Tools. Please be patient as I work the bugs out of this new publishing platform.

Also: Notice that we now have a comment feature at the bottom of each issue. Feel free to chime in there with feedback, tips, tool recommendations, or tall shop tales.

Mesmerizing Machines in Motion

Via Mark Frauenfelder and Recomendo comes word of Machinepix, a fun Instagram account showing machines of all shapes, sizes, and purposes going about their business.

Medicine Bottle Pill Divider

How great is this idea? It’s a 3D printed pill bottle divider for carrying multiple pills in the same prescription bottle. You could also use these for small parts organizing. [Via Adafruit]

Which Folding Utility Knife is Best?

Project Farm hit the ground running in 2023 with a Jan 1 video comparing folding utility knivesTodd looked at 16 different brands of knives. They were tested for comfort, blade storage capacity, blade change efficiency, the force required to extend knife into open position, force to release handle, force to unlock knife, force to slide retractable blade, blade slop, knife lock failure load, and belt clip holding strength. When the dust settled, the overall best knife was the usually affordable Fiskars, which was only $13 at time of testing. Now, it has skyrocketed on Amazon to a ridiculous $31. Wait for the price to calm down, buy it elsewhere (Lowe’s has it for $13), or buy the fixed version, if you don’t need the folding function.

Fantastic Shop Tips from Izzy Swan

Izzy Swam has a great round-up of some really useful shop tips. While they’re directed at woodworkers, most of them apply to anyone doing gluing, clamping, or sanding. Tips include several for adding rubber bands to pliers to turn them into clamps and rubber bands to clamps to make them act like bandy clamps. Izzy also shows how to create a simple tool for sanding in curved/round spaces, how to create your own sanding sticks from paint stirring sticks, and how to make glue spreaders using Bondo scrappers and pinking shears.

3 Great Shop Vac Hacks

House Doctor Ray has some fantastic ideas for improving the performance of wet/dry shop vacs. The first “hack” is to use a pool filter sock over the vacuum filter to make it last longer and much easier to clean. The second is to add a homemade PVC muffler to the air outflow to quiet the vacuum down (mine sounds like a 747 taking off). The third is adding a Dustopper dust separating accessory. This latter improvement you only need to do if you’re a woodworker or otherwise generating lots of waste material like sawdust. I will definitely buying some of those pool socks.

Shop Talk

On the subject of powered shears, readers responded:

My old pal Joe Schepps wrote:

“I recommend the: Makita JS 3201 -10 gauge shear. Nothing like the right tool for the job.”

Sam Kusnetz sez:

“I have used powered shears like these and they definitely beat using tin snips, but they can bind up and put nasty bends in your material if you’re not careful. If you’re making rough cuts it’s not so bad. Once you get used to it, you can go pretty fast and it’s pretty great.”

Simeon Franklin:

For long cuts, an electric shear saves the hands and makes a smoother cut. You can buy really good shears for $$$, but the Harbor Freight shears are only $60 and greatly helped me install standing-seam roofing on my straw bale house. Unlike nibblers, which are good for cutting holes, complex shapes, etc, these are mostly good for long straight lines or gentle curves. They can’t navigate folds or steep changes in pitch but within their limitations, they work great! 

In the next issue, I’ll have some favorite 2022 tips and tools that readers shared with me. If you have any to add, send them along.


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