Gareth's Tips

Skill Set: Working with a Block Mold

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #89

Sorry for the few-weeks interruption in newsletter delivery. I was putting my house on the market and it has taken up most of my waking hours. If there are any further hiccups in service over the coming weeks, please bear with me.

Skill Set: Working with a Block Mold

My casting of a New Rock boots keychain.

My casting of a New Rock boots keychain.

Because of the home sale, I have been unable to do the next step in our Skill Set series: making the block mold. If you’ve cast an object using the single mold method, please send it to me. Above is the one that I cast. I did a quick priming, painting, and drybrushing to try and make it look close to the original. I’m sure if I had sanded it, used metallic paint, and spent more time with it, I could’ve gotten it a closer match. But overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
Paige Russell's rubber ducky block mold.

Paige Russell’s rubber ducky block mold.

If you’re following along here and have not made your block mold yet [raises hand], as always, refer to Paige Russell’s Instructables course. After the block mold casting, we’ll do a 2-part mold and then our first Skill Set series will be finished.

What Skill Sets would you like to see in the future? I saw someone doing some first-time metal casting in a YouTube video recently and thought that might be a fun follow-up to silicone and resin molding and casting. Would others here be interesting in learning basic metal casting? If so, message me (or with other Skill Set ideas).

Safety and First Aid: Eye Wash Cups

Always have eyewashing saline and cups on hand

Always have eyewashing saline and cups on hand

One of my readers, in response to my piece on first aid kits in the shop, shared a recommendation for these silicone eyewash cups that he keeps on hand. Unfortunately, I can’t find the email to credit him. If this was you, please message me.

Crimping Connectors

Don't skimp on the crimp.

Don’t skimp on the crimp.

Although I’ve been a casual electronics hobbyist for much of my adult life, I have never owned a crimping tool or a crimping connector set. In this Collin’s Lab Notes videoCollin shows how to use such a tool and why.

Retrobrighting Chucks

Love me some Chucks.

Love me some Chucks.

Retrobrighting (or Retrobriting) is a process for whitening/lightening old plastic computer cases and other consumer electronics enclosures that have dimmed with age. The formula is usually hydrogen peroxide mixed with some OxiClean and then left under UV light (aka the sun) for several hours (8 is often recommended for electronics enclosures). On the VintageChucks website, they applied the same technique on the sidewalls of a pair of old Chucks, mixing salon-grade hydrogen peroxide cream with OxiClean and leaving the sneaks in the sun for three hours. The results speak for themselves.

Making Tools from Concrete Nails

Via The Machinist's Workshop.

Via The Machinist’s Workshop.

My friend and former Make: colleague, Sean Ragan, sent this excerpt from The Machinist’s Workshop to me:

Concrete Nails

by Don Peterson

Over the years, I’ve made a number of tools from concrete nails, which are made from high-carbon steel and hardened.

From left to right, they are: a .15″ diameter punch, a 1/8″ punch, a prick punch, a 3/32″ punch, a recessed punch (for driving finishing nails – the punch can’t slip off), and a center punch. Heat the tip of the nail red hot with a propane torch and it will be machinable after it slowly cools. To reharden, heat and quench, then temper to a straw color.

The prick and center punches can be ground without the need for annealing. Be sure to grind a flat on the heads of the tools to keep them from rolling off the bench.

Putting “Smart Straws” on Your Shop Aerosols

Apparently these new straws are "smart."

Apparently these new straws are “smart.”

A while back, I wrote about the ol’ faithful way of attaching the WD-40 straw to the can with a rubber band. This is a proto shop “hack” for sure. Of course, readers were quick to point out these newfangled WD-40 cans with “smart straws” (aka a permanently attached straw). I’ve seen several people online point out that, when your WD-40 is gone, you can reuse these smart straw tops on other shop aerosols. All you need to do is pop the cap off of the D-40, remove the cap from another spray, and pop on the smart top.

Life Hacks
When Cool Tools mastermind Kevin Kelly turned 68 last year, he published a list of 68 unsolicited bits of advice (and not a single one was “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!”). For his 69th birthday, Kevin published another advice list, this time of 99 (no repeats, no filler). Many of these are quite lovely, useful, and wise. Here are some of the more practical bits for DIYers.

• That thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult — if you don’t lose it.
• If you have any doubt at all about being able to carry a load in one trip, do yourself a huge favor and make two trips.
• Learn how to tie a bowline knot. Practice in the dark. With one hand. For the rest of your life you’ll use this knot more times than you would ever believe.
• If something fails where you thought it would fail, that is not a failure.
• If you borrow something, try to return it in better shape than you received it. Clean it, sharpen it, fill it up.
• A multitude of bad ideas is necessary for one good idea.
• Always cut away from yourself.
• When brainstorming, improvising, jamming with others, you’ll go much further and deeper if you build upon each contribution with a playful “yes — and” example instead of a deflating “no — but” reply.

See the full list here.

Maker’s Muse

I think I hear a cricket 100 yards away eating its lunch.

I think I hear a cricket 100 yards away eating its lunch.

Architecture students built giant megaphones in Austria to listen to the sounds of nature

Shop Talk
In response to my piece on shop glovesJason Duerr writes:

It took me about 5 boxes to figure out that I prefer Ammex as a brand. Ammex makes X3, Ammex, and Gloveworks brand gloves.

I haven’t tried the X3 3mm gloves, but the Ammex ”Professional” 3mm are my go-to in my studio and the kitchen..

I also keep a box of the orange Gloveworks 8mm in my workshop for when I need something that will put up with more abuse and/or have a grippier surface.


In response to my piece on first aid in the shop, reader Tom recommends this video on the always-excellent Stumpy Nubs channel. Tom is right. This video is great and the list of first aid supplies covered are very sensible and thorough. I especially like the wall-mounted first aid cabinet he recommends.

And, Joz Jonlin writes:

I spent decades working in Fire/EMS services and for most of that time, places I worked used Plano fishing tackle boxes for EMS responses. They were nothing but tackle boxes branded with a star of life logo so they could jack the price up to as much as $240.


(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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