Gareth's Tips

Which Ratcheting Screwdriver is Best?

Gareth's Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales - Issue #132

  • Talk to me. Tell me a story. Share me a tip. A tool.
  • Support my work by buying my tips books (Vol. 1Vol. 2).
  • Take out an Unclassified in this newsletter to reach fellow makers.
Which Ratcheting Screwdriver is Best?
There are few hand tools that people seem to have more opinions about than ratcheting screwdrivers. And, now we have some decent testing of this everyday tool by Todd at Project Farm. Todd tests 14 different brands for efficiency, precision, and durability. Tests included working arc swing, ratchet back drag, magnet strength, bit retention strength, build quality (shaft wobble), shaft rotation in the locked position, bit failure load, and screwdriver failure load. Bottom line? The PB Swiss screwdriver, at a whopping $144 (at time of testing, now $178!), performed the best. This was followed by the $70 Linus Tech Tips driver. The Megapro and Williams also performed well, at $34 and $36, respectively. I have the Williams driver and have no complaints.
Tips on Quickly Learning a New Skill
In this video, engineer Jeremy Fielding drops a ton of wisdom via 26 strategies for learning a new skill, fast. Many of these might seem obvious (you must be motivated, mistakes will happen), but it’s in the unpacking of these ideas and the case examples he uses that make this video most valuable. And, there are a number of tips that one might overlook or not consider, like asking family and friends if they have resources related to the skill you wish to learn, not being afraid to ask someone to teach you what they know, and the idea that you only need to learn the essentials first, then you can dive in and learn by doing.
Making Clay Out of Common Soil
As my Southern mamma used to say: “Put a new wrinkle on your brain every day.” Here’s today’s wrinkle: I had no idea that you could derive clay, suitable for making pottery, from common soil. I thought you had to find a vein of red clay and harvest that. Sure, such clay is obviously preferred, but you can also render out clay using reddish soil (which has high clay content) or really any type of soil. All you need to do is suspend the soil in water and filter out the heavy materials. After straining through a cloth, you are left with clay.
Maker Slang
Jargon, slang, and tech terms from the diverse worlds of DIY.
Hero prop – In movie-making, a detailed prop designed for close-up shots and closer scrutiny from the audience. In contrast, action props are used where the audience will not see the prop in close-up.

Scumbling – In painting, to soften (the color or tone of a painted area) by overlaying opaque or semi-opaque color applied thinly and lightly with an almost dry brush. I learned this one from my artist wife, Angela White.

Weeding – In vinyl cutting, the act of removing all of the unwanted vinyl around your cut design.
TOYS! Better Sink Strainer
I watched a video a few weeks ago on Cool Tools where Donald Bell extolled the virtues of this OXO sink strainer. Like him, I hate the design of most metal-basket strainers. I ordered one of these and was so impressed with it that I wrote a Boing Boing post about it. Hundreds of BB readers followed suit and many of them are as happy with theirs as I am with mine, so I thought I’d share it here, too.
Shop Talk
Cool Tools’ Kevin Kelly weighs in on the racks for storage cases conversation:

I made two racks for my Stanley and Harbor Freight sorting boxes. One I welded and later decided it was way overbuilt. Too heavy especially once loaded with full trays of screws, etc. The second one I built a simple frame from 2 x 4s, then slid small shelves out of thin material like Masonite across both sides. It may not be as easy as baker racks, but I’m pretty sure it’s the cheapest way to build a rack in terms of materials. Plywood would be nicer all around, but 2x4s are cheap new, and almost free used.


Reader Jim Landis wrote:First, thanks for all the fascinating information you keep publishing. I’m a big fan. I’m sure others have discovered this, but some readers might find it useful. When I’m knocking together a quick model out of soda straws and paper clips, etc to get a feel for a project, 1 centimeter to 2 inches is a very convenient scale to use.

1. It’s easy to double or halve numbers without too much mental effort.

2. There’s always a ruler nearby with both inches and centimeters marked in parallel.

3. It’s very close to a 1:5 scale, so models are a nice size for desktops. For context, the original GI Joe dolls, -ahem- action figures, were 1:6 scale.

© 2022