Cool Tools

Nomadico/Secret recipes/How to professionally say

Tips for working while traveling
More people are working from home, or working from remote locations, or working while traveling, or traveling while working. We, the Recomendo crew, are launching a new newsletter dedicated to this realm. Nomadico is a weekly, one-pager emailed to you each Thursday which will have 4 tips for working beyond the office, and living in motion. Covers digital nomads, remote work, travel hacking, van life, FIRE, learning journeys and more. Nomadico is edited by Tim Leffel, who is the world’s expert on distributed living. Sign up here. It is free for now. — KK

Seth’s secret recipes
My friend Seth Godin, who hosts the terrific Akimbo podcast, recently posted a list of 10 “secret recipes,” including “Very famous tahini cookies,” “Informal cashew dressing,” and “(Mostly) raw brownies.” The one recipe I’m most exited about is his “Almost secret, no-sugar, all fruits and nuts Pacojet chocolate ice ‘cream’ recipe,” but I won’t be making it anytime soon because it requires a $5,000+ appliance I’ve never heard of — a Pacojet machine, which micro-purees solid blocks of frozen food without thawing. — MF

A guide for daily "professional" interactions
How to professionally say is a list of things you might feel like saying at work and the alternative — more professional way — you should say it. Example: Instead of saying “That sounds like a horrible idea,” you can say “Are we confident that this is the best solution or are we still exploring alternatives?” This guide was inspired and compiled from content created by @loewhaley on Instagram, and while some of it might not flow comfortably out of my mouth, I’m inspired to adopt more neutrality and directness in my professional language. — CD

Free weekly wisdom
I cut back on the number of newsletters I subscribe too, but one that I am keeping is the weekly Brain Food from Farnam Street. It dispenses pithy — and sound — advice about living. In two minutes I get a refreshing reminder of age old wisdom. Free. — KK

Social media distortions
It’s been more than three years since I deleted my Facebook account and lately, I find myself using Instagram and Twitter less and less. This list of 8 Ways Social Media Distorts Reality by the Center for Humane Technology reminded me why I have a 5-minute time limit on my Instagram and Twitter phone apps. I’m especially sensitive to “information flooding” and the algorithms are great at tricking me into thinking that everyone is talking about this one thing. As much as I do appreciate a community, I have to remind myself that Twitter and Instagram are not reality. The whole list is worth reading and understanding. — CD

Favorite mind-blowing facts

Tim Urban of the explainer site Wait By Why asked his Twitter followers “What’s your favorite mindblowing fact?”  Sample replies:
  • The moon and the sun are exactly the same size as seen from Earth
  • Reno, Nevada is west of Los Angeles
  • Neutrinos, subatomic particles created in the sun, are so neutral and small and that a wall of lead a light-year thick has 50/50 chance of stopping one. About 100 trillion of them pass through your body every second.
  • There’s a giant volcano underneath Yellowstone National Park that would wipe out most life in North America if it were to explode (which it has done at least 3 times in the past that we know of).
  • Every tool that exists today, from hammers to particle accelerators, has been constructed with others tools, and those with other tools, and so on, and eventually all tools where fabricated with rocks.
— MF
Cool Tools

James Cham, VC at Bloomberg Beta



James Cham is a Seed Stage VC at Bloomberg Beta. You can follow him on Twitter @jamescham.

Voice Recognition on Google Pixel 6
Galactic Camera
iPad stand
Apple Universal Control
Situated AI notes

Cool Tools

Organizing Cables and Other Gear Using Hanging Storage Bags

Got a tip to share? Tool to recommend? Tall shop tale to tell? A tip to bust? Please share with the class.

Organizing Cables and Other Gear Using Hanging Storage Bags
Twitter user laen posted this fantastic idea for organizing and storing cables. He uses hanging storage bags on a rod. Cables and misc tech accessories are the bane of my existence. This is a great solution for not only storing cables but other sorted small parts. See the comments on the tweet where others share some useful storage “hacks.”

A Mini-Tutorial on Using GitHub for Arduino Projects
In this Andreas Spiess videoAndreas provides an excellent 16-minute tutorial on why GitHub is essential to anyone working in software development and makers doing microcontroller projects. Andreas covers downloading libraries and projects, creating a project Fork, publishing a project on GitHub, and how to create a Pull Request (how you alert others to changes you’ve pushed to the branch of a GitHub repository), among other things.

11 Cheap Tools You Want to Have in Your Workshop

In this Stumpy Nubs videoJames runs through 11 cheap (under $30) tools that he can’t live without in his woodworking shop. A few of them are woodwork-specific, but most would be useful in any maker’s workshop. Items covered include various bench clamps, face shieldacid brushestweezersrubber rollers for spreading glue, razor saw, and dust-collection fittings.

Which Bit Holder is Best?
A simple bit holder for use in an impact driver can cost anywhere from a few bucks to over $20. So, is paying more worth it? That’s the question Todd is looking to answer in this Project Farm video. He tests 19 brands for maximum torque before failure, magnetic bit retention holding strength, magnetic hold on fasteners, speed of driving in fasteners, and wear resistance. In the end, the $9 DeWalt (Locking) holder (currently $12 on Amazon) performed the best, with the $20 Wiha (currently unavailable) a close second. The Hilti, at $8 (currently $11 on Amazon) also got an overall A rating.

The Duh Department

[caption id="attachment_39953" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Note to self: Order more pond cleaner. Note to self: Order more pond cleaner.[/caption]

This is one most of you likely know but it might be worth a reminder. Your phone is a perfect tool for visual note-taking. Here are some of the ways I use mine: Documenting a teardown of a piece of hardware, taking a pic of paint to match (not super color-accurate, but better than nothing), noting a product I see in the store, remembering a parking space, quotes from books, taking a pic of something off my computer screen, taking pics of things I can’t easily see like the hook-ups behind my TV. The list goes on. If you have other note-taking uses for your phone, I’d love to hear them.

Shop Talk
Reader Gary Shell writes:

“Where is Todd from the Project Farm Videos finding tools at the prices he mentions? The link to the Irwin wire strippers takes me to a page where they are $25 not $14. This is the second such disappointment. Last time was the needle nose pliers a few weeks back. Every link I found had the at almost double his price.”

I’ve noticed the same thing. And also that after a Project Farm video goes up, the items are often out of stock on Amazon. I’ve sent Todd a message to ask him. Will report back.


Michael Ritchie wrote in to say that the story of the ground up/ground down outlets didn’t tell the whole story:

The original National Electrical Code (NEC) standard (100 years ago) was to install outlets Ground Up or Ground Left if installed sideways. This was in the NEC up through the 1980s. This is why certain municipalities still have it in their standards. When I was apprenticed to be an electrician by my father and grandfather, they taught me this and I remember looking it up in the NEC book. They also informed me that the standard was never enforced by inspectors and the common ground down orientation was preferred by consumers because it “looked like a face”. The ground up requirement was removed from the NEC at some point but the ground left requirement remained (but is not enforced). Many outlets sold today have writing on them that indicates the manufacturer’s intended orientation and you can find examples of both ground up and down.

What People Are Saying About Tips and Tales Volume 2
Have you picked up the second volume of my best-selling Tips and Tales from the Workshop? Buying it is a great way to support me and this newsletter. Here is some of what people are saying about Volume 2:

A delightful collection gathered from makers far and wide (I even have a few tips in there). Really fun read and a great gift for any maker, craftsperson, or hobbyist. – Legendary toy designer Bob Knetzger

Branwyn is the perfect curator of the actual practice of being a maker and a tinkerer. Any level of DIY experience will benefit from the tips in this book. This is a book brimming with personality and shows a real love for that special time working on a project. –Peter Bebergal, Strange Frequencies author

Gareth has spent years gathering the best shop tips, tricks, and hacks for making projects easier at every step. There are tips in this book that you will use for years to come. –John “Graz” Graziano, maker and co-star of the hit Netflix series, Making Fun

Every page you turn you’re like “I wish I had known this!” Full of handy hints, inexpensive DIY gadgets, best practices, and rules to protect your thumbs! Tips for artists, engineers, tinkerers, and cosplayers – along with the shocking revelation of how much we all have in common as makers. Perfect for the shop, garage, or mad scientist lair. Highly recommended! –Carl Leonard, robotics engineer and sci-fi podcaster

I refer to this book regularly for guidance or just read it for entertainment and inspiration. Really a high value book in its genre. – Ross Hershberger, audio engineer and Make: contributor

Cool Tools

Show and Tell Podcast/IT Burnout Index/Budge Bytes

Cool Tools Show and Tell
Every week for 6 years we’ve recorded a podcast featuring the cool tools of a remarkable person. Earlier this year we paused the podcast, but we have now relaunched it as a video-cast in the same format. Every Friday I interview a remarkable person and ask them on screen to show and tell 4 of their favorite tools. This program, called the Cool Tools Show and Tell, streams on our YouTube channel. And the audio channel of each session will resume streaming on the old Cool Tools Podcast subscription for those who only want to listen. I really look forward to each session because I am always surprised by what interesting cool tools people will recommend. — KK

Find out if you’re close to burnout
IT Burnout Index is a 10-question survey that will tell you how close you are to burnout, and what your risk level is for Exhaustion, Self Inefficacy, Cynicism and Depersonalization. It only takes 2 minutes to get the results and you can then choose to check out Yerbo’s personalized insights and exercises. It’s anonymous, and doesn’t require an email. — CD

Cheap healthy recipes
Budge Bytes is a recipe website of delicious meals that cost very little to make, other than your time. The recipes use fresh ingredients and are accompanied by tantalizing photos. Try the Comeback Sauce for roasted vegetables. — MF

Easy plant replication
Most plants can be propagated by pinching off a bit and setting the piece in soil to grow into a whole new plant. You can increase the likelihood of success by dusting the pinched piece with plant hormone to speed root growth, such as Bontone II Rooting Powder. We have generally propagated our entire garden by pinching. We can increase success even more using the Hormex set of 3 different strengths of the hormone based on how woody the plant is. — KK

Silicone earplugs
Mack’s moldable silicone earplugs are superior to squishy foam earplugs because they completely seal the opening to your ear. They do a fantastic job of blocking out sound. These silly-putty-like plugs have saved my sleep many times when staying in noisy hotels and Airbnbs. — MF

Get oldest Google search results first reverse-orders all Google search results so that you see the oldest webpages first. This is refreshing to use, because I so often feel like all the top results are repetitive. — CD

Cool Tools

John Markoff, technology writer and Stewart Brand biographer


John Markoff was (once upon a time) New York Times technology reporter and is the biographer of Stewart Brand — Whole Earth - The Many Lives of Stewart Brand. Follow him @markoff or

Osprey Radial Backpack
Hilleberg Nallo 2 tent
Wellue O2Ring
Whole Earth - The Many Lives of Stewart Brand

Cool Tools

Modular 3D Printed Workshop Organizing System

Got a tip to share? Tool to recommend? Tall shop tale to tell? A tip to bust? Please share with the class.

Modular 3D Printed Workshop Organizing System
Zach Freedman has designed a really cool grid-based storage system that you can 3D print. Zach never does anything small and that’s the case here. He designed and printed all sorts of bins, trays, tool holders, and racks. It’s a pretty complete workbench storage system.

How Do You Cast Objects That Have Holes?
Many makers are intimidated by molding and casting. But how about casting a part that’s riddled with holes? Yikes. Fear thee not. Bob Tolone to the rescue with this excellent video. Besides the successful casting of a difficult, holey part, there are lots of great tips here, from using baby spinach clam shell plastic containers for storing parts, materials, and supplies to using pieces of right-angle bent polystyrene, binder clips, and silicone-as-glue to create reusable mold boxes.

[caption id="attachment_39926" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Easy-to-assemble, reusable mold boxes. Easy-to-assemble, reusable mold boxes.[/caption]

Comparing Wire Strippers
On the latest Project Farm videoTodd turns his methodical testing eye toward 9 pairs of wire strippers. He tests them for knife sharpness, the force required to cut through aluminum wire, screw cutter precision and sharpness, and wire insulator removal performance. He also compares self-adjusting wire strippers for performance. Not surprisingly, the well-regarded Knipex strippers performed the best, but they cost $50. At $14, the Irwin brand was an impressive second. One of the many admirable things about Todd’s videos is that he always buys the tools he tests to remove any bias (or appearance of bias).

Six Ways of Joining 3D Parts Together
On this episode of Uncle Jessy, he runs through 6 different ways you can join 3D printed parts. He tries CA/Super GlueUV resin3D printing penwood burner/soldering iron, 3D Gloop, and a plastic welding gun. While all of these methods have there place, in the end, his go-to adhesive remains 3D Gloop.

Are Some of the Grounded Plugs in Your House or Shop Upside Down?

Former Make: Executive Editor, Mike Senese, posted a fascinating Tweet about discovering the reason why some of the outlets in his house are in “ground up” orientation. In his house’s case, and in many others, this orientation is done to indicate that outlet is connected to the room’s wall switch. It’s also sometimes done, especially in kitchens, as a safety measure. So, for instance, if a metal object manages to get between the outlet and the plug, it’ll only touch the ground pin. Also, ground-up provides a slight mechanical advantage when unplugging. Here’s an article that Mike pointed to with more info. One other surprising discovery in this is that there’s no accepted standard for outlet orientation. Who knew?

TOYS! Spray Can Gun
I bought one of these Can Guns as an impulse buy at the hardware store when I went to get some rattle can paint. I have severe arthritis, so even something as simple as spraying paint can be pa challenge. I figured I’d try this device though I suspected it was a gimmick. Turns out, I love it! It makes spraying so much easier for me and I feel more confident in applying consistent spray strokes. The only downside is that it sprays a big bloom and I suspect it wastes a lot paint. But being “Arthritis-Friendly,” it may at least appeal to others with similar issues.

Life Hack: Pirate Sight
Recently, after watching the pirate black comedy series, Our Flag Means Death, I went down a rabbit hole researching the real-life pirates fictionalized in the show. During that search, I happened upon a commonly-held idea of why pirates wore eye patches. There was nothing wrong with their eyes. The patch was a sort of night-vision tech. During their daily ship duties, a pirate would be frequently going from the bright sunlight of the deck to the relative darkness inside the ship. A patch over one eye acted as a darkness adapter. If you went below deck, you simply moved the patch over your sun-acclimated eye and you could immediately see with the dark-adapted eye. I mentioned this to my son, Blake, and he said he’d read the same thing and begun closing one eye when going to the bathroom at night so that eye could safely lead him back to bed in the dark. I tried this and it works! Not sure if the pirate story is apocryphal or not, but the concept seems sound. Argh!

Cool Tools

Semantle/Better toiletry bag/Iffirmations

Like Wordle, but a lot more challenging
There are lots of guessing games inspired by Wordle, but one of the toughest (and most enjoyable) is Semantle. Like Wordle, there’s a new secret word every day. Start by guessing a word, and the game will give you a score between 100 and -100, depending on how close in meaning your guess is to the secret word. Be prepared to make use of the hints! Fridays word was headphones. I got in it 73 guesses with 12 hints. (Take a look at my guesses.)  — MF

Better toiletry bag
I’ve searched high and low for the perfect size toiletry bag that could fit all of my makeup and hygiene stuff, and I finally found it in this ZEEMO Dopp Kit for Men ($18). It has a main compartment where I can fit larger items, 10 mesh pouches and 2 zippered pockets. None of the unisex or women’s toiletry bags that I came across were as useful or well-designed as this one. — CD

Alternative to affirmations
I am very excited about this concept of pivoting from affirmations to iffirmationsInstead of saying to yourself something like “I am confident and strong” you ask yourself “What if I am confident and strong?” And by asking it in the form of a question forces your brain to search for evidence that this might be true. For me, this works because it conjures images and examples of ways I could be confident or strong or have been in the past, which then elicits positive and encouraging emotions. A lot more effective that affirmations. — CD

Most useful podcast
I’ve been listening to the Tim Ferriss weekly podcast for 8 years, and I looked forward to each episode. The Tim Ferriss Show began as interviews with world-class athletes and entrepreneurs deconstructing their habits and techniques. But as Tim matured, his interests shifted to mindfulness, emotional well-being, enlightenment, and relationships. His interviews run long, some for 2 hours, as he applies his superpower of uncovering the how-do-you-do-it angle, which makes his show so useful. The range is so broad and relatable that I recommend it now for all listeners. — KK

Best plant burger
Plant-based burgers these days are way better than the veggie burgers of old. My favorite is the new McDonald’s McPlant, which I find the best among the fast-food variety. It contains a Beyond Meat patty and tasty sauces. It satisfies all my modest burger cravings, and is now my fast food of choice. — KK

Reusable Furniture Sliders
We just got new bamboo flooring installed in our house, and before we rearranged the furniture, I put these reusable furniture sliders under the feet of heavy tables, couches, and credenzas. The bottom of the slider is thick felt and the top is grippy foam rubber. The sliders made it easy to move the furniture without marring the new flooring. They also have sliders that work on carpeted surfaces. — MF

Cool Tools

Having a REALLY Bad Day in the Shop

Got a tip to share? Tool to recommend? Tall shop tale to tell? A tip to bust? Please share with the class.

Having a REALLY Bad Day in the Shop


Something I wish we saw more of in maker videos is projects that go horribly, irredeemably wrong. On Making Stuff, Dave Picciuto had such a bad day in the shop and wasn’t afraid to share all of the gory details with us. Bad measuring, tools breaking — a LOT of tools – and just a general undignified day at the office. The video was supposed to be about making some wooden mugs with stainless steel whiskey cup inserts. It turned into a lesson on how to roll with it when everything seems to go wrong. In the end, Dave invoked what I call the “Kenny Rogers Rule” (knowing when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to walk away). He walked away. He’ll revisit this “simple and easy” project some other day. In the end, he added up the cost of replacing all of the parts that broke: SawStop brake, table saw blade, band saw blade, drill press chuck, jointer cutter, and two of the four stainless steel cups that he bought. The cost for his “off” day in the shop? [cue cash register cha-ching] $510. Ouch!

And the Winner is...


On the March 31 Maker Update, Donald Bell announced a giveaway of my new tips book to commenters who shared a tip. We ended up getting over 80 entries. They were all good and it was hard to choose the winners. Below are the 5 winners of Tips and Tales from the Workshop, Vol 2. Please email me your shipping address and I’ll dispatch your book and other goodies.

Brandi Weed – If you have a bunch of small tools (measuring cups, cleaning brushes, etc.) on a split ring, switch them to a D-ring or carabiner. This way, you can remove only the one you need without the others getting in the way and/or needing cleaning because of residual debris.

Federico Maracaglia – Add /zip after the “thing:number” address of a Thingiverse project to download the entire page contents [STL files, images, Read Me file -Ed.] as a Zip file has been one of the coolest tips I’ve discovered recently!

Edward Iglesias – I’m moving so am reminded of this Sherlock Holmes tip:

“A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

Shimmering Trashpile – Always document your process. If you’re making a gift, including the documentation makes the gift really personal and unique. Your documentation can be an invaluable resource for a friend making something similar. Also, documentation can be a wonderful memory enhancer when you look back on a project years later.

Dylan Northrup – 10 Tips (because I couldn’t decide on a single one):

1) Remember to dream big, but scope realistically (especially when starting out).
2) Never be afraid to ask for advice. Conversely, always be willing to give advice when asked (but try to avoid giving unsolicited advice).
3) Decide if you’re using Imperial or Metric on a project and stick with it.
4) If you decide some measurements have to be Imperial (e.g. gallons for liquid volume) and some Metric (e. g. milli/centimeters for distance), make SURE the measurements are orthogonal to each other to avoid having to do unit conversion.
5) Efficiency is good, but doing it properly is better. Better to slowly do something once than quickly do it multiple times.
6) If nobody was hurt, no property damaged, and you can try again, it wasn’t a failure, it was a learning experience.
7) You don’t need expensive, feature-laden tools to do good work. Some of the best creativity comes from the limitations we have to work with.
8) Always follow proper safety rules and wear appropriate safety equipment.
9) You can exchange time for money and money for time, but remember it’s possible to make more money… it’s not possible to make more time.
10) Have fun and make sure others have a chance to have fun, too. We’re all in this together.


And the Grand Prize of Tips and Tales from the Workshop, Vol 1Vol 2, and the Maker’s Notebook Gift Set goes to…

Kristian Reinhart – Woodworkers and makers in general often (half-jokingly) quote “You can never have too many clamps.” I’d add some more pieces of wisdom in the same likeness: “You can never have too many ways to hold on to stuff”– various tweezers, clamps, grippers, pliers, jigs, fixtures, and such are incredibly useful to securely holding your workpiece and preventing it from flying off, or injuring yourself or others. “You can never have too many ways to cut stuff” – From different shapes of scissors and knives, chisels, saws, to powered tools like jigsaws, oscillating saws, etc. A variety of cutting implements is tremendously useful when encountering odd materials, angles, and such. Even when doing mundane things like removing supports from 3D prints, I use various pliers, tweezers, awls, and differently-shaped linoleum chisels. “You can never have too many lights” – With how effective and cheap both LED and battery technology have become, it’s now possible to get a whole bunch of different lighting solutions for any given situation. There’s little excuse to strain your eyes with poor lighting when there are so many choices available.

Maker Slang

Jargon, slang, and tech terms from the many worlds of making.

DIWhy – A play on DIY; the questioning of a maker project of dubious merit. See also: Regretsy (said of bizarre Etsy offerings).

Inspired object – Something in your life that’s so well made, so perfectly suited to its task that it actually inspires/elevates you as you interact with it. Things you make yourself often take on this quality. Coined by Mr. Jalopy.

In the sluice – Term used by Adam Savage. Synonymous with in the groovein the zone.

Using UV Resin for Water Effects


UV resin has become a popular bit of kit within the tabletop game modeling and diorama communities. Using it, you easy to duplicate parts, create window glass, and other cool and realistic tabletop effects by simply depositing the resin and hitting it with a UV light for instant curing. In this Tabletop Time video, they explore the idea of using UV resin to create water bases for sea-based miniatures.

Life Hack: My Approach to Parking

As someone who has significant spinal arthritis, I don’t like to walk far from where we park our car. Over the years, I’ve been told that I have “good parking karma” because I can often find a space close to where we’re going. My method is simple, but it works. First thing is to drive to the exact address you’re going. Don’t decide it’s going to be parked up and park blocks before it because you see a space there. Go to the location and make it your hover point. If you don’t see a space on that block, add one more block to your search area. Circle that small area for a few passes and usually you’ll catch someone leaving. If not, add another block and keep hovering. I’ve rarely had to park more than an extra block from my destination and most often find a spot on the same block.

Shop Talk

In response to the piece on making your own tool wraps, Rex B writes:

“Suggestion for the waxed tool wrap: Add some lanolin to the wax and it will keep those tools rust-free.”


Reader Justin Derbes sent me this message:

“I’m building a studio in our back yard and came across this Residential Nailing Schedule chart [PDF link] during a research phase. I thought you might enjoy it.”

Cool Tools

NASA sound samples/Productivity visuals/Astonish Yourself

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Free sound samples from NASA
Would you like to hear what lightning on Jupiter sounds like? How about the beeping sound transmitted by Sputnik in 1957, or the first sound recording taken on Mars? Head over to NASA’s ​​Audio and Ringtones page, where you can listen to dozens of recordings. My favorite is Juno’s 2021 flyby of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, which sounds like an old science fiction radio play. — MF

Change your view on productivity
I could read a hundred blog posts on how to be more productive and still find ways to procrastinate, but these productivity visuals (Twitter thread by @elliottaleksndr ) anchor themselves in my brain and inspire me to reframe whatever is blocking me. This one is my favorite. — CD

Mindfulness exercises
I’m slowly trying out the odd little experiments suggested in this odd, used book I found, Astonish Yourself. The exercises are trivial, maybe even silly, such as following an ant for as long you can, or counting to 1,000, or listening to a recording of your own voice. It shifts your perspective for a small aha. The book offers 101 of these mindfulness moments. It prompted me to invent my own ways to astonish myself. — KK

Find your personal style
I like to feel comfortable in whatever I’m wearing and have never considered what my personal style might be. For the past two years, it’s been loungewear, but this comic strip by NPR Life Kit inspired me to change that. It’s a cute, visual guide that will walk you through cultivating your personal style and developing a shopping philosophy. — CD

A puzzling book
I’m a big fan of author A.J. Jacobs. He embarks on crazy self-experiments — like reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, or living according the the rules in the Bible for a year — and writing books about them. His latest book is called The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life. Jacobs entered puzzle competitions, explored the psychology of puzzles, and visited with famous puzzle designers. As part of the book launch, Jacobs created a puzzle contest with a $10,000 prize. I can’t wait to win. — MF

Tutorials on maker components
The inventor Tim Hunkin released another season of his fantastic video tutorials introducing The Secret Life of Components, as in the motors, linkages, sensors and other parts you might use to build things. His hands-on knowledge is vast, and his BBC-perfected presentation skills are perfect for walking you through the plus and minuses of any part you ever might use. As fundamental as this information is, it is very hard to find, even on YouTube. — KK

The Technium

103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known

Today is my birthday. I turn 70. I've learned a few things so far that might be helpful to others. For the past few years, I've jotted down bits of unsolicited advice each year and much to my surprise I have more to add this year. So here is my birthday gift to you all: 103 bits of wisdom I wish I had known when I was young.

(Previous years here and here.)

• About 99% of the time, the right time is right now.

• No one is as impressed with your possessions as you are.

• Dont ever work for someone you dont want to become.

• Cultivate 12 people who love you, because they are worth more than 12 million people who like you.

• Dont keep making the same mistakes; try to make new mistakes.

• If you stop to listen to a musician or street performer for more than a minute, you owe them a dollar.

• Anything you say before the word “but” does not count.

• When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.

• Courtesy costs nothing. Lower the toilet seat after use. Let the people in the elevator exit before you enter. Return shopping carts to their designated areas. When you borrow something, return it better shape (filled up, cleaned) than when you got it.

• Whenever there is an argument between two sides, find the third side.

• Efficiency is highly overrated; Goofing off is highly underrated. Regularly scheduled sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, breaks, aimless walks and time off are essential for top performance of any kind. The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic.

• When you lead, your real job is to create more leaders, not more followers.

• Criticize in private, praise in public.

• Life lessons will be presented to you in the order they are needed. Everything you need to master the lesson is within you. Once you have truly learned a lesson, you will be presented with the next one. If you are alive, that means you still have lessons to learn.

• It is the duty of a student to get everything out of a teacher, and the duty of a teacher to get everything out of a student.

• If winning becomes too important in a game, change the rules to make it more fun. Changing rules can become the new game.

• Ask funders for money, and they’ll give you advice; but ask for advice and they’ll give you money.

• Productivity is often a distraction. Don’t aim for better ways to get through your tasks as quickly as possible, rather aim for better tasks that you never want to stop doing.

• Immediately pay what you owe to vendors, workers, contractors. They will go out of their way to work with you first next time.

• The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I dont need to write this down because I will remember it.”

• Your growth as a conscious being is measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have.

• Speak confidently as if you are right, but listen carefully as if you are wrong.

• Handy measure: the distance between your fingertips of your outstretched arms at shoulder level is your height.

• The consistency of your endeavors (exercise, companionship, work) is more important than the quantity. Nothing beats small things done every day, which is way more important than what you do occasionally.

• Making art is not selfish; it’s for the rest of us. If you don’t do your thing, you are cheating us.

• Never ask a woman if she is pregnant. Let her tell you if she is.

• Three things you need: The ability to not give up something till it works, the ability to give up something that does not work, and the trust in other people to help you distinguish between the two.

• When public speaking, pause frequently. Pause before you say something in a new way, pause after you have said something you believe is important, and pause as a relief to let listeners absorb details.

• There is no such thing as being “on time.” You are either late or you are early. Your choice.

• Ask anyone you admire: Their lucky breaks happened on a detour from their main goal. So embrace detours. Life is not a straight line for anyone.

• The best way to get a correct answer on the internet is to post an obviously wrong answer and wait for someone to correct you.

• You’ll get 10x better results by elevating good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior, especially in children and animals.

• Spend as much time crafting the subject line of an email as the message itself because the subject line is often the only thing people read.

• Don’t wait for the storm to pass; dance in the rain.

• When checking references for a job applicant, employers may be reluctant or prohibited from saying anything negative, so leave or send a message that says, “Get back to me if you highly recommend this applicant as super great.” If they don’t reply take that as a negative.

• Use a password manager: Safer, easier, better.

• Half the skill of being educated is learning what you can ignore.

• The advantage of a ridiculously ambitious goal is that it sets the bar very high so even in failure it may be a success measured by the ordinary.

• A great way to understand yourself is to seriously reflect on everything you find irritating in others.

• Keep all your things visible in a hotel room, not in drawers, and all gathered into one spot. That way you’ll never leave anything behind. If you need to have something like a charger off to the side, place a couple of other large items next to it, because you are less likely to leave 3 items behind than just one.

• Denying or deflecting a compliment is rude. Accept it with thanks, even if you believe it is not deserved.

• Always read the plaque next to the monument.

• When you have some success, the feeling of being an imposter can be real. Who am I fooling? But when you create things that only you — with your unique talents and experience — can do, then you are absolutely not an imposter. You are the ordained. It is your duty to work on things that only you can do.

• What you do on your bad days matters more than what you do on your good days.

• Make stuff that is good for people to have.

• When you open paint, even a tiny bit, it will always find its way to your clothes no matter how careful you are. Dress accordingly.

• To keep young kids behaving on a car road trip, have a bag of their favorite candy and throw a piece out the window each time they misbehave.

• You cannot get smart people to work extremely hard just for money.

• When you don’t know how much to pay someone for a particular task, ask them “what would be fair” and their answer usually is.

• 90% of everything is crap. If you think you don’t like opera, romance novels, TikTok, country music, vegan food, NFTs, keep trying to see if you can find the 10% that is not crap.

• You will be judged on how well you treat those who can do nothing for you.

• We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade. Miraculous things can be accomplished if you give it ten years. A long game will compound small gains to overcome even big mistakes.

• Thank a teacher who changed your life.

• You cant reason someone out of a notion that they didn't reason themselves into.

• Your best job will be one that you were unqualified for because it stretches you. In fact only apply to jobs you are unqualified for.

• Buy used books. They have the same words as the new ones. Also libraries.

• You can be whatever you want, so be the person who ends meetings early.

• A wise man said, “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?” At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?” At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

• Take the stairs.

• What you actually pay for something is at least twice the listed price because of the energy, time, money needed to set it up, learn, maintain, repair, and dispose of at the end. Not all prices appear on labels. Actual costs are 2x listed prices.

• When you arrive at your room in a hotel, locate the emergency exits. It only takes a minute.

• The only productive way to answer “what should I do now?” is to first tackle the question of “who should I become?”

• Average returns sustained over an above-average period of time yield extraordinary results. Buy and hold.

• It’s thrilling to be extremely polite to rude strangers.

• It’s possible that a not-so smart person, who can communicate well, can do much better than a super smart person who can’t communicate well. That is good news because it is much easier to improve your communication skills than your intelligence.

• Getting cheated occasionally is the small price for trusting the best of everyone, because when you trust the best in others, they generally treat you best.

• Art is whatever you can get away with.

• For the best results with your children, spend only half the money you think you should, but double the time with them.

• Purchase the most recent tourist guidebook to your home town or region. You’ll learn a lot by playing the tourist once a year.

• Dont wait in line to eat something famous. It is rarely worth the wait.

• To rapidly reveal the true character of a person you just met, move them onto an abysmally slow internet connection. Observe.

• Prescription for popular success: do something strange. Make a habit of your weird.

• Be a pro. Back up your back up. Have at least one physical backup and one backup in the cloud. Have more than one of each. How much would you pay to retrieve all your data, photos, notes, if you lost them? Backups are cheap compared to regrets.

• Dont believe everything you think you believe.

• To signal an emergency, use the rule of three; 3 shouts, 3 horn blasts, or 3 whistles.

• At a restaurant do you order what you know is great, or do you try something new? Do you make what you know will sell or try something new? Do you keep dating new folks or try to commit to someone you already met? The optimal balance for exploring new things vs exploiting them once found is: 1/3. Spend 1/3 of your time on exploring and 2/3 time on deepening. It is harder to devote time to exploring as you age because it seems unproductive, but aim for 1/3.

• Actual great opportunities do not have “Great Opportunities” in the subject line.

• When introduced to someone make eye contact and count to 4. You’ll both remember each other.

• Take note if you find yourself wondering “Where is my good knife? Or, where is my good pen?" That means you have bad ones. Get rid of those.

• When you are stuck, explain your problem to others. Often simply laying out a problem will present a solution. Make “explaining the problem” part of your troubleshooting process.

• When buying a garden hose, an extension cord, or a ladder, get one substantially longer than you think you need. It’ll be the right size.

• Dont bother fighting the old; just build the new.

• Your group can achieve great things way beyond your means simply by showing people that they are appreciated.

• When someone tells you about the peak year of human history, the period of time when things were good before things went downhill, it will always be the years of when they were 10 years old — which is the peak of any human’s existence.

• You are as big as the things that make you angry.

• When speaking to an audience it's better to fix your gaze on a few people than to “spray” your gaze across the room. Your eyes telegraph to others whether you really believe what you are saying.

• Habit is far more dependable than inspiration. Make progress by making habits. Dont focus on getting into shape. Focus on becoming the kind of person who never misses a workout.

• When negotiating, dont aim for a bigger piece of the pie; aim to create a bigger pie.

• If you repeated what you did today 365 more times will you be where you want to be next year?

• You see only 2% of another person, and they see only 2% of you. Attune yourselves to the hidden 98%.

• Your time and space are limited. Remove, give away, throw out things in your life that dont spark joy any longer in order to make room for those that do.

• Our descendants will achieve things that will amaze us, yet a portion of what they will create could have been made with today’s materials and tools if we had had the imagination. Think bigger.

• For a great payoff be especially curious about the things you are not interested in.

• Focus on directions rather than destinations. Who knows their destiny? But maintain the right direction and you’ll arrive at where you want to go.

• Every breakthrough is at first laughable and ridiculous. In fact if it did not start out laughable and ridiculous, it is not a breakthrough.

• If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.

• Copying others is a good way to start. Copying yourself is a disappointing way to end.

• The best time to negotiate your salary for a new job is the moment AFTER they say they want you, and not before. Then it becomes a game of chicken for each side to name an amount first, but it is to your advantage to get them to give a number before you do.

• Rather than steering your life to avoid surprises, aim directly for them.

• Dont purchase extra insurance if you are renting a car with a credit card.

• If your opinions on one subject can be predicted from your opinions on another, you may be in the grip of an ideology. When you truly think for yourself your conclusions will not be predictable.

• Aim to die broke. Give to your beneficiaries before you die; it’s more fun and useful. Spend it all. Your last check should go to the funeral home and it should bounce.

• The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished.


[German translation] [Other translations wanted]

The Technium

Weekly Links, 04/22/2022

Cool Tools

Making a Waxed Canvas Tool Roll

We’ve gotten a wonderful response to the Maker Update giveaway of my books (5 inscribed copies of Vol. 2 and a grand prize of Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and the Maker’s Notebook gift box). See the entries so far in the comments to this Maker Update video and add your own for a chance to win. I’ll be announcing the winners here in next week’s newsletter.

Making a Waxed Canvas Tool Roll

In this Becky Stern video, Becky shows how you can plan out, sew, and wax-treat a tool roll. She used cotton canvas for the project and includes a free pattern on her website so you can more easily make your own tool roll-ups. You don’t have to wax the roll-up, but it adds water resistance and more durability. Becky used impregnation wax that comes in a bar and is made of paraffin and beeswax. You can also make your own wax mixture and brush it on.

Bending G-Code to Make Nonplanar 3D Prints
The ever-clever Stefan of CNC Kitchen is at it again. He wanted to made a suction-cup, window-mounted ball run for his young daughter. But, how to 3D print the curved tubing needed for the run? In this video, he shows how he tweaked G-Code (the common CNC programming language) to create these curved pieces. To accomplish this, he wrote a small script using the Python programming language. Becomes Printables
Most people who have even a passing knowledge of 3D printing are likely familiar with Thingiverse, the 3D design files repository that grew up alongside the consumer 3D printer marketplace. After the site’s parent company, MakerBot, was bought by industrial 3D printer juggernaut, Stratasys, Thingiverse began losing some of its community spirit and pioneering charm. Ads started showing up, along with a lot of bad prints, and it has a long-in-the-tooth interface. Then, there was a massive user data breach. If only there was an alternative. There has been, for the past three years,, another file repository run by printer maker Prusa. But the name PrusaPrinters was confusing to consumers, many thinking that you had to own a Prusa printer to access and use the files stored there (you didn’t). So, has now relaunched under the clearer, more inclusive name, PrintablesThis video runs through the features on the site and they look pretty sweet.

10 Inexpensive Harbor Freight Tools You Need in Your Workshop
On these Reformation Woodshop videos (Part 1Part 2), Marcus runs through ten tools and shop consumables that he recommends from Harbor Freight. The key to getting real value from the Freight is knowing what products to pay attention to and which to avoid, so videos like these are always welcome. While Marcus is a woodworker, almost all of these suggestions apply to any workshop. He covers consumables, like paint brushes, shop rags, and gloves, casters and rubber tires, tarps (recommended for light-duty work only), toggle clamps, storage hooks, their surprisingly-decent and cheap ($59) tabletop belt sander, and outfeed stands.

Adam Savage on Post-Project Depression

In this “Ask Adam” segment on Tested, Adam answers a fascinating question about getting post-project depression. I’ve never heard this discussed before, but it’s a thing I’ve certainly experienced. Adam says he can get it, especially after big, all-consuming projects that have taxed a lot of mental and physical resources. I usually experience this kind of post-project flatness after finishing writing and editing a book. Such a project tends to take everything you’ve got. I find that having a new and exciting project already on deck can be a big help. Have you also experienced this? What do you do?

Must-Follow Makers on Instagram: Infinite Craftsman
I recently started following Thomas Baisch and his Infinite Craftsman account on Instagram. He regularly posted really clever shop hacks that he comes up with, often using 3D printed solutions. He makes a number of these inventions into small-run products that he sells on his website. Above is his glue donut, a ring that goes on your glue bottle, beneath the spout, allowing you to open it with one hand. Below is his solution for holding battery power packs on the wall. Many of his designs are super simple but oh-so-clever.


Shop Talk
Ross Hershberger: “Thanks for reminding me about fender washers. My suitcase usually holds 50-60 lbs of stuff because I carry extra tools in it. It’s difficult to find a reasonably priced bag that will withstand 80-90 flights a year, so I repair them when I can. This Samsonite has a good padded fabric handle that’s well designed to spread the load where it’s stitched into the body fabric. There’s no attachment to the thick plastic body underneath though. Repeated yanking by baggage handlers eventually caused the stitching to fail. Before it completely came apart, I decided to see if I could extend its life. Repaired with fender washers, this suitcase now has a few more flights left in it.”
Reid Fisher: “One recurring favorite tool of mine is a pair of locking forceps. They’re often good steel with sharp teeth on the tiny jaws, and they lock! Great for getting a tiny part into place where your fingers won’t fit, and you’d drop the part using regular rat nose pliers.”

Cool Tools

Manage attention magnets/Better glue sticks/Parapack

Recognizing the attention magnets in your life
From James Clear’s must-read 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter, this way of seeing with a new filter:
Look around your environment.
Rather than seeing items as objects, see them as magnets for your attention. Each object gently pulls a certain amount of your attention toward it.
Whenever you discard something, the tug of that object is released. You get some attention back.
— MF

Better glue sticks
Glue sticks are one of my favorite craft tools. Fast, cheap, versatile. But speciality glue sticks are even better. I use repositionable glue sticks so I can tweak the exact position; there is also wrinkle free glue sticks for thin materials, and for kids, there is disappearing purple glue sticks which go on purple but dry clear so they can see exactly where they put the glue. — KK

Packable caps
My new favorite hat to wear hiking is this Parapack P-CAP — an adjustable, foldable hat that is so breathable and lightweight it feels like I’m wearing nothing on my head. I love that it looks better than my other sun hats, and is less bulky. I just keep this in my purse now, because it’s so small. You can also fold it and use it as a pouch. — CD

Pill bags for travel
I recently returned from a long trip to Portugal and I used these tiny sealable plastic bags to store and organize my supplements and prescription medications. I saved them so I can use them the next time I travel. — MF

Test your street knowledge is a 5 question game that uses OpenStreetMap data to test how well you know your local area. I’ve lived in San Jose, CA for almost 4 years now and still don’t know the lay of the land (I scored a 15%). I scored 87% in my hometown of Sacramento. — CD

Pirate comedy
Pirates invented early forms of democracy and organizations that were far more “modern” in shape than other work environments in the past. But what if there was a Gentleman Pirate who gave his pirates diversity training, casual Fridays, safe places, suggestion boxes, and encouraged them to express their artistic natures with art projects? That’s the parody of a very funny HBO comedy series “Our Flag Means Death.” The farcical absurdity is just background for a midlife crisis and workplace drama that is witty, heartfelt, refreshing, and touching. I binged all ten episodes in two sittings. — KK

Cool Tools

Tips on Working with Epoxy Clay

Maker Update and Gar’s Tips are doing a giveaway! We’ll be giving away 5 copies of my new book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, Vol 2 and a grand prize of Volume 1, Vol 2, and the beautiful 3rd edition gift box of The Maker’s Notebook (one of my projects while I was at Make:). All you have to do is go to this Maker Update episode on YouTube and leave a tip, tool, hack, whatever, in the comments. We’ll select the winners from there.

Tips on Working with Epoxy Clay
In this SteadyCraftin video, the always entertaining and informative CrafsMan offers up his favorite tips for working with epoxy clay. There are a few things I was aware of (and agree on), like using silicone sculpting tools and letting the clay firm up a bit before working it. But I had never heard of Safety Solvent (an alternative to using water to reduce the stickiness of epoxy clay) or why air-drying Apoxie is superior to Super Sculpey in many ways (doesn’t need to be baked, it’s easier to build upon, and it can be readily sanded). A miniatures sculptor from Games Workshop once told me that working with two-part epoxy putty was like sculpting with stale bubble gum. So, anything that can make that process easier is more than welcome.

How Safe is a SawStop Really?
Each year, more over 65,000 professional woodworkers and DIYers have an ugly encounter with a tablesaw. To address the dangers of these tools, a company called SawStop created a tablesaw that instantly seizes the blade if it comes into contact with your fingers or similar meaty bits. This saw has been a game-changer in shop safety. But how reliable is its safety mechanism? Responding to common critical questions online about the saw, Jonathan Katz-Moses did some testing and recording using super slo-mo photography (19,000 FPS HD). The results are amazing, even when using a heavy, multi-blade dado stack.

Maker Slang
Jargon, slang, and tech terms from the many worlds of making.

Dross – The solid impurities that float on the surface of low-melting-point metals like tin, lead, zinc, aluminum. Not to be confused with slag which is dross’ liquid sibling.

MIG like TIG – A type of MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding where you greatly reduce the feed-rate of the wire and weld slowly so that you build up a glob of metal that you can deposit into the “little row of dimes” that’s the hallmark of TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding.

Schmoo – Slang term for any liquid or gelatinous substance oozing out of something that you’re working on. “Release the schmoo!” Popularized by the potty-mouthed YouTube maker, AvE.

Using Plastic Razors on Resin Printer Screens
I’m a huge fan of plastic razor blades. First developed for the boating industry, these blades are great for removing stubborn stickers and labels and other gummy gunk from hard surfaces without marring them. So, I was thrilled to see this application for using them to remove cured resin from a 3D printer projection screen after a spill. I use my blade almost daily. I will now keep one handy by my recently-acquired Photon S printer.

TOYS! The iFixIt Precision Driver Set
Someone on Facebook recently asked about a screwdriver set for electronics and similar precision work. I rushed to recommend the iFixit set but several people had already beat me to it. This kit is so well thought out and designed, solidly built, with 64 bits of every configuration you’re likely to encounter: Slotted, Phillips, Torx, Torx Security, Square, Pentalobe, Hex, five nutdrivers, and more. There is also a flex extension shaft and the lid acts as a small parts sorting tray.

Book Recommendations
Reader Dale Grover was kind enough to send me a copy of his book, The Intentional Makerspace: Operations (co-written with Tom Root). The two run Maker Works, a 14,000 sq. ft. space in Ann Arbor, MI. Anyone who’s been involved in creating and maintaining a makerspace can tell you that there’s a staggering number of moving parts involved. And we’re not talking about the machines! So many challenges in getting, finding, and maintaining a physical space, recruiting and keeping members, teaching members how to use the tools, safety issues, organizing spaces that work well and encourage members to clean up and put their tools back, and on and on. This book thoughfully and methodically covers a lot of this (on both a meta and practical level). Most of the book is designed around the concept of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). They describe a SOP as similar to a recipe in cooking. A SOP identifies the issue being addressed, the ingredients required, and the steps to put it all together and achieve the desired goal. The Intentional Makerspace: Operations is largely a cookbook for operating a makerspace. Any makerspace/hackerspace/communal shop, large or small, will find lots of enticing and inspiring recipes in this book.

Shop Talk
When I published the piece “What’s the Deal with Flat Washers?” in the last newsletter, and included an image with a bunch of different washers, I knew I was in for some email. Several people, responding to the image not the article, ranted that lock washers don’t really work, one person pointed out that a water-proofing washer is better known as a gasket, and people sent messages about the many washers that weren’t in the picture. I knew I should’ve just used a picture of common flat washers!

Reader Reid Fisher wrote in to say:

“You might want to add that there are spring washers, which are intended to reduce wobble in a pivot. I realized this when taking apart a pair of hand garden pruning shears. The nut that adjusts the pivot has a spring washer, so the handles can still be moved, but without binding or wobble. They’re the ones that look like a regular thin washer, but are bent. A friend replaced a lost spring washer with a flat one and couldn’t get the handles to pivot right until we realized it needed a spring washer.”

On Cool Tools, KokoTheTalking Ape said (and others emailed with similar):

“Besides the ones listed, washers have another purpose, which is to protect materials from the twisting action of the fastener, which can cause one piece to twist and misalign, or perhaps distort or damage it (say when you’re screwing some canvas to a wood beam). Another purpose is to act as a standoff, to create space between the two pieces being joined.”

Steven Kelby Mclachlan:

“The only lock washers that actually work are made by Nordlock.”

Cool Tools

Best digital tools/Anger tip/Repair Wrap

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Best digital tools
Without wasting a single second of your time, this fast-paced video by Ali Abdaall describes the best productivity apps and tools available today. Here is the highly-evolved tool set that he uses to get a lot of things done very efficiently. Well researched, well presented. — KK

A tip for taming anger
I remember reading somewhere that customer service desks often times have a mirror mounted behind them so that customers can keep their cool when complaining. I thought of that when I read this quote from by Thich Nhat Hanh from Taming the Tiger Within: Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions:
Whenever anger comes up, take out a mirror and look at yourself. When you are angry, you are not very beautiful, you are not presentable. Hundreds of muscles on your face become very tense. Your face looks like a bomb ready to explode.
I don’t really pull out a mirror, but when I begin to feel my face get tense I immediately remind myself to relax my jaw and muscles and it helps to temper the hot emotions. — CD

Rock hard repair tape
The plastic strap on my Oculus Quest headset snapped, and I used Repair Wrap to fix it. It’s a roll of tape that comes sealed in a foil pouch. When you are ready to use it, open the pouch and dip the tape in water. Then wrap it aound the thing you want to repair. It cures in 10 minutes to form a rock-hard bond. — MF

Multi-port Hub
In my experience, you can’t have too many usb ports at your desktop. I have an Anker 13-port USB hub mounted on my desk. I can charge several devices at once but most of the ports are for data comms with the many peripherals I have connected to my PC, such as headset, mic, label printer, wacom tablets, CD player, etc. I already have all 13 slots filled and next time would go for a 16 port hub. — KK

How black and white is your thinking?
This 5-minute test asks 15 questions to measure your empathy, open-mindedness, flexibility and intellectual curiosity and visualizes your thinking using floating color blob. Your personality-color blob starts off as white but as you progress through the questions, you see it add and subtract colors and change in brightness and dullness. The test is called “Thinking in colour” and that’s exactly what it inspires me to do. — CD

Intro to AI art
I started playing around with AI generated art this week, using this guide from the Unlimited Dream Co. I’m blown away with what the software produces from a text prompt. Here’s a “plastic space deity” and an “alien astronaut helmet” I asked the AI to create for me. Be sure to check the Unlimited Dream Co.’s art, too. It’s incredible. — MF

The Technium

Weekly Links, 04/08/2022

The Technium

Dynamic Census

We filled out our census forms recently.

Taking a census every 10 years is better than never taking it, but in the future, say in 100 years, a census should be taken every day. We are perfectly capable of counting all people all the time. Everyone born should have an immovable ID from birth. One based on all the things we base our identity on: from our DNA, to our family ties, to what we look like, to our behavior. Some of those things change a little over time, but together all of them create the web of our identity. We can track this web in real time. We are technically capable of it. Some people will not want to be tracked every day, and that is fine. We don't need a political census on a daily change. That is to say, we don't need to count everyone every day. Even if we checked on whether someone was still alive every week, that is all we really need to know, and maybe even more information than we need for political purposes. The important point is we can count people any time we needed to, if we can easily identify them. We know how to do that now. So in 100 years, waiting till every decade to count people will seem very archaic.

Cool Tools

Weird-but-true facts/NoCry Gloves/Time hack

Thousands of weird-but-true facts
Samples from a monster-length Twitter thread of hard-to-believe facts:

“One of the favourite shades of paint used by Pre-Raphaelite painters, Mummy Brown, was made by adding ground up remains of Egyptian mummies.”
“Hippos were almost released in Louisiana as a way to control invasive plants and as a food source for people”
“There are about 150 million starlings in North America. They are all descended from 60 birds released in Central Park, by a guy whose motivation was to introduce them to America because they had been mentioned in Shakespeare.”
“The last guillotining in France occurred the year Star Wars first premiered.”

— MF

Knife-safe gloves
I wear cut-safety gloves when I am wood carving or using sharp bladed tools in my workshop. Many professional workers using knives all day wear similar gloves. These are made with HPPE, formerly called Kevlar, which is a soft fabric wound around steel, and is overall stronger then steel. It greatly reduces the chances of getting your hand / finger cut. Yet the gloves are not bulky at all, but are extremely flexible and comfortable, and can be washed easily. The brand I use are NoCry Gloves, which are $13 pair and have 13,000 reviews on Amazon. A pair last a long time in part because the gloves are ambidextrous and I only wear one at a time on my holding hand. — KK

How to take your time back
According to the Michelle Drouin, the behavioral scientist who wrote this article “The Time Hack Everyone Should Know,” the key to taking your time back is not a phone detox or monitoring your screen time, it is to remember we have the tool of choice (use, omit or substitute) and to have a plan of action ready the next time you reach for your phone.
There are two types of action: omission — carving out some intimate times (e.g., dinner) and intimate spaces (e.g., at night in bed with a partner) without your phone, and substitution — swapping passive time on your phone with something that has proven health benefits, like a call to a friend or a walk. Then, each time you interact with your phone, you’ll have three choices: use, omit, or substitute. Remember: Shifting in small ways can lead to big changes in our daily timeclock.
She’s right when she says, “Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you’re being sucked into your technologies. Instead, see your tech use for what it is: you knowing what you like, and you choosing to engage in it (at the cost of other opportunities).”
— CD

Biography of my mentor
I’ve worked with Stewart Brand for 40 years, and at nearly every single interaction I’ve learned something important from him. He is a true original, an OG of the first order, who has been at the forefront of countercultures starting with beatniks, then the hippies, and eventually the digital technologists, and beyond. Most know him because of his early Whole Earth Catalog bestseller, but his influence and wisdom go much wider and deeper. Indeed he had a remarkable ability to be present at the beginning of many significant American cultural movements, yet his influence has been unappreciated. To remedy this, legendary New York Times reporter John Markoff has written a compelling biography of Brand, called appropriately Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand. As much as possible Markoff weaves into the story of Brand’s unusual life, his insights, his original approach to creativity and invention, and the methods by which he was able to bend our culture. It’s an easy and fast read. Full disclosure: I am biased and also appear in the book. — KK

Swipe right on cute cats
This is just for fun: Tinder for Cats. I can easily spend all day swiping right on cute cats and rejecting others — even though they’re all cute of course! — CD

Bamboo toothbrushes
After some dental work I wanted to get some soft-bristled toothbrushes and found these Nuva Dent bamboo ones on Amazon. They’re cheaper than plastic brushes and the bristles are as gentle as I hoped. — MF

Cool Tools

What's the Deal with Flat Washers?

Happy Spring to you all! It’s a great time to get out there and make, repair, maintain.

Got a tip to share? Tool to recommend? A tall tale to tell us? A tip to bust? Please share with the class.

What's the Deal with Flat Washers?
For many a maker newbie, the use of flat washers in fastening might seem superfluous. Yes, you can assemble many things without using them, but washers are there for a reason. Here are their main uses:

Load distribution: Their most common use of a flat washer is increasing the size of the bearing surface that a threaded fastener would otherwise provide. The washer distributes the load around the fastener and can help prevent the stressing, splitting of softer materials, like wood.

Spacing: Washers are sometimes added to reduce the length of a fastener so that it can fit a given depth.

Absorbing vibration: Plastic, rubber, fiber, or similar materials are used for washers in assemblies prone to a lot of vibration. Washers help absorb that vibration.

Leak prevention: Washers are often used where water or other liquids could otherwise leak around the fastener. Like vibration-absorption, these washers are usually rubber or other soft, conforming material.

Cosmetics/finishing: Washers can also be used to create a desired look in the design of a finished piece.

An Easy, Minimalist Connector to a Power Tool Battery Pack
As BigClive points out in this video, there are lots of files on Thingiverse for printing out connector housings that can allow you to draw power from portable tool power packs. But many of them are overly complicated. So, Clive created these simple housings that let you attach spade connectors to both Parkside and Ryobi power packs. They only take minutes to print. Clive includes the OpenSCAD code for the two prints in the description and someone in the comments added the code for an improvement on the Ryobi print. Also, read the comments for a discussion on inline fusing.

Using UV Resin As "Glue" to Repair Resin Prints
In an episode of Punished Props (where Bill and Britt are 3D printing their own animal totem from the Inscryption video game), Britt shares a useful tip. If you have a piece of a resin 3D print break off, you can reattach it by applying resin like a glue and then hitting it with some UV light.

Using Painter's Tape to Cover the Insert Hole on a Tablesaw
Here’s a smart woodworking tip sent in by a viewer of Colin Knechts YouTube channel. If you’re cutting narrow strips of wood on a tablesaw that risk falling into the insert hole around the blade, cover the insert with painter’s tape (burnishing it down with something like a spoon). The tape will last for a good number of passes before it begins to fail.

Testing and Comparing Needle Nose Pliers
They say you get what you pay for. Not always. Sometimes, cheaper products can perform nearly or just as well as much-higher-priced brands. In the realm of tools, I always look to Todd of Project Farm to unearth these inexpensive but worthy gems. In this testing video, he looks at needle nose pliers from Klein Tools, Stanley, Knipex, and many other manufacturers. He tests for handle wobble, weight, grip strength, twisting force, tooth damage, cutting strength, and overall build quality. Surprisingly, in the end, the Kobalt pliers (at $11) performed the best, with the Klein Tools pliers (at $30) also performing well.

Tips Busters: Snapping Razor Knife Blades: CONFIRMED!

[caption id="attachment_39831" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Snapping off 1/4" with a pair of pliers. Snapping off 1/4" with a pair of pliers.[/caption]

Reader Sam Freeman has volunteered to be a Tips Buster. The first commonly-shared tip he wanted to test out claims that you can revive the cutting ability of a dull razor knife blade by snipping off ¼" or so of its tip. Here’s what Sam has to say:

Using a Milwaukee Fastback II, I cut through some heavy duty paperboard, using cheap Stanley blades. A new blade took two passes to cut through the material, and left sharp, clean edges on back. A worn blade took three passes and left gnarly, jagged edges behind. At first, I snipped off the tip with some wire cutters and tried again. The result? Three passes, and even worse looking edges. It turns out, I’d screwed up. The original article said to snap off a full ¼” with pliers, not cutters. So, I gave it another shot. Pliers worked exactly as advertised. The blade isn’t as good as new, but it left better edges than the older one and cut through in only two passes. So, if you are ever out of replacement blades, this method is worth a try.

[caption id="attachment_39830" align="aligncenter" width="600"]The resulting blade with dull tip removed. The resulting blade with dull tip removed.[/caption]

Buy My Books and Support This Newsletter

Thanks to all of my friends, family, and subscribers, the second volume of my book, Tips and Tales from the Workshop, has been the #1 New Release in at least 8 categories on Amazon and is in the Top 20 of several DIY categories. Do you have Volume 2 yet? How about Volume 1? If you read this newsletter and want to help it continue, buying my books is a great way to support my efforts. And, you’ll end up with great collections of tips that can help improve the way you interact with the made world. Everybody wins!
Cool Tools

Teeny Turner/USPS delivery days/Ebike shopping tips

Teeny Turner Screwdriver
This little Picquic screwdriver has 7 bits stored in the handle. I use it to fix eyeglasses, open battery cases, and repair other small items around the house. — MF

USPS Service Standard Maps
I needed to figure out how long it would take a stamped letter to reach the other side of the country and an initial google search buried this very helpful, color-coded “delivery days” map of the US. You can filter by originating zip code or the destination, as well as class of mail. You might never need this, but in the off chance that you do it’s useful to bookmark. — CD

Ebike shopping tips
Ebikes are a fantastic, but still underutilized, transportation option. Ryan Johnson wrote up the best roundup of buying advice for ebikes I’ve seen for anyone in the market for an ebike — and you should be! — KK

Nerdy tattoo designs
I don’t have a single tattoo. Not one. And I have no intention of getting one. But I follow this fantastic tattooist on Instagram because their designs are so delightful. Michele Volpi creates exquisitely detailed monochrome diagrams that are whimsical, elaborate, yet scientifically precise. My kind of thing. — KK

Ways to improve your life without trying
I love reading lists of ways to improve your life and even more so when they are virtually effortless ways. Here is a list of the Guardian’s 100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying. My favorite ones are:
22. Laugh shamelessly at your own jokes.
34. Go for a walk without your phone.
55. Learn the names of 10 trees.
60. Drop your shoulders.
78. Always book an extra day off after a holiday.
97. Listen to the albums you loved as a teenager.
— CD

High resolution public domain art
Artvee is a collection of tens of thousands of digitized paintings and illiustrations from museums around the world. According to the site, these images are “available for use for any purpose with no restrictions attached.” I especially like these typographic theater posters. — MF


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