A compendium of Recomendo




Bleaching bones

Any bones or skulls you collect can be whitened up without using chlorine bleach, which can weaken the bone. Use concentration hydrogen peroxide, which will fizz and brighten bone to a brilliant white very quickly. You need stronger stuff than the dilute peroxide found in drug stores. Head to the hair care aisle or hair product stores, and look for bottles of concentrated H2O2 in bottles labeled as Clairoxide or the like. — KK 

Blocked nozzle tip

Don’t throw away a can of spray paint when the nozzle is not working. If there is still paint inside you can easily swap the nozzle with another one from another can of paint that is working. Just pull it off and swap. Clean it when you are done by turning the can upside down and spraying till it is clear. Then you can return the nozzle to the original can if you want. To get really geeky, order extra nozzles online. — KK

Tool I use the most

Everyday, multiple times a day, I use my handy snap-blade utility box-cutter knife. It costs 2 dollars. It’s made of day-glo orange plastic. I use it like a pocket knife for opening and liberating all kinds of things, but it weighs almost nothing (no pocket wear), is easy to re-sharpen (snap off the end), instant to engage, quick to put back. They are so cheap and featherweight I keep one in all my pants, coats, bags. If I lose it I don’t care. I really miss having them when I travel by air (although I know from unintentional experience they are usually undetectable by the machines.) — KK

Maker tips

Every week Gareth Branwyn gathers the best workshop and maker tips he finds online and posts them on the Tip section of the Make website. There’s always a couple of good ones. Like last week: use the search term “grandfather’s” when searching Craigslist for bargains such as old tools, lumber, and other materials generated when someone clears out grandfather’s stuff. — KK

Most handy

A true miracle device in my workshop is a right-angle attachment to my power drill that lets me drill or screw in tight places. This small geared unit allows me to fit the drill or screw tip into narrow spaces I can’t get the length of the drill into. Just imagine being able to twist the tip of your driver 90 degrees to the side. Once I had one, I use it all the time. There are several makes. I use a Dewalt right angle ($24), because I have Dewalt tools, but it’ll work on any brand driver. There are also cheaper ones, Jocestyle, and more expensive ones, Milwaukee. — KK

Bootstrap workshop

I like this guy’s YouTube channel, the $50 Workshop. He’s bootstrapping a woodworking workshop starting with $50 worth of simple bought tools, and then using them to build his own table saw, drill press, etc. He makes things from scrap wood with his current tools to buy parts to make better tools. It’s encouraged me to make my own tools. — KK

IKEA as platform

People have been hacking Ikea furniture forever, customizing and upgrading its modular units. Now Ikea has become a platform that high-end designers create skins for. You buy the economical guts of an Ikea kitchen, shelving, or a sofa, and then apply new doors, or handles, countertops, fabrics created by legendary designers. This is a great New York Times summary article describing the ecosystem with links to the many companies that offer refined design layers for the Ikea platform. — KK

Emergency key

Although it is less common to lock yourself out of your car with electronic locks and ignition these days, it happens often enough that I keep a spare key hidden in our vehicles. Grant Thompson (King of Random) has a great YouTube tutorial on how to make a key-hold big enough for modern fob keys — the kind that contain a transponder that work at a distance. This is the crazy-strong magnet I used for our hidden key-holds. It is cheap insurance compared to a locksmith visit. — KK


Maker videos

Maker Update is a new YouTube show where host Donald Bell presents his favorite maker projects, kits, and tools. Episodes are less than 10 minutes and are well-produced. — MF

Handy key chain

I use a non-locking carabiner, kind of like this one, to hold all my key rings. I can quickly and easily unclip my excess keys while I’m driving to keep them from jangling. — CD

How to wrap cables

I made a 30-second video that shows how to wrap cables so that they stay wrapped, don’t get tangled, and are very easy to unwrap. — MF 

Goo Gone to go

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can buy a plastic dispenser bottle of 24 Goo Gone wipes for $4. It has a pleasant citrus smell and works like a charm to remove chewing gum jar labels, tree sap, sticker adhesive and more from most any surface. — MF

Workshop tip

When mixing epoxies, resins, goops, paints, glues, I always need to dispose of the gunked up mixing container afterwards. I try to hoard used take-out containers and paper cups yet run out. By far the best solution is to use flexible silicone mixing bowls. Nothing sticks. Turn them inside out to clean, and use again and again. They come in all sizes. You need only one each size. Since I mostly use small amounts of epoxy, I use the smallest silicone cup I could find, Norpro Mini Pinch Cups. — KK

Easy 3D Design Application

I got a great new 3D printer (the award-winning Original Prusa i3) and I’ve been using it to print useful things for around the house. The 3D design program I use is the free, web-based Tinkercad. It’s easy to get up-to-speed by watching a couple of brief introductory videos. I’m going to design a plastic ukulele with it. — MF

Instant bond

I never had much luck using superglue. It really wasn’t instant and it didn’t seem to bond tightly, and I’d get it all over my fingers. The trade secret to using superglue (which all serious model-makers seem to know) is to use an accelerator with it. You spray the glued joint with this catalyst solvent and it cures the glue instantly. Or you can spray one half of the joint with the accelerator and when it touches the other half with the glue it bonds instantly. Yes! I got a small spray bottle of accelerator (the brand doesn’t matter much) but it is so useful I now get the combination of glue+accelerator in larger quantities. — KK

Label lifter

I use Goo Gone to remove stickers from glass and plastic, but when I need to remove a label from a book cover or cardboard, the Scotty Peeler Label and Sticker Remover does the trick. The flat tapered edge fits between a label and the surface and, if you work slowly and carefully, will remove the label without marring the surface of your book or other item. — MF

Cheap mobile home

For generations hipsters have been retro-fitting vans into mobile homes. Once they were VW vans; today they are Dodge Sprinter vans. The best source I’ve come across for tutorials on how to remodel a used cargo van into a roaming house is a YouTube channel by Dylan Maga. Maga collects diverse videos of hundreds of regular folks building their vans and tiny homes in great and satisfying detail. — KK

Garage parking aid

There’s probably a simple DIY substitute for the AccuPark Vehicle Parking Aid, but I was happy to pay $11 for it. I adhered this yellow plastic mini speed bump to the garage floor using the attached double-side tape. We can now drive our electric car right up to the optimum spot to plug in the charger port. — MF


King of Random

I’m a big fan of YouTube tutorials by folks who make things. One of the best YouTube channels for cool and unusual doable (by average person) projects is Grant Thompson’s King of Random. He has a well-deserved following of 7.5 million subscribers. His detailed instructions are impeccably researched, his build details clever yet totally reliable, and his project designs extremely fun and even “dangerous” in a good way. His videos are blueprints for projects but also teach me how to do my own. — KK

Hot glue tips

I derive great enjoyment and instruction from watching YouTube videos of Jimmy DiResta making stuff. All kinds of things from knives, to tables, to weird art. He is a master general-purpose craftsman, and with few words, he lets his actions speak. When he gives tips, he is awesome. For a great example, witness his Hot Glue Tips. – KK

Hand protection

I have a supply of nitrile gloves on hand. I wear them to prevent my hands from getting dirty, like when handling rat traps or greasing the wheels on my garage door. I also use them to keep my hands from smearing nice things, like high quality art paper for my wide-format printer. Two hundred ambidextrous gloves cost $13.50 on Amazon. (Tip: some tasks require just one glove.) — MF

Best work surface

I have a large self-healing mat on my workbench, and I have smaller cutting mats I lay on a table if I am working. The non-skid surface keeps parts and pieces stationary, while the cushion prevents dings in the table top beneath. And of course, the self-healing mat is ideal for cutting fabrics, paper, etc. with razors and blades. Also protects from spills better than cardboard. It is easy to clean up: just tilt and wipe. It’s become my default surface for any work. Get the largest size you can. At the minimum, an 18 x 24 inch mat covers well and yet is portable and easy to store. — KK

Better than sandpaper

I’ve started whittling spoons again and I recently discovered flexible sanding sheets made by 3M. I’ll never use sandpaper again. These sheets are made from some kind of semi-stretchy plastic that makes it very easy to get the grit into tight spots (like the hollow of a spoon). They last much longer than sandpaper, too. — MF

Small parts storage

My daughter and I have converted part of the family room into a maker space. We needed something to hold and organize lots of small parts, and that didn’t eat up a lot of tabletop space. This $28 cabinet with 44 drawers was just what we wanted. It’s tall, but some double-sided tape on the bottom has anchored it to the table to prevent tipping over. — MF

One-minute tool reviews

Recomendo is produced by a tiny team of people who are passionate about tools. In addition to this newsletter, we have a website called Cool Tools with thousands of reviews of useful tools, and a new YouTube channel with brief hands-on video reviews every week. If you like Recomendo, it’s worth your time to check them out. — MF

Dirt cheap magnification:

I’ve sung the praises of this 40x lighted hand held magnifier. It’s $1.90, including shipping, on Amazon. I splurged and bought three. I can now read the numbers on tiny capacitors, inspect splinters in great detail, and check my kid’s head for louse nits. Uses 3AAA batteries (not included) — MF

Woodworking DIY channel

April Wilkerson is a woodworker and her YouTube channel is filled with her projects, like a chicken coop, a multipurpose garage storage station, a cedar fence, a walking cane, and more. She’s great at showing and explaining her work, and letting you see her mistakes and workarounds, which is very valuable. — MF

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