posts tagged with the keyword ‘tools’


Screwdriver vinyl

My pal John McGeen posted a challenge for February. The challenge was to design a screwdriver. He also said we should “Push the boundaries of what is possible”, and while I’m normally a hammer guy, I figured I’d try a screwdriver.

While John was busy making a real screwdriver I thought about the challenge, and at first I thought about designing a 3D model of a screwdriver, and then I thought about making a nice screwdriver shaped sign using a large piece of wood, and ultimately being overloaded with projects in February I ended up doing something different.

Craftsman Screwdrivers

I started this project by thinking about screwdrivers. The first screwdrivers I ever used when I was a kid belonged to my dad. He had nice Craftsman tools. I remember him telling me that Craftsman had a lifetime warranty on their tools, and if you ever broke one, they would replace it. I still have a few Craftsman screwdrivers, but over the years I seem to have collected many other brands. None of them are probably the same quality of the old Craftsman tools, and none of them hold a memory for me like the Craftsman do.

I found a photo of some Craftsman screwdrivers and used them as a basis for tracing the outline I wanted for my silhouette.

Screwdriver with text

Once I had my screwdriver shape drawn out in Inkscape I added the word CRAFT using the typeface Adobe Naskh Medium. I wanted a contrast from the original CRAFTSMAN type which was a simple sans-serif typeface. I also flipped the screwdriver horizontally so the handle was on the left.


Detail of the handle and the CRAFT text. I also colored my illustration green because I planned to use green vinyl, again as a contrast to the red and blue of the original Craftsman screwdrivers.


After the text was added I changed it to outlines and then exported it as a DXF file to load into the Silhouette Studio software to be cut.

Screwdriver Silhouette

In Silhouette Studio I scaled it to an appropriate size for my laptop screen, which ended up being 242mm long (or 9.5″ for you non-Metric folks.)

Screwdriver vinyl

The vinyl was then cut and weeded. I also cut a small piece of transfer paper to attach to the vinyl to hold the islands from the text in place.

Screwdriver vinyl

Yes, it’s finally time to replace the Imperator Furiosa skeleton arm. It had a good run of more than six months before the change. (It took a Simple Green scrubbing to get the lid clean before I applied the screwdriver vinyl.)

Screwdriver vinyl

Here’s the 13″ MacBook Pro with the screwdriver vinyl applied. Overall I’m pleased with how it turned out and it feels good to have some new artwork on the old laptop.

I hope this is enough of a screwdriver for John’s new site GrindstoneMKE. I’m expecting that a bunch of different screwdrivers are going to show up there in the coming days. (I’m not sure if anyone besides me will have a vinyl screwdriver though!)

Screwdriver vinyl

Screwdriver vinyl


Lake Effect

Remember last year when the Chipstone Foundation issued the Tool at Hand Challenge and I created a piece called Plastic Sun? Well, during the event I was interviewed by WUWM and the story aired on Lake Effect this past weekend.

You can check out the archive and if you want to hear my segment, here’s an MP3.



3D Printing Accessories

So you’ve got a 3D Printer on your Xmas list, or somehow you’ve convinced your company that they need to get one before the end of 2012 because it’s a tool you’ll definitely need in 2013. (And yeah, it probably is!)

So the big question is… what else do you need?

You may not need any of these things, but these are the things I’ve found useful to have around during the past year of 3D printing. Now, keep in mind, I make a lot of functional parts. Some people just make pretty things, and the amount of extra stuff you need for “pretty” things versus “functional” things may vary. (And yes, I focused mainly on tools/items you need for prints, not the actual printer.)

Drill, Drill Bits, Drill Press
I often make parts with holes, or need to make holes in parts. Sometimes you’ll print a part with a hole that needs something inserted into it, either a bolt, or a rod, or a dowel, or screw, or something else round. Running a drill bit through the hole can help smooth things out and get the hole the right size. Sometimes you don’t even need a drill, but just the bit with a pair of pliers, or a vise-grip, or even a vise. Running the bit back and forth (without it turning) can clean up those edges in a hole.

On occasion I need to make the holes after I print something. In this case the drill press often comes in very handy. Sometimes you don’t know you need the holes, or you want more precise (or smaller) holes than you can get from printing. There’s no shame in drilling holes in a piece you printed. It’s just another tool in the process of making.

There’s also reamers and tappers, but I don’t use those, don’t have those, and won’t get into those.

Files, Sandpaper, X-ACTO Knives (and blades!)
Sometimes part just don’t fit right, or sometimes it’s better to make something a little too large and take of the extra. A set of files (flat and rounded) can do the job. The round ones can also come in handy like the drill bits mentioned above. Sandpaper also has its uses, though any of the abrasive tools will leave the surface looking a bit ugly. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder of course, and if it’s a part you don’t see, it probably doesn’t matter. As for the X-ACTO knife (and blades) they can be used to cut away edges, excess plastic, support material, etc. A good knife always comes in useful. I’ve also used a pair of diagonal cutters on occasion. A bit less precise than an X-ACTO knife, but sometimes it’s the right tool.

Acetone and/or Glue
Sometimes you just gotta stick one part to another part. I’ve heard people mention JB Weld, or Super Glue, but for sticking one piece of ABS plastic to another, I just use acetone. It’s messy, stinky, and tricky to work with, but it does a heck of a job. (For PLA I supposed I’d go with Super Glue, YMMV.)

Rubber Bands, Zip Ties, Tape
The rubber bands are often used in conjunction with the acetone, to hold parts together until dry. There are of course other uses for rubber bands. As for zip ties, if you built a Prusa, you’ve already got a bunch of them! Sometimes they’re the right tool for holding things together… and sometimes it’s tape. I prefer gaff tape myself, but masking tape can come in pretty handy.

What Else!?
I’m sure there’s plenty of other bits and pieces and tools and whatnot that I’ve forgotten (a Dremel tool perhaps?) but I figured this was a good list to get started.


Maker Business - The Real Costs

You know me, I’ve always got more to say… I just wanted to touch on the real costs of making a thing.

In the olden days, when I primarily worked with software, there was an old saying “Linux is only free if your time has no value” and while it’s a slightly amusing phrase, there maybe some truth to it. Maybe. If you’re a Linux fan, the saying may come across as an insult. Sure, sometimes working with Linux feels a lot like yak shaving. When you need to install this library to install that library to install some other library to install the software you really wanted to install… you get the idea. (Linux has gotten much better at this in the last few years though, so much of these issues have gone away.)

With software, it’s (almost) all about the time you spend on it. If you’ve got a computer, you can develop software. Most of the tools are free, or low-cost (depending on the platform) and if you got access to the Internet, or a library, you can learn, learn, learn and become a software developer. (I’ll answer the question of if you should in another post!)

So you’ve got a computer, you’ve got time, you’ve got a desire to learn… those can be the basic building blocks to make software. Go for it. Now, keep in mind that many developers (especially in the open source world) are doing what they do because they want to solve their own problems. I really wanted DokuWiki to be able to present a random page, and when I found a plugin that didn’t work, it was worth a few hours to fix it. I didn’t go as far as adopting the plugin, since it appears to have been orphaned, but I did drop it on GitHub so if someone really wants my work, they can have it. The sharing and collaboration is part of what I love about open source.

So let’s talk about hardware…

Hardware consists of real bits, not just zeros and ones, but actual physical things that are created. When I turned one of my projects into a product I did my best to make sure the final price was such that I would actually make money. Making money is important. Note that I didn’t say making LOTS and LOTS of money is important. I mean, it is to some people, but… whatever.

So you’ve got your maker business, and you want to treat customers (and potential customers) right, and this will cause you to make certain decisions. I remember talking to someone 9 months ago who ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and he pointed out to me that the first thing you need to do once you think you determine your costs, is to pad it. Remember that Kickstarter and Amazon each take a cut. The campaigner also said that he got one backer who had some terrible thing happen in his personal life, and asked if he could be refunded his pledge. If you do refund someone’s pledge, do you do the full amount or do you withhold what Kickstarter and Amazon take out of it?

Once you’re shipping actual products, if you’re not charging enough, how many returns does it take to make you start losing money? Things break during shipping, or get lost, or stolen, or just plain don’t work. It’s your job to determine how far you’ll go (and how much you’ll spend) to have satisfied customers.

And yeah, as I mentioned, physical things cost money, and when you are not big (as in, a small company, or someone just starting out) you probably have zero leverage to get any sort of discounts. This is where a lot of Kickstarter campaigns come in, as they involve raising enough money to do bulk purchases to drive down costs. It’s a good idea in some cases, but not all.

Even after you have all the physical things you need to assemble a product, there are at least two more thing you may need. Time (just like with software) and tools (which compare to a computer in the software example above.) In my case, to build my products I had some of the tools I needed, but I also had to buy some of them. If you don’t want to buy your own tools you can consider a makerspace or something like TechShop if you have one near you. As you continue to create your product you may end up spending more on tools, to do things better, faster, etc. This is another cost you may not think about. There’s also repairing and replacing tools, and consumables like blades, bits, paint, shipping materials, etc. and each one of those also takes some time. If you’re driving to a store, or even just ordering online, that’s time, and if your time is worth anything, you need to be compensated in some way.

I’m all about DIY, when it makes sense, and sometimes even when it doesn’t make sense, and that’s the key here. Sure, time is money, and yak shaving isn’t always the best thing to do, but sometimes you do it anyway. The good thing is, everyone has a different scale of what they are willing to do (or what they can do) and what they are willing to pay someone else to do.

I’ve gone off the rails a bit, and I guess I’ll need to do a 12.5 post to continue this. If it’s a bit rambling, forgive me, I’m still thinking through a lot of this.

(See all the posts in this series: Begin, Stock, Buy Smart, Basic Rules, No Leeway, Be Open, Community, Manufacturability, Marketing, Shipping, Lessons Learned.)


Last year my youngest daughter took up the trumpet, and shortly after she started she managed to get the mouthpiece stuck. This is pretty common, from what people in the know tell me. The problem is, the school used to have a mouthpiece removing tool, but it either broke, or it no longer has it, which means I had to take it in to the music store, get a loaner, wait for the repair, and then go pick it up and return the loaner… Hassle!

Pictured below is what a mouthpiece puller looks like. There’s also a more tooly/clampy version, which is the only kind I had seen at the time.

Mouthpiece Puller

The commercial version is $40 USD, and while taking her trumpet in for repairs is a pain, it’s free since we are on a rental agreement (for now anyway.)

After she got the mouthpiece stuck a second time (!?!?) I wondered if I could make my own tool, and it turns out I could.

DIY Mouthpiece Remover

It actually looks very similar to the commercial version above, even though I didn’t see that one until I started writing this post. I was using screws between wood for another project that needed an adjustable platform, and I borrowed the concept for this.

I originally put calipers on the mouthpiece to get the right size, and then drilled holes into the two pieces of scrap bamboo I had. At that point the project sat dormant, waiting for the mouthpiece to get stuck again… which it did a few days ago.

I ended up making some very inelegant rough cuts into the bamboo with my jigsaw, and got it so the thing would slide into place semi-tightly, and then started turning the wing-nuts to apply pressure and force the mouthpiece off. It was tricky! I didn’t want to apply too much (I am not a professional band instrument fixer!) but when I thought it was all the way, I tried twisting it slightly. I don’t think twisting it works at all, and in fact I think it’s the wrong thing to do, because of the possibility of damaging the instrument. (Again, I am not a professional!) So with just a little more turning of the wing-nuts, it popped off!

DIY Trumpet  Mouthpiece Puller

I was quite pleased, as this meant I didn’t have to make two trips to the music store, and my daughter would have a trumpet she could put back into the case again.

Two more things… If I designed a trumpet case, I’d add some sort of special door to the side so you can put the damn thing in the case when the mouthpiece is stuck. I know this might encourage people to not take out the mouthpiece, but it’s no fun carrying around a trumpet with a stuck mouthpiece and the case it won’t fit into.

The other thing… Every school that has a band program should have one of these. Heck, if there are at least 3 other kids playing trumpet, I’d see if they could all pony up $10 each to supply the school with one. Even if a band director couldn’t remove it every time, it would be a good first line of defense.

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