Watch this guy put things back together

My sister texted me and told me to watch the YouTube series called The Reassembler. I was 7 minutes into an episode when I texted her back: “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on YouTube.” I don’t even think I was exaggerating. Each episode starts off with host James May in a workshop, standing over components of something that has been taken apart (like a lawnmower, an electric guitar, or a model train set). He then puts it back together, narrating as he does so. As he says in the introduction, “it is only when these objects are laid out in hundreds of bits and then slowly reassembled that you can truly understand and appreciate how they work and just how ingenious they are.” — MF

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
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 other week. If you like Recomendo, it’s worth your time to check them out. — MF

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Maker tips

Every week Gareth Branwyn gathers the best workshop and maker tips he finds online and posts them on the Tips 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

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
IKEA as platform

People have been hacking Ikea furniture forever, customizing and upgrading its modular units. Now Ikea has become a platform that highend designers create skins for. You buy the economical guts of an Ikea kitchen, shelving, or a sofa, and then apply new doors, handles, countertops, or 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

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Get PDF first

Owner manuals and installation guides contain far more information about a product than either the sales brochure, the online descriptions, or even Amazon reviews. The manual will have exact dimensions, all the parts, and caveats about what it can’t do. So my rule of thumb these days is to always download the product’s manual before I purchase the item. Impossible in the old preinternet days, it’s a no-brainer today. It has saved me many times. Regrettably, not 100% of products have PDFs that are findable, but the better products do. — KK

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Damage-free hanging

I use these neat hooks from 3M when I want to hang something on a surface I don’t want to damage, either a stucco wall, or a hotel room, or for a temporary hanging on a wood surface. Command Hangers employ an innovative glue strip to hold and release. The strip will securely hold the hanger for as long as you like (difficult to pull off), but will remove itself entirely, and easily, without marks or damage to paint at the end, using an ingenious particular physical pull. Hard to explain but it really works. I find they hold more than they specify. Command hooks come in all kinds of sizes, many styles, and reusable, too. — KK

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Small parts storage

My preferred system for storing lots of small parts (screws, Legos) in my workshop or studio is a multi-bin case. Many brands (Sortimo, Stanley, Amazon) made these at different price points but the form is similar. The clear lid of the flat case opens to a grid of different sized bins, which can be moved around to suit the contents. The cheapest ones, good enough for me, are 20-bin Storage Cases from Harbor Freight for $9. I have 20 of these trays stacked in a rack. — KK

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Maker space 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

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Workshop tip

When mixing epoxies, resins, goops, paints, and 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, the Norpro Mini Pinch Cups. — KK

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
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. Now that I have one, I use it all the time. There are several makes. I use a Dewalt right angle ($21), because I have Dewalt tools, but it’ll work on any brand driver. — KK

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Long-nosed precision marker

In my workshop I use a Dixon needle-nosed marker for maximum accuracy. This is like a wire-thin sharpie that can reach deep into holes or tug close along edges to make a thin indelible line or dot. The handle is fat for your grip, but the business end is only 2mm wide and several inches long (like a hummingbird beak) making it perfect for precision marks on fabric, plastics, metals and wood. This Dixon is a slightly cheaper version of a similar Pica brand marker recommended by Adam Savage. — KK

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Best tape measure 

I’ve used many different tape measures over my four decades of making things. My go-to measurer for the past 5 years has been a 25-foot Stanley Fatmax. It is comfy to hold, and not too big for my small hands. 25 feet is plenty for most jobs in the home or workshop, and best of all, because of its wide curved width, it will extend 10 feet straight out on its own. Reasonably priced. – KK 

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
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 

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Pro-quality tire plug kit 

My car tire had a dry-wall screw in it. I bought a cheap tire plug repair kit at the local Pep Boys for about $12. It was hard to use because I had to apply a lot of force to the plastic handle and it hurt my hand. A month later I found another screw in my tire. I left the screw in until I ordered this heavy duty $27 tire plug repair kit. The all metal handles were a pleasure to use. The kit comes with a lot of useful extra tools and parts. Buy one today and you’ll be happy you did when you need it. — MF 

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
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 

WorkshopClaudia Dawson
Instant bond 

I never had much luck using superglue. It really wasn’t instant, 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 name doesn’t matter much) but it is so useful I now get the combination of glue+accelerator in larger quantities. — KK 

WorkshopClaudia Dawson