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Yesterday’s post on pyrography inspired me to do some research and get back into it, so I naturally looked to see what techniques others practice. I found this video of Juan Ricardo Jiménez, an artisan from Paraguay, that both makes you feel inspired and think “whatever I come up with isn’t going to amount to much when this kind of work is running around out there.”

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Decades of work, training, mistakes, and masterworks have to flow under the bridge before this level of work is even possible. Especially with a stick heated by coals and the work being done balanced on his leg. The detail he pulls from the spear-shaped head of the iron is amazing.

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Fire and Wood: My Grandfather’s Hands [YouTube]

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When I was a kid, some smartass relative snuck a woodburning kit into my birthday presents — a kit of low quality and high difficulty combined with my complete lack of patience was not to bode well. Many might remember the kit: it came with a ton of little wood pieces and some leather you could burn on (which never worked out for me), and there was a child grinning on the cover of the box like he’d just been to Disneyland or something. This was my memory of what I later learned is called pyrography. And few weeks ago, I discovered that particular set from when I was a kid was to woodburning what a model-T is to a modern-day automobile.

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Imagine a material that’s about the consistency of plasticene, but it’ll stick to most anything, and overnight it cures into a solid, rubber-like substance that’ll withstand temperatures from -60 to 180 degrees C. That’s Sugru — which gets its name from the Irish word for “play” — and it’s the invention of a product designer who wanted a way to quickly modify existing objects to better serve her needs. It’s also the darling of the square-glasses crowd right now, featured prominently in Boing Boing, Make, and so on. But replace the pop-talk term “hack” with “modify” and you’ve still got what looks like a pretty valuable material in your arsenal.

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As my offspring steadily advances through her beginning stages of existence, I scour toy aisles with the eye of a father. Previously drooling on Technics Lego sets with motors and gears, now I fearfully eye Barbie dolls and shudder at the thought of her and her freeloading friends scattered about my living room floor. Nevertheless, I search for things that will help my spawn along her journey. Recently I happened upon Real Construction’s tool set and find I’m rather conflicted about it.

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I’ve been addicted to the Woodsculpting show on DIY for the last few weeks. After a few episodes I decided that I would try my hand at carving something myself, so I did what I always do in such cases — I went to my dad’s place. He always has something interesting lying about and this case was no exception. I returned home with a knurly stick with the intention of making a cane or short walking stick.

I have never carved wood before. A soap dog in Cub Scouts and some clay modeling experience were the only things in my past to give any kind of direction. Soap, of course, carves nothing like wood, and clay is an additive process which was the exact reverse of what I was going to do. But dad said you can’t screw this up; the wood will tell you what’s under there and you’ll know what to do.

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Shaping glass for stained glass projects is probably a task where you want dedicated equipment, so inland makes special grinders like the Wizling CG just for the task.

The Wizling’s motor spins at 3500 RPM and produces 16 oz-in of torque so it can use bits ranging in size from 1/8″ to 1″ in diameter or even beveling bits. Coolant is brought to the bit by a coolant feed sponge which draws water from the reservoir. A 9″ x 10″ open-grid, reversible work surface sits in the reservoir which is removable for cleaning.  Inland constructs most of the Wizling CG from injection molded plastic.

Pricing for the Wizling CG grinder hovers around $100.

Wizling CG [inland]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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Know how when you get totally in the zone while wrapping Christmas presents you can sometimes just slide the scissors along the wrapping paper to make the perfect straight cut without chopping? This inexpensive little tool from tape maker Scotch does the same thing — even when you’re out of the zone, slammed to get everything ready before the tyke wakes up at three a.m. Christmas “morning.”

What else is there to say? Scotch touts the gizmo’s “precision-ground stainless steel blade.” And it features a “built-in ribbon curler,” which means you can string ribbon along the side of it to make those cute little curls. But the bottom line is this: Get one of these and you’ll make straighter cuts faster.

Oh yeah, and it runs about $6. You can find it at most local office supply stores as well as online.

Gift Wrap Cutter [Scotch]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


You can carve an incredible face, but if you don’t get the eyes right, what’s the point? Used correctly, these American-made eye punches from U.J. Ramelson will give you perfect eyes every time.

U.J. Ramelson makes two types of eye punches: round and oval. You use the round punches to create human eyes and the oval punches to form animal eyes. To make round eyes you position the properly sized punch over the otherwise completed face and rotate it while pushing on the handle.  We’re not exactly sure how to use the oval punches properly.

They manufacture round punches in 3mm, 5mm, 7mm, 1/8″, 5/32″, 7/32″, 1/4″, and 9/32″ sizes with either palm or stub handles. Oval punches are also available in the same sizes with palm or stub handles, except one oval punch is 5.5mm instead of 5mm. All the punches measure approximately 6″ in length.

A single punch retail for $12 to $14.  You can also pick up a set of three round punches for $37 or a set of two oval punches for $26, including shipping and handling.

Eye Punches [U. J. Ramelson]
Round Set Via Amazon [What’s This?]
Oval Set Via Amazon [What’s This?]


When it comes to MacGyvering, the only thing better than duct tape — besides paper clips and gum — is superglue.  Working in special effects shops, I picked up a trick to make this miracle tool even more versatile. Its short name is zip-kick or zip-kicker;  in fancy terms it’s a cyanoacrylate accelerator, and it allows you to build up large quantities of glue and have them harden very fast, so you can make fillets.

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If you solder many hours a week you don’t want to scrimp on your iron, but for an entry-level price the occasional user can get some nice features and accessories with this dual-temperature iron from Black & Decker.

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