Decorating Tip for Engineers

Label MakerDespite inevitable head-shaking and ‘tsk-tsk’ noises from liberal-arts majors, use your handy label-maker to ‘decorate’ the front of electronic/audio devices with the model number (and optionally the serial number), like any practical person would. I realize it’s not pretty, but after banging your head against the wall with a flashlight and a mirror trying the read the damned thing, the practical balance (feng shui, even!) of the situation will become more apparent. Use clear labels and small fonts for extra ‘hero’ points (if your label maker is fancy enough).

If you don’t have a label-maker (and most geeks should), a piece of tape and a marker will work, or perhaps even try your calligraphy skills with a contrasting paint pen.

I realize device manufacturers often use the same case for different model numbers, so printing it on the case isn’t practical; but an optional, tastefully printed label included in the documentation would be a nice extra touch, especially for audio/visual/data/computer equipment and the like that’s often tied down with wire ties and cords. I’d look for/install it during my equipment installations.

Leatherman Fork Attachment

Leatherman Charge Fork Accessory

Leatherman Fork Attachment

Leatherman Fork Attachment

I have a Leatherman Charge, which has a removable pocket clip/lanyard ring. (Mine is the TTI model with titanium scales and S30V blade steel, but this should work with any model Leatherman with a similar removable pocket clip/lanyard ring.) One accessory my Leatherman is missing is a fork, so I used some nerd-time to add one to it, in case I run into any emergency fine-dining scenarios.

Note: this isn’t a modification to the knife. This is simply a modified stainless steel fork attachment that snaps into the pocket-clip/lanyard ring mechanism. It does not fold into the knife. My knife case has a small pocket for accessory driver bits, and the fork attachment slides down into it nicely.

The first thing to do is obtain a fork from your local flatware purveyor (~$1/dozen at Goodwill). It needs to be thin enough to fit in the pocket clip retention slot (approximately 3/32 inch or 1.5 mm) and have enough steel at the base of the tines to cut the retention profile. While my finished fork has three tines, the original fork it was cut from had four tines.

Use the lanyard ring as a pattern.

Use the lanyard ring as a pattern.

Flatten your fork with a hammer (pad it to prevent scratches) and use the lanyard ring as a guide to trace the outline to be cut out (I just used a permanent marker [‘Sharpie’]). I situated it towards one side, since I wanted a smaller-profile fork with only three tines. I used a center punch to locate the center of the bottom, rounded part (by eye) and drilled it out (it’s roughly 7/32 inch/6mm), used padded jaws in my bench vise to hold the fork and cut the majority of the pattern with a rotary tool (Dremel) cut-off wheel. (Wear safety glasses with those things! They often shatter like glass at ~50,000 RPM!) Once roughed out, I used metal files (flat, rat-tail and needle files) to finish it to the proper shape, constantly comparing it to the profile of the lanyard ring to make sure everything was in alignment and against the Leatherman to adjust its fit.

I then finished it off with sandpaper to smooth off any rough edges and finally a buffing with the rotary tool and some polishing compound.

It fits nicely. It’s not sturdy enough for rock-climbing, but it’ll get you through a bowl of ramen noodles in style!

Fork Attachment, knife open

Fork Attachment, knife open

Sew What? You Made a Tool!

A large sewing needle made from the handle of a piece of stainless flatware.

A large sewing needle made from the handle of a piece of stainless steel flatware.

One of the advantages of having opposable thumbs and knowing how to use tools is you can often use them to make more tools.

This ‘one-of-a-kind’ large needle used to be a piece of stainless steel flatware (a spoon or fork). I drilled the hole and elongated it with either a fret saw or a rotary tool and cleaned up the edges with files/sandpaper so there were no rough spots.

It’s hardly innovative as far as tools go, but I use it frequently as a sewing/knotting/lacing tool (I do quite a bit of rope crafts) as well as a general probe/poking tool.

Frugal tip for graphics tablet users

The replaceable tips in your stylus are about a buck each (5 for $5 from Wacom). They’re Wacom Nibsalso roughly 0.65 inch/1.65 mm in diameter, which happens to be the diameter of generic, round, nylon string-trimmer line (available at most home improvement stores).

Simply cut off a piece of string-trimmer line (measure against the old nib – they’re about an inch/25 mm long) and shape the tip to your preference with sandpaper or an emery board/nail file, and you have a replacement tip.  Better yet, cut off a piece twice as long as you need and shape both ends (it’s easier to hold), then cut it in half to make two nibs.

This probably works for pen tablet/phone styluses, as well.

If it fits a little loose, flame the end with a lighter/match to melt it slightly. If it’s too tight sand it slightly.

Here’s an example package of trimmer line from Amazon, so you’ll know what to look for.  Make sure you get the round kind, 0.65″/1.65 mm in diameter.

Redneck Tent Stakes

Gutter Nails/SpikesI’ve seen a lot of fancy (and not so fancy) tent stakes over the years, ranging from cheap alumin[i]um wires to titanium forged to plastic behemoths.  I’ve carved my share from wooden sticks and used buried rocks or limbs as deadman anchors, etc..

A darned good tent stake for cheap is an eight-inch alumin[i]um gutter nail, which is surprisingly strong and light.  I tie a loop of cord around the top to make them more versatile and easier to pull out of hard ground. (I use a prusik knot, but either a girth hitch or clove hitch would also work).

Most gutters are being installed with screws or other brackets, nowadays.  Home Depot still sells the nails, and they’re nine bucks for a pack of ten.  (You’ll find them near the gutters, not with the nails.)

Edenpure Ripoff

I have an “Edenpure Quartz Infrared Portable Heater” that I’ve just had to replace the damned bulbs in for the second year in a row.

Do not buy one of these. The bulbs are expensive and of such horrible quality, you’d almost think they were a planned failure point to generate a lot of profit.

Some of the bulbs aren’t even sealed!

Here’s some information about quartz heaters from Wikipedia.  I’m not linking to Edenpure, because I don’t think they deserve the traffic.

Function Over Form

Elasticized Trousers

Elasticized cargo pants to keep the critters at bay!

Take THAT, tailors of the world! I have a pair of military-style cargo trousers and the legs were too long. And even if they were the right length, they were too ‘bell-bottomy’

So I slit the seam on the inside of the hem and ran a doubled piece of wire through the hem and used that to pull elastic tent shock-cord through. I’d measured and marked the shock cord to my ankle, so I just matched the end to the mark, sewed it together and ran it back into the seam.

Shock cord is available in various diameters, everywhere.

Shock cord is available in various diameters, everywhere.

Now I have cargo pants that fit like sweat pants at the bottom to keep the bugs/spiders/snakes out!




A Plethora of Compasses

…Should that be compi? 😉 (No, it shouldn’t.)

Anyway, I have a similar natural sense of direction as a child who has just been thrown off of a rapidly spinning merry-go-round. Thus, I have several compasses. None of them are very fancy, but all of them point in the same general direction.

I wear an (extremely cheap) compass on my watchband, and it takes quite a bit of abuse. I recently twatted it on something and snapped it off. Which happens regularly enough that I have replacements.

Orienteering CupI also frequently drink (soda, coffee, whatever) out of a stainless steel ‘commuter cup’ with a little thumb rest on top of the handle that just happened to be the same width as the compass. A little sanding of the back of the compass button to get the ‘nubs’ off and some general-purpose adhesive, and I’ve enhanced my navigational convenience.


Wrist CompassesIf you’d like some inexpensive watch compasses, here’s a pack of four for $5.45 on Amazon. These are even liquid filled, which is nice for dampening their motion and keeping them from rattling on your wrist. I’ve just ordered a package. They’re also nice for weaving into paracord ‘survival’ bracelets, if you’re into that sort of thing. These are an inch square, which is a little larger than my extremely cheap ones. (I think I found mine in the camping section at Walmart as some sort of clip-on carabiner/fob compass.)

Pink Camouflage

Pink CammoI once saw a lady wearing head-to-toe pink cammo gear. (There were bits that were green, but it was generally pink.) It wasn’t a fashion-inspired outfit or a casual thing, but actual hunting attire. I ignorantly asked whether she felt it was as effective as more ‘forest-like’ colors? She claimed it was, since deer are red/green color blind, and that it was also safer, since most humans aren’t red/green color blind. I mentally banked this elegant solution to not being shot at by humans in the woods.
This obviously wouldn’t work for the military, since they’re predominately trying to get missed by non-color-blind humans while also not being skewered by passing deer, but YAY for the ‘Art Of War’, and identifying/prioritizing your enemy.


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