Dangerous power adapter

From the this-is-a-terrible-idea-but-I’m-going-to-do-it-anyway department:

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I’m in Zürich this week visiting the Disney Research lab and I forgot to bring plug adapters for my Macbook. No problem, this is why I carry thick vague copper wire in my bag and check a multitool in my luggage.

Please don’t try this at home. Or in a hotel.

Cool Tools Interview

Mark Frauenfelder and Kevin Kelly at the super excellent Cool Tools site recently interviewed me for their terrific Cool Tools Show podcast. We talked about some tool-like I recommend, including a coffee roaster, and gym rings. Stay tuned for the bonus, unexpected tool question at the end.

As Mark said,

Over at Cool Tools we interviewed my good friend John Edgar Park, who is one of the most interesting people I know. When he is not combing the streets for street sweeper blades to turn into picklocks, or practicing impossible yoga positions, or roasting his own coffee, he’s doing secret things at the research wing of Disney Imagineering. Kevin Kelly and I asked him to tell us about some of his favorite tools, which you can learn about in this episode of the Cool Tools Show, and by reading the show notes (Why not subscribe to the podcast and never miss an episode?)

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Making a custom watch strap

My 1967 Omega Constellation has a fresh look. I made a custom strap for it that is sized to my wrist and non-adjustable. I’d seen similar designs before, but didn’t way to pay for something that looked so simple to make. It turned out to be pretty easy using a few specialized tools, hardware, and a thin scrap of leather. 

First, I cut the strip with a box cutter and straightedge.

Next, I used a small leather punch and mallet to make a clean hole for a screw-in button stud.

After measuring the strap on my wrist, I marked a spot for the button hole. I used a specialized tool that creates a slit and properly sized hole, when struck with a mallet.

Then, I cut a small strip of leather to fold over and hold the strap end. I punched two holes in its ends and stitched them with waxed thread. I’m really happy with the result.

       

Make a Light-up Magic Wand

The elementary school variety show producer (yes, producer — we take this seriously!) asked if I could build some lighted magic wand props for one of the acts. “Heck yes!,” I said. I love building props.

Here’s how I built them:

  1. Start with an LED flashlight for the end cap switch, handle, and battery holder. Doing these things from scratch can be a pain. $5 lights worked great, you may be able to go cheaper.
  2. Remove the bulb, solder in leads and wires to extend the length, solder on a nice, fat 10mm LED.
  3. Use three street sweeper blades to form the wand structure, zip tie and tape them to the barrel.
  4. Heat shrink tubing to hold the LED nicely to the sweeper blade tips.
  5. Wrap the wand in masking paper. Glue the paper on, being sure to wrinkle and crease it like gnarled wood.
  6. Stain with wood stain, paint it, dry brush lighter colors at the peaks to increase the read on stage to the audience. Polyurethane the paper.

Here’s a visual guide to my method. UPDATE: The wands survived dress rehearsal and three performances! See bottom of this post for a photo of the young wizards in action.

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Mesh strainer repair

Here’s another in my ongoing series: John Repairs Stuff With Sugru.

I bought this colander over twenty years ago, and I am fond of it. The mesh developed a couple of tears in it, so I patched them up. My one regret on this fix is my color choice — out of the corner of my eye it looks like some egg noodles are stuck in there. I may cover them over with a thin layer of red at some point.

Note: Sugru isn’t officially qualified as food safe; please don’t poison yourself and then yell at me.
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