7 Quick Tips for Makers




About: Electromechanical Engineer, Product Designer, Maker. I love to make prototypes and teach others in the process. I graduated from UCF and spent two years working at NASA.

In this instructable, I'll show you 7 quick tips that will make your life as a maker a bit easier.

Step 1: Determining Carbon Content of Steel

In this video, I'll show you an easy way to determine the carbon content of your steel parts by observing the spark profiles. You can use this technique to find which of your parts would benefit from the case hardening or which of your scrap would make a good tool. This is not the most accurate way of determining the composition of the steel, but many welders use this technique when welding unknown materials and is a good test for most non-critical jobs. This technique is known as spark testing.

Step 2: Using a Solder Pot

A solder pot is one of those things that you didn't know you needed until you've tried one. Simply coat the wires with flux and submerge them into the solder pot. Depending on the temperature of your pot, you may need to hold the wires longer. My solder pot is fairly hot so soldering is pretty much instant. This is a huge time saver when tinning multiple wires at once.

Step 3: Google Patents

Next time you're researching topics for a new project, try using Google Patents to find useful information. Most design choices are thoroughly explained and can help you when designing a new product. You'll often find things you never thought of searching for. You'll discover what hurdles designers had to overcome and how they solves the problems.

Step 4: Salvaging Electronic Components

In this video, I'll show you 4 ways to remove electronic components from your circuit boards. Whether you're repairing boards or salvaging parts, it's a necessary skill. In a previous instructable here, I went into other techniques as well.

Links to the equipment shown in the video:

Solder Pot

Solder Sucker

Solder Wick

Desoldering Machine

Step 5: Prototyping Putty

In this video I'll show you how to prototype with putty.

Here are some materials I have tested.

Blu-Tack - This is by far the stickiest I have tried, but I would only use this for the intended purpose of sticking things like datasheets to the wall while you're working. It often leaves a residue and isn't very heat resistant.

Museum Putty - Used in museums to keep artifacts from falling over during earthquakes or general vibrations. It's less likely to leave a residue and is more heat resistant than Blu-Tack

Polymer Clay - This is my favorite for making quick prototype enclosures just to test proof of concept.

Adhesive Putty - This stuff does a poor job at holding thing to the wall, but it is great a holding components down before soldering. It's not too sticky and doesn't leave a residue. I use it to hold circuit boards to my workbench while testing as well as holding oscilloscope probes in place.

Step 6: Measuring High Voltages

In this video I'll show you how to measure voltages over 1000 volts as well as measure a few products with false voltage claims. The first the module I used in EPROM Man that claims to output 400,000 volts and the second is a stun gun that claims to output 25,000,000 volts. The same manufacturer also has another product with an advertised 51,000,000 volts. The high voltage probe in the video essentially a 1000:1 voltage divider with 10M ohm input from the meter and 9.99G ohm from the probe for 10G ohm total. The probe is designed to be used with multimeters with a 10M ohm input impedance.

Links to equipment used in the video:

40kV High Voltage Probe

High Voltage Generator

Stun Gun

Fluke 117 Multimeter

Step 7: Cleaning Contacts

In this video I'll show you a quick way to clean your electrical contacts and connections. Do not use sandpaper or wire brushes to clean contacts. Many contacts are just plated and you can ruin the surface if you use abrasive means of cleaning them.

Links to Equipment Used in Video:


Contact Cleaner

Solvent Pump

Tombow Eraser Pen

LCR Meter

Hi-polymer Eraser



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    8 Discussions


    3 years ago

    The idea to prototype with clay is going to save me soo much time. Thanks for the tips!

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Neato keen 'able. Good stuff, Maynard.

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Everyone of your instructables is so helpful and informative. You are seriously one of my favorite authors.

    1 reply
    Proto GConstructed

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks man, I really appreciate the support!


    3 years ago

    While the idea of a solder pot is interesting, the price is not. Same goes for most things in this post. It would be much more useful to, for example, post a description of how to make a solder pot.

    1 reply
    Proto GBrianEV

    Reply 3 years ago

    Then it wouldn't be a quick tip. I've already discussed that in a previous instructable and youtube video. Plus, there are plenty of cheaper solder pots available like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Solder-Soldering-Desoldering...

    Sure, an industrial unit wouldn't make sense for a single amateur/hobbyist but if you are tinning hundreds of wires for production, the price for the large units isn't an issue.