Favorite gadgets and goops, part 1: deconstructing

In the past year, I've tried out many tools and adhesives. There are a few that I couldn't live (craft) without. Here in part 1 of my favorites list, I list the gadgets I use to take rip, punch, cut, and tear things apart.

paper punch for Scrabble tiles1. 7/8" square paper punch -- this is my most treasured tool, rarest of rare. It punches paper in the (almost exact) right size for mounting atop Scrabble tile. 

It saves me hours of time and increases the quality of my work 4 or 5 times over. The best part is that I can see how the image will be cropped before I make any cuts. I bought this punch used, online. I haven't been able to find any new ones in the stores. I live in fear that something will happen to this one.

(A tip for keeping punches like this sharp -- when it starts getting dull and not cutting cleanly, make a few punches in a small sheet of aluminum foil.)
seam ripper
2. Seam ripper -- As a 9-year-old in a hurry, I scowled when my mom told me I had to rip out a seam. I thought I could learn to sew without making mistakes. Now I spend as much time ripping seams out as sewing them. I detach pockets from jeans and shirts, to put on bags. I liberate zippers and belt loops. I rip apart seams. Oh, yeah, and I undo mistakes. (This seam ripper is my 3rd in 6 months. I broke the others in overzealous ripping.)

box knife
3. Box cutter -- Until I met my husband, I had no idea how useful this gadget was. I use it to cut paper, cardboard, mat board, even duct tape. Paired with a metal ruler, a box cutter is the best way to cut a straight edge. The challenge (for me) is remembering to replace the blade before it gets too dull.

4. Paper cutter -- When I'm cutting reams of paper at once, using a box cutter takes too much time. That's when I reach for my paper cutter. To help keep track of where to cut, I put electrical tape vertically where the left edge of the paper needs to go. 
paper cutter

awl for punching holes5. Awl -- Awww, it's an awl. I need to punch holes in lots of different materials -- paper, cardboard, book covers, leather. The best tool I've found is the tough and pointy awl. (If the hole needs to be a precise size, then a round punch is a better idea.) Another reason I like my awl is that it also makes a great conductor's baton.

drill press
6. Drill press -- This is my first "big girl" tool. Once my husband showed me how to use it safely (must wear glasses or safety googles and real shoes, not flip flops), I was drilling holes in everything in sight. I use a 1/6" titanium bit to drill holes in Scrabble tiles and replace it whenever the tiles start to split. My husband made me a special "jig" (a pattern that helps me drill holes in the same place every time -- see these at the bottom of the photo.)

In Part 2, I'll share the goops and gadgets I use to put things back together. Do you have a favorite tool for tearing things apart?


  1. http://www2.fiskars.com/Products/Crafting/Punches/Squeeze-Punches

  2. Ah yes, but there is no 7/8" punch on the page! I've looked. It's a conspiracy!

  3. I haven't checked out all the Martha Stewart punches at Michaels but she's got lots of the bigger basic shapes like yours. Thanks for the tip on the aluminum foil for sharpening.

    If you go the the Sewing Expo up in Pullayup next March there's a booth with these nice asian folks who selling sewing tools - they've got the seam ripper of seam rippers - it's like a surgical tool - I bought one and love it.

  4. Sounds great! It would be fun to go next year w/you.


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