Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project #14 – Scary Movies – 10/24/2012

Adam, Norm, and Will discuss the many sub-genres that encompass horror movies, ranging from slasher flicks to Japanese horror to The Cabin In the Woods. They also discuss Joss Whedon’s feelings toward millennials.

Episode 144 – Things We’ve Lost – 10/18/2012

On this week’s episode, Will loses the thread, Norm loses his patience, and Gary explains why he loves the Bachelorette. All that, plus all the details on Microsoft’s Surface RT, skydiving from the stratosphere, extrasolar planets, and fake outtakes. Enjoy!

This Is Only a Test 144 – Things We’ve Lost – 10/18/2012

On this week’s episode, Will loses the thread, Norm loses his patience, and Gary explains why he loves the Bachelorette. All that, plus all the details on Microsoft’s Surface RT, skydiving from the stratosphere, extrasolar planets, iPad Mini rumors, and another edition of fake outtakes. Enjoy!

Episode 143 – Paint the Town – 10/11/2012

On this week’s show, Will has something in his beard, Joey’s sittin’ in a brand new chair, and Norm gets unusually excited. All that, plus the latest on the Redbull Stratos, Dragon’s first real mission, LG making the next Google Nexus phone, and another episode of fake outtakes. Enjoy

What’s In Adam’s Toolbox (Circa ILM Model-Making Days)

(Buy Adam’s Modelmaking Toolbox poster in our online store.)

Adam’s told the story of how he built his metal toolboxes back when he was at ILM, but what about the tools and supplies actually inside? Fortunately for us, he meticulously documented all the contents of these toolboxes and has shared that document with us. Along with the alphabetical inventory of the supplies he used to build models, Adam also provides annotations of what some of the tools are useful for and why he prefers them. For example, did you know that doctors’ tongue depressors are an essential modelmaking tool that serve multiple purposes?

The very extensive list begins below, and you can be sure that we’ll be featuring the toolboxes (and its contents) in a future visit to Adam’s cave.

  • 1″ square steel heavy square. Great for small construction, allows a square non sticky edge to use as a square guide, can be used with styrene, balsa, etc.
  • 12″ folding wooden and brass ruler. I keep this just because it’s beautiful.
  • 12″ steel straight edge
  • 36″ collapsable straight edge. Just a really cool straight edge, it’s like a tape measure but reverse sprung. This is the only one I’ve seen. I’m on the lookout for one with more clear numbers on it.
  • 3 way scale ruler. Has three sides, each with measurements in different scales.
  • 4-in-1 Screwdriver. These things strip like the dickens, but obviously, as space is a concern for me, so I buy one about every six months or so.
  • 4″ Square. I can’t seem to have enough squares in my toolbox, nothing reads to the eye faster than a line slightly out of true.
  • 6 piece micro screwdriver set, made my Wiha. These guys are expensive, but worth it, they make a full set of 7 sizes in both phillips and flathead, but small medium and large works well for me. They have tempered heads, and I haven’t had one strip on me yet. I’ve had many different types of mini screwdrivers, but these make a great case for buying the best once.
  • 6″ Steel rule. For measuring in those small places. For a couple of bucks, what can you lose.
  • Airbrush. I use a simple single-action airbrush for 99% of everything. I’ve pre-fitted it with the most common quick-connect, but I also have an adapter for the other most popular kind of quick connect just in case.
  • Airbrush bottles
  • Airbrush wrench
  • Airbrush tips
  • Allen wrench set. Another “must have” tool, I prefer the long neck ball end version, which allows for off-angle operation. English and Metric.
  • Angle Cutter. This cutter has a flat plate on the bottom, with angles marked on it and a tall guillotine blade on top that allows nice registration of things like styrene plastic.
  • Angle Finder, Steel. Basically a compass, with markings to delineate the angle, but I have 3 different kinds depending on where I’m trying to measure the angle.
  • Assortment of piano wire plant wire wired styrene. This stuff falls within the realm of being prepared for anything. Looking for just the right wire for a certain situation, I always cut an extra length or two and stick it in. One more thing I don’t have to go looking for.
  • Automatic Punch. This thing is great, for marking a starting divot for drilling precise holes, no hammer is necessary for this. You just press and it has a spring release inside that ‘tink’ makes a little nick. Allows for precise placement because you don’t have to go looking for a hammer.
  • Awl. Another all purpose when-you-need-it-nothing-else-will-do kind of tool. I only use it 2 or 3 times a year, but when I need it… Mine was my grandfather’s.
  • Bevel Gauge. A master carpenter told me this tool was the soul of woodworking. I know just as much carpentry as I have to to be dangerous, and this tool allows me to duplicate angles between the work and the saw and such ,and never have to bother with pesky compasses or rulers.
  • Blue tack. For temporary holding of things.
  • Bone saw. I’ve had this for years.It was my great grandfather’s (he was a surgeon) and it’s perfect for deepening grooves and such. It got used for “The Mummy” in the opening shot of the temple.
  • Bottle Brush. Rarely used, but nothing else will clean out stuff in those tight places.
  • Bull clip. Bull clips, are just clample, take up no space, if I use it once a year it justifies it’s real estate.
  • Butane powered Soldering iron. Now this is the shit. It charges just like a lighter, holds enough for about an hour of soldering, and takes up almost no space. Weller makes an amazing one, but it costs a little dough, and I haven’t picked one up yet. Another on the long list of tools I’ll upgrade eventually.
  • Brass Stock, assorted. From K&S Engineering, this stuff, mostly sold for model trains, is a modelmakers dream, I beam, tubing in every size (and telescoping) square stock, solid stock, I always kept enough to get me out of a small jam.
  • Brushes. Always a complement of brushes: Acid Brush (x4), 1″ and 1/2″ chip brushes (x2 each), Assorted fine paint brushes (perhaps a dozen of different sizes), Wire Brushes (x2).
  • C-thru 8″ square. Maybe you can’t see it, but this has a steel edge on one side, great for a cutting edge. I bought this years ago in a past life as a graphic designer.
  • Calculator. It’s presence is obvious, but it really is indispensable.
  • Carving knife. A whittler’s knife, with a nice wood handle and a short blade.
  • Chalk Marker. For marking on steel, metal.
  • Channel locks. Again, one totally critical tool for the toolbox. You can rip a doorknob right off the door with these.
  • Chargers. All the cordless tools need chargers, my toolboxes had chargers built in for the Dremel, the Cordless Screwdriver and the Cordless drill.
  • China Marker. Makes marks on glass, metal everything.
  • Circle Template. Honestly, the more ways you have to draw circles the better.
  • Clay tools. Part of the general sculpting tool arsenal. For, you know, sculpting.
  • Clip leads. Critical in any electronics wiring. Provides a bridge for the handy little electrons to make things work at your disposal.
  • Cloth scissors. For cloth, cloth and only cloth. Or you die. NEVER cut anything else with them, I have another pair for other shit. But always one pair for cloth.
  • Clothes pins
  • Clamp, wedge, whatever, useful dingbat
  • Combination square/level. Got this cleaning out my grandfather’s workshop, cleaned off the gunk to find out it’s a starret.
  • Compass. Drawing circles comes up constantly. I have a nice one for drafting, it’s served me well for decades.
  • Crescent Wrench. Large and small.
  • Cutting Mat. For cutting, umm, that’s it.
  • Deburring tool, for holes. I made the handle from aluminum and knurled it for comfort, takes the burr off of a drilled or milled hole. It’s basically a countersink bit with a handle.
  • Deburring tool, regular. For cleaning up the edge of cut metal.
  • Dental Picks
  • Dial calipers
  • Digital Calipers
  • Dremel: Cordless Dremel. For me, the corded Dremel is too fast. This one is about half the price, allows really tight control, and goes nice and slow. Cordless batteries, as many as I can keep.
  • Dremel Bits. Cutters (emery and steel), Sanders (small and large), Sanding drum replacements, Extra cutting wheels, Double helix carbide cutters (can cut through glass), Stone grinders.
  • Drill, cordless. A large cordless drill with a 1/2″ chuck.
  • Drill bits: English drill bit set, Super long drill bits (used in the aircraft industry, indispensable, Plexiglass drill bits, 1/8″, 1/4″, Unibit stepped drill bits, Miniature drill bits 61 thru 70.
  • Dykes cutters
  • Electrical tape
  • Electronix Solder/ silver solder
  • Exacto knife. Blades: Long curved exacto blades are ideal for cutting silicone molds apart. Straight exacto blades, you can NEVER have enough. I keep them in boxes of 100. Blade holders, fat and skinny.
  • Exacto Saw blade.
  • Exacto circle cutter with blades
  • Erasing template. For mechanical drawing, a stainless steel template for erasing with precision.
  • Files.
  • Rat Tail, Flat, Diamond point, Diamond flat, Diamond bent rat-tail, Circular file, Super-flat scoring file, Large steel file.
  • Flexible Ruler
  • Flush cutters
  • Glass Cutters
  • Glues: Rapid Setting Glues. The soul of the special effects industry. I would never leave home without the following: Cyanoacrilate Glue thick,
  • Cyanoacrilate glue Thin, Cyanoacrilate Glue Accelerator, 5 minute epoxy thin, 5 minute plumber’s epoxy, Araldite or JB weld, Weld-on #3 (for Styrene, an essential tool for gluing styrene ship parts together, Barge Glue (by far the best contact adhesive out there).
  • Goosnecked Flashlight
  • Hair cutting scissors
  • Hammer. A modelmaker doesn’t need a big hammer, but I always kept two small ones: Jewler’s hammer (A beautiful small hammer with a peen on one end, and a flat on the other), A thwacker (a 1.5″ by 2″ piece of solid aluminum stock on a handle, for thwacking, obviously).
  • Heat shrink tubing. For doing neat electronics wiring, a few pieces are always in my kit.
  • Heat sink Clamp
  • Heavy scissors
  • Helping Hands soldering tool
  • Hemostats. Medical clamps, I’d keep a shorty and a long one.
  • Hole Saw set, with Arbor.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol. An excellent remover, cleaner, prep liquid.
  • Japanese flush cut saw. Kept in 2 pieces, it cuts everything wooden super quickly.
  • Jewlers Clamps
  • Knife, Opinel french knife. For some reason these are awesome for carving urethane foam to make fake mountainsides.
  • Knife saw. Basically a hacksaw.
  • Knife Sharpener
  • Knipex cutters An amazing tool, can cut piano wire and hardened steel all day long with no ill effects.
  • Knitting Threader
  • Level. Bullet and Button levels.
  • Lighter
  • Light bulbs. Since I did a fair amount of miniature lighting, I’d keep an assortment.
  • Machine screw assortment (0-80 through 8-32 cap head allen, Countersunk Allen and button head allen. Also nuts, locknuts, washers, split washers, fender washers and wingnuts)
  • Maglite
  • Magnetic Pickup on a telescoping arm
  • Marking Fluid (Dykem, transported to square bottle)
  • Measuring Gauge
  • Micro torch, butane powered, with tips
  • Mirror. Extended mirror, on a telescoping arm. For seeing around and deep into corners.
  • Multimeter and leads. A digital multimeter is a voltage detector, a continuity tester, an ohmmeter.
  • Nibbler. For making square holes in sheet metal.
  • Nippers
  • Oil. 3-in-1, WD-40 (small bottle), Tapping.
  • Paper clips
  • Pencil leads (kept for the compass)
  • Pencil torch
  • Pencils
  • Paper mate makes a mechanical pencil. It’s my favorite!
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Pins (make excellent clamps, holders etc.). Straight pins, Hat Pins, T-pins, Map pins.
  • Pin Vise (self drilling)
  • Pipe cutter (mini, for brass stock)
  • Plastic knitting needle. You never know when you might need to poke something.
  • Pliers. Needle nose, Bull Nose, Wire Bending, Jeweler’s pliers (about 4 different kinds), Flat Jaw, Regular slip-jaw, extra extra long needle nose, paralell jaw pliers.
  • Pocket pal, pocket reference guide.
  • Pounce Wheels
  • Q-tips. Regular, Long with wood stalks.
  • Razor Saw
  • Rectangular spatula
  • Regulator, Air. This allows me to regulate the shop air into something my Airbrush can use.
  • Rivet Tool
  • Rivets
  • Rivet backing plates
  • Sawblade with no handle (a simple razor saw with the handle removed, for super fine flush cutting)
  • Scissors
  • Hair Cutting
  • Paper cutting
  • Sheet Metal cutting
  • Scoring Tools
  • Screwdriver, cordless. Milwaukee makes one that bends in the middle, with a drill chuck attachment, super useful.
  • Scribe. Plastic: for scribing the little v-indented “panel lines” in spaceships. Looks like a hook. Metal, a straight one.
  • Sculpting tools. There are many and varied types, and everyone has their favorites, I’d keep about 10, some wire loops for clay of differing shapes, some small metal paddles and such (often used by dentists etc.)
  • Also a set of stainless steel paddles, awesome for bondo work.
  • Set of Taps and their Drills. For every tap, there’s a corresponding drill, keeping them together makes tapping holes quicker.
  • Ratcheting tap wrench
  • Small tap wrench (for tiny taps, the smaller the wrench the better the feel for the tapping)
  • Sewing supplies
  • Sewing needles
  • Sewing thread
  • Sewing needle threader
  • Silver Solder
  • Silver Solder Flux
  • Single Edge Razor Blades. Also can never have enough of these.
  • Sketchbook
  • Sockets: Socket set (a basic compliment of english and metric sockets), Socket wrench, large and small, Socket Universal Joint, Socket Extension.
  • Smooth long pliers
  • Snap Knives. Crazy useful, easy to replace and always in the kit.
  • Snap Knife Large
  • Snap Knife Small
  • Snap Knife Blades
  • Soldering iron (butane)
  • Solder (electronics)
  • Springs, assorted. Since I do a lot of mechanical work, it aways behooved me to keep some assorted hard-to-find springs around.
  • Staple Gun
  • Staples
  • Strike anywhere matches
  • String. Wax Twine, Regular String, Monofilament Heavy and Light, Sewing thread, Leather thong (some finely cut Kangaroo hide thread, for fine detailing).
  • Styrene glue dispenser. Basically an upside down tin can glued to a small board, filled with Weld-on#3 is ideal for ship detailing with model parts.
  • Switchblade
  • Tape. Teflon, Scotch, Electrical, Aluminum, Masking.
  • Tape Measures. I usually carried 3. A tiny one for small places, about 3′ long, a big carpenter’s 25 footer, and a 5′ soft seamstress’ measuring tape.
  • Thimbles
  • Tongue depressors. A super vital modelmaking tool, for mixing, sanding, spatula-ing and in a pinch, they can be used structurally.
  • Tongue Depressor Sanding sticks. I made these about twice a year. Much of modelmaking is about sanding things, and the ability to precisely sand is critical, I would glue sandpaper to tongue depressors in various grits: 80, 100, 120, 180, 220, 400. I’d always keep about 6 each of every grit.
  • Toothbrush. I’d always have at least 2 toothbrushes, for cleaning, roughing, anything.
  • Trammel Points. Allow for drawing large circles, a good set lets you turn any piece of wood into a compass arm.
  • Tweezers. Super long, Super sharp (for placing the smallest of bits), One for splinters.
  • Water spritz bottle (small)
  • Wide spatula
  • Wire nippers
  • Wire Nuts
  • Wire Rope Cutters. For cutting braided cable perfectly, another expensive tool worth every penny.
  • Wire strippers, automatic. Nothing makes electronic wiring easier than these. Worth every penny.

The Origin of My Model-Making Toolboxes

(Buy Adam’s Modelmaking Toolbox poster in our online store.)

Back when I was a professional model-maker at Industrial Light & Magic, my specialty was hard-edged construction—spaceships, miniature sets, and architectural stuff. These objects were sometimes just 12 inches across yet needed enough detail to fill a movie screen. One, for example, was the background I made of the Tipoca City building for the Obi-Wan-Jango Fett fight in episode two of Star Wars.

This work required a fine eye for detail—and tons of tools. By the time I moved to MythBusters in 2003, I had well over 300 items in my model-making kit. Of course, I love tools. I also love arranging them, to the point where I came up with a name for my organizing metric: first-order retrievability. It’s a function of two particular parts of my personality.

One: I like to work fast. I despise not having the right tool or, worse, knowing I have it but not being able to find it. It’s a pointless delay that wrecks my pace—and mood.

Two: I’m obsessed with the form of a toolbox. The idea of a portable kit that has everything you might need ignites something inside me. It’s like Batman’s utility belt.

The setup you see here started out as two old doctor’s bags. I like the image of the traveling doctor, and I love antiques. But 50-year-old leather was no match for 50 pounds of tools. The bags failed soon after I started working at ILM.

I wanted to make an impression at my new job, so I spent an entire weekend remaking the bags out of aluminum. My supervisor suggested scissor lifts to keep them even with me when I was seated. He might have been joking, but I added them.

The finished boxes housed everything I needed, but I repeatedly rebuilt the insides until finally no tool had to be moved out of the way to get to another. That’s first-order retrievability. While I was enjoying the heaven that was the ILM model shop, it allowed me to be as fast, creative, and efficient as I wanted to be.

(This post originally ran on in September 2012)

Editor’s Note: This awesome thread on The Replica Prop Forum documents one maker’s quest to recreate Adam’s toolbox. Adam drops by to offer more photos and some tips.

Episode 142 – OCTOBERKAST Announced! – 10/04/2012

On this week’s show, Norm shares his dining out strategy, Gary reveals a shameful secret, and Will questions the color of his phone. All that, plus the latest on the LEGO B-Wing, Curiosity’s riverbed find, Microsoft Surface Phone rumors, and another edition of fake outtakes.