BernzOmatic Trigger-Start Propane Torch
A propane torch is a useful tool for brazing, low-temperature welding,
soldering, and just plain burning. Mostly, I use mine for starting the pellet
stove. I finally gave up on my manual-light torch head when I tried to close
the valve and a flame shot out from it, melting the knob.
To replace it, I bought a BernzOmatic TS4000 T. It’s just point-and-click: turn
the safety to the on position, pull the trigger, and out shoots the flame. For long
jobs, the trigger can be locked on. (The torch head is a bit top-heavy, but since
it’s so easy to ignite, I never set it down while lit.) It’s rated for both propane
and MAPP gas, and the brass tip is replaceable. With a street price of about
$40, the TS4000T costs about triple what an ordinary pencil-flame torch
costs, but it’s built well and the convenience is worth it. —Tom Owad
Bean Word Processor Software
As a writer, I’m persnickety about word processing programs. Maybe it’s because I was spoiled by
Microsoft’s hallowed Word 5. 1 for Mac, released in
1992. I clung to it for a decade, but the updated
versions were bloated and buggy and just plain
ugly, and that goes for OpenOffice, too.
Enter Bean, a freeware word processor for Mac
OS X. Created by James Hoove, Bean is svelte (it
starts almost instantly), clean (no overstuffed toolbars or dumb templates), and it doesn’t get in your
way. It does what you need it to do without making
a fuss. In fact, you basically forget you’re using it.
It’s just you and your words. Now that’s refreshing.
Bean can do the important stuff like spell check,
simple formatting, and RTF, but it’s not for heavy
lifting like footnotes and desktop publishing. But,
hey, you’ve always got OpenOffice there if you
need it. —Jeremy Jackson
Some of MAKE’s microcontroller projects can be
overwhelming to the beginner. The Picaxe 08M chip is
a great way to begin. Picaxe offers their programming
IDE and compiler for free, and they even give details
on how to build the programming cable. All you really
need to get started is the chip, some spare parts that
most of us already have in our junk bins, and 5 volts.
The 08M chip has three I/O pins and one dedicated
input pin, and can be programmed with up to 80 lines.
I first used the Picaxe 08M to make LEDs blink
with simple code. When it’s time to move on to more
advanced projects, the Picaxe has larger ICs with more
program memory. Projects like digital clocks, security
systems, automatic plant watering, and data logging
are all within reach. I started with Picaxe, and now I’m
ready to make. —Robbie Pitts