When I started drawing my own patterns instead of buying pre-made tabs and brackets, I would try to freehand all of the shapes. I thought to myself, "Hey, I can draw pretty decent, I can do this." Guess what? They all looked like crap. Some more so than others, but still all crap. Then one day an ol' timer showed me a circle template. "It's so simple!" I thought, "and so obvious" as I chided myself. A $5 circle pattern from an art supply store made all the difference in the world when it came to my pattern drawing abilities. The basic idea is that the shape of your part should make sense compared to its intended use. If you look at figure A, the bracket is both hand-drawn and the shape makes no sense compared to where the bolt holes are, while the bracket in figure B uses the holes to somewhat 'set' the shape of the part. It's the little things like this that set apart the professionals from the amateurs. The effort it takes to cut out an ugly part or a nice part is nearly identical, so why not spend the time to make it look nice?
We find new tricks every day in the shop; I just wish I could share more. Half of the problem isn't space or time to share them, but remembering all of them. They have become normal, everyday habits that I've adapted to over time, so they don't stand out as anything worth sharing. I will try to remember more and write another list if I get enough, and if you have something that you've found to be magical and can't believe the rest of the world hasn't figured it out yet, let me know. I'm curious and still quite willing to learn. Until next time!