50 Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things
An average Joe may just see a bucket, a rubber band or a length of PVC, but a DIYer sees all kinds of different ways to use everyday items for useful tasks.
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Vacuum Attachment Holder
Take one of your shop vacuum attachments to the home center and find a PVC tee that fits. Drill a hole in the tee large enough to accept a screwdriver, place a small plywood spacer behind it and screw it to the wall. Find out how to clean a clogged vacuum.
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Battery-Powered Kite Retriever
Does it take forever to wind in your high-flying kite? Cut the tips off a plastic kite string spool and screw in a piece of 3/8-in. dowel, leaving a few inches of dowel sticking out. Tighten the end of the dowel in a 3/8-in. cordless drill. That's it—run the drill to haul in that kite. Once you're done, find the right place in the garage for it. See what else a drill can speed up.
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Light-Duty Extension Cord Storage
To keep light-duty extension cords organized, slide them into toilet paper or paper towel tubes. Write the length of the cord on the tubes before you put them in a drawer or bin. You'll be able to find the right cord easily with this extension cord storage hack, plus you've made good use of the tubes. Check out these other cardboard tube hacks.
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Safe Cord Storage
To store elastic cords safely and neatly, pull out the spine of an old three-ring binder. Punch out the rivets and screw the spine to the garage wall. The rings are the perfect spot to hang cords without dangerous tension.
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If you have old buckets with broken plastic handles, retrofit the buckets with new handles made from an old garden hose. Cut short lengths of hose, slit each one with a utility knife and slide them over the handles. If you can remove one side of the wire handle, you can just slide the hose grip on without slitting it. The handles work great and keep those buckets on the job!
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Levels tend to slip when you're trying to mark a line on a wall. Make it an anti-skid level by sliding several rubber bands (or one fat one) over each end.
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Rubber Band Clamps
You can buy special woodworking clamps to hold hardwood edging in place until the glue sets, but they're expensive and you won't use them often. Instead of buying specialty clamps, you can modify some of your spring clamps instead. Grab a few rubber bands and presto—instant edge clamps. Here's how to clamp for stronger glued joints.
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When you're working on the roof, wrap rubber bands around tools to help them stay put. The rubber will grip on roofs with up to a 6/12 slope. Keep yourself from slipping off the roof with these tips.
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Paint Brush Drip Stopper
When you wipe your paint brush against the inside of the can, paint fills the rim and eventually runs down the side and onto the floor. Solve the problem by wiping the paint against a heavy rubber band wrapped around the center of the can. Excess paint will drip back into the can without making a mess or gumming up the lid.
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Spin most of the excess paint off your roller sleeve by holding the roller frame inside a bucket and hitting it with a nozzled garden hose. In seconds it'll be nearly paint free. You'll still have to use soap and water to finish, but this'll give you a huge head start. Want your next painting project to look like it was done by a pro? This tutorial shows you the techniques you need to know. — reader Decie C. McKnight
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Make a small-parts clamp by wrapping a rubber band around the jaws of needle-nose pliers. The rubber band keeps the jaws of the pliers clamped together for holding small items. It works especially well for getting nuts into inaccessible spots or for starting small finish nails.
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No More Rusty Garden Tools
Your vegetable oil isn't just for cooking. Here's a great way to use it, other than in a pan. Pour a quart or so into a 5-gallon bucket filled with sand. Now store your garden tools in it. This keeps them rust-free and ready for use. — reader Gary Snell
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On-the-Level Tool Bucket
To keep gutter debris bucket from sliding off the roof, drill an angled 4x4 block into the underside of the bucket. Then staple a rubber mat underneath to make everything stay put. Gutters need some TLC? Here's how you can fix them yourself.
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Better Bucket Storage
Stacked 5-gallon buckets fit together so tightly that it's almost impossible to pull them apart. Prevent the problem by placing a large plastic pop bottle (with top on) or milk jug between each pair of buckets. You can still nest the buckets together, but they won't stick together anymore.
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Easy-Mount Mini Bins
Electrical junction boxes can hold a lot more than wiring. You can nail or screw them to just about anything anywhere. In the shop, they're great for those tools that can't hang on hooks—tape measures, markers, chisels, etc. Plastic boxes are inexpensive and come in various sizes and shapes.
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Mini Tools From Concrete Nails
Need a nail punch or skinny chisel or tiny screwdriver RIGHT NOW? It's only as far away as a box of 3-in. concrete nails. These nails are made extra hard for pounding through stone, concrete and thick layers of stucco, and they're easy to grind into the mini tool you need. Be sure to hold the nail in a locking pliers for safe grinding, and dip it in water frequently to preserve its temper. Wear eye protection.
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Panpipe Tool Storage
While this tool storage device may look like a variation on the Pan flute of Greek mythology, it's actually a great place to store tools that easily get lost—like chisels, files, pencils, scroll saw blades and hobby knives. For the fatter tools, use PVC cement to join short pieces of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe side to side into a panpipe design, then add pieces of 1/2-in.pipe along the front of the flute for skinnier tools. Build a simple case around the pipes to create a floor and a back for hanging on a shop wall.
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Stay-Put PVC Pipe Cutter
Here's a nifty way to cut PVC pipe on the fly. Just make a couple of notches in the top of a 5-gallon bucket. Set the pipe in the notches and you've got a stable spot for sawing. As a bonus, you can load up the bucket and carry your tools along, too! For 33 ingenious ways to use PVC pipe, check out this collection of tips.
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No-Rattle Ceiling Fan
If the screws that hold the light globe to your ceiling fan tend to work loose and then hum or rattle, slip a wide rubber band around the neck of the globe where the screws grip it. The rubber band prevents the screws from loosening, dampens any noise and protects the globe from overzealous screw tighteners.
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Here's a nifty way to store chisels, files, carving knives and spade bits. Sew 1- to 1-1/2-in.-wide parallel pockets in a carpenter's apron (about $3 at a home center). Leave a third of the apron's width free of pockets so you can roll up the tools in a neat bundle. The apron strings tie the whole thing together, and your cutting tools stay sharp, dry and organized between jobs.
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Handy Bench and Tool Bucket
A 5 gallon bucket with lid comes in handy out in the garden and not just for collecting weeds. You can load it up with all your gardening tools and carry them easily from place to place. If it starts to rain, protect the tools with the lid. But here's the best part—the 5 gallon bucket with lid doubles as a portable stool when you need to rest or do some pruning. The only problem is that the lid can be hard to pry off. Solve that by cutting off all but two of the plastic tabs. The lid will go on and off in a snap. For more clever gardening shortcuts, check out this collection of tips. — Julie Abbott
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DIY Dog Feeder
Make a tough, self-filling dog feeder from a couple of 5-gal. buckets. With a saber saw, cut the bottom off one bucket to create a serving tray, and cut a food dispensing hole in the food storage bucket (as shown). Cut part of the lip off the bottom of the food storage bucket to flatten it, then use silicone to glue the two pieces together. NOTE: Don't build this dog feeder unless your pooch can exercise some self-control. Check out our collection of clever and unusual ways to make your pet happier, healthier and more comfortable, using things you'll find around the house. — reader Justin Moujoodi
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Paper Tube Saw Guard
Here's an inexpensive way to protect your fingers and the blade of your bow saw. Slip an empty gift wrap paper tube over the blade. Just slit the tube lengthwise and slide it on.
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String Pipe Cutter
Amaze your friends and mystify your neighbors by cutting PVC pipe with a string. It's a great trick to know if you have to cut pipe that's buried in a wall or some other tight spot. We used a mason's line to saw through 2" PVC pipe in less than a minute. Need to splice PVC pipe? Here's how!
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Storage Pockets for Skinny Things
Saw off short pieces of 1-1/2-, 2- or 3-in. PVC plumbing pipe with 45-degree angles on one end. Screw them to a board to hold paint brushes, pencils, stir sticks and just about any other narrow paraphernalia in your shop. Mount them by drilling a 1/4-in. hole in the angled end, and then drive a 1-5/8-in. drywall screw through the hole into the board.
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Foam Ball Hand Protector
To protect your hand when you're holding a masonry or cold chisel, cut a slit through the center of a soft foam ball and slip it over the shaft of the chisel. Then hammer away.
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Make a Mattress Sling
Trying to wrestle a heavy, floppy mattress anywhere is tough. Many mattresses have handles, but they're not intended for carrying. They're actually made to help you position the mattress, so they're not very strong. Here's an easier way to carry a mattress: Make a simple rope sling that will give you and your helper a lot more control. Thread the rope through the mattress handles. Slip a 5-in. piece of 1-in. PVC pipe over the rope ends and then loop and tie each end to create a comfortable sling grip. Flip the mattress over so the sling is on the bottom and you're on your way.
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String-Dispensing CD Bins
Here's a great way to reuse empty CD bins. Drill a hole in the top of the bin for the string to slide through, then screw the lid under a shelf and snap on the string-loaded bin. Pull down and snip off the desired length and never worry that your ball of string will roll away across the floor dragging its tail behind it!
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PVC Knife Holders
Carrying kitchen knives safely for picnics and camping trips is challenging. So one reader made knife containers out of 2 pvc pipes and caps. He glued the cap on one end and marked the unglued cap with an 'X.' That way he always knows which end to open. We think this is one of the most brilliant camping storage ideas ever!
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Power Cord Coilers
Got a shelf loaded with drills, saws, sanders and routers but can't untangle the cords to safely pull one off the shelf? Buy a pack of elastic ponytail holders and use them to keep the cords neatly coiled while the tools are stored. Snugly loop the ponytail holder around the cord so it stays on the cord while you're using the tool.
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Chain Saw Blade Guard
Protect a chain saw blade with 3/4-in. foam pipe insulation. Wrap the insulation around the blade and strap it tight with a couple of rubber bands. Chain saw need sharpening? Here's how.
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New Uses for Old Glove Fingers
Don't throw out your old work gloves. Cut the fingers off and you'll find lots of uses for them. Use them to protect the tips of chisels when you need to carry them. They're also good for softening the grip of pliers and many other applications.
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Garage Storage Tubes
Cardboard concrete-forming tubes are inexpensive ($7 at any home center or find them online on Amazon) and provide a great place to store baseball bats, long-handled tools and rolls of just about anything. Rest the tubes on a piece of 2x4 to keep them high and dry. Secure each tube to a garage stud with a plumbing strap.
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Easier Mulch Unloading
If you drive a pickup truck, when you buy mulch in bulk it gets dumped into the bed of your truck with a front-end loader. You could shovel the mulch out onto your driveway and haul it from there to where you needed it. But this is a much easier method. Load the pickup bed with 5-gallon plastic buckets and have the mulch dumped into the truck as usual. Then use a rake to even out the load so every container is filled up. When it's time to unload, do it one bucket at a time and dump the mulch exactly where you want it. Store the buckets in the garage, and use them throughout the year for all sorts of projects.
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Fast, Inexpensive Table
Aunt Edna just called to tell you she's coming for the holidays (and bringing some nice people she met hanging around the bus station). Trouble is, you don't have enough table space. Don't worry; just run to the home center and get a 10-ft. length of 3-in. PVC pipe, four 3-in. toilet flanges and a hollow-core door. Hollow-core 'slabs' are 80 in. long and available from 28 to 36 in. wide. Cut the PVC to make legs and assemble the table as shown. And then check out our tips for finishing a table top. It's not a masterpiece, but under a tablecloth it looks fine. Plus it's light-weight and easy to disassemble and store until next year. Just remember that hollow-core doors aren't very strong; don't sit or stand on the table.
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Accessorize Your Mower
If you keep a few tools handy while you mow, you can deal with stray weeds as you notice them—no need to hunt for them later. Short sections of PVC pipe taped to the mower's handle will hold tools and other necessities.
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PVC Curling Iron Holsters
Hate the messy look of curling irons lying on the vanity or the toilet tank? Here's a tip for you. Use hook-and-loop tape to attach five-inch lengths of 2-in. PVC pipe to the vanity door to hold the curling irons. Do the same thing with three-inch pieces of 1-1/2-in.-dia. pipe to hold the cords. Just measure your curling irons to see how long your "holsters" need to be. Let your curling irons cool before you stow them away.
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Keep the Tape Rolling
Slip a rubber band over the 'ears' of your packing tape dispenser as shown to keep the end of the tape from falling through the slot and then back onto the roll. The tape won't stick to the rubber, so you'll always be ready to roll. Need some packing tape? Grab some now on Amazon.
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Double-Lid Cord Reel
Make this handy cord reel using extra bucket lids. Cut a 5-in. length of 4x4 and then cut a groove in the side the same width as your cord. Fasten the lids to the 4x4 with 1/4 x 2-in. lag screws. Make handles from an old 1-1/8 in. diameter broom handle and drill a 1/2-in. hole through the center. Fasten the crank to the lid with bolts, nuts and washers, and apply Loctite sealant to the end nut. Fasten the handle to the 4x4 through the lid with a 6-1/2 in. lag screw. Just insert your cord and reel it in.
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No-Latch (or Hands-Free) Door Trick
Need to go in and out of the same door a bunch of times while carrying stuff? Tough to do when the door keeps latching shut. To keep that from happening, take a rubber band and loop it around one doorknob or handle. Then, twist the rubber band once and then loop it around the other knob. The rubber band holds the latch down, preventing the door from latching shut. Now if the door closes, you can push it back open with your body even if your hands are full. If you have a door latch that's not working, here's an easy fix. Or find out how to fix a rattling door.
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Organize your wrenches in your toolbox by stringing them onto a large, bright colored carabiner (sold at camping and discount stores). It will keep your wrenches together and make them portable and easy to spot. Buy some carabiners now on Amazon.
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Behind the Door Storage: Closet Glove Rack
If you don't have radiators, finding a good spot to dry wet hats and mittens can be tough. Tossing them into a plastic bin gets them out of the way, but they never dry and it's no fun putting on damp mittens in the morning. This simple back-of-the-door glove and cap rack allows wet things to dry and keeps easily misplaced items organized. Just string clothespins on aluminum wire (it won't rust) and stretch it between screw eyes on the back of a closet door. This also works great out in the garage for drying garden and work gloves. Make your own mitten drying rack with these inspirational ideas.
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Better Tree Watering
It's a lot of work to haul buckets of water to recently planted trees. Then, when you dump out the water at the base of the tree, the water quickly runs off. Here's a solution: Get some old 5-gallon buckets and drill a 1/4-in. hole near the bottom of each one. After plugging the holes with dowels, fill the buckets and haul them to the trees in a wheelbarrow. Set the buckets near the base of the trees and unplug the holes. It takes several minutes for the buckets to drain, allowing the soil to soak up every drop. Learn about successfully growing healthy shade trees in your yard here. — David Radtke
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Portable Tool Kit
For many electricians, a 5-gallon bucket tool kit is a constant companion. Making one is super simple. Use an awl to poke holes around the perimeter for screwdrivers and store the rest of your tools in the bucket. Everything you need is at your fingertips and easy to carry from job to job. Plus: must have additions for a homeowner tool kit.
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Fishing Rod Organizer
We got sick and tired of our fishing rods getting tangled, so we came up with this easy fishing rod organizer. All you need is a length of 3-in.-diameter PVC pipe and a foam swimming pool noodle for this DIY garage storage system. Drill 1-in. holes spaced every 4 in. in the PVC pipe. Use a utility knife to cut slits in the foam noodle, spacing them 4 in. apart. Line up the pool noodle on the wall so that at least two of the slits sit over studs. Pull those slits apart, slide in a fender washer, and screw the noodle to the wall with 2-in. screws. Then screw the PVC pipe to the wall beneath it at a comfortable height and insert your fishing rods. Look Ma, no more tangles! Want some more DIY garage organization ideas? Check out 27 Easy Ways to Organize Your Garage
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Drill Bit Girdle
Save those wide rubber bands that are wrapped around broccoli and other veggies and stretch them over your electric or cordless drill. Use them for onboard storage of smaller drill and driver bits and screws.
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You'd be amazed how easy it is to move heavy, awkward objects with three pieces of PVC pipe. Move playhouses, yard sheds, empty hot tubs and rocks weighing well over a ton with this trick. Use 4-in.-diameter 'Schedule 40' PVC, which is available from home centers. Here's how to do it:
- Lift the front edge of the stone with a pry bar and slip two pipes underneath. Place one near the front and one about midway so the stone rests on the pipes.
- Position the third pipe a foot or two in front of the stone.
- Roll the stone forward onto the third pipe until the rear pipe comes free. Then move the rear pipe to the front and repeat.
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Instant Tool Holder
Store chisels, files, large drill bits, screwdrivers and other long tools so they're both visible and close at hand. Simply cut off the top from a clear 2-liter plastic soft drink bottle, leaving a flap for hanging. Use smaller bottles, which are extremely common household items for smaller tools.
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Ironing Board Back Saver
Working under the sink on your back isn't exactly comfortable, especially when the sharp cabinet edge cuts into your shoulder blades. Make it more comfortable by lying on an ironing board. Set one end of the board inside the cabinet and support the other end with a scrap piece of 2x4. It won't make the repair any easier, but it's definitely easier on your back. Check out where to store an ironing board to save space.
Originally Published: March 20, 2021