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Family Handyman’s Vintage Handy Hints from the ’80s

In celebration of Family Handyman's 70th Anniversary, we're taking a scroll through the archives and sharing some of the hints, tips and trade secrets we found tucked away in magazines from the 1980's.

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Family Handyman

Key Organization and Car Maintenance Help

This page of Handy Hints from 1982 featured plans for a nifty wheel-around cart as well as a convenient way for someone to distinguish more easily between two keys.

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Template for Snug Joints

This page of reader-submitted hints from 1982 included helpful instructions for constructing a template made to “aid in snug joints.”

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Position Nuts in Tight Places

The first hint on this page could definitely be useful today, although you might want to wrap the tape a little less tightly around your finger than they did in the picture.

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Save Your Rubber Bands

If you have a tough time keeping your rubber bands supple, this Handy Hint from our 1982 July/August issue of the magazine will definitely interest you. Apparently all it takes to keep rubber bands in tip-top shape is a sealed container and a little bit of their talcum or baby powder.

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Something for Everyone

This page of Handy Hints was stuffed with useful hacks, including a way to reduce wear on your garden hose and an efficient method for removing wall-covering adhesives.

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Squeegee Hack

One reader shared their design for a squeegee that they modified for cleaning house siding and ledges by adding a curved neck to the end of the handle. Great idea, A. Webber!

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A Classic Gluing Hint

The Handy Hint at the top of this page is an all-timer. In fact, an updated version has even been included in this collection of gluing tips and tricks.

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Save Your Scissors?

We’re not sure we entirely endorse the idea of turning broken shears into a smaller pair of scissors with a hacksaw and a grinder, but it’s definitely intuitive.

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Saw Horse Hack

Although DIYers might not use handsaws nearly as much anymore as they did in the ’80s, it’s still not a bad idea to follow the Handy Hint above and cut a convenient saw-holding kerf in the end of your sawhorse. You never know, it might come in handy!

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Squaring Your Square

Inexperienced DIYers might not know that the framing squares they use on their projects might not always be exactly 90 degrees. Drops, dings and bends can throw a square out of alignment, and being even a little bit off can cause some major inconveniences down the road. Hopefully, Gary Havens’ above tip helped readers ensure that their squares were properly set to avoid headaches later on.

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Spin Your Brush Dry

Dipping your paint brush in solvent and spinning it around in bucket definitely seems like it would do the trick. Just be careful not to splatter potentially toxic cleaning solvents everywhere.

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How to Prep Your Paint Can Lid

The dripless paint can hack on this page is another classic Handy Hint that has stood the test of time. If you’re planning on starting a painting project, use this tip to limit the cleanup you’ll have to do later.

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Tool Organizer and a Paint Brush Saver

Tool storage ideas have always been a Handy Hints staple, and this page from the October 1986 issue of Family Handyman had two great ones with the “small tool organizer” and the “paintbrush saver.”

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Build Your Own Sawhorses

The sawhorse plans shown above were specifically made for holding heavy materials up to “four or five hundred pounds,” although we can’t be sure anyone ever tested their limits in the real world. If you’re interested in building a set of sawhorses, check out our updated plans here.

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Reach Every Light Bulb

How many handymen does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, especially if they’ve read this Handy Hint and built the lamp shade and dowel contraption that makes it easier to grip light bulbs in hard-to-reach spots.

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Keep a Record of Your Paints

If you’re living in a home built before the ’80s, it might be fun to unscrew a few of your switchplates and see if any of the previous owners followed a system similar to the one shared in the first Handy Hint on this page. Keep in mind, though, that any paint information you find is probably out of date by now.

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Another Saw Horse Design?

Apparently, our readers in the ’80s had plenty of ideas on how to build sawhorses from scratch.

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Peel and Stick Roof Caulk

Intrigued by the idea of a “Press-In-Place Roof and Gutter Caulk”? So were we, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like 3M sells the product anymore.

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Router Rest

If you frequently use your router, you might actually want to consider building the router rest featured above. It gives you a secure place to put your router down even if the bit is still spinning, so you’re not stuck waiting for the motor to slow down while you could be continuing with your project.

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Perfect Hose Hanging

Sure, getting a looped garden hose to “hang just right” is a noble endeavor. But is it worth potentially damaging the hose’s structural integrity with a nail and a cigarette lighter? We think not, but to each their own.

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A DIY Work Apron

Although we’re not sure garbage bags with large handles like the one shown above are available to purchase anymore, the idea of turning a plastic sack into a disposable apron is definitely still worth considering.

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Paint Can Holder for Ladders

Here’s a note to anyone looking to try out the paint can holder design illustrated above: Make sure you always balance the holder with equal weight on either side, or your ladder will likely just topple over the first time you dismount.

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Drill Dust Buster

While using a plastic food container lid to catch dust falling from the ceiling as you drill is a good idea, here’s an even better one: Use an old shoe box instead. A shoe box will be just as easy to attach to your drill bit and catch much more dust.