Home Hacks Just as Brilliant Today as They Were 100 Years Ago
These tips and tricks for the home have been passed down from generation to generation, but do they still hold up today? You better believe it!
No need to scramble for a ruler every time you have to measure something big. Draw a ruler on your shop floor with a permanent-ink, felt-tip marker. It won’t be accurate enough for precise measurements, but for rough cutting it will save you time and effort. When the markings start to wear off, just redo them. — Christine Smith
Trapeze Clothes Hanger
Here’s a quick way to add another clothes rod in a closet. It’s especially useful in a child’s closet, because you can easily adjust the height to accommodate a changing wardrobe and a growing child. Use lightweight chain, attached to both the upper and lower rods with screw hooks. Squeeze the screw hooks closed with a pliers. — Jim Shephard. Find out these amazing additional ways to find more closet space you can do yourself.
Lawn Fertilizer Markers
So you fertilized your lawn last week, and now you’ve got some streaks of pale grass where you missed, and some really dark streaks where you hit twice. To prevent this, use two short lengths of wood as markers. Whenever you start a new row from either end of your run, drop a marker at the edge of the line of the fertilizer. Aim for the marker as you proceed, and move the marker at each end every time you make a turn. It works with a broadcast spreader as well. — Jim Carabetta. If you want a lusher lawn, then pull up these 11 tips for a lawn that will make your neighbors green with envy.
Help For Losers
Doesn’t it drive you nuts when you drop a small part on the floor and you can’t find it? Here’s help. Lay a flashlight on the floor, and beam the light slowly in a circle so it just skims the floor surface. The shadow cast by the lost part will help you spot it. — Gary Stewart
Think that’s helpful? Well, you love these 45 hugely helpful handy hints that will keep cash in your pocket.
Vacuum Accessory Keeper
Here’s my quick and simple method for keeping shop vacuum accessories handy: Use an ordinary wire clothes hanger for each accessory. Bend the horizontal bar into an inverted “V,” squeeze the arms together and insert them into the open end of the accessory. The tension will hold the accessory in place. Then mount a row of hooks or screw eyes on the wall and hang the accessories in place. — Richard Siegel
Storing vacuum accessories and other tough-to-store items can be difficult but we’ve got 24 solutions for hard-to-store stuff.
Hollow Door Fixer
If you have a sizable hole in a painted hollow-core door, here’s a quick way to fix it: Completely fill the hole with spray foam insulation (a can costs about $4 at home centers) so the foam is about level with the door surface. Allow it to dry overnight. The foam will expand slightly as it dries, forming a slight mound. Slice off the mound with a razor knife so the foam is slightly lower than the door surface. Apply one or two coats of drywall compound, sand it smooth when dry, and paint. — Richard Loeb Jr.
That spray foam fix is great but it’s not as brilliant as these 15 uses for spray foam you never knew.
Roof Gutter Tool Trays
Here’s my solution to workbench clutter: I mounted vinyl gutters along both ends of my workbench to hold small tools and other items that usually end up buried on the work surface. The gutters are durable, inexpensive, and it’s easy to find things in them. An added benefit is that small items that get knocked off the workbench no longer fall on the floor. Use an end cap at each end. — Scott Wright. Gutters aren’t only great for a workbench, see how they’re great in a kitchen too.
Do those plastic downspout splashblocks tend to wander away from the foundation of your house, allowing water to seep into the basement? To prevent this, drill two holes through the hefty corners of the plastic at the back end. To anchor it, drive two large spikes through the holes into the ground. — Joseph Perrone
If you’ve got gutter issues of any kind, be sure to check out these 25 hints for fixing gutter problems.
Plastic Bag Storage
If those empty plastic grocery bags are threatening to take over your kitchen, here’s help: Stuff them into an empty paper towel tube. It’s quick and easy, and a dozen or so bags take up hardly any space. Keep the stuffed tube handy in a drawer. — Joan Hill
Paper towel tubes are great for storing items. We’ve got 10 more incredible ways to reuse paper towel tubes for storing things.
Blade Life Extender
When the blade in your utility knife gets dull, it’s usually only the point and the first 1/4 in. or so that’s bad. You can get additional life from your blade by snapping off the point with a pliers (wear safety glasses). It won’t cut quite as well as a fresh blade, but a lot better than the dull one. — Dennis Feldpausch
A Better Sawhorse
In “Handy Hints” (Oct. ’94)‚ you showed how to build hinged sawhorses. They were OK, but these are better. (We agree.) They can be cut from a sheet of 3/4-in. plywood 48 in. wide by 75 in. long, and when folded, each horse is only 2 in. thick. The drop-on top is optional. The bolts just slip into the space between the two legs alongside the hinges. — Pat Carnahan
Sawhorses are kind of like a utility knife in terms of their versatility and we’ve got some savvy sawhorse table tips you can use.
I had a lot of doors to spray paint, and I needed a quick and easy stand to hold each one upright, so I could paint both sides without moving it. This stand, made from one 2×4 stud and a triangular base of 3/4-in. plywood, took about five minutes to build. Drive two nails up through the base to set the bottom edge of the door on. Drill a hole through the upper arm to allow an easily removable nail to be tapped into the top edge of the door. Paint the door bottom first if all the edges need to be sealed. — A. Westfall. These tips will also help make painting a door a breeze.
Paint Brush Keeper
An empty coffee can with a plastic lid makes a great container for soaking brushes. Just cut an “X” in the center of the lid, push the handle up through the “X” and place the lid on the can. The lid seals the can so the solvent or water won’t evaporate, and it holds the bristles of the brush suspended above the bottom of the can. — S.L. Wiener
No more hammered thumbs, dropped and lost staples or broken wires: Use hot-melt glue to fasten low-voltage wire in place. Use it on phone lines, bell wire, garage door safety sensor wiring, outdoor low-voltage lights, or thermostat wiring. It makes a neat job, and the glue dabs can be painted to match the wall if necessary. (Note: This is for low-voltage lines only.) — Lloyd Ziegler
When I paint, I always place the paint can and my painting paraphernalia in a cardboard box—one that fits snugly between the legs on the fold-down shelf of my stepladder. The box allows for safe and easy transporting, makes dumping the can less likely, and catches those inevitable spills or drips while you’re working. — Jim Carabetta
Noisy, banging doors always annoyed me, until I discovered this easy fix: I stick three or four small self-adhesive felt pads— the kind used on cabinet doors—onto the door jamb stop molding. Besides quieting things down, they make the doors fit better. I also lubricate the latch with a dab of petroleum jelly, because it makes them work easier, further encouraging gentle closings. — Steve Bogumil. We’ve got the solutions to other annoying noises around your home too.
No-Mess Drywall Sanding
Here’s a way to keep dust to a minimum when you have a lot of drywall joints and surfacing compound to sand. Using duct tape, attach a standard swivel-head drywall pole sander to the rigid extension tube of your wet/dry shop vacuum. Keep the vacuum nozzle close to the sandpaper, and just below it. You’ll also need an extra length of hose for your vacuum to reach the ceiling and into corners. — Bruce Wallick
You know you need a dust mask for some projects but do you know how to pick the right dust mask?
Small-Shop Space Saver
I have a small shop with a lot of bench-top power tools (table saw, router table, scroll saw, miter saw), and I use all of them often. To keep the shop uncluttered, yet everything close at hand, I mount all my bench-top tools on 1/2- in. thick plywood bases, and store them on hooks on the wall. When I need the tool, I just clamp the plywood base to my worktable with two large C-clamps. — Roger L. Favorite
Do you manage to cave in your gutters every time you lean a ladder against them? Try this: In the area or areas where you’ll place your ladder, drill two 3/16-in. holes, and drive two 7-in. galvanized spikes with 5-in. ferrules into the gutters behind where each leg will rest. The ferrules will support the ladder’s weight instead of the gutter. Most home centers sell standard gutter spikes and ferrules. — Randy Lucas
Fence Post Holder
As a novice sinker of fence posts, I was having a heck of a time keeping the post plumb while pouring concrete into the hole. My Workmate workbench saved the day. Here’s the system: Simply position the workbench over the hole, clamp the post in place in the workbench, plumb it, then pour the concrete. By the time you have the next hole dug, the concrete will be firm enough to gently lift the workbench off the post. — Peter Gallagher
Old Caulk Remover
Need to remove that old caulk from your siding or from around your windows and doors? Nothing works better in my book than a hole-punch can opener. For better leverage, make a handle by cutting a slot in a 1-in. dowel. Then flatten the handle end of the opener in a vise, and secure it in the slot with a bolt and nut. — Fred Horlander
Staple And Tack Puller Fulcrum
After removing carpeting and padding, I had a million tacks and staples to remove from my hardwood floors. To protect the floors, I tore strips of duct tape 3/4 in. wide and wrapped about 10 or 12 layers very tightly just above the base of the tack puller. This not only provided protection, but a bonus fulcrum that made pulling the tacks a breeze. I also filed a sharp edge on the tack puller to help get under tack heads and staples without damaging the floor. Be sure to wear safety glasses! — Vincet J. Santilli. See these additional tips on how to remove carpet painlessly.
Steady Miter Box
I always had a hard time manipulating my miter box, the miter saw and the piece I was cutting all at the same time. So I screwed a piece of 2×2 to the bottom of the miter box. Now I clamp the 2×2 in a vise and cut clean, accurate miters every time. — Robert Hartog
Our back door entry was a minefield of shoes, hats, gloves and jackets. This easy-to-make egg crate-type shoe case solved our problem. The inner partitions are 1/4-in. plywood, double-notched to slip together. The sides are 3/4 in., and the top and bottom are 1/2-in. plywood. Coat hooks above complete the package. — Tyler Woods. Try these entryway shoe storage hacks that really work if you want to see additional options.
Drill Bit Holder
A block of rigid foam makes an inexpensive and handy drill bit holder. Just poke the bits into the foam, reusing the same hole each time you return a bit. Push the bits almost all the way to the bottom of the foam block, so the holder won’t be top-heavy and tumble over. — Terry Andrews
After you finish painting, and before you close the paint can, paint a line across the label to show the paint level. That way you’ll know how much and what color paint is in the can without opening it. — Lulu Thompson
Fiberglass window screening gets spotted and discolored after a few seasons in the sun. Bring your screens back to life with an automotive vinyl protectant like Armor All or Son-Of-A-Gun. Hold a sponge behind the screen when you spray to catch the spray-through, then wipe over the entire screen on both sides. It’ll make them look like new for several more seasons. — Jim Maurer
If your screen his a rip or a hole you’ll want to know these tips on how to repair a screen.
Cut It Straight
When ripping a bowed piece of lumber with a circular saw, here’s how to keep the strip you’re cutting off a consistent width for the full length of the board: Line up the saw blade with the cut mark at the desired width. Make a pencil mark on the shoe of the saw directly above the board edge. Now when you push the saw the length of the board, just keep the pencil mark on the shoe lined up with the edge of the board. Important: Before cutting one-third of the way, tap a wedge into the cut to keep it from closing up and causing the saw to kick back. — Thomas Roberts.
Power Cord Keeper
To keep power cords out of my way when I’m working with a portable power tool, I usually secure the cord at my side, using a 6-in. loop of Velcro fastener to attach it to my belt loop. — John Simmelink
Should you damage a power cord while doing some work, you’ll want to know how to fix a power cord versus buying a new one.
Curtain Rod Plant Pole
My all-time favorite poles for supporting plants, both indoors and outdoors, are sections of brass-plated curtain rods. They’re rust-resistant, inexpensive and attractive. — Carol Crump. See 25 other things you can do with a tension rod other than hang a shower curtain.
Trash Bag Holder
You can buy fold-up lawn and garden bag holders for good money at the hardware store, but an old TV tray frame works just as well—maybe better—and it’s free. It’s the perfect size for a 30-gallon bag; for larger bags, tie a knot in the edge to take up the slack. — Tim Phelon
Here’s a way to be a neater painter: Save some extra paint can lids, make three cuts with a hacksaw as shown, discarding the triangular center section. Snap one of the cut pieces into the groove of the can. Use it to wipe your brush and you won’t have paint running down the side of the can or into the can’s groove. — Marilyn Parker
If you need to draw a large circle, and you’re tired of hunting through the kitchen cabinets for the right-sized bowl or plate to trace around, try this: Use a length of heavy-gauge wire or light metal rod. File a pointed tip on the bottom end and bend it slightly one-third of the way from the top. Then attach it securely to a long pencil with duct tape. Bend the wire as needed to give you the size circle you want. — Carol Crump
Pick up some more tips on how to cut curves in wood.
Pickup Bed Rack
Here’s a great hold-it-in-place cargo rack for the bed of your pickup. Use either 1x3s or 2x4s, depending on how much weight you’ll need to restrain. Screw the four pieces together to fit just inside the wheel wells, as shown, with ears extending ahead of and behind the wells. Tools, sandbags and other items will stay where you want them. — Gary Coffman. Get familiar with these pickup bed hacks so you can get more out of your truck.
Toilet Tank Sweat Stopper
Tired of sweating, dripping toilet tanks every summer? I solved that problem in our bathroom with just a few minutes’ work and a can of spray foam insulation. Drain the tank, clean the inside thoroughly, and make sure it’s completely dry. Cover the moving parts in the tank, as well as the water exit hole, with a plastic bag. Then spray the inside of the tank with an even coat of the foam insulation. Besides not sweating, your toilet will use less water with each flush. —Larry Constanzer
Extension Cord Holder
Keep your long extension cords tangle-free and easily accessible. Cut the top off a plastic milk jug, leaving the handle on for carrying. Cut a hole in the side at the bottom for the receptacle end of the cord, and coil the other end of the cord inside the jug for carrying and storage. — Cathy Livesay. Don’t have an old milk jug around, try this tip to keep your extension cord tangle-free.
Electrical Tape Wrap
When you have to wrap wires with electrical tape in a tight area, pull off a few inches of tape and wrap it loosely on itself around your index finger so the sticky side is out. Then you can just roll the tape around the wire with your thumb, using your middle finger to support it. —Bob Lacivita
Paint Scrapers For Curves
Make a set of paint scrapers for irregular or concave surfaces from different sizes of flat washers. Sharpen one edge of the washers with a file or grinder. Clamp on a locking pliers for a handle. — Art Lipstraw
Squeaky Floor Fix
Squeaky floor driving you nuts? If the underside is exposed in the basement, it’s easy to fix. Have someone walk all over the floor while you stand in the basement. When you hear a squeak, mark that joist with chalk. Screw 3-in. L-brackets to the joists so their tops are flush with the tops of the joists. Then drive screws up into both the subfloor and the surface floor, pulling them down tight to the joists. — H.C. DeWaard
Here’s a simple way to hold a door on edge when you need to plane it or install hinges or a lock. Just make a “V” from two lengths of scrap wood, joining them with one screw. Then screw each piece of wood to the top or bottom of the door, as shown; the horizontal piece should be slightly longer than the angled piece. It’s quick to build and won’t mar the door’s surface. — Allen Stone
A metal extension ladder makes a great straightedge for long cuts with your circular saw. Clamp the ladder at each end with a wood cleat and a small pipe clamp or bar clamp. — Will Tanis
Sheet-Metal Cuts With a Hacksaw
Cut sheet metal cleanly with a hacksaw by sandwiching the metal between two thin boards. Mark your pattern on the front board, clamp the sandwich in a vise, then saw on the marks through the entire sandwich at once. — Jack Kiser. Find faster ways to cut metal other than using a hacksaw with these tips.
Soda Bottle String Dispenser
Try this nifty and tangle-free way to dispense string or twine: Cut a 2-liter plastic soda bottle in half, and shorten one of the halves. Cut wedges along the edge of one half, so the halves will slide together. Put the ball of string in, pull the end through the neck, and tape the halves together. Twist a piece of wire around the neck, and hang it from a convenient place. — Bob Portman
If you have a family with one or more future major league baseball players, build this bat and ball holder to keep their equipment organized. — Randy A. Michel. Get some more incredible storage hacks for sports equipment with these tips.
Clean your one-story-high gutters right from the ground using an old paint roller on an extension handle. It’s angled just right to push leaves and debris out quickly and easily. — Lee Sens
Think that one is clever? We’ve got many other hints on how to repurpose items to clean gutters.
Door Bottom Sander
When you need to remove just a bit from the bottom of a door, here’s a way to do it without removing the door: Disassemble your electric drill sanding disc, and reassemble it so the sandpaper faces the drill chuck. Put some cardboard down so you don’t mar the floor, and sand with upward pressure on the door bottom. — Nick Verslect. Check out these additional tips to fix a sagging or sticking door.
Keep those young trees in your yard from being damaged and possibly killed by the lawn mower or string trimmer. Cut the top and bottom off a clear 2-liter soda bottle, then slice this cylinder down the middle. It will curl around the tree, stay in place, and be almost invisible. — Louise S. McMillian
Stop Those Shifting Studs
How do you hold those studs in place when you’re driving nails at an angle (toenailing) into the soleplate? Just tap the heads of two nails into the soleplate right where the side of the joist is supposed to be. Then do the same on the other side and drive the opposing toenails. — Ron Matthews
Paint narrow soffits and fascia fast and easy from the ground with no brushing, very little dripping and, for one-story homes, no ladder. Use disposable 3-in. long rollers that are sold in packages of two for a couple of dollars at most home centers. Attach the roller handle to a length of 1×2 with duct tape. For wider soffits, use a standard 6-in. or 8-in. roller. — Jim Mazur
Stay-Together Vacuum Hose
If your shop vacuum’s hose or rigid tubes come apart while you’re using them, stop cussing and fix them this easy way: Use an awl or other sharp pointed tool to score deep X’s on the ends, both inside and outside, at each offending joint. The added surface friction from the X’s will keep them together. — Richard Dorsey
Tired of digging around in your tool tray for the right box/open-end wrench? Put them all on a 3-in. snap ring—the kind you can just push open with the end of the wrench—and you’ll have them all together. Just take off the one you need, and snap it back on when you’re finished. Takes a fraction of a second. — Ken Rolf
Prying Stubborn Nails
Some nails just refuse to be pulled out, or the heads break off. Then what? Place the “V” of a pry bar around the nail, then clamp the nail with a locking pliers and pry away. — S. Overmeyer
Doorknob Set Screws
If you have those old decorative doorknobs that are secured to a spindle with a small screw, you know that the screws can loosen or strip out, and get lost. And it’s almost impossible to find replacements. But not to worry. Most hardware stores carry Allen-head set screws, as shown. Take your spindle along, buy the right size (and a few extra), and install it with an Allen wrench. Put a dab of clear nail polish on the threads so the screw won’t come loose. — Phil Werf
Shop Vacuum On the Move
Need to reach high places with your shop vacuum? Or move around a lot, and the thing always tips over? Strap the vacuum to a backpack frame using a couple of elastic cords, strap the pack to your back, and vacuum away. It works great for cleaning window trim, blinds, roof rafters, joists and ceilings. Stay off ladders, though. — Barbara Wills
Christmas Tree Irrigation
If you’re tired of doing yuletide contortions to water your Christmas tree, try this simple irrigation system. Use a length of 1/2-in. clear vinyl tubing with one end secured to a lower branch with twist-ties and the other end leading to the stand. To water, just poke a funnel into the tubing and pour. Not just for Christmas trees; it works well for any hard-to-reach indoor plant. — Barry Showalter.
Here’s a method that works really great for getting kinks and bends out of wire—even fairly heavy wire: Drill a hole in an 8-in. long piece of 2×2 or 2×4. Make the hole slightly larger than the diameter of the wire. Slip the wire through the hole and clamp the end of the wire in a vise. Then, using the wood as a handle, pull the hole along the wire with both hands. — Ruth Whitehead
Trash Bag Dispenser
Doesn’t it drive you nuts when that roll of trash bags skitters all over the place and unravels? Here’s a simple solution. Cut an “X” from corner to corner in the bottom of a clean plastic milk container. Push the roll of trash bags into the container, thread the first bag out through the spout, and let the roll fall back into the container. Pull the bags out of the spout as you need them. Wrap the bag ties around the handle of the container. — Linda Anderson-Jarosz
Try this system for hanging a decorative quilt or carpet on the wall. Insert a safety pin vertically, through the backing near the top, and slightly back from the edges. Keep the circular spring end of the pin facing up. Hold the carpet or quilt against the wall at the desired height, mark the locations of the safety pins, and install a picture hook so it will pass through the circle of the pin. For heavy items you may want to use more than two pins. — Peter Bilotta
If you’ve got bedding items you don’t want to hang on your walls, find out how to store it properly.
Carpet Paint Masker
Try this easy way to keep the paint off your carpeting when you’re painting baseboard: Roll out 2-in. wide packing tape so its upper edge rests about 1/2 in. above the carpeting on the baseboard. The tape should rest lightly on the baseboard so it doesn’t adhere. Then tuck this edge down behind the carpet edge, first with your fingers, then with a wide putty knife. Remove the tape carefully after the paint dries. — James Aleo
Get-a-Grip Shop Vacuum
Sick and tired of trying to pick up and move my shop vacuum with nowhere to grab, I finally mounted a large door handle directly onto the top. I used four 1/2-in. No. 8 sheet metal screws. Try it. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this years ago. — Al Seibert
Did you know that Shop Vac is actually a trademarked name? Find out other commonly used terms that are actually trademarked.
Stay-in-Place Chair Cushions
Are you tired of your chair cushions sliding all over, and always looking askew? Here’s a way to keep them in place: Buy a piece of thin, non-slip rug padding that’s used under area rugs. Cut it about 1 in. smaller than the chair cushion all the way around. Then just lay it in place under the cushion. — Judy Stone
Vinyl Siding Fixer
After installing vinyl siding on my home, I noticed that a few strips had come unhooked along the channel-and-lip horizontal connecting joints. The strips were installed too low. I was afraid I’d have to remove whole sections of siding, but then I discovered this simple fix: I unhooked the strip of siding above the loose joint, and re-nailed it higher. Then I used one of my wife’s metal crochet hooks, running it along the lip and pulling it down, while pressing with the other hand to snap the lip back into the channel. — Chuck Siefert. If your vinyl siding is shot, you’ll want to know these tips on how to replace vinyl siding.
Inspired by the stilts that drywallers wear, I made my own from two empty 5-gal. plastic buckets with the handles removed and a pair of old tennis shoes. Just remove the inner soles, then bolt the shoes to the bottom of the buckets using flat head stove bolts and large washers. Replace the inner soles, lace up and climb on board. Be sure to secure lids on the buckets for additional stability. The pails are light and easy to get around on. Just keep the floor free of obstructions, and don’t try climbing stairs. — Jim Pfohl
Why do the spigots on coffee urns and coolers keep running after you shut them off? It’s one of life’s little mysteries. Next time you have a party, cut drip catchers from 2-liter soda bottles, like the one shown, and stop worrying about your floors. — Brad Johnson
How many times has your hammer fallen off the top step of the stepladder and you had to climb down to get it? With a piece of old leather belt or canvas strap, and a 3/4-in. long screw, you can fix the problem for good. — Lin George. Better yet, discover this ladder hack that will keep you from losing your tools.
All-Weather I.D. Tag
Here’s how to make inexpensive identification tags that will always stay readable. Cut them out of an old aluminum TV dinner or foil pie pan. Place each tag on a soft surface and inscribe it using a ball point pen. The imprint will last indefinitely. Attach them to your plantings or anything else that needs weatherproof, permanent I.D. Keep your garden seeds straight with this brilliant hack too.
Portable Shoe Scraper
Here’s a quick and simple shoe scraper that’s portable but won’t slide around when you use it. Screw a large, stiff-bristle scrub brush to a piece of plywood about 12 in. wide x 16 in. long. Your weight on the plywood base keeps it stationary while you scrape each shoe on the scrub brush. You can wash the scraper with a hose, and store it out of sight when not using it.
Space-Maker Garage Rack
If you’ve got space between your opened garage door and the garage ceiling, here’s a way to use it: Build racks, as shown, from screwed-together 2x2s. It’s quick, easy and inexpensive. Use 5-in. lag bolts to secure the racks to the ceiling joists. Be sure to leave several inches of clearance between the bottom of the rack and the opened door. — Dave Rennie
Garden Hose Hanger
An easy way to make a sturdy garden hose hanger: Attach a large plastic pail to the wall with large flat washers and drywall screws at least 2 in. long. Store the hose accessories inside the pail and loop the hose over the outside.
Make a Clamp
Here’s how to make a clamp out of scrap lumber for a flat project of any size. Screw one block at each end of a length of board that’s slightly longer than the project to be clamped. Attach each block with just one screw so it will pivot for perfect alignment. Cut a couple of wedge-shaped pieces of wood and drive them between one of the blocks and the project. Discover 28 secret clamping tricks from woodworkers you can use.
Circular Saw Guide
Make this circular saw cutoff guide from almost any straight pieces of scrap wood. Attach the two pieces with glue and screws at exact right angles to each other. Make the right-hand arm of the guide a bit longer than the distance from the blade to the left edge of the saw’s shoe; the first time you use the guide, the saw will trim off the excess. From then on, just line up the right end of the guide with your cut mark, and cut with the shoe against the shoe guide for a straight, square cut.
Miter Box Gripper
Moldings and other small strips of wood are much easier to hold in position in your miter box if you use this method. Drill two small holes through the back of the box, then insert small, sharp-pointed screws so they project into the box about 1/16 in. Press your molding against the screw points to keep it from sliding as you cut.
Long Cuts on Narrow Boards
When you need to cut a narrow board lengthwise, it’s almost impossible to keep the circular saw’s base stable so you can get a perfect cut. The easiest solution is to temporarily attach a “carrier board” of the same thickness, edge to edge, using pieces of double-sided tape every 6 in. It’s a lot safer too.
Big Sheet Carrier
You don’t have to struggle trying to lug around full sheets of plywood or drywall. Just tie together the two ends of a length of rope about 18 ft. long. Hook this loop around the two bottom corners of the sheet to form a handle.
Handsaw Cutting Clamp
When cutting with a handsaw, it’s hard to get an accurate start. To solve this problem, use a C-clamp to secure a scrap wood block along the cutting line. This keeps the saw on the cutting line until the blade has a good start in the cut.
Here’s a way to avoid blue thumbnail misery when you make an occasional bad swing with a hammer: When starting a nail, hold it with your thumb and forefinger right under the head rather than lower down. You’ll be able to keep your eye on your thumb as well as the nailhead, giving you better aim. And if you do make a bad swing, your thumb and finger are more likely to be deflected by the hammer than squashed. You can also add this tool from the bathroom to help save your thumb when swinging a hammer.
Ice coming off the roof can bend the spikes that secure gutters to the soffit fascia. To straighten the spikes without removing both them and the gutters, use a 2-ft. length of angle iron and a heavy metal chain link with the center section cut out of one side. Working from a ladder (be careful!), you’ll find that the angle iron and chain link provide easy leverage to straighten out the spike and get the gutters back in alignment.
No-Tip Garbage Cans
There really is a simple way to keep those garbage cans from getting blown over or dumped. For each garbage can, all you need are two 3/4-in. screw eyes and a 30-in. hook-end Bungee cord from the hardware store to keep them in their place. Here’s how to keep your trash can from flying away when it comes time to put it out on garbage day.
This gutter cleaner takes about 10 minutes to make, costs around $5, and will save you time and ladder climbing. Use 3/4-in. PVC pipe (the thick stuff, called “Schedule 40”), two elbows, a garden hose coupling and a cap. Drill four 1/16-in. holes in the cap as shown. Make the handle as long as you need to comfortably reach your gutters, and cement the parts together. Discover the 56 most brilliant PVC hacks you’ve ever seen.
Garage Door Saver
Extend the life of your multi-panel wood garage door by keeping its vulnerable bottom section free of moisture. Run a bead of caulk along all the joints of the bottom horizontal rail where it joins the panels. Use a paintable caulk.
If your garage door is on its last legs, check out these 10 things to know before buying a new garage door.
Moveable Deck Umbrellas
Does your deck umbrella always seem to be in the wrong spot to shade you from the sun? Mount several sets of galvanized plumbing pipe straps on the deck posts or railing in key places. Use straps with a slightly wider diameter than the umbrella pole. Then just pick a spot and slip the umbrella pole through the straps until the bottom of the pole rests on the deck. You’ll get shade right where you need it.
Patio Paver Puller
After a winter of freezing and thawing, some individual bricks or pavers in your sand-based patio may need re-leveling. How do you get the brick or paver out? Make these pullers from two pieces of coat-hanger wire. Slip the wires down both sides of the offending paver, turn them a quarter turn, and pull up the paver. For large patio blocks, make four pullers, and get a second person to help.
Painting Textured Walls
If you’re painting walls with deep depressions, such as old paneling or textured walls, even a long-nap roller may not fill these depressions well. The solution is to put the paint on the wall using the traditional “N” or “W” pattern, then spread the paint and work it into the depressions by holding the roller at a 15- to 30-degree angle while pulling or pushing it in a straight line. This skidding and plowing action of the turning roller will force the paint into the depressions. — David Tomer
Super Picture Hanger
Need a hanger for pictures or wall hangings that won’t pull out? Use drapery hooks, and tap them into the wall at about a 15-degree angle. You can also use them for hanging tools in the workshop. They work great in pegboard. — Arlene White
Trailer Wire Holder
I finally got sick and tired of the trailer wiring harness hanging down behind my pickup truck. It looked ugly and was always exposed to the elements. The solution: a magnetic key storage box. Cut a slot on one end of the box just large enough for the wires to pass through. Place the connector in the box and place the box on the hitch bar or any other steel horizontal surface under the vehicle. — Ken Maretka. Try this trick to get trailer lights that always work.
Plywood Concrete Mixer
If you have a batch of concrete to mix, but nothing to mix it in, use a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of 1/4- or 3/8-in. plywood. Place a few bricks or scraps of 2×4 under all four of the plywood corners to form a shallow, concave mixing tub. Clean the concrete off thoroughly, and when you’re finished, you can still use the plywood with the other side up. — John Gandolfo
An empty caulking tube cut in half at a 45-degree angle makes a handy scoop with a comfortable handle. It’s exactly the right size for cleaning gutters. — Jim Feldner
Here’s a low-tech, no-hassle shelter for keeping your firewood dry. Drive two stakes or poles into the ground 6 ft. apart, and about 16 in. out from the wall. Stack the firewood between the poles. Cut two holes in a sheet of 2 x 4-ft. corrugated fiberglass so it will slide down the poles and rest on top of the firewood. If you keep the pile somewhat level as you use the wood, the fiberglass will keep sliding down the poles to provide a snug covering for the wood. —Jack Curran
Perfect-Fit Crown Molding
When you’re installing crown molding against a textured ceiling, here’s a way to get a nice, tight fit: Cut an 8-in. piece of the molding you’re putting up, and staple a piece of medium-grit sandpaper over the top edge. Then hold the molding in place against the wall and ceiling exactly as it would be attached, and slide it back and forth to sand the area smooth. Not only do you get a perfect fit, but the slight ridge formed by the sanding helps hold the molding in position when you nail it. — Mark Swinson.
Tree Bark Protector
When you mow the lawn, does the sharp lower lip on the front and side edges of the mower occasionally cut the bark of your trees? A pair of plastic car door edge guards for $1.50 from an auto-parts store can help solve the problem. They slip neatly onto the edges of the mower, stay put and leave no marks on the trees.
Rust-Free Tool Storage
Keep outdoor and garden tools from rusting. Store them in a bucket filled with sand that has a cup or two of motor oil mixed with it. It provides safe and easy-to-get-at storage. Or try this really cool trick to remove rust that you don’t see every day.
Big-Time Grass Catcher
Tired of emptying the small grass catcher of your riding mower every five minutes? Build this large catcher that mounts in a lightweight garden trailer. The five panels are screwed-together 2x2s with ordinary window screen stapled to the insides. The panels are assembled with hooks and eyes, so the whole thing can come apart and hang on the garage wall. The back panel unhooks for emptying clippings onto the compost pile. The chute is made from flexible clothes dryer duct and fittings. Experiment with the ductwork first to see how high your mower will blow the grass, and then determine how high to build the catcher.
Keep your socket wrenches in order, and easily accessible on a lightweight chain. They’ll take up less space in your toolbox, or you can hang them on the wall. When you need to remove or replace a socket, just slide the chain clip around to it. — Brian Street. Learn the differences between 12-point and 6-point sockets before you go out buying a new socket set.
Speed Square Ripping Marker
Turn your aluminum Speed Square into a first-rate ripping marker. Drill two staggered rows of 1/16-in. holes at 1/8-in. intervals along the right-angle edge of the square. You can then run the lipped edge of the square along the board edge and mark your rip with a pencil placed in the appropriate hole. — Tom Rudolph
Leftover paint doesn’t keep very well in its original 1-gal. container. Plus, those big cans are inconvenient for small touch-ups, and they take up a lot of storage space. Instead, store leftover paint in plastic 1-qt. sports water bottles. They’re inexpensive, have a wide enough neck for filling, and the pop-up spout is easy to open and close, yet seals well. — Robert Severson
We love frugality but don’t get too crazy and make one of these 10 common mistakes people make when trying to save money.
Remote Control Insect Bomb
Do you have unwanted critters like wasps setting up housekeeping under your eaves or some other inaccessible spot? Try this remote control spray device: Tape an aerosol insect spray bomb to a long wooden pole or stick. Mount a flexible, L-shaped piece of metal between the pole and the can, extending over the nozzle, so you can trigger it with a string. — Cedric Bileen
Drawers from old dressers can be given new life as under-the-bed storage bins. Fasten small casters to the bottoms and slide the drawers under the bed to store seasonal clothes, extra blankets, toys and more. Discover 10 hidden storage spots in your home to help create a cleaner home.
Spice Rack Bolt Holder
Solve your small-parts storage problem by installing an inexpensive, revolving spice rack on the shelf above your workbench. The spice bottles are clear, so finding what you need is easy. Try one of these 12 ingenious spice storage ideas if this idea doesn’t do it for you.
Neat Nail Organizer
Bleach bottles make great nail organizers, once you cut out a section of the top. When the bottles are stored on their sides, the weight of the nails keeps them from rolling; the handles make for easy carrying; and they can stand upright as well. Check out this heap of hardware storage hints, like grabbing something from the kitchen.
Washer and Dryer Shelf
Are your washer and dryer tops always covered with detergent boxes, bleach bottles and other clutter? Since the machines must sit away from the wall because of the hoses and dryer vent, install a fill-in shelf that rests snugly on top of the machine backs. It takes up little space and solves the clutter problem. Use ordinary shelf brackets, and make the shelf wide enough to cover the machines’ top edges and the open space behind them. These organization tips will transform a small laundry room.