28 Helpful Tips for Doing DIY Work Alone
When a project requires extra hands but there aren’t any available (or you’re too stubborn to ask for help!), try one of these tips for doing DIY work alone.
Handy Helper for Under the Sink
To replace a garbage disposer, I used the scissor jack from the trunk of my car. That not only saved me some heavy lifting but also allowed me to precisely adjust the height of the disposer. Scissor jacks can help out with other heavy lifting too. I used one to position a heavy shower door. — reader Mike McCleish. Next, check out 12 high-tech tools to trick out your home workshop.
Using a Lever
Lever posts out of the ground by wrapping a chain around the base of the post and slipping a long plank through the chain. Pry against a block resting on the ground to keep the lever from digging into the soil. Sometimes you’ll have to excavate around the tops of stubborn concrete-embedded posts to remove some of the dirt trapping the top of the concrete.
Stabilize Your Sanding Project Hands-Free
Belt sanders are essential woodworking tools, but you need to make sure the piece you’re sanding stays put. That’s sometimes difficult when you’re sanding something on your workbench, as clamps can get in the way of sanding. The trick is to screw boards to two edges of your work surface, creating a corner. As you sand, the belt’s spin pushes the workpiece against the boards or “fiddles” as they’re sometimes called. Make sure your fiddles are thinner than the part you’re sanding. — Travis Larson, Senior Editor
Hang it High Helper
With this hang-it-high extension pole, you can hang objects in high, hard-to- reach areas. Attach a spring clamp to the end of an ABS or PVC (plastic) drain pipe, and use the end of the clamp as a hook to lift items on or off a hook or nail. — readers Joseph and Debra Wronkowski. Next, check out these additional 45 hugely helpful handy hints!
Screw On a Cleat to Hold a Board
A small plywood cleat screwed to the top of a joist will hold it up while you nail the opposite end. Plus, it will hold the tops flush while you nail on the joist hanger. Use scraps of 3/4-in. plywood rather than boards for small cleats. Plywood won’t split when you drive screws into it.
Use Your Miter Saw Stand with Your Planer
Planing long boards alone isn’t easy. You get plenty of exercise running from the infeed side to the outfeed side before the board flips your portable planer. Granted, it won’t flip if it’s properly bolted down, but here’s a better way: Fasten your portable planer to a board; then fasten the board to a miter saw stand. The stand’s board supports act as infeed and outfeed for planing, greatly reducing the exercise part of planing long boards. Then you’ll have more energy to start your project right way! — reader Terry Blanchard. Next, check out our favorite woodworking tips for beginners.
Tip It Into a Wheelbarrow
Solo Fastener Driving Tip
Easy-Reach Tape Measure
Here’s a tip I discovered by accident. I had been installing some rare earth magnets in a project, so I had a few in my pocket. As I stepped away from my workbench, I noticed that my 12 ft. tape measure was attached to my pocket! It’s not a lot of trouble to use the tape’s clip as intended, but having the tape measure stuck to your pocket is even easier. I keep a couple magnets stuck to my tape measure’s clip so I don’t lose them. This won’t work with a 25 ft. tape; they’re just too heavy. And don’t put the magnets in the same pocket as your phone or credit cards. — Brad Holden, Senior Editor. Click here for some amazing woodworking projects you can start today!
How to Snap a Chalk Line By Yourself
Easily Move Your Heavy Tools
I had a truckload of lumber to transport from the truck down a long hallway to my shop, and I wasn’t looking forward to carrying it all by myself, an armload at a time. That’s when I noticed a pallet leaning up against the wall and had an idea.
I don’t own a pallet jack, but I did have a set of swiveling casters! After adding some reinforcement blocking to the pallet, I installed a 4-in. caster at each corner. It worked perfectly for hauling my entire load of lumber in one trip.
I’ve since kept my pallet dolly and use it frequently as my multipurpose heavy-stuff mover. — reader Keith Jones
A Helper Up High
Use Clamps to Support Pipes when Soldering
When you’re soldering pipes, tighten a clamp across two ﬂoor joists for temporary support. Use the same trick to support drain-pipes, ducting or framing members while you work on them. Use the same trick to support drain-pipes, ducting or framing members while you work on them. Plus: Top 10 plumbing fixes you can do yourself.
Hands-Free Light Hack
Use Balance and Grip to Haul Heavy Plywood
Skateboard Workshop Helper
A skateboard isn’t just useful for rolling through the park, it also makes a handy hauler on the fly. Just load it up with your heavy items such as tires or large sheets of plywood, and easily tote them from one area of your shop to another. If you don’t have a skateboard handy, keep an eye out for one at garage sales or at thrift stores. Even if you don’t ride it, it’s worth a few bucks to buy one exclusively to haul stuff around your workshop! Click here for even more moving techniques.
Use Sturdy Scaffolding
The scaffolding doesn’t have to be anything fancy. When you have a job less than 10 ft. from the ground, set a couple of solid, crack-free, 2×12 boards (avoid large knots) over a pair of sturdy sawhorses for a platform you can move around on. Just make sure your setup is on even ground to keep the horses from collapsing, and avoid ‘walking the plank’ by remembering that there are no safety rails. Keep plank ends close to sawhorses or they’ll flip up when you step on the ends, like they do in slapstick movies (only it won’t be nearly as funny in real life).
For higher jobs, like painting second-floor eaves or replacing windows or siding, go to the rental store and examine your scaffolding options. You can rent long, lightweight aluminum planks with various styles of jacks to support them and the same platform ‘section style’ scaffolding you see the pros use on big construction sites. Tell the scaffolding supplier about the job you’re planning to do and how high you’ll be working to get help choosing the best scaffold. Most scaffolding can be carried in a pickup, but rental stores will deliver too. You’ll forgive the cost when you see how your productivity increases.
Extend Your Saw Table
Use a Cleat to Hang a Cabinet
Don’t Carry or Drag—Slide
Use an Appliance Dolly
Appliance dollies like the one shown have straps to secure the load and rollers on the back to assist in going up and down stairs. The strap mechanism can be confusing, though, so ask the rental salesperson to show you how it works.
Load the appliance onto the dolly by pushing against the top to tip it away as you slide the lip of the dolly underneath. Then wrap the straps around the appliance and tighten them. Be careful, though. Properly tightened straps exert a lot of pressure, so make sure they’re underneath and away from handles or other parts that could be damaged.
Now brace the bottom with your foot and pull back on the handles of the dolly to tilt the appliance off the ground and roll it away. It’s easiest to roll backward over bumps or rough surfaces. Get help if you have to go up or down stairs. To set the appliance down again, brace the bottom with your foot and hang from the top of the handles. Let your weight do the work as you gently lower the appliance to the floor.
The Family Handyman
Simple Soldering Stand
Ever try holding two strands of wire in one hand, a spool of solder in the other, and maneuver a soldering gun besides? Solder more effectively with this great tip from reader Randy Witmyer. Cut a couple of 6-in. pieces of wire from a coat hanger and crimp alligator clips ($2 for a four-pack at a home center) on the ends. Drill holes in a board, stick in the alligator clip wires and clamp in the wire ends you’re soldering.You now have two hands free, one for the gun and one for the solder.
Bar Clamps for Framing Jobs
These clamps come in handy for all sorts of framing tasks too. For example, you can clamp a board to the bottom of deck joists as shown to support the front joist while you nail it on. Keep a set of clamps handy when you work and you may not even miss having a helper.
Ironing Board Back Saver
Smarter Leaf Collection
Use Pivot Points and Balance with Long Ladders
Anchor the feet of extension ladders against the base of the building and ‘walk’ the ladder up to raise it. The solid wall keeps the feet from kicking out as the ladder’s raised. To lower ladders, move the feet back against the building and reverse the process. Extend the ladder while holding it vertical, and roll the top of the ladder to walk it sideways.
Screws that Stick
Using a handheld screwdriver in tight spaces can be very frustrating, especially when there isn’t enough room to hold the screw in place with your free hand. Here’s a solution for how to magnetize a screwdriver situation: Attach a small magnet to the shaft of your screwdriver. The magnetic magic will travel through the metal of the screwdriver, down to the business end, holding the screw right where you need it—with no hands!
This trick for how to magnetize a screwdriver works with other tools, too. Magnetize the head of a hammer to hold a nail, add a magnet to the metal bit in a power drill/driver to hold a screw—you get the idea.
The Helper You Wear: A Tool Belt
Put tools that you grab with your dominant hand on that side of the belt, and fasteners on the other side. Also, have a fixed spot for your most-used tools so you can find them instantly.