100 Vintage Home Hacks That are Still Brilliant Today
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!
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