65 Cool Tool Hacks That are Super Useful for DIYers
Tool hacks usually happen on the fly, when you’re in a situation that calls for a tool to be modified slightly or used in a way that’s different than its intended purpose. Many of the following tool hacks were created for those reasons—and some were just stumbled upon while tinkering in the shop.
Quick Woodworking File
Custom Pads for a Mechanic’s Vise
More Planing, Less Exercise
Paint Can Opener on Hand
Use a Sneaker to Clean Sandpaper
How to Magnetize a Screwdriver
Hands-Free Light Hack
Brush with a Drill
Got a big scrubbing job on your list? Chuck a brush into your drill and save the elbow grease. You’ll find drill-ready brushes for all kinds of scrubbing from Drillbrush.
Kitty Litter Pouch for Tool Protection
Two Sizes of Brad Nails in One Gun
Caulk Gun Clamp
A rubber chair leg cap instantly converts a hammer into a rubber mallet. And if you want to drive a nail without denting the surrounding wood, cut a hole in the rubber cap. Pound until the rubber strikes wood, then finish driving the nail with a nail set. A 1-1/8-in. rubber cap fits tightly over most hammers and costs about $1 at home centers and hardware stores.
Check if a Square is Square
How to Fix a Square
Lighted Screwdriver Hack
Saddles for Sawhorses
Vise-Grips to Pull Nails
Circle Gets the Square
Customized Chuck Key
The advantages? Besides no longer scraping your fingers on the gears, you’ll have increased leverage with less effort and a much more comfortable grip when tightening the chuck. Plus: Never lose your chuck key again!
Last-Ditch Nail Pulling
When you need to extend the reach of your cordless screwdriver, just pull the shaft out of a four-way screwdriver and clamp it in the chuck.
Longer-Lasting Utility Blade
Most often, it’s just the tip that gets dull on a utility knife. When it does, snap off the tip with pliers and you’re in business again. Wear eye protection, because sometimes a little piece of the blade goes flying!
No-Dent Nail Finishing
With a thin-blade saw, saw a narrow kerf 1/4 in. into the end of a wood shim ($2 per pack at a home center). Press a finish nail into the slot, hold the shim against the molding and then drive in the nail. The soft wood shim lets you deliver a final firm blow to leave the nailhead nearly flush with the surface. Next, set the nail just below the surface with a nail set and apply wood filler.
PVC Sanding Files
- 1/2-in. i.d. = 7/8-in. o.d.
- 3/4-in. i.d. = 1-in. o.d.
- 1-in. i.d. = 1-1/4-in. o.d.
- 1-1/4-in. i.d. = 1-5/8-in. o.d.
- 1-1/2-in. i.d. = 1-7/8-in. o.d.
To apply sandpaper to the pipe, spray both the paper and the pipe with a generous layer of adhesive. Let both surfaces dry several minutes before joining them. Use two grits on each pipe—80-grit for sculpting a precise radius, and 100- or 120-grit for finish sanding. When the sandpaper’s worn out, just pull it off, spray fresh adhesive on a new strip and go back to having fun. Check out these other genius sanding tips.
Socket Wrench Screwdriver
Wrench for Rounded Bolts
Loosen bolts with worn, rounded heads with a pipe wrench! The pipe wrench jaws dig in and grab the head so you can remove the bolt. Check out these other clever new uses for your tools.
Hang Your Roofing Tools
Use spring clamps to keep your hoses, extension cords, and other tools and materials from sliding off the roof. Don’t try this on brittle or scorching hot shingles or you may damage them. You can create a handier hook by sticking the clamp in a vise and bending up one of the handles.
Mix Concrete with a Rake
Make Mini Roller Covers
Next time you’re in the paint department, pick up a 3-in. roller frame, the type that takes the same diameter cover as a standard 9-in. roller. You can then cut any 9-in. roller cover into three 3-in. covers to fit it. A 3-in. roller is perfect for painting trim or small stuff like a mailbox, but not every store carries 3-in. covers. This little trick will also cut the cost of the 3-in. roller covers in half.
Mark the 9-in. roller covers 3 in. in from each end. Cut into equal pieces with a hacksaw, holding the cover steady with a bar clamp. Trim the rough edges of the nap with scissors.
Use a Level to Extend Your Table Saw Fence
The only way to achieve a perfectly straight cut is to keep your material tight up against the table saw fence. But that’s hard to do when you’re cutting a large sheet of plywood on your own. Extending the fence with a 4-ft. level will make it easier to keep the plywood on a straight and narrow path as it approaches and passes through the blade. Hold the level in place with a couple clamps.
Need a hole in hard soil? Use a Drill!
Make a Blade for Cutting Foam
A jigsaw will cut through rigid foam like butter—except butter doesn’t crumble into thousands of bits that mess up your shop, basement or garage. If you remove the teeth from a jigsaw blade, it will cut the foam just as well but without the mess. Remove the teeth with a grinder, and be sure to wear eye protection. Hold on to the blade with locking pliers, not your fingers!
Lift Heavy Stuff With a Flat Pry Bar
If you’ve ever had to remove a solid-core door, you know how heavy they can be. Lifting them up to reinstall hinge pins can be a challenge if you’re working alone, but a flat pry bar (aka “flat bar”) can give you just the leverage you need.
If your flat bar won’t raise the door high enough, install a small block of wood at the fulcrum point of the pry bar to increase the lifting distance. Hold the block in place with a small screw and washer. Make sure the screw doesn’t poke through. If it does, grind off the end so it won’t damage the floor. This same setup can be used to raise bottom drywall sheets off the floor for fastening.
PVC Hammer Holder
Here’s an instant rack for hammer storage! Drive 2-in. drywall screws into a board and tack it to a shop wall. Hook the hammers on the screws so it looks like they’re ready to pull out a nail. The hammer claw’s V-notch interlocks tightly with the screw threads so the hammer won’t fall off, and the handle angles toward you for an easy grasp.
Shove a screw driver under the hammer head to protect delicate surfaces, like cedar decking or any other finished surface. For a straight pull, size the screwdriver so the pivot point is as close to the nail as possible. The screwdriver also gives the hammer claw better leverage, so you can often rock the hammer directly back on its head rather than sideways. But not always. Use this straight pull only on nails that come out fairly easily or that aren’t driven deeply. Otherwise you could break a wooden-handled hammer. Although you can yank a lot harder on hammers with a fiberglass or steel handle, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to use a sideways pull.
Hand tools are great, but they’re even better when you use them creatively for things they’re not designed to do. Check out these 16 genius hand tool hacks you need to know.
Free Finger Saver
I build a lot of small projects, including wren and bluebird houses, and I use lots of small nails—so small that at times I can’t grip them to start the nail. My solution: a plastic lid from a small peanut can. Just trim the lid back and drill a small hole near the end. Then cut a slit leading away from the hole so when you pull the lid back it releases from the nail. — Miles Stromback
Homemade Hammer Mallet
Cover a metal hammer with a tennis ball to protect the surfaces of your projects when you knock them together or apart. Carefully cut an ‘X’ in the ball with a sharp utility knife. Make it just large enough for the head of an 18- to 24-oz. hammer to slide through. You’ll discover that your rubber-bumper hammer works better than a standard rubber hammer, since it concentrates the blow on a small area and doesn’t leave black marks.
Maximize Your Hammer Power
Ram the claw of your hammer into the nail shank and rock it sideways using the claw edge as a pivot point. Repeat the process until you pry out the nail. This technique produces maximum pulling power with little stress on the handle. Learn more tips for removing stuck nails here.
Caulking Gun for Airheads
Safer Trim Nailing
Here’s an oldie-but-goodie that’ll save your ﬁngertips when you’re driving small brads or nails into awkward spots. Push the nail into a thin strip of card-board to hold it in position while nailing and to shield the wood from an errant hammer blow.
Give Paint-Clogged Screw Heads a Tap
Learn the many uses for a reciprocating saw.
Quick and Easy Pilot Holes
From time to time you may find yourself working with temperamental material that is prone to splitting when you hammer into it. The best solution is to drill a pilot hole, but what do you do if you don’t have the proper size bit on hand? Sure, you could make a run to the hardware store, but why not use a nail to get your pilot hole started?
Simply lop of the head of the nail, insert the nail body into your drill chuck, and you’re ready to roll! This how-to breaks down all the steps needed to start implementing this great hack.
Instant Magnetic Screw Holder
If you’ve ever struggled to retrieve fasteners or drill bits, fumbling to pull them out of a pocket while half-way through a project, then this is the hack for you! Use a little dab of superglue (or even hot glue) on the frame of your drill and attach a strong magnet in the perfect spot to keep screws and loose materials easily accessible while you work. For more tips about efficient fastener techniques, here are 15 Revolutionary Techniques for Driving Screws.
Give Yourself a Little Give
When drilling a smooth surface, it can be difficult to get a hole started without “walking” the bit. Some materials are soft enough that you can use a nail set or punch to create a dimple to seat the bit. But other materials, such as glass, are a little more challenging.
For this simple hack, keep some painter’s tape and dense cardboard in your tool bag. Tape the cardboard over the area you want to drill, then use a carbide-tipped bit at low-speed to create a divot in the material. The cardboard will steady the bit, and once you have a starter hole you can discard the cardboard and proceed as usual.
For more detailed instructions, a great starting point is this Family Handyman article: How to Drill Into Glass.
A Simpler Depth Stop
Chances are you’ve seen the trick of using electrical tape to mark a drill bit when you want to stop a hole at a specific target depth. That’s a great tip, but if you’re drilling multiple holes that tape can get ragged pretty quick, and once that happens, it’s no longer an accurate depth stop. Instead, use a permanent marker to indicate the target depth and you’ll get much more use out of it before it wears down. Once you’ve finished your project, simply wipe the drill bit with some paint remover or Goo Gone, and the marker ink should come right off.
To make this hack more effective, you’ll want to choose a marker color that stands out against the drill bit. Ideally, you’d have a few markers in your tool bag, depending on what kind of twist drill bit you prefer to use.
Super-Long Bit Extender
Sometimes you need just a little extra reach on your drill bit. You can run down to the local hardware store to buy an extender, but those prepackaged solutions carry a hefty price tag. If you only need the extender for a one-shot or short term project, why not make your own? This how-to from Family Handyman reader Jonthan Spicker shows how to get the same reach on a shoe-string budget.
Make a Squeegee From a Rake
Use a Rubber Band to Grip Stripped Screws
Rubber-Band Bolt Holder
Long Reach Shears
Plus: How to Trim a Tree
Handy Rake Handle
Save your back when raking mulch or shoveling heaps of dirt by adding another handle to your long-handle tools. A section of PVC pipe with a tee fitting and cap work perfectly. Add a screw through the tee fitting and into the handle for won’t-budge stability. Check out these other genius handy hints.