Circular Saw Hack
Recently I needed to rip a few deck boards to fit against the house. It dawned on me that a stair gauge could lock onto the saw’s shoe and act as a rip guide. It was a perfect substitute and gave me precise cuts. — Matt Taylor
65 Cool Tool Hacks That are Super Useful for DIYers
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Quick Woodworking File
This woodworking file comes in handy for sanding in tight spaces. Cut a piece of sandpaper to fit around a paint stir stick. Then use spray adhesive or an all-purpose glue to adhere it to the stick. Write the sandpaper grit on the handle of the stir stick, if you plan to store it for later use.
Custom Pads for a Mechanic’s Vise
Make custom pads for a mechanic’s vise by cutting wood blocks to fit across the vise shaft. Use a jigsaw to cut out the notches in the wood blocks, and add a bead of hot glue (optional) to hold them in place on the vise.
More Planing, Less Exercise
Planing boards with a portable planer can provide you with a lot of exercise. But rather than running from the infeed side to the outfeed side before the board flips your portable planer, try this instead: Attach your portable planer to a board; then fasten the board to a miter saw stand. Then planing boards won’t wear you out so quickly!
Paint Can Opener on Hand
Always have a paint can opener on hand when you’re ready to start a painting project. Use pliers or a multitool to slightly bend open the loop of the opener. Then hook it onto the handle of the paint can you just purchased.
Use a Sneaker to Clean Sandpaper
Make sandpaper nearly new again with a lowly old sneaker. Start up your power sander and dust collection system (remember to wear hearing and eye protection). Then slowly press the rubber sole of an old sneaker along the sandpaper—you'll see a difference instantly!
How to Magnetize a Screwdriver
Magnetize the end of a screwdriver to drive screws with just one hand. This hint is especially useful for working in tight spaces where there isn’t room for you to hold a screw with one hand while you turn the screwdriver with the other.
Hands-Free Light Hack
Make a hands-free light in a snap with a flashlight, a pair of pliers and a rubber band. Place the flashlight in the jaws of the pliers; then wrap a rubber band around the handles of the pliers. That’s it! Point the light wherever you need it.
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
Make a rust-preventing pouch for your toolbox with a scoop of silica crystal kitty litter, a piece of breathable fabric and a zip tie. Toss it in your toolbox to keep out excess moisture and protect your prized possessions.
Two Sizes of Brad Nails in One Gun
For small projects such as trimming one door, store two sizes of brad nails in one nail gun. This puts both sizes of nails right in your hand; you just have to open up the magazine and put the correct-size nail at the top when you need it.
Caulk Gun Clamp
Did you know that you can use a caulk gun as a clamp? It’s perfect for gluing up small projects such as a cutting board. Just place a couple of pieces of scrap wood or cardboard at the ends of the caulk gun and then squeeze the trigger to apply pressure.
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
Follow these simple steps for ensuring that your square is square: Align the short side of the square with the factory edge of a piece of plywood. Draw a line along the edge of the long side of the square. Flip over the tool and align the base of the mark with the same edge of the long side of the square. Draw another line. If the marks do not align perfectly, the square is not square.
How to Fix a Square
Before tossing your off-kilter square and spending money on a new one, try fixing it with this simple process. Use a center punch, a hammer and an anvil. If the sides of the square are too close together, punch the inner corner. If the sides are too far apart, punch the outer corner. Check your progress, and repeat as needed until the square is square.
Lighted Screwdriver Hack
No need for fancy hand tools with built-in LED lights, opt for this lighted screwdriver hack instead. When working in a dark space such as inside a cabinet, make your own lighted screwdriver by taping a keychain-size flashlight to the shaft. It'll shine the light right where you need it.
Save your back by storing your air compressor on a mechanic’s creeper, so you can easily tote it around your workshop or garage. Depending on the size of your compressor, you may be able to store your hose on the creeper, too.
Saddles for Sawhorses
Give your sawhorses padded, non-marring surfaces that protect your projects by wrapping the top rails with pieces of old carpet or rugs. Use a utility knife and a straightedge to cut the carpet along the woven backing; then secure the pieces to the sawhorses with staples.
Bobby Pin Nail Holder
Those big hooks that are often used to hang bikes also make slick drill hangers. Get them at any home center for a couple of bucks apiece. Take it up a notch and build this drill dock with plywood. Give this super-simple shop storage idea a try today.
Vise-Grips to Pull Nails
Vise-Grip pliers make great nail pullers. The tool locks onto the nail, creating a secure hold, and the curve of the head provides excellent leverage. Use a putty knife under the pliers if you plan to salvage the material after removing the nails.
Circle Gets the Square
Here's a magical way to trace arcs and circles for project parts. Tap two finish nails at the ends of a desired diameter, then rotate a framing square against the nails while holding a pencil in the square's corner. Spray the underside of the square with silicone or rub on some paraffin so it'll glide smoother. Then practice a little to get the feel of the three-point contact technique. Square not square? We'll show you how to fix it.
Customized Chuck Key
If you've ever scraped your fingers when tightening a drill chuck, you'll love this tip. First measure the diameter and length of the chuck key's handle and drill a matching hole in the end of a 4-in. x 3/4-in.-diameter wood dowel. Then hold the handle in a vise and tap the dowel onto the chuck with a hammer. 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!
Trim dowel plugs flush on fine furniture projects without scarring the adjacent surface. Apply a couple of layers of masking tape or a single layer of duct tape to a hacksaw blade with an untaped section between for sawing. While you're sawing, the tape elevates the blade a smidgen so it can't scratch the surrounding wood. After sawing, lightly sand the dowel to even it with the wood. These are our 100 handiest shop tips.
Last-Ditch Nail Pulling
If you're trying to pull a nail and the head breaks off, try gripping the nail tightly with a locking pliers, then pull against the pliers. Check out the all-time most useful hand tools for demolition.
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 BladeMost 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! Plus: 8 brilliant ways to use a razor blade.
Mini Drywall Saw
A coarse jigsaw blade mounted in a scrap of wood makes a handy little drywall saw. It's easy to carry and is good for cutting around electrical boxes and other tight spots.
No-Dent Nail FinishingWith 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. Learn how to install trim like a pro.
PVC Sanding Files
Stick sandpaper to cutoff pieces of PVC water pipe with spray-on adhesive and you'll be able to sand concave curves to perfection. PVC pipe is labeled by inside diameter; here's an index for the outside diameter of useful pipe sizes.
- 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.
Socket Wrench Screwdriver
Sometimes there's just no way to make even a short screwdriver work in a tight place. Use a Phillips head screwdriver bit with a ratchet wrench. The hex shaft of most bits fits into the 1/4-in. socket. Plus: 25 gift ideas for the budding home mechanic.
Wrench for Rounded BoltsLoosen 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 ToolsUse 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.
Clamp With a Tie-Down StrapIf you need to clamp boxes together, a ratchet tie-down strap can often do the job just as well as band clamps. Just make sure to protect the wood under the ratchet and hooks with cardboard.
Mix Concrete with a Rake
Try a garden rake instead of a hoe the next time you have to mix concrete. The rake won't splash as much water over the edge, and the tines do a good job of combining the water with the powder. With a hoe, you waste a lot of time just pushing powder around the tub. A medium mixing tub like the one shown costs $7 at home centers.
Make Mini Roller CoversNext 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 FenceThe 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!
Have you ever waited too long to install your reflective driveway markers and discovered the ground was frozen? Or tried to install a yard sale sign in dry soil that's as hard as concrete? Well, why not treat it as if it really were concrete and drill holes into it with a masonry bit? This 3/8-in. x 12-in. bit costs less than $15 at home centers.
Make a Blade for Cutting FoamA 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 BarIf 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. Here are other tips you might like: Savvy Home Tool Storage, Wrench Storage Project, 11 Hand Tools for the Hard-to-Shop for DIYer.
If you can remember the length of your hammer then it can be a handy measuring device in a pinch. We've got more measuring tips and tricks where that came from!
PVC Hammer Holder
Next time you're nailing, do it in style with this sturdy but stylish hammer holder. To make one, use a hacksaw or band saw to cut away one side of a 6-in.-long piece of 2" PVC pipe, leaving 2 in. at the bottom to drop the hammer into. To create belt slots, drill 1/4-in. holes in two lines and clean out the waste between the holes with a rattail file. That's it—drop in the hammer and enjoy its easy-to-reach location. Once you've got all that done, get to work trying out the hammer hacks no one ever thought to tell you.
Quick-Draw StorageHere'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. Check out 30 more handy hints for the workshop.
More LeverageShove 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 SaverI 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 Plus: 101 simple Saturday morning project you can do.
The claw serves as a mini-axe to split wood blocks or chop off protruding board edges. Find out what to look for in choosing the best hammer.
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. If you don't want to waste a tennis ball on your hammer, check out this combination mallet.
When you need to extend the reach of your hammer to get into a tight spot, the hinge pin from an old, heavy door hinge makes a great punch. Learn how to silence a squeaking hinge here.
Maximize Your Hammer PowerRam 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
The hammer handle makes a decent (well, adequate) caulking plunger when you really need a dab or two. The debate continues: Should you caulk your toilet to the floor?
Safer Trim NailingHere'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
If you live in an old house, you've probably run into screw heads clogged with layers of paint. Instead of trying to scrape out the paint, try this trick: Simply take a driver bit, set it on top of the screw head, and give it a couple of taps with a hammer until it seats itself in the screw's slots. Plus: 14 handy hints for painting.
Bend those out-of-shape blades on a reciprocating saw back to an almost-straight condition. Straighten it out with the claw or you could also lay the blade flat on a 2×4 and beat it. Learn the many uses for a reciprocating saw.
Quick and Easy Pilot HolesFrom 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 HolderIf 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 GiveWhen 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 StopChances 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 ExtenderSometimes 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
Need a squeegee in a hurry? Take a piece of pipe insulation and use a couple cable ties to fasten it to the back of a garden rake. Works like a charm, and you don't even have to take it off to use the rake. Check out this other pipe insulation hack for your home.
Here's an oldie with a twist. Use pieces of garden hose or other tubing to soften the jaws of slip-joint or other pliers so you can grip plated surfaces without damage. The twist? Size them so you can slide them up the handles to keep them handy. Here are 20 more cool tool hacks to try.
Use a Rubber Band to Grip Stripped Screws
We've all stripped a couple of screws in our day. And it normally isn't a big setback until you need to unscrew it, that is. So the next time you're in this situation, try a rubber band for a screw grip.
Rubber-Band Bolt Holder
Mechanics often use special magnetic inserts in sockets to prevent the bolt from falling out while they try to thread it into a tight spot. You don't need to waste money on those gadgets. Simply cut a rubber band into strips and lay a strip across the opening of the socket. Then insert the bolt head. The rubber band will wedge the bolt head in the socket, allowing you to start threading without losing the bolt.
Long Reach Shears
Slip PVC pipes over the handles of your pruning shears and tape them in place to extend your reach and clip high branches without a ladder. Plus: How to Trim a Tree
Handy Rake HandleSave 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.
Drill Bit Girdle
Save those wide rubber bands that are wrapped around broccoli and other veggies and stretch them over your electric or cordless drill. Use them for onboard storage of smaller drill and driver bits and screws. Wrangle the rest of your drill bits and other pointy tools with this wall-mounted 'pincushion.'
This simple and inexpensive hauler is perfect for transporting loads of lumber or heavy tools around the workshop. Add a bit of reinforcement to the pallet first; then install four swiveling casters, one at each corner. You’ll wonder why you didn’t make a pallet dolly sooner!