19 Workshop Hints from The Family Handyman Readers and Editors
The following handy hints may seem a bit quirky, but our readers and editors stand by them. These 19 workshop hints are tried and true!
Use Takeout Chopsticks to Stir Finishes
Save unused chopsticks that you get with your takeout because they make great stirrers for small cans of paint, stain, varnish, etc. You can also buy disposable chopsticks to have a stash ready to go in your workshop.
C-Clamp Paint Can Handle
Use a C-clamp as a temporary handle on a quart-size paint can. “Yes, it may get some paint on the clamp,” says reader Mike Watt, “but does that really matter? Not to me!”
Taller Table Hack
If you’re like The Family Handyman reader Gary Inlow and use a standard banquet table for your workbench, you’ll love this hint! Gary created stilts for his table using 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe, raising the surface of his workbench to a more comfortable height!
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.
Sheet Metal Magnet Board
Reader Bill Jones thought of using a piece of sheet metal as a message board in his workshop—brilliant! He used self-tapping metal screws to secure the piece to studs; then he filled the board with magnets for hanging printed project plans, lists and even small metal tools. Click here to see how he did it.
Bungee Cord Trash Bag Holder
Hold a trash can liner in place on a large workshop trash can using a bungee cord. Overhang the trash bag on the can and wrap the bungee cord around the trash can on top of the bag.
Chalk a Metal File
Keep your metal file from clogging up while working with softer metals such as aluminum by rubbing a piece of chalk along the teeth. The coating will allow you to work longer before having to clean the file.
Tag Your Tools: Not Pretty but Effective!
Want to keep your tools from walking off the jobsite? Make them identifiable. That’s what Senior Editor Travis Larson did with a little spray paint. "Yep, my tools are ugly," he says, "and that's exactly why they go home with me every night."
Tin Can Glue Bottle Storage
Reuse a tin can for storing glue bottles upside down in your workshop. Then you won't have to wait for the glue to slowly reach the top of the bottle in order to squeeze it out—it'll be ready to go when you reach for it.
Gum Containers are Great for the Workshop
Save those durable gum containers and use them to store washers, nails, screws and other small parts in your workshop. That’s what reader Jerry Bullock did! He also glued one of the items to the top of the container, so he knows what’s inside at a glance.
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.
Dish Soap Glue Bottle
Reuse an empty dish soap container as a refillable glue bottle. The small size and screw-on top with attached cap are perfect for squeezing out wood glue. Be sure to rinse the inside of the container thoroughly (including the lid) and let it dry completely before filling it with glue.
How to Make Tool Organizers with Gutters
Make inexpensive compartments for your tool bag using PVC gutter downspouts. Carefully cut the downspouts into pieces that will fit vertically inside the bag and glue them together. Then organize your tools inside the compartments.
Rx Bottle for Storing Fasteners
Repurpose your empty medicine bottles to store fasteners such as nails, screws, washers, etc. Remove the original label, so you can clearly see the contents inside.
Peel-and-Stick Vinyl Work Surface
Make almost any work surface in your shop much easier to clean by adding some peel-and-stick vinyl tiles. The smooth, liquid-resistant tiles are available at most home centers, and they’re easy to apply because the adhesive is ready to go!
Egg Carton Painting Props
Keep a few empty egg cartons with the rest of your painting supplies. They're great for lifting a small project off of a work surface, making it easier to paint nooks and crannies and along the base of the project.
Hot Glue Gun Uses: Store Bits Where They Belong
Stop frantically searching for different bits that belong with the many different screws in your workshop. Try this to save time: Use a bead of hot glue to adhere a magnet inside the lid of your fastener containers for holding the corresponding bits. Then you’ll always have the correct bit right when you need it.
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.
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.