MAKE Asks: Epic Kludges

MAKE Asks: Epic Kludges

MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: A kludge is define as “An ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose.” It’s often the result of being in a tight situation, or using a piece of junk to solve a problem in a novel way. What kludges are you particularly proud of?

When I was a teenager I backpacked through the catskill mountains. After the first day, the strap on my Teva sandals broke, leaving me no practical way to air out my tootsies from those sweaty hiking boots. I fixed it by tying a piece of parachute cord on and melting the ends of the knot so it wouldn’t come undone. That kludge last ten whole years, before the soles started separating from the sandals and my wife forced me to throw them away.

Post your responses in the comments section.

30 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Epic Kludges

  1. James McLain says:

    I purchased a 2003 Buick LaSable. One of the cruise control buttons on the steering wheel would not stay down. Cruise control would work if you held it down but that sort of defeat the purpose, doesn’t it? It was 360 miles to Maker Faire! So I stopped into a dollar tree store, and bought some plastic cable ties and a few furniture leg pads. I could not use use just the cable ties since the button was indented into the steering wheel a bit. I put the pad directed over the button and then applied constant pressure with the cable tie, and it works like an ipad.

  2. Bill Meara says:

    We were recently discussing Kludges (and the pronunciation of the word) on the SolderSmoke Daily News:

    1. Michael Colombo says:

      Yeah I’ve heard it both ways. I say it to rhyme with “budge” because that’s how I first heard it, but I don’t think there’s really a correct way of saying it. That’s an interesting article on the etymology, though.

      1. chuck says:

        I always pronounced it klooj- Like clue with J sound on the end.

  3. David says:

    A linkage on a vehicle’s dual carb was worn and kept falling off. The power cable (stainless steel aircraft grade) of my prosthetic device (artificial limb) used as lashing got us home. Today I prefer rope with closed-chock sailboat guides. It’s not as efficient for power transfer but much easier to fix in the field. See previous postings:

    1. Michael Colombo says:

      that. is. hilarious. “Oh the carb’s busted? Gimme a minute while I dismantle my leg.”

      1. David says:

        My apologizes for not being more clear. Itza an artificial arm, “BE” “Below Elbow”, with amputation above the wrist. See the links in my post.

        1. Karl Rosenqvist says:

          So it would be more accurate to say you reached out and gave it a hand?
          (sry .. to good to pass up)

          1. David says:

            “Give a hand.” is a common, innocent phrase and when people normally use it, I don’t mind. Some people get embarrassed that they’ve said it and profusely apologize but it takes more of my time and patience to try and convince them that, used innocently, it is a normal phrase. Trying to convince them it is OK when they do NOT listen is more aggravating for me than their use of the phrase.

            Mechanical hooks mostly use a half-inch fine thread to attach. This means that most anything can be welded to a bolt and used: vice-grips, machetes, hay bale hooks, etc. Hooks are vastly more durable than mechanical (and especially mechanical-electronic) hands.

            Yeah, I have pushed it sometimes, scenarios are legion. And when people play pirates, I remind them that MY hooks are FOR REAL and legal so “Everyone play nice!”

            Make-related: Pirates were sailors yet many wannabes do not “know the ropes”. They cannot tie hitches, knots, splices, lashings. To them “belay” is merely a word meaning “stop”. They use bungy cords and ratchet straps instead of rope.
            By-the-by: Coiling can be a hassle, wastes energy and can kink. Rope, electric cords and hoses can be “flaked down” in a “Figure 8” or “butterfly”.

          2. David says:

            “Figure 8 Flake”: The pix at animated knots appears to have changed and appears that it will kink. Correct at

  4. Solomon Peachy says:

    A semi in front of me blew a tire, and I hit a piece while travelling around 80mph. It cracked a headlight lens, shattered the turn signal bulb, and ripped the (plastic) bumper off of the left side of the car.

    On the side of the highway, using my leatherman I punched holes along the torn bumper, and fastened it back on with five appropriately-spaced zip ties. Nearly seven year later, the car was totalled in a parking lot accident — but the zip ties were still securely holding the bumper on.

  5. David says:

    Kludge, Kluge and Jury-Rigged, Jerry-Rigged and “To “MacGyver”, “Bailing Wire Mechanic”


    Also see “kluge” “kludge” discussion for world derivation and pronunciation at:
    “Serving the worldwide community of radio-electronic homebrewers.”
    Also note sidebar: “Wow! Raspberry Pi as an RF Transmitter”

    Jury-Rigged: nautical term. Related to a jury that sits in judgment at a trial.
    Replacement mast and yards improvised in case of damage or loss
    Makeshift repairs improvised with only the tools and materials on hand
    To “MacGyver”
    “Bailing Wire Mechanic”
    “If it works, it’s NOT a bad idea.”

    Compared to:
    Jerry-Rigged / Jerry-built
    Made of bad materials and design; built to sell but not last.
    Predates slang for a German, especially a WW2 German soldier.

  6. Pete G. says:

    These bush mechanics are the experts in kludging and bodging.

  7. Alan Dove says:

    In graduate school, I needed to incubate some viral cultures at 25deg. C, or “room temperature.” Sounds easy, but it had to be exactly that temperature – add a degree or two and the experiment would’ve been meaningless. The standard solution would be to buy a precision incubator with both heating and cooling systems built in (most have only heating elements). Unfortunately, those cost several thousand dollars, and we were a bit tight on our grants. So I took a regular heater-based incubator, put it in the cold room (4 deg. C), and wired up a surplus computer fan to circulate the air inside it to keep the temperature even. It was a kludge, but a kludge that was precise to +/- 0.1 deg. C.

  8. Jonathan says:

    Had a 1978 Ford Fiesta. Found out you could roll the windows down from the outside by palming them & pushing them down (so much for locking the doors). Had some plastic hangers in the backseat. They were the perfect size & shape to hook through the inside door handle and over the window crank, thereby securing the vehicle.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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