Five Clever Tool Hacks

Five Clever Tool Hacks


The Family Handyman magazine posted an article on their website of 22 clever new uses for tools. Here are five of my favorites. (My comments in parens.)

Cut with a Drill (Above image) “If you need to shorten a bolt, let your drill do the hard work. Spin two nuts onto the bolt, tightening them against each other. Then chuck the bolt into the drill and hold a hacksaw blade against the spinning bolt. The nuts help to steady the blade and clean off burrs when you unscrew them.”

usesForTools_4Lube with a Pencil
“It’s not the perfect lubricant for most jobs, but the graphite from your pencil is slippery stuff, and it’s always right there in your tool belt. Just rub the part to make it slick.”

usesForTools_3Drive Hooks with a Wrench
(A trick I have used for years) “Screwing in a big storage hook requires strong hands or pliers (which wreck the plastic coating). Or you can use a wrench. Start by screwing in the hook by hand, then slip the wrench onto the hook. The wrench will catch the front of the hook and drive it home.”

usesForTools_2Lift with a Clamp
(I don’t know how much load-bearing I would let this clamp do, but certainly as an assist and a handle on the receiving end…) Whether you’re raising plywood to the roof or lugging a sheet of MDF across your shop, a C-clamp gives you something to grab onto.

usesForTools_1Cut Pipe with a String
(This is also a trick used in scale modeling, to cut plastic pieces with a string that you can’t otherwise reach with a hobby saw.) “It’s almost as fast as a saw and fits into tight spots where saws won’t. To give the string a starting point, cut a shallow notch with a file or hacksaw blade. Then simply pull the string back and forth to slice through PVC or ABS pipe.”

26 thoughts on “Five Clever Tool Hacks

  1. Wally SirFatty says:

    Hack does not mean what you think it does…

    1. dlev says:

      curious – what does it mean to you?

        1. Wizbang_FL says:

          coughing repeatedly….

        2. Quatsch11 says:

          So apparently you are saying that all those recent hacks into governmental and commercial computing system we have been hearing about lately have been done by illegal cab drivers. Either that, or you didn’t use your favorite Wikipedia to look up “homonym”:

          1. bitflusher says:

            I think the cab drivers are taking over, i was slready wearing my tinfoil hat but will now change in my tinfoil suit! You most likely are one of the illigal csb drivers!

  2. Jake Spurlock says:

    These are great.

  3. Jeff G. says:

    Nice tricks !

  4. Elizabethwyoung says:

    10 year old work experience … i-n-m-a-k-z-i–…. Check Out Now </b

  5. BFE Labs says:

    The cut with a string trick works best (and on MANY materials) with Kevlar or Technora cordage, say the 125lb Kevlar or the Technora200. I always carry some in my wallet, for just that reason.

  6. romillyc says:

    The ‘Cut with a drill’ tip is incredibly dangerous. The cut end will will usually fly off in a random direction, and can easily cause serious injury or damage.

    1. Wizbang_FL says:

      yep especially when your holding the drill in one free hand and the blade in the other. Have the EMS on speed dial for this one. If you have a vice I would clamp the blade or drill so you can use both hands (with protective gloves and glasses)

    2. alrui says:

      My thoughts exactly & the clamp to lift a piece of wood, etc. may work but at some point it will loosen and fall doing damage to people &/or property!

    3. BarkCarver says:

      No problem. Just put the end being cut off inside a 1 ft piece of 2 inch pvc pipe. The free end won’t be going anywhere when you finish the cut.

    4. Mark Watson says:

      Yeah, that’s not a variable speed drill that could be run at a very low speed just so the free end won’t fly off . . .

    5. Wilson Stevens says:

      I have used this a number of times. Put a cardboard tube, like a tolit paper tube around it to keep it from flying around.

  7. Wizbang_FL says:

    the hook is easy to do if you drill a small pilot hole to start the hook. take an old candle and put wax in the threads of the hook. The wax prevents the hook from binding as you twist it into the wood surface, Without the wax and even iwth a pilot hole the hook will bind in the wood making a wrench necessary. I put a number of these in our attic so that more things would be accessible without moving boxes around. It also keeps things that may have fragile pieces (like a holiday wreath, and ornaments, we’ve had for 10 years up out of the way. So when I need to pull down lawn furniture no worries about them being in the way.

  8. Wizbang_FL says:

    Lift with a clamp is good if you aren’t concerned with the surface as the clamp will make an impression because of the pressure needed to maintain the hold on a piece of manufactured lumber.

  9. dbarak says:

    It seems like that cutting trick with the string would take forever. I’ll have to give it a try sometime though to prove myself wrong. ; )

  10. David Matthew Mooney says:

    What the picture shows is sort of a “tool” hack I started using recently, and a great way to clear the deck when desk space is limited and you have no more patience with untangling cables. Wind the cable around three parallel fingers, then apply the paper clamp so that all the turns are held behind the pinch point (not in it).

  11. abinc says:

    “Cut with a drill” is something I do all the time. By the time the saw reaches the middle of the bolt, it is wobbling and easy to twist off. Go flying, indeed! Ha!

  12. Big Steve says:

    I have several saws that can cut that pipe. If I can cut a “shallow notch” in the back of that pipe, why on earth would I stop cutting and look for a piece of string?

    Graphite is an excellent lubricant. In many cases, it is better than any liquid. Go to the hardware store and ask for that newfangled graphite for your front door lock. They’ll sell you a squeeze bottle.

    Use a C clamp on your wood and you will mark it permanently. Oh, you are only using it to get wood up to your roof? Then put the end damaged by the C clamp where you want the rain to come in. That part will give way first. The C clamp will bend and distort your wood when you carry it that way. THAT’S WHY THEY MAKE TOOLS SPECIFICALLY FOR CARRYING BIG SHEETS. And they don’t use C clamps.

    1. Tim Ervin says:

      It doesn’t say “in the back of the pipe.” Given the picture, there isn’t much room for a saw. But one could easily put a notch in the side and then get a string (or wire) going and make that cut.

  13. A. Nuran says:

    For the “Screw in hooks with a wrench” I’d add “Drill a pilot hole first.”

  14. Edward Smith says:

    Accidentally bought MiB RayBan sunglasses, earpiece broke and unrepairable.
    Found small aluminum rod stock in garage,
    Mounted in drill, other end in salvaged motor bearing locked hard in bench vise.
    LATHED aluminum bar stock to the exact profile of original earpiece,
    Notched and drilled hinge pin end,
    Painted to match other side.

    Result: perfect visual match. People could only tell by feel (cold) and weight (duh).
    It was a slow process, both the lathing and finding a perfect paint to make aluminum match the semi-gloss of plastic, but well worth the cost of replacement considering that I had everything lying around except the paint.

  15. Edward Smith says:

    MacGyver was not an action show.

    MacGyver was an educational show that fostered “out-of-the-box”, lateral and non-linear problem solving skills; also showcasing how a solid broad base of scientific knowledge can make the most complicated problems easier to solve.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn