21 Clever New Uses For Your Tools
We’ve all done it: When the right tool for the job isn’t nearby—or doesn’t exist—we do the best we can with what we’ve got. Here are examples of creativity at its finest in these 21 new uses for old tools.
Drive spikes with a demo hammer
Mauls and sledgehammers are the usual tools for driving huge nails. But a demolition hammer is a lot easier on your arms. To make it work, you need a ground rod driver, which is designed to ram electrical ground rods deep into soil. With a smaller demo hammer like the one shown here, you’ll still have to drill holes before you drive. You can rent a demo hammer for about $50 per day. Some rental centers also have ground rod drivers, or you can buy one. If you buy one, beware; the driver and the demo hammer must use the same locking system. Also essential: These measuring tips and techniques for DIYers.
Lift with a clamp
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. Here’s how to use a tape measure for more than just measuring.
Cut pipe with a string
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.
Shape stone with a router
Special routers made just for shaping stone spin big, water-cooled bits. But you don’t need that expensive setup for small profiles. Instead, just chuck a diamond-grit bit into your wood router. Works great, even on hard granite. Like other diamond bits, it leaves a pretty rough surface. You can shine up a routed edge with diamond pads. This granite tile edge was rubbed down with a 150-grit pad, followed by 400 and 800 grits. Check out these 17 simple tricks to make your workbench work harder.
Shine shoes with a drill
Thirty seconds with a drill-powered buffer does wonders for dull shoes. For a glossier shine, apply polish before buffing. You can buy a shoe shine drill bit kit online to use for a buffer.
Yank brads with dull nippers
Everybody uses nippers to pull out brad nails. But if you squeeze just a little too hard, they bite off the brad. To prevent that, dull the nippers with a metal file. Have you tried these tricks to sharpen knives, scissors, and more tools?
Level with a garden hose
When you need to level over long distances, around obstacles, even around corners, nothing beats a water level. You can buy one online or you can rig one up with parts found at any home center. The version shown here is made from male and female barbed hose fittings and 5/8-in. clear tubing.
Clean with a blower
Don’t restrict your leaf blower to yard duty. It’s a superb cleaning tool—10 times faster than a vacuum or broom. Blast-clean your car, garage, shed, boat…. It’s also handy after you wash your car—just blow off water droplets for a spot-free finish. Here’s how to pick the best gas-powered leaf blower.
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.
Buff a finish with a sander
A classic way to shine up a dull finish—whether it’s been sanded or is just worn—is to “rub it out” with very fine steel wool. But here’s a faster way: Set your random orbit sander on an abrasive pad. This tabletop got three coats of polyurethane, followed by wet sanding with 600-grit sandpaper. An 800-grit pad then brought back a satin luster. Very-fine abrasive pads are available online and at some auto parts stores. Don’t miss these 15 classic handy tool tips and tricks.
Drive hooks with a wrench
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.
Clear clogs with a pick-up tool
Before you remove the drain trap to get at a stubborn clog, try to yank it out with a flexible pick-up tool. Works great on hair clogs.
Lube 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.
Flatten a board with a router
This is a slow, crude method. But if you don’t have a planer—or the board is too wide for a planer—it may be the only way. First, replace the router’s base plate with an oversize plate made from 1/4-in.-thick acrylic (available at home centers). Attach stretchers to the plate, lock a straight bit into the router and set up rails to support the stretchers. To lock the board into place, drive a couple screws deep enough so that the router bit can’t hit them. Make shallow cuts, lowering the bit again and again until the board is flat. Then flip the board over and flatten the other side.
Inject glue with a compressor
Ever tried to work glue into a crack with a toothpick? It kinda works, but it’s slow and sloppy. A blast of air, on the other hand, drives the glue in deep, evenly and fast. Don’t have an air compressor? Hold your shop vacuum nozzle under the crack so it can suck glue deep into the crack.
Cut with a drill
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. And here are 10 dirt-simple woodworking jigs you need.
Stain with a compressor
A shot of air from your compressor drives stain deep into the grooves surrounding panels. That way, if the panel shifts or shrinks, you won’t end up with an unstained line along the edge of the panel. At the same time, it blasts excess stain out, so it can’t dribble out later and leave dark streaks. This works great on inside corners, on carvings, or on any spot where it’s tough to wipe off excess stain.