This article was first published in 2008.
Some things don’t change. I recently bought
Useful Ideas, published in 1952 by Popular Mechanics magazine. The book
contains hundreds of hints and tips for those working with their hands. Here are
ten of them.
Grommet Cushions Drill Chuck
When using a drill to make holes in thin sheet,
the sudden breaking-through of the drill bit often results in the end of the
chuck impacting the work, ruining the finish of the sheet. To avoid this
occurring, fit a rubber grommet over the drill-bit – this cushions the
Taking the Slop Out of Vice
Especially when worn, a bench vice can have lots
of slop in the thread. This doesn’t cause any problem when the vice is
tightened, but it can make the initial clamping difficult, especially if you’re
trying to insert a ‘sandwich’ of pieces in the jaws. To overcome the thread
slop, remove the front half of the vice and place a compression spring over the
threaded rod before reassembling. The slop will be gone.
Avoid Finger Pinches
And another vice hint. It’s easy to pinch your
fingers in a vice handle, especially when the handle unexpectedly slides
downwards through the shaft hole. However, it’s simple to avoid this by slitting
a short length of rubber hose and slipping it over the handle, one each side of
the main shaft.
Storing Tiny Things
Storage doesn’t get much cheaper than this. If you
need to store sorted tiny objects (like circlips, tiny nuts and screws, etc)
just buy a couple of fridge ice cube trays. They’ll stack on top of each other
and keep all the bits and pieces in their right places. And they’re much cheaper
than buying specialised screw trays!
Sawing Thin Metal
Cutting thin metal with either a bandsaw or jigsaw
can be problematic as the metal tends to chatter. But if you sandwich it between
two sheets of scrap hardboard, the chatter stops. The pattern that’s being
followed in the cutting can be marked on the upper hardboard, allowing you to
still cut accurately. Screw the sandwich together, inserting the screws through
the waste part of the job.
Custom Hex Key Tool
If you regularly work on a machine that uses just
three or four sizes of hex-key bolts, here’s a handy tool you can make. Cut
across a large nut two vees at right angles to one another. Cut the hex keys to
an appropriate length and lay them in the vees, welding or brazing them in
place. Grind the welds back for a smooth finish. Ensure that during the welding
the working ends of the keys don’t get too hot and so have their temper
Flush Cutting of Bolts
If you need to cut off a bolt flush with a
surface, turn the blade of a hacksaw sideways and then use two blocks of wood to
offset the blade further downwards. The saw is then held as for normal use but
with pressure applied sideways.
Hand Bending Tube
If bending soft tube like aluminium or copper, use
two different sized V-pulleys mounted slightly apart on a board. By working the
tube between the pulleys, different radii bends can be easily formed with much
less chance of the tube kinking.
Sanding Nooks and Crannies
If you need to sand a recessed grove or inner
corners of a box, use a pencil of the type that has an eraser on one end. Wrap a
thin width of sandpaper around the rubber and you’ll be able to reach those
otherwise hard to reach places.
Using the Other End of the Vice
If you have a need for a bar clamp, one can be
quickly improvised by using the rear end of a bench vice. A G-clamp is used to
make a ‘stop’, with the items to be clamped placed between the stop and the back
end of the open vice. The vice is then screwed closed, pressure being applied to
the clamped object.
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