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More Useful Ideas

Ten good ideas

By Julian Edgar

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Back in Useful Ideas we covered ten great ideas first published by Popular Mechanics magazine way back in 1952. Well, here are another ten, this time taken from Popular Mechanics ‘What to Make’ publications in the period from 1942 to 1952.

Some ideas never date…

Loose hammer head?

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A claw hammer with a loose head is a common workshop problem. The fix is to use a steel wedge, driven into the top of the handle. This spreads the timber handle and holds the head firmly in place. But what if you don’t have a steel wedge? Just flatten a wood screw and use it instead. The thread will form serrations and the screw’s shape gives the wedge.

Forming a thread on soft materials

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Need to form a thread on a cylinder of plastic or wood? Normally you’d use a die – but what if you don’t have one of the correct size? This die can be easily made to do the job. It comprises a nut that has had four internal slots formed in it by cutting or filing. The internal thread is given a taper by further filing. The taper allows the nut to get started on the shaft and the internal slots clear the shavings.

Holding jigsaw blades handy

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If you use a jigsaw you’ll know how easy it is to lose the blades. They’re fine when they’re still in the packet, but take them out and they fall down cracks, get swept up with the rubbish on the workshop floor or get kicked under shelves. But here’s an easy way of keeping them in place – just use a large magnet to hold them securely.

Toolboxes that disappear into the roof

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If you’re really pushed for space, here’s a great idea. Build a shelf that’s hinged at one end so it pivots up against the ceiling, being held in its raised position by a strong hook. Mounted in the shelves are toolboxes, held in place by rods that allow the boxes to pivot. The boxes always remain vertical, so no tools will fall out.

Cutting thin metal

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If you have used a hacksaw to cut thin metal you’ll know how hard it is to stop the metal distorting. But here’s an easy trick. Use a split pin (also called a cotter pin) positioned behind the sheet; it will reinforce the sheet to stop it buckling and will also help guide the hacksaw blade.

Cutting thin tube

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And while we’re on using hacksaws, here’s a brilliant trick. Oftentimes, especially when cutting thin-wall tube, you’ll find that the blade’s teeth are too coarse. The result is that the blade does not run smoothly, the tube can become distorted and it’s easy to break blades. If that’s the situation, use two blades in the hacksaw frame, one mounted with its teeth reversed. By slotting the mounting holes, you can offset the blades to provide the correct teeth overlap.

Cheap small paint brushes

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Using a low cost tiny paintbrush for touch-ups or gluing? Know how much a pain it is when small bristles fall out and get in your work? One way to overcome this problem is to first firmly crimp the metal ferrule with a pair of pliers – that holds the bristles in place much more effectively.

Make-do Allen key

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If you need an Allen key but you don’t have any the correct size, see if you have a hex-headed bolt that can do the job. The head of the bolt fits into the cap screw, while two nuts tightened against each other on the thread of the bolt allow you to apply leverage via a normal spanner or socket.

G-clamp repair

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So how often do you find good quality secondhand G-clamps going cheaply – but they’ve lost the spinner that goes on the end of the threaded part of the clamp? Here’s how to replace it. Build up a new spinner that goes over the ball end by first slitting a washer and sliding it on the shaft, closing-up the slit after it’s in place. Build up the rest of the spinner with larger washers, then braze or weld them together.

Light survives vibration

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If you have a machine tool with a mains-powered light that constantly blows its filament through vibration, consider instead using a 12V car lamp. The filaments are stronger and will last much longer in these conditions. Power the light from a transformer.

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