22 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 22 new uses for old tools.
Cordless Kitchen Drill Mixer
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.
Uncork with a Screw
When you can't find a corkscrew, a screw will do. You may work up a thirst while yanking out the cork—it takes some muscle—but refreshment awaits. Be sure to use a screw with coarse threads.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Mark Angles with a Miter Gauge
A table saw's miter gauge makes a great protractor for marking angles accurately.
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.
Plan with a Garden Hose
When you're designing something curvy—a pond, retaining wall or flower bed—lay it out with a hose or rope. When the design is right, mark the shape with spray paint.
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.
Reusable Leaf Chute
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.