Yet More Handy Tricks: Volume 5




Introduction: Yet More Handy Tricks: Volume 5

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific I…

40 Yet more handy tricks!

To see even more handy tricks, check out the rest of the saga at
and Fifty Handy Tricks.
and 40 More Handy Tricks
and Australian Handy Tricks
and Guatemalan Handy Tricks
and Yet More Handy Tricks
and Handy Tricks Six!
and Handy Tricks 7: Bike Mods and Projects
For a bunch of things that didn't work, check out How Not To.

First Handy Trick: Duct Tape vs. Fiberglass Rash

"Amazon Leg Woman X" was carving magnum waves on her badly weathered surf-vivor-board.
With no wetsuit of course because she only needs what she can carry in her teeth.
While straddling Mr. Terrible Fiberglass outside the break and waiting for the tastiest curls, she worked a whole nettle's worth of tiny fiberglass needles into her skin.
9 hours later she noticed she was in extreme pain from thigh rashes.
She whipped out a roll of duct tape from behind one of her molars and used it to remove the fibers.
She employed the "lint gesture hula", "rub the sticky side in the cardinal directions", and "leave it attached til tomorrow and pull the hair off too" methods.

Step 1: California Jack Stands

Mose and I went in search of some wheels for a trailer at Bert and Johnnie's junkyard in San Leandro Ca.
I wondered why it was so hard to find the size we needed. Then I noticed the clever "California Jackstands" holding up most of the cars. A car comes with five rims if it's got a spare, and by the time they're done stripping the car they've employed 8 rims to prop it up.

Other than that it's a really good design, very solid and a wide base for soft ground.
The top rim is tack welded to the bottom rim at the four points where they touch.

Step 2: Lug Spacing Guage

The junkyard had this keyring full of handy guages for checking whether a wheel would fit a car.
If they both have the same number of holes and the spacing is right for the same pegs to span two holes, it's the same bolt pattern.

Pretty nifty, and a big timesaver in a wheel hunt.
Mose demonstrates with the wheel we were hoping to match.

Step 3: Shopping Cart Engine Dolly

This was the sort of well organized junkyard you find in places where land isn't cheap.
They weren't even draining the fluids onto the ground to make future oilwells.
They had a friendly mastiff puppy there. The dog was playful but whenever it came around work stopped. The guys backed up and stared at it with their arms pulled back and got into dog-management mode. That made me nervous. What was this dog capable of? I took my eyes off it while walking and it moved and I accidentally kicked it. For a half-second I was scared to death that my question would be answered, but it didn't care.

Here's a nifty engine dolly made from a shopping cart.
Most of the carts in the engine shed were either custom built or chopped off the bottom of a computer rack cabinet.

Step 4: Super Custom Bandsaw Made From Chop Saw

After some oil this gorgeous machine spun right up and the blade wasn't even too bad.
It used to be a hinged cutoff saw but someone stood it up and put a little table on it to use as a vertical bandsaw.
Due to the large belt reduction it moves nice and slow and is plenty powerful to cut metal.

Step 5: Shopping Cart Tool Stand

After a bit I started noticing the brilliant features of this little saw.
For instance the stand is made from a shopping cart. The wheels are positioned just right so they don't touch the ground unless you tilt it back to move it. So it's very solid and secure, and easy to move.

Step 6: Angled Blade

It took one of my co-workers a long time to explain why this is so brilliant.
Finally I understood. Ordinarily a bandsaw blade is sideways and if you try to crosscut a long piece it hits the frame of the saw. A jigsaw has the blade fore-and-aft and you can't rip anything that's long.
With the blade at an angle (theta Z) like this, you can rip or crosscut materials of any length.

Step 7: Bandsaw Toothbrush

This toothbrush cleans the side of the blade that rides on the wheels. Otherwise crap can build up on it and cause a crooked cut, tire wear, etc.

Step 8: "Can-do" Lampshade and Chip Catcher

This lampshade is made from the side of a can. The hose clamp is just loose enough to twist the shade around to any angle, so your work is illuminated but you don't get glare in your eyes.

The chip catcher pan is cut from a can of paint thinner or orther rectangular can. It also serves as a rudimentary belt guard. I bet there were other improvised belt guards on this machine at one time.
At the moment it's not a safe place for hippy hair or hands to wander around.

Step 9: Close Quarters Hacksaw

A co-worker of mine wrapped tape around this hacksaw blade to use it in some confined space. Usually I'd wrap the other end to use it as a pull saw. I'd use masking tape cuz the feel of this vinyl electrician's tape creeps me out.

Step 10: Easy Chair Theater

Here's the most comfortable movie theater in the world!
It's Central Cinema in Alameda California. The chairs are all easy chairs, couches, and recliners. They've even got a few regular movie seats in case someone actually likes those. The building is an old church with beautiful ship-rib rafters.

We saw the Coen brothers' new film "No Country for Old Men". It's a great movie for people who like violence and plot twists of the "but where's his gun now?" variety.

Their mother Rena Coen taught Art History at SCSU in St.Cloud MN and is a friend of my Dad's. She had a mild stroke early in life and on side of her face sags a bit and is paralyzed. Her wit is unaffected. Once at lunch I asked her "What's in the box in the movie "Barton Fink""? She said "They wouldn't tell me. I thought it was the girl's head." I said "I thought it was a big ball of duct tape".

I have her book "In the Mainstream The Art of Alexis Jean Fournier" right here. According to the bookmark my dad bought it for me from Sauk River Books, a used bookstore run by Jerry Hansen, local poet, out of his barn. While I'm at it I'll haul out Hansen's book "Blessed are the Peacemakers", a book of good poetry about his Vietnam warhell.

Step 11: Inversion Mixing

I learned this trick in a cafe in Gaza many years ago.

I'd ordered an "orange squash" which is a product found in the British Commonwealth.
It's flavored syrup "cordial" you add to water to make a juice-like drink.
The waiter opened a bottle of water and poured a bit out ot make room.
He then added the heavy syrup, It settled straight to the bottom. So far so good.

I expected him to then shake it vigorously, check it, and then repeat like I did at home,
Instead he capped it, turned it upside down a few times, and set it on the table.

I was young and I said something about "It can't possibly be mixed".
But it was.

I've since heard of actual research that shows this method is the most effective known.
The spherical bubbles create much turbulence as they rise through the liquid.

Step 12: Pallet Bed in Pipe

This is in a gully across the street from a high school in Austin Texas.
Someone put these two pallets in a storm drain. They're high enough to stay out of the water even in a moderate rain.
It's a great place for kids to smooch, smoke embalming fluid, and give each other tattoos during school.

I saw reflections back in the pipe when I took these pictures. Apparently it's a great place to hide bicycles stolen from fellow students also.

Step 13: Yard Sign for Peace

There are lots of signs like this in front of houses in Austin Texas.
They're made of the same plastic material as other campaign and roadside advertising signs.
It's a good way to let people know that some Texans favor peace. It'll get you in less trouble than wheatpasting, graffitti, or chaining yourself to a roadblock, and the message is easy to understand.
lists where in Austin to get them for a "suggested donation" of $3 each.

I thought I'd make my own signs just like this. I used (thanks Saul!) to find the same font. Looks like Santana Black Condensed. Then I used Gimp to lay it out. Now I'm shopping for a sign printer. More news to come.

Step 14: "Monkey on My Back" Baby Leash

Heather and Hayden are in the Phoenix airport waiting for their flight.
Hayden's wearing a harness and leash. The harness has a built-in backpack that looks like a monkey riding on his back. The leash is the monkey's tail.

"He's a runner.", says Heather.

I have vague recollections of my mom taking me out on a leash. I thought it was great. I could do whatever I wanted, and didn't have to constantly respond to some adult telling me what to do. Plus I could run around and pull on the leash, or try to swing on it, etc.

Step 15: Red Curb Demon

Someone spilled some paint while painting red curbs in The Mission district, San Francisco.
Someone came along later and turned it into "The Red Curb Demon".

A red curb means "no parking, stopping, or anything".
A cop once pulled me over into one of these red curb area which was also a bus stop.
He wrote me a $270 ticket for being there, even though he picked the spot.

From the California Driver's Manual
Parking At Colored Curbs
Painted colored curbs have the following special parking rules:

White: Stop only long enough to pick up or drop off passengers or mail.

Green: Park for a limited time. Look for a sign next to the green zone or for the time painted on the curb.

Yellow: Stop no longer than the time posted to load or unload passengers or freight. Drivers of noncommercial vehicles are usually required to stay with the vehicle.

Red: No stopping, standing, or parking. (Buses may stop at a red zone marked for buses.)

Blue: Parking is permitted only for a disabled person who displays a placard or disabled person or disabled veteran license plates. Disabled people with a placard or special plates may park in special areas for unlimited periods of time, regardless of time restrictions. No one else may park there. Qualified persons may apply at any DMV office for a parking placard or special plates.

An identification card will be issued to holders of disabled person or disabled veteran license plates.

Step 16: Identify Different Types of Plastic

for purposes of welding plastic. The large pieces they deal with are usually not marked with recycling codes.

So that you can recognize which plastic you are dealing with, the following simple test is recommended:

1. A short test weld with the available welding rod. If the welding rod or tape is fixed firmly,
the problem is solved.

2. Take a small sliver or shaving of the material to be welded and light it with a match,
observe the flame and smell the smoke.
On PVC blackish smoke and acrid smell
On Polyethylene no smoke, the material drips like a candle and also smells of wax
On Polypropylene no smoke, the material drips like a candle and smells of burnt oil
On Polyamide no smoke, pulls to form thread, smells of burn horn
On Polycarbonate yellowish sooty smoke. Sweetish smell
On ABS blackish smoke, soot flakes, sweetish smell

The welding rod and tape has the following colors: Welding temperature in °C
Hard PVC rod grey and red 300°C
Soft PVC rod transparent 400-500°C
Soft PVC tape grey 400-500°C
Hard Polyethylene rod black and white 300°C
Hard Polyethylene tape white 300°C
Soft polyethylene rod black 270°C
Soft Polyethylene tape transparent 270°C
Polypropylene rod grey 300°C
Polypropylene tape natural 300°C
Polymide rod black 400°C
Polycarbonate rod transparent 350°C
Xenoy tape grey 350°C
ABS rod white 350°C
ABS tape white 350°C

Because containers, pipes and foils are available in many different colors, it is not possible to judge from the color of an Article from which thermoplastic it is made. Since however 50% of goods are made of types of polyethylene this eases your recognition problem.

If contrary to expectations you have problems when welding, contact the service center at the address

Step 17: Bumper Chair

Martin Kelly is a crossing guard in Alameda, CA.
He welded up this nifty chair that plugs into the trailer hitch socket on his truck.
Now he can keep the kids safe while they cross the street and take a load off his feet at the same time.
The chair has a "lazy susan" bearing on the bottom so he can swivel around to see what traffic is coming.

Step 18: Chew a Hole in Your Computer

My Toshiba Satellite M35X - S161 laptop has a weak power connector.
They all do. The solder joints crack and then your battery doesn't charge and the computer stops working. I disassembled the computer and re-soldered it but it didn't stay fixed. So I took a pair of side-cutters (wire cutting nippers) and carefully cut the case away all around the connector.
Then I reflowed the solder on the connector pins with a soldering iron. I put a piece of tape over the hole so as to not short anything out.

This laptop has another weird lockup mode, where it beeps three times and doesn't boot up. The screen is blank. To fix that you remove the battery and memory simms and then plug them back in again.

The two problems get confused due to some similar symptoms, so I was always wiggling the power connector to see if that was the problem, which made the connector problem worse.

Before long I was re-soldering it every day. Fortunately for the hole I'd chewed around it, that was easy. Eventually I unsoldered the connector completely and ran a couple of wires from the circuitboard connector pads to the connector, and wrapped everything with tape.
That finally solved the problem.

By coincidence, the memory startup problem quit happening at the same time.
These dead Toshiba laptops would be cheap to buy and most likely these are the two problems they'd have. Enjoy!

Step 19: Instant Stand

Got a stick you want to stand vertically?
Like a "don't park here" sign?
Here's how they make them in SF from some scrap plywood nailed to a 2x4.

Step 20: Move Furniture With a Skateboard

These gents in the SF Mission district were just given a neon sign.
Fortunately they were also given a skateboard, which enabled them to move it many blocks.
As I caught up to them they were discussing the inevitable wrath of their girlfriends for bringing it into the house, and how to deal with it.

Step 21: Victor Brar's Punching Bag Alarm Clock

Vbrar made this great prototype of a punching bag alarm clock.
To turn it off he has to beat up on the punching bag. He put accelerometers into the bag to control the off switch. The accelerometers measure to see if if he was giving it enough of a beating to shut off the alarm.

He also sewed this big head-shaped padded helmet to wear in Critical Mass rides.

Vbrar Pester him to make detailed instructables about these projects!

Step 22: Hay Bale Swimming Pool

Seen on Atlantic Avenue, Alameda CA.
There are probably stakes driven down through the bales into the ground to keep the water pressure from pushing the bales outward.

There are large staples holding the plastic on around the edge and sandbags holding it down inside and around the edge.

Step 23: Sewing While Filling New Bobbin

Pete Lynne's sewing machine has two feed spools on it. That way when his bobbin runs out of thread, he can take a loaded bobbin off the bobbin winder and put the empty one on it.
The bobbin winder spins while the machine sews and automatically shuts off when the bobbin is full.
I've sewed for decades including commercial sewing, and I never learned this trick.
I always loaded bobbins ahead of time, bought pre-loaded bobbins, or stopped and loaded them at the time. All those methods take unnecessary time. I want that time back!

btw that's the best sewing machine any of us have ever used, a "Unicorn" from Korea. It's incredible.

Step 24: Bleach Your Shoes

Chris Barnhart told me about this trick.
Got a favorite pair that isn't your favorite smell? Soak them in bleach water and hang them out to dry.
No more bad smell!

When you get a new pair of used shoes, you might want to bleach them also.
I once got a case of plantar warts on my feet that took a year or more to get rid of.
I could have gotten them from used shoes, going barefoot in a public shower, etc. etc.

Step 25: Repair P-Tex Snowboard or Ski Bases

Next time you see a ski with the p-tex bottom coming off it, pull it the rest of the way off and use it to repair your good ones. P-tex is a porous polyethylene that absorbs wax and has very low friction with snow. You can buy "candles" made from this stuff for base repair, but the scrap stuff works too.

So I lit a strip of scrap p-tex on fire and dripped it into the holes until they were full. Then I filed and sanded it flat. Then I waxed it. Then I went snowboarding.

Step 26: Christmas Tyrannosaurus Dragon

At Jack's auto parts, Oakland CA.

This toy dragon costume fits perfectly onto a robot tyrannosaurus toy.
When you throw the switch it monsters around playing christmas music and operating the mask's jaw and eyes with its little arms.

Near it on the counter is a "Don't touch this" Buddha. One cannot touch the Buddha, for the Buddha has attained nirvana and is free from all attachments. Those who abstain from nirvana due to compassion for those who are not yet enlightened are termed Bodhisattvas. Perhaps the staff of this fine parts store are such persons. And their loud little dog too.

Step 27: Texas Table

Human taxidermy texas-theme table spotted at the giant antique fleamarket held the first sunday of the month on the Alameda Point runway, California.

Step 28: Futon Frame Truck Rack Platform

Spotted at the same immense antique fleamarket.
A futon lattice frame attached to the lumber rack on this classic ford courier pickup truck.
It creates a mezzanine level for additional cargo, or for sorting the cargo carried in the main box.
It's tied on with bicycle innertubes of course.

Step 29: Monster Wagon

Have to cross a swamp on the way to the fleamarket?
No problem with this home-customized monster-truck style wagon. The high-flotation tires will keep it from sinking into the muck.

Notice the washed out first picture? My pentax optio w30 has trouble shooting toward the sun. Any suggestions?

Step 30: Wheelchair Doghouse

Nicole Parsons added a cargo net behind her legs on her wheelchair.
Her dog decided it was his house and likes it a lot.

Nicole is a great dentist, so if you're near South San Francisco, have her fix your teeth.

Step 31: Folding Conveyor

This stock conveyor expands instantly to unload trucks quickly when they show up with new crates of counterfiet crocs and countless commodities.

Spotted at Walgreen's drugstore on Telegraph Ave., Berkeley CA.

Step 32: Sharpen Knife on Soapy Water Stone

To keep your water stone from clogging, put a little dish soap on it along with the water.
You'll feel the difference.

I went to the courthouse to turn in my certificate of completion from traffic school.
(didn't fully stop at a flashing red)
I had this knife in my pocket in a sheath from Kenya.
The cop at the metal detector asked "why do you have this?". I said "I build stuff, I use it all day long".
He said I should keep it in my backpack. In my pocket it's a concealed weapon, a "dirk or dagger", and a felony. A folding knife with the same blade length was no problem.
He said "a visible handgun in your waistband would only be a misdemeanor."
Me: "you're saying this knife in my pocket is worse than a gun in my hand?"
He: "I'm just telling you what the law is. It doesn't always make sense to me either".

well, don't take legal advice from cops, and don't walk into the courthouse with a gun in your hand. even if the law is on your side.

Step 33: Straighten a Pipe With Dumpster Ears

I got a deal (free) on this pipe cuz it got bent in a storm.
Here's how I straightened it using a dumpster.
Put a cardboard pad at the stress point if you're worried about kinking it.

Step 34: Instant Shoulder Bag and Personal Biodiesel Station

Joe rode his motorcycle to the hardware store and bought more than he thought he would. So in great anguish he accepted two shopping bags and tied them together like this to make a shoulder bag.
He'll conscientiously return the bags to a bag-only recycling bin in order to keep them out of the north pacific gyre

He's standing in front of our personal biodiesel station. All we had to do is call Golden Gate Biofuels and ask them to drop it off. There's a digital meter on this 250 gallon cube. We write down what we use on the clipboard and pay accordingly. No more going to gas stations for us! It's made from waste cooking oil, so we don't have to feel bad about hurting the world or causing wars anymore. If everyone started doing it there wouldn't be enough waste oil to go around. I hope that happens. Then we'll switch to something even cleaner!

Step 35: Lashed Rudder Hinge

Blaze of Glory has a very durable lashed rudder hinge. It's done kind of like one of those Mexican snake toys.

I have no idea where or if this type of hinge is traditional, but it's definitely strong and secure.

Step 36: Protein Style Burger

Are you on the Caveman diet? the Zone diet? Atkins?

Ask for a double-double burger "protein style" at In-And-Out Burger.
It's not on the menu. and this is what you'll get. A hamburger with lettuce instead of buns.
In this photo Mic munches while swapping tales of sewer exploration with Mose.

Step 37: Car Antenna From Stainless Steel Cable

This one won't break. Made from a chunk of stainless steel stay cable from a boat.
It seems to have just the right amount of flex to stand up right.
I bet the new cars will have these next year.
Spotted in West Oakland.

Step 38: Instant Roll-Up Doors

Steel channels welded onto the side of this container act as tracks for the doors, which are nothing more than pieces of corrugated roofing tin. Very cheap and Effective. The door is held in the up position by a C-clamp.
Spotted at a biodiesel refinery in West Oakland.

Step 39: Instant Shopvac Filter

The filter for this shopvac blew away in a gale.
I made a new one by tying a piece of a t-shirt over the intake with a strip of bicycle innertube.
For extra good filtration use fleece material or more layers.

Step 40: Tilted Bike Rack

Someone had the bright idea to put a bend in this bike rack. It'll hold more bikes and is a lot easier to put your bike in. I've used the vertical kind that looks like this and they're kind of awkward.

Looks like maybe this one was improved by accident, by someone running into it with a car.

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    11 years ago on Step 16

    Sniffing fumes from burning plastic is not a good way to retain your health.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    PVC, or Polyvinyl Chloride, releases chlorine when it overheats, which is poisonous.


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 16

    Oxygen and water are poisonous in too great quantity so what exactly is your point?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi. I just logged back in for the first time in about four years. I have to confess, I do not remember why I made the comment, but yours made me chuckle.


    7 years ago on Step 16

    I read somewhere that PVC produces dioxins when burned - should you be sniffing it?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    On step 29, per your camera issue, you can use a solar or UV filter that should lessen the intensity of the sun's brightness.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    I've used the same method for fiberglass rash except i used scotch tape. This method also works for those tiny cacti thorns.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    My little cousin fell off his tricycle onto a cactus when he was 2 and his had and fore arm were covered in cacti thorns and on a doctor's orders as the spines were way too tiny we first removes what we could with tape and the rest were removed by soaking his hand in hot sauce. It just desolved the rest away.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I NEED an instructable for the punching bag alarm clock! I messaged Vbrar, but just in case he doesn't check his account could you please pass this message on?

    PLEASE do an instructable on the punching bag alarm clock shown on

    husband has the problem where he sets an alarm for 2+ hours before he
    needs to get up and then taps the snooze buttons for the next 2+. He
    didn't use to do this but only started in the last year- we've been
    married 5 years. I've asked him to quit it and just set the alarm for
    when he needs to wake up and actually get up when it goes off but my
    requests have gone ignored. I am not a morning person by any means as it
    is, but this positively ruins any chance I have of waking up in a good
    mood. If I were to take your design and make it, he will have to get a
    bit of a work out to make it shut off and thus making him wake up
    completely. By writing the instructable you will be saving a marriage-
    and possibly his life, lol!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great job collecting all these ideas , thanks ever so much .


    9 years ago on Step 39

    and I thought you were making a hat....


    10 years ago on Step 20

    One of my chores as a kid was to bring the trash cans from the back fence all the to the curb for trash pick up day. After I got a skateboard that job became much easier. I only had to carry them to the driveway.


    10 years ago on Step 6

    Any length true, but width is limited. Seems there is always a tradeoff.


    11 years ago on Step 32

    I use a super cleaner called Purple Power that is sold in Wallyworld. It is a knock off of Castrol's SuperClean. It is an amazing stone lube!


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 32

    Is it the Purple Power De-Greaser for motors?


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 32

    I suppose it could be. It is marketed as a cleaner. But I think they sell it in the automotive cleaning products aisle. You'll know it when you have it when you have a liquid purplish in color and it is very slippery. It is sort of hard to wash off your hands. It is like soap on steroids. I use it to clean all sorts of things, and as my stone lube of choice. I buy it by the gallon, but have a pump spray bottle I dispense it from. Only takes a couple of squirts to lube a sharpening stone. So a gallon of the stuff lasts me at least a year. It's been a while since I've bought any. I consider the product an essential shop chemical. I always have some. I also use a little nylon brush to smush it around the stone, if I don't just use my finger. The little nylon brush cleans gunk out of the stone pores better though. Often I'll wipe a stone surface with a paper towel when I am done using it to dry it off. I use a lot of synthetic diamond hones and I think Purple Power can eat the glue that holds those things together. I just like putting my stones away dry. Seems neater to me than just letting the lube dry and leave residue on the stones. Get some if you can. I hope you find it as handy as I do.