This Instructable explains how I made a little hook to fit an anti-theft coat-hanger, using (rather poetically) a cheap coat-hanger. You can either build it from scratch with a piece of coat-hanger wire, or get a slightly better-looking and tougher end result by recycling the metal hook from a plastic hanger. I'll describe the second method here.
This is one of those laughably-simple ideas that is utterly pointless for most of the time, but can be a real life-saver at the point when you really need it. When away from home on business, there is frequently a need to stay overnight in a hotel then don a crease-free shirt the next day for a meeting. If you don't have easy access to an iron, the usual technique is to hang the shirt in the bathroom whilst you have a shower, which helps to get the creases out. So far so good, except that nowadays most hotels I stay in have those really annoying hook-free anti-theft coat-hangers that only work in the hotel wardrobe but are useless anywhere else. They don't have a proper hook on the end, just a small stub on a straight shank (rather like a small nail-head).
Every time I've found myself in this situation, I've decided I need to make a little hook that will fit onto the anti-theft coat-hanger to temporarily turn it into a proper one, which could be used to steam stuff in the bathroom or hang stuff somewhere else other than the hotel wardrobe. Of course, once I get home from the meeting this is all forgotten until six months later when the problem occurs again. Well, after about fourteen years I finally remembered to do something about it.
Reproduce this idea at your own risk - in the unlikely event you lose a business deal because your shirt fell from the hanger mid-shower and got crumpled, then don't blame me.
You will need:
Cheap coat-hanger (e.g. from a clothes store or from a dry-cleaners if you want a wire version). I have a large stash of wire coat-hangers in the garage as the wire they are made from is incredibly useful for all sorts of stuff. For this job, I recommend you use the slightly thicker metal hook from a plastic coat-hanger.
Sturdy combination pliers
Bench vice (or a second set of sturdy pliers if you are feeling strong)
Nail with a diameter of about 2.5 mm (optional)
File for smoothing off rough edges
Step 1: Remove the Hook From the Plastic Hanger
Use the pliers / brute force to free the chromed hook from the hanger body. Discard the broken hanger and remove any remaining plastic from the ribbed end of the metal hook. This ribbed end is weaker than the rest of the hook so you will need to snap this off - this is most easily done by placing the ribbed end in a vice and flexing the hook back and forth till it snaps. Discard the ribbed part.
At this point it's probably worth cleaning up the rough end of the hook (where you've just broken a part off) with a file or something, so there are no sharp edges etc.
Step 2: Form the Small Hook
The next part is to form the rough end of the hook into a small hook shape. This needs to be large enough to accept the width of a typical hotel security hanger, but small enough to trap the small stub at the top and stop it falling through. I initially tried forming this hook using a ~2.5 mm diameter nail as a former, but in actual fact it's easier just to bend the metal 'free-hand'. If you start the bend off about 15-20 mm from the rough end, that should be about right. The small hook should be at a right angle to the plane of the main coat-hanger hook. Just use pliers to bend the wire to approximately 90 degrees, then use a bench vice to close it up by squeezing both sides together. This last bend is almost impossible without a decent vice - your pliers will either be too flimsy or too thick to make the right shape. Make sure that there's a small angle between the two sides of the small hook as shown.
This tapering of the sides of the small hook is a critical feature. This is how you can trap the security hanger stub, whilst still allowing the shaft to pass, without knowing the exact diameter of the shaft. The taper does the job for you.
Step 3: Form a Small Bend in the Small Hook
Finally, make a second bend at the base of the large hook, bending in the plane of the large hook. The idea is to try to make the whole item slightly more circular. In use, the security hanger stub will not be trapped securely in the tapered hook if the latter is too vertical - the angle is just too extreme. Ideally the tapered hook will be at about 30 degrees to the horizontal when the hanger is in use. Again, using a bench vice and pliers is probably the best way to do this.
Step 4: Finally, Test With a Second Coat-hanger
Now you have your hook, hang it over something and use the hook of a second coat-hanger to simulate the top of a security hanger. These also have a very small stub at the end which should catch in the taper if you've done it right (I think this is actually a harsher test than a real security hanger). If everything is okay, you should be able to exert a surprising downward force on the second coat-hanger without it coming loose. If not, adjust the taper angle or angle relative to the horizontal of the small hook till you are satisfied.
I've used the coat-hanger wire prototype of this hook successfully when away on business, and it's been through airport security twice without anyone batting an eyelid. I think the second version, which I've described here, is a much better job however. If you don't have access to a bench vice, it should be possible to make the coat-hanger wire version as it's easier to work the material with just a pair of pliers.
May your shirts be ever free of wrinkles...