Handy Tricks Six! Hundreds already, and the Handy Tricks just keep on coming!
To see even more handy tricks, check out the rest of the saga at
Handy Tricks 9: Oodles of random tricks
and Handy Tricks 8: Island Handy Tricks
and Handy Tricks 7: Bike Mods and Projects
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!
For a bunch of things that didn't work, check out How Not To.
First trick: Avoid the Flu
Everyone I know gets one cold and flu after another and seems to be sick all the time.
I haven't been sick in a year. Can anyone remember the last time I was sick? I can't.
Here's how to avoid disease and act crazy at the same time.
1. Use your own bowl and utensils. Keep them in your office and keep them dirty so
other people won't use them.
2. Eat live food. Kraut, kefir, kombucha. Fill your body with lots of warlike friendly
bacteria. Create a "field of weeds" Microbial environment in your body. Then when a
specialized people-eating germ lands on you, it's the new kid in a gang
neighborhood and doesn't last long. Your dirty dishes are protected the same way.
3. Wash your hands before picking your nose or touching your eyes. Your mouth is made
to eat off the floor. Your eyes and nose aren't so well protected.
4. Wear long sleeves so you have something to touch doorknobs with.
We should really have footknobs on doors. The L-knobs or "elbowknobs" are ok, and are required in europe.
5. The air in airplanes is stale, dry, and full of germs.
Wear a gas mask on airplanes. Preferably with underwear on your head or an Arab headdress.
Illustration courtesy of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Step 1: Electric Wheelchair Becomes Electric Car
This gentleman made a motorized wheelchair into an all-weather electric car by adding a prototype "Car board" body and a trailer. This is the hotrod of wheelchairs, which goes 13 mph whithout further modifications.
Here's his very thorough website about his car.
Step 2: Live in an RV
In some parts of San Francisco you're allowed to park an RV on the street.
If you've got the resources to keep one of these things fueled, running, and legal, that's a cheap convenient way to live. For most people in the nomad phase of life it's too much vehicle.
A friend who's lived in a conversion van for years says his next vehicle/home will be a minivan. It'll be easier to find parking and it will attract less attention from police.
In some places police will pound on your door to see if anyone responds and tell you to leave. He doesn't respond and the police go away.
In many parts of our dumb country there are ordinances against RV parking, even on your own land.
There are even a few places where you can't sleep in a car.
Let us pray that God's wrath smite those evil lawmakers and show them the true path of charity and tolerance.
Step 3: Make Charcoal in a Can
Got a fire going? While you're at it, make some charcoal for later blacksmithing or a bbq.
1. Cut an X in the top of a can and pry the flaps up.
2. Saw up some wood and fill the can with it. Dry hardwood is best. Pallet wood is good.
I use the handy bandsaw.
3. Close the flaps and put the can upside down on a fire. We use Mr. Fireface.
4. Watch the fire and play banjo.
5. Smoke will come out of the can. The smoke will burn. When those extra flames die down lift the can with sticks. It should be a lot lighter.
6. Put the can upside down in a puddle or a bucket of water. It will instantly suck water up until it's full of water. That quenches the charcoal and keeps it from burning any more.
7. The can is suddenly cold. Pick it up, dump out the water, pry open the flaps and dump the charcoal into a mesh bag to drain.
8. You have charcoal. It's very clean. It won't smudge you. This can had some sticks that weren't fully charred. Put them aside to dry and do it again. Next time cut the sticks all one size and be more careful to get enough heat and burn enough smoke.
This method burns a lot of wood to make a bit of charcoal, but it's a good method if you've got a fire going anyway.
Step 4: Quick Motorcycle Stands
No bolting or Jacking, just hook these onto your bike and push down til the lever hits the ground.
Now you can take wheels off etc without trouble.
Seen at [www.nimbyspace.org NIMBY in Oakland CA]
You could make a pair of these from shopping carts using the homemade welder
Step 5: Furry Chaps From Fleece Rug
Star made me a pair of these. They're really cozy.
They stay up from the fur sort of gripping your legs. They keep my feet warm even when I'm barefoot, which is unexpected.
To make a pair wrap the fleece around your leg and figure out how wide it needs to be to be tight but not too tight. Cut it out. Sew them into tubes. That's easier if you shove the fleece inside the tube instead of letting it poke out of the seam. Put them on and enjoy the coziness.
Step 6: BLOB JOB!
Robin Ivester holds the first stainless steel "blob job" ever made.
This is a historic moment. A new decorative motif is not created very often. And here is one.
It happened apparently by accident. She was waterjetting flame jobs for this fine speaker system, and the offcut was a perfectly formed "blob job". The first in human history! It'll look great trailing an oilspill off the back of someone's filler cap!
Step 7: Ether Injection for Diesel Starting
My biodiesel truck was embarassing me by being hard to start. I'd wait for the glowplugs to heat up and crank and crank and eventually it would fire up and blow a lot of white unburned fuel smoke out the pipe. I knew it was "bio-smoke" and probably very healthy for the planet, but it looked like hell.
Then I remembered the weird valve and crate of ether cylinders I'd scavenged off a doomed boat.
So I tee-plumbed it up to one of my vacuum lines and ta-daa! I had built in starting fluid injection.
A couple of taps on the valve and my beast fired up like magic. I'll figure out why it's so hard to start later.
Once I returned to my parked truck to see that some junk had shifted and pressed the lever down. "damn!" I thought. I've filled the engine with that crap and made it into a bomb!. How do I start my car without blowing it up? So I read up on the valve. No problem. It's a really nifty gadget. It doses out only 3ccs every time you press it.
It's intended to mount upside down and dose out 3ccs of liquid ether, which gives you about 300 shots per can. There's mineral oil mixed in as a "top cylinder lubricant". I ended up mounting mine with the valve on top, to dose out vapor and get more shots. My truck is getting plenty of fuel, so cylinder lube is no problem.
If you don't have this fancy stuff you can do the same thing by just running a vac line into your cab and spraying start fluid from an aerosol can. Pinch the hose when it's not in use. Be careful where and how you place your ether can. Ether is very flammable. If it leaks or gets crushed it can blow you up or knock you out and asphyxiate you, just like the nice old doctor in "Cider House Rules".
Step 8: Folding Pickup Topper
These roof support hoops slide forward along the rail to get out of the way.
They're really solid, probably strong enough to use as a lumber rack.
A tarp cover gets cinched over the top in inclement weather.
Spotted in the Costco parking lot in San Leandro CA.
Step 9: Hip Capital 2.0
Here's the Instructables crew at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.
Christy, Ed, Randy, and Billy are spreading the love and etching laptops for all and sundry.
Notice the Bratz Mutilation Knife Block and Duck Mouse prominently displayed.
I kept asking attendees, and no one found the artworks offensive.
Yes, stop hiding your hobby from your co-workers. A new age has dawned!
Step 10: Perfect Melted Cord Ends
1. Wrap the intact part of the end with tape.
2. Cut through the tape with a sharp knife.
3. melt the end with a match, keeping the tape on.
4. Don't touch the flame to the cord to avoid blackening it.
5. Wet your fingers and or use a piece of wax paper to squish the cord end into shape.
6. You have a perfectly melted cord end!
Step 11: Fix a Blender With a Jar Lid
I dropped my blender's pitcher. It didn't break, but the thing on the bottom did.
Fortunately the threads on the bottom are the same as a canning jar.
So I put that on the pitcher. It works fine!
Could it be the ancient ones designed it that way?
If you break your pitcher, you could even substitute a jar for it, as in photo 3!
Step 12: Fix Blender With Hot Glue and Innertube
Someone did a good job of fixing the blender at MITERS.
They filled a chip in the base of the pitcher with hot glue and made a new gasket from a piece of bicycle innertube.
Step 13: Stop Bleeding With Cellulose
Chloe Byruck cut herself while sewing.
She dabbed the wound with a paper towel and the bleeding stopped.
Why? The cellulose fibers are covered with microscopic spiky scales. That's how the fibers grip each other to make paper. Blood contains platelets full of clotting factors. The platelets break on the cellulose spikes and clot the hell up. Bleeding stops.
Step 14: Bicycle Pedal Electric Generator
Here's Fossil Fool's bike at Maker Faire 2007.
He puts it up on the rear stand and uses it as a pedal electric generator.
The generator appears to be a dc brushmotor with a drive wheel that rubs on his rear tire.
There was no visble wear damage to the tire.
His organization "Rock the Bike" had a number of such bikes there, which they used to power a concert stage full of electrified musicians.
Step 15: Finger Smudge Blueprint
Liam MacNamara needed to make a mounting plate with some holes that would line up with another plate's hole pattern. So he laid a piece of paper on the existing plate and rubbed it with his hand.
That made a fine copy of the hole pattern. He measured these holes to make the rest of the dimension drawing he needed.
Step 16: Lobster Buoy Hatches and Bilge Plugs.
Buoys for lobster and crab traps and many net floats are made of chewy closed cell foam. In the Marshall Islands people would cut bilge plugs from them. They also make a good hatch cover if you cut a hole the right size. Here's one in my dinghy's forward flotation compartment. The retaining rope passes through the float and is tied to a wooden cookie.
Step 17: An Air Bag for Eggs
Here at La Antigua Guatemala's market, people sell eggs by the flat, and don't refrigerate them because eggs store just fine when not cold. If you don't want a whole flat of 36 eggs, this shop keeper will sell you some in an inflated plastic bag. You still can't shake the eggs around too much, but at least you can pile your other groceries on top without worry.
Step 18: Create an Ergonomic Standing Desk and Office on the Go
Christy and Eric have been traveling in Guatemala for a couple of weeks. They brought their laptops and have been logging into Instructables everyday. They call it "working from home from abroad."
Eric is really careful with his wrists and computer use in general. See:
Ergonomic Work Station
Stand Up Desk, and
He brought his Goldtouch split keyboard and left and right handed vertical mice, as mentioned in the above Instructables and forum topic. Here, he's found a set of shelves that are approximately the right height and put the keyboard and mice below the laptop, which is about at head level. It's a little too tall, and the shelves aren't adjustable, but it's a world of difference over the RSI and back and neck pain associated with working on a laptop while actually on your lap or on a table.
With a good internet connection and VOIP with a local Bay-Area call-in number, few people even know they're out of the US!
Step 19: How to Talk to Police
The ACLU teaches proper technique.
Here's a typical encounter where I don't use ACLU form, but don't get killed either:
I get pulled over a lot.
Apparently white guys who don't drive new cars are suspicious enough to be checked against THE LIST.
They make up some excuse like a partially obscured license plate, insufficient illumination on it, or a cracked taillight lense.
Then they take my license and go away for a long time to play with the computer in their squad car.
It takes a long time because there are so many of us Tim Andersons. We all look the same and have the same build, even though we aren't related. Some of us are deadbeat dads, some are parole-jumping sex offenders, and some of us are really major fuckups. Some of us are philanthropists and saints, but they don't have a database for that.
Usually the cop gets frustrated by the pages of arrest warrents and can't figure out which one is me. So then they come back with trick questions.
Question: "Who owns this vehicle?"
Answer: "The guy it's registered to. I insure it, he lets me drive it." (it helps to know his name and have a current registration with you.)
If the car is uninsured or unregistered, say you're transporting it during the 60-day grace period allowed by your home state and you're about to drive it there, and it's covered by your dad's (boat's/blanket's) insurance in the meantime.
Question: "Where do you live?"
Answer: "Same as my license". (it's better to know it well enough to just say the address.)
Question: "How long have you been in the state?"
Answer: "A couple of weeks."
If you've been through a few of these sessions your papers will be straight enough and you come off as the sort of hardened weasel that won't fall for their little games, and they let you go with a warning and mark your file with an "X-Ray number" (in CA anyhow) as someone who's been stopped, they couldn't figure out what you're up to, but they'd like to bust you for it.
Question: "Two weeks, huh, why do you have a CA toll-pass, pay stubs from a local job, etc. etc.
etc. etc. etc. etc."
Answer: "I come and go a lot. I have boats/cars/holsteins registered in another state, my income comes from another state. What's your residence test? Can I vote here?"
The cop doesn't know anything about voting. She thinks I came to her suburb to steal catalytic converters off cars. She's really cute and obviously likes guns, which is hot, but things haven't gotten off on the right foot. I'm tempted to ask to file police reports against Cheney and Rumsfeld for kidnapping, torture, mass murder, and lying to congress. She hands me my license back and a reciept for something, and I put both of them in the glove compartment.
(image source: Roanoke pd)
So then the next day at the airport my license isn't with me.
What happens then? Read on.
Step 20: Fly Without Identification
At Oakland airport security I shuffled through my wallet full of creditcards etc. and couldn't find my driver's license. Damn! It was that cop the other night. I must have put my license in the glovebox with the receipt/nonticket thingy.
I'm at the airport and I don't have my "Government Issued Photo ID". What can I do?
Airport security: "How about a Costco card?"
Me: "what? would that would work?" (I still don't know.)
Airport security: "hum, haw, delay delay, get supervisor."
Supervisor. "Where's the good pen?" (makes two checkmarks on my boardingpass) "Go over there". (xray machine line)
Woohoo! I can fly even without id!
All they do is give you the "extra screening" which means they're extra courteous and pleasant,
dump out your stuff for the swab+sniff machine, and give you the pat-down massage, which is actually kind of nice. I got through the process just about as quick as normal.
They don't care at all about any of my other id, or the "name" I'm using. I could be traveling with a really cool name like... "Heimlich Richter", "Zamboni Carramba", or... Yes! Hi, my name is "Phakopsora Pachyrhizi"!!!
Extra Screening Dude: "You paint cars?"
Me: "what? oh yeah, the gas mask and headphones? yeah. painting cars. Do you have a bandaid for this?" (my zombie bite)
I had a connecting flight in JFK. JFK sucks. You have to leave security to walk across a street and clear back in at the other terminal 50 feet away. I'm worried.
No ID? No problem! Another free massage!
Howabout Logan, home of white-knuckled incompetence? No problem! It's a slow day, so trainees practice the security massage while a superivisor gives a critique.
Me: "Have you always been able to fly without ID?"
Deskie: "I think ever since 9/11 you've been able to."
Me: "The terrorists still use the ID we gave them in training?
Deskie, smiling: "something exactly like that."
Step 21: Rubberband Babyproofing/ Dogproofing Cabinets
Dogs and toddlers want to open this cabinet and eat your garbage.
This rubberband around the handles thwarts them.
Step 22: Art Toilets
Star made this toilet into a "talking toilet" interactive artwork. She painted the seat to look a mouth with tempura paint.
She butt-proofed it with many coats of clear acrylic spraypaint.
Then she added electronics to add speech capability.
She waterproofed the electronics using military methods.
The toilet says "Mmm delicious! Feed me more!". That is very disturbing to some people. This toilet doesn't get much use anymore.
Her "Rage against the Latrine" is more popular.
Step 23: Hanging Jar Parts Bins
Here's a handy way to organize small parts without using up shelf space. Just screw a bunch of lids to your ceiling and put the parts in the jars.
Spotted at TEP, Boston MA.
Step 24: Charcoal Starter Chimney Can
Steve Cooke made this handy gizmo from a tomato sauce can to start his grill. It saves lighter fluid. He starts a fire of wadded newspaper and tinder in the can and drops the briquettes on top of it. The convection airflow gets the charcoal burning well. When it glows and stops smoking he pulls the can off, spreads out the charcoal, and grills.
Step 25: Lab Stool Rolling Storage
Frogger made this slick rolling labstool/caddy at MITERS.
He tied a stool to the base from an office chair with wire.
It's a really good way to store a lot of stools so they can be pushed out of the way but not fall over.
It's lasted for years.
Step 26: Float Your Scope
Cut the damn ground pin off your scope.
If you think the case might electrocute you now, well, don't touch the case.
Grounding the case isn't exactly safe either. If you're working on a high voltage circuit and your scope is grounded, you might as well hold a water pipe with one hand. Not safe.
This trick isn't so important now that scopes have so many channels and A-B knobs. But education hasn't improved, so people are still burning probes out by not understanding the difference between "ground", "reference", and "signal".
It would be nice to have a high impedance reference clip instead of a low-impedance ground clip. Anyone listening at Tektronix?
I learned to use an oscilloscope in the good old days when there was one trace and very few knobs.
At least on the scopes you got for free.
Usually someone would want to use your scope to fix a their band's PA amplifier.
They'd hook the ground lead from the scope onto the amp's black output wire, and POOF!
That amp channel is burned out now, literally "in a flash", regardless of what else used to be wrong with it.
How did that happen? The black wire on an amp or stereo isn't usually ground. Usually it's one channel of a push-pull amplifier. The ground clip from the scope is ground. They just shorted an amplifier output to ground. Of course it burned out.
And now my probe is melted. Usually they'd wreck the other probe by leaving it on the floor and rolling back and forth over it with an office chair while talking about big ideas.
Solution. Float the scope. And hide your good probes.
Step 27: Folding Cup From Paper Plate
Step 28: Landfill Consciousness Wastebasket
This photo is pasted on the lid of the wastebasket at Instructables HQ, SF,CA, USA.
It reminds people that each piece of trash is a nail in the coffin of our beloved mother earth.
Step 29: Hasty Blade Guide for Bandsaw
Step 30: Lathe Tool for Rubber
Step 31: Car = Solar Oven to Cure Epoxy
Here in sunny NorCal, the weather is perfect all the time, which means it's slightly too chilly for epoxy to kick off. So after the epoxy gets tacky I put the parts in a hot car in the sun with the windows closed.
It gets all toasty inside and the part is ready for the clamps to come off in no time.
I try not to breathe the fumes in the car when I take the parts out, and I open the windows for a bit before driving anywhere.
In these pictures I'm curing a rudder, a couple of laminated booms and a broken baseball bat.
Step 32: Jug Buoy
Someones got a lobster trap or crab trap here in Boston Harbor, which might not be such a good idea.
Then again, maybe the 17 mile sewage outfall pipe from the Deer Island treatment plant has cleaned up the water enough.
Anyway the buoy is a handy trick. It's a detergent bottle with the potwarp (rope to the trap) tied to the handle. Appropriately, the brand name is "TIDE".
Step 33: Two Long Blasts and Two Short: "Open the Locks!"
In the Charles river, paddling to the sea.
The works of man block the estuary
Stasterisk howls four coded blasts
The gates open up and let us past!
Step 34: Kedge a Grounded Boat
Our Italian neighbors have a keel 9 feet deep.
They got stuck in the mud while we were hydrofoiling nearby off Solara, the Free Yacht.
They got stuck because they ran out of diesel. Their injectors were full of air.
Victor and I went onboard to see what we could do.
We brought some diesel for their tank and tried to bleed their injectors so their motor would fire. We couldn't get the motor to start.
Finally we "kedged" them out of the mud. That means putting the anchor in the dinghy and rowing upwind as far as you can go. Then you throw the anchor in the water. Then the yacht winches in the anchor line, pulling the boat toward the anchor. Repeat as necessary.
Step 35: Dirt Box Bridge Bumpers
The pillars of the Bay Bridge are surrounded by boxes of dirt and gravel at their bases.
That protects them from collisions with ships.
Recently a ship wrecked itself on that big cement pillar and leaked a bazillian gallons of oil all over the bay, but the bridge was unharmed.
Step 36: Tug Plugs Into Barge
This barge has a big bay cut into its stern.
When it needs to move they drive a tugboat up into the hole and drive the barge around as if it's a ship.
Then the tugboat goes off to do other work while the barge is parked. No unnecessary mechanical stuff rusting away while the barge sits somewhere.
The name of the tug is "Gulf Reliance". Doesn't that say it all?
Step 37: Lock Casters With Clamp
Vincent put a hull on a big dolly to move it around easier. The only problem is it tends to move around also when you're sanding or drilling on it. Solutions: He clamped some C-Clamps on the wheels,
Now it's stationary and makes a good workbench.
Step 38: Move a Container With an Undersized Forklift
1. Lift one end of the container.
2. Put a four wheel dolly under that end of the container.
3. Lift the other end of the container with the forklift and push the container wherever you want it.
Step 39: Fix a Zipper
The first way a zipper dies is usually by not fully zipping the two halves together.
Then the zipper separates when the slider is in the up position.
Then you get the garment for free.
Wrestle the zipper apart by whatever means won't cause permanent damage.
Then take a pair of pliers and carefully pinch the base of the slider together as shown.
Just bend it a little.
The zipper will now work perfectly.
Step 40: Dinghy Ferry Clothesline Loop Rig
The mothership is anchored fore and aft with two anchors so it won't drift and swing.
The dinghy is tied to a loop of rope that passes through one pulley on the mothership and another on shore.
Now the crew can go back and forth between ship and shore, and not worry about being stranded.
To get the dinghy, just pull it toward you with the loop of rope.
Spotted at Albany Bulb, California
Step 41: Free Stuff Wagon
Got too much stuff?
Want people to take it?
Put it in a shopping cart with a big nice sign saying "FREE STUFF".
Take it to a festive area with high foot traffic. If people are near their cars that helps also.
Before long you will have less stuff and other people will have more.
This method tends to get less of your stuff scattered around on the ground than simply placing boxes out.
Step 42: Hammer Is Meat Tenderizer
Ingrid tenderizes some pork chops with a 20 oz. framing hammer.
This is traditional Italian cooking technology, formerly done with a specialized implement exactly like this hammer.
Make a "hammerburger"!
Step 43: Bill Boykin's Soap Box Derby Car
Bill built this with his grandkids to race down his driveway in Sebastopol CA.
They used it for years and eventually grew up. He learned to build this style of car in his youth making similar vehicles.