Category: Tools & Workshop


Genius! Turn a Toothbrush into a Power Sander

Want to put a new spin on your old electric toothbrush? Transform yours into a pint-size power sander that can tackle small projects at home and in your workshop—for just $5!

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diy-mini-power-sander

Photo: youtube.com via kipkay

Power sanders are incredibly useful—and incredibly expensive. The smallest versions, called detail sanders, allow you to maneuver in tight corners like a pro. With a light touch, you can use these tiny power tools to sand away scratches in old furniture, perfect painted trim, smooth rough edges in wood—and even deep-clean grout! In an effort to get all the function without the hefty price tag, YouTube guru and professional tinkerer kipkay built a simpler sander from an electric toothbrush for just $5.

He first hacked off the bristles with a small pair of scissors, then cut a piece of plastic from an old DVD case to cover the empty patch on the toothbrush head. (This scrap plastic creates a smooth base for attaching the sandpaper.) After coating the top of the toothbrush in superglue, kipkay pressed the piece of plastic in place for a few minutes to create a strong bond. Finally, he added a cut-to-fit circle of adhesive-backed sandpaper to the top of the toothbrush, and prepared his to-do list of around-the-house jobs.

Just like a detail sander, the oscillating head of the electric toothbrush wears down surfaces in small circles, or “orbits,” so you’ll need to move it back and forth for an even, smooth finish. Inspired to take your old toothbrush for a spin? Check out the settings before you get started—most have more than one, so test all the options before diving into your next big DIY.

FOR MORE: Kipkay on YouTube 

diy-mini-power-sander-2

Photo: youtube.com via kipkay


Bob Vila Radio: Remove Old Paint with a Heat Gun

Whether you're refinishing a vintage dresser or woodwork on the outside of your home, a heat gun makes quicker work of what might otherwise become a labor-intensive, time-consuming task. Read on for a few pointers on using the tool safely and effectively.

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Looking for a quick way to remove old layers of paint? Your best bet might be a heat gun—and it’s easy enough to use one, so long as you make safety a top priority.

How to Use a Heat Gun

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To heat only one painted area and not its surroundings, consider crafting a simple heat shield. Here, cut a hole in a piece of cardboard, making the hole a tad larger than your target. Cover the cardboard in heavy-duty aluminum foil, then get to work.

Having readied the heat gun, run it over the old paint in a continuous sweeping motion, keeping the nozzle of the gun about two inches above the painted surface. When the paint begins to release from the surface, use an angled paint scraper to peel away the old paint. Have a trash can handy and wipe off the scraper every minute or two.

Above all, avoid distractions! Even a momentary lapse in concentration can lead to serious injury. Remember to wear long sleeves and safety glasses when you’re doing the job, and keep a fire extinguisher close at hand.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


5 Things to Do with… Painter’s Tape

Do you have a couple of extra rolls of painter’s tape left over from your last painting project? Put them to good use with these unexpected tasks.

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While you hardly ever venture to the paint section of your hardware store without a specific job in mind, one of its contents offers a multitude of reasons to keep coming back. A multi-tasking roll of painter’s tape can solve a plethora of household problems beyond simply masking trim, fixtures, and other clean surfaces from paint splatter. So, stock up on a couple of extra rolls! We’ve got five additional ways to put them to good use.

 

OUTLINE YOUR ART

How to Use Painter's Tape - DIY Gallery Wall

Photo: homepolish.com

Would you like to know what your gallery wall would look like ahead of time without marring up the drywall with misplaced nail holes? Now you can, thanks to the semi-adhesive quality of painter’s tape. Simply trace the soon-to-be-hung frames on craft paper (cut-up brown paper bags work well, too), and cut out the templates. Then hang them one by one to the wall, securing each with a few strips of tape. The adhesive isn’t strong enough to peel off the wall’s paint, so feel free to stick and un-stick the shapes until your design looks right. Once you commit to a final configuration and nail the arrangement to the wall, ball up a little extra painter’s tape to place behind the bottom of each frame—you won’t see any shifting.

 

ACHIEVE EVEN CAULKING

How to Use Painter's Tape - With Caulking

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Painter’s tape not only allows you to paint like a pro, but caulk like one, too! Just mask off the surfaces on either side of where you’ll apply caulk using the tape to ensure a clean, guided line. Stick to using long pieces of tape rather than short strips so that you don’t run the risk of changing your line’s angle in the slightest. When you get to applying your second line, space the tape about a quarter-inch away from the first for best results—a thinner joint is a cleaner one. Once all the caulk has been squeezed, smooth the joint with your finger. Typically, fresh caulk starts to smear at this point, making a joint look sloppy and amateurish. But when you remove your painter’s tape, you’ll be left with a crisp edge.

 

SAVE YOUR CAR FROM SCRATCHES

How to Use Painter's Tape  - DIY Car Bra

Photo: reddit.com via oursaviorjoe

If you’re planning a last-minute road trip over some rough terrain, consider creating a makeshift car bra out of blue painter’s tape. By covering up key areas—a hack favored by some automotive aficionados—not only will you protect your car from small rocks, bugs, and other road debris, but the adhesive won’t ruin the paint when you peel away the strips. Just be sure to apply the tape horizontally, and work your way from the top down so the wind doesn’t lift up the edges while out on the open road. While you may get a few funny looks, remember that this thrifty  move can save thousands of dollars in potential auto body damage.

 

PREVENT SPLINTERED WOOD

How to Use Painter's Tape - When Sawing

Photo: bobvila.com

If you’ve ever cut a thin piece of wood with a table saw, you know splintering can be a problem. One of the easiest remedies involves this paint job staple. To use tape to your advantage in the woodshop, first mark your cut with a pencil and then place a strip of tape along the line on the side of the wood you don’t plan to use. Make your cut with the saw and rest assured, the tape will hold the wood together so the end result will be a nice clean line – no more rough or splintered edges!

 

KEEP FOOD FRESH

How to Use Painter's Tape - Seal Snack Bags

Photo: containerstore.com

Plastic chip clips often break or disappear just when you need them the most. When you don’t have one on hand, your trusty roll of painter’s tape makes a wonderfully disposable seal to lock in the freshness of your favorite snack. Use it to fold and close every bag from chips to cereal and coffee to salad greens. A single sticky, 4-inch strip can be used over and over again to reseal a bag that has been opened. In most cases, the tape will hold its adhesive strength just long enough to finish the bag, so you can say goodbye to stale foods forever.


Bob Vila Radio: Prevent Electrical Shocks in Your Workshop

When setting up your workshop, don't overlook the crucial importance of electrical safety. By observing only a few initial precautions, you can go a long way toward steering clear of issues and incidents down the line.

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If you’re setting up a home workshop for your do-it-yourself projects, recognize that in a room with so many power tools, it’s only prudent to take steps toward preventing electrical shocks.

Workshop Electrical Safety Detail

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Listen to BOB VILA ON GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTERS or read the text below:

For the best protection, choose electrical outlets equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters, commonly known as GFCIs. If there’s a power leakage, GFCIs instantly cut off the current, keeping you from experiencing an unpleasant or potentially dangerous jolt.

Of course, DIYers must always uphold electricity safety best practices, with or without GFCIs in place. Be sensible in your decision-making. For instance, remember that it’s a much better idea to replace a damaged cord than to prolong its life by wrapping frayed areas in electrical tape. Meanwhile, only use cords that are rated to supply more than enough current for the tools you plan to use. Finally, don’t forget your workbench; if it’s metal, then it’s only prudent to make sure that it’s grounded. Here, hire an electrician to do the work of running a wire from the bench to an electrical subpanel.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Bob Vila Radio: Cleaning Reclaimed Wood

Salvaged wood often comes with an intriguing backstory and a unique appearance—but also with embedded dirt, dust, and debris. Here's how to clean the material before including it in your next project.

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Looking to add a sense of warmth and history to your home? For your next project, eschew stock lumber in favor of salvaged wood. Though it sometimes commands a higher price, you can still find weathered, character-rich old timber at an affordable cost in many parts of the country. Consider the material not only for the familiar applications—exposed beams and columns—but also for creative new uses like fireplace mantels and countertops.

How to Clean Reclaimed Wood

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Listen to BOB VILA ON USING SALVAGED WOOD or read the text below:

Typically, reclaimed boards are rough hewn and pocked with nooks and crannies. Especially when held in storage for a prolonged period of time, all those little crevices collect no small amount of dirt and debris. Therefore, the first thing to do is give the salvaged wood a thorough cleaning. The easiest way to dislodge the dirt is to use a pressure washer. Just be sure to turn the tool down to its lowest setting. That way, you avoid ruining the patina that gives the wood its special look. Remember to wash all sides, including the ends, and when you’re done, run a fun to facilitate the drying process. Finally, if desired, lightly sand the wood before getting to work.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Bob Vila Radio: Every DIYer Needs a Random Orbital Sander

Read on for the basics of a powerful yet precise tool useful for any number of building and repair projects, no matter your skill level or experience.

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If you’re looking to create a really smooth finish on woodwork, your best bet is to use a random orbital sander—a power tool that finely sands, rounds edges, and removes coats of paint or vanish, all without leaving gouges or swirls on the surface.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RANDOM ORBITAL SANDERS or read the text below:

The random orbital sander works in a unique way: It spins the sanding disk even while moving the disk in small ellipses. That way, no part of the sandpaper travels the same path in a given rotation. The result is that you can move the sander in any direction, including against the grain of the wood. Few power tools are easier or more satisfying to work with.

Disks usually attach to the sander by way of hook-and-loop fasteners or pressure-sensitive adhesives. Your local home center advise you on what grade of sanding disk to use for the job at hand. Note that while some random orbital sanders include a built-in container for dust, you should wear goggles and a mask anyway in order to protect your eyes and lungs.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Bob Vila Radio: Focus on Framing Fasteners

Builders owe a debt of gratitude to the inventor of framing fasteners. Not only do they simplify the arduous construction process, but they also make for stronger, more secure structures. Read on for the basics.

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If you’re framing new construction—a simple backyard deck, for example, or even an entire house—framing fasteners allow you to join two boards (two-by-fours or two-by-sixes) easily and, above all, securely.

What Is a Framing Fastener

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FRAMING FASTENERS or read the text below:

Made of zinc-coated sheet metal, framing fasteners usually include conveniently pre-drilled holes for screws or nails. Though they come in a wide variety of shapes, some are much more common than others. Perhaps most common are angle brackets. Also frequently used are joist hangers, which are similar to stirrups in design and application. Other types of framing fasteners help builders do such things as secure roofing rafters or mount vertical posts to horizontal beams.

Framing fasteners are especially important—indeed, often required—in geographical areas subject to extreme weather and natural disasters. That’s because they reinforce the structure, working to evenly distribute any stress that threatens its integrity. Stocking up? Save a considerable sum and be sure to buy in bulk.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Genius! The Emergency Essential You Can Make with Cardboard and a Can

Sure, you could buy a flashlight from the store—but not one like this! Put your skills to the test with this MacGyver-esque DIY for your toolkit.

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DIY Flashlight - Completed Project

Photo: instructables.com

No matter who you are—Boy Scout, first-time renter, or veteran homeowner—the small but mighty flashlight is an invaluable addition to any toolkit. Portable light comes in handy for everything from maneuvering during a power outage to finding your remote in that dark abyss under the couch. So, why make it yourself when you can pick it up at the hardware store? Two reasons: cost and customization. When you make one from almost entirely of recycled and repurposed (read: free) materials, you can customize the color, grip, battery size, and weight of your flashlight. Lucky for us, Instructables user paul em deconstructs the tool into a handful of truly accessible parts—right down to the cereal box shell, aluminum can-turned-bulb holder, and some tin foil!

Want to follow in his footsteps? Start by prepping your recycled materials. Carefully cut down the side of your can, from top to bottom, and lop off both ends. Flatten out the curled sheet of aluminum that’s left, and you have the material for inside of your flashlight. Then cut out the back of the largest cereal box you have in recycling; when folded into a rectangle, it will house the whole contraption. This upcycling DIY comes with four templates to help you cut and fold both aluminum and cardboard pieces into the base of your soon-to-be-working flashlight. The folds will support your light bulb, hold two stacked batteries in place, and create an on-off switch for easy operation.

Pop the batteries in whenever you’re ready to head out and use it for an extended amount of time, like a weekend camping trip. While you may not actually earn a scout badge for this sustainable craft, you’ll gain a new appreciation for everything you can do with an empty cereal box, soda can, and a little ingenuity—plus a really cool flashlight.

FOR MORE: Instructables

DIY Flashlight - Pieces and Parts

Photo: instructables.com


Bob Vila Radio: The Easy Way to Remove Stubborn Screws

Now and again, every do-it-yourselfer encounters a screw that just won't give up its grip. Rather than let a fixed-in-place fastener slow you down, go ahead and remove it, quickly and easily, using a simple handyman's helper. Learn more below.

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Stymied by a stripped screw, or a screw without a head? No worries! There’s a brilliant little tool that can help you remove a stubborn screw with ease. It’s known, appropriately, as a screw extractor.

Screw Extractors

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SCREW EXTRACTORS or read the text below:

Here’s how it works: First, you use a very small drill bit to bore into the screw. Next, insert the threaded end of the screw extractor into the pilot hole you’ve created. Finally, attach the opposite, square-shaped end of the extractor either to an electric drill or a T handle. When you turn the screw extractor, it digs further into the damaged screw, exerting counter-clockwise force that backs the screw out. Though screw extractors are one of the least costly extras you can add to your toolbox, they often prove priceless if and when you face a fastener that refuses to budge.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


All-Purpose Transfer Pumps Move Water with Ease

Though invaluable for cleaning up in a wet basement, these pumps are actually handy for a broad variety of household tasks. Learn the basics here.

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What Is a Transfer Pump?

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Sure, there may be calm before the storm, but afterward, once the dark clouds have given way to sunshine, there’s often the stress and labor of cleaning up—at least for those plagued by seemingly intractable drainage issues. You’ve checked and rechecked the gutters. You’ve shored up the foundation. Maybe you’ve even brought in an excavator to adjust the slope of your site. In short, you’ve consulted the experts and done everything right, yet your water woes persist. Indeed, for some homeowners there’s nothing left to do but deal swiftly and diligently with standing stormwater, both in and around the home. Sump pumps go a long way toward preventing basement floods, but for a versatile, all-purpose weapon in the war against moisture, you may want to consider arming yourself with a transfer pump.

Also sometimes known as utility pumps, transfer pumps perform one simple but critical function: They move water from one place to another. Straightforward though it may be, a transfer pump’s functionality proves handy in any number of ordinary homeowner situations, including but not limited to storm cleanup. If, for instance, you wanted to empty out your water heater for maintenance or repair purposes, a transfer pump would enable you to get the job done effectively and with minimal mess. Likewise, if your swimming pool cover had begun to sag under the weight of an oversize puddle, you could use a transfer pump to relocate the water to a storage container or, better yet, your thirsty lawn or garden. In other words, a transfer pump makes it easy to handle otherwise unwieldy watery tasks.

What Is a Transfer Pump? - Pony Product Isolated

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Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com, points out that transfer pumps’ designs are as varied as their potential applications. “Transfer pumps can be submersible or non-submersible, portable or permanently installed. And while many run on electricity, there are gas-powered and manually operated models as well.” Despite their differences, most transfer pumps operate in a broadly similar way, by creating a difference in pressure that pushes the water from the inlet to the outlet. Typically, a standard garden hose can be hooked up to either side (if not, use lengths of plastic tubing of the type you can find at any home center). Simply place the inlet hose in the water you want to remove, and position the outlet hose to direct the water wherever you want it to go. Activate the pump, and you’re on your way.

When choosing among the many transfer pumps on the market, base your selection on how you plan to use the equipment. If you need to shift volumes of water only between locations that are for the most part dry, then opt for a standard, non-submersible model. If your needs are more demanding—if, for example, your goal is to pump water out of a pond or hot tub—then go for a submersible model, one whose motor sits within a special watertight housing. Also, be sure to consider the fact that transfer pumps range widely in terms of overall capacity. The pumping power of any given model is influenced by two key measurements—the horsepower generated by its motor and the amount of water the pump can move (measured in gallons per hour). Generally, you need to pay more for more power.

Modestly sized transfer pumps are relatively inexpensive. For instance, you can purchase the Little Giant 360 Transfer/Utility Pump for about $90. Portable and lightweight, the non-submersible, electrically powered Little Giant 360 boasts a 1/10-horsepower motor, capable of drawing liquid from as many as seven feet below and pumping it up as high as 48 feet. By comparison, the Liberty Pump 331, which sells for a little over $200, offers 1/2 horsepower and can pump water up to 100 feet overhead. As is to be expected with any product, transfer pumps each come with their own pros and cons. For help navigating the wide variety of available transfer pumps, don’t hesitate to reach out for advice, custom-tailored to your individual needs and goals, from the experts at SupplyHouse.com.

What Is a Transfer Pump? - Liberty Product Isolated

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This post has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.