Pen and Pencil Holder: Cover with cardboard the
bottom of a cleaned, old automotive distributor cap and use it
to hold writing implements. The orderly positioning of the
openings in the cap will keep pens and pencils separated for
Locking Prevention: Use an automotive hose clamp to
prevent accidental locking of file cabinets that have push-in lock
mechanisms. Simply tighten the clamp around the part of the lock
cylinder that sticks out.
Gliding File Folders: Lubricate hanging-file rails with
silicone lubricant to prevent files from binding. Spray on to a paper
towel and rub the rails where the file folder hooks touch. They will
then effortlessly slide and glide as you move them. Remember to dispose
the siliconed paper towel into a hazardous materials bin.
Identify Laptop Power Supplies: Colour code your laptop
power supply with tape. This makes for easy selection when fishing for
it under a dark table or counter when the floor is crowded with others'
supplies. It also means others are not likely to mis-identify your supply
as belonging to them. (Review
Colour Code Everything, farther back.)
In addition, if you have many supplies, label each as to the device
it powers. One cannot use any supply to power any device. The
differing connectors, connector polarities, voltages and currents
that are required must be observed. Remember: the power-supply
connector, polarity, and voltage must match exactly with the device,
but available current from the supply can be the same or higher.
Freely Flowing Ink: For ballpoint pens that won't write,
soak only the tip in methyl alcohol for a number of seconds. This solvent
often will dissolve solidified ink. Alternately, warm the tip with a heat
gun and roll the ball on scrap paper. This will often free the ink. Don't
use so much heat that you melt the plastic surrounding the metal housing
of the pens' tips. No heat gun? A hair dryer on high heat and low air
velocity may work for some pens, some of the time.
Either method stops the wastage of pens. This keeps them out of the
landfill and doesn't squander your office supplies budget.
Insurance Inventory: When was the last time you did
an inventory for insurance? Don't have time right now? Then take
photos of your shop and its contents. File them away off premises
and update them regularly. Insurance companies love photos because
they show details that may not be on an inventory list. In particular,
they prove to them that false claims are not being submitted because the
evidence is right there in each picture, while the photos ensure to you
that something has not been forgotten.
Protect Sockets and Reflectors During Painting: Don't
want to disassemble a lighting fixture just for touch-up internal
painting? Shield the metal socket contacts with medicine-bottle
batting stuffed inside, or slip a small bottle right over the socket.
Place a bag over the reflector, or if the reflector is recessed,
put a cardboard cut-out in front of it that exactly matches its diameter.
To keep paint off the outside, which would look unprofessional,
manipulate a cardboard mask while painting to prevent overspray
onto the areas that you don't want to be covered. Be sure to have
newspaper placed under and beyond the fixture so as to absorb paint
that makes it through vent openings.
Reduce Paint Lid Seizing: After opening a paint can for
the first time, using a large nail, hammer eight, evenly-spaced holes
into the lid groove around its perimeter. Paint that pools inside the
groove will be able to drip back into the can, yet these holes will
be sealed when the lid is replaced.
For screw-top paint containers, coat the threads of both the cap and
container with petroleum jelly. Before storage, wipe the threads clear
of paint and recoat with jelly whenever necessary.
No Paint Scum: For paint in long-term storage, place
waxed paper cut to the diameter of the can right onto the paint
itself. Cut to fit using the can top as a template. This will
eliminate, or at least lessen, the change that a scum will form.
Waxed paper is preferred over transparent kitchen wrap because
it is thicker, can more easily be cut to shape, and won't fold
back to stick to itself during insertion.
No Paint Splatters: Gently place the lid onto the
paint can, then put a cloth over the top so as to catch splatters
when pounding closed. Use a rubber mallet so as to not dent the can
lid or edge.
Before putting away spray paint, turn the can upside down and spray
onto some old newspaper to clear the nozzle, or better yet, try to
estimate the final few strokes required and paint them with the can
upside down. This reduces paint wastage, and clearing the nozzle will
prevent it getting clogged when it comes time for subsequent usage.
Use a pin to clear nozzles that do become clogged. Save all working
nozzles as substitutes for ones that can't be unblocked.
Parts Organiser: Have egg cartons or muffin baking trays hold
small parts during equipment overhaul. Number each well and place parts in
order as related to each step of the disassembly. Follow the reverse number
order when reassembling. Larger parts holders can be made by joining
frozen-dinner trays. Some of the largest trays already have dividers.
Longer Label and Sign Life: Use clear packing tape to
protect small labels and signs. Invariably they will get dirty from
handling or simply from the atmosphere in the shop due to floating
dust and debris. Clean each label you wish to protect and the surface
to which it will adhere before covering with the clear tape. Trim
near the tape edges with a straight edge and a razor knife so as
to present a finished, professional look.
Glue Mixer: Make usage of old, plastic food container
lids to mix small quantities of glue. Plastic blister-pack or frozen
dinner trays will work, too. Use a technician's wooden applicator to
mix the glue, and a thick toothpick to apply to the smallest areas.
Send waste glue and mixer containers to hazardous materials collection.
Solder Dispenser: A dental floss container can hold
a small coil of solder to protect it and be handy on the road. Make
each winding of solder be on top of the previous and small enough to
fit inside the container. Bring the end out the dispenser opening,
enlarging the latter to fit the solder's diameter. Remove the dental
floss cutter blade so as to prevent skin damage. Such containers are
much easier to find inside a tool kit; plus, their snap tops make for
Holders for Small Tools: Some tools don't fit typical
holders, so employ bench-top, or preferably wall-mounted, toothbrush
units. As necessary, enlarge the openings by drilling them out, or
reduce them by gluing washers in place. For a pegboard hardware mounts,
wind the metal coil smaller so the tool will not slip through. Hold the
coil base with one pair of pliers while reducing the coil diameter
with a second pair so as to not break the weld joint.
Reuse Locking Bags: Do you bring sandwiches to work?
If they are in resealable bags, take these used ones, turn them
inside out and rinse; when dry, return them right side out and
fill with small parts. Label the outside and file them away.
Sandwich bags are often more robust than is required for food,
so they are very suitable to hold small parts.
(See "Parts Bags" and "Filing the Clutter" at
Decluttering Your Shop)
Duplicate Supplies: If you find yourself frequently
going to other parts of your shop to get service items such
as adhesive tape, cleaners and polishes, spray lubricants, and
so on, save those steps by having supplies duplicated wherever
they are needed. If this seems expensive, realise that you won't
go through these supplies any faster because you will use only one
at a time, any way.
Miniature Oil Can: Employ eye drop bottles as precision
oilers. Spray dispensers often splatter because they have too much
pressure. For more viscous oils, enlarge the tip's opening with
a pin. A light squeeze will deploy only a single drop of lubricant
to just the right place.
Prevent Blade Damage: Slit pieces of old garden hose
to use as blade guards for saws, files and knives in a tool kit.
Secure to the blade with twist ties or short lengths of cordage.
(See our AIEL Cordage Guide.)
Accumulate Tasks: As one works, there will be things that
must be put elsewhere. Instead of taking time to do each individually,
as you go past on the way to do other things, drop like items off at the
entrance to the area where they will be placed or stored. Once finished
your work, go to each area and do all its tasks in the same session. To
facilitate this, set up a `drop' area or counter that will temporarily
hold these items until you come by to resolve them.
Restore Hook & Loop Material's Grip:
When hook & loop (Velcro) loses its holding power the hook part of the
fastener has likely become clogged. Typically this happens with hair, and/or
carpet and clothing fibres. Remove the clog with a soft-bristle wire brush,
haemostats, or use a vacuum cleaner employing only the wand's tube part with
no attachment. You may have to rub or pull at the clog from more than one
direction in order to completely clear it. Check the `loop' side of the
fastener in case it too has some cloggage.
Replacement Handle Grips: Rubber garden hose lengths
can also make reasonable replacements for worn or broken grips on
road case handles. They will cushion just as well. Note that vinyl
hose will not work as well for this purpose; because it is not as
flexible, it will tend to split sooner, and be less comfortable
to the hands.
If the worn handle grip can not be removed, simply slip the correct-length
piece of hose over it and reassemble. Otherwise, slit the hose and
wrap it around the grip; then glue the slit back together. Don't use
tape because the glue will eventually gum the handle grip.
Date Tagging: Knowing how long expendables last helps
when deciding what level of quality versus price to go with. Take
a sharp-tip felt marker and write a date on your batteries. Then you
will know if the expensive batteries cost less per time period than
multiple cheap ones. (They usually do.)
For lamps, write the date on a strip of white electrical tape and
stick it to the inside vertical surface of the yoke on each light.
Use a permanent marker to write right on the back of PAR lamps. You
will know at the next lamp change if the fixture might be causing
premature lamp burn outs, and can pull it out of service for repair
or socket replacement.
Old Dish Washing Scrubbers: Dish washing wands with
pads can be still useful. When too worn for dishes, but still with
a covering of pad left, use it to texture paint on a theatrical set.
For a pad that is completely worn, clean off any remaining material
and glue sandpaper or a sanding sponge piece to it. This sanding
wand can now be used for small items that are too difficult to
work with fingers alone.
You can also use the clean wand as a plastic scraper where a metal
one would be too aggressive to the surface being scraped. You may
wish to sharpen the scraping edge to provide a better blade.
Oil Station: Have a plastic dish pan that is leaking due
to a split? Buy a new one, but use the old one for an oil station.
Epoxy the split to prevent it getting worse, or weld the plastic with
a flat attachment for your soldering gun.
Take an old towel and cut a square or rectangle from it that will
cover the bottom of the pan and a few centimetres up the sides. Now
when you have small hardware parts to lubricate or protect, use a
spray dispenser of light oil over, or even inside, your new oil station.
Overspray will be kept inside the pan. Turn the parts to assure full
coverage and leave them there to drip off the excess. If you need only
to wipe a part, the bottom towel will always have oil in it for that
Easy Tape Dispensing: Before putting adhesive tape away,
fold over a small amount of the leading edge so as to make a tab. This
identifies the start of the tape, and it gives you a strip to grab
when first pulling tape off the roll.
If you don't like the chore to make a tab, or the wasting of tape,
one could use the plastic closures for bread bags. Stick it to
the start of the roll. The next time you use that tape, you will be
able to immediately find the cut edge, and it will be a snap to pull
off that first length.
Choose closures that are flexible; the stiff ones often fall off the
tape or break in transit, or even just when putting the roll away.
Keep a supply of closures inside a small, snap-lid container and store
that container right with your tape supplies.
Easier Tape Dispensing: An alternative to the adhesive
tape suggestion just given is to buy one or more weighted dispensers
from a stationery or industrial supplier that hold on the same unit
two or three rolls, or one or two wide rolls. Buy one for each location
where tape is dispensed.
The expense of these dispensers can be justified by the non-wastage of
tape, by the elimination of plastic closures and the time-wastage
associated with closure fumbling. In addition, is the ease whereby
one can get just the right length of tape when it's needed, and by not
tying up both hands as happens when one has to hold the roll and do
Spray Can Nozzle Extension Fix: If this no longer wants to
go into the nozzle head and/or won't stay there, cut a small bit off the
tube's end and reinsert. Be sure the cut is square, and that you've left
no burrs on the plastic. This is so the extension tube will seat properly.
Should this still not hold, replace the nozzle head and try again.
Case Liner: Home entry-way mats with rubber backing
and a ribbed, fabric top make excellent liners for cases and counter
tops. They are waterproof and very robust, and are easily cut with
shop scissors to the size and shape required. For those mats with
bevelled edges, orient the edge to the front for a nice look on flat
surfaces in your shop or home.
The fabric tops are soft enough to be gentle on items you don't
want to become scratched, and can be easily cleaned with a dry
scrub brush and/or vacuum cleaner. The rubber backing and its
weight keeps the mat in place on smooth table or cabinet tops.
Interior Case Protection: Unused computer mouse pads
can be cut up to line the insides of small cases. The sponge type of
pad is especially useful for this purpose because it can better
cushion contents. Simply clean the surface, and then hot-melt glue
the pad pieces where required. Be sure to choose a glue stick rated
for wood and rubber.
Broken Plastic Drawers: As those transparent drawers
from parts cabinets get cracked or the pulls break, replace them,
and cut the old ones to use as drawer dividers. Smooth the cut
edges with sandpaper, and round the corners so as to make them
regular and easy to insert. Then employ rubber cement to keep
these separators in place within the drawer. This type of
cement allows removal of dividers should they need to be
Cheap Storage: Buy old audio or video cassette tape
storage units. These came in drawer or wall-mount styles and are now
commonly found in thrift stores. Audio and video boxes fit these, of
course, so place small hardware or electronics parts into them. Label
the spines so you know what you have. CD/DVD cases and holders are also
useful for this purpose, especially for flat items such as gaskets.
Organise the units so that like items are together.
Additional Cheap Storage: Use stackable vegetable
bins to hold rags, polish cloths, and scraps and reel ends of
cables. These are fairly cheap at grocery stores, but can often
be had at yard sales for pennies. Select the ones with solid
bottoms and sides. Screened bins tend to allow things to poke
through where they get caught.
Stud Storage: If your shop has visible-stud walls
and narrow items are stored between each pair of studs, you may
find that objects tend to lean out somewhat, or at times actually
fall to the floor. Place screws on either side of an object's tip
point, and using the small 25cm x 5mm bungee cords, span the cord
from screw to screw.
By leaving enough screw threads visible, each screw can be shared
with the stud space on either side, so a row of stud storage can
be created with items retained within each the space. These cords
are thin enough and have small-enough hooks, that they are
unobtrusive, yet allow easy removal for item retrieval, or in some
cases, the item can be slipped out from above or below the cord.
Yes, you could use any cordage, but the built-in hooks allow easy
detachment, and the cord's stretchiness permits one to pull outward
on it so as to insert an item, and then have the cord snap into
place for secure storage.
Multimeter Protection: To safeguard a multimeter on the
road, use a student's snap-lidded, rectangular pencil case large enough
for the meter and its test leads. Line the case with old mouse-pad
sponge glued in place via rubber cement. These cases may be found for
under $2.00 in thrift stores and at yard sales.
For analogue meters that don't have `Off' positions, when not in use,
switch to "AC Volts" at the highest voltage setting. This will give
the best protection from induced-voltage surges that might damage the
Lock Out Portable Power Tools: If you carry
battery-operated power tools to your gigs, be sure to switch
the power button to its "Lock" position so as to prevent the
tool from coming on during transit and running down the battery.
Alternatively, remove batteries for transit. Better yet, carry
the tool, battery, and accessories in a case of their own where
the tool is nested within an impression in the case. (It's
still a good idea, though, to lock out the tool's power switch.)
Prevent Loss of Small items: Use a hardshell eyeglass
case to hold jewellers' screwdrivers when the original plastic
driver case has broken or no longer snaps securely shut.
Also, use a hardshell eyeglass case to transport flashdrives, should
you come to possess many of them.
Use Lockable Sprayers: That is, buy the ones
that have an `off' position. This will prevent leakage during
transit, and except for the cheapest sprayers, prevent spillage
should the container fall over.