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Handicraft, sewing, knitting and other related tips


  • Tip for metric conversion - always remember that 30cms = 1ft and it makes it easy to convert cms to feet or vice versa. Handy in DIY stores.

Mary Fenton

  • When installing new domestic appliances -

  1. Fit the hoses BEFORE placing appliance into space;  this is not only easier to do but ensures it can be easily removed for servicing.

  2. Ensure that all new white goods are given a coat of WAX polish before use - this prevents rust.

 Alec Smith

  • Blu Tac can be used to solve many different problems e.g. to hold telephones on tables;  keeping grills in place and a small bit placed on the top of a screw makes it easier to hold in place when working in an awkward position.

Keith Knight

  • Before attempting any DIY project, first assess the situation properly, sit down and go thru the whole procedure in your minds eye. Involve your whole family in the decision making process and make sure your wife knows the amount of mess this project will cause. When you have completed all these suggestions ask everybody for their feedback, when the arguments have subsided take the Yellow pages out and GET A PROFESSIONAL TO DO IT!

Tony Cotton

  •  I have received the following but would like to add a warning of my own - aerosols of any kind should be treated with respect to avoid accidents.  This very useful tip has been sent in by a DIY expert but I must stress, if you do try this at home it is at your own risk.

    I needed to use the rest of a 75% full expanding foam aerosol applicator, but it was blocked up (and the DIY shops were shut - and I wanted to finish a task). How I did it:

    1) Take off the clear plastic applicator tube, squash it along its length in a bench vice, then turn it around 90 degrees, flatten again. You should find the foam collapses into a thin piece, that will come out easily (use a plant stick to help it out).

    2) The top nozzle was blocked. To unblock: choose a long THIN wood-screw. and screw it into the foam plug blocking the nozzle. Rick back and forth a little, while pulling, and the blockage should come out in one piece.

    3) jammed nozzle - won't press down to activate. TO FREE UP: find a piece of flat strong wood about 6 inches long, and drill a hole large enough for the plastic applicator pipe to go through, but small enough for the wood to push down on the nozzle. This allows you to push hard with BOTH HANDS on the wooden piece, with the bottom of the can against your knee, to release the nozzle.

    I had to do all 3 of these to use the aerosol contents. Tony Davis http://letsfixit.co.uk/ 

  • Long drill bits are now relatively inexpensive up to about 2 feet (600mm) long, which is well over the thickness of most house walls including the cavity.  Don't botch the job of getting a cable to an outside light or doorbell push by coming round a window or door frame - drill straight through the wall instead.  It is a very good idea to put a slope on the hole upwards from outside to inside so that water will not flow into the hole but seal up the end with silicone or similar just to be sure.

 Brian Freeman

  • When sawing soft woods, instead of drawing a line with a pencil/pen, score the wood with a sharp craft knife e.g. Stanley knife.  This cuts the fibres in the wood and makes it easier to start the saw.

 Will Duff.

  • When drilling wood, particularly into hardwood end grain, spray the drill bit with silicone spray before drilling - This prevents the drill from getting blocked up.

 Ian Green

  • When wishing to make hole in a wall of modern construction (breeze block) for a fixing. Do not drill a hole . Use a drill bit of the correct size for the screw and plug ,but knock the bit in with a hammer to the required depth.

    The reason for this is that the construction of the block is very similar to Aero chocolate bar i.e. full of little air holes ,so if you knock the material into the block rather than removing it you get a much firmer fixing around the screw

    Alan Farrell


  • When drilling into interior plaster/brick walls, suck the dust straight into the vacuum cleaner nozzle as you are drilling and then vacuum the hole to remove dust and bits.


  • Take an envelope, the windowed type and remove the window (or cut a hole in a normal envelope), place a strip of wide low tack masking tape over the hole left by the window from the inside so the glue is facing out, seal the envelope.

    Stick the glue of the masking tape to the wall where you want to drill, drill through the envelope, the spinning drill bit will pull the envelope side (the side not stuck to the wall) toward the chuck of the drill opening a pocket all the plaster/brick dust will be trapped inside the envelope, once finished drilling seal outer hole in envelope with tape carefully remove from wall and seal tape side hole .

    Roy Trzeciak-Hicks


  • If a rawlplug is a bit loose put some filler in the hole before pushing in the rawlplug.  Let it set before screwing in the screw.

 Pete Thomas.

  • Here's a formula sent in by Geoff Sharpe, for working out the exact diameter, in inches, of the shank of a screw.

Multiply the screw Number by 13 and add ".060.

Examples -

(No.) 8 x 13 + ".060 = ".164

(No.)10 x 13 + ".060 = ".190

  • To make screws easier to remove at a later date, rub soap on the thread before screwing in.

Geoff Smith 

We have, however, been advised that soap can attract moisture causing the screw to rust, so Vaseline (petroleum jelly) or grease may be a better idea.

Woodscrews - Make it easy, I have a small egg cup size jar with grease in. I dip the screws in to this before screwing into the wood, easily.                                  

Ray Denton

  • When using brass screws into hardwood, it is best to drill one hole for the shank and one hole for the thread, drill the thread hole first and where through drilling is a risk use a depth stop on the drill!

Another wise precaution to avoid breaking brass screws is to use a steel screw of the same size to cut the thread in the wood then remove and replace with the brass screw. 

I always use wax furniture polish to lubricate my screws, put a little chip of hard wax into the hole before the screw, then this pushes down the hole lubricating right to the bottom, and no mess wiping off the screw as it goes in!

John Bailey

  • Due to the heat from an electric light bulb, over a period of time, it can become extremely difficult to unscrew the plastic components when it becomes necessary to change the shade etc.  Running an ordinary pencil point over the threads before assembly will make future dismantling effortless.  Graphite from the pencil point is a good heat resisting lubricator.

 K. Hall

  • Use a comb to hold small or short nails steady when hammering them in - prevents many a sore thumb!

 Krystal G 

  • Save any spent matches as these can be used as rawlplugs, tile spacers, hole fillers etc.

 Reg Reeve

  • I used to use match sticks to fill enlarged screw holes but have switched to using toothpicks. The point helps to guide it in and they are thin enough to put a few in.

Ray Denton

  • Golf tees are the perfect shape and size to "cork" the inputs of air powered tools to prevent dirt and dust building up when not in use.

 "dormouse" f.

  • A sticking drawer can be eased by using a wax crayon of the same colour (or a candle).

 Raleigh Jones.

  • If you are replacing old tiles with new ones there is no need to remove the old tiles first as these make a perfect surface on which to set the new tiles.

  • If you add a few drops of washing up liquid when mixing filler it will make it much smoother.

  • If using filler on wood add a little instant coffee powder to make the colour a better  match.

  • Spray both sides of a saw with WD40 to prevent it from sticking.

  • When painting new plaster, or similar porous surface, paint on a solution of water mixed with PVA glue first.  This will seal the surface and stop the paint from soaking into the plaster, thereby making it go   a lot further and giving a much better finish.

DO NOT paint new plaster with PVA unless you intend to use an oil based paint.  Use a good quality emulsion diluted 50/50 with water for the first coat, then paint as normal.

Mandy Kingwill

  • You can remove a stubborn rawl plug by gently screwing in a screw and then pulling it free (or alternatively a corkscrew can be used).

  • To prevent wood splitting when hammering in a nail, either use a very small drill to make a guide hole or, alternatively, blunt the end of the nail first.

  • If you rub soap on the thread of a screw before use it will always be easy to remove at a later  stage.

  • To avoid having to wash out paint trays after use, place tray inside a plastic bag before pouring in the paint.  When the job is finished simply remove the plastic bag and discard.  The tray is ready for next time.  

  • When pointing brickwork use a small length of old garden hose - this will give a nice clean finish.

  • Fill a bath with water before sealing around the edge - this prevents the bath breaking away from the sealant with the extra weight.

  • When sealing round a bath, basin or such like, use masking tape above and below the sealant.  After placing the sealant along the edge, wet your finger and run it gently along the sealant.  Remove masking tape.

  • If you have to drill a hole in wood to pass cable through always ensure you drill in the direction the cable is going to run.   This will ensure the cable runs through smoothly.

  • If you make a concrete path or patio, do not leave surface smooth.  Pat with the edge of a length of timber thus creating grooves in the surface, this will prevent it becoming slippery when went and causing accidents.

  • A quick way to "spruce" up tired kitchen cupboards is to buy new handles and/or add motifs to the front of the cupboard doors.  These can be stencilled, painted or cut out of self adhesive plastic.

  • If you decide to replace kitchen units, think about just buying new cupboard doors as the carcasses are usually the same.

  • For quick and easy curtains use hooks which clip onto the top of the curtain instead of heading tape.  Alternatively, try tab headings i.e. loops of material sewn to the top of the curtain through which the curtain pole is placed.

  • To get an exact 90 degree angle measure a piece of timber in a triangle of 3ft x 4ft x 5ft - this will always result in a true 90 degree corner - so long as your measuring is accurate that is.

4 ft.

right angle triangle 5 ft

This angle is 90 degrees

  • Where is that string when you need it - try this -

Get a small plastic funnel and fix it to the wall so that it stays in an upright position.  Place the ball of string in the top of the funnel threading the loose end through the narrow bottom, hey presto, string always to hand.

  • Save sawdust as this can be used as a wood filler by mixing with PVA glue.

  • Tint wood filler with a matching woodstain after it has dried to match it to existing wood.

  • When choosing woodfiller ensure you choose the correct type for the job in hand i.e. interior or exterior and also check it can be used with wood stain if this is required.  Some fillers are very fast setting and durable, however, they are not compatible with wood stain.

  • To measure a cylindrical object easily, take a piece of string or paper, wrap around the object marking where the to ends meet, lay out flat and measure with a tape measure or rule.

  • When drilling a hole to a specific depth, place tape around the drill bit at the required depth and when the drill reaches the marker tape you know you have reached the desired depth.

  • When drilling holes in walls hold a dustpan or even an open envelope underneath to catch the dust - saves a lot of clearing up.


This page is waiting for additional tips which can be on any subject from woodwork, sewing, candlemaking, painting, decorating etc. etc.   We would love to hear from you on june@hintsandthings.co.uk.





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