Seriously Strange Things We Learned from Popular Mechanics’ Archive


Popular Mechanics first launched on January 11th in 1902. Over the past century they’ve written about just about everything that involves home projects: tools, how-tos, and advice. They recently took a look back at some of their household handyman tips, and let’s just say that there were a few rather unorthodox ideas.

When it comes to the world of DIY and home repair, people try a lot of stuff out: some stick and become useful and some are just plain clunky and weird. Many of those ideas became standard practice over time, but the best ideas always have, for lack of a better phrase, a “grandpa-charm” to them —a certain creative and repurposing spirit. If that’s your thing, these tips will make you happy as a clam.

1) Need a Tool Belt?

“An old glove can become a miniature tool belt with a few modifications. Cut a slit in the cuff of the glove so a belt can pass through it. Then snip off the fingertips and thumb tip. Worn on a hip, the open fingertips can conveniently carry pliers and large screwdrivers.” — January 1949 issue

Yes, it would work, but you’ll probably be the laughing stock of the neighborhood if you’re seen wearing it.

2) Mouse Trap Hinges

“We had a door that we wanted to keep closed, and not having any suitable ready-made device at hand, we made one from a spring rattrap. Saw off the bait end of the trap and screw the remaining part to the door casing. Protect the adjacent surface with a piece of tin.” — May 1927

Although handy, you can probably hop down to your local salvage hardware shop or Habitat for Humanity ReStore and pick up a new hinge for less than fifty cents.

3) Bolts + Nut = Wrench

“If in need of a wrench and one is not at hand, take a large bolt and run on two nuts, allowing a space between them to fit over the nut to be turned,” — March 1910

This idea is smart in that MacGyver way, especially in a pinch. Not everyone has the right tool for the job, but this is small, simple and works no matter what you need to tighten.

4) Table as Playpen

“When a playpen is needed and none is at hand, just take a kitchen or other small table, turn it upside down, and stretch cloth around the outside of the legs.” — February 1938

Just for fun, let us know what you think the comments: what would social media say about this idea today? Can you imagine the Twitter feed?

5) Check Chisel Sharpness

“Push the chisel cutting edge gently over the top of a thumbnail. If it slides without catching, the chisel needs to be sharpened. —June 1948

Of course, if the chisel is, in fact, sharp, you will also cut your fingernail off. Surely there are other test subjects!

6) Use a 3-Ring Binder To Hold Tools on a Ladder

“Fasten the metal portion of a three-ring binder to the top of a stepladder. Mount the binder so the rings face downward. When the ladder is to be moved, snap shut the rings and tools will be securely held. “—August 1972

This feels extra grandpa-y but gosh darn it if it wouldn’t work. The idea of not having to take your tools back down the ladder with you, just to move it to another spot in the room, is fantastic!

Make sure to hop over to Popular Mechanics and check out the other 100+ ideas that are as handy as they are cringe-worthy! Also, do you have a tip or trick that was passed down from your elders that you still use today? Let us know below!

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