What MacGuyver tools to use? or Ways Around the High Cost of Tools!

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Forum topic by Dallas posted 11-13-2013 11:06 PM 7008 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3599 posts in 2513 days

11-13-2013 11:06 PM

Face it, I am a cheapskate, no matter how much I tell everyone how frugal I am.
I’m so cheap I would pull the other side of the two ply toilet paper apart after use if I could find someone to use it.

This thread is about home made tools.
Kind of like some books that have been written about kitchen and household shortcuts.

Let’s see what simple ideas ya’ll can come up with and use all the time to make working in the shop much easier.

I’ll start this out with this one:
I do a lot of work on 2 stroke engines. You know, weed eaters, chainsaws, leaf blowers, etc.
There are normally 2 or 3 kinds of carburetors used on them and within those types of carburetors are only about 4 different kinds of fuel adjustment.
1.) Pac-man, Looks like a pie with a slice out of it.
2.) “D” A circle with a slice off one side.
3.) “Double D” NO, not Pam Anderson, Actually a circle with a slice off each side.
4.) Spline….. a circle with a bunch of lines down the sides.

What all these have in common is they are pretty much the same circumference screws and purposely built to keep the user from adjusting the carb at home.
The EPA awhile back made it illegal to sell the proper tools to adjust these carburetors at home so the price on them has really gone up, from about $2.00 for a screwdriver with all four tips plus a flat and a phillips 5 years ago, the price is now up to almost $30 for a single type driver, (If you can even find one).

I use to pull the screws out and cut slots in them for a regular screwdriver, but it’s a slow process and not all that effective.
Then one day I was messing around replacing fuel lines, (A constant chore on most repairs), and couldn’t get to the customer’s H-L fuel screws no matter what I did, (I normally used a tiny set of needle nose pliers I ground down to fit in the holes).
Then while I was trying to mark the screw with my mechanical pencil I ran out of lead. I grabbed another, got the screws marked but couldn’t find a way to turn them, then i a burst of inspiration, I grabbed the old mechanical pencil, (Zebra M-301) and looked at the barrel. It was too large. I took it apart, and trying different pieces finally found that the lead reservoir, (a white plastic tube), is the perfect size for pushing over those screws and later I found it fit perfectly on all the other types of adjustment screws on the small 2 stroke engines.

Now it’s your turn!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

23 replies so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29395 posts in 2364 days

#1 posted 11-13-2013 11:36 PM

I don’t have homemade tools so much. I simply want to say yay for cheapskates. My father was one of the great cheapskates and I hope I learned plenty from him.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3738 days

#2 posted 11-13-2013 11:47 PM

I found buying poorly made tools or tools that are made by factories where they’ve only seen blurry pictures of real tools to be the worst way to spend tool money. I’ve not yet started making my own tools (for my vast repetoire of projects I really probably have way more tools than is required ;-) so I buy tools and I’ve found costly tools doesn’t necessarily relate to expensive tools. I guess the saying buy it right the first time is more frugal than buying a bunch of tools that either aren’t up to doing the job effectively/safely or just plain out just break or wear out far too early requiring you to buy yet another of the same tool.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2513 days

#3 posted 11-14-2013 12:48 AM

Mark Shymanski, This thread isn’t about well made tools or poorly made tools.
What it is about is ways to get around over priced, over valued, hard to find, greed driven profit tools.

Why would I want to pay $30 for the same cheap tool I could buy 5 years ago for $3 just because the government says I’m not capable of adjusting something?

For another example, (so as not to sound hateful – which I really don’t),
Every major 2 stroke engine builder recommends buying a special screw in plug with a stud on the end of it in order to lock the cylinder.
In case you ask, you want to lock the cylinder in place in case you might happen to want to change the clutch, like on a chainsaw or weed eater.

An easier and cheaper way is to use a piece of clothesline or heavy shoe string down the sparkplug hole.
Pull the piston around until it’s at the bottom, feed the string into the sparkplug hole until no more will go in. Pull the piston up until it no longer moves and the cylinder is locked with no damage.

From your reply it seems as if you don’t do any repair of your own tools or if you do you send it off to the repair hell.
Many of us do stupid things like repair our own stuff, modify tools to make them do what we want them to do and don’t believe that paying a lot of money for a name brand tool is the answer.
(I fell into that trap with MAC, Snap-On, Craftsman, etc. when I was doing 56 jobs, 24 hours a day as a trucking company owner).
I at one time had a $9,000 tool box, not counting tools.
It didn’t work any better than my $1600 worth of tool boxes from Northern Tool and Harbor Freight.

When we got rid of the business the Snap-on guy offered me $1500 for my box with all the tools.

Never again.

I have always been known as the guy who could fix stuff. In fact many of my jobs, (I mostly have worked contract jobs all my life), were simply because I can fix stuff. Anything from a 1/6 hp fountain pump to a 300,000HP steam turbine in an old war ship.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3317 days

#4 posted 11-14-2013 01:07 AM

Needed to r/r the fuel filter on a 2002 F150. The tool required to do this is like a set of pliers, each jaw of which is half a cylindrical tube about 3/8” diameter, to go around the fuel line and push into the fitting to release it. I cut a slot down one side of the body of one of those fatter Bic pens and pushed with that. It didn’t last very long, since it’s quite a bit softer than the proper tool, but I only had to do it once.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View StumpyNubs's profile (online now)


7601 posts in 2826 days

#5 posted 11-14-2013 01:36 AM

I freaking love homemade tools. I have some cheap tools, and some high end tools. But nothing gives me the satisfaction of using a homemade tool or “machine”.

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View darthford's profile


608 posts in 1950 days

#6 posted 11-14-2013 02:05 AM

The last time I made my own tool I nearly put my eye out and needed stitches.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2513 days

#7 posted 11-14-2013 02:11 AM


Your mom told you that would happen.

Either that or you would go blind!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1918 days

#8 posted 11-14-2013 02:29 AM

I’m so cheap I use an old 5” spiral nail as an awl/scriber. If I put a wooden handle over it I guess it would be an awl.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3165 posts in 3135 days

#9 posted 11-14-2013 02:32 AM

Many years ago, I rebuilt the differential in my ‘64 Impala. I had to turn the bearing holders to adjust the ring and pinion backlash. I made a spanner from a piece of angle iron and two 1/4-20 bolts rather than buy the tool. Quicker and cheaper than the “correct” tool. I still have it, if for nothing else than having the metal.

I fixed the brakes on a truck at the side of the road once, with a pair of screwdrivers. The brakes had overheated, and then when they cooled, the drum contracted, locking the brakes up. I managed to back the adjuster off, and got the guy rolling again. My Boy Scout troop called me MacGuyver after that. It really wasn’t a big deal, if you know what to do. But I did save the guy a tow bill from nowhere to civilization.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View bkillen's profile


15 posts in 1717 days

#10 posted 11-14-2013 02:51 AM

I believe in buying good tools when you can and I preach “right tool for the job” like when my wife is trying to drive a picture hanging nail with the butt end of a screwdriver, however…

years ago before I had much in the way of tools. my “torsion box” assembly table was an old hollow core door on sawhorses. I would screw a wooden straight edge down, glue up my panels, screw down another straight edge and drive shims in to clamp it. built several kitchen cabinet doors that way. I didn’t need no steenkin clamps. Door had been painted with a slick oil based paint, panel would pop right off after glue up.

-- Jack of many, master of none.

View unclebenny's profile


41 posts in 1903 days

#11 posted 11-14-2013 02:56 AM

I’ve only been woodworking for a little over a year. I have had a great time building some of the various jigs, sleds, etc that I’ge seen here, woodsmith, and other places. Some of them I use all the time, some of them not so much. Looking forward to getting some new ideas here…

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29395 posts in 2364 days

#12 posted 11-14-2013 03:36 AM

Anything can be used as a hammer depending on the situation and how mad you are at the time. :-)

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View darthford's profile


608 posts in 1950 days

#13 posted 11-14-2013 03:39 AM

I’ll show you MacGuyver, hey yellow jacket nest get some! That’s a 16’ tree trimmer pole with a 6’ shop broom pole duct taped to it, and one of those wasp and hornet killer plastic gizmo’s you can operate from a distance with a pull string.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1801 posts in 1920 days

#14 posted 11-14-2013 03:40 AM

I think Stumpy owns this category.

Yesterday I stuck a large nail into a big piece of cardboard and on that nail I put a Stanley No. 8 Y lever fork, and I bent the cardboard at the right angle so I could spray paint it. This is why there will never be a prime time TV show about my life as a crazy-think man.

View jmartel's profile


7955 posts in 2176 days

#15 posted 11-14-2013 04:03 AM

Not woodworking related, but on my motorcycle there are nuts that only have 2 slots on them. The manual calls for buying the dedicated sockets from the manufacturer themself. I just took some cheapo Chinese import sockets with a dremel tool and cut the socket such that it fits.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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