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Useful Hints and Tips

Do you ever leave something down and cannot remember where it was? Then you are probably doing things automatically or not using conscious thought. As we get older and more experienced with the world we tend to do things without thinking about it. For example when learning to drive we have to think of all the tasks involved, but later most of them are done "without thinking". This is when an "accident" is more likely to happen as an unexpected occurrence such as the car ahead braking suddenly, means that the time taken to react is longer. Similarly as toddlers it takes much thought and effort to master walking, but later we can still trip on a bump on the pavement because we are walking unthinkingly and not anticipating the uneven ground assuming that it is clear - on a rough path we are less likely to trip as we are thinking more about what we are doing.
So when we do something like leaving a tool aside without thinking about where it is, the memory of the spot may be of an earlier time when we were thinking about it or the normal place where it should be. Also the working memory is busy concentrating on the task and not on the position of the tools. So as you do a task, if you concentrate and make a conscious note as to where you left the tool it should be easier to remember. This may seem a bit philosophical - but try it. Also to trace the missing tool, work backwards and try to envisage what you were doing when you last used it retracing you actions mentally, and you should recall the spot where you left it. If you just left it down and haven't moved, then the most recent item you handled is on top of it!!

Hints for CleaningHints for Decorating  Stain Removal

General Hints

  • To improve grip while trying to unscrew something, wrap a thick rubber band around it tightly.
  • To make fabrics less flamable,
    1. Dip in a solution of alum and allow to dry.
    2. Another fire retarder can be made from 250g Borax and 100g Boric acid dissolved in 2 litres of water. Dip the fabric in this or use as a spray and allow to dry.
    3. Dissolve one part water glass in five parts water. Dip the fabric and allow to dry. Can also be used to flame proof wood, six coats should be applied and allowed to dry between each one.
  • To make a de-humidifier place some small lumps of Calcium Chloride in a small fabric, drawstring bag and suspend where required. The Calcium Chloride absorbs moisture, when the bag feels damp the contents are about twice their original weight, the crystals can be spread on a suitable tray and heated at about 200 C for an hour to dry them out. They can be reused many times.
  • To keep cut flowers fresh for longer, crush two asprin tablets with 1 oz of sugar and dissolve in 4 pints of water. Cut the bottom inch off the stems before placing in the water. Fill hollow stems with water and plug with tissue paper. If the water becomes cloudy, bacteria have stated to grow so it should be replaced - snip some more off the stems to remove any blockages caused by the bacteria.


  • To hold small parts together as a glue sets, use a piece of cellophane tape where the surface is suitable, eg. porcelin. After gluing together, stick the tape to one side of the joint, then pull tightly to tension it before sticking it to the other.
  • Another clamping technique for small parts is to use a long piece of elastic cord. Wind the elastic around the glued joint many times - the tension builds up with each turn and if the object is delicate, care must be taken not to crush it.
  • When repairing with glue it is important that the surfaces are clean and oil-free. Even touching with the finger can supply enough oiliness to weaken the bond. If it is not a recent clean break, or if bonding two surfaces, use methylated spirit on a lint-free cloth to remove any trace of greasiness before applying the glue.
  • When nails have been in place for some time they have a bond with the wood, either due to dried sap or rust. To loosen this grip before dismantling, use a set-punch to drive it slightly further in, then grip the nail with pincers.
  • This can also be used for screws in wood. Place a screwdriver in the slot and tighten slightly or tap the handle with a hammer. If this fails apply heat with a soldering iron to the screw which will cause it to expand and break the bond. Next try a drop of paraffin or easing oil and leave overnight, it should seep around it and release it.
  • If an automatic washing machine or dishwasher with a dial type controller refuses to work, it may be that wear on the electrical contacts has removed the protective tinning and some verdegris is preventing a good connection. To overcome this the dial should be turned clockwise, manually (ie. in the normal direction) and this should remove the inhibiting crust. If the knob is usually pulled out to start the operation, then it should be in this position when turned. After a few turns the machine may return to normal, but the next time it may need the same treatment, especially if it is used infrequently. This is a temporary remedy and eventually the control dial will have to be replaced, but with the cost of repairs these days it may not be much more to replace the machine; one with a solid state control is a better option to avoid this problem. The same thing can happen to doorbells or any low voltage contact which is exposed to damp air, so repeated operation may make it work, but the push switch will probably have to be replaced.
  • Sanding belts are quickly clogged when used on wood. They can be cleaned using an old crepe-soled shoe. Clamp the sander upside down and hold the sole of the shoe gently, moving it from side to side on the belt as it runs. Wear safety glasses and remove the lace from the shoe to prevent it from catching on the moving belt

Go to Hints for CleaningHints for Decorating,  Stain Removal  Oddjobbery