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Bright ideas & hints

This is where we share readers' DIY ideas and handy hints. Each month the brightest idea wins a prize, so send us your 'Bright ideas' to Please include your phone number and physical address.

(Note: Due to postal costs, prizes can only be sent to winning entries coming from SA citizens)

Rejuvenate old files


To revive your old, dirty or paint-stained files, take any spent rifle cartridge and clamp the neck flat in a vice. Grip it tight, hold it at about a 45° angle and work into and in the direction of the file grooves.


The brass is softer and forms teeth corresponding to the grooves of the file. By working your way down the length of the file, all the dirt and grime is removed, leaving you with a usable file in no time.


Johann Mendelsohn, via email

Clamp made from plumbing pipes


After reading the September 2013 issue, I wanted to share an idea with the readers. I could not find a clamp to assist me to hold on top of poles when I was constructing a garden house.


I used a few 15mm water pipe t-pieces, bends, bolts and nuts and I then constructed the clamp as in the photograph.


Eddie Rothman, Riebeeckstad

Resealing technique

If you’re tired of constantly having to replace the sealant around the kitchen sink counter and bathtub because of mildew, then try what I did.


I used 10mm angle aluminium and clear K86 Alcolin Silicone Sealant to create an edge around the surfaces. Simply cut the aluminum to fit the length of the wall and sink or bath, and mitre the aluminum’s corners so you are able to join them.


Next, apply the sealant to the back of the aluminum and place it in the corner so that it fits flush against the tiles and top of cupboard. If excess sealant pushes out, just remove it with some turpentine.


Submitted by Willie Barnard, via email

Save and re-use decking boards


During extensions to a building, an existing 18m2 wooden deck had to be removed. I was assured by the building contractor that the decking boards, which were about 2.5m long, 100mm wide and 22mm thick, could not be removed without breaking the wood as ring shank nails had been used during construction. This was quite a disappointment as I already had some plans to reuse the wood for shelving in my storeroom.


As the woodwork was still in an excellent condition, I was reluctant to accept the fact that the wood would have to be destroyed. After a couple of tries to remove the nails myself, I fully understood what the contractor had meant and realised that some creative thinking was required.


I had the idea to use a 19mm hole saw to cut around the nails, right through the boards and into the joists, which would enable me to lift off the boards from the joists. However, the problem this plan is that the nails would interfere with the drill bit of the hole saw, which serves as a guide for the saw's teeth. After a few cups of coffee, I realised that all that was required was a guide of a different form.


With the drill bit in place, I then drilled a hole with the hole saw through a piece of scrap wood. This was now going to serve as my new guide. With the drill bit removed, the new guide was centred exactly above the nail. Using one foot to keep the guide in place while lowering the hole saw into the guide, drilling could start. This worked perfectly as the saw stayed in place while cutting through the board, leaving the nail and a wooden bobbin on the joist.


As 92 nails had to be removed, a couple of spare guides were required as well as two hole saws due to overheating of the teeth. The total cost of this exercise was well worth the effort as I was left with lots of boards, each with only a couple of 19mm holes through them – a much better result than the original projected outcome in the form of a heap of firewood.


The next step was to put up shelf supports in the storeroom and to fit the old decking boards as shelving. 


Submitted by EA Smit from Kleinbrakrivier

Strain old paint and varnish

After some use, paint tins don’t always seal they way they should.


When this happens, air comes in contact with the paint inside the tin and the paint then forms a skin on top and sometimes some clots may develop.


The general thing most people then do is throw the paint away because it’s useless.


Well, actually it’s not – here I demonstrate how I used a tea sieve and a clean container to strain the varnish.

Stop leaves getting into your car

I am sure that I am not the only one that gets frustrated by this.


When you park under a tree, especially a pine, you get leaves, pine needles or even berries going through the air intakes at the wipers.


These then go and settle inside the engines compartment and are difficult to get out. 

You can use a vacuum to get it out, but what a mission. I then had an idea when I saw some fine diamond mesh. I got a piece of off cut, painted it white, cut it to size and then secured it to the inside of the engine compartment from the bottom with cable ties.


No more leaves or needles in the engine compartment. It works great.

Submitted by Neville, via email

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