Bi-Monthly Almanac: Improvised Tools (and a Toy)

When the right tools aren't available, it's time to try improvised tools. Here is a small assortment.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
March/April 1979
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The first of our improvised tools: by attaching a peg to one end and a wood screw to the other, you can turn an old knife into a spiral slicer of fruits and vegetables.

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If you have a lot of odd little jobs to do and no proper tool to help you do them, it's time for a creative approach to problem solving. Have a look at this selection of improvised tools (oh, and one toy); something here might be exactly what you need. After you're done, kick back with our March/April 1979 Almanac for a chronology of historically significant events.

A Spiral Slicer

An old, sharp knife blade can— with the addition of a soldered-on handle at one end and a similarly fastened wood screw at the other—be used as a slicer for firm fruits and vegetables. The screw "feeds" into the potato, apple, etc. while the blade slices an even, spiraled curl.

A Water Magnifying Glass 

A crude, but serviceable, magnifying glass can be made by bending a small piece of wire (or even the stem of a leaf!) to form a "water-drop-sized” loop. When this is done, drip a little clear water into the hoop. You'll be able to examine the eye of a grasshopper or—on a very sunny day—perhaps you can even focus enough heat to start a fire!

A Yolk Yoke?

An egg strainer—fashioned from some strips of wire and a can—will make egg separation (for those special baked goodies) an easy task. Just bend the wire strips near one end into "L" shapes, then cut and fold one side of the can to form a ramp. Finally, fit the wires into matching (5/16" apart) holes in the can's upper back and "flap." When a cracked egg is gently poured onto the "grill", its white will fall through while the yolk will slide down into a waiting cup.

Strapped for Time?

If so, you can make a temporary (but solid) repair on any broken leather strap or harness with two nails and an old buckle or harness ring. This quick fix will hold things together until the work is done and the strap can be securely sewn or riveted.

The "Come Back" Can

You probably remember this toy from your own childhood, and— chances are—today's young'uns will enjoy the easy-to-make plaything as much as you did. Simply tie a rubber band through holes punched in the bottom and lid of a tin can (a plastic-topped coffee can will work just fine), then knot a short length of string to the middle of the elastic, and fasten a fishing sinker, a small stone, or some other weight to the cord. The toy will "boomerang" back to its original position whenever it's rolled!

Don't Shell Out Any Money... 

... for a pocket-sized box to hold your fishhooks, matches, etc. instead, make your own handy shotgun shell box from two discarded shotgun shells! All you have to do is cut the paper (or plastic) from one shell and use the remaining brass "butt" as a cap for the other empty cartridge.

Chicken Spring

A fence around your newly started garden will discourage rabbits and such, but—as often as not—chickens will use the fenceposts as roosts in order to look over your seeds and tender young plants before movin' in to feast on 'em. To discourage the brazen biddies, just nail an old bedspring to the top of each post. The birds will be unable to light on the flexible coils, and are unlikely to try to clear the fence in "a single bound".

Pocket Knife Bottle Opener

If you file a small notch in the heel of your pocketknife's blade, you'll be able to remove crimped bottle caps easily ... and this modification won't do your "whittlin' iron" any harm, either!

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