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posted: 3/22/2013 5:11 AM

Give old garden tools new life

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The old saying "they don't make them like they used to" applies to garden tools, for sure. Yes, they do come out with new goodies year after year -- and yes, some are really innovative and helpful. But our favorite tools still are our oldest, in most cases.

That doesn't mean they don't need a little upkeep and repair from time to time. All tools need to be maintained so they will be ready to work when you are.

Before you store your tools away for the season, or just for the day, they should be cleaned. Mud left on blades can dull them and cause rust and corrosion. Sharpen the blades with a metal file or a rotary tool so shovels will cut right into the earth. A little coating of light grease will prevent rust when stored.

Handles that start to split or deteriorate should be replaced. You can buy good wooden tool handles at most home centers and hardware stores. If you are not sure what you need, take the old shovel with you to get the right fit.

If your old handle is held onto the shovel head by a rivet or a screw, you'll need to remove them. You can remove the rivet by using a saw or chisel to pop the head off.

If you still have part of the handle on the blade, you an use a dowel to drive the rest of the wood out of the metal blade. Just push it into the handle from the opposite end of the handle, and use a hammer to tap on it and drive the old handle out.

The new handle should slide right onto the blade base. You can tap the handle end on your driveway a few times to push it tightly onto the blade. If you can heat the end that goes into the shovel a little first, to remove excess moisture, that would help get the tightest fit. Once in place, the wood will swell again for that super-tight fit.

If you want to add a rivet or screw for extra security, go for it. After all, you don't want that blade flying off while you are trying to work!

Keep your tools in good shape, and they'll help you keep your yard in good shape!

Store your saw blades

Saw blades can be expensive, but you don't want to scrimp on them. A cheap blade won't do the job as cleanly or quickly as you'd like. That being said, you'll want to store those pricey blades in a way that protects them. The blades for your scroll saw will fit perfectly in an old prescription bottle -- just add a label. Small circular saw blades can be stored in old CD or DVD cases. The larger circular saw blades will fit nicely into to-go boxes or covered pie plates. Get creative, and your blades will be protected and ready to use when you need one.

A new spin on lazy susans

There's nothing lazy about our shop organizer idea. You'll need a Lazy Susan, though. This is a rotating round tray that normally is placed in the center of a table to store condiments on. This also is a great place to store lots of things on a busy workbench. It allows you to turn it to access items that might be harder to reach around on the back side. Use these in deep cabinets or closets, too. It will make getting to those hard-to-reach areas a whole lot easier. Give it a whirl!

Super hints

• If you have a big, heavy rock to haul in your yard, set it on your snow shovel or garden fork blade and use the shovel handle to pull it into place. You won't have to pick it up, and the shovel blade will slide a lot easier than a rock would.

• Trim can slip in a miter box, so glue a small piece of sandpaper into the base. This will give the wood something to hang on to so you can get a perfect cut, every time.

• If you like padded floor mats but not necessarily the price, grab a scrap or two of a carpet pad to use as a floor mat. It might not look too sharp for your kitchen, but it will be perfect for your workshop!

Q. We replaced the blades of our ceiling fan this year, but never could find a better light kit. Can we just replace the 40 watt bulbs with 60-watt? We've been told that it's not OK to do so and it does say on the fan that 40 watt is the limit. Can you explain and let us know about any options?

A. You cannot use a higher-wattage bulb in this fixture without running the risk of overheating. You can, however, make the switch to CFL bulbs. Do a little shopping around and try to find a "warmer" look to the light, as a lot of people don't like the look of CFLs. Good luck!

Q. My toilet has been leaking for a while now -- not onto the floor, but leaking from the tank into the bowl. I've tried a dozen fixes but still can't get the leak under control. Do you have any clever ideas to help me pinpoint the problem and fix it?

A. First, check the overflow tube within the tank to make sure the water level isn't set too high. If it is, lower it to just below this tube. Put a drop of food coloring into the tank and see if you can see the movement of the water. The flapper is the first and most common problem area. This is easy to clean or replace. Another possible leaking area is at the gasket that is located between the tank and the bowl. If this is your trouble spot, then you will have to lift the tank off and replace the gasket.

Q. I am finally getting ready to paint my kitchen wall and cabinets. Do I need to sand my cabinets before painting them?

A. If the paint is sound, probably not. You do need to clean them thoroughly with mineral spirits paint thinner to remove all airborne grease. If you are changing the color drastically, you may want to prime it first. The glossier the paint, the easier it will be to clean. Good luck, and we hope the results are super!

Reader tips

• I was repairing one of my favorite kitchen chairs. These are very old and treasured pieces to me. One of the legs split, and I didn't want to force it open more to get the glue inside the gap. I got a small coffee stir stick/straw and filled it with glue. Then I blew the glue into the gap. I got quite a bit inside the split and then clamped it closed. It seems to have worked and I feel like this was the best approach. If it opens up again I'll go ahead and take it apart, but so far, so good.

• We have been redoing our kitchen on a budget. We have done most of the work ourselves to save money. We found some really fantastic tiles for the backsplash, but to do the whole wall would have cost quite a bit. We chose to do the outline of the backsplash with these tiles and the rest of it with a matching plain (less-expensive) tile. It still looks really great and we still are on budget. The flooring is next, so wish us luck!

• I know you will appreciate this idea. I was cutting a large sheet of plywood for a project and needed to add support to the end of the material. I couldn't find anything the right height until I took at closer look at my ironing board. It's adjustable and I was able to use it for the additional support. It was a little unsteady, but for this small project, it worked quite well. I didn't want to, or have the money to, go out and buy something to do it.

• I still use a standard oscillating sprinkler for my garden. I can get the right amount of water where I want it with no waste this way. I have raised it up a little so that I can get better coverage. I set it up on three concrete blocks, stacked on top of each other. I tied the sprinkler to the blocks with a bungee so it won't fall off. It's so much more efficient this way.

• We had decided last fall that we would paint our house this spring. It was going to be costly, but we needed to do it. We decided to save money by doing some of the prep work ourselves. So we borrowed a pressure washer. Then, we replaced some bad spots with new wood and, after all that, the house looks so much better. We just decided to do touch-ups and avoid the rest. It wasn't easy, but the house really looks nice and should go another couple of years before we really do need to paint.


• Petroleum jelly is an incredibly useful concoction. It's perfect in the shop and super in the home. We bet you would love a list that we have put together of some of the many uses that we have found for this stuff in and around the house. Some you may have tried but, hopefully, others will be new to you. Heck, you may have some clever uses that we didn't list. If so, let us know and we will add them to our list. We also will have it posted on our website at

• If you like the look of stainless steel but not the price, check out Thomas' Liquid Stainless Steel Paint. It's easy to apply and can turn an ordinary cabinet, range hood or dishwasher into a stainless-steel work of art. Check it out at and see the full line of transforming products. You'll love it!

• There's a new, super-easy way to install wood floors over a wide variety of existing surfaces. Elastilon Self-Adhesive Hardwood Flooring System requires no tools or hardware. You just roll out the Elastilon material, start putting your flooring in place and then pulling the protective film off the adhesive as you go. You don't need messy glues or spreaders or loud nail guns. It can cut your installation time up to 70 percent and, because you don't need glue, it can be walked on immediately. It helps seal the flooring materials on the bottom of the boards, too, and is superstrong, even allowing for expansion and contraction. Find out more at The video will take you through an installation, step by step. It even offers some sound dampening and insulation to the flooring.

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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