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posted: 8/8/2014 12:01 AM

Tips and tricks for cutting pipes

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Cutting wood can be done lots of different ways, but cutting pipe is a little trickier -- especially plumbing pipe of any kind.

There are a variety of methods you can use, but some are easier than others. Here are our best tips and tricks:

To prevent the pipe from rolling while you are trying to cut it, place it between two scraps of wood, on a rubber mat or even in a miter box. If the pipe is stout, you might use a clamp or vise, but be careful not to bend it.

For strong pipe, you can use a hacksaw or reciprocating saw.

For softer pipe, a special pipe-cutting tool will work best. These work by gently clamping around the pipe and rotating a round cutting blade around the pipe, cutting a little bit at a time. Tighten the tool after each round to cut a little deeper each time, until the pipe is cut. If you don't have one of these cutting tools, your hardware store will have a good variety in several sizes from which to choose.

After the pipe has been cut, smoothing it with sandpaper or a de-burring tool will clean it up and ready it for a good joint.

Another old-timer way to cut a pipe is to saw through it with a piece of wire or string. You place the string under the pipe and hold both ends on either side and pull it back and forth in a sawing motion. This is a good way to cut a pipe when you have no room for a saw or pipe cutter.

To keep a softer metal pipe from crimping, you can stuff it with a dowel rod before cutting it. Of course, this isn't always possible.

Take your time, and you'll get good results. Good luck!

Broom clips

Old-fashioned broom clips you can still buy to help store brooms are pretty good. We use them all over the shop, garage, garden shed and utility room. They are really inexpensive, easy to install and will adapt to different-size handles for shovels, rakes, hoes and, yes, even a broom. Mount a couple of them spaced a couple of feet apart and install a thick dowel between them. This will make a great towel rod for your workshop or garden shed, or a handy place to store rolls of tape or twine. It also can be used for tool storage, if properly placed.

Put up downspouts

After installing our rain barrels, we ended up with several good scraps of gutter downspout when we installed the gutter diverters. Well, we came up with some practical uses for the scraps, but we both agreed that using it to store dowels and/or wood trim was our favorite. If you attach it to a pegboard wall over your workbench, you can slide the pieces into the downspout and let them rest on top of your workbench. If you install them on a stud wall just off the floor, the wooden pieces can sit inside the downspout and rest on the sill. You can mount a couple of the downspout sections horizontally and side by side, and set dowels or wood trim into them. Any way you do it, it's easy to reach what you need while also keeping it off the ground and away from damaging moisture or other abuse.

Super hints

• When cutting trees with an outdoor pruning saw, try lubricating the blade with a little soap. It helps keep the blade from caking up with sticky stuff and helps you get the job done fasting and with less binding. A gardener friend even said it will help prevent spreading tree diseases.

• Waterless hand cleaner is a workshop must-have. Not only is it great for cleaning greasy messes from your hands, it also works great for cleaning paintbrushes, trowels and other sticky tools.

• When faced with a leak that is dripping in the wrong place, redirect it by tying a string or wire around the pipe that leaks so that the drips will follow it to a better location, chosen by you.

Q. Our new washing machine is pretty nice, but it seems to vibrate a lot. I don't know if there is anything I can do to stop it, but I sure would like to try. I'm afraid it will be damaged. What would you suggest I do?

A. It's very important to level the unit. Use a small bubble level to check it in all directions. It also might be good to buy a small rubber mat to fit under the whole thing, or some heavy-duty rubber feet. These are available at most hardware stores, and they do a pretty good job of absorbing some of the shock and vibration. If it continues to do this even after leveling it, you might want to have it checked to make sure there isn't something else going on.

Q. When I was painting, I noticed there was a lot of insulation behind the soffit vents along my roof. Is this OK? Shouldn't I move this away from the vents?

A. It's not OK, and you should move it. Check your hardware store for some easy-to-install baffles that can be placed inside your attic to keep the stuff from collecting over the vents. You need the airflow through your attic for a variety of reasons. You can use a leaf blower or shop vacuum to blow it off from the outside if you need a quick fix.

Q. This is an odd problem, but we need your help. We have a courtyard outside our main entry that smells like cat urine. It has a gate around it, and we assume the previous homeowners must have let their cats use it as a litter box. How can we get rid of the smell?

A. If dirt in the courtyard is that contaminated, it might be easiest to remove the smelly dirt and just replace it. Dirt is pretty inexpensive, hence the phrase "dirt cheap." If there are concrete surfaces, you need to treat them with an enzymatic cleaner, available at your local pet store. These are pretty effective for absorbed odors on surfaces like concrete. Good luck!

Q. I have some tar spots on my driveway. I'm not sure where they came from, but I'd like to see if I can get rid of them. What will remove them?

A. Paint thinner should help dilute and loosen it. Then you can scrape it off with a putty knife. A wire brush also is a good tool to use. Once clean, use a water seal to protect the surface to avoid stains in the future.

Reader tips

• We created a great food-bowl stand for our dogs. We have large-breed dogs, and veterinarians recommend having raised food stands. We got a couple of small stepstools and cut holes into them for the bowls. The rim on the bowl keeps them from falling through the holes. These are just right for the dogs, and we even put their names on each one.

• I cut through another vine the other day, and I remembered that, when we first moved into the house, the previous owner had put flexible sewer-line pipe around the trunks of all of the shrubs and small trees to protect them from lawn equipment. Through the years, the landscape has grown, but I never did anything to protect the new vines that we planted. So I bought a section of pipe and cut it into smaller pieces and put this around the vines and other smaller shrubs that we have installed during the past few years. Not bad for less than $10!

• My mother still lives on her own, but I've done a few things around her home to make it safer and more convenient for her to stay. I installed motion-sensor switches in some of her rooms so that she doesn't have to hunt for the switches when she goes in. This is especially great for the bathroom and kitchen when she is up late or in the middle of the night. Plus, they turn off when she leaves, so she doesn't have to do that either.

• I knew that having a toilet plunger could keep me from an accidental overflowing toilet, but it also helped me escape from the room when the door handle came off in my hand. I'm still not sure why the door handle came off, but I grabbed the plunger and stuck it onto the door and pulled it open. So I guess it's a multi-tool, right?

• I put up drapes in our den and wanted them to be more energy-efficient and maybe keep out some of the heat from the sun. I bought a small roll of radiant barrier at the hardware store and cut it to fit between the drape and the lining. It doesn't show, but you sure can feel that it is working. Our den is darker and cooler this summer. By the way, it was inexpensive, too.


• If your deck is worn and weathered, or your concrete patio is stained and/or just boring, check out Olympic Rescue It! Resurfacer. The 100 percent acrylic coating will give these surfaces a whole new look, and you can do it yourself. It's designed to fill cracks up to one-quarter inch deep in both wood and concrete surfaces. The finely textured surface is slip-resistant and barefoot-friendly. It even locks in splinters and provides waterproof protection year-round. It's both easy to apply and easy to clean up, and it's available in a nice variety of colors at your paint or hardware store, as well as most home centers. To find out more, go to

• If you haven't tried Silicone Rescue Tape yet, it's a must-have. This self-fusing repair tape is super for emergency repairs. It stretches to fit tightly around all surfaces, even irregular ones like pipe joints. It's perfect for plumbing leaks. The gel-like tape has a peel-off backing and, once the tape is wrapped over itself, seals against water leaks. Check it out at your favorite hardware store or home center. To find out more, go to

• 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

© 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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