Cuts Like a Knife [NOT 1/4/22]

Not meant to go this way

Dental Floss

April Fool’s Day is almost over, thankfully. I thought about doing a post on it, but seriously, it’s a terrible day. So instead I’m writing about things which don’t exactly fool you, but can be used in a way that is different from their intended purpose.

For instance, if you’ve ever watched The Great British Baking Show, you’ll see people using dental floss to make precision cuts through soft things. They’ll use Microplanes to grate ginger and chocolate, when they were originally intended for woodworking.

So, Deadsplintines, tell us about your favorite adaptations for completely different purposes. For example, guitar picks make great scrapers — they’re strong but don’t scratch, and have just the right amount of bend and flex like your fingernails. After 9/11, airport security banned ice at checkpoints, so people needing to keep things cold switched to bags of frozen vegetables. When my son went through a period of not wanting to wake up for middle school, I started using the schedule function on his PC to set off Hank Williams yodeling songs as an alarm clock.

Has a clever improvised tool ever helped you change a flat tire, or has some software been useful at work in a way that was completely different from its designed purpose? Here’s the place to share stories of useful repurposings.



  1. When it was seemingly impossible to do so I made a pc with no hard drive but 6 cd burners that automatically burned cds while I was at work. Perhaps I’m morally compromised for that?


      • I didn’t think anyone would think to ask me that lol

        I wrote the OS – designed only to burn one cd after another – on a floppy disk sent directly to RAM so the floppy disk drive could sleep.

        • That sounds like the kind of thing where a speck of dust on a blank disk could corrupt the the code *just* enough to cause a cascading replication error that caused the following generations to gain sentience and take over all networked computers worldwide and replace humans with clonal brains in beakers.

          Maybe I’ve watched too much sci fi. More likely it would just create a worldwide network of bots telemarketing for herbal Viagra.

            • …maybe you were just ahead of your time?

              …I’ve definitely used a version of linux that booted from RAM while trying to diagnose hardware issues a while back…which I remember thinking was pretty clever at the time…& let me figure out what the problem was…so ultimately it helped make someone else’s day

              …either way that seems pretty clever to me

  2. Do you know what a seam ripper is? Sorry for the huge pic, I can’t reduce it. Anyway, I broke mine years ago and never bothered to replace it. I just use a heavy needle if I need to remove stitches. But the other day I learned I had been  using it all wrong. Instead of picking at the stitches with the sharp end you’re supposed to put the little ball along the seam and glide it through. I’ve been sewing for years and nobody ever told me how to use the damn thing! So next time I go to the craft  store I have to get a real seam ripper and try it the proper way.  So much for my innovation.
    Seam ripper

  3. I am less than innovative, but I use small water glasses as cookie and biscuit cutters, and an oil shaker (glass with perforated top) to hold cocoa for dusting Irish coffees.

  4. If you’re recording drums and the snare makes a ringing noise (a common problem) take a sanitary napkin, peel back some of the adhesive, stick it to the outer edge of the top of the drum, and let the rest of the napkin dangle off the side. Works like a charm every single time.

  5. I’ve MacGuyvered things at work:

    When I was a supervisor, I looked around for something to be used as a jig to set a solenoid to the right depth.  Found that if I bent a paperclip into the proper shape using the Mark 1 eyeball then it was the most useful simple jig ever till someone got one made in the shop with the correct angle.

    Another time my assembly team was complaining about a pneumatic connector leaking.  They complained to one engineer and he didn’t have a clue.  I took one look, went to the machine shop and got the proper sized connector and fixed it right on the spot (someone used the wrong sized connector.) I wanted to smack that engineer for missing the obvious.

    At my current place of work, a year ago someone lost the key to a particular toolbox.  Someone wanted to cut the lock, but we didn’t have bolt cutters so I looked at the toolbox and realized there was a way to open it without a key.  All it took was a 5mm hex key and a wrench.  It was a matter of removing the bolts to the latch.  Presto. Emergency “key.” I only use the “key” when we are desperate and I return the tools back in the box without the other team knowing. One guy did that to our team’s tool box and I recognized who by the wrong placement of the bolts (everyone has a signature.)

    Another time at the same place, I jimmyed open a door for a storage room using a screwdriver because another department kept stealing/borrowing/fucking stealing our equipment and storing it in there.  They didn’t realize that I had a “key” and knew a few things about door locks. They were shocked when I broke into that room and stole all the equipment back. The stupid motherfuckers couldn’t complain or they’d have to admit they stole our stuff.

    I borrowed the USMC’s mantra as my own at work:  improvise, adapt and overcome.

  6. …this is a bit like how my mind goes blank when I get asked what I want for christmas…I repurpose a bunch of stuff with a fair degree of frequency but examples currently refuse to come to mind?

    …I guess there’s a spade in a shed somewhere that I’ve been using off & on for a few years despite having the wrong handle entirely because that was the one that was around when its broke…so I lashed it with paracord on account of it being too narrow to pin/screw/otherwise attach it

    …& there’s maybe a bench or two here & there that used to be various bits of scrap wood…& some years back a coffee table of similar provenance for some friends when we were all impoverished students

    …but I’m fairly certain if my brain were more cooperative I’d have had better examples?

  7. Lancome’s eye makeup solvent works better than goo gone or anything like that for getting gunk off household items.

    I don’t know what it says about my waterproof eye makeup that I use that stuff to get it off, but it’s amazingly gentle on eyes despite stripping anything glued to surfaces.

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