The tools and materials for many handicrafts can be improvised from objects which arc frequently to be found lying around in one's attic, garage, or cellar. The salvage heap of a factory can he a veritable treasure hold. Tin- following suggestions outline a few of the most useful things that can be devised from scrap material. Other suggestions will be found in the chapters on individual crafts.

Cutting Tools

A punch for use on leather or soft metal can be made from a large nail (fig. 1). Cut off the end and file to a wedge-shaped point. Do not remove the head.

Cutting Tools

Figure 1.

An awl or scriber for use on leather, wood, or metal can also be filed from a nail (fig. 2). Use a carborundum stone to sharpen the point. An old ice pick serves as an excellent awl. A heavy needle with the eye end driven into a wooden handle makes a sharp awl useful for fine work.

Gouges for woodcarving and cutting linoleum may be fashioned in several ways (fig. 3 ). Pen points may be reversed with their tips inserted in the holders and the other ends honed until sharp. Or you may take a piece of ordinary tin, fold over the edges to strengthen them, and form into the shape desired. A cartridge shell, sawed in half lengthwise and inserted in a wooden handle, is good for heavier cutting. The edge should be sharpened and bent with pliers or hammered to the shape desired.

Woodcarving And Cutting

Figure 2.

Razor Blades

Figure 3.

Razor blades make extremely sharp knives and are easily replaced when broken (fig. 4 ). They should be held in a piece of leather to protect the fingers or inserted in an improvised holder of the type illustrated. This is made by inserting two small strips of metal in a wooden handle and drilling holes to correspond with those in the blade. Small bolts and nuts hold the blade in place. Heavier knives can sometimes be filed from sharp metals or broken tools.

Sharp Knives

Figure 4.

Shaping Tools

A useful vise for bending metal can be made from an ordinary door hinge (fig. 5 ).

Ordinary Door Hinge

Figure 5

A section of pipe strapped down with strips of metal or leather provides a mandrel for metal work (fig.6 ).

To make embossing tools for leather, wood or metal, file the designs in the head of the heavy nail ( fig. 7). The threaded end of a large bolt may also be filed in the same manner and makes a more substantial tool.

A bevelcr for leather work or metal repousse is also made from a nail (fig. 8 ). Drive the pointed end into a wooden handle, cut off the head and hammer, and file the end into the shape illustrated.

Mandrel For Metal Work

Figure 6.

Heavy Nail

Figure 7.

Drafting Tools

A crate, sawed at the angle indicated by the dotted line, makes a useful work table or drawing desk (fig. 9 ).

Drafting Tools

Figure 8.

Circles can often be drawn around a coin or an inverted glass. If an improvised compass is needed, it can be made from a strip of wood drilled to accommodate a nail as the pivot and a pencil (fig. 10).

Drawing Desk

Figure 9.

Several holes for the latter may be drilled at various intervals.


Figure 10.

A piece of sandpaper glued to the inside of a used match book is useful for putting a point on pencils (fig. 11). A pipe cleaner glued under the cover serves as a wiper.

Point On Pencils

Figure 11.

Miscellaneous Tools

A small stove for heating and annealing metal or for use in bending plastic is made from a No. 10 tin can with one end removed (fig. 12). The bottom opening shown in the illustration provides the draft and permits fuel to be added. The smoke vent at the top should be cut on the opposite side of the can.

Tin Can With One End Removed

Figure 12.

Handles for any of the above tools can be made from sections of an old broomstick.


The wood from crates and large boxes, if sanded to a smooth finish, is entirely satisfactory for many projects. Wooden cigar boxes can be used where thin panels are required. Broken baseball bats are excellent for carving small figures in the round.


Used basketballs and footballs or shoes worn beyond repair will provide enough leather for small articles. Thongs for braiding lanyards, leashes, or belts can be cut from small discs of leather by the method illustrated (fig. 13).

Discs Of Leather

Figure 13.