There's a better way to get a solid grip on that old screwdriver.
There's a better way to get a solid grip on that old screwdriver.
©iStockphoto.com/zilli

If you're a fix-it-yourself kind of guy or gal, you may know a few tricks for loosening tight screws. But if you're like us and prone to bad luck when you attempt to be handy, you may find your thumb in the way of the hammer more than a few times, or realize half-way through putting up a shelf that you don't have a carpenter's level.

We may be able to help turn your luck around, though, with these quick and easy tricks to some home hardware dilemmas. A rusted over bolt may seem like the least of your problems when you're trying to fix up your home, but knowing how to loosen it sure will make the whole job easier in the long run.

After learning these 5 tricks, you'll be one step closer to that fix-it-yourself type, and if you're already there, maybe you'll learn a thing or two, because we all hammer our thumb once in a while -- but you won't after you read the second trick!

5
Tighten Loose Screws

If a screw is so loose that it is barely or no longer gripping, but you can't reposition it and drill a new hole, remove it, wrap its threads with a few strands of very fine wire or fine steel wool, then screw it back into its old hole. You can make screws easier to insert by twisting them into a bar of soap first.

If a screw has been ripped out of its hole, and the hole is now too big for the screw threads to gain hold, try sliding a wooden match into the hole and screwing in the fastener once more.

4
Hammer Tricky Nails

Don't take a chance of hitting your thumb or finger when hammering a small brad, tack or nail. Slip the fastener between the teeth of a pocket comb first. The comb then holds the fastener while you hold the comb, keeping your fingers out of harm's way when you bring that hammer down. A bobby pin, paper clip or pair of tweezers can be used in place of the comb as well.

When attempting to hammer a nail in a tight or hard-to-reach area, try using a bit of modeling clay (or, in a pinch, a wad of chewed gum) to help hold the nail in place for the first couple of hammer blows.

3
Loosen Rusty Bolts

If you need to loosen a nut or bolt in an old hinge, you may have a tough time if it has rusted over. Don't get frustrated yet; while it may seem like that bolt is stuck there forever, try this trick to get it to budge. Pour cola, 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, or lemon juice over the rusted nut or bolt and wait half an hour for the liquid to eat away at the rust enough for the fastener to turn freely. After this one easy step, something that seemed stuck for eternity will slide out effortlessly. If it's a screw you're having trouble with, check out our next tip.

2
Loosen Tight Screws

You can try twisting that screwdriver all day, but all you'll get for your trouble is the feeling that the screw must have been put in by Superman himself, because it's not budging.

However, you can be his rival and channel Wonder Woman's strength with our easy trick to fix this one. Loosen a stubborn screw, bolt or nut from a metal surface with white vinegar, kerosene or ammonia. Careful, though: Every good superhero knows safety comes first. Kerosene is flammable, so it should not be used near an open flame, and working safely with ammonia requires good ventilation. As long as you have a window cracked and all fires extinguished, pour away and be amazed at your new powers.

1
Level Without a Level

If you're putting up a shelf but don't have a carpenter's level, you can always "eye-ball it" -- just don't plan on putting anything on the shelf that rolls. We've got a better option for you, though, which will save you a trip to the hardware store and make sure your new shelf is a safe place to display your cherished collection of antique marbles.

Substitute a tall, straight-sided jar (like the kind green olives often come in) with a tight-fitting lid for the level. Fill the jar 3/4 full of water. Lay it on its side on the surface you're testing, but keep a hand on it so it doesn't roll off and shatter on the ground. When the water is level, the surface is level.

Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.