If only Formula 1 knew about duct tape and baling wire

Just as not everything that appears on Photoshop Disasters is an actual Photoshop disaster, and not everything on The Daily WTF is uncontroversially WTF-y, so too not everything on There, I Fixed It is actually a half-assed repair job.

Free Wheel Chair Mission wheelchairs

These wheelchairs, for instance, may look gimcrack, but (as commenters quickly pointed out) they're actually real, functional and sorely-needed "appropriate technology".

(If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid.)

I think quite a lot of the other There, I Fixed It posts have a similar charm, especially to people like me who actively prefer shabby things to shiny ones. (I am not being sarcastic when I say cat-scratches "improve" furniture.) I like things that look totally ramshackle, or even obviously broken, but actually work, or can pretty easily be made to work.

Stacked-paper desk support

This desk support, for instance, rather appeals to me.

You could make it properly structurally sound, too. Just gather enough unimportant documents - not, I think you'll find, a difficult task for many people - and pile them up one sheet at a time, putting a circle of white glue on each sheet. Then put the desk or something back on top of the pile to clamp it while the glue dries.

You could make a desk that stood on four of these things, a coffee table on four short ones, a single one as a display plinth for your Office Space collectibles...

You could even make the stack lightweight, if you did something like core out the middle inside the glue-rings and replace it with a length of large-diameter PVC pipe. And then you could, of course, hide booze in it!

I invite readers to nominate their own examples of constructions and contraptions in this sort of improbable-yet-functional, broken-yet-working category.

(With pictures, if possible! Commenters can't use image tags, but if you just put the URL of the image, Flickr page or whatever in your comment I'll picturify it, provided it doesn't make my Civil Defense Lemonparty Survey Meter beep too loudly.)

15 Responses to “If only Formula 1 knew about duct tape and baling wire”

  1. Johnny Wallflower Says:

    You're just annoyed because moronic commenters made fun of your CFL chandelier.


  2. Red October Says:

    I'm told that the coolant reservoir from a particular year of Lincoln Town Car from the middle 70s makes the best... water pipe... in the world.

    Also not me, but a buddy of mine used two full-tower 286 computers with a door laid acorss them to make his workbench.

    In writing the above, I remembered my own -a desk that I made a rudimentary hutchtop for by stacking ammo cans (The US and likewise most NATO countries use bit, heavy steel "Cans" -rectangular boxes with thightly fitting, gasket-sealed and clamped lids. They are nearly indestructable) on one side and utilizing the window sill on the other, as the sill was concrete blocks. Oddly, three stacked cans were the exact height I needed. I laid two 2x2 beams across, and put a piece of wire shelving on top, all cut to size with the saws in my swiss army knife. It still holds a computer and an outsized, ancient Epson line printer.

  3. rndmnmbr Says:

    I wish I had taken photos of my computer desk before I cluttered the top of it up. It stands 36" from the bottom of the desk to the floor, putting the work surface at 40.5" from the floor, made out of 1"x6" lumber and looking like it belongs in a garden shed. I got thoroughly sick of being behind flimsy, small desks.

  4. Jax184 Says:

    The bench in my workshop consists of a few sheets of plywood sitting on some cabinets I found on the side of the road. The shelf above it is a pair of planks that used to be a waterbed, held up by a pair of NeXT cubes for the middle and right end, and an HP signal generator for the left. Plus a U-matic tape and some magazines to make up for height differences.

    NeXT-supported furniture

    Did I mention the NeXT cube in the middle is functional where it sits? It's going to become my web server.

    http://www.jax184.com/pictures/room/05-2007%20-%20Present/Shop/ has the relevant pictures.

    My bedroom uses 2 more of those waterbed planks on top of a pair of Macintosh Quadra 700s to hold up... more macs.

    Closet bed

    See http://www.jax184.com/pictures/room/05-2007%20-%20Present/T1i_0311s.JPG

    And since all these computers mean I don't have a lot of floor space, I've taken to sleeping in my rather large closet. So every morning, I come out of the closet.

    Numerous computers


    (BTW, this is the first time I've been able to log in to comment since that ad-virus nuked my windows install before anyone noticed it and took it down. No idea why.)

  5. speedweasel Says:

    Red October, do we know each other?

    I used to have two IBM PS/2 8560 towers holding up my desk-made-of-door in my shed.

  6. FuzzyPlushroom Says:

    My old desk was the top of a cheap pressboard desk sitting on some roughly built shelves, with the shelves removed, that I found in my basement (on one side) and a gutted HP server tower on its back (on the other):


    It held up one 17" CRT, then two 17"s, then a pair of 30-kilo 21"s (somehow!):

    Overtaxed desk


    I've since gotten a proper hardwood desk for my enormous CRTs, so my legs are no longer in mortal danger, but I still use a DEC dual-P2 server as an end table.

    Unsurprisingly, I really quite like Jax's computers-as-furniture method.

  7. FuzzyPlushroom Says:

    Oh, and watch out for mildly-unsightly leg hair in the first shot; I couldn't be arsed to move before photographing under my desk.

  8. OLTPT Says:

    My take on the ever-useful "compressed gas extractor": http://i48.tinypic.com/jph79d.jpg (Apologies for the amazingly shit cameraphone shot). Made with the tools at hand: PVC pipe, duct tape, balloons, a knife, self-tapping screws and a flathead screwdriver.

    Grainy bulbulator

    Disassembled: http://i49.tinypic.com/1yl8yb.jpg. The duct-tape O-ring actually works fairly well -- after a couple of freeze-thaw cycles, it's rock-solid tight. The pink cut apart balloon serves as a seal at the end, with the firing pin opposite. In use, another balloon goes over the top bit, which clips into the end. This works as a safety feature, because if the balloon can't expand for whatever reason, the clip shoots off and it vents the gas rather than letting the pressure build up. At least, it's a safety feature once you realise this will happen, and avoid putting your hand anywhere near the potential stream of cold gas.

    My first few attempts before I decided to shell out the money for a bit of PVC pipe were much more entertaining. One of them was basically a saucepan, carrier bag and drawing pin, and the other involved a vitamin bottle, beans can, a screw and a lot of duct tape. These worked, for certain values of "work." I suspect they would have worked very well at eye removal.

  9. Erik T Says:


    Improvise! Adapt! Overcome! Couch!

    Couch of 2x4s, carpet pad and surplus-store canvas, from the dark days of undergrad. I win.

    It was a truly awful couch.

  10. Jon F Says:

    As the one pictured in said couch, I will attest that it was awkward as hell to sit in, but sit in it one could. My own contribution comes from the world of plumbing:

    Home-made shower fittings

    Courtesy of my local home center and some dude pimping out his grainger account on amazon. After moving in to my apartment, I was annoyed that there was no shower--this was the brainstorm after discovering that the tub faucet was conveniently 7/16" o.d.

    Home-made shower pipe

    Not really one's typical shower. The rods are pipe flanges and 1/2" PVC.

  11. Erik T Says:

    Having used that shower... it's 10x worse than the couch. At least.

  12. AdamW Says:

    My recent favourite is the LackRack:




  13. Changes Says:

    I too like stuff that looks McGyvered together, or just plain used and abused - especially when I'm the one who's done the McGyvering or the using and the abusing.

    Personally, I found this a great idea (as I said in a comment to that post, if they publish it). Not a week ago I bought a pair of Givi TM418 hand protector thingies for my motorbike, and they're great, but they're fairly expensive (€50). I can't leave them on when I'm not using the bike because they are basically kept on by a piece of string, and anyone with functioning hands can just untie them and steal them with next to zero effort.
    The ones in that TIFI post, in contrast, are supercheap to buy and adapt to hand-protection use (though I think the original could do with some improvement), and so very, very ugly that I doubt anyone at all would want to steal them - and even if they do, you can just shrug and go buy another pair of jugs for €2 or so.
    Now, the Givis most definitely give better protection and I intend to always use them when I take trips in the cold season, but for the short distances of city riding the jugs are just perfect.
    I'm going to buy two of them and adapt them to my handlebars tomorrow. :)

  14. extragoode Says:

    In my dorm we were provided with two desks, two chairs, and two wardrobes, one for each roommate. The wardrobe was nothing more than a box made out of one by plywood about six feet tall by three feet wide, open in front, with a curtain to cover it. I didn't have much use for this in its vertical state, my roommate and I spaced our desks about five feet apart, removed all the curtain holding junk, rotated one of the wardrobes ninety degrees and suspended it between our desks. Later, I added a hole large enough for a VGA cable in the bottom and filled it with hardware. The hole itself was rather rough as I had no immediate access to a proper spade bit or hole saw, so got by with 3/8" drill bit, a box knife and a screwdriver.

    In the same room we built a shelving unit comprised completely of wood salvaged from the dumpster on moving day and some leftover drywall screws I had in my room. The only tool used was a phillips head screw driver (arm powered) including for measurement, which left it incapable of storing anything that rolled, but otherwise provided plenty of utility.

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