How to Be MacGyver

It’s great to have a garage packed full of tools and supplies, so that you always have exactly what is needed for any repair or DIY project you come across.

Most people don’t have that luxury, though. And for the more resourceful among us, an expensive tool collection really isn’t needed. They can get the job done using whatever they happen to have on hand—even if all they have on hand is some loose change, a handkerchief, a piece of gum, and the laces from their shoes.

That’s right: we’re talking about a real-life MacGyver. Someone who can handle just about any problem. Someone who sees things not for what they are, but for what they could be. Someone with a really awesome mullet.

You, too, can save money and save the day by making the most of what you have. All it takes is an understanding of how things work and the ability to think outside the box. And always keep your eyes peeled for some of MacGyver’s favorite “tools”:

Duct Tape

AC-Pro-MacGyver-Duct-Tape

What it is:  A mesh fabric coated with plastic on one side and pressure-sensitive glue on the other.

What it can be used for:

  • Sticking things together. Sticking anything together.
  • Patching holes or cracks in everything from air ducts to hot air balloons.
  • Making waterproof fabric, such as in this makeshift rain coat or this homemade wallet.
  • Creating a first aid bandage, splint, or sling.
  • Picking up small hard-to-reach items. Just make a wad of duct tape, sticky-side out, and attach it to the end of a stick, broom handle, or stiff wire.
  • Fastening baby diapers.
  • More uses than we could possibly list here; there are literally books written on the subject. Also, it can repair book covers.

MacGyver: “If I had some duct tape, I could fix that.”

Paper Clip

AC-Pro-MacGyver-Duct-PaperClip

What it is:  A short piece of thin wire, bent into a long oval coil.

What it can be used for:

  • As a twist-tie, or for holding small things together. (Its larger cousin, the wire coat hanger, can be used to hold large things together.)
  • As a small hose clamp.
  • As an emergency fishing hook.
  • As a hook for hanging Christmas ornaments.
  • As a replacement zipper pull.
  • As a safety pin.
  • As tweezers.
  • Picking a lock when you lose the keys.
  • Unclogging small openings (like the tip of a glue bottle, or an aerosol spray can).
  • As the needle for a homemade compass.
  • Opening a stuck DVD/CD drive.
  • Twist it into the appropriate shape, and it can be used as a small spring (like those used to hold batteries in place).
  • Holding together several sheets of paper.
  • Short-circuiting a missile.

MacGyver: “A paper clip can be a wondrous thing. More times than I can remember, one of these has gotten me out of a tight spot.”

Strike Anywhere Match

AC-Pro-MacGyver-Matches

What it is:  A small wooden stick, coated on one end with a highly flammable powder.

What it can be used for: 

  • Casting light into dark places.
  • Detecting small drafts or air leaks, based on the direction of the flame.
  • Creating heat.
  • Using that heat to melt wax (such as from a crayon) to create a seal.
  • Starting a fire. If you are out in the wilderness, this could help keep you alive by cooking food, keeping you warm, or creating smoke signals.
  • As a short fuse.

Kate: “How are you going to start a fire? Make lightning, or rub two sticks together?”

MacGyver: “Well, I thought I’d use a match.”

Hose

AC-Pro-MacGyver-Hose

What it is:  A flexible, waterproof tube, made from rubber or vinyl.

What it can be used for:

  • As an impromptu rope.
  • As a drip irrigation system. Just plug or clamp shut one end, attach the other end to a faucet, and poke small holes along the length of the hose.
  • As a snorkel.
  • Covering swing set chains and keeping them from pinching or getting tangled.
  • Protecting tree bark from tire swing chains or tie-down wires.
  • As saw blade protectors.
  • Covering an old wire bucket handle, creating a thicker and more comfortable grip.
  • As an insulator for the wire on electric fences.
  • Unclogging a gutter downspout.
  • Moving water or other liquid from one place to another.
  • Hosing things down.

(When faced with a baby who has a dirty diaper)

MacGyver: “Well, get a grip. We got to change him.”

Jack: “Can’t we just hose him down?”

MacGyver: (Thinks about it) “No.”

String

AC-Pro-MacGyver-String

What it is:  A tiny rope.

What it can be used for:

  • Tying things together.
  • As a plumb line: just tie a washer, your keys, or any small weight to the end, and it will create a perfect vertical line.
  • As a shoelace.
  • Holding your glasses or hat on your head.
  • As a belt, to hold your pants on.
  • Dipped in wax, it becomes a candle.
  • Hanging a flashlight or shop light in place, so you can see and have both hands free when working on your car.
  • Holding up garden plants or redirecting young tree branches.
  • As a leash for your hamster.
  • As a proximity alarm (when stretched across a path and tied to a noisemaker), or to trip up intruders.
  • Braided together, several strings can be used to make a rope.

Peter Griffin (on The Family Guy): “Dear MacGyver, I have enclosed string, a rubber band, and a straw. Please save my dog.”

Swiss Army Knife

AC-Pro-MacGyver-Swiss-Army-Knife

What it is:  A pocketknife that also includes tools such as a corkscrew, can opener, file, screwdriver, tweezers, and toothpick.

What it can be used for:

  • Cutting things.
  • Tweezing things.
  • Opening cans.
  • Opening bottles.
  • Opening the cover of an air vent so that you can escape from a locked room.
  • Removing the control panel on a time bomb.
  • Picking food out of your teeth.
  • Filing your fingernails.
  • Pretty much anything the plot demands.

MacGyver: “Hey, I want that knife back, you know.”

Chewing Gum

AC-Pro-MacGyver-Chewing-Gum

What it is:  A soft, sticky, mint-flavored substance, often wrapped in aluminum foil and paper.

What it can be used for:

  • Temporarily plugging holes and stopping low-pressure leaks.
  • As a glue, to stick small things together or patch rough cracks in ceramic pots.
  • With the aluminum wrapper (and a hook or paper clip), it can be turned into a fishing lure.
  • With the aluminum wrapper (and a battery), can be turned into an electric lighter.
  • Attach gum to the end of a stick, stiff wire, or weighted string and use it to pick up jewelry, keys, or other small objects that fall into hard-to-reach spaces.
  • Creating art.
  • Making your breath minty fresh.

Barbara: “Don’t tell me you know how to make a bomb out of a stick of chewing gum.”

MacGyver: “Why, you got some?”

Your Brain

AC-Pro-MacGyver-Brain

What it is:  Gray matter. Your noggin. Your mind. The stuff in your head. The most important tool you have.

What it can be used for:

  • Thinking creatively.
  • Coming up with novel solutions to problems.
  • Understanding how things work.
  • Deducing what’s wrong and figuring out how to make it right.
  • Using good judgement and keep from doing anything stupid.

MacGyver: “You can do anything you want to do, if you put your mind to it.”

What “MacGyverisms” have you used? We’d like to know! You can post them to our Facebook page or Twitter account.