Use thread sealing tape to keep screws and bolts from backing out

Frequently I have a problem with self-assemble furniture not holding together as well as I would like. The bolts back out over time the legs in our kitchen chairs get wobbly. Or a bolt from an office chair falls out completely and something that used to work stops working. If I don’t notice the mystery bolt on the floor and the malfunction on the same day, I get other problems.

The last time I got a wobbly chair, I had an idea. I wrapped the threads with PTFE tape. (Sometimes incorrectly called Teflon® tape. It’s the same chemical, but Dupont doesn’t make thread-sealing tape anymore.)

Normally you use thread-sealing tape on plumbing by wrapping the threads of pipes before assembling the parts. The tape makes the threads watertight and also helps you tighten them tighter.

In this application, I don’t need the threads to be watertight but I need to really cinch the bolts down, and the addition of a bit more material around the threads will, I hope, make the fit less sloppy and less prone to backing out.

It will also keep them from seizing, should you ever need to disassemble for any reason. You can use a thread locker, but this was Sunday night and the stores were closed and I didn’t have any. I had PTFE tape on hand, and it’s a lot cheaper.

 

Restoring lithographed train cars

If you have vintage tin lithographed train cars made by American Flyer, Bing, Dorfan, Ives, Lionel, Marx, or another make I’m forgetting and some of them are worse for wear, there are a few things you can do to improve their appearance.

Keep in mind these won’t make them new, and they won’t fool anyone. One reason collectors like lithography is because they can easily recognize a touchup. But you can make beat-up cars look better, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

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Plywood floors for a hardwood look at around $1 per sqft

A comment over at Lifehacker got me thinking about plywood as flooring, which led me to a blog post at Quarry Orchard. The author is one of many people who have had success making floors out of strips cut from ordinary 4×8 sheets of plywood, the variety that sell for around $14 at home improvement stores.

I’d be a bit concerned about durability but there’s a lot to like about the idea as well.

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Remove black marks from wood floors

I tried to remove black marks from wood floors with Bar Keeper’s Friend recently, and I’m happy to report it worked pretty well.

Here’s the story: I had some mysterious black ring-shaped marks on my hardwood floors. I traced them to metal ends of furniture legs. The long-term solution is to put the furniture on leg cups, but one still has to contend with the damage.

The pros use a floor bleach whose active ingredient is oxalic acid, but finding it is hard, and finding it in household quantities is harder. But there’s a cheap, readily available household alternative: Bar Keeper’s Friend. It costs a couple of dollars and you can buy it at big-box stores like Home Depot, grocery stores, and even some discount stores. It’s usually in the cleaning aisle next to the Comet. It’s good stuff to have on hand anyway, because it does a great job of cleaning up pretty much anything you’d use Comet on, but it literally eats rust spots for lunch so it’ll take care of chores Comet doesn’t.

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Don’t buy a house if you can’t afford it

I see the advice all the time not to buy a house if you can’t afford it, but rarely do I see a good explanation of what that means.

It’s really easy. Let me explain it, as someone who paid off a 30-year mortgage in five years and now co-manages rental property and has to determine if someone can afford to rent from us or will be over their head. And no, just because I’m a landlord doesn’t mean I think everyone should rent. There are definitely times when buying makes sense. Read more

Mr. Genius Man from “Windows Technical Support” gets nasty

I got another “Windows Technical Support” call on Friday evening. My caller ID said Minneapolis, and since I have coworkers in Minneapolis, I answered. But the guy on the other end was a long way from Minneapolis and probably doesn’t know diddly about ice hockey.

I’m pretty sure it was the same criminal as last time, but over a better VOIP connection. I remember the voice pretty well, because his parting lines from last time, “Enjoy your broken computer, Mr. Genius Man!” struck me as funny. And he started the conversation with, “I’m calling you again about your Windows 7 computer.”

My conversation with him revealed a few things about why this scam is likely to be profitable.

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And in a story that should surprise no one, Target’s attack was unsophisticated

I found a story today stating that the attackers who stole millions of credit cards from Target didn’t have to try very hard to hide. I wish I could say I was surprised.

My boss says it this way: Amateurs hit as hard as they can. Professionals hit as hard as they have to.

Why? Because if they only hit as hard as they have to, they can save the hard hit for another day. And it really boils down to simple economics. If I can buy off-the-shelf malware for $1,000 and use it to steal millions of dollars, then use the same malware again somewhere else and steal another few million, why not do that? The alternative is to buy a sophisticated attack that costs five or six figures. Then what happens? I use it, get my money, and then the victim can’t figure it out, so the victim calls in Mandiant. Mandiant discovers the zero-day attack, then tells the world about it. Mandiant looks good because they discovered something nobody else has ever seen before. The victim looks a lot better too, because they got mowed down by something that was unstoppable. But then the vendor moves heaven and earth to release an emergency out-of-band patch as quickly as possible, closing down a very brief window of opportunity to use it.

Cyber criminals may be crooked and unethical, but they aren’t stupid. And that’s why this is an uphill battle: A cheap attack can go up against defenses that cost an order of magnitude more, and still win. Read more

What you should know about your first credit card

Lifehacker asked what a first-time credit card owner needs to know. As someone who first got a credit card at the age of 20 and is still reaping the benefits of using one correctly from the start, I have some advice to give on that.

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How to self-finance major purchases

My boss (possibly soon-to-be former boss–the parting is amicable if it happens) has an interesting approach to buying cars. He pays cash for the car, then finds out what his monthly payment would be, and deposits that amount in a savings account for five years to pay himself back, with interest. Then he uses the money in that account to buy his next car. Read more

How to move a train table on an unfinished, concrete basement floor

I had to move my train table recently. No, I didn’t have the foresight to put wheels on it. So I had to resort to using furniture movers.

After putting the fuzzy protectors on them, they glide fine on the concrete, without fear of damaging the plastic sliding surface. They might slide alone on concrete too, but I don’t want to scratch the movers up, because I intend to use them elsewhere too. Some online reviewers reported that scratched movers scratch wood floors.

I just lifted each leg of the table, kicked a mover under it, then went around to the next leg. A pair of 4×8 tables is still awkward for one person to move, but if you’re not moving too far, you can do it. If you have help, you can get more ambitious.