Beyond duct-tape: 3 tools to take your home repairs into 3-D


Credit: Sugru

My flip-top trashcan is on the fritz. It’s a simple machine, so as I started at the traveling pin that was responsible for the problem I thought, I could totally fix that. My husband suggested tape, but I was thinking we needed to mold a little piece of rubber onto it (I imagine that the piece that was originally on there had fallen off).

And because I’ve been recently entranced by the possibilities of moldable plastic after a visit to Chaotic Moon Studios here in town (I’ll write more on that later) I went looking for a solution that went beyond duct tape. Here are three tools I’ve found. For sure one or more of these are going to make their way into my little toolbox where I keep my hammers, screwdrivers and other small household fixits.

InstaMorph: For $10 on Amazon(s amzn) you can take home 6 ounces of these plastic beads, dump what you need in hot water and mold them into whatever shape you desire. They also sell the beads by the pound for larger projects. The beads cool into lovely little white blobs of plastic after about 2 minutes. For more conspicuous repairs there are also dyes you can buy to color your InstaMorph projects.

ShapeLock: This is the same type of material as InstaMorph, but it’s not clear if it has a bulk option for large projects. These are also white plastic beads that you can put in boiling water, wait until they turn clear and then use to create whatever shape fits your fancy. They cost $15 for 250 grams (roughly 9 ounces). They are re-usable, pretty darn strong when cooled and you can saw or file them into more refined shapes if your original mold looks off.

Sugru: Instead of beads that turn into moldable plastic, Sugru is a putty-like substance that cools into a semi-flexible substance. It costs between $18 and $20 for eight packs containing 5 grams, depending on the color of the putty. It can be used to protect cords, add protective layers to clothes, replace a broken tine in a dishwasher or whatever else you have a mind to do.

For those readers who wonder if they’ve mistakenly landed on Lifehacker, there is a reason I’m sharing this. The idea of finding cheap and easy materials to fix a broken trashcan, or create a custom mold to build a homemade iPad stand may be as fundamental shift in our lives as broadband is. These materials and the experience using them are a gateway drug into doing more projects just like email was a gateway drug to blogging for some people.

Having the tools to fix my trashcan means I’m not throwing it away, which is at the very least, green. But like learning about or how to use any new tool it sparks ideas and creativity that permeate our lives and culture. Maybe I’ll never have a 3-D printer (probably because my neighbor does) but I’ve at least taken a step toward DIY, even if it’s just an opportunity to fix things around that house that I wouldn’t have tackled before.



I’ll do you one better. Just go to Home Depot and get a stick of Oatey plumber’s epoxy. You cut off as much as you need then knead it in your hands for a few minutes until the color is uniform. You can shape it and form it for next 5 minutes while it hardens.

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