Radio Times

When scientist Len Fisher moved to an old house in Wiltshire, he looked to science to boost his DIY skills. In this light-hearted radio series he calls on his building and engineering friends to comment as he goes about renovating his home, and provides many tips for using science to solve common DIY problems. Here are just a few:

Damaged Screw Heads

Screws are usually softer than screwdrivers, so take a Philips screwdriver and use a mallet to drive its tip into the screwhead. The screwdriver can then be used in a more conventional manner to turn the screw.

Rusted Nuts and Bolts

Instead of struggling to undo the nut, try putting vinegar on the thread to slowly dissolve the rust. If the thread is oily, add detergent to the vinegar.


When using a chisel to cut across the grain, angle it slightly so that it acts like a guillotine blade, sliding slightly across the grain and slicing as well as chopping.

Using Wheelbarrows

It’s all a matter of leverage. If you want to move the maximum amount of material at one go, put the load as close to the front of the barrow as possible. To prevent your barrow from tipping, though, it’s best to put the load closer to the handles.

Hammers and Nails

Before driving a nail into wood, drill a hole slightly narrower than the nail. It will not only be easier to drive the nail in straight but, paradoxically, the wood will grip the nail more strongly.

Finally, be safe!

Wear goggles, and direct the force so that, if a tool slips, it flies away from you, not towards you.

Len and his friends produce many more ideas and tips as they test the usefulness of science in solving the problems that are sometimes posed by DIY.

© This article is copyright Len Fisher. Please email Len Fisher to seek permission to reproduce part or all of the above article.

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