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Is this book notable or noxious? Read my review and get the inside dope

Home Made Gadgets Magazine

Postlib Publications
Edition / Year
Vol 7 No. 11. November 1954
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In the section labelled

Home-Made Gadgets Magazine, November 1954

The desperation of the post war years, the cheapness and shoddiness of those times, is captured forever in the pages of this strange little publication.

I doubt you are likely ever to see such a dispiritingly unambitious collection of projects together in one place. Since it would be impossible to do them justice by summarising them, I shall fearlessly risk the wrath of the copyright holders, whoever they may be, by reproducing in full just a few of the many equally drab do-it-yourself opportunities on offer.


COMPULSORILY, all electric fires now sold have to be fitted with safety fireguards. But what about the still-unprotected one in your home? Clearly, especially if you have young children, something should be done about it, and here is a cheap and easy way to remedy the deficiency. Simply purchase a well-tinned cake rack and attach it to the front of your electric fire by means of a couple of screws. Not only will it please the eye, but it may also be the means of saving someone's life - for there is a long and tragic list of deaths resulting from flimsy dresses set alight by unguarded fires.

“My goodness, what an attractive fireguard, you lucky thing! I bet you'd have set yourself on fire without it, with all those flimsy dresses you wear! What's that - a cake-rack? Amazing!”

a very realistic raft


THIS quite realistic toy raft provides great fun for the kiddies in their bath. Materials required are four or five drinking straws, three matchsticks and a small tube of balsa cement.

Cut the straws up into a number of equal length (about three inches) and glue together side by side with balsa cement. Glue matchsticks across the ends of this assembly, with a third match upright for a mast. Plug the ends of each straw with a blob of cement and the toy is finished. If you like you can also fit a small paper sail.

“You really are the best Daddy in all the world”


THIS “handle” for carrying bottles is cut from an old inner tube, and is in the shape of a ring with two extended lugs. The ring part is pushed down tightly over the sides of the bottle and the two lugs are used as a handle.

Besides acting as a carrier, the rubber is left in place and protects the bottle against knocks. A useful gadget, too, for slipping on bottles stored together in a large box or similar container - thus acting as a buffer and at the same time making them easy to lift out.

“An ideal gift for you and all your alcoholic friends! Now you can arrive late home from the pub without waking the family with the noise of clinking beer bottles!”

Tongs made from teaspoons


TWO old teaspoons and a short length of sheet plastic can be transformed into useful serving tongs with an attractive, modern appearance. The plastic is bent to a U-shape by heating, and the spoon handles are cut off short and flattened. Two pairs of matching holes are then drilled through the handles and either end of the plastic (see sketch). Now rivet each spoon-end in place.

You can, if you wish, trim or shape the ends of the plastic down to the spoon handles The radius of bend given to the plastic governs the spring of the tongs.

“I think I'll help myself to another lump of sugar, just so I can use your impressive two-tone tongs with their attractive modern appearance. And you made them yourself from old teaspoons? Ingenious!”


MANUFACTURERS have put on the market a number of ingenious devices to curtail wear on the heel-part of ladies stockings - but the toes appear to have been give little, if any, thought. So if you are particularly heavy on this most vulnerable part of your stockings, cut the toes from an old pair and wear them as follows. For protection against your own toes, inside your stockings: for protection against the toes of your shoes, outside your stockings.

“Why darling, it's the cut-off toes from an old pair of stockings! How thoughtful of you!”

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Submitted by Martin (not verified) on 28 Jan 2013 - 14:09 Permalink

Compared to many other works on the oddbooks pages - isn't this one of the least odd ones? I personally tend to enjoy this genre of 'pedestrian' construction ideas - and you'd be surprised how much renewed attention there is for such ideas within current alternative and 'simple living' movements. If the above shown examples form a representative sample of the quality rest of the contents, it indeed seems a subscription did not live up to any of its practical returns. Yet, these magazines - like many contemporary ones - also have their merits just in providing you with ideas to perhaps greatly improve upon yourself (or, simply provide with some relaxation after a day of work). Similarly, I never strictly follow recipes in cookbooks, while they do provide inspiration. And the straw-and-match raft - isn't that endearing in some sort of way as well?

Thanks to all commenters for their additional recommendations. If you like this genre of household craft and DIY, a volume explicitly written from a frugal perspective on life (and considering even the most minimal of savings strategies), is Amy Dacyczyns 'Complete tightwad gazette'. Also, James Ballou's fun 'Makeshift Workshop Skills' (and companion volume) is worth browsing - this includes an even bigger can do-attitude on improvisational life hacking and home construction for the non-initiated. These works do not start with projects, but with materials and skills. Granted, not everything presented here is viable or safe, but fun to read anyway. And perhaps just worthwhile for the fun of trying to imagine past and future 'dark ages' (Ballou also has a book on that, partly overlapping in content with this one) - despite all its shortcomings and imprecision.
Alfred, keep up the good work, I greatly enjoy these pages.

Submitted by Alfred Armstrong on 28 Jan 2013 - 14:27 Permalink

Martin, I have other issues of this magazine and it would seem that this one is rather more desperate than most. A case of lack of ideas and a deadline to meet rather than the outright lunacy to be found elsewhere on this site. But there's no rules here, except my whim.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 04 May 2012 - 13:36 Permalink

It may bring some cheer to know that there are two books in a similar vein to this, yet showcasing the even more uproariously makeshift: Vladimir Arkhipov's 'Home Made' series of what is termed 'contemporary folk artifacts'. The first volume is out of print, but a few days ago a new volume, 'Home Made Europe' was published which reminded me of this book and this posting here.
Submitted by Meg (not verified) on 03 Dec 2010 - 16:01 Permalink

Pity the woman? Harumph. My father probably invented some of these. He bolted lids to the bottom of shelves and the screwed in jars held nuts, bolts, etc. Imagine the same for sugar, salt and coffee over a cluttered countertop! He also could blow smoke into Brill Cream tubes (back then non collapsible) and he'd hand them to us kids and we had a grand time blowing second hand smoke everywhere. Sheesh. And that raft! A kid could even light the match on fire in a mock pirate battle in the tub without too much fear of setting himself alight!
Submitted by Firebird (not verified) on 14 Aug 2009 - 09:42 Permalink

If you think this is weird you should check out the book "200 Ingenious Motoring Gadgets". From the same publishers and issued in 1952. A veritable goldmine of how to keep that old banger on the road with bits of string, wood and anything else to be found at the back of the garage!.Thank God for the M.O.T.
Submitted by Stovebolt6 (not verified) on 20 Oct 2010 - 04:12 Permalink

Also in "Motoring Gadgets" is a guide to building your own engine and the materials required. "Motoring Gadgets" is actually a fascinating read about How to Do it in the early automotive age, on a par with Dyke's Motor Manuals--only it's a much simpler read. "Home-Made Gadgets" was written by a do-it-yourselfer with no imagination, and no mechanical or aesthetic skills. Somebody commented earlier that she pitied the wife of the author of this book. I pity the reader who knows better stuff to do than go by the author's suggestions or even read the book.