The best tips, plus tips on sending in tips.

Here’s a list of the Tool Tip winners we’ve published in the last 12 months. We’re certainly always looking for more, but we’re also certain everyone wants to know how to win theRIDGID tool package, too. So here are a few tips to enter your tip:

  • We tend to go for the tips that would be of use to the most readers. Plenty of our readers, for example, do residential service-and-repair, so anything that would help during service calls to fix toilets, faucets, etc., helps put your tip toward the top.

  • That said, if there’s a specialty item for, say, commercial work, make sure you tell us exactly how it saves you time and money.

  • That last point bears repeating: Any tip in which you can clearly tell us how your tip has saved you time and money is going to be a potential winner.

  • We aren’t as familiar with your tools as you are. If we joined you on a service call and you asked us for a wrench, no, we wouldn’t give you a hammer. However, it goes a long way if you explain what you’re doing and why.

  • Saving time and money at the expense of safety isn’t going to win the day. We’ve had more than our share of questionable submissions. Maybe it is something you do everyday, but would you do that in your mom’s house?

  • Neatness counts. When we started asking for tips, the majority came by snail mail. We still get a few that way these days, but most come by e-mail. E-mail helps us because the tip doesn’t have to be typed in our system. If you have to lick a stamp, please make sure your writing is as neat as can be. I know if I had to write something on paper, I’d block print. I gave up cursive as soon as I learned how to type.

  • Include an easy way to get in touch, whether you send an e-mail or snail mail. Include your full name, business name, address, phone number and e-mail address.

  • To send your tip by e-mail:

  • To send your tip by snail mail:
      Steve Smith
      PM Tool Tips
      1050 IL Route 83, Suite 200
      Bensenville, IL 60106

  • Unbearable Bearings

    Older mechanical equipment of substantial size sometimes requires new shaft bearings. This can involve the use of large bearing pullers, torches, hammers and lots of labor time. A solution to this problem involves the use of a rotary cut-off grinder typically used in the automotive industry. These grinders usually use a 2-inch cut-off wheel. A larger 4- or 4 1/2-inch grinder equipped with a cut-off wheel also works well, if space permits. The grinder will cut through the bearing housing, bearing races and collars. Really stubborn bearing units require two cuts at 180 degrees apart. Care must be taken not to score the shaft.

    This procedure really makes short work of frozen-on bearings without the use of oxygen acetylene torches and large pullers. These grinders also work well on rusted flange bolts, pipefittings and valve removal.

    Bill Winmill
    Francis H. Maroney Inc.
    Haverhill, Mass.

    Nut And Washer

    When installing a toilet, I’ve found it is much easier when you install the Johnibolts to tighten a nut and washer on them both before you set the toilet. That way they stand straight. It’s very helpful to set the toilet.

    Jerry Slifka
    Jerry Slifka Plumbing
    Cresco, Iowa

    Reshaping Tubing

    Reshaping the end of copper tubing can be a pain when you’re in a tight spot. I use a copper male adapter with a stainless-steel nut on the threaded end. After making my cut and cleaning the tube, I put the adapter on the tube (a little manual reshaping with smooth-jawed pliers helps) and then use a ratchet wrench to spin the adapter clockwise. Now you’re ready to put your new fitting on the tube and solder away.

    Bill “Paradise” Pearce
    Paradise Plumbing
    Ft. Worth, Texas

    Quick Work

    Here’s a way to replace ballcocks without having to fully drain the toilet tanks. Prep the new ballcock with a shank washer and set it within reach of your right hand. Remove the old supply. Remove the old ballcock nut while holding old ballcock in place. Quickly remove the old ballcock with right hand; cover shank hole on the toilet tank with left hand at the same time. Quickly insert the new ballcock through the shank hole and tighten the ballcock nut. Put on a new supply, wipe up with a rag and you are done. Total time is five minutes.

    Dwight Duncan
    S&S Plumbing Co.

    Weight Off

    My tip concerns setting of a one-piece toilet. They are too heavy and hang out over the bolt holes, making it difficult to set without messing up the wax ring. My solution is to cut two pieces of 2-inch PVC, each about 14 inches long, and place them parallel to the wall, one in front and one behind the closet flange. When the toilet is placed on the pipes, it clears the closet bolts and the PVC takes all the weight off your back. Once you have it aligned, simply remove the front pipe and set the toilet down in the front. Then remove the back pipe and set the toilet down all the way on the flange.

    Jim Mitcham
    JIM’S Inc.
    Rockville, Md.

    Tight Move

    Whenever I have to use my reciprocating saw to remove toilet bolts or extract a stubborn faucet due to the nuts having corroded into a single unit with the shanks, I found that it pays to gently work as much clearance as you can get with pliers, screwdrivers, etc., before pulling out the recip saw.

    After I obtain the clearance I need, I insert a thin pad of rubber gasket material between the sink or toilet surface and the saw blade. The result is that I don’t risk damaging the porcelain or metal finish on the fixtures; the gasket material actually “grips” the blade and makes it less likely to jump away from contact with the components that need removing.

    Alan Allison
    White Collar Plumbing
    Acworth, Ga.

    Clean Hands

    We all know that working on oil-fired equipment is messy and there is no way around it. I tried wearing gloves, but it is hard to work in them, so I found that Clorox does the best job of cleaning dirty hands.

    Mix a 50 percent solution of bleach and water and soak your hands for a few minutes. Then, rewash with a regular hand cleaner.

    Your hands will look the way the did before you first started and you won’t have to worry about getting anything dirty when you touch it. Your invoice papers won’t have black finger prints all over and you will look very professional when you arrive at your next call. It keeps homeowners and your tools happy, and that’s what matters most.

    Bob Sanzi
    S.J. Kowalski Inc.
    Hazleton, Pa.

    Perfect Pitch

    Levels with pitch indicators are nice but sometimes hard to see, especially when the tool is dirty or the lighting could be better. I’ve cut pieces of 3/4-inch pipe to match 1/8-, 3/16- and 1/4-inch per foot pitch for my 2- and 6-foot levels.

    On the jobsite, all you have to do is tape one of the correct spacers to the end of the level. In other words, 1 1/2 inches long equals 1/4-inch per foot when using a 6-foot level, and 1/2 inch long equals 1/4-inch per foot when using a 2-foot level. When placed upon a horizontal pipe, all you need to do is read the level as level. Automatic pitch.

    Frank Sgambati
    Ranshaw Fuel Oil & Plumbing
    Whitestone, N.Y.

    Larry Sturm's plumbing companion

    Plumbing Companion

    The one I just can’t live without! Over the last 37 years, I have set thousands of toilets, most of them in small, cramped bathrooms. To help me do the job easier, I made a small, four-wheeled cart (pictured) with two swivel wheels and two fixed for when I lift the toilet. Now I simply walk the toilet over to the cart, set it on, then wheel it out of the way to work in a clean unobstructed area.

    This has multiple advantages:
    • The extra height lifting the toilet on/off the cart is much easier on my back.
    • I cut an opening in the base of the cart around the horn so I can easily clean off the old wax.
    • I don’t have to lay it down, therefore causing no additional pressure to the toilet bolts.
    • No water spills, no mess! No matter how carefully I removed the water the old way, some still spilled on the floor when I lifted it back up.
    • If a customer thinks an object was dropped in the toilet, I can auger it right on my cart and look with a mirror in the outlet.
    • Two men cannot set a one-piece toilet in a tight space, so I just roll the toilet over the flange and have my helper pull the cart away.
    • I have seen a majority of plumbers/floor installers place the toilet in the tub when doing a new floor installation in a bathroom, risking a chip/crack somewhere. With my cart, you safely wheel it into another room and wheel it back when the job is completed.
    Try it only once and you won’t want to do a job without my new plumbing companion!

    Larry Sturm
    The Faucet Doctor
    Harrison City, Pa.


    When re-piping a home overhead through an attic, it’s hard to know exactly where to drill each hole into the wall studs when you’re up there - even more so if you’re doing the job by yourself.

    I use silver solder. When I’m downstairs, I simply push a piece of solder through the ceiling sheetrock at every location that I need to run my pipe inside a wall. This gives me a marker to find when I’m in the attic. The solder makes just a tiny hole.

    Keith Holman
    The Red Rooter
    Broken Arrow, Okla.

    Now You Tell Me

    Did you ever have to re-tighten a carrier rod locking nut after the tile has been installed? I welded a socket to the end of a 12-inch piece of 1-inch black pipe. This long socket fits through the tile onto the nut.

    Mark Boucher
    CAC Mechanical
    Salem, N.H.

    All-Purpose Cap

    Tired of wrestling open your ABS/PVC glue container? I place an inch and a half Fernco cap on the brush cap, tighten the clamp and presto! Put your Channellocks away. Used or new, your glue container will open by hand every time.

    Stan Arent
    Schoenwalder Plumbing and Heating
    New Providence, N.J.