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6 odd things you should keep in your toolbox

Whether you're stranded on the side of the road or wrenching in the comfort of your garage, using the wrong thing to do the right job is not as bad as it sounds. You should never compromise safety under the excuse of ingenuity—there's no shortcut to a proper jack stand. However, in the right circumstances, a spontaneously repurposed "tool" can be the best way to get the job done. Here are six unlikely toolbox heroes that you might already own.


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In the toolbox I keep in the car:  a 3 x 5 " chunk of 1/4" steel plate, and a similar-sized piece of angle iron, also 1/4" thick.  When away from your shop, they're great for use as a small anvil or stable surface for beating on, either individually or as a (very) small "table."  In the shop, I have an 18" piece of mainline railroad rail, excellent as an anvil or to form curved surfaces using the curved surface atop the rail.  And also a rectangular block of machined steel, about 3 x 4 x 6"--bought at a scrapyard, perfect for making sharp 90 degree bends in sheet metal--steel or aluminum, when forming small brackets etc.