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Top 10 Tricks MacGyver Would Be Proud Of

When they draw up the Complete History of Lifehacking, Angus MacGyver will certainly merit a chapter. We pay tribute to the creatively can-do secret agent this week with 10 tricks that make extraordinary use of overwhelmingly common objects.

Photo by PoweredByLarios™.

Note: The following snippets are works of MacGyver fan fiction (hopefully the non-cringe-inducing variety). Any resemblance to events transpiring in the seven-year run of MacGyver, or any subsequent television specials, are coincidental, if a little inevitable.

10. Diffuse a camera flash, no gear needed

MacGyver works hard, no doubt, and likes to enjoy the days and nights off as much as he can. So when professional or consumer-grade cameras threaten to wash out party photos, he’s prone to using a converted cigarette pack, reversing the lining foil to channel an SLR flash into a manageable beam. A ripped out piece of tissue or very fine piece of cloth can also work. As a result, you’ll never see a red-eyed, washed-out MacGyver flashing a thumbs up in any Flickr stream. (Original post)

9. Pack a lunch in a CD spindle

Bagels, with their central fitting holes and wheel-like shape, are an engineering student’s kind of sandwich holder. Rodrigo Piwonka’s Flickr stream shows off a CD spindle bagel holder MacGyver would totally dig, and it might just inspire you to reuse your own Memorex/FujiFilm/Kodak spindles for culinary transport purposes. Angus would probably also note that, turned upside-down, the round plastic cylinder that caps the spindle works great for holding your salad. (Original post)

8. Make an iPhone dock out of…anything

If MacGyver had done his covert work in an age of iPhones, you could totally see him sitting down between missions, syncing the tracks from Live Aid to his device while it rests on—just about anything, really. A note or business card, perhaps, or maybe a piece of cardboard. The iPhone case itself can work, as can a binder clip, or if MacGyver had, say, five minutes, the plastic the iPhone was shipped in and a piece of wood moulding. But really, we’d have to go with the paper clip stand as the true choice for the secret agent of Scottish ancestry—he always seemed to have one handy.

7. Relieve a bug bite with toothpaste

Minutes after escaping certain death in the Pacific woodlands, MacGyver finds himself completely covered in itchy, concentration-breaking mosquito and chigger bites. This is bad, because it will take every ounce of effort to rig together a makeshift rope bridge to get across the chasm six kilometres ahead. Digging deep into his seemingly infinite pockets, MacGyver has to decide—should he instead reach for the aspirin, vinegar, or toothpaste? All of them are slightly more non-obvious than reaching for the off-label use of Bengay for bug bites, but any of them need to be applied real quick, before the bad guys break through his makeshift lock jam and catch him scratching away. Photo by 416style.

6. Dry a doused mobile phone

You’ve successfully disarmed the bio-agents set to be released into the city’s water supply, escaped from a third-story window using makeshift suction cups and the helicopter pick-up is only a phone call away. You reach into your pocket and—drat! That brief dive into the reservoir killed your phone! Or so you thought, until you noticed the Indian buffet restaurant just down the road. You talk your way into the kitchen, borrow some rice and a bowl, and wait until the gadget-killing moisture has been sucked out. Why not just make the call from the restaurant phone, you ask? It’s a secret number! The encryption only works on a MacGyverBerry! If the All-Night Tiger hadn’t been open, Mac’s next best bet might have been to find a house with some kitty litter, or locate some rubbing alcohol, neither of which is all that difficult in the world MacGyver lives in. (Original post)

5. Boost a Wi-Fi antenna with a drinking straw

Out of all these assembled items, this most closely resembles a MacGyver-like situation. There is, say, a hacker with a laptop who can break into the missile launch mainframe, but he’s been locked in a secret room that MacGyver and a fairly attractive agent can’t get to. The hacker needs access to the network, but can’t make a connection! Luckily, MacGyver has located a small bit of copper wire, a drinking straw, a single wood screw, and a creme brulee torch to stand in as a soldering iron. Those missiles won’t be going anywhere! (Original post)

4. Start a fire without matches

Out in the countryside, MacGyver and the son of an esteemed diplomat are tired, exhausted, and hungry after dismantling a tank and escaping a military prison. There’s no matches or fuel to start a fire, but there are some supplies ransacked from the galley kitchen on the way out. With a 9-volt battery or mobile phone, or a soft drink can and chocolate, you’re well on your way to getting a little flame built. (Original posts: mobile phone battery, steel wool and 9-volt)

3. Smooth a scratched CD or DVD

Wherever MacGyver goes, he’s amazed by the limitations of product marketers’ minds. When you have a product that works perfectly well at filling gaps and polishing—like toothpaste or Brasso—why not market them to the owners of terribly scratched CDs and DVDs? But whenever he needs to get the launch codes from a damaged disc (you know, to stop the launch) in short order when in the jungle, supermarket or monkey cage, MacGyver simply grabs a banana and some glass cleaner and gets to work. Assuming there’s a downed plane with glass cleaner in the jungle, of course, and that they’re cleaning the windows in the monkey cage.

2. Bind paper without clips or staples

Not every single day at the DXS was spent at this or that reactor or helping unfortunate kidnapped souls. Somebody’s got to expense-report all those hardware store purchases after all, but MacGyver occasionally ran out of staples and paper clips. Rather than run for the supply closet, he’d creatively fold and cut the edges, keeping up to 15 sheets of paper together with their own resistance. As a result, Amos in accounts payable always knew when a certain secret agent was expensing his latest shipments of wood glue, pipe cleaners, orange juice, tinfoil, Mountain Dew and paper towel tubes. (Original post)

1. Fix a dent with canned air and a hair dryer


Now that MacGyver’s settled into married life, he’s decided to sell the Trans Am that saw him through so many trips to and from the Department of External Services. Two hours away from an interested eBay buyer inspection, his wife points out a bit of a dent picked up during that quick exit from a nuclear reactor. He doesn’t panic or call off the showing—he grabs a can of compressed air and a hair dryer, and uses the extreme cool of the canned air and the heat from the dryer to force the dent to return to its original shape. His wife points out that the buyer might still ask about all the duct tape hidden in various break-away pieces and hidden pockets. MacGyver smiles, slowly retracts the hair dryer cord, and remembers the day he once powered a trolley with an electric whisk, rubber bands and a battery pack to fool an automatic weapons system. Now that was a challenge.


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