Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
In the midst of the pandemic shutdowns, I started getting notices on my iPhone of a SIM card failure. After searching out possible causes online, I was able to solve the problem by simply taking out the tiny card and sliding it back again.
However, I couldn’t have accomplished this easy fix without a handy tool I just happened to have on hand. You have it too. It’s the paper clip. When I straightened a metal paper clip, one end was just the right size to fit into the hole that ejects the SIM card tray on my phone.
Although inventors started experimenting with a wire paper holder at least a few years before, it wasn’t until 1898 that the first patent for what we know as the modern paper clip was granted to Pennsylvanian Matthew Schooley.
A couple of years later, William Middlebrook patented the machine that would make the wire wonders. The product is still often called a “gem clip” because Middlebrook invented his machine for the Gem Company in England.
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Unlike so many other office supplies, the paper clip has not changed in over 120 years. Other than coming in colorful plastic coatings and in many different sizes, the looped design of the clip you see today is the same as what you would have seen on a desk at the turn of the 20th century.
Small, lightweight, and inexpensive, the paper clip is useful for many purposes other than holding paper. Inspired by the SIM card experience, we thought we would share some of the many uses around the homestead for this humble office supply.
1. Makeshift Compass
2. Fish Hook
You can reshape a paper clip to serve as a fishing hook in a survival situation. After twisting the clip into a hook shape, you can sharpen one end of the wire with a knife or a rock.
3. Zipper Tab
A paper clip will easily slip into the hole of a zipper to replace the pull tab. This trick comes in handy for pants, jackets, and backpacks that have a damaged or missing zipper pull tab.
A large paper clip works well as a key ring. It’s easy to slide keys on and off the clip and keep them together in your pocket or bag. You then can hook the makeshift keyring onto a belt loop or a backpack strap or zipper.
5. Makeshift Splint
The sturdy wire in a paper clip can serve as a small splint in an emergency. Place the paper clip up against a broken finger or toe and wrap it with gauze and tape to help keep it immobilized during the healing process.
6. Bottle Unclogger
The point of a paper clip fits well into clogged glue bottles, allowing the liquid to flow freely again.
You can use a straightened paper clip as a skewer to hold small pieces of meat or vegetables that you want to roast over a fire.
A paper clip can serve as a makeshift sewing needle. First, take a straight piece from the paper clip and flatten one end. Then, using a drill or sharp tool, pierce a hole in the flattened end. After that, sharpen the other end with a knife to complete the needle.
9. Safety Pin
If you need a more secure hold than the standard shape of a paper clip can provide, you can use pliers to twist and secure a paper clip in a way that resembles a safety pin. This article gives you the instructions you’ll need.
10 Bag Ties
Bend and shape paper clips to use in place of standard twist ties when you need to secure plastic trash bags.
You can use paper clips as ammo in a slingshot or a blowgun to stun or kill small game in a survival situation. This video shows how to make a slingshot using paperclips. This video shows a blow dart gun using toothpicks, but you can use straightened and sharpened paper clips instead of the toothpicks.
12. Money Clip
When you don’t want to call attention to your cash with a wallet, a paper clip can serve as an easy and inconspicuous money clip.
13. Makeshift Antenna
You can use a straightened paper clip to get better reception on your walkie-talkies or portable radio during an emergency.
You can use standard paper clips to pick locks in an emergency situation. This video shows you how to learn this skill.
Use a paper clip to mark the information you frequently need in a survival guide or other book in your backpack.
16. Temporary Eyeglass Repair
A paper clip will hold the side pieces of your eyeglasses or sunglasses to the lens piece when a screw is missing. (It doesn’t look great, but it does the job.)
17. Keyboard Cleaner
You can use one end of a paper clip to remove dust, dirt, and food particles that fall in between the keys of your keyboard. (Go gently with this one!)
18. Belt Securer
You can use a paper clip to hold the overlap of a belt in place. If a belt buckle breaks, you can also use a paperclip to fasten the buckle.
19. Temporary Clothing Repair
Paper clips can hold together a frayed hem or sleeve repair until you can stitch it.
20. Letter Opener
You’ll say goodbye to paper cuts when you slip an elongated paper clip inside an envelope to open it.
21. Nail Cleaner
A paper clip can serve as a makeshift fingernail or toenail cleaner in a survival scenario when the opportunity to shower or bathe may be limited.
22. Gear Holder
You can make a chain of paper clips long enough to attach small gear to your bug out bag or backpack. The little metal clips are surprisingly strong.
23. Mini Sculptures
If the power is out and the internet is down, let’s face it, you can have a lot of time on your hands. Paper clips can be the medium for tiny wire sculptures. You could challenge your kids to create small creatures or buildings with a pile of paper clips.
24. Electronics Opener
In addition, to the SIM tray hack mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can use one end of a paper clip to open or restart other small electronics.
Where can you stock up on paper clips? You can find them in the office supply sections of big box stores and at the dollar store. You also buy them in bulk online. One of the best deals we found was this one — 1,000 paper clips.
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