Archive for the 'DIY' Category

There’s a simpler solution

When people get ham radios, what is the main thing they do with them? Talk about ham radio equipment.

When people buy tools, what is the main thing they do with them? Build cabinets to store the tools.

“Must have” home improvement products

I receive a variety of Home Improvement catalogs filled with silly inventions that solve non-problems around the home. There’s an outdoor faucet extension that eliminates scraped knuckles, a special tool for “cleaning the grass-caked underside of your lawnmower”, and an $86 solution to “wipe away dirt, dust, and grime from underneath your gutters”.

Given my contempt, it’s scary to see how I pore over the catalogs and purchase all sorts of products. Some of them I end up loving, and some turn out to be duds. For instance, from Sporty’s Tool Shop:

  • (+) Backsaver Tote This is my favorite item. I had a previous tote to haul logs into the house — I would load it up, grab the handles and lift it as high as possible, and then awkwardly trudge along, resting it on my hip. The Backsaver Tote holds twice as much effortlessly — it’s well designed and ruggedly built. I expected that it would be awkward to hold the handle, but it rests comfortably against the wood with little effort. And it’s also easy to open the house door, since only one hand is needed for the Tote.
  • Magnetic Vent Covers We have an unused bedroom, and I imagine that I am saving on heating costs by covering the vents in that room. The Covers are magnetized just barely enough to stay in place, and the ceiling vent in the bathroom is particularly precarious.
  • (+) Remote Control Outlet with Wireless Remote Perfect for Christmas Tree lights on the roof.
  • GutterPump I have two downspouts that can barely be reached with an extension ladder and are frequently clogged.  It has been great for two years.
  • (+) 10 Gallon Collapsible Lawn Container Lightweight and convenient for collecting debris while gardening.
  • Brick Clips Work quite well for hanging pictures on our brick wall, without requiring any drilling.
  • Motion Activated Outdoor Light Provides barely enough light by the garbage cans.
  • (-) Deer Repellent Scented packets that are useless.
  • (+) Garden Kneeler/Seat Fantastic when we got it for $12.
  • 1 lb. Propane Refill Adapter Seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m afraid to use it — I can imagine the explosion from a spark.
  • (+) Parking Mat It’s embarrassing how much I like this. When you drive over the bump, you know you’re in the right spot.
  • (-) Oil Changing System Useless piece of crap. I returned it. Supposedly changes your oil through the dipstick tube. Is capable of drawing out several drops of oil per hour.
  • (-) Large Coil Keeper For hanging extension cords. Stupidly designed — the weight of the coil pulls the velcro apart.
  • (+) 3-Pc. Socket Driver Set Love it. Use your electric drill with your socket wrench set.
  • (+) 3-Prong Space-Saving Outlet Perfect for an outlet located next to our bookshelf.
  • (+) Easy-Movers Put them under our home entertainment center, and they work great when I need to slide it out.
  • (-) Dryer Vent Brush Can’t believe I bought it. Doesn’t work well on thin aluminum vents, and no, I don’t believe there’s a fire hazard.

Two perfect tools for replacing Christmas lights

Wire cutters and a 1/4″ socket:


The wire cutters (aka diagonal cutters) make it easy to pop out the old light, and the 1/4″ socket fits nicely over the new light, making it easy to press it into place.

Ant mind

I have been battling ant incursions for a month now, yet I still believe that I can win.

There is the obvious approach of placing poisoned bait. If you choose this path, I recommend Terro liquid baits.

But I have chosen to caulk all of their entry points, in our 20 year old house. As a result, I am now fascinated (and perhaps obsessed, like Bill Murray in Caddyshack) with the ant mind.

Their favorite destination was the pantry, every seam of which is now sealed. So they now appear — periodically and persistently — in our bathroom. Here’s my current approach: when they first appear and the entry point isn’t obvious, kill them all (wet paper towels work well). Wait an hour or so, see where two or three are found, and observe that area patiently for several minutes until you see one disappear, or a new one appear, in an amazingly minute opening. For us, it’s a crack in the shower grout.  Apply a dollop of silicone seal, and you’re done. Well, you’re done for several hours or even a day.

I have repeated this process for over a week in our bathroom, and I’m still fascinated to observe how they pick up an old, abandoned trail; sense the distant smell of something sugary like cough drops; occasionally stop upon meeting for a lengthy discussion; head off across an open expanse of wall; dart panic-stricken when my finger plunges in from above.

When I finally grow weary of their tenacity, I’ll caulk the entire perimeter of the shower tiles.

Two weeks later: I didn’t have a chance to grow weary. After a dozen dollops, they departed and we’ve been ant-free for two weeks.

Deer Fence

Light plastic deer netting worked fine to protect our garden for five years, but this summer a very large and clever (or clumsy) deer discovered that it could simply barge in, break the netting, and strip bare all of the untouched rose bushes.

I immediately replaced the broken section, and the deer immediately broke through again.

I have now replaced the entire fence with plastic-coated steel mesh, and I am so pleased with the product that I finally started my blog.

It is quite easy to handle and position the mesh — the plastic coating means that you don’t need gloves, and horizontal wires every foot add stability.  True, a hundred-foot roll is heavy, and I did fall over backwards the first two times I tried to unroll it on a steep slope. But I then unrolled it on flat ground and was able to drag a 50′ stretch into position by myself.

The 100′ x 7.5′ roll cost $225 PLUS $110 shipping from NY to CA. This is more than ten times the $20 cost of the same amount of deer netting.  However, I had to replace the netting every two years, because it would wear out from sun exposure, and this fence should last 15 years.

Several websites say that they will have steel mesh deer fencing available in Spring ’09.  I purchased Deer Control Steel Hex from Wayside Fence. Their customer service was helpful and responsive.

After installing a deer fence, I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to tie streamers to it until the deer have gotten used to its presence. They have poor eyesight (and are color-blind).