Actually reading instructions and other nonsense.

Men. We don't ask for directions and we don't read instructions. It's testosterone-fueled knowledge, ladies, we're born with it.

Although I leap unhesitatingly into all things DIY, and am generally fearless to tear stuff apart and (try to) fix it, I've never claimed to be an auto mechanic. It's just not my expertise. I think it comes from growing up in Michigan where everyone else's dad but mine worked in some way for the auto companies. I had so many car-handy friends that they'd just help me with it, no problem. I never really learned much about it.

However, I have changed headlamps before, and I am a handy guy. After all, I kicked butt fixing the auxiliary audio jack in my truck, didn't I? When I popped outside to fix Sweetie's car, I took a cursory glance at the owner's manual to see how to remove a plastic air duct that was in the way, without breaking the plastic clips, before swaggering to the front of the car to fix the hell out of it, 'cause I'm a handy, handy man.

Yep! Shorts in February!!!
It took an obvious, quick squeeze of wiring harness to slide it off the back of the lamp. The lamp took an easy twist to pull it out of the socket. Piece-o-cake! I removed both of the front lamps so the beams would match.

2007 Honda Accord Headlight
The 2007 Honda Accord Ladies and Gentlemen.
I grabbed a new bulb and,....uhmmmmm.....CRAP!  It didn't fit. Tried it again,... Dang it! Just to be sure I wasn't just feebly struggling to get it in, I actually measured the base with a micro caliper. Yep. The new lamp base was too big. Those idiot, grease monkeys at the auto-parts store had sold me the wrong freaking part. I had even bought a two pack of them.

Precisely different sized lamp bases, exactly and positively wrong.
I slammed the hood, drug my tools back into the garage, and grunted to Sweetie I had to go back to the @#$%! store because that idiot had sold me the wrong part. I don't get mad often, but this guy was going to hear about this for sure. After all, it's his job to know this stuff. He's the "expert."  I think he is even the manager, more like the head moron.

I took the car, so I could show that  mental giant personally. I don't know why I glanced  at the open owner's manual still laying in the passenger seat, as I backed furiously out of the driveway...  

My eye caught the bold heading, "High Beams Headlight". Whaaaat?!!!. After looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching, I casually flipped the page to see the next bold  heading, "Low Beam Headlight


There's two sets of lamps. Ohhhhhhh.... heh heh... silly me.

"I'm with stupid à"
I couldn't see them from the outside, but after actually reading the manual, I found the "Low Beam Headlight" was behind the fender liner, accessed by popping some plastic screw things out with a screwdriver. They were behind a reflective cover in the headlight area.

Of course my first attempt to snag it blind resulted in a turn signal. Nope, back in he went.

The second excursion resulted in success. The lamp was exactly the same as the ones I had purchased, including the yellow gasket ( = Exactly the same as the ones the friendly, very knowledgeable counter guy had recommended.) It was a quick and easy swap.

2007 Honda Accord Headlight

I opened the hood again and put the high beams back where I got them. At least they were a little easier to get to, and in a less filthy location than the brake-dust coated fender wells. 

The wiring clipped back in place. 

2007 Honda Accord Headlight

Since I was already filthy, I replaced the other lamp on the passenger side too.

2007 Honda Accord Headlight

All the little plastic clippy-things had shattered when I pulled the fender liners so I did actually have to go back to the auto parts store for new clippy-things. I couldn't look the guy in the eye. I felt horrible for doubting him. He even gave me advice on choosing the right clips. Thank goodness I looked at those instructions before truly making an absolute ass of myself at the parts counter. Like I always say, those guys at O' Riley Auto Parts are just awesome (Non-sponsored, just an apology for those awful words I was thinking in my driveway).

I got back home and got to play with my sweet new DeWalt Right Angle Adapter Attachment to drive the new fasteners in. I'd been waiting to play with this beauty since I won it in DeWalt's Fan of the Week Photo Contest

No, I didn't read the instructions.

Loose ends - The Art of Incomplete

My mind is racing, planning the next big project; I'm positively drooling to get started. But, I simply must tie up a bunch of loose ends first. Not to brag, but I'm a fully-ordained Level Eight Grand Master of Getting Nearly Done. I get close to finish and immediately leap headlong into the next project. I figure 95% done is my sweet spot. My sweet, patient wife has the uncanny super power of noticing my talent and bringing it to my attention. 

Here's a quick tour of some of the loose ends now haunting me (just in time for Halloween), in no particular order. I'm not proud.

No plates: You've probably noticed my sweet, stainless-steel Wiremold 4000 power strip on my work bench in previous posts. It's my custom, Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, over-engineered power strip, complete with individually switched receptacles with green and red indicator lights, partial GFCI protection, velcro mounted stereo speakers, a master kill switch, and a fake shurikin. Slick eh? But I never installed four cover plates,... in over four years.

Sweet over engineered power strip
Yes. That's an old throwing star back there. I don't know why.
The master electrician: The Great Family Room Remodel was a smashing success over a year ago. It looks absolutely great. Ridiculously great,...until you look behind the couch...

Proof that Frog Tape does have long term holding power.
... behind the corner table...

... and on the other side of the wall, in the office, hidden behind the printer.

I even crossed the wires so we have to turn on the
exterior lights to make the office light come on. Not fixed.
More and more Doors: I still have to finish the interior door replacement project, ... started 8 months ago. Ugghhh.... It's so stinkin' booooooring and repetitive at this point. Plane, prime, paint, paint, mortise, install hinges, hang, swear, adjust, drill, and install hardware. Repeat. Repeat again.

Full disclosure, the power tool part is actually fun. 
The Incredible Slow build: The master bedroom door is primed, ready for paint. You see that nifty painting stand / door holding bench under the blanket? That's another master-level, incomplete project. It's the famed hallway organizer project, as seen in most of my workshop photos. It's stalled, two and a half years in the making.

I wish I could start over on this one, but I've put too much cash into it.
No Fence Bench: I'd like to also point your attention to  the "Economical but Beefy Miter Saw Bench" in the background of the photo above. Still no fence after 9 months,... but it works fine,... honest.

Bunch O Chunks: Of course, I have many more garbage days worth of smuggling dried cactus chunks out in the weekly trash bin. I'm only a few weeks in, but I'm being realistic; I'll still be dealing with it after Christmas.

Chunk Chuck-er
Leaky "Leaks A Lot" McLeakerton: I've been patching the leaking dip irrigation system for 10 months now. I simply have to redo the whole back yard and I know it. It hits us in the water bill and we've lost a priceless cactus.

Looooooooser. Enough. I'm embarrassed. As soon as I finish this post and spel chek it, I'm going right out to the garage and

The best laid plans...

Why is it that when you need consecutive weekends dedicated to a big project (like replacing all the doors in your house) that the rest of your house goes haywire? We've been buried with scheduled obligations lately, so the time allotted for serious weekend-warriormanship was already limited. The door project was going really well; I could see then end in sight. I was knocking one door out each weekend, no problem-o.

Then BAM! The washing-machine self destructs. Gotta drop everything and fix it. Tear down and rebuild.

Frickin' frackin' rubble bumbin' mumble mud...
...then, BAM! Just like the front yard, the irrigation system bursts in the back.  Gotta be fixed.

... then, BAM! The Pool Filter gets clogged up, right as the temperature rises. The pool turns into a swampy-green, scale model of the planet Dagobah, without the diminutive Jedi Master.  A total tear-down and rebuild is in order, with a diminutive mud-pie master.

...then, BAM! The awesome Baracuda Zodiac G3 robot pool cleaner-dude finally wears out it's rubber parts. A total tear down and, know the rest. At least I found better pricing on Amazon and saved about $150 vs. our local pool shop. Still, it's not the fun kind of tool I want to be buying parts for.

Baracuda Zodiac G3

... then, BAM! The guest bath exhaust fan gives it's death rattle. Inside, it's an unholy fossilized mess of rusted metal. Carbon-dating analysis puts it's installation in the long bygone era of 1979. I think the only thing holding it together is the rust.

This weekend's recreational activity.
I even managed to fit time in to break my shop's dust-collector while changing the bag. Enough with "BAM!" already. It's killing progress, and tearing an unwelcome, good-sized hole in our checkbook. 
What's next? 

Considering Home Depot vs. Lowes

Since I mentioned it in my disclaimer for the Ryobi Door Hinge Template review, I need to address a serious subject related to the Home Depot vs. Lowes debate. I pretty much bounce between the two home centers when I'm getting project material and have dropped a significant amount of coin at the both of them over the years. My local stores are almost across the street from each other, so it's not entirely inconvenient. Plus, they both have some exclusive product lines. Some trips simply require a stop at both.

For some reason, especially when I'm shopping alone, I find myself at Home Depot more often. I guess it's because I'm particularly interested in some of the fine material being sold out front, that can't be found at my local Lowes...

Bad Dogs, Bad Dogs, what 'cha gonna do?
I don't know if this is a nationwide phenomenon that or if it's just my local stores. Personally, I hit Bad Dogs nearly every time and grab me a tube-steak. From hot dogs, to jumbo hot dogs, Italian sausages, Polish sausages, chips, and sodas, they have a wide selection of quality DIY / renovation project fuel. (Don't forget the fixin's.)

Lowes: May I recommend a Philly Cheesesteak vendor perhaps? Nachos maybe? Get in the game!

The kids are still sleeping this morning. Maybe I should head over for some "supplies". Certainly it's too early for Ace Hardware to have the popcorn wagon going.  

DISCLAIMER: Lowes Home Improvement Warehouse could not be reached to comment on this post. I can only suspect it was because I did not even attempt contact them to discuss the subject of hot dog vendors.

Father to Son DIY skills training

Since Jack's rapidly approaching teenagerdom, it's time the lad starts picking up some mad handyman skills. My dad started letting me help with projects when I was about his age and I still remember those times fondly.

The two of us left the ladies behind and took a Friday night, before-bed trip down to grab door #4 for our interior door replacement project, this one for Jack's own room. He examined a couple from the top of the stack for dents and scratches before choosing a nice specimen from the middle of the stack.

Get those doggies rollin'
Get that doggie rollin'
He took charge of the six-wheeled beast-cart and headed out with the unmistakable din of rattling sheet metal and chattering caster wheels. He paused to treat me to some humor about what great stuff, Great Stuff is when we passed the display. Where does he get his goofball sense of humor anyway? We were having fun. Too much fun...

Folks, I'm just going to admit it; I let my guard down and paused like a slack-jawed yokel at the clearance rack. I should have known better to stop in such dangerous proximity to the kitchen section. Of course, I was immediately waylaid, out-of-the-blue by Mr.Smiling Clipboard Dude,
     "Has anyone told you about what we're doing for customers tonight?"
CRAP! Amateur move, Mr. Smarty Pants DIY Guy. NO! No one had told me what they were doing for us customers tonight. I was snared like a gazelle drinking from the crocodile pond. Somehow, he sensed I'm a nice guy (chump) and I'd pleasantly engage in his conversation. I dutifully answered the questions about our kitchen and, ever so nicely, gave point-by-point details on our state of unhappiness with our cabinets and layout. I shared the plan for a total kitchen gut and re-model next year,... yes, including plumbing,... and electrical, ... aaaand new cabinets with taller uppers,...

You're going to have to sit this one out boy. Watch the master at work.
We all know where this leads don't we? The pitch. It doesn't matter that I clearly, obviously have no reason to entertain his product; I just have to let him toss it out. But I know can still kick away from the crocodile. He's worked so hard, and I can't be rude in front of my son (or all those shiny new tools) can I? A slight pause, a friendly smile, and he lobs it:
"... consider cabinet re-facing"  Yaaaaaaaay! We're almost done...
"Free in home estimate" Woooo-hooo! Now there's only my initial polite decline <kick> and his second, face-saving counter attack ...
"...just in case you want to consider it, as an option, anyway", offered with a kindly smile and an attempt to immediately schedule the estimator. I give my trusty standby, a pleasant second decline <kick> followed without pause by a quick, simultaneous thank-you / smile /cart acceleration, and finally the inevitable third decline mumbled over my shoulder as I depart <kick-kick-kick>. Checkmate. We're gone <run>. That's how it's done folks, it's a skill acquired by years of home center visits. I'm just glad my son was there to see it. (You may want to start easy, like a quick run of the dueling Cable TV vs. Satellite TV polo-shirted gauntlet in the back of Wal-Mart. This will sharpen your skills for the pro leagues)
We did a quick checkout, strapped down...

..and slipped away, like ninjas into the night.
Sure, I could have hired a pro to extricate me from the salesman, but I did it myself and saved. You can do it too! Teach your children well.

How gun control will affect remodeling

Someone told me the government wants to take my guns. What?!!! I don't understand why more tool aficionados like myself are not concerned for their arsenal. My guns are for my home and family. I need them.

Porter Cable Finish Nail Gun
I'm told this sideways grip gives you instant street cred.
I understand there are critics with their standard, smug statements to throw around in the media. To this I reply, "Guns don't shoot nails, people shoot nails!"

"Nailed them both."
- Detective Roger Murtaugh*

This is getting out of hand. I'm also hearing the government wants to limit magazine size on my guns. What the heck do they expect me to do? reload more often?!! Ludicrous!  The magazine on my Porter-Cable FR350A Round Head 2-Inch to 3-1/2-Inch Framing Nailer holds two full clips of 3.76 mm round-head framing nails, over 60 shots. I need to fire those babies as fast as I can pull the trigger until the gun clicks dry., then I slam in another clip and keep shootin' . Are we going to let Washington bureaucratic, special-interest meddling interfere with our God given rights to shoot 3 1/2", 22º nails thorough six inches of kiln-dried, southern yellow pine studs?

Lock and Load
Another insanity: Waiting periods to buy guns. It's just stupid. With my Amazon Prime account, I order a new gun (AND a pneumatic hose to feed it) and it's sitting on my doorstep in two days, free shipping. Or, I can just stroll into a hardware store or home center and walk out with a gleaming new specimen, with the faint smell of machine oil lingering around the blow molded case. Heck, I should be able buy used guns via Craigslist without interference from The Man.

Porter Cable Framing Nailer
Cash and Carry
They're going to make me register my gun too. I guess I don't mind, but I really think it's ridiculous that I have to mail in a post-card, just so I can receive recall updates and access my warranty. I didn't factor the additional cost of a stamp in my purchase decision. It's just not right.

I hereby put out my manifesto: If an armed group of jack-booted thugs from "big brother" appears on my doorstep demanding to see my guns. BY GOD, I swear, my indignant response will be, "Sure fellas, check 'em out. Want to build some stuff with me?"

I'm pretty sure the Power Tex on the right is classified as a "launcher". They're not coming after launchers are they?
I leave you with this. The slippery slope. It's not just construction nuts that will be affected; it will get those of us that plink away remodeling on the weekends too. If they take our framing guns, next they'll come after our brad, pin, staple, caulkingpaint, hot-glue and tape guns. Where does it end? Next thing we know, we'll be forced to work on our projects using hammers,... hammers! like 19th century chumps?!!! Seriously?

Speak up folks, don't be sheep.

This post is meant to express my love tools with humor. This blog is not engaged in the firearms debate. I won't discuss it here, other than to state that I am 100% against people killing people with guns. In no way do I mean disrespect for victims of firearm violence. - John

* Quote - Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon II, 1989

Stubble: The Ultimate Power Tool

I've learned a lot from the DIY type shows on TV. There's one power tool all the guys use that just gets the job the heck done. I've had the pleasure to sample and to master it on my own projects. Of course, it's stubble. The ole' five o'clock shadow isn’t quite enough to pull it off; you need a professional-grade semi-beard to achieve success in today's demanding renovation projects.

AZ DIY Guy w/ full stubble and kung fu grip
AZ DIY Guy with full stubble & kung-fu action grip

I support my claim with first-hand experience. Over many trials, I have broken my weekend projects into meaningful data. Then it's a simple analysis of mathematics and production.  I have found that I complete 80% of my weekend projects on Sunday, with a healthy two-day stubble. Normally, by Saturday, I'm only halfway through my planned weekend projects, naturally due to the mere overnight dusting of a single-day's chin whiskery on my mug. Coincidence? I think not. Conversely, if I had to appear somewhere on Saturday as a clean-shaven gentleman about town, my weekend projects tended to suffer, when starting fresh on Sunday. It's almost as if I lost a day's work, just because I am elsewhere half the time, in a semi-smooth faced condition.

Stubble actually enhances the brain's neurological problem-solving center. Men are subconsciously trained from birth that a good scratch of the stubble* sends a blast of mental adrenalin to quickly devise an appropriate solution. This knowledge is reason that generations of cartoons have portrayed countless legions of idiots and feeble-minded morons as fools, scratching the top of their heads. They are so stupid that they are scratching the completely wrong side of their head!

Wouldn't you prefer to see your hired electrician silently rubbing his stubbled chin, as he assesses the complexities of your electrical service panel, using his knowing, steely gaze, rather than a smooth-chinned, slack-jawed yokel, scratching his unkempt hair, poking at the panel, glassy-eyed, with a bent twig, "duuuuuuuhhhh...."?

* A proper stubble scratch should be performed with a loose fist-like gesture, palm downward with a good, slow thumb and index finger stroking motion. Additionally, at no time should a single-sided, multi-finger rapid scratch be used. It just looks like a hound trying to dislodge a chigger, and is clearly beneath the status of any true tool-wielding craftsman.

Do you really think you can handle an 18 volt reciprocating-saw, with a heavy demolition blade, while perched smooth-faced and daintily on your eggshell-white step stool, in your khaki Dockers and a Polo shirt? Or are you going to get your grizzle-jawed self up a 8 foot, class III ladder in your Carhartt's and rip through a nail encrusted wall in a shower of sparks, drywall, and burning sawdust? Damn right you are! Confidence man!

The Research.
You don't have to trust my experience. Again, look to the cable TV renovation expert dudes. Nine times out of ten, they're sporting a good, perfectly-maintained stubble. Would the homeowners even trust them to touch their home otherwise?

There's that Property Brothers show where the twin brothers find and fix up a house for a young couple that can't afford to buy what they want outright. One is smooth-ish faced, the other measurably scruffier. Can you guess which one is the realtor and which one knows how to sledgehammer out a non-load bearing wall and create a high-end commercial kitchen out of a musty coat closet full of dead mice?

Pop Quiz: Which one is the Realtor and which one can jackhammer the floor out of a basement?
Hint: Compare the area between their ears and their collars.
The real rock stars of the craft sport old school, full-time facial trophies. I'm talking about Tom Silva, Roger Cook, and Norm Abrams of This Old House. Heck, they don't even comb their hair on the jobsite, they're too busy kicking old house ass with their full beard and / or moustache. But this is about what an everyman can accomplish, not a deity of the construction realms.

Even fictional Hollywood handymen follow the rule. Why do you think clean shaven Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor's projects so rapidly imploded into chaos, while the Al Borland shook his head knowingly, luxuriating in his Bob Vila beard?

The only guys that can pull off a smooth face reno without being laughed off the project seem to have decided to go spear bald. I haven't figured it out yet, but the chrome dome look seems to share some of the same powers as the stubble. I'm not yet willing to do any personal experimentation on this aspect.

I further recognize that the cadre of female cable TV fix-it-up experts don't go the facial stubble route, but they seem to finish their work admirably well regardless. I can only surmise by the evidence I can gather from my observations that this is accomplished through one of two methods.

  1. The use of tousle-haired meathead sidekick carpenter that seems to change every few episodes. These guys are each outfitted complete with stubble, an empty leather tool belt, nail guns and a sliding-compound miter saw.
  2. The too-tight, V-neck lady T-shirt. You know, the one with the weirdly too short sleeves. I don't understand the science, but there seems to some commonality to their garb on these shows. I suspect that it is the female version of man-stubble and should be attributed the same way to their success. They can't reasonably pull off a successful chin-scratch power move, but there seems to be a maneuver involving the position of the camera in relation to a quick hint of cleavage whilst circular sawing or shooting a nail gun. I truly think it's the tasteful use of boob-age that does the trick. I haven't put it to the test myself because I simply get good results by letting my facial hair grow out a couple days; I don't see the need to work dressed in a too-tight, V-neck lady T-shirt, plus I look terrible in pastels.
The stubble, employed properly is one of the most economical additions you can use in your shop or work site. The cost is not too overly bad and compares very favorably against power tools equipped with laser targeting. The cost consist of:
  1. The pain of carving it off your face Monday morning as well as the price of blades. 
  2. The uninitiated simply don't realize the toll stubble takes on your wardrobe. The 60 grit sandpaper on your neck tears the heck out of the collar of an otherwise serviceable flannel work shirt.
  3. The degraded feeling you get when you see that baby-smooth chin in the mirror, your cheeks flush with razor burn and your fresh shaven whiskers laying in the sink, their power ebbing back to the cosmos.
An added value is the pure entertainment and quality time you can have with your kids each week as you purposefully and creatively shave ever larger amounts off and pause to pose for their momentary admiration. One can share the enjoyment of the various forms of the goatee, pork-chop sideburns, and the handlebar mustache before moving to the ever-popular "molester" pencil moustache, the "Hitler" tooth-brush looking thingy under your nose, or whatever various artistic free-form oddities your mind can create. Caution: For some unknown reason, wives don't seem to appreciate this benefit. Why an eye roll is necessary when their loving husband struts around the house for a few minutes with a good ole' Hitler mustache, I just don't know.

I believe the addition of good quality man stubble to your toolbox will improve your work quality and productivity. Give it a try. If all you can pull off is a peach fuzz, or a mangy cat look , perhaps try the chrome dome or the too tight, V-neck lady T-shirt method.

Then again, there is an exception to every rule.

So I Married A Craft Blogger<UPDATE> Stop the presses! This manly, manly post won the coveted "Manliest link up so far to Man Up Link Up." award over at So I Married A Craft Blogger. Check his site out, a Man's view of the world of craft blogging.