A Veritable Almanac!
What do you do when you just don’t have any tools at hand to do those odd little jobs around the house?
First of all, “all is not lost” it’s very surprising the unlikeliest thing can be adequately employed to meet the needs of our depleted tool kit.
1.Hammer – these come in a variety of sizes from small ineffectual “Toffee” hammers to industrial “Sledge” hammers.
What can you use instead?
First of all ask yourself what’s the nature of the job?
If you simply need to coax a stubborn drawing pin into a plaster wall and your thumb is getting sore – try a saucepan this is a tremendous asset to anyone’s tool kit, and I keep several sizes in my homemade tool bag (to be discussed later) for drawing pins, a small to medium sized saucepan should fit the bill. Don’t hold back because of the unavoidable din, your neighbours probably deserve it. The essential technique here is to just ease the drawing pin into the corner of your much loved poster to enable you to leave both hands free and to get a two handed grip on the saucepan handle. Think of it as if you were wielding a cricket bat or a golf club.
Incidentally may I digress for a moment and say that a cricket bat or a golf club inherently makes a very good hammer substitute. I have a number nine iron in my tool bag this very moment as I speak!
Now then, line-up, using the naked eye the centre of the drawing pin with the centre of the saucepan and whack the drawing pin with gusto and vim and the large surface area of the saucepan usually ensures that you hit the drawing pin with first blow, and a couple of dozen further blows ensures a good sound job. In general It’s a good idea to set up a rhythm when hammering anything, one two three “THWACK!” One two three “THWACK!” etc. this gives an added satisfaction that is hard to describe. I like to hammer to the Charge of the Light Cavalry by Franz Von Suppe it’s in 6/8 time and allows you to get six blows per bar if you practice.
Now classical music is not everyone’s cup of tea so an alternative music selection might be Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” This for the steady workman who likes to work at a slower more deliberate pace.
To conclude a certain word of caution I once demolished a partitioning wall in my exuberant hammering to such stirring music as “The Thunder and Lightning Polka” by Strauss and you have to remember that hanging a poster on the bedroom wall is our objective here.
Subtlety is our catchphrase when hammering anything and should always be foremost in your mind. Knowing when to create an almighty infernal uproar is a delicate art form that few manage to master in their lifetime.
Classical Music to Hammer To:-
(a) Charge of the Light Cavalry by Von Suppe (absolute excitement guaranteed)
(b) Charge of the Bleeding Heavy Cavalry by Von Suppe (played twice the speed)
(c) The Humungous Cacophony of the Horse Guards by Von Suppe
(d) Thunder and Lightning Polka by Johannes Strauss (Unbelievable!)
(e) 1812 Overture by Peter Tchaikovsky (complete with canons)
(f) The Harmonious Blacksmith by Handel (Infectious)
(g) The Furious Blacksmith by Handel (with real hammers)
(h) Can-can by Offenbach (Caution don’t watch the film version of this!)
Popular Music to Hammer To:-
(a) War Pigs by Black Sabbath (Slow deliberate but leisurely hammering)
(b) Sabre Dance by Love Sculpture (Advanced hammering Virtuosic)
(c) Anything by M.C. Hammer (For all you rapper/hammerers out there)
(d) The Stripper by David Rose (Nice sleazy Hammering possible very erotic!)
(e) Paranoid by Black Sabbath (You’ll re-felt a shed roof in no time!)
(f) The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson (Frantic light toffee hammerings!)
(g) The Devil’s Gallop by Charles Williams (Sporadic and lively!)
I welcome further suggestions to this important topic!
2.Large Ruler or Straight Edge
I can envisage many would be DIY enthusiasts frantically searching around for a ruler to use as a guide to cut that bedroom wall poster to size, I’ve done it myself many times.
“Where did I put that flipping ruler?”
After turning the house upside down and emptying sock drawers in the bedroom, cutlery drawers in the kitchen – I searched the loft twice and I haven’t been up there in years – do you think I could find one of the half-dozen or so metre long straight edge rulers I know for a fact that I possess (one of which I’d bought new only yesterday) anywhere?
You’re right in your assumption reader!
As I regained my composure in the kitchen I couldn’t help noticing through the window overlooking the garden a wooden line-prop holding up a weeks’ worth of washing. This was a stroke of genius – I must add this to my improvised toolkit immediately!
I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find this last minute inspiration; I could use this makeshift quasi-straight-edge for projects up to 3 metres or so in length. There are not many DIY enthusiasts who can boast of a 3 metre ruler in their makeshift tool bag (to be discussed later) I can be fairly confident in this assurance as well. For years I’ve been dabbling in wood working projects (some of them not my own) and not once in all those years of dabbling, have I ever seen a 3 metre rule in their tool bags (to be discussed later) so this humble line-prop come quasi-straight-edge could be a prestige tool for your vastly expanding toolkit. I imagine in years to come that it will be a family heirloom to be passed down from father to son (or father to daughter for that matter I’m not a stuffy traditionalist – thank goodness!)
I customised my line-prop and marked three roughly equidistant points on the prop at approximate one metre lengths, using my home made elasticated measuring tape (see later). If you are an old fashioned DIY fanatic like me and love imperial measurements like yards and inches and fathoms and miles then in order to bring myself in juxtaposition with metric weights and measures I use the following rule of thumb:-
“One foreign Metre equals 39 good old British or American inches”
If you’re passing your toolkit on as a heirloom then customise your tools, I painted a realistic snake’s head onto my line-prop and it’s a great ruse to frighten people with on those occasions when you just can’t be bothered to do any carpentry, cabinet making or picture poster hanging, yes it happens, sometimes I need to let off steam. A change is as good as a rest! I’ve managed to frighten people with it on the second floor of many buildings with great ease.
Back to the poster trimming – place your snake’s head line-prop along the longest edge of your picture poster don’t let any warping put you off, because it helps to make your picture posters unique and artistic and in any case you can tell any critics that it was deliberately meant to look like that! In any case “bugger” the critics. Then mark a line with a large red wax crayon along the poster’s entire length. If you cannot find a large red wax crayon then you may have to use a wax crayon substitute such as a household candle and some cochineal to add a dash of colour.
See “Make Your Own Red Wax Crayons”
If you make a very good job of painting your line-prop with a snake’s head like I did, then inevitably you’ll get hundreds of enquiries from people wanting one just like it I know I did, unfortunately I hadn’t any wood to make the line-props from scratch so hit on the idea of buying them ready made and then just painting them to suit as per the customers’ requirements. The line props were cheaper than the wood I would have had to buy in the first place to make my own from scratch.
I did a special line in pink snakes to attract the female customers and as a test on its selling viability; I showed it to the girl next door. That was the first and last time I did a horrendous blunder like that. My beautiful pink snake was rendered to a much shortened, splinted mess and no longer fit for purpose.
I’m pretty sure there was once a school poem we sang about this it was something like:-
Dirty Dick had a 9 foot Stick
And he showed it to the girl next door
She thought it was a snake and
Hit it with a rake and
Now it’s only five feet four
You are now ready for trimming your Picture Poster.
3.Trimming Tools –the sensible tool of choice would be a large pair of wall-paper scissors, however save these for trimming your toenails. I have used nail scissors to great effect in the past it takes a little longer (on average 3 hours) but some very good unintentional perforated edges can be made using nail scissors due to their small blade length (I think the ones I acquired from a dubious source were a quarter of an inch in length. Try to keep within the red wax crayon mark, make sure you don’t wander outside the red line, and take plenty of breaks with a flask of tea or coffee at hand.
Other makeshift trimming tool candidates could be:-
(a) Garden Shears (for a rapid solution)
(b) Scimitar (for a dangerous cut)
(c) Rapier (not suitable unless your deft with it)
(d) Broken bottle (lager bottles are good)
(e) Lawn mower blades (I’m willing to learn)
(f) Bic Safety Razor (Terribly tedious and almost ineffectual)
(g) Garden Shredder (The Ultimate DIY Solution)
(h) Nail Scissors (The tool of choice)
You know, if you do have a mishap, and it sometimes happens even to seasoned professional DIY practitioners like me. Then simply scrap your poster, just put it through a garden shredder and recycle. I can’t emphasis recycling enough, nothing need ever be a failure. Everything is a success under my scheme. So remember the three Rs:-
“Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!”
To quote my old Grandpa who’s even older than me:-
“Don’t think you’re the only one who never makes mistakes, because anyone who never made a mistake never learned anything not now, not never about anything!”
Good old illiterate Grandpa!
4.Glue – not everyone has access to an abundant supply of glue (we’re not all made of money you know!) However I don’t know any carpenter worth his salt who hasn’t got access to a jar of jam or a bag of self-raising-flour in their kitchen cupboard. Unless you are a tramp or Old Mother Hubbard! (Apologies to any tramps who are reading this or indeed Old Mother Hubbard!) You have to be very astute using jam as a glue substitute, to avoid wasps in particular, if you’re thinking of using jam to affix your toupee or hairpiece to your head then wasps become an absolute nightmare. I wouldn’t recommend jam in this case. Marmite is a very good wasp deterrent so this may be substituted instead. Wasps hate it; they’ll avoid you like the plague. You’ll also be immune to transient attention from “Head-Lickers” your head will be immune from being licked for at least six months afterwards though I would recommend regluing after 3 months to stop renewed attention from wasps, particularly from late August to September when they’re more prevalent, I’m not sure whether Head Lickers are a seasonal or all year round nuisance.
Flour and water is an absolute boon as a glue substitute just mix with water and “Hey presto!” This glue is so versatile did you know you can also make pastry with it.
When using your glue substitute for temporarily fixing your poster into the frame if using jam avoid using the fruitier ones such as plum and strawberry, they play havoc when trying to keep your toupee flat.
(a) Jam (Glue with abandon if a wasp lover, or caution if you hate wasps!)
(b) Plain Flour (Substitute of choice very versatile!)
(c) Self-Raising Flour (May cause unexpected lifting of toupees and hairpieces!)
(d) Granary Flour Coarse Ground (Alright as a filler!)
(e) Plum Jam (Nightmare trying to keep toupees flat!)
5.Home Made Measuring Tape - Unravel a couple of yards of not too worn knicker elastic (please get permission first) and you have the basis of a very versatile measuring tape. From two yards of elastic two self-adjusting one yard measuring tapes can be made. With your home made wax crayon selected from your tool bag (to be discussed later) mark off the important points on the tape basically put start at one end and end at the other end. Test the accuracy of the length against your own stride length, which should be precisely one yard or 36 inches (no cheating).
On the Continent they have longer legs and their stride is 39 inches they call their yard a metre to be awkward, but don’t let this bureaucracy put you off your stride. You can have your own dynamic measuring system with an elastic tape measure which by a little judicious tweak here and there can accommodate any discrepancy between yards and metres by a little stretch on the old elastic. Shop keepers love these elastic tape measures particularly with Weights and Measure Inspectors constantly poking their noses in.
All the laws are within the bounds of Young’s Law of Elasticity though I’m not sure whether Young’s law applies to knicker elastic, I don’t believe he was thinking along those lines at the time – but I do keep an open mind.
6.Wax Crayon Making
Candles are the prime ingredient here all my wax crayons are 90% candle after removing the wick. Save the wicks for making candles later. If you do decide on making candles from red wax crayons then just reverse the process I describe here, both candle and crayon are interchangeable processes. I’m working on a secret process at the moment of a hybrid candle/wax crayon, a dual purpose self-illuminating wax crayon that will ease marking out in poorly lit conditions. Particularly for locating and marking leaks on hard to find gas pipes.
You need a mould for the crayon and what better than the aesthetic shape of a candle to use to make our crayon mould.
To make the mould reach for a bag of flour and make a thick paste and encase your candle in that mixture. Now comes the clever bit bake the whole candle and mould in a medium hot oven. The flour and water dough will harden as the candle itself melts and make sure you have a tray to catch the molten candle wax underneath. This will leave the hollow shell of your finished red wax crayon mould ready to be filled with molten candle wax. If you’re quick you should be able to use the already molten candle wax from the bottom tray to refill your pastry crayon mould after stirring in some (probably of the order 10,000,000) cochineal insects to the molten wax. Thinking hard about this now, why not put the cochineal into the bottom of the drip-tray, neat idea eh?
Note: I’m not sure of the ratio of cochineal insects to molten candle wax to use but it must be an awful lot!
Wait a good half hour before testing your wax crayon out. I suggest getting a book on calligraphy to hone your writing skills with it.
I hope you find this a useful addition to your homemade tool bag (to be discussed later)
7.Wood Supplies - I now use line-props instead of wood and buy them in bulk and find this far more economical than buying wood. I can still satisfy all my wood working project needs by utilising reclaimed line-props. When constructing a wooden toothpick recently I had enough wood shavings left over to make 50 compressed wooden bricks for my wood burning stove.
I’ve recently hit on an ingenious idea – I’m using reverse engineering on my compressed wood shaving blocks to make toothpicks and matches to sell to the Chinese. I can make a thousand matches or five hundred toothpicks from each compressed block!
The matches I dip in my cochineal mixture instead of sulphur as I can’t afford gun powder to make genuine matches. They look very realistic indeed. You’d think it was a real match from a distance. You can only tell it’s not a real match if you manage to light one.
I’ve recently bought a job lot of wooden cannon balls from the Local Heraldry Club and I’ve been racking my brains thinking of ways of making a small profit from them. The secretary of the club said they were too light to be of any use in a realistic mock battle. The event takes place every year and he said that two people he’d killed with them didn’t look gruesome enough. He agreed that he’d manage to kill them but he would have preferred to knock their heads clean off their shoulders to “wow” the crowd, and the current cannon balls were just not heavy enough. So he gave me his entire stock.
My problem of what to do with four score wooden cannon balls was solved somewhat when a request came for some realistic wooden coconuts from the Vicar of our local parish, St Cuthbert’s Church. He was having a coconut shy attraction at the forth coming fete but didn’t want to use real coconuts as that would damage them and make them inedible. The upshot was that he asked if I could make him half a dozen wooden coconuts instead and two dozen hard wooden balls to throw at them.
It would require that the outer diameter of the cannon balls be reduced considerably to the diameter of a coconut, and reduced substantially more for the wooden balls.
I set to my task religiously as the Vicar no doubt sets about his tasks, and managed to whittle one down with a reground potato peeler to the required diameter of the wooden ball, it took 100 hours of painstaking ball breaking work. Each fake coconut is going to cost the vicar a fortune, each one takes 50 man hours to make, the wooden balls take a lot longer. In fact I’m getting fed up of the long and arduous work it’s very tedious gluing countless bristly hairs on to the reshaped cannonball coconuts that I’ve plucked from broom heads with plum jam.
Each fake coconut’s going to cost him £50 and the wooden balls a lot more than that, but he says he doesn’t care the money’s coming out of the church roof fund and he’ll screw the parishioners for all the money he can when the collection plate is handed around, he said he’ll tell them it’s for a good cause.
I’ve only made one fake coconut and two wooden balls so far and the Vicar’s getting impatient, he threatened to cancel the agreement he’d arranged with me if I didn’t have the cannonballs to finish the job.
As always something turns up to help me along the way, my local green grocer suggested I bulk buy his out of date coconuts he’d got in his shop that he was passing on to his unsuspecting customers. I could have them quite cheaply. This was a fabulous result, all I had to do was to make the coconuts look like well-made fake coconuts, and the unsuspecting Vicar would be duped into thinking they were fake coconuts and not real coconuts at all.
I managed to complete my task for the pending fete and the Vicar was over the moon he ordered a peel of bells in my honour on the following Sunday and duly paid me the £1000 pounds I’d requested for my efforts. He said don’t worry about the money he’d won it on the horses by gambling that week’s collection plate money.
The unfortunate upshot of all this is, the Vicar of St Cuthbert’s got the real coconuts mixed up with the fake ones and it was nigh impossible to tell which was which. However he still managed to raise £50.00 pounds for the church roof collection.
So I suppose the moral is like eggs, don’t put all your coconuts into one basket.
I have a great interest in birds and a large section of the site will be devoted to encouraging birds into the garden and some woodworking projects on how to make bird boxes to attract the species like the Great Tit and Blue Tit.