My dear old Dad is a whizz at DIY. Full of maxims like “measure once, cut twice”, and “always take two nails: one to lose, one to use”, and other useful bon mots. He can install a blind, hang some shelves, plane a door and gale-proof a washing line in the time it takes me to get the cover off a new pair of scissors. There are sheds full of power tools at his house, more than one ladder (and they all have their steps) and not only does he have a workbench, he knows how to clamp things to it.
All the marks of a man who knows his way around a DIY shop. Or is planning on becoming the new Dexter.
And this kind of nonchalance in the face of differently-sized spanners can also be found in my sister – a woman who used to have a Saturday job at a local mechanics and once studied engineering. She also installs blinds without turning a hair, but she does it whilst juggling a baby on her hip, a small boy round her feet and a husband hopping from one foot to the other saying “is it done yet?”
However, I do not have it. And until last year, my lack of it was not something I ever needed to worry about. I am a dab, if slapdash, hand with the paintbrush and roller. There are few things that can’t be hung without the aid of nothing more than No More Nails glue and enough time for it to settle. I purchased a band new shiny hammer and set of screwdrivers, bandied around the words “flathead” and “philips” with the laissez-faire attitude of someone who used them all the time. Managed to score a free tape measure from a forgetful workman. Added to my growing tools collection with a set of rawl plugs and a wee hacksaw.
My Dad laughed when he saw that. Fit for nothing but sawing up moonbeams apparently. I scowled and added secret revenge orange zest to the syrup sponge pudding (he hates orange zest but would climb over his own kids – and has – for a syrup sponge pudding). And then I embarked on my first big furniture renovation job, for I needed a table of my own: one where I could sit and stitch or work on my AMA or pretend to be a writer. Virginia Woolf was mostly right but what a woman really needs is a table of one’s own.
So I found one. With two drawers, in a nasty varnished shade of brown, with a missing top. No probs, I thought: paint it up, stick a bit of MDF on the top, paint that, job’s a good ‘un. So I set to. Eschewing the need to sand before painting (clearly only sissies prepare the surface first), I diligently applied four coats of emulsion, less diligently around the hard to reach areas, letting it dry to merely tacky before applying the next coat. With the forgotten-tape-measure, I took measurements, headed off to the local DIY place and asked for a sheet of MDF slightly larger than my measurements. Seems that my measurements were even more slightly larger than the table, for when I got it home, it overhung on one side by about 8 inches. No probs, I thought with the cheery desperation of the paint-fume-befuddled; some NMN glue to stick it down, let it set overnight and tomorrow I shall use my new wee hacksaw to take off that overhang.
I went to bed and slept the sleep of the slightly-intoxicated.
The next day, I brought out Wee Hacksaw and explained that it’s moment was now: I had marked an only slightly wobbly line where it was to cut, the MDF was not thick, we had a good 10 minutes before I got bored and wandered off to find something more fun to do. So Wee Hacksaw and I set about it with the gusto of the recently caffeinated. For 7 minutes. At which point Wee Hacksaw got himself stuck. Stucker than a stuck pig. Stucker than the stuckiest thing in a stucky puddle of stuck stuff. He could move neither forwards, nor backwards, nor up, down, sideways or through time.
I went off in search of cake and a solution. I think the gingerbread must have special inspirational properties, for it hit me as I picked up crumbs from the plate with my finger. Heading back upstairs, I grabbed my shiny hammer and a small flat headed screwdriver. Perforations! Oh yes, I would create a series of small perforations along the slightly wobbly line and then lean against the edge of the spare 8 inches until it gave in like a reluctant cheque from my cheque book. Perforations like this, in fact:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Has to be said that the perforations were highly successful in that the MDF did indeed snap along the line of them. However, they did not snap tidily. Nobody had warned me that MDF is basically pulped fluffy stuff on the inside, and that when you snap it, you end up with an edge not dissimilar to the fraying hem of a woolly jumper. Still, a bit of lateral thinking, some nifty use of vintage wrapping paper and some PVA, and I have a lovely white table with a pretty paper border all round the outside.
The fecking drawers won’t fit in. It seems that four coats of emulsion on the INSIDE of the drawer spaces will take up valuable drawer fitting space.
I have not told my Dad about Wee Hacksaw and the perforations. I’m certainly not telling him about the stuck-halfway-in drawers. I am thinking that the hammer might be deployed to make them to just bastard-well GET IN and then I never need to open them again.
I am also thinking that all this lateral thinking calls for a beer.