Odd jobs? Or, jobs done oddly?

IMG_1385Anyone familiar with my recent post “Measure twice, cut once” knows that, when it comes to using hand tools, I’m more inept than adept. Hold that thought, as you read on.

Owning a home means that, from time to time, one encounters various things that require repair. As the building ages, opportunities to carry out “odd jobs,” playing Ms. or Mr. Fix-It grow exponentially.

I believe there are categories of home repair which the layperson ought to be leery about – even if s/he can find myriad online “how-to” videos on the topic. These include structural repairs, electrical work and extensive plumbing work. It is also important to recognize the limits of the kinds of projects that can be undertaken with the tools one owns. Happily, this leaves wide-open fields of endeavor for the willing amateur. In my case, we’re talking about woodworking.

I just completed a long-needed home repair that demonstrates both my abilities, and my limitations. When my house was built, its builders threw together the ceiling hatch to the garage attic: scrap lumber was stapled around a hole cut in the ceiling, forming a frame. This supported a hatch that was rough-cut from a piece of drywall. The result wasn’t fancy, but it provided a serviceable entryway to the attic.

Now, about the impact of an aging building. Through time, use of the ceiling hatch loosened the light staples binding the wooden pieces, which no longer performed their intended function. In other words, there were times when the hatch itself threatened to fall onto an unsuspecting person!

I decided to replace the hatch and its retaining frame with more robust materials. I purchased a length of trim piece for the frame, a lightweight sheet for the hatch itself, and handles to make it easier to remove and replace the new hatch. All I needed to do was cut and paint the wood, after which I’d assemble the project. Simple, eh?

(This is where you call to mind my “expertise” with hand tools. Got it?)

The above photo shows how everything turned out. My (multiple) attempts at mitering the corners of the frame were not impressive; the poor condition of the ceiling drywall surrounding the hatch opening made it devilishly difficult to get drywall screws to “bite” into the ceiling. I ended up using way more screws than anticipated, screwing them into the roof joists. Despite the care I took in cutting the frame pieces, there’s an obvious gap in one corner. Sigh . . .

In the final analysis, I ended up with a hatchway that was safer than the original, one that I’m confident will withstand the use to which it is put.

.Naturally, I think the paint job looks particularly nice.


Ungroup rules – without rules!

IMG_1352Many people would assert that having a beer-drinking group is an unusual, perhaps impermissible function for a church. I beg to disagree. Permit me to describe the origins and utility of what’s happened in this regard in my church.

Anyone familiar with typical religious institutions, regardless of their name of affiliation, knows that committees and task forces are created to address specific needs or to serve defined purposes. The majority of these entities disband after the situation for which they are formed is dealt with, while others are long-lived.

My church is no exception to this practice. Recently a committee was formed to explore options and budget for repairing the roof; it disbanded once the work was completed. By the same token, a long time ago people banded together to knit blankets that are holiday gifts for those in need. This work is ongoing.

From the aforementioned, the idea of there being a church group that exists neither to tackle a short-term project, nor with a long-term raison d’etre makes it an odd duck. Or, if you will, a Seinfeld-esque activity that is about “nothing.”

A few years ago a bunch of us friends hit upon the idea of getting together to drink beer and talk about any topic that came up. We decided to call ourselves “Ungroup” by way of announcing that we have no agenda, no particular outcome in mind and certainly no idea how long we’ll continue to meet.

The result has been an immensely enjoyable past time, one that offers like-minded people – not only men – to gather and shoot the breeze. We meet on Thursday evenings every couple of weeks, and of course the meetings are printed in the Sunday bulletin. The number of participants varies according to the members’ availability but generally at least a half dozen are able to attend. Sure, Ungroup provides the opportunity to catch up on family news, but it isn’t unusual for timely topics to be discussed, albeit in an unscripted way.

Is this enterprise earthshaking? Nope. But it does illustrate how not everything that goes on in a church is, by its nature, stultifying!


Re-modeling – Part 2


After a brief hiatus I’ve advanced the prep work for my World War II Reichpost delivery truck. I bought an aftermarket kit with new doors and a plethora of interior parts. The photo above illustrates a task that demanded a lot of time. Using my trusty X-Acto knife, I carefully cut out the doors molded as part of the cab, in order to replace them with the replacement doors shown. I’m happy to say that the aftermarket doors are a perfect fit for the cab frame.


The focal point for my diorama will be a group of American soldiers rummaging through the abandoned Reichpost vehicle. That made it necessary to create the items the G.I.s would be pawing through. The penny shows the scale of the mailbags, envelopes and packages I made. The pattern for the mailbags was available online, so I was able to replicate what was printed on them. Doing stuff like this sounds nutty to some readers, but my intention is to end up with a detailed, plausible historical scene.


I’ve also started painting the parts for the troops. As you can see, many of them are rather tiny. The scene I envision demands that the soldiers be assembled differently from the instructions. That will require a number of modifications, but I look forward to it.

I hope you will continue to follow what I believe will be an interesting topic for my blog. Thanks!

“Measure twice, cut once”

IMG_1303I know the “Woodworker’s Mantra” as well as anyone that’s ever picked up a saw. No doubt there is an equivalent for when it comes to using a drill, or other tool, for that matter.

The above photo is emblematic of my checkered history of using tools. I did measure twice before drilling the new tent ridgepole I made. Despite the care I took, the hole for inserting one of the end poles in the ridgepole ended up . . . sorta . . . out of kilter. What you don’t know is, I trimmed 1.5″ from the ridgepole and gave it another try – with the same result!

I could blame this on my lack of the proper tool for the simple task of drilling straight through a piece of wood. I can’t afford to purchase a drill press for my occasional need to do this. Yes, I may have a friend that owns a press but to use it would require arranging a time to meet, driving to her or his house to accomplish a minute’s-worth of work then driving back home. Bleh.

How to deal philosophically with situations like this? Perhaps the phrase that fits is: “making do.” Of course, “making do” has negative connotations, like when you’re forced to find a poor substitute for something else, or having to accept a makeshift solution to a problem. It means you’re putting up with a result that leaves you feeling unsatisfied or disappointed.


It may sound polyannish but there have been countless instances in my own life when making do worked out. That includes the example cited in this blog: the end pole peg fits the cruddy hole I drilled into ridgepole just fine. So, am I settling for less than perfection? You better believe it. But darned if I’ll lose sleep over it!

What do you think?