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Stupid Home Improvement Tricks and Other Things We Have Done and Hoped No One Was Looking

Several times a year, home improvement editors and trade magazine editors travel to see new products, tools and etc. Now some of the time we spend traveling together to meals and activities, and this gives us a chance to talk shop. (This is what we tell our employers anyway.) Actually we talk about the things we never get to write about, usually involving the stupid things we have done, tools that were absolutely terrible and how certain editors enjoy being sucked up to.   The best conversations are the crazy things that at some point in our lives we have done and survived, albeit sometimes with scarring involved.

I want to hear your stories and you know you have them. Photos are even better and even video I will try and accommodate.  I am sure many of you have seen the video of the guy using a finish nailer to pierce his ear.

I will start this gig off with a few of mine.

Safety First!

This was a  few years ago.  I was reviewing outdoor power tools for the magazine or website. One company I wanted to include and made arrangements to test its products.  After we had set that up, the question was asked to me regarding my safety gear.  I may have fudged a little and said sure, I have gloves and glasses. I was informed that in order to test its products I would be required to don the safety gear that this particular company also made. I agreed. Keep in mind, a very well known and respected company, safe to say the leader in its field.

The laughter from my family when I began pulling out the different clothing and gear from the boxes led to a crowd of neighbors coming over to see what the fuss was about.  My pastor told me that the fluorescent orange chaps were so ugly the  photos could double as an effective means of birth control. That was mean, real mean of him to say.  Now couple this with the fluorescent orange safety shirt, the glasses and the white gloves with matching fluorescent orange cuffs and you have the picture.

The chain saw shoot went without a hitch. Did I mention, polyester material makes a very nice sauna suit when it’s hot outside.  So we move forward to the pole saw project.  A dangerous limb needed to be removed that was  hanging over the house.  So I climb on top of the roof and begin to cut away at the limb. Now picture someone dressed as “The Great Pumpkin” standing atop a roof with a chainsaw on the end of a 10 foot pole and you have the picture. After a few minutes I smell something burning, something like plastic melting. I continue cutting thinking that the smell is from the newness of the motor and its heating up under hard use.

In another minute, I feel like the side of my stomach is getting warm, really warm. Then I see smoke. I look down and realize the motor’s exhaust pipe has ignited my fluorescent orange safety shirt. Now I am on the roof, precariously dancing while trying to turn the motor off, lay the brand new pole saw down as we had to send it back to the factory after this and returning a burned up tool does not win one favors in this industry, and if I accomplished these tasks, putting the fire out would be a good idea too. Now imagine doing all of this on the pitch of a roof.  I have seen spinner baits that did not have this much action going on at the same time.

So what did we learn from this? Never, ever make safety gear out of plastic material that melts. When the safety gear creates a new hazard, it’s not safe.  And if you are going to require reviewers to wear your gear, make d&* sure it has been put through its paces beforehand. Now the best part of this story, my photographer was laughing so hard no pictures were taken.

Alternative Uses of Tools or Manufacturers Cannot Think of Enough Things To Tell Us Not To Do With Their Tools

As a child, my dad acquired a chainsaw motor to power a go cart for me.  One of the neighbors had gotten one for his birthday, a brand new one with a Briggs&Stratton 3 Horsepower on it.  Dad had found a frame somewhere and was going to attach a 12 HP commercial chainsaw motor to mine. Now in 1967,  a 12 hp chainsaw motor was the size of a VW engine. It was huge.  Our plans were intercepted by the Neighborhood Noise Nazi committee chaired by none other than my mom and to this day, I still have that yellow beast of a motor waiting to be mounted onto something that will go insanely fast.  Dad was a naval engineer and took great pride in using tools for anything other than their intended purpose. A gene he passed on to his only son and namesake.

July Fourth week 2009, a dishwasher supply line was chewed in to by a mouse, and it made a real mess at the lake house. My bedroom lies underneath the kitchen on the bottom floor.  When I went downstairs I discovered the room’s ceiling had fallen and was now on my bed.  After a day of cleaning up, drying out and taking out ruined furniture, linens etc, the long process of repair began.  I installed a vapor barrier of clear plastic on the ceiling joist, which in the initial stages kept the constant dripping off of me but now would serve as additional protection before attaching drywall again.

The following week, I had begun to make repairs. I was in the process of installing wainscoting and making good progress.  One of the tools I was using was my finish nailer. And no I didn’t pierce my ear with it.  But around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning I heard a pitter patter sound. At first I ignored it, but it continued. I looked up and there walking around on the plastic was a mouse.  I reached over and grabbed my finish nailer and what followed would have been great viral video for YouTube.  That mouse is probably still in therapy trying to overcome the issues.  (No Mice were injured in the creation of this story, However I do expect to get e-mail from the Society to Protect Vapor Barriers from Nail Gun Wielding Terrorists.)

The next morning as I was getting dressed I looked up and saw what appeared to be the bottom side of a pin cushion.  There were finishing nails embedded in plastic all over that ceiling.  So much for my vapor barrier.

What did I learn from this. Always select the proper gun for the prey you seek. I should have opted for the framer(more power) or even the roofing nailer(Larger head Size).

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