Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Am A Frustrated Handyman

I Am A Frustrated Handyman

by Ed Tinkertoy on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 2:23pm

I am a frustrated handyman because I don’t have anything to fix, plus I don’t’ feel like fixing stuff any more. I know that sounds kinda crazy but let me explain.

I have always been handy with tools like saws and hammers, and “T” squares, and levels. I don’t know where I acquired all my carpentry skills except maybe by watching other folks work. My grand father had a huge toolbox on the front porch of his house, about the size of a footlocker, that he kept all types of tools in. So I watched him do quite a few things around the house. Dad was a handy man too and could fix a lot of things. His specialties were cars, and radio and TV electronics. I always thought that if dad had been born about 30 years later he would have been a great mechanical engineer. Dad also had a habit of fixing things and leaving a part or screw out and he would say, "oh it didn't need that anyway". And almost all of the time he was right and it would be good for about 5 or 6 years and then you would find out why that piece was needed.

My first foray into fixing stuff came with my first house. I did what you may call some “jack leg” repairs and fixing. By that I mean it worked for us but it wasn’t necessarily pretty. I did some paneling and put down some floor tiles and even put up a chain link fence. But even before that I got into repairing cars. Car repairing I picked up from dad. Now he wasn’t the type to come out and help by showing you step by step how to do car repairs. He may ask what I was working on and when I told him he would just say something like, “yeah you just move that over then and loosen up that bolt and slide that belt up where its supposed to go.” Then I had to figure out how that worked when I got to the real thing.

My first car, a wrecked 1951 Chevy, was my first challenge, or victim if you want to call it that. Now this was back in about 1962 so the car was already 10 years old when I bought it for $100 and it had a smashed up front fender.. But I did a lot of stuff to that car. First thing I had to do was go to the junk yard and get another front fender. Back then me and the junkyard was great friends. I got the fender on OK and then decided I needed to work on cosmetics. So somehow me and another dude whose name I don’t even remember found somebody who wanted to sell a 1953 Chevy that had been a taxi. It had a bad motor and the other dude wanted the transmission from the car and said I could have anything else out of it. So we bought that car for something like maybe $150, splitting the cost. So the dude took the transmission out and I proceeded to take the front and part of the back seat because they were vinyl and my seats were ragged cloth that were well worn and holey.

Now this car of mine was a real project. I put the seats from the taxi in my car. Then I got the heater and the turn signal mechanism out of the taxi for my car. Oh yeah, the radio in the taxi was better than mine so I took that too. When I was finished stripping the other car I had a one big problem. How was I gonna get this ragged mess out of our back yard. Well first thing I did was take the motor out of the car. But since I didn’t have a motor lift or money to rent one I just took the motor mounts loose and jacked up the car until the motor fell out of the bottom. Then I jacked up the car some more and pushed it back and let the frame fall on the motor. After about three or four times doing this the motor was sitting free and clear on the ground in front of the junked car.

So all I needed to do now was get rid of the junk heap. Well we lived near 14th Street and Crittenden Street in Northwest DC and just a couple blocks away was 16th Street which was a major commuter route every day. Since the car was missing the motor and transmission it could not be driven or even pushed because the drive shaft was hanging down on the ground. So late one night we went out and tied up the drive shaft with a rope and then pushed the car into the alley behind the house. Then I hooked up a rope to the front of the car using my “reconditioned” car and we pulled it up to 16th Street and left it parked where we knew the city would tow it the next day. We were not worried about them finding us because we had never register the car in our names. And with the motor mission there wasn’t much to go on to trace it to anyone.

I did a bunch more things to my car, which one of my friends and coworkers dubbed, “the Struggle Buggy”. I wish I could find one of the photos of it that I know were taken but I can't find. I had the last laugh though because over the 3 or so years that I had that car just about everyone had to borrow it at one time or another. In the end it needed some more repairs that I didn’t have the money or skills to do and so I let it go for junk, just abandoned it.

My real expertise in working on cars came when I bought the Triumph TR-6 sports car. I loved to work on that car because everything was just so easy to get to and repair.

I had that car for just about 25 years and in that time I repaired or replaced just about everything in or on it. And because I did so many repairs on it I bought all of the tools that I would ever need to do any repair on it or any car. Even though it was a British car and had a lot of bolts that were metric, I could use standard wrenches on most things. So even though I sold the car more than 10 years ago I now have a tool box full of tools that I cannot or don’t use.

Back in the mid 1980's I bought that Chevy pickup truck that I just gave away last year.

I did a bunch of repairs on it also, including rebuilding the motor twice (the first one didn’t fix the problem), and also rebuilding the rear end. And then I did easy stuff like change the oil and/or replace an alternator and also tune ups. Up until about the 1990's you had to tune up your car just about every year with new points and plugs and maybe a rotor and some ignition wires. Back then a guy with some skills knew he was gonna have some fun at least once a year doing a tuneup. Now days you tune up a car about every 100, 000 miles or 10 years or so. So now I have all these tune up tools that I cannot use and don’t even know where to connect on my current car. I have no idea where to connect a timing light or dwell meter on my current car.

When I bought my home in New Carrollton, Maryland it was in good shape but I knew that it needed some upgrading.

Over the course of the 17 years that I lived there I installed new windows and doors, insulated the attic, put up new siding on the outside, and even remodeled a whole kitchen.
I did all of the plumbing and electrical work and installed the cabinets and light fixtures. In the process I did some dry walling too. So of course I had to buy a bunch of tools to get all of that done.

When I moved here to Raleigh we moved into a new house and the things available for me to do were all outside (Sarah said thankfully). First I expanded the deck.

Then I put up a fence.

Next I built a tool shed to house all of the tools I had accumulated.

Sarah wanted a gazebo so I built one.

And I wanted a garden so I started with a small patch

and expanded it every year to its current size.
And of course I had to go buy all the tools I needed to keep a good garden.

Well now I have just my one car that I cannot repair because everything on it is electronic and pretty much has to be done by a car dealer. And those few thing that I can do, like change the oil or rotate the tires, I don’t feel like doing. So I take the car to the shop for everything and my tools sit all alone and lonely, unused and un-cared about. I have a nice floor jack and some jack stands that I’ll probably never use because I am NOT gonna get under a car again. The only tools that get used are the garden tools. I have no more “projects” outside and nothing to “fix” so all four of my electric saw are without electricity, just sitting in the tool shed along with the three or four different types of hammers and all of that equipment for painting and dry walling.

So I am a frustrated handyman who has nothing to fix or repair and not real desire to do those little jobs on the car like an oil change. There's nothing to fix in the house and no gardening I can do right now. What’s a brother to do????

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