Category Archives: DIY

Opening and closing

Last time I bought paint, the clerk gave me a can opener.

Today when putting painting supplies away, I noticed this tool is also a paint can closer.

I assumed the flat end was the opener (which it is) and the other end was a bottle opener, for whatever reason in the 21st century when hardly any bottle cap needs to be pried off. Turns out the bottle opener part is for pushing down the can lid, using the sticking-out part as a lever. It works ok – probably really well on an unused can of paint – but I was dealing with a 19-year-old can, so a rubber mallet was more effective to get a good seal.

Paint Can Openers | Anthony & Co.
http://www.anthonyco.com/paintcanopeners.php

How to keep paint usable for two decades? Seal the can as tightly as possible, probably with a rubber mallet and not the closing tool, then turn the can upside down and store in a cool, dry area. The paint seals the lid completely. It will thicken over time, and can get sort of weird, but just strain it through cheesecloth or old pantyhose and you might be able to paint over a patch in a wall, as I just did. I bought what I thought was pricey paint for the inside of our house in 2002, and it still looks fresh and the leftover paint pretty much still matches after all these years.

One last tip: when you first invert that sealed paint can, put it in a cardboard box for a few hours to test that the lid is firmly attached and not leaking. Paint spilled all over your shelf and/or floor is the mistake I made so you don’t have to!

It’s the little things

I searched the Miele Canada website for a replacement part for our S7000 upright vacuum cleaner. They didn’t what I needed, but they do have 3D4U, a series of 3D printing files that anyone can download from Thingiverse. These are accessories rather than spare parts: an attachment to vacuum dust while you drill a hole, smaller-than-normal nozzle attachments for cleaning, a coffee bag clip that lets you add a pouring nozzle to your bag of beans, even an attachment to help you blow soap bubbles with your vacuum!

Miele say they are the first domestic appliance manufacturer to offer 3D printing accessories. That’s a great first step, and here’s hoping Miele and all other manufacturers of everything start making free 3D printing files of their spare parts available, especially for people like me who prefer to fix things when I can to keep as much as possible out the waste stream.

It’s impossible for companies to keep every part of every machine they have ever made in stock, but they could easily make the 3D printing files available. How many small appliances get tossed every year because a knob breaks or a little part cracks? I had to toss a stick blender last year only because a cheap plastic gear stripped after a few years of occasional use. I don’t own a 3D printer, but our public library system has some available, and perhaps printing kiosks could be a small business in future (if they aren’t already).

Zip ties to the rescue

I’m not going to call this post “Nice Rack”

Canadian purveyors of incredibly tempting woodworking and gardening stuff, Lee Valley, just emailed a link to plans for a clever tool rack designed by former store employee Charles Mak. With a free PDF of the detailed plans and lots of helpful photos, this should be something even I can make with my limited shop tools and rough carpentry skills.

Precious Plastic and Fixing#Fashion

Great episode of BBC World Service’s People Fixing The World podcast about the Precious Plastic movement. It’s been interesting watching founder Dave Hakkens create this international open source community, then step back recently to allow others to take the reins. When I think of open source, I think more of computer code than management styles, but there would be no way for Hakkens to have created this open community and then tried to control it from above. He is letting it evolve beyond him.

Precious Plastic is now under the umbrella of One Army, which includes their new initiative to fix fast fashion waste called, sensibly, Fixing Fashion. Their website is full of information on how to mend, care for, and repurpose your clothing, with the aim to have us think of old clothes as a resource and not waste, just as Precious Plastic did.

I have been mending my clothes again of late, so this comes at the perfect time to help me advance my skills. I have a 1970s sewing machine, but have been patching by hand: holes in jeans, the elbow of a hoodie, sewing up ripped seams on t-shirts. I’m using the thread I have on hand, and am not worrying about it all looking nice or matching. I can darn socks because my mother has always knit them and I watched her keep them wearable forever by mending holes toes and heels.

My only tip to pass on is to patch or mend before a hole emerges, when the fibres are just starting to look thin, then you are reinforcing what is already there and that is much easier. This requires examining your clothes regularly as you launder them, so having fewer clothes helps.

In two generations my family went from having a closet that was just a couple of hooks behind the door to a big walk-in room. Who do we think we are, and what would the ancestors think of who we have become?

Grease is the word

Changed the seats and spring in my mother’s Delta kitchen faucet today, thanks to this clear video from YouTube user funbro1 aka How To Bob.

Removing the handles took much longer than actually replacing the seats and springs as they were corroded on and prying them off came too close to mangling them for my liking. Bob put silicone grease on some of the parts during reassembly to help the handles turn more easily, which I had never thought of doing. I didn’t have any silicone grease, but do have a 20-lifetimes supply of food-grade bearing grease purchased a couple of years ago to repair an old hand mixer. I dabbed some on the set screws, nuts and handles to make it all easier to take apart for future repairs.

Snip and Sift

For all the new bakers and gardeners out there, two useful hints I’ve learned over my time dabbling in both pursuits:

  1. If you have planted more than one seed in a pot and only want one plant (think tomatoes and squash, not parsley or basil), snip the ones you don’t want with scissors rather than pulling them out. The roots of the little plants will often be intertwined and you’ll end up dislodging the one you want to keep as you tug out their potmates.
  2. Your recipe probably won’t tell you this, but always sift cocoa that is going into cakes or brownies. Even the freshest cocoa clumps together, and those clumps are hard to break up once you incorporate wet ingredients.
Bonus hint: make your own pots out of paper. There are ten billion online tutorials to help you figure it out. I roll mine around an old Keen’s mustard bottle. These are loofah seedlings because you should always try to grow something impossible to grow!

Knock On Wood

The Prince Edward Island government has developed a COVID-19 door knocker (I would call it a door hanger, but never mind) to announce to the world that you are in self-isolation. Not sure what font they have chosen for their COVID-19 messaging, but the capital letter “i” is very very odd – is this a semi-serif font? Ensure you have lots of ink/toner on hand before printing this polite message.

Give It A Whirl

My mother’s refrigerator is 17 years old, like most of our appliances. It was a floor model purchased at McKenna’s Furniture in Summerside. Nothing fancy, no ice makers or motherboards. Whirlpool Gold GT19DK. 

A few times over this little insulated box’s life, we have found water inside below the crispers and on some of the shelves.

After some internet searching, and remembering the appliance expert on CBC Maritime Noon talking about a similar situation, it seemed the likely culprit would be crumbs in the defrost drain hose from the freezer. I removed a few screws, pulled out some panels, and used a hair dryer and a scraper to remove ice that had built up and caused the flooding. I was soon rewarded with the satisfying sound of water running down the drain into the pan below the refrigerator as I flushed out the hose with a turkey baster and some hot water.

Frozen drain pan.
A turkey baster is an excellent tool for shooting hot water down the drain.

The tell-tale puddle appeared a month ago, so I went through this defrosting process again. Then it happened a couple of weeks later, and I figured I needed a better solution.

So, I watched lots of videos and read lots of articles. Seems this icing up is a problem for many other people, and Whirlpool has released a fix without saying there is something inherently wrong with the design of their products. You can buy this part for about $20 plus $10 shipping. It’s a piece of metal you clip on the the defrost heater.

Or, you can save the $30 and do as this fellow and many others suggest: wrap one end of some copper wire around the defrost heater and stick the other end down the drain hole. This will hopefully direct enough heat to keep this silly setup from freezing and glaciating (I don’t think that’s a word, but spellcheck is letting it go, so now it’s a word!).

The little piece of wire I saved when the electricians were here last year finally came in handy!
Wire on the defrost heater.
Godspeed, little wire. I hope I never see you again.

It’s been two weeks and all is as it should be in the refrigerator. Fingers crossed.

You Have Lint Where?

November 24 – 30 is National Home Fire Safety Week in Canada. It’s a good time to test and clean your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace any that are more than 10 years old. Fire extinguishers should also be inspected and recharged regularly.

Make an emergency plan and go over it a couple of times a year. One good place to start is Get Prepared from Public Safety Canada. I’m glad to see they now have a guide to help create a plan and kit for people with disabilities/special needs and for caregivers. We have had an emergency plan for a number of years, but my mother’s decreased mobility means I should likely make revisions.

One tip I learned years ago that freaked me at the time was cleaning dryer lint from inside the dryer cabinet. It’s easy to clean out the lint trap that all dryers have, but have you ever been told to vacuum inside the dryer? The first time I did, about 12 years after buying the dryer, it was a horror story!

We rarely use our dryer now, but if you even use yours a few times a year, please find out how to safely get inside your dryer after turning it off at the breaker and clean the darn thing out. Clean the dryer vent and hood, too.

And one more thing: plastic/vinyl duct is not for dryers. It gets brittle and leaks, it melts, it burns. Please replace it with a rigid aluminum metal duct.

Tips and more tips.