What Makes A Handyman

I never considered myself a “handyman”, …. I am just a guy that can “do stuff”.  All it takes is a little research, the right tools, and a whole lot of confidence.

Everyone has the first two at their fingertips.  The internet has all sorts of cool sites to go to and research the little (or big) jobs or ideas you have to take on.  The right tools are almost always available, but if you start off with none or very little as a tool inventory, your first few years will make you invest a little bit of money.  The third parameter; confidence, … will start off shaky, but will grow over time to the point where your safety may be in peril.

Lets start with the first item, … research.  Without question, you can find a tutorial or video on almost anything you want to do on YouTube.  When searching YouTube, be very specific and use very specific words to find help on exactly what you want to do.  I was once wanting to change the driver’s side headlight on my car (which I thought should be a fairly straight-forward job), so I didn’t bother looking for a tutorial on how to go about it.  After all, it can’t be anything more than taking out a few screws or bolts, popping out the old light, and backtracking until you are done, … right?  Well, after breaking off part of the plastic housing that holds the light mount, I searched on YouTube for “how to change the headlight on a 2008 Pontiac G5”, and the perfect tutorial came up instantly, …. I think the car they used was even the same colour as mine.  Never again will I tackle the unknown without doing a quick two minute search to find the best solution.  Your search for help isn’t limited to YouTube.  Google is always your best friend, and generally leads you to a YouTube video, just in case you originally typed in the wrong “key words” to find your solution.

With the second aspect of “doing stuff”, without the right tools, you may as well hire someone to do the job.  If you stop right there and weigh the cost of buying a $50 tap and die set to re-thread a stripped screw thread or take your item into a service center to pay the same $50 or more to have it done, …. you come out ahead of the game because you got the job done AND you now own a useful tap and die set.  You might only use it one more time in you life, but now you will be playing with house money.  The secret to buying tools is realizing how often you will need that tools, and how accurate and precise you want the tool to perform.  Things like a tap and die set, a veneer edging tool, or a closet wrench are the types of tools you may only use once or three times, and it isn’t about to fall apart on you in those couple of times.  On the other hand, some tools you may take for granted as being universal really do need to be looked at as having built in quality and accuracy if you want good fast results.  The old adage of “you can only have two of good, fast, and cheap” applies here.  You want a hammer with a nice non-slip grip, a comfortable weight, and hardened steel.  You want a saw with sharp teeth and comfortable grip.  You want screw drivers that won’t have their head’s snap off on the first tough screw.  You want a measuring tape that is very accurate and won’t fall apart in you hands.  All of these type of smaller tools will cost you a bit more than you might pay at a discount tool store, but after you have to buy the same tool three or four times, you will realize you should have spent the bigger money in the first place.  Bigger tools like table saws, planers, jointers, drills, etc follow the same logic, but I will comment on them in a future blog.

That brings us to confidence.  My first “paying” job as a “handyman” was to build a 200 foot fence for a guy.  I was standing at the order desk of my local building supply dealer waiting to be served as the store salesman was on the phone with a customer.  I over-heard him tell the customer that they could sell them the materials to build a fence, but he would be on his own to find a contractor to build it for him.  For some unknown reason, I blurted out that I could build the fence for him, the store salesman handed the phone over to me, and the rest was handyman history.  Now came the scary part, … I had never built a fence in my life!  There was no Google or YouTube back then, … I was on my own.  I had to round up a friend to help with the labour.  I had to price-out the value of my labour, I had to look a some books at the library  on just where to start with building a fence.  The bottom line, …. to job didn’t look half-bad, the customer was happy, and I got paid.  I didn’t make much money after paying my helper (that will also be a future blog post), but it got me going in the right direction with the confidence in my abilities to do just about anything.  Within two years, I was building entire houses for people.  I oozed confidence, and the customer loved it, … little did they know.

So these blog posts will be about how to go about doing both small and big jobs, what you will need to do the job, and the pitfalls you will come across.  At the end of the day, this blog will hopefully push you over the edge to do that annoying job yourself, save a pile of money, and have the satisfaction of knowing it was done with only the care and love the homeowner can give.

Tomorrow’s post, …. a summertime necessity, …. building a deck.