Mainly because I’m out to prove to the world that I can serve a purpose in this household beyond just laying around looking sexy.
Having conquered our Stonewalling project with surgical precision, we felt invincible enough to tackle two new DIY projects at the same time. They weren’t supposed to take place simultaneously but the eagerness to start one project, combined with the delay of the other, have caused the two to intertwine.
The first project is to excavate and build a flagstone patio. The second, is to build an 8′x10′ sandbox for the neighborhood cats to use, and occasionally, our children.
While Project Flagstone requires little more than a shovel and a few tons of crushed rock and coarse sand to complete, Project Litterbox requires at least one item from every aisle at Lowe’s. I’ll delve into the sandbox inventory at a later date, but the one item we decided to buy right away was the circular saw.
In my 40+ years of life I have never had the opportunity, desire, or even the need to own a circular saw. That all changed when we purchased a home built during the Civil War. The DIY projects are everywhere.
We decided to first handle a few minor fix-ups today in an effort to warm up and hone our DIY skills. And if these mini-projects are any indication of what’s to come? You’ll want to stay tuned in the days ahead.
First, we hung two new glass cabinets above our washer and dryer for some added storage. Needing to make sure the cabinets were properly anchored, Heather asked if I knew where our stud finder was. I didn’t. Instead, I told her to just channel the natural stud-finding ability she used the day she found me.
With a roll of her eyes we opted for the “Drill ‘n Pray” method of cabinet hanging. The way it works is simple:
If the screw goes in like you’re pushing a nail through softened butter, you haven’t hit a stud. Keep randomly drilling screws every few inches to the left and right until the wall actually puts up a little resistance. Odds are you’ve hit a stud but you may have also hit an electrical or plumbing line. If the lights stay on and no water sprays, you’re good. Maybe. Actually, I have no idea.
Fearing that our cabinets were basically balancing on nails protruding through 19th century plasterboard, we peppered the backs of the cabinets with screws until they had more holes than John Edwards’ alibi. At the time of this writing, the cabinets are still level and still standing. With as many screws as we used, if they fall, the wall’s coming down with them.
We also decided to install new bathroom sink faucets because you just can’t brush your teeth unless you’re staring at new chromed-out handles and spouts. The faucets were on sale and we estimated 30 minutes for the replacement.
It took two of us three hours to install both faucets incorrectly.
I under-tightened, I over-tightened, I swore like a sailor, and I rubbed my fingers raw twisting plastic nuts thanks to the manufacturer ensuring that we didn’t have any clearance for tools.
The new faucets work and all, but one stopper doesn’t go down and the other one doesn’t go up. Yet as with every DIY project that doesn’t go to plan, which is every DIY project, you learn to improvise and adapt to the situation…as evidenced by my wife’s solution to the perma-closed sink stopper. It’s DIY at its finest.
One of the main benefits of being in love with your in-house amateur plumber is that you get to stand above her and watch her work while snapping photos without a fear of reprisal.
Always one to test boundaries, I did discover that actually touching or groping your assistant plumber IS met with reprisals. I got whacked in the wrist with a crescent wrench after an ill-timed bum squeeze, my attempts at fondling were repeatedly deflected in Karate Kid “wax-on wax-off” fashion, and she let me fall to the ground when I tried using her britches as leverage to stand.
In my defense, it’s difficult for me to remain hands-off when this is the view from above.
Doing these kinds of simple little screwdriver, wrench, and hammer touch-ups around the house is easy. No special tools are required. Just a vivid imagination. But we knew that for the bigger projects on our list, we’d need the heavy artillery.
We knew that before we could tackle Operation Flagstone and Operation Litterbox, we needed to make sure we had the right tools for the job. We have giant holes to bore and 12-inch boards to cut. I knew the days of using a steak knife as a makeshift saw were over. It was time to upgrade our sawing capabilities with a trip to Lowe’s.
I have no qualms in admitting that half the inventory in the Tool World aisles are completely foreign to me, so I asked a Lowe’s employee to help me choose a circular saw. He asked what I already knew about circular saws and I replied, “I know they’re circular and I know they cut things. That’s about it.”
He showed me a few of the more popular models and I nodded with feigned comprehension as he went over all the various features. 45-degree beveling, a rip fence, spindle locks, torque, even Kerf something-or-other. I had no clue what these things were, or what they did, but my saw had to have ‘em.
I ended up buying a 7.5″ model with a laser light because, let’s face it, lasers are cool. I have no idea if it’s a necessary feature but watching my cats bat at the laser beam while I’m sawing should add some entertainment appeal to the project.
When I got home I immediately unpacked my new saw and watched as six new chest hairs sprouted from the surge of testosterone. I felt empowered, I felt invigorated, and I felt grossly unqualified to be wielding it.
Typically, I’m not one to read instructions. I usually just let ‘er rip and deal with the inevitable consequences afterward. But, seeing how I was now holding a tool capable of separating me from appendages I felt I needed, I carefully read the instructions and watched countless videos about circular saw safety.
While reading the instructions thoroughly, I decided that I didn’t want to end up like the cartoon character featured in the manual. A frowning man who had just unwittingly sawed his fingers into jagged little airborne shards. I gotta hand it to him for just frowning, for my illustration would have featured a gaping wide-mouthed scream and blurred movements as I frantically scrambled to save my finger nubs in Ziploc bags.
“Hey! Who had two thumbs until he carelessly severed them while making a bird house? This guy!”
I don’t want to be that guy.
Next to him was a much happier fellow with a well-cut piece of wood and ten fingers. That’s who I intend to emulate.
When I logged into Twitter to share my new purchase with the world, out came the horror stories. Lost fingers, severed finger tips, sliced hands, it was awful. From all the Twitter warnings I received you’d think I had an 83% chance of losing a finger. Odds that would soar exponentially if I opted to turn the saw on.
I was told to watch for kick-back, watch out for nails, watch out for wood imperfections, stay away from knots, make sure the wood is secure, and so on and so on. Everyone had me so freaked out to use this thing that I contemplated returning it. But hey, if our neighbor didn’t suffer so much as a splinter after drunk-sawing an old wooden pallet loaded with rusty nails in the dark of night to make some firewood, I’ll be just fine.
Regardless of what you’re trying to build with the aid of your circular saw, the steps to a successful project remain the same:
1. Before starting your project, count the number of fingers on each hand.
2. Upon completion of your project, count the number of fingers on each hand.
3. If you count the same number of fingers, consider the project a rousing success. Regardless of how it looks.
The stuff I build may be ugly, but if I can still grip a cup at the end of the evening, I’ll be content.
The rule of thumb when it comes to working with circular saws is to make sure you still have thumbs when you’re done. Work carefully and safely, and you’ll be just fine. But saw haphazardly or carelessly and you risk never being able to hitchhike, review movies, or pop the heads off dandelions ever again. A childhood delight that I simply cannot deny my daughter.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be photographing and blogging our progress with Project Flagstone and Project Litterbox. You may not learn anything along the way, but because these DIY projects are going to dominate our lives for the time being, I really won’t have much else to write about.
With that, we’ll be underway on Monday!