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Monday, February 12

Slaving Away

DIY fans, this is a post for you. Non DIY fans, you may aswell skip it.

I'll admit now that I had a lazier Sunday than planned. This was probably for the best, since I slaved away for much of Friday night and Saturday. I had a list of things to achieve for the weekend. I achieved much of them, I missed one thing off, but did a bunch others. It's been quite good fun.

On the way home from work on Friday, I stopped at a B&Q, bought some wood - one piece of MDF for making cupboard doors with, and one piece of knackered chipboardy worktoppy stuff from the offcuts department, which I was going to make into a plinth for my TV - it's a temporary plinth, so the wood wasn't worth much to me. I paid 50p for my plinth wood. Result. The MDF was cheap as it too was an offcut. I also bought a workbench. This was B&Q's own workbench and it cost under £10. The aim of a workbench for me is to have something a bit like a vice and of a height suitable for sawing on.

I used to have a theory that, in time, everything vaguely furniture like, left in my garage, would eventually become a sawhorse. This was probably a truth, but now I have a workbench I need not worry about it happening in my new place.

I arrived home via the Subway shop and proceeded to assemble my workbench. Then I went on a frenzy which involved using the most dangerous tools I possess in close succession. Tool one, on the most dangerous list, is the circular saw. I cut my pieces for my plinth. I also screwed up a bit, managing to fail to account for the accuracy of my measurment and also the width of my saw blade. So my plinth was bound to be wonky. Bear in mind that this is a temporary bit of furniture (which means I'll live with it for years, meaning not to!). I also managed to drop it after screwing it together, which make it a bit wonkier. However, once it was screwed into place, it was pretty solid and I didn't mind putting my TV on it. My second tool of the dangerous variety was the angle grinder, which I applied to my cast iron bath, thus cutting it in twain.

With my ears ringing from the angle grinding, my head burning from the sparks, soot in my eyes and joy in my heart, I headed to Tesco to buy some pencils, a ruler and a TV aerial to go with my TV. The plan was to get an amplified indoor aerial and try to get my freeview box working.

At Tesco, I bought some mechanical pencils and a two-piece ruler. The two-piece ruler was a few pence, so I wasn't going to argue - it may be useful, it may not. It doesn't matter. Ultimately, I'll buy a long metal one for DIY (though I later found that a metal carpet strip is as effective). I commented to the assistant, working nearby in the stationery department, that I'd never seen a two-piece ruler before. The ruler is hinged. I guess that this allows you to store it in the space of a 6 inch ruler, even though it's a 12 inch one. The woman, who spoke with an Eastern European accent and was quite grandmotherly in appearance, smiled with an infectious joy and tried to sell me this 63p ruler. She explained that it was great that it was two pieces because you could use it to measure small things and also big ones. What a lovely explanation. I wonder what she'd do with a tape measure.

At the till, my head still ringing from the angle grinder, and my face (unbeknown to me) covered in soot, I spotted a couple of lads in front of me. They were buying various items, including a box of CD-Rs. I remarked thus:

"CD-R eh? I've got a few of their albums. Very quiet."

Not a brilliant joke. The younger one worked it out and didn't laugh. The older one was deeply confused. Really put off. Very phased. In the end his brother explained it to him. He was still freaked out by it. Apparently he'd just come off a plane from Tenerife. My CD-R joke... what a pointless waste of air.

A grabbed a shower and then headed back home for some shut-eye (bear in mind that I shower at my old place of residence, not yet owning a working shower).

Saturday morning, I woke early enough to be awake when my garbage collection expert called round to give me a quote, but not early enough to be out of my dressing gown when this happened. Essentially, I've got a couple of skips' worth of crap in my garage and I want shut of it. I reckoned that paying some man to tip it might be cheaper than skips. He reckons that he can charge 75% of a skip-hire-charge. I reckon that I'll not bother. I may as well hire a van and drive the stuff to the tip myself, or, at the price he was charging, buy an old Ford Mondeo, drive the stuff to the tip, and then leave the Mondeo there for scrap when I'm done.

I did many things on Saturday. I made my MDF into doors for a cupboard. This took more attempts than I'm proud of. However, the doors look okay on the cupboard. They'd have looked better if the cupboard had been square to start with. Running out of things to do from my list, I went back out to B&Q and bought more things to fit in the house. In this case, I bought a bunch of lights for my three halls (one on each floor) and some energy saving lightbulbs.

The top hall was in the most need of a light, its dangling lightbulb holder no longer capable of supporting a light. I started work on the wiring in of a new light. I turned off the power to the house first (once bitten, twice shy) and worked by the light of the fading sun, the emergency lighting (handing for this sort of thing) and a mini torch in my mouth. The old light fitting had been able to support the myriad wires coming in from the ceiling. The new light fitting was intended to connect into a couple of wires most. You couldn't use it as a ceiling-based junction box. This complicated matters for me. To cut a long story down a little, I ended up doing wiring with my head in the loft and one arm also in there helping. The torch, held between my lips, was particularly useful. It wasn't especially comfortable.

I got my light working and I was pleased with it. However, I felt the need to use a proper junction box for future lights. I also felt it was a lot of effort to do even one.

Saturday night included time spent watching Police Squad on DVD.

Sunday morning was a late wake-up, followed by a slow start to the day. Eventually I decided to go back to Tesco to get breakfast and to return the piece-of-crap indoor aerial which had proved not to work at all when I tried it on Friday night. No complaints at the returns desk:

"Is it faulty?"
"No, it's just not very good."

Having visited B&Q on Friday after work and on Saturday afternoon, I decided to break with tradition and visit Homebase. There I bought various electrical things. I bought new light switches - many of the switches in the house are old and nasty-looking. For £2 they can be replaced with nice new onces. Easy. I also bought some wire and junction boxes - those other lights wouldn't beat me.

Back at the house, I set about doing the electrical work I'd set out to do. This was interrupted by a visitor who had come especially to help me move the last two pieces of the bath out of the house to join the increasingly voluminous (and expensive to dispose of) collection of rubbish in my garage. That was sorted in a few seconds, and was followed by a tour of the in-progress house.

Then back to the electrics. Many switches were replaced (not that many, but I figured them all out) and the second floor hall light was installed, which involved me taking up floorboards on the top floor and re-routing wires so that I could get everything to meet up at my junction box in an accessible bit of space in the floor.

All my electrics worked first time, even the two-way switches.

Then I set about finishing the cupboard I was working on. The cupboard was a four-door affair, the top two doors of which were missing. I had replaced the doors yesterday and attached magnetic catches to the new doors, which are hinged with piano hinges. As a result of my incompetence, my first attempt had resulted in a between-door gap of 15mm, which was way too much. I fixed the problem on Saturday by cutting a larger door, larger by just under 15mm, funnily enough. This solved the problem perfectly. The doors didn't hang square, but there was no way I could have solved this problem, outside of making non-rectangular doors, and that wasn't going to happen. I'd bought knobs for all of the doors, and I wanted to convert the lower-two doors, which were supposed to close with some sort of metal catch, into magnetic-catch doors too.

I removed the redunant door-furniture and then tried to screw the magnets into the frame of this cupboard. It took a lot of effort and th destruction of many of the screws provided before I went downstairs to my collection of screws (which I'd sorted through and put into a special container on Saturday) and brought up 4 that did the job perfectly without causing me to strain anything further.

But the door magnets need a magnetic strip on the door to catch on, and the placement of these strips needs to be quite precise. My solution: I got into the cupboard with a torch in my mouth and a pencil in my hand. Closing the door on the magnetic strip, attached to the magnet, I was then able to draw around it.

I wonder whether any of the neighbours saw me doing this.

"Ooh, look at the new guy. He just got into his cupboard. Where's he think he's going? Narnia? Mind you, he does emergy from his house all sooty from time to time. What a weirdo."

I'd like them to think I'm a weirdo. Maybe they'll fear me and stop parking in front of my drive.

I stopped work at about 5 on Sunday, the plan being to get a shower and go out for the night. I succeeded in this plan. I went to see some comedy, then I came home, then I wrote this (and the previous blog) over the course of an hour while my bedroom warmed up... then I stopped...

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