Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amazing but true! Another tale from the Pottyology Files!

Under-sink drain pipes can hold water and stay intact for weeks or even months with only the thinnest metal plate at a completely corroded soft spot.!

Eggshell thin, the soft spot can be crushed with light pressure from a finger!


It has been 19th Century Technology Month here at the International Handyman Headquarters.

First, there came vintage glass door knobs; (CLICK HERE) then came the 7 foot screen door with the original hardware (CLICK HERE)

Today we examine a mortally wounded full mortise box lock which must be disassembled and stripped for parts.

The cast iron case is irreparably cracked and broken so only the internal lock parts, springs and solid brass trim plate can serve in the future as replacements in other locks with undamaged cases.

As such it is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how easily and quickly a lock such as this can be restored to squeaky, shiny newness with just a little care and caution.

Not only has this poor lock been abused to the point of a cracked cast iron case, but the solid brass latch plate ( a full 5/32 inch thick!) has been painted over AND BENT!!

In TWO places!

How or why anyone mangled it to such an extent is a question for the cold case files.

Task one is to clean the paint off the brass and polish it to a mirror finish.

This must be a gentle process.

Make a wooden scraper with a beveled edge and move the torch (flutter) back and forth to heat the paint without overheating the metal.

Scrape while the paint is hot and it will practically slide off.

As you will see the brass has not been too badly scratched or gouged in addition to all the other trials it has undergone over the years.

(My latest attempt to explain old timey carpentry balustrade layout techniques)

You young whippersnappers don’t know how good you’ve got it!

Grandpa did not have a tape measure to build stuff and he sure did not have a calculator- he had sticks!

And with nothing more than sticks-long sticks, short sticks, small sticks he could build a perfect handrail!

The Technique:

Before you do anything you’ve got to make a paper plan to show you where to put the pickets!

See, a handrail has pickets or upright sticks or spindles to fill the space between the posts. They’re called balusters in the jargon of the vernacular.

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Another exotic vehicle in downtown Raleigh just a stone’s throw from the International Handyman Headquarters! This time we were graced by a genuine Google Streetview Car. No information as to whether it is driven manually or by robot computer.

Recall in earlier episodes one of 25 Saffron Yellow Limited Edition Lotus Elise Go Fast Cars appeared parked right in front of the shop (LINK HERE) and then weeks later nothing less than a Bentley drove down Glenwood Ave right in front of the Handymobile! (LINK HERE)


In an era of central air conditioning and sealed window high rise buildings, the staff here at the International Headquarters was all aflutter when a genuine screen door repair appeared on the job shop task board.

Not just any screen door either, this is a vintage 7 foot tall screen door in service for at least 50 years. Could not tell you whether people were taller in the good ole days, but their doors sure were.

In fact, size may be what kept this door in service all these years since the cost of a custom jobshop aluminum storm door is pretty certainly astronomical no matter the era of the estimate.

In any case, the old moulding withstood removal and reattachment and the screen looked as taut and new as it probably did fifty odd years ago.

Check out the original full mortise box latch installed in the 1 1/2 inch thick stile. Your Grandfather was a precise, patient and meticulous man when he cut that slot into the door with hand powered drills and chisels back in the day. It appears to have the original trimplate screws on one side. (The other side, not so much!)