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May 2, 2015

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Want an easy way to find a stud?

July 7, 2013

Want an easy way to find a stud – that is, if you’re looking to hang a picture, shelf, or just about anything on your wall?

handsome shirtless manIt’s a good idea to make sure you DO find that stud: and by stud, I don’t mean THIS handsome fella here, although if you see him, go ahead and gawk.

It doesn’t seem like he’d mind. 

A stud is a vertical piece (usually made of wood) running up and down behind the walls of your house; they’re placed there during the framing stage for stability.

Here’s the important part:

They are placed – if the building is put together according to code, which it almost certainly is – either at twelve (12) or sixteen (16) inch intervals.

Why is this important?

Because if you DON’T hang your item from a stud in the wall, the weight of it will pull on the drywall (or plaster and lathe, even) and cause it to fall to the floor, leaving a nasty gash where once hung lovely art.*

(For instance, maybe a picture of this dude.)

NOW: People will advise you: knock on the wall, and listen for the stud – you’ll be able to hear it.

Me? I think that’s kinda chancy. Personally, I’ve never been able to hear ALL that much difference, and I’m an actual musician, besides. You want a ballpark to start with, you know?

Others will try to sell you on fancy-shmancy “stud-finders,” like this one:

stud finder machine

These range in price from $5 to $50. I wouldn’t trust a cheap one, and I wouldn’t want to pay for an expensive one, so…

Here’s the trick:

Get a measuring tape. In all honesty, you should ALWAYS have one handy – and you should guard it as viciously as Mom guards “the good scissors.”

Also: make sure you’ve got a good pencil, so when you’re where you want to be: X marks the spot.

Begin at the door jamb – you know, that part of the door that ISN’T the door, but surrounds it?

door and its parts

Then measure in sets of 12 or 16 inches until you’re at the spot you want to be to hang your item.

NOW you can start knocking, to see if there’s a difference in sound.

Once you’re close, you WILL be able to hear the difference between the empty sound of a wall, and the sound of a wall affixed to a stud.

Believe me: it will take you less time to do this than it did to read this post.

Regarding living studs? Well: they will probably be very impressed you can do this yourself.

* There are ways around that, too, but that’s another post.

Wanna be on HGTV?

April 24, 2008

HGTV logoReaders:

Dezmon Landers, a casting agent working for HGTV, recently sent me this information:

HGTV is looking for an On Air Handyman

The highly rated HGTV series “Carter Can” is back for another season and casting for a talented and dynamic ON-AIR handyman!

You will be working with a construction team headed by host Carter Oosterhouse to help the selected families plan and implement a small-scale renovation that transforms into a big “wow”.

Handymen should be prepared to make miracles happen on a small budget and have the know-how, creativity and imagination to assist with home improvement projects and help brainstorm cool custom construction projects specific to the homeowners’ situations and personalities.

Handymen must have a great ‘can do’ attitude along with a personable and outgoing personality. On-camera or behind-the-scenes home design TV experience is a huge plus. The position starts in June and there is a professional salary.

If you are interested please click this link:

About is the Internet’s premier casting website. We discover incredible talent through online casting competitions tied to specific on camera roles. Members of our community create unique talent profiles and audition for Hollywood roles while Casting Directors and Agents search for undiscovered stars.”


I am SO not above admitting I’m wrong. If only I realized it in time.

April 22, 2008

Measuring TapeMeasure HOW many times is it again?

Twice, right?

Better make that THREE.

I have been attempting – because I am, apparently, a fanatic, according to my lovely daughters, to build a table. A fanatic, because as my 11-year-old states lucidly, there are plenty of perfectly good, already built tables in perfectly good, already built stores.

THAT’S no fun.

Especially since I already “hand-crafted” the table-top, out of a terrifically convenient slab of plywood that was the perfect size in my garage – already lying around. I covered it in batting (I quilt, too) and fabric, so it’s soft, is an ideal surface for the optical mouse that rests upon it (secured handily with my trusty staple-gun), and funky, too: it’s got girly-purses and hippie flowers on it, so I thought: what’s not to love?

The trouble is, the crates I have it resting temporarily on while I construct a more solid apron and legs – which I thought would be as quick to put together as the top – are none too sturdy.

Which means the laptop which is poised perilously on top is in eminent danger of smashing into smithereens at any moments.


Better measure that third time. Fast.

Next time I undertake a project – and at this point, I am SO not buying a table, darn it – I better THINK three times before I even break out the work belt.

Sigh. (It’s going to be cool, though.)

Looking for a stud? I’ll help you find one.

April 17, 2008

The Cool Tool Girl, hammer in hand Know what a Union foreman does to an apprentice carpenter if he shows up on his first day of work with a wooden handled hammer?

The foreman saws the handle off and hands it to the apprentice. “Here’s a souvenir,” he might say. “Tomorrow, bring a tool that won’t kill anyone when it breaks.”

Notice this hammer is NOT made of wood.

It’s an Estwing. It even sports a warning to wear safety goggles. How cool am I?

Okay, down to business: for those of us (and full disclosure, it’s not really MY hammer, it’s Peter’s; I learned that story when he retired MY old wooden hammer.)

Another thing I learned: how to locate a stud without gadgetry, blinking lights, or banging on walls and listening like the Lone Ranger or Tonto for the cavalry. (Although Peter can do the banging on walls thing and locate a stud FAST.)

Guess what? Studs are almost always either 16 inches, 24 inches, or 48 inches away from an electrical outlet. Why? Because electrical outlets are almost always anchored to studs themselves, and studs are almost always 16, 24, or 48 inches apart. (Most commonly 16 inches apart.)

To find a stud FOR SURE – and minimize the risk of a six-foot shelf collapsing onto your laptop docking station… (not that that actually happened to me, or anything… <aHEM…>)… just poke around for the nearest plug, unscrew it from the wall, and, well, LOOK.

Is there a stud? Cool. You’re in business. Measure carefully, make your pencil mark, and you’re good to go.

Aren’t you glad you’re now as cool as I am

Happy to help.

(Hope you’re not TOO disappointed I didn’t mean the kind of stud that wants to buy you a drink. Now, if you folks locate the kind of stud that wants to buy you a house… oh never mind. I already have one of those.)

It’s Fallen, and I Can’t Get My Picture Up.

April 13, 2008

old falling-down buildingNOTE: This is NOT really my house.

:: :: :: :: ::

Okay, who here lives in This Old House?

Or ANY Old House?

I do, I do!

Thank goodness I know how to fix things, or I’d be in a word of trouble. I wouldn’t get to live inside my house, that’s for sure. It would either be falling down all around me, or I’d be so broke hiring people to fix it that I’d have to live in a tent in the backyard.

That is, if the new owners were kind enough to allow me to do so.

At any rate, among the many hassles of owning a 100+ year-old home is that it boasts very charming — but up until recently (to me) frustrating plaster walls.

Yay, plaster. Until you try to hang something up on it.

Okay, if Peter comes swaggering along with his Mighty Yellow Cordless Screwgun (OK, we ALL adore the Mighty Yellow Cordless Screwgun — and the fact that it has two — count ’em, ladies and gentlemen, TWO, batteries, one backup, fully charged at all times) — well then, yes, PETER has such a deft touch that he NEVER cracks the plaster and makes it fall down in a soft, floaty pile on the hardwood floor like I do.

Then again, I have yet to see Peter ever use an actual nail. Only screws. Three-and-five-eighths every time, and he can pick ’em out at any distance from a tub of every conceivable size.

But I digress.

Those of us who wish to hang human-size pictures on a plaster wall are familiar with that awful crack, the hole in the wall, and the nail coming down with it.


Here is your salvation: cellophane tape. In an X. X marks the spot where you want to hammer your nail. Right on the wall.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Hold the nail – carefully, folks – right on dead center of your X – and hammer away.

No cracks. No falling plaster. No falling nail. No vulgarity for which, later, to apologize to the children.

There we go. Your latest and greatest Cool Tool Girl Tip.

Aren’t you lucky to have me?


How to unclog a drain

April 7, 2008


Plungers and Peril

plungerDon’t you just LOVE it when you go to brush your teeth and all the yuck doesn’t drain out of the sink?

Even nicer when you go to brush your teeth and you notice that someone ELSE’S yuck didn’t drain, and they DIDN’T notice.

Good morning.

Time to pull out the gear. Fortunately, you may not need too much, if you’re lucky — and luckily, you usually are.

If you’re an instant coffee (or tea) drinker, you may be even luckier: you’ve already got the teapot on it’s way to boiling. So grab it (with a potholder — remember, you might only be half awake) and start pouring.

Yep, a little VERY hot water might be all you need to get that drain going again.

If that doesn’t do the trick, grab the plunger. (If you’ve thought ahead — and you just might want to do this for next time, if this sink tends to be tricky — you’ll pick up a smallish plunger, just for sinks, so you don’t have to resort to the toilet plunger.)

Plunge the little devil. Careful, though, that water might still be hot.

Did that do it for you?

Rats. Try again, a little harder this time.


Oh well, time to disassemble the cleanout pipe underneath the sink. Don’t worry, you don’t really need to shut the water off for this — just DON’T turn it on while you’re working, and DON’T forget to shove a bucket underneath FIRST THING, because a lot of schmutz is going to come tumbling out as soon as you put wrench to pipe and twist it off.

Once that curved pipe underneath is off, and the slop is done(ish) dripping, you can take your choice of implements to scrape out the gunk:

  • old screwdriver
  • wire hanger (one of my faves, since I don’t own an auger)
  • or, a real, live, drain auger. If you do use a drain auger, the best method for this is to feed it in a little way, then twist it again. This allows you to shove it in a lot further.

Once the mess is cleared (and you’ll find that most of the mess has collected in the bottom of the curve), you can simply re-assemble the pipe, clean up whatever didn’t make it into the bucket, put your tools away (I’d say the wire hanger can be thrown away), and then break out the Comet and hand it to whomever left their yuck in the sink. THEY can be responsible for THAT part of the cleanup job.

Share and share alike, after all.

For YOUR part? You get to swagger out of the bathroom, pretending that what you just did was incredibly difficult, only to be hazarded by experts like yourself. You are now the new household hero(ine).

Feels good, doesn’t it, being a Cool Tool Girl (or Guy)?

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

All the best,