Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

DIY: the fatal flaw is yourself

I hope no one has concluded I’m in favour of - or any good at - DIY. As Hilaire Belloc recommends, my job is to give “give employment to the artisan”. I do this willingly, enjoying the further benefit of watching an expert at work. Grist for the post.

My main failing, discussed before, is impatience. Once the tools are out of the toolbox I can’t wait for them to return. An unfinished project is a Damoclean sword; it’s ironic that, in a casual moment, I chose as blogonym the name of someone supremely efficient at DIY and everything else. But impatient DIY has other aspects.

You’re screwing in a wood screw that is getting tighter because you pre-drilled the hole with an impatiently selected and slightly-too-small drill bit. Sooner rather than later you will have to unscrew and re-drill the hole. But you fatally delay this decision for a further two turns; the effort is enormous and, in applying it, the screwdriver blade gouges the screw-head slot so that the blade no longer fits securely. Getting the damaged screw out takes an afternoon.

A piece of wood is oversize by a tiny amount. The obvious answer is to plane it. But a plane can be fiddly so you use a coarse file “because it’s quicker”. This creates a rounded edge instead of a flat rectangular one. Thus there are gaps at the junction when you mate this piece with another.

DIY, like genius, is an infinite capacity for taking pains. That I can recognise this defect in myself doesn’t mean I am any closer to resolving it.


The Crow said...

I should show you the pictures I took while trying to fix the pipe to my old boiler last year. I didn't know copper pipe could twist the way mine did.


Sir Hugh said...

With my DIY I have little foible. When I think I have finished the project I stand back and look at it and ask myself if I am prepared to have my name associated with it. This often leads to more fine tuning etc. Do you have a similar thought process with your wrting?

Sir Hugh said...

I obviously didn't adhere to my pompously described method in that I missed the word "a" before "foible" in the first line.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: It was heroic enough of you to tackle plumbing. My few attempts brought such discouraging results that I left off trying several decades ago. If I were you I'd photograph your boiler pipe anyway; posts about disasters or semi-disasters are just as appealing as those about the tranquillities of life, as you so recently proved.

Sir Hugh: An ingenious act of self-hypnosis. With me it works differently; I have often left my artisanal efforts slightly unfinished (ie, unpainted) so that the info pencilled on the wood during construction ("This side up", Xs against edges, etc) is still visible, proof that however imperfect the work was done by me.

Rule of thumb re writing: the time devoted to re-reading and editing should roughly equal the time taken to write the first draft. This is particularly the case with my blog posts, since the editing, alternating with the switch to Word Count as I reduce the length to about 270 words, is often the trickiest part. Oh, and always use "Preview".

Plutarch said...

I find that a DIY job completed without an ensuing catastrophy is a reason for satisfaction out of all proportion to the quality of the work or the extent of the challenge in peforming it. The glow lasts longer than is decent.

Lucy said...

An elderly and very West Country cousin once said to me when I complained of Tom's perfectionism, 'you can always humour a perfectionist, you know', and I find myself muttering this to myself, imitating the Somerset burr, as I crouch down with a watercolour pencil of exactly the right shade as the recently hung wallpaper, touching up a tiny gap or tear that cannot be allowed to exist.

Perfectionists have a tendency never to finish the job; I sometimes think I would put up with a rough edge or two to have a house that was finished. But don't quote me on that.

The Crow said...

BB, I posted a few of the pictures of my plimbing misadventures. It's okay to laugh, I can take it.


Barrett Bonden said...

All: Perhaps DIY is most notorious as the field of human endeavour where the gap between hope and eventual reality is at its most extreme. In the case of the perfectionist (see Lucy) the curse has to do with improving vision; as the work nears completion, the echt DIYer's eyes are afflicted with a quality zoom which reveals the existence of previously invisible faults, a phenomenon that never ends.

Avus said...

Elements of Jerome K Jerome in this posting BB - at least his stuff came to mind when reading yours!