A hammer, a nail, courage, or goo.

The poster stickum pulls off the wall – and the nail – with ease.
Hammering a nail straight takes courage, but hammering a TINY nail sometimes takes creativity. Photo shows the nail almost as small as the fingers.
Hammering a nail straight takes courage, but hammering a TINY nail sometimes takes creativity. (Photo © 2015 by Anne Elizabeth-Sarah Bushey)

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Call THIS number: 845-362-0013

When one must hammer a nail, one must summon one’s courage in order to sink that little metal spike into the surface straight and true. Sure: it’s a risk one takes – one might sink the steel head of one’s hammer into one’s hand, turning it into a gory blob of goo, but …

That’s a badge of honor in some circles.

Not for me. I call avoidable injuries “just plain silly.” Not when there’s a better way, or a “cool tool,” we can call upon.

I’ve made other suggestions before, but this one’s pretty good: when you need to use a TEENY TINY nail, as we often do to hang up artwork, grab some of the poster stickum – cheap AS DIRT in any dollar store stationery department – and after sticking a little mound of THAT to the wall, you can use the poster stickum to hold your nail FOR you.

Here is the step by step.

poster stickum on wall
Make sure to warm the poster stickum in your hands. (Or in your pocket while you do something else first, if you’re big on efficiency.)

The poster stickum holds the nail right up against the wall – so you don't have to.

The poster stickum holds the nail right up against the wall – so you don’t have to.

The poster stickum holds on to the nail while you hammer right through it into the wall behind it.
The poster stickum holds on to the nail while you hammer right through it into the wall behind it.
The poster stickum pulls off the wall – and the nail – with ease.
The poster stickum pulls off the wall – and the nail – with ease.

Is this cheating? Who CARES? All I know is it saves me from worrying about how busy the local ER might be during my weekend spruce-ups.

If you can’t smoke, store your stuff.

woman with cigarette holder; vintage cigarette case inserted

Since most people these days can’t smoke within twenty feet of a person, place, thing or idea, or choose not to pay the tax-inflated price of two movie tickets for the privilege of shriveling their lungs, “upcycling” old-fashioned cigarette cases to store those chucks and bits festooning the bottom of your toolbox is a surprisingly handy idea.

woman with cigarette holder; vintage cigarette case insertedThis woman could easily have been my grandmother back in her heyday, when smoking, drinking, and other things that make life WAY more fun (but WAY more short) were encouraged.

She smoked – and carried her smokes in a glamorous case like the one you see here:


vintage cigarette case THIS I obtained from a thrift shop somewhere, probably for about a dollar.

These are in more common use these days than you might think, because die-hard smokers have taken to rolling their own, and need a place to put them.


Here’s what I’ve been using mine for:



vintage cigarette case open and full of small bits and chucksIt’s made SUCH a difference.

I also have one for longer cigarettes, which is especially nice for paddle bits.

Now, when I reach into my tool box, I don’t reach back suddenly, having snagged my fingertip on the sharp end of a loose paddle bit.

Wondering where YOU can get a nifty thing like this? Try any thrift shop, like Goodwill, or the Salvation Army, but sadly – thanks to the magnificent PR machine of the tobacco industry – you can find items like THESE in any Claire’s, in any mall, anywhere, aimed at the teenage market:


flowery modern cigarette caseAnd, like Li Dee, the Friendly Neighborhood Architect said on the show May 2, 2015, (listen here: on WRCR) -> it’s a green tip, too. And we ALL know how excited HE gets about GREEN.


Amazing DIY hack for spray paint you didn’t know you needed.

Dollar store spray bottle and water-based acrylic craft paint.

Here’s an amazing DIY hack for spray paint you didn’t know you needed, but will change the way you craft and color just about anything you’ve used paint on before.

Dollar store spray bottle and water-based acrylic craft paint.
Dollar store spray bottle and water-based acrylic craft paint.

By mixing together approximately 1 part craft store paint and 1 part water in a dollar store spray bottle

depending on how thick/thin you want your coats of paint, how translucent you want it, and what the consistency of your original paint is to start with, not to mention the surface material – but we’ll get to all that in a minute –

you can basically put together your own custom-colored spray paint that’s a bit easier to spray, as a bonus.

What makes this an amazing hack:

–> It’s a thousand billion times easier to pull a trigger than it is to hold down a hard button, especially for as long as it takes to actually COVER the surface of anything larger than a postage stamp. Anyone who’s ventured into the land of spray paint can testify to that.

GIF: nuns from sister act dancing, captioned "Halleluhjah!"

–> You get an amazing quantity of paint for your money, compared to typical spray paint cans. If you’ve ever thought: “Aw, heck, I’ll just spray paint this bench,” then gone out to buy some spray paint to do that, you may have been shell-shocked later to learn:

CHEAP spray paint leaves a fine, see through mist that requires about seven hundred cans to cover a square foot, leaving you with square-foot sized blisters on your forefingers (no matter HOW many times you switch hands and shake them out, swearing.)

EXPENSIVE spray paint – even the kind that says: “covers in ONE coat” – runs out JUST as the blisters are forming on your forefinger – and JUST as you’re trying to think up new, creative swear words.

Cinderella's wicked stepmother; angry zoom

–> CUSTOM COLORS: This might just be the artist in me, but I have often stood, enchanted as a toddler, in front of paint sample swatches, only to be as frustrated as a toddler in a tantrum when I can’t find the paint to match, and don’t have time (or don’t want to SPEND the time) waiting on line, or hoping with fingers crossed, that the paint person gets the match right.

With 95¢ acrylic craft paint and a paper plate? I have a lot less problem with “oops” paint going into my garbage.

–> It’s GREEN. You’re recycling what you ALREADY have. Because let’s face it: Don’t we ALL have at least a handful of those acrylic paints lying around?

Every beater needs a good drill.

Drill with cake beater as bitWhile this may LOOK a bit strange, don’t be fooled:

and don’t EVER be reluctant to try something that seems like a good idea.

A single cake beater that you might at first think to toss makes a terrific tool at the end of a power drill for mixing all SORTS of things:

plaster of Paris, cement, even aerating soil in containers.

Just test it first. ALWAYS test first.

Especially anything you attach to something that spins around really fast.



Want an easy way to find a stud?

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.

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

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.

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.

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


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,


For the want of a nail…

If you listeners have as much fun as we do, then we’re really on to something here. Even my eight-year-old had fun today; when I came home we both laughed about the show — which you can catch Saturday mornings on WBNR/WLNA 1260/1420 AM from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., by the by.

How DO carpenters end up running out of nails when they’re framing a house, anyway? I mean, what gives? Nails? What are they thinking? “Nails. Now, are THEY something I’ll need?”

But like Mike said — and he TRULY ought to know — carpenters DO simply reach into their workbelts, and when they come up short, look to the go-fer — “Hey! I’m out!”

And they just never, ever look on the ground — where there are, literally, sprinkled hundreds of nails.

Leave it to Lee, the Friendly Neighborhood Architect — the ENVIRONMENTALLY Friendly Architect — to go around picking them all up, one by one. 137 nails he gathered for a record. Still, I’m sure there are more to be had. Leave it to our guys to save you money, listeners. Every time.

My grandmother used to mutter every so often: “For the want of a nail…”

One day I asked her what that meant. She smiled. “For the want of a nail, the war was lost.” At my puzzled look, she explained. “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For the want of a horse, the rider was lost. For the want of a rider, the message was lost. For the want of the message, the battle was lost. For the want of the battle, the war was lost. And all for the want of a nail.”

This week’s tool will never leave you rider-less.

After all this week’s talk of framing, trusses and joists, you may be left with your head spinning at the lingo, the jargon, the insider-speak. You’ll hear me say over and over again that while Do-It-Yourself is great, when it comes to the big stuff, you want to rely on the expert advice you get from the boys like ours at The ABCs of Home Improvement. Not only do they know their stuff, but they’re boys you can trust — which, of course, is like gold.

BUT: you need to feel like you’re standing on solid ground yourself — and how do you do that? A little education is in order. Not to mention the fact you don’t want to be stopping them every half-sentence like I do, with a “Stop, wait, what does that mean?”

These tools, this week, are basically dictionaries. Easy-to-read, easy to take at your own pace, and between them both, they cover pretty comprehensively every term you’re likely to come across during home improvement projects.

Nice. Even nicer to feel ever-so-much smarter.

I’ll link them up here, or you can always visit our web site at www.theabcsofhomeimprovement.com.

Glossaries of Construction Terms:



(Note: These sites are in the business of trying to sell you stuff on their home pages. The glossaries are free, though.)

Happy listening, everybody!

Oooh — and check us out in July’s Hudson Valley Magazine, too. We’re in there.

Love always,