Do it yourself — with me: Stubborn independence means home projects, expertise or not

Nathan Baker • Feb 11, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Welcome, everyone, to a public celebration of my lack of knowledge and ability!

In these columns, I’ll struggle through the frustration and masochism of doing things myself.

Part Martha Stewart and part doomsday prepper, but without the television contract or the expertise, I’ll take on everything from small restoration projects to vegetable gardening.

As all do-it-yourselfers know, it’s more about the journey of self-discovery than the product. For me, learning something new is enough of a prize, but if I turn out something half-decent with one of my experiments, I consider it a win.

I’ve got a history peppered with successes — a decade ago I rebuilt a standard transmission and installed it in my Ford Explorer. Because it originally was an automatic, I had to get creative with some wiring, and the ‘Sploder never had backup lights again, but it was a definite improvement over the trashed automatic transmission, which wouldn’t shift into reverse at all.

But with each working Explorer, there are at least a dozen spectacular failures.

In the ninth grade, I found an old broken VCR (it’s what we had before Netflix, kids, look it up) and took it apart to see what made it work.

No one in my family believed me, but I swear I had it playing tapes again — that is before I poked a screwdriver into a capacitor, shorted out the circuit board and gave myself a shock strong enough to stand my arm hairs up. Folks, do not work on electronics while they’re plugged in!

I’ve also been doing some home gardening over the past few years, but I’ve upped my game recently when my wife and I purchased our first home.

This spring, I’ll likely build another raised bed for my backyard, and I’ll bring you along for the ride. I try to grow a collection of unusual fruits and veggies, and this year I’m planning striped tomatoes, rattlesnake beans, some Hinkelhatz peppers and a couple of interesting types of watermelon.

I’ve already built a shelf for my seedlings in the basement, and I’ll get those in some pots next month.

There’s also an old electric desk fan disassembled on my workbench. I found it at a yard sale last year, and couldn’t pass up its jet-engine styling and its $5 price. I’m in the middle of removing the paint and rust from it and finding out how to reattach the fan blades to the motor shaft, but once I get that sorted, I’ll paint it a deep blue.

So, if you’re as stubbornly independent as I am, I hope you’ll find some entertainment reading about me bumbling through the DIY life.

Feel free to send me notes about what I’m doing wrong, or to share some of your own projects.

Nathan Baker is news editor at Johnson City Press. He can be reached at nbaker@johnsoncitypress.com.

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