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Handyman Letter
October 1, 2001


1) Putting fear on the back burner...a message from the Natural

2) Our appreciation to sites and publications that have recently linked to,
listed or featured NH!

3) Sweepstakes Central

4) What's new at

5) NH's Toolbox "Tool of the Month"...

6) Q&A with our readers


8) "Pass the hammer, would ya?"... NH's readers speak out!

9) Featured in the Natural Handyman Bookshop...

10) Recommend our newsletter to a friend... or rate our newsletter!!



In the past few weeks, we have all watched as America and the civilized world has convulsed over the events of September 11th. It was for me an unfathomable loss of life with millions of people directly affected. Entire businesses have ceased to exist. As the airline and vacation industries face financial ruin, a ripple effect has many more millions alarmed over the sudden loss of job security. For good reason, people like you and me are afraid!

Fear is a truly natural response to a real threat, such as a vicious dog or a crazed person. But fear can also be aroused by the expectation of a threat or event. The stark truth is that, even in the aftermath of 9/11, most of us have not been directly threatened. Yet we feel a sincere dread and are looking over our shoulders wondering, "Am I next?" Some fear flying... others of crowded places like athletic events, church, temple or mosque. And this fear is just as real as it gets!

Any psychologist worth his or her salt will tell you this "free-floating" fear is most dangerous because it is undefined. Being undefined, it never ends! You can put some distance between you and that snarling dog, but your mind lives within you and is inescapable. If fear prevails and keeps us from living our lives as free and productive Americans, evil has won a second even more staggering victory, stretching from sea to shining sea!

So perhaps it is time to take stock of our blessings. Mourn, of course, and vent your grief. But also accept in your heart that mourning alone is not the answer and the time to mourn for most of us is coming to a close. It is time to take stock of our past and future and realize that the world has not changed as much as you might think. With all the horrors of that day and the nightmares that will haunt the survivors and the hundreds of thousands of friends and family members, it is time for the rest of us to show both our strength and spirit. And move on. It is time to take a realistic look at who we are... who YOU are... and what you are going to do with the rest of your life.

There are few things you can do to get yourself back on track.

1) Join in the rebirth of real patriotism. Patriotism is not just flag waving nor arrogance nor willful pride. Patriotism is not hate and is not an event. Patriotism is love and respect for your country and a way of life. It is a quiet, solemn duty required as a condition of freedom. And, most of all, it unites us all with the strength to do whatever needs to be done to preserve and protect ourselves, our families and our country from enemies within and without. Fear be damned!

2) Get involved by giving. Though money is always needed by the Red Cross and other relief agencies, giving of your time... or your blood... is worth even more! And EVERY community has many selfless opportunities through Lions Clubs and other benevolent organizations. Check 'em out!

3) Fear's partner is stress. One of the greatest non-toxic stress relievers is plain old exercise. Walk, run, swim, take a yoga class... anything you can do to elevate your heart rate and burn some calories will help. Plus it helps to focus your mind on something healthy and productive. Check with your doctor first, though, if you have been inactive, have any physical conditions or take any medications.

What will happen? I can't predict the future. But I know one thing for sure. Prior to Sept 11th, the future was no more unpredictable than it is now! Life is no more or less certain than it was... even though in our collective distress it may surely seem so! Our choices and the vagaries of fate still rule our lives as much as ever. Uncertainty is the only thing that is assured (besides taxes)... it is the way of all life.

Maybe the ultimate key to conquering fear is to live today as if tomorrow were your last day! But, most importantly, do nothing that you would not want to undo tomorrow! Leave each day better than the last. Help your family, help a friend, help a stranger... help yourself.

In America, the flag has been raised back to its full majesty. Now it's your turn to rise back up... and make a mark on the world that no evil can erase.




FLY IT PROUDLY... FLY IT RIGHT!! With all the US flags hanging outside of homes and businesses these days, NH noticed that many people don't know the proper way to display the flag. Save yourself a "friendly" knock on the door from a helpful neighbor... learn the customs of flag-flying!!



Dear NH,

I want to paint my steam radiator and I do not want it to peel. Is it necessary to first prime it and what type of paint do I use, both for priming and finishing, latex or oil?

I can appreciate the overload of questions that you receive. But if you don't answer my lame question then who or whom can I turn to in my time of need? Better hurry, winter is closing in and I'll have to wait till next spring to paint. And if I don't get an answer then this can go on and on indefinitely and it'll be on your head that this little old radiator (well, it's not that little) will never see a fresh coat of paint.

Aren't you glad you started this web site and have to deal with wackos like me? Just kidding. If you can't get to my question , fine. I'll just have to ask my wife; she knows everything.

SR from Glen Ridge, NJ


I received both your messages. I honestly wish I received lots of lame questions... it would be less painful to have to skip over many of them. Unfortunately, just about all the questions I receive ARE important! Given the limited time I have to answer them (not being an Internet "wonk" and still working for a living), I try to give emphasis to the ones that seem to have the most universal import... such as yours!

If the existing finish is sound, you don't have much of a job. First, clean all dust and dirt from the radiator. Then, use sandpaper to roughen the surface slightly to give the new paint a better grip. Wipe the radiator down with Wilbond deglosser (whether the radiator has been painted or not)... this will remove any oils and help the paint to adhere. If the radiator is raw metal, you should use a bare metal primer before painting. If the radiator is already painted, use an oil primer if you want... it can't hurt but if your other preparation is done properly it may not be necessary.

Apply a finish coat of a quality oil-based interior paint. I don't approve of using latex paint because it is less heat resistant and less durable than an oil-based paint.

High temperature paint is not necessary... these are meant for really high temperatures such as industrial or automotive engine applications, far above the 200 or so degrees that a residential steam radiator reaches.

You could also use canned spray paint. Depending on the brand, you may not even need a primer over bare metal. Of course, using spray paint inside a home requires quite a bit of masking to protect objects from the spray.

Earlier I said "if the finish is sound". If your radiator is covered in chipping or lifting paint, you must remove all loose paint or the new finish will fail. This can be accomplished by sanding, scraping or even the use of a chemical paint remover. If the radiator has old paint that might contain lead, the safest method of paint removal is chemical, since this does not release lead into the air to the extent that sanding would. There are lead testing kits available at any hardware or paint store. If the radiator can be disconnected and taken outside, even better... though I know this is impractical for most situations.

I am not an expert in lead abatement, so my advise is limited to common sense... 1) use an appropriate respirator or dust mask for personal protection and 2) keep the dust down or contained through masking and/or "tenting" the radiator to keep the spread of lead dust within a controlled area. Because local codes vary as to lead issues, it's up to you to find out the laws in your area. Some codes are quite strict and the penalties can be quite severe... especially if you have young children in your home!

Because of the stress on the paint from the constant heating and cooling, don't expect your paint job to last forever. However, your care to preparation detail will extend its life by years!


Dear NH,

The wood posts inside our relatively "new" house were finished with polyurethane. Now they are beginning to exude sap. Is this common? We were wondering if they had been "cured" or prepared improperly? How do we remedy the situation, if possible?

EE from Mt Juliet, TN

Wood harvested at certain times of the year is more likely to exude sap from the knots, even when kiln-dried. It isn't considered a defect, though it can be a pain!

I would suggest just removing the sap... for now... to get rid of the stickiness. Once you go through a season or two without more sap appearing, you can refinish the post. Just sand the affected side and apply a coat of polyurethane to it with a brush or cloth. There are rub-on polyurethane finishes that are easy to use and work well! Make sure you don't apply any product that contains wax or oil to the posts or the new poly may not stick!!

There are a number of sap-removal products you can try. Denatured alcohol is the least damaging to the polyurethane. If that doesn't do the trick, try automobile finish sap remover. Other products that will remove stubborn sap are kerosene (lighter fluid) and gasoline, though I wouldn't recommend using gasoline inside your home.



Dear NH,

We have just installed a plywood subfloor in our kitchen. Is it necessary to do anything to the seams between the sheets before we install vinyl composition tile? Thanks for your time.

CH from Mohawk, New York

It is most important that the floor is flat with no raised defects, nails or screws. Also, there should be no gaps of more than 1/16" between the plywood sheets. Either of these conditions could cause failure in the floor. The reason for this is that vinyl tiles tend to follow the contour of the floor below. Over time, tiles over gaps may crack or break along the line. Unfilled holes will be weak spots that may over time be visible as the tile settles into them.

If there are gaps, use a floor leveler to fill them. This product is available at hardware or home stores. Follow the mixing instructions, apply it to the floor and allow to dry. Use the same product to fill nail and screw holes. Sand smooth when dry.

Be sure that the floor is absolutely dry and dust free before applying the tile.

Good luck,



7) "PASS THE HAMMER, WOULD YA?"... NH's readers speak out!

(Note: NH received quite a few responses to our last "non-newsletter" regarding the events on September 11th as home repair was placed on the "back burner". Of the hundreds we received, many came unsolicited from outside the US from folks who sincerely shared our shock and grief. It is indeed a small world! We have reprinted a few here... with heartfelt thanks to all of you who opened your hearts to us this past month.)

Dear NH,

I live in Malaysia with a full 12 hrs between our time zones. With modern technologies, we at Malaysia witnessed the same horrible, evil and despicable act unfolded on the silver screen as it happened.

You were right to say that as of that moment, we are all New Yorkers! I am personally more so that my daughter had just left for your great country to further her study at Philadelphia, smack between NY and DC! I was really amazed at how Americans had risen to the occasion, both leaders and the common folks.

Have faith in your leader and your country, more so in humanity. I was most touched by what your fellow citizen did on the fourth plane! My heart goes out to all of you. If it can be of any help, let me say that you will never walk alone!

WSC from Malaysia

Dear NH,

As a Canadian, and a life long friend of Americans, I share your pain.


Dear NH,

I live in France and receive the newsletter. No need to apologize at all. I would rather you be "human" than "professional". We are shell-shocked too. The French are shocked as well with the events of last week, and all over the country the French observed 3 minutes of silence: stores closed, offices stopped their work, etc.

My wife and I have been literally bombarded with calls, letters, e-mails of sympathy. And church was filled yesterday with people wanting to hear some good news (I am a pastor.) The French have told me, "We are all New Yorkers." Anyway, go ahead and grieve. We are ALL grieving. We NEED to grieve.

BB from Montigny le Bretonneux, France

Dear NH,

Thank you for your humbling letter. I fully share your sentiments. We in Europe, not the least those in my Church today, are stunned at the enormity of the misdeed. We trust that Justice will prevail and that Tolerance and Freedom shall return someday as a part of a normal society.

I saw a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II that expressed the sadness so many share with your great people.

WD, the Netherlands