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Handyman Letter - December, 1998


1) There is a time for selfishness... a message from the Natural Handyman.

2) Hello and thank you to web sites and publications that have recognized the Natural Handyman in the past month!

3)Winners of the Natural Handybear Giveaway!!

4) Q&A with our readers.

5) LINKMEISTER's Corner...

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





The holiday season has traditionally been a time of giving, of family, of friends. Traditional songs and celebrations of religious and secular nature are heard everywhere. A sense of holiday cheer and community spreads across the globe, as we feel that tug on our hearts to a simpler time when believing made everything so. People who wouldn't otherwise pass the time of day come together to assist others through difficult times... the symbolic start of the long winter, a homeless season, a time of missing lost family or friends.

But then there is a glimpse of adult reality...the mist clears as we read about (or, God forbid, experience) the sudden shopping riot over some silly stuffed toy! A child is unmercifully choked by an aggressive adult velociraptor in a feeding frenzy. Our wallets and waistlines surrender to overconsuming, overpartying, and... well... just plain overload!

Shop till you drop is a dominant theme, as well as the familiar fraternity (and in some cliques, sorority) cheer of "Party hardy!!" Watch out... too much flirting with the boss's spouse can put you in the penalty box! And escaping the season without a stress-related stuffy nose is a challenge equal to winning a friendly game of Twister against a group of contortionists on steroids.

Well, let the other rats race!! I think it is time for a change of attitude. I think it is time to rebel... to revolt. Enough giving! I think it is time for a little selfishness, with a strong dose of "Do unto ourselves as we do unto others!" In fact, we should celebrate it... "Look at me Mom... I'm selfish and I'm proud!!"

But to be selfish willy-nilly is not exactly cool. Anyone can be a selfish slob and end up part of the crowd. No, I want to be selfish in a unique way to rise above the seething mall-marchers. I want people pointing at me and saying, "Yo... that man is the most selfish guy I have ever seen! His picture is in the dictionary next to the definition of selfish!!"

Ahhh, now you're getting it. Selfish with a bullet! Unbridled narcissism... self-serving, self-centered, and hedonistic! Oh, the smell of it!! Excited?

To make it easier for you, I put together a list of the things I am going to do to reach the heights of egocentrism. If you follow these steps... perhaps you can even add your own thoughts to this list... a self-indulgent, Bohemian holiday is assured!!

1) I am going to indulge myself in a frenzy of charitable giving... as the wallet and time will support! This always fools everyone! They all think you are so selfless... little do they know how good it makes you feel! Ha!

2) I am going to spend extra time with my friends and family. I get so much pleasure from it... they do too, though I can't understand why! But who cares... it's all for me, so it must be right.

3) I am going to absolutely avoid committing random acts of kindness... instead I am going to commit intentional acts of kindness. I am going to let people pass me on one lane roads by pulling over when it is safe. I am going to give people the right of way every time there is a question about it. I am going to say thank you to people who do those selfless little things that make the world work better. The shocked look on their faces makes it all worth it. I love myself! Where's the mirror?

4) I am going to put my priorities in order and not let the little, picayune annoyances overshadow the really important stuff. Even when there are throats that I know should be ripped out... especially over that dang parking space I KNOW was mine!

5) I am going to count to three every time I sense I am getting angry, or sad, or out of control. Most of all, I will never act out until I am sure that I am responding to the reality of the event and not something that happened in my crib when I was 3 years old! Hey, what goes around comes around, right? Don't want to get smacked off the head with the spoon from that cosmic stew!

Are you with me? I know if we all try really hard, this selfish thing will work! After all, if you make the world a better, nicer, and safer place for those around you, how can it not be a better place for you?

With tongue firmly planted in cheek,





Dear NH,

I had an installation concern for a bathroom fan. I have searched and searched web sites, news groups, books and none have any helpful details. I plan on installing this fan in the ceiling. Now, I live in Canada with about 25 inches of insulation in my attic.

I want to know whether I should vent it through the roof (snow in winter) or send it straight across to the soffit on the outside all while staying in the attic, which seems more logical. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.



Most of the info you need to install the fan is in the included instructions, regardless of brand. The manufacturer should give you information concerning issues such as the size of the hole needed in the ceiling, and whether or not you should put insulation over the fan.

Locating the fan is dependent on the position of the ceiling joists. Having access to the attic makes it easier, of course. Pick an approximate location, and push a nail through the ceiling. You can find the nail above, or be really efficient and push a coat hanger through the hole. This will make locating the hole easier, since pushing the coat hanger will move the insulation (if you have a friend to help).

Since you live in an area whose climate requires lots of insulation, any restrictions in covering the fan can be overcome by building a small wooden box around the fan to keep the insulation from touching it.

As far as venting, you can vent either way. However, I would lean towards venting through an outside wall rather than the roof. Roof vents are always a potential leak waiting to happen, plus a heavy snowfall might, under the "wrong" conditions, block the vent flap making the fan nonfunctional.

Since there is a tendency for moisture to collect in the vent hose, it is important to cover the hose with insulation to keep it as warm as possible. If you bury it under the attic insulation, that should be sufficient.


Dear NH,

I want to restring my blinds. What is the right string to use?


Dear CS,

You are going to have to put on your safari hat and hunt for the right cord for restringing. Fortunately, some of the better (read more expensive) blind companies actually sell repair kits for their products.

If you are unsure of the manufacturer, you will have to let your fingers do the walking (in the phone book) and call around to curtain and blind stores to see who stocks generic replacement string. You might even try a home store. Just be sure to bring a sample with you when visiting. Too large a cord will bind your blind's mechanism, causing it to stick in unnatural positions!

Don't make the mistake of trying to use hardware store string... it will not last. The strings used for blinds are very strong for their size, and are specially woven so they don't unravel easily. Also, the surface texture of the cord is smooth and more resistant to abrasion and wear.


Dear NH,

We live in Rural Southwest Ontario i.e. lots of snow. We have to replace our patio door and am confused by all the different opinions from the several people I have talked to. Not only am I confused by the terms but apparently there are different materials I should know about. One company told me to stay away from wood in the frame, another told me I should have it for sturdiness. One told me to stay away from all vinyl, another said it's the best. etc., etc.

The Bottom Line -- What do I need to know to go patio door shopping.


Ah, the joys of shopping! We live in a world where opinion has taken the place of knowledge and truth. That's why you can't get the information you want. I also have opinions on lots of subjects... you know the old saying "Opinions are like elbows (ok, the word isn't elbows, but this is a PG website)... everybody has one", but there are answers if you ask the right questions.

First, the best insulating windows available are made from wood. Metal windows have come a long way, but from a style standpoint wood is still the residential king. However, if you want to have a more maintenance free product, purchase wood windows clad with vinyl. You can get windows clad on the outside to protect the wood from the elements and save yourself maintenance costs. You can also get windows clad inside AND outside if you are really lazy and never want to paint them!

You should also read the article on insulated glass at our site, at



There is only one doorbell in my house and when I am in the basement I can not hear the doorbell. It would be very easy to pull wires from the existing doorbell to the basement and mount another bell. My question is two fold:

1. Is it possible to run two doorbells on the same transformer and button. If so, please send me a schematic for the wiring.

2. If this is not possible please suggest the best and most cost effective way to solve my problem.

>Thanks for your help and your Web page,

DH from Thornton, Colorado


Fortunately, this is not a difficult project. Actually, I am surprised that with the emergence of the "Godzilla-sized" home multiple doorbells have not become "de rigueur". I think it would be rather nifty to have a number of more mellow-sounding tones ringing throughout the house than one brash, brain-scrambling ding-dong from the portal. Anyway...

If you remove the cover from the doorbell, you will see three screw terminals. One is for the front door button, one is for the rear door button, and one is for the transformer. There are other wires that are connected either in the wall behind the unit, or elsewhere, but you need not be concerned with them. They are the direct connection between the transformer and the doorbell buttons, providing power to the buttons all the time so that you can, at your option, use lighted buttons.

To connect your second doorbell, just snake a wire to the existing doorbell unit... the hardest part of the job for sure!! The wire should have two or three leads, depending on whether you want the doorbell to ring for just the front or rear (two leads) or both (three leads). There is a generic wire that is called bell wire. You may also use a heavier gauge wire if you prefer.

Connect one lead to the front terminal, and one to the transformer terminal. Run these wires to the other doorbell, and connect them to the corresponding terminals. That's it! Now try to ring the doorbell.

If it rings OK, you are done. If you find that the ringing is incomplete or muffled, then you may need to upgrade the transformer (another road trip) to the next higher voltage above the recommended size for the new doorbell. The specifications will be in the documentation for the new doorbell. If you bring this information, including the size of your current transformer to the hardware store, they should be able to provide you with the correct product.




Dear Natural Handyman,

In The Handyman Letter (November, 1998) you wrote:

"ACHLA, a Hebrew search engine and index of Israeli sites, has us listed in their home repair directory. (Unfortunately, the page has been moved and, since I can't read Hebrew, I don't have the new link.)  The site is written in Hebrew, and we don't have the foggiest idea what they say about us... we just hope it's positive! If anyone can translate this entry into English, we would be very grateful! (HINT: It's towards the bottom of the page!)"

ACHLA is very popular web reference and search site in Israel, very much like Yahoo in concept, although much smaller in scope. Have no fear, you received a very sympathetic review and you should start registering a significant number of Israeli "hits" as a result of this link.

Attached is a screen capture in zipped format of the original Hebrew link and a free translation of the reference.

DM, Raanana, Israel.


Thank you thank you thank you! I have reproduced the translation on the site, along with the original Hebrew, at "A handiman from birth" is actually an excellent translation of the spirit in my nickname, The Natural Handyman.


Dear NH,

In your newsletter and the mail from L in Texas, I must confess. I'm a truck driver and as most of us spend way too money on CB stuff. We all seem to try and talk over, or "walk on" each other... to do this we must add kickers, which up the wattage of our radios. One time I noticed that when I'd heat up the kicker to the highest level it made my neighbor's garage door open. I'd ask L in Texas if they had a truck driver next door. But the fact that this randomly happened was the key, maybe this was cheap entertainment for a trucker!


Dear G,

I have heard similar reports elsewhere. There seems to be a range of frequencies... or just raw power... that will activate garage door openers from radio transmission devices aside from the good ol' clicker, as long as the juice is turned up real high! Even low flying airplanes can cause garage doors to open in some neighborhoods!


Dear NH,

I just subscribed to your newsletter and the first article I read had the hateful phrase "rule of thumb". This terms comes from olden times and refers to the width of a rod a man could use to legally beat his wife. Please extinguish this from your newsletter. I cringe every time I see or hear someone using it. Thanks. I look forward to continuing to receive your newsletter.


Dear TS,

I hope you understand that no offense was intended. I have three daughters, and the image you have invoked likewise raises my hackles! There are many so-called expressions that have roots which are rather vile, but through years of use have come to take on a more benign meaning. I appreciate your candor, and I will mention your comments in the next issue of the newsletter.



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