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Handyman Letter -  May 15, 2001


1) Finding your voice...a message from the Natural Handyman

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

3) Contest Central

4) What's new at

5) Q&A with our readers

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

"American Electricians' Handbook"

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



Since my youth I have loved music, though I admit I was never a connoisseur. I was an aficionado... a fan who thoroughly enjoyed many types of music, had definite preferences but never became obsessed with any one artist... at least for long!

Being a curious child, I always wondered what placed one singer in the limelight and left another in obscurity. I'm sure you have heard singers or musicians performing in small, local venues and said to yourself, "What is a person of such amazing talent doing here?" or more bluntly "What a waste!"

I had sensed that raw vocal ability was the main ingredient that set the stars apart from the rest. Having walked a different road to my own successes, I realize now that they truly utilized hard work, luck, intensity and sacrifice... not just sheer vocal ability... that let to their success. They had "found" their voice!

The expression "finding a voice" describes the phenomenon singers face once they begin to seriously test their skills. Each individual has unique tonal qualities. Singers are routinely categorized by their tonal range... alto, soprano, tenor and bass... but these categories overlap with many singers loosely fitting into one or another of them. But there is more to being a vocalist than fitting in. Successful singers use their unique biological gifts and reflect them in their voice. Their tone... their "voice"... is, in a sense, an accident of life that can be actualized through rigorous practice and training.

In a broader sense, though, our physical structure both defines and limits our abilities, whether vocal or athletic. Children have learned this in the schoolyard for generations. No matter how hard they tried, there always seemed to be one kid who was faster. And the worst part was the other's effort seemed... effortless!

But running fast is not the only way to run! I knew a young person who loved to run but never won any of the sprinting events on her high school track team. One day at the suggestion of her coach, she tried running with the cross-country team and easily out paced the entire squad! She had "found her voice" and her success even after looking in the wrong place for a long time! Had she quit running altogether her voice would have been sadly silent.

Finding one's voice is a requirement for fame. However, fame is not a requirement for a successful life! While everyone cannot be famous, it is also true that everyone does not WANT to be famous, to accept the responsibility and sacrifices that go with that mantle. Finding one's voice is tied to maturity... the maturity of knowing what one wants, what one can have and always moving towards the goal even though the path may snake through setbacks and failures. Finding one's voice leads to the fulfillment and satisfaction of knowing you have made the best use of your own gifts, whatever those gifts may be!

But what about those small-stage singers and performers... what about their voices? I suggest you look in their eyes when they perform. Try to sense their hearts racing when they ply their art... and it is art. Soar with them when they stretch beyond the limits of their beings. Do look into their eyes... then you will know that they have indeed found their voices.




Dear NH,

I want to paint my baby's room but I don't want to have the fumes that paint gives off. I heard that there is something you can put in the paint to get rid of the fumes. I'm not sure if it's a few drops cooking oil or not, and I don't want to ruin my paint if it's the wrong thing to do. If there is anything else that can do the trick, I'm all ears!



Many paints contain additives known as VOC's... volatile organic compounds. They have a variety of functions from being the primary solvent in oil-based paints, making the paint brush or roll on more smoothly and to increasing drying speed.

VOC's don't stay in the paint, but evaporate as the paint dries and are released into the air. They have been connected with some health and environmental concerns so your apprehension, especially around an infant, is warranted.

Fortunately for the health-minded, a growing number of paint manufacturers sell paints that are low VOC and low odor. There is no additive that I am aware of that can lower the VOC level of a paint... maybe mask it, but not lower it. So put the olive oil away and head over to your local paint store!


Dear NH,

I have a couple of aluminum storm doors with removable/interchangeable screens and windows. To secure these panels, the door has several thumbscrews and clips. A couple of the thumbscrews have broken off within the inserts or are seemingly cross-threaded and difficult to work with.

Is there some way I can remove those old thumbscrews and replace them? I'd hate to have to buy a new door simply for the sake of a few thumbscrew clips.



The inserts can be replaced if you have a drill, a pop rivet gun and the correct threaded rivets. Rather than write you a personal epistle, get the complete information by visiting our pop rivet page at: 


Dear NH,

I had a guy fix protruding nail heads... a.k.a. nail pops... on my ceiling. I bought some paint to touch up the repairs, but the touch ups stand out because they are whiter than the ceiling. Is there any way to tone down the whiteness so that it blends better with the rest of the ceiling? (And I thought my ceiling was WHITE!)



I feel your paint! Errr... pain, that is! Isn't it amazing how "white" a ceiling can seem until you put a few dabs of fresh paint on it?

Fortunately for you, white is a relatively easy color to work with. Go to your hardware or paint store and purchase a tube of black pigment. Add a very tiny amount to some of your white paint and mix it well. With a little experimentation and lots of patience, you should be able to find a shade of "off white" that more closely approximates your ceiling's current condition.



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

Dear NH,

I had a second phone line installed and phone company wanted to charge us $90 for the work. Thanks to your website , I had it hooked in less than two minutes! Thanks.



Glad to help! After all, trying to save you a few bucks when we can is what THE NATURAL HANDYMAN is all about!



Dear NH,

In today's newsletter, you stated the following: "If your new roof was installed over the old roof (up to two layers are permissible provided your roof structure can hold the weight)."

Most communities that I've been in allow only 2 layers of shingles, however there are some that allow three. People should check with their local building supervisor or town hall to find out what the ordinance is for their community. Based on your statement, someone might rip off the shingles if they already have two layers because of your blanket statement, even if they are allowed a third. The cost for laying shingles over an existing layer compared to ripping off the old ones first could be quite substantial.

With regards to second and third roofs, do they last as long as the first or are there diminishing returns?

TM from White Meadow Lake, NJ


You are correct... local codes are much more stringent than the national code when it comes to reroofing. The national code does allow two layers of asphalt shingles over an existing layer. In areas with snow loads, though, it is less common to get approval for a third layer... especially heavy-duty 30 year shingles! But the three layer allowance is dependant on an inspection of the roof structure by the local building department to be sure it can carry the weight. So thank you and consider your message passed on!

You would think that ANY scrupulous roofer would let the homeowner know all their options, including the permissible number of layers allowed. But that is my naive-side talking, so ignore me on that count!

There are a few reasons to NOT layer an asphalt roof that should be considered by the homeowner. The first reason is that I have seen many roofs with leaks that reroofing didn't fix! This is usually due to problems with flashing that were not apparent to the roofer. Proper reflashing can require the roofer to do quite a bit of shingle removal and replacement prior to installing the new roof layer, somewhat diminishing the price advantage of layering.

Also, the second roof will not last as long as a new single layer. The primary reason is heat... the hotter the roof gets, the shorter the life of asphalt shingles. Most people would intuitively think this is nutty, especially if they have ever been on a roof. I mean... how much hotter could it get? The truth is... lots! Remember that the temperature of the roof is affected by how well the attic is ventilated. Asphalt roof manufacturers have proven that a cool, well-ventilated attic leads to longer roof life. When you "layer" the roof, the lower layer acts as an insulator so heat does not radiate into the attic space as well as a single layer. Since the upper layer becomes hotter than it would otherwise, the roof's life is measurably shortened. Unfortunately, I have no data to give you regarding the actual reduction in roof life. (If any reader has this information I would be glad to receive it.)

The other factor that may shorten a layered roof's life is the unevenness of the old roof. The new shingles do not lie on a smooth decking... they lie on top of old shingles. This unevenness will eventually reshape the new shingles as they soften with the sun's heat causing them to bend to conform to profile of the old roof. Even the slightest bend is a potential weak spot that may lead to premature breakage... especially if the roof is walked on.

As you can probably tell, I am a one-layer sort of guy. So are the growing numbers of roofers who are tired of callbacks and dissatisfied clients. But I appreciate the additional costs of stripping an old roof. So all I can say is... let the buyer beware!


Dear NH,

Regarding super-sized houses, I think I am on the same wavelength as you are. I find these homes to be palaces full of "dead" air - dead spiritually and energetically. It must be spooky just living in one. I think I would feel small and alone a lot. What do we think we are going to find in these homes? Happiness? Contentment? Fulfillment? I think not. Homes are made happy, content and fulfilling by safety, love, respect and courage. It's gonna take a lot of these elements to fill those dinosaurs!

On the subject of the financial risks of home ownership, and young people and their money, I refer to Brian Tracey, a motivational speaker, whom I heard say, "Financial wealth isn't based on what you earn, it's based on what you save."

MJ from Ypsilanti, MI


Thanks... same wavelength for sure!


Dear NH,

I read your page on chimineas and thanks for the great info. The paint/finish came off places on my chiminea after the first hard rain. What type of paint can I use on it? Then do I seal with the Futura floor wax as you recommended? I am not clear whether I need high heat paint or not! Many thanks for your help.



It's too bad you didn't seal the chiminea first. The paint used on chimineas is an inexpensive acrylic that is not the toughest paint around but when sealed will stand up fairly well. You can use artist-type oil-based (not latex) acrylic paints to touch up the chiminea. Be sure to seal the chiminea after the acrylic has dried or the new acrylic will deteriorate quickly.

Chimineas are supposed to have a "rustic" appearance, so imperfections and fading due to age are part of the charm of a well-used chiminea. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I suggest that people who want to keep their chimineas in pristine condition should 1) never fire it up, 2) keep it inside and 3) use it as a candle-holder or as a purely decorative piece.

High temperature paints are designed to adhere to metals, so I can't recommend their use on a clay chiminea. Even if the paint successfully stuck it probably would not offer much in the way of moisture protection after a few firings, especially if there are any tiny cracks in the chiminea surface.

If you haven't already, invest in a vinyl chiminea cover. It makes no sense exposing your chiminea to rain more than necessary. As mentioned our the article, the more moisture in the clay when you fire up the chiminea, the greater the chance of cracking caused by released steam!



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