The Little World – Regional Hazards

Or, ” They Never Mentioned This In The Instruction Book “.

Last week I decided to do a little work with the Picador Pup. The motor is installed, the drive belt free, and the bearing all oiled up.

Note for younger readers: bearings in modern tools are sealed at the factory with unimaginably sophisticated lubricants that last for decades and never need replacement. I am starting to think this applies to a lot of motor cars too, but that is another matter.

Old workshop machines need constant lubricant replenishment. You need to check before you work and after a certain time to top up the reservoir – this is because the tolerances between the moving parts may be very loose. If you do not there is an almighty squealing and all movement stops. That is why they make beer in stubbies. I believe it may be the same with the actual machine tools as well…

Working away I started to hear this irregular screeching noise. It got louder and louder and I wondered if smoke would pour out of the Pup and everything jam. Then the screeching got quieter, and went away. It was only when the Tail End Charlie – the last in the flock of White Cockatoos flew past the open door  ( Squawk, squawk, squawk! ) that I realised I had been given the bird.

At least they are just an intermittent thing – some of the other wildlife in the workshop visits all too often. The underside of the workbench is a big open space that venomous red-back spiders seem to find attractive. As my bare legs also fit under the bench top it is a good idea to evict them periodically. I use a can of insect spray rather than a flamethrower.

The other hazard is just the fact that in Australia, summer is practised upon a professional basis. If you do not get your work done by noon, you won’t get a chance to do it again until 8:00 PM – the rise of temperature inside the closed space renders all efforts impossible. I find it is good management to arrange gluing and painting between 9:00 AM and noon because the heat of the afternoon will set things perfectly. As long as you can ensure no currents of air or dust in this period, you get a baked-on finish with most acrylics and enamels.


Stealth Graffiti


I have a reader of this column who mentioned that he goes to his local Home Depot store to buy spray cans of clear varnish for  various DIY projects. Being the person he is, he commented at the front counter that it was for ” stealth graffiti “… and only one clerk ever got it. Retail hardware is a grim country –  its citizens are serious and hardened to life…

I note, however, that our local Bunnings – the Australian equivalent of Home Depot – has decided to unlock the spray can cage lately. The shelves of spray can paints and varnishes were kept behind steel mesh with a padlock to prevent unauthorised vandals from taking the cans to deface local walls. I can’t say whether this has been successful, though the local graffiti has decreased, but I guess that Bunnings staff found it all too hard to go over there and unlock the cage every time some pensioner wanted enamel to refinish a kitchen chair. So they have fallen back to the cashier line – presumably scanning every person who crosses the sensor for either a stolen can of Dulux or an antisocial attitude.

I hope it is the former, as I have the latter and would be caught every time. Come to think of it , most of the people I know are the same. The only thing that stops us from tagging the local telephone booths is the fact that there ARE no local telephone booths and we all have access to computers. We can be antisocial on a global scale and need not go out on a cold night in a hoodie to do it.

Back at the cage, I purchased a can of wood stain combined with varnish. It promises to make things look like polished jarrah in three coats. I have just put on the first coat and am nervous. I think it is going to make things look like scrabby shit.

Stained scrabby shit, mind. The instructions mention 24 hours curing time and then a light sanding before the second coat. Okay. I’m game. But if the second coat looks as bad as the first coat there is going to be some bloody extensive sanding, followed by a coat of enamel put on with a brush, and the rest of the spray can used to explain my concerns on the front of the Bunnings store windows at 3:00 AM. I must practise my tag…


I Support Postjudice


Yesterday was an eye-opener in the workshop.

It was paint day for my newest project Wednesday and I had started out well by purchasing a good tin of undercoat and carefully applying it to the completed woodwork. As the project involves MDF there is no point in trying to stain it to look like good quality timber – it just needs to look like well-painted wood.

The undercoat went on as expected and sanded off nicely. Then today it was time for the colour coat – the tin was duly shaken and the brand new brush dipped in…and the first stroke along the wood told me I was in trouble. Paint is supposed to flow and unite with itself as well as with the substrate – that’s what forms a coat of colour. This stuff looked like cheap chocolate syrup spread out, but there was no cohesion. I looked carefully to see if I had got the wrong type of paint…but it was from the same manufacturer as the undercoat and was the recommended finish. The shop temperature was fine and there was no contamination…

The problem was  – it was lousy cheap paint. I wiped it off and scrubbed the surface to stop it from setting.

I hammered the top back on the tin and headed for the hardware store. The closest I could match it with was a couple of cans of Dulux spray paint. I didn’t even bother asking for a refund on the cheap tin of syrup, though I did warn the kid on the counter as I handed it to him that it was dodgy, and to beware of selling more to other people.

At home I turned on the radio, started shaking the rattle tins to a South American samba beat, and in 3 1/2 minutes was spraying. Perfect coverage. A half hour later the second coat could go on and the results when I take the masking tape off today should be great.

Postjudice? The exercise of judgement after the fact rather than before it. I was prejudiced against spray painting before as I had always brush painted wood. Now I will reverse that feeling and consider it as a very good idea when the next project is underway.