Building Materials

“I Can Fix That”

Do you know someone who has used a wood saw to cut anything but wood, or hit in a screw with a hammer, rather than using a screwdriver? If so, you might like to read this story…

We all know somebody who has come to grief whilst doing a DIY or renovation project. Popular ABC Sydney radio program, ‘Weekend Woodies’ has been bringing a humourous lifeline to those frustrated renovators since 2002. Now, one of the hosts of the show, building consultant, Peter Masia, has compiled the best (and worst!) of their talkback callers into a book – The Don’t Do It Yourself Handbook. The book is an amusing and practical how-not-to guide to home renovation and repairs and contains 54 classic ‘Boofhead’ stories. One of the most popular parts of the show is ‘Boofhead of the Week’, a segment about classic DIY mistakes, that has developed an almost cult status with DIY aficionados.

Peter, who compiled the book with former ‘Woodies’ host, the late Les Miller, said when they started four years ago, he had no idea the show would be such a hit. “When I teamed up with Les I’d never met him before, but we just clicked,” he said. “We invited peopled to ring in with stories about the stupid things they’d done while renovating and it took off. We hadn’t thought about the possibility of a book at that stage so unfortunately, some great stuff wasn’t kept on file.”

“Look, it’s not the great Australain novel. But you can take it to the dunny and read a chapter and get a laugh.” There’s a lot of fodder – could make a seoncd book. The stories in the book cover the gamut of renovating and building disasters, from accidents with ladders, paint cans and power tools, to assembling furniture that won’t fit in the room.

Although Peter confessed it was difficult to choose a favourite incident from the book, he did nominate a couple. One involves a bloke who needed to put a power cable through an eight centimetre gap in the roof. Being a keen fisherman and looking for a fast solution, he decided it would be clever to connect the cable to a rubber on a spear gun and shoot it through the gap. Standing on a ladder, he took aim and fired. Unfortunately, the rubber caught a cross bolt and the gun flew back, smashing into his nose and sending him flying off the ladder. Moral of the story – spear guns should only be used for fishing! Another of Peter’s favourite is in the same vein and concerns a Texan who needed to take a cable from one side of a wall to the other. Not having an electric drill, or even a hand drill, he shot a hole through the wall with a 38 revolver! “The hole going in was very neat apparently, but the hole at the exit point was like a small bomb crater,” said Peter with a laugh.

NSW Rural Fire Commissioner, Phil Koperberg, so endeared himself to the Woodies, that his anecdote has become known on the show as a ‘Koperberg Moment.’ Phil confessed to undoing a waste pipe and s-bend from underneath the hand basin to clear a blockage, then emptying it into the hand basin, resulting in the mess all over his head.

After reading the book and much consideration, the Hardware Journal’s favourite boofhead moment is the chapter titled ‘More To Kitchens Than Meets The Eye’. Here, the boofhead decided to convert a room into a kitchen using ‘flat pack’ cupboards. On inspecting the brick walls, he discovered they were not as flat as he thought they were and elected to render them with a cement render. Taking receipt of the flat packs, he assembled the cupboards easily and commenced installation.

Imagine his horror when he discovered the last cupboard wouldn’t fit because he had given the sizes to the cupboard manufacturer before he had rendered the walls! The problem was rectified thanks to the manufacturer, who apparently “couldn’t contain his laughter.” “The end result is superb,” said the boofhead. “But I certainly have a new and real respect for kitchen installers!”

Many of the stories in the book, though humorous, could have ended in serious injury or death. Have the Woodies ever been accused of being too light-hearted about activities that are potentially very dangerous?

“We talk about OH&S all the time, particularly about issues such as asbestos and ladder safety. I think DIYers generally are more mindful of taking the necessary precautions, they are goggles, masks and other safety equipment a lot more,” said Peter. “Blokes ring in with a building problem and we try to give them an answer, obviously there’s a limit to the advice we can provide without seeing the problem. Essentially, we are in the business of entertainment.”

Judging by the number of boofheads who regularly ring the Saturday morning program, there are still a significant number of men (yes, unfortunately, they are almost always men!) who are still taking risks while doing jobs around the house. According to Peter, some of the trouble arises with guys whose English is not great and who can’t, or don’t, read warnings and instructions. “My late father was Italian and he used to do some incredibly dangerous things,” said Peter. “He only had one leg (because of an industrial accident, not a boofhead moment!). I came over to his house one day and saw him climbing up a precariously placed extension ladder on his one leg, hopping up the rungs. Meanwhile, my mother was screaming hysterically at him to come down.”

Of course, much can be put down to just being a plain, macho Australian male. “It’s not a matter of saving money, with blokes it’s that macho thing where they feel certain they can do it as well as a tradesman, there’s a lot of ego there I think,” said Peter. “My son-in-law is a lawyer and he is someone who shouldn’t touch a tool – but he always has some project on the go that you know is going to end in disaster!” The book is now looking good to be a hot Christmas gift for many men and according to Peter, there is enough material for a second book. “Look, it’s not the great Australian novel. But you can take it to the dunny and read a chapter and get a laugh,” said Peter.

The Don’t Do It Yourself Handbook is available from ABC Shops. The ‘Weekend Woodies’ can be heard on 702 ABC Radio Sydney on Saturday mornings.

By Lesley Hetherington