At the time of writing, we’re all being instructed to stay home because of the Coronavirus pandemic. ‘Staying home’ means different things for different people – those lucky enough to have gardens and garages have space to breathe and do stuff; I feel for those in tower blocks with young children for whom the options are very much more limited.
Already there are people speculating how the world might be different ‘when this is all over’ and I think, at a personal level, there’s no harm in thinking about projects you might undertake when the lock-down is lifted (or while isolating if you have the space, tools and materials to hand). With this in mind, I’m highlighting two books that might help practically-minded people at least plan some creative home-based projects.
Note: These reviews first appeared in Shoulder to Shoulder – the free monthly bulletin from the UK Men’s Sheds Association https://menssheds.org.uk/newsletter-archive
DIY for beginners
Full declaration: I know co-author Alison Winfield-Chislett as it’s she I have to thank for introducing me to the world of Repair Cafes (she runs one from her wonderful Goodlife Centre in London). When, with Alison’s encouragement, I set up a Repair Café in Royston I was amazed to discover how many people of a certain age and stage seemed to know about electronics. I was not one of them and, when I asked how they knew about fixing electrical appliances, I got a puzzled response; ‘doesn’t everyone?’
Well the answer is ‘no’, or nor does everyone learn DIY at their mother’s knee. Which is why I welcome this hands-on book that guides the first-timer through the basics of DIY – from the tools and terms, through 30 step-by-step projects around your home, to the techniques.
I love the ‘DIY hacks’ sprinkled throughout the text – so you can talk like a professional, even if you take a while to learn to work like one. I was also pleased the book has a gender-free feel to it – both in words and pictures – which may be explained by the female co-authorship.
Speaking as a grumpy old pedant who worked in book publishing for 15 years, while I welcome the inclusion of a jargon-buster and index, the book’s transatlantic character means there’s no explanation of the similarities between anchors and Rawlplugs, between P-traps and U-bends, and I had to check that a vice and a vise are the same thing. But maybe I’m just splitting hairs; not one of the DIY projects…
Beginner Guide to DIY: Essential DIY Techniques for the First Timer by Jo Behari and Alison Winfield-Chislett. Order online at https://www.waterstones.com/book/beginners-guide-to-diy/alison-winfield-chislett/jo-behari/9781580118286 and (if you must…) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1580118283/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_pHM.Cb8NYR4P9
More about The Goodlife Centre here https://www.thegoodlifecentre.co.uk
Haynes Shed Manual
Shedders know it’s a lot of fun working alongside others in a shared workshop, but we can also enjoy tinkering in a shed at the bottom of the garden. This new Shed Manual from Haynes (better known for their car maintenance guides) is a great resource for working on a range of timber-based projects in home and community workspaces, not just sheds. The authors show their passion when they say “Whatever tools you have already, a big project such as building a shed is always a good opportunity to buy some more!”
Alongside four step-by-step shed-building projects are generic sections on planning, tools and materials, furnishing and decoration. There’s more than a nod to environmental considerations, including an eco-shed build, and references to sustainable energy and roofing. But I was surprised not to see more being made of reclaimed materials; I know that making a shed from pallets is neither as easy nor as cheap as many people imagine, but reclaimed timber can make an important statement about greener ways of working.
Who would use (it’s very much a tool and probably something you’d not read from cover to cover) this book? Perhaps a reference to Eddie Grundy and Lynda [Snell] on page 163, without mentioning the Archers on Radio 4, gives you a clue.
Shed Manual: Designing, building and fitting out your perfect Shed by John Coupe and Alex Johnson. Order online at https://haynes.com/en-gb/shed-manual More from the authors at www.secrets-of-shed-building.com and www.shedworking.co.uk
For a look at light-hearted books on Sheds, see https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/shedloads-a-gift-list-for-book-and-shed-lovers