It's time to hang up the handyman tool belt

My dad loved fixing things and finding better ways to do projects around the house. That's how it all started for him.

As for me, I still remember holding the flashlight for him when I was a little girl. It was a lot of fun and a real learning experience for me. He always encouraged me to be thrifty and creative.

The "Super Handyman" column he started decades ago was his way of sharing his passion with others. He loved teaching people how to repair their homes and do small renovations. If you needed help, he was always willing to try.

I remember sitting down, sometimes as a family, and going through the mountains of mail we received from readers. In addition to plenty of questions, they shared their own tricks and tips. This is what made the column possible.

We tried to share as many of these ideas as we could, although some were not as practical as others. I still remember a letter from a guy who shot a hole in his floor to run some wire because he couldn't find his drill - clearly not something you want to try at home. Thank you so much for all of those letters!

Of course, without all of the support of our longtime friends at King Features, including their editors, and our artist, Lisa Pawlick, as well as all the editors at the newspapers, we would never have been able to reach out the way we have. It has been a true blessing. Thank you all.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank my whole family for all of their support over the years. I also really appreciate those of you who sacrificed your homes for our experiments and product tests, as well as braving the work right along with us.

We are hanging up the tool belt now, but you still can reach us online at Keep up the Super work!

High-reaching repair tip

I'm vertically challenged, so I'm always finding new ways to reach up high for repairs or renovating work. My secret weapon for changing a light bulb in my tall patio ceiling fixture is my plunger. The handle adds about two feet to my reach and the rubber plunger seats well against the bulb to turn it out. To replace it, I just set the new bulb into the center of the rubber base and lift it up to the fixture. Then I apply some pressure and turn it back into place.

Socket organization

If you have a ratchet wrench, you probably have a standard set as well as a metric set of sockets, minimum! One super way to organize them is on a chain. The ball chains that one uses to turn a ceiling fan or light off and on work great. They come in many different lengths, can be shortened and are very inexpensive to buy at your hardware store or home center. Just slide the sockets on the chain and hook it back together, then hang it on your pegboard wall. Use a different chain for each type or split them up into small, medium and large sockets. It will be easy to get one off and put it back.

Super hints

• When cleaning a fireplace, keep a spray bottle filled with water on hand to spray the ashes periodically to keep them from circulating into the air. Also make sure you have a very good filter on your vacuum, which also will prevent the ashes from getting into your house air.

• Wooden drawer pulls and cabinet knobs are much less expensive than the metal type. Check out the super metal-finish spray paints available today. You can stick all of the knobs on a scrap of cardboard and use the metal spray paint to turn the budget knobs into fancy, expensive-looking knobs. For most people, it will be really hard to tell the difference. This paint also is great for repainting old door knobs and bathroom fixtures.

• Clean windows let in more light. During the winter, that sunshine coming in can help heat your home, not to mention the extra light. You'll save on heating bills as well as light bills. Removing the screens can allow even more light in.

Q. Our front steps were covered with outdoor carpeting for many years, but it has worn down. I pulled it up and now I have gray glue on the steps. How can I strip this stuff off so I can have plain concrete again?

A. A paint and varnish remover/stripper should loosen it up. Use a putty knife to scrape it off. If you have any places that don't come off, you might have to sand them off. Good luck!

Q. I have a question. I like to use the ready-to-light fire logs that you buy at the grocery store. They are so easy to use and even come scented now. But they leave a waxy stain on the bottom of the fireplace. Is there a relatively easy way to remove this?

A. Clean out all of the ashes. Then dilute the stuff with mineral spirits paint thinner over the wax. Cover it completely with clay cat litter, which will absorb the diluted wax overnight. You can sweep it up the next day.

Reader tips

• I have created a nice patio and have added a lot of plants to it. I have chosen some nice self-watering planters to keep them from drying out. I also mix my own potting soil with lots of amendments that help my plants grow healthy and strong. Speaking of soil, I store it in a plastic trash can that has wheels on it. This keeps it fresh longer, and the wheels make it easy to lug around when I need to.

• My mother gave me a beautiful pitcher that she has had for many years. I wanted to use it as a flower vase, but didn't want to ruin it with water stains. I found an empty olive jar and set it down inside the pitcher. It fits perfectly, so now I can fill the jar with water and set the flowers in it. I have a vase and the pitcher is protected.

• I've been working on my older home and am loving it. I love this house and really enjoy helping it look better. One thing I've had to do work on is my door hinges. Some were loose, others rusted and squeaking. I removed the old screws and filled the holes with wood glue and wooden toothpicks. After these were dry, I trimmed off the excess and reinstalled the screws. Now they are fitting better and, with a little WD-40, are squeak-free, too.

• We don't live in an earthquake zone, but it sure does look like it sometimes. I designed a whole wall for family photographs and bought many matching frames. I spent a lot of time getting everything just right. But they were crooked much of the time and I was always having to straighten them. I finally fixed that by sticking some small rubber bumpers on the bottom corners of the frames. I found a package of 24 and placed them on the frames. They keep the frames from moving as much and they stay straight most of the time now.

• I'm on a pretty tight budget, but I love to redecorate my house as often as I can. I think I just get bored easily. I never use a new can of paint. I go straight to the "boo-boo" section of my paint store, where they put mis-mixed paint or paint that was returned for some reason. It's usually about half-price. You almost always can find something for walls or trim in a color that you like. If you need more than one can, sometimes you can mix two together for a totally new color.


• I love to paint, but holding a brush for a long time does get tiring. If you want to paint longer and be more comfortable doing so, you need to check out the FreeHand Paint Brush Holder from GalaxG Tools. This ergonomically designed handle holds most brands of paint brushes and even adjusts to fit any hand size. It actually places the weight on the top of the hand, rather than in your hand to let your fingers relax and places the brush above your hand so visibility if better as well. There are a couple of different models available. We found ours at Home Depot but there are other places you can pick one up for yourself, including online.

• There are lots of ways to bind cords - twist-ties, Velcro and duct tape, of course - but the CableSlap is a new one we found. It's like the slap bracelets in that it automatically turns around objects (like cords) without sticking permanently. It's so easy you can do it with one hand, while holding the cords in the other. They even come in lots of colors. Look for

• Visit Kelly Carrell online at

© 2016, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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