What's a jigsaw for?

Friday 30th January 2015

My new motto is 'power tools allow you to make bigger mistakes faster' after I nearly destroyed our brand new front door with the very first cut.

I find woodwork extremely therapeutic and rewarding. If you've never tried it, I'd recommend signing up for an evening course at your local college to learn the basics.

Wood is satisfying and easy to cut, and forgiving of small mistakes. It's great to use a piece of furniture that you've made yourself; I've made benches, tables and boxes over the years and each one has a special place in my heart.

Our old front door (left) was falling apart, six years of Cornish rain and wind wrecked it, especially since we didn't treat it properly when we fitted it.

So we bought a new bare timber door and I set up the saw horses in the lounge to trim it to size. My favourite part is cutting the holes for the lock with a chisel (I love chisels), and my least favourite is the letterbox  because it's a pain to cut out such a big hole.

The siren cry of the jigsaw was what nearly wrecked the door: "Use me, use me! I can make a nice quick, clean cut for you." But it lies.

In my hands jigsaws are no good for cutting any depth, because the flexible blades wander all over the place - I trimmed 2cm off the top of the door, which looked fine on the top side, but on the underneath it wandered between 2cm and 4cm!

I nearly cried.

Luckily we had some room at the bottom of the door, so when you come around don't mention that it looks a bit thin at the top. Everything else went smoothly once I'd abandoned the power tools, and it fits perfectly.

Now my jigsaw has a warning on it.

Do you have any power tool horror stories? Share them below...


Recent posts

A hundred places I've weed

Friday 23rd January 2015

I'm very good at starting things, and very bad indeed at finishing them. The main reason I started this blog is to make myself complete projects so I can write about them. I figure if I start off with small challenges, I'll finish them and train myself to pay attention for a bit longer each time.

A friend recently completed a project of taking a photo every day for a year. I love the idea of doing this, I tried once but gave up in mid-August.

So I thought I'd set myself a smaller challenge that I could achieve. Don't ask why, but I decided to take photos of a hundred different places that I've had a wee.

Initially I just started photographing places where I'd been to the toilet, so far so good. But pretty quickly I started holding on until I found somewhere attractive to relieve myself.

Towards the end it I discovered that I'd trained myself to need a wee whenever I see a nice view, a bit like Pavlov's dogs. The nicest place I had a wee was on Corfe Castle, #36.

Anyone whose house I visited between November and January will now have a horrified look on their face.

Where's the nicest place you've had a wee?

Leave a comment below:

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Mucky Paws

Friday 16th January 2015

I've never understood people who wear their outdoor shoes in the house. Maybe they watch where they tread more than I do, or maybe I'm a bit OCD?

But then again, our dog has free run of the house and he regularly treads all sorts of things into the carpet, the sofa, and our bed.

So I thought it would be interesting to see what has the most bacteria - his feet, my shoes or my hands.

I did a science degree a long time ago, so I dusted off My First Book Of Science Experiments and tried to remember how it all works.


My hypothesis is that the dog's feet are dirtier than my shoes.


I bought 10 petri dishes (£5.50) and a pack of nutrient agar (£2.49) from eBay (I love eBay), mixed up the agar with water and boiled it for 25 minutes to sterilise it. In the most scientific way I could, I placed five samples onto the dishes, each one twice for extra Science Points™

  1. Stanley's front paws (labelled F. Paw 1 & 2)
  2. Stanley's back paws (R. Paw 1  2)
  3. My hands (Hand 1 & 2)
  4. My shoes (Shoe 1 & 2)
  5. Control, with nothing on it (Control 1 & 2)

I'd been washing my hands regularly and wearing gloves while I made up the plates, so my hands were a bit too clean for a good sample. To make the results more interesting I brushed my hands through my hair, round the back of my ears and then shoved them down the front of my trousers for good measure.

The control samples had nothing placed onto them, they were just sealed up like the other samples for even more Science Points™. It's been at least 15 years since I've done any kind of real science, so I expected the control samples to be the most heavily contaminated!

I piled up the dishes into two stacks of five, then placed them in my highly advanced incubator (on top of the radiator in the guest bedroom) and left them for five days.


Five days later, and the results are in:

The dog's feet harbour more bacteria and fungi than my shoes, but they're pretty similar.

There's quite a lot of variation between the samples, so I wouldn't call this a good result. The thing I'm most impressed by is that the control plates are clean (the dots in the photos are bubbles in the agar), which means my aseptic technique is better than I thought it was.

Most of what you can see in the bottom left of the Shoe 1 sample is where I broke the surface of the agar, not bacterial colonies. And even though I tried to make my hands dirty, they're the cleanest sample of all.

[Edit: It's been pointed out by somebody with more Science Points™ than me that me that not all bacteria and fungi are bad. Indeed you've got more bacterial cells in you than your own cells.]


  1. We should probably stop the dog sleeping on our bed, or at least clean his feet.
  2. I can still do science!


What would you test?

Leave a comment below:

Recent posts

Custom Monopoly Board

Friday 9th January 2015

When I was 18 I made a custom Monopoly set for my best friend, Jon, called Jonopoly. I butchered an existing Monopoly set from a car boot sale, and printed out new properties out on a cheap black and white dot matrix printer and stuck them onto the board.

I spent hours painstakingly making the game, and I was thrilled when he recently posted some photos of the board, along with a message that I forgot that I'd written on the inside of the lid:

"There's a piece of my soul in this game, so even after I die, I'll still be alive. Please don't throw it away, even if you've forgotten all about me or hate my guts. If we can't keep the good memories what's the point of living? If it's past the 21st October 2014 and you haven't seen me for a while (even if it is because I ran off with your wife) find out where I am and call me - if you read this out I'll forgive anything you've done. See you in the future whatever may be happening. Love from Mat x"

Needless to say we are still in touch, and I haven't run off with his wife (yet).

As is the way of life, these things come full circle.

Some friends gave me a game called Make Your Own Opoly. Remembering Jonopoly, I was excited by the idea of making a version for the sleepy Cornish town where we now live.

However after reading the instructions I was utterly horrified at how much they'd massacred the game. A quick look at TDC Games' website will show you the kind of thing I'm talking about. So I decided I could do it better.

First of all, I bought a 2002 edition Monopoly set from eBay (I love eBay) and discovered that someone had created a Monopoly board template using Adobe Illustrator. I downloaded that, updated the board to the stardard UK format, changed the property names and got the board printed as a 20" square poster by Asda Photo of all places, which cost about £10.

Actually it cost me £20 because I messed up the first one after gluing it to the board. Then I re-created the property cards, community chest and chance cards in Illustrator, and printed them at home.

Finally I designed a new box and had it printed by Asda Photo again (co-incidentally the box template is also 20" wide), cut it out and glued it to the existing box.

Ta da!

Let me know if you'd like me to email you the files you'll need to make your own custom Monopoly board. You'll need Adobe Illustrator to edit them. My guess is that you'll need 5-10 hours spread over a week or so in order to make your own.

What board game would you customise?

Recent posts

What's this about?

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