Never Mind the Ballcocks – Where’s the Sealant Gun?

The sliding door lock was loose. Loose as in the (and I’m presuming here) bit where it is screwed onto the door has come loose.

OK, time to go to the Stanley screwdriver set that my beloved gave me for our first, not even engaged yet Christmas (along with that Not The Nine O’Clock News desk calendar and the Schweppes beach towel that might once more get put underneath the Christmas tree holder to mop up the slops for when the cat discovers that big bowl of pine flavoured water).

I recklessly removed the two screws that secure the handle to, well something. But the handle, rather than sliding off neatly, required brute force, deft manipulation or a combination of both.

I reminded myself about what happened with the front door lock about this time last year, when it decided to no longer catch on the strike properly. I identified the root cause (door has moved over time), but my initial solution of removing the strike housing didn’t meet the acceptable home security or decorative standards of other family members. Instead, I bought some cheap mini metal files from the largest of Bentleigh’s $2 shops and tried to, in technical terms, make the hole bigger.

This proved to be unreliable. The door would always lock if you were just going out to the letter box, but as soon as you were the last person out of the house and in a hurry, the lock wouldn’t.

Plan B was to loosen the strike mounting screws as they are called on the manufacturer’s specifications. This worked a little bit better, but need constant fiddling to ensure a reassuring and satisfying clunk upon closure.

I even took to removing the lock case in case there was some adjusting to be done on that side of the equation. Surprisingly, I was able to replace this and the lock’s gizzards correctly once I had determined that this was a forlorn exercise.

I knew the answer was to make the hole bigger, but lacking the nouse to know how best to make it that much bigger, I kept fiddling with it, protesting loudly and proudly whenever it was suggested that I get some professional help.

That was until I got the call at work, that, try as they might, no-one at home could get the front door to lock. I called in the experts, who, for a mere $99, made the hole bigger. Six months after first causing grief, the front door clunked every time and hasn’t missed a clunk since.

So, given this history, the answer I received when I mentioned that I’d had a fiddle with the sliding door was a resounding “Don’t touch it. Just leave it.” The lock remains slightly loose but functional.

I’ve never been handy. My woodworking efforts at Elizabeth High School in 1973 were noteworthy only for the discovery that shellac was actually, as Thomas Shepherd once announced to the class, bug shit. Plastics classes were even less fun, apart from an early insight into why the Ramones would be so fond of solvents.

I wasn’t to be found with a tool in hand around the house during my teenage years either, but maybe that was due to my good hearing.

I used to be OK around the garden, but I’ve lost interest in that over time too. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still lay down the mulch when needed and I don’t mind trips to the nursery, but as a pastime, it’s past its time for me.

I’m not fazed by tap washers, but I’m in strife when the taps are too tight to remove, so again, I’ve had to resort to the specialists on recent occasions.

The upstairs bathroom floor gets wet if the shower head is set at the wrong angle. I’ve tried to seal the offending sections of the shower screen frame (inside and out), but that pesky water still gets through.

The pantry cupboard doors started catching on the floorboards a few years back. I tried adjusting those $15 hinges, but just couldn’t get the desired result. But the guy from Jim’s had less idea than me and he was so embarrassed that he didn’t charge me. They still catch, and some of the kitchen cupboards are doing the same. One has a screw that no longer screws into the wood, but I’m not game to touch it.

Oh yeah, that nifty rubbish bin that opens the lid up when the door opens, I replaced that when it broke, but every few months or so, it falls off and I’ve got to reassemble it.

I enjoyed painting the front fence when it was new and I did quite a good job, but the guys in the white sleeveless King Gees did it last time.

So now, whenever I attempt something not involving a computer, I’m reminded of the many times I was told as a child that “for a smart kid you really are quite dumb, why are you so useless with your hands?”

The only thing that I’ve successfully sorted recently was the noisy downstairs dunny, that sounded like the Monash Uni wind tunnel after a visit to Bombay by Night. I did my research, tracked down the right part, replaced it without drama and our ablutionary audio abated.

But now it’s starting to make a whistling sound when the bowl fills and it sometimes glugs a bit at the end of its replenishment.

Anyone know a good plumber (or locksmith or joiner or tiler?)

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. Peter Warrington says


  2. Neil Anderson says

    Glad to know there is someone out there as unskilled as me. For the first thirty years of marriage, I was the manly- man- man who used to step in and repair anything for ego and financial reasons. It took a long time to realize it would have been better to get the real ‘man’ in first instead of later to make good my botch attempts.
    Today on my 44th marriage anniversary, I am in a much better place. The ‘man’ is called in straight away at the first sign of a cupboard door not closing properly or an outdoor project requiring hammer and nailing skills.
    Yes, it can be expensive this way, but it means a happy wife and happy life and quite possibly the key to a long marriage.

  3. And I always thought that it was an obsessive love of sport that united all Almanackers.

  4. Swish, not a plumber, but I know a good songwriter.

  5. Sounds like you have the handyman blues (me too). I have now made it known I have two settings – brute force and phoning a professional. The rest of the house gets to choose. Worth it for the hearing line alone, Swish – nice work.

  6. Neil Anderson says

    Nice meeting you at the launch Swish, however briefly. As Jerry Seinfeld said to George, ” Oh we’re not real men…we’re definitely not real men.” So we didn’t talk about our home projects and that nice piece of timber we bought ready for the pergola. But we did talk about another story from you about the Footscray characters.
    What we need is a non-men’s shed where Almanackers can meet and write scripts about our handyman short-comings, rather than attending to knock up a replacement letterbox or use a lathe.

  7. Onya Swish, I will loudly and proudly proclaim that I have no skill and even less interest in said work. At high school, I did the mandatory metalwork and woodwork classes in Yr 8 but when I got the chance to choose ‘Options’ I went with Home Economics and Drama. Much more pleasant surroundings and company!

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    This is timely Swish,
    I’m undertaking the task of painting my mum’s house (outside) for the first time in over 30 years and ours
    (inside) since we built it 11 years ago. Even though my brushmanship is still a bit shoddy it is improving with experience (mistakes). I’m with Neil for other stuff. I tell my wife to find a man.

    My nephew has just finished his plumbing apprenticeship and has a few contacts. Email me if you’re interested.
    Nicely written, mate. Cheers.

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks all, I thought that it was just me.

    Pete – German tradesman are usually quite good, thanks for the tip

    Neil – you nailed it (sorry)

    PB – yep yep yep

    E.r – I was quite pleased to know that the great man had his shortcomings

    Dave – you found this out earlier than the rest of us

    Rick – in my minds eye, you were one that I thought of as being a weekend wielder of the nail bag.

    Phil – yeh, painting is one of the few tasks that I’ve tried with some minor success. I even did the first girl’s nursery/bedroom, replete with Peter Rabbit wall transfers, a long time ago now.

    In my defence, I am actually quite good with IKEA stuff, as are my kids. And I remember listening to a few days of the Sydney test a few years back while refreshing the deck. Yeh, nah, I’m crap.

  10. I’d like to think these are redundant skills like blacksmithing but I’m just not much chop.

    Good to read that you’re slick with Ikea Swish. This is my idea of hell. There’s a very good reason they’ve never had this as a slogan-

    Ikea. Bringing couples closer since 1947.

  11. Thought I was alone in this. I have had some abject failures, but also some surprising and memorable wins. A few years ago with the help of my teenage son I managed to install a 4500 litre water tank off the back of the shed. Managed to put a square wooden base together including buying all the right brackets. All looked good, when I got up the ladder and threw a bucket of water in the guttering and saw it go down the pipes and drip into the tank I was excited. A few months later when it was full I went outside in the pouring rain to watch the overflow flowing into where I had plumbed it into the existing drainage from the downpipe off the house. Hugely satisfying.
    I guess it is knowing your limitations but at the same time not giving up or being tied to others’ comments that you are no good at handyman stuff. A lot of it is not rocket science. My problem is usually not thinking things through enough. Procrastination has also been a problem, a small issue that you hope rights itself can get worse and then beyond your capabilities.

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Mickey – with Ikea as your local, you need to get over that fear.

    Noel – perfectly said, thanks

  13. Earl O'Neill says

    It’s a learned aptitude, Mark. I used to be clueless but then took up gardening for a living and had to get the job done. My mechanical skills are a source of some mirth to colleagues who grew up on farms, still, I got to be reasonably competent.

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