Spray painting tips to paint like a pro

I’ve gathered a lot of spray painting tips over the years but I’ve never seen more than 10 collected in one place. Spray paint is a tool, and using it is a skill you can learn. With a bit of practice, you can get enviable results and make the object you’re painting look better than new.

Whether you’re painting something for your house or for your hobby, here are more than 20 spray painting tips to help you paint with the best of them–in the order you’re likely to need to use them in your projects.

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Lionel 1033 transformer troubleshooting

As I’ve written before, Lionel 1033 transformers are well regarded because they’re reasonably high wattage (90 watts), very readily available, relatively inexpensive and pretty dependable. They really only have one design flaw: the circuit breaker.

The circuit breaker in my 1033 went bad a couple of years ago. I finally got around to replacing it.

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How to replace an AC power cord

A damaged power cord doesn’t have to mean the end of life for a tool or appliance. Power cords are usually replaceable with simple tools and minimal expense. Here’s how to replace an AC power cord.

If you can open up the device, open it up, snip the bad cord off, tie a knot in the replacement cord and splice it onto what’s left of the old cord.

If you can’t open the device, snip the cord off above the defect, splice the replacement cord onto what’s left and insulate it well with heat-shrink tubing.

Here’s how.

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How to disassemble a Marx 999 locomotive

Disassembling a Marx 999 locomotive isn’t too difficult, and it’s easier than the Marx 666, but it helps to have some instructions.

The nice thing about the 999 is that if you can disassemble it, there’s a long, long list of Marx locomotives that disassemble in pretty much the same way: the Commodore Vanderbilt, the Mercury, the tin Canadian Pacific 391, and the tin steamers 592, 593, 594, 833, 897, 898, and 994.

Marx designed its trains so that a father or older brother could service them, so it comes apart with simple household tools, and you can get most of what you’ll need to service it at the nearest hardware store, with the probable exception of the bulb for the headlight.

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How to replace a Lionel transformer power cord

When using vintage Lionel transformers, it’s important to make sure the power cord isn’t broken or frayed to avoid the risk of electric shock or starting a fire. If yours is, here’s how to replace a Lionel transformer power cord.

Replacing a power cord safely is a lot easier than most people make it sound. It’s possible to do the job safely with simple tools and a few dollars’ worth of parts from the nearest hardware store.

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Clean up the white goop on postwar Lionel and American Flyer with a hair dryer

I picked up some dilapidated postwar American Flyer wheels at the local train store this afternoon to fix up some stuff from my junk box. The wheels were covered in milky white goo/powder/gunk/residue/stuff–whatever you want to call it. Almost anything molded of black plastic–wheels, couplers, truck sides–by Lionel or American Flyer in the 1940s and 1950s is prone to this, but the fix is easy. Aim a hair dryer on high at it, and watch the whiteness melt away, leaving clean plastic behind.

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I need a hair dryer, some nail polish, and two clothespins

At least it looked like a clean break.

I commonly run errands mid-evening because strapping my two kids into seat belts is a good way to keep them from tripping over their own shadows and hurting themselves. So we did that one night, and when we got home, my wife logged onto Facebook, where a picture of my sister’s USB flash drive greeted her. It was in pieces.

“Have her call me,” I said.

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Want to cut your heating bill? Want to be more comfortable? Shrink-wrap your windows

I spent the afternoon putting plastic film on my windows. It was supposed to be a short project, and I do get better at it every year, but it still ended up taking about an hour per window.

I think it’s time well spent. According to one article I read, it can cut your heating bills by 30 percent. That’s some serious money.

The film comes in kits that you can buy at hardware or discount stores. The two brands I see most often are Frost King and 3M. I like 3M better–I think the tape holds better and comes off more easily at the end of the season, and I think the film is a little bit higher quality–but I buy the kits in the spring at a steep discount and store them until winter, so I don’t really get to pick and choose much. And I don’t think the 3M is superior enough to be worth paying full price to get.

I have 10 windows. Four are newer and more efficient, so I don’t put film on those. Maybe I should. Five of the others have those awful aluminum frames from the 1960s, and many of them are single-pane. I’m going to replace those windows in a year or two, but in the meantime insulating them makes them leak heat considerably less, and it’s cheap. Buying off season, it probably costs me $1 per window.

I have another trick to save money. I tried this out two years ago, when I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have any money. I ran out of film and I still had windows to do, but I had saved my scraps. So I taped some scraps together with clear packing tape (a big roll costs $1 at Dollar Tree) to make a piece that fit one of the remaining windows. It worked fine. It didn’t look good, but at the time I was making $400 a week doing odd jobs so I didn’t care about appearances.

This year I wasn’t going to do that. I had so much film, I was going to have some left over to do one of the smaller windows next year. But the piece for my sliding glass door was considerably smaller than the box said, and of course by the time I realized it, I’d already cut the piece and ended up with something that covered approximately half the door. Worse yet, it was 8 pm and all the stores were closed, so going and buying a new kit, at full price, wasn’t an option. My Scottish blood probably would have staged a revolt at that, but the option wasn’t on the table.

I can justify it another way too, though. Oil is at $100 per barrel now. Do I need to consume more oil just to avoid having seams in my sliding glass door? I think I’ll save some money and conserve a small amount of oil and live with the seams.

One way I found to reduce the seams is to mount the scraps on the window as tightly as possible, then put packing tape over the joint. I used to lay the pieces on the floor and tape them together before mounting, but I think taping the mounted pieces ends up looking better, and the process goes faster. Surprisingly, when I shrink the film with the hair dryer, it doesn’t seem to have much negative effect on the cheap dollar-store packing tape I use.

Some people skip the kits altogether and just buy the tape (3M’s tape is available separately), and either buy a roll of shrinkwrap film from a packing supply store or a big roll of food-grade film from Costco and use that. That may be an even cheaper option than buying the kits off-season, and it’s certainly more convenient. I don’t know what those rolls cost, but I would think one of those would last at least three or four years, if not 10. Plus there would be very little waste.

At any rate, I never sat down and did the math, but I know this fall ritual ends up saving me money. (All I remember was that my gas bill was dramatically lower the first year I did this, without making any other changes.) If the potential really is 30 percent, I think I’ll do the newer windows next weekend to try to squeeze out a little more.

Time to winterize the house…

We had a day last week where we topped 80 degrees and set a record, so small wonder I never thought winter would actually get here.

But we’ve had our first good freeze and it looks like that’ll be a weekly thing from here on out (assuming we don’t get multiples every week), so it’s time to winterize the house.I learned about plastic film window insulation when I was in college and lived in a drafty old barn–it wasn’t really a barn, but it felt like one–where the inside temperature was rarely higher than 60 during the winter and space heaters were strictly prohibited. It’s best to buy the stuff at the end of the winter and save it for next winter, but if you’re like me, you always underestimate how much you need.

The tape that came with one of my kits seemed strong enough to hold a car together, while the tape that came with another kit isn’t suitable for wrapping a present, let alone holding plastic to cold aluminum window frames. I ended up using packing tape to hold part of the plastic to a window, since I ran out of good tape.

Of course when I was finished with one package, I ended up with three odd-sized pieces, none of which fit any of my windows. So I tried an experiment. Out came the packing tape and the scissors. I taped together the odd-sized sheets to make one suitable for one of the windows, then I put it in the window. It held together just fine when I hit it with the hair dryer to shrink it into place. I don’t think this method will get wife approval, but it works. I guess I can tell her that Red Green would have used duct tape.

I also changed my furnace filter. My size was sold out at all of the usual places I buy them, but I happened to find them at Big Lots for $1.79 each. They’re rated for two months instead of three and they probably don’t catch as much, but they’re definitely better than the clogged filter that was in there. I don’t know when the last time was I changed the filter. Shame on me. For $1.79 I need to be changing it every month because it’ll save me a lot more than that if I do it, at least in the summer and winter months.

I also went looking, without success, for insulation pads for electrical outlets and light switches. I have some double-sized ones and other oddities that I didn’t have a good fit for. When I came home I still didn’t have a good fit. So I ended up removing the plate, taking a styrofoam meat tray, and cutting my own with a hobby knife. It’s not quite the same material commercial insulators are made from, but it has good insulating properties and it’s hard to beat the price.

Of course I’m looking for other ideas, but these three things are a good start. I installed a programmable thermostat about two years ago and it paid for itself in the first month. The basic models cost half as much now.

Addendum: After sealing the sliding glass door and two of the three largest windows in the house, last night after the programmable thermostat kicked down I noticed that the temperature in the house dropped by about a degree an hour. The temperature inside the house started at 70, and the low overnight was around 30. I know under similar conditions earlier in the week, the temperature was dropping at least two or possibly even three degrees an hour.

I think that plastic is going to pay for itself very quickly.