Fixing a sink that quit working

My mother in law bought a foreclosed condo, and I helped her get the water turned back on, but one sink just wouldn’t work no matter what I did. I finally found an answer, and since there wasn’t much information online, I thought I’d share what I learned about fixing a sink that quit working suddenly, to save someone else some hassle.

The problem occurred in one of the bathrooms. The shutoff valves under the sink were extremely sticky and didn’t want to turn on. Eventually I got them to turn on, and then I ran the sink, and it worked. Then I turned the valves off and back on a couple of times to loosen them, in case she ever had to turn off the water. They loosened up to the point where they were usable again, but then the sink, which had been working fine a minute before, didn’t work anymore. If I turned the sink all the way up, the best I got was a slow drip. If someone else hadn’t been there with me and seen it, I would have thought I’d gone crazy.

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My garbage disposal adventure

Changing a worn-out garbage disposal can be a 10-minute job–assuming you anticipate everything, use the same brand as the old one, you know what you’re doing, and the person who installed the old one was at least as competent as you.

It didn’t quite work out for me like that the last time.

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How long it takes to paint a room with a Graco 360DS paint sprayer

It takes about an hour to paint a room with a Graco 360DS paint sprayer. Here’s why I know that. I had to paint a house this month for the first time in about five years. I don’t particularly enjoy painting and I’m not particularly good at it.

An old high school friend helped me out with the exterior, and after seeing his paint sprayer, I had to get one myself. Mine’s less expensive and less fancy than his: I bought a handheld Graco 360DS. While it has some limitations, I’m very glad I bought it.

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How to disarm a scammer

Buried unfortunately deep in August’s Social Engineer podcast was some outstanding advice from British TV star R. Paul Wilson, who turned scamming into prime-time BBC TV for several seasons.

Wilson, who literally has sold someone a bridge that he of course didn’t own, has lots of experience on both sides of scamming, so his experience is invaluable. I was just disappointed that we had to listen to 45 minutes of Christopher Hadnagy and David Kennedy arguing before we could hear it, so I’ll cut through the garbage.

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Return to Bonne Terre Mine

Over the Independence Day weekend, I took my family to the Bonne Terre Mine, about 50 miles south of St. Louis on Highway 67. It was once one of the world’s largest active lead mines, and the area around Bonne Terre is still known as the Lead Belt. Mining is still the major industry in southeast Missouri, and the area is dotted with big piles of mining waste, which the locals refer to as “chat.”

Mining in the area started way back in 1720 by French settlers; Bonne Terre Mine opened in 1860. It closed in 1962.

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What size and voltage to use for Lionel train light sockets

Lionel used 15 different types of light bulbs in its O gauge electric trains in the postwar era, but in most cases–87% of catalog numbers, and a lot more than that in actual number of items produced–you can get by with two.

Lionel almost always specified 14 or 18 volts. Using an 18-volt bulb in place of a 14-volt original, or a 22-volt bulb in place of an 18-volt original results in longer service life. And there were two base types that Lionel used more than any other. Read more

Not quite a new floor in a bottle, but…

There are several acrylic floor finishes–sometimes mistakenly called wax–that promise they’re like a new floor in a bottle. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if you have reasonable expectations, they definitely can make a floor look better and easier to clean. And depending on how you use them, they can even make the floor last longer.

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1984 called. It wants its surveillance back.

So, the reaction to my story about my coworker’s 10-year-old going all Scooby Doo on the guy who had the nerve to steal his dad’s car was definitely mixed. Most people, of course, lauded the 10-year-old’s detective work. Others pointed out the dark side.

And there is a dark side.

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Remove black marks from wood floors

I tried to remove black marks from wood floors with Bar Keeper’s Friend recently, and I’m happy to report it worked pretty well.

Here’s the story: I had some mysterious black ring-shaped marks on my hardwood floors. I traced them to metal ends of furniture legs. The long-term solution is to put the furniture on leg cups, but one still has to contend with the damage.

The pros use a floor bleach whose active ingredient is oxalic acid, but finding it is hard, and finding it in household quantities is harder. But there’s a cheap, readily available household alternative: Bar Keeper’s Friend. It costs a couple of dollars and you can buy it at big-box stores like Home Depot, hardware stores, grocery stores, and even some discount stores. It’s usually in the cleaning aisle next to the Comet. It’s good stuff to have on hand anyway, because it does a great job of cleaning up pretty much anything you’d use Comet on, but it literally eats rust spots for lunch so it’ll take care of chores Comet doesn’t.

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Gesso: Brushable, non-toxic primer

The best time to paint figures is when it’s over 50 degrees, because the first step is spraying them with a coat of primer, which requires a temperature of above 50 degrees. The problem is that when it’s that warm, that’s when you’re busy keeping up the yard and other stuff. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could prime your figures with something safe to use indoors?

It turns out you can. I’ve searched years for a brushable, non-toxic primer (preferably acrylic and water-based). Such a thing exists; I was just calling it the wrong thing. What you need is called gesso. You can order it online from Amazon or you can buy it in craft stores like Michael’s, Jo-Ann, and Hobby Lobby and use a coupon. If all they have is white, mix some black acrylic paint in with it (which you can get there as well) to darken it. Or mix in any other color you wish.

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