I am not particularly handy. I’m not inept, and I’m more than willing to wield a tool or operate a chainsaw, but many of my attempts at supposedly simple repairs go horribly awry. Back when we used to podcast regularly we had a segment on the show called the Manly Task Of The Week. The theme song included someone saying “OW!” It was appropriate.
That brings me to Sunday night when THE WIFE noticed that there was water under the sink. I’ve been baking a lot of bread and using a number of large food service containers lately, which means I’ve been washing a lot of food service containers and filling up that side of the sink regularly. I noticed that the putty around the strainer basket seemed to be developing gaps, so when she saw the water I was pretty sure that the basket needed a new bit of putty.
On Monday morning I did a very wise thing. I looked up YouTube videos on how to remove the basket and how to properly apply putty. After a few videos, I pretty much had it down – remove a small nut on the bottom of the basket, then turn a much larger one on the top, possibly using a large wrench, and take everything apart. From there I learned a couple of tricks about how to apply the putty, plus I read what amounted to a holy war on a plumbing website about the merits of putty versus silicon. In short, I did my homework. I went out to run some errands and picked up some putty to come back and start the job.
The bottom nut came off easily, but when I attempted to remove the upper retaining ring the entire basket turned. Yep – the putty was definitely gone. No problem, I thought. I’d just do what they did in the videos and grab the basket with one hand and break the ring free with some channel locks.
I’m sure you know how that worked out.
After fighting with the ring and three different wrenches for about 30 minutes, I became convinced that 1) the ring was fused to the threads, and 2) the people on YouTube are either magicians or liars. Still, this is about par for the course for a Manly Task, so I didn’t let it bother me too much. I sprayed some WD-40 on the threads in hopes of loosening up the locked ring, and I headed to Lowes. I needed a really big set of channel locks and a new strainer basket. Even if I could get the parts apart, chances were good that I wouldn’t want to reuse them.
About 20 minutes after getting home and continuing to struggle with the ring, I texted the husband of THE NEIGHBOR (hereafter known as FLOYD SOLO). He walked over a few minutes later and we tried each grabbing a wrench to see if we could make any progress. All we really accomplished was verifying that the ring was fused to the basket. FLOYD admitted defeat, and I contemplated calling a plumber when he suggested I call our favorite handyman. I rang up THE HANDYMAN and he told me he could be over in the morning. “I’ll get it off, even if I have to cut it off.”
Now I had a plan. Sure, we couldn’t use that side of the sink for the night, but it would be fixed tomorrow. And I still had all of my fingers and no major bruises or other wounds. Honestly, that’s a pretty successful TASK for me.
But still… I wondered if I could get the ring off. I headed to the garage and found my dremel and some cutting disks. I put on some goggles (Norm always told me that was the most important piece of safety equipment, after all) and tried some cuts to see if I could cut the ring loose. It was working, but my hand slipped a couple of times, creating some stray cuts. I became concerned that I might slip and damage the sink, plus it just felt slightly unwise and unsafe.
That led me to one more video. One featuring a hacksaw. I’m not even going to link to this one – I’m just going to include it. It’s short and the guy is basically channeling how I felt at the time.
I headed to the garage, grabbed my trusty hacksaw, and decided to give it a shot. After all, what did I have to lose? THE HANDYMAN was just going to cut it out anyway. So I got to cutting and… it was actually pretty easy. I only had to cut through the threads, which were thin. It took about 15 minutes, but pretty soon I was done. I called THE HANDYMAN back and told him what I had done, then verified that 1) putty was the right choice, and 2) the slightly different type of strainer basket I bought was okay. He told me I was right, so I got to work.
After all of that, it took about five minutes to install the new basket. Honestly, it took me longer to clean up than it did to install. I ran a few water tests, re-connected the plumbing lines and everything actually worked. MANLY TASK COMPLETE!
So now’s the part where I’m supposed to have some sort of great, deep philosophical point to make. And… there really isn’t one. I was patient. I accepted that things were going to go wrong. I asked for help when I needed it. I validated my assumptions. I was willing to admit that I wasn’t going to complete the job successfully, but then I found a way to do it anyway. So maybe there is something here after all. Perhaps all of this time off is making me ever-so-slightly more patient and measured. And that, apparently, is a good thing.
But maybe that’s not the point. When I cut the strainer loose and then eventually finished the job I texted the two photos in this post to FLOYD SOLO. His response:
Sometimes perseverance and a hacksaw win out
Yeah… that seems like a better lesson.