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HANDY MAC: Beware bumps in the dark days

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When doing odd jobs around the home, don’t forget to keep safety measures in mind, particularly during load shedding; also be careful when using dangerous electrical equipment when a power cut is imminent

Here I am, in the dark again, typing with a reading head torch attached to my forehead. Eskom is really challenging my ability to pass on handy tips and keep you up to speed with what is happening in the industry.

Despite the fact that we are again living in the dark ages, my industry and DIY is all about keeping up with modern trends. Yes, I still believe in the old and trusted methods, but we also have to be prepared to change.

Last week I mentioned that my painter Rifaat is helping out around our home as Mrs Mac prepares for the wedding guests. A while ago we obtained an old pew from a synagogue that had burnt down, which Mrs Mac wants restored. Being old school, Rifaat was going at it with sandpaper but I could see it was going to take forever so I dug out my electric sanders and he continued apace, until of course Eskom intervened. But we will get there eventually.

I have not mentioned safety for a while and I would just like to remind you to check all the safety issues as you do odd jobs around the home. I was running all over the house yesterday, moving ladders, clearing out cupboards, helping Rifaat with the painting, topping up my water tanks.

At some stage I felt something knock against my leg but thought nothing of it until I changed out of my work gear and found a huge bruise the size of a tennis ball on my leg, which of course was not sore until I saw it.

So be aware of what you are doing all the time and even if something seems trivial, stop and check that you have not seriously injured yourself. I am going to be further challenged over the next few weeks with the family wedding taking place, so I am going to be writing from all sorts of strange venues. I will be writing the next from the bachelor party – let’s see if I can keep up with the 30-year-olds.


As if my industry does not have enough problems there is now a threat to the training of thousands of learners as Minister Blade Nzimande launches an investigation into financial misconduct at the Construction Sector Education and Training Authority (Ceta). At just below 10% of the total labour force, the construction industry remains one of the largest employers in the country.

However, the lack of qualified and experienced workers has been cited as a major threat facing it.

“As an industry body, maintaining a steady supply of the required building skills for the country is at the core of what we do for our members, and we remain committed to working with the minister to ensure that the Ceta is more effective and delivers the skills needs of the industry. We… are concerned that this development may jeopardise current skills programmes and those that are planned for the near future,” says Master Builders South Africa president John Matthews. Is there no area of our country not touched by graft and corruption? The whole country is being robbed.

Tip of the week

A smooth surface for finishes. Picture: Cassidy Muir

I hope you still have enough energy left to carry on with your painting/redecoration. Now we are ready to begin applying finishing coats, but proceed with caution especially around the areas of finish and colour.

Let’s start with finish. You don’t want to put an expensive finishing coat on a wall that is not perfectly smooth unless you are looking for a rough finish.

So I would suggest that you experiment on a small patch of whatever you are painting. Remember that changes in light throughout the day will affect how the surface looks, so you need to check over a 24-hour period in natural and artificial light.

As you build up the paint layers you are going to pick up the unevenness in the surfaces or pot marks. These need to be filled, so you are back to your Polyfilla and sandpaper.

Different painters have different ideas about when to fill. On completion of your trial area, decide if you are happy with the finish. If you are not you may need to consider more drastic methods.

For those who want the ultimate finish, you will need the walls skimmed with cretestone, which will give you a finish as smooth as glass, but it comes at a cost and needs the professional touch. Next week we will look at colours.

* If you have a question for Don, send it to or SMS only to 0824463859. Find more:


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