Q&A / 

August 13, 2013 AsktheBuilder Newsletter & Tips

This is going to be a little quirky newsletter. Why?

Ask the Builder is celebrating two things:

  • Ask the Builder is twenty years old.
  • I wrote my 1,000th column for my newspaper clients a few days ago.

Those are two pretty big milestones in my opinion. What do you think?

If you're a new subscriber in the past week, this is by no means a typical newsletter. If you're a seasoned subscriber, I think you'll like this issue.

My editor at Tribune Media Services, Dave Mulcahey, requested that I do a special column that takes a look back into time. I could have written about 5X more than what I submitted. There's just so much to tell.

What's the biggest mistake I've made in the past 20 years?

The list is longer than a row you need to hoe in a large garden. If I had to list the top five, one of them would be not taking enough photos of the early years of Ask the Builder.

In fact, I don't know that I have ANY photos of my original office where I wrote my first columns, much less a frantic day in the basement where Ellen, her mom, Kathy and I were fulfilling Builder Bulletin orders.

As you read this, I'm on my way to Nashville, TN for a quick editors conference hosted by Jet and Powermatic. I'll be seeing some very nice woodworking power tools for sure.

Are you going to be at the Nashville, TN meet up on Wednesday night, August 14, 2013, at 5 p.m. in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel on Commerce Street? You better email me changing the Subject Line to: Nashville Meet Up!


Malcolm Gladwell published a book, The Outliers, several years ago where he discusses what it takes, in his opinion, to be a success. He feels you have to invest 10,000 hours doing something. The website Wisdom Group has a fairly interesting blog post about the 10,000-hour concept.

What does this have to do with you? Everything.

If you want to be good at FILL IN THE BLANK, then you need to practice. I'm trying to get good at Morse Code. I need to practice more.

If you want to get good at cutting straight lines in lumber, then take an 8-foot long 2x8 and cut off 180 one-half inch slices. With each cut, you should get better.

If you want to finish drywall like a pro, then build a temporary wall in your garage, hang some sheets of drywall and tape it to your heart's delight. Watch my drywall taping videos first though to save you lots of frustration.

What's this have to do my anniversary milestones? I can tell you I have invested far more than 10,000 hours in Ask the Builder.

First, I probably had 40,000 hours of hands-on construction experience before even starting Ask the Builder. Then, in the past 20 years, I guarantee you I have at least 60,000 hours in all I've done for my newspaper column, the AsktheBuilder.com website and the nearly 1,000 videos I've taped.

If you want to be successful at whatever you want to do, just invest the time in it.

Guess what? If you LOVE doing it, it's not work. Pour your passion into something now.


Speaking of pouring passion, I met a great husband / wife couple here in New Hampshire. Actually, I've met a fantastic group of people over the past few years. Phil and Chris live at the southern end of Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton, NH.

Chris has a passion for making handmade soap - like the colonists did 250 years ago. Three weeks ago, she gave me a bar of her Bay Rum soap and it's absolutely amazing.

Using it in the shower makes me dreamy. The scent transports me to a tropical island in the morning. What a great way to start the day!

If you love unique handmade soap, take a look at what Chris' passion does for her. I'd appreciate it if you would consider supporting her passion.


In the last newsletter, I briefly mentioned that I had climbed Belknap Mountain here in New Hampshire and made radio contact with other ham radio operators.

Please read my story about my first Summits on the Air (SOTA) activation. I feel you'll enjoy it, especially the photographs.

If you've subscribed to this newsletter for a few months, you may know I'm a ham radio operator. I'm very active in my local club.

My ham radio club does a ton of good for the community. We provide FREE safety communications for many public service events. We're ready to help if a disaster strikes and actively train each week for such an event.

How big of an area do our repeaters cover? Look at this fancy image that was created by Mark Persson, W1DDI using Radio Mobile software.

Gunstock 146.985 Repeater map

Suffice it to say many in the club are ready at a moments notice to deploy in a disaster in case the regional police and fire departments need help.

We're always looking for help ourselves because our resources are razor thin. If you're looking for a really worthy cause to support, I urge you to consider my ham radio club.

CLICK HERE and look for the DONATE button in the lower right corner.

You'll be taken to a PayPal page where you can use your PayPal account or any major credit card. Donate as little or as much as you like. Everything helps!

Thanks for anything you can do to help my club so we can be ready to help others in their time of need.


I had to clean and seal my dock down at the edge of the lake this year. I decided to test a semi-transparent stain that's supposed to do a great job.

I didn't choose the winner of last year's test, opting to go back in time to a formulation of a product that I've used in the past with outstanding results.

wood dock next to lake

As you can see from the photo, it really is doing a great job of stopping water from soaking into the wood. The brown pigment in the stain blocks the sun's UV rays from discoloring the wood.

I'll have more to report next spring!


Ask the Builder was really born in August of 1993. It was then I made the deal with The Cincinnati Enquirer to buy my column. It took them until the first Saturday in October of 1993 to get the column into their regular production schedule. At first, they only ran the column every other week.

It didn't take long to discover that I needed more space than what they allowed me to write. I started to write extra content and sold it to people via the mail.

The newspapers would publish a small announcement at the end of the column saying that Builder Bulletin XXX was available for $2 blah, blah, blah.

Our biggest sellers, and it should be no surprise, were bulletins about deck sealer test results! There were days when we would get stack of envelopes 6-8 inches tall - each one with a check enclosed. It was madness fulfilling all those orders.

The changes in the newspaper industry have been staggering. The loss of classified ad revenue was one of the primary reasons for the ongoing decline of the newspapers.

Craigslist.com is probably most responsible for this shift. I was in a mastermind group with the founder of Craigslist.com many years ago. I remember that website when it was just in a few cities, not international!

Do you want to know more about the journey over the past twenty years? If so, I need to know.


Last week, I made it far too easy.

Forty-three percent of you knew the tip!

Drat! I'm trying to get below 10%!

Watch this video and tell me if you knew this exact tool existed. Don't fib on me. I need to get below 10%.

Then VOTE:

Tim, I was born at night, but not LAST night. Stop trying to trick me.



Tim, where do you find such amazing things?!!!


More tips next week.

Tim Carter
Founder - www.AsktheBuilder.com

Do It Right, Not Over!


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