Have I made anything by hand recently? Why yes, thanks for asking. I made a repair. Plumbing, to be precise. After a day at work where our office toilets stopped flushing down and began flushing up, causing our alley and street to soon be filled with city waste department trucks, I returned home to do dishes and found our kitchen sink clogged. Where does my mind go in such situations? City-wide catastrophe. There’s no other reason there would be two sewer backups in the same day. Surely a villain with a cool name, mask, and snappy catchphrase—“That’ll do ya, senator!”—employed some stooges to blow a couple of sticks of dynamite in the city’s sewer mains and send the city into a leg-crossing panic. A functioning sewer is one of those things you don’t miss until it stops functioning, then you realize it is perhaps the most important part of civilized society. If you wanted to cripple a city, you could go after the sewer system. It’s much more effective than putting a couple drops from a vial into the water supply. Believe me, people can get by on bottled water and soda for a few months but after a day of squatting in the bushes you’ll have pandemic mayhem.
Where was I? Yes, the kitchen sink. One of the joys of learning from my mistakes (trademarked phrase! Hey, it’s on the banner!) is that I get to do the dirty work. So let me explain. No, no time. Let me sum up. Double-basin sink full of filthy water swirling with old chunks of food, check. Failed attempts at using the disposal and plunger? Check. Opening the P-trap and being sprayed in the face with fetid water? Ugh. Check. Learning that the five-dollar multi-use plumbing wrench is good for one thing: cursing at it and wishing for a real pipe wrench? Check. Spending your evening mopping up water from the cabinet and kitchen floor? Priceless.
Here’s the punchline: buy a pipe wrench. Funnily enough, regular wrenches aren’t big enough for pipes, and those cheap flat multi-wrenches (see above) are a practical joke. Also, buy a hose-fitting drain unclogger. This is a rubber thing that looks like a black hot dog you attach to a garden hose. You jamb it down a clogged pipe and it expands to seal the pipe and uses water pressure to force the clog down the drain. I’ve used it successfully a dozen times. Also, don’t ever bother with a snake. Once you’ve worked for an hour to try to spiral this thing down your drain only to hit a bend and achieve nothing more than a handful of greasy spring steel, you’ll wish you’d called a plumber.
What have we learned today? Sometimes handmade means hand-repaired. And if you buy one of these things, you should hit yourself in the head with it because this is all it will do for you: give you a headache.