Welcome to my Handyman Blog

Recent posts:

Harder than Chinese Algebra  /

   And Still More Lint (Under My Frij and Yours)

                          Mapping a Panel       /     Lint Lint Lint 

                         Lockpicking  101    /   Fixing a Wet Drop Ceiling 

Hi there and thank you for visiting my handyman blog.  My name is Justin and I work in Metrowest Boston (MA)  (i.e., Newton, Waltham, Belmont, North Cambridge, and so on).  The best way to contact me is to send pictures of your issue(s) to me at handyauthor@gmail.com.

So let’s get right to it.  Here is a list of the most common jobs I do for folks.  Note  I am not a former construction guy; I do mostly smaller jobs:

deal with doors that don’t open or close or latch

troubleshoot kitchen drawers and cabinet doors

install shades
basic locksmithing, e.g., swap out knobs and deadbolts, fix latches, etc.

cosmetic work on drywall, e.g., patching holes therein

caulking of tubs and sinks

replace broken window glass

replace sash cords on old wooden windows, and address window function generally

replace screen mesh, build new screens from basic kits
fix / install downspouts, up to 9 feet
very basic electrical, e.g., rewire a lamp, replace a switch, etc., doorbells,
hang pictures
deal with screen door hardware, i.e., closers, wind chains, handles
      and latches
small patches to vinyl siding
dryer vents, I have never done a full install but I often repair them and tape them.  I don’t have the full kit needed to do major long distance vent lint cleaning, but short runs, I can usually do something.
furniture kit assembly
install mortite weatherstripping on old wooden windows
install toilet seats
smoke alarms (install battery operated, replace wired  models)
and, I just have a talent for figuring out and fixing odd little puzzlements.
There is of course a massive list of little things like plunging clogged drains, .  etc. etc. etc.    I am not a plumber but, little drain fixes, we can talk.
a large part of my work is devoted to correcting improper installations that someone else did.   I could tell you stories.
I DON’T do
pipes that contain pressurized water
anything structural, i.e., stuff that people put their weight upon,
   like flooring, bannisters, grab bars, stairs
landscaping or gardening
precise carpentry
much of anything on a roof
moving jobs

The best way to contact me is to EMAIL PICTURES of your issues to me at handyauthor@gmail.com.   You can also call me at 781 330 8143.  If I don’t answer it means I am up on a ladder somewhere, so please do leave a message and I will call back within 24 hours.   Tell me what’s going on, we can have a pleasant little chat.  And I will be very up front with you about whether your needs are within my skill set or no.  Thank you for visiting!    🙂  Best,  Justin

PS   The story:  years ago when I was a freelance musician, I had an apartment in Jamaica Plain that was absolutely fabulous.  It was huge, and it was cheap.  I mean insanely, borderline grand larceny cheap.  So I never wanted to kick my sleeping dog landlord and make him think hey, maybe I should raise Justin’s rent.  So, even though I knew very little to start, whenever anything broke in that house I just figured out how to fix things myself.  Then in the wake of the great recession, I found myself managing the office of an electrician.  There I learned a LOT about electrical work, but I was also introduced to the business of driving to someone’s house, fixing something, and getting paid.  So I mentioned to one of the electrician’s clients that I was thinking of becoming a handyman, and she hired me on the spot.  And the rest, along with watching 9,000+ how-to youtube videos, is history.

I am primarily a fix-it guy rather than an install a new thing guy.

Posts about past jobs:

Drawer Fixes
Replacing broken windows
Replacing Broken Window Sash Cords
Fixing Holes in Drywall
Bathroom Caulking
Rewiring Lamps

The magnificent Jordan Rich recently interviewed me on his Podcast.  Check it out!   — jl

Handy Busman’s Holiday

One of the many benefits of being a handyman is, when you need something done, you can generally do it yourself.  I had two such projects lately:

The first was my bike.  I have had this bike for 40 years and it was needing some love and attention.  Here you can see the original “stem” style shifters that I have had all this time and frankly, I always hated them.  Not only did I have to take my hands off the handlebars to do any shifting, but they were terribly inexact and had to be fussed with on each shift.

But now you see the new “grip shifter” I installed for the rear derailleur:

FYI  the handlebar grip cover is missing in photo  . . .  and I confess I had to take the bike to the shop for a final fitting, as the frame had gotten twisted out of true.  But it’s just so fabulous to have this, makes shifting SO much easier.

I also bought and installed new tubes and tires, plus at long last I have a kickstand (what a massive upgrade!), and I am cleaning off all the rust (My Dremel tool came in VERY handy for that!).  I am calling this the summer of bike, I am really getting out and biking around.

Next, I have been meaning to do this for a while, I swapped out the spark plugs on my vintage Honda Civic:

  This could have been a classic handymanning post all by itself.   A few gremlins encountered:  One, the manual said to “gap” the plugs to 1.1 mm, but the plugs now made for my car come “pre-gapped” with a 1mm gap, and I am NOT supposed to touch them.  Plus, while the manual says to use 13 ft lbs on a torque wrench (Hey, I learned how to use a torque wrench in the process), NGK, the makers of the plug, said to use 18 ft lbs to properly crush the washers . . . but I simply could not turn it any further, the torque wrench only went to 14 ft lbs measurement, and NGK help line was fine by my just turning it 180 degrees past hand tight, so I left it.

Always kinda dicey doing this kind of work as you can really screw up your car if you make a mistake but . . . I immediately took it out for a test drive and OH MY  what a difference in general zip!  I have been constantly bugging my mechanic about putting these in and he always said not to worry about it . . . but in this case,  he was wrong, it really needed it.



And Still More Lint (frij this time)

My apartment’s frij was making an annoying buzzing noise, so rather than be a wimp and call building maintenance I decided to see if I could just fix it myself.  So I pulled the frij out, gave it a good whack at top back, and the noise stopped.  I do amaze myself.

But once I had the frij pulled out, I looked down at the bottom and . . . UH OH . . .

Thar ’twas, a whole lot of lint buildup on the vent openings of the cardboard back of this frij.

So 3 screws off, and I exposed the cylindrical cooling coil of the unit:

Isn’t that just lovely.  All of the air in my apartment was being blown thru all that crud.  ICK.  (Bear in mind I had just cleaned this thing a year ago)

So, a little gentle (GENTLE) brushing with a paintbrush and tooth brush and my hand vac, and VIOLA
Probably saving what, fifty bucks a year on my electric bill?  plus all the CO not emitted?  plus my apartment air is cleaner?  Not bad for 20 minutes of effort.  I would guess that 85% of all refrigerators in the country are even dirtier.

Harder than Chinese Algebra

Well greetings dear readers,

I am sure you are already sick of listening to me complaining about the assembly instructions for furniture imported from China, so . . . grab the Pepto, here comes another one.

This project was a MCombo storage shed.  here is finished project, actually looks kind of okay when done,

So here is my complaint,  as you can see above there is a post running down the center front, here is a shot of the directions:

Hopefully you can see the two little rectangles on the post.  Now it is POSSIBLE that the little markings on the cross pieces would have implied that this was a rear view, but why why why make me work so hard?  (Also there is no indication of which end of post is top or bottom)   Anyway, following that hint, here is how I initially put it together:

As you can see, this matches the rectangles showing in the instructions  BUT   what is not at all clear from these drawings is, that is a REAR VIEW of the post, it needs to go in so the rectangles are facing away, as they are there to support some cross beams to hold the shelves.  (and there is no “poka yoke” to prevent incorrect installation)  So here is, correct:

Next, the big shelf going full left to right, even though there are 2 pieces of wood on the sides looking like they hold that shelf, that is actually the floor of the shed.  Again I had to do some disassembly to correct that error.

And it was also confusing how to put the back wall in . . .

All in all this took me 7.5 hours, with better directions would have taken 5.

I sometimes wonder what the mindset is of the folks who do this.  I understand the language issues but surely they could give just a little more detail instead of constantly trying to do directions with as little information as possible.

For search engines, this was an:

MCombo 6056- 1400D   assembly





Constructive Criticism for EMCO Doors

Well yesterday I went over to a regular client’s house to install an EMCO storm door:

So a little prelude,  a contractor guy I occasionally work with sent me this job.  He is a highly skilled guy, I was told he had measured the door opening, recommended the door to the client, so I was kind sorta assuming he had done the necessary preproduction research.  I had never done one of these things from scratch before so, I was being overly bold.

I spent a whole week studying the directions and watching the videos.   When I was looking at the marketing materials for this thing I somehow got the impression that this was a 2 hour job.   Alas, this overly rosy assessment from the marketing people was an exaggeration to say the least.  I just barely got the thing hung and the knob installed (but no closer yet), and that took over six hours. .

Next, EMCO, ol’ buddy ol’ pal, have you ever built anything from Wayfair?  If you had, you would know that it’s really handy to put labeling stickers on all the major parts.  As it was, I had to correlate each part (many similar looking long white sticks) with the illustration / directions.  There is one part in particular that goes on the jam and holds the strike, another that goes on the strike side of the door itself, and they are virtually identical, and the second of these is not shown in the directions at all.  yeesh.

To their credit, the colored screw holder bags were well organized.

Another overall view, it seems to neophyte me that the first hour of fussing with the door is all because they made the doors universal in terms of right or left handedness, meaning, no matter which door you buy you can put the knob on the right or the left.  The sheer amount of work needed to make it one or the other makes me wonder if it is really worth it.  Instead of adding an hour to each buyer’s install time, why not just right hand and left hand doors?  Isn’t it 50-50?  But, not my business.  But at least, could you make little dimples etc to show where i need to drill 20+ precisely located  holes for that conversion instead of making me try to hold an unwieldly hinge plate while marking for the holes?

Here it is, hung, even tho I followed directions precisely there is a bit of a list to starboard due to I assume the jamb not being plumb.

There was a little “follow orders don’t think” system for getting the door straight with some little plastic doodads, but given the weight of the door and my unique setup of 2 narrow steps I could not use it effectively.

Note the instructions for the knob install were sparse but generally very good.

Some items were not their issue, this door had a decoration above the opening and this conflicted with the “rain cap.”  So I will have to cut a piece out of the cap to make it fit.  Next visit.

A separate complaint about the job, some amateur installed sconces and they were in the way of the side rails, so I took them off temporarily and of course I found there were no boxes, so that’s another day, with an electrician . . .  Smaller items, when I put in the sweep fin, I was told to crimp the metal around the fin, but even though I called the help line (alas, they were generally useless), and I banged it and I squeezed it, and still not crimped.

Also the client has a large keypad entry deadbolt and it conflicts with the handle, another issue borne of my not running the job from the start, also the instructions were very hard to fathom for that measurement, so looks like we will have to move the deadbolt.  not a massive crisis, but . . .

So all in all, if you have a nice clean doorway with easy access, no stoop steps, a helper, a small deadbolt, a couple of days to do it, and it’s not raining (!) (the directions pamphlet did not do well in the rain), I will still give the door a thumbs up as a decent quality item, but the whole time I was doing the job I was talking to myself about how the kit instructions could have been SO much better, especially for a first timer.   — jl


Wet Drop Ceiling Tiles

Something that I encounter on a fairly regular basis is a “drop ceiling” that has gotten wet due to a leaky roof.  Upon arrival one usually sees something like this:

Drop ceilings have their uses, but if the roof has a leak, usually the tiles are hopelessly destroyed.   The tannin in the leaves on the roof gets in the mix and it makes  this nasty brown stain.

In this case (rotated 90 degrees now), it was more than just pulling down the damaged tiles, we also had a light fixture in the mix:

At first, I thought maybe I could cut a hole in a replacement tile and somehow fit it over the fixture, but it quickly became obvious that it just would not work.  So I had to take down the fixture:

And here, tile around the light replaced, and fixture put back:    And then a box of all new matching tiles arrived, here it is all done:

Constantly Learning New Things (Pressure Treated Wood etc.)

Today, dear reader, I shall share the latest arc in my ongoing learning curve.

A regular client called and asked me to paint a pergola. Like me, you may be asking, what is a pergola . . . well it’s a structure with joists across the top that holds things like grapevines.

So, being a handyman, I am no stranger to painting projects, so I figured, no big deal. These are the famous last words of many a dead handyman.

So my first inkling of things being slightly more than bargained for was when my paint guy looked at the pix and asked, “is this thing made of pressure treated wood?” Turns out it was, and that’s when I first started to learn all the mystical hidden ins and outs of painting pressure treated wood. Mostly, what you need to know is, you can’t paint pressure treated wood when it is brand new. The chemicals that were infused into the wood need to off gas or dry out or something. Anyway, you have to wait a few weeks or months (I think– I never got a clear answer on this). It’s also a good idea to sand it first. I gather. There are no signs posted anywhere near the pressure treated wood at the lumberyard to tell you any of this.

Next, and I kinda sorta knew this but not really, sometimes these “kits” for such sizable structures come with the wood for the project already primed. This is great (I guess) but it creates a major trap for the unwary: the thing is white, so it’s easy think it’s all set, BUT . . . primer is NOT DESIGNED TO BE A TOPCOAT and (as I understand it) you have about a month to buy and apply some kind of topcoat that is NOT primer, to cover said primer. If you don’t, and I have actually seen this many times, the primer will be overly exposed to UV light and moisture etc and it will start to disintegrate. It peels and flakes and turns to chalky gunk, all of which has to be sanded down to solid layers and primed again before painting.  So it had either come pre primed or the previous owner primed it, but whoever did it, they did not wait for the wood to dry OR they failed to topcoat it, or maybe they primed it when it was wet from rain . . .   and that’s why it all flaked off . . . I guess.   Below, how it looked day one before being scraped and sanded:

So anyway, it took me a full day just to scrape and sand off this old gunky peeling primer and get down to a nice solid surface. And of course I had to prime this thing all over again, and I chose my fave primer, Zinnser Bullseye. But as I got closer to the day, I was informed by Zinnser corporate help that the surface has to be dry, as in 2 days of no rain before painting, OR less than 12% moisture content. I had no idea this was such a big deal. Now I know.

Below, midway through the sanding process:

And, finished, with a low lustre Benjamin Moore Aura topcoat:

I also had a project in the pipeline of painting a wrought iron railing for another customer, but Rustoleum help said “sorry, not so fast” . . . for their OIL based paints, turns out both the primer and the paint need a full 24 hours ABOVE 50 Degrees to dry/cure properly. On that job it did not matter if it rained the night before but it mattered very much if it rained or went below 50 degrees the 24 hours after application. . . . and THEN I learned that, once I put on the rustoleum primer, and once I wait the 24 hours for it to cure, I have just 6 days to put on a top coat, (which then needs a dry 24 hours above 50 degrees) . . And if I miss any deadlines I am screwed and I have to wire wheel down to bare metal and start all over again.

These little procedural details are very important to achieving optimal results, but these oh so important rules and procedures and instructions are in very fine print on the back of the can . . . and of course no mention of pressure treated wood anywhere . . . handyman work has turned me into a very cautious and suspicious person. More than once my paranoia has saved me from disaster.



Lint Lint Lint

One of the greatest shortcomings in house design and construction has to do with fans and the movement of air in general:

The fan you see above just happens to be in my own apartment bathroom, but there are millions of these all over everywhere.  And a lot of them . . .  just don’t work.

Of course, if you turn them on, it will spin around and make fan sound, but if you perform the acid test, which is, if you hold 2 squares of toilet paper against the vent and then take your hand away, most times the toilet paper with just fall to the ground.  If it does that, you immediately know there is no suction of air occurring.  It’s fan theater.

Oh sure, they worked when they were first installed, but then, as the damp air from the shower gets sucked out, the lint and dust that is also in the air hits the water on the fan blades and sticks there, and over time it builds up.  And as it builds up, it eventually distorts the curve of the “squirrel cage” fan blades and renders them useless.  Sort of like icing on airplane wings.  And, not to pile on, if that fan stops functioning, you get moisture buildup, and thus mildew and mold.

The only fix I know of is to get up there with a vacuum and clean it out one blade at a time:

This takes us to a broader topic having to do with customer relations.  I personally hate it when people “upsell” me and I never do that to clients.  Handymanning is a consulting job, and the relationship, and mutual trust, is key.  But then there’s the conflict of knowing that in every new customer house I walk into, there is an 80% likelihood that every fan in that house is somehow gummed up with lint, and the function of that fan is compromised.  This includes bathroom vents, window air conditioners,  furnace blowers, clothes dryer vent pipes, and perhaps worst of all, refrigerators.  And now here is Justin looking like he is pressuring you into buying something you didn’t think you needed or wanted.

The hell of all this, I don’t want this job.  I do not like to clean.  I fix, I don’t clean.  But in this arena, cleaning is fixing and making things work.  It is also saving energy and carbon dioxide emissions.  Plus, the life of your appliances is shortened when gunked up fans and air filters are making the thing run 50% longer than it needs to.    And I did not even mention what all that dust does to your lungs as it gets constantly blown thru your house.  So I put up with it, as virtually no “house cleaning” service addresses this kind of thing.

Trouble is, the average home owner is simply not at all educated on this need for preventive maintenance.  The manufacturers don’t care, they would rather you remain ignorant and be forced to just buy all new everything.  So, dear reader, I put it to you: should I not risk sounding like a pesky car salesman selling rust proofing, or do I bring it up and suggest that folks address the lint in their house that is killing their appliances, crudding up their lungs and sinuses,  and costing them $10 a month in extra electricity?



After posting this blog I had a regular client call about something else and while there I suggested that we look at her bathroom ceiling fan.  I pulled off the cover and this is what I found:


  Again, when those curved fan blades get all coated with a layer of dust they become totally non-functional.  This took a while but I got enough crud off the blades to at least to make the thing work again,

I need to go back with a better tool to get more crud out.   But, below, you can see the proof of the pudding, at least there is enough air movement now to hold a piece of toilet paper in place.

Lock Picking 101 (I’m a Beginner)

Whenever I run a craigslist ad for my handymanning services, I often list “basic locksmithing” as one thing I can do.    Please note, I have a brother who is a master master locksmith so I know full well that I am not such.  But all too often, while I am doing a job, a client will ask, “can you fix THIS?”  and they will point to a doorknob.  So bit by bit, in the “learn by doing” philosophy, I have acquired some very basic locksmithing skills.  These consist mainly of replacing doorknobs, swapping out deadbolt locks, pulling mortise locks (and having a real locksmith replace the innards) and fixing strike plates.  So over time, as more and more clients asked me to fix more and more broken knobs, I started to accumulate basic locksmithing skills.  There is actually a lot to know, even at that basic level.

That said, when the pandemic first hit, it became pretty obvious that handymanning work was going to slow down and I would have some extra time on my hands. So I decided that would be a perfect time to do some things I had always intended to do.

One of these was to learn to play folk guitar, another was to figure out how to dance country 2-step, and the last was . . . How to pick locks.

I can’t remember what made me want to learn lock picking. I probably surfed into a youtube video by “the lock picking lawyer” and got intrigued.

So I invested in a set of lock picking tools:

You really don’t need much for this kind of thing . . . for basic lockpicking all you need is a “tensioning tool” and a pick. I also bought a “rake” but I rarely use it. And some “top of the keyway” tensioning tools are in the mail.

Now please do bear in mind, I am not any sort of lock picking expert, in fact I would call myself (at best) an advanced beginner. I managed to stitch together a collection of old used deadbolts and locking knobs and now, instead of knitting or whittling, whenever I find myself sitting in my easy chair, I compulsively grab a lock and proceed to pick it. Or at least try to. I have successfully picked 80% of the locks I own, at least once. Still, it is a very hit or miss proposition, I have not achieved any mastery so far. But, gotta start somewheres.

The process involves sticking your pick in the lock and acquiring a mental picture of the unique setup of the pins. If you could see the pins it would be easy, but you have to figure them out by feel.

I have been told that a good way to stave off dementia and senility is to keep learning new things. This project is certainly doing that.

Mapping a Panel

Allrighty, today we talk about . . . panel mapping.

Any house that has electricity has a panel full of circuit breakers, and it is oh so very very helpful if those circuit breakers are labeled. Sadly, all too often, panels are installed with no labels, so it falls to someone else to label them down the road.

The reason they need to be labeled is, well, ok, any competent electrician can usually trace a circuit and identify and kill the breaker. The issue is, what if it’s an emergency? In that case, you have to kill ALL of the power with the main shutoff, and now you may not have any lights.

It’s just a good thing to have them all labeled in case a service guy comes to fix the dishwasher, that way he hopefully won’t charge you extra for the time taken to find the breaker before fixing anything.

Also another note, Belmont and Brookline (local towns here) are now requiring all city-permit-issued electrical work to include mapping/ labeling the panel.

Now in my case here today, one of my regular clients has a big (and I do mean big) old Victorian house, and lately I have been having to go over there at all hours to fix heating issues.  AND . . .  the panel is not labeled, so when I am over there at 2 am trying to shut off power to a burst hot water heater, the lack of any labeling has been getting to be a bit of an annoyance. So I finally talked him into letting me do some panel mapping,

Now for all you intolerant electricians out there, please bear in mind, I have been working with a master electrician for 7 years now and I am a de facto trainee and I already know a lot but even then, I only do basic stuff like the occasional switch swap unless he is standing there supervising.  As he was here.

Okay, to illustrate, here is the panel in my own apartment.

Nice, concise, clean, altho I think it could have been done better.   It’s a nice list but one must first locate the name of the appliance or circuit on the top left list, then look at the chart below it to see how the breakers are numbered / laid out, and then go to the breakers themselves and count up from the bottom to find it.  Wouldn’t it be so much better to just have the appliance name right on or next to the breaker??  This is the kind of thing I am trying to make better.

Here is the “before’ shot of the old house panel.

Someone had started to map it but gave up. And the real catalyst here was the marking for “blue boiler” which was NOT connected to the blue boiler. My hair (not pictured) was torn out and on floor. The breaker for that boiler was not even in this panel.

Ok, so here is my nifty little circuit tracer device.

I plug the smaller piece into a receptacle and it sends a signal back to the breaker, and I can detect that signal with the wand portion, and that’s how I can trace the breaker for that circuit.

Here you see the main panel with the cover removed.

As a panel evolves with new circuits added over time, the wires get all over the place and it gets harder to trace the signal so we have to remove the panel to get closer to the actual wire with the wand. Note DO NOT remove your panel cover unless you know what you are doing!!!  Last thing I need is a fricasseed blog reader!!!

We were only tracing the basement circuits, so I would someday be able to kill power to items like boilers and hot water heaters in emergencies. I took some label stock and wrote down notes to stick on the panel. Sloppy, but way better than what I had.

So next, while I will no doubt get chastised by electricians, I also know a “usability expert” (these are people who actually go to college to learn how to make things easier to use) and no doubt I will be hearing from her about what I am doing wrong BUT my plan here is not just to label this one panel, but to label all three panels in the basement, and THEN I plan to post signage on all the basement devices like water heaters etc. to say “power shutoff: Panel A breaker 18″ So even a new service guy will have minimal trouble shutting stuff off as needed. And of course the panels themselves will be named and labeled A, B, and C. And of course I also have to post a legend of where is apt 1, which unit is apt 2, and so one. This was much  more brainwork than I thought it would be!!

So this was the first draft:  Hang on, more to come   

I also posted a printed guide on the insides of the panel door:

And a few days later I printed up some better labels on crack & peel adhesive stock and finally got them in.

Again, it’s not done, and I am still refining my technique, but the key items in the basement (water heaters, boilers, etc.) are finally mapped to their breakers, and someday we will do the rest of the house!






Installing a Bi-Fold Door

I have tangled with many a poorly installed bi-fold door, but this was the first time someone asked me to install one from scratch.  You don’t often hear me say this, but these kits are very well designed and easy to execute. *** At least I thought so.

First you measure the doorway and buy a  new door that is made for that size, which I guess is a fairly standard set of common sizes.  Here it is half unwrapped:

Next, just 4 or 5 screws  to install the header bracket, centered by eye, no cutting needed:

Then, install a little doodad to hold the bottom hinge pin, 3 screws:

Next, grab the entire door and insert the top hinge pin (which I had stuck into a predrilled hole in the door) in the top header bracket on the left, and then wrestle the bottom hinge pin into the toothed slot in the little bottom bracket, then just stick on the little bolt-thru knob handle, and . . .  VIOLA . Just that simple.  Looks pretty darn good.  Now it just needs a coat of paint to be truly done.

*** Just a little addendum, after I installed the door and tested it multiple times, a week later, in daily client use, the door came off the hinges, ugh.  Turns out there was a manufacturing flaw– the little doodad that holds the top hinge has a hole for a set screw/bolt, and that screw/bolt holds the door in a chosen left-right place, and the hole’s threads were not cut properly– the screw was binding, so even though it felt like it was all the way in, it wasn’t.  Once diagnosed, all I had to do was turn the screw way (way) harder than I normally would.  Normally you don’t want to do that as it risks stripping the threads, but in this case the screw acted as a “tap” and cut new usable threads, and this allowed me to properly place the hinges.  Sigh.  So many products like this are cheaply manufactured, so no matter how careful and precise you are, you must still be vigilant, as there is always a gremlin hiding somewhere!   -jl