Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...


Venting Spline

in: North Curl Curl New South Wales, Australia

Spline is not a bizarre antipodean-ism that I've picked up. I don't think I've quite assimilated to the point that I can comfortably dipthong to that extent. You see the stuff that looks like licorice rope? That's spline. Spline is the ridged plastic tubing that you wedge into a groove in a screen door to hold in the insect mesh. I have been repairing screen doors. That thing that looks like a pizza cutter is in fact a 'spline roller', it rolls spline. The helpful little illustration on the packet hows you how this is meant to work. Of course being a DIY task it almost works as described.

After long years of being very slow and ineffective at DIY I have developed a process that works for me. There are other parts and guidelines to it but a working example is almost always the most effective way of communicating something.

Before engaging in any DIY tasks ensure that you have:
  • A working telephone
  • A credit card
  • An accident and emergency ward nearby 
  • Paper towels, plasters antiseptic etc.
  • Someone who can drive you to the above who isn't worried about hard to shift stains on the upholstery (blood, oil, vomit etc.)
  • A Stanley knife
  • Bulldog clips &/or duct tape - all DIY tasks universally require bulldog clips &/or duct tape
  • A colourful vocabulary of expletives and a schema for matching them together in new and unusual ways
  • A beer in the fridge - to drink at the end
The actual process for a specific task, using the one at hand as an example goes like this:
  1. Attempt to get someone else to do it
  2. Wave credit card around in the hope that other stakeholders in the process get the message and call someone else to do it
  3. Ensure beer is in the fridge and cold
  4. Buy ingredients parts and tools needed
  5. Listen to sage advice from man in DIY shop who seems to know what he's talking about without understanding a word of it. When quizzed on whether you got that mutter something non-committal 
  6. Ignore instructions on packets and lay parts out on the ground to see if you can work it out.
  7. Tear out all the old mesh and try not to laugh at the word 'spline'. This feels like progress.
  8. Lay new mesh over door and force spline in to corner to hold it in. Realise that bulldog clips &/or duct tape would be handy to keep the mesh straight
  9. Spend 10 mins looking for bulldog clips and tape.
  10. Curse at dog/cat/spouse for running off with key part needed (part may be fictional if necessary).
  11. Start feeling inadequate and read instructions in state of resigned despair.
  12. Align spline down groove and pull taught. Taught is one of those words like 'style' and 'poise' that is of absolutely no use to all but the most gifted of amateurs and is included in instructions to trigger the use of the colourful vocab. If you have this ready use it now.
  13. Use spline roller to roll spline in to groove. No, not like that. Try again. No it's not straight, adjust bulldog clips &/or duct tape. Cue more colourful vocab. and realisation that this could be achieved with a screwdriver and a bit of patience.

    A digression may be made here where the first generic error of DIY can be brought in to play: go at it too hard and stick a  screwdriver straight through it. This can apply to items as diverse as any of the things you have bought to complete the task, pets, flooring and other scenery and assorted body parts. This can lead to a trip to A&E, or back to the DIY store (preferably a different one so you don't have to confess that you didn't listen to or understand the advice and broke things). This step can be repeated until you run out of DIY stores to go to, A&E wards to visit, blood, patience, or you complete the job.

  14. Realise that the spline roller is there to stop you sticking a screwdriver straight through and attempt its correct use. Ow. Realign grip so that vertical pressure is applied in a  way that feels like if you slip you will hammer your thumb into the ground and snap your wrist. There, that's pretty effective, if slightly scary, and as an upside will give you the grip strength of a weightlifter.
  15. Stop muttering the word 'spline' and giggling.
  16. Complete first window after an hour, note slight but important disconnect between instructions and reality. Resolve to send manufacturers a slightly snotty email on clear process instructions and productivity levels.
  17. Trim excess mesh with Stanley knife. Mind your hand/pet/spouse, one of these is in the way.
  18. Either repeat all of the above until job is complete, or learn from mistakes and complete the rest of the task in a third of the time it took to do the first part. Your criteria for deciding on this can be whether there are other even less appealing tasks to do or if there's something tasty to be eaten/drunk in the near future.
  19. If you have managed to get through all of the above without cutting yourself, alienating yourself from family life or destroying something that you shouldn't have been anywhere near, you can choose whether or not to cut yourself with the Stanley knife. This sounds extreme but actually allows you 10 minutes grace when you won't be asked to do anything and can skip straight to step 20. It doesn't hurt much and it isn't really that inconvenient. If you do decide to cut yourself the thumb or index finger of your non-dominant hand is considered traditional. The idea here is to spread a very small amount of blood over the widest possible area, preferably including your face, a light coloured t-shirt helps here too. It is often best to "let someone else notice it before you do", that way you can say "Cut myself? No, I don't think so... Oh, bugger." This is very satisfying and almost guarantees 10 minutes of peace for step 20. Again, a light coloured t-shirt helps.
  20. Open and drink beer.
Now that's how to spend a public holiday.

In an unrelated matter; in previous years I may have stated that it would be a cold day in hell before I settled down to a suburban existence. I feel I should point out that Britain is having yet another freezing winter and that I am doing DIY and mowing the lawn in Sydney's Northern beaches. Food for thought.


  1. Very impressive. You wouldn't care to come across to NL and spend a couple of months sorting our house out, would you? I've been promising to do it for 14 years now and Vesna's beginning to get a bit restive about it. (Can't think why.)

  2. Um, no. But doing DIY let's you buy lots of new toys that give you another excuse to hang around in the garage making loud noises and swearing. It's great!