Workshop member Peter J. Allen might not have any formal trade qualifications but is willing to give anything a crack.
“I don't like paying someone to do something that I feel I can do myself,” Peter says.
D.I.Y. is in Peter’s blood. His father was a designing engineer and Peter reckons “the one thing that I learned from Dad was that I could make things myself. Just have a go.”
Peter, who is an accomplished ballroom dancer and was once a brilliant ice skater, thinks you can’t lose by doing something yourself. “If it works, you did it! You made something that works. If it doesn't work, you find out why and give it another go.
Peter J. Allen loves the sense of satisfaction he gets from completing D.I.Y. projects.
“It is very satisfying, an achievement that is personal and no one can take away from you when you have made something. Showing somebody, sharing your successes with someone else, is even more rewarding.”
Skills and projects
Now a grandfather to five with his wife Rhonda, Peter has spent most of his career in retail, including several of his own small businesses. Recently he has specialised in flooring, window furnishing and furniture.
Some of the projects Peter is most proud of completing include a pergola and a covered veranda complete with balustrades. “I recently put a gate in the back fence, I should share that project on Workshop. I also straightened a length of fence that had been crushed by a fallen tree branch.”
Peter and his wife have only been in their new townhouse south of Woollongong New South Wales for a few months, but there’s already plenty of jobs completed.
“There is a beautiful creek over the fence so the gate was one of the first jobs. Yesterday, with a little help from my new next-door neighbour, I built a kit form shed, having levelled the ground and put some timber outdoor tiles down as a floor, on top of three layers of plastic to keep the weeds from growing through.” The front garden has also been dug out and replanted.
Next on the project list is establishing a workbench in the garage. “It will have a bench grinder, with a buffing/polishing wheel, a soldering iron and electronic tools, and magnifying lights and mirrors for fine work.
“There will be a peg board at the back of the bench area for the mostly-used tools and nearby shelves for the rest. The bench area once cleared will stay that way except for the current project while being worked upon. Work will be stored on nearby shelving.”
Peter also loves constructing model planes and ships, and has built four models of the mighty Titanic.
In addition to half-completed projects, the workshop must accommodate all of Peter’s tools. He’s a fan of the Ryobi 18V One+ range. “I have a blower for leaves or clearing detritus from machines, a hammer, screwdriver and drill, a reticulating saw, orbital hand sander, chainsaw, and a radio all run by the same battery.
“I have just bought a set of spanners that have a ratchet in one end. These are great! That brings to total, probably four sets of spanners?
“I also always carry a small pair of pliers that have a Phillips head and blade screwdriver and wire cutters. And a penknife with toothpick, scissors and tweezers about the size of my little finger. These I use almost daily.
Peter believes there is always more to learn.
Amusingly, Peter is aghast when asked what aisle in Bunnings he usually spends the most time in. “You do know there is more than one aisle right?” he laughs.
“That is why it takes hours to go in and buy that hose joiner you need. You can't just go to gardening aisle 15, pick up the joiner, and leave. Are you crazy! Two hours minimum. Always leave a few aisles for next time.”
Peter, who has a radio program on a local FM station “talking rubbish”, says he loves sharing what he knows “especially when it comes to things I learnt the hard way”.
Although he is in his sixties, there is always more to learn. “You can learn a lot if you keep your eyes and ears open. Keep an open mind.
"You don't know it all, and if someone wants to tell you how to suck eggs, let them. They might just have a way of doing it that hadn't occurred to you before. Life can be a great teacher for the willing student.”
While Peter admits his language can be dreadful if he hits a snag on a project, “sometimes it is just a matter of taking a deep breath and revising you work, calmly”. “I get a bit frustrated far too easily, but eventually I calm down, revise and or rethink the process.”
The best piece of D.I.Y. advice he’s ever received is simply “read the instructions”. “It should be a no-brainer, but us blokes get a bit over-confident a lot of the time.”