MCO: Time to start your dream home-improvement project


Woodowrking enthusiast Low says that though power tools are great for woodworking, those who are just starting out may want to us the less expensive option of handtools first. Photo: Low Tong How

If you barely have any DIY experience but are thinking of embarking on a home project during the movement control order, here's a bit of advice from a enthusiastic DIYer: Start with simple projects.

"Just start," says woodworking enthusiast Low Tong How. "Though clichéd, I would say just start doing it. Start with smaller, easier projects, so that you don't overwhelm yourself, and go from there. There are plenty of resources on social media platforms to learn from. Just keep in mind that safety is of utmost priority. Respect the tools, always wear protective gear and start building something!" he urges.

Low started woodworking when he was in between jobs a few years ago. Although he did take some lessons on woodworking at the time, to learn the basics, he reckons that there are enough instructional videos online to guide those who are keen on giving the craft a go.

Some of Low's work showcased on his Instagram account.Some of Low's work showcased on his Instagram account.

Low's first project – storage racks to keep his tools – wasn't quite up to scratch, by his own standards. But he kept at it and not too long after, he ended up making a washi tape holder for his wife which she still uses today.

Low, 37, has since made various wood products which he displays on his Instagram account (@workshopeighteen).

"Making the first cut and assembling the pieces was a mixture of excitement and nervousness, because I didn't want to mess it up. Also, there were frustrations throughout the build for sure, like the wood alignment, the straightness of the cut, and how clean the sanding result is.

"I would consider myself a semi-perfectionist, so it did bother me a little. But I kept reminding myself it is a learning journey and improvement comes with practice. So the first build was a simple enough one for me to get through without giving up," he shares.

Although power tools are nice to have and use when woodworking, Low assures that they are not necessary. Hand tools are good enough, he says, though he advises caution and some research before using them.

"If you have the space and budget, power tools are nice to have but hand tools are the most affordable entry level tools. However, hand tools have a steeper learning curve to master. As a rule of thumb, you will need at least a cutting/sawing tool (e.g. Circular saw, band saw, handsaw etc), a sanding tool (e.g. Sander, sand paper), a fastening/ assembly tool (e.g. drill/drivers, screw driver etc) and other basic tools such as wood glue, wood finishes/paint and a ruler/measuring tape," he details.

For a first project, he recommends things that require minimal cuts and assembly such as cup coasters, simple trays or racks.

Currently, Lau does custom-made woodworking products for clients, although he still wouldn't consider himself a woodworking professional.

"A professional enthusiast is probably a good description of me at the moment," he says.

Getting down and dirty

Veteran DIYer Winnie Luthien Thye, who's done everything from building her own concrete kitchen countertop to installing brick veneer tiles to her living room wall reckons that starting with simple projects may be best as it will give one the confidence to continue, especially those embarking on their first project.

"Start with a hack or a thrift flip... like I did. I used to go shopping at Ikea, and then come home and hack the things I got. Or I would go to cash converters and bring back something and flip it into something else.

"The main aim is to try your hand at simple things to gain confidence. And then, you can decide if DIY is for you – i.e. getting your hands dirty, or cut and bleeding sometimes. You don't need to invest in power tools to do flips or hacks. If you feel an overwhelming sense of achievement, then you can try simple carpentry next, like a photo frame, planter box or a crate.

"By then, you would know what power tools you need, and can handle," she says.

Thye has embarked on many DIY projects in her home, each one more ambitious than the next. She learnt mostly from watching YouTube videos. FilepicThye has embarked on many DIY projects in her home, each one more ambitious than the next. She learnt mostly from watching YouTube videos. Filepic

Most of us will have something lying around the house that doesn't quite "spark joy" anymore and may be just the thing to be flipped.

Staying home during the MCO might also allow us to try all those clever tricks and hacks we've seen or saved on Instagram or Pinterest or YouTube.

"Indulge in all the DIY YouTube videos you can find. It is amazing how much we can learn now just by searching on YouTube. Our ancestors needed real sifus to teach them even the simplest things! We are so lucky," she says.

Do something fun

Home projects, however, don't necessarily have to be mighty. The trick to finding a project to start on, says Ang Kok Gei, who manages his family's hardware business, ATKC Hardware Trading, is to choose something that's going to be "fun" not just for you but for the entire family, says

Starting a vegetable patch in the garden can be a fun activity for the whole family. It also teaches children to learn to grow something from a seed and to care for their plant. Photo: 123rf.comStarting a vegetable patch in the garden can be a fun activity for the whole family. It also teaches children to learn to grow something from a seed and to care for their plant. Photo: 123rf.com

"It doesn't matter how ambitious your project is. The most important thing is that it should be fun. During the MCO, families are spending most of their time at home so it's a good idea to start something that the whole family can do while having fun together.

Ang reckons that the most important thing is to choose a project that the family can have fun with. Photo: ANG KOK GEIAng reckons that the most important thing is to choose a project that the family can have fun with. Photo: ANG KOK GEI

"Do simple things, like a gardening project where your children can learn how to grow their own vegetables or plants and take care of their seedlings and greens.

"You don't have to spend a lot of money buying tools or pots but use whatever you have at home – empty polystyrene boxes, plastic bottles or containers – to plant your seeds. What's important is to use this time to bond as a family. That is priceless.

"Even if you make mistakes, it's OK because whatever it is you have embarked on, you have done it from scratch yourselves," says Ang, who started making YouTube videos help his customers and the public make the best choices when it comes to buying hardware products and tools for themselves.

"I started the videos because I don't always have the time to explain at length to customers who come to the shop about the products they are looking at, and as a responsible retailer, I should be helping them make the best choices.

"And then came the MCO and I had more time on my hands so I started making videos. It's not easy and I learnt that the hard way but over time, I did research on making and editing videos and I think they are better now that before," says the affable Ang.

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