Some recent items from the mail bag:
*Want to know how to patch plasterboard, dispose of paintbrush cleaner, build utility shelves, store Christmas lights tangle-free, spray-paint a wicker chair, thaw a frozen pipe, fix broken eyeglasses, sod a lawn, stop a car tailpipe from dragging? Well, how to do just about any sort of household fix-up can be found in the pages of the new Reader's Digest book, "The Family Handyman Helpful Hints" (The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., Among the most clever tips is a system for trapping fine dust when you're sawing or sanding: Use duct tape to mount a furnace filter on the air-intake side of a box fan. "Put the fan next to your working area," the book advises, "blowing away from you. Vacuum the filter when it becomes filled with dust."
There are "Healthy Home" tips throughout the book, including dealing with the hazards of lead paint and how to avoid carbon monoxide building up indoors.
There are also sections on "Back to Basics," including how to create built-in shelving, how to patch veneer and how to plant rosebushes, among others. And there are tips on such seasonal activities as watering a Christmas tree and cleaning a grill.
The book would be a terrific gift for a new homeowner or a useful addition to anyone's home library. We're not sure we'd recommend gluing corks to a piano lid (to keep it from slamming on small fingers) or putting pie plates under lawn chair legs (to prevent rot), but for the most part the book is a treasure trove of helpful information.
*A few months ago, we drew a blank when a reader asked how to find screws that could be driven through wall-to-wall carpeting to stop floor squeaks. But now we know: In a catalog called "Improvements: Quick and Clever Problem Solvers." This is one of those catalogs you love to browse. It's full of useful products, such as the "indestructible mailbox" guaranteed for life for $89.99. The mailbox sounds like it would stand up to "mailbox baseball," which seems to be a major sport in some rural areas. The stop-the-squeak screws come with a kit called "Squeeeeek No More" for $29.95. Basically, you use a power screwdriver to drive the screws through the carpet, then break them off below the carpet. Fifty extra screws cost $12.99. Other items include cables to melt ice dams under roofing, flexible caulk guns, state-of-the-art bird feeders and tool organizers. For a copy of the catalog, call (800) 642-2112.
*If you've ever rehabbed a house, you may feel that it has a distinct personality, that it's almost a living creature, with a past, a present and a future. And if you've ever had to sell a house you've rehabbed, you may have wished you could pass on your personal view of the house to the next owner. Now there's a "baby book" for homeowners, whether the homes are old or new. "Our Home," created by custom home builder Ted Jost (Lakewood Publishing, $29.95), is a fill-in-the blank keepsake book designed to be passed from owner to owner as a record of what changes have been made in the house and who has lived in it. There are spaces in the photo-album-size book for photographs and pockets to store receipts, contracts and other documents. To order a copy, send $29.95 plus $3.55 shipping and handling to Lakewood Publishing, P.O. Box 196, Crystal Lake, Ill. 60039. Or call (800) 216-0579 for MasterCard or Visa orders.
Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.
If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.
Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.