Handy Handyman Tip Number 427: Look Ma, Three Hands


There is one rule of household repairs that you cannot avoid: Some jobs require more than two hands. When you find yourself needing more than two hands, you have a choice to make. You can recruit a second pair of hands, preferably attached to another human, or you can get creative. Lacking any warm bodies with hands attached, I was forced to choose the latter.

It all started last night with a terrific wind storm. There wasn’t much rain or lightening, but the wind gust must have easily hit 70 mph. A couple of hours of such wind turned out to be too much for the end of the soffit where my flag is attached.1 As I left the house for work Tuesday morning, I found the flag and a triangular piece of wood with flag cleat attached laying in the driveway. I had no time to stop except to pick things up. The repairing would have to wait until later in the day. Getting this done was fairly urgent. If rain got into the opening, the repairs would be much more extensive (see also: “A stitch in time saves nine.”).

Luckily, I had the materials needed. I skipped my lunch and left work a little early so I’d still have sunlight to work by. I traced the triangle needed from the downed piece, cut it, slapped a quick coat of paint on it as primer, attached the cleat, and climbed the ladder. Halt! Problem encountered.

Here is where handyman rule #427 hit me. I needed three hands: one to hold the wood in place, one to hold the nail, and one to hammer. If you’ve ever tried to get a nail started into a piece of wood, you know it’s a two-handed job, especially when you’re working vertically. I stood there on the ladder wondering how I was going to pull off this magic trick eight feet in the air, no less.

Solution Discovered: Hammering the nails was a one-handed job. Only starting them required two hands. Here’s tip #427: Mark where the nails need to go. Get off the ladder. Place the wood firmly on a work bench or, in my case, the ground. Use two hands to get the nails started. Now it’s a simple, two-handed task, to get back up the ladder and finish driving in the nails while holding the wood in place. If you get caught needing more than two hands to do the job just remember there are alternatives.

Four nails later, my repair was complete save a final coat of matching paint. Once I complete that, Old Glory will returned to her rightful place. If you’d like to know more about why flying my country’s flag from my house is so important to me, you can read Veteran’s Day Means a Little More to Me. In the meantime, here’s a quick snapshot of my handiwork.

minor soffit repair
Just a quick home repair still in need of a final, matching coat of paint.

1The area involved is featured in the first few seconds of this video from 2010.


Use the comment section to tell me about your creative solution to a problem you encountered. It doesn’t have to be home-repair themed. How does your brain work?

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