If you're interested in a DIY project and want to get to the nuts and bolts with a minimum of chatter, turn off your TV and turn on your...
If you’re interested in a DIY project and want to get to the nuts and bolts with a minimum of chatter, turn off your TV and turn on your computer.
More and more how-to shows and magazines are presenting tightly edited video clips of highly focused projects on their Web sites, on demand, and in your own good time.
The clips are compact — no more than five or six minutes long — because they eat up a lot of space on a Web site.
But if you’re a hands-on person rather than someone who watches home shows on TV just to kill a Saturday afternoon, you know all too well that many shows contain more talk than actual news you can use around the house.
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You’ll need a high-speed connection to watch these videos, and a wireless link will allow you to carry a laptop right into your home workshop.
You can stop, start, rewind and fast-forward by clicking your mouse, which means you can run through hard-to-grasp directions a couple of times so you don’t solder your hand to the intake valve on the toilet.
There are a few reasons that how-to TV shows have begun offering more of their wares on the Web.
An important one is that some programs, such as those shown on DIY Network, are available only as part of a digital cable-TV package, and the price of digital is high. Cable advertising, especially when there are only a few thousand viewers per channel, is not lucrative enough to finance the production costs for a lot of shows — and there are a lot of them. The additional exposure on the Internet sweetens the package for advertisers.
For me, the big draw is the ability to look at these video clips anytime I want, and anywhere I want.
Say, for example, that I want to do a fancy cut on a piece of oak on my table saw. There’s a video clip on the Fine Woodworking magazine site (www.finewoodworking.com) that will show me how to do it. I call up the Web site, type in my password, and there it is.
I bring my laptop into my workshop (just as long as I remain within 150 feet of the wireless router in our first-floor computer room), download the video and watch. Then I make the cut, and that’s that.
If you have a video MP3 player, you can download some of these clips onto it and watch during the train ride to work or on your lunch hour at the office if your employer restricts personal use of its computers.
Some syndicated programs — “Ron Hazelton’s House Calls,” for example — are not shown in all parts of the country. And when they are, it may be at 4:30 in the morning.
So Hazelton’s Web site (www.ronhazelton.com) features a video tip of the week — like how to install a ceiling medallion — and two clips from the current week’s show. When I checked in recently, the clips were about building a pergola and installing a pull-out trash bin.
“This Old House” (www.thisoldhouse.com) offers bath and plumbing videos, including how to install an automatic shutoff on a hot-water heater and how to install drains for a basement bathtub.
During a recent visit, its “video pick” was about repairing a damaged wall. In addition, there is a host of blogs, how-to articles, photographs and other helpful stuff.
Bob Vila (www.bobvila.com) has clips from the current week’s show — he’s in the middle of a Victorian kitchen and bath remodel. DIY Network (www.diynetwork.com) offers one on replacing a corroded drain with PVC pipe.
These clips give you the chance to pick and choose the projects you’re interested in, and the Web sites offer much more than the television shows themselves.
Norm Abram’s New Yankee Workshop Web site (www.newyankeeworkshop.com) doesn’t have video clips, but it does have the New Yankee cam, a video camera set up in the workshop that allows you to watch Abram in real time, and also archives the images so you can look at a slideshow later.
So far, I haven’t seen him make a mistake.