The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Book review: The Reader’s Digest DIY Manual

Readers Digest DIY ManualI bought my copy a few years ago in Homebase. It lives in Jalopy underneath the passenger seat and has proved to be an invaluable tome. If I brake too fast or corner too hard it shoots out of its den and hits the wall of the footwell, hard. Instantly chastened, we continue our journey at a more sedate pace.

Its authority has given it an edge. I do most of the repairs at the cottage and the book has become an intelligent friend. Even though there are sections that I have to open with a letter opener (it slipped into the bath one night when I nodded off) I find it invaluable.

The DIYers of the old school, who bought the original 1970’s ring bound version, often scoff at this updated book. It doesn’t contain the old ‘projects’ section. But it does cover the new DIY legislation, gives great advice and is easy peasy to follow. If you knew absolutely nothing, this book could get you safely out of a tight spot and earn you mega brownie points.

When it comes to repairing the cottage, this book is my wise mentor. It has taught me how to render, plaster and repair rotten window frames. It has taught me the basics on guttering, valleys and roof ridges. Being a book, it can only show you what to do and never nags. The secret of a great ongoing relationship.

If cash is tight the Readers Digest DIY Manual will help you fix a vast swathe of problems, save you money and give you a massive sense of achievement. All this for less than the price of a decent takeaway for two.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate,

    I am sure there must be something similar in the US. It is useful even if its just to gen up on what needs to be done, even if you can’t do it yourself.

    Hi Rosemary,

    I don’t touch our electrics it is too complicated for me. Luckily I have a pal who is an electrician. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Don’t meddle with electrics,my husband was a qualified electrician (he died some years ago) and his motto was ‘Plumbing mistakes can cause a flood, Electrical mistakes can cause DEATH !!’

  3. I’ve never seen this manual before. I wonder if it’s published here. I should check out the library … I am adept at doing the decorating stuff, but panic when a repair involves plumbing, heating or electricity.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jan,

    I remember being so impressed with the ring bound version, years ago. It seemed like belt and braces stuff.

    I had no idea that one day I would be using the updated version!

    Hi Toffeeapple,

    I met a few people who had made their own bed. Beds from shops used to be so much more expensive. I bet they all used the ring bound book!

    Hi Amada,

    I can understand where you are coming from. Although it is useful.

    Hi Pat,

    I bet you do have a copy. Brian looks like a practical sort of guy and most UK household had the ring bound version a few years ago. It was a classic and very modern (being in a binder) for its time.

    Hi Mike,

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on the 2 versions of the book. I have only used the updated version and it has changed my life. It is invaluable.

    Hi Jane,

    I love the fact that you have an ancient French manual as your fixit assistant. This would be totally beyond me! The next time I need to fix a twiddly handle, I know who to ring.

  5. You are so lucky to have something like this to refer to. We have an ancient tome entitled Guide du Depannage which Zaz inherited from his grandfather. It is full of great line drawings but if you don’t know the word for something in English (like me) then it’s little use discovering what it’s called in French, I find. Still, I feel confident that I have a go at repairing one of those peculiar twisty handle up-and-down open-y window catch things they have to open windows in France. Though I can’t claim to know what they’re called…

  6. With both editions hanging around the place… I’ll vote for the old edition! the newer one certainly covers a lot of power-tool stuff and more modern building materials better, but the older one feels, well… just more substantial.

  7. I think we have a copy of the ring bound one too someplace around here.

  8. My Gran bought this for my husband a couple of years ago. I wish she hadn’t!

    oh dear, I feel slightly disloyal for saying that but there you go!

  9. Toffeeapple

    When I was married, I bought the original for my husband and he made our bed from the project section, I think he still has it 30 years on!

  10. We have the ring-bound one. 🙂 The projects are very much of their era!

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