Monday, April 23 , 2018, 2:24 am | Fair 55º


Paul Burri: The Wisdom and Economics of Do-It-Yourself

The thrill of the chase fuels drive to outdo that sidewalk vendor — whatever the cost

My wife and I recently took a walk along Cabrillo Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon. That was our first mistake. A s we strolled along, my wife was attracted to some unique garden ornaments that one of the vendors was selling. She dragged me over to see them. That was our second mistake.

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

The ornament was a relatively simple copper spiral with a large glass ball inside it. When the wind rotated the spiral it looked like the ball was creeping up the spiral. Very interesting effect. I agreed that they were very nice and asked my usual question, “How much are they?” When my wife told me how much they cost, I said, “I can make one of those for a lot less.” That was my third mistake.

A few days later I was reminded by you-know-who about my boast that I could make one of those ornament things. I scheduled a trip to the hardware store and bought some copper tubing. Then I spent a few hours on the Internet looking for one of the large glass balls. I only needed one of these but to save money on the shipping, I ordered five of them. When they arrived a few days later, I went to my garage workshop and, using a large dowel left over from another project, I fabricated the prototype spiral. It was then that I discovered that the dowel was too small and that I had just wasted some of the copper tubing. Oh well, that often happens when you’re inventing something.

Back to Home Depot to look for a larger diameter dowel. No luck, so I bought a short length of plastic pipe. But then I had to spend a few hours modifying it so it would work for me. Finally, I was ready to wind another spiral. Oops, too big this time.

Back again to Home Depot for some smaller plastic pipe. And some more copper tubing and, by the way, this time I bought two different sizes of pipe to be sure I had the right size.

My third spiral using the smaller pipe worked! Hurray.

Then I spent another several hours winding the copper spiral, making several other parts and assembling the whole thing. And it worked!

So let’s see how this all adds up:

Copper tubing (two times) — $23.47
Wooden dowel — $3.29
Plastic pipe (three different sizes) — $9.13
Copper sheet (wind vane) — $1.76
Six Band-Aids (don’t ask) — 68 cents
Five trips to the hardware store @ $3.29/gal — $3.92
TOTAL: $42.25

Of course, this doesn’t include the value of the time I spent on this project.

On the other hand, I now have enough material to make about three more of these things to use as Christmas presents. Not to mention the fun I had working on another successful project.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >