This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading. —David Skilton

The victim of the man who will hang pictures imperfectly.

Y dear air. I am not myself what is commonly called a handy man, and I'm very glad of it, for I have generally noticed that the man who can at home ‘turn his hand’ to anything has to turn his hand a good deal, and often without any sort of thanks. And the handy man is more often than not an egregious and a ghastly fraud, who, in the long run, spoils everything he lays his blundering fingers on, and is a perfect god-send to regular workmen. Think of the miserable man who affects to be what is called ‘house-proud,’ and who insists upon papering his own dining room; what a splendid jumble he makes of it. He splashes himself all over with paste till his hair is fairly matted with it; the paper that he has succeeded in putting on the walls has as many furrows in it as a ploughed field, and, if the pattern be not a very simple one indeed, it is odds on the handy man putting on the paper upside down.

Mending – he calls it mending – clocks and other mysterious machines is the general speciality of the handy man. The clock goes in an erratic fashion, we will say. The handy man will have a look at it – and ensure it[’]s never going again, you bet. He takes it to pieces and spreads the wheels about till the room looks like a machine shop or a marine store. He fully explains why the clock has gone wrong, and expresses the confident intention of putting it right in a brace of shakes, whatever the said shakes may be. ‘Some stupid people,’ he says, ‘would have taken this clock to a clockmaker[s]'s, and the latter would have made a big job of the affair, but I’ll show you how it's done[‘] – the clock is from that time forth done, most completely done. Somehow he gets the wheels mixed up a bit, puts the thingamybob where the what-d'ye-call it ought to be, or something or other; anyhow, the clock either point blank refuses to go at all, or lags behind or jumps forward at such a break-neck, fastest-on-record style that you suddenly find yourself about a week beforehand with old Father Time, and eternally living, as it were, in the middle of next week. When the cog wheels do not ‘gee’ on as the handy man thinks they ought to do, he oils all the internal mechanism with a feather till the poor clock seem[s] fairly to perspire oil for the remainder of its useless and crippled existence.

The handy man who goes looking for a leak in the gas-pipe with a lighted candle in his hand. His fragments are found afterwards.

The handy man's talent as a locksmith is both varied and extensive. He usually, on being appealed to by his wife to ‘just set this lock right,’ does the job so effectually, and invests that lock with such complicated qualities, that no man on earth can unlock the door upon which it is placed, and even getting the key into and out of the necessary aperture is a most serious business, demanding alike time, patience, and assiduity. Apart from his merits as a locksmith the handy man is a wondrous plumber, and his efforts in the plumbing line are in frequent request. He goes looking for the leak in the gaspipe with a bit of lighted candle and a hammer, and he not unfrequently feels rather bad as the result when he is blown clean out of the house with the windows. Whilst he is at work plumbing in another direction, he makes a desperate amount of fuss about the work, and calls loudly to his wife or one of the servants now for this article and for that, and the amount of dirt he contrives to make is something to make a housewife shudder. He daubs the new wallpaper, be drops candle grease promiscuously all about him in a perfect shower, he pulls up the floor boards, he places his red-hot soldering iron on the best carpet, he severs pipes and then can't rejoin the ends – and at last he has to send for a plumber after all.

The handy man is certainly wonderfully handy in pulling things of the mechanical order to pieces (like a lot of people in other lines of life), but he is another sort of a man altogether when he has to piece anything properly together, as you will know to your cost when it dawns upon you that he has put the wrong lock on the wrong door, has nearly brought all the plaster off a partition wall by driving nails in it, and has completely ruined all water taps and gas burners in the house.

The Amateur Plumber and the ‘bust’ on the Water Pipe.

The handy man is great at hanging such articles as pictures, and lots of his victims have been known to wish that he would hang himself out of the way. When he does a picture, you can absolutely rely upon its falling down with a bang shortly afterwards, especially if a visitor should happen to be sitting immediately underneath it. When he hangs decorations up (as at Christmas time), he most artfully arranges matters that they can conveniently take fire, and endanger the whole building. He can stop a leak in a boiler with such effect that either the said boiler ‘busts’ up altogether or nearly floods the whole kitchen during the still watches of the night, leaving the domestic cat, looking as nearly like a shipwrecked mariner as a cat can do, stranded high and dry on the dresser.

The ‘industrious’ British Workman who profits by the Efforts of the Handy Man.

The handy man is soon found out to be an abject impostor by his wife, but, bless your life, she regards his tinkering propensities all one of his amiable weaknesses, to encourage which very likely tends to keep him out of more mischief, and to expose which mercilessly would only be to wound the handy man's proper pride, and handy men, be it said, are very touchy and tarty indeed in regard to their own capabilities as Jacks-o'-all- Trades. The British working man – the real genuine article, I mean – is bad enough when one ventures to assert that he has not done a job properly, but he is nothing to the unqualified handy man. When the latter tries his little joinery tricks on, for instance, and one ventures to assert that a shelf be has nailed up will probably come down with a run along with all the crockery upon it, he is ‘hurt’ in his ‘feelings,’ and generally expresses himself rather vaguely to the effect that ‘some people will neither do anything themselves nor let anybody else.’ If you should use a coal hammer or a hatchet the head of which has been fastened on by the handy man when he is on the joinery racket, see that the Infirmary Ambulance is somewhere about, that's all, and never sit down save in a gingerly fashion upon any chair the legs of which he has himself 'repaired'. There is perhaps only one great merit about the handy man, and that is that he is good for trade – he does so much dire destruction with his mending propensities that he promotes the interests of those who do for a living what he affects to do as a hobby, like the man who plays so beautifully into the hands of the lawyers by making his own will.

Last modified 26 February 2022