CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today CLICK HERE

Adam Lee Potter: Finding my inner Bodger

PUBLISHED: 11:16 03 January 2017

Illustration by Claire Jelly

Illustration by Claire Jelly


When your toolboox blowtorch is strictly for searing scallops, is planning some Victorian doors beyond a gastronome’s basic carpentry skills?

I am rubbish at DIY. I would far rather pay an expert to plaster a wall, fix a shelf or mend the washing machine the first time around than try to do it myself, bodge it, and end up having to fork out even more to have it all put right.

I’ve always been this way. While I can happily whip up braised saffron sweetbreads or layer a ceviche, power tools remain a strange and foreign country.

The only weapon in my toolbox is a blowtorch. But that’s strictly for searing scallops.

When we first moved in together 100 years ago, my wife brought with her a Black & Decker set that would not have disgraced a Formula 1 mechanic. I brought my spice rack and a pastry brush.

But sometimes, there is no alternative to rolling my sleeves up. Having just laid ruinously expensive carpet through the house, I was a tad piqued to be told by the teeth-sucking fitters that, though taking all the doors off clearly does meet their job description, planing them to fit again does not.

Our lovely old house took on, in a trice, the appearance of a barn. My wife was in no doubt: “Oh, just man up. How hard can planing half-a-dozen doors be?”

To be fair, YouTube made it look pathetically easy, the work of a moment.

I went about it – I thought – diligently. I drew a guiding line in pencil, put the hinge screws in a safe place and wrapped the edges of the door with blue masking tape, to avoid splitting the wood. I set up a trestle and donned safety glasses. Handling my borrowed electric plane gingerly, I even practised on an old plank.

So far, so good.

But I lack a craftsman’s patience – not to mention skill, knowledge and eye. While I’m more than happy to take the skin off tomatoes or devein a prawn, DIY always brings out my inner bodger.

First, I took too little off. And if you’ve ever wrestled with and rehung a ton-heavy, old Victorian door, only to find it still doesn’t fit, you’ll know just how irritating it is. My daughter - popping up to investigate my histrionic huffing and puffing and sweetly offering to fetch her mother for help – got short shrift.

Determined not to make the same mistake twice, I then – of course – took too much off.

The bedroom door now clears the carpet but hangs at an ugly slant and there is a diagonal gap beneath that a small child could wriggle through. There are – despite the masking tape – nasty splinters on the bottom edge and scuff marks on the front panels. I didn’t realise that a plane spins on for a few seconds after you turn it off. Putting it down on the door you’re halfway through planing is, it turns out, not a smart idea.

My wife was less than pleased but – utterly unsurprised – pragmatic. “Well, it’s not great, no, she said, already on her phone, Googling a carpenter.

Deluded Michael Gove might have had enough of experts but I couldn’t do without them.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tue, 10:39

From festival director to an internationally acclaimed artist, meet some of the remarkable people working behind the scenes to enhance what historic Sherborne has to offer

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hosted by Martin and Philippa Clunes, this year’s event drew people, ponies and dogs from far and wide to raise funds for Dorset County Hospital Charity Cancer Appeal

Read more
Friday, July 27, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more
Monday, July 9, 2018

Calling all self-professed Clunatics! Test your knowledge on Doc Martin with our quiz.

Read more
Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fanny Charles meets some of the residents and businesses owners who are proud to call Dorset’s newest town the place where they work, live and play

Read more
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Donna and Harry Mosley have brought the taste of their world travels to The Paddle in Highcliffe, where brunch and lunch is a deliciously leisurely affair

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Here we turn the spotlight on some of our county’s most successful and discover what makes them tick

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Human rights lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith has brought the plight of detainees at Guantanomo Bay into the art rooms of local schools

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Rural communities throughout the UK could be eligible to receive funding via the Calor Rural Community Fund from energy provider Calor

Read more
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

His extraordinary physique made Chang Woo Gow famous, but this well educated family man sought escape from the limelight in Boscombe

Read more
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Retired drama teacher turned film director and producer, Rosita Clarke tells us about the ghostly Dorset love story that has just won her an award at an international film festival

Read more
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

We’ve been lucky enough to speak to some of Dorset’s best known over the years. Here’s what they love most about this beautiful county

Read more
Monday, January 29, 2018

A world-renowned explorer, a palaeontologist and futurist, and a butterfly conservator reveal the importance of the past for the future of mankind

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

AFC Bournemouth’s Jermain Defoe tells Andy Greeves how having a virtually vegan diet has helped to keep him at the top of his game and why beetroot helps him run faster

Read more

Local People

Tue, 10:39

From festival director to an internationally acclaimed artist, meet some of the remarkable people working behind the scenes to enhance what historic Sherborne has to offer

Read full story »