« July 2005 | Main | September 2005 »

August 2005

August 30, 2005

Cheapest Wood Stain

If you ever want to create your own aged-looking barnboard out of new lumber, here's an old farmer's secret for a permanent, non-toxic and dirt-cheap stain.  (See Mag demonstrate making barnboard by visiting CTV's Canada AM - then click on their ToolGirl link)

  1. Pour a few cups of vinegar into a jar.
  2. Add a handful of rusty nails or steel wool.
  3. Put the lid on the jar.
  4. Wait a few days. 

Brush stain onto lumber and give it a few minutes to interact with the tannins in the wood.  The more tannin (cedar has a lot of tannin, for example), the deeper the hue of the stain.  Cedar goes dark gray, whereas pine turns dark brown.  I haven't tried it on hardwood yet but I'm told that oak turns black.  I'll find out and post photos.


August 29, 2005

Update on Composting Toilet

hello Mag,

i read your march 2005 article on the composting

toilet.   i tried to find some follow-up material on

it, concerning your installation and experience(s)

with it, but couldn't find anything further on your

toolgirl website (maybe i didn't do a good enough job

of looking, eh?)

i'm just curious how it went.   was it worth what you

paid for it?   how was the installation?   did it work

according to the propaganda?   are you satisfied with

it?   will you keep it?



Dear Christopher,

Thanks for asking.  Every morning I hot-foot it up the hill from the writing studio to the house to use the bathroom.  At least twice.  I have a number of reasons: 

  1. I drink a lot of green tea.
  2. I'm not a drop 'em and wee-in-the-field type of girl, mostly because the guy next door has a telescope.
  3. I haven't installed the composting toilet in the studio bathroom yet.

I'm afraid that the lovely, pristine, waterless, non-electric Envirolet composting unit is still in its box in the garage.  I have a number of excuses.

  1. There is no floor in the studio bathroom yet.
  2. There's stinging nettle growing behind the barn where I have to dig the French drain (the hole that accepts all the liquid waste from the toilet) so I'm waiting for the nettle to die.
  3. A psychic told me that I'm not going to be motivated to get the bathroom finished until it's too damn cold to scuttle up the hill in service to my bladder.

As it happens, there have been legitimate distractions this summer including carpenter ants, roof repairs and a raccoon that tunnelled under the floor of the cabin and had to be evicted.  (TIP:  Tune the radio to headbanger rock 'n' roll 24 hours a day.  If that doesn't work, give all visiting male friends and relatives lots of beer and persuade them to urinate around the edges of the cabin.  An old mammalian trick I learned from an old mammal  -  Farley Mowat.)

As soon as the bathroom floor is in and the French drain is sitting pretty, I will post an arty photographic essay of the composting toilet installation.

Apples or Prunes

It's fall, the season of longing.  We say goodbye to heat and skin.  Bury tender flesh in fleece and down and wool.  Stack firewood in neat piles, finish heavy curtains for the windows to seal out, beat back, vaguely discourage, the cold.  The heart turns in upon itself to spend its winter hours in cozy rumination.  Fire on the hearth, whisky in the cupboard, socks thick and soft in drawers, food stores in the cellar - tomatoes, beans, peaches, chickpeas - in case there's a blackout, an ice storm, a war.  We're ready.  Humans love to be ready.  Like the feeling when you were a kid and an apple war had been decreed and you worked tirelessly to collect a huge pile of rotten wormy groundfallen apples.  You built your dirt fort or tree fort or lumber fort (which was really just propped-up-plywood and the sound of apples smashing against it was glorious).  And then you sat back and knew you were ready for the war to start. 

Continue reading "Apples or Prunes" »

August 20, 2005

It's a Gourd Thing

This week at Home Envy - Mag builds an easy birdfeeder using a hollowed out gourd.  Gourd_grief

Need gourds, kits, supplies, seeds, books or  encouragement right away?  Visit the gourd-natured staff at Northern Dipper Farms. 

Going Postal

You can actually get your face on a postage stamp now without being Oscar Peterson or a former Prime Minister or a flag.  It'll cost you $40 for 40 stamps and it could bring your reputation up a notch when your relatives find out that Canada Post has made a stamp in your honour (for a small fee). 

August 11, 2005

Rugs and Pine Flooring on a Budget

This week at Home Envy;  Mag's 2nd-most asked-for column - creating a fake rug.

Faux on the floor: Mag Ruffman discovers a way to dress up an old plywood sub-floor for under $100 - a perfect project for the cottage.
[ Photo of rug ]

Fake_plank_floorAnd the most-asked-for column?   How to convert a plywood floor into a surface that looks like nice old painted planks.   

Stain removers

I gave a review of  my favourite stain removers on Canada AM and lots of people have written to ask for names and availability.   Here they are.

Wine_away_1Wine Away, a biodegradable stain remover made from fruit and vegetable extracts.  Wine Away excels at instantly removing tough stains like spaghetti sauce, grape juice and pet urine (who can resist a menu like that?).  It has a mild citrus scent and is safe to use around children and pets.  Works fine on carpet but is also great for fabric. Available for $16 online at The Added Touch.


OxykicThe Bissell people have nailed it with this no-scrub spot remover that activates the cleaning power of oxygen, combined with a tough spot remover.   You shake the dual chamber assembly, spray it on, wait five minutes and blot.  It permanently lifts stains like coffee (even ancient spills), beer and red wine, and greasy spots left by gravy upsets, ice cream accidents, or cat vomit.  It even lifts motor oil.  And stains won't come back again the way they do with some spot removers.  Oxykic has a slightly irritating perfume smell that ostensibly covers the odour of the solvents (Dimethyl ether, propylene glycol n-Propyl ether, Hydrogen peroxide) but holy moly, this stuff rocks.  Must be used in a well-ventilated area, away from open flame, children and pets.  Available at Zellers and KMart for about 8 bucks. 

Magica Rust Remover

Magica_rust_remover This product really thrilled me because my white carpet had a lot of rust spots left by the antique steel wheels under some of our chairs.  Magica Rust Remover ($11) killed the rust in seconds.  You just squeeze a little of it from the tube and watch it gobble up rust on carpet, clothing, bathroom fixtures, fibreglass, concrete, appliances etc.  It’s got some kind of acid in it (it etches glass and dulls highly-polished surfaces), so you have to wear rubber gloves.  Available online at The Added Touch

August 06, 2005

CTV - Canada AM

1_match_fire Mag is back Tuesday mornings at 7:45 on Canada AM in her regular segment, The Morning Fix.  Upcoming items include how to recover a chair seat, how to use a pressure washer, taking the irritation out of shoveling, how to create a rustic stucco finish, and tips on the latest stain removal potions.  Streaming video of The Morning Fix is available online.


  • Get ToolGirl's Newsletter
  • Watch ToolGirl's videos


  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie