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Website teaches women home repair skills

By Mary Beth Breckenridge
Akron Beacon Journal
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Alex Wilson - Getty Images
An online video series called See Jane Drill offers tutorials on simple home repairs and upgrades.

Most of the skills I’ve needed as a homeowner, I learned as an adult. Sometimes I learned by reading. Often I learned by making mistakes.

Luckily those goofs never cost me any body parts, but too bad I didn’t have Leah Bolden and Karen DeVenaro to guide me.

Bolden and DeVenaro are the brains behind See Jane Drill (www.SeeJaneDrill.com). The website is dedicated to teaching home-improvement and car-maintenance skills to women. You need to change your oil? Replace a light switch? Lay a tile floor? Videos and written material by Bolden and DeVenaro are there to coach you through it.

The videos start with the assumption that the viewer knows little or nothing about the task or the tools and materials involved. Yet there’s nothing condescending about the approach.

The viewer isn’t treated as stupid, just unschooled. And always, there’s an underlying message: “You can do this.”

Bolden is the public face of See Jane Drill, the teacher on the videos patiently explaining the parts of a circular saw or the finer points of caulking a bathtub.

“She’s kind of the handywoman next door,” said DeVenaro, who does the writing for the site and is more of a behind-the-scenes presence.

Both come from backgrounds in skilled trades. DeVenaro manages the apprenticeship program for an electric utility in Seattle. Bolden was the first girl in her junior high to take shop class and worked for years as a plasterer for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority in Cleveland. She now lives in the Seattle area and devotes all her time to the website.

Currently the site has more than 40 videos, along with a small selection of articles, a tool library that explains the uses of various implements, and how-to guides that are available for purchase. Eventually the two might launch their own tool line, DeVenaro said.

In the meantime, they intend to keep adding resources to See Jane Drill.

And it’s OK if some of those users are men. After all, they weren’t born handy, either.

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