11-year-old handy around house

December 18, 2000

11-year-old handy around house


photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Matt PayneHALFWAY - Forget Harry Potter and video games.

Other kids his age might spend their free time reading about the fictional child wizard and playing games, but 11-year-old Matt Payne said he'd rather watch home improvement guru Bob Villa and shop at Lowe's.


The sixth-grader at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport has already studded, installed foam installation and dry-walled his basement workshop. He dug a trench to run electrical lines to his outside shed, poured the shed's concrete floor, built a table to hold his new grinder, ran cable lines to the TV and helped build a deck on his family's Decker Avenue house.

When Matt was eight years old, he set up his first major outdoor Christmas display, said his mother, Wendy Payne.

That first year, he wired all the decorations into one power strip. Last year, Matt rigged the display to light up by switching an inside switch. This year, he wired his decorations to a timer.


Matt attached bricks and steel cables to the plastic holiday figurines to discourage theft and prevent wind damage, he said.

He screwed dowel rods to the base of the jumbo plastic candy canes lining the sidewalk, then buried the rods, to keep the ornaments in place during inclement weather.

Matt didn't have a manger in which to display the Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus figures, so he built one from wood in less than an hour, his mother said.

Next year, Matt hopes to construct a Christmas rooftop display.

"He's always just one step ahead," Wendy Payne said of her son. "You've got to know Matt to understand how he does all these things."

Where did he learn all his carpentry skills?

Thrifty with words, Matt shrugs.

"I don't know. I just try."

Matt's uncle, Doug Payne, has served as a mentor for some projects, he said.

His mother, who said holding boards for her son is about the extent of her carpentry prowess, supervises tasks that require sawing and handling electric lines.

"I know that Matt is responsible enough to use all his tools," Wendy Payne said. "He just amazes me."

As a toddler, Matt always wanted real tools - not the plastic kind, his mother said. So Wendy Payne found an authentic-looking children's set of wood and metal tools.

But it's been years now since she chose her son's carpentry equipment. For Christmas, she'll get him gift certificates to Lowe's.

Matt said he knows what he likes. Dewalt is his favorite brand of tools.

"We make more trips to Lowe's in a week than some people make in a lifetime," Wendy Payne said. "Matt's got extension cords galore."

The enterprising kid boasts an assortment of tools ranging from drills to sanders in his workshop, which doubles as the family's laundry room. Matt has plans for expansion into a nearby storage room.

But he has to insulate and hang dry-wall there first, he said.

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