OK, maybe I got you to smirk a bit with my suggestive headline, but now that you're reading, I do have some serious safety tips to share for your next project involving wiring anything.
I recall launching into my first home decor electrical installation -- hanging a ceiling fan -- only to be stopped dead in my tracks (strike that, poor choice of words) with a wiring issue. Please tell me this kind of situation has happened to you, just so I'll feel better.
I've taken the fancy fan out of its box, spread the parts (small or large) and instruction papers all over the floor, climbed my folding ladder with the fan propped on my shoulder, pulled out the fan connection wires to attach it to the ceiling, and found myself staring dumbfounded at the jumble of celing junction box wires. (Blame it on the previous homeowner's hack job, I always say.)
My fan instructions tell me to connect its wires to the ceiling junction box wires as such: white to white, black to black, and green to grounding.
Sounds doable, right?
But while my fan has white and black wires, my ceiling junction box has, umm, blue and red wires.
For me, this puzzling situation calls to mind a James Bond movie, when the hero has to defuse a bomb by distinguishing correctly which colored wires to cut in which sequence, or boom. Now my situation is slightly less dire, so I simply call over my electrician neighbor, who knows his way around splicing wires safely.
Here's what he would -- and you and I should -- do:
First, turn off the power at the circuit-breaker source (for wherever you're working, in a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, or other). Then use a line tester to be extra sure that the wires aren't live and hot. Test all the wires in the junction box, not just the ones you're handling for the project.
Let everyone who's home at the time -- except maybe your dog or cat -- that you're doing electrical work, and not to turn turn on the power (unless they want to see what your frizzy hair looks like).
Finally, don't connect copper to aluminum wires. It's not to code, it's not safe, it's not necessary, and it's not smart to gamble. If you're at all unsure about any "mystery wires" in your walls, call a pro to do the job.
Make sure you get an insulated electrical wire combination cutter/stripper tool (shown here). A good tool will also allow you to gauge both solid and stranded wire. Obtain a top-notch lineman's pliers, too. (I'm not assuming you have these items in your tool box; I didn't have them until one Father's Day, either).
As you work, the combination tool will allow you to slip wire into an appropriate-sized hole in the tool so you can squeeze, twist, and pull off the insulation, exposing the wire. You should allow a length of about one inch of exposed wire.
Hold the stripped wires side-by-side and grab both with the lineman's pliers. Twist the wires together, overlapping (spiraling) them gently and neatly together (to avoid shredding the wires).
Once the wires have been spliced (and you're sure that the splice is secure), use the lineman's pliers to snip off the tip of the spliced wires for a clean, even cut, leaving about 1/2 inch of exposed wire.
Now you can cap the spliced wires with a so-called wire nut. These are hard plastic, threaded caps that come in a variety of types to suit the number and size of wires you need to cap. Place the nut completely over the spliced wires, seating it down to the insulation line, and twist the nut clockwise until it's tight (don't over-twist, as you may strip the nut thread, bend the nut, or tear apart the spliced wires). The nut should then be secure as is, but it's also smart to wrap the nut and spliced wire together with black electrical tape for extra hold.
Now that the fan and ceiling wires have been surely and safely joined, fold the connected wires neatly into the ceiling junction box, and finish attaching the fan assembly to the ceiling.
Turn the power back on, flip the wall switch, and if the fan starts turning, you'll know right away that you've done the job right!