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The Very Efficient Carpenter

The Very Efficient Carpenter

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basic framing for residential construction
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THE VERY
EFFICIENT
CARPENTER
--

THEVERY
EFFICIENT f��ing for
CARPENTER residenti�1

construction

-

-

larry Haun

ITITe'lun Ps

Cover photos: Larry Hammerness

© 1998 by The Taunton Press, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America
109876

For Pros / By Pros®: The Very Efficient Carpenter
was originally published in 1992 by The Taunton
Press, Inc.

For Pros / By Pros® is a trademark of The Taunton
Press, Inc., registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office.

The Taunton Press, Inc., 63 South Main Street,
PO Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506
e-mail: tp@taunton.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Haun, Larry.

®
For Pros / By Pros : The very efficient carpenter:
basic framing for residential construction /
Larry Haun.
p.

cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 1-56158-326-X
1. House framing. I. Title.
TH2301.H38 1998
694'.2-dc20

92-12644
CIP

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As a carpenter and a teacher of

carpenters, I have long seen the
need for a different approach to

teaching frame carpentry. That's
why I decided to write this book
and to make the companion

videos. The list of those who

helped along the way is long.

Here's thanks to those who gave

more than a little help.

The many people at The
Taunton Press who gave me

enthusiastic encouragement.

Jeff Beneke, my editor, who

asked a million questions and
shortened, clarified and added

to the quality of the text.

My wife, Mila, and daughters

Ninay and Risa, who helped

with duplicating, computer
problems and love.

My brothers Jim and Joe
and my sisters Margaret and

Loretta, for technical help
and encouragement.

Bill Mauger, who taught me

about video and how to work
before a camera.

Jim Hall and his video crew,
Jeff Fay and Tim Olson.

Hard workers, all.

Roger Turk and my son Eric, for

their photographic work.

Creighton Blenkhorn, director

of VBC apprenticeship training
in southern California, who

got me in front of the camera
to make training videos for

apprentices.

Kelly Adachi, who taught me
computer basics.

Joel Foss, OSHA, for

information on safety.

Ed Franken, who helped me

solve some framing problems.

John Gibson, for the house

plans.

My nephew Larry Haun, who

saved me when my computer
went in unknown directions.

Marty Hittleman, for help

with math.

Milt Rosenberg, building
inspector, for technical help.

Jane Tokunow, for reading and

reviewing materials.

This book is dedicated to carpenters and framers everywhere who love
the smell and feel of wood and enjoy building houses
that people can turn into homes.

CONTENTS

Introduction

viii

4 FRAMING CEILINGS 127
joisting for a Gable Roof ...... 128

1 GETTING STARTED

joisting for a Hip Roof.. ........ 133

Tools ......................................... 2

Plans, Codes and Permits ....... 11

Lumber and Materials ........... 20

5 FRAMING ROOFS

l35

Gable Roofs .......................... 136

2 FRAMING flOORS

27

Hip Roofs .............................. 159

Sills ......................................... 28

Intersecting Roofs ................. 170

Posts and Girders ................... 35

Truss Roofs ............................ l77

joists ....................................... 41

Sheathing Roofs ................... 183

Sheathing Floors ..................... 55

3 FRAMING WALLS

63

Layout. .................................... 64

Plating .................................... 71

Headers, Cripples,
Trimmers and Rough Sills ...... .79

Detailing ................................. 89

Building and Raising Walls ..... 98

Plumbing and Lining ............ 1l6

Sheathing Walls .................... 125

6 BUILDING STAIRS

189

Straight-Flight Stairs ............. 190

Stairs with a Landing ............ 200

Stairs with a Winder ............. 204

Index

209

INTRODUCION
In rural western Nebraska in

the 1930s, no houses were
being built, and I took the

existing ones for granted, much
as I did the trees, the hills and

the constant wind. They just

were. The only type of
construction I knew was when

my father set some fence posts

in the ground, wrapped the
perimeter with hog wire both
inside and out, and stuffed the

middle full of straw to form a

wall and give some protection
to a milkcow. Only when the

high school was remodeled and
added to did I begin to realize

that buildings had to be brought
into existence, that buildings

have authors like books. This

was a fascinating revelation,
one that fascinates me to this

day as I see new structures rise

up out of the ground.
The carpenters who did that

remodeling job came from

another town, "over on the
river," and wore white overalls
with a lot of extra pockets. They

carried big toolkits with shiny
handsaws, levels, planes,
squares, braces and bits, plumb
bobs, chisels sharp enough to

shave with, little hammers, big
hammers, sledgehammers. I

especially loved to watch the

long curls of wood rising up out

of a plane as it was pushed over
a surface. I hung around so

much that they finally put me

to work as a waterboy and
general gofer-at 50 cents a

day. That summer made a

lifelong mark on me.

We had some tools at home,
of course: a small handsaw with

teeth more rounded than
pOinted, a claw hammer with

one claw missing, an old nicked

wood chisel. There were no

power tools because electricity

wasn't available in our area.
With these basic tools my father
kept the animals sheltered,

generally using nails salvaged

from the sites of burned-down

buildings. For my part, I was

busy making toy propellers and

kite struts from the lids of
bushel baskets and the lovely
soft wood of orange crates. I

remember struggling for hours
on end to cut off a piece of

wood with the old handsaw. My
best tool was a jackknife that I
managed to keep somewhat

sharp by borrowing a whetstone

from a friend. So I was deeply

impressed by the beauty and

power of the tools those
carpenters had. And the smell
of their work area as they
worked to shape the different
woods is still with me. I have

smelled it a thousand times
since, but that first time was my

memory marker.

In 1947, when I was 16, I
helped an old carpenter build a

house. He was a gentle old man,
teaching an apprentice the

basics of the trade. With me

working in the summer and
part time during the school

year, it took us almost a year to

nail it all together. His tools

were sacred, cared for like fine

jewelry, carefully wrapped and
protected from rust, used with

the utmost care and precision.

He took great pride in his work,

with good reason, for he was as
much an artist as a craftsman.

But the postwar world was

changing rapidly and leaving

him behind.
Out of high school, I needed
money for college, so when my

brother invited me down to
Albuquerque to help him frame

houses, I jumped at the chance.
Besides needing money, I was

ready for a warmer climate. The

great postwar housing boom

was beginning with lots being

cleared and foundations being

poured all over town, and any

willing worker had a job. We
were still in white overalls,

using only hand tools. As
carpenters, we were expected
to cut framing lumber with a

handsaw, pour foundations,
shingle roofs, lath, lay and

finish hardwood floors and

build cabinets. But as the need
for housing increased, this

began to change. The age of

specialization was rapidly

approaching. Builders started
trying to apply to construction
the mass-production, assembly-

line techniques that Henry Ford
used to build cars.
This was not a matter of
decreasing the quality or

durability of houses. Building
codes became stricter year after

year, as they do to this day.
Even tougher was the Federal
Housing Administration,

which separately inspected all

the millions of G.!. houses it

financed. The old saying,

"They just don't build houses

the way they used to," is true.
For the most part, they build

them much better. But the
great discovery, not yet fully

understood or accepted, is that

quality does not have to be

sacrificed to speed and

efficiency. In reality, it can be
enhanced by them. One of the

purposes of this book and the

three companion videos is to

persuade you of that fact.
In 1950 my brother and I
moved on to Los Angeles, where

I entered UCLA and joined the
union as a journeyman

carpenter. The following year

my brother bought one of those
G.!. houses in the San Fernando
Valley -$400 to move in and

monthly payments of $63,
which included taxes and
insurance. At last carpenters
could afford to buy the houses

they built -the American
dream fulfilled. The demand,

understandably enough, was
enormous, and one of the
great experiments in American

ingenuity was evolving to

meet it.

Carpenter wages then were
under $2 an hour, but we found

a builder in a Los Angeles
suburb who was willing to let us
do his framing for a flat fee per
house. For a 900-sq ft., two
bedroom, one-bath house on a

slab with a hip or gable roof, he

paid us $90. A three-bedroom,
l,100-sq. ft. version went for

$120. Both deals included jambs

and window frames and a bit of

Siding, all complete and ready

for roofing and plaster. My

younger brother came out from

Nebraska and joined us, and
soon the three of us were

framing one of these houses
every day, more than doubling
our previous wages. How we

were able to do this is the
subject of this book and the

companion videos.

White bib overalls, which

restricted movement, were

replaced by pants and nail bags

on belts. Hand tools gave way
to an expanding selection of

power tools. The hand tools
that remained were changed.
The traditional 16-oz. curved

claw hammer, for example,
was replaced by a heavier

straight-claw model with a big
serrated striking face, capable

of driving a 16d nail with one

lick. More significant, perhaps,

was that the old procedures
changed as we sought ways to
save a minute here and five

there. Thousands of other
carpenters were doing likewise,

and we learned from each
other. New tools were
improvised; if they worked out,
they were soon manufactured.

The job of framing was broken
down into sub specialties. Roof

cutters, stairbuilders, sheathers,

wall framers, detailers and
many others began to refine
and polish their own skills
and techniques.
Where carpenters had
traditionally been taught to
"measure twice, cut once," we

learned to measure by
eyeballing, a much quicker

method. We tried to group our
tasks, finishing all of one job

before moving on to the next.

We developed new terminology,

which you will become familiar

with in this book: scattering,
plating, detailing, stacking, and

so on.

There was resistance to all

this, of course. Some people just

don't like change, others were

afraid of losing their jobs. But
the trend was too powerful, and

the change went on-it still

does, not only in carpentry but
in most other trades as well.

We went on to form a carpentry
subcontracting company

specializing in framing, and

we soon found ourselves doing

mainly multiple-unit apartment
buildings, filling in the slow
times with houses and

commercial buildings. Our
record times, which are not
in the Guinness book, are a

34-unit building framed in four
days and a 100-unit building

framed in 13 days. The 100-unit

building went from ground
breaking to tenancy in three
months. It takes some luck, a
lot of synchronization of trades,

perfect on-time deliveries and a

sharp and eager builder, but it
can be done.
When I began writing

articles for Fine Homebuilding

magazine, I was curious why
the folks at The Taunton Press
would be interested in the tools

and techniques of production
framing. I knew that there is a
bias against these methods of

work in some parts of the
country. They informed me

that they believe, as I certainly

do, that these methods can be

used even on the finest custom

homes, saving time and money
without sacrificing quality.

"Save where you can, spend

where you must." That's the
message of this book-video set.

Introduction ix

GETTING
STARTED

Tools

Plans, Codes and
Permits

Lumber and
Materials

__ 1

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