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25 years of great

Drywall/ 32
r Repair
r lnstallation

Painting| 40

) r Strategy
r Tidy Application
::j-'--\ r Prep& Cleanup

Framing/ 48

2t DRYWALL r Rules
r Roofs
r Walls
a4 H.MEMADE r Floors

/ 60
r Rules
r Cutting & Coping
r InstallingTrim '.

Cabinets/ 7A
74 r Construction
r lnstallation nehomebuilding .com r EfficiencyGuidelines
r Electrical
6 Editor'sNote
r plumbing
B Benches
& Sawhorses
lmproved sawhorse,
Exteriors/ 86 Multipurposecart,
Knockdown saw stand
r Roofing Doors
r Siding & Windows
Routinghinge mortises,
r Trim
Solo window installation

28 EnergyEfficiency
Cutting rigid insulation,
Stairs| 96 lnsulatedheaders

1 0 8 TilingTechniques
Stringers Accuratediagonaltile
r Treads& Risers cuts, Removinga broken
tile, Applying latex gro.ut
r Railings
-{ al 116 Math & Measuring
^- I ( r D|SPENSER Arch layout,Measuring
- odd shapes

El OutdoorSpaces
/ 102
. becks
r Porches The ThuntonPress
r Patios Inspiration for hands-on livingo
Kevin lreton
ExecutiveArt Director
Robert Goodfellow

Welcometo CharlesMiller

ExecutiveEditor.fim Snyder
the tailgate party Senior Editor CharlesBickford
Associate Editors
DanielS. Morrison,
AN OLD-TIMER ONCE TOLD ME that the key to working effi- Brian Pontolilo

ciently on any building project is to avoid stupid mistakes. I think Assistant Editors
Justin Fink,
he had the answer to half the equation. Knowing that you should Christopher Ermides,John Ross
measure a board twice before cutting it once and that you should SeniorCopy/ProductionEditor
remove masking tape before the sun bakes it onto the window is Chris Hoelck

important. But it's the clever solutions to common construction Copy/Production Editor Julie Risinit

problems that make up the other half of the equation. Deputy Art Directors
Dan Thornton, Marne A. Mayer
Builders are a resourceful, gregarious lot. They delight in com-
Art Assistant Krysta 5. Doerfler
ing up with ingenious ways to do things faster, with greater
accuracy,and typically with tools and materials already on hand. Maureen Friedman
Luckily, builders like to share their ideas, whether standing in the Contributing Editors
checkout line at the hardware store or sitting on a tailgate with a Scott McBride, Rick Arnold,
Mike Guertin, Scott Gibson, Gary M. Katz
favorite beverage in hand at the end of the day.
Indexer Harriet Hodges
For the past 25 years, Fine Homebuilding has
encouraged readers to submit their gems of use- Publisher
Tim Schreiner
ful wisdom. The ideas are presented in our "Tips
& Techniques" column, where builders offer up
Christina Glennon
their job-site brainstorms, and they're scattered
Sr. Marketing Manager
throughout articles and other departments. Carolyn Turoczi
This special collection brings together some of SingleCopy SalesManager
Mark Stiekman
the best advice we've received addressing both
halves of the working-smarter equation. Here, AdvertisingSalesManager
you willfind professional-grade guidance on John Dyckman

how to avoid mistakes and how to work more CorporateAccountsManager

Judy Caruso
efficiently, taken from a variety of feature articles on topics such
SeniorNationalAccount Managers
as framing, drywall, and painting. You also will find a wide range Joel Burger, James Spangenberg
of tips across the entire spectrum of tasks that make up this NationalAccount Managers.
occupation and this passion that we call home building. Charles Howe, Wendy Baxter,
Michelle Erca '
ff you'd like to find out more about Fine Homebuilding, please
Ad SalesSupport Associate
turn to p.121 for more information, or check out our Web site Sharon Zagata
at And if you've got a tip that you'd
Fine Homebuilding Books & Videos
like to share, send it in. Join the party. ExecutiveEditor, Home building
-{harles Miller, special-issues editor Steve Culpepper

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The ThuntonPress
Inspiration for hands-on livingo


The improvedsawhorse:lt has lips TAUNTON, INC.
My work as a carpenter who specializesin repairing and replacing exterior trim means Foundtrs, Paul and Jan Roman

that I spend a lot of time fussing with long workpieces that have to be planed to fit. THE TAUNTON PRESS
President & Editor In Chief Sue Roman
As shown in the drawing below, I made some simple modifications to my sawhorses to
Execatiue Vice Presidznt &
make the planing go a little easier. Chief Financial Offcer Timothy Rahr
Executiue Vice President &
First, I cut the ends of the sawhorse crossbars to create little liplike ledges on their ends Publisher, Magazine Group Jon Miller
that are wide enough to support a piece of 1x stock on edge. Second, I bored f -in.-dia. Publisher, Booh Group James Childs

holes in the sawhorse crossbars to accommodate the stationary jaw of a bar clamp. Chief of Operations Thomas Luxeder

To use, I simply rest the workpiece on the horse's lips, clamp the stock to the cross' DIRECTORS
Creatiue Director Susan Edehnan
bars, and plane away. -JOHN MICHAELDAVIS NewOrleans
Hurnan ResourcesDirector Carol Marotti
Technohgy SeruicesDirector Fdward Kingpton

Controlbr'Wayne Reynolds
Adaertising Director David Gray
Marheting Director Diana Allwein

2x4 Fulfrllment Director PatriciaVilliamson

sawhorse Holes in sawhorse crossbars
crossbars provide purchase for bar clamps.


Booksr Marhetizg; MelissaA. Possick,Audrey Locorotondo.
Publicity: Nicole Radder,Janel Noblin. Editorial: Helen
Albert, Kathryn Benoit, PeterChapman, SteveCulpepper,
Robyn Doyon-Aitken, Julie Hamilton, PamelaHoenig,
Lip supports
Carolyn Mandarano,JenniferPeters,Amy Reilly,Jennifer
Russell,Erica Sanders-Foege,
Kathleen\flilliams. lrr: Chris
Thompson, Nancy Boudreau,Amy Griffin, Karhy Kelley,
SandraMahlstedt,\7endi Mijal, Lynne Phillips, Carol Singer.
Manufacnring Thomas Greco,Laura Burrone.
BusinessOffice HollySmith, Gayle Hammond. Legal:
Carolyn Kovdeski. Magazine Print Production: Phllip\an
Kirk, Nicole Anastas,JenniferKaczmarryk.

A safer step stool %-in. plywood Distribution: Paul Seipold,\Talter Aponte, Frank Busino,
sides and top, David DeToto, LeanneFurlong, Deborah Greene,Linnea
I've been a remodeler and a screwed and Ingram, Frank Melbourne, ReinaldoMoreno, Raymond
handyman for more than 20 years glued Passaro,Alice Saxton,Nelson W'ade.
no% and in that time,I've really Finance/Accountingt Finance: Kathy \florth, Brett Manning,
David Pond.,tlccounting Patrick Lamontagne,Lydia Krikorian,
come to appreciate the simple
Judith O'Toole, ShannonMarrs, ElaineYamin, Carol Diehm,
perfection of my little step stool. Dorothy Blasko,SusanBurke, l,orraine Parsons,Larry Rice,
Itt made entirely out of scraps JamesTweedle,Priscilla'Sflakeman.

rescued from the burn pile. Fulfillmenc Diane Goulart. Fulfllment Slaems:Jodi Klein,
Kim Eads,Nancy Knorr, Dawn Viglione. C*rtomerSmtice:
The thing I like best about my Ellen Grassi,Michelle Amoroso, Bonnie Beardsley,Deborah
little stool is its stability. Because 1 4i n . Ciccio, KatherineClarke,Alfred Dreher,Monica Duhancik,
the sides are tapered, it's a lot EileenMcNulry PatriciaParks,DeanaParker,PatriciaPineau,
Berty Stepney.Data Entry: MelissaDugan, Anne Champlin,
harder to tip over rhan a stool with MaryAnn Colbert, Maureen Pekar,Debra Sennefelder,Andrea
straight sides.Its l4-in. height Shorrock,Marylou Thompson, BarbaraVilliams, Brian .
makes the stool narrow enough to
Human Resources:Linda Ballerini, Christine Lincoln,
passbetween stud walls framed on
Dawn Ussery.
16-in.centers,but still tall enough Information Technolory Servi cex;zApplications Deuehpment:
for rne to reach the top of a wall Heidi \Taldkirch, Frank Miller, Robert Nielsen,Linda
Reddington, lawrence Sullivan,John Vaccino,Daniel
in a room with 8-ft. ceilings. 'Woodhouse.
Deshtopand Netutorh Sapport:Kenneth Jones,
_MIKENIEMEYER Michael Colonari, PetreCotofana, Gabriel Dunn, Michael
Ind. shoes Lewis,JayLigouri.

FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings:CharlesMiller

Marketing: Dennis O'Brien, Patrick Cozens,Keri DeGross,
CatherineHansen,Karen Lutjen, Michael Valanzola.
Operations: JosephMorits, RobertaCalabrese,Sally
Cunningham, Kevin DeGroate,John Gedney,Marc Imbimbo,
JenniferLicursi, SusanNerich, JeannettePascal.T Room:
Michael louchen, GeraldineBenno,Anna Pendergast, Anne
Scheurer,Norma-JeanThylor.Maintenanca.'Lincoln Peters.
Promotion: Michele Mayernik, SandraMoryka, Nicole
Pallatto,\Tilliam Sims.PromotionPrint Productioz;Diane
Flanagan,John Cavallaro,SandraHannan.
Thunton Creative and Edi toial: Creatitte:Michael Amaditz.
V. Kathy Martin, SarahOpdahl, Alison \filkes, Pamela
Vinn. Editorial JeffersonKolle, Debra Silber,DeanaTierney.
Photography:Scott Phillips. Vidzo: Gary Junken. Prepress:
Deborah Cooper,Richard Booth, William Bivona, David
Blasko,Richard Correale,\Tilliam Godfrey,Brian Leavitt,
ChansamTham mavongsa.Adaertising Production: l-avi-
Bergeron,Lisa DeFeo,Tlacy Goodpaster,StevenMolnar, THE NEWEST WAY TO
PatriciaPetro,Kathryn Simonds,Martha Stammer.

Ittur*TE * ttJl|'onT
Donna Capalbo,Robert Harlow, Michele tadyko, Kathleen
JodieDelohery Michelle Rutkowski,Roben Steigerwald,Man
Coleman,JenniferVhceler Conlon, Tiish Dardine, Ruth
Dobsevage,JoshuaKatinger,Geoff Krajeski,Howard Runyon.

Kevin Hamric, Director; John Bacigdupi, Brett DeMello,
Allison Hollett, ElizabethQuintiliano, RebeccaShafton.Singk
CopySahs:Mark Stiekman,ValerieDroukas.


FineVoodworhing . Fine Homebuilding

Threads . Fine Gardzning . plrt Coohing HOHMANN & BARNARD'S
Our magazines are for people who are passionate about
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benches&sawhorses CONTINUED
15in. --->l
- -
Multipurpose cart
To move heavy or awkward items around a iob site, I use this - - - - - ' >
- - ' ; ' ? . . - . - -

small cart consisting of a l2-in. by l8-in. plywood base,2x2 II

curbs, and casterwheels.
As shown in the drawing below,I use the sort of casterswith
stems that fit into plastic sleeves.By drilling right through the II
curb, these sleevescan be slipped in from the top or bottom. I
Foam or carpet padding is great when I have ro move items like t_
vanities. The cart also makes a dandy mechanics-style crawler 1t:l;'

for accessingthe under- :h.JJS

Padded side side of sinks or lavatories, 2x12 base
and it'll scoot around for 2-in'-dia'casters-'v
low-level work on outlets Notches for stool legs
casters fit or baseboards. T[iple-duty stool
in plastic With the recessedside My little work stool staysput, of the construction iobs inside
of the cart up, I drag my or scootsaround on wheels, the house. It's also useful for
compressor around,lug depending on what I need it for. small children to reach the sink.
paint pails, and move As illustrated in the drawing I put the stool on its dolly
buckets of drywall mud. above, the stool is accompanied when I want to scoot around

'6ru" - P E T E RB L A C K M O R E
by a dolly with 2-in.-dia. swivel-
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close to the floor for nailing or
drywall finishing. It's even good
.i;r' Canada Most of the time.I use the srool for waxing the car.
without its dolly. Its l\Vz-in. - J O S E P HS . K O W A L E W S K I
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benches&sawhorses CONTINUED

Double-duty miter-saw bench Extendable aluminum

scaffold plank
I upgraded my miter saw affixed a power strip to
recently, and that got me look- one of the sawhorses.
ing at commercially available I made a pair of sup-
stands. Then I wondered ports to hold up the ends Left-side
whether I already had com- support/sto Aluminum
of long pieces of stock. Wing nut
clampedto angle
ponents that could be recon- The supports are mirror and bolt
plank 2 4 in.
figured into an acceptable saw images of each other,
\.__4 by 12i n. Support/stop
stand. I did a little improvising, and like the chopsaw, / in multiple-
1 i 4 i n. cutoff mode
and now I've got what I think the supports are b y 1 5i n .
is a more adaptable saw stand anchored to the plank
than any commercial unit I with C-clamps. Capping
reviewed_and it didn,r cosr the edges that contact
me anything extra. the lumber with alumi-
The basic stand consistsof an num angle stock reduces
extendable aluminum scaffold friction and makes the
Heightto match
plank held up by a pair of fold- rig easier to use.
ing sawhorses.I used Werner's Each support includes Verticaledge of
PA 208 plank (Werner Ladder support/stop in
a movable stop that can be the stop to the position where fence-alignment
Co.; 888-523-3370). It weighs raised above the support when its vertical edge can be aligned mode
401b.,is 14 in. wide, and I need to make multiple cuts with the saw's fence (bottom
extends from 8 ft. to 13 ft., but (top detail), even up to 11 ft. detail). -LARRYJAcoBSoN A 45'bevel
any similar plank will work.I long. For one-off pieces,I lower Seattle wood chips.

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benches&sawhorses CONTINUED
Hurricane ties,
both sides

Roof framerrs sawhorse Hurricane-tie 'tt-.

No matter how careful you are, the metal fasteners in sawhorse tt

sawhorseseventually encounter a spinning sawblade. I stole the idea for this

The inevitable result is aggravation and lost money on sawhorse from a local
a new blade. The drawing road crew. The horses
Cut slots to
shows the kind of sawhorses can be taken apart
plywood thickness.
I use when I cut roofs. The for transport and
design is simple, and the Slot for --. quickly reassembled
material is scrap plywood. \ with a screw gun. The
Best of all. thesehorses knockdown connec-
require no fasteners.Inter- tions all are made by
locking plywood piecesstore way of metal framing
flat in the back of a truck, E q u a lt o connectors. crossbar.Below the crossbar,a
and the crossbar cutout height of slot At the top of the 2x legs,a pair rail screwed to joist hangers on C)

can be adjusted to accom- in Part A :t

of hurricanetiesacceptsthe the leg brace stiffens the horse. o
modate any piece of lumber I made a pattern out of hard-
adequate to the task. I've board that gives me the profile 6
found that with a load of of the standard sawhorse. 6

2xl0 rafters, I need at least With the pattern,I can whip c

a2x6 crosspieceto support a up a new set from wood scraps
dozen or more rafters. whenever I need a worktable. *o
_ W I L L I A MR A Y N
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benches&sawhorses CONTINUED

sat!' stand Knockclown
The drawing below shows how I improvise a stand for a por- sil\v stand
table tablesaw from an appliance carton. I begin by cutting the My work as a remodeler
box down to about 24 in. with a utility knife. Then I reinforce requiresthat I carry a wide vari-
the box's upper edgeswith 1x2sscrewed and glued to both inside ety of tools and materials,so
{ Z-in. plywood
and outside surfaces.My saw is affixed to a plywood baseover a spacein the truck is at a premi- \ base
hole that allows dust to evacuate.I place the saw and its baseatop um. That's why I came up with
the reinforced box and run screws through the plywood into the this knockdown saw stand.
1x2sto hold everything together. The plyrvood extends well The stand is constructed of
beyond the back of the box, where it is held up by a 2x8 leg. 2x4 legs that have been con-
Don't let the box get too full of sawdust; the saw may overheat or nected in pairs by way of 2x4
even causea trre. -MARK WHITE KodiakA
, laska crossbars.Scre'*,sand glue
hold them together. The
Benchtoptablesaw" crossbarsare notched in the
Use 1x2s
Plywood inside and rniddle where they engage
base; out to
reinf orce one another.
liP. %-in. holes along the front edge
I mounted my portable
of the basecorrespondsto the
tablesawon a%-in. plywood
basethat has a big hole in the dowels in the front legs of the

middle to evacuatesawdust. saw stand.

The saw is held fast to the stand - R O B E R T C O NR A D

A p p l i a n c eT A 2x8 leg extends above base
during use by dowels. A pair of P e l l s t o n ,M i c h .
carton *--// to become outfeed block.

0pento an hing!
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Putting a new window in an old brownstone

In Brooklyn, where turn-of-the-century brownstones and bricks are the norm, window
replacement often calls for some ingenuity. I have used both Bonneville and Andersen
brick-to-brick replacement windows. These units are custom-made to be % in. narrower
than the brick opening, with a brick molding already attached. In theory, they drop
into the opening and are strapped to the interior-wall framing with vendor-supplied
galvanized straps. Caulk the brick moldings to the bricks, and you're done.
But with solid-brick walls, what do you strap the new window to? When old windows
are removed, the area once occupied by the sash weights is now a large void. Rather

than make a mountain of

Strapsmade of 2-in.-widestrips of 3/q-in.
plywood attachedwith 172-in.screws unstable framing in the void, I
improve on the strap idea. As
shown in the drawing, I screw
2-in.-wide strips of 3A-in.ply- Use a nail to mark
the center of the
wood to the sides, bottom, and
strike-plate hole
top of the window. Now I can Locating a passageset
attach the plywood strips to the in a door isn't too tough.
stud wall, shimming as neces- Heights are standard, and
many manufacturers pro-
Once they sary to square to the window.
vide a template with the
are affixed to The strips then are cut flush
framing, cut hardware. Locating the
strapsflush with the studs. latch hole in the jamb can
with stud
The strips also serve as sup- be more difficult. Here's
the most accurate way I've
port for jamb extensions or
found to do it.
drywall. Before installing the
Close the door, and hold it
drywall, I stuff the sash-weight tight to the stop. Then push
voids with insulation. a 6d nail through the %-in.
_MATT HAUSMANN pilot hole in the door edge
Brooklyn, N.Y. until it pierces the door
jamb; a pry bar provides
leverage if necessary.Now
-\,) drill holes for the latch and

New window the strike using arsAr-in.
Spaceformerly occupie'd
by sashweights spade bit. (A %-in. bit is
Brickmolding too small for most latch
\ Stud wall
mechanisms, and the trole
:'-t::\\ left by a l-in. bit won't be.
covered completely by the
,\rri. latch plate.)
New Milford,Conn.

shim as -/
S,ra*"ttj plywoodstrap

20 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings,except where noted: CharlesMiller. Photo this page: CharlesBickford.
doors&windows CONTINUED

Screw hinge leaf to

door stile, and cut
around its perimeter
with a utility knife.
Routing hinge mortises
I had a fair number of doorsthat neededhanging,
and I wanted to take advantageof my router and
my 3/t-in.-dia.straightbit to make quick work of the
hinge mortises.I had tried freehandingthe mortises
with mixed results.So I decidedto make the hinge-
mortising templateshown in the drawings below.
I startedwith a pieceof Vz-in.plywood, to which
I attachedthe leaf of a radiusedbutt hinge aligned
to the edgeof the plywood asit will be placedon
the door or jamb (drawing l). Using the hinge as
a guide for the router's base,I routed a shallow
groovein the plywood.
The insideedgeof this shallow Chiseling hinge mortises
groovebecamethe cutline that I fol- I typically use a router and a template to cut mortises
or to enlarge existing mortises for new door hinges.
Router base
6n But for small jobs where it doesn't make senseto cart
t d-rT

:v along a lot of gear, I use a utility knife and a chisel

for the same purpose. First, I screw the hinge to the
( door stile in the desired position. Then I score around
%-in. plywood the edges of the hinge with the knife as shown in the
Attach hinge leaf drawing above. With the hinge removed, I chisel the
to plywood. mortise to the thickness of the hinge. Now I can
reattach the hinge using the same screw holes.
- D A N I E L E . H I L Ll l l G r i s w o l dC,o n n .

Solo window
I had to install windows
in a new house by
myself. First, I cut a
couple of 2x4s about 8 in.
longer than the widest
Router base
follows template's window. Then I mea-
curue as it cuts sured the distance that
hinge mortise. the windows projected
from the house and cut
lowed with my jigsaw as I made a circular cut in four blocks equal to Crossbarwith blocks holds
wind ow during i nstallation.
the template (drawing 2). Next,I cut the template this distance plus %in.l
along the dotted lines (as shown in the drawing) to screwed one block to the end of each2x4.
make it more convenient to maneuver. Working from outside,I installed a vinyl window and
To cut a hinge mortise,I screwed the template to a placed the 2x4s over it, screwing them to the wall on both
iamb and followed the curved edge of the plywood sides. Now I was free to go inside and level the bottorir of
with the router's base (drawing 3). I used the same the window and center it in its opening with shims. The
3/q-in.straight bit, set at a depth equal to the thick- extra Ycin.letme move the window without interference
nessof a hinge leaf, to make the cuts. By the way,I from the 2x4s. When the window was centered and
placed the screws that hold the template to the jamb level,I went back out and nailed it in place, beginning
so that their holes will be covered by the doorstop with the bottom flange. Then I pulled out the crossbars
(drawing 4). - R A y F R E U DC h e r r y H i l N
l, .J. and moved on. -SCOTT B R U C E G r a n d B l a n c ,M i c h .

doors&windows CONTINUED

Hanging heavy doors

When I haveto musclea solid-coredoor
into or out of its hinges,I let a drywall
lift (a tool designedfor placingdrywall
on walls)do the heavylifting. Unlike a
flat bar,a drywall lift featuresan integral
fulcrum (soI don't haveto setit on top of
a2x4 to get leverage)and a stirrup that
permits hands-freeoperation.As shown
in the drawing, when I'm readyto hang
the door,I slip a toe through the stirrup,
usemy foot to center the lift under the
door, and effordesslyraisethe door into
position. You can find thesetools at the
big drywall-supplyoutletsthat caterto
the pros.Expectto spendfrom $15to $20
A stronger ioint where the for one. g
casing meets the stool By the way,the sharpmetal edgesof the

Common practice is to nail up through o

lift can scratchwood surfaces,so I usually c,
the stool into side casings. But biscuits -o
coverthem with a layer of duct tape.
hold better than end-grain nails and ii
won't come out through the exposed sur- .,!
New Milford,Conn.
face of the side casing.
- J O S E P H B E A L Sl l l M a r s h f i e lHd i l l sM
, ass.

like a Ela
your Bas
Swim or exerciseagainsta smoothcurrentadjustable
to any speedor ability. Ideal for swimming,water
aerobics,rehabilitationand fun. No traveling,
no crowded pools, no heavy chlorine.
The 8'x 15' EndlessPool@is simple
to maintain,economicalto run,
and easyto install insideor out.
Modular constructionmeansmany rnsu[arcb
sizesand optionsare available. from real insulationis the key to a comfortableand
basement.OvrX InsulatedSub-FlooringTile and Wall Panels
efreaOy own a pool?Ask about.n. (to STLANF 30 years of proventechnology.The engineeredwood panels,
in combinationwith STYROFOAMinsulation, can help
protectyour investmentagainstwater and mildew.OvrX will also
r" *"!.

ffi #ffiffitffi:i'lriL"T"1**"trT,

doors&windows CONTINUED

TWo ways to Fix 1:

fix a door that Moving the

hinge can
won't latch cornpensate
If the door contacts the for warping or
twisting. A door
latch-side stop at the top
;l' tl '.1', can be coaxed
but not at the bottom (or
the other way around)
'irf{ into closing
smoothly by
shifting either
and is difficult to latch,
the door is warped, or the i the top or
bottom hinge
outward at the
jamb is twisted.

Fix 2: -

lf moving the 6

hinge doesn't o
Thimming foam flush to studs fixthe problem 'c
I use foam insulation from an aerosoi can entirely, it may !

when insulating around rough window and be necessary o

to move the o

door openings. The next day,I trim all the doorstop so that o

excessfoam away from the wall and the win- it contacts the o
entire latch side G

dow frame with a mastic trowel (drawing .9

of the door.
above). Its serrated edges saw through the
foam,leaving the foam flush with the wall.
- K E I T H M E T I E RH i g h l a n d
P a r k l,l l . DOOR JAMB o



When I switched to blown-in cellulose insulation in the attics of
new homes, I saw the trouble installers had stapling cardboard
insulation stops between the rafters or trusses above the exterior-
wall plates to keep insulation from falling into the soffit.
I came up with the idea of extending the exterior-wall sheath-
ing above the top plate to become an integral insulation stop.
Instead of trimming 1 ft. off the last row of sheathing to end it
flush with the top plate, I let it run above the plate. I calculated
the height between the bottom and top truss chords at the point
above the outside face of the exterior wall. Then I deducted 1!zin.
to leave a ventilation slot between the top of the wall sheathing
and the underside of the roof sheathing. and cut off the rest.
After nailing on the wall sheathing, I marked the roof-truss lay-
out along the top edge of the sheathing and squared down the
lines to the top-plate level, Before lifting the walls, I cut 132-in.
slots for each truss to drop into. The slots quickly positioned
each truss and allowed me to float the walls beneath until they
could be tweaked straight; then I could nail down the trusses.
Expanding spray foam seals any gaps between the truss and
the wall sheathing so that no insulation slips by. The extra work
saved me more than it cost me in time because the insulators
didn't have to charge for crawling on their bellies to staple
cardboard stops. -MIKE G U E R T I N E a s tG r e e n w i c h ,R . l .

A 2x6 provides
Entire corner cavity 1 x 3o r A hybrid corner that eliminates therrnal bridgrng
2x4 stud for plywood
drywall blocking can be insulated.
strip Contributing editor Mike Guertin a2x6 on the exterior corner and nails
long hasbeenconcernedwith exterior a2x4 and a lx3, or a strip of plywood,
corners,which can be notoriouscold togetherto form the interior corner.
cavities.Although thermal bridging is Insulationthroughout the corner cav-
%-in. OSB
sheathing a concernalong the entire wall, fram- ity eliminatesthermal bridging by .
ing alternativessuchasdouble-stud breakingcontactbetweenthe sheath-
walls are not cost-effective.
Corners, ing and the drywall. Guertin says
insulation on the other hand, carry lessload than that the corner still providesgood
a typical stud and are structurally supportfor top platesand for nailing.
more flexible. Guertin is experiment- (Although Guertin's building inspec-
ing with a2x6 corner (photo left) that tor approved the corner, check with
can be insulated completely. He uses your local inspector before trying it.)

FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings:CharlesMiller.Photo: Scott Phillips.


Cutting rigtd insulation

Foam-insulationboardsare high in R-value,
but they alsocan be a nuisanceto cut---{spe-
Insulated headers for
cold climates
I've seen a lot of different ways to
i\ \\
8d nails

cially foam boardsthat are 2 in. thick. A

utility knife won't cut deeplyenough.A
make built-up headers, from the
traditional to the bizarre.The tra- i\\
kitchen knife works, but not very well ditional method sandwiches Vz-in. ,t\\
becausethe triangular crosssectionof the plywood between 2x material until
bladebinds asthe cut deepens.Sawsleave it matches the depth of the wall
Ll . t

rough edgesand spewstaticallycharged studs. Unfortunately, this causes N.,)

insulationparticlesthat cling to everything. two problems. First, the header
A2-in. putty knife doesa grearjob of often isn't the exact thickness of
cutting foam insulation.The trick is to the wall, and when trim time rolls
sharpen one side of knife around, you have unhappy carpen-
the blade. Teamed ters. Second, this kind of header has
with a straightedge, of no insulative value. the length of the headerfor insulation.
a sharpened putty Foam The drawing at right shows the My engineerhad no problemswith
knife cuts through insulati header that I've been assembling to the structuralcapabilityof this design.
foam like butter, solve both problems. Ir's essentially a The key is to provide adequatenailing
and its wide blade box beam with plywood tops and bot- through the plywood into the sides.For
keeps the cut from toms, and sides made either of 2x or, my theseheaders,Iused8d nails spacedon
wandering. favorite, laminated lumber. The result the samecentersasthe perimeternails
_ C H R I SE L L I S is a header precisely the same dimen- in our plywood wall sheathing.
Brewster,Mass. sion as the wall and a continuous void -BILL W E L C H J a c k s o n ,W y o .

NO. 15
Repair 5 commonproblems
and how to fix them ByMyRoN

racks or holesin dry-

wall, wet o r s ta i n e d
drywall, peelingjoint
tape, popped nails or poppednailsand screws
screws. Any of these problems
Nailsand screwsrear their headswhen sion with three thin coats of joint com-
means a drywall repair is inevita-
ble. I know that some people gri-
the dryrall panel is not fastened firmly pound, letting the compound dry
mace when faced with a dreaded
againstthe framing, when the framing between coats, followed by light
chore like fixing a hole in drywall.
shrinksor twists, or when the wall or sandingwith 1SO-gritsandpaper.lf
The framing never seems to be in
ceiling is struck or moved slightly dur- the paper hastorn or if the core of
the right place for attaching a
ing remodelingwork. the drywall is damaged, it's best to
patch, and the quarter-inch layer
Protruding fastenersare easyto fix. remove all loose material,fill the
of joint compound used to fix it
Whatever the causeof the telltale hole with joint compound,and then
looks nearly as obvious as the gap- bulge, called a pop, the best remedy is cover the area with fiberglass-mesh
ing black hole, except now drywall to refasten the panel near the popped tape. (Youcan use paper tape, but I
dust coats the furniture and the nail or screw. I usuallypress on the prefer self-adheringmesh tape.) This
wall needs to be repainted. panel next to the pop and drive a dry- approach also works for any hole
Unlike most people in my busi- wall screw into the stud aboutlVzin. 2 in. wide or less.
ness,I love walking into a drywall- away (sometimeson both sides),draw-
repair job. I savor the look on a ing the panel toward the framing. I
customer's face when I say, "Sure, remove the popped fastener or drive
no problem. I can fix this in no it back into the framing.
fime." The more severe the dam- Covering the dimples is easy.lf the
age, the more gratifying the look. paper surfaceof the drynvallhas not
Over the past two decades, I must been damaged, just fill the depres-
have faced every possible type of
drywall repair, and I have gotten
good not only at patching holes
but also at permanently concealing
repairs and doing them as quickly
and easily as possible.

Myron R. Ferguson(www.that, author of Dry-
wall: ProfessionalTechniques
for Great Resu/ts(TheTaunton
Pre ss2005)
, ,liv esand w o rk s
in Galway,N.Y.Photosby Zach-
Fill dimples with three thin coats
a r yG a u l k i n . Refasten drywall to the underlyingfram- of compound, but use tape if the
ing near the popped nail or screw. surtace is damaged.

2 rtllingandtapingcracks
Cracks in drywall usually are caused by structural
movement, such as the settling that happens in
new homes. Most often, cracks occur on a seam, but
sometimes they can be found in the middle of panels
over doorways or windows. (ln modular homes, cracks
in the middle of panels can occur as a result of trans-
portation and placement on a foundation.) In new
construction, I recommend waiting at least six months
before repairing cracks to give the structure time
to settle.
Most cracks go completely through the panel, so
just repairing the surface is not enough. The first step,
as in all repairs, is to remove any loose material with
a putty knife or utility knife. Next, cut a V-groove
along the crack,opening it up aboutVzin. and going
almost completely through the panel to the paper on
the back. Fill the void with joint compound (for more
about choosing joint compound, see p. 35), and cover
it with mesh or paper tape. Then smooth the area
with two or three coats of joint compound, blending
it into the surrounding area and lightly sanding after
the last coat. l'm careful to let the compound dry
between coats.

'ffiffi, Fillthe groove with joint compound,and

apply sel{-adheringtape over the crack.

coats of
f eathering
it into the
rest of the

'& frr
Chip away loose material, and cut a V-shaped
groove along the length of the crack. #-,
t"tching an old electrical-box
When an outlet or a switch is eliminated,the
box may be removed or left in the wall. lf the
box is left behind, make sure there are no live
electricalwires in it. (Wired boxes should not be
coveredwith drywalhthey should be closedwith
a cover plate and remainaccessible.)
Start by bevelingthe outside edges of the hole
with a utility knife to a 45o chamferall around.
Next, cut a drywall patch the samesize as the
beveled opening, and bevel back the edges to
fit the hole. I use a utility knife to adjust the fit
of the patch until itt snug. The patch works best
when it sinksslightly below the wall plane, leav-
ing room for a thin layer of joint compound.
Spreada generouslayer of compound onto the
edges of the opening (or the patch),and press
the patch in place.Then cover the seamswith
mesh or paper tape, and two or three coats of
Bevelthe edges of the wall opening, Add joint compound to the open-
compound.Sandafter the last coat.
then cut a matching patch and bevel ing or the patch, then press the
its edges. patch into place.

A water leak usuallyruns along the top of drywall
until it finds a seam or corner,often looseningthe
tape and the joint compoundto create an exit.
Damageto the drywall itself is generallynot exten-
sive becausethe water doesn't sit for too long.
Seams,however,usuallyneed some work. Once
the leak has been repaired,remove loose tape
and joint compound.lf the drywall is loose, it can
be refastened to the framing with drywall screws.
Cover the seamswith paper or meshtape; then
apply two or three coats of joint compound.
Drywall saturated with water may loosen and
sag. lt will have to dry thoroughly before it can
be reattached.However,sagging areaswill be
difficult to reattach when dry becausethe drywall
can take on a new shape.I sometimescan fix sags
before the drywall dries by supporting it with a
temporary support or with furring strips fastened
to the framing. Removingany wet insulationso
that it can dry is also a good idea.

After maskingsurroundingareas,remove
any loosedrywalland joint tape.
There are two broad categories of compound: drying and setting. Within
each of those categories,different mixes are availablethat dry faster or
slower, softer or harder, depending on your needs.

Most drying-type compounds
are premixed and ready to use
right out of the bucket, but there
are different types. Taping com-
pound is used to embed the joint
tape for the first coat and to fill
for the second coat. lt is strong
and doesn't shrink much.Topping
compound is a lighter-weight
compoundthat is used for the
thin finishing coat. lt feathers out
nicely,dries quickly,and sands
smooth. All-purposecompound
Cover seams with mesh or paper tape, can be used for all stages. lt's
followed by three coats of compound.
availablein most lumber or hard-
ware stores. For small repairs, if
you don't want to buy more than
one bucket, use a topping or an
Whatever varie$r you use, all
drying-type compounds require
an applicationtemperatureof
at least 55"F (this condition
applies to surface,compound,
and air temperatures).The
compound must dry thoroughly
between coats; drying times are
affected by temperature,
humidity, and airflow.
Paint the damaged area with a stain-
blocking primer to prevent stains from
Setting'tyPe compound setting-typecompounds,whichharden
bleeding through repairs.
While drying-type compounds quickly,aregreat for repairwork.
cure as water evaporates,setting-
type compounds harden by chemicalreaction. Setting times vary from
20 minutes to six hours, depending on the type used. Becausethese com-
pounds hardenchemically,humidity and cooler temperatureshave little
effect on setting time.
Setting-type compounds are great for quick repairs, but they can be
difficult to sand. I like to use a lightweight setting compound for the
first two coats before finishing with an all-purpose(or a topping) drying-
type compound.
The big drawback of setting-Upe compounds, however, is the inconve-
nience of mixing them yourself. On the plus side, you can mix only what
you need and store the rest dry. For all but the smallest batches, I mix the
compound in a S-gal. bucket, using a mixing paddle attachment with a Vz-in.
Apply compoundto taped seams; electric drill. With setting-type compounds, additives can be mixed into the
cover with three coats. batch to acceleratedrying time even more.

When people have to repair framingwhen the damage with a pencil;then I cut out the furring strips with dry-
large holesthat fall between is between studs. For round the damaged area to match wall screws,making it a
wall studs or ceilingjoists, or squareopenings(suchas the patch. firm part of the panel and
they often cut the drywall those that are created To strengthenthe repair, flush with the surface.This
back to the framing to when a light fixture is I use furring strips to hold method makesthe patch
create a spot for fastening removed),the patch can the patch. I cut the 1x2 easyto concealand unlikely
a patch. The problem is that be measuredand cut to fit stri ps about 6 i n. l onger to crack or loosen.
the repairthen becomes precisely.For oddly shaped than the hol e and sl i de To tape the patch, first fill
much larger. holes,I simply cut a patch each strip into the open- any large gaps with joint
I try to keep the repair slightlylargerthan the dam- ing, fastening it on both compound;then cover all
as smallas possibleby not aged area, hold it over the ends with drywall screws. the edges with mesh or
attachingthe patch to the hole, and trace around it The patch is fastenedto paper tape. Becausepaper

Make a square or rectangular patch

slightly larger than the damaged area.

Hold the patch over the damaged area

and trace its outline onto the wall.

--"t'n-- ::.*\*.*=*ii"

'---* t' ,*15

With a drywall saw, cut along the pencil Strengthen the repair by installing 1x2 furring str4rs inside the wall cavity. Strips should
line, then test the patch until it fits. be 6 in. longer than the opening and fastened at both ends with drywall suews.

tape is stronger than mesh the wall framing. (For cuts
tape, I recommend it for perpendicular to framing, I REPAIRS
larger, more difficult repairs first mark an outline so that
and those that are attached the patch area will have The final step in all drywall repairs is
directly to wall framing. square corners.) to coat the patch with at least three
Cover the tape and patch Because I cut along the (and sometimes four) layers of joint
with three thin layers of inside of the framing, I have compound-letting each coat dry in
joint compound, making to attach 1x2 furring strips between-followed by a light sand-
sure to feather out the or 2x4s to studs for fasten- ing. No matter how carefully I patch
edges properly and not to ing the patch. I make sure a section of wall, the tape and joint
build up the patched areas that the strips are flush with compound form a high spot or bump.
too much. or slightly back from the A poorly feathered patch can be as
Repairs that span wall back edge of the drywall noticeable as the damage it was
framing can be a real test surface. lf possible, I use meant to conceal.
because of the large surface one piece of drywall for the The key to avoiding an unsightly
area they involve. I start by repair. I leave about a 1/a-in. high spot is spreading and feathering
removing the damaged area gap to avoid damaging the the layers of joint compound over a
with a utility saw, cutting to edges of the patch. large area without building up excess
compound on any high areas. I like to
begin each coat by applying a liberal
amount of compound to the entire area
and then feathering the outside edges
first, working the compound smoothly
toward the thin layer left in the center.
The first coat should be as thin as pos-
sible while still hiding the tape.
After the first coat of compound is
dry, I use my trowel as a straightedge
to see how far the high spot projects
from the plane of the wall. The bigger
and more noticeable the hump, the
more area I will need to cover with
joint compound to feather it into the
rest of the wall. (For small patches, I
Attach the patch to the furring with drywall screws. just rub my hand over the repair to
feel how well the high spot is disap-
Spread a thin layer of compound over the seams, and apply pearing with each coat.)
mesh or paper tape. The second coat is a filler coau I fill
in any voids, feathering the outside
edges while keeping the compound
very thin on any high spots. When the
second coat is dry, I check the high
spot again (by hand or by trowel)
and apply more compound to widen
the area further and to fill in voids or
unfeathered edges. This third coat of
j o i n t c o m p o u n d i n c r e a s e st h e d i a m e -
ter of the patched area even more.
.:':' !
Depending on the size of the repair,
each coat will feather out 6 in. to
12 in. from the previous coat.

(; ItF,\T IJUII-I)I\(; TII)S ]II{It,

A self-mudding
Peoplehavegiven me somepretty
strangelooks when I carry my drywall- 2x4 upright
taping machineonto a job site.But Rollof paper tape
the machine'slooks are deceiving.As
shown in the drawing at right,I built
a Bucketof
the unit out of scrap2x4s,a2x6rand
1-gal.plasticbucket.The bucket is compound
affixed to the 2x6 crossbarwith four
short screws.
I made two slitsin the sideof the bucket where they engagethe bottom.
The slitsare on oppositesides.The rear slit shouldbe iust largeenoughto
allow drywall tapeto passthrough it. The front slit shouldbe slightly wider
to allow both the tapeand a thin layer of ioint compound to passthrough it. 2x6
A roll of papertapehangsfrom a2x4 upright toward the back of the rig.
I run the tapethrough the slitsin the bucket,and then I fill the bucket with )
thinned joint compound.Now I'm readyto pull the tapeout to the desired -/
length,lop it off with a razorknife, and apply it directly to the wall-no
premudding necessary.
Using this setup,two of us tapedan 1100-sq.-ft.housein five hours.
-c H R l s M AT IS H AD
Kel burne,A l ta.,C anada
I hang drywall oncein a while, but
not often enoughto iustify invest-
rape emerses with a thin t***i
ing in a real drywall "kicker," a cdatingof-jointcompound.- -y'
lever made iust for lifting a piece
ofdrywall. Instead,I modified
my pry bar by attachinga 3-in.
length of l-in.-dia. dowel with a
bolt through the nail-pulling hole
that is countersunkin the dowel. Bladesalignedwith
A little toe pressurelifts a drywall
panel2 in. off the floor. Drywall edge trimmer
_ANDREW KIRK 1x scrap
Our crew uses "in-line" framing for walls
Independence, Calif.
to save lumber (weight from above bears
directly on studs, and plates are joined with
steel splices).Becausethis style of framing
allows a single top plate, our walls are a
little lessthan 8 ft. tall. The downside to this
technique is that we have to trim about an
inch off the ends of our drywall. This work
Depthof score

;,r.$ 3-in.-longpiece of
is tedious with a utility knife, and the $25
edge trimmer I bought didn't work very
well. I made my own trimmer by screwing
together some piecesof lx scrap to make
a cutting guide and attached a couple of
When I slidethis tool along the edgeof a
pieceof drywall, the bladescut from both
sides,making it quick and easyto remove
uniform stripsfrom a sheetof drywall.
f -in.-dia.dowel
"snap-off'utility-knife blades to its top edge. -B R IANBUSHDaf t erM, ich.

Drawings; CharlesMillcr. Photo: Mike Gucrtin and Randy O'Rourke'

Patching holes in textured drywall
From time to time, my work includespatching holes in
drywall. And if the holes are in textured walls, either
orange-peel or knockdown texture, I have to set up my
Ceilingjoists commercialsprayer to retexture the patch. Between
setup and cleanup,that's a lot of work for a small.job.
As shown in the drawings, l've found a better way.
I begin a patch by applying meshtape over the hole
(1).Then I cover the meshwith all-purposedrlnrall
compound (don't use setting-typecompound)applied
with a 4-in. taping knife. This processpatchesthe hole
Screws, 5 in. on center but also clogs the crevicesthat create the texture (21.
Once the drywall compound has dried, I sand smooth
the center of the patch. Then I feather the edges of the
patch with an old toothbrush dipped in warm water and
Drywall dips over poster- a dry cloth. I work my way around the patch (3), leav-
board strips, creatinga
recessfor tape and joint ing a tapered surfacethat makes a gradual transition
to the smoothly sanded center of the patch. To finish, I
prepare a mixture of water and all-purposecompound
thin enough to produce a splatter. Next, I suck some
of the mix into a turkey baster and practice splattering
on a piece of scrap until I get the effect I'm looking for.
Invisibledrywall butt joints
This step is important: Trial and error is the key to mak-
During 40 years in the trades,I've had a number of high-
ing this techniquework. When l've got the right consis-
end drywall jobs that required dead-flat ceilings-no
tency, l'm ready to texture the patch (4).
bulges allowed where the ends of the drywall sheetsabut -D A V ID A . R OJA SLasVegas
one another. This method is our crew's solution to the prob-
lem. I've inspectedjobs that we did 25 yearsago using this
method, and you still can't seewhere the butt ioints occur.
This trick starts with a sheet of plywood the same thick-
ness as the drywall. First, trim an inch off the width of the
sheet, then crosscut it into 10 equal strips. They will be
9%in. wide by 47 in.long. Next, staple strips of Vrc-in.-
thick poster board to the long edges of the plywood strip.
Before raising a drywall panel for installation, screw one
of the plywood strips to the end of the panel. The poster-
board strip goes between the plywood and the drywall. As
the drywall goes up, the butt ends are arranged to fall
between the ceiling joists.When the adjacent drywall
panel is screwed to the plywood strip, a shallow dip is cre-
ated where the drywall bends over the poster board. This
shallow dip createsa hollow for the tape.
We tape our joints in the usual manner, beginning with
the butt joints. Once that joint compound has dried, we
tape the long edges. Incidentally, a 20-in.-long piece of
IVz-in. aluminum angle is a handy tool for leveling the
finish coats of joint compound over rhe butt ends. Using
this technique, we never had a joint show up on a punch Gently scrub perimeter of patch Apply new splatter texture
list at the completion of a job. with a moistened toothbrush. with a turkey baster,
- T l M H A N S O NI n d i a n a p o l i s

G R E A TB U I L D I N G T I P S 2 0 0 6
7 stepsto a
ost peoplethink that
painting the interior of a job
houseis a iob that requires
just a couple of tools, a high tolerance
for boredom, and very little experience.
Only after they've come to the end of
their messy first job do they begin to
wonder about that old guy in painter's
whites they once saw working at some-
one else'shouse. How could he paint an
e n t i r e r o o m i n a s e a m l e s s l yc h o r e o -
graphed sequence of brush and roller
strokes before his second cup of coffee
and not spill even a drop of paintl I'm 1. PRorEcrrHE FLooR
not that old guy yet, but I am a paint-
ing contractor. People always ask me
I like to move all furnitureout or to the center of the room
how they can improve their painting
techniques. If you consider the act of
and cover it with plastic.To protect the floor, I roll out 4-mil
plasticand tape it to the baseboard.Unlessl'm paintingthe
painting on par with a trip to the den-
ceiling,it's necessaryto cover only the first 3 ft. or 4 ft. of
tist, the answers ahead will provide some
floor from the wall. Bluemaskingtape is besUit adheresto
Novocain to easethe pain of your next
most surfacesand peelsoff cleanlyfor up to 14 days.The
painting project.
greentape can stay on even longer.
Next, I make sure wallsand trim are clean,stain-free,and
F r ankS inic r o p e
i s a p a i n ti n gc o n tra c -
smooth.Nail holes,bumps,and crackscan be patched;if
tor in Hawthorne,N.J. Photosby
they're lessthan % in. deep, I use lightweightjoint compound,
@ which dries quickly.(Fortips on drywallrepair,see p. 32).

patching tools.
LongJasting, low-tack Use a 6-in. tap-
tape is best (3M Corp.; ing knife and a
888-364-3577; 5-in-1 tool for wall prep.

2 . D o N ' T F o R G E TT H E P R T M E R
It's a good idea to start anyjob with a quality primer.Stains
includingink, crayon,water,and smokesoot can be blocked
by a stain-killingprimer suchas BIN (ZinsserCo. Inc.;www; 732-469-81 00) or BenjaminMoore's FreshStart
acrylicprimer (www.benjami;800-344-0400).
After coveringthe stains,be sureto spot-primethe same
-J/ areawith the finishpaint before
applyingthe final coat. Other-
wise,the spot will appear
shinywhen the wall is viewed
at an angl e.

Cover a multitude of
sins. Hide stains and
repairs with a stain-killing

3 . P A I N TT H E
Pro paintershave different
preferences,but I like to
paint the wallsfirst, then
the trim. I can roll out the
wallsquicklyand not worry
about any spraylandingon
the trim. Oncethe wallsare
finished,I wipe down the
trim with a damp rag and
start on it. I don't mask
off the trim when I cut in
the walls,but maskingis
certainlya good option
if you'd rather not worry
about getting wall paint on
the trim. Any one of the
low-tacktapes works well.

Don't sweat it. Use tape.

Prosrely on a steadystroketo
avoidusing maskingtape in
manysituations.But tape en-
yoLt'restill improvingyour skill.

06 41

Easy does it" Too much pressur-e

on the roller will leave lines in the
^^i-.+ ^^ll^-J
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42 t:i\l H()\1tIil ll.t)t\(, F
5. steRTwtNDows tN THE The proper order for
an even coat. To avoid
CENTERAND WORK OUTWARD lap marks, paint the
muntins first, then the
I paint the muntinsof a window first, then move to window frame, and fin-
the frame. With a 21/z-in.sashbrush, I angle the tip ish with the casing.
into the muntin'sedge and draw the paint along the
muntin with one smooth stroke. (lf you're unsure
of your technique or don't want to bother, you can
maskthe glasswith blue tape or scrapethe glass
once the paint has dried.) Don't apply too much
paint to the window frame; also, open and close
the window while it's drying so that it doesn't dry
shut. lf the window is painted shut, carefullyrun a
razor blade between the window sashand casingto
break the seal.

DooRs Ar rHE ToP AND woRK DowN
Paneleddoors should be primed with a high-quality
primer to eliminatebleed-throughstains.Multiple finish
coats (usuallytwo) may be necessaryto get good cover-
age. Ask your paint supplierto tint the color of the primer
as close as possibleto the color of the paint you've cho-
sen. Again, the secret to stopping lap marks is to use a
smooth last stroke with little paint and light pressure.
r Start by painting at the top of the doot panelsfirst,
then rails,then stiles. Here, less paint is better to prevent
drips; two coats lightly applied are better than one heavy
coat that drips or sags.
r Be sure to keep the paint's leading edge wet to pre-
vent brush marks.A final light stroke acrossthe panel
faces and along the intersectionsof the railsand stiles
will eliminatesagsand brush marks.
r When you reachthe doorknob, use even less paint
to get a seamlessstroke pattern. The trick is to brush
around the knob with continuousstrokesand avoid
stops-.Maskingis also an option, as is removingthe hard-
A ftnal brush stroke
ware, which allowsyou to follow the grain.
defines joinery. No
o Be sure to checkyour work for drips, particularlyin matter how you apply
recessedareasand along door edges.As long as the paint the paint, finish with a
is *illfairly wet, drips can be erasedwhh a light brushstroke. stroke in the diredion
of the wood grain.


For latex paint, I first flood the bristleswith water, working out the
majority of the paint. I use a wire brush gently to scrapeout all rem-
nants of dried paint. lf not cleanedthoroughly,the brush will lose flex-
ibility.I usea little dish soapto removethe tracesof oilsthat are in latex
paint, rinseagain,then shakeor spin the brushdry. For a video tip on
cleaningoil paint from brushes,go to
Rollersare certainlyworth cleaning.lf washedthoroughly,they
can be used repeatedly.Scrapeexcesspaint out of them with a
5-in-1tool, then washthem usingthe sametechniqueas the brushes,
without the wire brush, of course.


Tidy Application
Paint down the left sides and
Painting across the bottoms of the muntins. Paintcaddy
window sash I paint houses for a living, and there are three things
Painting the muntins about painting with a roller that really annoy me. One
on a divided-lite sash is masking the baseboard and spreading out a tarp to
or door is a pain, and it catch drips and speckles.Another is moving the paint
takes forever. Here's a bucket from station to station, and the third is moving
tip from a friend whose the tarp again, which inevitably results in drops of wet
father was a painter. paint smearing the carpet or floor.
First, don't paint a win- Instead of this sequence,I now use a plywood plat-
dow when it's lying form on wheels both to carry the paint bucket and to
flat. Stand it up on a protect the baseboard and floor from paint splatters. A
pair of sawhorses,as plastic blade on one end of the platform butts up
shown in the drawings.
Now paint only two
sides of the rectangles
formed by the muntins.
Paint down the left
If you're right-handed, sides and acrossthe
you probably want to bottoms again.
paint down the left
sides and across the bot-
1 x 1c u r b
toms of the muntins.
When you're done, flip
the sash over and start
again. This way you'll
never have to paint
acrossthe top and down
the right, which is awk-
ward for righties. Left-
ies do just the opposite.
_ J E F F E R S OK
NO L L E Plasticblade
Offset casters

against the wall to catch drips, as shown in the drawing

above. To make the blade, I used a section cut out of an
old plastic garbage can, and I attached it to the caddy
so that the curve points upward. This position directs
paint away from the wall and accommodates higher
baseboards. -STAN LUCASRedmond,Wash.

Painting bifold doors Spring clampssupport bifold

While painting colonialbifold doors,I discoveredthat
I could paint both the edgesand the facesof a pair of
doorsif I proppedthem openon a pair of sawhorses.
As shown in the drawing at right, spring clampsmake
good props.
-JEFF N O V I T S K I S w e e t V a l l e yP
, a.

44 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings: Charlcs Miller

Clean edges where paint meets wood
When a painted surface butts up to unpainted wood,
Paint stilts frustration lurks. Masking tape alone isn't enough to
A drywall screw through block the paint completely. lt flows into the minute
a small square of ply- irregularities under the tapet edge, leaving a fuzzy line
wood makes a handy when the tape is peeled away.
stilt to prop up work We recently solved this problem in an entertainment Thin
b e a do f '
while finish is applied. center that my company built. As shown in the drawing, painier's
the cabinetry has painted uprighr and lacqueredshelves. Easy- caulk
When I paint a door, for
instance,I place a pair To get the clean line we were looking for, we first masking
of stilts on the floor to applied a strip of low-tack blue maskingtape to the
support the door, and shelf. Then we ran a thin bead of latex painter's caulk
another one against the along the intersection and wiped it with a moistened
wall near the top of the finger a couple of times to remove virtually all the caulk.
door, as shown below. We weren't concernedabout leaving a bit of caulk on the
_ M I C H A E LR . S W E E M parts to be painted, only on sealingthe edge of the tape.
Downey,Calif. After we finished painting the uprights, we carefully
removed the tape while the caulk and paint were still Lacquered
wet. Result:A clean paint line without a master'shand.
A word of caution: lf the caulk and the paint are dry by
the time you remove the maskingtape, run a sharp util-
Use paint stilts to
support work while finish ity knife down the intersection first.
-C H U C KGR E E N Mass.
A shl and,

Painting next to carpet

Cutting in a baseboard that borders a carpet can be
a bit messy.I use 2-in.-wide, low-tack masking tape
to hold the carpet tufts away from the baseboard so
that the paint can be applied below the top of the
carpet line.
First, I lay the tape so that it runs about 7s in. up the
baseboard (1). Take care not to pressthe tape against
the baseboard. Next, press the tape onto the carpet Work tape into corner
about 1 in. away from the baseboard,and use a putty with putty knife.
knife to work the folded side of the tape into the
corner where the carpet and baseboard meet (2). This
makesthe tape stick to all the carpet tufts right up to
the edge of the baseboard. Now when I tug the tape
toward the middle of the room, the tufts are pulled Keep tension on the room
edge of the tape as you
away from the baseboard,and the baseboard side of press the knife
the tape can be worked down (3). This wraps the edge into the corner.
of the carp€t and protests it from the paint. Pulling the
tape more from the room edge exposes more of the
baseboardfor painting! then pressingthe room edge
Pull out the knife and
of the tape to the top of the carpet attachesthe tape press the tape securely
so that the gap between the carpet and baseboard to the carpet.
remainsopen (4).
-AL LEMKE HopewellJunction,N.Y.


Prep& Cleanup
Strainingpaint for touch-ups Cheesecloth The problem
By the time a gallon of paint or varnish has been around long
with rubber band
of latex over
enough to have been opened a half-dozen times and still not oil paint
completely consumed, you can be sure it has collected enough
I'm amazed by how
dried gunk to leave an unsightly surface. It's time to strain the
often contractors and
paint. However, straining the entire contents of the can is messy
homeowners alike ap-
and time-consuming if you're doing just touch-up work.
ply latex paint directly
As shown in the drawing,I take a different approach.
over a semigloss oil fin-
Instead of pouring the paint through the strainer, I put the
ish without first rough-
strainer in the paint. ing up the old surface
I stretch the cheesecloth sffainer over the can and secure it
or applying a primer.
with a rubber band. The cloth hangs in the paint or varnish,
Before long, the slight-
and the finish that accumulates above the cloth is free of con-
est ding can result in a
taminants; itt just right for touch-ups. large chip, exposing the
- D O N M A T H I Sv i ae m a i l
old oil-based finish.
I've owned two

\ homes with this prob-
Centrifugal force lem, and I've spent
spinspaint and
G a l l o nof varn ish hours sanding off the
water off roller.
latex layer on more
doors than I care to
remember. Recently,I
Direct water
jet along Paintbrushgarage stumbled upon a great
edge of stripping aid: water.
Real painters clean their brushes every day. I am not a real painter. But
roller. I've found that if the
I often seal end-grain cuts and back-prime siding and exterior trim
latex surface is damp-
with an oil-based primer. To save cleanup time at the end of the day,I
Centrifugalroller ened with water a few
keep my brush in the rig shown in the drawing below.
cleaner minutes prior to sand-
My brush garage consists of a 1-gal. paint parl, a lx4 crossbar nailed
ing, the topcoat will lift
Cleaning water-soluble to a doughnut-shaped plywood base,and a5-gal.drywall bucket with
easily off the oil-based
paint from a paint roller a lid. To use it,I put several inches of paint thinner in the paint pail
undercoat with gende
used to be a tedious chore and suspend the brush from the nail hanger so rhat the bristles are
prodding from 8O-grit
until I came up with this immersed in the thinner. Then I cover the drywall bucket to keep the
sandpaper. A wet rag is
idea. Now after I've fin- thinner from evaporating.
all you need. fust make
ished painting, I simply This setup allows me ro go weeks without cleaning my brush. And
sure the paint stays wet
attach an extension handle at the end of a long day of running siding and trim, it sure is nice not
for a few minutes prior
to the roller, step outside, to have to deal with paint-thinner fumes and drips.
to sanding. I've often
and use a garden hose to - J O H N C A R R O L LD u r h a mN, . C .
had entire sections peel
do the work. Directing a 1x4 crossbar nailed to base
away from a door.
stream of water along the Nail hanger
Once you've removed
edge of the roller revs it
the latex, rough up the
up to a good speed, so the
basecoat with sandpa-
paint and water spin off the
1-gal. per and give it a coat of
roller. Be sure to perform paint- '
primer. Now you're
this operation well away thinner
pail ready for a new topcoat.
from anything that might be
damaged by the paint and
Plywood Drywall A P P L E B AMU
watery overspray. base bucket Westfield,N.J.
Weatogue, Conn.
Brushsuspendedin paint thinner

carrier Combo paint
When I paint trimwork, I hate to waste bucket/funnel
Plasticjug with
time climbing up and down the ladder bottom removed Instead of working directly out
to get the right brush. I could leave acts as paint can of a gallon can of paint or a
variousbrushesin the paint bucket, or funnel. smallerbut hard-to-hold cof-
but they soon would become a drip- fee can, I use a chopped-down
ping mess. milk jug. Not only is the buih-in
My solution is to cut the top off a handlea plus, but the container
1-gal.plasticantifreezejug with flat also does double duty. When
l'm finishedpainting,ljust
remove the cap and set the jug
on top of the paint can. Any
leftover paint drains back where
it belongs.
Vienna, Ohio

Low-budget paint mixer
The next time you need to stir some
paint and can't find a mixer for your
sides. I then cut two slits in one of the drill, make your own. As shown in
sidesand thread a nylon belt through the drawing at right, I cut the rim of
them, as shownin the drawing.lslide a metal peanut-butter-jarlid into a
the loose belt ends through the loops series of segmentsthat can be bent
of my painter's pants, creating a paint- into an effective mixer. Drill a hole in
brush carrierthat rides easilyon my the center of the lid, and affix it to a
3/ 6-in.-longtoggle bolt.
hip. I now have several brushesclose at
hand. The carriercleansup easilywith Now use a pair of metal shearsto
water or paint thinner. cut the lid into equal segments,and
bend up every other section. Mixing
even old paint is a snap with this rig.
Cut rim into equal portions, and bend
Hudson, Ohio upward every other segment.

Paint stripper combined with old paint or varnish makes a sticky
goo that can be tough to remove from a scraper or a putgr knife.
To make an easyjob of it, I cut a straight slit about 2 in. long in a
large tin can.Then I slide the blade of the knife into the slit close
to where it joins the handle.When I pull the blade out, the old
finish falls into the can, ready for disposal.
-ROY VIKENBoise, ldaho


Rules10 waysto work efficientlyand
to know how good is good enough BY LARRYHAUN

-f t was a coincidencethat another

Don't move materials

contractor and I beganframing
I housesnext door to one another any more than you haveto
-I- on the same day. By the time
his housewas framed, mine was shin- Hauling lumber from place
gled, wired, and plumbed. It was no to place is time-consuming Floor sheathing
coincidencethat the other contrac- Floorframingon top
and hard on your body.
tor ran out of money and had to turn
over the unfinished houseto the lend-
Make it easier on yourself EJ Wall framing
every chanceyou get, and in middle
ing company, while I sold mine for
a profit. start by having the folks -/
Both houseswere structurally sound, at the lumberyard do their
plumb,level, and square,but every2x4 part. Make sure lumber
in the other housewas cut to perfection. arrives on the truck stacked Roof
Every joint looked like finish carpentry. in the order it will be used. bottom
The other contractor was building fur- You don't want to move
niture, and I was framing a house.
hundreds of wall studs to
Unlike finish carpentry, framing
get to your plate stock, for
doesn't have to look perfect or satisfy
your desireto fit together two piecesof instance.And floor joists
Wall and roof sheathing
wood precisely.Whether you're build- are stacked on top of floor
ing a house,an addition, or a simple sheathing, not the other way around.
wall, t he goals w h e n fra m i n g a re When it's time for the delivery unload the building materials
strength, efficiency, and accuracy.Fol- as close as possible to where they will be used. Often, lumber
lowing the building codesand the blue- can be delivered on a boom truck, so stacks of lumber can
prints should take careof the strength; be placed right on the deck
efficiency and accuracy are trickier. Cut 2x4s right
or on a simple structure built on the stack.
During 50 yearsof framing houses,
flush alongsidethe deck.
I've come up with the following rules
to help me do good work quickly and Once the material is deliv-
with a minimum of effort. ered, don't move it any more
than you need to. Cut studs,
LarryHaun,author of The VeryEffi- plywood, and anything else
iient Carpenter(TheTauntonPress, you can right on the stack. lf
1999)and Habitat for Humanity: you do have to move wood,
How to Build a House(TheTaunton plan so that you have to
Press,2002),has been framing
move it only once.
hous esf or m or e th a n 5 0 y e a rs .H e
lives in Coos Bay,Ore.

Drawings: Christopher Clapp. Photo: Bnan Pontolilo.

Cut top Cap or double
plate canbe up to
plate to
1/tin. short
(not long).

These days, if you cull every bowed or crooked

stud, you may need to own a lumber mill to get

Builda hous€, enough wood to frame a house. How do you

make the most of the lumber that you get?
not furniture Use the straightest stock where it's absolutely
necessary:where it's going to make problems
In other words, know your tolerances. Rafters don't have to
for you later on if it's not straight. Walls, espe-
fit like the parts of a cabinet. Nothing in frame carpentry is
cially in baths and kitchens,need to be straight.
perfect, so the question is: What's acceptable?
Itt not easyto install cabinetsor tile on a wall
You need to get started right, and that meansthe mud-
that bows in and out. Straight stock is also
sills.Whether they're going on a foundation or on a slab,
necessaryat corners and at rough openings
they need to be level, straight, parallel,and square. But
for doors.
there's no harm done if they're cutlh in. short. A rim joist,
The two top plates need to be
on the other hand, needs to be cut to the right length
straight as well, but the bot-
(within tho in.) before being nailed to the mudsill.
tom plate doesn't. You can
When it comes to wall framing, the bottom plate also can
bend it right to the chalkline
be th in. or so short, but the top plate needs to be cut to
and nail it home. lf you save
exast length (again within the in.) because it establishesthe
straight stock for the top
buildingt dimensionat the top of the walls. But the plate plates, you'll have an easy
that sits on top of that, the cap or double plate, should be l
time aligningthe walls.
cut % in. short so that intersectingwalls tie together easily.
And every project needs
Once you've raisedthe walls, how plumb or straight is
lots of short stock for i ,,
good enough? In my opinion, 1/rin, out of plumb in 8 ft. '
blocking; take bowed ,'
is acceptable, and a Tq-in.bow in a 50-ft. wall won't cause i
material and cut it into
harm to the structure or problems for subcontractors. Take
the cripples,headers, ..
special care by framing as accurately as possible in kitchens
and blocks. ,'
and bathrooms. These rooms require more attention partly "t
becauseof their tighter tolerances,but also becausethe
work of so many trades comes together here.
Use straightstuds
Bottom plate for corners,for
rough openings,
for top plates,and
in kitchensand
No more than % in. out of plumb in 8 ft.
Rim joist cut to exact length (within l/rcin.) Usebowed
stock for bottom
Cutting the mudsill up to 1A in. short (not long) is OK. plates,blocking,
cripples,and \\ /
headers. \=-__/,


7l Work in a
EJ logicalorder
Establishan efficient routine is nailed completely,I pry up
for each phase of work, do the bottom plate and repeat
it the same way every time, the processon the bottom.
and tackle each phase in its It's worth sayingthat I didn't
logicalorder. In the long run, just make up these steps;
having standard procedures they evolved over time. Rec-
will savetime and minimize ognizing inefficiencyis an
mistakes.Let's take wall fram- important part of framing.
ing as an example.
First,I snap all the wall lines 1. Snap wall lines.
on the floor; then I cut the
top and bottom plates and
tack all of them in place
on the lines.Next, I lay
out the plates, detailing
the location of every win-
dow, door, stud, and
3. Detailplatesfor studs,
I pry up the top plate and doors, windows, and intersectingwalls.
move it about I ft. away 2. Tack top and bottom
plates in place.
from the bottom plate, which |
| . ..t'"
,/' yin' '\
I leave tacked to the \. -r+"
\ -----
deck. I scatter studs
every 16 in. for the
length of the wall.
I nail the top plate
to the studs and keep
the bottom of the studs
snug against the bottom ,r1..,

plate. This helps to keep the

wall square,straight,and in
position to be raised. I try to 4. Pry up top plate.
establisha rhythm and work Bottom plate remains.

consistentlyfrom one end to

the other. Once the top plate

5. Scatter studs every 16 in. 6. Pry up bottom plate

for the length of wall. Nai/ studs and nail to studs.
to top plate.

tf Keepthe other Center studs
When nailing together the Behind the lavatory, center the
El tradesin mind behind tub for
double top plate, align the nails
with the studs.
open areabetween studs for the
medicine cabinet.
mixing valve.
lnclude backing
lf you want to waste time for drywall.
and money when framing,
don't think about the eleqtri-
cal work, the plumbing, the
heat ducts, the drywall, or
the finish carpentry. Whether
you do them yourself or hire
subcontractors,these trades
come next. And unlessyou're
working with them in mind
every step of the way, your
framing can be in the way.
For example, when you
nail on the double top plate,
keep the nails located over
the studs. This placement
leavesthe area between the
studs free for the elestrician
or plumber to drill holes with-
out hitting the nails.

When installing extrawide

trim, include blocking for
eledrical switches.

Don't measure
unlessyou haveto
The best way to save time when you're framing a
house is by keeping your tape measure,your pencil,
and your square in your nail pouch as much as pos-
sible. I have to use a tape measureto lay out the
wall lines accurately on the deck, but after that, I -
e G €

cut all of the wall plates to length by cutting to the

snapped wall lines. I position the plate on the line,
With pradice,
eyeball it, and then make the cuts at the intersect- Trimming 1/tin. you can make
ing chalkline. from a board's length square cuts by
aligning the froni
Another time-saver is to make square crosstuts shouldn't require measuring. edge of the sawt
base with the
on 2x4s or 2x6s without using a square. Experience Ripping (lengthwise cuts) longer
far edge of the
has shown me that with a little practice, anyone pieces also cin be done by eye if you board.
can make these square cuts by aligning the leading use the edge of the saw's base as a guide.
edge of the sawt base, which is perpendicular to Train your eye. lt'll save time cutting, and as you
the blade, with the far side of the lumber before develop, you'll also be able to straighten walls as
making the cut. easily by eye as with a string.

gl Finishone task
ft before going on to the next
My first framing job was with a crew that would lay cutlist for the entire proiect, and cut them all at once.
out, frame, and raise one wall at a time before moving Tie all the intersecting walls together before starting to
on to the next. Sometimes crew members would even straighten and brace the walls.
straighten and brace the one wall before proceeding. Finishing before moving on is just as important when
We wasted a lot of time constantly switching gears. it comes to nailing and blocking. You might be tempted
lf you're installingjoists, roll them all into place, and to skip these smalljobs and do them later, but don't.
nail them before sheathing the floor. Snap all layout Close out each part of the job as well as you can before
lines on the floor before cutting any wall plates, then moving on to the next. Working this way helps to
cut every wall plate in the house before framing. lf maintain momentum, and it prevents tasks from being
you're cutting studs or headers and cripples, make a forgotten or overlooked.

You don't need a mathematician to them to length, snap a line, and cut
know that it takes less time to cut two the joists all at once.
boards at once than it does to cut Also, don't forget to make repetitive
each one individually. cuts with a radial-arm or chop/miter
lf you have a stack of studs that all saw outfitted with a stop block, which
need to be cut to the same length, is more accurate and faster than
align one end of the top row, snap a measuringand marking one
chalklineall the way across,and cut board at a time.
the studs to length right on the pile.
Or you can spread them out on the
floor, shoving one end againstthe
floor plate, snap a chalkline,and cut
them all at once. First, spread studs
on the plywood floor
Joists can be cut to length in a simi- with one end against
lar way by spreading them out across the floor plate.

the foundation and shoving one

end up against the rim joist
on the far side. Mark

Don't climb a ladder
unlessyou have to
I don't use a ladder much on a framingjob
except to get to the second floor before
stairs are built. Walls can be sheathedand
nailedwhile they're lying flat on the
deck. Waiting until the walls are raised
to nail on plywood sheathing
meansyou have to work
from a ladder or a
scaffold.Both are
With a little foresight, Attach the
you can do the rafter layout sheathing while
the wallis stil/ on
on a double top plate while it's ..''t the plywood floor.
still on the floor. Otherwise, you'll
have to move the ladder around the
job or climb on the walls to mark the Mark rafter layout on
top of the wall plate.
top plate.

Knowthe Work safely

buildingcode whatever
Building codes exist to cre- through a plate into the end A final word: lf specialsitua- the rule
ate safe structures. Because of the stud, or four 8d nails tions arise,consultthe build-
Working safelyshould be
building inspectorsare not if you're toenailing.When ing inspector.He or she is
at the top of your prior-
capable of monitoring all you nail plywood or oriented your ally, not your enemy. ity list. Safety glasses,
parts of every project, your strand board (OSB)roof Get to know the building hearingprotection,and a
responsibilityis to know the sheathing,you need a nail code for your area. Get your dust maskshould be the
building code and to build every 6 in. along the edge of own copy of the IRC(lnterna- norm, as shouldattention
to it. the sheathingand every tional ResidentialCode) and around coworkersor dan-
For instance,the code actu- 12 in. elsewhere.And if build well, but build effi- gerousdebris.
ally specifieshow to nail a you're usinga nail gun, be ciently,with the understand- Safety devicesand
good intentions,however,
stud to a wall plate. You need careful not to overdrive the ing that perfection isn't what
won't help if your mind
two 16d nailsif you're nailing nailsinto the sheathing. is required.
isn't on the work. Pay
Roof sheathing is nailed every The American Plywood
6 in. along the edges and every
work with a clear head,
Association says there's no
12 in. elsewhere. ln high-wind reduction in strength for nails listento that inner voice
areas, sheathing along overdriven by thc in. or less. lf that says,"This is too
the eaves, rakes, and more than 20% of
ridges is nailed the fasteners exceed dangerous,"and be extra
every 6 in. 1/ein., add one nail careful toward the end of
for each two
the day.
overdriven nails.

7 a - i n .s h e a t h i n g

2x8 rafter


I havea rapid, accuratemethod for assemblingany wall, flooq or
roof that usesstandarddimensions.My method usesa jig, which
Notches 24 in. or 1 6 i n . o n c e n t e r
is simply aZx4 notchedon 16-in.or 24-in.centerlinesto receive F--_------*l
j- - - *-i
7:::: : -1:- :_: :::=l
the framing members.Two suchjigs are handy,and for large-
+ __v_ +
scalework, four can help. To use,just slip one member at a time C*tt/zin.l
'.-T; V* *l
into the jig until everythingis in place,then nail. No measuringis Eli7, in.
required exceptfor cutting piecesto length.The jigs really help Notch
on long runs that needto be coveredwith drywall, plywood,
etc.For trusses,everythingcan be assembledwith the jigs, the ply-
wood started,and then the jigs pulled up. No nailsto pull.
I put togethera 1000-sq.-ft.workshop with this method-
mostly by myself and on eveningsand weekends.It really works.
M . R . H A V E t T I SS t . A l b a n s , W . V a .
Jigs for truss

A double-bevelplumb cut
for valley rafters
Mark two plumb linesthe samedis-
tanceapart asthe thicknessof the val-
ley rafter(1).Setthe sawto 45o,and
make the first cut so that the outside
line becomesthe long point (2).Cut
the inside line in the other direction but with the
same bevel (3). - R I C K A R N O L D W i c k f o r d ,R . l .

When I'm nailing down the first row of ply-
wood sheathing on a roof that will have soffits,
I use a pair of jigs shown in the drawing to Hanger notch
the panels.Using thesejigs,I can ad-
When I have to
just the amount of overhang to suit the fascia
attach a rafter to a
detail by moving the blocks in relation to the
beam with a joist
lip that supports the edge of the plywood. I've
hanger,I find it help-
found the jigs to be especially helpful when I
ful to kerf the rafter's
am working alone and in need of a third hand.
plumb cut with a
Skilsaw. Then I can
Va. insert the hanger into
the kerf, as shown in lnsert hanger.
the drawing, and nail
it in place. The kerf
depth coincides with
the full cutting depth of my 7Yc-in.saw, so I don't have to mess with adjust-
ments. I also can stack the rafters and make one cut to kerf them all at the same
time. This method is a lot easier than notching the rafter, and it provides a con-
tinuous plane up the rafter to attach drywall.
_ G R E GH A L V E R S O N
%-in. plywood Portland,Ore.

54 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings, exceptwhere noted:Charles Millcr. Drawing center right: Toby Welles/DesignCorc. Photosthis page;Brian Pontolilo.
Splicingridge boards
As a framing carpenter, I frequently come acrossa ridge span longer than
the overall length of the material I'm using for the ridge. To extend the
material to the correct length,I splice ridge boards with a V-shaped joint as
shown in the drawing below.
My crew and I call this technique "penciling the ridges," after the big pencil-
I recently added three dormers on a
shaped piece of wood that results when the cuts are made. To begin the cuts,
12-in-12 root, using a toe-board and
overlap the ridge material with the crowns pointing in the same direction.
The overlap should be at least equal to the rafter spacing (usually 16 in.
roof-stair system that saved me a lot
around here). Now take your tape and mark the rafter layout lines as shown
of time, risk, and effort. As shown in
in the drawing. Draw cutlines from the center of the top ridge board to its
the drawing below, the stairs are made
end, and make these cuts with the sawblade set % in. deeper rhan the cut.
of hvo 2x12 stringers with 16-in.-long,
3/c-in.plywood treads. The uphill end of
This depth will put saw tracks in the bottom
piece, showing you where to finish the cuts.
each stringer was cut in a curved pat-
Now you cdn put the pieces together with a tern to keep the front edge from dam-
couple of 8d nails near the end of the splice. /, aging the shingleswhen it slid onto
Depending on how long the pieces are,
/ the roof. The downhill end should be
you either can assemble them on the notched on the undersidefor a flat 2x4
ground and carry them to the toe board. I placed one ladder on each
ridge, or put them together side of the dormer layout and hooked
in place. each over the 2x4 toe board that
I like this detail because was nailed at the eave parallel to the
it's clean and because ridge. A 2x12 plank then could be laid
it holds together bet- acrossthe treads of the turo stairs, and
ter than a couple of moved up and down the pitch of the
toenailed, butt-ioined roof. Framing,siding, trimming, paint-
boards. It's also sim- ing, and shinglingthe dormers and
pler than scabbing surrounding area were relatively easy,
on a plywood gusset and the system causeda minimum of
or a2x splice. damage to the existing roof.

Curved stringer prevents

damage to shingles.

Use8d nailsto secureassembledridge boards.

1 0 - i n .r i s e 2 x 1 2p l a n k
Sheathing steep roofs 1 O - i nr.u n
When the pitch of a roof is 10 or more, we like to sheathe from the top down. y./
This method requires a litde more staging, but it is much safer and savestime.
Set the staging so that you're standing up between the rafters about 6 ft.
from the ridge. From the center of the ridge at each gable end, measure
down 4 ft.r/q in., and snap a line acrossthe rafters. Begin the layout with
a full sheet on the line as you would if
starting at the eaves.After you finish
a row, nail it off completely, and lower 2x4
the staging toward the outside of the toe
%-in. plywood board
building. Continue with the process, treads
completing the last course from the out-
side staging. 16in.

Photos, except whe re noted: Mike Guertin and Randy O'Rourke

The hooter stick
Plumbing and aligning stud walls can be
quite a chore,sometimesinvolving the
better part of a five- or six-member crew.
On a recentjob,I becameacquainted
with the tool shown in the drawing below.
Here in Austin, Texas,it's calleda hooter
stick, and I haven't found anything that's
bettersuitedfor adjustinglong, tall, or just
plain awkward walls.
Basically,it is nothing more than two
studs,a2x4 block 20 in. to 30 in. long, and
an old hinge.To assemblethe stick, first
cut a 45"V-notch in the end of one stud,
and scabthe block flush to the bottom The easiestway to keep the bottom plate of a framed wall from walking when it
end of the other stud. Then fastenthe two is being raisedis to toenail it into the subfloor.The nails bend easilyasyou lift the
partswith the hinge. wall, and the bottom plate usuallyremainsin the immediateneighborhoodof its
To usethe hooter stick, placethe intendedlayout.
notchedend againstthe undersideof the A more securesystemusesthe strappingthat binds lumber loads.Cut it into l2-in.
top plate,near a corner or an intersection pieces,and nail one end to the undersideof the bottom plate.The other end should
with another wall. To bracethe bottom of run under the wall and be
the stick,you can useeither your foot or a nailed into the subfloor. Toenail
block that is tacked to the subfloor.Now Concretenails will pierce
you're readyto push in the direction that the stuff; or you can abuse Stud
you want the wall to move. The hooter your zhz-in nailsetand start Subfloor
is an awkward pieceof equipment to a hole.The strappingcan -/
manipulate at first, but onceyou get used be left in placeand covered
to it, you will be surprisedat what you by the finished flooring. ,.
,* ;:
can do to an outside wall full of offsets _ F E L I XM A R T I
and headers. _PAUL WILSON
Austin, Texas

V-notch 30-in.

Sheathingwalls solo
For thoselonerswho put up their own sheathing,
here is a method that makes it simple for one person
to control a 4x8 sheetof plywood or OSB. The key is
to put up the framed walls before the top platesare
doubled.As shown in the drawing at left, make a
coupleof short 2x blocks,and clamp them to the tgp
edgeof the sheathing.Make sure the blocks are flush
with the edge. No*, using the blocks as hooks, hang the sheathing on the
top of the wall and nail it home. The blocks will ensure that the sheathing
ends up flush with the finished height of the top plate.
_ J A M E SH U R L E Y
- ,\" NevadaCity,Calif.

with 45' bevel Straighteningstuds
It's not unusual for a stud wall to have some sticks in it that bow in or out of the wall
plane, making it tough to do a decent job on the drywall or paneling. Here's how I fix
both situations. After identifying the bowed-in studs, I work on the worst one first.
Using a straightedge held vertically against the side of the stud,I find the high point
2 ft. of the bow and measure acrossit for a notch that will accept a2x4 cross member.
and wallto Then I set the saw depth to make a cut iust a little deeper than the thickness of the
subfloor. 2x4 cross member-about 1% in. Now I nail the cross member to the bowed stud,
flush one end of it to the adjacent stud and nail it, and toenail the opposite end as deep
as needed to remove the bow (drawing left). To fix a bowed-out stud (drawing right),
Wall-liftprop poles I make a notch l3/cin. to l% in. deep at the point of the stud that is bowed out the
With three or four site-built most. Then I drive a pair of 16d nails--one angled up and one angled d6q7n-1e
wall jacks like the one shown in anchor the cross member to the stud. When the cross member is flush and nailed
the drawing above, a two- with the adjacent studs, the bow is gone. This second method works well when the
member crew can lift 30-ft.- to opposite side of the wall is inaccessible--rovered with a shear wall, for example.
40-ft.-long stud walls. The jack
is made of a2x4 about 7 ft. long
with three nailed-on scabs2 ft. Toenail cross member as deep
apart. The scabsform ledges to as needed to remove bow.
Bowed -out stud
support the wall as it is lifted.
With the stud wall lying flat
on the subfloor and toenailed
Notch no
to it, toenail each jack to the
Angle nail
floor so that its base is tight to down.
the wall's top plate. Now begin
at one end of the wall, and lift
it to the first notch. Move back
and forth along the wall,lifting
one notch at each station until
you've reached the third level.
From there, it's an easy push to
Notch 13/r in. to
get the wall upright. 1% in. deep

Header retrofit
Next time you put a built-up ing. Raiseone half of the head-
header into an existing wall, use er into place, and tap the trim-
a reciprocating saw to sever the mers into their vertical position
nails at the top and bottom of all (dependingon the span,a mid-
the studs to be removed. Rotate support for the first half of Rotate studs to allow
the freed studs 90", and align them the header may be required). room for the first half of
a two-piece header.
to one side of the bottom and Removethe original studs, add
top plates. Next, place trimmers the other half of the headen
(cut to their finished length) at an and spike the halvestogether.
angle on each side of the open- -FELIX MARTIRidgway, Colo. Planview


Bent 8d nai l s
7 a - i n .h o l e \
%-in.pine body I
for nozzle
Rubberband hooks

Solo framing
G l u es l e d A carpenter working alone can hold a
header, blocking, or similar framing mem-
ber in place for final nailing with a few bent
nails. I use 8d nails, driven about a third of
their length into the top edge of the work
and then bent 90". These ears will support
the piece until the first nail is set.
_ C R A I GS A V A G E
Call me persnickety, but I like to place a nice full bead of consrruc-
tion adhesive down the center of the floor joists before I lay down a
sheet of plywood subflooring. Too many rimes, I've been on a job site
where the glue was applied carelessly,resulting in an erratic line with
skips and unacceptably thin smears. If it's worth the expense and
effort of gluing a subfloor in the first place (and I think it is), then itt
worth taking the time to do it right. The device shown above is my
solution to the problem. I think the best part is that using this gad-
get, I center the glue bead on the joist every time without having to The twister
go back.
One of the first
The glue sled, as I call it, is nothing more than a I%-in.-wide block
things we do on a
of 3/q-in.pine with a hole in it. The block is sandwiched between
new framing site is
Vc-in.-thick plywood sides.The hole accepts rhe nozzle of the glue
to build a "twister"
cartridge, and the rubber band loops over the caulk-gun frame, hold-
to help straighten
ing the sled in place. In use, the plywood sides ride along the sides of
corkscrewed lum-
the joist, keeping the nozzlecentered.
-I ber. Our twisters are
think a3Ae-dia.bead ofglue is the ideal amount. And although I
made of two 3-ft.
don't obsessover this detail, I can tell you that cutting the nozzle3/ain.
2x4s and one 2-ft.
from its tip yieldsalrt-in. open-
2x4. As shown in the drawing above, the
ing for the glue to exit. If your
long 2x4s sandwich the short one, crearing
joistsare on 16-in.centers,figure
a slot at one end. To use the twister, we nail
on using about three-quarters
the twisted piece of stock at one end. Then
of a per sheetof
we slip rhe2x4lever over the other end
plywood. Where sheetscome
and move the twister until the stock comes
togetheron one joist,you can
flush with its nailing surface. The twister
get a fairly even off-center bead
usually provides enough leverage that it
of glue by lifting up the sledand
takes only one hand,leaving the othei fre.e
angling the glue gun to the side.
to swing a hammer or fire a nailer.
_ H E R R I C K I MB A L L
- S E A N S H E E H A NB a s i nM, o n t .

Beam stair
In the courseof building a family-roomaddition, we had to
place a 22-ft, glulam atop an old stud wall to carry the weight
of a couple of rooms above. The glulam weighed almost 500 lb.,
and we had no accessfor a crane, a boom truck, or a forklift.
After easingthe beast insidewith rollersand a ramp, we made
a "beam stair" for making short lifts, one end at a time.
Once the ceiling ioists were shored up temporarily, we
removedthe old wall and nailed in three crippleson each side.
As we framed adjacent walls, we left out a stud on each side
for maneuveringroom. In front of the double-width stud sPaces,
we built two temporary stairstep arrangements,dividing the
height of the lift into four intervals of about 22 in. each.
The stringer was a 2x8 affixed to the crippleswith duplex nails
and tacked securelyat the bottom to the subfloor.The "steps"
were 2x6 blocks,each about 18 in. long, securedto the stringer
with four duplex nails apiece.They were canted toward the
stringer a bit so that the beam wouldn't tilt forward onto us.
We lifted one end of the beam at a time onto a step until the
beam sat on the cripples.After more jacking,prying, and shim-
ming, we nailed it in place and added joist hangersfor the

Joist lowerthan header

joist hanger

Joist lift Adding new joists

During a recent I strengthenedthe originaljoists in my houseby sistering
remodeling proj- on some new ones.The typical problem is trying to get the
ect, we had to put ends of the joists to fit between the mudsillsand the subfloor.
a new floor over When tilted, the joist is a bit too big to fit without serious
an old ceiling.The persuasion.To avoid this, I cut a wedge from each end of
crampedquarters a new joist, allowing
made it impossibleto swing a hammerfrom me to tip the joist into
below to bring the joists flush with newly added position easily.Then I
headersand beams.The drawing showshow tapped in the wedges
we used a temporary upside-downjoist hanger and nailed them in place
and a crowbar to bring a joist flush, allowing its for full bearing.
hangerto be installedin the right position. _ROG ERWESTERBERG

-JIM LOCKWOOD Verndale, Minn.

Brookline, Mass.

Wedge is driven under new joist after installation.


: Rules
Usethese10 tips to get started

y first construction job was as a trim carpenter's ting the pencil line with a sawcut and working to closer tolerances
helper during school summer vacation. All I did that become second nature.
first summer was fetch and carry; I wasn't allowed to Perfect miters are only part of finish carpenrry. Finish carpenters
measure, cut, or nail. I was told to observe.In doing must develop an eye for proportion and detail. They must learn to
so, I learned that finish carpenrry is essentially a visual exercise. visualize the stepsthat lead to the finished product. Now,I teach these
Even if the framer couldn't read a level, the finish carpenter's job skills to novice carpenters.To help make learning these skills easier,
is to make the doors, windows, and cabinets work, and to make I've organized the following ten rules of thumb.
the house look good. Finish carpenrry is more than interior trim. It
includes roofing, siding, decking: anything the owner will seeafter Will Beemer is director of the Heartwood School in Wash-
moving in. Rough carpenters evolve into finish carpenrers by learning i n g t o n , M a s s . ,a n d c o - e x e c u t i v ed i r e c t o r o f t h e T i m b e r
how to measure, mark, and cut more accurately. With practice, split- F r a m e r sG u i l d .

It is usually more accurate to hold a board in
place to mark its length (drawing left) rather
than to use a tape measure and involve num-
bers. Sometimes, using a ruler or a tape is
unavoidable. I use a tape measure on a long
piece that's too difficult to mark in place, but
generally, I don't like tapes. A tape can flex
and change shape,and the movable end hook
bends easily,affecting accuracy.
A rigid rule is better than a tape for measur-
ing lengths under 6 ft.; hence, the 6-ft. folding
wooden rule takes over during trim and cab-
inet work. The best folding rules come with
a sliding brass extension that makes taking
Don't measure. inside measurements easy. Open th.e rule
It is more accurate to tu * to the greatest length that fits berween fJre
mark trim in place
points to be measured, and slide out the brass
than to measure and
then transfer numbers. extension the rest of the distance. Hold it at
It's easy to misread that length, and carry it to the board to be cut
a ruler or to confuse (top drawing, facing page). No need for num-
numbers while walking
bers; just mark the board from the extended
to the saw.
ruler. A combination square or a wood block
of known dimension is the best way to lay out

FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings: Dan Thornton. Photo:Charles Bickford.

the small measurements needed for reveals
and other spacings (drawing bottom right).
Learn what dimensions are built in ro the
tools you use. A carpenter's pencil is Yc in.
thick; you can use it as a spacer for decking.
The pencil lead rsVrc in. from the edge of t,

the pencil, so it can scribe ha-in. increments. Transfer rneasurements diredly. Many folding
rules have a brass end that extends to measure
The body of a folding rule ist/sin.wide. The inside dimensions. Carry the extended ruler to
blade of a standard combination square is the workpiece, and transfer the measurernent
I in. wide, and its body is % in. thick. directly whenever possible.

A door or window should be casedwithout

the use of a tape. Lightly mark the reveal on Combination square
the jamb with a pencil. Square-cut the bot- Use a combination
square as a marking
toms of the casing legs, hold them up to rhe
gauge for consistent
jamb, and mark the top cuts from the reveal .
me asu reme nts {or thi ngs
lines. Cut the legs, and tack them in place. such as casing reveals,
handrail centers, and
Miter one end of the head, and holding it window-stool notches.
upside down over its final position, mark the
other end to length (drawing facing page). Pencil line
where to
place the

Wood moves-as it dries out, as the house
settles,as you cut it, and as you're nailing it
up. It's almost impossible ro ger flush edges overhang
to stay that way. That's why, for example,
carpenters usually step casing back from the
edge of door and window jambs. Stepping Offset everyfthing. Wood
trim back to form reveals causesshadow- moves, so it's practically
Varied impossible to keep flush
lines and createsdifferent planes that make thicknesses edges flush. lnstead, offset
it harder for the eye to pick up discrepancies. create a edges from each other, such
If a casing is installed flush to rhe inside of a as the casing from the jamb.
jamb, it may not stay that way. The eye will And use boards of different
Casing thicknessesas with the head
easily pick up even a Vrc-in.variation from top 1"9 casingand the leg shown
to bottom. If the casing is stepped back% in. here. This way, they can swell
or 3/sin., this variation will not be nearly as and shrink unnoticed.
evident and will be hidden in shadow much
of the time. Separate discrepancies,and they that the shadow it castsmakes it appear to be
become lessevident. to the head, which runs over and past the legs a cap. Rosettes often were placed at the upper
In years past, carpenters by necessityused by %in. or so. This way, the carpenter didn't corners and plinth blocks at the bottoms of
trim materials of different rhicknesses;plan- worry about the length of the head casing door jambs. The casings and baseboards
ers were not in widespread use. You rarely being exact or the side casings noticeably butted to them. The variations in thickness of
see mitered casings in older houses because changing width with changes in humidity. these boards were lost in the overwhelming
differences in material thickness are obvious The head casing is usually the thicker piece so presenceof the thicker plinths and rosettes.

G R E A TB U I L D I N G T I P S 2 0 0 6 51
Diverging lines are obvious mistakes. With shingles or lapped siding, diverging starting
and ending points can be hidden a little at a time by slightly tapering the course widths. But
this technique doesn't work with other materials,such as tongue-and-groove flooring, whose If you're running coursesof material
course can't be varied easily. between two diverging surfaces, and you
start out working parallel to one, you
won't be parallel to the other. With deck-
Out-of-parallel walls ing, roofing, or siding, you can adjust the
gap or coverage slightly at each course so
that the coursesare parallel to the other
surface when they reach it.
T h i s a d j u s t m e n t i s f i g u r e d e a s i l y .S " y
that you're shingling an old house, and the
roof measures 135 in. from ridge to eave
on one end and 138 in. on the other. Divide
one of these figures by the ideal exposure
per course, 5 in. for normal three-tab shin-
gles. Thus, 135 in. divided by 5 equals 27;
t h i s i s t h e n u m b e r o f c o u r s e sa t 5 i n . p e r
c o u r s e . A t t h e o t h e r en d o f t h e b u i l d i n g ,
138 in. divided by 27 yields 5Vatn. Lay
out each side of the roof using the two
I different increments, and snap chalklines
between them. With these adjustments,
the chalklines start out parallel to the
eaves and end up parallel to the ridge.
I I n c a s e sw h e r e t h e g a p o r c o v e r a g e i s
not adjustable, as in tongue-and-groove
flooring, you have to make up part of the
discrepancy at the start and the re st at the
end. Say you're installing flooring between
t w o w a l l s t h a t a r e I i n . o u t o f p a r a l l el ,
and you're leaving a minimum expansion
g a p o f V z i n . b et w e e n t h e f l o o r i n g a n d
the wall. Make the expansion gap I in. at
each side of the wide end of the room and
Vzin. at eachsideof the narrow end. Shoe
molding and baseboardscover the gap. If
Floorboards laid to split the difference you're using a one-piece thin baseboard,
you'll have to rip tapered floorboards at
the start and finish to keep the expansion
gap narrow and parallel to the wall.
Moldings hide the gap. Use boards as wide as possible as your
Floorboards don't have to be s t a r t i n g a n d e n d i n g c o u r s e st o k e e p c o n -
a uniform distance from the verging lines as far apart as possible.Mea-
wall. As long as the base/shoe
molding covers it, the gap sure the room width at both the wide and
*) can vary. narrow ends, and subtract the expansion
gaps. Divide these measurementsby the
floorboard width. Multiply the remain-
ders by half the board width. These will
be the widths of the starting and ending
strips at the wide and narrow ends of the
room. If these strips are narrow, try add-
ing half a board width. As long as these
sums are less than full board widths, use
H i d d e ng a p them for the starting and ending strips.

End grain absorbs stain and paint differently Mitered
from face or side grain; even if left natural, return

end grain reflects light differently. Unless you

want to emphasize this difference, plan your
installation to hide end grain or cut mitered
returns to cover it up.
A return is a small piece of trim, often trian-
gular in section,that ends a run of molding.
Tiaditionally, returns are used on stair treads, Don't show end
window stools and aprons, butted head cas- grain. lt absorbs
paint and especially
ings-anywhere a piece of molding doesn't
stains differently
end in a corner. from flat grain. If
On a power miter saw, the blade often a piece of molding
must end abruptly, t
throws small returns to some dimly lit, inac-
cut a return for it.
cessiblecorner of the room. I cut them with a
small miter box and a backsaw.

FITTHEJOINTBEFORE Fit the more difficult end

CUTTINGTO LENGTH before cutting to length.
ln this case, the left side
If you're coping or mitering a joint on a piece is coped and the fit is
of base, chair rail, or crown, make sure that checked before the miter
joint fits well before you cut the other end to is marked.
length. You may need the extra length if you
make a mistake and have to recut the cope
or miter. If you had cut the piece to length
before miscutting the cope or miter, you'd be
grumbling on your way back to the lumber- Coped joint
yard instead of calmly recutting the piece.


WHEREYOU D ON'T Some joints don't molding
need to be perfect, Baseboard
HAVETO BE Baseboardwill hide
Learn to think ahead to see if what you're the ugliness where
the drywall meets
working on will be covered later, which is
the floor.
often the function of moldings. If the floor
or wall undulates, you might be tempted to
scribe or fill behind the baseboard to follow
the contours. In older houses,where walls
and floors always undulated, you often see
three-piece baseboards,with the thin base-
cap molding attached to the wall and follow-
ing its contour while the shoe does the same The baseboard spans
on the floor. The thicker baseboard installs hollows in the wall and
floor. The cap and shoe are
quickly and easily becauseit doesn't have to flexible and confonn to ins
conform; that's what the shoe and cap do. and outs, hiding them.


Trimming a room with baseboard and a minimum of perfed cuts.
By following the numericalseguence in the drawing below, only TO AVOIDPERFECT
pieces 2 and 3 require pertect cuts on both ends. The chanceof
error is reduced by first coping them and then holding them in place
to mark their lengths. rhe copes are planned so that any crackswill There is usually a sequenceof trim installa-
be less obvious to people entering the room. tion that requires the fewest perfect cuts. For
Butt this
ll end to
example, with my method of casing doors
the wall. and windows, only the last cut on the head
need be perfect. Cut this end slightly long,
and shave it with a chopsaw unril it fits just
right. One neat trick here: Push the cas-
ing up to the lowered, idie chopsaw blade.
Raise the blade without moving the casing,
then make the cut. The teeth are ser slightly
wider than the body of the blade, so the
Miter cut will take off Vtz in.If you had installed
the head first, you then would have had to
make an exact miter cut on each casing leg
to make the joint turn out right.
The sequenceof installation also is impor-
tant when running trim around a room,
whether it's baseboard,chair rail, or crown
molding. I prefer to work from right to left
around a room becauseI'm right-handed
and generally do a faster, nearer job of cop-
ing the right end of a board.
Working my way around a room, I often

,r-al{ end up with a piece that needs to be coped on
both ends, a challenge for even the best car-
penters. I try to plan my installation so that
Lines of sight this last piece of trim is in the least conspicu-
ous place. If a coped joint isn't perfect or if
it opens up over time, the crack is most visi-
ble when viewed at right angles ro rhe coped
coped ioints. The first piece is butted to the wall. The second piece
is mitered as for an inside corner, but the mitered end is cut off where piece. Wherever possible,I orient the coped
it meets the molding face, leaving a negative of the profile that fits piecesso that people entering or using the
perfealy over the butted piece. room won't have right-angle views of them.

Coped joints look

different from differ-
ent angles. lf a coped
joint opens up, the
crack will be obvious
when viewed parallel
to the uncoped piece
and nearly invisible
viewed parallelto the
coped piece. Plan the
coping seguence so
that crackswill be less
obvious along likely
lines of sight. Cracks
also will be lessobvi-
ous if the uncoped
piece is stained or
painted before
Butt this end Gaps show along installation; raw
to wall. coped end. wood sticks out.

But I hung it plumb.
I .=,1,,[
ti, k
Some rules of carpentry change from fram-
A level door bottom I Scrib e the door bottom
ing to finish work. Instead of keeping track parallelto the floor.
over an out-of-level
of plumb, level, and square, you now must floor has a tapered, /:
keep finish materials parallel to the walls eye-catchinggap at
and floors. The eye seesdiverging lines more the bottom. Trim the
door bottom so that Unfevel floo,--/
readily than it seesplumb and level.
it's parallel to the floor.
The only exceptions are cabinets and doors, It won't be level, but
which must hang plumb to work properly. it'll look good.
If the floor isn't level, trim the door bottoms
parallel to the floor rather than leave them
level with a tapered gap. If the deck framing
Trimmed paralle
is out of squaie, run the decking parallel to
to the floor, the
the house wall. If for some reason two lines door looks right
must diverge, separatethem as widely as pos-
sible so that the difference is harder to see.

NOTHINGIS RANDOM Nothing is random. Even something as simple as decking benefits from thoughtful lay-
out. The randomness(left) looks sloppy compared with careful layout (right).
Whenever I find myself saying, "It doesn't
matter," the red flag goes up. Which end of
the board you cut first, which face is out,
where you put the nails-this all matters, I rl
! II

and the care you put into the details shows f t'

up as craftsmanship in the entire job. "God

I \
lives in the details," said architect Ludwig t I i
Mies van der Rohe, and this is especially
i ii lt
. t
true in finish carpentry. Occasionally, it ri l
won't matter, but you first should consider t
whether it does.As your experienceincreases i-
and your eye becomes more efficient, it will
becorne second nature to line up nails in an
attractive pattern and to look critically at
each board as you carry it to the saw.

A contractor usually has to complete a punch will be easier to do when it's close at hand.
list before finalpayment is issued,but some- After a while , they don't notice the lack of
times, getting all the details wrapped up trim, and it becomes harder and messier
is like pulling teeth. The clean-slateattrac- to set up the tools and work around the
tion of starting a new job can overpower the obstacles.It can be a strain on a marriage if
drudgery of completing the old. This temp- the bathroom doors aren't hung after a few
tation can sour good clients and lose referrals. years of residence.I advise owner-builders
Owner-builders doing their own work to get everything done before they move in,
often are tempted to move in to a house and contractors to finish all work before they
before the finish work is done, thinking it move on. They'll be glad they did.


Cutting& Coping
Coping table
As much as I appreciate the delicate craft Molding stock extends through
slots in coping table.
of coping moldings by hand, a jigsaw
is faster. To hold the foot of the saw in
plane with the 45o bevel on the end of the
workpiece while following the lines of
the molding profile,I use the coping table
shown in the drawing at right.
The table is a pyramidal box with slots
cut into both sides for the molding stock. -<==l*1i--
After beveling a piece of molding on the
miter saw,I slide the stock into the cop-
ing table. The box's dimensions allow
ample hand room for holding the work
steady, while my fingers remain clear of
the blade. The saw rides on the angled
side of the coping table. I made the table
out of the sink cutout from a plastic-
laminate countertop, so the saw glides
Jigsaw base rides on
- ' J - - - -

easily over the surface. The jigsaw should angled table.

have a roller guide and a fine-tooth scroll-
cutting blade. Height of miter-saw table
- G R A F T O N H . C O O K D o w a g i a cM, i c h .

Easiercoping with the jigsaw

Coping crown molding with an electric jigsaw is much easier when Next,I drilled a couple of r/e-in.holes in the saw's base,on opposite
you attach a radiused auxiliary base to the jigsawt standard flat base. sides of the blade, for a pair of screws. I positioned the slotted golf
I was stumped about making this modification until I spotted a golf ball as shown in the right-hand drawing and affixed it to the base
ball on my shop bench. with a couple of small screws.
As shown in the drawing below,I started by cutting the ball into This jig provides a pivot point right where the blade enters the
unequal parts. I did the cutting on my bandsaw after driving a back side of the molding. As a result,I have the control to make
couple of 3-in. drywall screws into opposite sides of the ball to act as exact relief cuts. I have found that longer blades are useful for cut-
handles. The screws kept my fingers a safe distance from the blade. ting big crowns. Different configurations could be obtained by
Then I made a perpendicular cut in the larger portion of the ball. cutting the ball into segments of various sizes.
Still at the bandsaw,I cut a slot to accommodate the jigsaw's blade. - J l M D E L V I ND e sM o i n e sW
, ash.

Cut along Cut slot for blade.

dotted lines.
Screwgolf ballto
Jigsaw jigsaw basefor
copingangled cuts.

Drilllh-in. hole in saw base,

both sides.

FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings: CharlesMiller

220-grit sandpaper contact-
cementedto identicalmolding Acute angles on the chopsaw
A couple of years ago, I was doing some trim with my
friend Marcos Bradley. He was running base around a
seriesof odd angles-2ngles he couldn't readily cut with
his chopsaw. After some thought, he assembled a jig simi-
lar to the one shown in the drawing below.
Use clamps or screws to
secure one of the jig's
fences to the saw's fence.
Jig clamped
Clamp the workpiece or screwed
to the jig (block under to saw's
the far end of the long
pieces),and you're
all set to cut accurare
acute angles.
Molding with
_ F E L I XM A R T I
coped joint Ridgway,Colo.

Touchingup coped joints

The drawing above shows a trick that I teach my students
for making perfect coped joints. We use water-based
contact cement to glue a sheet of 220-grit sandpaper to
a piece of molding that has the same profile as the work- 1x2 fences
piece. Result: a custom-made, contoured sanding block.
Using the block to make a few back-and-forth strokes
on the coped end of the workpiece smooths out unsightly
- D A V I D J O H N S O NC l i n t o nl,o w a

Coping quarter-roundtrim
I recently had to install alot of 3/+-in.quarter-round trim. I prefer coped corners to mitered
corners, but given the amount of trim required by this job, I had to find an expedient
hole saw
way to cut the stuff. As shown in the drawing,I devised a fixture that yields
accurate results with a minimum of effort. 1 x 4 o a k g u i d eb l o c k
I started with a scrap piece of 2x6 about 14 in. long. Using my tablesaw, (
I plowed a3/ 3/+-in.groove the length of the 2x6 to accommodate 3/ 3/a-in. \
quarter-round trim. This groove holds the trim as it is cur by a groove

lr/z-in.-dia. hole saw from above. As shown in the drawing, the

hole saw is guided by a 1x4 guide block. I made this block out
of oak becauseit holds up well after repetitive cuts.
Using this rig makes coping quarter-round trim a
breeze. For quarter-rounds of a different radius, simply
cut a groove to fit the trim, and use a hole saw that is
twice the radius of the trim.
- M . P . W H I P P L EA f t o n ,N . Y .


lnstallingTrim /t

t t

Protecting stain-gradetrim
Every carpenter knows that it pays to have the painters in a
position of feeling happily indebted to you. To that end, here's
my tip.
Whenever you are applying window casing, base,or any
other woodwork that is not going to be painted, staple strips of Crown molding
plastic sheeting to the surface that will end up behind the trim, Finger-grip notch at
as shown in the drawing below. Thin plastic is fine for this;I inside corner
use 1-mil or Z-rr'il drop cloths from the paint store. The plastic
should extend a foot or so beyond the trim.
The painter now can wrap the plastic over the trim and fasten
any additional masking
tape to it. This step elimi-
nates the painter's need to Staple plasticto wall
mask the trim painstak- prior to installingtrim. Finger-gripnotch for fine-tuning
ingly. Having saved a lot crown molding in place
of time, said painter will When I install crown molding,I cope the inside corners.
likely seeto it that your job Consequently, most pieces have one end that butts into
looks its very best. a corner. I like nice, tight joints, so I generally cut the
When the paint has crown a little long. Becauseof this tight fit, the butt end
dried, the painter simply sometimes jams into the corner, which means I need a pry
runs a sharp utility-knife bar to move it around when the time comes to fit the nexr
blade along the crease piece'scoped end to the butt end. Even if I have a pry bar
between the wall and on hand, wielding it without marring the wall is difficult.
the casing to cut away A better way is to nip the upper corner off the butt end
the plastic. window before putting the piece on the wall. You gain a handy
S.HILL casing finger-grip notch, which the coped end of the next piece
North Bend,Wash. covers, as shown in the drawing above.
- A N D Y E N G E LR o x b u r yC o n n .

Wrap plastic around

casing,then trim away
after painting walls.

It can be frustrating to install precisely fit baseboardsover an uneven substrate like screw
drywall. Baseboards often sit atop tapered drywall edges, causing the wood to tilt a works as
bit out of plane with the wall. This can cause an unsightly gap at a corner where a shim.
coped baseboard intersects a square-cut baseboard.
I avoid this problem by driving |3/s-in.drywall screws into the bottom plates at
each inside corner. The screws need to be installed only under the square-cut pieces
of baseboard. As shown in the drawing, the screws work as adjustable shims, allow-
ing me to run them in or back them out as needed to put the baseboard into plane
with the wall. I use a short piece of baseboard with a coped end on it to test the
corner joints for fit as I install the square-cut pieces. That way, I don't have to keep
running back to my saw to adjust the coped cut. For outside corners, I put a screw
on each wall.
- R A L P H W . B R O M E G r e e n s b o r o ,M d .

A base hook for
tight baseboards
A homemadetool called a basehook elimi-
nates the need for a bevel square in some
applications.Similar in conceptto a siding
gauge, it's simply an L-shaped piece of a sta-
ble, split-resistantwood usedprimarily for
laying out the end cut of baseboardwhere it
butts againststanding moldings such asdoor
casings.To usethe hook, lap it over the base-
board and hold it hard againstthe standing
molding while scribing a cutline acrossthe
baseboard.Be sure the facesof your base
hook are perfgcdy squareto ttre edges,or
you'll introduce a margin of error.
Port Townsend,Wash.

Baseboardangle blocks
Two hardwood blocks,
I do the finish trimwork for a small builder of moderately priced 2 in. by 2in. by thin.
homesin Norfolk, Va. He hasfound that it is actually lessexpen-
siveto have the walls plasteredthan to have drywall hung, hped,
sanded,and painted. Becauseplasteris a hand-tooled product,
the walls are a litde uneven,and the basemoldings rarely end
up plumb. As a consequence,I'velearned that to keep the coped
ioints tight, the 45" bevelneedsto be cut at a small angle off
square,usually between88oand 92".
When I first startedcoping thesejoints, I useda bevelgauge
to measureeachangle,and then I'd adiust the compound-miter
saw accordingly.That iust
took too long. I now cut five
testblocks of basemolding
with miter anglesranging
between88oand 92",in1" Basemolding
increments.As shown in the
drEwing to the right,I test-fit
a couple of blocks to get the
correct angle.Then I read the Casing-revealgauge
angle marked on the block, When I install door or window cas-
setthe saw to that number, ings, I usethe jig shown aboveto
and I'm ready to cut. No more Gap caused fnake sure that I get an accurater/+-in.
fussyfiddling. by uneven reveal.It's made of two squarepieces
-D EN NI SS M I T HS uf f o lV
k ,a . wall surface
of hardwood,rAin. thick, that are
Test blocks glued together with a Yc-in.offset.
This jig has so many cornersthat half
the time I grab it out of my nail bag,
it'sin therightt':l:lf'rl'*'"r,*o"
8s Tight fit indicates Fort Dodge, lowa
the proper angle.

Photo: Patrick Cudahy

This dimension is
equalto the width of
the block minus the
Trimmingcabinet doors thickness of the blade.
Here's a useful tablesaw setup for trimming the horns
off small frame-and-panel doors.
First, cut a piece of stock that fits between the horns,
then rip the stock to about 2 in. wide. This piece is the
alignment block. Now move the saw fence toward the
blade a distance equal to the thickness of the blade, about
% in. With the saw running, just barely put the block into
the blade to make sure the fence has been moved a dis-
tance exactly equal to the blade's thickness.
Now put the block between the horns, and hold the
door and block against the fence as you cut off the horn. If
you've set it up correctly, the cut will be exactly flush with
the stile.
Lift the door up and away as soon as you've cut through
the horn, and repeat the process for all the other corners
of the door. Be sure to clear the horn offcuts from the
blade as you proceed. ,/
N e l s o n8, . C . ,C a n a d a gnment block, /
F r a m e - a n d - p a n e ld o o r crosscutto fit
between horns


II Affixing a router template to a finished surface

I I've seesome carpenters use double-face is made for outlet boxes that frequently
foam tape to hold a template in place for need to be installed in kitchen-island cabi-
routing. However, itb so sticky that I've nets; it beats trying to run a sabersaw on
found it to be a do-or-die situation when a lacquered surface right at the edge of a
g l u eg u n ) positioning the template. Plus, double-face raised panel.
tape can damage finished surfaces.For I have used this method on all kinds of
holding templates, I use ordinary hot glue materials, finished and unfinished, vertical,
and masking tape (drawing left). horizontal, and upside down. The tape pre-
I cover the area under the template with vents damage to finishes, and on raw wood,
M a s k i n gt a p e
a layer of 3M blue masking tape. Then I it keeps the glue out of the grain. If the tem-
squeeze a line of hot glue around the plate isn't positioned correctly, I simply pull
perimeter of the template and stick it to the it off, scrape off the glue, then try again.
tape. The router template in the drawing - G R E G GR O O SS a nF r a n c i s c o

FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings: Charles Miller. Photo this page: Daniel S. Morrison.
Raisingpanels with a router l/z-in. Accurate stapling
Raising cabinet-door panels with a traditional under- plywood knob for drawer assembly
mount router table can produce wavy cuts becauseit's dif- plate I had a stack of melamine drawer bor-
ficult to hold the panel absolutely flat ro a vertical fence. toms and sides that had to be stapled
To regain the advantage of a horizontal worksurface, Verticalpanel- together, and if the stapler's nosepiece
I mounted my router at 90o to the conven- raisingbit
was slightly off-center or out of plumb,
tional setup. As shown in the drawing, I ran the risk of a staple blowing out
I affixed the router to a piece of Yz-in. the face of a drawer side.
hardwood plywood. The base of the To ensure perfect alignment,I tacked
router rests in a shallow recessrouted together a wooden sole with a regis-
into the plywood. The plywood
mounting plate attaches to a
2-in.-thick top by way of two
Yc-in.-dia.machine screws driven
into threaded inserts embedded in of feed
the top. One screw acts as a pivot 1/a-in.-dia.

point. The other projects through threadedinserts

a slot in the mounting plate. A

washer and a large knob on rhis
screw allow the mounting plate to
be clamped at the desired height relative
to the worksurface. Wood nosepiece registers
With the router bit below the work as the panel is passed againstdrawer side.
over it, raise the panel with a seriesof shallow passes.
Notice that the locking point is twice as far from the pivot
point as the center of the router bit. At this relationship,
raising the plate r/+in. atthe locking point lifts the bit % in.
- D O N A L D C . B R O W NR u c k e r s v i l l e , V a .
Miter clamps Opposing wedges hold
Miter clamps (known as permits the clamp to drawer side snug to
pinchdogs in our part of the reach a bit farther and
Southwest) are mighty use- to grab the work at
ful for putting pressure on #6 odd angles. The offset tration nosepiecefor the stapler. The
a mitered frame during a drywall placement also allows sole, made of 3/q-in.plywood, envelops
glue-up or nailing session. screw
me to use a couple of the stapler's magazine. A piece of
But miter clamps are not clamps at the same solid stock planed ro rhe width of the
always easy to locate. As time if I need to apply magazine fits between rhe plywood
shown in the drawing,I extra pressure. sides,creating a flat, stable base for the
make my own pinchdogs I run a #6 drywall stapler. At the businessend of the tool,
out of two components screw into the holes I put a wood nosepiece that extends
that can be obtained easily: in the spring-clamp an inch below the sole. This nosepiece
spring clampsand drywall screws. iaws.The sharppointsof the drywall registers against the drawer side and
I first center-punchand drrllVa-in. screwswill bite into almostany the edge of the drawer bottom, hold-
holesin the jaws of a spring clamp.I put material. _SVEN HANSON ing them flush as the staple is driven.
the holesa bit off-center.This placement Albuquerque,N.M. - R I C H V A N R H E E NW e s tL i n n O
, re.


Low-budget water level
An inexpensivewater level can be made out of a clear plastic l-gal.
jug, a tubeless-tirevalve stem (with guts and cap removed), and an
appropriate length of clear vinyl tubing, as shown in the drawing below.
First, drill a hole that is sized to acceptthe valve stem approximately
2 in. up from the bottom of the jug. Insert the valve stem in the hole,
fit one end of the tubing over the stem, and tape a ruler to the free end
of the tubing to be used as a referencestick. Finally, fill the jug with
water, and add a few drops of food coloring to make the level easier
to read, as shown in the photo.
Before using the level, be sure Jug
to bleed any air bubbles out of Clear vinyl tape
the tubing. And during use, \
keep the free end of the tub-
ing above the level of the water
in the jug to keep water from
draining out the free end of the er level-\
tube. Water levels are very accu-
rate, and this one can be just the
ticket for someone who doesn't
need a water level often enough
to justify buying a commercially
manufactured one.
Tonopah, Nev. Vinyltubing

Multipurposedoor-pulljig Aligning cup hinges

European cup hinges can be adjusted in
The drawing below shows a jig I use for quickly locating the screw holes for cabi-
three different directions to get a pro-
net pulls. In the application illustrated here, the jig is being used on a drawer
fessional fit on a cabinet door, but the
front. The notch at the top of the jig is aligned with a pencil mark on a piece of
hinge arm must be exactly 90o to the
tape that indicates the center of the drawer. Drawers of different depths require
door's edge.
their pulls to be placed at dif-
Fortunately, the shape of the hinge
ferent distances from their
Holesfor makes it easyeven if you have only a
top edges-hence the series Centering Holesfor
door pulls Fence d r a w e rp u l l s handheld drill. Simply pressa straight-
of holes. notch -
edge against the backs of the hinges. As
To use the jig for locating
shown in the drawing, they will rotate
pulls on cabinet doors, I rotate
the jig 90" and align its edge
with the door's top edge or
))lrlly,i in their mortises and become perfectly
aligned to the door edge.
-DAVID BORcRttl Seattle
some molded detail in the
door. The jig is laid out with
equal distances from its sides Straightedge

to the pull holes, allowing it to

be flipped to do right-hand or
left-hand doors.
prior to I
Capitola,Calif. alignment

FINE HOMEBUILDING Photo this pagc: Andv Engel

1 ll Scissors 2 // Legs
lnstallingwall cabinets by yourself can be a dangerousjuggling act. I use these
To keep them plumb and level long enough to install them, use a jacks to install 2x3 legs
scissorsjack. A scrap of plywood atop the base cabinets provides a upper cabinets
surfacefor cranking the cabinet into position. A 12-in.-sq.piece of by myself. The
3/+-in.plyrood covered with carpet and attached to the bottom and jacks have a 2x2
top of the jack protects the casework. | fitted my jack sleeve with an frame covered
old hole-sawarbor to raise and lower it with my electric drill. with %-in. ply-
RONDeLAURENTIS NorthAurora, lll. wood and are
braced with Zx2 frame K- t O in.
2x3 legs. I line
the backs and
ilI Wall cabinet tops of the

i jacks with car-

pet to keep
them from
scratchingthe walls. Rubber feet keep the
legs from slipping as I adjust cabinet height.
To use the jacks, I mark a level line on the
wall to show the bottom of the cabinet. I
Scissors place the jacks about 6 in. inside each end
\ of the cabinet and set the cabinet on them.
Moving the legs in or out adjuststhe
Hole-saw arbor
height. When itt right, lfasten the cabinet
to the wallthrough holesin the hang-rail.
- D A R R Y L B . W E I S E R D a h l o n e g a ,G a .

- _ UPPe,cabinet
':-- *

%-in. pipe
3 // Pipe clamps n i p p l e ,1 0 i n .
As shown in the drawing to the right, my rig consists of trryo5-ft.
pieces of 7c-in.iron pipe attached to a 2x4 frame by way of threaded
1 - i n .T
pipe flanges. The movable part of a pipe clamp rides on each pipe,
working side up, to support the arm assemblies.I place the frame 1 - i n .b y
on the floor, butt it up to a wall, and slide a cabinet onto the arms. I
raise the cabinet either by grabbing the clamps and pulling upward
while standing on the frame or by raising the cabinet by hand and
holding it up with one arm while raisingthe clampsone at a time. tz-,n. p,p"
This may sound a little awhrard, but it's not in practice. %-in.pipe nipple
ROY L. SAMUELSON Alameda, Calif.


G R E A TB U I L D I N G T I P S 2 0 0 6 73
Efficienc Guidelines

B Y S V E NH A N S O N n my yearsas a cabinetmaker, I've found expensive router bits and stock preparation. Fol-
that it's rarely the big srroke of genius low these guidelines, and you'll be able to go from
that makes the difference; rather, it's the shop drawings to finished cabinetsquickly and
avoidance of dumb mistakes. Simplifying a c c u r a t e l y ,w i t h a m i n i m a l n u m b e r o f e x p e n s i v e
cabinet designs and standardizrngconstruction tools and mistakes.
have made me feel a whole lot smarter. By mak-
ing frameless cabinets, ordering the doors and S v e n H a n s o n i s a c a b i n e t m a k e ri n M a r i e t t a ,G a . ,
drawer fronts from an outside vendor, and using a n d A l b u q u e r q u e ,N . M . P h o t o sb y D a n i e l S .
production-oriented jigs, I've eliminated a lot of M o r r i s o n ,e x c e p t w h e r e n o t e d .

74 FINE HON4EBUILDING Photo this page; Robert Rcck

th e a mo u n to f ti m e n e e dedto bui l d a ki tchen,so I l et someoneel sedo i t. B eforeI st ar t build-
i n g c a b i n e tsI, o rd e r d oors and draw erfrontsfrom an outsi desuppl i er.They' reusuallyr eady
(i n c l u d i n gs a n d i n ga n d fi ni shi ng,i f speci fi ed)by the ti me l ' ve bui l t the cabi 's har d
for me to meet the quality/priceratio that a shop delivers;two suchsuppliersare www.scherrs
.c o ma n d w w w .l a k e s i demoul di S omeother smartcharacteri sti cs are show nbelow.

U p p e rc a b i n e t
Doors and drawer fronts can
be ordered in any size and
in a wide variety of styles.
an option, but may be hard
to match to cabinet boxes.

Use concealedhinges.They
are complex-lookingand
more expensivethan other
types of hinges, but they're
adjustablein three direc-
tions, makingthe doors
easierto install.

'l-"' Base cabinet

.1 :&o-
tr,i ;i.. *

Simplifythe joinery.Cabi-
net casesare made from
Eliminatefixed shelvesin
3/c-in.veneered plywood.
base cabinets.Drawers
Assemblyis done with glue
and roll-out shelvesmake
and 17a-in.trim screws.
base cabinets more use-
Use %-in. plywood backs
ful. With a drillingjig,
to squarethe cases.
drawer-slidehardware is
easyto install.

Use applied end panels.
Exposed screwsin case sides
will be hidden when cabinets
are joined together. For
end-of-run cabinet sides, use
finishedplywood panels.

The toe kick isn't part of the cabinet. Simplify case

construction (and cabinet installation)by setting the
cabinet box on a platform framed in 2x material.
Use full-extensiondrawer slides,For
sticky drawers,trim the drawer width
ONLINE EXTRA where the slidesattach by moving the
To see a video of Sven Hanson making story poles for a drawer box through a tablesaw with
kitchen-cabinet job, go to the blade height set at about 2 in.


nng da p p l y i nagf i n i s ha r eb e s td o n e
t o b i g p i e c e s ,b u t n o t t o o b i g . M y u s u a ls t r a t e g y i s t o r i p 4 x 8 s h e e t s o f p l y w o o d i n t o 2 x 8
p i e c e s ,a s i z et h a t ' s e a s y t o f i n i s h a n d m o v e . Y o u ' l l h a v e t o g o b a c k a n d a d d a l i t t l e e d g e b a n d -
ing after all the parts are cut, but working on 2x8 sheetsfirst will get the work done faster.

Iron on the edging. Using Trim one edge at a time.

the plywood as a ruler, I Edge trimmers normally trim
snapoff a bunch of 97-in.- both sides at once. That's
long strips. With the help fine for vinyl edging, but
of a spring clamp, I bal- you'll get smoother resu/ts
ancea strip on the top with wood if you show some
edge of the plywood sheet respect for the grain. Pull
so that it overhangseach the tool apart, and work one
end. With the iron on a hot side at a time to avoid sp/its
(linen) setting, I tack down (www.vir; 800-8 68-
one end of the edgeband, 9663).
then iron toward the other
end. To ensuregood
adhesion,scuff the
plywood edge
bef orehand
with 9)-grit s,
sandpaper, i
then c/ean
the dust
from the

'{* ::::-:-

When the varnish has dried,

I knock down the bumps
before applying a second
coat. Sandpaperworks fine,
but I like to smooth the finish
with a cabinet scraper.

Tip: Singte-edgerazor
bladesmakegreat scrap-
ersfor the edgebanding.
Cut plywood
STICK WITH BASIC efficiently. To avoid
DIMENSIONStbesin making crosscuts in
the processby making a cut- full-size sheets of
lis t of all t he pa rts l ' l l n e e d plywood,l rrp sheets
lengthwise, then
(sides,tops, bottoms, backs,
turn to crosscutting.
etc.) and note the dimensions My shopmade cross-
both on the cutlist and on an cut sled rides in the
unfinishedend of the part tablesaw's miter-
gauge slots, making
( ballpointink w i l l l a s t).I u s e
precise crosscutting
bas icdim ens io n sth a t d i v i d e easy to do.
well into a plywood panel.
To account for the sawkerf,
subtract 1/ain. from the follow-
ing s iz es :6 in. a n d 9 i n . w o rk
well for drawers and toe-kick
s t o c k ;1 2 i n . , 1 6 i n . ,a n d 1 8 i n .
work well for varying depths
of upper-cabinetsides,tops,
and bottoms; 24 in. is good
for base cabinets.

I rarelyrabbet cabinetbacksor dado drawer bottoms. Instead,I fasten backsand bottoms directly
to the edge of the plywood with polyurethaneconstructionadhesiveand nailsor screws.When
assembling,I use homemadecorner blocksand a low assemblytable to keep things squareand at
a comfortableworking height.

Corner blocks The bottom is

are made with structural. With
shop scraps. Ply- the drawer sides
wood cutoffs with assembled,use the
square corners drawer bottoms
and lipped sides to rack and hold
work well for the boxes square.
clamping cabinet I prefer plywood
sides together over hardboard or
or, as shown, for medium-density
drawer assembly. fiberboard for the
I use a drawer bottoms (and cabi-
side as a gauge to net backs)because
space the blocks of its light weight,
properly.Then, durability, and ability
with front and to hold fasteners.
back standing,
I wedge a side
between to keep
them steady while
fastening the
other side.


Tip: Sandoff the finr'shthat will

be glued. A rabbeted sanding
block allows me to do this quickly
and neatly. With a piece of A0-grit
sandpaper glued in the rabbet, I
rough up the varnished surtace that
receives the butt joint.
7 a - i n .n o t c h
U S E D R I L L I N G T E M P L A T E S B e c a uIs e for face N o t c h f o r 3 / t - i n .f a s t e n i n g s t r i p
f rames
t h i n k t h a t b a s e c a b i n e t s w i t h f i x e d s h e l v e sa r e a s i n
( ,i,^.,1 T.p -I" r,Je-
against common sense,I fill them with drawers or i.^\, Tr?
r o l l - o u t u p g r a d e s . B u t i n s t a l l i n ga l l t h a t d r a w e r
\ r:iii r',.. i , ti ;.'r. i:. -'1..,.'i"i'
h a r d w a r e c a n b e f i n i c k y b u s i n e s s .I a v o i d a l o t o f
m i s t a k e s b y u s i n g a f u l l - s i z et e m p l a t e m a d e f r o m
l/q-in.plywood or melamine. My template defines the
113/d in.
positionsof the holes for drawer slidesin kitchen ;
base cabinets (three- and four-drawer type), van- ;
i ty c a b i n e tsa, n d fi l e d ra w e rs too.
, I si mpl ycol or-
P.'w ^-l lltl R.r/G*...i.. {}.--'*' 6.r,^J:
c o d e th e h o l e sto m i n i m i z em i stakes. l)rrll Tx,,

CIo @) O

0lll Thi' R.ou *l /ltl 9l"e f.t J Ptrwar 61, ial. Glc- C"b.


Don't crawl into a Dr,ll TLls Kew o-l Art R./e* riD**€ '-'L"f,3
,r t.'-
cabinet to install f 0 @ @ o-
drawer hardware. 1.,€

Do it on a bench ,>
. "t]r
instead. With the $F-
cabineton its side
i$ tso$
' i Bolfer'l / c'Li"t
and the template '!11
wedged in place,I .\^ |
drillthe holesfor i l - , t t T ! , r r R o u A r{l" . l J s Ll,
the drawer slides -_ eg30
: ^rtl. ts rr F/.qcr,J ?i,- Cu."{e ,{ {Dtaq th.h.'I.{ srlo

with a cordlessdrill.
Flip over the cabi- t- A 20-in.width allows the templar. ._-------->l
net and template, to be used for a vanity cabinet,
align the {ront edge, too. Place the template so that it is
and drillholesin the flush with the front of the cabinet.
other side. "r,.,ii"

1 7 h oi n . 21/z in.

F o r u p p e r c a b i n e t s w i t h a d j u s t a b l e s h e l v e s ,I
ensure accuratehole spacing by using a drilling
template, which I made with a piece of melamine 11/ain.
o n a f r i e n d ' s l i n e - b o r i n g m a c h i n e .Y o u a l s o c a n
buy a template from most woodworking stores
for around $25. This template's spacing ensures Off-center
consistency and lets you take advantage of the holes
allow the
European cabinetmaking system, with holes every template
1 6 m m ( % i n . ) t h a t a l i g n s h e l v e sa n d h a r d w a r e . to be
used for
f rameless
Use a cordless
or face-
drill to place f rame
shelf holes cabinets.
accurately. Set
this template *.
bottom of the a

cabinet, and
; * ' .*
work your way . ",t
Tip: lnstall the cabinet
up. The template &...i
backs last after drilling
is symmetrical, holes and installing'the
but working from .'-.,,*" hardware.This approach
the bottom up boosts your screw-driving
avoids any prob- . : '*
: comfort zone by allowing
lems causedby a accessfrom front or back.
cabinetside that /*.+,eFi'{i.r.

may have been . * J

cut a bit shorter i a$i.
than the other. I+'i *
, -.i

WITH A HINGE STICK European-styte
in two piecesia cup and a baseplate.The cup mounts to the
door, and the baseplatemounts to the cabinet side. The two
parts then snap or screw together. Becausethey're two-part Baseplate
rnounts to
hinges,it's crucialthat the correspondingpiecesline up, or they
wont snap together. My hinge stick keeps the distance between
baseplatesand the setback from cabinet front consistent.To
use it, insert cup hinges into the holes,and with hinges in the
closed position, screwthe baseplatesto the cabinet side.
Testthe operation of the hinge stick. lf all'swell, adjust the
bumpered screwsto the distancebetween the open door
and the cabinet. Now you can installall the baseplateswith the screws
stick in the open position.

The cup hole must

be close to the
edge of the dool
or the door will rub
against the cabinet
when opened and
closed. You almost
can't be too close,
but you certainly
can be too far.
About Vein. will
allow the door to
overlay the cabinet
frame fully without
rubbing.With the
cup hinge squarely Align the hinge stick
in the hole, set with the top of the
one screw. Ihis cabinet, drill pilot holes,
will ensure that all and drive the baseplate
hinges are installed screws. The bumpers
consistently. ensure consistent setback
on all the hinges.

Set the adjustable

bumpers after the
first set of hinges
is in place and
working well.

Drill holes all the

way through so The best way to bore
that the stfck can the cup holes is to use d
be used for left- 13h-in. Forstner bit with
or right-hinging a depth stop in a bench-
and as a drilling top drillpress. Set up
a fence with reference
marks to ensure consis-
Cup holes are drilled tent alignment. Without a
an equal distance benchtop drill press, the
from the end so hinge stick can make a
that the stick can be good drilling template if
flipped top or bottom. clamped to the door.


Site-builtwire spinner Wire-nut 1
Workmanlike wiring is easierto achievewith a wire spinner.The site- wrench
built versionshown below was whipped up by electricianPhil Clements When wiring the 800-
in 15minutes,usinga handful of wire staples,a few l6d nails,a fender sq.-ft.addition to my
washer,assorted2x4 offcuts,and short lengthsof Romex cable.Phil home,I had to install 1/z-in.-dia. hole
first nailed together a pair of 2x4sto make a post about 24 in. tall, about 100duplex
then attachedthe 24-in.-long basepieces.He stapledshort lengths outletsand switches.
of Romex to createa loosecradle that holds a coil of wire asit comes Halfway through the
from the box. Hung from a nail in a ceiling joist or door header,Philb job, my fingerswere
wire spinner rotateson the washer ashe pulls and uncoils flat lengths blistered from twist-
of wire without twists or kinks. ing wire nuts.That's Bottom vtew
5\ \
W A T KINA Srl i ngton,V a. when I got the idea Sawkerfslot for wire-nut wings
for this device.
I made my little wrench out of lxl maple scraps.The hole
Bent 16d nail hanger in its businessend hasslotson both sidesto accommodatethe
wings on the sidesof the wire nuts.The wrench'swide handle
letsme get a firm grip to apply plenty of torque to the wire nuts.
-RICHARD N E L S O N S a n L e a n d r o ,C a l i f .

Sometimesan elecffic oudet or switch box hasto go between
a couple of studsthat are so closetogether,there'sno room
for a hammer or a drill bit. In this case,Ireachfor a C-clamp.
As shown in the drawing, a clamp can be usedto squeezea
nail into the stud. For good
bearing,I useroofing nails
during this operation.Occa-
sionally,I haveto drill holes
in the sideof the box for \\i/i
the nails. \\/,
2x4 base
Clarks Summit, Pa.

When space is tight, pull nail

into stud with a C-clamp.

80 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings: Charles Miller. Photo this page:Charles Bickford

stick Planningfor unknown
The next time you have to affix electricalboxesto wiring alterations
stud framing for switchesor outlets,try using the jig Adding a new electrical oudet,
shown in the drawing at right to position the boxes a switch, computer-qetwork
consistendy.I make the jig out of a strip of 3/ wiring, or a cable-TV jack is
pine. Two pairsof 4d nailsdriven through the pretty simple in single-story
stick correspondto the threaded holesin the boxes. homes. You have attack points
To usethe stick, position the boxesover the nails and from the basement and./or the
placethe stick on the floor adjacentto the stud. Now Outlet attic to route wires through
you can nail the box to the stud, and the height will box 4d nails walls. But I build and remodel
be right everytime. \ a lot of two-story homes. Run-
-SANTO A . I N S E R R AJ a m e s t o w n ,N . Y . ning wires from a basement
service panel to the second floor
means punching holes in walls
and ceilings.
As a result,I've gotten into
the habit of installing at least
two 2-in. conduits from the
basement or service panel up
3/ %-in. pine to the attic when I build a new
house. In houses that I remodel,
1/z-in. I try to incorporate conduits for
galvanized future alterations while I have
walls open. Two conduits are
Clean cuts for recessedcans important because household-
,I\[ ElectricianMel Minor installsa lot of current wires aren't supposed
recessed light fixtures in ceilings.In some to commingle with cable-TV,
I cases,he hasto cut a hole in the drywall
aswell asmount a fixture in the ceiling
phone, network, or other low-
voltage/communications wir-

,rfl Section
joists.To keep the messto a minimum, he
makesthe circular cutoutswith the clever
contraption in the drawing at left.
Although it looks like a harpoon,this
ing. I flag the conduits in the
attic with fluorescent orange
surveyors'tape so that future
installers can locate them. I also
plastic tool is actually a jumbo hole saw affixed label the conduits at the service

water sleeve to a pipe extension.Mel made the rig panel so that the homeowners
out of sectionsof Yz-in.galvanizedpipe, know what they are for. And
joined with couplings,and a threaded if I'm feeling especially gen-
shaft at one end that fits into the chuck of erous,I pull a few strings
his %-in.drill. through the conduits to make
Beneathhis hand is a hefty sectionfrom wire-pulling easier.My electri- :
a plastic5-gal.water botde.The water cian has even had to use the
botde is glued to a sleevemade of PVC conduits right away while
pipe. When the shaft turns, the botde installing the finish on a project
remainsstationaryasit catchesthe dust. when he forgot a home run for
_GARY M. KATZ a lighting circuit.
Reseda, Calif. _MIKEGUERTIN


EleCtriCal (continued)

Adjusting recessed-can
bulb sockets
On a recentjob, I installeda row of recessed-lightfixtures in a were casualtiesof this awkward handling. By the time I
kitchen ceiling.Thesefixtures haveadjustablebulb sockets. finished, I was convinced that there had to be a better way
Generally,by the time a fixture is installedand the trim is attached, to do this job.
the socketis almost alwaysout of position.If the bulb positions The solution was simple. As shown in the drawing at left,I made
are not the same,the whole installationlooks a Tlshapeddepth gaugethat registerson the
sloppy,so it's important to get them uniform. light-fixture'strim ring. The verticalleg of the
Recessed-canlight fixture
The first time I did this, I spent a lot of time T is equal to the distancefrom the socketto
installingthe first bulb, removing it to adjust Socket the faceof the lightbulb.
the position of the socketto my bestguess, adjustsup To setthe depth of a socket,Iloosenits
and down.
reinstalling the bulb, and so forth. None of R-40bulb bracket'swing nut enough sothat the socket
this was helped by the fact that the R-40 will slideup and down, yet will stayput with-
flood-lamp bulbs requestedby -y client out support.Then I hold the gaugeagainstthe
virtually filled the light-fixture's cavity, I
trim ring and either raiseor lower the socket
making it necessaryto useonly my fingertips asnecessary. Tighten the wing nut, and you're
to screw the bulbs in and out. As you might Cardboard Hold gauge against in business.
gau9e trim ring to set -B E R T D A WKI NS
Nor t hporN.t , Y.
imagine, severalof theseexpensivebulbs socket depth.

I neMoDELTNG Rotaryfishingrod
When fishing a wire for a doorbell, I ran into a seem-
ingly impossiblesituation. I'd drilled the hole for the
bell push, and an angled hole through the wall plate
into the proper stud bay from the eellar. But try as
I might I couldn't get a wire from one to the other.
Itried fish tape, a weighted string, bell wire, bead
chain, profanitlr, hooks, and probes. I couldn't find
any obstruction, but I couldn't find the wire either.
As my last attempt before ripping off clapboards, I
made the fishing rod shown at left. Starting with a
piece of l/r-in. dowel about a foot long. I drilled a
%e-in.hole acrqssthe diameter about 7a in. from one
end. Through this hole I inserted a 15-in. piece of bell
wire that I secured with a squaneknot, leaving the trro
ends equal. I then chucked the other end of the dowel
into an electric drill. Folding the ends of the wite so
that they stuck out ahead of the dowel like antennae,
I shoved the contraption into the hole in the plate as
far as it would go, and turned on the drill. At 1200
rpm, the ends of the wire whipped out centrifugally,.
lashing around inside the wall and entangling the
weighted string left dangling from the bell-push hole.
When I pulled the drill back through the hole in the

Cookiesheet rests on brackets,

\ discarded galvanized-
steel ducts, both sides i

Caulkingan undermount
sink in place
I needed to affix a stainless-steelundermount sink to a
granite counter that was already installed on its cabinet
bases.One of the problems presented by the situation was
how to get a good silicone-caulk seal between the underside
of the counter and the rim of the sink. Rather than rely on a
bunch of braces and shims to wedge the sink in place, I used
rope and a couple of wood blocks.
As shown in the drawing below,I placed a wood cross
brace over each bowl of the sink. Then I threaded a length Pipe-solderingblast shield
of small-diameter rope through a hole in each brace and
Anybody who has ever sweat-soldered copper
through the drain holes. On the underside of the sink, the
pipes at close quarters in a wooden house knows
rope runs through a wood block under each drain tailpiece.
the feeling: The torch flame dances around the fit-
After running a bead of silicone around the rim of the sink,
ting, glancing off an old floor joist, and some wood
I rotated each block, short-
smoke fills the air. Will this solder ever meltl
ening the ropes and drawing
I don't take any chances when it comes to solder-
the sink upward with even
ing in a wooden building. I keep an extinguisher
pressure exerted around the
on hand, and even more important,I don't let the
entire rim. The resulting
flame get anywhere near something flammable.
joint is so strong it almost
As shown in the drawing above, I use a pair of
makes the mechanical fas-
brackets to support an old cookie sheet when I'm
teners redundant.
Wood crossbraces working overhead. The cookie sheetshields the
_ A N D R E WS H E P P A R D
ceiling, the brackets protect the joists, and the sol-
der can melt whenever it wants without me wor-
rying about it.
s i l ,(

Wood block cRoss

Rotate blocks to raise sink.

Through-wallpipe couplings Couplingsat both ends

Running pipe or conduit through a This unit will fit snugly between the
poured-concrete foundation wall with no forms, and it can be wired to the rebar
gaps to patch and without cutring holes in and spreaders at the top of the forms to
the forms sounds too good to be true, until stay in place during the pour. When the
you've tried this trick. Cut a piece of the forms are pulled awa\tyou have a cou-
pipe you need, and attach couplings to both pling embedded on each side, flush
ends so that the total length of pipe plus with the wall and ready for another
couplings exactly matches the thickness of length of pipe.
your wall, as shown in the drawing. - D . A . F L E U R yC u r l e wW
, ash.

Photo this page:Tom O'Brien

Plumbing (continued) %-in. handle alsofundions
Trimming pipes in place asa.depthstop. ^
As I setthe plasticshowerpan into its mortar
bed,I sawthe problem.The drainpipewas% in.
Seal a drain penetration too long, the pipe wasglued in place,and the
in a foundation wall plumber was long gone.Becausethe clearance
I've been searching for a better way around the drainpipeamountedto no more than
to seal the gap around a drainpipe about % in. on eachside,no saw of mine would
where it exits a foundation wall. be ableto trim the drain below the surfaceof the
The standard technique that most showerpan.
builders in my area use is to pack To solvethe problem of
the gap with mortar or hydraulic cutting the pipe,I madea
cement. But lately, plumbing tubing cutter that works 2-in. drywall-screwcutter
inspectors have been frowning on from the insideof the
Twist handleto cut pipe
this practice becauseany shift in the pipe.For a cutter,I useda from inside.
soil during frost cycles can crack a drywall screw.As shown
rigidly installed pipe.
Instead of mortar,I now use low-
expansion urethane foam to fill the
in the drawing above,I
ran a 2-in. drvwall screw
through a small block of wood. To this pieceof
gap around the pipe. This is the wood,I affixed a small handle,which alsofunc-
tioned asa depth stop.In use,the handle rests
Foundationwall atop the end of the pipe.Then I turned the device
Hole in foundation with the point of the drywall screwbearing
againstthe insidesurfaceof the pipe. After a few \
turns, I pulled out the cutter and setthe screwa
S o i ll i n e
little deeper.In no time,I'd cut through the pipe. )
-WALTERGORRPittsburgh, Pa.

Roof vent-
Cutting plastic pipe
foam While on one of my daily inspectiontours of the job site,I saw out of the cornerof
tar my eyea plumber doing what looked like an aerobicexercisewhile standingshoulder
deepin a narrow ditch. With sweatrunning down his face,he was rapidly pulling back
same stuff I use to seal cracks and and forth on a pieceof nylon mason'sline. When I askedhim what he was doing, he
crevices throughout the house to gaveme one of thoseyou-ignorant-dweeblooks and repliedthat he was cutting a piece
reduce air leaks. Once the foam of 4-in. ABS plasticdrainpipe.
has cured,I apply a layer of roof Sureenough,he just had made a perfectlystraightcut through the pieceof pipe.The
cement to the outside of the wall. pipe was almosttotally buried in the narrow ditch, in a positionthat would havebeen
This is the thick stuff, the kind of tough to reachwith evena reciprocalsaw.The plumber
roof cement that you spread with had threadedthe line under the pipe,asshown
a trowel. Then I slip a roof vent- in the drawing. Then he useda quick saw-
stack flashing over the pipe and bed ing motion to cut-maybe burn is a better
the flashing in a %-in.-thick layer lsyrn-ths pipe in half. The trick to doing
of roof tar.I lap the tar over the it right is to useenoughline so that you can
edges of the flashing to promote a make long passes, pumping back and forth,
better seal. or up and down asthe casemay be.Don't
At backfill time, care must be stop,or the line will seizein the melted kerf. 4I ' ) A
taken to prevent damage to the It turns out that mason'sline will cut ABS
Plast \
flashing. This extra care has pre- and PVC pipe,schedule40 or 80.The method Nylon
Pipe. mason's
sented no problems, and I've had is equally usefulfor flush-cuttinga pipe
great luck with the results. where it emergesfrom a wall or a slab.
_ M I K EG U E R T I N _ C R A I GS A V A G E \:
EastGreenwich,R.l. Carpinteria,Calif.

12-in.frostproof sill cocks
Freezeproofinga garage sink
Every shop needs a slop sink, so I decided to install one in my attached
garage workshop. BecauseI live in a cold climate and wanted to use the
sink year-round, frost protection was mandatory.My solution was to
locate a plastic laundry sink on the wall shared with the house and to use
frostproof sill cocks for the hot and cold water supplies. These valves Hot and cold
normally are used for outdoor faucets and are available in both 8-in. supplylines
and l2-in. lengths. The supply lines run up from the basement inside
the shared wall, protected from the cold by the warm interior of the
house and its insulation.
The tailpiece from the sinkt drain takes a 90o turn by way of a lVz-in.
horizontal PVC drainpipe, which penetrates the rim joist before joining
a P-trap in the basement. Putting the P-trap in the basement keeps its
contents frorn fr eezing.
To building
Whether it be for washing paintbrushes or just for scrubbing my dirty drain
hands, the slop sink has been a satisfying addition to the workshop.
- K A R L J U U L G l e n m o n tN, . Y . Garage

LeakingPVCwater pipe
1. Cut coupling in half. Drilling holes in EPS
I neededto drill an 8-ft.-longhole in the EPS (foam)
coreof a stress-skinpanelin order to installa vent pipe

for a kitchen sink. I don't know of any off-the-shelfbits
or hole sawsdesignedfor a task like this, so I made my
own, using a pieceof the samepipe that would end up in
the hole.With my coping saw,I cut teethin the end of a
2. Cutsection away pieceof ABS pipe. A coworker useda Surform planeto
from halved coupling.
sharpenthe teeth.
3. Coat with glue, I mounted the other end of the 2-in. pipe in a
then snap modified 2%-in.-dia.hole saw.It fit perfectly.Three drywall
coupling onto pipe
and slide against leak. screwsthrough the slotsin the sideof the hole saw
securedthe ABS. Presto!I had a holesaw 8 ft.long
PVC-pipepatch attachedto my Yz-in.Hole Hawg drill. It easilycut a hole
To fix a leaking joint in a PVCwater-supplyline, I start by cut- in the foam that was the exact sizel needed.
ting a coupling in half, making sure to remove the stop in the -JlM FRANDEENSoquelC
, alif.
middle. I then cut one of the halvesin two. The ratio should
be about 600loto 40o/o,with the larger piece just big enough Screws
Hole saw
not to break as it is pushed onto the pipe like a C-clip.
I shut off the water and drain the line to let the joint dry out.
Then I apply multipurpose glue, made for ABS and PVCpipe, cutting teeth
to both the pipe joint and the patch. With the factory-edge (
side of the modified coupling toward the leak, I snap the \
patch over the pipe and slide it hard against the leaky joint.
Some glue should squeezeout. Let it dry overnight, and the
water line is readyfor use. -BRUCECALDERWOOD viaemail



Shinglecut table Roof sheathing

On a recent roofing job, my brother askedme to
cut severalbundlesof shinglesinto starterstrips Waterproof membrane
to usealong the eaveand rake edges.As shown in
the drawing below,I made a simplecut tableby
Drip edge
nailing a lx3 along the bottom edgeof a
3-ft. scrapof 3A-in.orientedstrandboard (OSB).By
settingthe cut tableon a pair of sawhorses,Icould
work with it at a comfortableheight. A lx4 prop
on the undersidetilted the table to a better position, Membrane
covers gaP.
and I cut a 3-ft.-long by 7-in.-widestrip of %-in.
OSB asa rip guide for cutting shingles.
I seta pile of inverted shinglesagainstthe lx3 tt',
stop.Then I adjusted the blade on my utiliry knife \..
so that it just scribedthe surfaceof one shingle "\
when I ran it along the 7-in. guide. I was done
cutting the startersin half the time it ordinarily
-I found other
shingle-cutting uses
for the table,too. By
resting al2-in. trian-
gular framing square
(sometimescalleda Fascia
SpeedSquare)against strips
the stop,I could
make accurate
repetitivecrosscuts 7-in. lce-dam prevention
rip guide
for rake startersor The drawing aboveshowshow to modify the typical roof-edgedetail
trim shinglesfor end- 1x3 stop to sealthe gap betweenthe fasciaand the roof sheathingfrom ice ,
ing coursesat walls. 1x4 prop dams. I run waterproof membrane a couple of inchesdown the fascia
_ B R U C EG U E R T I N to a point below the top of the gutters. Becausewaterproof membranes
Z-ft. by 3-ft. scrap
Coventry,R.l. of plywood or OSB aren't rated for exposureto sunlight,I coverthe membrane'with a
pieceof flashing that runs from the edgeof the roof sheathingto the
middle of the fascia.With this detail, ice buildups forming up from
the gutter might get under the drip edge,but they can't get through
the gap. C H U C KG R E E NA s h l a n dM
, ass.

FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings, cxccpt whcre notcd: Charlcs Millcr. Photo this page: Roe A. Osborn.
Start first course with nailsonly

Asphalt-shing le reroofing
Have you ever noticed the wavy pattern
course under on a roof with two layers of asphalt or
this row. fiberglassshingles?This is due to the
uneventhicknessof the shingleswhere
they overlap,which can create as many
as six thicknesses.
To prevent shinglebuildup on the typi-
cal 5-in. exposure roof, trim the first row
of new shinglesto 5 in. and the second
row to 10 in., and butt them againstthe
Second starting coursebegins bottom edge of the old coursesabove.
an equal numberof exposures
below the first row of shingles.
Theseshingleswill work as spacersthat
Shinglingfrom the top down allow the new roof to start a different
A lot of people think I'm kidding when courses from the eave, as defined by the overlap pattern that missesthe old
I sing the praises of shingling a house shingle exposure. Now nail your first bumps,with a 3-in. exposureon the first
from the ridge down. Quite to the course of shingles with the lower edges row and a normal 5-in. exposurefrom
contrary, shingling a roof from the top following the line, but tacked along there on. This method lets you butt the
down (we're talking asphalt shingles the top only. Shingle upward from this new shinglesagainstthe bottoms of the
here) can be faster than going from the course to the ridge in normal fashion. old. First,though, make sure the cours-
eavesup, and it always gives a better Move your staging down, if need be, es on the old roof are straight.
roof. For example, starting at the ridge and snap another line an exact number Your new roof now will lie flat.
and working down savesyou from of courses below your first one, again -JACK McGHIE TucsonA
, riz.
walking over the materials you just within a comfortable reach. As you
applied. On a hot day, the wear and tear Originalroof
prepare to nail down this second srarter
on an asphalt roof can be considerable. course, don't forget to start with a full
On roofs requiring staging, you can tab or a half tab at the rake, depending nias"r@
fasten the duckboards and scaffold sup- on whether you have an odd or even
ports directly to the deck without special number of courses to lay. Shingle ==F
brackets. They'll also be convenient ro upward to the initial starting course, THE WRONG WAY
remove on your way down, without fear which you will lift out of your way to
of damaging the roof. allow the lower course to tuck under
In reroofing, there is an additional it. With the lower course safely nailed
advantage: Becausedebris slides down in place, you can nail the initial srarter
over only the old roof, you can redo only course of shingles in the normal fashion.
as many courses at a time as you feel Repeat this sequenceas often as neces-
comfortable removing. sary to reach the eave. This technique is
The trick is to have several starter simpler to do than it is to describe, and
courses and initially to nail these shin- in my experience, this method becomes
gles at the top only. As shown in the part of the permanent repertoire of all
drawing abbve, snap a line below the who try it.
ridge that gives you a comfortable reach. E M A N U E JLA N N A S C H
The line should be an exact number of Halifax,N.S.,Canada

Photo this page:Bill Phillips

ROOfing (continued)

Removinga damaged shingle

Someroof repairs-nail pops,for example-require replac-
ing singleshingles.Removing the damagedshingle without
damaging the surrounding shinglesis the tricky part. This
processis bestdone while shinglesare cool enough not to
melt underfoot and warm enough not to crack. In the sum-
mer,I handlethis part of the repair before8 a.m. In the win-
ter, I do only emergencyrepairs.
1 First, break the bond createdby the seal-downstrips
below and on the two coursesabove
the shingleyou want to remove.This
stepmay'bedifficult with somenewer
laminatedshingles:A 5O-yearshingle
with a 110-mphwind warranty has
an aggressiveadhesivebond. In these
cases,Icut the adhesivestrip with a
pry bar.
2 With the bondsbroken,I can
removethe four nails holding the
3 Before I remove the shingle,
though,I haveto removefour more
nails driven through the courseabove.
4 Now I can pull out the damagedshingle,slip in a new
shingle,and renail all the loosenedshingles.
When refasteningshingles,don't pur new nails in the old nail
holes;they'll pop right out. Insread,nail nexr ro the holes,and A few yearsago at a cedar-shinglemanufactur-
put a dab of sealantover the old holes.While your caulk gun er'sseminar,the local rep showeda film of a real
is handy, sealdown all the loosenedshingle tabswith a dab professionalinstallingshingles.This guy was
of sealant. - S T E P H E N H A Z L E T TA k r o n O
, hio nailing so fast that the entire room burst out
laughing.Roofing is only part of my repertoire,
and that levelof skill isn't in the cardsfor me.
Exposureplus 1 in. When I do install wood shingles,Isetthe
coursesto a pencil line that I mark using a simple
guide made out of a 4-ft. to 5-ft. length of %-in.
plywood. To make the guide,I rip the plywood
to a width equal to the exposureof the shingles,
plus I in. I affix l-in.-wide,4-in.Jong,Vz-in.-
thick stopblocksto the undersideof the plywood
at eachend asshown in the drawing at left.
I positionthe guide so that the stopblockscatch
the butts of the previouscourseof shingles,and
I draw a line along the top of the guide to locate
the butts of the next course.Next,I move the .
guide up,lay its bottom edgealong this line, and
mark anotherline along the top of the guide. Of
course,the shinglescoverthis line asthey'relaid
Markingguide down, but the guide providesa referenceline for
nailing on the leadingedge.As a control,I snapa
chalkline everyfew courses.
1 - i n . - w i d se t o p b l o c k , 4 i n .
long by % in. thick
-ARNE WALDSTETN GreatBarrington,

88 FINE HOMEBUILDING Photos this page: Daniel S. Morrison

S h i n g l eh o l d e r
Roofswith a 5-in-12to a 7-in-12pitch can be walked, but shingles
awaiting installationtend to slide.To keep shingleswithin reachasthey
are installed,I usea shingleholder made up of a strip of lx4 about 8 ft.
long and a2x4 block and two 4x4blocks,3r/zin.long.
Attach the blocksto the strip by nails driven through the back of the
lx4. A 40-in. spacebetweenthe blocksaccommodates either 36-in.or
lm shingles.At the top of the 1x4,I drilled aVz-in.-dia.hole,which I
thread over a roofing nail driven halfway into the roof. I placethis nail
just abovethe top of the groove
of the shingleI've already
Holder is
securedby a installedin the previous Wire
partially driven Shinglesrest on course.When I move hook
roofing nail. 4x4 blocks.
--\.:i the shingleholder,I
just pound in that nail Centerline
of holes
all the way, and the
next courseoverlapsit, half of double
,.... -JOHN
rr':.. CARROLL covera9e
: "' Durham,N.C.


-- ,/' a

Stripping the old shinglesoff a houseis a messyjob by any- Length
body's standards.The accumulatedpiecesof cedar or asphalt equals half
of double
tend to rain down around the house,often damagingfragile coverage.
Wire hook
landscaping.To prevent this problem, I use a sheet of 6-mil made of 1O-ga.
poly to act as a combinationprotective barrier and tarpaulin,as copper wire
shown in the drawing below. I staple the poly to the top piece
of a 2x4 frame, making sure
that the top edge of the Slate-roof repair
poly is doubled and The drawing above showsmy method for
wrapped around replacinga broken roof slatewithout
the horizontal 2x4. exposed wire.
This arrangement After removingthe broken slate, drill a pair
savesa lot of of holes in the new slate.The distancefrom
cleanuptime the bottom edge of the slate to the center-
and leavesmy line of the holes equalsthe exposureof the
clientssmiling. slate plus half its double coverage(that por-
-CHAR LIE tion of the course where three slates over-
WOODHOUSE lap one another).The bent ends of a 1O-ga.
Kensington, Calif. copper-wirehook passthrough the holes.
The rest of the wire hook passesunder the
replacementslate and hangson the top edge
of the slate directly beneath it.
-R A N D Y E . ME D LINLaurinburN.

G R E A TB U I L D I N G T I P S 2 0 0 6
A site-madesaw guide
for cutting vinyl
Cutting vinyl soffit and siding marerial can
1 x s h i p l a ps i d i n g 2 be done quickly and accurately with a saw
Kert marks guide.I usually have a commercially avail-
cutline. ) able guide on site. Once in a while, though,
it goes missing, and I have to improvise.
In one such instance,I noticed a few
scraps of 1x6 shiplap siding on the burn pile.
a-- As shown in the drawingr l cut two pieces

V.inylsoffit or 33 in. long and, with their rabbeted edges

-----? facing one another,laid them upside down
atop a couple of 2x6s. With the 1x6 pieces
set at a distance equal to the width of my
saw's base,I screwed them to the 2x6s. This
setup made a nifty little slide guide for cut-
ting vinyl siding or squaring lx or 2x stock.
The sawkerf in the far 2x6 indicares rhe
S5w base rides cutline. In the near 2x6,a nail acts as a
siding rabbets. safety stop to keep the saw from acciden-
tally backing out of the guide.
safety stop

Clean cornersfor manufacturedsiding ShingleTLC

I've been installing a lot of nonwood siding over the past few years, such as cement- I had to replace windows in a 30-year-old
based and hardboard lap siding. To complement their clean look, I've taken to house that was covered with cedar shingles,
installing custom-made steel corners. As shown in the drawing below, the corners and try as I might,I found it impossible not
have flanges that are nailed to the wall and act as integral flashings in caseany to scar some of the shingles with my ladder.
moisture gets behind the siding. The siding abuts the projecting corner of the metal Also,I had to remove some shingles to trim
trim details. them, which further damaged their faces.
A local metal shop makes the corners from steel gutter stock. This material is After thinking about the problem,I
i-nexpensiveand comes in brown, white, or primer. The steel corners hold paint decided to try reviving the shingles with
beautifully. Before I started using these corners,I used cedar corner boards. They a very soft wire brush. I brushed with the
would shrink eventually,leaving a cracked caulk joint. With steel corners, rhar grain, starting at the top and working
problem is a thing of the past. down. I first tried a small spot in an unob-
R I C H A R DD A R B YM e r l i nO
, re. trusive place and found that the shingles
had a nap like suede or velvet. Brushing
1 in. rr, rr t
with the grain pushed all the fibers back
into the grain lines that emerge as the
shingles weather with age.I brushed all the
shingles around each window about a foot
out from the casings,and then I spraysd
them lightly with a hose to clean the wall.
of fine particles. When everything dried,
evidence that any work had been done was
1 - i n .f o l d s barelynoticeable.
Doylestown, Pa.
Insidecorner Outside corner
Outside corner Insidecorner at bay window at bay window


Scribing curved clapboard ends

I had to apply clapboardsto the side of a garage that has
arched doors, which meant that I had to cut the ends of the
clapboardsto match the changingarc of the trim around the
doors. I think the method I came up with to mark the curve
worked out better than the typical scribing technique. As shown
in the drawing, I cut a piece of scrap sheet metal into a strip
about 8 in. long and % in.
wider than the curvedtrim.
I laid the metal tight against Finishingnails
the trim and held it with a few
finishingnails.Then I rubbed
a pencil along the edge of the
metal, held a clapboardagainst
it, and pressedfirmly. The back
Tar-papersplinesensure a
of the clapboardnow had a leakproof joint
perfectly curved cutline to fol- Placedunder each butt joint and at the
low with my jigsaw. windows,the splineslap the lower course
_RICK BOISVERT by th in. and guide any water that enters
North Dartmouth, Mass. the joint to the outside of the clapboards.
-MIK E GU E R TIN E astGreenwich,
R. l.

Gang-cuttingangled clapboards 4-in' exPosure

The next time you're cutting clapboardsthat run from a vertical window First, find the p-Roof angle
or sidewallto a rake board, try this trick. Cut the roof angle on one end exposure with
a square.
of five clapboards(l stack them and cut them all at once with an 8%-in.
While the points of the clapboardsstill are lined up, slide a squarealong
the bottom edge of the top clapboard.As shown in the drawing, align the
Markthe bottom
-exposuremark (in this case4 in.) with the edge of the clapboardend. edge of the top
Now, mark the edge of the top clapboard,flip the square,and extend the clapboard.
mark acrossall the clapboards.Slide the boards so that the pointed ends
line up with the marksabove them, as shown in the drawing. Measurethe
first clapboard,and you're
ready to make the cut (l
Problem:Lay out and
gang-cut the clapboards suggesta 1O-in.power
between the window miter saw for this).
and the rake board. Rake board
After about 15 clap-
boards, it's a good Next, extend the mark
across all the clapboards.
idea to remeasure
becauseerrors have
a tendency to -*t4fif \..
accumulate. 4t:.-47--
'z'Z::V ,
Barrington, N.H. Now, spread the boards so

Photo this page: Andy Engel GREAT BUILDING TIPS 2006

Siding (continued)

When wood-shinglinga roof or a sidewall,keepinga readysupplyof shingles
closeat hand can be a problem.The simple shelfshown herecan be secured
by tucking the taperedtab under an alreadynailed courseof shingles.In this
way, shinglescan be kept convenientlyclose
to the height at which you are working, 2 i n .t o 3 i n .
insteadof down by your feeton the stag-
ing. A bunch of theseshelvescan be made
from rejectedshinglesand scrapsof lx6s or Taper shinglefor
lx8s. Cutting the top cornersoff the shingle easy insertion
under installed
shelfmakesit easyto slip under courses.
-K EN D A L LGtF F o R DP u tn eV
y ,t.

3d shinglenails


Solo housewrapping Hanging clapboardsby yourself

Carpentersend up doing a lot of four-handed oper- With several site-made
ations with only two hands. Here's how I use a stick Deck screws
hangerslike the one in with finishing
and a C-clampto install housewrap by myself. Typi- washers
the drawing at right, I can
cally,one person staples the housewrapto the wall handle unwieldylengthsof
while another penion stays out front, unrolling the
clapboard by myself. Check
roll and keeping the housewrapsmooth and level. I attach the hangersverti- joint l6talled
In this case,the other person is a 1x3 with a small here. clapboard
cally on the wall, aligning
crossbarto act as a shelf for the roll of housewrap. the marks with the bottom
I clamp the shelf at a point that correspondsto the
edges of the last course of
bottom of the housewrapwith the 1x3 resting on clapboards.Two short deck
the ground and leaning
screwsrun through finishing
againstthe wall. Z-in.
washerswill keep a hanger
To use the setup, I overlap
from pivoting and jamming
unroll a couple of feet to
as I position a clapboard on Cedarshingles
staft. Then lstaple it in with 1-in. offset
the house.
place,unroll about 15 ft., Alignmentmark
I install a clapboard from
and lean the rig against
below, lifting it until the bottom of the clapboard reaches
the wall. I use lumber
the lip formed by the butt of the bottom shingle. At that
offcuts to prop up the point, the springinessof the shinglepops the hanger
thing when I hit some low '.
under the clapboard,holding it in place. Now l'm free to
spots. The 54-in. rolls of
slide the clapboardas needed to determine cut marks.To
housewrapare ideal for
remove a clapboard, ljust give it an outward twist at the
solo work.
top edge. This springsthe shingleaway from the wall,
allowing me to drop the clapboardout of the hangerfrom
Garfield Heights, Ohio
any distanceon the wall.
1x shelfset to -CHRIS E L L I S B r e w s t e r ,M a s s .

FINE HOMEBUILDING Photo this page:Randy O'Rourke

S p l i n e ds i d i n g Birdhousevent box
I sheathedmy workshop with 1x6boardsjoined I often remodel or add on to
with galvanizedsplines.This method gets older wood-clapboardhouses.
the most out of the width of a board. For the When I'm facedwith unsightly
splines,Iused2-in.-widegalvanizedsteel,com- holesin the walls,suchasthe
monly usedto strap togethershipmentsof bulky dryer vent pictured here,I
goods(thin stripsof nylon or plasticalsocould offer to concealthem with this
be used).My wall framing consistsof 4x4son simplebit of craftsmanship.The
"birdhouse"is made from scrap 7 o$r-*nt holehasbeencut
clapboardsand trim stock,takes in clapboardsiding.
2-in. galvanized-
steel spline little time to fabricate,and really
impressesclients. 4

I positionit sothat the roof

nestlesdirecdy under a clap-
board or flashit with a thin strip
of copperif needed,then sizethe
1 x 6s i d i n g box to allow the vent flap to
open,or whateverelseI'm cov-
ering to function. The sidesare
trim stock,5/4 cedarin this case,
scribedto the profile of the clap- 2 hstatlvent flap.
8-ft. centers,with platesat top and bottom and boards.The roof is a clapboard
a midrail. I ran eachpieceof siding over my sizedappropriately,and the 3 Scribe
tablesawto cut a l-in.-deep kerf in eachedge. front is clapboardswith half birdhouse sides
to clapboard
Once I had a board in place,I inserteda full- the revealof the wall they're profile.
length splinein the kerf. The neighboring board mounted on. Hidden cedar
acceptsthe protruding spline.I kept nailsaway cleatsare usedfor attachment.
from the splinesand left a little play between These boxesnot only solve
adjacentboardsto allow for wood expansion. little problemsbut alsoare a lot
-J O NATHAN DAVI ES Queensland, Australia of fun to build.
-ED W E B E R L o c u s t v i l l eV, a .

Guide shingle


4 etti" cleats above

Router-scribedshingles and to sides of vent flap.

f've seena number of tips for cutting outside

cornerson shingledwalls,but none is assimple
or asfoolproof as the method shown in the
drawing above.As illustrated,I usea bearing-
guided flush-trimming bit in a small router to 5 rri^ birdhouse
trim the overlapping shingle asthe bearing fol- sidesto scribe
lows the profile of the guide shingle.
5 Afirsides and top to cleats. Finishwith
Atascadero,Calif. siding scraps. Leave bottom open.

--\ .,rt'
Roof sheathing
Blocking for crown

Marking a squarecut on a round column

Recently,I had to cut an 8-in.-dia. wood column to length.
Becausethe column was too big for my miter box and
needed to be cut exactly square,I mulled over my options.
A colleague recommended using a piece of rosin paper
to encircle the column at the required length. When the
edges of the paper were aligned,I marked my cut and
used a jigsaw to lop off the unwanted portion of the col-
umn. Note in the section of the column how I angled the
jigsaw a'bit to create a slight back cut, ensuring a tight fit Rafter tail Soffit nailerblock
where the column sits on its base. Soffit Bedmolding
- P A T R I C KA . M o L Z A H NO r e g o n , W i s . Spacerblockson
Frieze //
8 - i n . - d i a .w o o d c o l u m n
Corrugatedvent strip
Circulating air ---------v Z
Sidingtucts --//
behind frieze.

Framedand sheathedwall

Stealth venting for a traditional boxed eave

Ordinary strip or button-type soffit venrs can ruin the look of a
complex eave detail, such as the one shown above. Instead,I hold
the frieze board off the wall sheathing with spacer blocks; a hid-
den vent strip allows air to enter and circulate into the rafter bays.
Special blocking attached to the rafter tails provides nailing for the
Column section inside edge of the soffit and for the flat crown molding.
- R O B E R T W E A T H E R A LlLp s w i c hM, a s s .

Even with two people,it can be pretty I tack one jig near each end of the
precariousout thereon the end of a fascia, driving the nails just far enough
rafter,strainingto supporta heavyfas- to support the fascia. Then I lower the
cia board with one hand while trying fascia into the slots in the jigs (cut the
to line up a mitered cornerand sink.a slots a little oversize to prevent binding).
galvanized16dnail with the other hand. The jigs hold the fascia in approximately
With the help of a simple jig, one person the right place while I adjust it for align-
can do it comfortably. ment and nail it in place.
- N E A L B A H R M A NV e n t u r aC, a l i f ,

FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawing top right: Rick Daskam

Plastic container with lid keeps Zero-maintenance
primer from drying out. crown molding
I recently enclosed the porch on our
house, and in doing so,I needed a
\._ crown molding for the gable-end
bargeboards. I didn't have to look far.
By ripping some lengths of alumi-
num gutter, as shown in the drawing
below,I was able to fashion'inexpen-
sive, zero-maintenance crown mold-
ings that match the gutrers. I ripped
Prime end-grain
smaller container. the gutter into two portions,leaving a
cuts during

Extend the life of exterior trim

1. Ril
by priming the end-graincuts Save this
For maximum durability,I back- for drip
on it. A paint pad also lives in the con-
prime exterior components such as tainer, resting in a smaller plastic box ("'
fascia boards wirh 100% acrylic primer. to keep the pad's handle out of the pool |
But what about the ends of these
boardsl If they also are primed and
caulked together, end-grain splices
will last over the long haul. Withour
priming, end-grain cuts will soak up
of primer.
Now when the carpenters are run-
ning exterior trim, they can easily
swab the ends of the boards with a
pass from the paint pad (a paint pad
2. Fold flap
upward. 3. Drill nail holes
moisture quickly and begin ro rot. on 12-in.centers.
is much faster than a brush because
The problem is rhar end-grain cuts it carries more paint). I used this
can't be painted until they are cut and technique on the last spec house that
Roof sheathing
fitted by the carpenrers. I built, and it worked grear. The car-
Priming boards can be a potential penters billed me for only a couple of
headache for carpenters, so I devised a extra hours of work becausepriming
simple system to make the processgo the end-grain cuts barely made a dent
as smoothly as possible. As shown in in their speed.
the drawing above, I keep the primer _ B Y R O NP A P A
in a clear plastic container with a lid Durham,N.C.

1 - i n .a l u m i n u m n a i l
Caulk Caulkneeds help to Aluminumfascia
Trim board stay flexible
Caulk that is allowed to bond

to all sides of a joint cannot
expand and contract without
l-in.-wide flap on rhe crown-molding
pieces.I bent this flap by hand over
a piece of Vz-in. stock. Then I drilled
Caulk becoming unstuck. A foam through this folded edge on l2-in.
backer rod enables caulk to centers for nails. The rest of the gut-
Trim board behave like an accordion in terl I'll use it for drip edges on my
responseto seasonalexpansion
next project.
and contraction. _JACKMURPHY
_ J O H N M I C H A E LD A V I S
New Orleans

Drawing bottom left: Christopher Clapp

G R E A TB U I L D I N G T I P S 2 0 0 6 95
1. Clampjig to Mark here 2. Router with
stringer. for top bearing-guided :\
A fast, accurate way to make of next bit follows slot
contour, cutting
mortised stairs Guide cleats, tread mortise.
both sides
The typical approach to stair-building is to cut
bird's-mouth notches in a pair of stringers, then
affix the treads to the tops of the bird's mouths.
Room for router to
Cutting mortises in the sidesof the stringers to maneuverwithin
Guide slot {or mortise
acceptthe treads is far stronger, so I devised a jig dotted lines
equals depth of treads.
to lay out and cut mortised stringers quickly.
First, lay out the stair's rise and run on a piece
of Yz-in.plywood. The plywood (1) should be big
enough to work as both a router template and as 3. Cut treads to equal 4. Secure treads
lengths, and snug with three corrosion-
a layout tool for the next mortise. them together resistant screws
Next, cut a slot in the plywood deep enough to with pipe clamps or nails.
or a block and
accommodate the depth of the treads. The slot's
width should equal the thickness of the treads,
plus a bit of wiggle room. Align the plywood iig
on the stringer, and affix a pair of guide cleats to each side of the
jig. The cleats register the jig on the stringer and give you purchase
to clamp the jig. Clamp the jig to the stringer, and use a router with
a bearing-guided bit to cut a3/q-in.-deepmortise (2). Make more
than one passto cut the full depth. Before moving the jig, draw a clamps can come in handy at this point for drawing the opposing
line acrossits top edge to mark the edge of the next mortise. Cleats stringers toward one another. They should not be so snug that you
on both sideslet you flip the yig and rout the other stringer. have to pound things together, and not be so loose that the assembly
Cut all the treads to equal lengths (3). Set one end of the first will rack.
tread in the first mortise of one stringer. Bring the other stringer I prefer screwing the stringers to the treads (4) as insurance against
to it. and set the tread in its first mortise. Continue from one end the stringers'warping and pulling the nails out of the end grain.
to the other, getting all the treads started in their mortises. Pipe - R I C H A R D W A S HB U R NP e n o b s c oMt .a i n e

Stable stringersand an accuratelayout

A few years ago,I read a Fine Homebuilding article by a carpenter who laminated 3/q-rn.
plywood for stringer stock because2x stock tends to shrink, which makes treads sag.It
occurred to me that an LVL (laminated-veneer lumber) would be even better. Although
LVL stringers remain stable, LVLs aren't always straight, so check for crown before lay-
ing them out. LVLs come in standard l3/c-in.thickness, in standard widths, and in almost
any length.
LVLs cost more than 2x stock, so be extra sure of your layout before cutting. I prefer
to use locking pliers with a framing square when marking the layout becausethey have
more surface riding on the stringer stock and are more accurate than stair-gauge stops.
Also, they're easierto find in your toolbox. - J O H N S P I E R B l o c kl s l a n d R
, .l.

Anchor-bolt clamps
Sx-in. upper anchorbolts hook
through sidesof 2x4s. To build a circular staircaseon site,I needed about 100 clamps.
C-clamps were too slow to install and tighten, too valuable to leave
on a job site, and too heavy to lug around, so I devised two kinds of
s/e-in. 2x rem clamps that use Yz-in. anchor bolts and 2x framing lumber.
hole jaw To laminate a stringer, I start by laying out the stair plan on the
subfloor. Then I make a bending form by securingZx4s to the lay-
out lines. The 2x4s become part of the clamp. The top of each remov-
able jaw is secured to its 2x4 with a 6-in. anchor bolt. The bolt's hook
va> Balcony
subfloor fits througha%-in. hole in the side of the 2x4;aspacer block of suit-
Laminated able thickness takes up the bolt's unthreaded portion. The bottom
Eight-in.bottom frame of the jaw is secured to the form by an 8-in. anchor bolt through the
anchorbolts run 2x4.In use,I insert the top bolt first, snug it to keep the assembly
through 2x4s.
Handrail together, then run the bottom bolt through. I use an electric impact
Plywoodgusset clamps wrench with a deep socket to tighten and remove the nuts quickly.
screwedto For handrails,I use a seriesof clamp brackets, as shown in the
2x4 bending form subfloor
drawing. Here, they are screwed to a balcony subfloor to laminate
a simple curved handrail, but they also can be affixed to stair treads
to laminate spiral handrails. -ROBERT J. DICK Lovettsville,Va.

Strengtheningthe rough
Stair-stringer stress relief stringer's first step with
Experience has taught me to cut stringers out of 2x stock carefully. If glued and nailedplywood Roughstringer
gussetsensuresthat the \
the sawcut goes even a litde bit beyond the intersection of the rise and stringerwon't break
run, it can create a weak spot that either can weaken the stringer or can
cause one of the ears that support the treads to fall off if it's bumped
across the weak
diagonalgrain. it r' ii
li ,/ il
during installation. The drawing below shows how I avoid the problem. //" L'1'

After marking the layout for rise and run,I bore Yz-in.-dia. keyholes Plywood
where the backs of the treads and the bottoms of the risers are ro meer. gusset
Then I use a circular saw to make the bulk of the cuts, stopping short
of theholes and finishing the cuts with a jigsaw.
The keyholes provide stressrelief, minimizing the Finish cutouts,
chances of a sawcut-induced crack weakening the taking care not
to overcut.
stringers. I've been using this technique for the
past 12 or so years, and the method hasn't failed
2x4 cleat
West Roxbury Mass.

Reinforcingthe first step

Bore 1/z-in.-dia. '.
The bottom of a stringer can be weakened if you have
holesat inside
intersection of w, to cut the first step shorter rhan the unit rise to allow
riseand run. ',!,1 for tread thickness (usually I in.)and if the stringer is
Lay out rise notched for a2x4 floor cleat. Becausethe wood wants to
and run in
split along the weak diagonal grain,I always beef up the
typical manner.
carriages by screwing and gluing a piece of plywood to
2x stair stringer
the sides.
- M I C H A E L v o r .D
r E C K B A R - F R A B B I ENLeEwO r l e a n s

Drawings, except where noted: Robert Goodfellow. Photos: Roe A. Osborn.
Drawings facing page,this pagetop and bottom left: Charles Miller.
Treads& Risers
Gauge measuresshim thickness
In many cases,stair stringers are built by the framing carpenter, I make a shim gauge out of a scrap of wood. I measure along both
who is long gone by the time you come along to make a silk purse out edgesof the shim and make marks every Vrcin. in thickness. I then
of an old sow's ear. Although many framers do a great job, it's in your color in every other segment with a marker. After I've got the gauge
best interest to build the rough stringers yourself,,or at least check made, I rip shims of different thicknesses and keep them on hand.
them with a level and rule before you bid on finishing the stairs. Some people use shingles as shims, but their tapered profile gives
them uneven bearing; the surface to be shimmed only hits the high
A tapered shimgauge, cut from point of the shingle.
a scrapof wood and calibrated To use the gauge,I simply slip it under the tread or behind the
by the 16th of an inch,makes riser (inset drawing at left) that needs shimming and tap it in until
a handy gauge for
determining shim the tread is level or the riser is plumb. I note the mark on the gauge,
thickness. remove the gauge, and replace it with one of my precut shims. Once
you have the shim in place, the difficult work is done. Then it's just
a matter of fastening the tread or riser to the stringer.
The whole processof shimming treads is slowed or voided if the
*\ center stringer is too high. When cutting my own stringers,I elimi-
Fill in with / nate the possibility by overcutting both the treads and risers of the
colored marker center stringer by %in. to3/sin. When I install the treads, I level
for easy and shim the two outside stringers. Then it is simply a matter of
gluing and screwing a lYz-in. cleat to the center carriage, which is
brought into contact with the finished tread. I use the same process
for the risers.
- M I C H A E L v o r . rD E C K B A R - F R A B B I E L E
New Orleans

Leveling across the width of Wood

Fitting stair treads a tread rs easier with a 10-in. level cut
Cobbled together out of scrap plywood, the jig shown in the Ievel cut from a larger level. to 10in.
Extension caps screwed
drawing below makes it easy to fit stair treads between a pair of to each end of the level
walls or skirtboards. To use the jig,loosen the wing nuts and lay accommodate cupped treads.
it acrossthe tread cuts of the stair stringers with its back tight
against the riser cuts. Then extend the legs so that they're snug

1/+in. by 1/+in. carriage bolts

against the walls
or skirtboards.
{ hffi
and tighten all the
nuts. Remove the
jig carefully, place
it onto the tread
stock, and scribe Cupped
the end cuts on the block
stock. When cut-
ting, leave just a
trace of the cutline
Extend legsfor a
snug fit againstwall
for a perfect fit. Shoftened level fits on tread
or skirtboard. _ROBERT
When leveling treads from front to back, it's handy to have a small
PLOURDE level. For years,I used a2-ft.level, but I was constantly knoiking it
Atlanta off the step becauseit hung off the end of the tread. I've also never
found a small bullet level that didn't seem like a toy. To solve the
problem,I cut down a larger wood level to 10 in. and screwed small
extension blocks of wood on the ends. The blocks extend past the
bottom of the level and give me an accurate read on cupped treads.
- M I C H A E L v o r ,D
r E C K B A R - F R AE
New Orleans

98 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawing bottom left: Charles Miller

Covering newel-post bolts
Sometimesthe only way to fastenthe newel post is to 1. Make plumb cut at end
of handrail.
anchorit to the stringer.Often, the bolt holesyou haveto F,:*,*
drill are at an angle other than squareto the faceof the l;

newel. Off-angle holescan be hard to plug, and when you Hidden handrail
do plug them, they usuallydon't look right. Insteadof connection
plugging holes,I saw %in. off the faceof the newel with a I recently needed to fasten
bandsaw,drill and install the bolts,and then glue the piece l*
a handrail to a wall and

over the holes.The bandsawlimits the lossof stock to didn't have room for a
about Ytzin.-hardly noticeable<r you can plane off rosette to secure the hand-
r/+in.and make a new faceplateto glue over the holes. rail becauseof the minimal
- M I C H A E L v o r ' rD E C K B A R - F R A B B I E L E clearance to the outside
New Orleans corner. So I devised an
invisible bolted connection
3. Lag-bolt
Cutting a 1/e-in. handrail through the rail into the
4. Conceal bolt
sliceoff the edge to wall wall framing. As shown in
Newel post framing.
of the newel with ,.u.,..1 the drawing, the lag bolt is
a bandsaw,and
gluing it back on hidden beneath a wedge-
after running in shaped cap taken off the
the bolts, covers
the holes and top of the handrail.
makesfor a neat, The first step is to make
finished look. the plumb cut on the end
of the handrail (1). But don't cut the handrail to length yet. Now
rotate the miter saw's table to make about a70" cut, and take off the
wedge-shaped cap that will cover the lag bolt (2). Thp. the cap back
onto the handrail so that it is flush with the radiused top of the rail.
The 1/a-in.
slice of Notice that it's a little short becauseof the material removed by the
newel is sawblade. Recut the end of the rail so that the cap and the rail end in
glued on.
a flush plumb cut.
Next, drill the necessaryholes to receive a lag bolt and washer, and
the shank hole (3). Cut the handrail to length, run home the bolt,
and glue the cap in place (4). Sanded and stained, the cap seam is
Lag bolts nearly invisible.

Circular-railcenter finder
For finding the centeron oval or round handrailsthat havebeen Modifying a
fit and either permanentlyor temporarily fastened,Imodified a markinggauge
easesthe process
marking gaugeby letting a levelvial into the gauget beamand of finding the
replacingthe metal scribewith a pencil held in placeby a wood center of a circular
or elliptical
wedge.An auxiliary fenceprovidesthe additional height that is handrail.
neededto compensatefor the increasedlength of the pencil.By
watching the levelvial,I can keep the beamhorizontal asI run the
gaugedown the length of the handrail,and I make a pencil line
along its bottom center.
On a similar note,I've found that one of the most usefultoolsfor Pencilwith
both shop work and work in the field is a regular marking gauge N wedge
\- replaces
with the metal scribereplacedwith a mechanicalpencil. metal
- M I C H A E L v o r . rD E C K B A R - F R A B B I E L E into beam scribe.
New Orleans

Drawing top right: Charles Miller GREAT BUILDING TIPS 2006 99

Railings (continued)
When laying out a handrail to drill holesfor balusters,I usea
plumb bob to get a verticalline from the marks I've laid our on rhe
Pinpoint stair-rail accuracy
treads.Rather than fiddling with the plumb bob'sstring length on
In my experience,the joints in the handrailare what people eachtread and waiting for the bob to stopswinging, I mark the
really scrutinize.They are easyto see,and if a misaligned string at the height of the front balusterand the rear one.When I go
joint doesn'tcatchyour eye,your hand eventuallywill find it
up to the next tread,all I haveto do is hold the line on the mark for
instead.Here'sa tip to help keep thosejoints betweenhandrail the particularbalusterlocationand hold it on the rail. The reference
sections,suchasthe intersectionbetweenthe easingand the marks mean I don't haveto fumble with string length.
rail, alignedproperly. Here'sanotherhint: I've found that using braidedstring,as
As shown in the drawing, I set two little brads into the opposedto the more common twisted-strandstring, helpsto keep
rail, then clip off their heads,leaving my plumb bob from spinning and swinging around when the bob is
pointed brad ends above hanging free. -MICHAEL von DECKBAR-FRABBTELE
New Orleans
the rail bolt. Now
when I draw the two Handrail sections
pieces together by
tightening the nut
on the rail bolt, the Marking the plumb
line with a felt-tip
handrail sections
pen makesa quick
won't twist. referencefor plumbing
Clippedbrads successivesets of
Ridgefield,Conn. Railbolt

Spindle-hole sizing gauge Mark

The diameter of the top, or thin end, of a tapered spindle can line with
decreaseas the spindle gets longer. Therefore, the hole drilled into pen.
the handrail for the back spindle on a tread can be smaller than the
hole for the front baluster.
I take a block of wood and drill a seriesof different-diameter holes
in it. The holes are drilled at the same angle that the spindles meer
the handrail. After I cut a tapered spindle to length, I plug it into
the sizing gauge to determine which size hole fits best; then I bore
the hole in the rail. To save time, it's best to have rwo or three drills
chucked up with the bits you most
likely will need.
- M I C H A E L v o r .D
FRABBTELE Distance A is the
New Orleanr approximate height
\ of the front baluster;
distance B is the rear
\, J. ."- 1
\ baluster.

Testing the fit of a tapered

spindle in a block with
Holesdrilled in different-sizeholes drilled in
1/sz-in.increments it determines what size hole
at angleof handrail to drill in the handrail.

1OO FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawing top Ieft: CharlesMillcr

Regroundspade bits Balustergauge
Beveled corner
work better Some staircasescall for square-ended balusters that fit
The worst thing in Judicious grinding Grind 1/cein. into a groove plowed into the underside of the handrail.
of spade bits off each side.
the entire world that makes them bore Becausebaluster lengths can vary as much as3Aein. for a
can befall a stair- holes in diameters given position on each tread,I made a baluster gauge that
between stock employs the sliding metal ruler taken from the end of a
builder is to hear his sizes. Beveled
just-installed treads corners prevent folding rule.
squeak. The second- tearout. As shown in the drawing below,I let the thin metal ruler
worst thing is to Paint into a piece of wood a couple of inches shorter than the
have the spindles rattle. shortest baluster. Small wood straps hold the ruler in place.
For spindles not to rattle, bits. A level vial secured with Bondo makes plumbing easy.
they have to fit perfectly in - M I C H A E L v o r ,D
r E C K B A R - F R A B B I ENLeEwO r l e a n s
their holes. To make a per- Grind a
fect fit,I modifv common Iead for Groove
spadebits.Itt easyto grind down angled Balusterlengths canvary. plowed in
drilling. On rails with a groove handrail
the bits by %zin. (or Yain. on each plowed on the underside,
side).So,for example,insteadof jumping this gauge makes
quick work of finding
from'A in. to rVrcrn..vou'll havea bit that's2Vtzrn. the proper length.
Another hint: Becausethe newly modified bits will have their former
sizes stamped on them, it's important to paint new numbers on the sides
of each bit. One time, a carpenter who was setting a balustrade went
into my toolbox without my knowledge and bored 35 holes with what
he thought was a3/+-in.bir.
Another thing about spade bits: When boring at an angle, say, into an
oak handrail, a spade bitb 90" corners tend to tear out chunks of wood
as the bit starts a hole. Grinding off the corners makes a clean cut by
producing a scraping action as the bit spins into the wood. I grind a long
lead on some bits to make them useful for grinding holes in steep hand- Gauge length
rails. The long lead establishesthe bit in its hole before the shoulder is shorter
engages wood. than shortest
baluster. extension from
- M I C H A E Lv o x D E C K B A R - F R A B B I N
wO r l e a n s folding rule

Cappinga pipe rail

I occasionally use lVz-in.-dia.
steel pipe for handrails. It is
plenty sturdy and easy to grip,
11/z-in. pipe but it needs something other
railing than a lYz-in.-dia. cap threaded
l-in. nipple on its ends to look presentable.
As shown in the drawing,I use
a 1-in.-dia. cap threaded onto a
1-in.-dia. nipple instead. I wrap
the nipple with a couple of turns
of electrical tape to ensure a
Level vial
tight fit. The nipple is held in
let in and
place by a3Ae-in-dia. stove bolt secured with
that is run into a hole drilled Bondo
Elearic|ro" \*c-in. stove bolt
and tapped into the pipe and
nipple from below.
_ W A L T E RD . C O L T O N

Drawins bottom left: Charles Mille r GREAT BUILDING TIPS 2006 101
Decks Maskingtape

Grade stick

Hl=height of
instrument Mark Hook tape
sawkerf, then
Measuringposts on uneven ground \rr,ld.r's level Maskingtape
wrap the tape
<1 over and down
Whenever I build decks,I place the piers and then cur posts 4
the grade stick.
to carry the girders that will support the deck framing. The
bottoms of the girders are in the same plane, but all the piers
are at slightly different elevations. The problem becomes how --'----
to calculate the length of each post efficiendy. As shown in the
drawing to the right, the method I've devised eliminates
almost all the calculations. I simply read the length of each
Pier No. 1
Pier No. 3
post off the scaleon the grade stick. Flere's how my system works.
To start, calculate the height of a post needed for one of the piers, top of the grade stick and back down past the sawkerf. Lock the
for example, pier No. 2. Suppose its post needs tobe l2%in. from tapemeasure,and wrap a couplemore piecesof tapearound the
the top of the pier to the bottom of the girder. Have a helper hold stick and the tape-measureblade to hold things together.
a lxZ grade stick atop the pier, and shoot it with a builder's level. Return to pier No. 2 and shootthe gradestick onceagainwith the
(Note: The grade stick must be long enough to shoot the lowest buildert level.The crosshairsshouldline up with the 123/t-in.mark.
pier.) Mark your HI (height of instrument) on the grade stick and You are now readyto shootall the remaining piers.What you read
measure down 123/ain.Now use a handsaw to make ar/t-in.-deep in the level is the length of eachpost.
sawkerf at this line. This proceduremay seemlike a lot of trouble,but it goesmore
Insert the hook of a tape measure into the sawkerf, and wrap a quickly than readingthis tip. And you can apply the samemethod
piece of masking tape around the blade of the tape measure so thar to all kinds of post-and stud-lengrhcalculations.
it's secured to the grade stick. Now run the tape measure over the W I L G O R D O N P o t t e r V a l l e y ,C a l i f .

Gypboard concrete forms

We recently did a foundation iob in very crumbly, sandy soil. The first task was to
iSr set27 pier blocks in pier holes that were 18 in. on a side and12 in. deep. But by the
time we had dug down a foot, we often had a hole that was more than2ft. across at
the top and growing. Faced with filling these craters with concrete, we calculated
that we would waste more than a cubic yard.
Instead of ordering extra concrete, we transformed four sheetsof gypboard into.
form boxes. We cut the sheets into 6-ft. lengths and scored them along their length
at 18 in. on center,leaving the face paper intact. Perpendicular to these scored lines,
we cut the board into l2-in.-wide strips. These strips then were folded into square
boxes, placed in the oversize holes, and backfilled. The forms not only saved con-
crete, but also gave us an accurate way to calculate our ready-mix order.
Gypboardform folded - S U N R I S E B U T L D E RSSa n t aC r u z C
, alif.
with facing intact

1O2 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings, cxceptwhere nored:Charles Miller. Photo this page:CharlesBickford.
Another angle on spacing Deck-railingbalusters
deck-railing balusters
I have struggled many times to createequal, code- angled tape and transfer Balusterlayout
approvedspacingbetweendeck balusters.The them to baluster layout. Here's a fast way to
method I now rely on-the slant-rule technique- lay out railing balus-
has taken all the frustration out of the problem. ters.Get a length of
With one balusterinstalled at eachend of the the kind of elasticthat
railing, I start by measuring the distancebetween is used for waistbands,
their centers.Next,I divide this number by the and stretch it so that
desiredspacingbetweenthe centersof the balus- itt fairly taut. Mark
ters.Around here,the spacecan be no more than Balustercenterline your center spacing
4 in. With 2x2 balusters,Idivide the railing length on the elastic.Now
by 5Yzin. That's becauseSYz-in.centerson2x2 balus- The tape is now at a slight angle to the rim joist, attach the elasticto
ters result in a 4-in. spacebetweenthem. and I can measureoff 5Yz-in.incrementswith my one end of the railing
Let's say,for example,the length is 1583/a in. I divide framing squareand mark them on the rim joist to run and stretch it out.
itby 5Yz,whichequalsabout283/t.Iround up to the locatethe centerof eachbaluster(drawing left). By Move the elasticback
next highestwhole number: 29. Now I multiply the way, a calculatorthat hasan add-on function and forth until you've
5Yzby29, which equals 159y2. At one end of the deck, speedsup the layout sequence. got it just right. Mark
I drive a nail into the centerof the first baluster.At Once I beganusing this method,I was surprised your centers,roll up
the other end of the deck,I placemy framing square by how fast and effortlessit is. With a little inge- the elastic,and head
with the long blade parallel to the rim joist and the nuity,I think this techniquecould be applied to a for the next railing.
short blade aligned with the centerof the last balus- staircaseaswell. -TONY SCTSSONS
ter. With my tape hooked to the nail,I find the point _MIKE HOFFMAN Meadow Lake,
on the short bladeof the squarewhere l59y2in. falls. Portland, Ore. Sask.,Canada

Straightening warped deck boards Post cutoff jig Distancefrom sawbladeto

If you build decks,sooneror later you'll have to developa To simpli$' leveling the the edge of the saw'sshoq ' i
method for straightening stubborn deck boards.After strug- topsofdeck and fence
gling-with a number of techniqueswith varying degreesof posts,I devisedthis jig.
success, I discoveredthat I could combine two tools that I It's a four-sided box with
alwayshave on site to coaxany board into place.As shown inside dimensions Vrein.
in the drawing, I placethe short end of a pry bar in the larger eachway than the Two sides Line of cut
of the jig
gap betweentwo boards crosssectionof the posts. run long for.
that already had been Two of the sidesshould
installed.The long end hang down l0 in. for a
of the pry bar points clamping surface.
toward the board being First,I plumb and st4-
installed.Then I place bilize all the posts,letting
the tail stop of a pipe their tops run wild. Then
clamp over the pry bar I mark the desiredheight
and the clamp'shead on on one post and transfer
the workpiece. With a that height to the rest using a water level. Below each mark,I measure
couple of turns of the down and scribe a second mark equal to the distance from the sawblade
crank, the deck board is to the edge of the saw's shoe.
ready to nail off. Too easy. Now I drop the jig over the post, clamp it so that the top edge is on the
_ B R I A NS I M M O N S lower mark, and use the top of the jig to guide the saw along all four
Oakland,Calif. sidesof the post. -TIMOTHY P E L T O N F a i r f i e l d ,l o w a


A clever method for clamping deck boards usesa pry bar as a bearing point for a
Stan with clamp open,
then close it to apply pipe clamp (p. 103). Simply insert the pry bar into the gaps between deck boards,
Tongue-and- pressureto the decking. then hook the clamp to the pry bar; repeat as necessary.But what if there are no
groove block
with tongue -> gaps between the deck boardsl
removed I installed tongue-and-groove decking on my porch, and as a consequence,I had
to use other clamping methods to draw the boards together. I used the rim joist as
the bearing point for one end of the clamp until the 12 ft. of pipe could no longer
reach the boards. So I came at the problem from the other side.
As shown in the drawing at left, I turned the clamp's tail stop around so that
it was positioned to push on the workpiece. Then I used a grinder to remove
a bit of the webbing from the back of the screw clamp. This step created a flat
bearing spot that gave me some purchase on the opposite rim joist. Now I
could screw the clamp to its full open position, then turn it toward its closed posi-
tion to push on the deck boards. This trick made getting the boards into position
easy and fast.
Rimjoist Grind away
webbing to make _ B E R N A R D H . D E R B Y S H I R EN e w t o w n ,C o n n .
a bearing point.


Moistureproof newel posts
railings The trick to this long-lasting newel post is the vented
lbuild porch railings plinth. The base is made from shaped 5/4 by 21h-in.clear
that prevent water pine, and the corners are mitered, biscuited, and glued
from collecting. Before together with epory. I glued four %-in.-thick
assembly,the spindles blocks to the bottom corners for feet. Two wood blocks
are sealed, sanded, that slide into the
Subtop rail and primed. Two coats 781/z-in. by 81/z-in. hollow post and pre-
*:*d pine cap
of marine epoxy seal / vent lateral move-
the top rail. ment are glued to
The spindles(1% in. the top of the plinth.
sq. at each end) are The entire assembly
held together at the gets two coats of
top with a %-in. by marine epoxy.
1%-in.subtop rail To vent the top,
and on the sideswith a %-in. plylood
stepped molding. The subcap overhangs
top rail is fastened the post by %e in.
from below to elimi- on each side (ogee
nate exposed fasten- molding hidesthe
i B l o c k st o
ers. At the bottom of register edges). Semicircular
the railing, the spindles are sandwichedbetween newel 3-in. cutouts:allow
rYrc-in.shingle molding. I install the railing sections4 in. airflow. Secure the
off the porch deck and toenail them to the posts with 8d beveled top cap
galvanizednails. Long sectionsof railing are supported with %-in. blocks with construction
pressure-treated blocks wedged underneath. \-z adhesive.

104 FINE HOMEBUILDING Bottom drawings: Robert Goodfellow

Alignment marks
register balusters.
Gazebo-|ayout te mplate
3/+in. During the constructionof an eight-sided gaze|.cr.,Icameup with a simple
plywood layout template to setthe eight postsin the ground at equal measurements.
base \ In this gazebo,theinside facesof the oppositepostsare l0 ft. apart, so I
beganthere.As shown in the drawing below,I first lappeda pair of l0-ft.
2x4satright anglesto one another.Then I drilled aYz-in.-dia.hole through
the exactcenterof the lap joint.
I used al2-in.length of Vz-in.dowel asa staketo pin the center of the

\-a ,1rP+

/ -^
template to the center of the gazebosite and marked the positionsof the
first four postsat the end of each2x4.I rotatedthe templatetemporarily to
dig the first four holes, then
sPacers I put the template back in
place to set the posts (they
2x4 1x4
f r"p baluster bottom
should be touching the
V, rail rail ends of the template as they
=J are set in concrete). Once
the first four posts were
set,I rotated the template

Productionsetup for porch railings 45o, with equal measure-

ments between all posts,
The drawing aboveshowsa simple indexing fixture to 4x4 gazebo post
and repeated the process.
lay out sectionsof porch railing. In this example,I assem- _KEN MACKLIN
bled railingsthat had 3l-in. balusters,a2x4 top rail, and
Layouttemplate/ Sarnia,Ont., Canada
a lx4 bottom rail. The key to the systemis a pair of 5/4-in. made of 10-ft. 2x4s
spacersmade out of a coupleof 8-ft. lengthsof decking. ll
Set a sheetof 3/t-in.plywood on a pair of sawhorses, Locate first four posts,
and affix a coupleof piecesof straight,5/4-in.decking 1it then rotate the template
45oto locate the second
to the plywood. In this case,Iplacedthem 3l in. apart.
group of posts.
Next, mark the balusterspacingon the two piecesof
decking.Flere,the balusterswere on 5-in. centerswith
3Yz-in.spacesbetweenthem. Now placethe top and bot-
tom rails againstthe outsideedgesofthe decking,spread Q, screwed tggether
the balusters,and align their edgeswith the spacing
marks. Finally, nail everythingoff and affix the trim.
It takesme about 15minutes to assemble8-ft. sections
of railing using this method,and the balustersare all
perfe_cdy plumb. -MtcHAEL FoRTUNAOrting, Wash.

It can be more than difficult to stretch screening evenly acrossa frame without bags,
sags,and zigzags. With the help of a stretcher board, though,I can get professional
results every time. As shown in the drawing,I run the screening a few inches long
in both directions. After stapling the screen to one of the short sides of the frame, Wood frame
I staple the other edge of the screen to a stretcher board. With the screen attached frame on two

to the stretcher board,I hang the end of the frame that I'm working on over the
end of a table and press down on the stretcher board to tension the screen. I staple
the screen to the frame with my free hand. After removing the staples from the
stretcher board,I repeat the processon the unstapled sides of the frame. The bcreen
comes out straight and taut.
-DAVID T O U S A I N C o o n R a p i d s ,l o w a



Brick cutter
The deviceshown at left is a simplebut effectivebrick cutter thar works by shearinga
Line of cut brick betweena fixed angleiron and a brick chisel.Using the brick cutter is not asfastas
Brick chisel breaking bricks with a masont hammer,but you will get more accuratecutsand a lot less
waste.To make the cutter, file a true edgeon the outside corner of a short pieceof angle
1x6 chisel iron and placeit on a heavybase,suchasa beamoffcut, with the outsidecorner facing up.
guide Securethe angleiron by placing the mitered end of a2xtight againsteachside.
On one sideof the angleiron, positiona lx6 on a thick block to acrasa guide for the
brick chisel.Be sure to setthe guide high enough to clear the thickest brick you plan to
cut. Adjust the guide'slength so that when the bevelsideof the brick chiselis held tight
4-in. by 4-in. againstthe guide, the point of the chiselis directly over the edgeof the angle iron. On the
by 1/+-in.angle oppositesideof the angleiron, placea supportblock to cradlethe brick.
iron, 6 in. long To usethe cutter,placethe brick on top of the angleiron with your mark centeredover
Base , .\ 2x4 stock cut at
its edge.Position the chiselon top of the brick, bevel side tight againstthe guide. One or
iN 45" holds angle two blows with a heavyhammer shoulddo the job. For facebrick, cut the brick
iron in place. the wastesideof the mark, and clean up the exposededgewith short, controlled paring
strokesof the chisel. -wl LL FOSTERAberdeen,Wash.

stair construction
Some clients asked me to improve
the steps that led from the street to
their front door. The old steps con-
sisted of crushed stone held in place
by some decaying railroad ties. We
wanted to follow the same arcing
path around bushes and trees, but
with materials that would hold up to Cobblestonesmortared
the elements. Steps of cobblestones to concrete bumpers
and bricks seemed right, but the
thought of all the complicated form-
ing that it would take to fashion con-
crete footings for the steps concerned
Cutting patio curves us. A trip to a masonry-supply yard
led to the more affordable solution
The thought of having to cut curvesin concretepav-
illustrated in the drawing.
ers can be intimidating, but it shouldn'tlimit the
I happened upon a stack ofcon-
designof a patio. To cut curvesin paver patios for our 21/z-ft.lengths
crete parkingJot bumpers. They
clients,we usea cutoff saw with a diamond blade, of #4 rebar
3/+-in, were straight, with flat tops and
braidedrope,and a pencil.(In our area,acutoff
bottoms, and about 5 ft. long. Perhaps
saw with a diamond blade rents for about $90 a day.)
bestof all, they were light enoughfor me ro maneuverby myself.
First,lay out the paverssothat they run beyond
I arranged a dozenof the bumpers in the required arc, adjusting their
the curve you wish to cut, asshown in the left photo
height and spacinguntil I had the layout right. Then I securedeach
above.Then usea lengthof 3/q-in. braidedrope,
bumper by driving 2Vz-ft.lengthsof rebar through the holescastinto rhe
which bendsand holdsa curve well, to lay out the
endsof the bumpersfor that purpose.
radius,and mark it with a pencil.
After painting the topsof the bumperswith concreteconditioner,I .
Finally, after lighdy scoring the paversin placewith
mortared rows of cobblestonesatop eachbumper to createthe risers.
the saw to make a smooth curve, remove eachpaver
Then I filled in the spacesbetweenadjacentriserswith tampedearth and
and completethe cut (photo aboveright).
a layer of bricks arrangedin a running bond patrernfor treads.These
stepshave beenin placefor yearsnow and are none the worse for wear
despiteour wicked New England winters.
-BOB J E P S O N J R . M i l t o n ,M a s s .

106 FINE HOMEBUILDING Photos this page, facing page: Chris Green

-f ' ,..


Finetethered friend
Runninga plate compactor is a boring job
(photo below), but it mugt be done before
pouring a concrete slab. The last time I
was faced with a day behind the bouncing
handlebars,I decided to automate the job.
Plate compactors are designed to creep
slowly forward in a straight line. My job
was to get it to turn without me. As shown
in the drawing above, I tied it to a gtake
For a lasting patio, nothing is more important than getting the stone
driven in the center of the excavation. Each
base firm and flat. I excavate the site 9 in. to 10 in, below finiehed
revolution of the compactor shortened the
grade to make room for the base, To engureprop€r drainage, slope
leash, resulting in circles of everdecreasing
the excavation about th in. per foot. I extend the excavation and the
diameter. This left me free to take care ol
stone base 10 in. to 12in, beyond the perimeter of the final patio
other tasks on the site as I kept track of
to allow for minor adjustments in patio gize and to provide stability
the machineout of the corner of my eye.
at the edge. Once the excavationis complete, begin spreading the
I still had to finish up the cornerc by hand,
stone, ABC stone, which includes all gradations from dust to 1'h-3n,-
but the trick
dia. gravel, can be packed flat and dense without losing its drainage
saved me a lot
properties. Apply the base in several 2-in. to 3-in. layers, wetting
of time, and
it down to aid compaction. To pack and flatten the layers, I rent a
wear and tear
pfate compactor (about $75 a day). Repeat the layering process
on the wrists
untilthe base is 3 in. from the finished elevation.
and elbows.
I generally use concrete pavers for patios, so my next layer is a - M A R KW H I T E
maximum of 1 in, clean, coarsegand. Initially,I start with a little
more sand than it appears I need. After running the plate compac-
tor, l'm close to the target elevation.
-D IC K H EN R YC hapel H iNl l .C
, .

All walks, drives,and patiosshould be constructedto ensureproper drainage.
Concretesidewalksare normally flat, but walks made of brick, tile, or paving
blocksshouldhavea slight crown built into them. The crown promotesdrainage,
minimizing the effectsof the freeze-thawcycle,and eliminatespuddling.
Beforelaying a brick path, I usea wood screedwith a slight arch to contour the
sandbed.The screedhasa notch cut into eachend, asshown in the drawing. The
notches,which areV+in. shallowerthan the thicknessof the brick I'm using,ride
on the path'swood borders.BeforeI usethe screed,I moistenand tamp the sand
to minimizesettling
RoD G.ETTELMANN Mncentown, N.J.

Drawing top left: Dan Thornton GREATBUILDING TIPS2006 ,.O7


Accuratediagonaltile cuts
For a bathroom remodel, my client requesteda horizontalrow of
square,dark tiles oriented vertically,like diamonds,as a decorative
border. As shown in the drawing, two rows of white triangular tiles
flank the diamonds.The challenge:cutting the white tiles at a 45o
angle, as accuratelyas possible,into two equal portions. Any
error would create an installationnightmare becauseit would be
doubled. lf I cut a piece %r in. off center,for example,one side
would be % in. bigger than the other. To cut preciselybut efficiently, I
rigged up the jig shown in the foreground of the drawing.
My first step was to buy two inexpensivetriangular plastic squares
'F: .P'^>4
($3 each).Next, I made two identicalcuts on the squares.To do
this, I hooked the fence of the squareover the right side of the
sliding table on my tile saw,making sure that the other side of the
squarebutted againstthe saw fence. Wth each squarein this posi-
tion, I made the cuts with the tile saw.Becausethe blade on the tile
saw is designedto grind through ceramicmaterialand not the compositematerialof the
squanes,I made these cuts in severalpasses,taking off a little each time. When done, both
squareswenecut preciselythe same,with the cut parallelto the fence of the square.
Next, I clamped one of these cut squareson the sliding table to the right of the saw-
blade. As before, I hooked the fence of the squareover the right edge of the sliding table
and butted the edge of the squareagainstthe saw fence. I used a 1-in. C-clampthreaded
through one of the holes in the sliding table to hold the squarein place. In this position,
the cut edge just kissedthe right side of the sawblade.
After clampingdown the first square,I used another 1-in. C-clampto affix the other
squaneto the left of the sawblade. But first I had to cut away half of the fence on the
squareso that it would lie flat on the table. I used a coping saw followed by a belt sander
Simple iig for
for this task. After sliding the edge of the squareagainstthe fence of the saw and
cutting small tile
positioning it so that the cut end just kissedthe left side of the sawblade,I clampedthe Cut with a wet saw, small
squareto the table. The spacebetween the two squaresequaledthe width of the kerf glass tiles often are difficult
created by the sawblade. to hold and cut accurately.
I make an L-shaped cut in
When usingthe jig, I slid a tile into the V-shapedspaceformed by the two plastic
a larger piece of tile and
squares.As the drawing above shows,this spaceheld the tile at a 45" angle, with the cor- use it as a jig to hold the
ner of the tile in line with the sawblade.After a few trial-and-errorcuts and minute adjust- smaller tiles in line with
ments to the position of the squaneon the left, I achievedprecise,uniform results.I was the sawblade.

able to cut the 100 triangular piecesthat I needed in about 20 minutes. _TOM MEEHAN
-JOHN C A R R O L L D u r h a m ,N . C . Harwich, Mass.

108 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings:CharlesMiller.Photos:CharlesBicHord.


Removing a broken tile

When I'm calledon to replacea broken or Beforestarting,I make sureto mask off where the grinder can't reach.Once the
chippedtile,I prefer to removethe offend- any surrounding cabinetfacesor furniture. tile is removed,I scrapeout any remaining
ing tile using an anglegrinder outfitted I alsousemetal angle bracketsto protect thinsetwith a putty knife and an old chisel,
with a 4-in. diamond blademade by Pearl neighboring tiles from possibleovercutting and I vacuum the substrate.I then make
Abrasive($42; (photo 2). Following the four stepsshown in surethe replacementtile fits, mix a small
This approachis good for thick, soft-bodied the photos below, I usethe grinder to cut an batchof thinset,trowel it into the space,and
tiles suchassaltillo,but it works on others X in the tile to be removed.I usea Dremel setthe tile. Oncethe thinsethasdried.I can
aswell. The tile must be larger than 4 in., or tool fitted with a small #7134diamond- grout the tile'
there won't be room for the grinder blade. point bit ( the corners -JANE AE.N Berkerey, carif.
If the tile is smallerthan 4 in., I usea
hole saw to cut out the center portion of
the crackedtile. Although it's a slow pro-
cess,I'm left with a hole in the tile that
is pried easilywith the tip of a chiselor
a screwdriver.

1. lsolate the victim.

To keep the neighboringtiles intact,
the first step is to score the grout
lines with a utility knife. A few light
passesdo the trick.

2. Protection is prevention.
Before cutting, it's a good idea
to mask off any nearby cabinets
or furniture with plasticand tape.
On the floor, angle brackets taped
to the surroundingtiles protect
them from inadvertent slips of the

3. Diagonal cuts open up the tile.

With both handsfirmly holding
the grinder, I carefullyplunge the
blade into the tile's center and cut
diagonally,then along the tile's sides.
A helper holds the vacuumhose to
'catch the
dusty exhaust. (Editor's
note: A two-sided guard, such as
the DeWalt DW4705, provides much
better protection when cutting with a
diamond wheel.)

4. A junky tool still has its uses.

Usinga hammerand an old chiselor.
putty knife, I work from the outside
toward the tile's center, carefully
prying out the pieces.


The dust-isolation bor

Sometimes I have to make a lot of dust in finished
spaces---{utting tile in a kitchen, for example.
In thesesituations, I control dust with a dust-
isolation work chamber made from a translucent-
plastic storage box.
I cut the bottom off the storage container, then
use duct tape to securea sweatshirt over the open-
ing. The arms of the sweatshirt are the openings r't '1

for my hands to reach the tools I need. Tools and a .'ot,i Translucentstorage box
E --i with bottom removed
worklight passthrough the neck opening, which
then is clamped shut around the power cords. A
hole in the box side acceptsthe nozzle of my shop Corded tools are fed
vacuum. To keep dust from leaking out around through sweatshirt
neck opening.
the edges of the box, I affix strips of stick-on foam
weatherstripping to the lip of the container.
To use it,I turn on the tool and the vacuum, hose
and look through the translucent sidesof the con- )
tainer to chart my progress.Be sure to empty the
vacuum o[any potentially flammable contents, Cutting tool
such as sawdust, before trying this operation.
Foam weatherstripping
- D O N M A T H I Sv i ae m a i l


The Thunton Press

Inspiration ferr hands-on livingo

NO. 32



Applying latex grouVcaulk tiles
when it cametime to fill the gap betweenour tile counter and its
backsplash,Ipicked up a coupleof tubesof latexgrou/caulk in f'- Str;ms'Uearing-on' .n' ,i
' ' '-frarnework
a matching color. The stuff comesin big toothpaste-rypetubes, sippon ,! :. .
and onceit haswarmed up a bit, the grout flows pretty well----or 2x4 frame ):*, tnortarcures.,
at leastit doesuntil the tube hasbeenreducedto about one-third r<4-
full. At that point, the tube becomesso small that it's hard to . /
compressenough to squeezeout the remaining grout. jr enclosure
To get a better grip on the diminishing tube, I turned to a
couple of spring clamps.I usedone to clamp off the bottom of Installing large ceiling tiles
the rolled-up tube and the other to compressthe Before this job,I had never installed l2-in.-sq.'by %-in.-thick
remaining wad of grout. I tiles over my head. I proceeded to bed them in thinset and
found that by vary- squeeze them to the concrere board above my head, iust as I had
ing the pressure easily done with 4x4 ceramic tiles. I had three of them in place
Spring clampscoax
applied by the the last bit of grout when a tile whizzed past my ear and shaftered on the edge of
clamps,I could regu- from its tube. the tub. At that point,I realized, "This technique doesn't work."
late the flow of the A colleague who is a highly skilled tile installer gave me the
grout, right down to advice I needed to get the iob done. I built the2x4 frame shown
the lastlittle bit. in the drawing above. It nearly reachesthe ceiling, with about
_ C H A R L E SM I L L E R Vz-in. clearance between the thickness of a tile and the top of the
Newtown, Conn.
frame. I pieced together the puzzle this way: Trowel thinset on a
tile, slide it above the frame, and shim it in place. Two days later,
I removed the frame, and the tiles stayed put.
- B I L LP H I L L I P S
D u r h a mN, . C .

Adjustablestory stick
For those of us plain'vanillaboys and girls who don't fike to remembernumberson tapes or which
side of the mark to use, story sticks can simplify a number ol measuringsituations. you can buy
commerciallyavailabfegadgets that do the samething {they are called bar gauges},but nail points
%-in. nut soldered for outside
l'd rather make my own, Here's how. measurements
I start with a piece of garden-variety 3/e-in.copper pipe about 4 in. long.
As shown in the drawing, I drill a hole in its side and solder a1/*in, 7n-in.copper ---\

brass nut to the pipe, centered over the hole. A l-in.-long r/a-in.
machinescrew with a knob on one end screwsinto the nut. The
screwacts as a clamp, bearing againsta?/e-in.dowel that has been Cap affixed to
split in half. To use this device, simply loosen the screw and let machinescrew
the dowel halvesslide past one another untilthey bear against split in half

the surface of the target. Let's say it's an inside meaEurementfor Optional
) beveled
a window jamb: Extend the dowels againstthe opening, clamp, Loosen screw, tips for
slidedowels apart measuring
transfer to workpiece, and cut. No numbersrequired. diagonals
to desiredlength,
Another option is to add nail points to each dowel hall, as and tighten screw

shown in the drawing. Th.y can be used to transfer outside mea-

surements.For measuringdiagonals,as in drawer boxes or pic-
ture frames,bevelthe ends of the dowels so that they tuck into
90o corners. finding circle centers
-PAUL K. KINCAID Lawrence, When you must find dead cenrer on a circle, this tool can help
you to get spot on. To make it, dado a couple of lx3s to fashion
a 90o half-lap joint. Then glue and screw the pieces together.
Pick one edge of the longer arm as your scribing edge, and
Clamped square Short-point drive two l6d nails through the short arm. The distance of the
registers short point
of miter. measurement nails, A and B, should be equidistant from the scribing edge.
Any piece of mitered trim has To use this center-finding
two points on its end. The tool, set the nails against
Mitered acute angle at the very tip of the circumference of your 'l6d
end of nail
the workpiece is called the long circular object, and scribe
point; the short point is the a line down the long arm.
obtuse angle on the inside edge Now rotate the tool a
of the trim piece. Measuring quarter-turn or so, and joint, glued
from the short point is a repeat the process.Where and screwed
Hook tape oit recurring problem: There is no the two scribed lines cross 1x3 stock
square'sblade. Scribing
place to hook your tape. is dead center. edge
The next time you need to This gizmo can be any intersedion of
measure from a short point, try rhis trick. As shown in the drawing, size, but the two nails scribed lines.
use a spring clamp to affix a square to the end of the workpiece. It should be no lessthan a
can be a Speed Square, a combo square, or a tri square; just make quarter of the diameter
sure to align the blade of the square with the short point. Now you apart, and no more than
can hook your tape measure to the square's blade and rest assured three-quarters of the diam-
that yoir are measuring from the right point. eter apart.-T.H. RtcHARDS
Scribe these
- B R U C E G U E R T I NC o v e n t r R
y .l. Mont-Tremblant,
Q,ue.,Canada edges.

116 FINE HOMEBUILDING Drawings:CharlesMiller

math&measuring CONTINUED

Calculating the radius Arch layout

Here's a way to lay out arches that need to
of an arch
have specific heights at the ends or center,
Sometimes it's useful to know the radius of End height Center height
even though the spans vary. First, snap a
an arch or head casing long before the shop
long chalkline on the floor (drawing left).
work takes place. I have found that the fol-
Lay your material at one end, square to
lowing formula provides precise dimensions
the line. After determining the span, end
96 in. height, and center height, put the end of
tape measure #l at the center height, and
stretch it out next to the chalkline. Hook
Use tape to tape measure#2 on a nail located at the end
scribe arch height, and stretch it out at an angle so that
with a pencil.
it intersects tape #1. Now move tapelt2
Pivot point until the numbers on both tapes match at
the chalkline. Put a nail in the chalkline at
this point. This is your pivot point. Hook
Chalkline one of your tapes over it and use it as a
giant compass to trace your arch. For huge
arches, you can make one half and use it as
and takes advantage of the simple calculators
a pattern.
on the market. Even calculators without a
square-root function can handle this one:
Rise2 + (Span/2)2
2 x Rise

For instance,lett assumethat an arched Arch trammel

opening leading from a dining room to a I discoveredthis techniquefor laying out wide, shallowarchesat a shipyard.
great room has84-in.-tallsides,the spanis On a clear,flat, wood surface,such asa subfloor,draw a straight line aslong asthe
96in.,and the centerof the arch is to be 96 in. arch will be wide, asshown below.Drive a finish nail at eachend of this baseline
abovethe floor. The riseis then 12in. as so that about I in. of the nail's shank projectsabovethe floor. Find the center of the
shown in the drawing above.When you sub- baseline,and draw a perpendicularline extendingup from the center,making an
stitutethe numbersand reducethe formula. invertedT. Decidethe height of your arch,measurealong the perpendicularline
you get: from the baseline,and drive a third finish nail at the apex.
Rise2+ (Span/2)2 Now find two straight lx boards,eachone a litde longer than the length of the
2 x Rise baseline.Snug one board againstone basenail and the apex nail, and lay the other
board againstthe other basenail and the apexnail. Where the boardsoverlap,mark
122+ (96/2)2 them for a half-lap joint. Then cut the joint and screwthe boardstogether.
2x12 Pull out the apexnail, and hold a pencil in its place.Now slidethe boardsalong
the baselinenail guides from right to left to mark the arch. As a variation, you can
144+ 482
mount a router at the apexand cut or mold archesof any size.
rERRY AZEVEDO Corvallis,Ore.
144+ 2,304
24 Half-lapjoint
securedwith screws
2,448 Nail m.arks apex.


102 Nail guide Baseline

The radiusis 102in., with no errors result-
ing from inadvertentstretchingof chalklines
or other mechanicallimitations,suchastry-
ing to lay out a curve with a 102-in.radiuson
a pieceof plywood that's only 96 in. long. Replacenail at apex with a pencil, and slide trammel
-CHARLES along, pivoting on nail guides, to describe arch.
W . D A V I S W a t s o n v i l l e ,C a l i f .


math&measuring CONTINUED

lrregular sheathing
piece goes here.

Measuring odd shapes

One day when I was trying to figure out
how to cut an irregular six-sided piece of
roof sheathing, another carpenter showed
me a trick used by boatbuilders to mark
the outline of oddball workpieces quickly. Draw
The method is called tick-sticking. To do line

it, all you need is a scrap of plywood and a

pointed stick.
As shown in the drawing, begin by
affixing a plywood scrap to a point along
'; .,
the edge of the hole in need of sheathing.
- Mark reglstrdtion
It's handy but not necessaryfor the scrap
to be near a corner. It will give you a ready p l y w o o d s c r a p . . ' ;. . Transfer marks Plywood
\<o--../ to workpiece. scraP
point of reference.
Now take the stick and lay it acrossthe
plywood scrap so that the point of the stick I work from left to right as I make my the ticks, and note the positions of the
touches one of the corners of the hole. Draw marks, but you can use any order that corners. Connect the corner marks, and
a line along the edge of the stick, then mark suits you. you've got the outline of the workpiece.
a "tick" on the stick and a corresponding Once all the marks have been recorded, This method is accurate,easy,cheap, and
tick on the plywood scrap.Mark them both place the scrap of plywood next to the low-tech.
#1. Do this for each corner, assigningeach material you are going to cut and reverse -PHILLIP CARPENDALE
one numbers. the process.Lay the stick on the lines, align N e l s o n , B . C . ,C a n a d a

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