Category: carpentry

Save cash with a zany patch

How to patch plaster walls with drywall


Construction and demolition go hand in hand. They can make for an expensive wedding, so don’t get too carried away with your sledgehammer.

When you’re renovating, it’s always tempting to peel back walls and ceilings to bare framing. (more…)

Endgame for end grain

How to make end returns for interior trim


Can you tell good trim work from bad trim work? Some flaws are obvious, like sloppy joints filled with caulking and mitered joints that aren’t sanded flush.

A sure sign of a lazy finish carpenter is exposed end grain. End grain is the butt end of a board. In other words, it’s where you can see the tree rings. It’s almost impossible to paint end grain. It just keeps drinking paint and leaves a flat finish. (more…)

Drilling with nails

How to drill a hole with a nail


Have you ever tried hammering a finish nail into hardwood? Good luck with that. Even nails shot from air nailers can bend in hardwood.

Sometimes finish nails will go through hardwood but then cause the wood to split. Softwood can split, too, especially when nailing small pieces of trim. This happens because the pointy end of a nail is like a wedge that pushes aside the wood fibres. (more…)

The return of baby boomer kitchens

How to make lipped cabinet doors

Lipped plywood doors are architecturally pleasing and easy to clean. Photo: Bruce MacNab

Did you watch the Beatles live on the Ed Sullivan Show? Do you remember when the Six Million Dollar Man fought Bigfoot? If so, you’ll remember lipped cabinet doors made from plywood.

From the 1950s until the 1980s plywood kitchens were built by local carpenters. Since then, most of these kitchens have been (more…)

The two hands rule

How to use chisels safely

To avoid injury keep both hands on your chisel and push away from your body. Photo: Bruce MacNab

A chance encounter with a urologist forced me to think long and hard about chisel safety.

It was in a vintage tool shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This fellow was buying old router planes and other cutting tools from yesteryear. He explained how his wife had demanded he give up power tools because she was worried about his hands. I hated to inform (more…)

Shim secrets

How to use shims

Put your first nail beneath the shims then make adjustments before the final fastening. Photo: Bruce MacNab

Shims aren’t glamorous. You’ll never see them on home remodeling shows. But if you want to hang a door you must learn how to use shims. A few tips will make the job much easier.

Wooden shims are cedar shingles cut into narrow strips. You can buy little packages of them or you can rip your own on a table saw. Make sure you have a proper push stick for your saw. If you don’t have a table saw you can (more…)

Cabin corners conquered

How to build a log cabin without notching corners

A 12 foot by 20 foot log cabin built with lumber corners. Photo: Bruce MacNab

Do you dream about building a log cabin? Do you have visions of an evening campfire reflecting on a lake while you gaze at your cabin bathed in moonlight?

Okay, it’s time to wake up. Building a log cabin is a master craft in itself. Look at the work and craftsmanship that goes into corner-notching just one log. Now think about (more…)

Square fence improves carpentry’s most versatile tool

How to draw angles with a framing square


Have you seen the fancy new carpentry tools? Power tools can be purple, built-in lasers guide your cuts, and almost every tool is available in a cordless model.

Some of your old time hand tools might look a little boring nowadays. But don’t fool yourself. One of the most useful tools is the classic steel square otherwise known as a framing square. (more…)

Replacing steep stairs with winders

How to fix steep stairs

The finished winders


When I bought my farmhouse I knew the stairs were too steep. Visitors clutched the hand rail and turned their feet sideways on the narrow treads. People looked terrified on my stairs, like they were climbing a ladder on a windy day.

Then a friend’s dog tumbled down the stairs and landed in a heap at the bottom. (more…)

Helper Nail to the rescue

How to build a deck by yourself

Helper Nail

Have you ever tried building a deck by yourself? It’s not easy but it’s not impossible.

You will have one big problem when you work alone framing a deck. How do you support both ends of a joist while you’re trying to nail one end? A helper would be nice, of course.

You might have more helpers around than you think you do. (more…)