A box that rocks

How to build a guitar knickknack box

A guitar accessories box made from walnut and Canadian maple. Photo: Bruce MacNab

I’ve logged over fifty-thousand hours in my trade. Countless boards have passed through my hands. But one piece of wood taught me more than all the others.

Years ago I made a guitar neck copied from a Fender Telecaster electric guitar. Some of the job bordered on space age engineering, like drilling the truss rod hole through the (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…)

October shovels bring spring trees

How to move wild trees


They say the best tree to plant is the one you planted twenty years ago. This is great advice if you own a time machine. Otherwise, the best tree is the one you plant now.

I have old black and white photos showing massive trees that once stood in my front yard. For some reason they were cut down before I bought my house. (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…)

Newspaper garden

How to start a garden with newspaper and cow manure

Newspapers topped with cow manure in autumn will help create a garden by next summer. Photo: Bruce MacNab

Want to put in a new garden? Want to make your existing gardens bigger? Now is the time. Why wait until spring when the black flies come back like thirsty vampires?

In the spring you can dig a new garden by turning over sods and shaking off the dirt. This can be a tough slog. In the fall you can eliminate most of this hard work with a little help from (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…)

Strips worth saving

How to re-use flooring transition strips

Transition Strips

Would you do twenty minutes of easy work for $100? Don’t worry, this isn’t an email scam—just an example of how money saved is money earned.

You can save plenty of cash on renovations by salvaging parts and pieces. Handrail brackets, closet rods and towel bars are easily re-used and so are those little strips of metal that you find on floors at doorways. Called transition strips, they cover gaps between floorings. (more…)