A Carpenter’s Journal

May 2, 2010

Old Stuff

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Fran Maloney @ 7:05 am

Here are some pictures of jobs I did in the past that I scanned out of my photo album.  

Some of these go back twenty years.

March 3, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Fran Maloney @ 9:53 pm

I had the chance to use Mike’s Festool today to make doors for the storage and access areas in the basement office we are working on.  Festool is an expensive German made system for using a circular saw to cut straight lines with little or no tear-out in the material you are cutting.  It consists of a specially designed saw and an aluminum track that it fits into.  The saw has a plunge function, the blade automatically retracts below the base when you take the pressure off of it and it has a small flat piece of aluminum that emerges behind the blade when it is plunged into the material you are cutting.  I am not sure what the function of the small piece is but it looks like it might stabilize the blade in the cut.  The track that the saw fits into is made of aluminum and has soft rubber grips on the underside so that when you put the track down on the material it stays put.  The blade of the saw cuts exactly along the edge of the track so that it is very easy to tell where the cut will be and easy to position it in any orientation on the material;  unlike a table saw, opposite edges do not have to be parallel.  The track also holds the material precisely where the blade is cutting up so that there is no tear-out.  I made my first set of doors with the miter saw and the table saw in lumber core birch.  There was some tear out with both these saws  but none with the Festool.   I found it actually easier to use than a table saw or a miter saw for this type of cutting.  If business ever springs back to life, I might put this on the list of tools I’d like to own.

February 28, 2010

Replacement Windows

Filed under: Materials,Uncategorized — Tags: , — Fran Maloney @ 8:05 pm

The term replacement windows is somewhat of a misnomer because when you have replacement windows installed, the entire window is not replaced.  A new frame and sash are installed inside the old frame of your original window.  The interior and exterior window trim and sill are usually left undisturbed which saves money both in materials and installation time.  Essentially you are buying new sash and balances held in a rectangular frame.  Balances are the tracks and springs the sash operates in, the sash are the movable part of the window that has the glass in it.

Replacement windows are ordered according to the dimensions of your existing sash opening, that is to say the opening that the movable sash fit into without the balances.  This  can usually be measured from the inside of the top casing down to the sill  below the stool cap, and between the side casings.  The new windows will come slightly smaller than these dimensions to allow for ease of installation and for adjustments in position that may need to be made if anything is out of square.

In order to install these windows, the old sash and balances need to be removed.  First the stops are removed, these are the small moldings that butt up to the balances to hold them in.  Then, if the balances are spring-loaded, it is easy to pull the whole assembly out by inserting a pry bar behind them and popping the staples that hold these tracks to the window frame.  The sash are under some pressure from the springs so you can expect the springs to snap up if you do not hold everything tightly together as you pull it out.  If the windows are the old ones which use weighted balances, the removal is more difficult.  The ropes that tie the sash to the window weights need to be detached from the side of the sash,  the weights will drop down in the cavity behind the casing.  There will be a pulley on each side that will have to be removed with a flat head screwdriver.  There are also usually some copper or brass tracks that sit in a thin rabbet in the window frame that keep the sash in place and act as weather stripping.  The sides of the window frame will have a little access piece that  is held in place with a screw and that has been hand cut through to the cavity where the weights are.  This needs to be opened up and insulation injected into the cavity.  The entire cavity needs to be filled with insulation.  It usually requires one or two cans to fill the empty spaces on one window.  Caulking is applied to the inside of the exterior trim and the new window placed into the opening and pressed tightly against the trim and into the caulking.  Screws through the sides of the new vinyl window hold it in place.  Then insulation is added to any space around the window up to the old window frame, there is also usually an adjustable header piece above that needs to be filled with insulation.  Finally, the stops are replaced and caulking applied around the joint between stop and window.

There are many manufacturers of replacement windows.   The supplier we use is usually Harvey Industries.

November 21, 2009

High Wind Seminar

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Fran Maloney @ 5:10 pm

About 50 contractors and carpenters attended the High Wind Seminar given by Goodrich Lumber in Kingston last night.There was a representative there from Simpson Strong Tie, as there has been in all the seminars I’ve attended on this subject.I can’t help but notice that all the new rules are written by structural engineers and that the end result is that builders are forced more often than not under this new code to hire a structural engineer.  These measures seem to be extreme; the most damage in a hurricane around here would be from trees falling onto houses not houses blowing away.  When I first started framing in the 70s, I was told not to put the sill bolts on because it would make it difficult if you had to lift or level the house later on.  “The house is not going to jump up in the air”, the boss told me.  None of the houses we built back then has jumped up in the air, not yet.   Now, with the new code, if you held the house upside down and shook it, it would not come off the foundation.  The new code adds 20% to the cost of new residential construction at a time when construction is already depressed and many builders are struggling to find work.  The cost of housing in Massachusetts was already a serious problem for the economy here.  I have no problem improving the quality of housing there is always room for improvement in any field but to add so much structural integrity as they now require to construction methods that have stood the test of time is bordering on the absurd.   I am surprised more people have not complained to the State Legislature.  There are  a lot of groans heard as the new requirements are laid out, but not much more in the way of protest.

I give the seminar high marks, the issues discussed were especially relevant to builders trying to deal with the new code.  Some of the others I have attended were geared more to engineers and code officials.   It was free and it was at a convenient time 4:30 to 8:00 pm on a work night.  An especially relevant topic discussed was on the different types of galvanized steel and on the new ACQ pressure treated lumber, which reacts galvanically with zinc causing many fasteners to fail.  Simpson is now urging the use of stainless steel fasteners in ACQ treated lumber if you are building near a body of water.  There was an example of a contractor wh0 built a deck on Moosehead lake in Maine who was sued when the joist hangers began to rust out after only 6 months.  Kevin Madeiros talking about the nailing schedule for construction in the 110 mile an hour zone, pointed out that the schedules are for common hand nails.  For example if the code calls for so many 16d nails in something this means hand nails not gun nails which are of a thinner gauge,  and actual 16s not 12s which most builders use for framing.  The schedule needs to be adjusted to insure the same amount of steel is added.  Many of us pointed out that the amount of nails being loaded into wood in themselves could cause a structural failure.  Nails add strength to a joint provided that there is no splitting or pulverizing of the wood.  No consideration is given to this.  I have always been aware that after a certain point the joint is not becoming any stronger by adding nails.  I am sure the engineers who test these things know better, but then again, I am not so sure.   Kevin also walked us through the Massachusetts High Wind Zone compliance check list, which is a requirement as an addenda to most permit applications now in this area.

September 16, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 4:55 pm

Simplicity is the first element of beauty: economy of force in war, economy of words in writing, economy of parts in machines, economy of ideas in theory. I firmly believe that experience in a craft teaches above all else, that the shortest and simplest route to a desired end is the best. As I became more adept at carpentry over the years, it became clear to me, and remains a rule when I am building something, that if the solution to a mechanical problem starts to become too complex and too difficult, you can be sure that you are on the wrong path. There is always a solution that is beautiful in its simplicity; the inexperienced workman is easily led down the wrong path, piling piece upon piece unable to discern the danger inherent in complexity, and not having in his possession the faith to wait for the certain appearance, with time and thought, of an elegantly simple answer both in its performance and in its result.

In the same vein, when faced with an intractable problem, the skilled man or woman knows instinctively not to fight with it or struggle in frustration, like the martial arts master he looks carefully to discern the weak point, the plane of cleavage where an easy blow will accomplish the desired task. This is a combination of patience and of confidence in his mastery of the material world.

June 17, 2009

Wood, Stone and Steel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Fran Maloney @ 5:42 pm

I was looking at old tools in an antique shop in Wells Maine last Saturday.  There were stacks of beading planes and rabbet planes all made of a maple block with a forged and filed steel blade wedged tightly into the mouth by a separate piece of maple, there were chisels and spoke shaves, adzes, drawknives.  There was a cooper’s plane that was curved to the inner radius of a  barrel.  The carpenter’s trade once involved much more direct contact with basic earthly elements; hand to simple machine to the work.

April 6, 2009

Stages in Construction

Filed under: Job Progress,Uncategorized — admin @ 3:54 pm

I am still in the construction stage of this blog page.  I am not happy with the format at all,  but I do not know how to edit the template for the blog or replace it with one more to my liking.  But, in the interest of always keeping moving, I am going to post a picture of the job I am starting today, actually, with the rain it is more likely that I’ll be starting it tomorrow. 

We are going to re-sidewall one side of the building below.Peeling Clapboards  The siding is 1/2 by 6 red cedar clapboards that are about 20 years old.  The house itself was once the farmhouse to a sheep farm that stretched out across the Marshfield hills within sight of the Atlantic.  It is now in the center of a suburban development. It was totally remodeled at the end of the eighties when the development was built.  The portico with the columns was added at that time.  I was one of the carpenter’s who worked on the portico and the inside finish trim.  I have since returned many times over the years to work on or add to this house. 

 The problem with the siding is that the paint keeps peeling, especially from this side of the house.  As you can imagine, this is an expensive house to paint.  We are going to remove the existing siding and replace it with almost the same thing, but in this case the clapboards will be delivered primed on both sides.  The most likely cause of the peeling is moisture forcing through from the back side.  This is especially likely to happen if the backs of the clapboards were never primed.  Another cause of peeling is if the painter used an inappropriate primer.

We had considered using HardyPlank siding which is made of a cementitious material and is guaranteed to never rot or peel when painted.  But the decision was made to stick with what the house already had on it.  The Hardy Plank  is flatter in profile than real wood clapboards and to my eye it does not look right on an old traditional house.

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