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Volume 3 Issue 3“Building Confidence”March 2005



Welcome to our new readers. This free newsletter is just a fraction of what's available on our site, which has woodworking plans and do it yourself how-to articles. For a complete listing, see

We have many plans at small prices. For a little more you can become members of our site and have free, unlimited access to all our plans and articles.

What's New

I kept Dan (my brother and webmaster) busy this month, adding new stuff to the website, with three new categories of articles. Check out Cabinets 1: Frameless Kitchen Cabinets; Deck 1: Raised Backyard Wood Deck; Deck 2: Deck Railing; and Useful Stuff 1: A Simple Steam Box. In the above articles I added tips along the way that Dan gathered together in Useful Stuff 4: Some Helpful Tips.

Checkout the Construction Dictionary at

I've added new definitions, at Dan's request. Please have a look and let me know if any definitions are too vague or tough to understand. I'm always open to suggestions for new ones as well. Notice that in all the articles and plans on the website, Dan has highlighted construction terms that will take you to their definitions when clicked on. The Construction Dictionary is freely available to everyone. NOTE: The printer version of our articles and plans have no links to the Construction Dictionary, nor does the PDF version of our plans.

Coming up, I'll continue the Cabinets series with articles on Face Frame Kitchen Cabinets, Kitchen Cabinet Doors, showing a few of my own designs. I'll also continue with the Decks series, adding articles on Deck Stairs, Deck Stairs With Returns and How to Build a Low Level Deck with seats around the perimeter instead of handrails.

In our January Newsletter I featured a project that Art was working on. He sent me the final finished photos. Check out the Member's Photo Page. You can find member photos by clicking on the Photos link, on the left side of the Index Page, scroll down to Art's pictures. Thanks, Art. "You done good!"

Ask Away!

The following are some of the questions that I have been working on this past month:

Dear Dave,

I am a homeowner in Kailua, Hawaii and recently found your site when I was
looking for information about how to trim out an interior staircase.
I figured, what the heck, I'll take a chance and spend the 12 bucks to see
what's there. What an awesome site! Thank you  for putting together this
great information resource. As far as I am concerned, you've got a member
for life in Hawaii. I wish you and your brother Dan great success in this


Hi Tom,

What a nice message to wake up to this morning. Thanks and welcome to our site.

If you get stuck on anything send me a line.


Hi Dave, sure glad I found you. I'm a project-minded widow (no father or son or husband to help) with an above-ground pool. The pool has a built-in ladder but I'd like to design and build a set of steps leading up to the ladder platform to make it easier to get into the pool. The pool rim is 5' off the ground. Can you suggest how many steps and how much rise to each going up 5 feet? I can email you a picture if it would help. Photo of a backyard pool. Hi Diane, Thanks for the picture, just what I needed. Here is a drawing of what I propose: Diagram of side and front views of pool stairs with detail measurements. I overhung the top a bit to allow the braces not to interfere with the existing ladder on the bottom, so it looks like it sticks out a bit on the bottom. The 2x4 post below the stringer supports the weight, so should be cut on an angle to fit under the stringer. The handrail post will come down over this one under the stringer, as shown, nailed or screwed to the stringer and the post. I chose 30" outside of stringer measurement as an arbitrary dimension, to give a bit of room going up the stairs. As long as it is more than the width of your existing platform. Overhang the treads by about 1" in front and 1 1/2" on the sides. Notch out where the handrail post comes down. Remember the cross brace and bottom braces on the side and back. Use spruce rather than fir, since it is lighter in weight. Purchase a 2x10x8' long for the stringer. Before you start, measure accurately the height of the existing platform to the ground. This should be your total rise. Divide this amount by 8 to get each individual riser. Hope this helps, Dave
Dave, We bought an old house. This house was once a four room house built in the 1920's. It had rooms added on. We are currently renovating it one room at a time. We are in the process of removing a bearing wall ( was once the exterior wall of the original house ). I have a span of about 12.5 feet I want to install a beam to replace the bearing wall. I have read that this is very serious issue. I think I understand this situation, and I think I have taken all considerations into account. I wanted to know your thoughts on this matter. I have worked in the construction trades in the past, framing ( though mostly commercial - metal studs ) and other general stuff. From what I can see, we have all the drywall and plaster / lathe off the walls. It doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. Just support the bearing wall ( on both sides of the wall until the beam is in place ). I am going to have a local lumber store build a laminated beam. Do you have any suggestions with regards to this project? Thanks, Greg Hi Greg, It sounds like you have the right idea. Support the walls on both sides, temporarily. A beam over 8' should have at least 3" of bearing surface supporting it on each end. Make sure you figure this in its length. To get this bearing surface, just double up your jack studs or cripples. This beam should be engineered, so they should tell you this on spec. sheets. Usually, they make the beam up in two 1 3/4" halves, for a 2x4 wall. Then you install them and nail them together, in place. It is not a hard procedure. The size of the beam depends not only on its span, but also on the length of joists or rafters it is supporting. They should ask you for this info. Remove all nails sticking through the top plate, with a good set of pliers or small angle grinder and nail them up flush, so the beam will fit tight against the bottom of the top plate. Don't just hammer them over. Also, remove any live load on the wall, such as snow, a piano or water bed over the wall, this sort of thing. Checkout my article Remodeling 4: How to Frame a Wall Dave
Hi Dave, Great source of information, thank you very much. I have just signed up today and paid one years membership. I am concerned about leaving the door open for next year if you get my drift. If I cancel the next payment can I still access the site and get newsletters for the remainder of the year. Best wishes Duncan Hi Duncan and welcome, Yes, you can cancel today and still have full access until the year runs out. The newsletter is separate, no charge and you can subscribe to that without becoming a member of the website. For cancel instructions click on Assurance at the bottom of any of our pages or Your Account on the Index Page. Dave
Hi Dave, A question about equipment. Some time ago you advised me on choice of saw type (circular v. table) and published details of a jig for sawing timber to length. Since then, my wife has given me a circular saw for my birthday (I think my face lit up almost like it did 35 years ago when my parents gave me a train set!) and I've built the jig and processed over 1000 linear feet of 2 x 4s with it resting on a pair of sawing horses built to your design (my first-ever project with the new saw). So your advice has already proven most valuable! This weekend we're going to start nailing the cut 2 x 4s together to make frames (for reusable forms) and since this will involve driving a total of 1000 nails, with more to come later in my house construction project, I was thinking of getting a nailer. My supplier has proposed two options: a gas nailer at around USD 800 and a compressor-plus-air- nailer at around USD 1000. Both are capable of driving the 90 mm nails I need. My question is, what are the relative merits of gas nailers and air nailers? Obviously, the gas nailer scores by not having a an air hose trailing around, but on the other hand you have to buy gas for it. And I was wondering whether the more complex gas tool might be more liable to breakdowns. If it makes a difference, the gas model they're suggesting is the Paslode IM350 and the air nailer is a CNW90 from Prebena, a German company I'd never heard of. Regards, Steve Gex, France Hi Steve, Personally, I would go with the compressor and guns rather than the self contained. I have an air nailer similar to the CNW90, it is a Bostitch coil nailer. I prefer the coil nailers mainly due to the better price on the nails and more of them, less time in putting in nails. The have a higher initial cost, continuing cost on gas. When working on a roof, the hose is handy to pull up or let down the tool, Ha! Don't tell that to your sales rep. The other gun I have is a brad nailer 5/8" to 2". I use this one more than the other. I also have a narrow crown stapler for fastening 1/4" overlay to a sub-floor before lino is glued on. I used to have the large nailers for framing, one for 2" nails, for sheathing and the other for 3", for framing. I use the coil nailer now, for both. For the compressor I have an Air Mate by Emglo and another by Ingersol-Rand. I use the Emglo the most for framing to finishing. This one has a 4 gal tank, 120 psi, 1 1/2 HP motor. I find I have to wait for air only when I'm nailing sheathing with 2' to 2 1/4" nails. Nailing sheathing is fast. I have the tool set up to bump the nail out when the end is touched and the trigger held on. Otherwise, this compressor is light enough to carry around. When I want more storage capacity, I add another 100 feet of hose, which is very seldom. I looked at Pebina's website and found my 3 choices of compressors: ORKAN 212, PIONEER 282 and WORKLINE 200. I use the larger 20 gal compressor for the shop for air tools and painting where you need lots of volume of air. Hope this helps, Dave
Hi Dave, got a question about arches in my new home. What is the formula for figuring the radius of an arch when only three dimensions are known. Width of the opening, height of the lower part of the arch and height of the most upper part of the arch. Ex. width of opening 72"~overall height of opening is 97" to bottom of the header". I want the lower part of the arch to be at 82" and the upper part of the radius to be 1 1/2" This gives me 15" from the bottom of the header to the bottom of the arch. If this makes no sense I have a picture I could e-mail you as an attachment if I had your e-mail address. Thanks Terry Hi Terry, Let me know if this is what you want. This is an elliptical arch with two radii. Diagram showing how to approximate an ellipse using a compass. How to layout the above arch: Lay this out full size on a sheet of plywood or drywall to see what it looks like. Divide your span A-B, which is 6' long, into three equal parts of 2' each, at C and D. With BC as the radius (4') and A, C, D, and B as centers, draw the arcs as shown, finding points E and F. From points E and F draw lines through C and D, as shown. With C and D as centers and AC as the radius (2') draw arcs AG and HB. Using I as center and IG as the radius, draw the arc GH to complete the arch. Dave
Hey Dave, I became a member of your site specifically to get the plans for the gambrel roofed shed with the loft. I have been searching the web and asking around to find out the specific formula for a gambrel roof. Not much luck though. However from your plans I should be able to do it no problem. My question, however, is this. I want to build a shed that is 16' wide as opposed to the 12' wide in your plans. 16 wide is 33.33% wider than 12'. In my feeble mind it seems logical that I can add 33.33% to the truss dimensions in your plans and achieve the 16 feet I'm looking for. Am I thinking correctly? As I'm no builder at all, I don't have the confidence assure myself that I'm right. Thanks, Jeff Hi Jeff, I'm glad you wrote to me. The plan for a 12x16 shed was designed for that particular size. If you want to go larger we have to make sure the joists will stand up to 16', which they won't. Replace the 2x8s with 2x10s and replace the 2x4 trusses with 2x6 trusses. Your theory is correct about the gambrel shape. Multiply the size of the truss by 1.33 and you should be close. According to the instructions, I want you to lay the truss out full size. Do this with the new sizes, as well, mainly to get the angles for the cuts on the ends of the pieces. What type of floor are you considering? Drawing showing how to make a gambrel barn roof from a semi-circle. Theoretically, a gambrel shape is inside a half circle with the diameter of the circle equaling the width of the building. Don't hesitate to email again if something isn't clear. Dave
Dave, We are getting ready to put down hardwood floor in a refinished upstairs of an old farm house, The sub floor is now 3/4 inch plywood over 2x10 on 16 inch centers. There are 2 rooms at each end separated by a 6 foot wide hallway leading to stairs. We are using random width prefinished hickory (3, 4, 5 inch). Instead of continuing out the door of the one room into the hall and into the next room we are thinking of putting a piece of the hickory across the door threshold and stopping the floor in each room and hall at that threshold. When the doors are closed you would not see the threshold in each room only from the hallway. Is this a permisable way to install? Dave I just wrote to you about hickory hardwood floor installation. I have a question I forgot to ask. I planned to install the doors and moldings after the floors are done. Is this correct or should I install the doors first then the floor? Hi, Yes you are on the right track, except the joint of the different floors is made under the center of the door when it is closed. That way, when the door is closed you only see the floor on which you are standing. Yes, you can put the floor in before the door and jamb. You may have to trim the bottom of the jamb, though, since the floor won't be flat. This is the way I chose to do it when I built my house. So when you layout where the door is remember the swing of the door - the door is flush on the wall of the side it swings. Dave

Thanks for the nice comments and questions. Let's hear from y'all!


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