Building Confidence

Volume 11 Issue 4
ISSN 1923-7162

Welcome to Dave's Shop Talk's Home Improvement Newsletter of questions from our members on their construction projects, a Tip of the Month and a home remodeling article, both from our website at We are into our 11th year putting out this Newsletter. Dan and I would not be able to do this without your input every month. Thank you and keep the questions coming!

Tip of the Month

Safety Tip: Know your power tools is almost a common sense rule. Take the time to review the power tool manual. Try different things with the new power tool and get familiar with it. Then go back and review the power tool manual again after using the power tool for a while. Ref: Electrical 2: How to Wire a Three Way Switch.

And a Bonus Tip:

Safety Tip: Guards on cutoff saws and circular saws are very important and should never be removed. Even wedging the guard up is a bad habit to get into. Any renovation to a power tool should be carefully thought out. Most manufacturers have a process to develop safety with their power tools. It doesn't make any sense to remove them. Keep those power tool guards on. Ref: Remodeling 18: How to Replace a Sliding Patio Door.

Ask Dave!

Hi Guys You're a long way from England, but I felt compelled to join your website, I love it and find it really practical with a no-nonsense approach to advice. Having only just joined, I'm not sure of it's a bit cheeky to ask a question already, but here goes. My situation is that I run my own property business, but I am more the 'Dan' than the 'Dave'. I have learnt a lot regarding building practices over the years, but I'm still more 'kitchens and bathrooms' when it comes to structural stuff. I have a good and wise lieutenant that takes charge, regrettably he is not available for a while and needs to focus on his health, but we're already committed to a couple of projects where I could use a 'hand' if you know what I mean! I'll try and keep it brief, as you must have dozens of emails to respond to every day. We have a barn conversion to do for a long-standing customer and she doesn't want anyone to take over this project and trusts me that I'll get the right advice and help I need to fill-in the missing dots so to speak to deliver the project, but despite never-ending efforts searching the net, I can't seem to find what I think are some fairly basic answers, so here goes. The building already has a timber frame outer leaf, which is clad and an acceptable concrete floor inside. To make the unit habitable we are proposing a second inner leaf made of stud, insulated, plaster boarded and airtight etc. The issue is we need to lay a damp proof membrane (DPM) over the floor on top of the concrete and this needs to lap slightly up the walls on the outside face of the internal stud frame. But what I don't get is that as soon as I screw threw my bottom horizontal timbers to fix them to the concrete, I will pierce the DMP and thus compromise its integrity. Am I missing something here or is this an accepted hazard or should I be only temporarily fitting the timbers, then removing them to squirt silicon around the plugged holes before fitting the timbers properly? I'm sorry if this is a really stupid question, but I've spent hours trying to find the answer, I promise. Look forward to hearing from you. Regards David

Hi David, and welcome to our site.

First of all this is not a stupid question, no question is, otherwise you would not have asked it - wisdom from my late father.

This is common in my trade. We put on vapour barrier and nail holes in it affixing the drywall or panelling. We do the same to the outer envelope with tarpaper or Tyvek. This is the same thing here on the floor. You do penetrate the substrate, but the fastener is not removed so in effect fills the void, itself. We just go ahead and fasten the material to the DPM and try to put it out of our minds that we are putting a bunch of holes in the membrane. If a designer was on the ball, they would know this and design the membrane for this purpose, which I'm sure they have. This question tells me that you are a thinker.

Thanks for the good question and hope your partner is back on his feet again, soon.


Hello Dave do you have any videos on basic routering, I want to do some routering for a trim project I am doing in our home renovation project and really have no idea of what to do. Was hoping for a few vidoes on basics of routering or something to that effect.

Hi Heather,

I don't have any videos on the use of the router. I usually use my router when it is setup under a bench or table, as shown in these photos.

Photo of a router table.

Photo of close-up of the router hole in a router table.

Photo of the underside of a router table showing router attached.

Photo of a router table with a fence attached.

Setup the router with the selected bit through the table and use a fence, as shown, to guide your material. It is important to feed the material against the side of the bit that is rotating towards you. The same as feeding material into the rotating blade of the table saw.

It is far easier to rout small pieces this way than to try and hold the pieces and move the router. With molding, you can use a combination of different bits to create a profile. Don't take more than 1/4" deep pass at one time. It is better to go deeper gradually with more than one pass.

Regarding bits. Throw those high speed steel bits away. Only buy carbide router bits, they need to be super sharp for this tool to do a good job. You can get these professionally sharpened, but they stay sharp for a long time. Don't rout wood with knots.

I can't think of anything else, except to be cautious - use safety glasses and ear muffs and watch your fingers. Pull the plug on the router when changing bits. Always hold onto the router when turning it on or plugging it in (in case the switch is already on).


Great fun, as usual, though still not sure what an enclosed stringer is (no need to answer...I'll research). I'm stewing over a remodeling job that's just plain extravagant. This is one of those "you'll never get your money back on this when you sell your house" and I can't wait to proceed anyway. I'm trying to create stately old woodwork - much like a Carnegie library or private men's club of the early 1900's or a turn of the century embassy. I want to replace simple, slim, fake pressed wood trim from 1978 with heavy, dark, beautiful, deep, thick, multi-layered entry ways, traditional looking shelving, crown molding, maybe ceiling beams, maybe paneling. My inspiration is something called The Walnut Room. It's a bar in an old hotel in St. Louis. My dad knew the guy who trimmed it out back in the 1940's. I asked if he was a master cabinet maker. No. He was the building super who my dad called on to sell plumbing and electrical supplies. He said back then maintenance men could do about anything an owner wanted. I've been jealous of that versatility ever since. Since I don't have a specific design in mind yet, what are the basic tools a finish carpenter needs and where does one go to acquire the wood working skills to use them? I hear of routers, planers, etc. but have no idea what I might need to create this traditional look or what the correct vocabulary is to describe it (flutes, rosettes?). Current inventory of tools consists mostly of stuff I've bought over the years for one specific job: 1. Hitachi compound miter saw which I have cut flooring and stairs with, but really don't know how to fully utilize 2. Skil hand held circular saw 3 Milwaukee Saws All 4. Milwaukee band saw (deep cut, hand held) 5. Porter Cable trim nailer kit. 6. Several old unpowered saws and a hack saw 7. Dewalt drill / screwdriver 8. Milwaukee Screw Shooter 9. El Cheapo tile saw 10. Some hand tools, hammers, plane, wood chisels. Do you join a woodworking club? Take a class at the technical school? I'm not in a big hurry to start construction but would like to get the education underway and start acquiring the skills and eventually the tools needed. Thanks Dave, Trace

Hi Trace,

My Grandfather was a finish carpenter. Later on he supervised the building of wooden train trestles. One extreme to the other! I have his Stanley 55 plane set which is full of different shapes for cutting moldings before the days of electric rotary routers.

I noticed in your list of tools that you did not have a table saw. This is a must. You have a good compound miter saw which will cut two angles at a time. One angle is the miter by swinging the fence and the other is the bevel angle by tilting the blade of the saw. You will need this for cross cutting (cutting across the grain) the molding. The table saw is used for ripping (cutting with the grain). When you use a table saw you put the work face or finish side up. The blade leaves the finish side clean and the bottom side with splinters. The circular saw (Skil saw) does the opposite, it leaves splinters on the top side and a clean edge on the bottom, so be aware of the difference in these two tools so you can eliminate chips or splinters on the finish edge.

A router is also a must-have tool for moldings. The work needs to be fed against the side of the bit that is revolving towards you rather than away from you. This is the same idea as the table saw. You push the work through the blade that is revolving toward you. I find it is much easier to use a router for moldings when I fasten it to a table and have the bit coming up through the table. I have a wooden straight edge that I use for a fence which I usually screw or clamp to the table. You can buy a router in a table, they call it a shaper.

For the work you intend to do, you need to know about backing and finishing. Backing is cheap material in place to add thickness to the molding or to support it. Finishing is the assembly or manufacturing of the molding. Sometimes you install two or more successive pieces of molding together to form a wide one.

The secret in finishing work is to have sharp tools, whether they be blades, bits, or chisels, they need to be sharp. The more teeth on a blade the better. I have learned over the years to only buy carbide blades and bits, opposed to the high speed steel (HSS) ones.

Where I live, they have Community Colleges that teach trades courses as well as crafts, travel, etc. Usually, the prof is a retired tradesman who does a pretty good job. Of course, you have access to all the big boys toys. You may also try reading some of the specialty magazines out there or check out the internet - YouTube for example is filled with special interest videos.

As a backup, I'm always here, as well.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Deck 2: Deck Railing

In the previous article I discussed building a raised backyard wood deck. For safety reasons and to abide by the building codes in our local areas, we must install a deck railing around these decks to contain those people enjoying the deck.

For heights over 2 feet above the ground, we must install a deck railing or guard as the building codes call them. A deck railing should be at least 36" high, although 42" is more of the acceptable standard. The deck railing should be vertical barriers, rather than horizontal, where a child cannot climb up on them. They should also be less than 4" apart so that a toddler's head could not fit through and get stuck.

A deck railing is comprised of posts about 6' apart with a 2x4 top and bottom rail, a 2x6 cap and vertical pales. Building supply dealers usually have a choice of pales for a deck railing in different shapes and styles. You can also make up your own design of deck railing from... Read more at Deck 2: Deck Railing

Almost the End

Thanks for the questions, this month, I hope the answers were helpful to you, and we built up your confidence so you can do it yourself.

If you need advice on your projects at work or home, please become a member of our website, then send me an email. Check out our website!


(Ask Dave) (About Dave)

Your source for building tips, woodworking & furniture plans, house plans and building advice directly from Dave...

Hi, I'm Dave Osborne. With over 50 years experience as a journeyman carpenter, foreman and contractor in heavy construction I enjoyed working with apprentices and sharing the tricks of the trade that others shared with me. Now I get emails from Members all over the world and we include many of my answers in our Free Monthly Newsletters. Some of my answers include drawings and instructions specific to a project, but may also answer your questions. I use correct construction terminology, so you can confidently inform your building supply dealers or contractors exactly what you need.


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