Building Confidence

Volume 12 Issue 12
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

What's New

We have finished 5 of the 10 eBooks in our Building Confidence series!

You can find our eBooks right here.

These don't replace our site, of course. There is much more to our site than could be put into even 10 books!

Tip of the Month

For exterior doors without sills and interior doors allow an extra 2" for the width and 2 1/2" for the height over the nominal size. Ref: January 2007 Newsletter.

And a Bonus Tip:

For bifolds the finished opening is the size of the nominal size of door. Example: for a 30"x80" bifold, the finished opening is 30" x 80". Ref: September 2005 Newsletter.

Ask Dave!

Good morning I have a row of lights ran by a switch at one end of the basement. Can I go from the last light and put another switch at the top of the stairs, if so how? Thanks as always.

What you want to do is install a 3 way switch - 2 switches to operate the same set of lights. Checkout this article:

There are 2 ways to do this, both need 3 wires plus ground between the switches. You would need to re-wire the the existing switch as shown in either of the drawings, depending where the power connects.


Stair stringer width required Hi Dave, I'm a new member and I just used your stare calculator, it called for my stringer length to be 16' in length but didn't give me a width, I'm thinking a 2"x 12"x 16'? The total rise is 113 1/2" from inside my shop loft down to the slab, with no restrictions of floor opening or length of stairs, and using 2"x 8"s as treads.

The longer the stringer the heavier it should be - smallest is a 2x10 most common is a 2x12. I always try to support the stringer with a post or two under it to take the bounce out. Carpenters never depend on nails alone to support any heavy load. We always try to support these loads with supports under them down to solid bearing points. The nails or screws just hold the supports in position.


Paint/varnish remover Hey Dave, What's the best paint and varnish remover on the market? Restoring some very old doors back to wood finish. Removed ?? layers of paint with heat gun. What works best for the remaining? Thanks, Marshal

Hi Marshal,

This is a subject that could cause an argument with any expert removing paint/varnish. I would say the 3 most popular products in my area are:

Poly products by Lepage - PolyStripper, a solvent based stripper. Circa 1850 - a non-solvent based stripper Minwax is the third brand.

Make sure the product you choose is rated for wood, not just metal or brick, etc.


Thanks Dave, Have you ever heard of Savogran Kutzit paint/varnish remover? Received good reviews on line.

Hi Marshal,

No, I never heard of it. After doing a bit of research, I would definitely give it a try. Sounds more of a New England company. Do you get the Lepage and Circa products where you live? I'm on the West coast.


Hi Dan and Dave, Thanks for the info, and of course I'm going to let the automatic renewal happen. Our house still isn't finished, but we wouldn't have got this far without Dave's advice, delivered via the site you run. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to both of you and your families! Steve

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the nice email.

Dan and I both wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2015!! Thanks and glad I was able to help,


Steve is an American, I believe, who is now living in France. He contacted our website when he was in the planning stage of building a small house for his family in the French countryside. It has been a pleasure to consult for Steve about his project. He has been subscribed to our website since Jun 14, 2004. We wish him and his family well.

Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Jigs 4: Feather Wedge Table Saw Jig

It seems that a carpenter is always needing a thin feather wedge to shim something. I use old cedar shingles as thin feather wedges for shimming door and window jambs. Sometimes we need a thin feather wedge to lift a cabinet or shim something. Here is a quick way to make up some thin feather wedges on your table saw with a jig.

Out of a piece of 3/4" plywood or 1x6 board cut and assemble the pieces of the table saw thin feather wedge jig according to the drawing... Read more at Jigs 4: Feather Wedge Table Saw Jig.

Almost the End

Hope you enjoy the Newsletter this month.

We BUILD CONFIDENCE. 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!

Please tell your friends and family about our site!

Happy New Year and may 2015 be the best year ever.


(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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