Building Confidence

Volume 17 Issue 8
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

Tip of the Month

Have you ever admired the staircase in a well-built house with its flowing balustrade? The parts for this type of handrail system are readily available in most wood working finishing stores and can be assembled with a little determination, perseverance and guidance.

And a Bonus Tip:

When installing a large ceiling fan, make sure the box is secure enough to support it while spinning around at 90 miles an hour. If need be, remove the old plastic box and install a new steel box, mounted securely to the above floor or ceiling joist.

Ask Dave!

This month, I'd like to inform you of our road trip to Northern British Columbia, Canada.

Frances and I, shortly after our marriage, moved to a very small town called Stewart, BC. It is located on the Pacific Coast, right at the southern end of the Alaskan panhandle where it comes down the BC coast. We haven't been there for 50 years. I would have enjoyed taking our boat up there, but that would not be very realistic for a 27' power boat crossing the open water of the North Pacific Ocean and travelling from the South of Vancouver Island, where we live.

We put on 4000 kilometers for the return trip, that's about 2,485 miles according to the Conversion Calculator on our website. Fifty years ago, we could only get to Stewart by airplane or boat, but now there is a good paved highway all the way.

I remember when Frances, being Texas born and raised, stepped off the passenger ship and saw the little town of Stewart with a population of only about 200 people, she said, "Where is the town?" I replied, "This is it"!

It was rugged country with tall mountains, covered with glaciers, along the Portland Canal, actually a fiord about 71 miles long from the ocean, forming the border between BC and Alaska. Frances and I arrived from Vancouver by boat that year. I was flown in a year earlier by Commonwealth Construction Company which had the contract to build mine buildings at the Granduc Copper Mine. My father, Dave Senior, was the Civil Superintendent for the company. I was a journeyman carpenter by this time. On Sundays, the only day off in the week, we would travel about 30 miles by gravel road to a bridge over a river that needed to be constructed before the road could continue. Frances made me stop our pickup truck every time she saw a small waterfall coming down the cliff on the side of the road, to take a picture. We would look at the Bear Glacier, about 1000 feet below the road.

Photo of Bear Glacier, Stewart BC in 2019This photo is of the same glacier, 50 years later, with the new road at the bottom of the mountain.

The sign of the B&B  we stayed at in Stewart BCWell, we finally arrived in Stewart about a week after leaving our home, near Victoria, BC. We checked into our reserved Bed and Breakfast, a private home operated by an Austrian couple.

The next morning, we were anxious to drive the gravel road, some 30 miles, to the old Granduc Mine site. We drove through Hyder, Alaska, which didn't really change that much since we were last there in 1969. No US customs, only Canadian customs on the way back to Stewart.

Salmon Glacier in Stewart BCWe stopped and admired the beauty and majesty of Salmon Glacier, below us, with this photo we took.

We continued on to the Granduc site. The original concentrator building was removed. All that was left was the huge concrete walls. The portal entrance to the 11 mile long tunnel, under three glaciers, to the ore body, was boarded up. Part of Commonwealth's contract was to build the primary crusher foundation underground near the ore body. Dad needed to form the ceiling with a 6' slab of concrete and keep the train tracks clear for the electric train to travel to both ends of the tunnel. He held a logging operation to get posts for a trestle over the tracks. The logs held up 12x12 beams with 2x12 joists on 12" centers, with 3/4" plywood on top of them. He then pumped the concrete onto these forms with a line pump. What a job!

The Granduc Mine in 1969 in Stewart BCHere is the Granduc Mine site in 1969, showing the sloped roof concentrator building. The steam is coming from the cooling towers, a giant radiator for the crude oil run generator. The roof has a 500' slope on it, the area of 2 football fields.

Here is a current photo of the portal to the tunnel:

The Granduc Mine portal in 2019.

This photo shows all that is left of the huge concentrator building.

The Granduc Mine concentrator building in 2019.

Back in Stewart I noticed a sign in the window of a business, "Soucie Construction". I worked with Al Soucie at the mine site. We called Al, 'Suzy'! After the mine construction was finished Al and his wife and 2 boys decided to stay in Stewart. It didn't surprise me when Frances and I went into the office to discover that Al had passed away, but his two sons were into construction and very successful in it. In our discussion they mentioned that they own the loading dock and wharf. I told them that I worked on that dock and planed down each railroad tie with a small electric planer. Then a surveyor shot in the levels of each tie to make sure they were level across them, as well as to each other. He said I did a good job, because they lasted 50 years. They need to replace them now though, due to them getting soft on the top side from the rainy, wet weather. I told him, with my tongue in cheek, if he wants, I would come back and install the new ones for him. They laughed! They were very interested in my stories of the old days; we must have talked for 20 minutes or so. They even walked me outside to show me where the local grocery merchant had a new shop and be sure to stop by and say hello. He was the only original Stewart resident left that we were acquainted with in 1969.

Frances and I stopped by his shop and found him in in the meat market reading something.

I asked him, "Hi Charlie, does the name Dave Osborne mean anything to you?" The 80 year old man looked up at me and said, without hesitation, "Commonwealth Construction?" He was referring to my father, of course. Dad got to know the locals when he was in town. His pickup truck had Commonwealth Construction on the doors, so it was no secret who he worked for. We chatted with Charlie, then left to see the rest of the changes to the town of Stewart, BC's most northerly ice-free, deep seaport.

We enjoyed our talks with the locals, and I sensed they enjoyed talking old times with us as well.

Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Going Green 1: Tips

These days, everyone should know what the term Going Green represents. As a youth in the 60's, I remember the protests of the hippies against the Vietnam war and the lack of concern and care for our planet. Today we have groups like the Sierra Club and Green Peace whose role is to educate the public. The movement has grown to the point of government changes nationally including International summits on the environment. Wow! Who said the youth of our world can't influence the powers that be.

Rebate Incentives

Our governments have introduced rebate incentives to their residents. They agree that we need to preserve and care for our resources: forests, rivers, lakes and oceans, soil and air, oil and gas and even our ozone layer, which neutralizes the harmful radiation from the sun. We've seen rebates on energy saving light bulbs and appliances, as well as government legislation for manufacturers to save energy on products from vehicles to toilets.

US residents can find out what rebates they qualify for at: the Energy Star site.

Canadian residents can go to this link for Canadian government rebates.

United Kingdom residents can go to this link for energy grants.

Cash Saving Incentives

As people who share the same planet, we don't have to be legislated to care for our resources. Here are some of the things we can do, individually and as a family, that won't cost us a penny:

  • When leaving a room, shut off the lights.
  • When finished with watching TV or playing games, turn the power off.
  • Use the recycle bin for: glass, tin cans, plastics, cardboard, newspapers, engine oil, batteries, tires, electronics and send your clothes to the less fortunate.
  • Lower your speed when driving. 55 mph compared to 70 mph saves you up to 50% of your gas bill on the same trip. (Reference: Economy FAQ)
  • Use alternate forms of transportation: ride bicycles, walk or use public transit.
  • Wash clothes and dishes in warm or cold water, hang up clothes on racks or clotheslines, limiting the use of your dryer.
  • Use reusable grocery bags.
  • Purchase large packages to save material on containers.
  • Use worn out socks for rags to apply stains and old clothes for dusting and cleaning rags and dish cloths.
  • Recycle photo film containers and pill bottles for small screws, nails and liquids.
  • Collect rain water for watering your livestock, pets and plants.

Purchase Smart

When the time comes to recycle your appliances and electronics look for the Energy Star sticker for the most energy efficient products.

Purchase natural organic compounds instead of chemically produced ones. Choose latex paints rather than oil based. Replace incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes with energy saving LED bulbs and strips.

Grow your own vegetables or buy local.

Recycle products and reuse recyclable products.

Drink filtered water rather than purchasing an abundance of small containers or re-fill your own containers for water, coffee and other fluids.

Green Maintenance

Maintaining our homes is not an expensive procedure, but good maintenance will save in energy costs. Since about 45% of our utility expense is for heating and/or cooling:

  • Choose energy efficient furnaces.
  • Turn down the thermostat to reduce heating costs or turn it up to reduce air conditioning costs.
  • Change your furnace filters monthly.
  • Fill in cracks in foundation walls and seal around plumbing pipes, vents and wires with caulking, tape or insulation.
  • Check the weatherstrip for outside doors, a major source of heat loss.
  • Close doors and turn down the heat or air conditioning in unused rooms.
  • Close dampers and outside air vents for the fireplace when not in use.
  • Close curtains at night over windows and patio doors and open them during a sunny day.
  • Install shutters on windows to save 50% of window heat loss.
  • Choose energy efficient Low E windows.
  • Check caulking between windows and siding or stucco.
  • Insulate crawlspaces and attics.

Green Renovations

When renovating our homes, replace existing products for environmentally friendly ones:

  • Replace vinyl with natural cork, bamboo, or hardwood tiles and flooring or with ceramic tiles.
  • Use area rugs of natural fibers.
  • Reuse recycled wood flooring.
  • Install tiles of recycled glass, carpet and other recyclable products.
  • Choose paint without toluene or xylene, which are very carcinogenic chemicals. Choose latex or milk paints.
  • Choose glues without VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are gases emitted from some liquids and solids.

Conserve Water

And finally, the last tip for going green and one of the easiest to accomplish is to conserve the use of water.

  • Use a low flow shower head which saves about 10% of your water heating cost. Limit time in the shower.
  • Limit the amount of water used in the tub.
  • Use aerators on all faucets to mix air with water to conserve.
  • Turn water off while brushing your teeth.
  • Men, when shaving put a little water in the sink to rinse off your razor instead of continually running water.
  • Fix water leaks in faucets, toilets and appliances as soon as you notice them.
  • Purchase low flush toilets for replacements when needed or lower the water level or place a plastic bottle filled with sand or pebbles in the tank to take up water volume.
  • Use waterless car washes rather than washing the family vehicle with a water hose.

In order to keep our planet clean and to preserve its resources it takes all of us to work together. It is our responsibility to pass onto our future generations the best environment that we can.

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(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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