Building Confidence

Volume 18 Issue 3
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

Without a dado blade make a jig for cutting dados with a router. Make a small wedge cutting jig when feather wedges are needed. (See below for directions on making these two jigs.)

Along with the COVID tips:

  • Stay at home
  • Wash your hands often, and
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart.

We'll add our own tip: KEEP BUSY! Now's a good time to catch up on your projects!

Ask Dave!

A member of our site received this email tip: "When installing windows, nail the flange with galvanized roofing nails, but don't put any nails in the top flange." and asked this question (that many of you may also be wondering about):

What is the reason for not nailing the top flange? Much thanks, Greg

Hi Greg,

When most windows are installed, the framing is still drying and shrinking. Not nailing the top flange allows the header to shrink without breaking the window. When the siding is installed it holds the top flange in place, so no worries.


Thank you so very much for the prompt reply. How 'bout when you are doing a retrofit, ....same applies? Greg

Not really with a reno, as long as the header is the original one, over 2 years old. If putting a new header in with new lumber,yes, don't nail the top flange.


As a follow up:

I've seen joists and headers shrink 5/8" in old houses. When installed, in the old days, they were 7 5/8" wide and shrunk down to 7", so hard you can hardly drive a nail in them. Dimension lumber shrinks more across the grain, or growth rings, rather than with the grain. Lengths of joists and studs shrink very little in comparison to their width.

This is the reason we need to acclimate wood products, especially, finishing wood products when installing them in our homes. Follow the directions on the packages of laminated or hardwood flooring, regarding acclimation.

Here are my articles, from our website, discussing how to build a router jig and a feather wedge jig.

Jigs 3: Dado Router Jig

Sometimes rather than make a dado for shelves with the dado blades on a table saw, it is handy to use the router jig. Here is a simple router jig to do just that.

Diagram of a mission gig. Rip two pieces of 3/4" plywood, not oak, but fir or cheaper, preferably scrap, 3"x36" and two pieces 3"x16". Measure the base plate diameter on your router. Make a box with the short pieces on top of the long pieces, as shown. X equals the measurement of your router base plate plus 1/4". Use a 1/2" router bit. When the router is guided by the long pieces, it will make a 3/4" dado. Try it out on a piece of scrap and adjust the width to suit your 3/4" plywood for ease of fit, not too tight, yet not too loose. Mark the edge of the dado in relation to the edge of the router guide and use this measurement when setting up to router your dados on the side. Remember when laying out the dados, lay them out on the worst side of the sheet of plywood and as a mirror image to each other unless, of course the gable end is against the wall. When constructing cabinets with dadoed in shelves, I make them exactly 1/4" deep. Notice that the end pieces are on top of the side pieces so that the router base will be able to go under the ends. Either use clamps to hold the router jig in place or small finishing nails.

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.

Diagram of wedge jig with measurements.

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.

Diagram showing how to cut wedges with the wedge jig on a table saw.

Notice the little nail on the jig, which holds the thin feather wedge in place. Just don't have it protrude too far from the jig, to be cut off with the table saw blade. I use a small finish nail and cut the head off and file the end sharp. When pushing the table saw jig through the blade, keep the cut piece in place with our table saw push stick (see article Table Saw Push Stick) on its side. Use a 2x4 or 2x6 for stock, cut to 6" long. Or use 3/4" stock for narrow feather wedges.

Make some thin feather wedges and keep them in your toolbox (see project Carpenter Tool Box Plans), handy for the next time you need thin feather wedges to shim something.

While at home, isolating, here is a link to a fun quiz, on our website. Enjoy!


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Going Green 1: Tips

Starting Green

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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