Byron, MI, US

I own and operate Dreamcatcher Design+Build, a full service architecture and construction firm in central Michigan.

I started out working for my father at his asphalt and concrete company then moved into homebuilding where I was taught the ropes by a general contractor who was a true master of home construction and remodeling.

While I enjoyed working in the field, I enjoyed the art and craft of trim work the most, so I went on to work for a master cabinetmaker. There I learned much about joinery and design. But Still I yearned to learn more.

I got a few commissions outside of the cabinet shop and pursued them; eventually developing a reputation for being able to custom craft most anything out of wood or steel. This was fun and challenging, but still left me much out of the design process.

So, I went back to school... college that is. I first went to community college where I obtained my AAS in Architectural Design and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Since I did so well, I decided to keep on with school and attended the University of Michigan where I received my Bachelor of Architecture degree and won some awards along the way.

Now I am back in the "real world" again but the construction economy is in the tank. While I still have a good reputation and clients still trickle in, I feel as though my little design/build firm has a long way to go.


Gender: Male

Birthday: 07/28/1979

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Learning to boom-boom

Learning to 'boom-boom'

For a couple of months now I have been spending my evenings building my home shop and it has been rewarding to me that my 1-1/2 year old daughter is excited to hang out with me as I work on the...

Disaster Relief Housing

Disaster Relief Housing

This is a project I worked on and I still feel it is a viable solution for disaster relief housing. It is completely self sustainable; providing enough electricity and hot water to comfortably house...

Recent comments

Re: Women Hold Very Few Construction Jobs

According to my multi-decade career in the construction trades, this article contains a lot of B.S. feminist propaganda that has skewed statistical data and misguided reasonings.

To start, it seems to decide that it is the fault of men that there are so few women in the trades. The fact is that the trades are equally open to women but trades based manual labor jobs are simply less desirable to women. Don't blame it on the men in the field - blame it on parenting and societal norms instead. Sure, that can change but it takes some severe shifts in the social paradigm. Just look how long it has taken in less physical career fields.

Now, before anyone flies off the handle just because I hinted to the demanding physicality in the construction trades lets just be rational for a minute and consider the statistics of the issue. Fact: most construction trades require strength and/or stamina. While there are plenty of women out there who could certainly show up some many of the trades'men' there are statistically fewer women who could out lift a man's load. I am not being chauvinistic, I am just pointing out an often overlooked aspect of the issue.

The 'Personal Account' given was simply insulting to the trades in general and I am skeptical that it is even a true account. In my experience, women on job sites are treated much better than fellow male workers. Often the women will be given the "mother" role over male groups of workers or in some cases may become the "work wife" as a subtly dominant part of a work relationship. Never in all my years have I seen any of the hostilities toward a female worker as described.

In fact, women workers are treated so kindly on job sites that I believe it is the root of their lack of equal pay. The majority of business owners, foremen, project managers, crew leaders and job bosses that I have met are married men who have children of their own and are generally chivalrous in nature. In being so, I have noticed that women are treated differently. Less physicality is demanded of them. Mistakes are more easily overlooked. The lack of necessary skills is more allowed. Thus, the level of 'babying' provided lends to less responsibilities given and hence a lesser level of pay. Now, I am no scientist or statistition but that's my view of the situation based on years of first hand experience so take it for what it's worth.

I think promoting women in any career field great. But doing it in the way it is depicted in this article is purely despicable. For one last instance just look at the way they compare trade work to "law enforcement, corrections, firefighting, and meat cutting" jobs. With the possible exception of meat cutting, I don't think those are anywhere near comparable to say carpentry. Carpenters are not considered "heroes" by most nor do carpenters inherently carry a level of authority as an officer of any sort. It's apples to oranges and it's not going to help the disparity until we as a society can decide that skilled trades in general are honorable and respectable career fields instead of a fallback to college.

When the day comes that we finally realize that the guy (or gal) up in the steel risking his life and busting his butt in the sun, rain, wind and snow just to provide air conditioned offices for some desk jockeys is a hero of American industrialism and the everlasting symbol of "Made in America" then maybe we will see more women flocking to become a hero too.


Re: Tablesaw Kickback

Headline: "Man cuts off finger on table saw while making a video of how to not cut your finger off on a table saw"

He is indeed lucky that didn't happen. I was already cringing at his idea of using a push block while creating kickback. Those push blocks have a lot of added grip to the work piece and since your fingers are wrapped around the D-handle they are difficult to quickly release... add that to the fact that he already knew what was going to happen and probably had a much tighter grip than someone who nonchelantly lost control and you have a recipe for disaster.

I much prefer push sticks... keep those phalanges as far away from the blade as possible.

Re: Project Gallery Extra: Magnolia Pavilion

A conservatively sized home doesn't need to be unsophisticated. Much to the contrary, it would be great to see more, if not all homes designed to the standard of modest size but exceptional detail. Just look at the works of Taunton's own Sarah Susanka and her books that portray the well adorned but "Not So Big" home.

From the Palace of Versalles to Biltmore Estate it seems for centuries, we 'common folk' have gawked at the castles of the super rich and become entranced by the splendor of audacity on display. Possibly so much that we often forget the treachery it takes for those tyrants of government and industry to afford a home of that size. I really cannot imagine that anyone could possibly afford such a lavish home without oppressing at least a few people along the way. Although I really wish to be proven wrong (Buffett?).

To me it comes down to a couple of questions... Should everyone live in a "Fine Home"? Yes, I do believe everyone should strive to have a finely crafted home to live in. Then what would happen if everyone lived in a "Fine Home" as depicted in this article and so often in the pages of FHB magazine? I certainly don't publish my own home construction magazine but if I did, I would try to lead by example and choose to feature homes that express detailed living on the level of the common reader.

As a designer and builder of homes, I am far more impressed by 'simple details' or 'cost-effective craftsmanship' than castle-esque constructions. I think that given carte-blanche, any fool could design a building that shows off the craftsmanship of artisans, the elegance of material, and the immensity of space but it takes a skilled designer to provide quality and detail on a truly restrained budget.


Re: Project Gallery Extra: Magnolia Pavilion

While I cannot disregard the fact that there is some real fine craftsmanship contained within the design and construction of this project, I cannot help but to be somewhat offended by the audacity of the wealth on display.

In fact, lately it seems that whenever I pick up a copy of FHB I am gobsmacked by the blatant spending by the upper-upperclass. Even when I try to rationalize whether I am more offended or jealous, I seem to come up with the same conclusion that there is no real necessity for such exuberance in a well crafted home beyond simply having way too much money to spend on one's self.

Then there are concepts like "The refined details would not have been possible without a cooperative effort by the designers, builders, and homeowners." And what did the homeowners do besides provide a 'money is no object' precedence to the project? I often laugh when FHB prints the homeowners contributions to a project of such scale. Sometimes articles will even be written as though the homeowners had to make severe sacrifices to stay within 'budget'. What is really being sacrificed on a home that finishes out at $300+ per sq.ft.?

Maybe I'm off base here. Maybe I should take better note when you say, "This elegant pavilion and pool provide a welcoming location for relaxing stay-cations and the perfect spot for entertaining family and friends." and realize that this homeowner sank every nickel and dime he saved up over a tough lived life into this pavilion project. So much of his savings that he actually imagines a "Stay-cation" to be the only vacation he will ever be able to afford from here on. Maybe the owner is truly a humble individual who only gets by on his hard work and high moral values. I suppose it is true that not having the knowledge of the particulars of this individual I shouldn't be making such brash conclusions.

What I certainly do have the credentials to opine on is that as a veteran carpenter, home designer, and longtime customer of FineHomebuilding magazine, I would much rather that in the future the publishers of FHB put a better focus on the 'less-than-opulent' features of 'fine homebuilding' and much less of a focus on the egomaniacal castle building of the uber-wealthy. I mean, we should all know that great craftsmanship can be had for massive amounts of money but real newsworthy publishing is how such detailed expressions of architecture can be within reach of the median income homeowner. Right?


Re: Hidden Giant Medicine Cabinet

HWG kinda beat me to it.... this isn't 'Spec Home Building' this is FINE homebuilding.

While true that Matt could have just ran over to the Home Depot and grabbed up a China-Crafted three paned medicine cabinet like everyone else does these days, the idea of seeing three or even two split panes of mirror would not have near the same effect as seeing the one seemingly fixed framed mirror.

That's one of my peeves against many carpenters these days... if a detail differs from the way they've done it a hundred times before then they don't like it; Often to the point of trying to redesign it themselves or even completely skip the detail just because they didn't understand it.

Folks, listen to Matt... Hire a good architect and a good carpenter.


Re: Housing Market Looks Brighter

Thanks Cap'n Obvious. The housing market has been booming for awhile now. Every contractor I know is swamped with work to the point of turning it away. Homeowners are having trouble finding contractors who can fit them in. Contractors are having trouble finding live bodies to do the labor; Let alone bodies that can think a little on their own. To make matters worse, the building suppliers can't keep up with product demand.

The real question is are we heading in the right direction for the construction industry?

When I hear the news say "Homebuilding...industry...production...etc." all I think about is the corporate goons like Pulte, KB, TollBros., and the like that produce the the lowest of quality stamped houses using underpaid immigrant labor.

How does that help "the little guy" contractors that comprise the vast majority of the "Homebuilding Industry"? How does it affect the quality of american home construction? How does it change the quality of life and income for skilled trades people? Who is going to fill the labor roles?

These are the tough questions that we need the news to report on; Otherwise the only news you're telling me is that I should buy stock in Pulte before it hits another record high.


Re: What's the Best Reply to a Customer Who Wants Another Estimate?

I figure I am in the minority but I get quite offended when I am asked to discount my price estimate. I put a lot of effort into estimating the EXACT cost of a project and I usually come within one to three hundred bucks (plus or minus). Besides, how would they like it if I walked into their office and asked them to work for 10% less? For a perfect stranger no less?!?!

My general response when a prospective client asks me if I can come down on my price is usually something like this:

"Some builders spitball a price then pack on extra to negotiate with; I haven't done that. I have worked hard and derived a firm and committed price for your project down to the penny. I didn't add negotiation room, I simply estimated the amount of time and materials it would take for me to properly complete your project. Other builders may give you a low price but then perform less work than you expect or hold you hostage later asking for more money to proceed. Sometimes they may just disappear in the middle of the job when they figure out they are losing money; I won't do that. I am giving you what I consider to be fair price that assures you the highest possible quality and guaranteed satisfaction for the course of your project. If you would like for me to reduce the cost of your project then all I can do is adjust the scope of the project."

Unfortunately this response has NEVER worked in my favor; unless to say that the client who complained about my price would most likely be a PITA the entire project and possibly lead to a worse outcome than just lowering my price.

If they are not willing to decrease the project scope then in essence, asking your builder if they gave you the best price they could breaks the trust right from the get go. The client may as well be saying, "I don't believe that is how much this will really cost. I think you trying to screw me."

That said, I have had more than a few projects where I have given a discount AFTER the project if things went smoother than expected.


Re: Census Finds Houses Are Getting Bigger

"the return of the McMansion" is probably right on the mark.

It's just Pulte/KB/TollBros using their same old tricks to draw in unsuspecting homebuyers. Quantity over quality.

At least when they were cranking them out before it was much easier to find semi-competent labor. I can't imagine what the results are in this market of near extinct skilled tradespeople.

Just remember... these 'national homebuilder' guys with their profit-hungry-cost-cutting-construction are the reason we continue to get pelted with new and ridiculous codes.

Worse yet, they put an imbalance in the cost of construction and remodeling by presenting their sub-par homes as the baseline price. It's just that much more difficult to make a decent wage in construction when your competition is the Walmart of Houses.

Just sayin'....

Re: CNC-Manufactured Framing Replaces Site-Built Custom Dormers

Good article, I'm lovin' this discussion too! I especially like how the guy screamin' at everyone for missing the point seems to be the one missing the point here.

I am one of those design+build guys so I spend part of my time at the computer and part of my time shooting nails on the jobsite (actually I am a one-man-crew so I also spend time as the accountant, salesman, estimator, gopher, etc). Call me paradoxical or call me hypocritical I don't care but I love things handcrafted the same as I love things made by CNC. I consider both to be skills in my toolbox and knowing which one to use and when is the important key.

For example I fancy myself as a skilled cabinetmaker but that doesn't stop me from purchasing production made cabinets on many jobs. I know how to frame roofs of many types but I choose to use production made trusses on most of my jobs; I also don't normally fire my own tile on site nor make my own nails (although I have done both before).

As "owner/operator" of my own little business I work on contract 99% of the time (I can tell that RWait is hourly). For those of you who don't know and haven't yet rationalized it yet, being a contract laborer means I agree to a price that is cheap enough to get the client to choose me over the next guy and high enough that I should make a decent wage if everything goes right (note: I am not wealthy; everything never goes right). Therefore for every hour it takes me to complete a job I am actually making LESS dollars per hour. In contrast those union carpenters/wage workers make MORE money every hour and in fact if they work long enough stand a chance to 1.5X or even double their hourly earnings so of course they are in favor of less efficiency.

Another point of note is that my carpentry reputation is such that contractors tend to call me in to perform complicated and experienced tasks such as eyebrow framing, complex stairs, custom trimwork, etc. which I tend to do onsite with portable power tools. But what would be so wrong if I bought a CNC machine and did the exact same thing (onsite or in my woodshop)? I doesn't seem that much would change I would get paid the same except I wouldn't be dangling from a roof all day or sticking my fingers near a spinning blade so that would be a plus.

The reality is THIS IS HAPPENING. Like it, love it or hate it doesn't matter. Run away from change and you will fall down possibly never to get back up. Accept change and you may progress with it. Put it in your toolbox and it may help you out one day.


Re: Wall Layout and Framing Basics for Simple Shed Project

Groups and Components are your friends. Think of groups as you would think of any actual building material; a 2x4 is a group, a sheet of plywood is a group, a slab of concrete is a group. These are groups because there is a general need to modify them individually just as you do in real life. Now think of components as you would think of building supplies like doors, windows, faucets, cabinets, etc. These items are production made elsewhere and will all be the same albeit some stretched or mirrored for functionality.

Everything starts out as a group. I even setup a hotkey (easy to do in preferences) to make groups in a single click. I say again.... everything starts out as a group. Make a 2x12 rafter then turn it into a group. Make a door then make it a group. Want to add a door handle? Make the handle then turn it into a group. Stick that handle group on the door and turn the door group and handle group into a group (this is called a 'nested' group).

Sometimes a group works better as a component. Remember that 2x12 rafter group? I assume your project will need more than one rafter and the majority of those will be cut the same. Make that rafter group into a component. Don't explode it first just select it then right click to bring up the menu and "make component". This method is actually FASTER than making a component first as it sidesteps the dialog for name and description and allows SketchUp to name it (actually number it). Rarely do I care what a component is named. I can see it and I know what it is.

Now all your rafters are components and will edit simultaneously. But what about those oddball rafters that need to stop at the chimney? Easy; just select those two or three rafter components and right click to bring up the menu and "make unique". This will retain their status as components but allow them to be individually modified components; aka if you copy & paste them they will edit simultaneously with the "unique" components.

More useful yet these days are "Dynamic Components" which self edit to predetermined sizes, scales, colors, shapes, and arrangements depending on how they are programmed. Making a dynamic component is sorta difficult and sometimes frustrating. But using them is a joy. I recommend heading over to the 3D Warehouse and download pre-configured dynamic components. In my opinion the best ones are the ones offered by manufacturers. I recently downloaded all of the Marvin Windows premier window and door dynamic components for a house I was designing. I tell you, it was about 1000 times faster to place the windows and modify them; not to mention I didn't need to worry whether they were 'realistic' sizes because all the dynamic attributes changed them into actual Marvin Window sizes. Kraftmaid Cabinetry also offers a decent set of components. I would be curious to know who else.


Re: Can We Get Smarter About Job-Site Communication?

Good luck!

Though I cannot think of one to admit it, residential contractors are pretty much all poor team players. It's kinda the nature of the business. Everybody is their own boss like a group of lone cowboys. You might get a few to play by your rules for awhile but eventually they all go their own way. I believe that any manager or general that would attempt to rein all their subs in in the manner suggested would eventually become bitter in their attempt.

Not to mention that in the small scale world of residential remodeling by about the time you figure out what the stumbling blocks of your particular project are and decided on a method to fix it you're likely already moved on to the next project and scratching your head over new problems.

Sadly this is simply the nature of the residential contracting business. The paradigm within our society and educational system tells our youth "If you don't like rules, don't want to go to college, and 'don't test well' then you should look at going into the skilled trades." The result is that the residential construction field is full of a bunch of 'non-conformists'.

You gotta take the good with the bad, as this sometimes means that you find a contractor who is exceptionally talented at his craft. You could find someone who decided after college and career that he just didn't want to sit at a cubicle anymore so he sought out the freedoms of being an independent contractor. You could find that kid who ventured out on his own from the family business. Maybe you find a true renaissance artist of residential construction. But more often than not it seems you find some dude just trying to "get-er-dun" and collect some beer'n'weed money, or you find a contractor who is strung out on too many jobs to give full attention to yours, or someone who realized late that he underbid, or "no hables ingles", or Cap'n Shorttemper, or Mr. Unreliable.

The point is that the residential field is not the easiest place to insert teamwork. The time together is too short, the money to be made is too little, and the competent persons are too difficult to search out.

Re: Retrofitting a USB Charger/Receptacle Combo

I have a Cooper single receptacle, double USB and it only cost $16 on Amazon. Installation was the same as with any other outlet. It's almost comical that there is a 'how to' article for 'retrofitting' one.

FYI; Amazon has several USB outlet styles to choose from. A search for "USB OUTLET" will give dozens of options to choose from. The Leviton shown above will run you $20 and a Cooper double outlet, double USB unit costs $27. There are other brands offered there for even less but when it comes to electrical devices in my walls I prefer a trusted brand name like Cooper or Leviton.

Re: NAHB Sees Shortage of Skilled Labor

@dutchmans gold
I'm pretty sure there was a good stock of skilled trades prior to unions and I should think that even during the stronger union years, the vast majority of skilled trade professionals were neither taught by nor tied to union endeavors.

However, I do believe that the unions have the right ideal on how to educate young career seekers; through apprenticeship programs. As primary schools continue to drop programs previously dedicated to sparking interest in craft careers and secondary schools seem to be similarly shying away from trade craft education it leaves a difficult road for young people to venture towards when looking for a 'non-technical' career. As many of us veterans know, the best way to gain real world experience is by working in the real world and I think that is what the future of secondary education looks like; As according to the adage "what was old is new again" should certainly apply as the old idea of on the job training through apprenticeship begins to become more popular as a legitimate form of secondary and post-secondary education throughout all fields of study including skilled tradecraft.

As I mentioned before, my wife has began a school for CNC machinists and that is exactly how she determined the programs should be taught; Students learn from instructors who are actual CNC machinists and the students run machines right along side their instructors. Parts chosen for the students to make are actual parts that have been produced (though student parts do not go out as production parts). Students begin on smaller scale CNC machines (she purchased new Tormach mills for them) then eventually work their way up to full size machines (Haas 5-Axis). Then after the student finishes the program they are assisted in getting a job from any of the many local machine shops that have expressed interest in drafting from the academy. On top of that, my wife has been touring local high schools and community colleges to renew interest in machinist occupations amongst young people. Kids are often quite impressed to know how vast the field really is and how many items are still produced here in America... not to mention how well paid a skilled CNC operator is.


Re: A Talk With The Home Depot's Vice President of Pro Business

It all boils down to the people.

Before I started out on my own I was trained to stay away from the box stores, then after started out I tried that method but was confronted with arrogance at the local lumber yards. I didn't have an account at any local yards and I usually only needed a couple of items at a time. In return I received little to no service.

I can vividly recall standing and waiting at the counter of a local lumber yard one day; literally the one and only customer in the store while two salesmen were talking about their weekend right in front of me. After standing there for way too long, one of them broke from his story just long enough to say "Someone will be with you shortly". I waited a few more minutes while they took their conversation into an office and then I walked out decided to try the HomeDepot. When I got to the Depot I walked up to the pro desk and was helped immediately.

That HD salesman who helped me all those years ago is still the one who helps me now. Even if I don't go to the desk, he almost aways notices me on my way in and greets me respectfully like a friend. He knows the instore stock and most prices by heart and will tell me how or where to get a better deal when he can. I really feel like he's working for me and not just for HomeDepot.

Now days I tend to regret when I am unable to buy through the Depot. Such was the case recently when I needed about 1000 LF of cedar for exterior trim (my HD doesn't carry 16 foot 1x cedar) so I went to a local lumber yard. I was treated fine at the desk but in the yard they didn't want to wait or just leave me alone to let me choose my lumber so they rushed to chuck a bunch of what ended up being a lot of garbage into my truck. There wasn't time to make another run for replacements so split 16's had to be cut down to 14's adding unnecessary joints and grains couldn't be properly matched at most of the joints. The job ended up being a rather shameful compromise.

Sure, results may vary but in my case the HomeDepot seems to be the best choice.


Re: Creating Countertop Templates

Yachts you say? Then you must have and use some form of a "jigger stick".

The old ca'penta' that taught me trim used to have one... essentially it just looks like a giant jabsaw blade cut out of 1/8" sheet aluminum. We'd cut a sheet of cardboard or plywood to fit close enough then lay the jigger on the sheet, stick the tip of it on whatever point we needed to reference then trace the jigger teeth.

Later in the shop we could re-align the teeth with the tracings and mark the point on the work piece then come back through to fair the curves with a "bending stick" (a simple shop made adjustable curve that looks & works like a long bow; made from a thin strip of white oak and a string).

The system worked amazingly well by itself if not only to generate another, much closer template that can be scribed in the conventional manner.

"Perfect is close enough" and we'd fake to other tradesmen that we never used such techniques let alone even knew of the existence of products like 'caulk' and 'filler putty'. "Filler? Hmm, never heard of it. Sounds like it could work though. Nope, I just guessed a line and cut it. Must've gotten lucky again." It was always fun to see the look on peoples faces when you convince them that you're just a dumb carpenter that somehow seems to get lucky every time.


Re: NAHB Sees Shortage of Skilled Labor

So does this mean I am finally becoming a valuable commodity in the technical career field? Maybe, now I can raise my rates to "decent living" levels.

If so, we better keep this on the DL lest every yahoo with a circular saw and a hammer will be slapping his name on a pickup truck and calling himself "skilled".

For the record, the lack of skilled trades peoples seems to cut across more career fields than just homebuilding. After trying in vain to find a competent CNC machinist, my wife (yes, my wife is in the machine trades) decided to open her own CNC Training Academy. While at her ribbon cutting ceremony, I got talking to a guy from a skilled trades specific staffing agency who told me that they could use similar training facilities for people in carpentry, woodwork, automotive, and metal fabrication.

Hmm, all those areas of learning that our public schools deemed less valuable to teach and shut down. Now we see what may happen when the government forcefully directs kids away of jobs that allows them to move around a little and maybe get their hands dirty in order to craft something with a little bit of pride and integrity {stated too artsy?}.

Maybe I should just start a carpentry academy to complement my wife's CNC academy.


Re: Creating Countertop Templates

Another alternative to the above mentioned template materials is to use strips of fresh corrugated cardboard. (note: "fresh" means brand new sheets purchased for the sole intension of making templates. Just because that refrigerator is new doesn't mean the cardboard box it came in is "fresh")

Cardboard is sold in 4'x8' sheets that cost less and weigh less than any plywood or plastic material. I get mine from the same sheet goods supplier that I get my cabinet grade plywoods from {AllAmericanPlywood; Detroit}.

Just like doorskin, cardboard can be ripped into strips on the table saw and onsite it can also be hot glued together. Obviously you can write on it using pencil, pen, marker, crayon if you like. The main difference is that to cut and scribe the cardboard all you need is a utility knife. Then to transport the cardboard you just fold it up and toss it in the back seat. Back at the shop it unfolds very accurately.

There are only two drawbacks to cardboard; it doesn't like water (duh) so don't transport it in the bed of your truck during a rainstorm. Secondly, it doesn't last forever. Cardboard templates are sort of a one-time deal so if you are making a template that needs to be recreated over and over [like a common sink template] better to make that out of plywood.

Even if you only casually template countertops, you will eventually run into that largish 12'x12' L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen. Then you'll understand what I mean about the benefits of a light weight fold-up cardboard countertop template.


Re: Self-Taught MBA: Are You Ready for Building Information Modeling?

Garbage in = garbage out; as the old saying goes. In my experience BIM works like that. Unfortunately the garbage doesn't as often come from the CAD user as it comes from the software provider.

Autodesk is the most notorious CAD company for providing more hassle than the end result is worth. A good BIM would have intuition enough to automatically prescribe most of it's own information or at least make the tedious task easy enough to make a user want to use it. However, the geniuses over at Autodesk decided to force the user to fill out forms (often in the most awkward manner) each time they want to insert and/or manipulate a BIM associated entity. Try to move fast & efficiently and the [often unnecessary] stream of options tend to trip you up. Insert a new part, then 20 questions later you may be able to draw something; try to manipulate that part and you must start the BIM from scratch.

I often think that the Autodesk style of BIM recording could be great if only I could afford to pay someone to input the BIM data all day. It's sad that a company with so poor of a grasp on the user experience is the top dog in the CAD market. As many others can similarly attest, I only use AutoCAD because I am forced to in order to cross collaborate with the "industry standard". Autodesk makes it even harder to swallow by charging OBSURD prices for this necessary ware. I can only hope that more companies like @Last Software (developers of Sketchup) will take a shot at unseating the giant.


Re: Supersize Me: Working with Details in SketchUp

Anyone venturing into the Sketchup scene who's coming from the often frustrating world of AutoCAD should enjoy the interface of Sketchup Groups & Components versus the limited and slow interaction using AutoCAD Groups & Blocks. Quick creation and editing of a group or component in Sketchup is a key core method that new [and unlearned old] users should become comfortable with. If you start with a simple model of a few groups then by the time it becomes a complex model with many groups, editing the model is much easier. Trust me, neglecting to make groups & components will cause you much frustration in the future.

For PJenk try:

Window>Model Info>Components>Fade rest of model

also try

View>Component Edit>Hide rest of model/Show rest of model
(toggles back and forth)

Better yet is to set up a hotkey that will toggle between the two.

{Note that Sketchup makes it waaaaaaay easier to set up hotkeys than AutoCAD does}


Also, for anyone wanting to 'size up' a non-custom cabinet arrangement very quickly try the KraftMaid Cabinet dynamic components available at the 3D Warehouse. With dynamic components, one wall cabinet can be ALL their wall cabinets (almost). I think they offer maybe 8 dynamic cabinets [equal to about 1000 cabinet variations] and believe me they make quick work out of kitchen & bath proposals. Since most cabinet companies offer the same basic sizes and options it doesn't really matter that they are KraftMaid cabinet models. Then you can say "You need a kitchen proposal? Sure, I can have it for you tomorrow!"

Lastly, a note to Pro Sketchup users... if you need to stretch or shrink a custom cabinet (or any fabrication for that matter) try using the FredoScale plug-in. It allows you to scale in any direction without the distortion that Mr. Jackson mentions. Follow that up with the CutList plug-in then after you resize the model, an updated cutlist will be ready for you in just a few mouse clicks.


Re: A Tale of Two Pitches: Exploring Off-Angle Roof Framing

Complex roof cutting is part of why I love Sketchup so much. Why stand around on the jobsite scratching your head when you can cut an entire virtual roof in the comfort of your own home.The true power of Sketchup is revealed when you can cut an entire complex roof system on the ground then hoist it all upstairs for a perfect fit (lumber inconsistencies aside).

For those with existing casual knowledge in using Sketchup, I think it is important to emphasize the point Mr. Jackson made about using the temporary top bevels on the ridge beams. Another approach (my approach) is to draw the rafters first without a ridge beam; as if they are simply mitered at the peak. Then, based on the structural ridge beam size you need draw a beam that passes through the rafters at the proper location. If you had the forethought to make the common rafters into components then you just cut one back and they all cut back.

Better yet... for anyone trying to decide whether or not they want to upgrade to Sketchup Pro version... Solids Tools make quick work of cutting complex angles on virtual jack, hip, and valley rafters.


Re: The Misused & Confused Chair Rail

I am imagining this scenario: Client asks you to install chair rail and wainscot in the dining room then leaves for work only to come home and see that you installed it 24" off the floor. "But that's where Vitruvius told me to put it!"

Worse yet: You're framing a whole house and set all the window sills to 24" off finished floor. "Well, yeah it looks a little strange now... but just wait till we get the chair rail installed."

May the teachings of dead men never trump the will of the living, the want of your client, nor your own common sense. While there's nothing wrong with learning from the past, there is a point which we must realize that we don't live in Classical Greece, Ancient Rome, The Tuscan Region, or even Colonial America. That said, I'll set my client's chair where ever they pay me the most to put it.


Re: The Misused & Confused Chair Rail

I am imagining this scenario: Client asks you to install chair rail and wainscot in the dining room then leaves for work only to come home and see that you installed it 24" off the floor. "But that's where Vitruvius told me to put it!"

Worse yet: You're framing a whole house and set all the window sills to 24" off finished floor. "Well, yeah it looks a little strange now... but just wait till we get the chair rail installed."

May the teachings of dead men never trump the will of the living, the want of your client, nor your own common sense. While there's nothing wrong with learning from the past, there is a point which we must realize that we don't live in Classical Greece, Ancient Rome, The Tuscan Region, or even Colonial America. That said, I'll set my client's chair where ever they pay me the most to put it.


Re: A Custom Built-In Entertainment Center

Rob, while I am for the most part in agreement with this article, I think there are a few techniques which should be included in your article.

The first thing I notice when I look at the example above is the lack of symmetry. A fireplace out of center warrants a whole list of theoretical and philosophical concerns. But to most it just looks funny. A good method of handling this is to flank both sides of the fireplace with matching cabinets. One side could conceal the television while the other side could hold the a/v equipment or if using a natural fireplace it could just hold wood.

I think, if they would've planned ahead on this fire/entertainment centre they could've built the whole thing into the wall instead of jutting out into the room. Anytime you break the wall plane with a "built-in" the item degrades from being part of the house to being an object on the wall. With most built-ins, the more integrated, the better.

Looking at picture #3 above, I see the client has a collection of media. It should really be obvious by now that physical media, while still a viable method of purchasing content, is a horrible way of storing content. The price of large capacity hard drives (terra-towers) these days is lower than ever and the space savings - not to mention convenience of storing and accessing media in the digital environment is no longer the way of the future but everyday practice.

As a small note - if one should consider storing their a/v equipment in such manner as shown above it may be necessary to install a "remote eye" lest you will have to get up to adjust sound or pause the movie as most remote controls still cannot work through closed doors nor around corners.

Also note that the future of home a/v will be completely digital and almost entirely wireless (wifi). While when designing a built-in entertainment center it is still smart to plan ahead to provide wire chases and plenty of electrical outlets (mind your circuit loads!), the future of most a/v equipment points to wire free connectivity... which includes connecting to your laptop or tablet. In that sense it may be better to pre-plan your next built-in as a home command center rather than simply an entertainment center.

Finally, don't forget the heat. While a/v equipment has come a long way in terms of energy efficiency, it all still produces quantities of heat which must be mitigated if stored and used in a closed cabinet. Simple breather holes can be cut in the upper and lower rear of the cabinet (vented to the room) or you could even install heat sensing fans. Not venting your equipment could seriously shorten the life of the components.

Can't wait to read the article.

Re: Tool-Test Preview: Compact Compressors

I have the Senco PC1010 and I really like it. I have had it in professional use for about 5 yrs. without a single problem. I still remember my first time using it; I was trimming a kitchen and had it right next to the island and when it kicked on the HO asked if my compressor was in another room down the hall... yes, it really is that quiet. And it's very light weight. I'd almost bet it weighs less than a framing nailer. Not to mention it was only $120 at the time and came with a 23ga pin nailer (my first) man I love that pin nailer!

I am quite surprised not to see anything from Husky on the list. I trimmed a couple houses using a co-worker's 2 gal. Husky ( model#2G110DPNG) and found it to be a very nice little compressor.... especially for $60.


Re: Remodeler's shop layout: designing for workflow and flexibility

@Swingman... very nice shop, thanks for sharing with everyone.

@DanMorrison... I am a remodeler and have a shop too. While my shop is in my garage, I did plan and build the 24x24 garage special to serve as a shop. After doing so, I found there were a few things I would do differently.

For starters, I wanted to allow for lots of light, access, and air flow so I put in 4 good sized windows, as well as a glazed access door to the house and another to the outside; then of course there is the two 10' wide roll up doors. The result is good light/air/access but very limited wall and storage space. It's a big trade off that I am not sure is worth it or not but certainly something to consider.

Next, I planned my outlet layout based on where the windows and doors were as well as where I expected to place a few machines. Well, sure enough it's all wrong (almost). Not long after I moved into the shop I had already re-arranged all the equipment then after that I acquired some different equipment and needed to re-arrange again. The result is inconvenient and sometimes unusable outlet locations. My recommendation to anyone planning a shop is to save electrical money by just providing some junction boxes in the attic then add conduit drops as needed. If you move the machine that was using a conduit drop, you can remove the wire and there's just a little 3/4" diam. hole to patch in the ceiling.

I did recently add a sub panel to my shop which is really nice to have especially for all the new 220 outlets I have added.

I also enjoy that my garage ceiling is over 9 feet. I can easily maneuver 8 ft. sheet goods without fear of scraping the ceiling or whacking a light.

Speaking of lights, I have 12 ceiling lights rated for up to 100W each which now have equal lumen CFL's. Additionally I have a swing-arm lamp at my miter station and another at my lathe. It is adequate lighting for most tasks but at certain times seems almost dark. My plan is to add 12 more fluorescent tube fixtures on a new switch and a few more swing arms that I can clamp to my bench or other machine stand.

Lastly I thought I had a good plan for mobility but that hasn't panned out. In the future I would like to be able to move EVERYTHING. Since some of my projects are small and some large it pays to have the versatility to move the things that are unnecessary out of the way. Not every job requires a full mitersaw station... so it should be able to pack up and get out of the way. The table saw is a bit more difficult to move. I have a Delta mobile base on my 52" Unisaw but it's a pathetic device and not really worth the effort... at least I can remove the fence and convert it to a workbench.

I think that covers my biggest issue and hopefully helps someone out there who's still in the planning stages to plan better for versatility. I guess you should expect that from a remodeler's workshop.


Re: Window Flashing - New-Construction Best-Practice Tyvek Method

quoting Matt Risinger: "...windows can and will leak"

While I agree that a leak could occur due to a poorly designed window, a poorly installed window, a poorly installed trim/siding job, or just a poorly designed home in general I must firmly disagree that a window WILL leak.

I see this article as defining a 'belt and suspenders' style of window installation method. Here's the deal about belts and suspenders; neither are required if your pants just fit properly. But if you're building spec homes then that is just the problem... the home is never designed to fit it's location. On top of that, the product chosen are chosen based on price and sellability rather than function and even worse, the installation contractors are chosen based on low bid to ensure maximum profit. The whole system leads to leaky windows and a general fear amongst contractors and homeowners alike that their "windows can and will leak."

But if you simply choose the right home design, spec a good window, and install the window and surrounding components properly then why would it leak? Heck, I have tore into windows & siding that is over 150 years old yet showed no sign of leakage..... on the flip, I have tore into windows & siding that was less than a decade old and full of rot.

While I am not telling you not to install your windows with extra protection I am saying that it isn't entirely necessary and I believe that the building science community would agree. Unfortunately if you aren't the one designing the house or you aren't also the trim installer and siding installer then you might want to CYA by being a little overly cautious.


Re: How to Boost a Construction Business with a Website

Need a website quick? or not sure IF you need a website but want to give it a try?

Check out Weebly.com

It's free, it offers 100's of fully customizable templates that can be edited using HTML and/or WYSIWYG (easy!), and it doesn't "feel" like a free web host although there is a discreet Weebly logo at the bottom of each page. For no cost you can have a sub-domain under them; that means your site address would look like www.weebly.dreamcatcherdb.com or you can buy a custom domain as described in the article above and have a proper web address like mine www.dreamcatcherdb.com (you can buy the domain name from Weebly too and make website building even easier).

They do offer a "pro" version for only $50 a year that will get rid of their logo at the bottom of the pages, allows unlimited sites, pages, videos, site tracking, and a few other tools that I don't see a need for.

With site building this easy there is no reason that every carpentry company or freelancing carpenter shouldn't have a site - if only to post a few work pics and a resume. While Weebly makes it easy to have a good looking website, it really doesn't have to be a work of art....... it is after all just another TOOL!


Re: Building Homes with American-Made Materials Could Save the Economy

Hmm, about halfway done you say?

I can almost guarantee that finding products for the first half is waaaaay easier than finding USA made products for the last half.

The more complex the product, the more likely it will have a "Made in China" sticker on it..... electrical outlets, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, dishwasher hose, towel bar, door knob, coffee maker, thermostat. It's either that or the opposite extreme as in the little things (cheap products we take for granted) that will trip you up when trying to buy American.

Sure, there are probably american companies that make all these things but at a premium price. At some point your books need to balance and you gotta make hard decisions.

While we are on the subject, I gotta give a nod to Menards... it's a privately owned building supply warehouse here in the midwest that specifically points out USA made products in it's fliers. Their prices are often LOWER than the other box stores and their in-store selection is at least 2-3 times larger. In fact, they carry so many items that it can sometimes get weird (they actually have a grocery section) and to be competitive they have a lot of off brand products - albeit American made off brand products.

check 'em out at www.menards.com if you've never heard of them.


Re: Smart Phone Apps for Builders: Simple Loan Calculator

I don't know any builders who would ever need to calculate a loan for a client. The likelihood of any generic calculation program providing an accurate number for the client would be slim anyway. More importantly, we're builders not bankers - I don't want to handle anyone's finances but my own. I can see this being a good tool for a realtor but not for a builder.

Now, if you can find me an app that will calculate how much money I am making (or losing) per hour on the job...


Re: Patrick's Barn: Roof Framing

Nothing against Andy but in my experience, narrow sheathing like that seems very 'spongy' compared to full sheets. You might want to contact the APA to see what they think about sheathing a roof using 2x8 sheets. Just a heads up.


Re: Patrick's Barn: Roof Framing

As someone who usually works alone - and has solo framed & sheathed many a roof like the one shown - I recommend making a plywood rack to get the wood up there. I have a 15' ply rack that I have been using for years (made out of PT lumber). I can load it with 10+ sheets of ply at a time then scurry to the roof and "swing" them up.

Trying to work from the inside is more difficult than it's worth and because of the twisting and cumbersome wrestling with the sheets, you may put unnecessary strain on your back. Also, it can be hard to hold sheets from the top like that while getting them into their clips and the sheets have a tendency to get away from you... look out below.

Going up and over the shed is an even worse idea. First, you are wasting your energy taking the long way. Second, you'd have a hard time walking the rafters down that slope carrying a heavy sheet of ply without picking up momentum that would send you skidding off the roof.

Nope, better to just approach it like you'd approach any other roof. Make a plywood rack tall enough to allow about 3 foot of the sheets stick above the eave. If the rack is too tall to load from the ground, try loading from the back of a pickup truck; if the truck is still too low then load from a ladder. Not that I would say it's easy but it's a lot easier than it may seem.

Better yet, find someone with a front end loader or all-terrain forklift (see SkyTrak or Lull) to lift the sheets up to the roof. Or just rent one. Two guys on that roof could sheath it in less than two hours easily so all you'd need is a 3 hr rental... probably cost you about $200.

BTW: Don't forget your roof jacks on that slope. Get more roof jacks than you think you will need - you will appreciate the feeling of safety and work much faster.


Re: Good, Safe Carpentry Work Demands That We be Present

While I am not into eastern style practices, I do live a reasonably stress free life - all the while as a professional carpenter. Here's a few tips I try to live by:

1. Work Slower
Accidents happen when you don't give yourself (or your crew) enough time to think through what you are doing and how to do it in a safe yet efficient manner.

2. Charge More
Budgets are often tight making schedules tight making contractors stress out and try to move too fast - that causes accidents. While I realize you gotta compete to rope in clients, but you gotta afford to live too. Carpentry is a tough job and you should be paid well to do it. Stop lowball quoting, risk loosing some bids, choose jobs that focus on quality, and always provide exemplar craftsmanship.

3. Be Honest
Stop lying to clients and coworkers... even little lies. If you screw up the estimate or scratch their floor then just tell them and work it out. If you know you aren't going to make it to the job the next day, don't tell the client you'll be there. If you don't know what you are doing then say so. If you over charged for a job you thought would be difficult but ended up easy, offer a discount. Just don't let a bunch of lies, mistakes, exaggerations, and trickery weigh you down with stress.

4. Live Within your Means
Know how to discriminate between your personal "needs" and your "wants". If the pace of your work is dependent on the keeping up with the Jonses then you will never be truly "well off". Debt is the numerical equivalent of stress and the less you have the better.


Re: One Carpenter's Life as Told by Small Houses and Spaces

Gotta love Reno's constant obsessive fear of communist takeover! Ha.

I imagine him being the one in the "armchair" yelling "Don't tread on me!" but as soon as he finds out his neighbor wants to build a 20 story skyscraper or a mosque is proposed down the road from him his tune changes to "NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY!"

I'm no socialist but I can tell you that most of the rules and regulations that our country has enacted since the establishment of our great nation have been for the better and has thus greatly enhanced our way of life. This isn't colonial America anymore, it's not the wild west, and it isn't even still the industrial revolution. We don't trade slaves, we don't need to carry guns outside our pants, and we don't pour gasoline into rivers. What we do is embrace science, technology, globalization, and ecology. We recognize the mistakes we have made in the past and seek methods to never repeat those mistakes.

How we design, build, and maintain our structures is just one niche where we may seek to change our ways. While currently there's really not a lot of regulation forcing anyone to change their building ways, there will eventually come a point where if the populous refuses to change voluntarily then government will have to step in and force the change through regulation. In that sense it's like when my mother used to tell me to clean my room, she'd say "Either you can clean your room or I can clean your room for you. But if I clean your room, I'm tossing all your stuff in the garbage."


Re: One Carpenter's Life as Told by Small Houses and Spaces

To each his own, I guess.

I grew up in a rural area where many people lived on 100+ acre farms and most lived on 1-10 acre parcels. House sizes were what you'd expect from old farm houses. From that upbringing, I went to university in a major city and for years 'endured' the tight living conditions. After graduating, I was happy to move back to the country and am now married with two kids, two dogs and a 1600sqft house on 1 acre. With all that in mind, I would say that it is as small of a space that I would be willing to inhabit for any length of time.

Just because it popped in my head, here is some useless math:
There is about 2.3B acres of land in the US and about 232M adult citizens which means each person could have nearly 10 acres. Then if you consider that about 104M of citizens are married (thus only need one chunk of land per couple) then we could say that there is about 18 acres per person or couple. Of course we can't use all the land for residential/personal property.. so let's just consider that if we designated 1/2 the US land for housing then we would still be looking at about 9 acres per person or couple. I don't know if those figures work toward any argument but it is interesting to know that if the country were equally divided then I am only using about 11% of my wife and I's allotment and I think that is a good minimum of space.


Re: Designer's Touch: Create Light Fixtures for Your SketchUp Model


In a Sketchup model, I call the extraneous stuff "fluff". I keep the fluff on it's own layer so that it can be quickly turned off when unneeded; to get it out of the way while making modifications to the model or to just speed up the performance of the computer. Fluff items are often complex and eat up lots of computing power. Take, for instance, the lamp in the example: lots of curves, translucency, unique texture/color. One is fine but in a model that may have dozens of different fluff items thats a lot of strain on a processor.

Before fluffing out a model, one must ask why they need fluff. I do it because I use computer models - rather, I use photorealistic renderings of computer models - to convince homeowners to pay me thousands of dollars for my design opinion and/or my carpentry services. So, if you are a design+builder like me then it may make good business sense to learn Sketchup and work in some fluff.

But if you are Joe Homeowner, thinking about a DIY bathroom remodel, you may want to hold back on some of the fluff. Sure, adding a light fixture would provide a better understanding of what the space could look like but possibly at a major cost of time. While the light that Matt makes above may only take 15 min. for a proficient SU user, more complex bathroom light fixtures - say one with triple rose globes set on viney curved arms blooming from a repoussé floret escutcheon - could take a few hours to properly model such that it is suitable for a convincing render. If it's your bathroom, this would certainly be a wasted endeavor for most.

Back to the professional level, I first recommend obtaining the "Architectural Components Pack" from the Sketchup website. It will provide a good number of fluff elements. The next step is to scour the "Google 3D Warehouse" for fluff items already drawn by fellow SU users. You can save anything that looks promising for future use so say you were looking for a dining room table for a kitchen remodel but you stumble across a great picnic table; grab it up for that deck design you might have someday. Once you develop a good collection you will be 90% there. Of course you will probably never find everything you need on the web... like that soon to be released Meile oven that your prospective client absolutely must have in her kitchen remodel. If you are veeeeeeerrry lucky the product manufacturer will provide a SU model but, while becoming more and more common, that is still rare.

Sometimes you will just have to buck up and draw. At this point you must decide how detailed to make it to get the best bang for your buck. Most of the time you can just forget about the 'guts' of the product - this is a model not a working drawing for the product. You only need to concern yourself with the main outer dimensions (for fitting) and the face that shows in the render output. Often a stove, oven, or the like can just be a cube with some differently colored 2D rectangles and circles on the face to mimic windows and knobs. If you are just starting out in SU and just plan to output a standard SU render then this will suffice (maybe Matt can give a quick blog tutorial later). Obviously a photorealistic rendering requires more attention to detail (distance appropriate) but that is probably waaaay more advanced than most users on this forum..........yet certainly something to consider.


Re: UPDATE: Mike Rowe testifies before Senate

I thought this was Rowe's most poignant statement:

"In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of 'higher education' to such a lofty perch, that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled 'alternative'. Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as “vocational consolation prizes,” best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of 'shovel ready' jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel."

As both a field trained worker and a disciple of higher education in a related field, I can speak from much experience towards the effect that societal paradigm has had on the skilled trade industry - in my case this is specific to carpentry.

It has long been my hope that someday we may see a resurgence of labor related education at both the high school and university level. Not that we should advocate a drone labor mentality nor should we urge anyone to pursue a career in an antiquated manner. Rather, we should be raising the standards of practice and providing proper professional level education to back up those standards.

SInce it seems the same disparagers of vocational training are so often the same complainers of the difficulty finding qualified contractors, it should prove a worthy argument that the longer our society snubs the idea of skilled trade work as a professional career, the worse the problem will become.

As a carpenter, I have always been dissatisfied that I only have the limited ability to elevate my career status to 'lead carpenter' but never to a true professional level of 'Master Carpenter'. To that extent, I was unable to pursue carpentry to a higher level at a university and so settled with obtaining my bachelor's degree in the related field of architecture.... which does allow the capability to distinguish one's self as a 'professional' by societal standards as well as the ability to achieve the level of 'Master Architect' by way of a Master of Architecture degree.

So, if FHB and Mike Rowe want my opinion as to fixing the vocational gap it would be to find ways to convince universities to offer curriculum and degrees in skilled trade fields. In doing so, it would be my hope that techniques and technology in fields such as carpentry will move forward at a more rapid pace, consumer confidence will rise, construction standards will be better followed, field professionals will receive fairer wages, and building efficiency will increase. Above all, we would be ensured a better educated workforce.


Re: Homebuilding's Big Helper: Employment

Biden's got the right idea... make big, exaggerated claims of recovery and the public will gain confidence; then jobs will indeed be created.

And that's no joke. It has been my observation that a large portion (most?) Americans are prone to latch onto unproven but over-exploited assertions. Every time the GOP declared the Obama stimulus was a failure while there were sure signs that the economy was getting better, the hiring rate wavered. When it was reported that gas prices would come back down this summer, car buying fell off on econo-cars but increased in guzzlers. People mindlessly believe what they are told by the news and by politicians.

So, bravo Joe Biden.

DC <--(FYI not a Dem or a Rep)

Re: Carpentry Ethics

After reading what AmazingGrace just mentioned and re-reading the posts I came to the conclusion that what we are talking about isn't solely based on the ethics of the builders out there but is also reliant on the ethics of the clients.

As I told Larry, it's unquestionably ethical to give a client a better product for less money. But that isn't often the case; more often the client demands a better product for less money. Is that ethical?

Sometimes materials prices fluctuate wildly and the builder gets stuck with the cost difference (for better or worse) is that ethical?

Often, good and ethical carpenters are disrespected by public opinion because of the poor ethical decisions of a few. Is that ethical?

These days the cost of an automobile (a sure to depreciate product) is 1/4 or more of the cost of a new home (which has some promise to appreciate) yet homes are considered over valued while the cost of cars are stomach-able by the general populous. Is that ethical?

If you read my first statement, I make a little quip at the end alluding that I might have all the answers if I were a Master Carpenter - something currently unachievable in America. I say that because it is what appears to be missing in the public's perception; that is 'professionalism'.

Most still believe that carpentry is a 'fall back' career for those who just couldn't cut it in college. Yet doctors, lawyers, accountants, and even plumbers (like AmazingGrace mentioned) retain a professional level of respect among popular opinion, even though statistics show that they are just as 'shady' as anyone else (sometimes more?).

And, similar to AmazingGrace's story of the plumber, I can go to a doctor 10 times for the same ailment - never necessarily being cured, sometimes having even worse side effects, but for sure being charged a premium every time.

How's that for 'ethical'?


(sorry to write so much but it's a subject I am passionate about)

Re: Carpentry Ethics

Larry, you say, "This is an ethical question----can we learn new ways to do our work that will allow us to hang a door faster----without reducing quality and costing our customers less money?"

But I don't think that is a real ethical question... it's a no brainer to say that it is perfectly ethical to give someone the same quality for less money.

To be a real ethical question we would need to consider whether it is ethical to charge the same for the same quality even if we can do it faster and cheaper - are we allowed to 'cash in' on our own efficiency and ingenuity?

Or you could ask if it is unethical to go on uncaring about advances in technology that may allow us to be more efficient?

On top of that, we should be considering the effect that speed and 'efficiency' put on safety. While I have never been cut on a saw blade nor skewered by a pneumatic nail, most production framers I know have had those injuries. Is it ethical to work so fast that safety is diminished?

But as you mentioned "There are many other ethical questions...". So true.


Re: Carpentry Ethics

Both Carver and AmazingGrace put forth some good inclusions towards the subject.

That first line wrote by carver, "I believe Larry is a legend in his own mind" while a bit callous does carry on the point I was attempting to make.... The majority of carpenters think they are THE BEST. Nobody will readily admit to being a hack and most won't admit to intentionally cutting corners.

But, as AmazingGrace wrote, "If I can cut man hours off a job, in-turn save some money which I can pass along to my bid..." which is true of most industries. Sometimes you can 'strategically' reduce the quality of a product but still have an outcome that will pass quality standards - and perform flawlessly 98% of the time. This means the customer is happy 98% of the time unless circumstances go awry and that 2% chance of failure shows up.

Don't be pompous either because we ALL do it. Every carpenter on every job has to make some sacrifice in quality (unless you're working for a billionaire on a carte blanc job). No house that I know of is truly PERFECT. No corners are perfectly square after the drywall mud is laid. No floors are perfectly level after wood shrinks and foundations shift ever so slightly. No house retains 100% of their heat or has a truly positive impact on the environment. Construction is a jungle of imperfections and ethical decisions; we just have to decide on what level of imperfection we can live with.

DC <--- who was taught carpentry under the moral standard of "Perfect is Close Enough".

Re: Carpentry Ethics

Larry, this article smacks me with a couple of impressions:

For one, you only really discuss rough framing and secondly you never really discuss the fact that we all have differing opinions of what is "right".

I understand that the idea of "production framing" is about speed. The job boss on the crew I worked on would constantly yell "Elbows and @$$holes!!" to move us faster. But as I progressed in my career and found myself at one point as a custom trim carpenter then finally as a remodeler, I find that speed takes a backseat to quality. And by 'quality' I don't just mean quality of workmanship. Sometimes it is quality of service, that is working with the homeowner and making him feel like he is getting what he paid for. In the framing aspect which you are steeped, this may mean keeping it tighter, cleaner, and square while at the same time keeping the client happy, well informed, and welcomed on-site. Maybe that's just the difference between 'production' and 'quality'... your client is more or less faceless while mine is an added directive at each phase of construction.

I should forewarn anyone who has ever read my words or worked with me that over engineering is one of my pet peeves. So much so that after nearly a decade working in the field I went back to college and got my own degree in architecture so that I could learn the scoop on building science as well as perform any necessary structural calculations. This was due to encounters with so many archys and builders who - plain to say - didn't really know what they were doing, but usually assumed they were doing it "right". We've all seen 'hack jobs', but rarely will anyone admit they have any of their own out there. But in reality we ALL have hack jobs somewhere in the world - some of us are doing hack jobs thinking that they are 'top notch' or at the least 'good enough'.

Almost as bad is the over the top job........ of which the pages of FHB is RIPE! Many FHB types boast about their 'code plus' and 'belt & suspenders' approach to construction while not always considering the financial injustice they may be inflicting on their clients. Then they often go about boasting about their approach - some going so far as to use it as their sales pitch. To me, going so far above and beyond is just a sign of ignorance and laziness - that is too lazy to perform calculations and too ignorant to know what to calculate. The calculations may be applied to traditionally calculated items like beams, stud placement, and panel thicknesses or to more technical areas like flashing procedure, insulation methodology, and cladding details. Knowing when enough is enough shows experience and forethought but layering flashing 10 deep "just in case" may just show ignorance and is not really doing the client any favors.

I feel like my experience a remodeler gives me better insight towards these issues and my education only goes to back up that insight. Being a remodeler has allowed me to see what REALLY works and what can go horribly wrong in the construction of houses. Some of my jobs are poster children for the term "hack job" sometimes to the point of being dangerous, but more often just plain curious (as in "what the heck was this guy even thinking?"). But more appropriately, being experienced in the remodeling industry has allowed me to truly know what is meant by the term "fine homebuilding" and I think that is something that is often lost in the pages of the magazine.

So, the simple answer to your question is - We must only make homeowners happy. Some use over engineering, some use low cost. Others use high technology while still others rely on the idea of "hand built/old world quality". One carpenter is only concerned about finishing a house fast and selling it while another wishes to build a house that will last for centuries. You may say "be more efficient" but sometimes the codes limit that efficiency. The funny thing is that while we have legal answers to what is "wrong" we don't have any clear cut method to prove what is "right" and therefor no good way to determine what is proper "carpentry ethics".

Maybe someday I will be able to go back to school and get my "Master's in Carpentry" then I will have a better answer for you.


Re: Sneak peek at new line of DeWalt hand tools


Quote "They use a new technology they call MIG Welding"

Was that a serious statement? That's not a new technology and DeWalt certainly didn't invent it. MIG stands for "Metal Inert Gas" and it's how most metals are welded these days but I wouldn't consider it a great choice for welding a hammer.

I have always been amused by hammer "technology". I mean, we're talking about basic Newtonian forces (f=ma)

Re: The Housing-Bottom "Finder": Mortgage Rates

Yesterday I heard an interesting argument concerning [part of the reason] why the housing market is so slow to recover.... It had to do with property investment value and the underwater mortgage. Essentially, potential home buyers are hesitant to sell their current homes because of the decreased value. The perceived
value of their current home is less than the actual market value of their home. But if they don't sell their current home then they are unable to purchase a new home... thereby stalling the home buying cycle.

Therefore, one answer to this problem could be to issue a tax write off on the lost value of their home.

And, it actually makes sense to me. Under the modern perception that your home is an "investment", it seems obvious that if that investment goes bad then you should be able to write it off as a bad investment; just the same as you might write off a bad business or securities investment.

While that answer isn't what everyone wants to hear these days as it would even further decrease federal tax intake, it does offer the opportunity for the lower and middle class average homeowner to take part in some of the tax games that have historically been played mostly by the upper class.

I think another advantage of this strategy would be to finally stabilize housing prices; lower prices, yes - but stable nonetheless. I see the current housing market fluctuations as being the result of a of stand-off. Sellers holding out for top dollar while buyers hold out for the bottom to hit and erratic occurring only when clusters of sellers can't hold on any longer and lose to the bank... further worsening the problem.

Now, I don't know how the issue of the blog post fits in - possibly that we are looking towards a government run mortgage monopoly or maybe that banks need to start becoming more competitive in the near future rather than less competitive like they are now. But what I do know is that limiting lower/middle class access to home buying is certainly not the answer to solving the issue of the housing market nor is it the answer to decreasing separation between the upper and middle classes.


Re: Sneak peek at new line of DeWalt hand tools


Carpenters? Stanley doesn't care about marketing to carpenters. S/B&D wants DIY's......they are much stupider than carpenters and have way more money to give away.

These tools are only intended to give the impression of being professional grade. Notice how you always see tools marked as "Heavy Duty" "Industrial Grade" "Professional" and "Extreme" but you never see anything marketed as "Homeowner Grade".

The irony of being a professional carpenter in this modern age of handy-dandy power tools and well stocked home centers is that we might have to focus on increasing our carpentry skills just in order to overcome the incompetence of our low quality tools.


Re: Scrap Your Nail Set and Make Your Hammer Work Harder

This tip appears to work better in theory than in practice.

Re: Are Modern Power Tools Junk?


Well you ruled out about half of the viable options out there. Depending on what you use it for to require "all balls" and "no prisoners" you may want to look into an electric chainsaw like those offered by Makita. I don't have any experience with them but I have heard some about Hilti's reciprocating saw. Personally I have owned the same PC Tigersaw for the past 13 years and been totally happy with it. I used a Hitachi once that had an extremely aggressive orbital action that seemed to cut wood very fast - it had good ergonomics too - but I can't vouch for it's overall durability nor do I know if they even still make that model. I have used several models of Milwaukee Sawzalls through the years, all of which seemed the same to me and got the job done. I know Milwaukee fans swear by them.

Again, it may depend on what you do. Chainsaws are best for clean wood. I like to demo roofs (shingles/sheathing/nails/drip) with a Mil worm, I chop sheathing out of window openings with a Bosch Colt, I cut pipe and angle iron with a Mil band saw, and I cut heavy iron with a torch. Some tasks are better suited for a Sharptooth Saw.

Hope that helps some.

Re: Cheat Sheet for SketchUp: a Quick-Start Guide for 3D Modeling

I doubt any of the SU/CAD gripers from the Ultimate Saw Stand blogpost will even chime in here.

It is so sad to me to hear Sketchup related comments like "I tried it for an hour but couldn't figure it out so I quit." What??? Remember "trying" drawing to scale with pencil and paper for the first time... was it more than an hour to "figure it out"?

I remember my first try of Sketchup. I spent my first hour watching the online video tutorial. My second hour was spent designing a make-believe workbench. From there on it was fun; Fun enough that I played around with it for hours and got very good (and super fast) at it. Then when I actually NEEDED it to design a building model, I already had the skill to use it. In comparison, it took me nearly 2 years (and two semesters of college classes) and lots of bumbling around in AutoCad before I could use it efficiently to design building models.

So my top 3 Sketchup tips are:

1.) Watch the online tutorials - either the ones here or the official ones at the Sketchup website. At the very least watch the first one but don't hesitate to watch them all incrementally. I've been using Sketchup for nearly 10 years and I still check out a tutorial now and again just to make sure I am working at the maximum of efficiency.

2.) Don't wait till you need it to try it. I know that nobody ever has "free time" to just play around with a computer program. Sure you don't... that's why you're reading a blog right now. Rearrange your schedule to devote an hour or two every week towards learning it. Don't think you will pick it up in the first hour and especially don't make your first drawing an entire house. Start with a box, then try a simple table, then maybe a cabinet... draw incrementally complex objects that don't really matter before moving on to draw something that does matter.

3.) Get a mouse! Specifically get a mouse with a center wheel button. With the new prevalence of laptops, I have seen many people who no longer use a mouse, settling with the navpad. In 2D drawing (plan views only) you might get away with that. But Sketchup is 3D and requires much more onscreen movement. Its like comparing paper and pencil drawing where the paper is taped down to model house building - it would be darn hard to build a model if it was taped down and you couldn't move around it.

4.) I know I said 'top three tips' so heres a bonus that doesn't apply to everyone: Get a new computer! If you're complaining about how slow programs are on your computer - or how slow the program downloads for that matter - then chances are your computer is an outdated pile of junk. 3D drawing requires more processing power than old computers may be able to provide. Upgrading to a new computer - possibly one designed for 3D drawing will save you lots of time and aggravation. What's that, you can't afford a new computer? Imagine you are on a job and your miter saw breaks or your work truck blows a rod - you gotta get that fixed or replaced to stay in business. Same with computers. Believe it or not, that computer is a TOOL for carpentry and could be reflected on your taxes as such... same for high speed internet (check with your accountant).

I know all you paper&pencil fogies probably don't care and won't give it a chance. But to anyone interested in truly improving the efficiency of their homebuilding techniques, be sure to try out Sketchup and keep these tips in mind.


Re: Are Modern Power Tools Junk?

As I put a little more thought into this subject (hey, I love talkin' tools) I realized that the problem is DIYers! Long ago, tool quality levels were quite easily distinguishable between DIY, Professional, and Industrial. But every DIY/hobbycraft boom in the past century has coincided with the cheapening of power tools. Because of that, professional level tools have reduced in quality to take advantage of cheaper production techniques used in the DIY tool makes; leading us to today where the line between industrial, professional, and DIY tools has blurred.

Are Craftsman tools professional level? Are Ryobi tools? Rigid? Festool?

I think many would say Festool is professional level but I am not so convinced. I think their main customer base is wealthy hobbyists and in such their claims of higher durability and accuracy are invalid since the tools are used so infrequently and protected much more than, say a Skill saw would be.

To me, some examples of truly professional level tool companies are Metabo, Mafell, and maybe Flex. Unfortunately the N.American tool offering from these companies is currently limited and their advertising isn't at all aggressive - likely because they aren't gunning for the DIY crowd like Festool and Fein.

But I think with the conglomeration of yesteryear's tools combined with a slump in the DIY market it may be ushering in better professional level tools. Bosch seems to be trying to re-distinguish itself as pro-grade, Delta has new ownership and has some great new offerings, and Flex has began it's N.American campaign (albeit only in the concrete/stone market for now).

So, the professional tool market may be looking up so long as we don't expect to see that higher quality from the old players like Milwaukee, Porter Cable, and Hitachi and are still willing to pay top dollar for quality. Also, we may need to rethink where we buy our tools. Boxes don't carry the quality goods, neither do most tool stores yet, an lumberyards are all but extinct - online buying may be the only way to get the good stuff.


Re: Are Modern Power Tools Junk?

Another interesting note is the on the prices of the tools pictured above.

I can't tell the exact dates or the prices on the routers but making an educated guess I would say the PC router ad is from about 1955, the Skil saw ad is about 1965, and the Shop-Vac ad is from maybe 1970 or so.

Using an online historical money converter shows that:

The $49.50 cost of the Skil saw is equivalent to $375 dollars today,
The $69.50 Shop-Vac would cost $396 today,
And the [hard to see] $79.54 PC router would be a whopping $657 dollars today!

Yet for today's equivalent to those same tools, the current prices are only about $20 more.

Maybe Justin can confirm the exact dates and prices in the ads, but I couldn't be too far off.


Re: Are Modern Power Tools Junk?

I gotta agree with ChuckB...there is and has always been some diamonds and some real piles of garbage. You just have to look at things in context.

Like, sure that old SkilSaw was great. But how about that Kut-King saw? Don't remember that one do you? That's because it was a pile of garbage.

Or How about my grandpas 1968 DeWalt "Power Shop" radial arm saw (made by Black and Decker) they sold literally millions of those things. But compared to my 1951 DeWalt GW (made by DeWalt) that Power Shop was a pile of garbage.

Or take a 1955 Delta/Rockwell jointer - a stout and well loved machine, probably the envy of most woodworkers. Then compare that to my 1915 C.O.Porter jointer and the Delta looks like a flimsy pile of garbage.

On the other hand, look at ANY Delta Unisaw through the ages and compare it to the all new Unisaw. Are you really telling me that you'd rather have the old version? Or, would you like to compare a Delta Sawbuck to a Bosch Axial Glide? Maybe an original "Sabre Saw" to the current Bosch jigsaw. How about a swollen arm and a hammer compared to the wide variety of lightweight pneumatic tools that are available today?

Anyone who broadly labels the tools of today "junk" compared to the tools of yesterday doesn't really know jack about tools. There's plenty of great tools made in China and there's still plenty of junk made in the USA (and vise versa of course). The only unfortunate fact is that there is just too little of both currently being made in USA. The only reason I make an honest attempt to buy USA made is because literally ALL of my clients are Americans.


Re: Reader Poll: Do you still use a corded drill?

That was supposed to read:

"These days you gotta have one corded for full time use and one cordless for quick jobs."


Re: Reader Poll: Do you still use a corded drill?

It's the extended jobs that EthanB commented about which are the reason for my gripes. Why must I have TWO of everything? 2 circ. saws, 2 drills, 2 recip. saws, and 2 rotary tools. These days you gotta have one corded for full time use and one corded for quick jobs. I think THAT's how they make most of their money.

Worse is that in comparison, cordless tools suck. No cordless tool that I know of has the same power or speed of it's corded cousin. Aside from the field of drivers, I don't think much effort really even goes into increasing the technology of making cordless tool performance match that of corded tools.

If I am right, that that's how they make a major portion of their money then why would they want cordless to be just as good as corded? For that matter, why would they offer cordless/corded hybrids? Then everyone would just buy cordless or hybrid and the manufacturer would lose an entire tool line of profit.


Re: How to Level Up Concrete Piers?

I agree with chaz1 this is not much of an issue.

The real issue of ignorance is that someone self described as "No Talent - All Thumbs" decided to build a deck for himself instead of calling in a professional.

And we wonder where these stupid codes come from.


Re: Are Modern Power Tools Junk?


Thanks for hacking up my screen name, that says a lot about you. If you were to have clicked my name in either of my comments you would've been taken to my profile where you would learn that I own and operate Dreamcatcher Design+Build.

I rely on my tools as a means of income and take the discourse of tools more serious than most. I choose the tools my crews and I use daily (from app to adze) and I am the one usually performing repairs on our tools - often on my own time. So choosing the most reliable tools is even more essential to me.

Also important to me is not destroying my body during my lifetime. I have already taken hard hit due to the dinosaurs of power equipment that my previous employers forced me to use. We are talking 17 pound routers and 9 pound nail guns - if a nail gun at all. I wished those tools could have died many years before my employment.

So, now I advocate better new tools rather than nostalgia over old tools. If one wants to use his grandfather's old handplane, fine. But if his grandfather was a cheapskate, like many men were back then were, that handplane might be a POS compared to what you can get from Lee Valley these days. On a different line, it may be smarter to learn how to use a router like a hand plane or try a power plane. I guess the point is - just because it's old (and may have been touched by someone you love and respect) doesn't make it better. I don't think there is debate in that. Being better makes it better - lots to debate there though.


Re: Are Modern Power Tools Junk?


You're obviously not using them every day then.

What do you do for a living? Maybe you work on a computer... try using your dad's computer every day for work. ;D


Re: Are Modern Power Tools Junk?

This is certainly a give and take issue. Modern tools aren't junk but they certainly are not built to the same standards as their precursors. However, those vintage tools need not be put on a pedestal. They were heavy, inconvenient to use, often lacked safety features, and did I mention they were heavy. Also, weren't tools back then quite expensive compared to today?

While I'm too young to know (i'm 31) I have been told that tools used to be much more of an investment back then, now tools are cheap enough to just be bought on a lark. Personally I have 9 drills, 6 routers, 3 circular saws, 3 miter saws, and 2 table saws. There's no way I could afford such luxury back in the 60's. On the other hand, I don't plan on "handing down" my tools, at least I don't buy them with that intention. When I started out, I had a few tools handed down to me - I recall the giddy nostalgic stories that accompanied each tool. But to me those tools were junk compared to what I wanted and subsequently replaced those hand-me-downs with. One thing is for sure, nostalgia and sentiment make old stuff seem better. Personally I cannot imagine having sentiment over a tool.

That said, I think every tool manufacture makes lemons but most of them produce a gem or two. Just as Justin made his short list of standout tools; Skil Saws, Milwaukee Sawzalls, PC routers, Hitachi SCMS's, etc are only a few of many great tools some of which are still produced. I don't think you could ever have blindly purchased a tool and claimed it as the best. I put a lot of time and research into every tool purchase. I have the Bosch 4000TS but I didn't buy one for three years after their release so I could wait for any issues to shake out. When I am looking for the best, I try to ensure I am getting the best. Alternatively, when I wanted a framing planer I just bought the cheapest one that HomeDepot offered... Ryobi $40. Then I don't care if I drop it it gets kicked or falls off the roof. In fact, I fried out the belt in the first week but it already did the job it was purchased for and I just exchanged it for a new one. I guess what I am saying is that there are still plenty of quality tools out there but sometimes we just need a junk tool.


Re: Housing Market Pressure Points

I see this type of news all over the place these days. Homebuilding is up, then down, then down more, up a little, back down, etc. It's like we're judging our economy on a micro scale, dependent on a handful of homebuilding companies.

But how can I have any sympathy for home builders when we are surrounded by so many vacant houses? We already have too many houses - that's the problem. But they want to build more. And it's not like they were building many quality structures during the boom, that's how they were all making their hand-over-fist profits... cheap, cheap, cheaper. They just want to get back to making their easy money.

I'm on the other side. I've been fixing their blunders for over 15 years; remodeling houses from practically every building boom in american history.

If you ask me, the problem with the housing market is that even poorly built houses last too long. If we were talking cars, we would be able to predict that after 10-20 years all the lesser quality cars would be headed to the scrap yard and replaced with a better quality new model. But low quality houses can stand for 50-100 years before they are finally remodeled or replaced. In most circumstances, just because a new house is built, doesn't mean an old house is removed or repaired - just added to the pile of glut. Still the remodeling market is greatly overshadowed by the new build market.

It doesn't make sense to me.

Re: Reader Poll: Do you still use a corded drill?

It still boggles me that no major power tool manufacturer has been able to produce a tool that can run off batteries and/or corded power.

Why not pose the question to your readers if they would be interested in that?


Hmmm, Maybe we should be proposing a housing tax based on the ratio between the home's square footage per occupant?

Also, I think it is interesting how people commonly justify (aka make excuses) for their excesses. Sure there's the billionaire who needs a 100 room mansion for all the guests he receives... as if any of those mansions has ever been full up. But more commonly there's the older couple who want more space for the holidays. As if adding 1000sf of guest bedroom and bath that is only really utilized 2-4 days a year are really necessary. What ever happened to the hid-a-bed and pull-out couch?

Similarly you will see many singular drivers on the road behind the wheel of SUV's and CrewCab pickup trucks. I know that guy in the suit and tie driving that pickup isn't a contractor and the shiny paint in the bed assures me he rarely even uses it. The woman in the school bus sized SUV is a "soccer mom", meaning during certain times of year she takes her daughter to soccer practice a couple of times a week. Once she took her daughters friend too. Someday she might need all those seats (probably not). I drive a big fuel guzzling van and use it's space for my work. I wish I could go smaller but for a long time there weren't many options. Now there are and I am happy to make my justification towards going smaller instead.

Worse yet is the [poor] assumption that because something is "energy efficient" then it can be wasted. The other day I was standing in the light bulb section of Home Depot - trying to decide which color I wanted - when the sales associate decided to interject, "I love those new CFL's they use so much less power. I replaced my porch light with one and it uses so little power that we just leave it on all the time." I looked at the porch light specific light she was nodding towards; 29 watts per hour replaces 100 watts incandescent. So, let's say they used to run their porch light for 6 hours between sundown and bedtime in the winter, summer I would only say 3 hours, then they used to use a maximum of 600 watts per day per light with seasonally adjusted use. But now with the CFL on 24/7 they are using 696 watts per day per light all year long. Obviously that's not really energy efficient.

But that's how people are. They add efficiency so they can justify consuming more. "Stuff in more insulation so I can really crank the heat", "I have an energy star furnace and air conditioner so I can keep the house 80˚ all winter and 50˚ all summer" "my old SUV was a gas guzzler but my new SUV is great on gas". Just because you are able to con yourself into thinking you are a good person that helps the environment - on your time schedule and in your misconceived circumstances - it doesn't mean you are really making a good difference.

LEED is a joke. NAHAB doesn't help the cause and AIA is retarded. They didn't teach anything about LEED during my stay at University of Michigan studying Architecture. It's all a racket if you ask me - just another money grab.


Re: Priming the Private Mortgage-Guarantee Sector (Very Carefully)

Oh, and concerning Banks, Backlogs, and Real Estate Investors....

My grandmother, an account manager before retirement, was notoriously frugal. When I was young I she paid me to help her around the house - not quite min. wage but good for a 10 yr old. not to mention she made a great peanut butter sandwich for lunch. But she also kept the hours log and literally paid by the minute... 6hrs 26min less 34 min for lunch; that's $14.66 for the day to the penny. Once I helped her to have a garage sale. Her basement was packed with a life's worth of possessions that hadn't been touched or even looked at for many years. She would point at piles and I would lug the stuff up to the garage where she would dust it off and evaluate it; marking the price on little stickers. Well, the garage sale went horribly. She barely sold anything because her prices were too high and she wasn't willing to barter. Much of the stuff was junk anyway. Tupperware missing lids, single forks and spoons from a long gone set, old lady shoes from the 70's. "I paid $30 for these and only wore them twice", her reasoning would go. So, after the sale I lugged all that stuff back to the basement, never to be seen again.......that is until she DIED. Sad, but true it happens to everyone. And what did we do? We went to the basement saw all that stuff that couldn't sell at a garage sale and decided it was all junk to us. To the dumpster it went. Sorry grandma.

What does that mean? Well it was mostly just ramble but if you really think about it, these banks and these investors really need to realize that we aren't partying like it's 1999 and you can't sell snow in a snowstorm. For all their financial/economic education they can't come to terms with the fact that what they own isn't as valuable as it once was. The longer they neglect that fact, the less it's worth. Not only are there more and more of them, they are slowly rotting away as they sit season by season without occupancy. Eventually it will lose all it's value (aside from land value) and the investment will flop - maybe the bank goes bankrupt. Eventually someone who doesn't care what it USED to be worth will step in and grab the properties up (maybe the gov?) and sell them at rock bottom prices to finally get this market moving again.

I encourage you to read or listen to this to understand better:


Re: Priming the Private Mortgage-Guarantee Sector (Very Carefully)

Sounds like a standard "rape and pillage" scheme to me. Wall Street sees a new loophole where they can make an easy buck at the expense of the rest of the nation. They just don't learn. But with the frugal republican congress in office, 'daddy' might not be willing to give a second bailout. Everybody loses - better learn to speak chinese now (while you can afford it).

Personally I would rather the gov held my mortgage - they have the least to gain on my demise and they might as well, they own the property. What I mean is most people don't understand that you never REALLY own land; sure you own your house and everything inside it but in the long run you are just renting the land from the government. So why shouldn't the true owner of my land be the one who backs me financially to build and maintain a house on it?

Re: Name This Detail

I highly doubt they served any functional purpose. They appear to be purely ornamental to me like an elaborate series of roof finials.

Re: Is Hitachi a fading brand?

Hitachi is such an amazing company. They make the largest machines in the world (mining shovels) as well as the smallest machines (microprocessors). Unfortunately they don't seem to put the same amount of effort in the design and manufacture of every product that bears their name.

In general, Hitachi is one of my "stay away from" power tool brands (just below DeWalt on my list). While I do admit to owning a Hitachi air compressor that I chose for it's high CFM rating and because it was made in Italy and a corded 3/8" drill that I bought in haste for a job - it was only $30. Both have hundreds of hours on them and are still going strong. Still, I wouldn't make a habit out of buying their tools. Their new stuff looks like cheaply made, poorly designed products covered up with hokey plastic flame graphics. They are lagging behind so much now, I assume they will eventually get sold off and swallowed up.


Re: Will Double Stud Wall Construction Bring Efficiency at a Modest Cost?

Just one foot thick? Why not two? or Five?

This is stupid, where does it end? What's the point of having super insulated walls when your windows and doors are just a fraction of that? Heat is lazy, it always finds the path of least resistance. Much wiser to build common 2x4 or 2x6 walls then invest the savings in the highest performance windows and doors.

Just to add another contrast: Imagine how poor the light dispersion from the windows would be - every window would cast a light beam similar to a skylight and all the wall areas around the windows would be dark and shadowy. Don't understate the importance of using fenestration for lighting purposes ---- that is real "green building".


Re: Can Open-Cell Foam Waste be Used as Attic Insulation?

Wow, that was a ridiculously stupid conversation over a pretty simple question.

Here's the right answers:

Yes, it is fine to disperse the scraps in the attic then blow cellulose over top. Even the scraps have a little insulation value as they hold air inside the open cells. While you won't see a big difference in using the scraps, at least they are not going to waste.

No, it would not pose a significant fire hazard in an attic unless your attic has some sort of unusual open flame issues.

Yes, a sub-contractor should have the obligation to clean up after himself and dispose of his own trash in the dumpster. But, the General Contractor has the obligation to provide the dumpster for the subcontractor to use. From my vantage, I suspect the homeowner was the acting General Contractor in this case, making him responsible for the properly bagged trash.

No, it is not environmentally responsible to throw spray foam scraps in the garbage. But we cannot [yet] be super-environmentalist at every step of the construction process. Also, the scraps do not account for a lot compared to the amount installed, which over it's installed lifespan will decrease natural resource usage.

As for the "toxic chemical" debate...what isn't manufactured with toxic chemicals. The chemicals in a cell phone or a computer are hundreds of times more toxic than a few bags of insulation scraps. Is anyone willing to try a cell phone or computer alternative? I am a carpenter, not a chemist, hippie, or doctor. I recommend the best products I can to my customers. Currently spray foam has the best insulation value for the money, so that's what I recommend. If another product comes along for the same price, same or better R-value, and proves to be less toxic then I will of course switch to that. 'nuff said.


Re: Do You Remeber Your First Issue?

I can't say what exact issue was my first, just that I got a free read for a few years (between 1995 and 1999) while I rode to and from the job site with my first boss; whom always kept the latest issue in the passenger seat of his truck.

I have found that there are two types of carpenters out there: Those that read FHB and those that don't and I can always tell when someone doesn't because he's usually the guy using outdated construction techniques and antiquated tools. When I see those guys, I often lend some tools or advice on how to perform the job better and easier, to which I am asked "Where did you learn to do it like that?", and I proudly exclaim back, "Fine Homebuilding Magazine!" then later present them with whatever back issue might be kicking around in my truck. By now, I've probably given away at least a dozen issues.

What is most amazing about the magazine is the re-readability of the back issues. I try to re-read my entire collection at least once a year (not kidding) and doing so I find so many helpful tidbits that I missed prior; probably just because at the time they didn't pertain to either my job experience or skill set. But as I mature, take on a wider variety of projects, and become more keen at how to do what I do I am able to understand those back issues in a whole new light.

Thanks FHB!

Re: My Saw Stand OR You get what you pay for

I own that stand also, and it has served me well for over 7 years of professional use. I realized when I bought it that the fit and finish of some of the parts were a bit off but not so much to impair the function of the stand. I did have some bolts that bent here and there but it was no huge inconvenience to replace a few with better quality nuts and bolts

In my opinion, it does what it is supposed to do. It holds my saw, holds my work level to my saw, folds up compactly, and rolls to and from the job site.

I can say for sure I got my money's worth (I only paid $60) out of this stand. If you don't feel the same, try investing in the original quality HTC brand version of this stand next time....for $400.


Re: Inswing or Outswing Doors?

I have an out-swing door that I installed on my garage-shop for security reasons. That said, I hate it.

First, it is difficult to close and lock. It seems that PULLING to close an out-swing door tight is a bit more cumbersome than PUSHING to close an in-swing door. I suppose substituting my knob for a handle could make it a bit easier but still not as easy as an in-swing.

Additionally, there is no possibility of adding a storm/screen door to an out-swing. During the summer with my in-swings in the house it is nice to leave the door open and let the summer breezes cool the house through the screen door. During winter the storm adds insulation value to the door opening and a second layer of wind resistance.

Last, I worry about SNOW. While not a concern in the sunny states, here in Michigan it wouldn't be uncommon to have a couple to a few feet of snow fall in one over-night. How fun would it be to begin your morning by finding out you are trapped in your home?

So, while an out-swing door may provide [slightly] better weather protection and certainly better security is it really worth it?

One more issue I would like to point out is that the chances of any home getting burglarized is actually quite slim; In my area of rural michigan I have a 0.3% chance of being burglarized but even in Detroit (the most crime-ridden city in America?) the chances of a house or business being burglarized is still only 2%. You are actually more likely to be assaulted in Detroit. Not to mention, when it comes to theft, doors only keep out the honest. If someone wants in, they'll find a way.

Google search: "bump keys" or "break in through garage door" and if you are really worried about being robbed your best bet is to install curtains and get a dog.


Re: Can McMansions Help Solve Our Housing Crisis?

I guess I thought that every homeowner always had the option to divide off part of their own home as a rented room or in-law suite. I mean, people have been doing it for centuries. Until the mid-50's it was very common for homeowners to rent rooms to bachelors and bachelorettes of the town (hence the term "bachelor apartment" AKA "efficiency").

I think you have a good idea with great implications, namely the reversal of the nuclear family back to the extended family living situation that is all but lost from our society (when I growing up in the 80's people people who lived with their grandparents were considered freaks and weirdos). But now with so many jobless young adults moving back in with their parents and retirement communities that are filling up fast, the consideration of a dedicated separated living unit within a home begins to make sense again.

However, the actual probability of such a plan becoming the norm is slim to none. As I said, homeowners already have the ability to have live-in guests and (with some permitting) can construct dedicated space to rent. But they don't. It will be a long time coming to change the current American notion towards "private homeownership" with that "private" being the focus.

I would rather see a swing away from the popular idea of buying new speculative homes to existing home customization and renovation. That was the evil behind mcmansions anyway right? Their lifelessness. The large size and cookie cutter design combined with a lack of design sense and muddled period details led designers to hate the idea of them and owners to hate the feel of them. I look to designers/authors like Sarah Susanka for finally making an impact towards the idea that bigger isn't always better when it comes making a house a home.

As an aside, for awhile now I have touted the proposal to legislate that LEED certification be mandatory and additionally to make all new buildings supply a minimal 10% of their own electricity and further to mandate all building contractors to be degreed instead of licenced (as in have an actual Master of Buiding to be considered a Master Builder). With the glut of homes on the market, such plans would cause builidng prices to rise again by making the act of building construction to be more expensive thus more valuable. Say if the cost of a constructing a new home doubled then the value of an existing home would raise by 25% or more. Also while the idea of forcing building owners to provide some of their own energy could cause the cost of electricity to rise, it could stimulate the alternative energy market enough to actually lower the price of those products, while at the same time growing the "green" market that seems to be booming in America and providing new (US based) manufacturing positions.

That's just my idea though. Of course, Libertarians hate it.


Re: Time to give up CAD (Cardboard Aided Design).

For those of you who want to learn Sketchup but are having difficulties I have one general piece of advice........WATCH THE VIDEOS!!!!!

I have used many CAD programs over the years and been using Sketchup for about a decade now - it's my clear favorite of all the 3D drawing programs on the market today. But as I have touted Sketchup to others I always get the same feedback; "I tried but I didn't get it so I quit" to which I ask "Did you watch the instructional videos that they suggest for new users?" the answer is almost always "No". That's like someone getting a new camera they can't figure out then throwing it away before reading the instructions.

While Sketchup is the easiest and most intuitive 3D-CAD program you will ever find (and it's FREE), it's basic operation does have a certain few critical concepts that must be learned before one can become proficient and move on to more difficult operations. Even after having several years of university level CAD training, I still watched the instructional videos and occasionally I still go back to review the videos to ensure I am not missing any details that could improve my efficiency.

I will admit that the instructional videos are not "fun" to watch, they are actually pretty boring. But they are FREE, they move at an easy to follow pace, and they provide all the information that the casual Sketchup user will ever need to know to draw their own house or piece of furniture.

Even if you don't plan to build furniture or a new house, I think everyone would benefit to learn this software as it appears to me that Google (the owner and distributor of Sketchup) wouldn't give away such a powerful design program for free unless they had some big future plans for the program or at least concepts ingrained from using it. In the software world it is quite common for programs to share concepts and commands; In the CAD world specifically, most of the current commands/concepts are based on AutoCad.... but I think that is changing - Sketchup is the future base of all design software.

So, do yourselves a favor and plan for the future...read the instructions, ask for directions, go to school, or watch the videos. You will find that Sketchup is really quite easy to learn and is actually a lot of fun to use.


Re: A Look at Big-Builder Approaches to Green

Building new is rarely as "Green" as renovating old and with all the used houses on the market right now, it is also a much thriftier option. Deals abound as one can easily find very nice home for less than 1/3 the cost of new then reinvest that money into much better "green" updates than any large homebuilder is willing and able to provide. It should be noted that there is a general lack of quality in production home building that may reduce the true efficiency of a new home; namely cheaper, thinner, and poorly installed insulation.

The best option for a homeowner is to hire a small scale, high quality contractor to renovate or build new.

Re: From Cardboard and Cutter to Click and Drag: Studio/Workshop Design in the Digital Age

"Insert SU model file here"

I think you forgot to insert the .skp file

Re: UPDATE: Ultimate Miter-Saw Stand -- And the Winner is...

I see that the FHB "Ultimate Miter Saw Stand" (FHBUMSS) will have a fence extension built into the saw stand. I believe you should rethink this.

After speaking with Jesper Cook, the creator of the "Trim Carpenter's Workbench" on the cover of 'The Journal of Light Construction' this month, I have concluded that I don't really like that my stand tries to incorporate a fence system.

The fence actually makes the work LESS accurate if/when the workpiece has a bow that may push away from the fence - or - if the fence gets warped for any reason.

Then after Mr. Cook sent me a Sketchup model of his saw stand, I saw what could be possible without the fence extensions on either side of the saw well.. a workbench.

You see, a saw stand with fences can only be a saw stand. Without the fences, it has many more uses.

I also like how Mr. Cook's stand also integrates a simple router table into the stand and how the stand uses optional, modular extension stands. The whole set-up may be used as a saw stand, a router table, a general workbench, a door hanger's mortising bench, a rail saw cut table, a sanding bench, and a planing bench (among a myriad of other uses).

Now that I have Mr. Cook's Sketchup model, I intend to merge his ideas with my own to create a true "Ultimate Miter Saw Stand". I'll post my progress in the photo gallery soon:



Re: And the Building-Blunders Contest Winner Is...

I don't think any of the example photos in the poll are that bad. I voted for the "Log Cabin Nightmare" because of the photo titled "Optional Bearing Point?" which would be the worst infraction of the group. Otherwise all the other infractions, while being examples of shoddy workmanship, do indeed "work" and don't necessarily pose a substantial "health and safety risk".

When you work in remodeling like I do, you see a lot of poor workmanship and more than a few building blunders. Some look bad but work others are severe safety risks. Most of my clients couldn't feasibly afford for me to change everything to be "right" per current codes and building standards. Being able to sort though those blunders and choose the necessary infractions is my job.

Let's put it this way...... I've seen worse.


Re: You Could Save a Historic Prison

Just because it's old doesn't mean it's worth saving and I really don't see anything "unique" about that building. Nice materials but who in their right mind would shell out the tens of thousands it would take to relocate that building?

Even as a professional carpenter and building designer, my position is to not care at all if a building is demolished. While I would like to see the materials re-used if possible, I could care less about the "historic and architectural importance" of a building no matter what went down there, how beautiful it is, or who designed it. Buildings are just buildings... we'll make more.


Re: UPDATE: Ultimate Miter-Saw Stand -- And the Winner is...

Watch, one of the spammers will end up winning the saw! ha, ha

Re: Can You Add Rigid-Foam Insulation On the Inside of a Wall?


Your comment is pure garbage!

I can tell that you know very little about home construction and the materials used in home construction. Rigid foam is very far from being "essentially air". While a point load may stab right through it, it takes a huge spread load. For this reason it is commonly used as a substrate for concrete flat work. In vertical usage, it is often part of SIP panels.

Now explain to me how "...the screws holding the cabinets will eventually loosen"?

I would also like to know the physics behind how "He'll be lucky of the whole wall doesn't shift"?

Oh and when you say "Screws and nails are very poor fasteners in shear." what would you recommend using instead? Glue? Graded Bolts? We are building houses here... out of wood. It is a processes that has happened for centuries. There are a known number of specific loads and stresses. Nails and screws seem to work fine for the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of buildings out there already. What do you think you know better that you really don't.

I have over 15 years of construction experience and two degrees in architecture to justify my angst towards your comments. Take note that the wall will be fine. No shifting is likely unless it is in some area of excessive wind or on a fault line maybe. The cabinets will hold fine. Screws don't tend to back themselves out. I suppose if they were 'speaker cabinets' there could be a possibility that the intense vibration from the bumping bass of the music could shake the screws enough to widen the screw holes and thus "loosen" the screws. But that's not very common in homebuilding so not really an issue to worry about.

I have always lived by the advice "If you don't know what you are talking about then just stop talking". Please take my advice.


Re: UPDATE: Ultimate Miter-Saw Stand -- And the Winner is...


Good analysis and great ideas towards what a perfect miter saw stand should and could be. If you could, would you take a look at the stand I am designing over in the FHB Breaktime forum.

Here's a sketch of it so far: (http://forums.finehomebuilding.com/sites/forums.finehomebuilding.com/files/comment_upload/193571/normsmitersawstandredux.jpg)

Here's the general idea and specs:

I will try to modify the design more as I get feedback and helpful criticism.

*****Oh, and to all blog followers... could anyone who is handy with Sketchup please create a model of the Bosch Axial Glide saw so I can design around it.****


Re: Finally, a foam gun that will last (I hope)

I have had the Great Stuff Pro gun for at least two or three years now... but I have never got to use it. I got it unused on Ebay for a good deal, $25. It was only after it arrived I started looking around for the special cans of foam it uses, but no luck.

Several supply houses are willing to special order a case in for me but I don't need a case anytime soon so can't justify the expense of the extra inventory. Alternatively, there are plenty of places online to buy single cans but after you figure in shipping costs, it's way cheaper per oz to just stick with the disposables.

I would like to see a gun, adapter, or disposable can that works either way. Those with the gun would be able to attach a disposable can to their gun while those without the gun would just use it with the supplied tube and trigger. Seems like a no-brainer to me.....Get on it Great Stuff.


Re: Video: Bosch Axial-Glide Miter Saw

I heard it's more accurate than a Festool Kapex.

Re: My New Favorite Power Tool

That 455 is a good saw.

But compared to a Makita DCS46018 chainsaw, all comparable model Huskys and Stihls seem heavy, weak, and archaic.

Give one a try if you don't believe me.

Re: UPDATE: Ultimate Miter-Saw Stand -- And the Winner is...


Would it be more acceptable to you if I just wanted a place to sit my bottled water? FWIW I don't take "coffee breaks" or lunch for that matter, I just drink coffee all day long... and last I checked, a real carpenter doesn't mind a little wood flavor added to his coffee!

Furthermore, when I say I need some workplace and a place to sit tools, what I specifically mean is a place to clamp moldings and rest my jigsaw when coping trim. Sometimes I need to glue small pieces together and sit them down for a minute or two. Having extra space around my saw is convenient for many reasons. Why should I set up saw horses for that?

However, you are right that "Everyone has different work, material, and preferences" I assume from the set-up that you described that you probably specialize in framing carpentry. Your saw stand gets set-up and taken down every day and so it must be portable yet robust enough to cut lumber. Scraps are just tossed to the side and coffee breaks are taken on the tailgate of the truck. My situation is different. I am a remodeler specializing in trim carpentry. I demand versatility out of my set-up. I may be framing a roof one week, installing built-in bookshelves the next, then trimming out a whole house after that. I work indoors most of the time and may be on the same job for several days where I can just leave my set-up at the job site. I often work with expensive trim so I like to have room next to my saw to gently stack off cuts for later use. Sometimes I build cabinets and it's nice to have a place next to the saw to sit my clipboard with plan and cut list.

So, yes it depends on what you need your saw stand to do.
"Coffee break is over"

Re: UPDATE: Ultimate Miter-Saw Stand -- And the Winner is...

Reading the previous comments I see that a few people requested roller supports. Having worked on and owned a few stands with roller supports, I warn against rollers. They move the stock too easily making it much more difficult to line up a perfect precision cut. Working fast pace, like framing, the rollers are dangerous. A small tug on the stock sends your hand sailing towards the blade. I have always duct taped rollers stationary. Then I could untape if (for whatever reason) I actually need them to roll. So, go with a bar, plate, or maybe look for a lockable roller but never free wheeling.

A few commenters also mentioned levelers. In all my years I think I have only once or twice really needed to level my saw stand. Choosing your work area wisely is part of the job. Working on a slope and uneven terrain is more dangerous and difficult. But sometimes you gotta do it...like working on a roof. In which case those screw foot levelers would be too slow and not nearly long enough. Something more like Werner Ladderlok legs would be better and far more versatile.

I am also an advocate of a saw stand providing work surface and storage. When I set up my saw at a jobsite it is usually the center of the work area and must be capable of acting as a makeshift work bench, tool rest, have some accessory storage, and above anything else it needs a place for me to sit my coffee mug!

Those track/beam saw stands may be light and easy to store but never have a place to put everything. You end up putting things on the ground and spend all day bending doing bends or you need to go to the trouble of setting up another work surface. Also, I have never ever felt the need to have an integrated tape measure.

Check out my miter saw stand here:


Re: Roof Top Rigid Foam - Taking Efficiency Through The Roof

Yes, XPS is on the inside just under the drywall. No real penetrations to go around on the cathedral ceiling but all XPS is foam glued to the rafters and at all edges to fill any possible gaps then taped prior to DW installation.

It was quite easy and I hope to talk future clients into possible retrofits of similar layering.

To boast a little more, all the XPS was recycled. I bought the panels from a demo contractor in Detroit; (46) 4'x8'x2" sheets for $400. He said he pulls them out of retail spaces quite often where were just glued to the block walls using construction adhesive. The adhesive doesn't stick to the panels very well so it was easy to scrape off the dried glue with a putty knife. I used the remaining sheets to insulate the interior of my crawlspace.


Re: Q&A Spotlight: Getting a Fair Shake on a Green House

I think fair energy appraisals are soon on the horizon. The banks care when making more money is involved. Realtors are already including energy efficient upgrades in their listings. It's the insurance companies that I can't see accepting energy appraisals as paying out the replacement cost of energy upgrades isn't in their best interest.

But this article is laid out and sounds more like a useless whine over an issue that none of us are going to change and isn't going to change out of any corporation's good conscience. It just is and we gotta deal with it for the time being.

As for UNCOMMONSENSE's comment... you gotta deal with it too. It is what it is and it ain't gonna change for you or me. But I understand we all have hopes and dreams:

Here are some ideas that would really shake up the building industry:
what if buildings were required to make a considerable amount of their own power?
what if new buildings came with a warranty for at least the length of the loan?
what if a house cost 30 times more than they do now?
what if home building was a required degreed profession?
what if I could demand the wages that I felt I actually deserved working one of the most dangerous, damaging, disrespected, competitive, unstable, and uncertain jobs this country has to offer?

Re: Charging for Design Advice: Bill Up-Front or Forget About it

"Bill Up-Front or Forget About it" is exactly right. I recently learned that the hard way. I sure wish there were an easier way to learn this stuff.

I lost an $11K stair job because of the $385 design fee I included in the [already tight] itemized quote to cover just a small portion of the five 2hr design meetings and approximately 12hrs of CAD time I put into the job trying to match client wants with the spacial constraints and a [undisclosed] budget.

I even further made the mistake of allowing them to hold onto my drawings while we were still in pre-project discussion, possibly giving other bidders the advantage of just quoting my design.

Then they actually accused me of being dishonest by including the fee and of course refused to pay the fee alone when I found out they hired someone else. I left with $0.

Truly a hard lesson learned.


Re: Bosch redefines sliding miter saw category with new "glider" system


Usually the cut capacity of a saw can be "extended" by lifting the board as you finish the cut and lift the saw head. For instance, my Makita slider has an official cross cut capacity of 12" but can be forced to cut up to 16" if necessary.

On the other hand my big old school DeWalt RAS has an official cross cut capacity of 18" which if I had the nuggets could probably go to 20" by lifting. It's just a much more dangerous operation on a 2HP RAS.

And no need to speak of coffins for the RAS, a machine that excels at dados, notches, and tennoning... which is impossible for a SCMS. It is only unfortunate that moving the 250lb beast makes taking it to the jobsite a task I don't care to overtake.

And @WallaWallaBuilder... since when is $700 MSRP too steep for a SCMS? My Makita was $650 when it first came out.


Re: Roof Top Rigid Foam - Taking Efficiency Through The Roof

Seems like a lot of time and money to achieve a measly R28.6

I just designed and built a cathedral ceiling using 1/8" foam air baffles, R38 fiberglass batts, 2" XPS, and 1/2" drywall to achieve R49.1 and still have an air cooled roof deck. It's a cheap, easy, and highly efficient method.

I've been seeing a lot of articles coming from FHB lately discussing using foam on the outside of the walls. Seems like it's either a condensation trap or a waste of time, money, and effort trying to protect it against becoming a condensation trap.

While spray foam is a great product, the price is too prohibitive for me and most of my clients. Such a shame that high efficiency products have to carry a premium price tag.


Re: Great Moments: An Evening with the Ambassador

You should really count yourself lucky to have such a willing and able partner. Here at my home remodel I serve as the designer, demo crew, carpenter, plumber, electrician, HVAC installer, mason, painter, roofer, sider, landscaper, welder, fabricator, cabinetmaker, maintenance man, tile layer, picture hanger, and financier.

The wife is still the "last word"

....just doesn't seem fair!


Re: Lawsuit Highlights a Weatherization Safety Issue

Sounds to me like there's a missing part of the story. I can't see firing someone for educating clients and co-workers but I can certainly see firing someone who did so in a crude or libel fashion.

I doubt the plaintiff is very well paid or happy to be working in hot, dusty attics... I can only assume he's one of many money hungry lawsuit seekers that increasingly make the news these days. There's a noticeable difference between a "whistle blower" and a "career victim".

Not that I am an advocate for the defending company who should've pre-informed employees and clients of any dangers associated with the job. But I am a realist (and a professional remodeler) who knows that you can't expect employers, product manufacturers, or government to protect you on the job.

Carpentry is an inherently dangerous career. Stop being ignorant and look out for #1 or move on.


Re: Was sind diese Dinge? (What are these things?)


Re: Return of Some Classic Hand Tools

A good article on the Felo screwdrivers:


Re: Return of Some Classic Hand Tools

Thanks Justin, while those are some stout looking screwdrivers, I am in pursuit of a more elegant set. I already have a few sets of screwdrivers; a Snap-on set in my mechanic's tools, a Klein set in my electrical tools and a Stanley set for general use. But what I would like now is a cabinetmaker set to hang in my woodshop above the bench.

Have a look at Andy Rae's [probably custom made] screwdriver collection hanging in his now famous tool cabinet on the cover and pg. 96 of Jim Tolpin's 'The Toolbox Book' as well as the cover and pgs. 111 & 113 of Andy's own book 'Choosing & Using Hand Tools'.

Like I said, I have been on the hunt for years. Don't get me wrong, I get by just fine using standard plastic handled screwdrivers but something about those wood handled screwdrivers is just... nostalgic.

Maybe I will eventually get time to make my own custom set or settle.

My back-up set to settle on is the Felo 22155 beech "ergo-grip" handled screwdriver set (http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=21412). A friend of mine has these and feel great in the hand while still having that classic look.


Re: Safer Electrical Plugs and Outlets Save Lives and Energy

Wow, what a load of misleading salesmanship and propaganda marketing. This sounds like a horrible idea and I can only hope that the home building ignorant political types who tend to make the rules and regulations regarding homebuilding will look at the facts before succumbing to the over-hype of this sort of "save lives/save the world" buzz word contraption.

I agree 110% with Renosteinke. There are much easier and more cost effective ways to make the electrical systems in our buildings safer. #1 being leave it alone if you don't know what you're doing. As a remodeler I see scads of HO modified electrical systems. Which is nothing compared to the number of overloaded outlets and misused extension cords I see.

I think the best option is to better educate the public on the dangers of tampering with or misusing their electrical systems and devices. I have friends and neighbors asking me electrical questions all the time; In most cases my response is simply for them to get a licensed electrician.


Re: Return of Some Classic Hand Tools

Find me those "Extra H.D. Slot Screwdrivers" in a phillips, square, or torx tip and you got a deal.

Note: those particular handled screwdrivers are better known as 'Perfect Handle' screwdrivers popularized by H.D. Smith & Company from the mid 1800's to the early 1900's. Another famous wooden handled screw driver line were the oval handled 'turn screws' which have a flat on the shank between the handle and the tip that could accommodate a wrench for extra turning force when needed. (http://buyrimowa.com/newtools/turnscrews.htm)

I have been searching for a good set of oval wood handled phillips screwdrivers for years without luck. It's odd to me that so many companies make great looking (presumably high quality) wood handled slotted screwdrivers but overlook making them in phillips or other tips. There is certainly a market out there for them amongst woodworkers, carpenters, and other fellow wooden handled tool lovers.

Re: 'Concealed' Screwed-Down Decking

Mike, did you actually say that with this Kreg jig "...it still takes the same time as face screwing..."? You do know the speed one can go when using a Senco Duraspin deck gun, right?

At some point I must have missed the boat that declared face screws offensive. I think they look fine if straight. To each his own, though. Good article, nice to hear from a writer who isn't afraid to admit that the tool he tested needed a little extra modification to work proper.

Oh, and Mike, can you get an article going to showcase those pneumatic guns you mentioned in your follow-up post? I may be swayed into the don't-wanna-seeum crowd if I can move fast enough at it as to make some easy $$$ selling a "premium" product. Also, I haven't heard much about "scrails" lately. I remember seeing a short article a couple years ago but nothing since. Can we get some more info there too. Does just one company make them, how's the price, etc.

Again, talk to Taunton and try to get an article going, please.


Re: Use SketchUp to create a 3D framing model

Not too bad of a lesson. Although as a professional design/builder who has used Sketchup for many years (since V3.1) I would recommend teaching the use of groups more so than components. At least to me I group just about everything then later come back and make components out of those groups that I may want to change in mass. By making everything components, you raise the risk of accidentally modifying a whole bunch of copied components, whereas modifying a copied group only applies to the one at hand. Grouping then making component also skips the naming the component step which I have never needed anyway. I generally name several groups in the "layer" window (plates, studs, roof, etc). I have found that this method is much easier when using Sketchup to create material estimates.
When I teach others to create something like this using Sketchup I sometimes use the outside-in method. Most people don't know much about framing so getting the outside shape first, group the surfaces and make each into plywood, etc,etc. seems to work better for those kinds.
I should also mention that standard Sketchup lessons (from Sketchup) usually advocate waiting till the drawing is finished before applying paint to objects.

While Sketchup can output an animated flythrough, it does not have a video recorder like Matt is using. I think if you look at his task bar at the bottom it will show that he is using Debut Video Capture software.

Re: Bosch redefines sliding miter saw category with new "glider" system

Um, no "Looks Cool" is not on my list.

But motor specs sure are. Any clue what those are?

How about dust collection capabilities?



Re: Re-Sealable Spray Foam

When doing jobs that require the use of several cans of spray foam for one task I keep using the same tube while it's still flowing. By doing this I have amassed a collection of a couple dozen straws. Now I can just use a bit from a can and toss the straw then grab a new straw the next time I use the same can.


Re: Whatever Happened to the Radial-Arm Saw?

Q: What Ever Happened to the Radial Arm Saw?

A: Black and Decker bought the DeWalt brand and promptly destroyed it by using industrial cheapening techniques in order to appeal to the burgeoning crowd of DIY'ers. The combination of a cheaper, lighter weight, and thus less safe saw with the unrefined skills of the DIY user resulted in mass casualties.

Other low cost/lesser quality brands such as Craftsman, Skill, Rockwell, and Montgomery Wards saw that there was a buck to be made and jumped on board, more casualties followed, and a bad reputation for the entire field of radial arm saws grew.

As noted, the SCMS was introduced as a safer, more portable alternative and has become the replacement standard. The bad reputation and heaps of the cheap/dangerous versions of RAS's still abound in the shops of modern DIY'ers who, on average, have a much better understanding of their proper usage than the DIY'ers of the past.

Note: I have a 1940's DeWalt GW. It is heavy, tight, powerful and much safer than most. I use it almost exclusivly for cutting dados.


Re: Festool Domino to focus on decking

I am late to this discussion but I wanted to chime in after seeing "new" Festool levels made by Stabila. Straight to the point: The Stabila 48" level costs $100 while the Festool 48" level (the same level painted black and badged Festool) costs $150. Does the extra $50 - that's a 50% price jump - equate to better quality? I think not.

I searched the net and found that there are several other occurrences of this Festool re-branding price/hiking happening. For instance, their 6" hand sanding blocks will cost you an extra $10 over the original Norton version as will the Festool tape measure over the $15 cost of the original OSI Vuse tape measure. There are more examples if you care to look.

I'm not attempting to say that all Festool tools are knockoffs, I am also not saying that I don't like Festool tools. But I am trying to indicate that many Festool owners try to use the "Better Quality" excuse to justify their Festool purchases. While Festool may have a high quality standard, there is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that they are "higher quality" than any other [respectable] tool brand.

Two typical scenarios come to mind, and both are mentally based.

First is "Branding". Imagine paying $200 for a pair of blue jeans. What if I told you the blue jeans were Dolce & Gabbana? Would they actually be higher quality just becase they have a D&G label? An extra $175 worth of quality? Obviously not, but they may have "superior" style or a better fit or a better pocket placement, or an original color, etc. For the most part though, the buyer wants the name brand and uses the differences and extras to justify the over expense. The same principle applies to higher priced tool brands such as Festool. Then after succeding in creating the justification within ones self, they cannot be swayed by one who doesn't agree with that persons self-justifying reason. Thus a social gap is formed between them and the Festool lover is viewed as an "elitist" and the Festool hater is viewed as "cheap".

I would like to note at this point that even though I have chosen Festool to pick on today, there are many other examples. For instance, Mafell tools cost even more than Festool but are often the exact same [looking] tool with a Mafell badge.

A second scenario (most often started by the company selling the goods) is the method of creating hype (overhype) for a new/better product which may in fact not be a new or better product. I liken this to the "push to talk" cell phone service. I know that lots of people [still] really like this feature, but for many it has run it's course and given way to texting. Nevertheless, when we look at this product and the marketing behind it we see now that it isn't better, and is certainly not the great advance in technology as it was hailed to be in its beginnings. In my opinion it was actually a technological devolution; causing the user to go from full simultaneous conversation to short one way back and forth statements. My point is that sometimes that new "great" product is not better or lead to better quality. It's just another gizmo that years from now will be buried under the bench next to other gizmos. The Domino....there I said it. It's a $700 gizmo. It's not worth $500 more than a plate joiner, it doesn't produce a noticeably higher quality than dowels or other loose tenon joints. It's just cool and "new" and to the chagrin of it's owners, over-hyped.

Now back to an overview of the tool brand Festool, am I against them? No. Would I use them? Of course. Would I buy them? Some. I look at tool company offerings I look at them one at a time and [usually] from a need based perspective and applying a cost vs. value equation. We all do this similarly but some of use have more time or money or other principle to allow further freedom of choice. By that I mean if money were no object then why wouldn't all my tools be Festool? Heck If money were truly no object then I would just have each tool custom made just for me. But I'm a carpenter not a politician, so I gotta balance my budget and buy the tool that meets the demands of my usage, fits in my budget, lasts long enough to pay for itself and still provide me with enough profit to live plus some. That said, I would make the rather broad and unfounded speculation that only maybe 3% of Festool owners buy based on need (buy because it is the ONLY tool to produce the specific results), furthermore of the 97% of non-need based purchasers, probably 73% of those don't use those tools as their primary source of income; AKA hobbyists and woodworking enthusiasts. Finally, out of those 73% hobbyists, probably 90% live above the US median income (about $45K/yr). What's my point? I would probably buy more expensive but not substantially higher quality tools if I had the money to waste and the purchase didn't interfere with any of my needs. But the same goes for anybody concerning any product. Surplus equates to waste, but a socially acceptable waste. To some, economical surplus means they buy a new vehicle, probably a Ferarri over a Festiva if money prevails. Sometimes "Fine Homebuilding" is wasteful; even if it is labeled "green" do they really need 5000 sqft, stainless appliances, and custom cabinets, etc.

While nothing I have stated here is secluded to the Festool company, to a carpenter like myself [who often converses with other carpenters in various tradesperson/tool lover web forums such as Breaktime here at Finehomebuilding.com] I often run into overly devoted Festool fans who tend to have an unhealthy obsession with the tool brand, of which I don't see amongst other tool brand lovers.

I think I've said enough but maybe our Tool Hound blog host Mr. Justin Fink could address this issue at at some point in some sort of upcoming blog article. I would love to hear Justin's opinion on the subject as well as my fellow blog following tool hounds.

P.S. The Festool deck system seems just plain ridiculous to me; many higher quality, cheaper, faster, and just plain better ways out there. But I am sure the Festool system will hit their target buyer just fine.


Re: Tablesaw Safety, Liability, and Common Sense on the Jobsite

Mr. Morrison,

First let me say, I really don't see the point of this blog article. It pretty much just reignites the FHB rally for SawStop and brings the Osorio vs. Ryobi case back up for further superfluous commentary. I'm pretty sure that 99% of the FHB audience agrees the lawsuit is bogus.

Next let me say "thank you" for admitting that you've used a saw without the guard. I have personally never used a saw with a guard. It is often just a fact of life that some liability prone safety features must be modified or removed to effectively/efficiently perform the work necessary with them. Naysayers may hide under whatever cloak they desire but we all break safety rules in our own way and we all have our excuses why and to what ends.

Last, let me remark on your bullet points:
1.) "...too bad that tool manufacturers..."
There's always going to be the cheap tool company that won't follow and there's always going to be the cheap SOB who doesn't think it's worth the money. Then we'll start seeing a resurgence of home made table saws or the ready made "saw tables" that you just strap your circ. saw under.

2.) "...too bad that Mr. Osorio's boss..."
I have never understood why the boss or the company is to blame for a worker's stupidity (because they hired a moron, maybe?). It just seems like blame is pinned on whoever has the most intelligence or deepest pockets. Personal liability is rare these days - unless you are wealthy. My point... if you are a carpenter (or whatever) walking around with missing digits chances are it was your own dumb fault.

3.) "...too bad the blade guards..."
In my professional opinion they only protect the ignorant anyway. If you need a chunk of plastic and steel to remind you that there is a possibly dangerous spinning blade in the vicinity then maybe you should rethink your career path. I just stick to rule #1 for table saw use "Do not put hand into spinning blade".

4.) "...too bad the tablesaw company..."
I despise Ryobi tools. To me they are the epitome of home owner/diy tool misuse and stupidity. In that sense it is fitting that their tool is the center of this debate. That said, I am on their side here. They are just another company trying to make a living, doing what they can to provide a product or service and not get sued the same as every other company in the USA. Then they get tripped up by this moron using their product. Indeed that is too bad.

As a side rant, another "too bad" to add to your list may be; It's too bad that lawyers (such as the one representing Mr. Osorio) and the politicians they often become are such money hungry scum bags. Although I must assume that the majority of lawyers out there are decent folks, it seems far too easy to find a scum bag lawyer. Ask any carpenter...lawyers are some of the worst clients.


Re: Stop Burning Money and Walk Away From Your Mortgage

How is this a debate? A mortgage is a simple, secure loan. The bank gives me money, I give them a house. If I am able to give them back the money (plus a hefty interest) then they give me back the house. If I don't give back the money, then they keep the house. Simple.

I remember when I was young, my mother gave a $100 loan to a friend of hers who had bad credit. Before my mom agreed to the loan she was wise enough to ask for collateral to which her friend offered a beautiful old Victrola record player. As you probably guessed, her friend didn't pay the money back and my mom still has that Victrola. Again, Simple.

Re: On conscience and construction

I think that the root of "questionable building practice" especially in remodeling is the fault of the homeowner being to cheap to have it done right. Not that the contractor is off the hook, someone had to lower their standards to overlook certain safety issues.

I admit to having a few questionable projects out there from my younger/dumber days starting out as a remodeler. I lowered my standards to get the job, plain and simple.

Fortunately I grew wiser and now I am more assertive with clients. Even in these tougher times, while I recognize that not every project is "fine homebuilding" I would rather walk away from a project than lower my standards.

Re: Man Bulldozes Own Home to Prove a Point

I know guys like this; guys who implode rather than face their own problems. Blame the banks, the government, anyone but themselves. I'm sure he never tried to be reasonable with the bank or IRS, probably has a gun and has on several occasion threatened to use it on anyone planning to "take what's his" when in fact it is not his.

Which make me think....how can this even be legal? Seems like he just went from being a jerk with credit problems to being a felon. I hope this jerk goes to prison.

On the other hand, walking away from a mortgage is more "ethical" than most may think. Consider, you and the bank are in it together. Would they walk away from you if it was in their favor? Of course they would. And, if you walk, it's not like they get nothing. They get a house and property...exactly what they agreed to receive if you decide not to pay.

As an example, I entered into a home equity mortgage on my home to make major upgrades. Halfway through construction, the bank decided it wanted out and closed my account (I never missed a payment and usually make double payments). That's the bank walking away; no ethical considerations there, even though they know that they leave me in an unfinished house.

Re: Accurate marks on any material

I was recently introduced to using a carbide scribe for very accurate marking on steel sheet metal and structural iron.

Re: Disaster Relief Housing

I will try to answer any questions asked:

This unit was designed and built for the University of Michigan as an entry in the 2005 Solar Decathlon. I was brought in as a "ringer" to help design/build it. It was sort of a disaster. Since it never got finished in time to test, it faired poorly in the competition. But we shipped it back to Michigan and put it in it's final resting place where it was finished and testing continues. It is now open to the public as an eco-exhibit.

The sleek design allows for use in high wind zones especially if you can face the prevailing winds (the glass is all triple laminated tempered glass and extremely strong) but there was no testing for earthquakes, it would likely stand as good a chance as a trailer home that has minimal connection to the earth. Better yet, a vibration damper could be added between the foundation piers and the undercarriage to become earthquake ready.

The majority of materials were recycled or otherwise very energy efficient. The floor is a 12" thick SIP. The walls are metal stud and soy based spray foam. The skin and frame/ribs are recycled aluminum. Interior walls are sunflower seed board. The finished flooring is reclaimed ash.

Final cost topped $650K for 800sq ft. ($812/sqft). Actually not too bad for a one-off prototype that was designed and hand built in a manner that was intended to facilitate factory production. Although a good portion of that money was wasted due poor management (not me). Crude estimates determined that if it indeed went into production, built by the hundreds or thousands, the final price would easily be less than 150K. I think with some design modifications, proper vendor selection, and a full production set up, I could get the price as low as $75K or better.

I should note that since the '05 competition, the Solar Decathlon rules were changed to less square footage to provoke more entries at less investment per team. In 2004 this was the second most expensive entry out of 22 teams. The most expensive entry ran on hydrogen conversion and was built out of shipping containers.

I have also researched and designed solutions for using shipping containers as housing and re-using outdated trailer homes. I have yet to find a client to take up any of the shipping container designs but I have been able recondition one trailer home and am in discussion to rebuild another. Design/building the odd and unique [and green] is sort of my niche market.


Re: How Would YOU Design a Home for Disaster Victims?

I just posted my solution in the Gallery section:


It is a prototype house sponsored by the Dept. of Energy that I was called in to help design/build. Not quite your mud hut or disaster relief shanty, but certainly would be a better solution for the world in need.


Re: Stop Burning Money and Walk Away From Your Mortgage

Although I wouldn't walk away from my mortgage, it is apparently fine for the bank to walk away from me.

Last year, as the value of my home dropped the bank decided to close my home equity account (which, ironically, I was actually using the money to improve the house). I always paid on time, often made double payments, and the bank never actually looked at my house before they decided to walk away from their obligation to me.

If they can walk from a declining investment, why shouldn't the homeowners be able to?

By the way...it's not exactly "stealing" as someone else said; remember they are the owners of your property. Depending on how long you've had your mortgage, they are making a hefty profit. Also remember that they get their money up front and the principle declines towards the end. How ethical is that?

Re: Prediction 2010: Granite Countertops Are So Last Decade

I should note that this discussion brings to mind the Dr. Seuss story of "The Star-Bellied Sneeches".

Give it another look.

Re: Prediction 2010: Granite Countertops Are So Last Decade

I think you underestimate the timeless appeal of stone; no matter where or how it is used in a building. Most natural materials are like that... timeless.

I can maybe understand some colors of stone, fabricated geometries, or amount of coverage being outdated. But then we are talking more of an outdated design than material.

I think the price of granite is accepted amongst most homeowners and so has become too commonplace for upscale clients to desire anymore. There will be a trend shift in that upper market towards the new and hard to find, but it will also be that market that (as usual) looks the most dated in 10 years.

I know I already feel sick when looking at 1980's and 90's upscale modern but a well designed traditional or rustic from the same time period seems to keep up to date.

Re: Saying Goodbye to Norm Abram and his New Yankee Workshop

When clients ask me if I like Norm Abram I always reply "Norm who?"

Re: Great Moments in Building History: The (Almost) Complete Illustrated Archive

Am I the only one who feels like all the "Great Moments" happening to real carpenters are funny but the "Great Moments" involving DIY's are just stupid?

Re: Online Classifieds for Contractors

This will never take off. In the several years I have been using Craigslist, I have seen many copy-cats come and go. Why? Not because Craigslist is better in context or more user friendly but simply because Craigslist is the most popular. More people use it and more stuff is listed on it.

I have also seen similar copy-cat competitors go up against big dog sites like Google, Ebay, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, and Napster. The competition is just too weak and too far behind in popularity to really compete. It would take the complete collapse of the original website for those competitor sites to have a chance (think of what happened after Napster died).

Nice try Diggerslist, see ya in Florida.

Re: California Drywall Patch

California Patch? I've always called that a "Super Patch" and I've successfully used that technique for years. It works great every time.

Funny how the name game works; seems like you could attach a state name to any common technique and make it sound official. I think California is attached to the most; often when the same technique is common back east.

Re: UPDATED: Profile Photo Contest

I would like to see more "how to" videos and online demonstrations that teach the use of SketchUp. As a design professional, I see SketchUp as becoming the ultimate standard almost everywhere CAD is applied in the home building trades. I use it as a design tool to help clients visualize spaces and to assist me with the construction of complex designs. It is a useful tool, worthy of more topic discussion.

Also, as a professional I would enjoy seeing or reading about the business side of our trades. How to keep paperwork organized, how to stay on schedule, how to work around weather, architects, subcontractors, and tough clients. Copious amounts of time and money can easily make for fine homebuilding, but how to get by without much time and money... or how to get more out of the client.

Thanks for the great work so far!