grateful.ed

Chuck Miller, CT
editor at large


grateful.ed
I'm the special issues editor here at Fine Homebuilding, which means I'm in charge of the annual Houses issue and the Kitchen and Bath issue. In addition, I'm the editor and illustrator of our Tips and Techniques department--the place where our readers share their ingenious jobsite solutions. Before signing on with Fine Homebuilding in 1980, I was a builder in Berkeley, California. I still build for fun--my wife calls me an over-do-it-yourselfer

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Contributions

Make a Handy Sanding Block with a Belt-Sander Belt

Make a Handy Sanding Block with a Belt-Sander Belt

Tip master Chuck Miller has found yet another way to avoid struggling with a sheet of sandpaper loosely wrapped around a scrap of wood.

Make Your Own Simple Sanding Blocks

Make Your Own Simple Sanding Blocks

Master carpenter Mike Belzowski demonstrates his efficient method for making batches of different-grit sanding blocks out of scraps of MDF and sheets of sandpaper he has laying around the shop.

How to Keep Power Cord Plugs Tight and Dry

How to Keep Power Cord Plugs Tight and Dry

If you're working with power tools on a wet, rainy job site, you could take the chance that your extension cord won't trip a breaker when it slips into a puddle, but there's a better way

Use a Reciprocating-Saw Blade to Mark Circular Holes

Use a Reciprocating-Saw Blade to Mark Circular Holes

If you need to cut a round hole in a ceiling for a light fixture but you don't have a compass, you could just hack away at the drywall until your electrical box fits, but there's a better way.

How to Safely and Easily Cut Shims from Scrap Wood

How to Safely and Easily Cut Shims from Scrap Wood

Don't waste your money on a bundle of shingles if all you need are some shims for a framing project. Use this simple jig to cut your own shims on a tablesaw.

How to Clean Fuzz Off of a New Paint Roller

How to Clean Fuzz Off of a New Paint Roller

If you're rolling a nice, smooth finish onto a painted surface, you could take your chances that the fuzz from your brand-new roller doesn't end up in your paint, but there's a better way

Build a Foolproof Jig For Cutting Laminate Countertops

Build a Foolproof Jig For Cutting Laminate Countertops

If you're cutting a postform laminate countertop in the field, you could try freehanding the awkward cuts and hope you don't screw it up, but there's a better way.  

How to Lay Out an Accurate Ellipse with a Stick, Two Nails, and a Pencil

How to Lay Out an Accurate Ellipse with a Stick, Two Nails, and a Pencil

If you need to make an elliptical backing for a cove or arch, you could look at the 15 ways Wikipedia shows how to do it and risk your head exploding, but there's a better way.

A Better Way to Fold a Tarp or Drop Cloth

A Better Way to Fold a Tarp or Drop Cloth

Chuck Miller demonstrates why folding your tarp like a flag is not the most convenient way to stow it. Learn this old trick from the theater industry and save time every time you need to protect a surface.

Hold Your Sharpening Stone Steady on the Job Site

Hold Your Sharpening Stone Steady on the Job Site

If you're on the job and need a super-sharp chisel, you could hope that your stone doesn't slide around while you're trying to work on that edge, but there's a better way

How to Make a Better Drill Bit in a Pinch

How to Make a Better Drill Bit in a Pinch

Chuck Miller takes an online reader's suggestion and adds a new step to the emergency homemade-bit technique.   Attention all tipsters! We're looking for any smart idea that would make a great There's a Better Way Video or that could be featured in...

How to Cut a Hole in a Ceiling Without Making a Mess

How to Cut a Hole in a Ceiling Without Making a Mess

If you've got to cut a hole in a drywall ceiling for a light fixture, you could just let the dust and debris fall and clean it up later, but there's a better way.

How to Patch a Leaky PVC Water Pipe

How to Patch a Leaky PVC Water Pipe

If you've got a PVC water-supply line that's dripping, you could put a bucket under it and use it to irrigate the garden, but there's a better way

Build a Simple Shingle-Cutting Bench from Scrap Wood

Build a Simple Shingle-Cutting Bench from Scrap Wood

If you need to cut some starter strips for asphalt shingles, you could drop to your knees and just cut them right there on the ground out of the bundle, but there's a better way.       If you need to cut some starter strips for asphalt shingles, you could drop to your knees and just cut them right there on the ground out of the bundle, but there's a better way.

Make Stress-Relief Cuts for Stronger Stair Stringers

Make Stress-Relief Cuts for Stronger Stair Stringers

 If you're cutting stair stringers out of two-by stock, you could make both of your saw cuts right to the intersection and hope you don't over cut and weaken the stringer, but there's a better way.  

How to Staple Housewrap Tight to Sheathing on Inside Corners

How to Staple Housewrap Tight to Sheathing on Inside Corners

Don't trip up your siding installers by not doing a good job when hanging your weather-resistant barrier

Build a Simple Jig to Drill Cabinet-Handle Holes Perfectly

Build a Simple Jig to Drill Cabinet-Handle Holes Perfectly

If you have a kitchen full of cabinets that need door and drawer pulls, you could measure them all individually and hope you get it right, but there's a better way.

A Quick Circular-Saw Blade Change

A Quick Circular-Saw Blade Change

Don't bust you're knuckles fumbling with a wrench to get your old blade off; use this super-simple tip instead.

Pressure-Treated Wood Preservative Tip

Pressure-Treated Wood Preservative Tip

If you've drilled some pressure-treated lumber for a bolt, you need to protect the inside of that bolt hole with some wood preservative. You could use a small paint brush, but there's a better way.

Make Accurate Inside-Corner Measurements on Mitered Cuts

Make Accurate Inside-Corner Measurements on Mitered Cuts

If you need to measure a mitered piece of trim from the short point, you could try to hook the end of your tape to a very difficult purchase point and hope to get an accurate measurement, but there's a better way.

Make a Quick Job-Site Clamp for Small Pieces

Make a Quick Job-Site Clamp for Small Pieces

If you need to drill holes in small workpieces, you could hold them in your hand, but there's a better way.

Make a Perfect Pipe-Outfeed Support in a Pinch

Make a Perfect Pipe-Outfeed Support in a Pinch

If you have some plastic pipe or thin moldings to cut with you chop saw, you could hunt around the job site for scraps of wood to prop them up, but there's a better way

Make Your Own Job-Site Safety Plate

Make Your Own Job-Site Safety Plate

If you're on a remodeling job and you've discovered that someone has drilled a hole for your NM cable a little bit too close to the face of a stud — you could stop everything and run down to the hardware store for a metal plate, but there's a better way.

Install Hinges Easily Without a Door Buck

Install Hinges Easily Without a Door Buck

If you have to work on a door and you don't have any door bucks, you could straddle it and hold it steady with your legs, but there's a better way

How to Install Housewrap Solo

How to Install Housewrap Solo

If you've got to install housewrap on a house and your helpers didn't show up, you could bag it for the day, but there's a better way.

How to Patch Holes in Housewrap

How to Patch Holes in Housewrap

If your housewrap has holes or tears in it, you might be tempted to put on a tape Bandaid and hope it doesn't leak, but there's a better way.

Make Rust Removal Easier with a Modified Wire Brush

Make Rust Removal Easier with a Modified Wire Brush

Pair a wire brush with your reciprocating saw for the perfect metal-cleaning tool

Make a Drill Bit in a Pinch

Make a Drill Bit in a Pinch

If you can't find a small bit to drill pilot holes, you could drop everything and run down to the hardware store, but there's a better way

How to Make a Custom Tool-Pouch Organizer

How to Make a Custom Tool-Pouch Organizer

You could cram all of your tools into your tool belt and hope you can find what you need when you need it, but there's a better way

How to Paint Screwheads Without Making a Mess

How to Paint Screwheads Without Making a Mess

If you've got a bunch of screws you need to paint, you could spray them individually, but there's a better way

How to Make Spray-Can Caps Easier to Remove and Replace

How to Make Spray-Can Caps Easier to Remove and Replace

Tame that reluctant lid on your paint rattle can with a simple modification.

Make an Easy-to-Carry Paint Pail Out of a Milk Jug

Make an Easy-to-Carry Paint Pail Out of a Milk Jug

Don't get hand cramps from lugging around that metal paint can—recycle a plastic jug into an ergonomic painting container.

Laser-Guided Sonic Stop Makes Measuring Miter-Saw Cuts a Breeze

Laser-Guided Sonic Stop Makes Measuring Miter-Saw Cuts a Breeze

This cutting-edge technology will boost the efficiency of any home-building project

Dont Let Drywall Compound Derail Your Electrical Rough-In

Don't Let Drywall Compound Derail Your Electrical Rough-In

Chuck Miller shares a simple tip for keeping the screw holes clear and accessible on electrical boxes

How to Keep Paint off  a Carpet When Painting Baseboard

How to Keep Paint off a Carpet When Painting Baseboard

You could try to peel that carpet back as you brush along the edge of the molding and hope you don't get any paint on it, but there's a better way.

Make a Drying Rack out of Wood Scraps and Staples

Make a Drying Rack out of Wood Scraps and Staples

If you're finishing pieces of woodwork with paint or varnish, you could just lean them up against the wall and hope that they don't drip, but there's a better way.

How to Remove a Router Bit Without Busting Your Knuckles

How to Remove a Router Bit Without Busting Your Knuckles

The safest way to loosen a router collet is as simple as changing the direction of your wrenches

How to Make a Simple Shop-Built Edge Clamp

How to Make a Simple Shop-Built Edge Clamp

Don't blow all your money on expensive bar clamps. Use a homemade tool made from scraps to glue on edge band and other long, thin pieces of wood.

Use a Common Job-Site Tool as a Quick Rip Guide

Use a Common Job-Site Tool as a Quick Rip Guide

If you need to make a quick rip on a piece of lumber, you could hunt around for your tablesaw, but there's a better way.

Stop Drafts With a Homemade Door Sweep

Stop Drafts With a Homemade Door Sweep

You don't need fancy, store-bought thresholds to block the air leaking under your old doors. Make your own sweep out of materials you already have lying around the shop.

How to Build a Door Buck With Scrap Materials

How to Build a Door Buck With Scrap Materials

If you need to work on a door while it's on edge, you could look around for a third hand, but there's a better way

Accurately Cut Miter Angles Without Using Measuring Tools

Accurately Cut Miter Angles Without Using Measuring Tools

If you need to measure an angle that's other than 90 degrees, you could hunt around for your protractor, but there's a better way

A Faster Way to Install Eye Screws

A Faster Way to Install Eye Screws

If you've got a bunch of eye screws to install, you could do it the old-fashioned way with the blade of a screwdriver, but there's a better way

How to Remove a Circular-Saw-Blade Knockout Easily

How to Remove a Circular-Saw-Blade Knockout Easily

Grab a few common items from around the shop to make this job a snap

How to Keep Things Clean When Caulking Trim

How to Keep Things Clean When Caulking Trim

Don't wipe your hands on your clothes or a messy rag when caulking crown moldings, casings, and baseboards. Use this handy tip instead

How to Use a Drill and Screws to Remove a Plug from a Hole Saw

How to Use a Drill and Screws to Remove a Plug from a Hole Saw

Avoid busting your knuckles on your next hole-boring project with this clever video tip

How to Make a Custom Dust Collector for Your Router

How to Make a Custom Dust Collector for Your Router

If you've got a router job coming up, you could just let the chips fly and vacuum them up later, but there's a better way.  

How to Apply a Weathered Finish to New Wood Siding

How to Apply a Weathered Finish to New Wood Siding

Don't wait for siding repairs to blend in naturally; Chuck Miller has found a great way to make unfinished wood weather quickly

How to Make a Mess-Free Varnish Filter out of Cheesecloth

How to Make a Mess-Free Varnish Filter out of Cheesecloth

If you need to filter an old can of varnish for a small touch up job, you could pour the whole thing through a filter and make a mess... But, there's a better way.

How To Make a Woodworking Spring Clamp out of PVC Drainpipe

How To Make a Woodworking Spring Clamp out of PVC Drainpipe

You can't buy a half dozen clamps for a buck—but you can make your own for less than that

How To Save a Miscut Board From the Scrap Bin

How To Save a Miscut Board From the Scrap Bin

"Measure twice, cut once" no longer applies once you learn this easy fix for a board that's been cut too short

How to Clean a Large Paint Roller

How to Clean a Large Paint Roller

You'll feel like a kid again when you use this slick tip for cleaning the messiest of painting tools

How To Make a Reciprocating-Saw Blade Guide Block

How To Make a Reciprocating-Saw Blade Guide Block

This simple tip will help you cut studs more-accurately when making new rough openings in existing walls.

How to Avoid Complicated Fractions When Measuring a Workpiece

How to Avoid Complicated Fractions When Measuring a Workpiece

If you need to divide a piece of wood by some inconvenient fractional number like 11/64, you could do some complicated math in your head, but there's a better way.

How To Drill a Long Thin Hole for Running Small Wires

How To Drill a Long Thin Hole for Running Small Wires

Don't buy an expensive bit that you'll only use once. Make this custom drill bit for running wire for doorbells, thermostats, or other low-voltage equipment.

How To Stop Paint From Bleeding Under Masking Tape

How To Stop Paint From Bleeding Under Masking Tape

If you need to keep a straight, clean line between a painted surface and a varnished surface, you could try free-handing it the way the great painters do, or you could put down some masking tape and...

Make Your Blowtorch Safe

Make Your Blowtorch Safe

Propane torches have tippy bases on one end and flames coming out the other. You could keep a fire extinguisher handy, but there's a better way.

Prevent Pneumatic-Nailer Blowouts When Installing Trim

Prevent Pneumatic-Nailer Blowouts When Installing Trim

If you're hanging moldings and the nails keep blowing out the side of your trim stock, you could just swear a lot and keep your putty handy, but there's a better way.

How to Stop Sawdust from Binding Up a Holesaw

How to Stop Sawdust from Binding Up a Holesaw

Chuck Miller shares a tip on how to evacuate sawdust from a holesaw without pulling the saw in and out of the cut.

How To Cut Tenons for Deck Rails with a Tablesaw

How To Cut Tenons for Deck Rails with a Tablesaw

A round tenon is a solid way to secure a baluster to a deck railing. Chuck Miller shows how to make a simple jig to cut your own in this episode of "There's a Better Way."

Get a Sharp Edge on Knives, Chisels, and Planes with a Homemade Strop

Get a Sharp Edge on Knives, Chisels, and Planes with a Homemade Strop

Keep this simple tool in your nail pouch and you'll never have an excuse for working with a dull blade again.

Make A Custom Hole Saw To Remove Stripped Screws

Make A Custom Hole Saw To Remove Stripped Screws

Tired of scrapping good wood when a stripped screw won't budge? Chuck Miller shares a tip for using, of all things, an old golf club to painlessly pull stubborn screws.

Plane Doors More Easily With a Shopmade Jig

Plane Doors More Easily With a Shopmade Jig

Scott Gibson shares a tip to keep doors and other big workpieces secure and level.

Keep Your Truck Tailgate Clear With a Simple Gravel Shield

Keep Your Truck Tailgate Clear With a Simple Gravel Shield

Don't let the back of your pickup get jammed up with soil or stone dust. Chuck Miller shares a tip for making a movable cover to keep your tailgate free of debris.

How To Hang Drain Lines so They Stay Straight and Secure

How To Hang Drain Lines so They Stay Straight and Secure

Plumber Bruce Norman shares his secret to keeping PVC waste pipes right where he wants them.

Scrap Your Nail Set and Make Your Hammer Work Harder

Scrap Your Nail Set and Make Your Hammer Work Harder

Fine Homebuilding reader April Uno shares a new way to countersink nails with a single custom-made tool.

Roll Compound on Drywall Seams for Faster, Easier Taping

Roll Compound on Drywall Seams for Faster, Easier Taping

Add a little water, grab a paint roller, and speed up this tedious job.

A Money-Saving Tip for Protecting Your Truck Bed

A Money-Saving Tip for Protecting Your Truck Bed

Learn about a simple way to keep your truck bed clean without buying an expensive tarp.

Use a Scrap of Electrical Cable to Make a Flexible Flashlight Stand

Use a Scrap of Electrical Cable to Make a Flexible Flashlight Stand

Romex isn't just for electricity anymore! Make your own handy light snake with a few wraps of this easily-formable wire.

Build This Sliding Truck-Bed Drawer, and Get Easy Access to All Your Tools

Build This Sliding Truck-Bed Drawer, and Get Easy Access to All Your Tools

A few 2x4s, 2 sheets of plywood, and some small casters are all you need to maximize the usable space in your pickup bed.

How To Clean a Small Paint Roller Without Clogging Your Sink

How To Clean a Small Paint Roller Without Clogging Your Sink

An improvised spinner and a bucket of water work wonders when cleaning these handy little rollers.

How To Form Small Concrete Projects The Easy Way

How To Form Small Concrete Projects The Easy Way

You may be surprised at the tool Chuck Miller uses to make sure his concrete pour goes as smoothly as possible.

How to Make a Drain-Pipe Plans Holder for Your Truck

How to Make a Drain-Pipe Plans Holder for Your Truck

How do you keep construction documents from getting buried under piles of tools and materials in your truck? Chuck Miller shows a couple of super-easy ways to fit a simple storage space for plans into any pickup.

Build This Simple Router Jig and Mill Your Own Molding On-Site

Build This Simple Router Jig and Mill Your Own Molding On-Site

Don't bother bringing your router table to the job-site. All you need is this home-made jig and a couple of clamps to mill perfect molding on the fly.

How to Stop The Ladder on Your Truck From Whistling

How to Stop The Ladder on Your Truck From Whistling

Does your extension ladder howl when you're driving down the road? Our latest 'Truck Tips' video has a quick fix for that. Plus, see an easy way to load ladders without breaking your back.

A Sliding Dump Bed Makes Unloading Gravel Fast and Easy

A Sliding Dump Bed Makes Unloading Gravel Fast and Easy

Put away your shovel and save your back. Make your truck do all the work, with this simple homemade bed liner.

How to Drill Level Holes In a Fence Post: Drill-Bit Plumb Bob

How to Drill Level Holes In a Fence Post: Drill-Bit Plumb Bob

Learn an ingenious trick for leveling your drill bit when boring horizontally through a thick piece of wood.

How to Safely Store Bits in Your Router Case

How to Safely Store Bits in Your Router Case

Get your router bits to stay put and stay sharp.

How To Drill Pilot Holes Without a Bit

How To Drill Pilot Holes Without a Bit

Sometimes the right tool for the job isn't a tool at all. In this tip, watch Chuck Miller make a pilot hole by working backwards.

Keep a Paintbrush From Drying Out Between Coats

Keep a Paintbrush From Drying Out Between Coats

Washing a brush after every coat of paint can be a real drag. Follow this tip and your bristles will stay straight, and the brush should stay wet for days.

Folding Trick Makes Sandpaper Last Longer

Folding Trick Makes Sandpaper Last Longer

Learn an old carpenter's trick for getting a sheet of sandpaper to last. All it takes is two folds and a quick slice with a knife.

Make a Kinked Tape Measure Last Longer

Make a Kinked Tape Measure Last Longer

See how a quick snip out of a cracked measuring tape stops the split from spreading.

Nifty Drywall Patch

Nifty Drywall Patch

This video combines two tips into one - first, a quick way to make an access hole in drywall, and then an ingenious way to close it back up.

Snake Wires With a Tape Measure

Snake Wires With a Tape Measure

Snake wires with a tape measure When upgrading the electrical outlets in my kitchen I needed to pull a wire from the bottom of the wall into the attic. As shown in the drawing (location), I used an...

Save Spray Foam

Save Spray Foam

Don't throw away half-full cans of spay foam. Save them for later use with this tip.

Make a Tool-Actuated Vacuum

Make a Tool-Actuated Vacuum

Get suction on demand with this easy and inexpensive retrofit.

Secure Old Plaster in a Pinch

Secure Old Plaster in a Pinch

Don't let sagging plaster get you down. If you're in a pinch, you can secure it with an item from your plumber's tool kit

Snake wire through old walls

Snake wire through old walls

Don’t let narrow wall cavities filled with plaster prevent you from running new wires

Easy Pick Up Trick for Spilt Screws

Easy Pick Up Trick for Spilt Screws

Don’t cry over spilt screws. Save time and your fingertips with this clever pick-up trick

Save Your Old Paint

Save Your Old Paint

Save valuable leftover paint without the danger that it will gluck up your walls

Block-Cutting Guide

Block-Cutting Guide

Easy-to-make jig for cutting blocking when framing

Asphalt-Shingle Cutting Guide

Asphalt-Shingle Cutting Guide

Here is a little jig I made for cutting asphalt shingles for cut roof valleys

Make a Simple Clamp for Perfect Miters

Make a Simple Clamp for Perfect Miters

Convert a spring clamp and two drywall screws into a strong miter clamp for assembling tight miter joints

An alternative to a ladder

An alternative to a ladder

I love to work on our house. I don’t even mind working on the roof, but I have to admit, I really don’t like ladders very much. So before I started the dormer project to improve our...

Submit Your Tip!

Submit Your Tip!

Submit your tip! Share what you know and help others to work smarter and faster.

Spray Painting Screw Heads Without the Mess

Spray Painting Screw Heads Without the Mess

A no-mess, no-fuss approach to spray painting screw heads for use with cabinetry, fixtures, and other carpentry projects

Reinflate Tubeless Tires on the Job Site

Reinflate Tubeless Tires on the Job Site

Got a flat? Instead of heading to the nearest gas station, try this easy technique that saves time and money.

Snap a Diagonal Chalkline

Snap a Diagonal Chalkline

Don't let your chalkline slip. Here's a tip for snapping diagonal lines on panels.

Lost the Cap for your Pneumatic Nailer? Try This

Lost the Cap for your Pneumatic Nailer? Try This

If you've lost the cap for the nipple on your pneumatic nailer, but want to keep the dust from building up and clogging the air line, try this simple tip.

Minimize Circular-Saw Tearout

Minimize Circular-Saw Tearout

This zero-clearance circular-saw base ensures the edges of your plywood cuts stay clean

Pipe Clamp Hold-Down for the Job Site

Pipe Clamp Hold-Down for the Job Site

This smart solution for holding down lumber with a make-shift bench is sturdy and cheap

Stack Cutting Lumber

Stack Cutting Lumber

If you need a number of studs or deck boards cut to the same length, this accurate, time saving trick is your solution

Small Drywall Patch

Small Drywall Patch

A simple and effective way of patching small holes in drywall or plaster is done without tape.

Revive Old Caulk Tubes

Revive Old Caulk Tubes

Does throwing away an old, clogged caulk tube pain you? At five to ten bucks a pop it could. Here’s a way to revive old caulk tubs and even improve on the design.

Fitting Coped Crown Molding

Fitting Coped Crown Molding

With this device, I am able to check my coping without climbing a ladder, and if it is not a good fit, I am able to see exactly where and how much material needs to be removed.

An Efficient Way to Paint Doors

An Efficient Way to Paint Doors

This simple setup uses a couple of sawhorses, some long screws, and a few pieces of plywood to make a spinner for supporting a door while it is painted.

Theres a Better Way: Large Drywall Patch

There's a Better Way: Large Drywall Patch

When making a large drywall patch, all you need is a scrap of plywood and some drywall screws.

Theres a Better Way: Installing Crown Molding

There's a Better Way: Installing Crown Molding

Two easy ways to make crown molding installation go smoother

Theres a Better Way: Custom Drywall Taping Tool

There's a Better Way: Custom Drywall Taping Tool

A custom drywall taping knife is cheap, easy to make, and produces excellent results

Theres a Better Way: Drawing an Ellipse-ish

There's a Better Way: Drawing an Ellipse-ish

Build a jig to draw a perfect ellipse with just two scraps of wood and a few nails

Welcome to Theres a Better Way

Welcome to There's a Better Way

Tips get better with technology

Small-Scale Drywall Texturing

Small-Scale Drywall Texturing

For quick texture touch-ups, grab a plastic bottle, some joint compound, and an air gun.

Theres a Better Way: Plywood Sheet-Metal Brake

There's a Better Way: Plywood Sheet-Metal Brake

Reader David Kalin of Kaneohe, Hawaii, submitted a simple method for bending steel, copper, or aluminum flashing on site. Charles Miller demonstrates and points out how the flashing can run as long as you've got friends to hold it.

Theres a Better Way: Cutting Rigid Insulation

There's a Better Way: Cutting Rigid Insulation

Teamed up with a straightedge, a sharpened putty knife cuts through foam like butter

Theres a Better Way: Line-Level Storage

There's a Better Way: Line-Level Storage

This quick video tip teaches you how to keep track of those little line levels.

Theres a Better Way: A Work Light for Cramped Conditions

There's a Better Way: A Work Light for Cramped Conditions

Fine Homebuilding reader Peter J. Gootos of Grapevine, Texas, discovered a perfect alternative to drop lights for lighting tight cramped spaces: a rope light made from flexible clear PVC

Theres a Better Way: Prompt Power-Cord Polarity

There's a Better Way: Prompt Power-Cord Polarity

Submitted by David White of Cupertino, California, and demonstrated by Charles Miller, this expert tip will save you time in aggravation in determining power-cord polarity in tight spaces or dark conditions.

Theres a Better Way: Better Pencil Sharpener

There's a Better Way: Better Pencil Sharpener

A utility knife will sharpen your pencil but when your stuck on a ladder there's a better way.

Video Tip: Insulation T-lift

Video Tip: Insulation T-lift

Rick Nelson of Alameda, California, created a handy tool to help with installing unfaced fiberglass insulation overhead.

Listening to your house

Listening to your house

“This is a story about a woman in love with her house. It's also about your house. Your sister's. And your best friend's. It's about intuition, and some fundamental principles of design. And it's about how we all can learn to love our houses a little more.”

Doghouse/shed dormer addition

Doghouse/shed dormer addition

Our two-story house has a weird combo gambrel/gable roof. The gambrel half is in front, facing east, and it had no windows. So the upstairs lacked morning light in the eastside rooms, and missed out...



Recent comments


Re: Make a Drying Rack out of Wood Scraps and Staples

Hey Cowtown,
sounds interesting. Please send some pix.
Chuck

Re: Make a Drying Rack out of Wood Scraps and Staples

Dear Vegetable Gardener.
Please review tip again. It doesn't say to put the presentation side of the workpiece upside down. If we were spraying a cabinet door, for instance, the backside of the door would rest on the staple points.
cheers,
Chuck

Re: How To Make a Woodworking Spring Clamp out of PVC Drainpipe

ChadC
Yes, I think a jigsaw could work, and it wouldn't pose the table saw kickback problem. Give it a try and let us know how it works. Thanks for the feedback.
Chuck

Re: How To Make a Woodworking Spring Clamp out of PVC Drainpipe

Stew2
DON'T use a table saw to cut a lengthwise kerf in a piece of PVC pipe. The pipe will act as a clamp on the blade, and you'll run the risk of a big-time kickback.
Skyhammer
yes, the wider the pipe cutoff, the more the clamping pressure

Re: How To Save a Miscut Board From the Scrap Bin

Thanks for all your comments folks. You've got me LOL too. Grecci, the vest is by Occidental. Here's a link:
http://bestbelt.com/product/belt-free/2585_beltless.html
cheers,
Chuck

Re: How To Make a Reciprocating-Saw Blade Guide Block

Glad that helped Savvypete. I have a love/hate relationship with my Sawzall too. It makes cuts that nothing else can do. It is the quintessential remodeling tool. As a result, I have a large collection of blades that now look like cartoon lightning bolts from banging into the wrong target.
Chuck

Re: How to Stop Sawdust from Binding Up a Holesaw

JWBinSD:\, yep, vertical surface. You found the glitch.
byhammerandhand: yep, more drills please--just like routers and bits--more is better
JohnOSeattle: the vest is made by Occidental Leather. Here's a link: http://bestbelt.com/product/belt-free/2585_beltless.html
falsedawn: I guess it depends on how long it takes to get out the other drill and how many holes you're plowing with the hole saw.
Cheers,
Chuck

Re: How To Cut Tenons for Deck Rails with a Tablesaw

Hi Gideon,
Glad you like the tenon tip. It's a useful way to cut a cylindrical tenon on all kinds of workpieces. Our tipster David Kalin in Hawaii uses a much larger version of this to profile cylindrical ends on 4x4 fence posts, which he then encases in pvc pipe to thwart the termites.
Regarding the rotation of the workpiece in this video. Please have another look. I am rotating it counter clock wise--the same rotation as the dado blades. In this manner, the workpiece is rotated into the advancing teeth.
best,
Chuck

Re: Make A Custom Hole Saw To Remove Stripped Screws

Hey Zargon,
glad you liked the tip--thanks for saying so. Here's a link to the vest,
http://bestbelt.com/product/belt-free/2585_beltless.html
best,
Chuck

Re: Build This Simple Router Jig and Mill Your Own Molding On-Site

Hey Piffin,
thanks for that refinement--good idea. Lacking the 5/4 stock a similar quick-registration situation could be fashioned with some tacked-down blocks affixed to the guide strips.
yeah, the spam problem. We're working on it--there's always something...

Re: How to Safely Store Bits in Your Router Case

tipseeker--
those are from Trojan, and they are really good. Sturdy, light, and they fold up into a tidy package.
www.trojantools.com
there are a bunch of places on line that sell them, Amazon among them.
thanks for your question,
Chuck

Re: Screeding concrete steps

Todj57
very clever. Can you post a sketchup drawing that shows a section through the steps and formwork, with the stepped screed in position?
Chuck

Re: Easier installation of crown molding

Hiya ABcanuck,
that's a slick way to keep your crown at the right spring angle, and locate nail backing at the same. thanks so much for contributing to our little brainstorm bulletin board here. glad you like the tips.
Chuck

Re: Awning Window Operators - Use the Door Spinner - Best Price for Good Paint

Super shed Fred. Thanks for posting. Lots of great recycling ideas in here, and I think it's a clever twist on the door spinner to use it for holding the windows during their tune up.
I'm a goof-paint convert. I've probably got twenty gallons of various hues down in the basement. As one of my art teachers once said, "there are no bad colors, just bad combinations of colors".
Chuck

Re: Secure Old Plaster in a Pinch

“I'm puzzled why the editors thought this was a good video to put up for viewing? It seems kind of like a discussion of how to make your own nails out of wire.”

Here’s why. A tip is about creative improvisation. A good tip takes some common thing, and finds a new use for it. Yes, plaster washers are commercially available, but if you just need a dozen to reinforce a cracked ceiling, and you don’t want to wait three days for delivery, this tip can help you out. And if you’re new to patching plaster, and have never seen this method, simply learning about the concept is useful.
There are always going to be better ways to do a given homebuilding task (we’ll never call it “best way”), and that’s why we invite your comments. They enrich the dialogue, and make each tip that much more useful. And if I’m stuck on an island someplace, with a roll of wire and a boat that needs repair, I’ll figure out a way to make nails.


Re: An alternative to a ladder

StevenAL,
to your question: I stripped the old roof off, repointed the chimney, installed new flashings and vents and re-roofed the entire building during the dormer project--and I expect I am forgetting stuff too.
Chuck

Re: Wood Sickness

The tree monkey on my back is Douglas fir, which is evidentally a pine. I grew up in Northern California, where the tree is common along the coast. And once I became a builder in the Bay Area, I worked my way through piles of it, both as framing lumber and as a finish material. When a saw chews through green Doug fir, the air smells like pineapples on a hot day.
My local lumberyard was next to the track where I used to go for a jog everyday. As a cool down, I'd walk through the yard, looking at the end grain of the units of 2x fir, searching for that tell-tale tight vertical grain that indicates "jackpot". I'd pull out those prizes, carefully stack the wood back, and head for the checkout desk to put them on my tab. Did they care that I was high-grading the lumber pile? I asked Babe, the checkout guy if he had an opinion on the subject. He said he was glad that somebody cared enough to use the good ones someplace where they could be seen.
That lumberyard is long gone, scraped away to make room for condos. I'm in Connecticut now. But every now and then, when I'm at Home Depot, I'll find myself looking at the end grain of all those 2x sticks of Doug fir.

Re: Drywall Screw Pickup Tip

Hi Matt,
Thanks for this excellent tip. We must be in the cosmic coincidence zone here. Last week we videotaped a bunch of new tips, and one of them was about this exact topic. The variant that we shot puts the magnet inside a plastic bag. Drag it through the screw pile, collect a bunch of screws and then turn the bag inside out. They're trapped in the baggie.
Chuck

Re: Spray-painting screwheads

very nice Austin669. Less work with better results using recycled materials is a nifty trifecta.

Re: Revive Old Caulk Tubes

thanks demouser--that caulksaverplug sounds especially promising. Two other ideas that tipsters have shared for slowing down the hardening of the caulk in a partially spent tube:
1. Squeeze out just enough caulk to make sure there is no air in the tube tip, then cap it with an appropriately sized wire nut.
2. I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds like a good idea: seal the tube tip with hot-melt glue.
Anybody tried that one?

Re: Code-change alert: Fire sprinklers in all new homes

I'm with ChuckB on this one. Along with more insulation than is required by code, I'd opt for this system on a new house whether it was required or not. I'm curious about fire insurance costs for a house with a sprinkler system. It could be a sprinkler system pays for itself over time in insurance savings.

Re: There's a Better Way: Large Drywall Patch

Good idea tbw. I put a post-it on web guy's dashboard to add the pop-up titles. In the meantime, you can click on the "back to list" link at the top to get you to the menu of tip topics without the annoying yada yada.

Re: There's a Better Way: Large Drywall Patch

Thanks for your comments everybody. We're making this video-tip stuff up as we go along, so we really appreciate your feedback. To Mfourneir's point, yes, this is a basic tip. We've always had a mix of tips in the magazine that run from beginner level to advanced, and that's because, well, we want to reach as broad an audience as possible. If you're new to the world of home building, patching a hole in a gypboard wall is a good way to get your feet wet--a sort of gateway project to more challenging tasks.
To BobboMax's comments, yep, those are all steps that are integral to making a good drywall patch. Maybe somebody will send in some advice on getting those steps right too. I hadn't heard about "texture in a can", but truth be told, I'd rather use the tools and materials I've got on site to get the job done instead of buying a can of stuff that does the same thing and will end up in a landfill.
And to runnerguy's comment, I agree with you partly. I think we need to dial down the riff at the end of the tip, and better yet, record a slightly different hook.

Re: Craziest Shingle Tear-Off Method Ever?

This looks like a great way to save some time removing cedar shingles if you’ve got a simple shed or gable roof with great access front and back for the loader, and an operator who’s had plenty of time to practice on his own house. That’s a narrow set of criteria, but as proved in this video, it can happen.

Re: There's a Better Way: Drawing an Ellipse-ish

Hey Chris,
Thanks for the feedback on the ellipse definition. I see your point, and I sit corrected. Nevertheless, whatever we want to call this thing--I'm leaning toward an "ellipse-ish"---it's a cool trick. I drew a bunch of other arcs on the plywood when we shot this video, and each one had a different feel to it. And they sure didn't take long do do. If you'd like to draw up the string technique, we'll work it into the mix.
Chuck

Re: Doghouse/shed dormer addition

Hi Huck,
Thanks for your comments--I'm glad you like our dormer addition. I've posted a few more photos to address your questions, and to add a bit more to the story. All told, this project added about 70 sq. ft. to the house.
Chuck