Reader Feedback: Issue 160, December 2003/January 2004
Comments on the “new” Fine Homebuilding
I greeted your new “face” with the usual apprehension a longtime subscriber feels when encountering changes in a respected magazine. Mostly, it’s fine. But please don’t dumb it down. I found the commentary on different species of 2x4s awfully elementary (“What’s the Difference?” p. 116) and not very substantive. The new department on fundamentals (“Building Skills,” pp. 120, 122) is fine, as long as its spirit doesn’t dominate the magazine.
I recognize that many of your subscribers, including me, are weekend warriors rather than full-time tradespeople. But I read Fine Homebuilding to get the level of knowledge that I would get if I were talking to a professional builder.
—Bill Houghton, Sebastopol, Calif.
I have been faithfully reading your magazine since 1988 and am always happy to see its arrival in the mail. But after a short time of looking at the October/November issue, it became clear to me that this was the best yet. I didn’t think you could make it better, but I’m quite impressed.
—Greg Schuette, via email
As a regular reader for more than a decade, I was aghast at the product currently going under the name Fine Homebuilding. The new “fun” format may indeed be easier to use, but the quality of information is sorely lacking. In the early 1980s, the publication included comprehensive, in-depth articles with detailed discussions and appropriate visuals. A typical article then had more words than three articles today. Now we find splashy visuals, wide margins, and oversize type discussing simpleton projects.
Where’s the beef? We don’t need another version of This Old House.
—Don Bullock, La Mesa, Calif.
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the first issue of the newly formatted Fine Homebuilding. You guys continue to replenish my enthusiasm for building, just as you have since around issue No. 6 when I first bought the magazine. I especially appreciate your efforts to publish information about environmentally considerate building and the constant flow of excellent technical information.
—David Gerstel, via email
Lighting allowed on most 20-amp circuits
In “Undercabinet Lighting” (FHB #158, pp. 62-66), Robert Grey writes, “When tapping into a power source, keep in mind that the National Electrical Code requires lighting to be on a 15-amp circuit.” That is not true. He continues, “Because I placed the switch in a box containing a 20-amp appliance circuit, I couldn’t tap into the power there.” True, but because it is an appliance circuit, not because it happened to be a 20-amp circuit.
Article 210.23 (A) and exception cover this case: “15- and 20-Ampere Branch Circuits. A 15- or 20-ampere branch circuit shall be permitted to supply lighting units or other utilization equipment, or a combination of both, and shall comply with 210.23 (A)(1) and (A)(2). Exception: The small-appliance branch circuits, laundry branch circuits, and bathroom circuits required in dwelling unit(s) by 210.11 (C)(1),(2), and (3) shall supply only the receptacle outlets specified in that section.”
—Jon Tandy, Greentown, Pa.
Use the right drill with pocket-hole jigs
The photo on p. 86 of your October/November issue (FHB #158, “Pocket-Hole Jigs”) reminded me of the first few holes I drilled in hard maple using the same exact type of Kreg jig and, coincidentally, Makita cordless drill. After drilling fewer than 10 holes, the tip of the specialized stepped drill bit snapped off. Frustrated, I called Kreg, and I was directed to the fine print in their instruction manual, which recommends that only a corded drill be used for this purpose. If your readers follow the example given, rather than read the manual thoroughly, they’ll wind up repeating my $16 (plus shipping, delay, and aggravation) mistake.
—Henry C. Leach, via email
Pocket-size epoxy packets
Your great article on outdoor glues (FHB #158, pp. 50-55) neglected to mention that the cost of polyurethane glue goes up a lot when you factor in the waste of half or more of the glue drying up. That said, the actual cost of using West System epoxy looks even better. In addition, Gougeon Brothers (www.westsystem.com; 989-684-7286) sells premeasured packets of resin and hardener that are the easiest, most convenient way to mix small batches of this awesome product. Every shop and toolbox should contain a few of these packets.
—Bruce Weiser, Belle Harbor, N.Y.
Dust collection for sliding miter saws
In the October/November issue of Fine Homebuilding, Gary M. Katz wondered if anyone had come up with a good dustcollection system for sliding miter saws (FHB #158, p. 10). Here’s a photograph (above) of the system I made for my DeWalt DW708 compound sliding miter saw.
I first assembled an adapter (using a PVC plumbing fitting) to attach a 2-in.-dia. dustcollection hose to the standard dust-bag port on the DeWalt saw. I used zip ties to fasten the entire assembly to the saw’s motor housing. I left enough slack in the 2-in. hose to allow full movement of the saw.
Behind the cutting teeth at the bottom edge of the blade, I assembled a second, more compact dust-collection port using a Loc-Line 41⁄2-in. round dustcollection nozzle (Grizzly; 570-546-9663; www.grizzly.com). This funnel-shaped piece has a 41⁄2-in. front diameter, quickly tapering to a 21⁄2-in. rear diameter. I attached the narrow end to a 90° PVC plumbing elbow and attached a hose to this elbow. I mounted this assembly to the moving head of the saw using a piece of strap iron and several zip ties. I left enough slack in the 21⁄2-in. hose to allow for full movement of the saw.
My solution isn’t perfect, as the Loc-Line nozzle can snag when cutting thick, wide stock or when making bevel cuts, but it’s the best solution I’ve come up with.
—Mack Howard, Athens, N.Y.
Smooth shingle underlayment: slippery when wet
I couldn’t help but notice that the only source of information quoted in your item on waterproof shingle underlayment (FHB #158, “What’s the Difference?” p. 114) was the representative from Grace Construction Products. I am sure Grace is a valuable advertiser, but I’m a little uncomfortable with any supplier getting the final word in the editorial section of the magazine. If your editor had asked one or two slightly probing questions, the article might have been even more useful to your readers.
The most important point that was missed was how does the smooth material perform when wet? In my experience, the smooth material is dangerously slippery when wet. I almost always use the granulated style because you never know when that roof will be wet, whether it’s due to rain, dew, melting frost, wet boots, or spilled coffee. Because I do smaller jobs, I don’t usually concern myself with the slight cost savings of granulated over smooth. I do emphatically concern myself with using the product that will be safest under the always unpredictable conditions we deal with in the real world.
—Chris Warren, West Simsbury, Conn.
Editor Kevin Ireton replies: Actually, Grace Construction Products does not currently advertise with us, and even if they did, it wouldn’t buy them favorable mention in our editorial content. We contacted Grace because they make both kinds of underlayment, and we figured they could explain the difference between the two. But you’re right, we should have probed deeper … and talked to a few roofers.
Reader defends Great Moments author
I would like to rise to the defense of Kirk Anderson and his decision to keep the abandoned chainsaw found in his neighbor’s garbage (FHB #157, “Great Moments,” p. 146). At first, I was inclined to think he should have returned it, if for no other reason than it being the neighborly thing to do. However, I decided that if the original owners were so stupid they could not bother to read the directions, so lazy they could not bother to take it back to the store or even call for advice, and so wasteful they would literally throw away a brand-new power tool, then they did not deserve to have it returned. Mr. Anderson was well within ethical bounds to keep it.
—Mitch Moschetti, Fletcher, N.C.
Says mesh tape is stronger on drywall
I would like to correct a statement that was made in your June/July issue regarding glassmesh drywall tapes (FHB #156, “What’s the Difference?” p. 120). James Kidd writes that “You must use these stronger compounds because mesh tape isn’t as strong as paper tape.” In fact, the tensile strength of glass-mesh tape is more than three times that of paper tape. And while the joint systems using both products do not completely utilize that difference of strength, independent testing by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) has confirmed that glass-mesh tape performs equally if not beyond the level of paper joint tape. Yes, it is more expensive than paper tape, but the acceptance by the market has well proven its value.
—Thom Palmer, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Call for submissions: Outside the Not So Big House
Sarah Susanka is collaborating with landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy on a new book about the landscape surrounding a house and the connections between inside and outside. We are seeking professionally designed houses and their landscapes. For details, please visit www.notsobighouse.comor www.juliemoirmesservy.com. If you have any questions, send an email to [email protected].