Reader Feedback: Issue 120, December 1998/January 1999
Milwaukee compound-miter saw features a detent override
In your October/November issue, Ken Textor reviews miter saws (FHB #119, pp. 82-87). The write-up on Milwaukee’s 6494-6 says one of the saw’s problems is that you cannot fine-tune the miter near the detents. In fact, there is a detent override for exactly that purpose near the miter-adjusting knob. We put that feature in precisely for the fine-tune nudging that takes place in the field. This feature is built into all our miter saws.
—Brian Thompson, national training coordinator, Milwaukee Electric Tool
Don’t forget good lighting and comfortable seating
Jock M. Sewall’s interesting and informative article, “Designing Home Offices” (FHB #119, pp. 92-97), makes a number of good points but neglects two important considerations: lighting and seating.
Good lighting starts with making the most of natural light, arranging the space to function much of the day without artificial light. Evidence suggests that people are emotionally healthier and more productive working under natural lighting. Whereas most office buildings still use ceiling-mounted general illumination, thus producing lighting schemes that are unhealthy, dull and inefficient, a better approach, particularly for a small home office, is to use task lighting almost exclusively. I advise my clients to use fluorescent fixtures sparingly and to outfit their incandescent fixtures with special color-corrected bulbs wherever possible to improve visibility, color rendition and mood.
Nothing is as crucial to the productivity of an office worker as a really good, ergonomic desk chair. Sitting is not an activity we were designed to do for long periods of time as the ubiquitousness of back ailments in our society attests. The best chairs are expensive but worth the extra cost.
One activity most of us office workers engage in regularly is reading, and a desk-type chair is not really appropriate for this work. Nor is the standard American overstuffed easy chair, which gives poor support and is better suited for TV watching or falling asleep. A good reading chair is comfortable yet ergonomic. I think swivel bases are a good feature because they permit the occupant to move a little while sitting.
A chair that is comfortable for one person might not be comfortable for another. You should try out many different desk or reading chairs before choosing, and then get the best; in the long run, it will be economical.
—G. Mackenzie Gordon, Lakeville, CT
You can build custom homes for $70 per sq. ft.
In his letter “The square-foot fallacy,” (FHB #119, p. 12) Frank Fanto says he doesn’t think custom homes can be built for $70 per sq. ft. Just a little north of his home in Mendocino, California, many other builders and I are building good custom homes for $60 to $70 per sq. ft. Some of us even include the designing in the price.
I have been a builder here in southern Oregon’s Grants Pass area for 26 years and have seen the price per square foot go from less than $15 in the 1970s to the $60 or $70 of today. This price is, of course, minus land, well, septic and finish landscaping.
These are fine homes, usually made for retired folks who know quality and value. It may explain the influx of Californians to our area.
—Richard Darby, Merlin, OR
GFCIs really don’t need a ground
Rex Cauldwell’s reply about GFCI outlets on wooden decks (FHB #119, “Q&A,” p. 24) is somewhat ambiguous and surprisingly flippant concerning how GFCIs work. He states that “GFCIs do not need a ground to work.” Is this true? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been confronted by bathroom and kitchen outlets in older homes with knob-and-tube wiring where the ground (a 22-ga. wire running separately) has been cut. Unless it’s a serious remodel where new wiring is run, I’ve installed a GFCI by opening up the wall and clamping a ground wire to a cold-water line and wired it to the GFCI. Then I make sure the water heater’s pipes are properly, electrically bonded regardless of whether dielectric unions are present, and finally, I test whether the ground itself actually works. Mr. Cauldwell’s answer suggests that none of these precautions is necessary.
—Gerry Lax, San Francisco, CA
Rex Cauldwell, author of Wiring a House (The Taunton Press, 1996), replies: It’s a common misconception that ground-fault devices need a ground wire (wire from its ground terminal to house ground) to work: They do not! I repeat: They do not! The grounding lug on a GFCI receptacle connects whatever appliance or tool is plugged into the receptacle to the grounding system via the equipment grounding conductor (the bare wire). It’s no different from the standard receptacle. Therefore, your connection onto the water line may have grounded whatever appliance was plugged into the outlet, but the grounding had no effect on the GFCI.
Now on to your water pipes. You should never ground to a water pipe for any reason—let alone to ground a GFCI or a receptacle. Although some areas allow it, it is very dangerous because you never know when a plumber is going to cut out part of the metal plumbing and put in plastic. Next time you want to ground something, the safest way is to run the ground wire all the way back to the panel, grounding electrode conductor or ground rod.
In reference to installing a GFCI into a circuit that has no ground wire: We all know it will work without a ground. But should you ground it anyway? If no grounding means exist, you are not required to install one but simply to label the GFCI: “No equipment ground.” The logic behind this is that if a GFCI is installed, you are better off than just having a plain ungrounded receptacle by at least having ground-fault protection. Would it be better if the GFCI were grounded? Absolutely.