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Custom Bracket Built Onsite

Not long ago, I got a phone call from the company my mother works for. Apparently, a plow truck hit one of the brackets on a covered entry on the side of their building during a snowstorm. The maintenance crew looked at it and realized it was not the type of project they were willing to take on. The owner of the company, whom I have done work for in the past, said, “Call Ray. He’ll fix it.”

(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

I stopped by to take a look and met up with the plant manager in his office. On his desk, he had a couple of broken pieces left from the original bracket. He brought me outside to check out the damage to the covered entry (see photo, right). With a few measurements, and a brief moment of head scratching, I said I could fix it.

No Fancy Tools

I was given permission to use the facilities onsite since I don’t have a shop. In the end, the entire project was performed right in front of the covered entry, next to a snow pile, and with water constantly dripping from the roof (and occasionally on us!). No fancy tools, no router pattern bits, and no band saw. We had a circular saw, a jig saw, a grinder with a sanding disc, a random orbit sander, a miter saw, a table saw, and a couple of metal saw horses.

As if that wasn’t enough, when we pulled into the alley, I got out of my truck to decide where to set up shop and within five minutes we heard a large “CRASH!” A chunk of ice fell four stories from the roof above onto the cap of my truck. Luckily, there was no major damage (other than a nice dent in the cap).

I decided to move the truck near the street, almost onto the sidewalk, to keep it away from the edge of the roof.

A Cardboard Pattern

I wanted to find a way to use the original (now broken) pieces. I figured we could create a pattern and glue them together to make up the 5 1/2 in. of width of the original bracket.

We got a large piece of cardboard from one of the guys in shipping. My cousin held up the cardboard to the outside of the existing bracket while I used a sharpie marker to trace out the basic shape of the large curve.
After I carefully cut out the cardboard with a sharp utility knife…
…we began tracing the shape onto our first 2 x 12.

This became the new pattern for the rest of the pieces.

The initial shape was cut using a circular saw, and then a jigsaw.
From there, I smoothed out the curve using a grinder with a 50-grit sanding disc.
Since the curve was larger than the 2 x 12, we had to make each layer in two pieces,…
…and then use pocket screws and glue to join them.

Next, we drilled the hole in the bottom of the bracket to accept the larger 1/2 in. diameter threaded rod that would be anchored in the wall later. First, we used a 1 1/2 in. spade bit to give space for the washer. We used a 1/2 in. bit and the nut went all the way through the bracket.

After both holes were drilled, we did another test-fit to see if the hole would align with the rod in the wall. Unfortunately, we were slightly off. Since re-drilling was out, we used a Dremel with a sanding drum to enlarge the outer hole just enough to better receive the washer. The hole would later be filled with foam backer rod and caulking, and the caulking would be smoothed out over the hole using a wide putty knife.

The Finish

A final sanding of all the pieces was done before the install to help smooth out the transition of each layer to one another, and to make it look like it was a solid piece rather than a multi-layered piece.

The original was multi-layered, but after years of wear and multiple coats of paint, I couldn’t see the difference.

All edges got a quick coat of oil-based spray primer before we put the bracket up. While waiting for the paint to dry, we installed a threaded rod into the brick wall with anchoring epoxy. This took the place of the old lag screw that came out when the truck hit the bracket.

After the epoxy set and the primer was dry, we installed the bracket in its spot. We used some ledger lock screws and trim nails to attach the new bracket to the framing of the covered entry. The WindsorONE-primed side trim pieces were installed last to cover up the holes from the nails and ledger lock screws.

Final Trim

The final step was to trim out the top of the bracket with some cove molding and small wood strips to create a molding profile that would mimic the original. The small half-ball at the top of the curve was the only original piece that was salvaged, and we decided to attach it to the new bracket.

What might sound like a quick and easy task was not—water was dripping from the side of the covered roof that we were working on. The ladder had to be placed in front of the bracket and I had to reach around to the outside when it came time to install the outer trim. Each time I poked my head out I got wet, and so did the nail gun. My cousin placed the leftover cardboard on the portico roof to create a splash shield for me. It worked just long enough to keep both me and my nail gun from getting too wet.

We finished up just after dark that day while filling the nail holes with caulking. The customer was very happy in the end. It was a challenge, and a pleasure, to make something of this nature onsite.

The plant manager later sent my mother an email thanking me for doing such a great job of replicating the original bracket.

•••

AUTHOR BIO

Raymond’s career as a carpenter began over a decade ago after being in the world of advertising photography for almost ten years. He started off by doing small handyman jobs, which soon led to more complex remodeling jobs. It became apparent that Ray’s creative side set him apart from other contractors as clients asked for more complex projects, built-ins, or fireplace mantles. He soon learned that his attention to detail and creative eye for the architectural esthetics of clients’ homes helped bring a unique perspective to his projects.

Ray’s passion for his craft is evident in all that he does. From small projects, to fine finish carpentry and remodeling projects, he has amassed a number of loyal clients over the years.

Raymond founded Valois Home Improvements in 2000. He currently lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts with his wife and two kids. When he’s not making area homes more beautiful, you will probably find him golfing, riding his motorcycle, or having fun with family and friends.

You can see more of Raymond’s work at Valois Home Improvements.

Comments/Discussion

31 Responses to “Custom Bracket Built Onsite”

  1. Ed Latson

    Raymond, this is a very fine looking job. And you’re right it does get very easy to complicate some of our work–too many tools and too much agonizing sometimes.

    I looked over your website–nice work! I like the ease of using your site too–must be very handy for potential clients with the before and after photos.

    And do you miss your photography career at all?

    Best of luck to you. Ed Latson

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Thanks for comments,
      Yes I sometimes do miss photography it was a lot of fun and certainly less strenuous on my body but the money is more steady with remodeling and every now and then I get to do something cool and creative like this.

      Raymond

      Reply
  2. aaron pinkins

    Thats craftsmanship. Couldn’t have found a better bracket

    Reply
  3. Kirby Dolak

    That’s what I call a great job of scratch carpentry! But you took it to a new level with the minimal complement of tools. Nice job and good story. Thx

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Thank you very much, It was a lot of work and quite a bit of problem solving on the fly, but in the end it’s really cool to say “hey look what I made”.

      Raymond

      Reply
  4. Greg martin

    Very good improvising. I admire the fact that is was done in one day using what you had. I have to do all of the time and have never stopped learning to ask myself the question, “is there an easier way to get the job done without going to the shop?” Good thinking and good work.

    Reply
  5. Johnny P. Martinez

    Great job, I loved the practical solutions that you used in creating the wooden bracket. Great article and easy to read and understand.

    Reply
  6. Fred West

    Ray,

    I loved the work you did on this especially given the limitations you were working under. It appears that part of your secret is the large piece of cardboard which you used to great effect. :o)

    Fred

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Thanks Fred,
      Yes the cardboard was a big help because it was the best way to to mimic the shape of the remaining (and intact) bracket. When it comes to remodeling I find that a huge portion of what we do as carpenters is problem solving. So many times you sit there and think how am I going to fix that, or remove this without disturbing that and so on. But you get through it some how and in the end it just seems to all come together.

      Raymond

      Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      LOL. thanks
      Yeah we have all warmed up since that day. it was not that cold but the snow was melting right above us which did not help matters.

      Raymond

      Reply
  7. Eric Tavitian

    Good work Ray,
    When I began my career, it was not all that far from where you live. I started out in Somerville Mass. rebuilding and remodeling old burned out brick tenements. I have to admit it was a challenge braving dripping ice cover roofs on sunny days after it had snowed something fierce the night before. There more than a few times I had to hang on tight to the building while an avalanche came down right down on me while holding a skill saw in motion. Not much fun!!! These days I live in Southern California and the weather is a bit more predictable not to mention warmer (all year long). Ya, that’s what I’m talking about.. But in all seriousness that was a great little piece of creative on-site joinery. It’s amazing what a little talent and a few decent tools can accomplish.

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Thanks Eric
      Yeah there are days that the weather is just not much fun to work around and yet we brave the elements to get the job done. I’m sure that day I was wishing I was in California and not here ;)

      Raymond

      Reply
  8. Darrel

    Excellent job on the bracket, and I have to add that your web-site shows off your creative talent very well. I work without a shop myself, and it’s encouraging to see what can be accomplished with hand tools- in the hands of someone capable. I am going to be working on a “moon wall” this week, and seeing your article was perfect timing. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Thanks for the compliments, always happy to offer inspiration to others as I have gotten from other articles here;)

      Raymond

      Reply
  9. J. Alvis

    How has the ‘caulking’ held up with a 1 1/2″ hole? Seems like the caulking would shrink making the hole visible.

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      So far so good. I did fill most of the hole with backer rod so I would not have 1/2 a tube of caulking in the hole. It did shrink just a bit. If i could do it over I might try a different filler or figure how to make a cap of some sort.

      Raymond

      Reply
      • Moucon

        Ray
        Instead of a cap – why not cut a 1.5″ tapered plug.. tap/glue it in there, and then sand/carve it flush with the surface -similar to what you’d do with a stair rail plug ?

        JLS

        Reply
  10. Peg

    Nice work. I really like the looks of the bracket. Nice idea to trace the good one. Just one question….was it not possible to remove the snow melting and dripping on you?

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Hi Peg
      Thanks for the comments. As far as the snow, I did not have access to the roof above which is about 5 stories up, that’s where the melting snow was really coming from. We did make it through the day without getting too wet, we just had to watch where we walked to avoid the dripping water;)

      Raymond

      Reply
  11. Eric Iwaniuk

    Hello let me start by saying amazing job you clearly know your stuff..I am a comercial truck driver so i understand stress and attention to detail you clearly knocked that one out of the park…Stay safe on future jobs and get in the habit of wearing a hard hat it could save your life…
    .

    Reply
  12. Emanuel

    Great job on the bracket. It’s nice to see talent being performed right on the spot no matter how bad the weather is. Beautiful work and looking forward to seeing more.

    Emanuel

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Thanks Emanuel
      I’m keeping my eyes open for more opportunities to publish more articles, I have a couple things in mind…. we’ll see. It’s always great to share our knowledge!

      Reply
  13. Eric R

    Nice job Raymond.
    That took a lot of craftsmanship to do such a nice job on the work site.

    Reply
  14. Mark S

    Ray,
    Great article. Love the use of basic tools. I’m just up the street in Vermont and I laughed with your comment about water dripping on you from the roof! If I had a nickel every time that happened well you know……. Nice job on the bracket and a well thought out web site.
    Mark

    Reply
  15. Dave D

    Raymond,

    Nice work, and well-done write up. Glad you had the presence of mind to take photos during the course of the work. Maybe your photography background makes that second nature.

    I just finished a somewhat smaller bracket to replace one damaged in a recent storm, and I largely replicated your process. I found a belt sander useful in fairing up the plies after gluing them up. 80 grit sandpaper wrapped around a glue bottle helped me smooth out some of the tighter inside curves.

    Thanks for your article, and to Gary for providing a venue for sharing techniques and ideas.

    Reply
    • Raymond Valois

      Thanks Dave,
      I’m glad the article was helpful for your project. My photography background does help sometimes. But all too often I forget to take photos because I’m too wrapped up in what I’m doing to remember. It’s tough to be the photographer and the carpenter at the same time;) Did you take any pictures of your bracket? I would love to see how it came out.

      Raymond V.

      Reply
  16. Jamie

    Holy cow, nice job! I sell parts like these and faux beams and such. My suppliers/manufacturer’s don’t seem to have the skill or capacity you do, I should call you next time we have a custom job! Really well done.

    Reply
  17. Raymond Valois

    Thanks Jamie!
    Feel free to call me if you have a custom job or even a repair job like this one. I’m always up for a challenge.

    Raymond V.

    Reply

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