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Feature Articles

Wooden Storm Door

Like many carpenters, I’m always looking for an interesting challenge. I like tackling something I’ve never done before—and succeeding. Not only is it satisfying to push yourself, but a satisfied customer means good word-of-mouth, which (hopefully) leads to more work. Win-win. This is exactly what happened when one of my best clients approached me with an interesting project. Read the full article…

Ramps for the Handicapped

Volunteer work: good for the community and good for the soul

One of my first memories, in the early 1930s, when I was 4 or 5 years old, was of our mother taking care of a neighbor woman, Eula Hughbanks, who had tuberculosis. TB was more common in those days, with little hope for a cure, especially for poor people. The nearest medical care of any kind was 30 miles away. Such care might as well have been on the other side of the world for most of us, as few had an automobile. So people did what people have always done, especially in hard times—they took care of one another. Read the full article…

Grinding Custom Shaper Knives

Learning to make your own tools is a step up for the serious woodworking carpenter

Most of my work is at the high-end of the New England custom home market. For the jobs I do, in Boston brownstones that even today sell for several million dollars, there are no off-the-shelf parts—everything is completely custom, or an exact reproduction of work done in the 18th or 19th centuries. Read the full article…

Working with Melamine

Melamine can be a viable option for many projects — with good conscience and no apology.

I remember reading an article about melamine years ago. The author was very apologetic about the topic because he knew he was addressing woodworkers who had a disdain for the material. Melamine has a rap sheet alright; it is looked down upon by both fabricators and consumers for its imitation wood grain and particleboard core. However, like it or not, it does have a place in the world of cabinetry. And that place is not always located at the bottom of the food chain. Read the full article…

A Coffered Ceiling & Media Room

Concept to completion: Having vision is half the battle

Like a lot of high-end jobs I work on, I’m sworn to secrecy about the clients. All I can say is, this job was on a pristine 7-acre waterfront property on Long Island’s Gold Coast, overlooking Connecticut and the Long Island Sound. The main house is about 7500 sq. ft. of new construction. It’s a to-die-for spot—the view was breathtaking. Even working on this job was incredible. The funny part is how I landed the work. Read the full article…

Made in . . . ???

The problem with poor-quality foreign parts

Remember the term “Made in the U.S.A.”? It wasn’t that long ago that the phrase was often used by manufactures to instill confidence in the product they were promoting. By-and-large, American manufacturers have produced good-quality parts and materials. In my 25+ years in the trades, I can only recall a couple of incidents where we received a part or component made in the U.S. of such poor quality that it failed immediately after being installed. Read the full article…

Photographing Your Work

Taking process pictures on the job or in the shop

There’s something about photography that’s related to carpentry, I just can’t quite put my shutter finger on it. But I know a lot of photographers who are carpenters. I think it has something to do with using tools. After all, a camera is just another tool: in order to use one, you have to know how it works. Read the full article…

Craftsman Style Mantel & Bookcases

Tackling a demanding project requires a careful drawing & plenty of wiggle room.

Not long ago, a friend of mine referred one of his coworkers to me who was interested in replacing the fireplace-surround of an old bungalow he and his wife had just purchased. Excited by the opportunity, I set up an appointment to visit the site. What I found was a room in desperate need of a makeover. The phone conversation I had with the clients before the meeting gave me an idea of what they were looking for: something traditional, while keeping with the bungalow theme. Armed with a few books and magazine clippings, I met with the new owners. Read the full article…

Understanding Moisture Content and Wood Movement

(with Gene Wengert, The Wood Doctor.)

Expected movement can be accurately predicted, which means avoiding potential problems down the road.

In this article, we’ll explain the importance of understanding wood movement, how to use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content (MC) of trim, how to decide when a load of trim should be rejected, and how to accurately estimate how much trim will move after it’s installed. Read the full article…

A Home For Haiti

There is a 99% chance that if you live in Los Angeles, your wood frame home survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It was a magnitude 6.7 event, caused $20 billion in damage, and seventy-two deaths. The damage to homes was primarily stucco cracks at door and window openings, and un-reinforced masonry chimney failures. There was a surge in demand for foundation bolting and bracing after the earthquake, but even before building codes accounted for seismic events, our wood frame homes were both strong and flexible; two characteristics that are essential to surviving a temblor. Read the full article…

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