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Articles by Gary Katz

Make a Miter Saw Work Station: Part 1

No matter how much or how little you invest in a miter saw, the quality and enjoyment of your work will depend more on your saw stand than on the miter saw itself.

A miter saw stand is more than just a place to set your saw—it’s a work station.

Manufactured stands are available that are easy to set up, transport, and store, but if you’re working at your home, in a couple hours, with $50 or $60 in material, you can make your own. In this chapter, I’ll show you how. Read the full article…

Solving Porch Problems

Start with the Finish and Work Back to the Rough

A lot of carpenters scratch their heads every time they finish framing a porch and start on the stairs. There are so many ways to frame stairs on a porch that it’s hard to make a logical choice, let alone use the same technique twice. That’s why, to work on this story, we gathered together a group of carpenters, all JLC authors: Mike Sloggatt, Frank Caputo, Jed Dixon, Carl Hagstrom, Tom Brewer, and Greg DiBernardo all contributed to this article. Together we worked out a simple system for installing stringers, so you won’t have to scratch your head the next time you start on the stairs. Read the full article…

An Award-Winning Letter

“How I built a reputation that is now worth money to me as a builder”
A reprinted article from American Carpenter & Builder, July, 1912.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Jeff K. Burks for the tremendous effort he makes to discover, copy, and share these jewels! Years ago, Jeff introduced me and countless other carpenters to C Howard Walker’s seminal book, The Theory of Moldings. Here, Jeff provides us with a telescopic view of the past: timeless lessons that carpenters should heed today about building better business practices. Read the full article…

Falling Water

Where Wright was Right and Wright was Wrong

I recently read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. What a great story about an architect—Howard Roark—who refuses to compromise his creative ideals or his personal values. In a biography of Frank Lloyd Wright, Brendan Gill discusses the comparison between Wright and Roark, and the common misconception that Rand based her character on the famous architect (Many Masks, pg. 490-492). After reading several biographies of Wright (and learning Wright was a colossal egotist), then visiting many of his homes (where I was overwhelmed by their timeless beauty), I have to agree: it’s too bad there wasn’t more in common between the man and the myth. But Wright’s work, and especially his influence on architecture, will definitely outlive his personality. Read the full article…

Festool 4 Ft. (Stabila) Level

When I started teaching carpentry clinics at lumberyards around the country, one of the first companies I sought support from was Stabila—I used their levels for a couple of decades and wouldn’t think of switching brands. There was no other spirit level available that guaranteed the same degree of precision, whether the vials were right-side up or up-side down.

When I first started in the trades, I used an adjustable level, but threw it away after setting door jambs in a home getting bull-nose drywall. Read the full article…

Shop Class as Soulcraft

A book every craftsman should read

“What sort of personality does one need to have, as a twenty-first-century mechanic, to tolerate the layers of electronic bullshit that get piled on top of machines?”
–Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: Penquin Press, 2009

I recently taught a class on Mastering the Miter Saw to a group of mixed-age students at the West Valley Occupational Center, near my home in Los Angeles. I’ve volunteered to teach classes there before. The instructors teach drafting, framing, electrical, drywall—a general hands-on course covering everything about construction with blackboard backup. It’s a great program for anyone new to the trades. But I was surprised to find the class stalled by a lack of building materials. One instructor was digging into his own pocket to keep his class going. Read the full article…