All hail the crown

Today we’re installing what’s most likely the nastiest, most ornery, and to say the least, most challenging type of molding found in a home, that being the crown molding.

Why is the crown molding so frustrating a product to install? Essentially, it’s in part due to gremlins, those mischievous, invisible little creatures that find pleasure in hanging off the ends of crown moldings as we attempt to place them in position, and who consistently kink an outstretched tape measure, making an accurate length reading almost impossible.

Then of course there are the more visible challenges, like walls that aren’t so square, and ceilings that droop in the middle, making the figuring of a proper miter angle about as likely as calculating the re-entry trajectory of NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

Inevitably, there will be gaps, but— that’s what paintable, white caulking is for.

Why put yourself through the hassle of installing such an appendage? Because crown moldings can be a room’s most-attractive feature, and will definitely transcend a very average-looking space into something special.

More formal or more elegant? Not necessarily, unless you choose it to be that way, having picked a more extravagant model of crown, or have added a series of moldings to help enhance the crown.

Minimally, crown moldings make a room better.

The four keys to successfully installing crown molding?

One, you’ll require a 10-inch miter saw with a new 80-tooth blade. Crown moldings have beveled edges, and attach to the wall and ceiling in a 45-degree manner, pieces must be held on the miter saw in this same 45-degree position. With a cut as intricate as this, while being somewhat risky to the fingers (since they’re inevitably a little closer to the cutting path than usual) you’re going to want a blade that’ll cut through the MDF product like butter.

Two, you’ll require an air-powered finishing tool. Nailing MDF moldings in the same manner you would regular pine, just doesn’t work. The MDF product is simply too dense, and will either crack, or the nail will bounce back at you.

Pre-drilling? Better, but still not nearly effective as an air gun.

Either borrow, rent, or better yet, say that Santa forgot it on his sled, and buy yourself an air finishing nailer.

Three, clear the room or area under renovation, lay down a few tarps, seal the room with a roll of clear plastic, and set up shop in the immediate vicinity to where you’re installing the trim. Because crown moldings are installed at ceiling height, where spacing seems unobstructed, the do-it-yourselfer might feel it only necessary to push the room’s furniture towards the centre and cover everything with a tarp, somewhat following the format of a painter.

Avoid this strategy.

The key to achieving a tight miter joint is to cut the crown miter about a quarter-inch longer than necessary, trimming a bit off the opposite, or square end, until the molding fits snugly with its partnered miter. As a result, every mitered corner is going to incur about three-to-four cuts before you’re satisfied with how the miters match up.

If these cuts are being made in the same room as where the crowns are being installed, and your only seconds between test fittings, your stress level will be kept to a minimum.

However, if you’ve set up a cutting zone in the garage, or on the back deck, with the logic being to control the dust issue, but in doing so are incurring an extra 20 steps, having to open a door, or slide open a patio-glass panel on every trip back to the miter saw, this going back and forth is going to drive you batty.

Four, to ease the installation, first install a baseboard molding (upside down) on the wall, tight up against the ceiling, following the perimeter of the room. The baseboard not only adds to the décor, but provides an effective nailing anchor for the crown.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Items you could put in their nail pouch

The task of Christmas gifting doesn’t have to be such a challenge if you choose to follow one simple guideline: “make it a practical gift.”

Keep it simple, where the stress of Christmas shopping can effectively be avoided by sticking to a combination of three gift categories, them being beer, cheese, and hardware.

The handy-person combo, consisting of a leather nail pouch, along with a local craft beer (or Tims card) in the right-side pocket, new tape measure in the middle, and block of cheddar cheese in the left pocket, is always a winner, and a classic first option.

Or, consider the carpenters’ travel bucket, comprised of one utility pail, containing a six pack of domestic ale, Tims card, work gloves, safety glasses, and a bag of St. Albert cheese curds.

Essentially, duct-taping together a Heineken, multi-bit screwdriver, and a 500-gram container of cottage cheese, or any beverage, tool, and cheese combination thereof, will reward you with a twinkle in the recipient’s eyes, and a heartwarming smile that’ll stretch from ear to ear.

Two things to note.

One, the age of the recipient will need to be factored in when choosing the beverage/tool/cheese combo. Those persons not yet of legal drinking status will have to be satisfied with an age-appropriate beverage ranging anywhere from root beer to a Red Bull, while toddlers might be better served by the chocolate milk/large Lego block/Havarti cheese combo.

And two, although terms such as “a traveller,” and “one for the road,” have been used in reference to alcoholic beverages, driving or working while under the influence is definitely not recommended.

Next, although the term nail pouch basically describes what a handyperson would put around his or her waist before commencing a task, the more appropriate term these days is carpenter’s apron, essentially because the unit in question is no longer a simple pouch, and instead has a number of pouches, or storage divisions, and because it’s rarely filled with loose nails, due to the trade having moved to air tools, which use nails in either a strip or coil format.

Not to sway too far from tradition, but instead of hanging a sock, which doesn’t do so well to safely contain drill bits and circular saw blades, one might want to consider hanging a carpenter’s apron from the fireplace mantel, filling it every Christmas Eve with a few handyperson necessities.

What types of hardware items might be included in your handyperson gift apron?

Most handypersons waste time looking for the little things, like a decent pair of work gloves, sharp utility knife, or No. 2 driver bit that isn’t too badly worn and will still hold a screw.

Tight fitting, polyester-type work gloves have especially come a long way from the cowhide relics of years past. Available in both winter and summer styles, they’ll be a very welcomed relief for your handyperson.

Utility knives? Most handypersons buy themselves the snap-off blade models because they’re cheap and convenient. Regardless, do them the favour of gifting them a quality knife with a retractable blade. The blades on a retractable knife stay sharper longer, and are safer to use.

On the subject of safety, you can never have too many pairs of safety eye goggles hanging around, and, don’t forget the ears, where every handyperson should have a quality pair of earmuffs, or headphone-type ear protection, hanging close by the lawnmower and whipper snipper.

Next, jig-saw blades, drill bits, and circular saw blades, are regular-type items that get used well past their peak of sharpness. Check the existing shop blades for style, size, and tooth count, as a reference before purchasing.

Other good and always handy carpenter-apron stuffers?

Foam sanding blocks, paint brushes, roller refills, paintable caulking, pint of joint compound, all things the handyperson in your home might need in a pinch, and will be scrambling to find. Otherwise, stop by your local building supply dealer for more ideas.

Merry Christmas.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Some stocking-stuffer suggestions for the do-it-yourselfer

A vending machine filled with safety equipment, including work gloves, at a Suncor Energy site north of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Wednesday September 27, 2017. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Today we’re going to be making the Christmas holiday season less stressful by suggesting a few gift ideas for those needing to buy for the little do-it-yourselfer in your home.

First, let’s review the list of DIY what-not-to-buys, which will include most gifts relating to improving one’s personal grooming and/or level of fitness. Even though most do-it-yourselfers could possibly benefit from a facial, manicure, and participating in an introductory yoga class, it would be helpful if those around us simply accepted the fact a bar of soap is all the cleansing product we require, including the washing of one’s hair, and that when our fingernails get long, biting them or trimming them with a drywall knife is a more efficient use of time than sitting in a chair and having them filed. And being asked to touch one’s nose to one’s knee cap is about as desirable as attending a class where it’s the instructor’s duty to repeatedly kick you in the groin.

So, what does the average do-it-yourselfer really need? Support tools.

Now, receiving an actual tool would be great, with there certainly being little chance of disappointment should your DIYer tear open the wrapping paper and discover a 20-volt drill/impact combo, or cordless brad nailer. But, it’s the drill bits, driver bits, and saw blades that wear out the quickest, and what make for much appreciated stocking stuffers.

Start by examining your DIY’s table, circular, and chop-saw tools. You’ll want to measure the diameter of the blade, the size of the hole at the center of the blade, and the number of teeth. Best case scenario, if there happen to be a few blades hanging around, is to bring them into your building supply centre with you. This way there’s zero chance of buying the wrong size or type of blade.

Plus, old blades can generally be sharpened for a reasonable rate. So, while you’re choosing a new blade, leave the old ones behind for sharpening. Or, you can get your DIYer started on the exchange-a-blade program, whereby circular blades are purchased, then returned once they’re worn, and exchanged for a new blade at a much-reduced price. This way there’s no down-time of having to wait for blades to be sharpened, or need of having any more than a few backup blades in the shop.

Note, not all blades qualify for the exchange-a-blade program. So, make sure the blade you’re purchasing has the EAB (exchange-a-blade) stamp.

Grinder type blades, used for concrete or steel, wear out quickly, so stuff a few of those in the sock as well.

Next, if your DIY’er owns a recipro saw (aka sawsall) and/or jigsaw, pick up a few general cutting wood and steel blades for these tools. Recipro saw blades are pretty well standard, whereby any size of blade will fit most brands, however jigsaw blades can differ from one manufacturer to another, so be sure to check the fitted end of the blade for compliancy.

Next, look for various sizes of drill bits for steel, and spade drilling bits for wood, as well as driver bits for screws. Consider picking up a 10-piece multi-driver bit kit, which will accommodate most screw heads, and a 10-pack of the No. 2 Robertson drivers, the most popular size of screw bit driver.

Next, if you’re considering driver bits, then round off that gift with go-to canisters of decking screws (which can be used indoors and outdoors) in the more popular 1.5-inch to 3.5-inch lengths.

Other ideas?

Paint brushes, masking tape, fiberglass tape, a small tub of mud, a drywall knife, a bottle of glue, all the little things one tends to look for in a pinch and never finds, like safety glasses and work gloves. I went to get work gloves from a pail of several pairs of gloves I keep in the garage, all were worn through at the fingertips. This year, my letter to Santa will include work gloves.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

A drill-down on making great holes

Getty Images/iStockphot

One thing penetrating into another is always made easier by first creating a hole.

No matter how skilled, how mighty, or how overwhelmingly powerful the athlete carrying the ball is in the sport of professional football, his success in progressing past the line of scrimmage will correlate directly with the size of the hole created.

If the 300-pound offensive lineman creating this hole was successful in separating the angry bunch of 300-pound defensive linemen in the way, then the skilled ball carrier passes through with minimal discomfort.

If the offensive lineman fails to create a hole, either due to lack of skill, poor timing, or the fact a few individuals are somewhat disgruntled by recent contract negotiations, then the ball carrier will certainly be facing a whole lot of hurt.

Most nails and screws will penetrate wood. There are self-tapping screws designed to drill and pierce through steel. There are even nails that can be hammered into solid concrete.

However, it’s always easier when there’s a hole created first.

Let’s look at some of the things we can use to create holes. Things to realize; steel drill bits will cut through wood, but wood bits won’t cut through steel, while concrete bits will only really cut through concrete.

That being said, with enough weight or pressure, a drill bit could be forced through just about anything, just like a grand piano could be forced through the mail slot of a front door, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

To keep things easy, and pretty, we use the proper designated drill bit for the task at hand.

Essentially, small holes of 3/16” or less, often used to pre-drill wood in order to accept a nail or screw, are effectively done with a steel drilling bit.

Holes required to be anywhere from a quarter-inch to 1.5 inches in diameter are best drilled with a spade bit, which has a flat head, similar to a canoe paddle. Using a steel bit for these sized holes will work, but you’ll be forfeiting accuracy. A steel bit will move around a little on the surface before it bites down into the wood. Plus, the hole will be frayed at the sides, due to the steel bit lacking the extended, cutting edges found on a typical spade bit.

Anything larger than 1.5 inches would require a hole-saw, which is a cylinder-shaped cutting tool. Hole-saws are two component drilling tools, requiring a centre bit, referred to as a “mandrel,” to start the hole. The mandrel further guides the circular hole-saw into the wood. If this is your first hole-saw purchase, don’t forget to buy both components. Generally, one mandrel will service a number of various hole-saw diameters.

However, not all centering mandrels match all hole-saws. So, be sure to test-fit your existing mandrel with the newer hole-saw before leaving the building supply centre.

Note to self: drilling with larger spade bits and any sized hole-saw bit is like playing catch with a football, best done using two hands. If your drill doesn’t have an extended arm to place a second, steadying hand, definitely consider ordering one of these components for your specific brand of drill. Otherwise, keep two hands firmly on the trigger shaft.

Spade bits and hole-saws will sometimes jamb in the wood. If that happens, and you’ve only got one hand on the drill, the sudden twist is going to leave your wrist looking and feeling like a strand of cooked spaghetti.

Next, be wary of purchasing just any spade bit. Some spade bits have regular tips, others a full-thread tip. The full-thread bit option effectively draws the spade bit blades into the wood, making this bit very aggressive— which is fine if you’re an electrician with 1,000 holes to drill. Otherwise, I prefer the gentle push, draw back (which helps clear the hole of cuttings) then push forward strategy of a regular spade bit.

Next week we’ll have more on creating holes.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Painting’s more than picking up a brush

Painter’s tape being applied to a baseboard. POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Painting tradespersons don’t get the respect they deserve.

This is due to the belief most of us feel we’re generally capable of painting a room with little consequence, while delivering acceptable results.

True enough, few people have electrocuted themselves or flooded the home’s basement as a result of performing a poor paint job. Plus, cuts and bruises are minimal, and although painters tend to keep their fingers over the course of their career, there was the tragic beheading of Sir Edward “Eggshell” Egleton, by order of the Earl of Warwick in 1645, due to a sloppy effort of painting where the ceiling met the stained crown trim, a treasured molding of the Earl. Unfortunately for Eggshell Egleton, who prided himself on a revolutionary paint texture that duplicated a beloved breakfast food, but whose trimming hand was a little shaky, masking tape would only be invented 300 years later, and painter’s tape, another 50 years after that.

All to say, dipping a brush into a can of paint is relatively easy.

The key to getting from this point to a desirable finish, while avoiding any headaches, will take a whole lot of care.

First, organize your supplies. Besides the paint, angled brushes, pans, roller cages, and refills, you’ll need a few canvas drop mats, drywall repair compound, painter’s tape, and paintable caulking.

The key to achieving a nice finish is to first prepare the surface. No matter how good the paint, it won’t camouflage nail holes, dents, or smooth out a poor drywall repair job.

If your goal is to paint the room in one day, pick up a bag of ‘sheetrock 20.’ This powdered, just add water compound can be sanded 20 minutes after it’s applied.  If time is on your side, regular joint compound will require 24 hours to set.

First, clear the room of as many obstacles as you can. Although you’ll be using a water-based paint, removing paint splatter off the kitchen table or the coffee maker will be a pain in the butt, especially if the droplets go unnoticed for a few hours.

Using a narrow putty knife, and a small plastic container you’ve salvaged from the recycle box, mix a small amount of sheetrock 20 to a cake icing consistency. Then, apply it over the holes and rough surfaces.

Next, start taping. Professional painters avoid taping because it’s time consuming, costly, and because they’ve in most cases mastered the technique of trimming. Unless you’re a medical surgeon or dismantle bombs for a living, odds are that with the amount of coffee and medication in your system, your hand stroke is about as steady as gas prices on a holiday weekend.

So, protect the things you don’t want to colour with a painter’s tape, and not masking tape. Painter’s tape is a new-and-improved version of masking tape, and is designed to seal as soon as paint makes contact with its edge.

Besides your crown, window, and door moldings, be sure to tape around the doorknobs and light fixture bases as well. Once you’ve finished applying the painter’s tape, the ‘sheetrock 20’ will be ready for sanding.

Next, lay your canvas drop mats in position. The canvas mats are more expensive than the plastic or paper protective coverings, but they spread and handle far better. The canvas mats are available in 3’x20’ or 4’x12’ formats, which is convenient when moving from wall to wall.

Try not to walk on the mats as you paint. Otherwise the droplets they’ve absorbed will end up on the soles of your slippers, with your trips back and forth from the fridge well documented from that point on.

Even though you’ve protected things with a painter’s tape, begin the painting sequence using a quality tapered brush around the moldings and where the wall meets the ceiling. Once the molding’s been painted, remove the tape as soon as you can. This way, any paint that’s made its way under the tape can be easily rubbed off.

Good painting.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

The cutting edge

Using the right type of blade for the job is important. Postmedia Network

“That’s not a knife . . .this is a knife,” states Paul Hogan (starring as Crocodile Dundee) as he presents his 10-inch Bowie survival knife to a group of street hoodlums, and “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” as stated by Roy Scheider (starring as Chief Brody) to boat Captain Quint, as Brody backs into the cabin area in a somewhat bewildered manner, are a couple of memorable movie lines that exemplify persons showing up for a job with slightly less than adequate tools for the task.

One situation has a New York gangbanger looking to challenge a seasoned Australian outbacker with a simple six-inch switchblade, with the other having a mish mash crew looking to catch a 25 foot Great White shark while aboard the Orca, a 30 ft. aged wooden trawler.

So, with today’s theme relating to cutting and munching, we’re going to be looking at what type of blades are best suited to cut the various building products we do-it-yourselfers will be encountering over our amateur careers.

First rule of thumb to make note of? If there exists a building product or piece of material that needs cutting, then there also exists a specific cutting blade or wheel for that task. That being said, can some saw blades or knives serve in a multi-purpose role, having the capacity to cut or sever a number of building products other than then the one they’ve been specifically designed for? Absolutely.

A circular saw blade, or hacksaw blade formulated to cut steel, will eventually make its way through a piece of wood, eventually, just like Frank Morris eventually carved his way out of the Alcatraz prison in 1962 using a cafeteria spoon. Had inmate Morris had the luxury of procuring himself a cordless drill, with the appropriate concrete bit, I’m sure he would have jumped on the opportunity to save himself the six months of work. And, this is an important point for do-it-yourselfers to understand — don’t go for the spoon, or otherwise semi-adaptable saw blade or drill bit in the toolbox simply because it could perform the task at hand, although poorly, but save you the 10 minute drive to the local building supply center.

Using an 80 tooth finishing blade to rip lumber (cutting lengthwise), when a 24 tooth blade is the better choice, will actually cost you time. Furthermore, a finishing blade designed for cross cutting, but instead used in a ripping manner, will overheat, most likely warp, and certainly dullen the teeth beyond any further productive use. Then there’s the risk factor of forcing lumber into a finishing blade that was not meant to chew through wood at a rip pace. You know you’re tempting fate when pushing a piece of lumber through your table saw requires the same amount of force used to push an automobile out of the snow. In this scenario, the blade is heating up, and is moments away from swelling or warping slightly. When this happens, the blade jams itself into the plank, either shorting out the table saw, or as in most cases, causes a ‘kick back’, appropriately referred to as such due to the lumber jolting backwards, usually hitting the operator in the groin with a force equal to that of an annoyed Appaloosa.

Essentially, every circular or table saw blade will list the items it’s designed to cut on the blade itself. So, if you’re cutting melamine, or plywood, or ripping lumber, look for a blade that lists exactly the type of cutting you’ll be performing. Looking to cut re-bar, steel bolts, angle iron, or steel lath, then choose the appropriate metal blade. Avoid the grinder type of composite discs to cut steel or concrete. They’re certainly less expensive, but wear down quickly. A proper steel blade, designed for the cutting of steel, concrete, or non-ferrous metals (metals that don’t contain iron, such as copper or aluminum) is your best bet.

As always, wear tight fitting work gloves and eyewear when cutting anything.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard