Gilles' Outlet

May 24, 2010

Building a Raised Vegetable Bed

Filed under: Carpentry — Gilles @ 5:31 am

Two cedar vegetable raised bed are built by section and installed. Metal brackets are installed to provide additional strength.


Skill Level: 2~3 (Basic~Moderate)

Time Taken: About 8 hours

There are countless designs for vegetable raised beds. In this article, we built two raised bed using techniques borrowed from fine furniture construction: beds are divided in four sections which are built in the shop and then assembled on site.

Since we were concerned about the possibility of chemicals used for pressure treated lumber seeping out, we decided to build the beds with 5/4’’ non treated cedar decking.

Left: The starting point of the project. Several days before, I located a suitable spot for the raised bed: a nice nook exposed to the sun for the longest possible time.

I used scrap lumber to precisely mark the position of the two raised beds.


Right: The lumber for this project: 5/4’’ cedar decking (left) and 2×4 cedar (right). It is exactly the right amount of lumber and there will be only minimal waste.

Cedar is sold green and it is typically not a good idea to store it in direct sunlight for long periods of time: this cause it to dry prematurely and create bad checks.

Left: I cut three pieces of 5/4’’ cedar decking to length and held them side by side with two clamps. I chose the best looking side and made sure it will face outwards. Clamps allowed the boards to be tightly  pressed against each other, leaving no gap in between boards.

This will become a side of the raised bed.

Right: I cut one 2ft long piece of 2×4 cedar and clamped it on the right side of the previous assembly. This piece of lumber will eventually be buried underground.

Left: I marked an “x” at the center of the 2×4 and the side board. Since these will be visible, I made sure these marks where perfectly aligned.


Right: I drilled a 3/8’’ hole at each mark.

Left: A 3/8’’ galvanized carriage bolt, with flat washer and hex nut. This is the fastener I will use to attach the sides to the 2×4. There will be two fasteners per board which accounts for a total of six fastener per side.


Right: The carriage bolt gets inserted into the previously drilled hole, then the washer and the nut.

Left: I used an impact driver equipped with a socket to tighten all carriage bolts.


Right: After repeating the previous steps on the other side, I easily completed one section of the two raised beds.

Left: The design called for a raised bed to be rectangular with one side almost 1ft bigger than the other. The picture shows the “larger" side at the top and the “smaller” side below.


Right: Top view of one of the raised bed’s corner when assembled: the two 2×4 were located so that they would fit snuggly …

Left: … giving a clean outside edge. This design was preferred over a mitered corner because it gives a more rustic appearance. Also, mitered corners on wood exposed to weather eventually always open, leaving unsightly gaps.


Right: View of the same corner from the inside: because the 2×4 are snug, corners can be reinforced with metal brackets for added strength.

Left: I dug four holes which will act as the foundations for the project. These are almost 18’’ deep. In this area, the frost line is at 1ft so any foundation must be at least 12’’ in the ground to avoid frost jacking.


Right: Detail of one of the holes: the bottom is flat, lays on undisturbed soil and any organic matter was removed.

Left: I installed the fist section in the foundations and leveled it.


Right: Be Level. I made sure the side stood level.

Left: Be Plumb. Each side was tweaked to be perfectly plumb. This is harder than it looks. I had to use several pieces of scrap lumber to hold the side in place as I was leveling.


Right: When I reached the desired position, I dropped crushed rock at the bottom of the foundation. This will help stabilize the side as a well as provide extra drainage.

Left: I used a scrap 2×4 to compact the crushed rock. It is important to compact often when backfilling to avoid settling.


Right: Other sides can be installed by repeating the previous steps. As I installed more sides, I also made sure they were square.

When everything was plumb, level and square, I completely backfilled foundation holes with soil, making sure I compacted often.

Left: I installed three galvanized metal brackets per corner to make sure they would stay plumb and true. These bracket are manufactured Simpson Strong Tie.


Right: I secured them with four 2 1/2’’ exterior screws.

Tools Used:

  • Power Miter Saw.
  • Clamps.
  • Power Drill + 3/8’’ Wood Drill Bit.
  • Impact Driver + Socket
  • Various Spirit Levels
  • Speed Square / Framing Square.
  • Spade Shovel.

Materials Used:

  • 2×4 Cedar.
  • 5/4 Cedar Decking.
  • 3/8’’ Carriage Bolt + Washer + Hex Nut.
  • Simpson Strong Tie Galvanized Brackets.
  • 2 1/2’’ Exterior Screws.
  • 3/4’’ Crushed Rock.


December 6, 2009

Installing a Storage Rack in a Bathroom Vanity

Filed under: Carpentry — Gilles @ 5:23 am

A rolling storage rack is installed in a bathroom vanity. Faucet supply lines are tied up to the underside of the counter top.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes

The sliding rack to install. This “ClosetMaid In-Cabinet 3-Tray Pull Out” was purchased from the discontinued section of Lowes for about $25 (Reg. $60). From top to bottom:

  • The rack,
  • Two heavy duty, full extension sliders,
  • Paper template and hardware for installation.

This rack is designed for kitchen cabinets and not for bathroom vanities but in our house, we have kitchen cabinets as vanities in bathrooms so there was a chance this would work.

Left: The vanity of interest. Doors have been temporarily removed to facilitate access. I have also setup a fluorescent light. Vanities have to account for plumbing and rarely offer sufficient storage. My task is to add storage space using the rack.

I started by reading installation instructions and taking some measurements. It first looked that the rack would best fit on the left of the vanity.

Right: The kit comes with a cardboard template for easy installation. I marked determined the centerline of the template and marked it with a pencil.

Left: The cabinet has a face frame so I measured the opening and calculated the centerline of the opening.



Right: I marked the centerline on the bottom of the cabinet with a pencil. This can later be removed using an all purpose household cleaner like “Simple Green”.

Left: I aligned the centerline of the template onto the centerline of the cabinet. After precisely locating the template, I held it in place with masking tape.

Right: I positioned sliders as indicated on the installation instructions. I did not fasten or drill anything.

I want to perform a dry run and see if the rack will fit and operate properly before I commit to installing here.

Left: I installed the rack over the sliders, still without fastening anything. It seemed to fit fine BUT …


Right: … the rack hit the hot water supply stop valve. Clearly this is not going to work. Not drilling or fastening anything has paid off.

I decided to try to install in the right side of the vanity.

Left: I repeated all the previous steps in the right bay of the vanity. This time, the rack had enough clearance to function properly or …

Right: … does it? Flexible water supply lines somewhat conflicted with the rack. I decided to move them out of the way.

Left: I rolled of plastic plumber’s perforated tape. Plumbers sometimes use this to hold pipes securely. Since it is made out of plastic, it does not damage pipes when thy rub on it.


Right: I cut a piece of the tape and secured it to the underside of the counter tiled top with a 1/2’’ wood screw.

The counter top is tiled by someone who decided to use 1/2’’ OSB as a substrate for 1/4’’ hardibacker and tiles.


Left: I secured the other side of the plumber’s tape.


Right: Flexible hoses are now held close to the countertop. Note how I was careful to avoid kinking hoses. I also ensured that the bend radius of those hoses was very large, to avoid damaging them.



Left: With hoses out of the way, I marked where sliders would be screwed to the bottom of the cabinet and pre-drilled all holes with a 1/8’’ diameter drill bit, as requested by installation instructions.


Right: I secured sliders to the bottom of the cabinet using the provider screws and my impact driver.

I removed the template and cleaned up the saw dust.


The tray was installed on sliders. There are four metal tabs (one at each corner) which need to be bent to secure the tray to the sliders. The manufacturer request those to be bent for a permanent installation.

I did not immediately bend those because I plan to add shelving to the other side of the vanity and in doing so, I may need to remove the tray temporarily.

Tools Used:

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Speed Square 
  • Drill & 1/8’’ drill bit
  • Impact Driver

Materials Used:

  • ClosetMaid In-Cabinet 3-Tray Pull Out 
  • 1/2’’ Wood Screws 
  • Plumber’s Perforated Plastic Tape 
  • Masking Tape

February 4, 2008

Extracting a Broken Screw

Filed under: Carpentry — Gilles @ 5:38 am

A broken screw is extracted from a piece of wood.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 5 minutes

Almost all building contractors and auto mechanics have been exposed to broken screws. This article explains how to extract the broken screw without damaging the piece it threads into. While the example of a wood screw broken in dimensional lumber is taken, techniques described below can be used to remove virtually any piece of hardware threaded into another material.

The broken screw of interest. The head fell off when I tried to remove the hinge from a door jamb. As far as broken screws go, it is fairly bad because:

  • The screw must get out otherwise the hinge will not be strong enough to hold the door,
  • It is not practical to replace the whole jamb,
  • A large part of the broken screw is still inside (I could judge by the head of this wood screw that it was probably  8 x 2 screw) so I can’t just use a smaller screw and ignore the problem,
  • The broken piece is not visible from outside and it is about 3/4” deep inside the material,
  • The door jam must not be damaged in any way during the extraction.

In general, extracting a broken screw is done following those steps:

  1. Look for solutions involving discarding the piece into which the screw broke. It usually does not make economical sense to discard the work piece but every once in a while; it is actually an option,
  2. If the end of the broken screw is visible and protrude outside of the material by at least 1/16” or more, use a hack saw or a rotary cutting tool (aka "Dremel") to cut a groove in the broken screw shank. A flat screwdriver can then be fitted into the groove and the screw can be removed,
  3. Consider chipping material around the screw hole to expose the broken screw shank and apply technique described in 2,
  4. If everything else failed, a special tool called a "screw extractor" can be used. This is the purpose of this article.

Left: Tools for extracting the screw. From left to right: a 5/64” drill bit, a #1 screw extractor and a "T-Handle".


Right: The screw extractor has a square drive meant to be inserted into the T-Handle.

The chuck is tighten until it holds the screw extractor tight.

Left: The business end of the screw extractor. It is basically a spiral with threads going counterclockwise. Regular screws or drill bits have threads going clockwise.

Driving screws clockwise will cause them to penetrate the material. The screw extractor needs to be turned counterclockwise in order for its threads to grab.

Right: A regular screw (top) compared to the screw extractor.

This difference makes the screw extractor capable of extracting broken screws quite effectively.

Screw Extractors are used as follows:

  1. First, a small hole is drilled into the broken shank of the screw,
  2. The screw extractor is then threaded into the hole previously drilled and turned counterclockwise (aka from right to left),
  3. Since driving the extractor counterclockwise causes the extractor to bite into the screw, it is now possible to drive the broken screw out using the screw extractor.

Screw Extractors come in several size and are commonly referred to by a number. For instance, this article features screw extractor #1, the thinnest of all common extractors. Screw extractors are available at most home centers and well supplied hardware stores. Choose the screw extractor which best matches the size of the screw to remove.

Every extractor calls for a specific hole size. The #1 extractor is usually used with a 5/64” drill bit as shown in this article.

Left: I drilled a 5/64” hole into the broken shank of the screw. I tried to drill in the exact alignment of the shank but this was difficult because I could not see the shank. 

After about 45 seconds, I had drilled a hole which I estimated to be about 1/8” deep.

Right: I threaded the screw extractor into the hole and turned counterclockwise (from right to left).

I felt the tool engaging into the screw and starting to drive it out as I turned.

Left:  After about three full turns, the screw appeared outside of the wood. It came fairly easily. I continued turning the extractor until the whole screw was completely out.

Right: The extracted broken screw still attached to the extractor.

The more you turn to remove the screw, the more the extractor tightens its grip into the hole.

I after only 5 turns, I had to hold the broken screw with a pair of pliers to remove it from the extractor.

A close up of the hole drilled into the broken screw. It is about 20% smaller than the shank of the screw.

NOTE: It is important to manually drive the screw extractor instead of using a power tool like a drill or an impact wrench. Using a power tool could cause the screw to break again or worse, the screw remover itself to break.

Hand driving the tool allows the operator to feel if the broken screw is correctly engaged and to make the necessary corrections as required.

It is sometimes necessary to extend the size of the T-Handle with a piece of metal pipe in order to increase the torque provided to the screw extractor. In this case, proceed very carefully to avoid breaking the screw and / or the screw extractor.

Tools Used:

  • Cordless Drill
  • Screw Extractor (#1) and T-Handle
  • Drill Bit

Materials Used:

  • None

January 21, 2008

Overhauling a Wood Fence

Filed under: Carpentry — Gilles @ 1:06 am

A straight section of a privacy wood fence is taken apart, reinforced and assembled back.


Skill Level: 3 (Moderate)

Time Taken: About 3 hours


Left: the starting point of this article. That section of the fence is held by two ledgers installed on the outside. Many boards are loose, cupped or bowed. The ledgers are ugly because that is the only place they appear in the whole fence.

Right: a detail of the fence before. Boards were installed too tight against each other. When a board swells, it will push against the nearby boards and cup them or pry them loose.

When installing wood fences, it is required to leave a gap large enough to allow for wood expansion.


Left: I removed the two ledgers. They were fastened with 3 1/2”  stainless steel deck screws.



Right: This uncovered a few other problems: popped nails and … bent nails someone did not bother removing.

Left: I turned my attention to the back of the fence. I found that it was held by a treated 2×4 hung to a 4×4 post with metal joist hangers.

Said hangers held like magic: most nails did pop out or were simply missing.


Right: Most boards were installed in direct contact to the ground. This is very bad because wood fibers absorbs water.

The presence of moss at the bottom proves that the area is wet and stays wet for a large part of the year.

Left: it now appeared that this section is in need of a major overhaul. I used the flat side of a pry bar to loosen all boards. 


Right: A couple of minutes later, all boards were loose but still attached to the fence.

Left: I removed all boards and sat them aside. I turned my attention to the structure of the fence.

Both 4×4 posts at both ends looked solid. I attached the joist hangers to the posts and then both 2×4 to the joist hangers.

Joist hangers must be secured using special nails called "joist hanger nails". They resist shear forces better than regular nails. You should not use regular nails with joist hangers.

Right: I also drove one of the 3 1/2” stainless steel screw I reclaimed from the ledger. Screws do not hold well in shear so I do not rely on this screw to carry load. I am attempting to get it to maintain the 2×4 inside the joist hanger.

Left: Once I was done attaching the frame to the post, I could have stopped and installed the fence boards back but I decided to use the reclaimed ledgers to build a frame reinforcement.

I cut a miter on one side of the board and installed it with a clamp so I could mark the second cut.

Right: The mitered end fits tight against the bottom 2×4.

Left: I marked the top cut with a pencil.

Marking is critical: not only it gives the length of the board but it also captures the exact angle at which the cut must be made for a tight fit.

Right: I cut the board at the marked angle and positioned it in the opening. I held it temporarily with a small bar clamp.

Left: I drove one of the reclaimed 3 1/2 ” stainless steel screws into the 2×4 to secure the bracing. I repeated this process at the top of the bracing.


Right: I installed a few other cross braces. Those triangles make the structure much more strong.

It has been known to man for centuries that building structures with triangles is one of the simplest way to make them strong.

Now, I stopped here because I used all the reclaimed 2×2 but if I had extra lumber, I would have added two more "triangles" in the bottom area where there is a larger void.

Left: I positioned the first board and secured it with one 2” deck screw. I was careful to drive this screw in an already existing nail hole in the board so the finish fence would look better.

Right: The first board was installed parallel to the rightmost 4×4 pole to ensure a nice looking fence. Now I could have made the board perfectly plumb, but the whole fence would have looked poorly installed because the eye is good at picking up lines which are not parallel.

It is almost always wrong to install something out of plumb or level purposefully but this is one of those times where it may be done, IMHO.

Notice the extra space in between boards to allow for wood expansion.

Left: After installing the first board, it is a matter of putting another board next to it, verifying that there is enough space between the two boards, adjust for parallelism and fasten in place.

It took about 30 minutes to complete half of the section and I did not really work fast at all.

Right: I also nailed the boards onto the 2×2 cross bracing using 2” galvanized spiral siding nails. This pulled the boards tight onto the structure and had the effect of straightening them.

Left: The fence with all boards re-attached. The two ugly ledgers are gone for good…

… BUT the top of the fence is not straight anymore. This is a common problem when installing a fence.

Right: I used a piece of scrap MDF as a straight edge and adjusted it so it would be flush with the top of the fence on the leftmost and rightmost sides. I secured it to the fence with two spring clamps.

Left: I marked the fence following the straight edge. This will indicate how much needs to be cut.


Right: I moved the straight edge down 1 1/4”. I plan to make this cut with my circular saw and there is exactly 1 1/4” between the blade and the shoe of my saw.

Circular saws come in various shapes and size so 1 1/4” may or may not be adequate for your saw.

Left: I put the shoe of the saw on the straight edge and confirmed it would cut along the previously marked line.


Right: The cut is actually a plunge cut. The shoe of the saw rests on the fence and on the straight edge at an angle so the blade is not in contact of the wood.

The guard is held open and the saw is turned on. As the blade spins in the air, the saw is slowly plunged into the wood until the shoe comes in contact with the wood and starts cutting it …

Left: … like that. Now the saw rides along the straight edge slowly until it reaches the end of the cut.

This is a fairly dangerous cut so be alert. Again, I cannot be held responsible for anything which may happen as result of trying to duplicate the content of this article. always consult a professional.

Right: The fence, after the top cut.

Tools Used:  

  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Impact Driver
  • Pry Bar
  • Power Miter Saw
  • Cordless Circular Saw

Materials Used:

  • 2” Galvanized Spiral Siding Nails 
  • 2” Deck Screws
  • 3 1/2” Stainless Steel Deck Screws (reclaimed from existing fence)
  • 2×2 treated lumber (reclaimed from existing fence)

Create a free website or blog at