Gilles' Outlet

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)


January 7, 2008

Window Treatment: Installing Stool and Apron

Filed under: Finish Carpentry — Gilles @ 2:48 am

Stool, Apron and Casing are added to a window.


Skill Level: 3 (Moderate)

Time Taken: About 10 hours

A very blend looking window is enhanced with stool, apron and new casing. Finish carpentry is very rewarding because results are highly visible. It is useful to start by defining a few terms used in this article:


  • Stool: horizontal piece at the bottom of the window opening. Non carpenters call this the "sill". A sill can end being flush with the wall or can extend past the wall for added visual effect,
  • Horn: piece of the stool which extend past the window opening,
  • Apron: piece of molding installed under the stool.

Left: the subject of this article. A fairly new energy efficient vinyl window. While the window is sound, it looks very blend. The existing casing and blind have already been removed. The blind’s mounting brackets are still visible at the top of the window.

I was amazed by the poor craftsmanship: wall texture was sprayed all around the window frame, casing was installed very poorly, paint job was mediocre at best…

Right: a detail of the casing before I removed it. It does not take an expert eye to notice that this window is in desperate need of help: casing does not sit flat on the wall, material end grain shows…

End grain absorbs paint and stain differently than other parts of the board and therefore looks bad when exposed. There are various techniques to hide end grain and a few will be showcased in this article.

In finish carpentry, attention to details is what make results look professional.

The window jamb extension (commonly referred to as "sill" by non carpenters) needs to be removed so the new stool / apron system can be installed.

Left: I cut trough the caulk with a sharp utility knife all around the sill, especially around the window.


Right: The drywall joint compound was cut to expose the side of the sill. This tends to dull the blade very quickly so an old blade was installed prior this operation.

At this point, I am concerned about exposing the edge of the sill so I can pull it out. However , it is critical to be careful not to damage more drywall than necessary. Drywall patching is no fun, especially if the wall was textured.

Left: detail of the left corner after exposing the sill. The sill actually goes under another board (jamb extension) so I was careful to expose the whole sill.

Right: detail of the right corner. The sill also went under the jamb extension so the edge was exposed.

A detail of importance: the left side of the window is almost butted against a wall (see left picture). We will not need to hide end grain on this side of the window but the casing will have to be ripped to fit.

Left: After exposing the edge of the sill, I was able to insert the flat end of a pry bar under the sill. I lifted up gently, just enough to loosen the nails and create a space of about 1/8” in between the framing and the sill. I repeated the operation all along the sill. A little bit of damage to the cut drywall edge is inevitable, but it is important to limit it as much as possible.

Right: I cut all nails holding the sill to the framing with a reciprocating saw equipped with a metal cutting blade.

Left: I gently inserted a mechanic’s bent pry bar between the window frame and the sill and pried very gently. The sill moved toward me. I repeated this procedure all around the window frame.

It is important to pry gently because this operation can actually pry the window off the building. This would have very dire consequences including but not limited to allowing water in the building. Besides, re-installing the window just for an apron/stool addition is something I would like to avoid.

Right: After a few minutes of gently prying, I was able to move the sill forward so I could grab its edge with a pair of channel lock pliers. The sill swung out of the opening. 

Notice the very rough texture on the sill I discussed before. Clearly the texture sprayer team had a lot of liquor for lunch and decided that millwork did not need masking.

After removing the sill, I used a hammer to pound all cut nails into the framing. I also cleaned up the cut of the drywall where the sill used to sit, especially in corners. This concluded the demolition (or more precisely "deconstruction") aspect of this project.

Left: The opening ready to receive stool and apron. The old paint / texture on windows extensions have been scraped down to the bare wood. The wood has been sanded smooth with 200 grit sand paper. 

The wall has received several coats of fresh paint. I like to paint the wall before installing stool and apron because it easier to paint without millwork in the way. However, it is not always possible to use this approach.

Right: I measured the length of the apron, from the wall on the left side to the end of the notch on the right. It happened to be exactly 5′.

I want the new stool to slide under the left and right jamb as it used to.This forces me to use 1/2” thick material. I decided the new stool will be made out of 1/2” x 6 (nominal) hemlock. I explicitly did not use MDF (even though less expensive than hemlock) because MDF is notorious for having very fragile corners and I need the new stool to withstand abuses on all its corners.

Usually, stools stand proud of the window casing by about 3/4”. In my case, it so happened that the casing thickness plus the width of the sill plus 3/4” ended up being exactly 5” 1/2, which is the actual width of a 1x 6 nominal board. If this was not the case, I would have ripped a board to width on a table saw.

The length of the stool is usually computed by the following formula: Window Opening Length + 2 * Casing Width + 2 * Apron Projection. Usually, 3/4” is considered good for apron projection and I am using 2” 1/2 wide casing. However, in my case there will only be one projection (on the right) because the left side is flush with the wall. I decided to cut the stool as if there were two projections instead of one: I can always trim it later.

I made a trip to the miter saw and cut a piece of 1/2” x 6 nominal stock to 67” long. As explained, it is longer than hat I really need.

Left: I dry-fitted the board in the opening. The board slid under the left side jamb extension as planned and came flush with the wall.

Dry fitting may seem a little overkill but it is actually part of the process of marking where the board needs to be notched for horns.

Right: While the board was held in place firmly, I marked the right side notch with a pencil.

In carpentry, it is better to mark locations of notches or other features instead of measuring them. That eliminates potential errors and ensures a tight fit.

Left: I set the steel ruler of a combination square so it would touch the window and I adjusted the moving square to capture the distance between the wall and the window. I then used the square as is to report that distance on the board  (see right picture).

Right: The board with the right horn marked. the combination square allowed me to capture the distance between the side of the board and the vertical line (already cut) on the left.

The area in between the two pencil lines will be cut away. I first use a miter saw to make most of the cut and I finish the corner with a Japanese pull saw. This ensures a very neatly cut corners. It is also possible to cut this on a table saw but the cut is not as nice as a hand cut.

Left: I cut the horn and dry-fitted the stool again. You can see the horn extending on the right of the picture. The horn will be cut to length and a return will be installed.

A return allows to turn 90 degrees and not show end grain. This is one of those details which make the result look very professional.

Right: I marked for cutting the return on the stool. On the picture, from left to right: a 45 degrees miter. The end of this miter marks the end of the horn once installed. It is also marked by the vertical line in the middle of the two miters. There is another miter at 90 degrees from the first one. This is actually the return piece which will be used to hide end grain.

Left: The three cuts were made using a power miter saw. The left piece is the horn, the equilateral triangle in the middle of the picture is the waste and the small triangle on the right is the return.

Right: to complete the return, the waste is moved aside and the return is then turned 90 degrees counterclockwise. The end of the return shows the same grain as the face of the stool. this technique allows us to easily and effectively conceal end-grain.

Nowadays, only outstanding finish carpenters bother going through the lengths of cutting and fitting returns. Clearly, results are nowhere as clean without returns, especially with stain grade projects (projects where the wood is visible, in contrast with "paint grade" projects for which the paint covers many imperfections).

Left: The return gets glued to the horn with good quality interior carpenter glue. I did not nail the return with a brad nail to further prevent the miter to open up but it would be a good idea.



Right: I left the piece aside for the glue to set. The next day, I sanded the whole board lightly with 200 grit sand paper.

Left: I applied a coat of latex based primer on all sides of the board. It is a good idea to prime the back of the board even if you do not plan to paint the visible parts because the primer acts as a moisture barrier. It prevents moisture from being absorbed and makes the wood more dimensionally stable.

I also treated all visible sides of the board with two coats of good quality satin latex paint. Satin latex paint is a good choice for places which need to be cleaned often (think fingerprints removal) like casing or windows stools.

Right: I set the paint apron in place and checked for level. It just happened to sit firmly on the framing and be level.If it was not, I would have had to shim under it: a hassle.

Left: I pre-drilled for 15 gauge 8d (2” 1/2) finish nails. I decided to install 3 nails, equally spread over the 5′ distance. 


Right: I used hammer to drive nails home but I did not fully drive them. I left them protruding 1/8” above the stool. This is a trick to avoid marring the surface with the hammer.

When manually nailing a board, pre-drilling is almost always a good idea to prevent the board from splitting, especially when nailing close to the edge of the board.

Left: I used a punch chisel to drive nails about 1/16” below the surface the wood. The business end of the nail punch is flat and tends to slip on top of the nail. It worked but I had to be careful not to pinch my fingers.

A $1 nail set would be much better tool for this. I know I own one but I could not find it…

Right: I filled nail holes with wood putty and a small 3/4” putty knife. I used epoxy wood putty which cures very hard and greatly reduce risks of nail popping through later. This material is similar to auto body filler (Bondo Brand).

Left: I let the putty dry (the manufacturer recommended 1h) and lightly sanded the nail holes with 120 grit paper and then 200 grit. This created a few spots where I will need to touch up the paint.


Right: Now the caulk around the window also needs to be re-applied. I applied masking tape around the window to prepare for the final caulking.

Alert readers have noticed that window extensions were also given two fresh coats of good quality stain latex paint.

Left: I applied a generous bead of siliconized acrylic caulk. Pure acrylic caulk cures hard, becomes brittle and will crack as the wood and / or the vinyl expand and contract.

Right: I smoothed all beads of caulk. A wet finger is one of the best way to smooth a bead of siliconized acrylic caulk. Keep your finger wet and make sure you smooth it out in long, continuous strokes. Consider making one last pass with a very wet finger to give the bead a glazed look.

After all beads were smoothed, I immediately removed the masking tape.

The wet finger technique will not work with pure silicone caulk because silicone is not soluble in water. It works with siliconized acrylic caulk because water is a solvent for this kind of caulk.

At this point, we are left with cutting and installing the casing and the apron. In this article, I will focus on the apron. You can refer to this previous post on how to install casing (it is for a door but it is similar for windows).

Left: The apron will also need to be fitted with a return so I cut a miter on the apron out of a stock piece of 092 molding.

All moldings have a number so it is easy to refer to them in a unique way.

I hold the stock so the saw enters the visible part of the molding and exits at the back of the molding. This setup gives the cleanest cut on the visible edge because the saw rarely tears the material where it enters but has a tendency to tear the material where it exits.

Right: The resulting miter.

Left: I took another piece of scrap 092 molding and cut the opposite miter. the picture shows how the return will fit. I only need to trim the return to length.

Right: The return after trimming. It is a very small piece and cutting this on a miter saw can be tricky. Make sure your hands stay at least 1′ away from the blade at any time. Also, the miter saw has a tendency to send small pieces like this to the darkest corner of the room so be careful. Some carpenters make this cut with a hand saw, a much safer way of making this cut.

Left: The finished return held in place for the purpose of the demonstration. It will be glued before the molding gets installed.

Right: Detail of the return glued onto the piece of molding. With a little sanding and a coat of paint, no one will notice the little edge at the top.

The whole point of doing all this work was to cut a return so the end grain of this 092 MDF molding would not show and paint would be absorbed evenly even in corners.

Left:  After letting the glue cure overnight, I picked up the apron and positioned it tightly under the stool. I secured it in place with about five 23 gauge 1” 5/8 pin nails.

Pin nails are so thin, they leave a hole which usually does not need filling. A little bit of paint on top of it and the surface will appear perfect. It is true that they do not hold as strongly as regular nails, but they hold strong enough for apron / window casing.

Right: I finished installing the casing all around the window. I also used  23 gauge 1” 5/8 pin nails to secure the casing.

The finished product:

Left: Detail of the left side of the apron. I decided that the casing will butt against the wall. Essentially, this is visually equivalent to having the wall "cut" through the casing: a common practice in finish carpentry.

Right: Detail of the return on the apron. The end grain is concealed and the return contributes to the general look of the apron.

Notice how all millwork is tightly fitting against the wall: no big or uneven gaps. This is fairly different from the previously installed casing.

Left: Detail of the stool and casing on the left side of the window. The casing was also ripped to width on a table saw to accommodate for the wall and yet expose a reveal around the window jamb extensions.


Right: The apron and casing on the right side of the window. The horn is clearly visible. It does protrude more than 3/4” after the casing but this visual effect was appropriate for this very large room.

Tools Used:  

  • Utility Knife
  • Level
  • Pry Bar
  • Combination Square
  • Basic Carpentry Tools (Tape Measure, Pencil…)
  • reciprocating Saw w/ Metal Cutting Blade
  • Miter Saw
  • Power Sander
  • Pneumatic Micro Pinner

Materials Used:

  • 1/2” x 6 x 6 Clear Hemlock
  • Carpenter Glue
  • 100 and 200 Grit Sand Paper
  • 8d (2” 1/2) 15 gauge finish nails
  • Latex paint and Primer
  • 092 casing (Apron)
  • 019 Casing (Window Casing)
  • 23 gauge, 1” 5/8 pin nails

October 1, 2007

Fixing a Leaky Compression Faucet

Filed under: Plumbing — Gilles @ 12:59 am

A leaky compression faucet is unassembled. One of its o-ring is replaced. The faucet is re-assembled.


Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)

Time Taken: About 10 minutes

There are various types of faucets: cartridge faucets, ball faucets, disk faucets and compression faucets. Compression faucets have two handles which control the flow of hot and cold water separately. They have been around the longest, are prone to leaks and these are the most likely to require maintenance.

The subject of this article: a (dirty) compression faucet installed on a bathroom vanity. It is difficult to see on this picture but the hot water side (left) leaks badly: a drop of water falls every 3 to 4 seconds.

At this rate, a fair amount of water is lost every day.

Left: I turned the water off at the shut-off valve under the vanity.   


Right: The top of the hot water handle is removable. It conceals the screw which holds said handle onto the faucet stem. I removed it with my fingers, no tool were necessary.

Left: Detail of the brass screw holding the handle to the faucet stem. It is difficult to see on the picture but this screw has a Phillips drive.


Right: I removed the screw with a Phillips screwdriver.

Left: The stem (the brass part with the gray plastic arbor at its top) was visible after pulling the handle up.


Right: I used an adjustable wrench to remove the stem. It came without a fight.

As I unscrewed the stem, a little bit of residual water was released. This is absolutely normal.

Left: The stem seen upside down. The o-ring at the top is most likely responsible for the leak. I pried it carefully, making sure not to damage it.

I did not cut it. I need it to remain in its current shape so I can purchase the exact replacement.

Right: A box of replacement o-ring. Mine was an 7/16” I.D (Inside Diameter), 9/16” O.D. (Outside Diameter), 1/16” wall thick. It is likely yours will be different.

This box was purchased at Lowes for about $0.50

I positioned the new washer in place: it fit snuggly. Now, I got lucky to find the right o-ring right away. I fixed others faucets which were not this cooperatives and it took a few tries to get the right o-ring.

You may be tempted to use a washer which is not fitting perfectly: slightly too big or too small. Well, do not. You are almost assured the leak will come back, bigger.

I lubricated the ring with a little bit of teflon based lubricant. I would usually use plumber’s silicon grease but I ran out.

I reversed all the previous steps to re-install the faucet and observed the leak was fixed.

Tools Used:

  • Phillips Screwdriver

Materials Used:

  • Replacement o-ring
  • Silicone based grease

September 30, 2007

lnstalling a Cable Jack

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 5:38 am

A cable jack is installed.


Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)

Time Taken: About 5 minutes

New houses are usually pre-wired for cable, phone, Cat5e network… In old houses, it is sometimes necessary to add  new cable jack.

The materials for this project. From left to right:

  • A box of "no tool" type cable connectors. There are two kind of connectors: the ones which require a special tool to be installed (the connector is pressed in place onto the cable) and the tool-less ones,
  • A cable jack designed for in-wall box mount,
  • A face plate.

These items were purchased at the local Home Depot.

Left: The box for the cable jack has already been installed and the cable was already pulled.

The cable was cut so there is about 5” of play. 

Right: I used a sharp utility knife to remove the first layer of insulation (the black plastic). I exposed a little less than 1” of the conductor.

It is critical to not cut deeper than the insulation. If so, you will cut the wire and the jack may not function.

Left: I use a pair of cutting pliers to cut the outer wire mesh. I cut the mesh so only 1/4” was left. Again, I made sure not to damage the central conductor.

Right: I used wire stripper to remove the insulation protecting the central connector.

Left: I ensured that no part of the wire mesh was in contact with the central connector (aka no short circuit).

I twisted a cable connector onto the wire end. I made sure that it was locked in tight.

Right: Detail of the connector: the central conductor protrudes about 1/2”.

I visually inspected the work to make sure no wire mesh was in contact with the central conductor (no short circuit).

Left: I treated the connector nut onto the back of the jack and screwed it tight. I hand tightened the connection. I did not use any wrench or tool to avoid over-tightening.

Right: I carefully folded the cable into the box avoiding to bend it or kink it. I threaded the screws provided with the jack and tighten them using a flat screwdriver.

I positioned the face plate and threaded the provided screws. I tighten the screws with a flat screwdriver.

That is all there is to do. The next step is to test the newly installed jack.

NOTE: I have witnessed cable company technicians install new cable jacks. They do not go through all this trouble. The just drill a hole in one of the wall, all the way through, pass the cable into it and install a connector at the end of the cable. This practice creates a large cold air draft through the hole, not to mention an easy way in for bugs. It is a shame, provided that this operation only took about 5 minutes, time to take pictures included.

To avoid the air draft, I plugged the hole in the wall with insulating expanding foam, installed an electrical box and threaded the cable through it. The foam makes the hole air tight and the box, besides being required by electrical code, makes it a little harder for bugs to go inside the house.

Tools Used:

  • Flat Screwdriver
  • Utility Knife
  • Wire cutter

Materials Used:

  • One "no tool" cable connector
  • One cable jack
  • One face plate

September 18, 2007

Re-Keying a lock

Filed under: Locksmithing — Gilles @ 3:57 am

A lock is re-keyed using a "Change-A-Lock" kit.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 minutes for two locks

Re-keying a lock is the operation by which a lock is altered so the key which used to unlock it does not work anymore. It is an alternative to replacing the whole lock. Re-keying also allows many different locks to be opened with the same key.

The "Change-A-Lock SCHLAGE, BALDWIN, PEGASUS" kit after I took it out of its packaging. I ordered it from "Change-A-Lock" web site for about $10. It allows re-keying up to 6 locks with one kit. Change-A-Lock offers five kits, one for each type of lock. You need to order the right set for the lock(s) you plan on re-keying.

There are other ways to get a lock re-keyed:

  • You can hire a locksmith: he will come by, remove the lock, re-key it and re-install it. This is by far the most expensive option,
  • You can also remove the lock yourself and bring it to a locksmith. A re-key is usually charged $8 dollars,
  • You can also bring the locks to one of the "big twos" (Home Depot or Lowes) for re-keying. At the time of the writing, HD charges $8.45 by lock.

I had two locks to re-key (with a potential third one in the future) so it made economic sense for me to purchase this kit and do it myself.

The kit is very easy to use. However, it is critical to read all the instructions completely once before attempting anything.

Left: I used a Phillips screwdriver to remove the two screws retaining the inside part of the lock.

Right: I removed the knob assembly and set it aside. It uncovered the retaining plate. The retaining plate holds the outside part of the lock with two screws. I removed them with the same screwdriver.

Left: The cylinder came easily from the lock.

Right: This lock is manufactured by BALDWIN. According to the instructions, you have to hold the retaining pin with the provided tool (that stainless steel rod on the left of the picture) as you are unscrewing the retaining nut (the silver nut on top of the brass lock body.

It sounds only difficult. This took about 30 seconds.

Left: The nut and retaining pin (and its spring) have been removed. 

Right: This is the critical step. I inserted the old key into the lock and turned about 10 degrees. Using the provided retaining tool (black plastic piece), I pushed the cylinder assembly out of its housing.

The retainer tool holds a set of five small spring loaded metal pieces located inside the brass housing. Inserting the retainer tool incorrectly would allow those spring loaded pieces to break loose and believe me, they are a pain in the neck to put back in place.

Left: The cylinder and its housing have separated. The retainer tool (black piece of plastic) is securing the spring loaded pins inside the brass housing. It is critical not to remove it at this time.

The small pieces of metal in between the cylinder and housing are the old pins. These are what defines which key open the lock. They will be replaced by new pins.

Right: I followed the instructions given with the kit to install new pins. Pins are color coded: the gold pin goes in the slot the closest to the key, they goes the red pin, then the purple pin and so on.

I found it easier to use a pair of tweezers.

Left: I inserted the new key and turned it so all pins where at the same height. I put the cylinder back into his housing. This pushed the retainer tool back as the cylinder was set into place. Eventually, the retainer tool fell off.

Right: I reinstalled the retaining pin and using the same tool as in step 4, I screwed the retaining nut back.

This completed the re-keying. I later re-installed the lock on the door by reversing the steps 1 to 3 above.

Tools Used:

  • Philips Screwdriver

Materials Used:

  • One "Change-A-Lock" SCHLAGE, BALDWIN, PEGASUS kit

July 10, 2007

Building Raised Panel Doors

Filed under: Woodworking — Gilles @ 5:38 am

Custom straight raised panel doors are built out of 3/4” poplar. 


Skill Level: 2~3 (Basic ~ Intermediate)

Time Taken: About 3 Hours

Kitchen cabinetry has made raised panel doors popular in North America. There are many different design for raised panel doors and many different ways to make them. This article uses a router table and an horizontal raised panel bit.  

NOTE: I routinely remove power tools guards for photographic reasons. Moreover, my hands are pictured dangerously close to cutters. I never cut while taking pictures for obvious safety reasons. When using a router or any power tools, you should always leave guards in place and maintain your hands far away from the cutting tool. Use push sticks, pieces of scrap … to push stock through the tool.

I cannot be held responsible for anything which can happen to anyone as a result of trying to duplicate what you see in my blog. Always consult a professional.

Left: The construction starts by cutting the rails (horizontal pieces of wood which make the frame) and stiles (vertical pieces of the frame) using a power miter saw. These were made out of 2-1/2 x 3×4 solid poplar.

Stiles are cut to the exact heigth of the finished door. Determining the length of rails is a little more complex. It depends on the bit you are using and the stock so check instructions coming with your set.

Right: I installed the rail bit in my router. I am using the "6 Pieces Pro CabinetMaker Set" from MCLS WOODWORKING. Their free instructions, while very sketchy, are worth reading.

Left: I made sure the bearing located at the center of the bit was flush with the fence.

The trick with this bit is to get its heigth right. It took a few tries to get it perfect. Once I found that setting, I cut a setup block I can use later to quickly duplicate the setup.


Right: I installed two featherboards to ensure stock would stay in contact with the bit and I machined rails.

Left: I installed the stile bit. Notice that the bearing is located at the top of the bit. I aligned the bearing flush with the fence.

Right: A setup block was used to set the bit’s height quickly and accurately. The block is simply put on the table and the heigth of the bit is adjusted so the block perfectly fits in the bit and is flush with the bearing.

Setup blocks  are pieces of stock cut when the bit was considered perfectly setup. Router bit manufacturers sell these for a specific bit and a given stock thickness (usually 3/4”). For me, it is faster and cheaper to take the time to set up bits perfectly and cut my own setup blocks.

Left: I machined all stiles. I gave all pieces a quick sanding to ensure mating surfaces where clean and sharp.

I gathered all pieces for one door closely to suggest how the frame would look when assembled.



Right: I am holding the bottom rail. The end of the rail shows a tenon like structure which will be received by the rail cut in the stile. The joint offers a large glueing surface.

Now that rails and stiles are ready, I turned my attention to the panel.

Left: I previously glued two pieces of wood to build a large panel (See this step).

I trimmed the panel to size using a power miter saw.


Right: I installed the panel raiser bit and I did three passes to cut the panel as shown.

Panel raised bits are large bits (mine is almost 3-1/2” in diameter). They must be used on a router table and the speed of the router needs to be dramatically reduced (about 14 000 RPM or less – check the instructions of the manufacturer).  You also need to make very shallow passed, no more than 1/8” at a time.

Left: I applied yellow wood glue on mating surfaces at the end of one rail. I used a plumber’s flux brush to spread the glue evenly.

I made sure the glue did not ooze in the groove which will receive the panel. Reasons for this will because clear at the next step. 



Right: I assembled the bottom right with the two sides and clamped them together temporarilly, just to hold them in place as I finishes assembling.

Left: I slid the panel in. Notice that it goes in dry. There is no glue to hold the panel in place. I floats in the groove. It is necessary to allow the panel to extend and contract without breaking the rails / stiles. This is why I made sure not to put glue in the groove during the previous step.

On this specific project, I will not be applying finish to the doors. However, if I was going to apply finish, I would need to do it before I slide the panel in.

Applying finish after assembly is asking for trouble: as the wood contracts, areas without finish will become visible. Believe me, this looks ugly.


Right: I installed the top rail. It fit snuggly. After this step, I checked for square, made the necessary adjustments and clamped rails and stiles in place. I let booth door dry overnight.

After the glue cured, I installed a 3/8 radius beading bit on the router table and treated the edges of both doors with it.

Experienced cabinet makers often prefer to machine the edges of rails and stiles before assembling doors. I prefer that approach for large doors. However, these doors were relatively small (about 11” x 1’1′) and I felt more secure holding the end of the door when routing edges than I would machining a short and thin piece of 3/4” stock. 

I sanded both doors with 220 grit sand paper and installed them on a custom cabinet. (See this step)

Tools Used:

  • Power Miter Saw 
  • Router (minimum 2HP) / Router Table
  • Matched Rail and Stile bits
  • 3-1/2” Panel Raiser Router bit
  • 3/8 Radius Beading Router Bit
  • Power Sander    
  • Clamps 
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Poplar 1-1/2” x 3/4” 
  • Poplar 3/4” (Glued Panel)
  • Sandpaper 220 Grit
  • Yellow Wood Glue

July 9, 2007

Making a cedar planter

Filed under: Woodworking — Gilles @ 4:30 am

A cedar planter is built out of cedar 1x6x6 fencing. Custom molding is cut on a router table and installed at the base of the planter. 


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 3 Hours

There are countless design for cedar planters. This article describes how to build a long lasting square planter box for about $5. The custom molding at the bottom adds an extra touch to the project.  

The fabrication starts with the bottom of the planter. This picture shows the dry assembly of the bottom, seen from the side onto which the planter will rest when finished.

Sides and bottom are cut from 1x6x6 cedar fence board (about $2.79 at the Home Depot at the time of writting). I decided that the planter woud be a square of about 11-1/2” so a little less than one fence board will be needed to build one planter.

I cut two 11-1/2” long pieces from a fence board to form the bottom. The planter will rest on two "feet" cut out of 1×2 rough sawn cedar (a 1x2x4 sold for about 90c at a local lumberyard). I used rough saw (aka unsurfaced) wood because it will not be visible and it is much cheaper. There is also something called "S1S2E 1x2x6 Cedar" but it is much more expensive (about $5 a piece).

I laid the boards flat on a workbench, leaving a slight gap in between (about 1/16”) to ensure good drainage. I laid one "foot" on each side, making sure they were flush with the boards.

Left: I put some exterior waterproof wood glue on the bootom of one "foot".

It is critical to use an exterior waterproof glue instead of a water resistant glue. A water resistant glue will resit water but eventually fail if exposed to water for a while. Once cured, waterproof glues are, in theory, not affected by water.


Right: Using a plumber’s flux brush, I spread the glue evenly on mating surfaces. Notice how a band of about 1/4” was left without glue near all edges of the board: when clamped, the glue will ooze under pressure and fill this space instead of escaping out of the joint. This elminates wood glue cleanup almost completely.

Left: I put the glued surface of the "foot" onto the boards, made sure the drainage hole was consistent and clamped everything in place.

Right: I decided to add mecanical fasteners to further increase the sturdiness of the planter.

Planters are usually left outside, exposed to rain and sun. For this application, galvanized fasteners must be used.

Moreover, the box is made out of cedar which is extremely corrosive. In theory, only stainless steel fasteners should be used in cedar but they are expensive so I settled for much cheaper 1” galvanized narrow crown staples.

I made sure fasteners would penetrate the bottom enough to provide a good grip.

Left: I used a pneumatic narrow crown stapler to fasten the foot to the bottom. I got a little carried over and put a staple about every two inches. Yep, that’s a lot of staples and I think that 3 ~ 4 staples would have been more than enough.

Pneumatic nailers / staplers provide a level of accuracy hand nailing / stapling can rarely match. They save time too.

You do not actually need a penumatic stapler to complete this project. Hand driven 3d hot dipped galvanized finish nails would work equally well here.

Right: I flipped the assembly over so the bottom of the planter would face up. I decided that sides would rest in a 5/8 wide, 1/4 deep rabbet. I used a Japanese Pull Saw to cut along the edge of the rabbet.

Left: I removed the waste using a wood chisel. It was pretty easy when going along the wodd’s grain and a little more difficult when going cross grain. Make sure your chisel is sharp and this step will take only a few minutes.



Right: The bottom with all four rabbets cut, ready to receive sides.

Other ways to cut rabbets

Saw / Chisel is not the only way to cut rabbets, by far. Here are a few other ways:


  • Table saw with combination blade, using multiple passes
  • Table saw with daddo cutter and sacrificial fence
  • Hand held router, equipped with rabetting bit w/ bearing
  • Table mounted router with a straight bit

I am going to demonstrate how to cut those rabbets using the last technique.

When using power tools to cut rabbets, it is necessary to make the cut before assembling anything. Cutting rabbets after assembling, and specifically after stapling could expose the cutting tool to a staple. This would greatly damage the carbide tipped cutting tool.

In order to cut these rabbets on a router table, I installed 5/8” straight bit and adjusted the height (1/4”) and the fence. This took about 3 minutes.  

I then machined three sides of all bottoms. It took about 3 minutes to cut all rabbets for two planters. The quality and precision of the cut was clearly much better than the one obtained with the saw / chisel method.

Back to the construction of the planter. I turned my attention to the sides of the planter.

Left: I cut the sides of the planter out of the same 1x6x6 cedar fence board and dry fitted them in place. They fit snuggly.


Right: I applied the same waterproof exterior grade wood glue to all rabbets and assembled the first side. I maintained it in position temporarilly with a lightly tightened clamp.

Left: I assembled the full box, clamping as I progressed. I checked for square and made all the necessary adjustments. I tightened all clamps to hold the box.


Right: I drove three 1” galvanized narrow crown staples in each side of the box.

Left: I secured the sides to the bottom using 1” galvanized narrow crown staples. Notice how the stapler is held at an angle so the staple bites in the bottom of the box.

I borrowed this technique from the well known "toenailing" framing technique where nails are driven at an angle to reach the stud. I guess I "toe-stapled" the sides of the box.


Right: After stapling all sides, I removed all clamps and gave the box a quick sanding with 60 grit sand paper. Cedar fencing is rather rough and I wanted to knock the grain down more than actually making the box completely smooth and flat.

The box completed, I wanted to hide the rabbet jointery at the bottom. I decided to cut a custom molding on my router table. Alternatively, you can purchase pre-cut molding by the linear foot, install a piece of 1×2 cedar or skip the molding part alltogether.

Left: I installed a 3/8” radius beading bit in my router and used the table to bead a piece of 1×2 rough sawn cedar on both sides.


Right: The custom molding: simple but effective.

At this point, installing the custom made molding on the planter is just like installing baseboard on a wall.

Left: Using a power miter saw, I cut a 45 degres miter at one end, positionned the molding in place and transfered the end of the box on the molding. I cut another 45 degrees miter with the smallest end starting from the mark.


Right: I installed the molding on the box using 4d hot dipped finish nails. I installed the molding around the whole box.

Tools Used:

  • Pneumatic Narrow Crown Stapler
  • Power Miter Saw 
  • Router / Router Table
  • 5/8 Straight Router Bit
  • 3/8 Radius Beading Router Bit
  • Power Sander    
  • Clamps 
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Cedar Fence Board 1x6x6 (one board)
  • Cedar rough sawn 1x2x6 (one board)
  • 1” Galvanized Narrow Crown Staples
  • Galvanized, Hot Dipped 4d finish nails
  • Sandpaper 60 Grit
  • Exterior, Waterproof Wood Glue

June 24, 2007

Repairing a damaged exterior wood gate

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 5:55 am

An exterior wood gate is disassembled, repaired and hung. New hinges and hardware is installed.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 3 Hours

In this article, we remove the door from its hinges and fix a moderate split in one of the post. The gate is then unassembled, damaged wood is replaced. The frame is hung, boards are attached and new hardware is installed.

The subject of this article, seen from the inside (the door swings toward the photographer).

It is not immediately obvious on this picture, but there are many problems with this door:

  1. The door does not operates smoothly. It needs to be held up to swing,
  2. It is clearly not square (there is more space between the door and the post at the top hinge than at the bottom hinge),
  3. The wood has split at various places, including the bottom of the left post,
  4. It can only be opened from outside,
  5. Hardware is badly rusted.


Left: I started the repair by a full inpsection of the door.

The top hinge is fastened to a piece of treated 2×4. The wood is clearly split. Hinge and fasteners are rusted. There seems to be various different kind of fasteners used.


Right: The bottom hinge is rusted. It is mounted with a surprisingly wide range of fasteners: there are two 3” screws jammed in the same hole (top) and one 1-5/8” machine screw in the bottom hole. The hinge barely holds in place: I could move it by hand.

Finally, the post seems to have split. I suspect the damage can be repaired without replacing the post but I will need to gain access to the area under the hinge to confirm this.

Left: I used an impact driver to remove the screws on the bottom hinge. They came out without a fight.


Right: A large socket ratchetting wrench allowed me to remove the lag screws holding the hinge to the post. I held the door in place as I was removing the lag screws.

When the hinge was loose, I removed the door from the opening and sat it aside.

Left: I probed the left pole for weaknesses. I could not move it by hand. It was set in a concrete base which appeared in good shape.

Right: I used a 24” level to check the post for plumb. It was almost perfectly plumb on all faces. That was a good sign.

Split put aside, the post appeared to be in good condition.

Left: Upon closer inspection of the split post, I found various nails, probably installed to contain the problem. Many of them were badly rusted.

I used a mecanic’s bent pry bar to pop the head of nails out of the wood and removed them with a regular pry bar.


Right: I slid the tip of the mecanic’s pry bar in the split to gauge the severity of the damage. It felt like the sliver was still holding very strongly to the post. The split looked very clean.

I decided that the split could be contained and there was no need to replace the post.

Left: I injected exterior, waterproof wood glue in the split as I maintained it open with the pry bar.


Right: I used a plumber’s flux brush to work the glue in the opening. I applied glue from the top first: gravity drew the excess down.


It is notoriouly difficult to sucessfully glue pressure treated wood. There are three major reasons:


  • Pressure treated wood usually contains a lot of moisture when purchased and water is a solvent for most popular "yellow" (known as "PVA") wood glues like the Titebond familly in their liquid form. However, there are poluyrethane based wood glues. For these type of glue, water actually accelerates the curing process. It is worth using these when the wood is wet (brand new treated lumber for instance).
  • When glued wet, the large shrinkage of pressure treated wood puts much more stress on the glued joints, causing them to fail much faster.
  • Usually, people want to glue pressure treated wood for exterior applications. In this case, it is mandatory to use a waterproof glue. Water resistant glue resists water for some time and then give way while waterproof glue, in theory, is not affected by water after curing.

In my experience, gluing wet pressure treated wood sucessfully is difficult, especially with brand new lumber. To maximize your chances of success, leave the wood in a dry area for up to 90 days (depending on the air humidity of your location) before using it and bind with polyurehtane based glue.

Now, I am in the best case scenario: the post has been installed for at least 3 years and I know it is pretty dry. Moreover, it has already shrunk and elements have already washed some of the preservative away. My experience told me that it was fine to use a waterproof PVA glue here.

Left: I installed a few clamps to maintain the lips of the split in contact. Clamps were set to be tight but I made sure not to overtighten: this would have squeezed much of the glue out of the joint and defeat the purpose.


Right: I decided to hold the split tight with a few exterior 3-1/2” deck screws. To prevent further wood splitting, I pre-drilled about four holes.

I chose a drill bit which was 25% smaller than the shank of the screw.

Left: I drove four 3-1/2” exterior deck screws using an impact driver. I made sure to drive them so their heads were flush with the surface of the post.


Right: The finished repair: I have removed all clamps and cleaned the excess glue with a wet sponge. It is easy to see the four screws on the right face of the pole. The last one was installed on the corner.

Left: I turned my attention to the door. Using the same large ratchetting wrench, I removed both hinges.

Right: I discovered two badly split pieces of 2×4. Fasteners started to rust and stained the wood, probably due to the combination of water and the corrosive effect of the preservative used to treat the lumber.

Left: Using a reciprocating saw with a short metal cutting blade, I cut all nails attaching the top and bottom 2×4 to the sides.


Right: I pryed the frame from the board. This left a bunch of nails protruding from the door’s boards. I used a hammer to push them down out of the board gently.

 They are in good condition and I plan to re-use them because the door must keep its "old" look as much as possible while function well at the same time.

Left: I cut a piece of new pressure treated 2×4 using a circular saw. I held my framing speed square as a guide for the saw to ensure a straight cut. Using this trick you can cut dimensional lumber quickly, accurately and safely.


Right: I pre-drilled holes for 16d galvanized common nails. I used a drill bit which was 20% smaller than the shank of the nail. This prevents the wood from splitting. This is especially required here since I am going to nail very close to the end of the board.

Left: I used a pneumatic palm nailer to drive two 16d galvanized common nails.

This is called "face nailing" (nailing on the face of one 2×4 through it, into another piece of wood). Face nailing provides a great holding power.


Right: Ater nailing the frame back together, I cut two pieces of treated 2×4 and attached them to the frame and with 3-1/2” deck screws. I then attached them to the cross bracing with two 2-1/2 deck screws. This will give the cross bracing and the frame extra strength.

Left: The finished frame, ready to be hung. 


Right: The glued post after 24 hours. The repair can barely be seen. However, there is a slight edge (about 1/16”).

As small as it seems, 1/16” will cause the hinge to not sit flat on the surface and increasing the stress. This will cause the hinge and / or the wood to fail sooner than expected.

Left: I used a finish sander with 60 grit sand paper to sand the bump flat. It took only a few minutes.

Sanding pressure treated wood creates dust with dangerous chemicals: avoid sanding pressure treated lumber if at all possible. If you must sand treated lumber, wear lungs, eyes protection and perform sanding in a well ventillated area. Clean all tools well and wash work clothes separately from other clothes to help prevent cross contamination.

I clean my sander with blasts of compressed air.


Right: The new hardware for the door. On the left: lock (can be opened from both sides), the new door handle. Right: new hinges.

Left: The frame sitting in the door opening. It is held by two temporary cleats of wood clamped on posts. The door frame was made perfectly plumb and level by adjusting the cleats under it. 

Right: Detail of the temporary cleat on the left. It is essentially a piece of scrap 2×2 held in place by a vise like clamp. The door frame rests on it.

This allowed me to see exactly where hinges need to be attached. Before proceeding to the next step, I made sure everything was setup plumb, level and square one last time.

This is critical: doors don’t function well if they are installed out of plumb or level.

Left: I pre-drilled holes on the post for lag screws holding the top hinge in place. Holes were 20% smaller than the shank of said lag screws.

I use an impact driver equipped with a socket to drive the lag screw. I made sure the hinge was perfectly plumb before tightening.

The hinge is clearly not straight on the picture. I had to drop it as I was taking the picture. 

Right: I pre-drilled the holes on the frame for lags screws holding the other part of the top hinge. Holes were 20% smaller than the shank of the lag screws.

Left: I removed the left temporary cleat to gain acess to the area where the bottom hinge will sit. The frame is held by its top hinge and the temporary cleat on the right. 


Right: I verified the level and plumb one last time and installed the bottom hinge following the same procedure.

I removed the temporary cleat and verified that the door swung freely and nicely.

Left: I re-installed boards on the frame. I inserted a  spacer (a piece of wood with the right width) between the previous board and the board to install to ensure an even spacing. I positioned two old fasteners in their holes.

Right: Using a pneumatic palm nailer, I drove two nails in the top section of the frame and then, two nails at the bottom and two nails in the cross brace.

Left: After installing all boards back, I turned my attention to the lock. Again, I pre-drilled holes for lags screws. 


Right: The door, with the new hardware installed. I had to fabricate a little support block to hold the hardware. It is made out of two pieces of 2×4 screwed together with 2-1/2 deck screws.

This block was secured to the frame with four 3-1/2” deck screws.

The door, seen from the outside. The only trace of the repair is the holes left by the old hardware (top left) and the black handle allowing the door to be opened from outside.


Notice that there is no hardware on the outside of the door, which might make it a little difficult to close it from the outside. This is done on purpose: homeowners wanted the door to look almost like if it was a regular part of the fence, not a door.

Tools Used:

  • Pneumatic Palm Nailer
  • Ractchetting Socket Wrench 
  • Cordless Drill 
  • Cordless Impact Driver 
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Clamps 
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Treated Lumber (2×4)
  • Door hinge & Lock kit
  • Galvanized, Hot Dipped 16d common framing nails
  • 3-1/2” Deck Screws
  • 2-1/2” Deck Screws

June 2, 2007

Repairing a titled porch

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 6:31 pm

A tiled porch is repaired after a few tiles fell by themselves during a moderate rain storm.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 2 Hours

During a moderate rain storm, several tiles fell off a porch. We inspect the tiling job for loose tiles, prepare surfaces for repair, mix some modified thin-set, apply and comb it. Tiles are installed and grout lines are filled.

Left: the affected section of the porch. I know tiles were laid less than 6 months before they fell. Well installed tiles last for years, even outside.

Combs in mortar are clearly visible. This means that the back of the tile did not come in contact (or very little) with the mortar. This is clearly the signature of a hack job done by a clueless homeowner.

Right: I started the repair by inspecting all other tiles. To see if a tile was not set properly, pros hit it gently with their index or the back of a plastic putty knife. If this produces a hollow sound, the tile has not been set properly.

I found about 7 improperly installed tiles, some had already started to separate from their substrate. I tried to pry them loose with a putty knife but none gave way.

I would normally use a flat piece of metal to force tiles off but I had only time to repair the existing damage. In the future, more repairs will likely be needed in this area.

Left: I inspected the back of the failed tiles. There were no trace of any mortar. This told me that the tiles were not pressed down in the mortar or there was not enough mortar applied.

The small areas where the mortar actually touched tiles were breaking, almost like sand. This indicates that the mortar used was not designed for exterior use. Rain washed the mortar away, leaving the sand behind.

It is difficult to see but most tiles still had the store’s price tag sticker attached to it (left, under my wrist). This prevents adhesion so it needs to be removed.

Right: using a flat tipped cold chisel and a masonry hammer, I removed all pieces of loose mortar. I also removed all high spots to ensure there would be enough room for the new mortar.

Left: as I was removing loose mortar, the chisel caught under an adjacent tile and pried it loose. I got lucky not to break it. The tile’s back came off clean, like all others. I cleaned the old mortar under the newly removed tile.


Right: I used a masonry brush to clean the area. For the mortar to adhere well, surfaces must be perfeclty clean, dry and free of dust. This step is critical.

Left: a 25lbs bag of VERSABOND Fortified Thin-Set Mortar which can be purchased at most home centers. It is polymer modified and approved for interior and exterior use.

Non modified thin-set will cure hard and will be prone to cracks if the substrate moves. Polymer modified thin-set will cure flexible which dramatically reduces future cracks.

Right: I pourred about 1/4 of the bag in an empty 5 gallons bucket. The tool in the bucket is a mixing paddle. It is attached to a corded drill and makes mixing thin-set an easy and quick task.

NOTE: When pourring thin-set, it is important to be in a well ventillated area and to wear respiratory protection. This product contains Portland cement, which is bad for lungs.

I added about 3/4 quart of water (as indicated on the bag), turned on the drill on low speed and mixed the thinset for a few minutes. It is essentially like making custard with a beater.

Left: the mixed batch. Instructions said to let it set for about 10 minutes so I cleaned the paddle and prepared the tools I’ll use when laying tiles.


Right: after about 10 minutes, I gave the thin-set a gentle mix as specified by the instructions. When mixed right, it has the consistency of a paste.

Left: I used the flat side of a square notched trowel to apply the thinset.

When applying mortar, it is important to use the right notched trowel. For this thin-set, the manufacturer calls for a 1/4” x 1/4” x 1/4” notched trowel. It means that notches are squares 1/4” deep and 1/4” wide.

Right: the bead of thin-set before combing. I made sure there was enough mortar for tiles to come in contact with it almost everywhere. In this case, it took a more mortar than usual because the substrate was so uneven to begin with.

Notice that the bead is relatively flat.

Left: using the notched side of the trowel, I notched the bead of thin-set.

Notches help thin-set to spread evenly and to adhere to the back of tiles.



Right: I laid the first tile in position, carefully aligning it with the previous tile in the row. I also tried to leave a small gap between the tiles so the repair would blend in.

Left: I gently moved the tile left and right, back and forth about 1/4” to ensure an even distribution of mortar under it.

Right: I laid a scrap of 2×4 over the tile and genty tapped the tile down with a hammer. This pushed the title down into the mortar. I repeated the operation over the whole surface of the tile.

Now, these two steps were not done when the porch was originally tiled and this is why it failed less than 6 months after.

I laid the remaining tiles following the same technique. It took only a few minutes to lay the tiles.

Once all tiles were laid, I applied a thin bead of thin-set to fill in the gaps between tiles (called grout lines). Now you should (unlike me) wear rubber gloves: touching thin-set with bare hands can damage your skin and is not recomended.  

Using a wet sponge, I removed all thin-set traces on tiles but not on grout lines. Essentially, the technique here is the same as if I was applying grout, only I am using thin-set instead of grout.

Now, this is wrong. Thin-set should not be put in between tiles. This is a place reserved for tile grout. I did it this way because the whole porch was done like this and I wanted the repair to visually blend in.

Whoever did this job could not be bothered with waiting for the thinset to dry and then filling gaps with grout.

The two vertical slates had a tendency to fall down so I wedged two pieces of scrap 2×4 to maintain them in place, down in the mortar.

I let the thin-set dry overnight. On the next morning, I removed the supports and finished clean up the area.

Tools Used:

  • Masonry Hammer
  • Cold Chisel
  • Masonry Brush
  • Notched Trowel
  • Corded Drill & 4” Mixing Paddle
  • Spunge

Materials Used:

  • Polymer Modified Thin-Set (exterior) – about 6lbs 

May 4, 2007

Cabinetry 101: Installing Hardware on Face Frame Cabinets

Filed under: Woodworking — Gilles @ 5:51 am

Hinges and knobs are installed on raised panel doors. Doors are secured to a face frame cabinet.


Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)

Time Taken: About 30 Minutes

This article is the las entry related to the base cabinet for BOSCH RA1181 Bench Top Router Table.

Left: raised panel doors hardware is about to be installed onto. These were designed to be 3/4” thick, full overlay doors.

Right: overlay hinges to be installed onto the doors. One door will receive two hinges. I purchased these hinges at a home center. They came complete with screws and even a little self adhesive padding.

I chose these overlay hinges because they can auto close and open up to 180 degrees.

Left: I flipped the door on its face and positioned the hinges on the door. I decided that the center of the top hinge should be aligned with the bottom or the top rail. The middle of the bottom hinges should be aligned with the top of the bottom rail.

This gives the maximum strength and in my humble opinion, the best appearance.

I used an impact driver to drive the provided screws.

Right: I installed the self adhesive padding at the top of the doors. I knew exactly where the doors would touch the frame so it was safe for me to install them before attaching the doors to the cabinet.

Usually, it is better to installed these pads after installing doors on the cabinet.

Left: I marked the center of the stile and drilled a hole. It will receive the door knob’s screw.



Right: I postionned the door knob over the hole, threaded the screw and drove it with a cordless impact driver.

I repeated the previous steps for the second door.

Left: I roughly positionned the door on the cabinet. I used a pile of scrap wood at the bottom to hold it in position as I was adjusting it.

A speed square was setup between the door and the face frame to make sure they were square. I also used a torpedo level to level the door.

I positionned to door to be exactly 1/2” between the border of the face frame and the door because that is what I designed the door for. Once I was satisfied with the position, I clamped the door onto the face frame.

Right: Using a cordless impact driver, I drove the provided screws into the face frame.

Installing the second door is a little more tricky. There needs to be a gap betweeen the edges of doors so they open / close without touching one another. In order to achieve this, I use the same technique (scrap of wood to support, level, square) but I also inserted a shim approximately 1/16” thick in between doors to ensure enough clearance. I then clamped the door in place and secured the hinges.

Tools Used:

  • Cordless Impact Driver
  • Speed Square 
  • Clamps
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Overlay Hinges (2 per door)
  • Door Knob (1 per door)

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