Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Journey to Becoming a Woodworker

I started on my adventure as a woodworker early in my life, my first project was converting a basement coal bin into a bar for my mom. I collected pop bottles to buy a Black & Decker jig saw and drill them an old key hole saw and a hammer were my whole kit, I was eleven and I was hooked. I would stay up late at night reading popular mechanic and dreaming of the day that I could own my own shop smith, hey I was eleven. 

At fourteen I got a summer job hanging drywall for $2 an hour and by the end of the summer I was also doing some taping which I had a knack for. I did that for two summer and after school and weekends. 

High school came and I got into the carpenter Vocational program and work experience program which let me go to school in the morning until 11:00 am then go to work the rest of the day. The summer before I started with an older semi retired carpenter who was the father of one of the guys I was drying for. 

I was lucky in many way to get that job even at the time I didn’t know it. The old carpenter that I started working for was semi retired and in his 70s, his father was a jointer and a carpenter, and his grandfather was also a craver and a cabinetmaker who came from Europe to Cincinnati in the 1880s to work as a carver. He was a tough and demanding employer who was a wealth of knowledge that influenced me more then I would have admitted at the time. 

I was one of three that he hired that summer and the only one that lasted for the all summer. I knew to keep my mouth closed and my eyes open and only ask questions when I didn’t understand something. For few months I wasn’t allowed to touch a power tool, I had to use a hand saw to make any cuts I had to make and he made me cut quite a bit more than you would expect. He showed me how to sharpen that saw only once and every friday I had to sharpen it and after he thought I got fair at sharpening saws I had to sharpen all the saws that needed it plus the chisels and planes, let me tell I hated it! 

I wanted to be a carpenter, but I gave my word I would work for at lease two years for him and I was going to keep my word. After about eight mouths of grunt work he started letting me start doing other type of work and it all started out of the blue one afternoon when he asked to build a set of stairs I was flabbergasted this was the first time he has asked to build any thing and it was a set stairs, now they were not a particular hard set only 4 rises going from a garage to the kitchen. I knew I could do this I had helped him make several set and watched carefully plus I did well on this section at school, so I got all the lumber I need and an hour later I had them done and called him over to see if they passed mustard which they did and it  was the beginning of more serous training. I asked him later why he had me start with a set of stairs and not something easier and his reply was that by this time in you're training if you couldn’t build them steps you were  just be wasting my time to try to teach you anything else and you would been better off finding something else to learn to do for a living. He told me that day that a lot of people can build, but not every one can be a true craftsman it is something that gets into your blood and becomes part of your life a carpenter or cabinetmaker isn’t just what you do for a living it is who you are. Its how you see and interact with the world, and to this day no truer words have ever been said to me. I worked for him for a year and ten months until I enlisted in the Army He passed while I was in the army and I think of often he was the foundation of my career and I couldn’t had a more solid well rounded education even if I couldn’t have known it at the time. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kreg Jig Review

Recently I had the opportunity to use a Kregs Deck Jig on a small deck. I want to start off by explaining that I have build more than a few decks in my career as a carpenter most as a sub contractor from builders and a few that I contracted myself. I have always been less than happy with a surfaced nailed deck but finding a blind screw system that the builders would use was always a challenge, so except for the decks I build for myself I always ended up either surface nailing them with a nailer or screwing them down with deck screws. Both of these methods presents their drawbacks as well as strengths when using treated lumber. composite decking always needs to be screwed or blinded screwed with a system that is designed for the purpose of holding that type of decking. Most composite decking also has a slot milled in it that is designed for a system for blind screwing they're decking down and a screw they recommend. Kreg Jig has come up with a jig that will work universally with composite deck boards, Also works great with native softwoods such as Redwood and Cedar, along with certain Tropical Hardwoods like Ipe, Red Balau, and Ironwood. Works exclusively with 4/4 to 5/4 (3/4 to 1-1/8) stock , as well as treated decking; however, a lot of people don’t recommended using it for the treated lumber because of the amount of wood movement, and it was not designed for use with 2x material including 2×4s, 2x6’s, 2x8’s, at all.

The kit comes with the jig, two sets of three spacers each ¼” and 5/16”, a drill bit, a driver bit, two stop collars, an allen head wrench, and a sample pack of screws.

before using the jig you will need to install the three drilling guides to the jig body, and the small rubber non skid pads.  Then install and adjust the stop collars on both the driver and the drill bit.

The jig has three drill guides each with a steel insert.  One of the guides is angled left, one right, and one at a 90 degree angle. The center guide, the 90 degree one is the one normally used.  Each of the angled guides are used either if you run up against an obstruction to the left or right, or if you need to secure a joint over a joist.  The jig is handheld this is a deviation from all the other Kreg jigs 

One thing different from other Kreg jigs in that it is designed to be used to insert the screws.  The screws are proprietary and have been sized to fit same hole as the guides that the drill uses.  This results in an extremely small head size.  Once you drill the hole for the screw, you switch to the driver insert the screw and drive it to the correct angle and depth.  

“Kreg Deck Screws were designed specifically for use with the Kreg Deck Jig™, although they can also be used as simple face-screws for a variety of outdoor projects. All Kreg Deck screws feature a KTX #1 Square Drive to reduce cam-out, a flat-bottom head which resists splitting, and a self-tapping tip which drills its own hole as it’s driven.
Deck Screws are available in two weather resistant finishes; Protec-Kote™ and Stainless. Protec-Kote™ screws feature three anti-corrosion layers which protect against rusting in a wide variety of decking applications. A good choice for a wide variety of decking applications, including ACQ treated lumber. For even more protection, choose Stainless. Kreg Stainless screws provide the best protection against corrosion in the long-term”

I used Kreg Deck Jig™ on a 12’ x 10’ deck that was decked with 5/4” x 6” ACQ treated lumber, and here is my thoughts, at first it felt a very slow compared to using a air nailer, but like everything new it takes a minute to figure out the best way to work with it. One of the problems I had almost right out of the box was the stop collar on the diver keep coming lose, now I was using a impact driver and I don’t know if that was the cause of problem, however after a few tightening the set screw broke so I stop using the jig to drive the screws and just drove the screw free hand, with my helper standing on the deck board, this did speed things up considerably and after a few screws it was easy to get a feel of were to stop the screw. 

I used the ¼” spacers that comes with the kit for the deck spacing. The wood was still on the wet side, this was the smallest spacer the kit comes with, I always try to get and install the decking on the same day so it is not setting around in the sun drying and warping. After two weeks I measured the gap and the dried down to 3/8” which didn’t surprise me in the 98 degree heat we have been having. I checked closely for any splitting or lifting expecting to have to run some screws through the surface to tighten things down, but after a close inspection I couldn’t find none. I will inspect the deck again in a few months when the weather changes again. All in all I give the jig a C+, will I use it again? Yes, but not if I was building decks for a living again. For the price of this jig, I do wish it had some other use’s besides just decks.