Monday, January 21, 2013

Deck Lessons #4 - Magic gloves

When you've got a few thousand screws to drive, speed helps.  I definitely recommend wearing work gloves of some kind, because splinters suck, and pressure treated wood probably isn't something you want to spend many, many hours handling with bare hands. I mean, it's probably fine, but just wear work gloves, okay?

But picking up screws with work gloves on takes a lot of practice.  So I took a shortcut.  I glued a small magnet to the back middle finger of each glove.  I chose the middle finger so that I could grab it with thumb and forefinger of the same hand to get it into position for driving.

Deck Lessons #3 - Spacing Balusters

Building code and safety for kids both dictate that your railing and stair balusters be no more than four inches apart. Aesthetics dictate that they be spaced evenly. There are a ton of different methods for achieving this goal.  This was mine:

I downloaded an iPhone app called Handrail Builder. It cost $1.99, but saved me many hours of head scratching.  Put in the span you're looking to cover and the width of your balusters, and the app will give you the spacing. Cut a spacer out of scrap materials, write the width on it (in case you need one of that size for a later stretch of railing), and cut a handle in the middle so you can hold the spacer and ad the baluster with one hand while you drive screws with the other.

I also suggest starting from either side of the railing, then working toward the middle. If you're off even a little in cutting your spacer block, the error will compound until it's definitely noticeable.  You can correct that by playing around with the spacing of the last couple of balusters, and it's a lot harder to see the results of your tweaking if it's in the middle of a run, rather than all at one end.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Deck Lessons #2 - Buy a corded oscillating tool, use it properly

I have a Bosch oscillating tool that I like a lot, but it's cordless, and only runs for about 8 minutes before you need to change batteries.  I ended up picking up a cheap Harbor Freight corded model out of frustration, because I was using it for all kinds of detail work around the site.

They are one of the safest kinds of saws to use, but you need to be careful about repetitive stress injury (RSI).  If you have carpal tunnel, the vibration of the saw can cause a flare up.  There is also hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) also known as 'vibration white finger'.  A long day of using the oscillating tool generally meant a long night of feeling like my hands were asleep.  Stretches helped, but the real key was learning how to hold the saw: loosely.  Let the weight of the tool do the work, and keep a very loose grip so that the vibration is only slightly transmitted to your hands and arms.

Deck Lessons #1 - Capture the Railing Posts

I've been thinking that I ought to write an article about building the deck this past summer.

Heh. Yeah, that's not going to happen. So here's #1 in what will probably be a series.

My railing posts are notched at the bottom and mounted on the outside of the rim joists, and the decking is notched around it. For longer runs, there's still a bit more flex in the railing than I'd like.  If I had it to do over, I'd mount the posts on the inside of the joists so they were captured all the way around with the decking. 

The downside would be that it'd be even more of a hassle cutting the holes in the decking.