Many interior home finishing jobs – whether renovations or as part of a new build - can be accomplished by novice do-it-yourselfers. Simply follow a few tips from the professionals; many of these carpentry tricks are easy when carried out step by step and give impressive results. What's more, you do not require expensive tools to achieve the desired effects. Some of these tips are as simple as placing tape over a piece of wood before sawing to obtain a clean cut. The key to successful interior finishing jobs is to break the project down into small stages.
To quickly fill small nail holes in walls, mix some flour with the paint you are using for the finish coat to make a paste. With a putty knife or spatula, fill the holes in the same way that you would with joint compound, wiping off the excess. This coloured paste will fill the holes and you won't have to get out the paintbrush.
Many carpenters learn the "3-4-5" rule during their apprenticeships. This is based on the Pythagorean Theorem where a² + b² = c², but is much easier to do. Pick a corner and make a mark 3" along from that corner. On the other side of the corner, make a mark 4" from the corner. Now, measure between the two marks. If the measurement is 5", then your corner is square. This formula is scalable, meaning that you can use multiples or fractions of the numbers and obtain the same results.
When flush-fitting a counter or any other piece or appliance in the kitchen or bathroom, place stratified sheets such as melamine along each of the side walls. The new counter will easily slide into its intended space between the thin sheets, which will protect the wall's wood or plasterboard surfaces.
Unless you own a table saw with a large apron, and have a helper available, cutting plywood or wood-filled panels can be a cumbersome job and the results may be far from satisfactory. A simpler way is to cut it using a circular saw with a guide. Position the panel on sawhorses good-side down so that the motion of the saw blade cuts up into the finish and will not cause splinters. Measure and draw the cut line and then clamp a straight-edge, the same length or longer, along the line. Now measure the distance between the saw blade and the saw guide and move the straight-edge back this distance to accommodate the guide width. Check to see that the blade touches the mark and begin the cut. (Make sure the blade is not touching the board when the saw is turned on.) Cut the board in one motion using the straight-edge as the guide.
To always screw in the right place and without the risk of splitting dry wood, drill pilot holes with a bit that is half the size of the screw. This useful technique is used regularly on dry or thin pieces of wood. The same technique can also be handy when fastening long screws into dense, thick wood, or when screwing into metal or concrete with special bits.
When installing casing over the jamb of a door or window, you may run into problems if the interior wall does not come out flush with the casing. This can happen when installing a 4" pre-hung exterior door into a 6" frame. A quick way to solve this problem is to draw a line in the sheetrock with a straight-edge 3" away and parallel to the jamb. Now cut the paper along the line with a utility knife and carefully hammer the sheetrock next to jamb. The 3" sheetrock will cave into the jamb. When you nail on the casing there will be a 1" overlap of the casing on the sheetrock and the casing will blend into the jamb without a noticeable gap.
The easiest way to locate wall studs is with an electronic stud finder. However, if you do not have one of these, you can find studs by gently tapping the wall with your knuckle and marking where you hear "solid" sounds, as the spaces will sound hollow. Now measure 16" on either side of these marks for the adjoining studs. Another way is to find the electrical boxes and tap on each side of them, or remove the plate completely and look at where the screws are attached to the studs. Still another way is to examine the wall and see the slight imperfections where the drywall screws have been covered by drywall compound. To be sure, you can pry the baseboards off and you will see these imperfections more clearly.
If a chop saw has a blade of 7 ¼" and the piece of wood is 11" thick, there are a couple of ways to cut the piece. The first method is to bring down the blade as low as it will go and then flip the piece over and resume the cut. The next way is to place the piece against the chop saw fence and lift it up to almost a 45° angle. Place a small piece of wood underneath to keep it in this position and use your left hand to keep the other side of the wood against the chop saw fence. Turn on the saw and you can now cut an extra 2" to 3".
When cutting through laminates (Arborite, melamine) with a hand saw, leave about a quarter inch. Finish the edge with a file or a glass cutter. You can also use a laminate knife – available in most hardware stores. This technique consists of making three or four knife passes over a pencil line while applying pressure to the laminate, then splitting along the line against a fixed, flat corner. The newer models of laminate knives with a carbide tip are reasonably priced and very efficient.
To cut out a staircase stringer you will need a 2" x 10" board. Calculate the distance between the two floors to be connected by the staircase. To calculate the number of steps, divide this measurement by the riser, which must measure between 7 ½" and 8 ¼". Eliminate the fractions and add them to the bottom stair (reduce this fraction by increasing the height of the bottom stair between 7 ½" and 8 ¼"). The stair depth should be 10". Each stair tread can be 11" deep with an overhang of 1".
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