PDA

View Full Version : Perfect Work In An Imperfect World


Ken
08-10-2010, 07:04 PM
What I want to discuss here is a method of thinking and working, ways of doing fine work in a situation where walls are not plumb or square. Situations where things are Way out of whack and it is your job to make it look good. Ways of dealing with problems that don’t create more problems, better methods of work.

It has been a while since I worked as a “professional carpenter”. I have worked in the boating industry on multimillion dollar yachts and in homes. For the past few years I have been the IT guy at a college. You might think that this is a big change. I went from carpenter to farmer to IT. In reality I look at it as one and the same. Each position has its unique challenges but it is all about problem solving, troubleshooting and finding solutions. These may be very different occupations but the same method of working and thinking applies to all.

In the thread I started about my kitchen cabinet build we got side tracked a little. I would like to continue that thought in this thread so that the cabinet thread can stay on track. It started with a picture of a Collins Coping Foot on my jigsaw…..

Coping - Coping is a great way to handle inside corners. Mitering often produces frustration when the molding does not sit right on the wall or is sucked in when you nail it because the drywall was not finished all the way to the floor. Outside corners still must be mitered but that can be preassembled before attaching to the wall/ceiling. Gluing and screwing the joint together from behind will keep it lined up properly and also keep it from opening up down the road. Most likely the other two ends will be inside corners so you can cut them to length and simply but the ends against the wall. Then cope the next pieces of molding. When coping it is best to fit the joint before cutting the molding to final length.

A point was raised that not all molding can be coped. This primarily occurs with crown molding, not typical crown but the stuff that was dreamed up by an interior designer who has never picked up a tool and has no idea what it takes to install their “creation”. This is one of the reasons that I like Eurekazone. The products come from real world experience rather than from some highly educated engineer that has no experience using tools.

Shadow lines - Using molding of different thicknesses. For example when trimming a door with a header where the legs butt into it, the header can be made thicker then the legs and also a little wider. If you go for a perfect fit and the header shrinks in dry weather it will be a sad sight to behold.

Use reveals instead of making all the edges flush. The fact is that wood moves. You can take the time to make everything perfect only to later on discover that it no longer looks good at all. This is why you leave a reveal when trimming windows and doors. It is not to cheat and make the job easier but so that it stays looking good for a long time.

Reveals and different thickness moldings make shadow lines and help hide and lessen the extent to how the imperfections of the building show on the finished work. Take for example the use of plinth blocks at the bottom of door trim, rosettes, and corner blocks on crown. Today these are looked at as mostly decoration but they are problem solvers that hide discrepancies in the structure. Use them to your advantage.

I will leave it open to comments before adding more.

Dino
08-10-2010, 09:48 PM
Ken, this is a nice thread.
Learning how to deal with the FACT that nothing is perfect opens your mind to smart solutions, time savings methods and happy customers = $$$.

Before I started with the ez system, I spend years coming up with simple solutions to defacto problems. I learned the hard way from two old guys.
The answer to a problem is to see it and deal with it in a way to cover the imperfections that you mentioned above.

Here is one example.
Do a layout on the space and in your head before you start laying tiles.
Don't assume that a wall or floor is OK. It never is.

Hang the drywall level even if the ceiling is wavy and off be few".
Go as far as you can doing it right and at the end you fix the problem.

If you do that your job is going to be easier and better. Even faster.
Many times we use a special system to level the ceilings and make the walls
straight before we started hanging the drywall.
The customers was worrying about money and time but at the end the crown molding was installed very fast
and the painters (us) spend less time in caulking and covering up.

I have to finish a small house one day soon and I will take many videos
about drywall/carpentry/cabinets/tiles/hardwood floors etc...to show what you just talked about.
I told the contractor to stop the job when the drywall was 75% done and I will show them how to finish an old house the easy way.


thanks for the thread.:cool:

sean9c
08-10-2010, 11:24 PM
Funny thing. I'm remodeling my house and doing new trim. The house is of no particular style but sort of contemporary. I'm using a trim detail that I've used before and like. It's all painted MDF so it's not high end or anything. I hate doing crown molding so I won't. For the base I'm using 1/2" X 6" on the inside corners I make up a little 1-1/8" square plinth block that's about 7" tall with sort of a peak chamfer detail on the top I just goop into the corner square. Then my base just butts to that, no inside miters or copes. It makes a cool looking detail. It's round corner drywall so I have to do little 45 degree pieces for the outside corners but there are not many. For casing I'm using 1"X 4" so 3/4" net thickness I route a 1/4" radius on the corners, it's still wide enough with the radius that the base runs into the flat so there isn't that ugly line you sometimes see. The header is also 1X4 but on the bottom I tack a piece of 1-1/8" X 1/4" lattice stock that I've bullnosed ,it runs longer than the header by 3/4" on each side. This makes and interesting detail, a place for the 3/4" side casings to land and nice shadows.
These are super easy details to do, that's why I use them. I caulk the casing to the jamb and where anything butts so that helps keep things tight.

I was putting new jambs in the windows and remembered a trick I'd used before. The rough framing was all twisted and out of square and i was having a hard time shimming the jambs straight and square. I came up with the idea to just do a shim at the top and bottom that were nice and square. I then made up a bunch of shims that were too thin. I potted these in Bondo, with the putty still wet I pushed the jamb in place and let the putty dry. Nailed through it all and was all set.

staceyw
08-11-2010, 02:28 AM
Thanks Ken. I am probably in the minority here, but not a big fan of coping myself. Takes longer, easy to chip that little gliph on top, and not sure the end results are better then a good miter (with an angle finder) or worth the time. When in the groove, I like to have repeatable results and get clean edges with a saw and be able cheat things a hair this way or that. Both copes and miters will pull apart if wood shinks. When a cope pulls apart, I think it can look worse then a miter line seperating a hair. Use some 2P-10 glue (think it is basically super glue) on all miters (especially crown). Other parts of the wood will crack before the miter seperates in most cases. True, you need to be careful in the corners when nailing, but you have that issue either way unless you take time and add some spacers or some drywall filler strips to prevent bottom of trim from sucking into the wall and bending the trim piece if drywall void at nail location. Probably not a bad idea as a rule and spacers are cheap insurance to avoid issues latter I would think.
I will probably get slapped for saying this, but the corner block method is typical in low-end production (i.e. trailers, factory houses) for the most part, because all cuts are straight cuts and saves ~some time. However, sometimes a corner may demand some form of corner block when bringing together different profiles, etc.

Burt
08-11-2010, 03:38 AM
I would tend to agree with Stacey in that I prefer cutting the miters. I think the real issue to take pride in what you do and regardless of the method used, do it right.

There is nothing quiet like going into a house several years after you did a job and see that the project looks as good as it did the day you left.


Burt

Ken
08-11-2010, 12:07 PM
The point I was trying to make was not whether coping or mitering is better but that there are problems to deal with such as wood movement, walls that are not plumb or square, and many others. Everyone develops their own methods over time for trim work. To take it a step further considering the moisture content of the wood and the season you are installing it in can have an effect on how it stands the test of time. In damp weather when the wood had a higher moisture content trim can be cut oversize and snapped into place. In this case I can cut a coped joint longer then a miter. An oversize board will push miters out of alignment but will only make a cope even tighter allowing for more shrinkage before a gap opens up. After all that I like miters better they just give a stronger feeling of pride in the finished product. They both have their uses given the right situation. It is just one more problem solving item to add to your bag of tricks.

One of the handiest things that I have found for miters is foam stick on weather stripping. Shims are often needed in the corners. Weather stripping is available in different thicknesses and it can be stacked up to make a thicker shim. Just rip off a small piece and stick it in the low spot. You now have a shim that is springy to help hold the joint tight. No more looking around for that perfect thickness shim.


Another example from my kitchen install is that the walls were not plumb or square.

The width of the room is greater at floor level then it is up higher. If I would have just built cabinets after measuring the width on the floor I would have been in trouble.

The corners of the room are not square. If I would have made the cabinets and simply screwed them to the wall what would the grout lines on the tile countertop have looked like? The two inside corners of the cabs had to be perfectly square so that the tile would line up. The solution was to build the cabinets 2” narrower then the width of the room so that there would be some “wiggle room” to allow for square inside corners. As a result the grout lines are perfect and the job looks good.

Knowing what you are starting with and the problems that it can cause changes the way you think and work. The idea is to be proactive rather than reactive. If I started out wrong I would have been fighting and struggling throughout the install instead of having fun with an easy job.

macduff
08-11-2010, 04:16 PM
I was putting new jambs in the windows and remembered a trick I'd used before. The rough framing was all twisted and out of square and i was having a hard time shimming the jambs straight and square. I came up with the idea to just do a shim at the top and bottom that were nice and square. I then made up a bunch of shims that were too thin. I potted these in Bondo, with the putty still wet I pushed the jamb in place and let the putty dry. Nailed through it all and was all set.[/QUOTE]

Nail the jambs or liners together to form a box, allowing for the reveal on the window all around, attach screws on the frame work about an 1" out from the window styles/headers, spaced about 18in. apart, fine tune with a spacer, allowing for the reveal and the thickness of the jambs or liners. Insulate and place the box liners/jambs against the window and nail/screw at the screws. The box being already trimmed off with face trim/moulding/facia, nail the window moulding/facia to the studs, caulk at the reveal and facia/trim /wall

sean9c
08-11-2010, 04:48 PM
I was putting new jambs in the windows and remembered a trick I'd used before. The rough framing was all twisted and out of square and i was having a hard time shimming the jambs straight and square. I came up with the idea to just do a shim at the top and bottom that were nice and square. I then made up a bunch of shims that were too thin. I potted these in Bondo, with the putty still wet I pushed the jamb in place and let the putty dry. Nailed through it all and was all set.

Nail the jambs or liners together to form a box, allowing for the reveal on the window all around, attach screws on the frame work about an 1" out from the window styles/headers, spaced about 18in. apart, fine tune with a spacer, allowing for the reveal and the thickness of the jambs or liners. Insulate and place the box liners/jambs against the window and nail/screw at the screws. The box being already trimmed off with face trim/moulding/facia, nail the window moulding/facia to the studs, caulk at the reveal and facia/trim /wall[/QUOTE]

MacDuff
That's a good idea, thanks, and I've done it before. In this particular case it was 6 windows with appx 8" in between and the end 2 at 45 degrees. I'd decided I wanted to do a 1 piece sill for all 6 windows so the sill was already in place. With as bad as rough framing seems to be it's a great idea to just build basically a free standing box you know is square and just float it in place. Like the pre-hung doors I plan to use.

Ken
08-13-2010, 03:06 PM
Planned Errors - While perfection is the ideal the real world does not allow for it much of the time. Let’s take for example a simple bathroom storage cabinet that I made out of scrap wood years ago.

It may be hard to see, sorry for the bad cell phone pictures. The face frame is not flush with the cabinet. Trying to machine and sand a frame so that it is the exact thickness of the plywood is not easy. Since this was a scrap wood project the cabinet sides, top, and bottom are all from different pieces which means different thicknesses, also the plywood sides may not be perfectly straight. Since an error is certain given these conditions the solution is to make an error on purpose that you can deal with and fix easily rather than let the problem cause an error that is hard to remedy.

Leaving the frame oversize results in an overhang which masks the problem. Remember shadow lines from above. This hides all the problems and looks good to. The overhang can be routed off with a flush trim bit but because of the varying thickness of the wood and a slight bow I choose to leave the overhang on both the interior and exterior of the cabinet. Fitting the recessed doors was made easier by this choice to as the frame was square and true. I cut the rails and stiles for the doors about 1/16” oversize. After I hung the doors a few swipes with a block plane gave a consistent gap around the doors. It would have been luck to cut them perfectly to size, add to that the variations that mounting them with fixed non-adjustable hinges can introduce. Again the solution was to make a controllable error on purpose.

Parallel Verses Plumb and Square – The eye notices very quickly when things are not parallel. Plumb and square are not so easily picked up on by most people when looking at the walls/ceiling of a room. For example several years ago I framed out a wall for a closet (in my house) out of plumb by 1” or so over its height. This was because it was about 6” away from a window that was not plumb. Nobody ever knew that but me, the job looked great. If I had set it plumb the window would have made it obvious that something was wrong and it would have stood out like a sore thumb.

Burt
08-13-2010, 04:08 PM
Ken,

Keep writing. You are explaining many things so well.

One example of what you are talking about that I especially remember was hanging doors over a bar for a kitchen face lift. I hung the doors so they were perfectly level and took a look at them. It looked awful. Level only works when square accompanies it. We took the doors down, eye-balled it for the best appearance, and it looked great. Sometimes, since we work in imperfect buildings, our work has to also be imperfect by normal standards to make the appearance what it should be.


Burt