STEVE MAXWELL S STUFF WE LIKE

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1 HOLDRITE Firestop Sleeves Page 44 DIABLO Tracking Point Saw Blades Page 45 STEVE MAXWELL S STUFF WE LIKE PRODUCTS, TECHNOLOGY & TIPS FOR CONTRACTORS

2 MIND The best reason to be a contractor By Steve Maxwell Being a contractor is probably one of the most challenging ways a person can earn a living. Few ordinary people looking in from the outside realize the skills required and risks involved. There s no builtin pension at the end of it all, and physical danger is always around the corner. So why do you it? Even if no one asks, having the right answer is important, and I think it comes down to one word. Freedom. Contracting is the economic equivalent of being Indiana Jones. It s a swashbuckling occupation where you live by your wits and succeed in direct proportion to how smart you work. If you think of some way to become more efficient, to deliver more value and to negotiate better, you pocket the benefits. That s pretty attractive to a certain kind of person just the kind of men and women Canada needs more then ever. Have you ever thought of the parallels between farming and contracting? The day-to-day details are different, but the motivation is similar. It s that freedom thing again. The ability to call your own shots in a varied, physical and challenging occupation is attractive in ways that few jobs can match. Some of us will put up with a lot to capture the right kind of freedom. Of course the freedom you enjoy as a contractor is nothing like the freedom of winning the lottery and never having to work again. But in a world where you and I have to work, and given the way the nanny state is extending further and further beyond its legitimate boundaries, life as a contractor is one of the few venues left for people who hate the 9 to 5. Being a contractor means being something of a rebel. Understanding why you do something is often the necessary foundation for the satisfaction you feel doing it. As a contractor you will have bad days. Sometimes many in a row. You might even seriously regret your career choice from time to time. But in the end, could stepping into someone else s corporate dream ever really compare to the freedom of being a contractor? 40 March/April

3 By Steve Maxwell If you enjoy craftsmanship, consider box newel railings. They re a classic detail and the right kind of client will love you for suggesting them. I designed and built my first box newel staircase in 2009, and it s still rock solid. That s one of the practical benefits of the box newel approach. It makes for very solid results because the box newels have such a wide stance on the floor. Besides, newels like these look gorgeous. The newels I build are hollow and made of four separate stile and rail frames each. A plywood panel covered with shopcut 1/4 -thick veneer fastens to the back of each frame, with completed newels anchoring to a 4 1/2 -thick Baltic birch ply anchor block fastened to the floor. Spindles are shop-cut 1 3/4 x 1 3/4 hardwood with chamfered edges, and pyramid newel caps go on after bolting the ends of the hand railings from inside. Here s a closeup view of how I make it all happen. March/April

4 Shop-Cut Bookmatched Veneer: I make newel panels from 1/2 Baltic birch ply with 1/4 - thick shop cut veneer glued to one face. This allows me to create my own bookmatched grain patterns on the face of each newel. Use factory veneered ply if you re lazy, but you can t beat shop cut for looks. Building Newel Frames & Panels: If you re starting with rough lumber, as I normally do, cut each stile and rail 1/2 to 1 longer and 1/4 to 1/2 wider than necessary, then joint, plane and saw all components to finished dimensions. Finished stiles are 1 3/4 wide and rails are usually 3 wide in my design. All parts need to have absolutely square edges and ends. I use pocket screws to join the stiles and rails into open frames one frame for each side of each newel box with an outer dimension of 8 x 8. Shop-Cut Bookmatched Veneer: Screws are best driven into predrilled holes along the inside edges of the stiles to join newel frames into a box. I complete my newels with 5/8 x 5/8 Roman ogee trim on inside edges of the frames. Cutting Panel Edges: Rip the edges of newel panels to 45, glue them to the inside face of all newel frames. Join all four frames of each newel into a single unit using glue, screws and clamps to secure butt joints. Handrail, Shoe Rail and Spindles: You can buy hand rail if you prefer not to mill your own, but a great shoe rail is something you ll have to mill yourself. Shoe rail goes on horizontal areas where spindles meet the floor. Where spindles meet stair treads they don t need a shoe rail they simply connect to treads with 1/2 diameter fluted dowel. 42 March/April

5 Spindle Details: I make my spindles 1 3/4 x 1 3/4 square, with routed chamfers that extend to within 5 of the top and 9 of the bottom. Both the top and bottom ends of each spindle also need to be drilled for a 1/2 dia. x 2 fluted dowel that strengthens the connection between the handrail and the shoe rail after installation. Railing Base Design: My design has three parts for the bottom of the railing: the wide shoe rail that fastens to the subfloor, the side strips that flank the bottom ends of the spindles on each side, and spacer blocks that determine the distance between each spindle. Total height of the completed railing is 38 above finished floor and stair tread, with a space of 4 between each spindle. Bullnose Profile Accents: I rout semicircular bullnose profiles into the outer edges of the shoe rail and the inner edges of the side strips to hide any small mismatch between these parts. Bullnose also looks great. March/April

6 Anchoring Newels, Shoe Rail and Spindles: Slip a newel over one anchor block after it s screwed to the floor, then drive screws horizontally through each side of the newel at the bottom. As long as the anchor block is firmly attached to the floor, the newel will be absolutely solid, even before railing and spindles go on. Drill holes in the shoe rail for the 1/2 fluted dowels that secure the bottom of the spindles, then use glue and screws driven down into the bottom of the dowel holes to permanently fasten the shoe rail to the floor. Anchoring Hand Rail: The spindles fasten to the shoe rail over fluted dowels, with spacer blocks in between. Here s a trick: With all spindles in place on the shoe rail, temporarily clamp their top ends to a strip of wood that s as long as the section of railing you re working on so each spindle is plumb. Next, put dowel centres into all the holes in the tops of the spindles, then set the handrail down on them to mark the location of dowel holes underneath. Drill these holes, dry-fit the handrails over the dowels, then bore screw holes in the newels for the handrail. I use structural screws with large heads and threads for this job. Newel Caps: My design includes a pyramid-shaped piece of solid hardwood that sits on top of a four-sided trim frame. I decided to leave these caps free to be removed, in case anyone ever needs to tighten the screws anchoring the railings. Box newel railings aren t something you ll get to build every day, but now that you ve seen how they go together maybe they ll make it into some of your projects. me at if I can help. MAXWELL PRODUCTS If you ve ever tackled a multi-story commercial job, you know that those people wearing the white hard hats get pretty picky about pipe penetrations between floors. The Holdrite HYDROFLAME Pro Series telescoping sleeve system guards pipe penetrations better than anything else I ve seen because it deals with all the issues you run into in the real world. Need to pour floors of different thicknesses? The Pro Series telescopes and locks in 1/4 increments. Need to prevent firefighting water from damaging floors below? A built-in mid-body seal grips pipes and keeps water from sneaking past. Need a system that meets fire code specs? This sleeve system includes an intumescent wrap that protects and seals the pipe penetration in the presence of sufficient heat. Afraid a forming crew might lay concrete a little too thick and hide the pipe sleeve? Removable plastic whiskers let your crew know where they need to bust through a skiff of hardened concrete to find the pipe sleeve. Price for an 8-12 telescoping sleeve for 1 1/4 to 2 pipe is $25 about half the cost of labour and materials for site-built alternatives. Visit baileylineroad.com/hydroflame to see how this thing works. 44 March/April

7 MAXWELL PRODUCTS Milwaukee s new wide blade tapes are the most recent example of evolutionary improvement in a tool that every trade uses every day. Their new 16 and 25 models are big league tapes for all the reasons you d expect, plus a few new ones. Blades on these tapes are wide, strong and abrasion resistant, like any pro-grade tape needs to be. The locking button is the easiest to activate of any tape I ve used over the years, and the blades easily stood out more than 11 feet without buckling during my tests. The tape cases have a high-friction overwrap covering making them easy to grab comfortably. Evolutionary improvements include a wire-style belt hook that won t cut fabric, and a lanyard lug on the backside for tethering the tape when working at heights. The case is also thicker than on other tapes I ve pulled apart, with internal bracing for extra strength. Cost for the 16 and 25 models is less than $30. Available in both imperial and imperial-metric graduations at Home Depot. The world of saw blades is like poker. The longer the hand goes on, the higher the stakes get. The made-in-italy Diablo Tracking Point blade is a perfect example. It s the newest blade to hit the Canadian market and it s the fastest, toughest, straightest cutting circ saw blade I ve used so far. There are some great saw blades out there, but Diablo has upped the ante with this one, both for crosscuts and rips. What makes the difference? Metallurgy, tooth shape and polymer-filled vent slots. The Tracking Point name comes from a unique tooth profile. While most of the teeth have alternating bevels, every third tooth comes to a wide-angle point in the middle. It s this unique tooth that keeps the saw tracking straight. In tests I ran ripping two-by lumber, Tracking Point was faster than I ve seen and more resistant to vibration and binding. The blade also stood up amazingly well to embedded deck screws. Diablo makes other carbide blades specifically for cutting solid steel, so they obviously know how to handle metal. $16 at Canadian Tire, Home Depot and Home Hardware. March/April

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