Building Walls and Slinging Mud

This past weekend at the North Bennet Street School I taught a new 2 day workshop that I designed on framing, drywall, mud and texture work. It was an opportunity for students to learn the techniques necessary to properly install or repair drywall around their homes, improve their finishing and texture skills and ask questions.

Bill Teaching
Bill discussing technique

It was a lot of material to cover in 2 days, but the class was enthusiastic and put in the hard work necessary to get through all the major exercises.  Below is a highlight reel from the class:

Laying out the frames
Laying out the frames

Once each student finished his/her frame they were assembled into wall sections.

Assembling the frame sections
Assembling the frame sections

Each student had their own workspace to practice in.

Students cutting and hanging sheetrock
Cutting and hanging Sheetrock

Cutting, hanging, coursing, cleaning up edges etc.

Bill Demonstrating Technique
Bill demonstrating how to blend coats of mud

Hands on demonstrations of technique

Taping and initial mud work
Taping and initial mud work

Working around obstructions like outlet boxes, taping, and initial coat of mud.

Wet and Dry Sanding
Wet and Dry Sanding

Sanding the initial coat of mud and applying subsequent coats.

Applying Texture
Applying Texture

Patching, repairs and applying various finishing and texture techniques.

It was an informative and enjoyable experience and I look forward to teaching similar workshops in the future. If you have requests for other workshop topics you’d like to see covered, please let me know.

Don’t forget to pack your Molding Comb

 

 

 

 

As a preservation carpenter or cabinet maker a common task that comes up is replicating a molding you find out in the world. Unfortunately most historic sites, museums and stores will not let you pop off a piece of molding to directly trace its profile — no matter how politely you ask. That’s where the molding comb, a.k.a profile gauge, comes in handy. This seemingly simple tool works by pressing it up against the molding you want to capture, and pressing the little feelers against the pieces so they take on the shape of what it’s pressed against. This works much the same way as a common desktop toy from the 1980s with a ton of metal pins held in a grid that can capture whatever you press into it. Once you have the profile you can take the gauge and trace it onto paper thus transferring the profile.  This tool also works well for wood turners.

When it came time for me to try and find my own molding combs, I was surprised by how few are even on the market, let alone quality versions. As a kid I remember playing with some versions of this tool made from a series of metal pins, they were often very stiff to use and once a pin got bent, rusty or lost the tool usually became very hard to use. When looking for one of these tools you’ll want to seek out a model that has pins or blades that move smoothly but are kept under sufficient tension to retain the shape you are tracing. You also want to have the finest/thinnest blades you can find as the higher resolution will result in smoother curves. Some of the cheap import models yield results that look like an old 8-bit video game with jagged edges. 

 

The best ones I could find on the market today I bought from GarrettWade.com, and you will pay a premium to get a quality tool you may not use everyday, but I believe the much higher quality results are worth the extra expense in this case. Pictured above are all 3 sizes they offer, and coming from Europe they are in metric sizes roughly on the order of 6″, 12″ and 18″. What I like about them is the fairly fine granularity of the blades, the nice amount of tension on the blades which hold a profile well, and the way one side is triangular and one side is round making it easier to get into odd places. For exterior work the plastic surfaces will not rust which comes in handy when working out in the weather.

Getting a grip on a solid mallet

A good mallet of often overlooked. All too often we settle for a store bought carving mallet or crude instrument we fashioned in a hurry and then live with for years. Before the holidays I decided is was time to make a nice larger mallet for myself and one for a friend. I wanted a mallet that was a little larger and heavier than the average.

You can never have too many clamps, especially when clamping up a blank wherein you do not want to see any glue lines.
You can never have too many clamps, especially when clamping up a blank wherein you do not want to see any glue lines. Plus it takes on the look of some modern art work. 😉

I decided to make my new mallet out of cherry and hard maple as they are two of my favorite woods to work with, and I like they contrast they have with each other when finished. The hard maple (Same I used for my workbench) is hard, dense and wears well, and the cherry (From a curly cherry piece I had around the shop) has a nice even tone and finishes well.

Blanks ready to be turned
Blanks ready to be turned

In making this sort of mallet, the stock preparation work is more important than the actual turning and finishing. That is why its critical to get the mating surfaces planed dead flat and take the time to clamp it up tightly (don’t starve the joint of glue) but make sure you do not have gaps or you will have unsightly glue lines and a potentially weaker mallet.

First Mallet Turned, Next to the blank
First Mallet Turned, Next to the blank

Why would someone spend so much time and effort to make a fancy mallet you are only going to beat the heck out of?

If you’ve ever turned a mallet from a single piece of wood and used it for a while you’re likely to see parts of it eventually come flying off — but only from two sides.  This leaves you with an unbalanced mallet which may not hit your chisel the way you want. Where quarter sawn grain is exposed the wood is mostly intact after years of use, but where long grain is exposed some hard hits can take advantage of the plane of weakness in the wood causing them to fly off. They break off much the way splitting a piece of wood with a froe separates the grain.

The good news is there is a way to avoid this…

Completed Mallet
Completed Mallet

By gluing up a mallet as you can see here the hard maple pieces are quarter sawn — so on all 4 sides of the finished mallet you have nice dense quarter sawn hardwood grain oriented in such a way that it should have a nice long service life even under harsh conditions — plus it’s pleasing to look at especially with contrasting woods.

End of mallet with finish applied
End of mallet with finish applied

Won’t it break apart with seasonal movement or use? I used Tite-Bond II for the glue which has been proven to be stronger than wood when used in long grain to long grain bonds. The center or handle piece of wood should be a well seasoned hardwood ideally rift sawn and known to be stable. I’ve seen many of these mallets get heavy shop for years and hold up very well. A similar mallet is often a regular project the cabinet and furniture making program at NBSS.

Completed Mallet
Completed Mallet

You should take the time to fit the handle to your hand and make it as austere or ornate as you see fit. I particularly like how the laminated structure of the blank results in nice contrasting areas like you see on the bead in the above photo.  I do a lot of period work so I was thinking about the 18th century as I turned these mallets. Most of it is finished with the skew chisel and needed almost no sanding. The finish is tongue oil with a very light coat of wax only on the end grain and handle. I look forward to it providing years of solid service.