Friday, May 4, 2007

Here’s An Old Carpenter’s Trick You Can Use

I worked in the building trades for more than 20 years. I know most of the tricks of the trade. In this blog entry I’m going to share with you a useful technique that woodworkers, carpenters, and drywallers commonly use in their work. There is no reason why you can’t master this little technique and use it too—-especially as you build your Whizbang Garden Cart.

When you build the cart according to the plan I provide in my book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Garden Cart, you will need to mark several pencil lines parallel to the edges of the plywood sides. Pilot holes for assembly screws will be drilled along the lines (my plans tell you exactly where every single screw goes).

There are different tools for marking parallel lines but all you really need is a pencil, a tape measure, and your hands. This photo shows what I mean…

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The above picture shows how I draw an accurately straight line ¾” away from one edge of the plywood using nothing more than a pencil in my hand. I used the tape measure to first make a mark at ¾”. Then I hold the point of the pencil on the mark and grip it firmly with the tip of my middle finger tight against the edge of the plywood. With the pencil and fingers locked in this position, my hand becomes an effective tool. It’s a simple matter to slide my hand along the edge of the wood (with the middle finger tight to the wood) and mark an accurate line. The already-drawn line in the picture was made with the hand position shown).

Using this technique, I can mark parallel lines up to 3” away from an edge. For longer distances, the following picture shows a variation of this trick...

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In the above photo I have extended the tape measure to the distance I want to mark (3" away from the other line). My one hand holds the tape securely and the side of my index finger rests against the edge of the plywood. At the other end of the tape, I am holding the pencil tight to the hook end. With this arrangement, I can draw the tape and pencil along the edge and mark lines up to around 48” away. The marked lines with this method are not quite as accurate as the one-hand-with-the-pencil approach (especially when the distance gets over a foot or so). But the lines are reliable enough for many purposes, including the making of a Whizbang Garden Cart.

Beyond the garden cart project, these “handy” techniques work very well when marking out and cutting drywall. I rarely snap a chalk line or use a drywaller’s T-square when working with drywall. And a particularly neat variation of this trick is to substitute a utility knife for the pencil so you mark and score your drywall at the same time. You can get a lot more work done if you utilize techniques like this.

Of course, any of these tricks of the trade require a bit of practice to master. You can practice drawing parallel lines on a pad of paper or a scrap of wood.

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