Workbench Weekly eTip

Archive for June, 2009

Ceiling Fan Installation Made Easy

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Installing a ceiling fan where there used to be a light fixture used to be a big project. That’s because you had to install support blocks in the ceiling to support the weight of the fan. But a new product called an expandable support bar has made that process easier.

The bar creates a sturdy mounting surface for the fan between two ceiling joists. Plus, it’s easy to install.

This expandable support bar will fit through an opening in the ceiling as small as the junction box it will ultimately brace. Then, with the feet of the brace resting on the top of the ceiling, you can expand the brace by twisting the hexagonal body by hand.

When the bar is expanded to span between the joists, a few more turns with a 1″ wrench will embed the points into the wood to secure it firmly. You can then attach the junction box using a U-bolt, flange, nuts, and washers, all of which are included with the support bar.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers

Editor, Workbench

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (14 votes, average: 4.21 out of 5)
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A Pocketful of Fastening Power

Friday, June 19th, 2009

If you’re not familiar with pocket-hole joinery, you’ll want to be. It’s a versatile method that can be used in everything from cabinetmaking to deck building (Photos, above).

The pocket joint is easy to understand. There’s an angled hole (the pocket) in one workpiece that has a smaller screw shank hole at the bottom. By driving a screw into this hole, it pierces the mating workpiece and draws the two tightly together.

Pocket-hole joinery has been around for many years, but one company, Kreg Tools, has made it easy with their well-designed pocket-hole jigs. The company’s latest model, the R3 (Photo, above), is aimed at do-it-yourselfers and is available at Lowe’s.

To use the jig, first adjust the legs to match the thickness of material you’re using. Then set a stop collar on the stepped drill bit. That ensures that the bit will bore the correct depth pocket, and it locates the screw hole centered on the stock thickness.

To use the R3, clamp the jig to one of the workpieces to be joined, slip the drill bit into the sleeve, and then drill until the stop collar bottoms out (Illustration, right). You don’t have to drill into the mating workpiece.

After drilling the pockets, align the two mating pieces, and then drive in the screws. The screw shank is smaller than the hole it fits into, so the screw won’t grab the workpiece that has the pocket. The threads bite into the mating piece only. The “washer-style” screw head seats into the bottom of the pocket and pulls the two pieces together (Illustration, right).

Once the screws are tight, the joint is very unlikely to come apart, even without glue (though glue can be used). The pockets can usually be hidden, or they can be filled with a special plug.

For more information on the R3, as well as other pocket-hole jigs made by Kreg Tools, visit

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers

Editor, Workbench

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (11 votes, average: 4.55 out of 5)
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Simplify Switch Installation with a Remodeler’s Box

Friday, June 12th, 2009

If you ever need to move a light switch, choose a remodeler’s box. A remodeler’s box looks much like a standard electrical box, but it is designed so that you can mount it without having to attach it to a wall stud.

The remodeler’s box has flanges at the top and bottom that rest on the outside face of the wallboard to prevent the box from falling into the wall cavity. Small “wings” pinch the drywall from behind to secure the box in the opening. You can see how this works in the Illustration at right.

Installing a remodeler’s box is easy. After locating where you want the box positioned, just trace around it, and cut a hole. Pull the wires into the box, and then slip it into the opening. Now tighten the mounting screws at the top and bottom of the box. As you do this, the wings pivot up and then pull forward to exert pressure against the drywall and hold the box in place.

After that, all you need to do is wire up the switch, screw it into the box, and then add a cover plate.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers

Editor, Workbench

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (7 votes, average: 4.43 out of 5)
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An Easy Way to Seal Concrete Cracks

Friday, June 5th, 2009

A few simple steps will ensure that cracks in your concrete driveway stay sealed for the long haul.

You’ll find a wide selection crack fillers on the shelves at any home center or hardware store. Crack filler is similar to caulk but is formulated to adhere to the concrete and to remain flexible as temperatures change and the slabs shift.

Before putting filler in the crack, you need to start by cleaning it out thoroughly. Pull any weeds and loosen the dirt in the crack using a screwdriver or an old butter knife (Fig. 1). Then suck up the debris with a shop vacuum or use a hose to blast it away.

After the area dries, you can fill the crack. Start by stuffing in foam backer rod, so it sits 1/4″ to 1/2″ below the concrete surface. Then fill the remaining space with crack filler until it sits level with the surface (Fig. 2).

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers

Editor, Workbench

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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