Workbench Weekly eTip

Archive for October, 2010

A Simple Guide to Sander Selection

Friday, October 29th, 2010

If you don’t know what type of power sander you need for your projects, this simple explanation should help.

A square sander, also known as a finishing sander, has a pad that vibrates back and forth (above right). That gives it an action that’s not very aggressive and makes it great for finish sanding, as the name implies.

A round sander is also known as a random-orbit sander because the pad moves in two ways. First, the entire pad spins. Plus, the pad sits on a cam that moves it in tiny circles or orbits (above left). That makes a random-orbit sander more aggressive with coarse grits, but it’s also great for fine sanding because it produces random scratch patterns that are hard to see.

For that reason, a random-orbit sander is great for most sanding applications. The only real drawback is that the round pad can’t reach into corners as well as a finish sander.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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Two-for-One Cord Repair

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

If you accidentally nick or cut apart a long extension cord in the middle, a good way to fix it is to turn it into two shorter cords by adding new male or female ends to the cut cords.

Start by picking up plugs at the hardware store. Make sure you get one male and one female, and that they are each rated for at least the amperage of the cord (which you’ll find imprinted on the cord jacket).

After that, just cut the cord at the bad section, and then slip the plug housing onto the cord (Photo, above). Strip back a bit of the outer jacket (around 1”, depending on the type of plug you’re installing). Now use wire strippers to remove the insulation on the three wires. Again, just how much you strip off depends on the plug.

Then connect the wires. The black (hot) wire gets hooked to the dark-colored screw, the white (neutral) to the silver screw, and the green (ground) to the green screw. Make sure the connections are tight, and then slide the plug housing into place and secure it. Tighten the cord clamp, making sure you don’t crush the cord.

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Open Up a World of Options with Double-hung Windows

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Double-hung windows were the standard for years. In fact, you might have grown up with them but didn’t know it because the upper sash often gets painted shut. But double-hung windows do offer clear advantages.

Ventilation Options

First, and probably most important, is that you can push the top sash down for ventilation instead of lifting the lower sash up (Illustration, below). That way, you don’t have to worry about a breeze blowing papers or other light items around. Instead, the breeze will enter up high, where it can circulate without being a nuisance. And you won’t need to be concerned about pets or young kids accidentally falling through the screen. Plus, if you have a roof that overhangs the house walls, you may be able to open the top sash, even on a rainy day, without worry of water getting in.

Easy Cleaning

Another advantage of having two operable sashes becomes readily apparent when you need to wash windows. Most double-hung windows today are designed to tilt in for easy cleaning. On single-hung windows, you might be able to tip the lower sash in, but cleaning the outside of the upper sash will still require climbing up a ladder.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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Check the Temperature to Find the Right Light

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Many people who tried compact-fluorescent lamps (CFLs) early on were disappointed. The bulbs were remarkably bright but produced a harsh blue light.

That’s too bad, because CFLs use far less electricity than an incandescent bulb, and they last a whole lot longer. Plus, CFLs are now offered in a wide array of styles based on “color temperature.”

Color temperature, which is measured in degrees Kelvin (K), describes the color of the light a bulb produces. In general, the higher the Kelvin temperature, the more blue the color. The intricacies of Kelvin ratings are complex, but to select bulbs you really just need to check out the Chart below. It offers basic definitions of different bulb ratings.

Lighting Chart

Be aware, though, that ratings can vary slightly. Most manufacturers adhere to a color temperature of 5,000° K for a “daylight” bulb. But a few put this name on a 3,500° K bulb.

To really see what this all means, look at the Photo below. It clearly demonstrates what bulbs with different Kelvin ratings look like compared to one another.

Lighting Example

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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Paver Pathway Step by Step

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Before you dig into a pathway project, you need to understand what’s involved. There’s more to it than just laying them out on the ground. The Illustrations below show that the pavers sit on a two-layer base. The bottom layer is crushed stone that gets compacted to form a solid foundation. A layer of sand sits atop that to form a setting bed for the pavers. Both sides of the path are held in place with edging that keeps the pavers from shifting around. And sand gets swept between the pavers to lock them together, so they don’t move around underfoot.

Plan the Pathway

With these things in mind, you can start your project by drawing a sketch of your pathway. Take your time to measure accurately and draw your yard to close scale. Then make several photocopies of the drawing. That way, you can sketch multiple ideas for your path to determine its shape and location. Plus you can add measurements to this drawing to determine the quantity of pavers and other supplies you’ll need to buy.

Don’t be surprised, by the way, when you realize that a path of any size will call for hundreds of pavers, and possibly several tons of base rock and sand. The folks at the home center can help you calculate how much you’ll need. Then you can determine if you want to make multiple trips with a truck or have everything delivered.

Figure [1] Dig a shallow trench for your path foundation. Make it deep enough for the base, sand, and pavers, and a few inches wider than the path.


When you have your materials, it’s time to get out the shovel and excavate. You won’t be digging deep, but be sure to call first and have local utilities located. Then dig a flat-bottomed trench (Fig. 1).The depth should allow for the thickness of your pavers, a 1”-thick sand bed, and a base at least 2” thick. (If your soil is soft, plan on a 4″-thick base.)

Figure [2] Shovel in a layer of base stone, and then compact it to 2″ thick. Add stone and repeat until the base height is correct and the surface is flat and smooth.

Prepare the Base

Next, you need to compact the soil in the bottom of the trench using a plate compactor. You can rent one for about $60 per day. Run it over the bottom of the trench a couple times to firm up the soil.

Now add the crushed base stone (Fig. 2). Then compact the rock until it’s solid. If necessary, add more rock and compact again. This base layer needs to be smooth and flat.

Figure [3] Lay 1” conduit or PVC pipes on the base, and then pour in sand. Use a 2×4 to screed the sand level with the pipes, and then remove them.

Add Edging

With the base done, you need to add the edging that will hold the pavers in place. You can either measure and install the edging on both sides of the path, or just edge one side, and then do the other after the pavers are in. That depends on the edging you use, the path shape, and the pavers. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Make the Bed

The sand comes next. The best way to ensure a consistent thickness is to lay 1” pipes on the base, cover them with sand, and then spread the sand with a 2×4 (Fig. 3). Then remove the pipes and fill in the gaps.

Figure [4] Lay edging, and then set the pavers gently on the sand bed. Then sweep sand between the pavers, and go over them with the plate compactor.

Place the Pavers

Now it’s time to lay the pavers (Fig 4). Set them gently on the sand. Don’t hammer or press them in. If pavers need to be cut, you can do that as you go. Or just leave out the ones that need cut for now, and do all the cutting at once later on.

Once everything is in, sweep dry sand over the path, and work it between the bricks with the plate compactor. Finally, fill dirt in along the edges of the path.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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