Choos­ing a mul­ti­tool; deck nails

Q and A with Steve Max­well

The Labradorian - - Editorial - Steve Max­well House Works House Works by Canada’s Handi­est Man’ Steve Max­well fea­tures DIY tips, how-to videos and tool prod­uct re­views.

Q: What kind of os­cil­lat­ing saw should I buy? I’m re­build­ing the win­dow frames on my old wooden house. What brand and model of saw will work best for cut­ting off old trim and win­dow parts in close quar­ters?

A: An os­cil­lat­ing tool is more com­monly re­ferred to as a mul­ti­tool and you’ll find it very help­ful for the job you’ve got planned. This cat­e­gory of tool is a rel­a­tively re­cent thing, com­ing into promi­nence over the last 20 years. Many com­pa­nies make mul­ti­tools these days — both corded and cord­less — and all are able to ac­cept dif­fer­ent at­tach­ments. You’ll most of­ten use saw blades for your work, but you’ll also find tri­an­gu­lar sand­ing pads use­ful when it comes to re­fin­ish­ing. I get to test many dif­fer­ent tools in my work, and right now my favourite mul­ti­tool is the DEWALT 20 volt model. It’s cord­less, but quite pow­er­ful. Cost for a kit that in­cludes one small bat­tery and a charger is $220 in Canada, but you’ll need to get a cou­ple of larger bat­ter­ies for the scale of work you have in mind.

Sea­son­ing posts and beams

Q: When is it OK to paint fresh-cut posts and beams? My brother built a car­port us­ing fresh-cut trees a cou­ple of months ago and had them sawn into beams with a por­ta­ble sawmill. Should we paint be­fore win­ter or wait un­til next year?

A: I’m glad you asked be­cause you should def­i­nitely wait un­til next year for those posts and beams to dry. Big wood holds in­ter­nal mois­ture for a long time, but even­tu­ally it comes out. If you were to paint now it would look OK for a while, but al­most cer­tainly flake off later as the mois­ture mi­grated out­wards.

The best ap­proach is to wait un­til late sum­mer next year, then go over the wood quickly with a six-inch ran­dom or­bit san­der spin­ning an 80-grit disk. You won’t re­move all the saw marks, of course, but the ex­treme rough­ness and prick­li­ness of the rough-sawn sur­face will come off eas­ily and quickly, leav­ing you with a nice sur­face for paint­ing. I’d use the best primer you can find, fol­lowed by two coats of the best ex­te­rior la­tex you can find. Don’t skimp on cheap stuff be­cause it won’t last as long. Even with great paint, even­tu­ally the posts and beams will start to peel and need to be stripped back be­fore re­paint­ing. Depend­ing on the de­sign and look of the car­port, you might con­sider an oil fin­ish in­stead of paint. It would cre­ate a wood grain ap­pear­ance, but oil never peels. You just add more coats.

Rust­ing deck nails

Q: How can I stop nails from rust­ing on my deck? Four­teen years ago my hus­band used non-gal­va­nized nails for build­ing and I’ve been try­ing un­suc­cess­fully to stop them rust­ing ever since. I’ve put stain over them, and also drove them down be­low the sur­face, cov­ered them with filler, then stained. Noth­ing works.

A: I’m afraid there’s no easy fix. Daub­ing on some zinc-rich primer to the bare heads of the nails be­fore re-stain­ing will help, but I sus­pect the rust will re­turn in time. Pulling the nails and re­plac­ing them with hot­dipped gal­va­nized or stain­less steel screws is the only thing that will work for sure. Re­mov­ing the old nails with a me­chan­i­cal nailer puller will dent the wood slightly around each head, but with the right tools, I’ve seen it done rea­son­ably well. Some kinds of rust­proof deck screws have larger heads than oth­ers, and you’d want to choose the largest head size you can find. The big­ger the head, the more of the old nail hole and dent­ing it’ll cover. A good nail puller costs about $50, so it’s a rea­son­able price for free­dom from rust for­ever.


Mul­ti­tools like these are made my many com­pa­nies and are help­ful for cut­ting and sand­ing in close quar­ters dur­ing ren­o­va­tions.

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