Woodshop Wednesday: 3 Carpentry Mistakes with 7 Solutions

Carpentry is a resourceful endeavor, and as long as things fit in the end you can use any means you dream of to get there. But when it comes to fixing mistakes, like the three common errors featured here, some repairs work better than others. Here are a few of my favorite solutions When Wood Goes Bad.

Mistake 1: Lumber doesn’t line up. OK, so you’re building a box header. You shoot your nail gun a couple times through one end of the box top, then discover to your horror that the other end shifts way out of plane. Maybe you screwed up your nail placement; maybe the lumber is warped or swelled. Anyway, you need to align it.

First, see if you can bend the wood into the position you want. Apply pressure to the other end with a hammer or a partner, and strike with the nail gun when things line up. If that works, pound in an extra nail or two for strength. If not, your next option is to judge whether you can pry apart what you’ve assembled so far. Work your hammer claw under the box top, and if it loosens then you can pound the nails out from the other side and try again. Your last resort is to remove the nails one by one. If you really buried the nail heads (this happens all the time with a nail gun), you’ll need a cat’s paw and a hammer in tandem to dig each one out.

Retro shot from the Barn assembly... making sure the top of the box header lines up.

Retro shot from the Barn assembly… making sure the top of the box header lines up.

Mistake 2: Lumber doesn’t stay on layout. You’re framing a stud wall or a drop ceiling, installing lumber on layout lines you drew at 16-inch centers, and one piece winds up off the line… or you realize too late that your line is in the wrong place entirely. Now what?

The quickest solution is to try and force it back on layout with a few well-placed hammer swings. Nails, unlike screws, are forgiving and can shear as much as a quarter inch this way. If the stud really needs to move a long way, grab a reciprocating saw with a blade that cuts metal, and saw through all the nails on one end. Then toe-nail the stud back in place where you want it. You’ll lose some strength and your stud will be an eighth-inch shorter (because of the thickness of the saw blade), so at this point you might prefer to cut a new piece. Use your judgment or your resident expert’s.

Our resident expert toe-nails a stud into an existing bottom plate.

Our resident expert toe-nails a stud into an existing bottom plate.

Mistake 3: A wall isn’t plumb vertical. Maybe you just raised the wall and you’re securing it in place, or maybe you want to install drywall on studs you put up months ago. It’s a nasty surprise when the air bubble inside your level floats to one side or the other. How do you get your wall back on track?

Continuing a theme of this post, your first option is brute force. Grab Sluggo or whatever you call your sledgehammer and give the wall a good whack at a strong spot, like where the top plate meets a stud. If the wall doesn’t budge, find a nearby wall or floor that you can use for leverage. You can wedge the wall in place temporarily with a long piece of lumber, or for a permanent fix you can use long screws and an impact driver to draw it into another wall.

A LumberLock screw pulls the inner wall towards the outer wall.

A LumberLock screw pulls the inner wall towards the outer wall.

I promised way back in the first-ever Woodshop Wednesday that one day I’d write an article about how to fix mistakes. I’m happy to finally prove that statement wasn’t a mistake in itself. As always, leave a comment if you have any questions, or some good techniques of your own.

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