Deck Building Skills

measuring and marking

Precise measurements, straight cuts, and solid joints do not happen by accident. Even though these tasks are themselves relatively uncomplicated endeavors, achieving a level of craftsmanship with any one of them comes only from constant practice.

Projects in Deck Building Skills
 

If you're new to construction or just a little rusty, this chapter can help. It contains all the information you'll need to learn how to use both the hand tools and power tools utilized in building a deck. Start slowly. Take your time. And practice each skill until you feel proficient.

Learn the techniques that lead to professional results, then perform them over and over again until they become second nature.

Fortunately, decks are built from the ground up, and that means you might be able to afford a little imprecision when building the framing -- an area that will ultimately be out of sight -- as long as the fudge factor doesn't impair the structural integrity of the framing.

Make the job easier
Learning new skills or using old ones in a new project can seem a little daunting. You need to keep distractions and nonproductive actions to a minimum so you can focus on the task at hand. A few simple ideas will help you do that.

First set up an outdoor work station that's removed from the primary work area, but close enough so you don't waste time moving back and forth. Build a sturdy work surface from sawhorses and 2x lumber, and keep clamps handy so your material doesn't move around when you're measuring or cutting.

You'll do most of your cutting with a circular saw, followed by a power mitersaw. Mount the miter to the work surface and install block supports about 3 feet on either side of the saw table.

Invest in accessories that can make your work go quickly. A magnetic drill holder or quick-change sleeve will save hours wasted in changing bits and tips in your cordless drill. An inexpensive drill guide will keep holes at the correct angle to the surfaces. Metal or homemade wood guides will speed accurate cutting.

It helps to have a predictable routine. Strap on a comfortable tool belt and keep basic tools -- tape measure, pencil, knife, layout square -- in assigned pockets. Jot down measurements rather than trying to memorize them. That way you can think about important things rather than looking for tools or trying to remember a number.

Keep tools in good shape
Keep sharp blades in your saws and maintain a collection of sharp bits for the drill. If a measuring tool is damaged, replace it to ensure accuracy.


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