Category Archives: Uncategorized

Whats going on with the Toyota Dolphin?

Here is how it started. The old box had issues with water penetration and old age. We went in a new direction.

 I was influenced by the gypsy Vardo wagons of Europe. One blogger in particular in the southern usa built an inspiring example. His is just a pull behind trailer but well done.

We removed the working dometic refrigerator. I sold it on craigslist because our future plans didn’t require it . nothing else was salvageable . The holding tank had a large hole that the previous owner had tried to silicone. Don’t bother, they never hold. Some of the plastic welding kits look interesting but i wasn’t going to play with it on a nasty black and gray combo tank. Pick your battl

  After removing the box and the floor it became evident we were needing to strengthen the floor substructure. It lasted from 1983 till now. I guess that was an acceptable live span. We sanded down the exposed frame and reprimed it. I don’t have the budget for a full restro. We welded in more angle iron to install a new 3/4 floor.

Its been a while

We have been tied up with our stair railing company. i will be updating this site. i have loads of video and photos and some time now. Mona and I sold the house and hooked up the rv. Currently in Florida enjoying the warmer climate. looks like part 2 needs to be next.

Rebuilding an older stair Part one

We got call from a gentleman regarding a 1980 ish stair that had half walls down to the floor. He wanted a more formal layout with exposed treads and hand rails.

Stair makeover

1980 stair before

open stinger stair

open stringer stair after



We do not do demo anymore because of lead based paint and asbestos rules. Not that we are against rules and safety, The liability aspects just don’t appeal to me. With that, the home owner took that part of the project. We had somewhat of a clean slate when we arrived.

The scope of the rebuild was to replace all the treads and risers. The treads were red oak. The risers were poplar that we painted white. The treads on the exposed sides had mitered returns on the treads and risers. We cut a new side boards on the inside walls at the top of the stairs because the side stringers were beat up. The handrail is continuous on one side per code. The other side was ended at the wall. Continuous handrails are required on one side on this stair width.

We removed the treads and risers from the old set. We cut the riser boards 45 deg on the ends to return against the the new  skirt board. I set the placement of the 3/4 inch skirt board against the studs so the skirt would be 1/4 proud of the 1/2 Sheetrock. The risers were set with a laser . You could also use string or a straight edge, after all the risers were set,we set the skirt board against them and scribed all the plumb and level cuts.

installing stair treads

stair building

stair building

installing stair risers you will notice I installed new skirts on the sides going down at the top of the stairs.




I cut my own miter returns. It can be somewhat intimidating to younger carpenters. If you can cut a straight line with the Skil saw then you can do this.I do the 45s on the ends first. I clamp them together edgeways on the bench. With the skill saw blade cut it at 45° angle. You will be adding a 1 1/4 inch bullnose to the side edges. You need to set the depth of cut to account for the 1 1/4.  With them all clamped to together you have a base to to support the skill saw. If you have less than four treads it is easier to cut the miter with a very sharp hand saw. The next cut is the long crosscut to intersect the back of the angle cut on the front. I use a skill saw then finish the last part with my hand saw.  Just be careful and take your time. Keep your saws square to the work. I leave the short return  off until I am installing the cove under the treads.




oak tread

oak tread with return






Wall Oven Tutorial

Wall Oven Tutorial

Ever done a budget kitchen? Drove on down to the box store to find the in stock cabinets lacking. No fridge end panels, etc. With a little work you can make make your own. I will do an article on color matching a little later. Thats not so hard either.

Most kitchen cabinets consist of a four or a five sided box and a face frame.
the box side attachments are your choice. Nails, screws, biscuits , pocket screws. I use pocket screws made by Kreg and their jigs. I have used all the above methods but pocket screws are fast and hold very well. In the world of production wood working, faster is a good thing.
Most wall oven cabinet units measure 33 inches wide to the outside width and 84 inches tall.
Wall oven appliances vary in height so check your manufactures cut sheet. Pay attention to electrical requirements and box locations! Get the cut sheet for the appliance. These are tight fits and you do not want an improperly placed electric box stopping you from pushing your oven in.

Use whatever sheet good works for you. I like maple plywood because it stains and paints well. If the sides are visible then you need to get whatever wood the other cabinets are. The budget brands are usually oak or maple. Below is an example of the build design. The top is cabinet storage space with doors added. the bottom is a drawer unit. Middle holds our oven. This article is a face frame cabinet with 2 inch styles and rails. The center rail size is dictated by oven height. You will need the dimension of your wall oven to determine the width you need. Most wall ovens are 30 inches wide and require a 29.5 inch opening. I made this cabinet 33 inches wide using 2 inch face frames. I went with 33 inches because that is a standard cabinet size. think 3 inch modules in the USA. I also had a factory 33 inch by 12 inch high cabinet to go on top of it. All that was required was to trim 1/4 off each side on the inside face frames of the oven opening. If you follow the math 33 inch wide box – 4 inches of face frame equals 29 inside opening, 1/2 removed from inside equals 29.5.


It should take 2 sheets of plywood to make this. You want to rip 23 1/4 wide pieces. two will be crosscut 84 inches long for the sides. The cross cut for the width pieces will be your outside dimension less your material thickness x2 . On my 33 wide cabinet that would make my inside pieces 31 1/2 using 3/4 sides .

On the cabinet back. I like to keep the stove area with out a back. I mark out the exposed area for a dado cut for a 1/4 pane or 1/2 panel  or you can also step in the panels the width of you material.

See pic below


I purposely left out the dimensions of the toe kick. You will need to calculate that off you existing boxes. Matter fact I left out most dimensions.




When assembling cabinets or shelves I use scrap wood cut to the inside dimension as an index.
If I have an inside space of 12 inches, I cut a couple 12 inch scraps and place them inside as I attach the next panel.
Because the Kreg screws push the panel over slightly as they go in. The panel spacing is perfect.The Spacer blocks will be tight to remove. The price you pay for accuracy.


Those sticks you see are the spacers for indexing the next panel. The key to this is setting the first panel perfectly.


The panel on the left is a panel already set. I am screwing in the right panel from the other side into the index stick. I moved it to the center to set the center screw  without bowing the panel.

When building up the face frame you can make it overhang the edges on the outside an 1/8 each. That helps attaching to adjacent cabinets.

I like to layout the face frame pieces on a large table for assembly. You can use kreg screws on them as well, just clamp both edges down before you screw them together. Otherwise they WILL offset from each other. still editing, give me a couple more days



Use glue,the pocket screws are not that strong by themselves.




Clamp you pieces before attaching your pocket screw

IMAG0269 IMAG0271IMAG0270


You will notice that I only made this 6 feet tall. This was done because I had a Cabinet sitting on top of it. That detail saved me from having to make a cabinet door to match.

Stair rail install part 3 metal balusters



installing the metal balusters

oak railing wit metal baluster

Oak rail with Metal Balusters

We do have a you tube video on how to install metal balusters on this site. Once you have the stair railings in it’s pretty much done. I will quickly summarize.  I had drilled the rails prior to installing between the newel posts. I loosen one of the newel posts so it will move far enough to install the railing past the rail bolt. About 2 1/2 inches will usually do. Connect the rail using a rail bolt wrench. Get the rail level and even before getting it tight. With the rail in, its time to drill the bottom holes. I use a laser to transfer the location to the floor. You can also set the rail to the floor and transfer the marks with a square. If you needed to cut the rail longer or shorter because of a  wall out of plumb, make sure to index the rail on a newel before marking.

I cut the metal balusters with a Milwaukee brand portable band saw. I have used angle grinders with cutoff wheels. Second option can be done but take extreme care. Hot metal sparks are dangerous on skin, eyes and clothing. Nothing like feeling a little warm, then discover the cause being your cotton shirt is flaming. Leather is recommended. Fire suppression equipment maybe in order. My advise now is spring for the bandsaw. Rental shops carry them for cheap.

Once again I digress.

Metal balusters come with one end rounded at the very tip. I cut that 1 inch off but leaving enough to see which end was round so you can orientate it to the top when we install. This is helpful to keep all pieces symmetrical as we put them in. You don’t want baskets or any piece with a pattern to be at different elevations with each other.



We use PC7 epoxy. It’s black to match the iron balusters. Cleans off easily with a damp rag. Watch our you tube video on the procedure.





Installing a stair rail part 2 of 4

This is a Stair Rail we did at

The newel for the stair rail fits over the top of the Sure-Tite bolt. After bolting in tightly. Check it for plumb on both sides. Cut the bottom to adjust and reinstall. This method of attachment takes a little more time. The results are superior to metal brackets with moulding to hide them. My objection to 4j anchors is two fold. The screws loosen over time. ( I have repaired many) The aesthetics are ugly to me. I like the plain simple connection of post to floor without adding a piece of moulding that looks like your hiding something.

stair rail parts

newel post anchored with a Sure-tite fastener


Determine the handrail length by measuring at the bottom between the points. Check that the walls are plumb and again adjust if necessary.   After cutting the stair rail to length we put in the rail bolt holes. Pics below

drilled for rail bolt

drilled for rail bolt


stair rail drilled for balusters

Using a 1 inch sharp paddle bit, drill the hole for the rail bolt captive nut. Forster bits work fine as well. You can use a forstner bit. I prefer the spade bits because they are easily sharpened. Then using a 3/8 bit drill the end hole for the rail lag bolt. Pic is below. From the bottom of the rail this is 7/8 to center. Try not to go much higher as it makes it tough to thread on the captive nut.

drilling rail bolt

Rail bolt hole in railing

Measure in on each end of the rail for the starting balusters. I use 2 3/4 inch, again this is the starting and ending baluster in your rail. Measure between these points to determine your baluster spacing. 4 inch on a guardrail and 4 3/8 on a rake rail. Those are the inside spacing between balusters.

Install the rail bolt lags into the newel post. You will need to calculate the height from the floor to the center line of the rail lags.

stair rail

installing rail lag into newel post with a rail wrench

Now you can install the rail between the posts. I keep the newel post bolts loose until this step. Tighten them down at this point. Then install the rail bolts into the railing. You will need a rail wrench like the one pictured above.

baluster layout

Baluster layout

We then use a laser to mark the floor, indexing on the rail holes above to the location on the floor for the baluster holes.

baluster layout

marking floor beneath stair rail for baluster holes


New stair rails part one


Newel Post Install

We started a new railing today. It is a L shaped guard rail with two full posts and a half wall post. It will have twist and basket series iron balusters. Clear coated by client. We gave a quick lesson on how to coat the wood with lacquer. He did a great job. This will save them about three hundred dollars. It all adds up.

First step is to layout the posts and get them drilled for the post anchors. I prefer to use the Sure-Tite brand utilizing a 5/8s threaded rod into the floor. It is a much stronger connection provided there is structure under the floor to grab it. (floor joist)

newel bolt

Sure-Tite newel bolt

Notice the first part of the hole is drilled wider. On floors with multiple layers, if you don’t. the screws in the Sure-Tite will wedge the oak floor up off the sub floor. Even lifting just a little WILL effect the connection of the newel post. The post will wobble if everything is not tight. ( sounds like experience ). The instructions have you drill a 5/8 s hole through the first 3/4 floor then a 3/8s bit down 6 inches. You can angle the hole to hit floor joists. Then use a hammer to straiten it. I use a paddle bit with an extension. I also keep a 3/8s high speed bit handy in case I hit a nail or Simpson tie.

 Now we calculate our height, IRC (International Residential Code) guidelines are 36 to the top of the handrail in residential construction. You are allowed to go higher. I set this one at 36 1/4 off the finished floor.

I layout and drill a hole in the center of the newel. Another one cross drilled to catch the nut and washer. Pics below.