Brackets, No Not Those Brackets

The stub where my right hand is goes through the wall into the supporting structure.

Usually, the only time I use the word ‘bracket’ is during March Madness, when millions of people try to guess the ultimate outcome of 64 college basketball teams working their way to one winner. I do dumb things with those brackets, like pick the teams I hope will win, instead of those that are likely to win. Then again, this isn’t a post about NCAA Basketball. This is a post, no pun intended, about supporting brackets.


I wanted to write about this project, but I wanted to keep it light. So, I decided to do it as part of Linda G. Hill’s SoCS prompt. Of course, Linda didn’t make my job very easy. I want to write about making wooden brackets and she gave us:

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “your/you’re/yore.” Use one, use them all, but whatever you do, enjoy!

She didn’t mention bonus points. I think there should be bonus points when there are three words. And, ‘yore’ – seriously, Linda, yore?

Anyway, back to those brackets. They’re part of a small home-improvement project, currently underway in our back yard. We’ve decided to add an overhanging roof to the gable-end of our screen-porch. One of the reasons we built the porch was to shade the living room from the afternoon sun and shield it from the rain and snow. Now, we’re adding an overhang to shade the porch.

I was going to wait and write a post after the roof was complete. Kind of a what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation post. You’re lucky I didn’t go that route. I’m guessing that would take about 9,000 words and 800 photos. So, I’m breaking it up for your reading pleasure.

The roof will hang over a wide set of “steps.” I put that in quotes because the steps are really stacked mini-decks. I won’t get into the steps today because they’re going to be replaced later. I only mention them because we didn’t want any posts at the edge of the steps. Snow shovels bump into posts. My wife and I bump into posts and the dog likes to wrap her leash around posts. We have to say something like “my side” to get her to walk on the same side of a post/tree/telephone pole as us.

Remember when we said: “bread and butter?” If two friends had to split up to walk around an object, you said “bread and butter” in order to avoid any bad luck. But, you both had to say it. Otherwise, you would fight later on – according to – superstition.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life saying bread and butter, so brackets. I’m making the brackets from Western Red Cedar 4x4s. For those of you unfamiliar with US measurements and the concept of dimensional lumber, here’s a quick lesson:

‘4×4’ (pronounced 4-by-4) refers to the nominal width and depth of the board, 4 inches by 4 inches, or 4” x 4”. The measurement is nominal because it’s the dimensions of the rough board, before it’s machined to a nice, square, smooth surface. Typically, a 4×4 is 3 ½” x 3 ½”. For some reason, a cedar 4×4 is about 3 3/8” x 3 3/8”.

For those of you who wonder why the U.S. is still using feet and inches, a system of measurement dating back to days or yore, I can’t answer you. Ask Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. They tried to switch us to the metric system, but that didn’t go so well. We get less wine in a bottle, but that’s about it. Still, I’d rather say four-by-four than 10.16-by-10.16.

Mortise and tenon joint
This illustrates how a mortise and tenon joint is mechanically strong and provides a lot of glue surface.

These brackets have to support a pretty heavy load, so I’m joining them with a combination of mortise and tenon and dado joints. I’ve borrowed the illustration from a previous Thursday Doors post. This joint has a mechanical connection with lots of surface area for glue, and none of the boards lose much strength from the material being cut away.

Each bracket has one 90 degree joint and two 45 degree joints. The 90 degree joint was easy to cut. The tenon was cut on my table saw, with the aid of a couple of jigs. The mortise was cut with a mortising machine and the dado was cut with a router, also with the aid of a jig.

The 45 degree joints were another story. The various settings required on stationary power tools would have taken a long time to set up, and making the cuts would have been awkward. I decided to cut them by hand. I cut the first one with a hand saw and then switched to a small circular saw.

These brackets are the kind of project that, once complete, don’t look like they were hard to build. That’s because all the complicated work is concealed. The photos in the galleries will lead you through the process. If yours is a cursory interest, the first gallery is for you. As a friend of mine used to say, it goes 1,2..6.


If you’re interested in the gory details, the second gallery should work nicely.

socs badge 2016-17


    1. Thanks Judy. I have a separate small shop but it spills into the garage. The goal is to make the shop a bit bigger and partition 10′ of the garage. Combining the two spaces would give me about 450-500 SF. Projects likd these brackets would always be easier in the larger open space.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your handiwork is a testament to your talent, Dan. You’re very fortunate to have those awesome skills. The pioneers of yore didn’t have the tools available today to create such nicely crafted home projects.

    Never heard of “bread and butter” used that way. But never mind, it’s time for tea and toast, because that made me hungry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan, the brackets are sharp. Now if you can’t stand the yore get out of the history. Make a canoe instead and drift with the current. I want to go back and read the rest of this post. With this cup of coffee.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks John. If I couldn’t think of something, I was going to quote Poe. I wanted those bonus points, you know, in case Linda comes to her senses.

      “Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
      In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
      Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
      But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door— ”

      I mean, the roof is going over our chamber door…kinda…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Dang! I say bonus points for actually using the word ‘yore.’ I wondered how you were going to do that. I have never heard of that term ‘bread and butter.’ Hmmmm. Looking forward to the finished job. You know how much you save by being able to do all these projects yourself……

    Liked by 1 person

  4. YOU’RE quite a skilled woodworker, Dan. And YOUR mention of “1, 2 .. 6” sounds like it would make a very interesting double play, either today or back in the days of YORE.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, every time you post about your home improvement projects I get more deeply impressed with your fine craftsmanship and woodworking knowledge, Dan. Fine job and good idea to “break it down in bits.” :)
    Easier to read, digest and comprehend! :D

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This was not boring, Dan! I truly liked the way you utilized words and pictures so I could fully grasp the steps. I am one who is a short cut person, which means I appreciate the effort you take to make a lasting, quality addition to your home. Can’t wait to see more steps and eventually, the final project.
        Oh by the way, my blog posts about parties for example could be a bit tedious. Yet, you hang in there! :)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. WOW, what a project! I understood all the woodworking terms like mortise, tenon, and dado joints too! Thanks to Norm of This Old House. He’s gone now I’ve always wondered what happened there. I used to watch the show every week while he was doing the work.

    I enjoyed this post, and seeing how a bracket is made. It takes a lot of skill and work! I wonder if I wasn’t required to take that one quarter of wood shop that terrified me if I’d be interested at all in woodworking? That quarter of my life sure did give me an appreciation of how much work, and skill are required to get stuff made!

    FWIW: The only thing that came to my mind when I read you were writing about brackets was photography. We use bracketing in photography quite often. It’s taking a sequence of frames of the same subject at different exposure values. Common exposures are 0, +1, -1, +2, and -2 then blend all or some of those frames in post development to make an image that shows all the tonal ranges from shadows to highlights. Our cameras don’t see all the darks and lights at the same time which is why we use bracketing. TMI probably. Sorry!

    BONUS POINTS for using all 3 your, you’re, and yore! I wondered how you’d get yore in there, but had no doubt you’d get it in your post. :) ^5!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the bonus points, Deborah. I did think that my photo friends would think of that kind of bracketing. I didn’t know enough to try and explain it. I miss Norm. He still shows up on TOH but he doesn’t seem to be a main player. I miss his own show that he had on woodworking.

      I took as many sections of wood shop as I could. I loved being around the wood and the tools.


      1. Oh yeah, The Yankee Workshop wasn’t it? I used to watch that too. Every piece of furniture he made I wanted! :)
        I loved the smell of the wood-still do, but the 7th grade woodshop teacher scared me to death with tales of injuries. I was so happy to get back to cooking and sewing classes! Although sewing is just as hard for me. :)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes. The New Yankee Workshop. I loved that show. Safety was drummed in pretty hard. I’ve been injured a few times, but I still have all the pieces I came with. I wish I had also taken sewing. It fascinates me.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. We had art-music-wood shop & metal shop in 7th & 8th grade. In 9th you could choose. I took 2-qtr each of wood & metal shop both included mechanical drawing which was probably the best course I ever took. I still use those lessons today. It’s automated but basically the same.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Dan, as someone who lives in a metric nation, be GLAD you still use the Imperial system. When my dad was in school, they still used the Imperial unit of measure. The switch to metric in Canada came in the ’70s and I think it was the stupidest thing they ever could have done. Because he learned the Imperial, I picked up quite a bit of it when I was young. But when I was in school, it was metric they were teaching. I should be grateful that I know both, but because I DO know both, I find metric to be a real waste of time. It’s so much more work. I mean millimeters, REALLY?? My dad’s Imperial imparting did mean that I had a leg up on all the boys in my high school auto shop classes though. It’s still pretty hard to go into a garage that doesn’t have ANY wrenches/sockets that are in inches, and it’s pretty hard to find a car that still doesn’t have plenty of Imperial nuts and bolts! I do prefer Celsius and kilometers, but when it comes to tools, it should be good old Imperial inches and feet all the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that view Wendy. What bothers me is when things seem to be mixed. I have tools where the guides are 1/4-20 nuts buy if I have to adjust the tool itself, I need a metric Allen
      wrench. It drives me crazy. Plus, some of my tools are many years old, from when they still made tools here in the US. Your dad is probably like mine. He can look at a nut and know what wrench to grab. I’m forever taking the 9/16 back and getting the 1/2 or 5/8 ;(

      I try putting temp in both C & F and in/ft in cm/m but it gets to be a hassle. It’s like pronouns I get tired of writing ‘he or she’ too :)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Such astounding spatial ability should be noted.
    I’d like to replace the wrought-iron spindly support fings on our porch with some non-wrought-iron fings. Since that’s all I’ve got, I think I’ll be paying someone a lot of money to do that. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always wondered why 4X4’s weren’t really 4X4, and now I know. Thank you. But the real gem in this post, for me, was the universal statement, “That’s because all the complicated work is concealed.” That’s true of so many difficult tasks: teaching, marriage, cooking, Orville and Wilbur’s first flight. (I added the last because I’m currently reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. Marvelous book.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet. I would agree that complicated work is concealed in a lot of things. I wouldn’t have thought to apply it to teaching and marriage, but you’re right. What we see rarely reflects the work behind the scenes. You’re the second person to recommend that book. I think I need to add it to the list.


  10. I’m glad you decided to break it up into smaller posts because even with a small one I kind of lost the thread halfway through. What I can say though is that the mortise and tenon joint came up in a puzzle game I was playing just this week. I’d never heard of it and now it’s popped up twice. Weird how that works.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So Dan, you lost me at 4×4. Holy Crap! You’re talking math, and measurements, and precision. Ouch! I think I just sprained my brain.

    … BUT, what I did pick up is that you are building a roof over your back deck which is exactly what I’ve been trying to convince Husband we’ve needed for over 20 years. There are all kinds of awesomeness at work here. Sigh.
    I can’t begin to tell you how jealous I am of your wife right now.

    If she needs any help decorating this covered deck, let me know. Shopping is my forte :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha. We don’t need help shopping. Actually there won’t be much under this roof. It will be about 18′ wide and 4-5′ deep. Hopefully wide enough and low enough to help the porch (which is walls and a roof over our deck) cool and dry. We joke about adding a roof to this roof, and on and on ;)

      Hopefully, when it’s raining in January, we’ll bd able to stay dry as we watch the nut-job puppy do her business.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our previous house had a front veranda which I loved. I miss it dearly … being able to sit outdoors when the weather is mild even when it was raining. I watched many thunderstorms from that veranda.

        That’s what I want again … even if it’s not really a veranda but a covered deck at the back of the house.

        Unfortunately Gilles doesn’t share my vision :/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We built the porch before we added A/C. Since then, we don’t use the porch much. I like to sit out there, after work, but this summer has been so hot that it’s unbearable. Hopefully, this will give us some relief from the sun. Also, this roof will be low enough that we will be able to leave the upper sash open on the south-facing windows, even during a storm. We keep trying.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice job on those tenons Dan, I would have cheated and used my store-bought jig, and probably still messed up the first one.
    For the record, despite the fact that the country has been officially on the metric system since the 70’s you’d be hard-pressed to find any professional wood shop in Canada that uses plans with metric dimensions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried the store bought jig, Norm. Even with my sacrificial fence removed, it doesn’t open wide enough for a 4×4. It’s interesting to hear about the shops up there. I know there are lots of 5mm tools and accessories for cabinet hardware, but I haven’t seem metric mortising chisels. What bothered me on this job was the first router bit I tried using. I was 1/2″ spiral mortising bit, but the bearing collar had a metric set screw.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Honestly, in this post I felt it was too technical/mechanical for my little brain, so I enjoyed the images. A quick question, do you also work with interior designers? I’m sure you must be really good with visualizing how furniture can fit in. I’m going to ask/bother for your expertise when I renovate my apartment, at least with furniture ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sharukh. I’m not great with an empty room but I do pretty well with individual pieces. I’ve never had much of an ability to form a grand vision. More of a “now that this is done, what would go in that corner” kind of guy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.