Safe and Easy

The angle braces keep it square, but I’m checking the diagonals, just to be sure.

I spent most of the last four days in my garage, working on the seasonal shed and the attic access doors. The thinking was that I need to have both of these projects complete and ready to install when our siding project turns the corner onto the wall on which each item sits. The project plans might be changing, but I’ll save that for another post, perhaps when plans are more accurate than the weather forecast. In any case, it was a fun weekend, because I enjoy woodworking.

I should mention that the time in the shop takes away from the time at the keyboard. You may have noticed shorter posts, and delays in responding to comments and visiting your blogs. This pattern is likely to continue for the next several weeks.

This weekend gave me a chance to put some tools and techniques to work to make the one-man nature of my shop safer and more productive. I thought I would share some highlights.

In well over 50 years of participating in workshops and on job sites, I’ve learned that the old adage “safety is no accident” is absolutely true. The two most dangerous times in the shop are when tools are running and/or material is moving. The hardest part about working safely, is accepting that it often means working slower. For example:

Plywood is never easy to move. Full sheets are 4‘ (1.2m) wide and 8′ (2.4m) long. Lifting even ½” thick plywood can be difficult. Moving a sheet from the floor to a workbench is awkward. Unless you’re lucky enough to have 6-8’ of clearance around your table saw, moving a full sheet onto it is dangerous to the point that I won’t even try.

I roll sheets of plywood, on-edge, against a wall for storage. I lay them flat on sawhorses to cut them into manageable sections, and I lift them onto those sawhorses with an electric hoist. A lightweight circular saw, a self-clamping edge-guide and some shop-made guide blocks makes straight cuts easy-peasy.

Once structures like the shed and access doors start to take shape, they become very heavy. Putting them on wheels helps move them around the shop, and putting them on platforms eliminates bending and working in awkward positions – both of which are inherently unsafe.

While I mentioned woodworking, these two projects aren’t exactly fine furniture. They are utility structures that will spend their lives outside, exposed to everything New England can toss at them. They need to be strong, and they need to be waterproof. Toward that later goal, both projects will be wrapped in PVC. Therefore, the underlying structure doesn’t need to be “pretty.” But, since PVC contributes very little strength, that structure needs to be sturdy.

Rather than cut complex joints, I used biscuits and pocket-screws for the doors. The doors will be skinned, first with plywood and then with PVC. The plywood will be secured to the wood frame with staples. I can hear the woodworkers in the audience trying to catch their breath – yes, staples. Staples are amazingly strong, super-fast to work with and rarely cause the wood to split.

Some of these things are explained in the photos (click to start slide show) and demonstrated in the videos. Note: the photos were taken after-the-fact, and videos were taken while items were clamped so that one-hand operation was possible. There are four videos, but the longest is only 20 seconds.


rolling plywood around. I couldn’t video this with a full sheet, but this gives you an idea:

Lifting the plywood up onto the sawhorses:

Drilling the pockets for the pocket screws:

Shooting staples into some scrap, easy work:


  1. As someone with very little skill with tools, I was fascinated in watching your project take shape and trying to understand the techniques that you are using. When you first mentioned that you were using pocket screws, I wondered if your were using a Kreg jig and your video confirmed that you were. My son used a similar jig to help build a king-size bed and I was amazed at how well the jig works.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mike. It’s funny. I resisted buying a Kreg jig for a long time, because they all seemed overly expensive. Peachtree Woodworking put this kit on sale, and I was shocked at how much easier it makes drilling those pockets. Before, I was using a guide that had to be measured and clamped each time. You set this ting once, and then it’s 1,2,6 from there on.


  2. You certainly have the right tools for the job. Living in a condo doesn’t really have the room for tools or work space for such projects, but some plans and reno here have come out pretty good. Learned a few things from internet videos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. My wife says that I plan projects around the next tool on my wish list. It’s not entirely true. Most of the tools see a lot of use. She is actually the one who bought me the portable hoist I’ve been using to lift things in the garage. When she bought it, I couldn’t imagine using it. Now I can’t imagine life without it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. And another edition of “This Old Garage” is in the books. Thank you, Norm, for the woodworking lesson!

    As one who as no clue about woodworking or what it takes to do what you do, I find this very interesting, Dan. I’m also glad that you take the time to work in a safe environment to prevent injury. The tools and materials you use can really do damage to a body if used improperly. I wouldn’t want to read about another bathroom incident in the garage, if you know what I mean. ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To the casual reader, that last sentence might seem strange, but I do know what you mean. I’ve had accidents in the shop, but I do work hard to avoid them. I’m glad you liked this. I’m trying not to go overboard with tools and woodwork/construction (I could write about this every day for a while.

      When I had my cabinet shop, I had a free-standing closet I was building, collapse on me after I had dry-fit all the parts. I bent inside and tapped a section into place with a hammer and the whole thing came down like a house of cards. It really only takes one mistake.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I work with a bunch of insurance inspection engineers, so the concept is supported by that group as well. Avoiding the precursors to accidents is the point they stress, all the time. They consider something you could trip on to be a problem. They make a good deal of sense (but don’t tell them I said that).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I wish I had such a good excuse for the low output on MY blog, Dan. Glad to hear you’re keeping it safe — no easy feat when dealing with tasks we do repeatedly. It takes only a second or two of complacency or distractedness to screw up, but it’s obvious you have the right attitude. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny you mention complacency, Paul. The one serious injury I had in my shop (when I almost lost a finger) was when I was in the middle of hundreds of repetitive cuts on my table saw. You really can’t stop thinking about safety.


  5. I lay them flat on sawhorses to cut them into manageable section

    Since you are experienced, you probably do not have a problem with this but people should know that most Big Box Stores and especially local lumberyards, will gladly cut your plywood into manageable junks for free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do know that, and I have had some cut for me, but I tend not to buy plywood there unless I have to. Often times, the 1/2″ plywood they carry is 4-ply, which is much more flexible than the 5-ply I get from a lumber yard. Also, the quality is generally lacking. I bought some 3/4″ pressure-treated plywood for a project. I had the folks section that into 2×4 panels, and on one of those panels, there was a void on an interior ply that let me slide a metal yardstick all the way through. I complained and the guy said: “once we cut it for you, the sale is final.” Which I guess was fair. If I had taken the entire sheet home, I wouldn’t have discovered the void until I cut it. Still, my lumberyard would have given me a new sheet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I figured you would know that, I was more trying to remind your readers. I have seen people do silly things that could easily be avoided.

        Local lumberyards are the best. I use them whenever I can.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The only part I really understood was the staple gun – and that seemingly innocent piece of equipment I know to respect … from someone who’s managed to staple her thumb using a simple office stapler.
    Each post about woodworking makes me respect carpenters just a little bit more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanne. I am trying to keep these at a minimum. That staple gun, and all air tools really deserve an immense amount of respect. I had a friend whose son was walking down a ladder, holding an air-nailer, and hit his dad’s (my friend) leg and put a 2 1/2″ nail in it.

      I shot a 1 1/2″ nail into a wall. The nail hit an embedded nail, bent and flew out back at me. Fortunately, it hit the belt of my tool pouch, but it still left a black and blue mark.


  7. It’s like you took me into a new, strange place and all I could do is stand with my mouth agape and think, “I had no idea” over and over as my eyes grew bigger and bigger and my mouth dropped closer and closer to the floor. Good heavens it’s complicated.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sticking with me on this one, Janet. I’m trying to go easy on the construction and woodworking posts. It might seem complicated, but it’s really just a series of easy-to-understand operations.IT could all be done with hand tools, but where’s the fun in that?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. My wife is always willing to help, but she’s a full foot shorter, with a proportionately shorter wingspan, and it’s easy for me to force her to overreach, or walk faster than she should while carrying stuff. For example, I can wrap my right arm over a piece of plywood, pick up my end and walk with it. She has to grab it with both hands on the edge. Hmmm, maybe that’s why she bought me the hoist ;-)

      I too would love to have a vertical panel saw, but it’s not in the budget and I don’t have the room, so that’s not happening.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Cool — videos! Tee-hee, the skate really does skate. This is a fun post, Dan. I’m always amazed by your projects.
    By the way, can you think of one of your “doors” pictures that might have a rather mystical look to it? Or otherwise be suitable to my faery-verse? Carver Eastdoor is going to show up pretty soon. He’s going to try his hand at a magical portal.
    Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The skate does skate, and it skates equally as well with a 4×8 sheet resting on it. I love that little thing.

      Can I think of a mystical looking door? Phew, you might regret asking:
      Blue gray at 463 –

      Interior doors in gallery – I like the one of the two doors side by side.

      Featured door at the top of this post

      Or any of the posts from New Orleans

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Woot! Thanks for doing all that, Dan. I copied the links to browse to my heart’s content. Carver gets mentioned in #6. I *think* he’ll lend a hand to a befuddled Bedlam in #7, but not sure. Then there’s his project for the Midsummer party (not sure how many weeks it will take to get to that). The point is, having several doors is a good thing.
        Hugs on the wing.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I can only marvel at the mind it takes to imagine and implement such complicated designs. It’s very complicated and I’m impressed all around.
    You never did tell me if you also invented the hanging shed idea as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I thought I did reply in the kinda-sorta-affirmative on the invention thing. I have never seen one anywhere else, so, as far as I know, I invented it. As for complicated designs, I rather think of them as being the essence of custom. What’s the point of having the tools and the skill, if you don’t build exactly what you want?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A man in his element! Wish I had the diy knowledge that you have but only simple projects for me; so enjoy your workshop fun since that’s really your hobby and keeping it safe really will really enable you to continue your fun for a long time. If you want to come to my house I can keep you busy and perhaps happy for a long time!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have one word popping up in my head while reading this post of yours: wow!
    Apparently this woodworking skill is beyond my reach….haha….Are you working on all these on your own? That’s amazing!

    Love the videos! Really fun to watch them except that I’m scared of drillers, so that video clip with drilling made me worried a bit….but it looks to me it’s totally unnecessary since you are a pro on this! Good luck with the project! Update us on how it goes! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really liked the hoist video, and the staple gun. I’m glad you are doing all you can to work safely, and don’t usually work when no one else is home. I don’t like He-Man going on the roof or ladder when I’m not home either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Mrs. has basically forbidden my working with power tools and ladders when she’s not around. Both as a result of my having been injured with/on them while she was around and needed quickly.

      The good ting about the hoist is that the load remains stable. If I move suddenly or trip while carrying something, even something I can carry, I’m in trouble. If I have to stop the hoist half way up, the plywood isn’t falling.

      The staple and nail guns are faster, and also safer. If I’m on a ladder/scaffold trying to hole material and a nail and a hammer, I’m not holding onto anything. These tools make fastening possible with one hand.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Dan – I flicked through yesterday … but this looks amazing – well done and so clever to put this all together – good luck and keep on enjoying it (the work and the creation!) Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I inherited my father’s ability with tools (i.e. he didn’t know which end of a screwdriver to use), so this was really interesting, and a little scary, because I’d have probably sawed a hand off by now…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you, Dan, for showing patience and slow processes, since the old adage, “don’t do this at home!” You seem to grasp how to be safe and be careful.
    Danger rumbles through my brain. It is very scary to think of accidents.
    I like the way you are thinking out your gardening tool boxes, “hanging sheds,” making them weather-proofed.
    Last year a good, male friend named Robin, who had a construction and handyman’s local business, accidentally with arms raised with a chain saw must have hit a “knot” in a tree and the saw “boomeranged” back at his neck. The Robin’s Nest signs around town are gone, as is my friend. I’m not trying to be dramatic. This truly happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s such a sad story, Robin. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. Sometimes accidents are too much to handle. I try to be safe, but I’ve been to the ER plenty of times.


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