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Finish Carpentry 101

Thank you for visiting Finish Carpentry 101! This site is currently under construction. 

***NEW:  Check out the USS Potomac Project page***

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Welcome to Finish Carpentry 101. This site is a bombastic and irreverent approach to finish carpentry designed to help homeowners understand and implement basic techniques in order to save time, money and have the personal satisfaction of doing a project themselves. And when it all falls apart, just hire someone to get it done.

My name is David Bales, and I've been doing finish carpentry for 25 hard years. Some of those years I made a good deal of money and some of those years I should have just gone to work for a car wash or McDonaldís. Carpentry work is a feast or famine type of job. When the economy dips as it has at the time of this writing, one of the first industries to nosedive is construction. On the upside of that, they will never be able to make a robot that can do this job. That's why I got into finish carpentry as opposed to framing, etc. I respect all trades because I know how hard they can be, and most of them are thankless jobs that don't pay that great compared to many other jobs. But on the other hand, carpentry is one of a very few jobs where your body of work can be enjoyed and appreciated for a long time after you leave this earth. I framed houses for a few years, sided and boxed houses for several years, but what drew me to finish carpentry was the fact that at the end of the day, I could look at my work and realize that it would be a finished product that would beautify a house for many years to come.

The point of this story is that over the years I've taught many carpenters that didn't do finish work how to do it. They were no different from the average homeowner when it came to finish work. In fact in some ways they were harder to teach, because they were heavy-handed from years of doing a different type of carpentry that doesn't require a softer touch and finesse, which is half the battle with finish work. You can't just go banging your way through it. It requires a soft touch, a smaller hammer and a good deal of pride in your work. This web site is not about doing it for a living; it's simply about taking the lessons I've learned from doing it for a living and using that to help people do it themselves efficiently, economically and help them get professional results on their own. Uhh.. ok,, you're not going to get professional results and it won't even come close to economical, but you will get an A for effort.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER: Everything I talk about on here can result in horrific injury if you aren't careful. Do this stuff at your own risk. Seriously, be careful with saws; when they bite you they bite fast and hard. See the Tools section on the many wonderful ways of maiming yourself.

Special thanks to The Supreme Editor.

Props to the ameoba man for his input.

A special note of thanks is due here. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I must've done something right because God blessed me with an angel a few years back, a woman who changed my life. I love you, Christie. By the way, she edits this site, so if you don't like it, take that up with her. Her e-mail address is... uhh, on second thought, don't do that. She is the most competent woman I have ever met. I love you with all my heart, 62.

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Because this site is under construction, I may not have covered a question you have about basic finish carpentry yet. This is primarily due to the fact that I type slower than $%^& rolling uphill. If you have a specific question about any of this stuff, please e-mail me at and I will respond ASAP with all I know on the matter, and if I don't know the answer, I will respond by telling you I have no earthly idea of what you are talking about.

Miseries, Successes & Revelations


Immediately realizing you have just cut a very expensive piece of wood an inch short, and backwards.

Double misery: They have to order that piece.

DIY Tip of the Week

Tip: Crown your wood. All wood has a natural bow or crown, as itís called, to it. Turn it on edge and it will really jump out at you how crooked the board you just bought with your hard earned money really is. When picking out your lumber at Home Depot or Lowes or wherever, be picky because wood loves to warp like crazy in the 2 mile drive from the lumberyard to your house. Crooked wood is ten times harder to work with. Itís hard on the soul to try to do a good tight job with wood shaped like a banana, especially now a days. Wood is far more apt to be crooked and warped as it is newer growth lumber but it will work fine for you if you crown it and get all the unique wonders of the wood going in the same direction.


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