Basic Carpentry Know-How
The difference between concrete and cement: Concrete and cement are basically the same EXCEPT that concrete has bits of gravel added to it. This helps make it stronger. However, cement is better for laying bricks since you don’t have the little bits of gravel getting in the way.
There is also a magnificent invention called “hydraulic cement.” Hydraulic cement is typically used to stop water leaks in cement and masonry structures such as foundations and drainage systems.
Laying concrete/cement: You want the cement to be moist without being too watery. A good indicator is whether or not you can mold it. If you can’t mold it than it’s too watery and won’t be as strong when it dries. This problem can be solved by adding more cement to the mixture. You will always want to buy more cement/concrete than you think you will need. You will go through it a lot faster than you think. You will also want to avoid touching concrete with your bare hands, since it will dry them out and cause them to crack. One trick to smooth a concrete/cement surface is to gently pat the surface. This will cause the moisture to rise causing it to become much more malleable.
Tools: Buying good quality tools will save you money in the long run. They can last a lifetime and beyond if properly cared for. With that being said, there are exceptions to the rule. An inexpensive ruler will measure distance just as well as an expensive one, the difference being that you won’t feel as disheartened when/if you break a cheap one over an expensive one. Attention to quality should be applied to purchasing such tools as saws, power tools, and things such as shovels that will get repeated and heavy use. Using a proper/sharp saw will save you a great deal of time and anguish. You may also find it advantageous to rent tools that you will seldom need.
When I took woodshop in high school out teacher made us use old fashioned hand tools. The reason he gave was that we had to learn the old ways before the new. Our first assignment was to shape the edges of a small block of wood. One side had to be perfectly flat, the other side perfectly round, and the other at a perfect 45 degree angle. If there was the slightest raise or imperfection we were sent back to try the whole process over again. As painful as it was, I learned a great deal and find that for small quick projects old fashioned tools still have a place. I keep a set of hand plains and wood chisels that still see use to this day.
Drawing/planning: Through trial and error I have learned to appreciate the benefits of properly planning and drawing out my projects before I start them. You cannot do good work unless it is first laid out right. It is advisable that when making drawing you do so to a uniformed scale. For example, one foot equals one inch on paper. Making precise measurements and lines will give you a great deal of confidence going into your project.
Making perfect cuts won’t do you any good if they are in the wrong place. Always be mindful that it’s a lot easier to cut a board than it is to add wood to it. As my wood shop teacher Mr. Wood (that was really his name) always said, “measure twice, cut once.” It’s a heck of a lot easier to measure twice than it is to fix such a mistake.
Planning out your project will also save you a great deal of money since it will/can cut down on waste. Waste is inevitable for most medium to large projects. However, proper planning can make a dent in it. It’s also advisable that you don’t throw out your wood straps since they may be of some use later. I have used odd wood scraps for everything from mending fences to making dikes for irrigation control.
Organizing Tools: Organizing tools can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. There are many different ways to organize your tools and it largely depends on how many you have. Personally, I like to hang hammers, pliers, and saws on the wall with the use of a few well-placed nails. The shop somewhat organizes itself over time with the tools that are used the least being pushed to the back and the more heavily used tools finding their way to the forefront.
Organizing tools isn’t rocket surgery. However, there are a few tricks I have found that greatly save time and energy. The biggest trick is to organize and store your various screws and nails in large Mason Jars. Doing so allows you to easily find the exact size/type of nail/screw that you are looking for.
Essentials for success:
1. Do one project at a time. Finish one job before you start another.
2. Measure twice, cut once.
3. Learn to do the job right. The ability to work quickly will come later. Working well without mistakes will save more time than trying to push the projects at a pace that exceeds your abilities.
4. Make detailed drawings and plans before starting any but the simplest of tasks.
5. Carefully lay out your wood with precise and well defined lines that have been measured at least twice with accuracy and forethought.
6. Accurately cut your lines with sharp tools. A dull tools will tear at the wood rather than cutting it.
7. Keep checking your work with a level, square, or ruler.
8. Keep each tool in a designated place and return it after every use.
9. Be thorough, make your work strong and durable. The only time you will regret good work is when you take it apart. It is easier to build something well once, than it is to do a poor job twice.
Essential tools: You don’t need much to build great things. Power tools and expensive equipment cut down the time it takes to make/build thing, but people were building houses and large barns before these tools ever existed.
Handsaw (great for simple cuts and don’t require any setup)
Jigsaw (for making curved cuts)
Drill bits (I have and use a wide variety almost daily)
Boom! That’s it. This is all you need for general carpentry and repair jobs around the ranch. I have built everything from chicken coops to a cabin using nothing but the tools listed above. If you have the money, a nail gun will greatly reduce both time and frustration. However, you will also need an air compressor and hose.
Building Animal shelter: The size and shape of an animal’s shelter or cage largely depends on the animal. However, there are a few things that are universally true regardless of the animal that you are housing. The first concern should be have the shelter built on a raised floor. Doing so will allow it to dry more efficiently than if it’s on the ground. It’s also important that the floor either has a drain or is slightly slanted in order to allow liquid to flow out rather than remaining stagnant.
One should also make their animals shelter as large as is economically possible. There is far worse to have your animals too cramped than it is to give them room to freely move about. It’s also important that their living quarters are free of any sharp objects such as nails or wooden splinters. If the shelters floor is bare ground you may find it advantageous to bury wire mesh under or around your animal’s shelter. This will not only keep animals such as rabbits from burrowing out, but it will also keep predators from getting in.