Regarding Mike Mowry's letter ("Good Business Practice,"
11/06) about the contractor whose license lapsed: It is the
responsibility of the Contractor State License Board (CSLB) to
enforce the laws regarding licensing within its purview, and it
is the court's responsibility to interpret that enforcement and
to administer justice under the intention of the law. That the
court chose to interpret the letter of the law is sad indeed.
While it is technically correct in its finding, it punishes an
individual who did not willfully violate the law of the
Did the contractor's innocent oversight diminish the quality
of the materials or services rendered, or reduce the customer's
"betterment"? Those are the questions that should have been
addressed by the court.
The courts should not be performing the CSLB's job. An
innocent and accidental incident should not be prosecuted as a
willful and wanton violation of the intention of the law. An
otherwise honest and hardworking man should not be punished,
and the beneficiary of his efforts should not be excused from
responsibility due solely to a clerical oversight.
Ronald E. O'Brien
RE O'Brien Contracting
South Kingstown, R.I
Framing an Elliptical Stair: The Easy
I just read your article "Framing an Elliptical Staircase" (On
the Job, 10/06): What an incredible challenge met and
completed. I would not in any way diminish the accomplishment
of Will Holladay, but there are some even greater challenges
you have chosen to ignore.
What Will built is a carcass; what will be presented to the
homeowner is a finished, stain-grade piece of furniture
— yet many more difficult challenges exist between
what Will built and the finished product.
Let's start with the outside skirtboard. There is no gap
between the stair framing and the outside wall. That creates
challenges for both the drywaller and the finish carpenter.
Will solved the problem by using the carcass as a form to build
the inside carrier beam and then cut the carrier beam to the
carcass. Somebody has to do the same thing on both the inside
and the outside to create the skirtboards.
Next, each tread has to be patterned, glued up, fitted with
the appropriately curved return, and fitted to the carcass
— all in stain-grade quality. Then scotia trim has to
be installed under the nose of the treads — no small
challenge. Some pieces of trim can be steam-bent, but others
are so acute the only way to fabricate them is by cutting them
The next challenge is the handrail. The most flexible bending
rail is designed for radii down to 36 inches, but the radius
here appears to be less than 24 inches. That means at least
part of the handrail will have to be made by a curved-stair
fabricator using a CNC router. In Will's project, I see two
places that will need custom handrail parts — at a
cost of around $1,200 each.
This raises a question: Why go through all this hard work just
to use a curved-stair fabricator in the end? Why not go to the
fabricator with the original house drawings and have him
fabricate everything — a perfect stain-grade carriage
with a matching stain-grade handrail, all perfectly
People don't invite furniture makers to build their furniture
on site. Likewise, a complicated staircase should not be built
Cameron Habel's article "Building a Slate-Tile Deck" (11/06)
provided excellent details for tying a deck to the house. He
pointed out that the house joists were cantilevered, so instead
of a nailed connection he used a bolted connection to anchor
the deck to the floor joists of the house. His article
addressed the need to resist lateral load as well as gravity
load. More than 90 percent of deck collapses can be attributed
to the failure of the ledger-to-house connection.
DeckLok Bracket Systems has pioneered the concept of lateral
anchoring of decks, providing architects, engineers, and deck
builders with design and testing information for more than a
decade. Our patented bracket system uses the strength of the
house floor joists to secure decks — or any structure
— to the joists themselves. Our brackets effectively
transfer the loads to the foundation of the house as required
by the building code. They have been designed and tested for
the ledger connection as well as the railing connection.
Nailed and screwed connections, like the critical deck-ledger
connection, cannot be exposed to the weather season after
season and remain strong. They need a little help from bolted
Our Web site — www.deck-lok.com — contains
instructions and testing information for attaching decks to
house joists of nominal lumber, wood I-joists, and 2x4 floor
It also shows details for code-compliant rail post
DeckLok Bracket Systems
Cheap Fix for Plywood
Regarding Tish Iorio's response (Q&A, 11/06) to the
question about upgrading dated paneling: Often on remodels I
just skim-coat the paneling with Dura-Bond mix, then sand,
prime, and paint. Depending on how well I've prepared the mix,
there may be a bit of shrinkage, requiring a fine second coat
— but often not.
Follow up with a good primer and latex paint, and you have
fantastic-looking walls with little hassle. Obviously, the
paneling should be thoroughly prepped with TSP first.
Considering the low cost of a bag of Dura-Bond and the minimum
labor involved, this is a quick, attractive fix.
Crystal Lake, Ill
The article about the Worx recip saw (Toolbox, 12/06) was
great, but I wanted to respond to a couple of points the author
First, he criticized the blade clamp because it doesn't hold a
Milwaukee Ax blade. It's important to note that that blade is
made especially with the Sawzall in mind: Its back edge, where
the clamp locks on, is much smaller than a standard blade's
Also, the author wrote that "if you rotate the handle with
your finger on the trigger, your finger can get pinched between
the trigger and the tool body." However, the saw is intended to
be used with the handle locked in position, which prevents
fingers from getting pinched.
Finally, the author noted that the foot on the saw he used did
not pivot. I went into the warehouse this morning and looked at
30 different saws, and every one had a smoothly pivoting foot.
I'm guessing that he must have received a model that had tight
Positec Tool Group