Design & DIY

Four of our favourite pro builders share their tips and tricks


This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Hard-earned wisdom from some of our favourite pro builders, as told to Braden Alexander.

The most useful tool in their workshop:

“Fein MultiMaster. It’s a highly precise oscillating saw, with multiple attachments that are great for making precision cuts on decks (to clear room for posts) or in other tight areas my jig saw can’t reach.”—Jason Lake, host of Decks, Docks & Gazebos

“Lee Valley folding dozuki. The fine, hard teeth of this Japanese pull saw mean I can use it on plastics (such as a PVC waterline) as well as wood.”—Robin Lee, president of Lee Valley Tools

“Triton Superjaws SJA200. It’s like having a third hand around to help. I use it to clamp materials down to cut or to clamp boards together for a glue-up. I can throw a sheet of plywood in it, and it’s a work surface, and I’ve used it as a vise when I need to bend metal.” —April Wilkerson, DIY woodworking blogger at

“Bosch angle grinder with a Kutzall carbide sanding disc. I use it for hand-carving chair seats—it’s quick and accurate.” —Paul Lemiski, furniture maker at Canadian Woodworks and YouTube video instructor

Woodworkers really love their adhesive:

“Don’t underestimate the power of wood glue. When I was first getting into woodworking, I skipped it. But when glue is applied properly, the bond can actually be stronger than the board itself.”—A.W.

“For every glue-up, always do a dry run without glue to understand how you’ll need to posi- tion your clamps to get the right pressure for that invisible joint all woodworkers want to produce.”—P.L.

“My favourite glue is LePage PL Pre- mium adhesive. I put that stuff on everything. Use it on a subfloor to take the squeaks out (one bead on each floor joist) or a few dabs on the strap- ping behind siding to keep the wood from curling or cup- ping. Works every time.”—J.L.

Words of wisdom:

“Splurge on heated floors; save on kitchen cabinets. I’ve installed Ikea kitchens in million-dollar cabins. They look great.”—J.L.

“Chuck a nail in the drill for pre-drilling to prevent splits. The nail won’t wander on curved surfaces like a drill would.”—R.L.

“Save time with SketchUp, free 3-D modelling software. Play with design ideas without wasting material, then make a cut list.”—A.W.

“Make a step-by-step plan. Sitting down, thinking about the process, and getting it on paper will make it a great project.”—P.L.