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The ins and outs of


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Carpentry exists in many different forms and is one of the basic activities in DIY, ranging from the simpler, small jobs like making a birdhouse or putting up a bookshelf to more complicated jobs like cupboards or garret windows.

Preparing to do carpentry indoors and outdoors

The most important thing is making sure the boards are cut to size. Lots of carpentry work often needs to be done, both indoors and outdoors. Remember than any wood that will be used outside needs to be treated to protect it against weather and woodworms. First, you need to cut the boards to size and sand them smooth, and then you can start putting it all together.

Before starting a carpentry project, it’s important to decide whether you want the wood to be held together by nails, screws or glue. Obviously, a combination of these methods is the most solid connection!

Nails and screws are more eco-friendly, since glue often isn’t biodegradable and contains synthetic solvents. Besides, using nails and screws means that you’ll be able to take it apart again later, which isn’t the case if you glue the wood.


  • ruler
  • pencil
  • saw
  • wood
  • nails
  • hammer
  • wood glue


Many people prefer using screws when doing odd jobs, because they can be applied in no time with a proper electric drill, and the materials can be easily disassembled later if needed.


In common parlance people talk about nails, while the official designation for this little object happens to be wire nail. Most nails used to be made of iron wire, but these days they’re also made of copper, brass, electrolytic steel and hardened steel to keep them from being pounded crooked and to prevent the nails from getting rusty due to weather exposure.

There are also various types of nail heads, including common nails (round head), finishing nails (small, recessed heads that sit flush with the wood), and box nails (thin nails with larger heads).

For indoor carpentry, you’ll usually use two types of nails: common nails and brass nails. Common nails are the default option and can be used for almost any project. A standard bulk package contains 5 kg of nails. The exact number of nails in a bulk package depends on the length and thickness of the nails.

Brass nails are also great for indoor carpentry projects, especially for attaching skirting boards. The rounded head and golden-yellow colour of the brass nails look nice once the project is finished. Finishing nails are used for projects in which the nail head needs to be out of sight once you’re done. In most cases, the finishing nails are pounded a little farther into the wood, and then covered with a layer of filler.

If you’re working on outdoor carpentry projects, plain steel or stainless steel nails are your best option. Stainless steel nails are generally shaped differently than the common nail with its standard nail head. Some are double-headed; these are mainly intended for outdoor use, such as building a garden shed. Another type of stainless steel nail is masonry nails, which are larger and thicker, and intended for attaching materials to concrete or brick.

There are several types of nails that have larger heads: box nails, drywall nails and roofing nails. All of these have larger heads to hold softer materials in place.
Drywall cannot carry as much weight as some other wall materials, so it will be difficult to hang a shelf on that type of wall surface unless you use plugs.

Depending on the size of the nails, you may first need to drill a hole into the wall big enough to fit the plug. Then you hammer the nail into the plug, reinforcing the hole and making a more stable connection point.


If you do decide to glue your wood together, you have a wide range of adhesives to choose from. Glues can be natural or synthetic, water-resistant or water-soluble.

There are some advantages to using glue; compared to a nail, screw or bolt, the glue joint distributes the pressure more evenly in and around the connection point. Moreover, the glue joint is 100% airtight, and glue can be used to connect all sorts of different materials.

However, glue also has its disadvantages: the glue process can be complicated, since your material determines which glue you need to use. In addition, glue cannot be used for structural reinforcement, so gluing relatively large surfaces isn’t possible; the connection will not hold. And there’s no guarantee that the glue connection will stay strong, but nails and screws definitely will.

Wood rot

Another factor to take into account when you work with wood is the possibility of wood rot. Most of the problems involving wooden parts, such as frames, windows and doors, are due to wood rot. Overdue maintenance, structural deficiencies and humidity cause moisture to seep into the wood, leading to problems with leakage and deteriorating structural integrity. Prevention is always better than the cure, and proactive measures save you money and hassle. Make sure there is no water on or in the wooden construction and that the nail and screw holes are always dry.

Hinges, latches and locks should be fitted in such a way that no water can accumulate behind them, and peeling paint on frames and doors should be dealt with as soon as possible.

If wood rot does develop, there are several solutions – but removing the rotten wood and covering the hole with filler is only possible if the wood rot is in its early stages. Once wood rot reaches an advanced stage, it’s almost impossible to do anything about it yourself; you’ll have to bring in a specialised professional from a construction and carpentry firm to assess the situation and identify what needs to happen.

If you don’t enjoy DIY and would prefer not to assemble a window frame yourself, there are various companies that supply custom-made aluminium, wood or PCV frames. This not only saves you a lot of time, but is also cheaper, since window frame materials can be quite expensive. Plus you can rest assured that the window frame will be good quality and fit well.

Types of wood

As a natural product, wood comes in various qualities and types. Wood is usually grouped into two categories: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood mainly comes from deciduous trees, although some deciduous trees produce softwood, such as the poplar and the linden tree. Azobé is a type of hardwood that comes from Africa. Softwood mainly comes from conifers (evergreen trees). Coniferous wood is generally softer than wood from deciduous trees, but there are exceptions. The most common types of softwood used in the Netherlands are spruce and pine.

Extensive logging takes place in forests across South America and Asia, but this type of tropical hardwood is increasingly banned from building centres in this part of the world. You can make sure that you’re using sustainably harvested wood if you check for the FSC hallmark on any wood that you buy.


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