Commit 5 minutes once a week, and you’ll keep your hardwood floors glowing for years to come.

It doesn’t take much effort to keep your hardwood floors looking terrific … but they do require routine care. Most hardwood floors have a tough, durable poryurethane finish, so the wood doesn’t take the beating–the finish does. The secret of long-lasting beauty is simply to protect the finish.

Even so, you don’t have to handle your hardwood floor with kid gloves.

Flooring experts tell us that floors are rarely ruined by everyday wear; instead, they’re done in by bad cleaning methods or neglect.

In this article, we’ll show you how to clean your floor without damaging it. Follow these four routine but simple care techniques and you may never have to face a messy, expensive sanding and refinishing job–ever.



Grit, especially sand, tracked in from outside gradually grinds into the floor and abrades the finish, just like sandpaper. Once you eliminate the grit, not much else will hurt it. Pets can be an exception. If they dash around, keep their toenails clipped.

The best grit remover is a vacuum with a floor brush attachment. If you use a vacuum with a revolving brush beater bar, make sure that the bar doesn’t bang into the floor and that the wheels don’t leave scuff marks.


To bore the hole for the 1/4-in.-20 threaded insert, first cut a cradle to hold the angled face of the core parallel to the drill-press table. Then bore a 13/32-in. hole. Use a bolt with the head cut off as a driver for installing the threaded insert. Jam two nuts on the bolt, twist on the insert and install the bolt in the drill-press chuck. Turn the chuck by hand while lightly advancing the quill.

Finish the rear core piece by cutting the maple blade-alignment boss to size. Bore holes for the two 3/4-in. brads, and glue and nail the boss in place using the cutter as a positioning guide.


Move to the front core piece and bore a 1/2-in. hole through it as shown in the “Front Block Assembly” detail. Then cut the ledge to receive the maple cap and remove the remaining waste around the hole as shown. Cut the cap slightly oversize, glue it in place and sand the edges flush. Bore the 13/32-in. hole for the 10-24 threaded insert and install the insert.

Cut the finger-grip recess in the sidepieces using a router and 3/8-in.-rad. corebox bit. You can use a router table to do it, everything is so simple if you have a best router table. Build a jig to hold the sidepieces for routing as shown in the drawing. The 1 1/2-in.-high guide strips allow you to do the job with a nonplunge router. Angle the router with the bit away from the work. Then, turn on the tool and lower the bit into the work. To cut the recesses for the decorative brass strips, use a straight bit and shift the guide strips as required.


While there are many custom fixtures, jigs and small tools that you can make for your shop, few offer the continuous reward and satisfaction of a handmade wooden plane. Here’s a tool that you’ll use on nearly every project you complete. And even when it’s on the shelf, it’s a constant reminder quality craftsmanship and woodworking tradition.

Our small wooden plane is specially designed for one-handed operation. Unlike a conventional steel block plane, though, we’ve set the cutter angle closer to that found on standard bench planes. The larger angle makes our version more like a miniature smooth plane and the tool is less prone to tearout when working along the grain.


The real difference, though, is in the wooden body. Shaped to fit the palm of your hand with finger grips on the sides, this little plane is a joy to hold and use. Equipped with a sharp plane iron, it produces nearly transparent shavings and leaves the wood silky smooth.

The body of our plane is Honduras mahogany, and its sole is maple. While there are many replacement plane irons available through mail-order catalogs, we equipped our tool with a top-quality Hock handmade cutter. This high-carbon tool-steel blade holds a very sharp edge, and its 3/16-in. thickness resists chatter. The plane iron comes with its own chip breaker and we used a knurled brass screw to hold the cutter in place.


The sidewinder circular saw is the quintessential East Coast framer’s tool. As a full-time custom framer, I count it among my most important power tools. For this article, I reviewed eight 7 1/4-inch saws: the Bosch CS20, the DeWalt 364K, the DeWalt 369CSK, the Hitachi C7BD2, the Makita 5007FAK, the Milwaukee 6394-21, the Porter-Cable 325MAG, and the Ridgid R3200. While most manufacturers make several circular saws, I chose these tools over other models because they offer the most power and best features for professional users. They are all traditional sidewinders, with the blade on the right side of the motor.

Cutting Through the Choices

In choosing a favorite saw, I looked first at power. Framers have to make good time cutting a variety of materials, including dense engineered lumber like LVL and Parallam, and the new generation of dense structural panels like Advantech. We put all these saws to the test on the job and, as it turned out, power was not an issue for any of them: They all had plenty to spare. Most were also up to the task of cutting through 1 3/4-inch LVL at steep compound angles. The only real shortcoming was with the Porter-Cable, which despite what its literature says would not cut all the way through a 1 3/4-inch LVL at a 45-degree bevel.

What made the real difference between the saws was the ergonomics–how the saw felt in the hand for hours at a time, bevel scale and capacity, and other innovative features.


Log Splitters

Once you have all this wood cut, chances are it will need to be split before it can burn in the family fireplace. The traditional method of wood splitting conjures up images of a young Abe Lincoln pounding a wedge with a sledge hammer. If you cut only a cord of wood a year and relish a good workout, this method may still be your best choice. However, there is an easier way.


Mechanical log splitters use power to drive a log against a stationary wedge. If you split more than a couple of cords of wood a year, consider purchasing a log splitter. If you only occasionally split a quantity of wood, you may be better off renting a machine to do the chore.

Log splitters are available either as electric- or gas-powered machines. Electric models can exert up to seven tons of force upon the log to be split. They have the added advantage of allowing you to split wood indoors, away from the cold. If you decide on a gasoline engine, get a machine with enough power to split hard wood. A five-horsepower engine is considered a minimum.


Selecting a Chain Saw

The size of chain saw you select will depend on what type of jobs you want to perform. Most saws can cut trees and logs with a diameter of almost twice the length of the saw’s guide bar. However, this ability involves burying the guide bar tip in the wood, a practice recommended only for experienced saw users.

The type of wood also makes a difference. The harder the wood, the more cutting power necessary. For example, pine trees will require less effort to fell than old oak trees. If you are purchasing a saw, choose one powerful enough to do the majority of your regular chores. You can always rent a more powerful saw for the occasional heavy tasks.


In general, a mini or lightweight saw will have a guide bar length of 8 to 15 inches. A saw of this size is primarily used for cutting, limbing or felling small trees and logs. A midweight saw generally has a 15- to 20-inch guide bar. It is used for more frequent cutting on small trees and logs.

Heavyweight saws have guide bars more than 20 inches long. These saws are usually used for cutting and felling larger trees. As a general rule, leave larger saws to professional loggers.


Although furnaces comfortably heat most American homes, families still cut down trees and split wood to keep the home fires burning. In many areas of the country, stacking wood for the winter is a tradition.

About the time the leaves begin to fall, a sense of urgency seems to develop. People begin cutting and stacking wood. Like squirrels storing nuts for the winter, the higher the wood pile, the more secure we feel.

Chain saws and log splitters are two primary tools people use to make wood handling an easier and more manageable task. You can either rent or purchase this type of equipment for home use, depending on how often you need to use them.

Chain Saws


Chain saws make quick work of pruning or cutting down trees, limbing fallen wood and cutting fallen logs. With proper instruction, most homeowners can handle small jobs with chain saws. However, there are some jobs, such as climbing in a tree and using a chain saw to prune, that are best left to professional arborists.