Cutting Blind

I’ve been working on remodeling my master bathroom for the last week or so (in between shifts at my day job and episodes of Battlestar Galactica).

I took out my old fiberglass tub and shower surround and am replacing it with a nice porcelain enameled steel tub and a white tile surround.

I am using a concrete backer-board for the tile (as is recommended for wet areas), and I had installed the tile on two of the three walls when I got to the side with the plumbing and realized that my valve was too far forward and would not sit properly behind the tile.

This would require me to remove the backer-board and re-solder the copper pipes. But since I had already installed tile on the overlapping wall, I didn’t want to remove the whole board, and so I decided to handle things surgically.

I planned to cut an access hole in the backer-board to work on the pipes and then re-attach the cut-out by screwing pieces of plywood to the inside of the standing wall and then screwing the cut-out onto the plywood.

The only problem was figuring out how to cut the hole.

Concrete backer-board will destroy normal drywall saw blades, and the angle grinder with a diamond blade creates too much dust for indoor work. I have a jigsaw with a tile-cutting blade that would do the trick, but since I had plumbing behind the wall and I couldn’t see or remember exactly where it was, I needed to make sure it didn’t cut too deep and nick an artery.

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At this moment, inspiration struck: If I put a spacer between the the wall and the jigsaw, I could limit the depth of the cut to just barely cut through the wall and leave the plumbing behind it unscathed!

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I cut a couple pieces of plywood and them taped them to the bottom of the saw, put the blade through a starter hole (that I drilled with a flat-head screwdriver bit), and started cutting.

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As soon as I inched the saw forward it started bouncing all over the wall making dents wherever it landed, like a pogo stick on a wet lawn (I got in trouble for that one…).

I stopped and surveyed the damage – minimal, although I bent the blade badly – and thought about what I had just done.

It is a recurring observation in my life that striking moments of inspiration are not always intelligent.

In the excitement of implementing my “solution” to the problem, I forgot that I was working with a jigsaw, not a sewing machine.

A jigsaw blade always needs to stay in the work piece, it cannot plunge in and out of the cut like a sewing machine needle because it is not designed to pierce, it is designed to cut (as are most saws).

My 3/4-inch plywood spacer allowed the blade to pull completely out of the backer-board on the up-stroke, only to nosedive into the board on the way back down.

Whatever.

I tore off the plywood spacers and cut the hole in the wall at full depth with devil-may-care gusto!

It worked. The plumbing was safely out of reach without any spacers needed.

I sure do over think these things sometimes.

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