As I was preparing to install a 3-gang old-work box I discovered a random cripple stud whose only purpose for existing is screwing up this project for me:

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In the bottom right is the corner of a 2x6 which is flush against the back drywall and against a stud to its right and extends all the way down to the sole plate. Using an inspection mirror I determined that there is nothing attached to it or passing through it anywhere along its length, and there's nothing on the other side of the wall either (not even any sign of drywall patching).

How can I trim off the corner of this stud so that I can install my old-work box? (The actual area of interference is about 1" high and 1/2" wide.)

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    I like your comment about the only purpose for existence of this stud fragment. Clearly it was put there years ago with your sanity in mind. :) – user558 Oct 23 '12 at 12:43

Maybe there was a drywall patch and this is a back brace?

From your description, it appears that trimming this piece will do no harm (and a lot of good).

The easiest method is to use a multitool.


There are numerous good brands, and they come with a variety of blades and other attachments.

These versatile tools make cutting, sanding grinding in tight spaces much easier. They vibrate their blades and other attachments very rapidly in short strokes from side to side. If you buy one, you will be surprised how often is it the easiest way to do a job (e.g., trimming the bottom of door jambs to insert engineered floor boards).

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    I've never used a multitool to cut through something so thick, so I'm assuming it would heat up a bit. I'd recommend to go in stages and watch for signs of heat (burn marks and smoke!). Alternately, use a eeciprocating saw. – MPelletier Oct 22 '12 at 23:28
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    @MPelletier I have routinely used a multitool to cut through 3/4 inch stock (the actual size of 1 x 6 if that guess is right), with no problem. I agree it is a good idea to be alert to heat. I find reciprocating saws a bit clumsy and not gentle enough for a board that may not be too stable to begin with. – bib Oct 22 '12 at 23:37
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    I used a multitool in various cases. Cutting through 3/4 plywood did give me some faint burn marks. Cutting through hardwood flooring was definitely heating things up. And yes, now that I think about it, the reciprocating saw put to a beam held at most likely only one end would make it swing too much. So... go multitool! – MPelletier Oct 22 '12 at 23:55
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    @MPelletier Almost everything burns in hardwood. Slow and steady. – bib Oct 23 '12 at 0:06
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    I picked up a rotary and multi-tool 2 tool kit and I am also surprised how often I use them - they really have a wide range of uses. – Aaron Oct 23 '12 at 11:25

As long as the board is not attached to anything I would attempt to split off a section of the board that is 1/2" to 3/4" wide. You may be able to hold a wood chisel in position via a vice grip pliers clamped tightly to the side of the chisel blade. Then use a hammer to tap on the vice grips outside of the hole.

An alternative would be to drill a small hole in the board 3/4" in from its edge and 3/4" down from the top. A 1/8" inch hole would do the trick. Then thread in a large diameter lag bolt 3/8" size for example. Threading in the lag pold should cause the board to split down from the hole.

  • Good ideas but I wasn't able to get them to work in this case. It had enough play in it to make chiseling ineffective and the edge of the drywall was complicating the bolt-splitting method. – Brad Mace Oct 23 '12 at 4:04

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