Strong-ties are heavy-duty metal brackets that fit standard lumber. They enable you to shortcut the complications of joints. You cut straight lumber to fit the bracket, then nail or screw it in. They come in close to a hundred shapes; you could build a very strong house using them. In fact they are increasingly used for earthquake- and hurricane-proof construction. If you don't mind the rough style of metal on wood, plenty of things can be built quickly using 2 x 4s. (Strong has plans on their website.) It's he-man K'NEX.
I'm a handy-man sort of guy; I could have built my workbenches without using this product, but I'm very glad I didn't. Simpson Strong-ties let me do the task in 1/10th the time, using only straight cross-cuts and no fancy notching and bracing. The bench looks mighty attractive. It is likely more sturdy than an all-wood design -- which would have required careful measuring, complicated notches, and patience. The Strong-ties made it a breeze to get the job done well, which means I can now turn my attention to more important stuff, like renovating my bathroom.
I believe even a relatively *un*handyman would have success with these brackets. If you can wield a handsaw and cut a straight line, you can build benches, carts, tables, decks and more. Even if you have all the appropriate tools for building it without the Strong-ties, as I do, you'll find that in the end, Strong-ties are worth every penny just for the savings in time and labor.
I was doubtful when I bought them. Now I'm sold on them!
-- David Priest
About $1- $6 each
Available from Ace Hardware among others