Introduction to FoX Decking Keys

When building wooden decking to cover concrete or paved patios, walkways, pool surrounds, etc. the builder always has to contend with wood’s natural tendency to shrink in the drier winter months and to expand during the summer time. These seasonal movements, combined with initial shrinking if not fully or properly dried wood is used, create tension and stress in every joint.

Many builders try in vain to combat wood movement by using more or longer nails or screws, and sometimes even adhesives. Additional layers of stain and “water-blockers” are used to protect the surface. As soon as even a tiny crack develops in the finish, the wood absorbs and releases moisture again. Sooner or later, either the fastener or the wood itself will fail because no fastening method can completely eliminate natural movement.

We here at Hoffmann are very familiar with wood products and with the processes associated with seasonal changes in exterior wood products. After extensive tests and a number of prototypes we have developed our FoX Decking Key.

The FoX fasteners are made of natural rubber and are fully weatherproof, allowing the homeowner to clean his decking with a garden hose. The black color makes the Key "disappear" and no part of the fastener is seen from the surface, giving the deck a finished and professional appearance. The design of the key assures a consistent gap between the boards of 5/32” = 4mm. This is generally seen as the proper space to provide thorough drying after a rainfall.

Layout and Material Options

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Decking Material Options

The Keys’ elasticity allows the wood components to expand and contract with seasonal humidity changes without splitting; a major benefit especially if pressure treated or not fully dried lumber is utilized.

A wide range of solid wood boards as well as wood composite material can be joined with FoX Keys. Domestic species such as cedar, redwood and oak and tropical hardwoods like teak, Brazilian rosewood and ipe are all good choices if a solid wood deck is desired. In addition, all types of composite decking boards can be utilized with this system.

The decking keys are designed to hold the decking ½” above the deck surface to assure quick drying after rains, etc. In addition, this ½” space combined with the Key’s natural elasticity give the finished decking a pleasant feel when walked on.

Sub-Deck Requirements

FoX Decking Keys are designed to assemble deck components with a flexible connection. Since the decking is not attached to the underlying structure it is essential that the subdeck is solid and rigid, e.g. concrete patio, pavers, black top (asphalt), flat field stone walkways, etc. The system should not be used on soft or unstable ground such as grass, sand, topsoil, etc.

Decking Layout Options

The design options for decking shapes are almost endless, straight runs as well as angled and herring-bone patterns and even circular components can be joined on site with this system.

The builder decides what size material to use, either 5/4” solid wood boards or the equivalent composite decking in various widths. The quantity of FoX Keys used per square foot of decking is depended upon the length and width of the individual components, some estimates are given below.

Machinery Choices and Tooling

FoX Decking Keys require matched keyways to be routed along the edges of the boards and we offer a range of professional quality dovetail routing machines for shop and on-site use.

Machine options include the MU-2 manual and the MU2-P pneumatic bench-top machines, as well as the single-head PU-2 and the double-head PP-2 production freestanding machines. In addition, we offer length stop systems with multiple stops, and LASER alignment guides for custom-fitted boards.

The DGS 2000 fence system is used on the MU-2 and MU2-P bench-top machines and the DGS 3000 is designed to be installed on the P-series routing machines. Up to twenty stops can be set along the five foot long fence rails for precise indexing of every keyway.

The LASER alignment guides are available for all routing machines and allow the user to align the router bit with pencil marks on the board, ideal for fitting odd-shaped or short boards.

The FoX router bits are made to the same high standard as our other dovetail router bits and the high-grade tungsten carbide assures long tool life, even when used with hardwoods or composite materials.

We offer matching 8mm collets for our dovetail routing machines and changing the bits takes only minutes. The minimum motor size for the FoX router bits is 750 watt (MU-2 model and up).